Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: peace

Confused churches

Louis Riel, the 19th century Métis leader, was troubled by the things he experienced from the churches of his day. He read in the Bible about a Church of Jesus Christ that was characterized by love and peace. What he saw in both the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches was oppression and pride. The churches seemed to be the source of the mistrust and prejudice that separated native and white, French and English, Protestant and Catholic.

He saw the problem: neither Catholic nor Protestant embodied the true faith in Jesus Christ that worked by love and compassion. But he could not find a solution.

Over the years since then a majority of people here on the Canadian prairies have given up hope of finding such a church. Yet there are still hundreds of denominations and small independent groups claiming to embody true Christian faith, indicating that some people still have a longing to experience the loving fellowship promised by Jesus: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (Gospel of John 13:15)

How does one find such a church? I am going to give a list of characteristics of the true Church of God as given by Menno Simons in the 16th century. But this is not an intellectual exercise. The multiplicity of churches is the fruit of people trusting to their own reasoning. It is only by trusting fully to the leading of the Holy Spirit that one can find a way through the conflicting claims. It helps to remind ourselves that the boasting of men does not enhance the truth – and is not a characteristic of the truth.

The true signs by which the Church of Christ may be known.
By Menno Simons, written in 1554

  1. By an unadulterated, pure doctrine.
  2. By a Scriptural use of the sacramental signs.
  3. By obedience to the Word.
  4. By unfeigned brotherly love.
  5. By a bold confession of God and Christ.
  6. By oppression and tribulation for the sake of the Lord’s Word.

I plan to write a little more about each of these signs in upcoming posts.

The weapons of a Christian

The whole world is in a mess. What can we do about it?

The answer Jesus gives is :

Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.

That’s counter-intuitive isn’t it? Our intuitive response is to answer anger with anger, hatred with hatred, violence with violence; guns with guns. But that always leads to more anger, more hatred, more violence, more shootings.

Some people say that citizens need to be armed to defend against the rogue element in our society. But the shooter at Uvalde was wearing a bullet proof vest. And where is a teacher going to keep a gun so that it will not get into the wrong hands, yet be instantly available when a threat arises? And how is a teacher to know the difference between rowdiness and a life-threatening situation?

There has to be a better way. The way of love and peace may seem weak. It is entirely possible that we may get hurt while countering evil with love and peace, yet they are still more powerful than any weapon used against us.

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds

So Send I You

After the resurrection and before Jesus departed from this world, He told His disciples “As the Father hath sent me, so send I you” (John 20:21). Just a few simple words, so clear and plain that we are apt to miss their implication.

The Father sent Jesus into the Jewish nation to teach and portray the kingdom of God, a kingdom of truth, righteousness, peace and love. The political and religious forces of the day could not stand the message and conspired to get rid of the messenger.

Jesus rose victorious from the grave and now expects people who have experienced his grace and salvation to carry the same message into a world that is just as hostile. The whole world is in a mess and the Christian will be tempted to get sidetracked into fixing the world. But that has never worked and never will work. It cannot work because the problem with the world is not corrupt and misguided people, though there are enough of those, but the real problem is the powers of darkness which manipulate the affairs of this world.

Christians are called to teach and portray a different kingdom, with different values. We should not expect that to go unnoticed by the ruling forces of the realm of darkness. There will be opposition, attempts to deflect the Christian’s efforts to a different approach that will not be a threat to the realm of darkness. Persecution is not a barbaric relic of the past, it may well be the lot of Christians today who bear witness to the light in a world that loves darkness.

Hymn writer E. Margaret Clarkson understood this reality when she penned the poem So Send I You, which was later set to music by John W. Peterson. Here is the fourth of the five stanzas:

So send I you to to leave your heart’s ambition,
To die to dear desire, self-will resign,
To labour long, and love where men revile you,
So send I you to lose your life in Mine.

-copyright 1954 by Singspiration, Inc.

E. Margaret Clarkson was born 1915 in Melville, Saskatchewan and grew up in Toronto, where she taught school for 38 years. She wrote So Send I You in 1937 at the age of 22.

The alternative to a peaceful and contented heart

Neither prosperity not empire nor heaven can be worth winning at the price of a virulent temper, bloody hands, an anguished spirit, and a vain hatred of the rest of the world.
-John Milton

Misunderstanding the Gospel

In 1655 the plague spread through London, killing a quarter of the population. The city was rife with reports of strange visions, prophecies and rumors. Daniel Defoe wrote about the happenings during the plague, writing in the first person although he was only four years old at the time. Nevertheless, the book is not fiction but rather a well-researched account of the events during the plague. It is quite possible that much of the information came from the journals of his uncle. The book makes the following observation about the way many preachers attempted to apply their understanding of Christian faith to what was happening all around them. Words that could be applied in many other places and circumstances.

“Neither can I acquit those Ministers, that in their Sermons, rather sunk, than lifted up the Hearts of their Hearers; many of them no doubt did it for the strengthening of the Resolution of the People; and especially for quickening them to Repentance; but it certainly answer’d not their End, at least not in Proportion to the injury it did in another Way; and indeed, as God himself thro’ the whole Scriptures, rather draws to him by Invitations, and calls to turn to him and live, than drives us by Terror and Amazement; so I must confess, I thought the Ministers should have done also, imitating our blessed Lord and Master in this, that his whole Gospel, is full of Declarations from Heaven of God’s Mercy, and his readiness to receive Penitents, and forgive them; complaining, ‘Ye will not come unto me that ye may have Life,’ and that therefore, his Gospel is called the Gospel of Peace, and the Gospel of Grace.”
-Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, first published in 1722

Discord among brethren

Many people today, including some Christians, are seeking salvation of the body to the detriment of both their spiritual and physical health. They are drawn to Seers who have been gifted with special enlightenment about medical problems. Armed with such knowledge, which is only granted to a select few, these people believe they see things more clearly than the medical professionals.

Granted, the medical professionals are not infallible, they sometimes make mistakes. But it is an even greater mistake to seek an infallible healer, for there are many impostors ready to make such a claim.

When we believe that there are medical truths that are hidden from the medical professionals, or which the medical professionals are hiding from the public, we become unable to fully trust anyone who does not share our vision of reality. The result is discord, in families, between friends, in congregations. That discord should be recognized as a warning signal.

What has happened to “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you”?

Let’s make our spiritual health our primary concern. Let us “seek peace and ensue it.” That brings us into harmony with God and with all others who truly seek peace. A mind in turmoil is hazardous to both our spiritual and physical health. If our hope is fixed on heavenly things, our life will be better, even if our physical health does not improve.

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

WASP to Woke

In my school days, over 60 years ago, I learned that anyone who wasn’t a WASP was less than the ideal Canadian. WASP stood for White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant. I could check all the boxes, and felt good about it.

What I received in school was an indoctrination into the Orange Order perception of Canada and Canadian history. The Orange Order frequently resorted to riots to get their point of view across to governments. They believed that people who were not white, Anglo-Saxon protestants should have no influence on Canadian society. They did not share the moral values or the nobility of character that was characteristic of WASPs. Perhaps it was not stated so blatantly, but that point of view permeated our curriculum. The books we read portrayed WASPs as noble and true, other people were shifty-eyed and untrustworthy.

There is a segment of our society that still thinks that way; I don’t anymore. One reason was my mother’s quiet influence. She was much more open-minded and that gradually undermined my tendency to be dogmatic in my attitudes. I read a lot, from many points of view, including books in French, that challenged the Orange Order view of the world that I had learned in school.

Woke is the correct way to think nowadays. The woke perception of Canadian society and history now permeates our educational system, the media and the political parties. The term originated among African-American people in the 1940’s to refer to those who were awake the the social injustices inherent in the structure of society.

The meaning has grown to encompass every perception of injustice and the need for a revolutionary restructuring of society. To those who are woke, it seems imperative to erase all prior history. The views of those who are not woke should not be allowed to be disseminated in any form to the public. In other words, we are now facing an ideology that is every bit as intolerant as the Orange Order, right down to the riots.

As Christians, we must not let ourselves be drawn into such ideological strife, either for or against the prevailing attitudes. We are part of the heavenly kingdom, a kingdom of peace and love; we serve the Lord Jesus Christ. The devils must laugh with glee when Christians get emotionally involved and make statements that do not come from the Spirit of Christ.

Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but [is] earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace. (James 3:13-18).

The foolishness of preaching

Singing and prayer have always been important ingredients of worship in the Anabaptist – Mennonite faith, but the focal point of a worship service is that which the apostle Paul called the foolishness of preaching. It appears to be foolishness because there are not many powerful orators amongst us, not many who make a great impression by their knowledge or wisdom, and very seldom are the effects of the preaching readily apparent. We don’t expect any of those things, but we do believe that Bible-based, Spirit-led preaching from the heart of godly ministers feeds the listeners with spiritual manna that enables them to persevere in the faith unto the end.

Many years ago we went to hear David Wilkerson preach at the Centennial Auditorium in Regina. Now there was a powerful preacher! And there were visible results, decisions made. The lady who came with us was bubbling over with new-found commitment on the way home. Her life was going to be different, she was not going to go to the dance the following Saturday night and partake of the atmosphere and beverages found there. That commitment lasted through Monday and Tuesday, but by Wednesday it was gone and she did go to the dance on Saturday. David Wilkerson’s message was good, but I question if one message is enough to make a lasting change in someone’s life.

I have heard several thousand sermons, from perhaps 200 different preachers, in the years that I have been a member of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite. About the only things I remember of what all those preachers said was that when Wildoer Losier of Haiti was in Montreal for revival meetings 25 years ago he began every sermon with “Je vous souhait la paix,” (I wish you peace). and that when Arverd Wiggers was at St Marys, Ontario 10 years before that he told how Christian life is sometimes like a mountain climber descending the face of a mountain in the dark . He comes down the face of a cliff, reaches the end of his rope and still cannot find any footing for his feet. He hears a voice from somewhere saying “just let go.” He is certain that will mean falling to his death on the rocks below, so he keeps feeling around with his feet, desperately searching for a ledge. Finally he can hold on no longer, lets go and falls – about ten inches, and his feet are on solid ground.

Those are the only things that remain in my conscious memory, but they seem significant. There are orators who can stir a crowd to battle with one fiery speech. But Christian ministers are trying to stir their listeners to peace. To live in peace to the end of our days requires faith, love, patience, forgiveness, temperance. As we listen to sermon after sermon touching on various facets of living by faith and in peace, the Holy Spirit impresses those thoughts upon us and they find a place within us that is somewhere deeper than our mind.

There are moments in our lives when the Holy Spirit tells us to let go of something and that makes us tremble in fear. That thing, whatever it may be, is part of us, essential to our well-being. Yet the voice keeps telling us to let go. When we do, we find we have lost nothing at all, but gained a more sure foothold in our relationship with God.

A Scottish minister was visiting the members of his congregation and came to a lady who was a storekeeper. She told him, “That was a wonderful message you preached Sunday a fortnight ago.” The minister, a wee bit skeptical of the praise, asked “What part of the message was it that impressed you?” “I don’t remember,” she said. “What were the Scriptures?” “I don’t remember.” The minister now was sure she had only been flattering him, but then she said “All I remember is that I came home and took the false bottom out of my bushel measure.”

No doubt this lady had told herself for years that she needed that little dishonest advantage to enable her to make a living in her store. The minister had said nothing in his sermon about false bottoms in bushel measures, but the Spirit had taken something he had said to impress upon this lady her need to be completely honest in her business. When she obeyed, it gave her such a relief that she had to thank the minister.

The foolishness of preaching is like that. It can go beyond the words that a preacher speaks to address a problem that is completely unknown to him.

And ye would not

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

The devil and the powers of the realm of darkness keep the world in turmoil. Then they tell Christians to look at what’s going on and urge them to get out there and set things right. That gets Christians stirred up, some trying to fix the world in one way, some in another, and blaming each other that they are not doing enough, or are doing the wrong thing.

Why are we, who say that we trust in God, so prone to think that we have to get out there and save the world? Didn’t Jesus say: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33)?

When we think we have to do something to fix the world, aren’t we much like God’s people of old, to whom Isaiah said: “For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not” (Isaiah 30:15)?

Why don’t we just try this quietness and confidence thing?

%d bloggers like this: