Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Songs of summer

Image by GeorgiaLens from Pixabay 

At 3:30 in the morning the melodious song of a brown thrasher is heard through our open bedroom window. He is up at the very first glimmer of day, but it’s much too early for us to get up yet. He is the size of robin, with a much longer tail, shy about letting himself be seen, but not shy about letting himself be heard.

At this time of year here in the flatlands of Saskatchewan, there are 17 hours from sunrise to sunset, and 18½ hours when it is light enough to read outside without artificial light. The trees around us are alive with the sound of music. The brown thrasher is heard mostly in morning and evening, other birds from time to time, the wrens are twittering all day long.

We have many birdhouses around our yard. The wrens take possession of most of them, nest in two or three, and fill the rest with twigs. It seems they want to discourage others from moving in next door.

Last Saturday was the school closing program for our school. The rules now allow 150 people to gather outdoors, so we brought our lawn chairs and sat on the church lawn as the children sang and spoke to us. Whenever there was a break in the singing from the children, we could hear a brown thrasher singing from the trees.

The next day we gathered for an outdoor worship service. It was a hot day, so we spread our lawn chairs out under the shade of the poplar trees and the ministers spoke to us from the shade of the church entrance. There was quite a distance between us, but two big speakers brought their voices to us.

That makes me wonder; I can hear the song of a meadowlark sitting on a fence post as I drive by on the highway with the windows closed and the air conditioner going. Why do I have trouble understanding what someone says in church if they don’t speak directly into the microphone?

Springtime in Saskatchewan

Image by GeorgiaLens from Pixabay 

Spring comes with a rush here. In a few weeks we go from brown grass and lifeless trees to an explosion of green, populated by a profusion of songbirds. Last to arrive are the swallows, wrens and hummingbirds. The little guy in the picture is a Carolina Wren. They don’t come here, but the house wrens in our yard are almost the same except the eye stripe is not as pronounced. They are very active, very vocal. heard more often than they are seen.

Summer here is short, but it is intense. Today there are 16½ hours between sunrise and sunset, which explains the explosive growth of trees, lawns, gardens and field crops.

Yet this is dry country, almost desert. The Palliser Expedition 0f 1860 described a large part of southern Saskatchewan as unfit for cultivation. There have been years of drought, but the development of drought tolerant grain varieties, along with improved tillage equipment and methods that disturb the soil as little as possible have made this an immensely prosperous farming area.

The prairie landscape was treeless, except along the rare water courses. the people who settled here planted trees around their farmyards and in their towns. Many of these trees, like poplar, Manitoba maple and caragana, might be considered weeds elsewhere. But they grow quickly and survive our harsh winters.

There are native wildflowers, like the prairie lily, crocus, scarlet mallow and wild rose pictured below. You have to look for them, though; because of the climate many grow close to the ground or only in sheltered areas.

Pr

Nurseries have selected and developed a great variety of flowers, vegetables, fruits and ornamental shrubs that are hardy for this area. So, for a few months every summer, our country blossoms like a rose.

Recovery

Chris had been on a waiting list for surgery since last October. The last time she enquired it sounded like she would have to wait a few more months since the medical system has been occupied caring for COVID patients. Then out of the blue came a phone call saying the surgeon has an open slot on May 25, due to a cancellation. Do you want it?

She jumped at the chance to be done with the waiting. We got to the hospital by 7:00 last Tuesday morning and the surgery took place three hours later. After the surgery she was given Tylenol and morphine for the pain. She came home the next afternoon with instructions to take three regular strength Tylenol every four hours. They gave her a prescription for morphine, in case the Tylenol wasn’t enough.

We didn’t know what to expect, but her recovery has surprised both of us. She never needed to get the morphine prescription filled and by today hardy needs Tylenol either. She should not lift anything over five kilos nor do anything too strenuous. She asked me to change the sheets on the bed yesterday, but is able to do almost all of her normal activities. Best of all, the surgery has corrected the original problem!

At the same time, today is the first day of the first stage of reopening Saskatchewan. If all goes well, stage two will come in three weeks and if that goes well, stage three will follow in another three weeks. That will mean the end of all COVID restrictions.

It’s beginning to look like an enjoyable summer ahead of us. We are thankful to God for bringing us safely thus far and this double recovery is extra cause for rejoicing.

Understanding the language of the Bible

There is a good possibility that using a dictionary of the English language will muddy the waters when it comes to trying to understand a word used in the Bible. The word science found in 1 Timothy 6:20 is a case in point. The Greek word here translated science is gnosis, which in all its 28 other appearances in the New Testament is translated knowledge. That is what it means in this verse also. Science is a word of French origin, derived from the verb scier – to know. In French, science simply means knowledge and that was its original meaning in English. The meaning has shifted in English over the past 400 years, but to understand 1 Timothy 6:20 we need to go back to its original meaning.

Image by Robert C from Pixabay 

Here is what Adam Clarke says on this verse:

And oppositions of science falsely so called – Και αντιθεσεις της ψευδωνυμου γνωσεως·
And oppositions of knowledge falsely so named. Dr. Macknight’s note here is worthy of much attention: “In the enumeration of the different kinds of inspiration bestowed on the first preachers of the Gospel, 1Co_12:8, we find the word of knowledge mentioned; by which is meant that kind of inspiration which gave to the apostles and superior Christian prophets the knowledge of the true meaning of the Jewish Scriptures. This inspiration the false teachers pretending to possess, dignified their misinterpretations of the ancient Scriptures with the name of knowledge, that is, inspired knowledge; for so the word signifies, 1Co_14:6. And as by these interpretations they endeavored to establish the efficacy of the Levitical atonements, the apostle very properly termed these interpretations oppositions of knowledge, because they were framed to establish doctrines opposite to, and subversive of, the Gospel. To destroy the credit of these teachers, he affirmed that the knowledge from which they proceeded was falsely called inspired knowledge; for they were not inspired with the knowledge of the meaning of the Scriptures, but only pretended to it.” Others think that the apostle has the Gnostics in view. But it is not clear that these heretics, or whatever they were, had any proper existence at this time. On the whole, Dr. Macknight’s interpretation seems to be the best.

Prairie Spring

A few days ago we still needed to run the furnace in the morning to make the house comfortable. Today we have to try to cool it down. The temperature at 11:00 am is 30° (86°F).

We had a long winter and a slow spring. But now we hear birds singing at 4:00 am and I was hearing the serenade of a brown thrasher as I ate my breakfast. Chris was almost despairing of seeing the swallows this year, this is much later than their usual first appearance. This morning they are back!

Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay 

I haven’t cut the grass yet, the lawn is green but hasn’t grown much because of how dry it is. Little yellow flowers have appeared on our lawn and I enjoy the splash of colour. The scent of lilacs will soon be wafting through the air. Our neighbour’s house has disappeared behind a wall of green leaves. In a few days we won’t be able to see the highway from our house. It is half a mile away and last summer was the first time that the trees on the west side of our acreage had grown dense enough to block our view.

We are enjoying the beautiful weather, farmers around us have been busy the past two weeks and most of the crop is now in the ground. Now we are hearing the old flatlander lament:

We sit and gaze across the plains
And wonder why it never rains.

For the past three weeks the long range forecast has promised heavy rains 7 to 10 days in the future. It’s like a mirage, it keeps moving and we never get closer. One of these days it will surprise us.

Are You Perfect?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructed his disciples: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:46). Instructions like this are found all through the Old and New Testaments. In Genesis 17:1, God said to Abraham: “I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.”

Some people say that the only way that we can be perfect is by faith in Jesus Christ so that His perfection is imputed to us. How does that fit with God’s instruction to Abraham?

There are 12 Hebrew words that are translated perfect in the Old Testament, and 8 Greek words that are translated perfect in the New Testament. These Hebrew and Greek words are often translated by other words in the Bible, usually words like complete or finished.

The Greek word teleios, which is twice used in the first verse that I quoted, means brought to an end, full grown, adult, mature. In 1 Corinthians 14:20 the same word is translated men: “Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.” And in Hebrews 5:14 it is translated of full age: “ But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”

The English word perfect is defined thus by Oxford: 1 complete; not deficient 2 flawless; without defect 3 very satisfactory 4 exact; precise 5 entire; unqualified 9 eminently suitable. Meanings 6, 7 and 8 deal with grammar, botany and sports. In English grammar the perfect past tense refers to an action that was completed in the past before something else happened; the imperfect past tense refers to an action that began in the past and was not complete at the moment being spoken of.

Too many people get hung up on definition 2 and think it is the only meaning of perfect. In fact, that meaning does not seem to be implied in any of the Scriptural uses of the word perfect. Most often the intended meaning, when referring to people, is grown up, mature. Maturity does not make us flawless, it makes us responsible. We make mistakes, confess them and do our best to make amends. That is what God wants of us.

We read in history of some Christians of many years ago who referred to their leaders as the perfect. If we understand the true meaning of perfect, that amounts to much the same thing as calling them elders. The use of the word perfect by those people is not enough in itself for us to judge them as having a false belief.

So, yes, we are called to be perfect, in the sense of being mature and responsible. It is a high calling, but God has given us the Holy Spirit to help us fulfill that calling.

Pray for them which despitefully use you

Job didn’t know why this was happening to him. All his children and all his livestock were suddenly gone, then his body became covered with oozing sores. He used dust and ashes in an attempt to calm the itching.

His three closest friends came to commiserate with him and at first had no words to say in face of such a calamity. It seemed logical to them that Job must have somehow brought this on himself. The more Job protested his innocence and his trust that God would vindicate him, the more his friends became convinced that he was hiding a great sin.

“Miserable comforters are ye all,” Job responded. “No doubt but that ye are the people and the truth will die with you.” In frustration, Job demanded an explanation for his suffering from God.

The three friends ran out of accusations and fell silent. Another person, Elihu, began to speak, saying “God is greater than man. Why dost thou strive against him? for he giveth not account of any of his matters.”

In the end Job repented of asking for answers, but his trial was not quite over. God spoke to Job’s three friends and told them to bring animals for a sacrifice to Job and ask him to pray for them. It was only when Job prayed for these men who had spoken falsehoods against him that God set Job free from his troubles.

That is still the only way to experience peace and freedom. Jesus said “Pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.” In other words, when we face criticism and unjust accusations, rather than thinking of ways to cut our accusers down to size, let’s pray for them.

What is Christian mission?

Do we think of mission as a structured work of the church whereby we elect a committee, choose a location to do mission work and then choose people to go there and be missionaries? What are the missionaries supposed to do when they get there?

The starting point for all Christian outreach is to tell others what God has done for us. Do we need a committee to tell us to do that? I hope not. It is possible for every person who has experienced the forgiveness of sins and freedom from the power of sin to tell others about what they have experienced and are experiencing daily as they walk and talk with God.

Sometimes organisation is needed to share the gospel in places far from home. But people are ill-equipped to be missionaries far from home if they have never been missionaries close to home.

Let’s not make it complicated. This is not an intellectual exercise, it is a matter of sharing from the heart about the most important thing in our life. Let’s encourage one another to freely tell what God has done for us.

The art is in knowing what to remove

Michelangelo, when asked how he managed to create such a lifelike sculpture of David out of a block of marble, replied “I just removed everything that was not David.”

Chaim Potok, who wrote novels such as The Chosen and My Name is Asher Lev, said something much the same: “I think the hardest part of writing is revising. And by that I mean the following: a novelist has to create the piece of marble and then chip away to find the figure in it.”

Yearning for more red rhubarb

Image by Di Reynolds from Pixabay 

What is a yard in Saskatchewan without a couple of rhubarb plants? But this yard did not have any when we moved in 13 years ago. Ten years ago I bought one plant from a garden centre and planted it in a back corner of the garden. It grew, but never produced enough stalks that we dared cut any for eating.

I finally had to admit that I had planted it too close to the trees. They were thriving, the rhubarb just surviving. Last spring I dug deep to get all the root and transplanted it to a more open area. We didn’t expect much the first year after transplanting, but the rhubarb surprised us. It loved the new location and produced enough for us to have a few good desserts from it.

And was it ever good! In other places where we have lived we planted rhubarb that promised to be redder and sweeter than the old-fashioned rhubarb and could barely discern the difference. This stuff is different. Well, you can’t exactly call rhubarb sweet, but it is much less bitter than others. We look forward to treating ourselves to more this summer. Now I wish we had two plants. But how can I find another plant like this when I have no idea what variety the first one is?

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