Tuesday, October 28, 2008

How I Became An Anabaptist

I read a Jack Chick tract in middle school that introduced me to Christian commitment, and I took it seriously. But I didn't surrender my life to Jesus until I was 13 at a Vacation Bible School at a non-denominational church. I joined that church, which was an evangelical, dispensational-doctrine church. I eventually got involved in a pentecostal missions group, Youth With A Mission, and my participation in ministry in my home church was cut off at that point, because of their disagreement with pentecostal doctrine.

I went to Bible School, beginning in 1986. While I was there, I had many questions about the foundation of what we believe. I determined that the only thing that I believed was Jesus, based on him raising from the dead. If that was the case, I surmised, then the whole of Christian doctrine should be re-formed, beginning with the life and teaching of Jesus. So I wrote out all the teachings of Jesus, each saying on a separate index card, and reorganized them according to subject. Then I wrote conclusions on each topic on other index cards, and this was the core of my theology. In doing this, I had to re-interpret Paul, especially about what he said about faith and works, and found that understanding Paul makes more sense understood in the light of Jesus, rather than the other way around.

Later, I was reading a biography of Martin Luther. The author, rather anachronistically, said that Luther opposed a group called "Mennnonites", who believed in obeying the Sermon on the Mount literally. I said to myself, "That's the kind of group I want to be a part of" and so looked in the Yellow Pages for Mennonite churches. At that time, there were two Mennonite churches in the area. I visited both of them, but at Peace Mennonite I met William Higgins, who was an avid student of both theology and Anabaptism. His approach to theology was similar to mine and so my family and I tried the church out. One of the things that amazed us was the community involvement in the church-- some folks were living on the church grounds, and everyone was involved in each other's lives, in a postitive way. We saw this as doing what the early church did as well-- live in communities that were involved with each other.

So we joined Peace Mennonite, and later the PNMC supported our beginning a church among the homeless and the mentally ill. In looking around at other denominations, I realize that while other denominations would accept our ministry, they would not have accepted a church made up of the homeless and mentally ill, which has very little financial support.

Thus, the Anabaptists were a fit for us theologically, socially and for our calling.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Justice II

O God, I look afar and I see your name be slandered
Your people-- your children O God!--
are suffering under the judgement of men.
The righteous are condemned to prison
The merciful are shown no mercy
The holy are slandered and included with the evil
The blessed are insulted and cursed
But worst of all, O God
The greatest crime
Those who claim to be following you
Those who seek you in your word
Those who use your name so solemnly yet glibly
Those who call themselves "the children of God"
They are the perpetuators of the crimes.
They revile the deeds of righteousness
They blaspheme your word by twisting it against your servants
They oppress the ones you have set free
They make war against the peacemakers
They refuse service to your poor
They harangue your prophets and apostles,
hoping to put them to death.

O God deliver your servants
Redeem them from the hands of your enemies
Take them out from under the thumbs of their oppressors
And give them freedom in your sight.

Be glorified in it, my Lord
I ask not that you redeem them by politics
I ask not that you redeem them by war
not by diplomacy
not by honors
not by memory
Rather, redeem them by the vindication of Jesus through resurrection
redeem them by the true judgment of your word
by your swift and righteous hand
by the coming of the Holy One
by the separating of wheat and chaff
by the final anointing
through a Kingdom Come.

Your Kingdom come, O God
Your glorious light shine
Come quickly now, Lord Jesus
Bring to this earth your peace and justice
And so increase your glory.

Menno Simons: Signs of A Healthy Church

Found in: Anabaptism in Outline

1. By an unadulterated, pure doctrine. Mat 28:20; Mark 16:15; John 8:52; Gal. 1

2. By a scriptural use of the sacramental signs. Mat 28:19; Mark 16; Rom 6:4; Col 2:12; I Cor 12:13; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; I Cor 11:22, 23

3. By obedience to the Word. Mat. 7; Luke 11:28; Jn 7:18; 15:10; James 1:22

4. By unfeigned, brotherly love. Jn 13:34; Rom 13:8; I Cor 13:1; I Jn 3:18;4:7-8

5. By a bold confession of God and Christ Mt 10:32; Mk 8:29; Rom 10:9; I Tim 6:13

6. By oppression and tribulation for the sake of God’s word.Mt 5:10; 10:39; 16:24; 24:9; Luk 6:28; Jn 15:20; II Tim 2:9; 3:12; I Pet 1:6; 3:14; 4:13; 5:10; I Jn 3:13

Friday, October 17, 2008

Distinctive #19-- The Ban

When a person breaks their baptismal pledge to follow Jesus the church is to call them to repentance. If they do not repent, they are placed out of the church - Matthew 18:15-20. This is the proper way to purify the church, not persecution and death. The Christendom model either overlooks issues of immorality or it uses the criminal justice system to kill people for matters of faith.

Distinctive #18-- Community Egalitarianism

Within the congregation there is no sharp difference between leaders and followers. Anabaptists did not like the Catholic scheme whereby priests are placed on a higher level because they mediate God to the people. They taught that God is no respecter of persons. They had leaders, but they were common people from the congregation who seemed gifted and called to serve the rest.

Distinctive #17-- Localism

Each local congregation is qualified and responsible to decide what should be taught in it. They should also call, support and discipline their own pastors. Luther thought that political leaders should decide what the faith of their people would be. Anabaptists taught that each congregation should decide for themselves - not the state or the clergy or the scholars.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Five Little Known Facts About The Amish

A.J. Jacobs is a writer, who recently wrote about his year of attempting to live out every command of the Torah (including stoning an adulterer) in his book, "The Year of Living Biblically". He wrote this post on the Amish, a group that came out of the Mennonites, and published it in Mental Floss. Check it out here:

During my year of living biblically, I made several pilgrimages across America. I wanted to embed myself in various communities that live the Bible literally in their own way – from Hasidic Jews to evangelical Christians. I also invited religious people to my house. I think I’m the only person in American history to out-Bible talk a Jehovah’s Witness. After about three hours, he looked at his watch and said, “I gotta go.”

One of my first trips was to Amish country in Lancaster County. My wife and I drove down from New York (I’m proud to say that I have absolutely no urge to make a double entendre when we passed Intercourse, Pennsylvania, which I see as a great moral victory).

To be biblically honest, I was a little leery of going to Amish country - the Amish have been a go-to religious punchline for so long, sort of the Carrot Top or Jazzercise of American spirituality, and I didn’t want to fall into that trap. I didn’t want to seem like I was mocking them.

In the end, I’m glad I went. I learned a huge amount and got to experience the beauty of the Amish culture. Plus, I got to hear an Amish joke told by an actual Amish person, which was a pleasant surprise.

Here are five Amish facts I learned during my year:If you browse websites about the Amish, you’ll often see a lot of pictures of the backs of their heads. The Amish follow strictly the second commandment – you shall not make graven images. And they are also concerned with appearing vain. So they don’t like their faces photographed. They compromise by showing the back of their heads.

Amish have beards in accordance with Leviticus, which forbids the shaving of the corners of your beard. But they do shave their moustaches. The moustache was thought to have military associations by the early Amish, who came over from Switzerland in the 18th century.

The Amish do tell Amish jokes. My wife and I stayed at an Amish man’s house, and he told us one. (Note: Please lower your expectations. The Amish are working with some pretty tight constraints here). Okay, here goes:

The joke and more Amish facts after the jump…

Q: What happened when the Mennonite man married the Amish woman?
A: She drove him buggy.”

The Amish perform a foot-washing ritual, in accordance with the New Testament’s John 13:5, which says “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example…”

Amish sports are the quietest sports in the world. Here’s what my wife and I saw as we were leaving Amish country.

“I spot a cluster of about 30 buggies. We pull over to see what’s happening. We have stumbled onto an Amish baseball game. Many discourage competitive sports. But here are 18 Amish teenage boys, their sleeves rolled up, their shirts and suspenders dark with sweat. Julie and I watch for a long time. These kids are good, but something is off about the game. I realize after a few minutes what it is: This is the quietest baseball game I’ve ever seen. No trash talk. No cheering from the parents in the stands. Near silence, except for the occasional crack of the bat. It is eerie and peaceful and beautiful.”

Article: Loving Enemies

Christians Send Love to Indian Leader Despite Ongoing Violence

The Christian Post reports that Christians all over India have decided to present Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik with flowers on his 62nd birthday on Oct. 16. Christian leaders and laymen have both joined in email campaigns, urging believers to wish the chief minister a happy birthday and to express "love" even after the pain and suffering the Christian community has been undergoing following violence on churches and clergies in the Indian state of Orissa. "Since we love those who hate us, please do not fail to send him special birthday greetings from the Christian community, especially from those who are impressed by his efforts to uphold the honor of women and enforce the rule of law in this state," states the email being circulated among the Christians.