Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

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Boyhood fears

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I was afraid of a lot of things as a boy, the two main ones being girls and dogs. Girls were different, mysterious; they didn’t look, talk or act like boys. The thought of actually speaking to one crippled my mind and my tongue.

Yet there was always a girl or two that I could talk to without stammering like an imbecile. For some reason they were all named Joan. Thinking back, it might have been because Joan was the most common girl’s name for that era, just like Robert was for boys. There were two grades to a classroom in our school and three Roberts in my class. In order to distinguish between us we were known as Bob Dixon, Bobby Adamus and I had to be Robert Goodnough.

There were two girls with whom, I never had a problem visiting and they weren’t even named Joan. But they were cousins and that was even better. By now I think I have pretty much gotten over my fear of girls, of any age.

Dogs were even worse than girls. Not all dogs, but any big dog that barked was surely some kin of the hound of the Baskervilles. I had a half mile to walk to school, straight down the west side of town. Halfway between home and school there was a house set well back from the street with a dog chained up outside.

Every day, when I walked by that house, the dog would bark. It was a big, dark coloured dog. And my friends said it was half wolf. I was terrified. This went on for a couple years as passed fro nine to ten to eleven. I didn’t pray much in those days, but every time that dog barked I prayed that God would protect me from that evil wolf dog and give me the courage to keep on walking.

There was a wide coulee east of ton with a little creek running along the bottom called the Arm River. At most places the river was about ankle deep. But there was a spot several miles out of town that was wider and deeper and was used as a swimming hole. It was just an old-fashioned swimming hole, completely unsupervised, the nearest house a half mile away.

I didn’t go there often, it was too far and I couldn’t swim. I was afraid of water, too. But I knew that I was in no danger of drowning in that swimming hole; if I stood up in the deepest place my head was above the water.

One day as I was walking home from school I saw that evil wolf dog trotting down the road toward me. I walked closer to the side of the road and he went by without paying any attention to me. I noticed two things as he passed – he was dripping wet, and the pupils of his eyes were rectangular horizontal slits, not like the eyes of any dog I’d ever seen before. He was a wolf dog for sure.

The next day I heard that he had been down at the swimming hole. A young boy who couldn’t swim had gotten into the deep part where the water was over his head. He was floundering, gasping for air and calling for help. The dog had jumped in, the boy had grabbed his long fur and the dog had towed him up and out of the water. Apparently the dog was quicker thinking than the children.

Thus ended my fear of the evil wolf dog. What had I been afraid of anyway? It wasn’t the dog, it was the overheated thoughts in my own mind.

Spiritual drought

About this time every year farmers here on the dry Canadian prairies can be heard worrying about whether there will be enough moisture to produce a crop. This year we a are midway through the fourth month of winter with no end in sight according to the long range forecast. There is not a lot of snow on the ground and that causes stress in the farming community.

I suppose I would be stressed, too, if I was a farmer with the level of investment that is required by modern grain farming.

I will be 76 before the snow is gone and have seen that the rolling of the seasons plays out in a different fashion every year. I have seen springs with abundant moisture and ideal seeding conditions where the rains stopped in early summer. The grain grew tall and thick, but the kernels were few and shrivelled.

I have seen dry springs with barely enough moisture a few inches down to germinate the seeds. Yet rains came at the right time and there was an abundant crop. There have been years of drought and years of excessive moisture where some crops were flooded out. Even an overly long winter can be a boon to agriculture because it prevents the soil from drying out.

Anything is possible in Saskatchewan. Farmers have no control over moisture conditions. What about Christians? Many of us seem to go throught the same kind of cycles of scarcity and abundance of spiritual power. Some seem to live in a perpetual drought, trying to conserve the little bit of grace that they have.

Is that how Christian life is supposed to be? I think there are two possible problems when we are experiencing a spiritual drought.

One happens when Jesus fills our cup and we are so fearful of losing the precious spiritual water that we dare not share it with anyone else. And the water in our cup just evaporates. Jesus wants us to let that water flow, and as it flows out more will flow in.

The other possibility could be a misunderstanding of “never thirst again.” When the Holy Spirit comes into our heart, He becomes an inexhaustible source of living water and we never again need to seek desperately for that refreshment.

Yet it seems that we still need to feel a thirst, a longing for that refreshing water. It is too easy to slip into a pattern that seems Christian and spiritual, yet lacks the power that is readily available to us.

Elisha Hoffman describe that thirst like this:

Lord, I am fondly, earnestly longing,
Into thy holy likeness to grow;
Thirsting for more and deeper communion,
Yearning thy love more fully to know.

-from Open the wells of salvation by Elisha Hoffman.

Revival becomes possible when we have that kind of thirst. If we feel dry and parched, it is not that the Lord is withholding the showers from us. It just might be that we are not thirsty enough.

Unstable as water

Water is essential to life on this planet. The Bibles applies the life-giving properties of water in a spiritual sense when it speaks of the river of life and of the water and blood that poured from Jesus’ side, .

There is also a dangerous side to water, such as Jacob’s description of Reuben, his oldest son: “Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel.” (Genesis 49:4)

The Bible uses this turbulent, ever-changing nature of water as an illustration of the character of the world that does not know God. Such as this passage from Isaiah: “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked” (Isaiah 57:20-21). James says: “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:6-8) In Ephesians 4:4, the apostle Paul writes: “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.”

The book of Revelation speaks figuratively of a seductive woman who deceives the inhabitants of the earth, and makes war with the saints. Revelation 17:1 depicts her as being seated upon many waters, then verse 15 says: “The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. ”

Chapter 13 begins by telling us of a beast that arises from these waters. The beast blasphemes God and yet is worshipped by all the people of the earth, except those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Dry land in Scripture is a symbol of stability, a solid place where a foundation can be laid for the people who believe in God — a place where we can be rooted and grounded in the faith and worship the one who never changes. Yet chapter 13 also tells of a beast arising from the dry land. This depicts a deformed, corrupt Christianity rising among the people of God that imitates many of the teachings and practices of the first beast which came out of the waters of heathendom.

The world’s standards of right and wrong are always changing. Today we are told that certain abominable things are right and good and if we don’t agree, then we are enemies of the truth. Tomorrow the values will change, but the people of God will still be the enemies of the world.

Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. 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 4:12-18)

Flavoured water

My wife picked up a bottle of water to drink on the way home.  Once we got out on the highway, she picked up the bottle, unscrewed the cap and took a swig.  I heard a disgusted noise from the seat beside me, followed by “What is this stuff?”  She examined the label more closely than when she had picked up the bottle to buy it, and saw it contained watermelon flavoured water.

My wife loves watermelon.  But watermelon flavoured water, with artificial sweetener and various other mysterious ingredients, did not appeal to her palate.

A missionary friend recounted a story of a village that had no source of good water.  They would walk to a pond a mile or so away and fill their buckets with the brackish swamp water found there.

Eventually an NGO saw the need, drilled a well and set up a tap right in the village where the people could get all the pure, clear water they needed.  Several months later, my friend visited this village again and was surprised to see many of the people once again making the trek to the brackish pond.

“Doesn’t the pump work anymore?”

“Yes, it works just fine.”

“Then why don’t you use the water from the pump?”

“Well, it just doesn’t have the same flavour.”

Jesus has provided us with a source of pure, clear, life-giving water that will never run dry.  Why is it that so many who profess to be purveyors of that water feel a need to enhance it with artificial sweeteners and flavours, perhaps even a dash of wormwood?

Is it possible to get so accustomed to the tang of that flavoured water that we no longer have a thirst for the pure, life-giving water that flows from the throne of God?

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