Hillside: Bible Study, VBS, and Breakfast

by Jennifer Driedger

Buffalo Head Prairie, Alta.—Okay, now where do I start? I only have 500 words. Well, let’s see. I can give you a summary of the year so far. From September to the end of March we have Family Bible Study on Wednesday nights at 7:30 at the church. Everyone is welcome. We start off by praying and singing. Then we kids, ages three to 15 depending on the day (normally there are only five of us), head downstairs.

From September to December we did it with Telita Janzen; then she passed away from cancer on Jan. 30 this year. So now we kids have our lesson time with Laural Ann Plett, Pastor Jeff Plett’s wife. We have a lesson downstairs while the adults do their Bible study upstairs. When Telita was here, we kids would tie bags for MCC school kits during our lesson time.

Sunday School runs from September to June. We have five classes: a boy’s class with three boys, a girl’s youth class with about five girls, the nursery class with six kids, a mothers’ class, and an adult class.

For Christmas 2016 the Sunday School classes practised songs or skits. The girls’ and mothers’ classes joined together and sang Star of The East in two-, almost three-part harmony. The boys’ class and the girls’ class, with some help from our dads, performed a skit on “Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego and the Fiery Furnace.” The nursery class also sang.

From July 31 to Aug. 4 we had VBS. Two girls who worked with Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) came up from Edmonton and led the lesson part. The VBS started at 7 p.m. Kids ages four to 12 sang, memorized Bible verses, and got to hear stories about missionaries and the story of Jesus. After the lesson time, the kids got to play games with Pastor Jeff or go downstairs and have crafts with Mrs. Wheeler and Mrs. Doerksen. After the crafts or the games, they had a snack before they were sent home hyper. We were blessed to have around 15 kids show up to learn about God.

Year-round there is a men’s prayer breakfast every other Saturday. Some of the men from the church get together at 8 in the morning at the church. They take turns making breakfast, and then they pray and fellowship before starting their day. I don’t know much about this because I never go, but my Dad does and so it made it in here.

Letters November 2017

Respect, Yes, But More Than Silence is Needed

Responding to “Silence Needed in the Sanctuary” by Jake K. Friesen (Sept. 2017).

Over the years the culture of church has changed. Some churches have stayed in the ways of the past, and others have adapted to the culture of society. The proper way to worship has been hotly debated in the late past, and now more concerns are coming up from respectable people from churches everywhere. I believe that the church is a place to worship Jesus, and have community with all the members. If your pastor knows you well enough to crack a joke, I’d say that is good sign that there is community.

However, I also believe that our society is losing that ability to commit to a belief. In the past, members of churches were wholly committed to their church and all the members in it. The newer churches are so focused on including and adapting to everyone’s needs that they forget about the “devout and sanctified” part of church, which I do believe is a problem. So maybe we do need to have a bit more respect for why we’re there, but if there is only silence in the church, where are the people?

– Suzanna Hopcraft, Winnipeg, Man.

Eric Isaac: Simeon’s Wish List

by Pastor Eric Isaac

One of the challenges I face around this time of year is figuring out what sort of gifts I want for Christmas. My wife, my mom, and my sister like buying gifts for people. They also like being organized and making lists, so some time between Canada Day and Thanksgiving Day they tell me to write down what I want for Christmas. This is a problem because last Christmas I didn’t know what I wanted and this year I have more stuff than I did last year.

In Luke 2:22-32 we meet an old character named Simeon. If there had been Christmas and Christmas gifts in his time I wonder if he would have been a hard person for which to buy. Though he had less than us, I wonder if the list with his name on it would have been empty or at least mostly empty.

One Thing

It seems that there was only one thing Simeon wanted. If there had been Christmas and Christmas gifts and if he had had a sister who prodded him a bit and said, “Come on Simeon, there must be something you want.” what would he have done? Maybe, with a bit of smirk on his face, he would have finally written, “I’d like to see the Messiah.” Seeing the Messiah seemed to be the only thing that mattered to Simeon.

A Wish Come True

Simeon was probably an old man by the time Jesus was born. Luke tells us that he was devout and righteous and that the Holy Spirit was on him. The Holy Spirit had told Simeon he would not die before he had seen the Messiah.

One day, when Jesus was about 40 days old, Joseph and Mary went to the temple to dedicate their firstborn son. This was the ordinary thing for an obedient Jewish family to do (Lev.12). It was on this day that Simeon was “moved by the Spirit” and went to the temple courts (2:27). It was on that day that Simeon’s Christmas wish came true.

Simeon’s ‘Bucket List’

When Simeon saw the baby Messiah he held him and praised God. However, his first words of praise might sound weird to us. He said, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace” (2:29).  In other words, “Lord, you have kept your promise. I’ve seen your Messiah and I’m ready to die now.”

Remember that imaginary Christmas list of Simeon’s with only one item? His “bucket list” also only had one item. Some of us have vacations we want to take, sights we want to see, and accomplishments we want to achieve before we “kick the bucket.” Not so with Simeon. He had wanted to see the Messiah. Now he had done so. Therefore, he was ready to die.

Who This Messiah Would Be

Simeon’s words of praise were also prophetic words about who the Messiah would be. In verse 30 Simeon said, “For my eyes have seen your salvation.” Simeon looked at Baby Jesus and simply said, “God, I have seen your salvation.” Notice Simeon did not announce, “God, I have seen part of your salvation plan,” or “God, I have seen the one who will show us salvation.” He simply said, “God, I have seen your salvation.” Period.

Simeon announced, “For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations” (2:30-31). God sent Jesus to earth because He wants all people to be saved regardless of their ethnicity, religious history or worldview.

No Favourite Culture

Unlike many people, God does not have a favourite culture, ethnicity or country. If we are honest with ourselves, most of us would have to admit that there is at least a hint of racism or ethnocentrism in our hearts. Ethnocentrism is when someone views the world with the belief that their culture is superior to others.

Consequently, racism and ethnocentrism are almost everywhere in this world. But they do not exist in heaven. Therefore, God sent Jesus to earth because he wants all people to be saved. As Simeon put it, “God prepared this in the sight of all nations.”

Simeon also declared that Jesus would be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel” (2:32). Jesus would reveal truth to the Gentiles, the non-Jews. He would give them understanding about God’s character and how he acts in the lives of people.

Unlike the Gentiles, the people of Israel had Moses and the prophets, so they had a clearer understanding o f God and needed revelation less than the Gentiles did. Simeon announced that Jesus would be revelation for the Gentiles and the glory of Israel.

Fixed on the Messiah

Jesus was the one that made Israel most praiseworthy. The Israelites were proud of their kings and their great prophets, but if they really understood who Jesus was they would be proud of him the most. They would say, “Moses was great, King David was great, but Jesus is the greatest of them all. Jesus is the one who makes Israel great.”

During this season may this passage help us see two important aspects of the Christian life. First, may it help us to see how our eyes should be fixed on the Messiah. Simeon’s deepest longing, maybe his only longing, was to see the Messiah. Everything else was second place in comparison to this.

May we be able to repeat what the Apostle Paul said, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). May we see that living the Christian life means “fixing our eyes on Jesus” (Heb. 12:2).

Second, may we also see that the Jesus, on whom we are fixing our eyes, came for all peoples.

Eric Isaac

May our whole lives agree with the Apostle Peter when he said, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favouritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right” (Acts 10:34-35). May we see that living the Christian life means accepting and loving all people, no matter how different they are from us.

Eric Isaac loves his wife Jennifer and their three children (James, Clara, and Emily). He graduated from Steinbach Bible College (BA, Pastoral Ministries) and is pastoring the Morweena EMC in Manitoba’s Interlake region.

Heartland: Bridging the Gap

by Brigitte Toews

LANDMARK, Man.—When Heartland’s musical men bridge the gap, that often widens when some of our elder church members move to Steinbach, something amazing happens. On Oct. 16, 2017, the band—Duane Froese (piano), Gary Toews (percussion), and Dave Andres (bass)—opened the first set with their musical rendition of Church in Wildwood and When the Roll is Called.

I settled in the back row of BridgePark Manor’s multi-purpose room and tapped my toes to the jazzy gospel beat. Dayton Plett led the congregation, singing choruses of victory and power and of longing and devotion toward God. The HCC quartet (Al Reimer, Bernie Neufeld, Dayton Plett, and Reinhold Wiebe) added their voices to the throng. 

Duane introduced us to a special guest, his friend Julio Cesar, a Christian man he had met three months prior and who is trying to emigrate from Bolivia with his young family. Though Julio didn’t speak much English, he sang familiar Christian tunes in his own language.  And Rev. Jake Froese expounded scripture and preached the good news in three short sermon segments throughout the evening.    

The hour flew by. The room was filled with the Spirit of God in the people of God. And after the service the men visited with attenders.  I am grateful for their willingness to serve.     

The chasm between affluence and poverty is wide, but the Christian band, The Color, ambassadors for World Vision, have helped bridge that divide through the well-known sponsorship program. The Band held a Saturday worship night and concert on Oct. 21 at HCC, which drew just over 200 people of various ages.  Through the group’s effort six first-time sponsors signed up during the concert. And during the intermission HCC social committee served up sundaes at their ice cream bar.

Loreena Thiessen: Are You Balanced?

by Loreena Thiessen

Which is your favourite cookie? Oreos? Chocolate chip? Peanut butter?

Would you eat only cookies if you could? All day? Every day?

What would happen if you did? Your body would feel unbalanced. You would need something more.

To be balanced means to have the right amount of different things. Your body needs a balance of different foods, fruits, vegetables, protein, grains, and dairy, like milk or yogurt. Together these foods have what your body needs to be healthy and grow.

To be your best you need balance in everything you do. In one day you play some of the time. You stop to eat lunch and supper. You need time to clean up, to get dressed and walk to school. You need time to do your homework, and get your chores done, perhaps clear the supper dishes and load the dishwasher. You can’t do only one thing. To be your best you must balance your time and your activities.

You can find balance all around you. Every morning the sun comes up, the sky gets brighter and birds begin to sing. And each evening the sun sets, the sky darkens and the birds grow silent. The balance of night and day is a pattern, day follows night and night follows day.

Seasons follow a pattern too. Cold weather follows warm. After summer there’s fall, then winter and spring, and once again the warm summer.

It’s easy to see pattern in flowers. Take the daisy. Its white petals grow in a circle around a yellow centre. The petals of the sunflower circle a bed of seeds like the rays of the sun. The rosebud’s petals fold around each other to form a tight round ball.

Take a look at the houses on your street. Do they have a tall pointed roof or a low roof? Do any have a chimney? Are their windows the same? How many have a garage? Are they attached or separate? Look at the cars driving on the street, or parked at the curb. Are they the same or different? Are they different colors or are they pretty much the same?

There’s a pattern to how we connect with each other. When you say “Hi!” to someone, usually that person says “Hi!” right back. When you smile at someone they smile too.

Numbers have patterns too. Count by tens and each number ends the same: 10, 20, 30; 13, 23, 33, and so on.

Languages have patterns. In an English sentence the subject, the thing you are talking about, comes first, followed by the verb or the action. For example, a dog barks.

A pattern is a repetition, something that happens in the same way again and again. Patterns are all around you. They make you feel balanced. It’s easier to go to bed at night when it’s dark outside. You know the sun will be back in the morning. You expect it. You feel there is order. You can predict it will happen again tomorrow.

Loreena Thiessen

God created the earth to have order so we can live on it. He created the sun to give energy to all living things. He created food in the form of plants and animals for all living beings. And he created water for without water there is no life.

Read Genesis 1:1-24 and Isaiah 45:18.

Activity: Find pattern in nature.

Need: One head of broccoli, one blooming geranium plant, a pine tree.

Do: Remove one small part of the broccoli. Is its shape similar to that of the whole head?

Look at the flower of the geranium. Do the tiny flowers, in shape and colour, imitate the large bloom?

Examine a pine branch. Is it similar to the shape of the whole tree? Does it look like a miniature pine tree?

These are examples of patterns in nature where the parts imitate the whole thing. In science this is called self-similar structure, or a fractal.

Arlene Friesen: Letters to the Family, A Mother’s Treasure

by Professor Arlene Friesen

The Protestant (Radical) Reformation Through 2017

Our children are among the most important things given to us in our lives. With this gift comes the responsibility of passing on faith. This can be a daunting task in a cultural climate that isn’t always friendly to followers of Jesus.

The Desire of our Hearts

Maeyken van Deventers expresses the desire of our hearts when she writes to her children, “I seek the salvation of your souls; believe me, and no one else, that you may come to me and live forever.” Maeyken wrote this from a Rotterdam prison in 1572. She was one of the female Anabaptist martyrs whose final letters are preserved for us in Martyr’s Mirror.

These letters, written by imprisoned wives and mothers facing impending death, show us what they thought was most important—a primary commitment to God which led them to desire their children’s salvation, urge them to fear the Lord, and bequeath them with the true treasure of a mother’s testimony and faithful death.

Family is Secondary

These women viewed their families and life together as secondary to their life with God; they would sooner leave their family than leave their faith. Adriaenken Jans reminded her husband that they had built their house on the rock of Christ, and martyrdom was the cost they would pay for their house.

This was not a cold-hearted stoicism; great affection and longing was also conveyed. Janneken Muntsdorp, writing to her infant daughter, expressed how well suited she and her husband were and that nothing could have separated them except a desire to do the Lord’s will. Soetgen van den Houte’s letter to her children is filled with tearful prayer, loving admonishment, and terms of tender affection.

Choosing the narrow way of primary allegiance to Christ was not always easy. Maeyken Wens admitted in a letter to her husband that she was struggling with being thankful for all that was happening to her, and that parting was harder than she had imagined. “Oh, how easy it is to be a Christian, so long as the flesh is not put to the trial, or nothing has to be relinquished; then it is an easy thing to be a Christian.”

Entrusting Children to God

Working through this struggle, the women came to a place of entrusting their children to God. They did not blame him for what was happening to them, but in trusting that their persecution was part of his foreordained plan, they also trusted that he would care for their children.

Soetken, whose husband had already been martyred, wrote to her soon-to-be orphaned children, “When I thought that for Christ’s sake we must separate from all that we love in this world I committed all to the will of the Lord.” Maeyken’s final letter to her son, written just before her death, informs him that her struggle has been met with God’s grace: “The Lord takes away all fear; I did not know what to do for joy, when I was sentenced. . . I cannot fully thank my God for the great grace which He has shown me.”

Encouraging a Death-Defying Commitment

Out of their own death-defying commitment to God, these mothers urged their children to a similar decision. In their concern for the children’s salvation, they encouraged them to learn to read and write, because in this way they would gain understanding and wisdom. The importance of this for the Anabaptists is evident in their Scripture-filled letters; in reading you can know the Scriptures for yourself and come to an understanding of salvation.

Six months before her death, Maeyken Wens urged her oldest son, Adriaen, to begin to fear the Lord, being old enough to perceive good and evil. She pressed him to join himself to those that fear the Lord, and to write her with his decision. She wanted a better letter than the last two!

The Fear of the Lord

The fear of the Lord is a predominant theme in these final letters. Whether writing to believing children, or to those “of the flesh”, the mothers commended the narrow way. Anna warned Isaiah that this way is found by few and walked by even fewer, since some regard it as too severe, even though they see it is the way to life. “Where you hear of the cross, there is Christ; from there do not depart.”

To fear the Lord is to follow the example of Christ and others who have suffered. Persecution is to be expected. Do not for this reason fail to join the fellowship of true believers.

To fear the Lord is to obey. The children were to obey those who took care of them now, as long as it was not contrary to God. Their mothers instructed them in the specifics of speech, diligence, prayer, simplicity and generosity, among others. With their own lives as examples, the women encouraged their children to forsake pleasures of this world for eternal reward. Soetgen wrote, “We are of such good cheer to offer up our sacrifice that I cannot express it. I could leap for joy when I think of the eternal riches which are promised to us as our inheritance.”

Testaments Our Inheritance

And so, they wrote their final testaments, viewing the testimony of their word and death as the true treasure they left with their children. Soetgen recognized this was not a memorial of silver, gold, or jewels, but something more lasting; if her children paid heed to this testament they would gain more treasure by it than if she had left them perishable riches.

The letters of these martyrs are also our inheritance. They offer us wisdom for ordering our lives and passing on our faith. We are left with questions of priority, vision, and urgency.

Is our first priority God and his kingdom? In our desire to give our children every opportunity in this life, are we in danger of neglecting this first priority? What are we communicating to our children?

What is our vision for our children or those we influence? Recently I took some time to think about this vision, to write it out, and to begin praying it. The next step is to share it with the ones I carry in my heart.

Do We Sense the Urgency?

Do we sense the urgency of these life choices? These women viewed every choice through the lens of eternity, as life and death matters. Do we shy away from this “narrow way” talk, desiring a less demanding portrayal of faith? In emphasizing the love of God, has our pendulum swung too far?

What is the narrow way? For these women, one expression of it was choosing adult believer’s baptism as a sign of their loyalty to Jesus, knowing that this baptism marked them for a baptism in blood. They did not shy away from expressing the cost to their children, but fearlessly called them to follow in the same path. In our lives, what are the “narrow way” choices we are making and calling our children to?

Arlene Friesen

Recent research encourages us with the fact that the spiritual vitality of parents contributes to “sticky faith” in their children. Let these women’s examples embolden you to speak your faith and live it before your children as the richest inheritance you can leave to them.

“Fear God; this is the conclusion” – Janneken Muntsdorp, 1573.

Professor Arlene Friesen, BRS, MTS, teaches courses on Bible and Ministry and serves as registrar at Steinbach Bible College. She is a part of Morrow Gospel Church (EMMC), Winnipeg, Man.

Who Were These Women?

Anna of Rotterdam (d. 1539) has a 15-month-old son Isaiah whom she entrusts to a baker on the way to her execution, along with a letter.

Lijsken Dircks, Antwerp (d. 1552), writes to her husband Jerome Segers, also in prison.

Soetken van den Houte, Ghent (d. 1560), writes to her three children, David, Betgen, and Tanneken. Her husband had previously given his life for the truth. Her lengthy letter is full of Scripture references and quotes.

Adriaenken Jans, Dordrecht (d. 1572), writes to her husband.

Maeyken van Deventers, Rotterdam (d. 1572), writes to her four children “in the flesh” with a concern for their salvation.

Maeyken Wens, Antwerp (d. 1573), writes to her oldest son Adriaen, as well as to her husband, a minister.

Janneken Muntsdorp, Antwerp (d. 1573, at the same time as Maeyken Wens), writes to her one-month old daughter Janneken, who was born in prison and is now being cared for by relatives.

Their letters can be found in Martyr’s Mirror (453-4; 504, 515-22; 646-51; 926-9; 977-9; 981-3; 984-6).

Terry Smith: Thomas Müntzer, Too Easily Dismissed

by Terry M. Smith

Was Thomas Müntzer (ca. 1488-1525) an Anabaptist? He seems to have opposed infant baptism, yet it’s uncertain if he was rebaptized. In any case, he’s a figure from whom many modern Anabaptists disassociate themselves. But what do they do, then, with the prophet Amos and the apostle James, whose social concerns and words were equally strong (violence excepted)?

There’s more to Müntzer than his support of violence. Look beneath it to his broader social concerns. His story reflects the social environment out of which Anabaptism emerged.

Thomas Müntzer was from Saxony, a “bright, but undisciplined,” yet serious student at three universities who became a priest. By 1519 he was influenced by Martin Luther. He became a reformer and yet soon was sharply critical of Luther.

Yes, he promoted the use of force, but not for its own sake. He wanted the Christian faith to be expressed partly through social justice. People were oppressed; social change was needed, he said.

Müntzer “proclaimed that God would soon bring the present age of the world to an end, punishing those who oppressed the people.” In 1524 he preached a blunt sermon to Duke John of Saxony, his son, and court officials, “urging them to become God’s instruments in the revolution.” “Not surprisingly, they declined,” says William Placher.

These powerful people could have punished Müntzer had they so chose. Yet he didn’t mince words. Such courage!

Here’s a bit of his sermon: “… Perform a righteous judgment at God’s command! You have help enough for the purpose, for Christ is your Master. Therefore let not the evildoers live longer who make us turn away from God. . . God is your protection and he will teach you to fight against his foes. He will make your hands skilled in fighting and will also sustain you” (see Placher).

After that, Müntzer joined German peasants in their short-lived Peasant War (1524-1525). Captured at the Battle at Frankenhausen on May 15, 1525, he was tortured and imprisoned. He recanted and was executed (H. Hillerbrand).

I’ve read that just as modern Anabaptists reject the violent legacy of Thomas Müntzer, some Lutherans today grapple with what Martin Luther wrote to German princes about the warring peasants: that the princes could kill them just as a person would kill an attacking mad dog.

Luther had earlier, and still later, supported some of the peasants’ concerns, but this was overshadowed by his support of force against them. By alienating some of the peasants, he hurt the Reformation in some circles.

We might ask what would have happened if Luther had been as forceful as Müntzer in challenging the princes to show their Christian convictions through social justice? At the same time, it’s important to realize that, as Dr. Robert Kolb shows, Luther did challenge rulers.

Terry M. Smith

Consider these quotes: “Disciples of Christ commit themselves to righteousness, justice, peace and love in their homeland and in the global community.” “Stewardship is demonstrated in our lifestyles, in our relations with the poor and the disadvantaged, in our view of possessions, in our concern for all of God’s creation and in our response to global economic injustice.” Christians “should assume social responsibility; oppose corruption, discrimination, and injustice.”

No, these statements aren’t from the Twelve Articles of the Swabian Peasants. They are found within our EMC Constitution.

Sources: C. S. Meyer, “Luther, Martin,” in Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. J. D. Douglas (Zondervan, 1981); R. H. Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (Mentor, 1950); W. C. Placher, Readings in the History of Christian Theology, vol. 2 (WJK, 1988); H. J. Hillerbrand, ed., The Reformation (Baker, repr. 1987); “Müntzer, Thomas,” Wikipedia; “Battle of Frankenhausen,” Military Wiki; R. Friedmann and W. O. Packull, “Müntzer, Thomas” (GAMEO, 1956, 1987); “Thomas Müntzer,” New World Encyclopedia (2014); Robert Kolb, “Luther on Princes and Peasants,” Lutheran Quarterly (online in more than one form).