Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: God

Who was “John the Revelator”?

It has become common in some Christian circles to speak of the writer of the book of Revelation as being “John the Revelator.” Who was this guy?

This nom de plume seems to have originated with German Bible scholars of the 19th century who approached the Bible as literature, simply a series of writings produced by human understanding and imagination. For instance, in studying the book of Daniel, they concluded there must have been two authors. The first six chapters were no doubt written by a man named Daniel who lived in the time of Nebuchadnezzar and Darius. But the rest, especially chapter eight which contains a thinly veiled description of the conquests of Alexander the Great, the division of his kingdom into four parts and the rise of Antiochus Epiphanes, could not possibly have been known by this Daniel who had lived centuries before the events he described. Therefore there must have been a second “Daniel” who wrote after those events.

After studying the book of Revelation, they concluded that the writer had done a masterful job of blending elements of Daniel and Ezekiel with current events. He had spun a wonderful yarn, but they had no idea who the writer could be. He called himself John, but they could not connect him to anyone named John who was known to have lived in that time period. It could not be the apostle John, for his writing style and choice of words did not match those found in the gospel and epistles of John the apostle. So why not just call him “John the Revelator”?

I suppose that all makes sense to those who do not believe in a God who had any part in the events described in the Bible, or in the writing of it. For those who believe that God was very much involved in all of that, there are immense problems with the idea of “John the Revelator.”

The first verse of the book of Revelation identifies it as “The Revelation of Jesus Christ which . . . was signified by his angel unto his servant, John.” This revelation was given to John, not by John, therefore it cannot be correct to speak of him as “the Revelator.”

Secondly. if we believe that John actually saw Jesus as he is described in chapter one, standing in the midst of seven candlesticks, his feet glowing as molten brass, his eyes as flames of fire and a double-edged sword coming out of his mouth, it is not hard to believe that his writing style would change.

If we believe that John the apostle actually saw everything he records in the Revelation, it is entirely inappropriate to follow the lead of unbelieving scholars and call him “John the Revelator.” Why don’t we just call him “the Apostle John”?

The other epidemic

Image by picman2 from Pixabay 

There is an epidemic stalking our land, people are dying, others are left incapable of working or maintaining relationships. No, I’m not talking about COVID, this is an epidemic that was around before COVID and will probably still be afflicting people long after COVID is gone. Since this epidemic only affects people hooked on street drugs, the rest of us may think we can ignore it.

Last Sunday my wife’s sister was found dead in a city several hours from us, with drug paraphernalia on the table in front of her. She had no phone, no one in the family knew where she lived. My wife had been able to locate her and visit a few times in recent years, but she kept moving and did not keep in touch with any of her family.

Sometimes the opioid epidemic ceases to be just an item in the newspaper, comes this close to us and robs us of a beloved family member. The people selling street drugs are not pharmacists or chemists, the drugs they sell are not uniform in effect. When a person uses such drugs for years they are sooner or later going to get something that gives them a bad trip or something that turns the lights out for good. Naloxone reverses the effects of opioids, but it appears no one was with my sister-in-law when she took her last hit. No one to rush her to the hospital or to find a street worker with a Naloxone kit.

What can we do to help such people? We feel compelled to do what we can to fix broken lives. The tough reality is that we can do nothing to rescue people against their will. They made choices, choices that seemed small and insignificant at the time, that led them into being trapped in a lifestyle where nothing: family, job or home, means as much as getting another hit. They must start making small choices to break free from that web. No one else can make those choices for them.

What can we do to help such people? We can pray. We must pray. We cannot manipulate God, God does not manipulate people. But we can pray that at some place and moment a connection can be established between God and the person we are praying for. We can do our best to maintain a connection with that person. It won’t be easy because addictions lead to broken connections, or connections solely for the purpose of getting money to buy drugs.

Above all, we must keep ourselves in the love and peace of God, without anger or bitterness. A loved one who is an addict has probably betrayed our trust, lied to us, maybe even blamed us for his or her problem. But this addict is still a person whom God loves and so must we. If we feel angry or bitter, our loved one will know it and that will be a barrier between us.

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.

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.

Scaredy-cat

Image by JL G from Pixabay

We used to have a nice screen door. We still have the door, but it’s not so nice anymore. The wind slammed it against the railing, more than once. I tried to straighten it, but it will never fit right again. Then the latch mechanism wore out. It would cost a lot to replace the latch and the door is no longer worth that kind of repair. So I installed plain handles inside and out and an old-fashioned screen door catch that goes snap! when we open the door and snap! when we close it.

One of our cats has always been wary of doors. Angus is afraid there might be something scary on the other side; he approaches with caution and peers to see what might be out there before stepping through the open door. The snap! the door now makes has unnerved him. He comes to the door and meows to come in. Before I even open the door, he has run halfway down the walk. I guess it’s the back door for Angus from now on. At least until he gets used to the snap! of the front door.

Pookie, our other cat, trusts that whatever we have done to that door is not any danger to him. He is not going to let a snap! stop him from going through an open door.

This has got me to wondering – when God shows me an open door, am I like Angus? Or am I like Pookie?

The lament of the creator

Every creator painfully experiences the chasm between his inner vision and its ultimate expression.
– Isaac Bashevis Singer

Do you suppose that’s why Monet painted so many pictures of his flower garden — he was trying to capture it on canvas exactly as he was seeing it?

I don’t believe a writer is ever fully satisfied that he has communicated exactly what he wanted to say, in exactly the way he wanted it to come out.

God the Creator is also painfully aware of the chasm between the world as He wanted it to be and the world as it really is. But in this case it is not the fault of the Creator. After all, He started with paradise, the Garden of Eden. We, the creatures, messed that up; and we continue to mess up the world, because we think we have a better idea.

Heart Health

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Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, health authorities have been telling us that elderly people are most in danger from the virus. Mortality counts appear to bear that out. However, studies of the data are refining that message, showing that heart health is the critical factor in whether or not one survives an attack of the virus. To be sure, the elderly are far more likely to have heart problems, but younger people with heart problems are just as apt to succumb to the disease, and the elderly with healthy hearts are likely to be survivors.

The heart is just a pump, but when the health of that pump is impaired the cells of the whole body no longer receive sufficient oxygen to function effectively. In some cases the heart is weakened by genetic defects or by disease, but most commonly it is harmed by poor nutrition and lack of exercise.

Proverbs 4:23 tells us there is a close parallel in our spiritual life: Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. No MRI will detect the heart spoken of here, yet the similarities between physical health and spiritual health are very striking.

  • Comfort food may taste good, but if that is all our diet consists of our health will suffer. We can subsist for years on familiar Bible stories and spiritual platitudes, but our health will go steadily downhill.
    For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. 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. (Hebrews 5:12-14)
    And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. (Luke 21:34)
  • Exercise is essential to our health
    But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8)
  • God supplies the “oxygen” to purify our hearts.
    Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. (James 4:7-8)
  • A healthy heart can resist invasion by a virus, or temptation
    But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. (1 Timothy 6:6-9)

Are you a deist or a theist?

If you are a deist, you believe:
– that there must be a higher power because this complex world could not just have happened;
– that there are moral lessons in the Bible that will help us to find happiness;
– that the Bible as a whole is mysterious and confusing and better left alone;
– that it is good to pray when in need, because the higher power might hear and help.

If you are a theist, you believe:
– that God is not an explanation, He is a revelation;
– that the God who created all things reveals himself personally to us;
– that the whole Bible is an introduction to God;
– that we need to read the whole Bible to recognize how God speaks to us;
– that God is near, hears our prayers and answers them;
– that true happiness can only be found by making God the Lord of our life.

Two way communication

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God has spoken once, His words are written in the holy book and it is the whole duty of man to obey all that is taught in the holy book. Religious leaders help to understand parts of the holy book that may not be clear, but God does not speak to people today.

The religion which believes that is called Islam. There are more than a billion devout followers of this religion.

Christianity also teaches that God has spoken in the past and His words are collected in a holy book called the Bible. But Christianity teaches something more than that: God speaks to people today by His Holy Spirit and by His church. There is full agreement in what God says by these three means.

If there is discord in what we are hearing, we need to search for the problem. Perhaps we have been taught an interpretation of parts of the Bible and the Holy Spirit is saying something that does not fit with what we have been taught. Is the problem with the interpretation we have been taught, or are we listening to a spirit that is not the Holy Spirit?

Perhaps the church to which we belong is teaching something that doesn’t seem to agree with what we read in the Bible or what the Holy Spirit is telling us. We need to be very careful to not become one who believes that he alone has the correct understanding of truth. But when it is clear that the church to which we belong is faithful to neither the Spirit nor the Bible, it is time to search for a church that is.

If we find the Bible difficult to understand, the best answer may not be to look for a Bible that is easier to understand. The best way to increase our understanding of the Bible is to be obedient to the parts that we do understand.

Prayer should not be a one way conversation. God wants us to talk to Him; He also wants to speak to us. If we are hearing nothing, we should search our hearts to see if we have obeyed the instructions He has given us in the past.

To be in full communion with God, we must be obedient to the things He says to us, whether through the Bible, the church or the Holy Spirit. This connection with God will also connect us with other true believers. This is not a man-made unity, which is fragile, but the unity of the family of God, founded on the bedrock of God’s truth.

The voice of God

Early in my Christian life I obtained some literature that gave an intellectually logical explanation of the atonement. The theme was that Jesus had suffered punishment in hell equivalent to the eternal torment of every soul that would ever be saved. Therefore there was no way that a saved soul need ever fear hell, because his penalty had already been fully paid. On the other hand, there was no hope for those for whom Jesus had not borne the eternal punishment.

This is just the briefest of summaries of what I read, the subject was expounded at considerable length with selected Scriptures that seemed to support the view of the writers. I considered this explanation for some time. It was a watertight argument, intellectually precise with no loose ends that I could find. Yet in this mathematical precision I could find no means for a person to know in which camp he was; was he predestined to salvation or to damnation? Was it possible to know?

Finally, in the turmoil of these questions, I knelt to pray, asking God to give me an understanding of how the death of Jesus made it possible for God to forgive the sins of mankind. The response was immediate – it was silent but unmistakably from God: “You don’t need to understand.”

I was disappointed for a moment, then realized that the turmoil was gone – my mind was at rest.  I had been seeking an understanding of the mechanism of the atonement that would be intellectually satisfying and set my mind at rest. I realized now that it is not possible for that kind of understanding to bring rest and peace. Yet it only took five words from the voice of God to do that.

To know that God was aware of my turmoil, that He was waiting for my prayer, that He had answered in a way that addressed my real need, was of more value than any intellectual understanding could ever have been.

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