Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Good morning, it’s 2021!

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Looking back, COVID-19 dominated the news and overturned many of our plans for the year that ended at midnight. But that was not all that was going on. As of Wednesday there have been 154 deaths from COVID in Saskatchewan. To the end of November there have been 323 deaths from drug overdoses. Those deaths have been more traumatic for families and relationships.

For many of us the year has been pretty ordinary, with just a few inconveniences. People have died from many other causes, babies have been born, couples have married, We have learned to wear masks, use hand sanitizer and go on with out daily lives. Families have spent more time together than they used to and learned to avoid getting too close to others in public places.

This year is going to be different. But lets not be too sure we know in what ways it will be different. That should be one lesson to carry with us from 2020. We have learned that we are more flexible than we thought; we can bend, and not break. Have we become flexible enough that God can use us?

There are hurting people all around us; the number of deaths from drug overdoses is just one symptom of that. Many people wish their lives could be different. Being flexible isn’t the whole solution to being able to offer hope to those who feel their lives are hopeless. First we need to listen. We need to be able to discern the hurt in the hearts of people around us, to recognize that anger, bitterness and despair are only noise to cover the real hurt.

May 2021 be a year when God teaches us how to hear.

Are we trusting in the wrong DNA?

Doesn’t it almost seem that the church we belong to is determined by our DNA? Mom and Dad were Anglican, so were Grandma and Grandpa, so were my my great-grandparents, so I become Anglican too. For others it would be Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran, Mennonite and so on. But it is part of our heredity. With that heredity comes a whole package of tradition, myth, custom and ideas of right and wrong behaviour.

As we are growing up that feels comfortable and natural. I know where I fit and we do things right, not like all those other denominations. But sooner or later we begin to wonder about those comfortable assumptions. Questions arise for which my cultural faith has no answers. At this point an alarming number of young people bail out, not just out of their parents denomination, but out of Christianity altogether.

What has gone wrong? I have been part of that exodus from a form of Christianity that seemed empty and meaningless. The problem is that we had mistaken the outward packaging of Christianity for the redemption and the relationship with Jesus Christ that is the essence of Christianity. Maybe those who handed that package down to us believed the packaging was what was most important, but when we looked inside the package we found it was empty.

The apostle Peter wrote: “Ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ,” (1 Peter 1:18-19). Vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers means the meaningless manner of living handed down from your ancestors.

I looked at other belief systems and practices that claimed to be the way to a truly meaningful life. I found them just as disappointing. Eventually that search brought me back to Christianity, not the outward packaging, but a transformed life through the blood of Jesus Christ. It is the blood of Jesus that brings redemption, a meaningful way of living and a new relationship with Jesus, the giver of life. Our natural bloodlines, culture or even an intellectual knowledge of the truth, will not do that for us.

For some of us, our parents did have that real, living faith, but they did not pass it on to us. It is a spiritual heritage, not a family heritage. We can only obtain it from Jesus, by His blood. What believing parents can do for their children it to demonstrate what a living faith looks life, by reading the Bible and praying as a family, by belonging to a church which preaches and practices a living faith, by living out their faith in all areas of life, especially in their relationships with others.

The people around us who scorn and reject Christianity do not do so because they lack intelligence, or because faith was not part of the DNA received from their parents. For many of them it may simply be that they have never seen models of true faith in the people they know. Perhaps if we lift up our eyes we will see fields ripe for the harvest in places where we never expected that to be possible.

The Kingdom of Jesus Christ

This is the first of a series of articles about the kingdom of Christ that my wife has written and posted on her blog. I have written on the topic from time to time, but I feel she has summed things up more clearly than I have.

Christine's Collection

For the most part I like to keep my writing brief and easy to read, but now I feel the urge to do a few posts on a subject thoroughly hashed over by Christians for ages:
What is – and where is – the Kingdom of Jesus Christ?

This topic may not interest a lot of my readers, but I’ll tag these posts Prophecy so you can follow them if you’re interested in what I have to say on this subject. I want to look at some of the prophesies and the theological potpourri we’ve waded through in our day, hoping to shed some light and not spark too much heat. But before I start, I’ll give you some of our background so you’ll know…

Where I’m Coming From

Outside of weddings and funerals, my family rarely darkened a church door. Mom F was a believer and packed me and…

View original post 719 more words

The Son of God

Waubuno, Ontario, December 27, 1897

Ma was telling us that there are always men rising up and declaring that Jesus could not be the Son of God, but was just a wonderful teacher. But she says not to let that bother us, for none of those men who undertake to explain all the works of God, have been able to explain very much after all. All the wisdom of all the men of all the ages has never been able to explain what life is, or the Power that with no effort at all can make the same kind of green grass turn into wool on a sheep, or hair on a cow, or feathers on a goose.

She says that Christ coming the way He did is really no greater miracle than the miracle of any life that comes to the earth, and is just as easily explained.

Only being we see so many forms of life around us, we have to believe in that whether we want to or not. A man who plants grain in the ground has to believe that some Power is going to make it grow. Otherwise he would do no planting, and so would starve. Everybody sees what happens there and so believes, but nobody yet has been able to explain how it happens. So they just go ahead and plant their grain and stop bothering their heads about what can’t be explained.

But in believing in Christ, God has kept for us the gift of faith, and has made it so that people of earth can accept Him by faith, or reject Him by unbelief. He has not made it so we must accept His greatest gift if we do not want to do so. In the miracle of Love we are not forced to believe, as we are in the other miracles that God has wrought, and that no man-wisdom has ever yet been able to explain.

Ma says this one most rare and precious gift, is far too dear to the Heart of God to be forced on any man’s unbelief.

It must first become to us our hearts’ desire, and only then may we stretch our hands and take it.

from When I was Thirteen, by Christina Young

What went wrong?

Some reports say that 75% of the deaths from COVID-19 occurred in long-term residences for seniors. I don’t find that hard to believe. Here is Saskatchewan there have been 130 deaths so far this year, 25% of those deaths occurred during one recent outbreak in one residence. I believe everyone did the best they could with the situation as they understood it, but resources and personnel have been overwhelmed by the spread of an invisible attacker.

At the beginning of the pandemic there was a fear that hospitals would be overwhelmed. In some cases hospitals were able to make more beds available by transferring elderly people to long term care homes. In retrospect, that does not seem to have been a good idea. Here are some of the problems that have been identified.

  1. Many of the larger homes had multi-patient rooms, up to four beds in one room. When one person in that room became ill there were no private rooms available to isolate them. You could draw a curtain around the bed with the sick person, but the virus spread by airborne particles over, under and around that curtain.
  2. Most homes had a large contingent of part-time workers. In larger urban centres that often meant that many of those workers were employed at more than one home. When the virus arrived in one home those workers carried it to the other home where they worked before they realized they had been infected.
  3. Elderly people often do not present the same symptoms of COVID-19 as younger people, leading to delays in diagnosis.
  4. Long-term care homes were closed to visitors. Workers who were unknown to the patients were brought in to replace those who were sick. Cutting off the elderly from family, faith communities and familiar caregivers caused loneliness, confusion, and fear. Those emotions have physical consequences.

    With all good intentions, we have largely botched the care of the most vulnerable among us. It will serve no good purpose to find people to blame this on, but perhaps some lessons can be learned for the future. One lesson may be that bigger is not always better. Perhaps the ultimate lesson is that we are all to blame because we thought it was a good idea to separate the elderly into large institutions where their physical needs could be provided, which has resulted in isolating ourselves from them.

Asphalt cowboys

Image by fkevin from Pixabay 

Our oldest grandson obtained his 1A license yesterday, which means he is qualified to drive a tuck like the one illustrated above. That brought back memories of when I worked in the Post Office in Moose Jaw almost fifty years ago.

Most of the time I worked the night shift, which was when most of the semi-trailer trucks came in. These trucks had to come down a narrow back alley with power poles along one side, pull into the loading area behind the Post Office , make a U-turn and back up to the loading dock. Chief (not very respectful, but that’s what indigenous men got called) came from Calgary. He came down the back alley geared down but full throttle, made the U-turn and backed up to the loading dock. The trailer was always square on to the loading dock with no gap to trip over when unloading. Pop came towards morning with a full load from Winnipeg; he drove more quietly and slowly, but he also got square to the loading dock the first time, every time.

Chief and Pop were the only 100% reliable drivers, none of the others could ever get square to the dock in those close confines. Occasionally a driver would make several attempts, but still leave an open angle between the trailer floor and the dock. We were thankful that those trucks never had large quantities of mail for us. None of us ever got hurt taking bags and packages out of those trailers, but the danger was there. Usually one of us would get into the trailer and throw stuff out to the others.

Extra truckers were called into service during the Christmas rush. I remember one who wouldn’t even venture into the alley. He looked it over and then decided to park in the street in front of the Post Office. We wheeled a cart out to the street and he handed the mail bags out to us from the side door of the trailer.

The living Word of God

When Aaron made a golden calf for the people to worship, he was not intending it as idolatry. The people could not grasp the concept of an un seen God and wanted something they could see. It is called a calf in the Bible, but it was a bull, represented in the prime of his strength. This was the best symbol they could imagine for a god who was the all-powerful source of life.

Yet it was idolatry, for a bull comes far short of representing the reality of a God who spoke and the universe, the world and everything in it appeared. Well not quite everything. He created the first man and woman with his own hands.

But even if we can stretch our minds to comprehend God as omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, yet unseen, our understanding of who He is remains superficial. That is why He came into this world and walked among us, as one of us, yet much more than one of us.

Jesus, the living Word, calmed the storm with a word, healed the eyes of Bartimaeus with a word, cast out devils with a word, healed the sick with a word, restored Lazarus to life with a word. “What manner of man is this?” The reality of who Jesus is goes beyond the physical form. It was revealed in his love for children, for sinners, for outcasts, his rebukes to the self-righteous, his compassion for those in distress, his words of forgiveness from the cross.

Jesus said “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” You cannot draw a picture that shows the love, compassion, grace and power of Jesus, nor make a statue to represent it. Most of those who saw Jesus when he walked on the earth did not see who he was. They wanted the physical representation more than the reality. That is the way our minds work.

Some did see, by faith. As we read the record they left for us, let us pray for faith to see Jesus as they saw him, the living Word, the Almighty God in action, the Saviour of the world..

To know and to do the will of God

There are striking similarities in the stories of the three men mentioned in Monday’s post. Their study of the Martyrs’ Mirror and the writings of Menno Simons and Dietrich Philips led them to see that the Mennonite church to which they belonged was adrift from the anchor of the old faith. Each one found that a leader of their church saw things as they did, but lacked the fortitude to act on that conviction.

In John Holdeman’s case it was bishop Abraham Rohrer of Medina county, Ohio. John Holdeman considered him to be the most gifted minister in his time. He believed that bishop Rohrer was convinced of the decay in the church and believed that if he had begun in one point to labour to bring the church back to the right foundation that God would have revealed more to him. But he was not willing.

Levi Young expressed confidence in William Gehman, one of the elders of the Evangelical Mennonite Association. But William Shelley, the other elder, was much opposed to Levi Young’s concerns. On April 30, 1865 Levi Young wrote in his diary: “After meeting I was attacked by many members of the E. Men. and accused of having acted very unwise in withdrawing from them. My convictions are still that I did but my duty, but if I did wrong my confidence in the Lord is that He will convince me of my error. My only desire and resolution is to learn the will of God and to do the same.”

Hiram Mininger wrote of his visits with the aged bishop Josiah Clemmer. The bishop felt that God’s hand was leading. Mininger told him that he would remain with the old Mennonite church if it would be wiling to comply with the original Mennonite confession of faith. Clemmer promised to call a ministers’ council to see what could be done. After hearing nothing form some time, Mininger asked the bishop how he was getting along in this matter. Bishop Clemmer reponded that he had considered the matter and come to the conclusion that it was more than he could undertake.

Bishop Clemmer told Hiram Mininger: “You can expect that the community will have a lot to say. They will go back in your life, and whatever they can accumulate as a witness against you, that will they say.” The bishop said that member of his church would be among those who did that, but he never would. That all came to pass.

John Holdeman, Levi Young and Hiram Mininger followed the leading of the Holy Spirit, despite opposition and ridicule. Many people even today acknowledge that God is calling them to come closer, yet only a few follow through. Is the approval of men more persuasive than the approval of God?

Suicide is a spirit

One night, somewhere in Canada, a young indigenous woman found herself battling thoughts of suicide. She was a Christian, she knew that was not what she wanted to do, yet the thought kept coming to her that it would be so easy to escape from her troubles. All she needed to do was walk out to the kitchen, take the big sharp knife and put an end to her days. She would pray and read the Bible yet soon she found herself walking toward the kitchen; she would stop and turn around and pray some more. She knew that those thoughts were coming from a spirit, a spirit that was more powerful than she was and wouldn’t leave her alone. She prayed that God would come to her help, yet the thought of going out to the kitchen and picking up that knife kept coming to her. She read in her Bible and found a passage in Psalms that seemed to be an answer for her, but the thought of suicide kept coming back.

Finally, at 3 am, she picked up her phone and called her pastor. He listened and understood the great danger she was in. He opened his Bible and felt prompted to read to her a passage from the book of Psalms. It was the same passage that she had read earlier! She knew now for a certainty that the Holy Spirit was with her to help her fight this battle. The pastor prayed with her over the phone and when they hung up she knew the battle was over, the enemy spirit was defeated and the peace of God restored in her heart. She went to bed and slept peacefully.

I read this account several years ago and have tried to retell it as I remember it. May we remember when thoughts of suicide come to us that these thoughts are not our own thoughts but come from an enemy who wants to destory us. The only way to be victorious over those thoughts is to seek the help of the Spirit who is more powerful, all powerful. The young lady who told of her encounter with the spirit of suicide sought help in all the right ways: by prayer, by reading God’s Word, by talking to another Christian who was patient, understanding and compassionate.

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. John 10:10

A little history, and a little mystery

Levi Young was a young man on fire for the Lord. He couldn’t have been more than 21 when he was ordained a minister in the Evangelical Mennonite Association. This was a small group with a few congregations in Montgomery county, Pennsylvania. Levi Young served as an itinerant evangelist, but soon began to feel that it was not the spiritual home that he longed for: a church that lived the old faith as portrayed in the writings of Menno Simons, Dietrich Philips and in the Martyrs’ Mirror. He read through those old writings and corresponded with leaders in other Mennonite groups.

One of those he contacted was John Holdeman of Wayne County, Ohio, who had left the old Mennonite church after the same longing and search and now led a small group with members in Ohio, Indiana and Ontario. Levi Young began to come under conviction that he should withdraw from the Evangelical Mennonite Association and finally did so in May of 1866. In December of that year he made another visit to John Holdeman in Ohio and on December 12 John Holdeman baptized Levi Young.

On December 31 Holdeman and Young left for Wilmot township of Waterloo County, Ontario. Here they spent two weeks, holding meetings almost every evening in people’s homes. Levi Young’s diary provides precious historical information. He names a few who were already members of Holdeman’s church, indicating that this was not Holdeman’s first visit. He names a number of others who later became members. Another interesting point is that several times he says “I preached and brother Holdeman exhorted.”

After Levi Young returned home to Pennsylvania, he continued his itinerant preaching, sometimes in the company of ministers from Holdeman’s church. It is evident from his diary that he is an increasingly sick man. In July of 1868 he writes of giving instruction for disposing of his goods. The diary ends in mid-sentence on Monday, July 13. He died two or three days later, three months short of his 27th birthday. The cause of death appears to have been what was in those days called consumption, nowadays known as tuberculosis.

I promised a mystery, and here it is. Levi Young, despite the precarious state of his health, endeavoured to preach the saving grace of Jesus Christ as long as he had breath. Many people gave him hearing, among them in the last months of his life were families named Mininger and Stauffer.

Thirty years after Levi Young died, a young man of Montgomery County by the name of Hiram Mininger made contact with John Holdeman. He too had been searching the old writings and had come to the conclusion that the Mennonite church to which he belonged had departed from the faith. In 1899 Hiram Mininger and his wife, plus Isaiah Stover (Stover is a variant spelling of Stauffer) and his wife, were baptized by John Holdeman. Thus began a small congregation at Souderton, Pennsylvania. Is there some link from Levi Young to Hiram Mininger? I have no idea and no idea how to find out.

Hiram Mininger was later ordained to the ministry and was for many years one of the nmost active ministers and evangelists in the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite.

%d bloggers like this: