Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: seasons

Change is in the air

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Image by Tovin Sannes-Venhuizen from Pixabay

A few days ago the days started to grow longer. I can’t tell the difference yet–the sun still rises at 9:15 AM and sets at 5:00 PM. The daily change so far is small: today is 25 seconds longer than yesterday, tomorrow will be 30 seconds longer than today. But I know that soon it will change by 3 minutes a day or more and in six months the sun will rise at 5:30 AM and set at 9:45 PM, giving us long, glorious summer days.

Winter has just begun, yet the change that will defeat winter has also begun. We will have snow storms and bitterly cold weather over the next few months, yet the inexorable force of the sun that will drive winter away has begun its campaign.

Today you see a little girl, carefree, careless, not paying much attention to the things her mother tries to teach her. If you watch her day after day you will not notice a change. But if you go away for a few years, then come back, you see this little girl transformed. Now she is a mother, trying to teach her own little girl all the things she learned from her mother. And almost despairing because the child doesn’t seem to be listening. But she is and the cycle will repeat. This is how growing up works. It is a natural process; it happens almost unseen until one day you take stock and realize how much is different.

Perhaps today you see a young man, a rebel, a wastrel, drifting farther into the dangerous allurements the world offers. People try to warn him, to help him. He ignores them, rejects their counsels. It seems hopeless. But just perhaps you may come back some day and find this same young man with a wife, a family, a home. He reads the Bible to his family, takes them to church, is always ready to speak of his love for God and for Jesus. It can happen, I’ve seen it happen, it happened to me.

This is not a natural change, it is supernatural. Yet the change did not happen overnight. There was a precise moment when there was a 180° turn in the direction his life was going. But people looking on didn’t notice a difference at first. Then a few changes appeared, one by one, a little at a time. He made mistakes, but now there was something within him that kept him from giving up. He made corrections and kept going. Today he does not seem at all like the person he used to be. Because he isn’t.

There are cycles that God set in order at Creation that continue to happen. We say it’s just part of nature. The movement of the celestial bodies, day and night, the cycle of the seasons, the growth of a child. We have no control over such things. There are other things, such as conversion, that will not happen unless we give God permission. He does not force us to be a Christian, we cannot make ourselves be a Christian by wisdom and determination. But if we hear God call our name, open the door of our heart, the Holy Spirit comes in and begins to transform us.

© Bob Goodnough, December 27, 2019

Time shall be no more

Can you imagine an existence without time? I have tried, but I can’t. Does it mean that everything happens all at once, a state of super excitation with no ability to separate one event from another? Or does it mean a state of suspended animation where nothing happens at all? Neither of those states sounds appealing, so the Bible must mean something else when it speaks of eternity where there shall be no more time. Something that is beyond the scope of our present capacity to understand.

Our earthly existence is measured by the rhythms of the sun, moon and stars, the changing seasons, and by remarkable events. The prophet Amos was given a vision of the spiritual condition of Israel “two years before the earthquake.” The ancient Greeks believed that the position of the stars at our birth birth determined our character and the course of our life. Many people still set great store by such notions. In the Old Testament, the passage of time was marked by the weekly Sabbaths, the blowing of trumpets at the new moon and the seasonal holy days. I grew up with the ecclesiastical calendar of the Anglican Church in which every Sunday, and many other days, were given names to denote their significance. Thus we had days like Quinquagesima Sunday and Maundy Thursday. I understand there is an ongoing controversy among those who really care about such things concerning the origin and meaning of the word “maundy.”

The New Testament teaches that these markers of time should no longer govern our lives. The apostle Paul warned: “But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain” (Galatians 4:9-11). “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17).

The sun still rises and sets, the moon waxes and wanes, the changing seasons are accompanied by movements of the stars, but these are not to be the markers of our spiritual lives. When a person repents and is born again, that person enters into a continual spiritual Sabbath of rest from any labours to establish his or her own righteousness.

“Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his” (Hebrews 4:1,  3, 10).

It is still right and good to gather for worship on Sunday, to feed our spiritual hunger, to be refreshed in the company of the saints. But this is not the Sabbath, and being a Christian on Sunday only means that one is not a Christian at all. To this extent the times and seasons are no longer markers of our spiritual life, we have entered into a foretaste of eternity. Beyond that, we cannot tell just what eternity will be like.

Seasons

Seventeen years ago we travelled south at Easter time. The destination was Arkansas where our daughter was teaching school and Deborah, one of our daughters friends, was with us. As we drove south through Arkansas, we noticed numerous mounds of dirt in the fields. After reaching our destination, we asked about those mounds.

“Oh, they’re probably crawdads or fire ants,” was the response.

Deborah turned to us and quietly said, “You couldn’t pay me to live in this country!”

So, yes, we are thankful to live in a country with a winter season that keeps fire ants, crawdads and Burmese pythons at bay. Nevertheless, we are now entering the fifth month of winter and are more than ready for a change of seasons.

This past weekend has been the coldest of our winter so far. As we drove home from Saskatoon late Friday evening my wife and I were reminiscing about the early years of our marriage. We had a 1972 Toyota Corolla, which was a very small car at the time, and in really cold weather we had a choice of defrosting the windshield so we could see where we were going, or keeping ourselves warm. Obviously the choice was to dress very warmly. We didn’t buy another Asian car until we bought the Hyundai we are now driving. Halfway home I began turning the heat down.

It is a little milder today and the forecast is for above zero temperatures for next weekend. (For US readers, zero is the freezing point on the Celsius scale.) Our son-in-law is hoping for a couple more cold weeks to finish the gravel haul job he is working on. As soon as the frost starts coming out of the ground, there are weight limits on our roads to minimize damage. He was fixing a water main leak in a nearby town a few weeks ago and found the frost went down more than two metres (seven feet). The same town has another one for him to work on today.

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. . . a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away.”

I turned down a job offer this morning, a part time job during the tax season that would have brought in a couple thousand dollars that we could really use. I decided that I am in a season of my life where it would be difficult to manage this and keep up with my regular clientele. I still put in long days at times, but if I do too much of that I need a day or two to recuperate. There is not a lot of useful work that gets done on those days.

I feel an urge too that this is my season to write. If I have learned anything of value in my life’s journey, it is time to communicate it to those who are younger. I am still learning, if I ever come to a time that I can no longer learn, then I will no longer be able to write, either. One of the things that I am trying to learn is how to write in a manner that will engage the reader.

“The times, they are a-changing.” When spring comes we will be enthused about getting outside and looking after the yard work. There will be picnics and bonfires and all kinds of things going on outdoors. The lengthening hours of sunshine are already stirring the beginnings of spring fever.

On a spiritual level, the world around us is becoming a much colder place. The gospel has the power to warm and change the hearts and lives of people out there in the cold. But, and this is a big but, those people are unlikely to see any benefit in the gospel message if we keep telling it in the same way we have been telling it for the past fifty years. We dare not change the message, yet we must change the way we package it. We are in a different season now. This is not a time to be discouraged and let our hands hang down, it is a time to be working to direct the message at the real needs of this new season.

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