All posts by emcmessenger

Andrew Reimer, Winnipeg: Changing My Mind

by Andrew Reimer

Winnipeg—Like many of you, I grew up not knowing many Indigenous people, having absorbed the stereotypes and superior attitudes most settler Canadians consciously or unconsciously hold towards our Indigenous neighbours.

However, over the past 15 years living and serving in Winnipeg’s North End, a predominantly Aboriginal inner city neighbourhood, my wife Amie and I have been blessed by wonderful friendships with our neighbours who have entrusted us with their life experiences, hopes, joys and sorrows.

When we begin to see our First Nations neighbours as friends and family, it becomes much more difficult to distance ourselves from their grief and pain.

I have been invited to sit and pray at the hospital bedsides of friends in their times of vulnerability.  I have grieved with families at wakes and funerals, sometimes of beloved elders or of loved ones who died too young.  Teen gang members in jail—guys judged, condemned and written off by pretty much everyone—have entrusted us with their stories and their longings for God to help them change.

Residential school survivors have shared with me experiences that they have only begun to talk about after 50 years. Meanwhile, most of the youth and young adults I know are experiencing the intergenerational effects of the trauma their grandparents suffered.

Some of our friends have expressed disconnection, confusion and even shame about their Aboriginal identities, while some are holding onto and reclaiming their cultural identities, values and traditions.  I have listened as friends have voiced sadness anger about the injustices and continued oppression and suffering of their people.

Questions come up about where God is in all this.  I have talked with people who are struggling to reconcile faith in Jesus with their Indigenous identity.

I have had the privilege of learning from First Nations leaders what the Good News of Jesus sounds like from an Indigenous perspective. I have discovered the good news of a colonized, rejected and suffering Jesus who identifies with the experience of Aboriginal people.

Friends of mine have modelled trust in God and love for Jesus and have made courageous, against-the-flow choices because of their commitment to Christ. Indigenous youth have been amazing examples of compassion and generosity.

God has been changing my mind about First Nations people. Changing my mind means taking a posture of humility and prioritizing relationship, facing my paternalistic impulses to see people as problems that I need to fix, asking uncomfortable questions about who has the power in our relationships.

It means listening in order to understand and to value a different way of life, to laugh at myself, to not excuse the fact that my people thrive while my Aboriginal friends struggle.

I am saddened by the great rift of pain, mistrust, and misunderstanding that still exists between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Settler people tend to value “solutions” and “results” but too often rush towards our idea of solutions to First Nations issues when what we really need to do is take time to develop relationships and build trust with First Nations people. For me, this has meant humbly coming near to Indigenous neighbours listening, grieving, learning and relating on the level of our common humanity.

Andrew Reimer (Steinbach EMC) serves as a community minister in Winnipeg’s North End with Inner City Youth Alive.

Tamera Peters: Congo, Taking Those Hurdles Straight On

by Tamera Peters

CONGO—I have never liked hurdles.

In the eighth grade I used to run track. Once during a hurdle race I had a bad fall that tore up one side of my face and knocked out two of my front teeth. I still have some scars from it. Not a good memory!

A hurdle race is tricky to run. I watched a couple of races during the Olympics, and cringed every time someone jumped, hoping no one would fall. You either confidently jump over them, or you hesitate and most likely will trip and fall. I usually just rather avoid them.

Coming to Congo this time has felt like a hurdle run. Hurdles are pretty much a norm for Africa. Some of them these past days were very concrete, like having no electricity last night or Internet when I wanted to connect with my family. To take my African colleague’s wife to the hospital to get a malaria treatment, it meant driving down the streets of Kinshasa dodging potholes, broken down cars, and piles of trash on the road.

Other hurdles are more mental and emotional. Mine these days were finding out that two of my colleagues were refused entry into Congo, and that I am now here alone and responsible for doing the teacher training. My initial reaction was to call Phil, cry a little, and tell him I want to come home.

That is what I felt like doing! But a strange thing is happening tonight and I can only explain it as “Christ living in me.” All of a sudden I have peace. Yes, the one that “passes all understanding” that we read about in the Bible (Phil. 4:7).

I read dozens of emails, What’sApp and Facebook messages that came in from friends encouraging me and praying for me. Tonight I don’t feel alone.

So I’ve decided and I am going to take those hurdles straight on with confidence and courage because “He that is in me is greater than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

While sitting in the Addis Ababa airport on my way to Congo, I read these verses. They came just at the right time. Maybe some of you are running a kind of hurdle race right now. Go for it!

“The Lord you God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing (Zeph. 3:17).

I wrote this over a month ago (it’s now October). It was an incredible week of experiencing not only the Lord’s strength in my weakness, but him using exactly what I was afraid of for good.

Because of being alone I was able to spend intensive time training not only the teachers of the FATEB Kinshasa Academy, but also spend time with teachers from war torn Central Africa Republic. They too hope to start a school with the help of TeachBeyond.

Not being able to depend on my human resources made me dependent on the Lord’s guidance and leading to equip these teachers who will mostly work with traumatized children.

So yes, jumping hurdles is scary, often difficult, and I still wouldn’t choose to do it; but when you have the Lord with you, He equips us with “Wings like Eagles” and that makes hurdle jumping amazing!

Tamera and Phil Peters (Steinbach EMC) live in Germany and serve with Teach Beyond.

Harvey Thiessen: Moving beyond near-sightedness

by Harvey J. Thiessen

ONTARIODuring the recent Olympics, I watched with interest the women’s 100-metre freestyle swim. History was about to be made; there was excitement in the air. The commentators were hyping the athletes and setting the stage for viewers.

As the racers neared the finish, the excitement increased. Then our athlete won and history was made to exclamations of “never before,” “incredible,” and visions of a bright future for swimming.

Glancing at Facebook, I was confused. Posts of victory and history-making about the race appeared, but a different athlete was celebrated. I had cheered Canadian 16-year-old swimmer Penny Oleksiak. Others cheered American Simone Manuel, the first black female swimmer to win an Olympic gold.

It was the same race, but different athletes were being celebrated. They had tied for the gold medal, and yet Canadian commentators barely mentioned Simone and Penny was an afterthought for the Americans.

Neither country was wrong for celebrating different athletes, but they missed what else was going on. What we value and celebrate is greatly determined by our identity, who we are.

Whether by nationality, tribe, gender, sports team, profession, ethics, religion, political party or endless other ways, we separate and define ourselves as much by what we are not as by what we are. We complain when others (especially superiors) don’t acknowledge what is clearly important for us. We are all subject to this short-sightedness in our interactions.

In our delivery of the gospel message, for example, do we really understand what others are hearing and seeing? In the ethnically, culturally, denominationally, linguistically diverse community in OM where I serve, we have an advantage in seeing things from the vantage point of others. It is, however, not a natural tendency.

We have to try hard to think outside of our experience and understanding. While in the context of the gospel these divisions don’t apply (Gal. 3:28), they are still barriers to understanding. The best antidote is to develop the posture of Jesus, who came to serve and not to be served (Mark 10:45). It takes time to understand others.

In our modern world we have a greater challenge as we often live in different worlds in our home, work place and that new realm called the cyber world. Our little communities are no longer isolated, and the words and terms that we understand are often misconstrued by others.

There is even greater diversity of positions, histories, and experiences to understand in the new world the Internet has opened up. We can either run from it or find it as an opportunity to grow and be present as a witness in this world.

What happens when you continually feel marginalized, unimportant, or misunderstood? The best answer I have found is not to talk louder and more often to make sure I am noticed and understood, but to spend time understanding others. This is especially important in today’s new missions era.

More than ever, we have the opportunity to learn from the rich experiences of the global church, to understand the vast variety of God’s creation, and learn to work with it.

Harvey J. Thiessen (Wymark) serves as the North American Area Leader of Operation Mobilization.

Albert Martens: Activities, relationships continue

by Albert Martens

POPLAR HILL, Ontario—It was with great enthusiasm and excitement that the seven of us boarded the WINGS King Air 100 in St. Andrews, Man. The volunteer staff who came with me were Don and Ev Wiebe, John and Marlene Friesen, Mona Soucy and her daughter McKenzie.

Chris Lerm from Lorette, Man., was not able to come with us this time due to a recent health issue; however, he was there to see us off and pray for the staff.

The pilot had to remove some fuel to make the plane a bit lighter because we came with lots of supplies (about 360 kgs). After a 45-minute flight we landed on the gravel runway located about four kms north of Poplar Hill.

Charlie Moose, administrative director of the band, had reserved four nice suites for us in the hotel. Chief Jacob Strang and council member Bobby Moose came to the airstrip to pick us up.

I had asked Chief Strang what he would like me to bring along for him, and he asked for chicken. So I had brought along a box of 75 pieces of chicken for him. He was happy to serve this at a birthday celebration that afternoon.

Our pre-planned activities for Aug. 14 to 20 all worked out very well, even though we did not know how it would. Our basic activities were daily children’s Bible lessons, crafts, and games.

Baseball was a good part of each afternoon. Because the old school was being demolished, we had access to a community hall only for three to four days.

Some of the children’s activities were held outside under the trees. The men’s breakfast was held outside our hotel in the shade at 10 a.m. Forty-five men came to enjoy the pancakes, ham, and coffee.

The ladies tea was new for us to prepare in Poplar Hill, and 23 ladies came to the community hall for this event. Each lady received a prepared gift bag. Our group also presented two 20 to 30 minute radio broadcasts. The hotdogs and ice cream served at the community hall were a lot of fun as about 100 people came to eat.

Most of our days it was very warm, so we did take the children for some swimming.

We received a tour of the new and beautiful school (grades one to eight) that was going to be finished in two weeks.

martens-albert
Albert Martens

A highlight for me was to join Gary Owens for his church service one evening. Our group did some singing, and I shared some personal stories and testimonies about my gift of running. I was enriched and encouraged by the speaking of Albert, Arnold, and Gary from their church.

Albert Martens (Steinbach EMC) serves with Athletes in Action.

Terry Smith: Diverse Worship Styles Within the EMC

by Terry M. Smith

At Christmas, Jesus will be praised within many worship styles. That’s great.

The EMC has increasingly diverse worship styles. As variety develops, are we thinking about why we choose what we do?

Certainly, the exuberance of some churches, expressing cultural or Pentecostal influences, can be contrasted with a quieter style elsewhere; and the formal liturgy of Fort Garry EMC differs from the relaxed style of the Endeavour Fellowship Chapel. We can expect even more of a range in the future.

Many shifts in worship styles have occurred in the EMC. Just ask elderly members. For instance, early Kleine Gemeinde (now EMC) ministers opposed four-part singing because, they said, it moved from unity and simplicity in Christ. Later, four-part singing became a mark of Mennonite spirituality.

Today four-part singing is considered by some people to be “old school.” PowerPoint, choruses, and praise bands are in. (Generations ago some First Nations communities had drums taken by missionaries; today some non-Native churches use a complete set.)

Does diversity in worship styles surprise us? There are variations in worship among Anabaptist churches around the world, charismatic and formally liturgical being only two. A one-style-fits-all form of worship is too limiting within the Anabaptist communion and the EMC.

To reach out, our conference—not every individual—is wise to become comfortable with many worship styles, including charismatic and formally liturgical. St. Margaret’s Anglican Church, as John Longhurst tells us, has been called the fastest growing Mennonite church in Winnipeg. Accurate or not, it challenges us to examine what we do in some locations.

Our larger churches need not keep dual services identical in format; varied styles reach a broader cross-section of society.

The Board of Church Ministries has developed a Worship Committee. This is more than a spot for musicians and singers. The committee will assist churches to look at their worship theology reflected, partly, within their order of service. Worship educates; and, in turn, education helps us in worship.

What are some possible issues and questions? These are my thoughts.

All EMC churches have a liturgy, an order of worship that is effective on some level. What enters, or doesn’t, into your church’s liturgy? How is this decided?

How is Scripture used, how much is used, how well read is it? Contact professors Patrick Friesen (SBC) and Christine Longhurst (CMU) for their analysis of the use of Scripture in evangelical church services.

What’s the difference between entertainment and worship? If worship leaders and a sound system overpower the congregation’s voices, where does leading stop and performing start?

terry-smith
Terry M. Smith

Canadian middle-class white evangelicals have advantages of race, location, wealth, and power. Why are few current Christian songs about change, social justice, and peace in God’s world?

In reaching inactive mainliners might a pastoral prayer, use of the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed, a prayer of confession and an assurance of pardon, and a benediction each play a part? Ah, but these are my thoughts.

Terry Smith: The In/Visible God

by Terry M. Smith

No innkeeper refused a room to Joseph and Mary. The Greek word for the “inn” (KJV) used by Joseph and Mary in Luke 2:7 is not the same as the “inn” used by the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:34 (Dr. John Stafford). The former word can mean lodging or guest-chamber as well as inn; the latter means inn (Mounce and Mounce).

Stafford points out that if people were travelling to a home area, they would stay with family. If the guest room was already full, latecomers would share the space used by animals (K. E. Bailey and others).

What’s this mean? While the “innkeeper” didn’t exist, Jesus was, indeed, born in a humble setting used by animals.

It’s significant that Jesus was born in this setting. God sometimes seems to be invisible; at times, his works can seem difficult to locate and observe. Yet at Christmas we proclaim that “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14)—the invisible God became visible!

Jesus is “the human face of God” (J. A. T. Robinson). To say this fully, we affirm Jesus as true God and true man. Augustine said he had read elsewhere of the Word (Logos), but never that “the Word became flesh” until St. John spoke of Jesus. Augustine (AD 354-430) followed our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

“No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (1 John 4:12). Does this verse say that the invisible God is also revealed by how we Christians live? If so, may we this Advent season help travellers to see the invisible God who became visible.

terry-smith
Terry M. Smith

For further study, see John Longhurst, “Exonerating that ‘mean old innkeeper,’” Canadian Mennonite (Dec. 21, 2009) and the article it draws upon: K. E. Bailey, “The Manger and the Inn: A Middle Eastern view of the birth story of Jesus,” Presbyterian Record (Dec. 21, 2006). This editorial is indebted to these writings.

Terry Smith: A Clash With Christmas

by Terry M. Smith

While North Korea’s Sept. 9 test of a nuclear weapon was condemned around the world, the focus should be on opposing nuclear weapons, not on who can have them.

It’s curious logic for those countries possessing nuclear weapons to disallow them elsewhere. How likely is it that sanctions and other punishments will help North Korea to feel less isolated and give up a weapon that some others have?

Make no mistake. North Korea should not have, test, or use nuclear weapons; no country should under any circumstances. The use of such weapons involves indiscriminate, long-term harm. It is an offense against God and people made in his image. Nations need to protect themselves, but not in this way.

The use of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were horrific acts. Yes, they shortened World War Two, freed many people in POW camps (including three of my relatives), and prevented more war crimes by Japanese forces. They also spared many Allied and Japanese soldiers who would have died in further ground fighting.

However, the basic purpose of having soldiers is to protect non-combatants.

Something is amiss when civilians are killed to protect soldiers. In this instance, soldiers killed non-combatants, elderly men, women and children, including some Catholics and Protestants.

terry-smith
Terry M. Smith

No nuclear weapon is so precise that it will not kill civilians; even much smaller missiles, even used in drone strikes, cannot do so.

Nuclear weapons clash with the good news of Christmas.

Letters November/December 2016

God Himself Corrects Israel

I agree with Don Plett (An Ill-Advised Resolution Against Israel, October 2016) that Scripture tells us that Israel is a nation chosen and loved by God. I disagree with Don Plett about how to bless Israel. God has spent all of history loving and drawing unfaithful Israel back to Himself through correction and discipline, often getting very angry! I do not feel that blessing the nation of Israel means turning a blind eye to the atrocities taking place in Palestine.

Scripture is clear about how Israel is expected to behave toward the alien and stranger. Leviticus 19:34: “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” Exodus 22:21: “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him….” Deut. 10:19: “So show your love for the alien….”

I don’t know if sanctions on Israel are the appropriate Mennonite response to the oppression being wrought on Palestine. But I certainly feel that Mennonites can despise the ungodly actions of the Israeli Defense Force and ought to support some form of non-violent response to illegal settlements and brutality.

– Jen Kornelsen, Winnipeg, Man.


Conflict and Friends

I appreciate the balanced approach featuring a column by Senator Don Plett and a response from Dan Dyck, representing Mennonite Church Canada.

I agree with brother Plett that as Christians we have a connection with the Jews and are called to seek the blessing of Israel and pray for her peace.  I certainly affirm her right to exist as a sovereign people in the land.  With brother Dyck, I deplore the violence that has been perpetrated against Israel by groups such as Hamas.

While brother Plett warns that the resolution affirmed by Mennonite Church Canada delegates is “an extreme position against Israel,” he offers no alternative solution to address the ongoing conflict. Granted, no simple solution exists.  But I believe that as Christians seeking to be peacemakers, we have an opportunity and an obligation to start somewhere.

The resolution in question may in the long run achieve very limited results. But it is a way of responding to the pleas of our Christian Palestinian brothers and sisters, and can raise awareness of the issues.  To do this does not mean that you are anti-Semitic or against Israel.

I would hope that to be a friend of Israel includes being willing to challenge her on current destructive policies, and encourage her to take steps that make for peace and dignity for all within her borders.  True friends tell you what you need to hear, not just what you want to hear.

The biblical record shows that Israel’s occupation of the land was always conditional on her faithfulness to God, including the treatment of the alien and stranger in her midst.

– Ward Parkinson, Morris, Man.


Restoration

The October 2016 issue hit on some important issues hopefully precipitating further discussion: forgiveness of sins (Harvey Plett), The Gospel defined (Darryl Klassen), and policing (Layton Friesen). Two of the articles touch on an issue needing further clarification—reconciliation.

Dr. Plett states at the end of his article that after forgiveness, “reconciliation and renewed relationship should happen” (my emphasis). Layton Friesen similarly states “we have to find more peaceful, humane and effective ways of resolving conflict. For example ‘restorative justice’….” Dr. Klassen also hints at “reconciliation” in his last paragraph.

These statements tantalizingly imply processes that are involved and far from automatic. My concern is that where there is offence, for example, in domestic abuse that there is also a justifiable loss of trust that is not easily repaired (Do we put a thief back in charge of accounts receivable?). The loss of trust often makes it pragmatically impossible for a relationship to be restored to where it once was.

The church has sometimes forced (coerced?) an abused and vulnerable spouse back to a partner who cannot be trusted, and it is predictable that the offence will recur. This puts a double onus on the person wronged—to forgive the abuser again and then to refrain from lawsuit against the church for foreseeable harm done. It is not enough merely to put the couple back together assuming that this is the biblical answer!

Some of us have also experienced cases where the church has intervened to protect the wronged spouse. These actions have at times lead to a healthy and happy remarriage or contented “singleness” opted for while the abuser usually finds little in the way of healing.

We are left with the question, then, “What is the church’s responsibility in bringing about reconciliation and healing?”

– Ray Hill, MacGregor, Man.

Dylan Barkman: As We Gather For Life-Changing Experiences

by Pastor Dylan Barkman

Convention 2016

Please open your Bible and refer to Rev. 3:14-22 to the Church in Laodicea. Notice that in verse 14, this “evaluation” or “report card” is not written to unbelievers; it is written to the Church, arguably a group of people that already ought to be “advancing Christ’s kingdom culture”!

In verses 15-16 Jesus judges their deeds as “lukewarm” and as a result is about to spit them out of His mouth!

Lukewarm

Consider what “lukewarm” refers to in terms of a hot tub. We naturally consider the water to be hot. However, hot water is 100oC and cold water is 1C.  We enjoy sitting in water around 38ƒ, which is “lukewarm” in comparison to hot or cold water. The effect of this “lukewarm” water puts us in a place where we are content, relaxed, exert little effort, want for nothing, and desire to stay that way forever, nearly asleep.

This attitude in the Church infuriates Jesus (the Ultimate Judge, 1 Tim. 4:1), who is about to “spit them out” as a result.

Jesus quotes them as saying, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” They were wealthy and tempted to look to their wealth as their source of strength.  Like them, we are likely the richest generation of Christians to date, proved by our abundance of “toys” and “wants.” And whether we admit it or not, we take pride in our wealth even as a conference.   

In verses 17-18 Jesus says, “You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.”

We will understand what “the gold refined in the fire” is once we see the five steps Jesus lays out for us.

Repent!

The first step is “be earnest and repent.” Because this letter is written to the gathered church it begs the question, “Does your church, or the conference, have something in place where people can intentionally repent and deal with sin?” 

Truthfully, many churches assume people deal with all their sin on their own, when what typically happens is that we get really good at sweeping certain sins under the rug and still present ourselves as “good Christians” on Sunday morning. The weight of unconfessed sin just feels normal. Yikes!

Then in verse 20 Jesus says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

Remember Jesus is speaking to a movement of people that ought to be advancing His kingdom culture! However, the obvious question is, “What is Jesus doing outside of the door of the Church?”

To answer that question, consider the following diagram. The circle represents your life. In your life is a throne on which whatever is “Lord” or “King” of your life sits. Before receiving Christ, your life is ruled by “self” and Jesus is not part of your life. At the time when you accept Jesus as Lord of your life through faith, He becomes ruler of your life. He is truly Lord and King and you no longer are number one in your life. This is as it should be.

Frightfully, for the rest of our lives, unless we are intentional about keeping Jesus as Lord, our selfish tendencies kick in and we drift back onto the throne. Although Jesus is still in our lives, He no longer has true function as the actual Lord of our life. As Jesus’ own analogy goes, He is still nearby; however, He is on the wrong side of the door.

What is it that competes with Jesus as being the true Lord or King of our churches and our conference? It does not have to be obvious sins like pornography or alcoholism that replace Him as Lord. It can be subtle things like a focus on money, intellect, education or tradition. Ultimately anything at all, even good things, that replaces Him as the true King and Lord is rebellion against God and sinful.

Hear His Voice!

Jesus is the one who knows the correct answer to this question, which is why we need to listen to Him in prayer. In other words, we need to “hear His voice,” which according to verse 20 is step two.

If we do not follow through with step one “earnest repentance,” we will not make it to step two “hear His voice” (see Ezekiel 12:1-2). Rebellion against God (unconfessed sin) is the reason for not being able to hear even though we have ears to hear!

It should also be noted that just because Jesus is omnipresent, it doesn’t mean that hearing His voice is inescapable. Consider Elijah’s experience in 1 Kings 19:11-12. The Lord was not in inescapable things like the wind, earthquake or fire. Rather, the Lord came as a gentle whisper, which is easy to escape. In fact, one has to be intentional in order to hear it.

Open the Door

This leads us to the third step: “Open the door.” Like the Laodiceans, it is alarming that a barrier (the closed door) has come between us and Jesus. Something we have control over, like resistance to His Holy Spirit (Isaiah 63:10, Acts 7:51, Eph. 4:30, 1 Thess. 5:19) prevents us from experiencing the presence of Jesus.

We Open the Door

The Holy Spirit is God and convicts us of sin. He is gentle, good, gives good gifts, and is a deposit guaranteeing what is yet to come (2 Cor. 1:22, 5:5; Eph. 1:14). If we justify resisting the Holy Spirit, who lives inside us, we believe a lie. The truth is that everything that the Holy Spirit has for us is for our benefit, and, therefore, we should welcome Him with open arms.

Or as in the analogy of Jesus outside the door, in order for the fourth step (Jesus’ “coming in”) to occur, the responsibility lies with us to “open the door”! Jesus doesn’t force his way in.

Experience Intimacy

The fifth step is to experience a personal, intimate, two way communicative relationship with Jesus, as though you were sitting down to a meal of your choice with Him in person.  This is what it means to truly know Jesus, which is very different than just knowing about Jesus (Matt. 7:21-23)!

The presence of Jesus is the “gold refined in the fire” (v. 18) because it is the presence of Jesus that:

• We can only get from Jesus.

• Cannot be purchased with money, but will make us truly rich.

• When we experience it, it will take away our shame unlike clothes that only mask our shame.

• Will be far more satisfying than anything our fat bank accounts can ever buy because it will open our eyes to His truth.

• Is something that we can expect to be in Heaven! (And is actually what makes Heaven great anyway!)

The communication (prayer) that our churches and conference have with Jesus should reflect this kind of personal and real relationship with Him.

When we take these five steps, our conference will be victorious (vv. 21-22).

Dylan Barkman
Dylan Barkman

Dylan Barkman is the teaching pastor of Pansy Chapel in S.E. Manitoba. This article is adapted from his Convention 2016 message shared on Sunday morning, July 3.

David Thiessen: The Apostles’ Creed, Life Everlasting

by David Thiessen

The Apostles’ Creed Through 2016

I believe . . . in life everlasting.” The present Christian Church is waiting for the realization of our future hope, or are we?

The book of Habakkuk in the Old Testament Scriptures encourages us to be a people who wait. In Hab. 2:3 it says, “For the revelation waits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.”

I believe the Lord is speaking to Habakkuk about “life everlasting.” It is arriving, but it has not arrived yet! So we wait.

How do we speak of something that is not here yet? Perhaps little, and certainly not in terms of rigid dogma. We should think and speak with some caution, seeking to keep an open mind. We need to continue a careful reading of Scripture and not jump to quick conclusions—especially since the conclusion is not here yet!

But “life everlasting” has begun. We speak of it in the words of George Eldon Ladd as “inaugurated eschatology.” However, what we have so far is only the beginning, as important as that is (Luke 4:16-21).

I want to write about this eternal life in terms of New Testament teaching on a new heaven and a new earth. I will make reference to a number of texts and make comments on each one.

I also want to acknowledge the writings of N. T. Wright and J. Richard Middleton. They have been instrumental in awaking in me the anticipation of “life everlasting.”

Revelation 21:1-5

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

This passage speaks about what is known as the final state. The disappearance of the sea suggests the removal of evil and its influence. The Holy City, the New Jerusalem, is the post-resurrection Church, the bride of Christ, coming down out of heaven to the earth.

God himself will be with the people. Death, mourning, tears, and pain have passed away, along with the old order of things. Everything is being made new.

Acts 3:19-21

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.

Here is Peter, shortly after Pentecost, preaching the good news of Jesus. The recently ascended Christ must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything. Here, “life everlasting” is about the restoration of “everything.”

Ephesians 1:9-10

And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

Here in this amazing salvation text, beginning in verse three, Paul says some of the most startling words in the New Testament. God will bring all things in heaven and on earth together under the Lordship of Jesus Christ! Salvation involves the task of unifying everything that has been fragmented or alienated, thereby bringing oneness and wholeness and healing! How comprehensive is that?!

This is the nature of “life everlasting.”

Colossians 1:19-20

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Paul does not limit the efficacy of Christ’s atonement to humanity. It speaks of peacemaking and reconciliation as all inclusive as possible in heaven and on earth!

2 Peter 3:10-13

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

The text has the language of judgment and fire. But notice “the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.” It seems the fire will have a cleansing or purifying purpose. This suggests that the new heaven and new earth refer to renewal and restoration, rather than replacement and starting again from scratch. I think the language of destruction does not apply to the creation, but to the judgment of sin.

Romans 8:19-23

The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

Here we have the imagery of labour pains in childbirth and the imagery of the Israelites groaning in the slavery under Pharaoh. These images are applied to the human condition, but moving well beyond that to the entire created order.

This is creation itself experiencing the liberation and freedom from the bondage brought on by the sin and rebellion of sinful humanity. It’s another salvation story of God, repairing what was broken in all creation, along with the redemption of the children of God.

Since the creation story of Genesis 1 and 2, followed by the heartbreaking results of human sin and autonomy in chapters 3 and following, it has always been God’s intention, motivated by His matchless love and mercy, to see heaven and earth come together, so that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven!  This is the Kingdom of God that Jesus announced at His first coming and it will be fulfilled and completed when He returns!

Then we can joyfully and gratefully repeat the words spoken at creation: “It is good; it is very good!”

“Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

David Thiessen
David Thiessen

David Thiessen (BA, BTh, MCS) has done a lifetime of pastoral ministry together with his wife Merna. He served as the EMC Conference Pastor from 2000 to 2011. While he is toying with retirement, he is currently the part-time interim pastor at Mennville EMC in Manitoba’s Interlake.