Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: hope

Is there any hope?

So many people want to save humanity. What do we need to be saved from? Who really knows? Is it the one who talks the loudest? Why does that person tell us it is a crime to allow those who disagrees with him to talk about their ideas? Is there any hope?

The Bible tells us that if we bite and devour each other, we will all be devoured. We cannot save humanity by fighting with each other. That is the devil’s game.

It is the devil who is behind every attempt to make us distrust and hate each other. If we want to make the world a better place, we must start by refusing to listen to the devil.

Jesus offers a better way. He came to help the sick, the suffering, the sorrowing and the brokenhearted and to offer hope to everyone. He says that we should love everyone and count no one as an enemy. Our true enemies are the devil and his dark angels.

Study the teachings of Jesus in the Bible. He wants us to forsake the ways of hatred and of doing things that hurt others. If we ask Him, He will give us a transformed heart and a new way of looking at life and at the people around us.

We can’t change the whole world, even governments have much less power to do that than we think. But we can do little things to help and encourage others. We can pray to God and ask Him to help others in need and to help our governments do what is best for all mankind. Those things will do more good than to defeat a government that isn’t doing what we think it should do.

We are able to do much more good than we think. Instead of saying “somebody really should do something,” why not be that somebody whenever we have the opportunity? If Jesus is directing our lives, He will show us little things to be done that will make a difference to someone. We shouldn’t keep a record of the good things we have done or boast of them to others. By doing these things we are laying up treasures in heaven, not working for an earthly reward.

It’s not hard to see that the world would be a better place if everyone would live the way that Jesus taught. Most people don’t. The only way to change that is to start with you and me. That is the only, and the best, hope for the world.

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Fame is a dream

Fame is a dream– the praise of man as brief
As morning dew upon the faded leaf;
The summer sun exhales the pearly tear,
And leaves no trace of its existence there.
Seek not for immortality below,
But fix your hopes beyond this vale of woe,
That when oblivion gathers round thy sod,
A lasting record may be found with God.

-Susanna Moodie

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

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.

Travelling home

It was pouring rain, with low-hanging clouds, when our friends drove us to the Vancouver Airport. Our holiday was over, we’d visited family and friends we hadn’t seen for years, and now we were on our way home to Montréal.

Eventually we were seated in our plane at the beginning of the runway. The jet engines roared to life and we began barrelling down the runway, straight for the ocean. From where I was sitting it looked like it was just at the last moment when the nose tilted up and we were airborne. In a few seconds everything below us disappeared and we were lost in the clouds. Soon I felt the plane make a u-turn to head east, then it continued to climb until we were above the clouds.

For the next five hours there was only this fluffy white mass as far as the eye could see. I trusted that we were flying over the Rockies, the Prairies, then the forests and lakes of Ontario. I could see nothing to prove that, but I trusted the pilot would bring us to our intended destination.

Darkness comes early in January and then I could only see the clouds directly below the airplane. Then there was a glow of light below and ahead of us and before long we were flying above this glow that penetrated the clouds. There was still nothing else to see but I knew we were nearing home. The plane made another u-turn and headed west. Many planes a day made this manoeuvre above our home on the east side of Montréal, so I knew where we were.

The jet engines were quieter now, the airspeed began to diminish and we descended into the clouds. We flew on, swathed in clouds, with the glow of the city beneath us. Finally, we broke beneath the clouds and directly in front of us I could see the lights of the runway. The plane descended, touched down smoothly and we were back home in Montréal.

We saw nothing on the ground to tell us where we were during that whole 4,500 km journey and we knew the pilot didn’t either. But he was getting his information from another source and we trusted he knew exactly where we were at all times.

Not all journeys are that relaxing. My wife is on a journey of cancer treatment at this time and I am along for the ride. Today we will be in Saskatoon for another round of chemotherapy. She has Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia and is receiving two drugs that target the white cells affected by that disease. We trust the oncologist and the nurses, but the journey is wearisome. The disease makes her tired already and one doctor told us the treatment will make her more tired and that before she is done she will be tired of seeing the Cancer Clinic and tired of seeing the doctors there.

It helps that we know that others have followed this same treatment protocol and have had their health and energy restored. It is not a journey we wanted to make, yet we have chosen to take it because the alternative would be worse. Someone, whom we once considered a trustworthy friend, has suggested a better way of treatment. We know that most of those who have chosen that “better way” are no longer living. So we go on, trusting that we will arrive at our desired destination.

There is another journey that we are all taking, the journey of life. It is not a passive journey where we are just carried along, but those who have chosen Christ as their guide have a promise of one day reaching Paradise, a paradise that will probably be far better even than the one from which our first parents were chased because of sin.

It isn’t always a smooth journey, the road is often rough, there are hills to climb and storms along the way. There are “friendly” voices which tell us there is a better, easier way. We dare not trust them, we have seen the wretched end of many that were lured onto the easier way. But we have not travelled this way before, the landmarks are unfamiliar, sometimes we go off course.

Our Guide is always there to help us correct our course, find the right landmarks and to renew our courage. And every step we take brings us closer to that City of Light where we can rest for evermore.

FIRE!

forest-fire-62971_1280

Over the past few days the people of Fort McMurray, Alberta have had an all too close encounter with a fire like the one above. News reports indicate that all the 80,000+ people who live and work there have been able to make their way to safety, leaving their homes, businesses and most of their personal possessions behind and not knowing if anything will be left when the fire is out.

A few environmentalists have been quick to blame this disaster on climate change. Let them talk, a little more hot air isn’t going to make any difference at this point. The truth is that fire has always been nature’s way of rejuvenating the boreal forest. The protective covering of the seeds of coniferous trees can only be opened by the heat of a forest fire.

A fire such as this must be a terrifying experience to live through. But at least all have lived – there have been no reports of deaths so far, and at least one baby was born in the midst of all the confusion. People will soon begin rebuilding their lives, and their city.

Around them, the forest has been scrubbed clean of all old, weak and sickly trees, the accumulated debris on the forest floor is gone. The liberated seeds will sprout and soon a new forest will appear, young and green. This is nature’s way, it has been happening as long as there has been a boreal forest.  Perhaps the way to prevent a massive conflagration like this one would be to conduct periodic controlled burns in small areas at a time, during a season when the woods were not tinder dry.

This fire is a tragedy for the people involved, yet some beautiful memories will linger as people help each other, sometimes risking their own lives to ensure no one is left behind. The people of Fort Mac need our prayers as they start over again and try to build something beautiful from the ashes of their dreams.

The Bible appears to tell us that our belief system needs to be tested by fire from time to time. As long as our faith is built on the foundation of Jesus Christ we will survive the fire. The precious things that have come from God, the gold, silver and precious stones, will not be damaged by the fire. But perhaps, in a time of stress or pain, someone has offered a comforting interpretation of Scripture that is a little off the mark. Or perhaps we have heard some touching stories that we have added to the structure of our belief system. There is much “Christian” literature that mixes truth and misleading imagination.

These things could well be the wood, hay and stubble that our Lord wants to burn out of our lives. Will we let Him? That would leave us with only those things that come from Him, things that are unchanging, things we can depend on to help us make it through our journey.

Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you . . . For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? (1 Peter 4:12; 17-18).

 

Don’t listen to them

Eight or nine years ago, Minister Isaac Akinyombo of Nigeria was in one of our Canadian congregations to assist in revival meetings. An invitation was given at the end of one of the meetings, and as brother Isaac was giving the invitation he added these words: “Be aware that there is someone right beside you, you can’t see him but he is there, and he is telling you that ‘Of course you need to repent and get right with God, but you don’t need to do it tonight. Tomorrow will be just as good, or next week. Take time to think it through clearly.'” He went on to warn that if someone was clearly hearing the call of the Spirit that night, there was no guarantee that the call would be as clear tomorrow, or that the person would even live until tomorrow.

The messengers of the enemy of our souls are very sly and speak to us in words that promise comfort, but leave us with our burden of sin. They are present in every worship service to point out the faults of the preacher and the inconsistencies of the people around us in the pews.

Yes, the people around us all have their flaws. But other people’s flaws don’t lessen my guilt. I am a sinner by nature and if the preacher is telling me that Jesus died for my sins I shouldn’t criticize him for not choosing exactly the right words, or the right tone of voice, to give me that message of hope.

The messengers from the realm of darkness want to entice us into the darkness where there is no hope. They want to convince us that everyone around us is in that darkness, that there is no hope. Yet when we step out into the light, we are able to see the light in so many of the people around us. Even though we are weak and sinful by nature, we can walk in the light and have fellowship with our Saviour and with others who are walking in the light.

What is wrong with the world?

Yesterday at the Walmart checkout there was a lady with three children ahead of me. The oldest child, a boy of about eight, was sitting in the shopping cart. The mother kept asking him what happened to a small toy that he had picked up, and he denied knowing anything about it. Finally she wrestled him up and pulled it out from under him and placed it with the other items on the checkout belt. The boy wailed his frustration.

A little later, while I was eating supper at Tim Horton’s, a mother and a boy of about ten were standing in the lineup to order. She gave him some money and he immediately barged up in front of others who were waiting to order and ordered a hot chocolate. He repeatedly called his mother to join him, but she refused and waited her turn. I noticed the design and printing on the back of the boy’s jacket: “bad boy,” ” bow to no one,” “warrior.”

There are children in our cities who dare not go home at night for fear of drug and alcohol fuelled violence. Many children are removed from homes where they are not properly cared for and placed in foster homes. At the first hint of trouble they are moved to another foster home. Many who would make good foster parents are afraid to try because of the heavy hand of the social service agencies.

Violence against women is increasing, there are many unsolved disappearances and murders. Violence against police is increasing. Police officers are more heavily armed than ever before and occasionally they overstep their authority, yet instances of assault and even murder of police officers far outnumber instances of assault by police officers.

Where can we look for answers to set aright the things that are going wrong in our society? To the schools? It is the schools that are teaching children that all ideas of right and wrong are only someone’s opinion. That is the source of the problem, not the cure.

What about the news media? They have succumbed to following every turn of the wind  of political correctness.

Politicians? They rule by public opinion polls and the polls reflect what the schools and media teach.

The churches? There was a time when the churches stood for something, now most are like the politicians: they stand for what they think the people want to hear.

Yet if there is any hope for our society, it will have to come from those who have convictions based on reality. The Bible understands us better than we understand ourselves, because it was inspired by our Maker who understands what we really need in order to experience peace and happiness.

But we cannot help the world by continually pointing out what people are doing wrong. People already know that things aren’t working out quite like they hoped, yet they continue to hope that the same “experts” who got them into the current mess can lead them to happiness.

The Bible has better answers for people’s needs. They are not easy answers, but they work. Let us be clear though that we do not have the answers. If we talk and act like Pharisees we will not be any more useful that they were.

What the world needs from Christians is compassion, understanding and a conviction to teach and live the basics of the faith which we claim. Simplistic answers and pep talks will not help. We need to steadfastly refuse to be swept along with the madness of the world and we need to have the courage to explain why. Many will consider our explanations scandalous, but some will listen.

We’re headed in the right direction

It is -30° this morning, the sun won’t rise until 9:15 and it will set again at 5:00 P.M. But the days are getting longer — I need to keep reminding myself of that.

Twenty-five years ago I took a statistics course taught by a man originally from India. He told us how he and his family had arrived in Toronto one frosty January day and the rest of the family had turned to him and asked: “What kind of a country have you brought us to?”

“Look,” he said, ” we talked this over and over when we were back in India and we all agreed there would be a better future for us in Canada. Now we are here and we need to learn to like everything about this country.” Then he went out and bought winter clothing, skates and skis for himself and all the family.

I wish I could be more like that. But I know the command start on my car won’t work this morning and the garage door opener will take about five tries to get the door open all the way. So I will need to walk out to the garage, push that button five times, and put the key in the ignition to start the car (It is plugged in and will start without a problem, it’s just that the electronic circuitry in the command start relay doesn’t handle this cold very well.) Oh, the hardships of winter!

Maybe I’m getting too old to get much pleasure out of winter. But I know that winter is only for a season and before many months we’ll be enjoying 16 hours of sunlight.

FAME, part 2

Oh think not genius, with its hallowed light,
Can break the gloom of the eternal night;
For splendid talents often lead astray
The unguarded heart, and hide the narrow way,
While the unlearned and those of low estate,
With faith’s clear eyes behold the living gate,
Whose portals open on the shoreless sea
Where time’s strong ocean meets eternity.
Across the gulf that stretches far beneath
Lies the dark valley of the shade of death –
A land of deep forgetfulness, – a shore
Which all must traverse, but return no more
To this sad earth to dissipate our dread,
And tell the mighty secrets of the dead.
Enough for us that these drear realms were trod
By heavenly footsteps, that the Son of God
Passed the dark bourne and vanquished Death, to save
The weary wanderers of life’s stormy wave.

Why then should man thus cleave to things of earth?
Daily experience proves their little worth –
Or waste those noble qualities of mind,
For wise and better purposes designed,
In pursuit of trifles, which confer
No solid pleasure on their worshipper;
Or in the search of causes that are known
And guided by Omnipotence alone?
A height his finite reason cannot reach,
And all his boasted learning fails to teach?
While the bewildering thought overwhelms his brain,
Death comes to prove his speculations vain!

Is he deserving of a better doom
Who will not raise a hope beyond the tomb?
Who, quite enamoured with his fallen state,
Clings to the world and leaves the rest to fate;
Prefers corruption to his Maker’s smile,
“And shuns the light because his deeds are vile?”
The man who feels the value of his soul,
Presses unwearied towards a higher goal;
Leaving this earth, he seeks a brighter prize,
And claims a crown immortal in the skies.
The child of pleasure may despise his aim,
And heap reproach upon the Christian’s name,
May laugh his faith, as foolishness, to scorn: –
These by the man of God are meekly borne.
His glorious hope no infidel can shake;
Her suffers calmly for his Saviour’s sake.–

The world’s poor votary seeks in vain for peace:
He cannot bid the voice of conscience cease
Its dire upbraidings; in his heartless course
He meets at every turn the fiend Remorse,
Who glares upon him with his tearless eye,
That sears his heart – but mocks its agony.
He hears that voice, amid the festive throng,
Speak in the dance and murmur in the song,
A death-bell, pealing in the midnight chime,
Whose awful tones proclaim the lapse of time,
And e’er the winged moments as they fly
Seem to proclaim – “Rash mortal, thou must die!
Soon must thou tread the path thy fathers trod,
And stand before the judgment-seat of God!”–
He hears – but seeks in pleasure’s cup to drown
The dread that weighs his ardent spirit down;
Derides the warning voice in mercy sent;
Rejects the thought of after-punishment;
In folly’s vortex wastes the spring of youth,
Nor, till death summons, owns the awful truth;
Feels it too late to calm the agonies
Remorse has kindled – and despairing, dies!

But in the breast where true religion reigns
There is a balm for all these mental pains;
A sweet contentment, felt, but undefined,
A full and free surrender of the mind
To its divine original; a trust
Which lifts to heaven the dweller of the dust.
The pilgrim, glowing with a hope divine,
Counts not the distance to the heavenly shrine;
He meets with guardian spirits on the road,
Who cheer his steps and ease his heavy load.
Serenely journeying to a better clime
He does not shudder at the lapse of time;
But calmly drinks the cup of mortal woe,
And finds that peace the world cannot bestow;
That promised joy which brightens all beneath,
And smooths his pillow on the bed of death;
That perfect love which casteth out all fear;
And wafts his spirit to a happier sphere! –

Fame is a dream – the praise of man as brief
As morning dew upon the folded leaf;
The summer sun exhales the pearly tear,
And leaves no trace of his existence there.
Seek not for immortality below,
But fix your hopes beyond this vale of woe,
That when oblivion gathers round thy sod,
A lasting record may be found with God!

[This lengthy poem comes from a book by Susanna Moodie, Enthusiasm and Other Poems,  published in 1831, the year before she and her husband came to Canada.]

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