Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: obedience

Inside or outside?

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There is a line that we cross when we give our hearts to the Lord. Many people stop once they have crossed the line, mill around with others they find there and wonder why they are not experiencing the blessings of Christian life that they were promised. After awhile, some of them step back to the wrong side of the line, become once more captives to sin and console themselves that Christian life wasn’t what they had been led to believe.

God’s plan is for us to keep on going after we have crossed that line and go ever deeper into His love and obedience to His will.Those who do that find the rewards and joys of Christian life are far beyond their expectations.

The tennis ball doesn’t decide which side of the line it falls on, but we can.

Saved through childbearing

And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety (1 Timothy 2:14-15).

These are Christmas verses. Here is why. In verse 14 and the first part of verse 15, the Apostle Paul speaks of the woman being in the transgression and the woman being saved in childbearing. I believe this speaks of two women, taken as the embodiment of all womankind. The first was Eve, by whose disobedience sin came into the world. The second was Mary, by whose obedience the remedy for sin came into the world.

Mary’s obedience has taken away the reproach that had fallen upon women by Eve’s disobedience. Through the birth of Jesus, the seed of the woman, the head of the serpent has been crushed (Genesis 3:15). 1 Timothy 2:15 switches from she to they after the comma. She refers to Mary as representative of all womankind, they refers to women as individuals and describes the evidence of salvation for each one.

Other attempts to explain these verses are not very satisfactory. The difficulty arises from extracting a verse or two from the Scripture and attempting to explain them without reference to the rest of Holy Writ. To suppose that the salvation of women depends on bearing children creates more questions than it answers. What about those who have never borne children? The idea that women’s lives will be spared during childbirth is just as problematic. What about faithful Christian women who did die in childbirth?

The explanation I have given follows that given by Daniel Whedon and Adam Clarke in their commentaries. Jamieson, Fausset & Brown and Matthew Henry only hint at it. (Matthew Henry had finished his commentary to the end of the Acts of the Apostles when he died suddenly of a stroke. The commentaries on the remaining books of the New Testament were done by thirteen other writers.)

Did Moses speak with a stutter?

We know the story. Moses was an Israelite child raised by an Egyptian princess. After he had lived as a prince for 40 years. He fled Egypt after an unfortunate incident and spent the next 40 years as a Midianite shepherd. Now God was asking him to go back to the Israelite people, speak to Pharoah on their behalf, and lead them out from of their bondage. Moses pleaded with God to send someone else, because he couldn’t speak clearly. Some say the problem was a stutter. What does the Bible say?

“And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue” (Exodus 4:10). This is the verse that leads many to believe that Moses had a speech impediment of some sort. But consider the following verse from the speech of Stephen before the Sanhedrin: “And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds” (Acts 7:22).

“Mighty in words” does not seem to be a description of a man who stuttered and stammered and could hardly get his words out. Josephus says of Moses that he was made a general and led the Egyptian army to a great victory. Does that sound like a man who had trouble speaking clearly? As we follow the account in Exodus, it does not appear that Moses had any difficulty in speaking to Pharoah.

What then was his problem? Remember that Moses had been raised by his parents until he was weaned. Then he became an Egyptian and later a Midianite. It is probable that he spoke both those languages without difficulty. At the age of 80, he no doubt still have retained some of the rudiments of the Hebrew tongue, but he could hardly have been fluent in that language. And here God was asking him to go back and present himself to the Hebrew people as their deliverer! Why should they believe him when he could hardly speak their language?

Finally God asked “Who hath made man’s mouth? ” There was no way out for Moses, God was telling him to go. And it worked. He relied on the help of his brother Aaron when he first met with the Israelite people, but it appears that he was soon speaking to them on his own.

Moses was the right man for the job God was asking him to do. He knew all the ins and outs of the Egyptian culture and government. He was a natural leader. But he needed those forty years of watching the sheep in the wilderness to temper his character so that he would be able to lead the Israelite people through that same wilderness.

God knows our abilities and our weaknesses, all the things we have been through in life, all the mistakes we have made. If we are willing, He can take all the lessons that we have learned so painfully and use them for the benefit of others in His kingdom. But we must not run ahead of God as Moses did when he killed the Egyptian and then had to flee. We should rather wait patiently on God and let Him show us the times and the places where we can  serve Him. Then, when He does prompt us to do something, we should not make excuses.

Disconnected

We don’t have a furnace in our mobile home. Where it once was, there is now a heat exchanger that takes heat from a hot water line that comes from our neighbour’s coal-fired boiler. A furnace fan mounted above the heat exchanger sends warm air through the duct work to heat the house.

A few evenings ago we heard strange noises from this apparatus. I took a look and found that an old stove pipe had worked its way down and was touching the electric motor of the fan. I turned the system off, worked that stove pipe out of the way, turned the switch back on and went to bed. The next morning the heat did not come on. I checked the programmable thermostat and it was calling for heat. Then I looked at the heating apparatus and at first all looked to be in order. Then I saw a little black wire dangling loose; there was a little connector on the end that looked like it might go with another connector on a switch box. I pushed the two together and we had heat.

I began wondering if there is sometimes a disconnect like this in my spiritual life. The warmth, the power, is right there, ready to be used. I want it, but nothing is happening. It must be that a connection is missing somewhere.

Perhaps I became frustrated and upset at someone, lost my temper and said words that I regret, but I haven’t been willing to apologize to this person.

Or perhaps someone did or said something that hurt my feelings and I am brooding over it. The other person probably has no idea that his action caused me any problem, but I just can’t forgive him and let it go.

Perhaps I felt the Spirit asking me to do something and I just wasn’t willing to do it.

All of these things, and many others, interrupt our connection to God and we find our spiritual life cooling off. We know there is a problem somewhere, but we are not able or willing to look where the problem really lies and make the correction needed. And when our spiritual life cools off because of disobedience in small things, we are more apt to give in to the bigger temptations, because there just doesn’t seem to be much benefit in trying to live a Christian life anyway.

That is why it is important to look after the small things as soon as we become aware that something isn’t working as it should in our Christian life.

 

The true signs by which the Church of Christ may be known

1. By an unadulterated pure doctrine. Deuteronomy 4:6, 5:12; Isaiah 8:5; Matthew 28:20; Mark 16:15; John 8:52; Galatians 1

2. By a Scriptural use of the sacramental signs. Matthew 28:19; Mark 16; Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:22,23

3. By obedience to the Word. Matthew 7; Luke 11:28; John 7:18, 15:10; James 1:22

4. By unfeigned brotherly love. John 13:34; Romans 13:8; 1 Corinthians 13:1; 1 John 3:18, 4:7,8

5. By a bold confession of God and Christ. Matthew 10:32; Mark 8:29; Romans 10:9; 1 Timothy 6:13

6. By oppression and tribulation for the sake of the Lord’s Word. Matthew 5:10, 10:39, 16:24, 24:9; Luke 6:28; John 15:20; 2 Timothy 2:9, 3:12; 1 Peter 1:6, 3:14, 4:13, 5:10; 1 John 3:13

-Menno Simons, 1554 AD

I didn’t get the message

elevator-48615_1280Way back when I was still single, some time before 1970, I was living alone in a little Saskatchewan town and running a grain elevator. Well, I wasn’t completely alone — there was a cat sharing the house with me. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that there would have to be a cat in the picture.

I was sound asleep one night when the yowling of the cat penetrated the fog of sleep. My first thought was that she was hungry, but no, her food dish was full. I stumbled around the house, turning lights on and off, even turning on the outside light and peering out at my pickup just a few feet from the door. There was nothing unusual anywhere and the cat didn’t seem upset anymore, so I stumbled back to bed, muttering “stupid cat.”

I should have known better. The next morning I got up, had breakfast and drove to the grain elevator, opened the doors, unlocked the office and walked in. I happened to glance out the office window and stopped in my tracks. There on the front of my pickup was a British Columbia license plate. I wrote down the number and called the RCMP. Now I understood what the cat had been trying to tell me — someone was messing around just outside my door. No doubt he had left quickly when I turned the lights on.

The police informed me a couple days later that they had caught up with the guy at Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, with my licence plate still on the car that he had stolen in B.C. It took my neighbour across the street a few more days to discover the matching B.C. licence plate on the back of his car.

I wish I could say that I have always gotten the message when the Holy Spirit tried to get my attention. To my regret, I have often let His warnings and the gentle prompts pass me by. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand what He was saying, but it seemed too hard a thing for me to do and I persuaded myself that I must have misunderstood.

Ignoring the cat usually doesn’t have serious consequences. I have slowly learned that when the Spirit speaks it pays to trust that the message is important and to obey, even if what He asks is not at all what I want to do.

Taking stock

Things that I am learning:

– It’s not important to know what my abilities, talents, or gifts are. The only thing that matters is if I am following where the Master leads and doing what He asks me to do.

– It’s not important to know what I have accomplished for the Master, even less important that others should know. If my words and actions do not glorify the Master then they are worthless.

– It’s not important to make plans and resolutions for the future. The Master knows what lies ahead, I don’t.

Books that I am reading:

– La Sainte Bible, traduction Louis Segond – I read the Bible in French each morning and am currently reading through the Psalms.

– The Holy Bible, Authorized Version (KJV) – My wife and I read the Bible in English every evening, we are currently reading through 2 Corinthians.

– Multipliers, How the best leaders make everyone smarter, Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown. I am reading this one on my Kobo e-reader.

– The Power of Weakness, Dan Schaeffer. Paperback, published by Discovery House.

– Rise to Greatness, The History of Canada from the Vikings to the Present, Conrad Black. Published by McClelland and Stewart, hardcover. This one is over 1,000 pages and is best digested in small chunks. This is going to take a while.

– Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery. This is also on my Kobo e-reader and I read a little bit from time to time just to savour the writing of a master story-teller.

Trust and obey

We must not interpret trust and obey mean that we trust in our obedience. That is works, and we will probably choose to obey that which we think we understand. Rather, we obey because we trust that God has a purpose in what He asks of us, even if we don’t understand it. That is faith.

What does the Bible mean to you?

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In the 2011 census, 67% of Canadians identified themselves as Christians. A statistic that is somewhat older and probably outdated says that 25% of Canadians attend church once a week. The latest survey gives a glimpse of the rot at the base of our Christianity: 5% of Canadians read the Bible daily, 11% once a week, 14% once a month. 55% have never opened a Bible in their life.

The fact that 67% self-identified as Christians indicates that they still see some value in the historic teachings of the faith — even though they might not have much of an idea what they are. Do you suppose there would be a way of getting them intrigued about the roots of that heritage? Who is going to do it? Obviously, the majority of church-going people are not Bible readers.

Here are some questions for those of us who say we read the Bible every day:

– Have you ever read a passage in the Bible and realized it was a personal message for your immediate situation?

– Do you pray for understanding when you read the Bible?

* Does a verse from the Bible ever come to your mind when you find yourself in a difficult situation?

– Have you ever read the Bible all the way through? Are there parts of the Bible that you have never read?

– Do you sometimes take time to study a particular event, or teaching, or promise so that you can understand it more fully?

– Do you talk about what you have read with your family? your Christian friends? your non-Christian friends?

If I am reading the Bible and I am suddenly struck about how this is just what brother George needs to hear, I am probably not getting much personal benefit from my Bible reading. Neither is brother George, even presuming that he is in need of help. If brother George truly needs help, then I should be praying for direction on how to talk to him as a brother without sounding superior. Perhaps I should pray to know how to encourage him to talk.

People around us need to read the Bible and believe what it says. Let’s not be one of those self-righteous religious people that have given the Bible and Christianity a bad name.The people around us have a pretty keen nose for the slightest whiff of hypocrisy. How do we avoid having that odour attach itself to us? Well, that might mean taking the Bible seriously enough to make major changes to our lifestyle if it is not 100% compatible with the teachings of the Word.

When we find inspiration in the Bible for our personal life, it is much more likely that we will inspire others to look in the same Book for answers to their needs.

Missed opportunities

Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:16
Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time  Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. Colossians 4:5-6

Like many other Christians, I read these verses and feel that I need to be much busier in the work of the Lord. So far, so good. The question is, however, what is it that I need to be busy doing? I can fill my time with doing good things, but how do I know that this is really what God wants me to do? Am I asking the Spirit to guide me in doing God’s will, or am I just busy?

The word translated time in these verses seems to have more the sense of opportunity. One Bible dictionary says that “redeeming the time” means “to make wise and sacred use of every opportunity for doing good.”

The passage in Colossians is addressing our witness to others. Perhaps it could be rephrased to say that we should be ready to act when the Spirit prompts us to do or say something for the Lord. Is there a danger that I may be so busy doing the things that I believe to be good and needful that when the Spirit speaks I cannot hear Him? Or that I am just too busy to interrupt the important thing I am doing to do the thing the Spirit tells me is more important? How many opportunities for service do I miss because I am too busy with something ele?

Or, to put it another way — am I so busy doing right things that I have no time to do what is right when the opportunity arises?

In Matthew 25 Jesus tells the parable of a man travelling to a far country who gave his servants varying amounts of money to use for his benefit while he was gone. The money is expressed in talents — a talent of silver in Bible times was about 45kg. This has given rise to our English word talent, denoting a special ability. This is a misunderstanding of the parable. Each servant was given a number of talents, “according to his several ability.” Thus it was not abilities that were being handed out, but rather opportunities to use their abilities in their master’s service.

One servant thought he had no ability to profit by the opportunity given him and the master characterized his unwillingness to serve as wickedness. How many opportunities to serve do we miss because we think our Lord is asking something beyond our ability? Do I see it as wickedness when I am unwilling to do the small things that the Holy Spirit asks of me?

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