Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Category Archives: Faith and life

Remedy for election fever

There is an election in Canada today; I will not vote. I am a citizen, I am qualified to vote, but I am also a citizen of the Kingdom of God and that citizenship is much more precious to me.

There has been a lot of anger, a lot of divisive emotions stirred by this election campaign. Those emotions should not be allowed entrance into the peaceful kingdom of Christ.

I will continue to pray for the government of our land, no matter who is elected. I will continue to strive to be a good citizen, a good neighbour.

There is much evil taking place around us and most people like to talk about it. But we cannot promote what is good by focusing our attention on what is wrong. There are also many acts of goodness and kindness happening around us. I will strive to be one who notices and talks about the good, and not the evil.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:33

And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace. Jeremiah 22:7

A Christian admonition from 600 years ago

[Barbe means beard. It came to be applied to the person wearing the beard, becoming a term of affection for an uncle and then became the term which Anabaptists in France and Italy used for their ministers. Pragela, a valley in the Alps west of Turin and near the French border was home to a large number of Waldensians.]

An Epistle of the Barbe Bartolemi Tertian to the Evangelical churches of Pragela, circa 1420 AD.

Jesus be with us.

To all our faithful and beloved brethren in Jesus Christ.  I greet you all.  Amen.

This Epistle is to alert your brotherhood, acquitting myself of that trust which is committed to me by God concerning you for the salvation of your souls, according to the light of truth given to us by the Most High.  May every one of you maintain, increase and cherish to your utmost and by no means weaken or diminish those good principles, forms and customs given by those who have gone before us, of which we are not worthy.

For it would be but a very small and poor advantage for us to have been renewed by the fatherly persuasions and the light given to us by God, if we should now give ourselves up to a worldly, diabolical and fleshly conversation, forsaking the principal good, which is God, and the salvation of our souls for a short temporal life.  For the Lord has said in the gospel, What will it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?  And, It were better never to have known the way of righteousness, than having once known it, to walk contrary to it.

Yea, we shall be altogether inexcusable before the righteousness of God, and our condemnation more severe.  For more torment will be inflicted upon those who have had the greatest knowledge.  Wherefore I beseech you by the love of God not to diminish but to increase the love, fear and obedience which is due unto God, and to one another, and also to keep the good customs which you have seen and heard of God, by us and others.  And that you will purge out from among you all those faults and failings which disturb your peace, love and concord, and all that obstructs your liberty in the service of God, and your own salvation and the administration of truth, if you desire that God would prosper you in the temporal and spiritual goods.  For you can do nothing without Him.

If you desire to be heirs of His glory, do as He tells you, If you would enter into life, keep my commandments.  Moreover, let there be among you no vain sports, gluttony, whoredoms, balls or other debaucheries, nor questions, fraud, usury, envy or discord.  Neither support or uphold among you any persons of an evil life who could become a stumbling block or evil example to you.  Rather let love and faithfulness reign among you and all good examples, doing one to another as every one would that it should be done to him.  For otherwise it is not possible that any can be saved, or find grace and favour with God and man in this world, or glory in that which is to come.

And it is necessary that the leaders and those who govern among you see to maintaining these things.  For when the head is sick all the members suffer.  Wherefore, if you hope and desire to possess eternal life and to be held in esteem and favour and to prosper in the world in both spiritual and temporal things, cleanse yourselves from every disorderly way among you so that God may always be with you, Who never forsakes those who put their trust in Him.  But know for certain that God does not answer or dwell with sinners, nor with the soul who desire evil, nor with the man that is a slave to sin.  Wherefore let every one cleanse the way of his own heart and flee from dangers if he would not perish in them.  I shall not say more for the present, except that ye do all these things and the God of Peace be with you all.  Join with us in true, humble and devout prayer.  Greetings to all the faithful and beloved of Christ.  Amen

I am wholly yours, Bartholomeus Tertianus, ready to serve you in all things in our power, according to the will of God.

The race of life

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay 

Jesus said: “but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” Matthew 10:22

Something in me would like to think that He meant:
All you have to do is sit tight
And everything will turn out right.

But I believe what He really meant was:
Keep on running with all your might
Until you cross the finish line.

The kingdom of God

The kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom with spiritual citizens and a spiritual king. When a person repents of living in the ways of the world and is born again by the power of the Holy Spirit, that person becomes part of the kingdom of God.

Such a person, though still living in this physical world and needing to use the infrastructure of the physical world, is no longer governed by the spirit that prevails among the citizens of the physical world. He now owes his allegiance to the lord of lords and king of kings, Jesus Christ.

Emotions and impulses that are characteristic of the physical world: jealousy, envy, hatred, lust, fear, pride and malice, have no value in the spiritual kingdom. The Holy Spirit empowers people to love, to forgive, to be patient, to be peaceful and to rejoice in the little things that bless each day of their lives.

Citizens of the heavenly kingdom differ from one another in many ways. They are male and female, rich and poor, speak different languages, have different physical appearances. It is the presence of the Holy Spirit in their hearts, unseen to the natural eye, that causes them to feel an affinity with one another.

All earthly kingdoms are ruled by the same unseen lord: the old serpent, called the devil and Satan. He shows himself as an angel of light, promising an earthly paradise. Yet he is always working to divide people from one another. He leads people to mistrust one another, within a country, a home, and even in a church. Wherever one finds a spirit of division, that is the work of this enemy.

Citizens of the heavenly kingdom need to be aware of this undercover warfare and beware when thoughts of distrust, fear and anger present themselves. This way leads to spiritual death. We must choose to trust our sovereign Lord, to walk in peace and love. We must choose life.

“Finders keepers” would have been the wrong choice

[First posted November 14, 2013]

Noah Muroff, an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi, and his wife Esther went shopping online for a desk for the study in their home and found a cherry wood executive desk that they were able to buy for $150.  When they got it home, they found it would not fit through the door of the study.  The only option seemed to be to take it apart and then reassemble it inside the study.

Image by kalhh from Pixabay 

When Rabbi Muroff pulled out the file drawer, he noticed a plastic shopping bag had fallen behind it.  Inside the bag was $98,000 in US $100 bills.  When they bought the desk the middle-aged woman they bought it from said she had bought it at Staples and assembled it herself, so there was no doubt where the money had come from.

The Muroffs say they didn’t need any time to discuss what they were going to do.  Although it was 11:30 at night, they called the woman right away.  She was shocked by their honesty.  She told them that if they had decided to keep the money she would have been none the wiser.

The money was an inheritance from her parents who had died, one shortly after the other.  She had been too overwhelmed to make any decisions about the money at the time and had simply stuffed it away in a safe place.  Later she had looked in the desk and it was not there.  She reasoned that it must be somewhere else in the house and put the desk up for sale, not realizing the bag had fallen behind the file drawer.

The next day the Muroffs returned the money, taking their children along to show what to do when one finds something that does not belong to him.  The woman gave them $3,500 for their honesty and also returned the $150 they had paid for the desk.

Rabbi Muroff is 28, a Torah teacher at the Yeshiva high school in New Haven, Connecticut.  He and his wife have four children.  The oldest is six.  The Yeshiva cannot afford to pay a big salary and the family is used to careful budgeting.  Still, the money they found in the bag was not even tempting.  “If God wants us to have the $98,000,” Esther said to her husband, “He’ll make sure He gets it to us in some other way.  God is not limited.”

The importance of French

One of our ministers visited in Côte d’Ivoire and was invited to preach the sermon in a Sunday worship service. He spoke in English, the missionary translated to French and a local brother translated to the local language. Someone might ask, “Why didn’t the missionary learn the local language?” The answer to that is another question, “Which one?” There are around 100 tribal languages in Côte d’Ivoire.

Many languages of the world serve as a means of identifying a group of people of common heritage and distinguishing them from other tribal groups. Imagine trying to run a government, a legal system, a school system, a medical system, a police force, an army, using 100 different languages. These languages serves as barriers, walls really, around the individual tribal groups.

Another language is needed to serve as a bridge to connect all these tribal groups and enable the unified administration of the country and all its functions. This is where French comes in. Many people may still speak their tribal language, but it is apt to be only an oral language. For business and many other purposes the usefulness of French as a national language has become more and more evident. Not only within Côte d’Ivoire, but also in their relationship with other countries and for the ability to access all the resources that are available in the French language.

There are 75 million people in the world who speak French as their mother tongue. If we stop there, French does not appear to be a very important language. But if we consider French as a bridge language, a language that people use on a daily basis, that number is much higher, probably about four times higher. And that number is growing rapidly. It is estimated that 100 to 125 million people are learning French and that by 2050 the number of French speaking people in the world will reach 500 million. Some say 600 or 700 million.

English and French are the only two languages that are spoken on every continent and by at least a few people in every country of the world. There are other languages that are spoken by large numbers of people, but do not serve as bridges between people of different ethnic origin. Swahili serves as a bridge language in parts of eastern Africa, but isn’t particularly useful in Europe or North America.

On a local level, there are 6,000 children in Saskatoon, our nearest city, who are receiving their education in French. Some are from French-speaking families and attend a French school, most are attending French immersion schools. Among these are many new Canadians of Asian and Hispanic background.

What are all these people reading? There is an abundance of information and entertainment available in French, but the supply of literature that portrays an authentic Anabaptist-Mennonite faith is limited. That is the reason for the existence and activity of the French editing committee of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite, of which I am a member.

Old money and new money

During my teen years, I used to pick up the latest copy of Look magazine at the drugstore and read it end to end. I can only remember one article. I don’t remember the title, but it was about people from families that had been wealthy for several generations and the new rich.

The point of the article was that those with old money did not feel they had anything to prove, while those who had recently become wealthy were always trying to prove, to themselves and others, that they were rich.

One example was two men going into the hardware store to buy gloves for working in the yard. The clerk (this was back in the day when stores still had clerks) showed each man the same pair of gloves. The first man, the one who had always been wealthy, did not find it at all embarrassing to ask “Don’t you have something a little cheaper? I only want them for working in the dirt and the bushes.”

The second man, whose wealth was of more recent date, asked “Don’t you have something better than that? I don’t care how much they cost.”

Why do we as Christians so often behave like the second man, as though we needed to prove something? If we are children of God we are heirs of imperishable riches. We should have a calm peace and assurance that lets us stand aside from the mad rush for the riches that shall perish.

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.

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