Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: trust

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.

Advertisements

Finding peace in time of sickness

Most of us, at least in Canada, have heard the sad story of the young couple convicted of failing to provide the necessaries of life to their child. The boy was sick for 2½ weeks, a friend told them it was probably meningitis, but they never took him to a doctor until he stopped breathing.

They were loving parents and did their best, according to their understanding, to help their little boy. Their understanding was that natural remedies were superior to anything the medical profession might have to offer.

These parents have lost their little boy and have been convicted of a criminal offense. I think they have suffered enough – a prison term would serve no purpose. But perhaps there needs to be a conversation about the limits of alternative medicine.

Some folks are of the opinion that herbal remedies are inherently superior to prescription medicines, and have no side effects because they are natural substances derived from plants. The situation is more complex than that. Many prescription meds are derived from plants; some “natural” remedies are useful, some are worthless and others are downright dangerous. I cannot take ginseng because it is too hard on my heart. Tobacco and heroin are derived from plants.

Friends recently told of a child that was born some years ago with congenital hip dysplasia, a condition where the hip socket does not form. If this condition is discovered in a newborn the remedy is simple – keep the legs spread apart for some months and the hip socket will form naturally. In this case the condition was not discovered until the girl started to walk, when it was seen that one leg would turn at odd angles. Well meaning friends advised the parents to take the little girl to a chiropractor. There is nothing a chiropractor can do by manipulation to manufacture a hip socket. By this time the little girl needed surgery, and she got it.

I am particularly troubled by the many Christian people who are prone to trust alternative medicine and therapies more than the medical profession. Many alternative therapies are based on a belief system that is not compatible with Christian faith.

A sister who was dying of cancer about 35 years ago faced the future with unwavering faith. The thing that troubled her the most was the Christian brothers and sisters who would press her to try some natural remedy or other, with such urgency that it appeared they thought that if she didn’t use their proposed remedy it would be her fault if she died.

As Christians we believe in miracles and there are instances of remarkable recoveries after a prayer for healing. I have also known cases where someone claimed to have been miraculously healed, only to die a year or so later from the disease they were healed from. It seems to me that cases of healing as a result of prayer are more common in places where medical help is not available.

Some people put far too much faith in doctors, expect them to have a remedy for every little ache, discomfort or worry. But is it pleasing to God if we go to the opposite extreme and mistrust the people around us who are most able to help in case of serious health conditions?

Such mistrust is often expressed in the name of God, claiming that He has a better way – a natural way. Yet there is often little evidence of a calm and peaceful trust in God. It seems to me that the best way is to trust God to lead us, and most often that will mean also trusting the guidance of our family doctor and whoever he refers us to. If God is truly leading us, we will have peace and quietness within.

Three cats in the house

We are two elderly people and three cats in a fairly small house, and it is winter. All five of us spend much more time inside these four walls than we would if the weather outside were more clement. This makes for some conflicts. We provide nice cushions for our cats, plus two recliners and two office chairs for ourselves. The cats prefer our chairs. Plus, they prefer to be in the same room as we are.

cat-834392_1280.jpg

Panda, the oldest at thirteen, coming fourteen in summer, is a big black Maine Coon cat. She wants to have her long hair brushed or combed several times a day. This grooming must take place in one specific corner of the living room carpet. If we try to brush or comb her when she is somewhere else she will get up and walk to this spot and lay down. She also loves to be vacuumed and will come whenever she hears the sound of the vacuum cleaner. The other cats maintain a respectful distance between themselves and that noisy machine. When Panda wants my attention she will use her claws to tug at my pant leg. She is a patient cat; if I speak to her emphatically she will lay down and wait for a more opportune moment.

cat-1101747_1920.jpg

Pookie, the youngest and smallest, will be five in summer. He is a flame point Siamese, and the most talkative of our cats. He will let us know vocally if he wants our attention, and if ignored will reach up and tap our arm with a soft paw, the claws fully sheathed. He will also respond well to being told to wait awhile.

cat-173885_1920.jpg

Angus is a year older than Pookie, a Siamese in conformation and temperament, but all black. Everything is an emergency to him. He begins by running back and forth, punctuated by plaintive cries:”The sky is falling! the sky is falling! Do something right now!” If we ignore him he will bite one of us on the arm to make his point. The bite is not a vicious bite, never leaves a mark, but it does get our attention. Most often, the reaction is a shriek from my wife which startles Angus enough to make him forget the cause of his anguish, at least momentarily.

Why do we put up with these nuisances? Why do we feed them, groom them, take them to the vet and vacuum up the cat hair? A few answers have come to my mind.

  1. Having other living creatures around that are dependent on us keeps us from becoming too engrossed in our own thoughts and health problems.
  2.  There is something very soothing and calming about having a cat jump on your lap and start purring when you sit in the recliner and put your feet up.
  3. Cats are very forgiving. It is reassuring to know that our cats still like us and trust us even if we accidentally step on one’s tail, or take one on an unwelcome trip to the vet.
  4. There is an object lesson in all this. If I can love and accept my cats, with all their foibles and annoying habits, why can’t I love and accept the people around me in the same way?

[The cats in the photos are not our cats, the pictures were downloaded from Pixabay. Our cats do look very much like the ones in the pictures.]

Being childlike without being childish

“When I became a man I put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11).

That would be things like:

-wanting to be the centre of attention
-wanting to be entertained
-wanting what somebody else has
-wanting other people to do what I want
-feeling sorry for myself when things don’t go the way I want
-trying to get even
-boasting
-whining
-not admitting when I have done something wrong
-blaming somebody else

“And a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6)

” Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4).

Childlike qualities:

-willing to trust
-taking delight in unexpected beauty
-feeling happy because others are happy
-feeling sad when others are hurt
-giving without counting the cost
-forgiving
-eager to learn
-curiosity
-looking up to others
-caring about others

These are a few thoughts that came to me over the past two days. These are not complete lists, I would be happy if others would add to them.

This was prompted by the question of why some people seem to shrink emotionally and spiritually as they come to their latter years, while others seem to keep on growing. It seems to me that the ability to keep on learning and to see and delight in little scenes of goodness and beauty keeps us from becoming stiff and brittle as we age.

As I write this there are signs all around that summer is dying. Leaves are turning colour and beginning to fall. There has been no frost yet, but that can’t be far away. Most green plants have stopped growing and will soon be dying. There is no need for us to do the same. May we find joy in living all the days that God gives us.

Do you really want to know how I’m feeling today?

Yesterday I stopped at the pharmacy counter in Walmart to pick up a prescription. There were several pharmacists in the back busily preparing prescriptions for others. I waved at the head pharmacist and said, “How are you Marc?”

There was an almost imperceptible hesitation before he answered “Fine'” The clerk who was serving me smiled and said “He didn’t sound so sure, did he?”

When I had finished paying for my prescription, Marc came out to the front and motioned me to come aside where we could talk. He told me that the question of how to answer the question “How are you?” had recently come up at Bible study. If you are having a rough day and you answer “Fine,”  are you being honest?

On the face of things, it may seem that the person who always says “Fine” is not really being honest. But perhaps there is another way of looking at this. I told Marc about our two elderly cousins. One is related to me and one to my wife, I won’t say which is which, it doesn’t really matter to the story.

One of these old ladies has been married twice, couldn’t get along with either man and divorced them. She has six children and they don’t treat her right, according to her. Lord knows they try, but it’s never enough. People are mean to her and try to cheat her everywhere she goes. I don’t know if she has any real friends, but she is still on speaking terms with a few people. Sometimes she gets upset and won’t speak to one of them for months, but eventually she needs their help for something and picks up the phone to call them again.

One day she was feeling so miserable that she told one of those contacts that she felt like ending her life. This contact lives 600 km away and couldn’t just pop over to visit. So she suggested this lady needed to get out of her apartment, go to a mall, have a coffee, find someone to talk to. She called back in the evening overjoyed at the wonderful day she’s had. Turns out she never did visit with anyone, but she found all kinds of things on sale at the mall. We heard later she had spent $700 on jewellery and clothing, things she really couldn’t afford and might never wear, but spending gave her a one-day high.

If you ask this lady how her day is going, she will probably fill your ear with a long tale of woe.

The other lady is 91 and lives in a senior’s residence. Her husband of 65 years died a few years ago and she misses him. But she talks of all the good memories she has of their life together. Their only son lives close by, comes to see her every day, does all he can to help her. She is always singing his praises.

Almost a year ago she suffered a stroke and spent some time in the hospital. The nurses were all very good to her. She had to use a walker after she came home, but she didn’t complain. Now she is fully recovered and goes for a half-mile walk every morning. She knows every resident in the senior’s residence and loves to visit. Her hands are crippled with arthritis, yet she is typing out her life’s story to share with her family. She keeps in touch by phone with all her many relatives.

If you ask this lady how things are going, she may mention some health problem, or she may not. Mostly she will tell you how good everyone is to her and how the Lord has blessed her life.

There is the difference, one of these ladies knows the Lord. The other does not, will not even consider that such a thing is possible.

So, how is your day going? It’s a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

He hath torn and he will heal

I took our little Pookie to the vet a few days ago; Pookie being our three year old Flame Point Siamese. This was a follow up visit after his latest ear infection had cleared up; the vet is trying to figure out why he so often gets these infections.  Her theory now is that it may be a food allergy.

Pookie makes these trips a few times each year and nothing horrible has happened to him yet, still he does not like these trips to the vet. He complains all the way there, all the time he is there, and only a little less when he know that he is on his way home.

Once we are home he is my friend again. He is a very friendly cat and will often come to me to let me know he values our friendship and wants a tummy rub. My wife is the one who applies the medicine in his ear, something he would dearly love to avoid. Yet when she sits in the recliner and puts her feet up, he will come and curl up in her lap. In other words, this little guy holds nothing against us for the scary treatment we sometimes mete out.

That reminds me of the words of the prophet Hosea that I quoted in the title. Sorrow and pain are a part of every human life, some experience less than others, some much more. Sometimes it is obvious that we are suffering the consequences of something that we have done; at other times it seems like we are victims of random acts of fate. Whatever the case may be, it would have been in God’s power to prevent the pain and sorrow.

Job found that it was futile to demand that God give an account of these things, partly because the interplay of our actions with the actions of others around us, aided and abetted by unseen spiritual forces, is simply beyond the capacity of our understanding.

Besides, blaming God, or demanding an answer of God, will do nothing to make our circumstances any better. Yes, God allowed this to happen. But, He is also the only one who can help us in such circumstances. So may we come to Him without bitterness or recrimination, love Him and seek His help and comfort.

That is the message of Hosea 6:1-3. Here is the full text of that message.

Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.

Okay, God has a plan for me. Now what?

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. (Jeremiah 29:11)

This verse comes in the middle of the words that God gave Jeremiah for the Jews who had been captured and led away to Babylon. He told them to marry, build houses and plant gardens, for they were going to be there for a long time — seventy years to be exact. They should “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.”

Other prophets were telling them that God would soon break the Babylonian yoke and they could return to their own country. Jeremiah was delivering the cold, hard, unpopular facts — yes, that is coming, but you will have to wait the whole seventy years for it to happen. Meanwhile, get a life where you are.

The lesson of the book of Job is that God does not give an account of what He does. Job’s three friends thought they had the answer: Job had committed some horrible hidden sin and if he would only confess, God would restore him. They were wrong, Job was merely a pawn in Satan’s warfare against God. Job himself thought that God owed him an explanation for all that had happened. At the end, he grasped that God’s ways were far beyond his understanding. In accepting that truth, he found peace and restoration.

Bringing this down to a personal level, I often find myself wishing I knew what God’s plan is for me. Two days ago, I went to see my eye doctor for a routine checkup. It turned out to be not so routine.

To set the scene, it was seven and a half years ago that I was first diagnosed with the wet form of macular degeneration. There followed a little more than three years of periodic injections into one eye or the other in an attempt to stop the degeneration. And it did work, my vision is less than it used to be, but it has been stable for four years. On Tuesday, the doctor detected a slight swelling of the retina of my right eye, caused by bleeding from tiny capillaries. I signed the consent forms and was given an injection of Lucentis in that eye right then and there, with two more scheduled, a month apart.

The doctor thinks he caught it early enough that that will be all that is needed. I hope so. I wish I could know. But why? What good would it do me to know, either way?

God knows what the future holds for me. I don’t, and it’s probably better that I don’t. That would distract me from doing what He wants me to do today. Today is the only day that I have any control over; the future will come as it will. So today I will direct my thoughts and my actions toward the things that matter for today, and trust the future into God’s hands.

And lean not unto thine own understanding

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” -Proverbs 3:5.

I’ve been wondering of late if I really understand this verse. God has given us a mind with the capacity of understanding vast and complex subjects, and surely He wants us to use it. The Bible certainly assumes that we can understand logic and that this understanding will guide our actions.

As I consider this verse now, it appears that there is a choice involved on what we use as the foundation for our understanding. When we face a troubling situation and have no clear direction from the Lord, asking ourselves “What would Jesus do?” will produce an answer that has no foundation other than our own understanding. In other words, an answer that is built on sand that will shift according to our moods and wishes. If we rather ask, “Lord, what would thou have me to do?” and wait for an answer, we are much more likely to make a decision that won’t have unfortunate repercussions.

God provides a solid foundation for our understanding in different ways: through His Word, by the Holy Spirit, by His people. Yet we are not robots, having our every thought and movement directed by a cosmic remote control. There is much scope for the exercise of our own reasoning in working out the details of our lives in accordance with the foundation provided by God.

Even here, though, there is a very real danger that after a number of years of living as a Christian and making many decisions that have proved to be a blessing in my life and the lives of those around me, I might begin to feel that I have this Christian life thing all straight in my mind and can now proceed on auto pilot. I have learned Christian speech patterns, Christian rules of behaviour and for the most part my life continues on fairly successfully.  Yet little signs begin to appear that maybe I am forgetting to lean upon the Lord. My contributions to a spiritual discussion sound like a tape-recorded message that has been played many times already. I am not particularly concerned about the problems of others. And I seem to have become immune to reproof.

Solomon said: “Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished” (Ecclesiastes 4:13). Perhaps he was thinking of himself when he wrote those words. We are not wiser than Solomon, may we not build our lives on the foundation of our own understanding. Let us rather consider Solomon’s final words of instruction:

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” – Ecclesiastes 12:13-14.

What Standard Are We Using?

“Thus he showed me: and, behold, the Lord stood upon a wall made by a plumbline, with a plumbline in his hand. And the Lord said unto me, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A plumbline. Then said the Lord, Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel: I will not again pass by them any more” (Amos 7:7,8).

Several years ago I had the opportunity to be part of a group which held services in the chapel of a shelter for indigent men. The chapel was furnished with hymn books which the men were accustomed to using, and most songs in this book were familiar to us. It did not present a great problem to use their book in these meetings. However, sometimes the musical arrangement was slightly different from the one with which we were familiar. As we sang, some in our group would be singing what they were seeing before them, and others would sing from memory the notes which they had sung so many times before. The resulting sound fell somewhat short of the harmony that we desired. I doubt if the attendees noticed. Although many sang with enthusiasm, it appeared that most did not have a really good ear for music. But we would note among ourselves the result of not all singing from the same book.

As we drive through the industrial areas of our towns and cities, we notice that many factories are flying banners which say, “Certified ISO 9001” (or 9002). ISO standards are international standards for quality systems. They ensure that different companies are all “singing from the same book” when they give the specifications of their product.

These standards are presently recognized in seventy different countries. In order to be certified, a company must show that they are calibrating their measurement tools to an internationally recognized standard, that they are using standardized procedures to ensure the conformity of their product to the customer’s specifications, and also are using acceptable procedures to ensure that the non-conforming product does not reach the customer. In the past, every large corporation had their own program to discover whether potential suppliers were producing and shipping parts conforming to their needs. This became expensive and cumbersome, especially when customer and supplier were in different countries.

We can readily see the utility of such standards. When companies are certified by independent auditors to these international standards, it gives potential customers a level of confidence which facilitates buying and selling, even across international boundaries. But let us suppose that I was running a small manufacturing business here in Canada and I had an opportunity to sell some of my product to a client in Austria, but didn’t want to submit to the ISO standards. I could very well try to convince this client that I had my own standards that were every bit as satisfactory as the ISO standard. Wouldn’t he suspect that I was trying to cover up some shortcoming in the way that my business was operating?

Now let us apply this in a spiritual sense. The scripture at the beginning of this article tells us that God has set up a standard and that He will not overlook our nonconformance to His standard. When we willingly submit to this measurement, it gives us confidence in God and in one another. But what if we would each try to live by our own standard?

The apostle Paul had somewhat to say about this in 2 Corinthians 10:12, warning that “we dare not make ourselves equal to or compare ourselves to some of those who commend themselves. But, in measuring themselves by their own measure [or standard] and in comparing themselves to themselves, they lack understanding.” This is the reading given in the Louis Segond (French) translation, and it brings out a point that I have previously missed when reading it in English. The danger is not so much in comparing ourselves to others, but in establishing our own personal standards to judge our motives and actions.

When we compare ourselves to others, don’t we choose those to whom we wish to compare ourselves? We may say, “Everybody is doing such and such a thing,” but is it really everybody? In taking for our example those who are walking close to the borderline of genuine Christian living, or even somewhat over the border, in at least this one area of their lives, we have already made a choice. We have set up a standard for ourselves that is different from God’s standard. This may initially bring a certain acceptance with those who are minded the same way on this point at that time. But in the end we will find ourselves alone, because we are measuring ourselves by our own standard. Our own standard will always be a little different from anyone else’s, because we are not willing to submit ourselves to the standard that is accepted by others.

When others ask how it is going in our Christian lives, we feel defensive if our standard is not God’s standard. We have measured ourselves by the standard which we have established for ourselves, but that does not bring about a feeling of mutual confidence and fellowship.

We have the Bible as our guidebook. It is an indispensable source of inspiration and reference for our Christian lives. The church, in conference, by the direction of the Holy Spirit, interpreted the Word into everyday practice and application. She has established certain points of reference for our Christian lives. But even if we would each try to conform ourselves fully to these standards, according to our own understanding, differences of interpretation would often arise, bringing about a lack of confidence. We need the Holy Spirit to audit our lives continually to reveal whether we are truly in compliance with God’s standards as set forth in the Word. This provides a basis whereby we have confidence in others and they in us.

If it is truly our heart’s desire to follow God’s direction for our lives, we will not be out of harmony with our brothers and sisters. Even though we sing different voices, it all blends together. We are all “singing from the same book,” the one written in our hearts (Ps. 119:11), and the harmony is beautiful.

Bob Goodnough, Acton Vale, Quebec
(I wrote this for one of our church periodicals 17 years ago. while living in a different province.)

%d bloggers like this: