Articles by Dave
Really great book… especially if you’re interested in understanding the Amish way of life; how they think, how they live, why they do some of the things they do… This book invites the reader into the lives of two people, Ora Jay and Irene Eash (and their family), whose loss of their two young daughters in a terrible accident, moved them to a deeper searching out of their faith and a yearning to know God.
Though the Amish way of life is centered moralistically around the ideal of Christianity, Ora Jay and Irene share their story of how far the presumption of faith is from that which is, more often than not, merely conformation to legalism and religious tradition. The rule of the “church” is essentially higher than Scripture, though most Amish do not appear to realize this is what’s happening since most believe they are within Scriptural bounds.
The book contains long sections of letters written by Irene Eash to Amish friends and family to show context for their journey toward a full faith in Jesus Christ, which eventually led them out of Amish legalism. Through the letters and the testimony of Irene and Ora Jay shared in-between, the reader is introduced the increasing joy of their newfound and growing relationship with the Lord as well as the heartache of trying to convey their love and hope and faith to their family and friends, who did not understand.
It would be a mistake for the reader to absorb this testimony as merely a treaties against the Amish and their misunderstandings of and unique approaches to biblical Christianity, for the reality of religious legalism touches many people in virtually all denominational affiliations… even those who believe they are among the freest and most spiritual. In reading this book I was reminded of my own exodus from the legalism and bondage of status-quo “churchianity” and was moved with compassion for both the Amish people as well as my fellow brothers and sisters in many mainline denominations that are no-less bound in the deception that religious affiliation and subservience to church dogma is somehow equally important as or equivalent to biblical Christianity (i.e. relationship with Jesus Christ). I found myself inspired, sometimes convicted, and absolutely encouraged by Ora Jay and Irene’s journey of faith, their humility, their transparency, their desperation to know God, and their love for those that had not yet seemed to comprehend the joy they were discovering in Jesus.
There were a few moments, early on, in the book that I was wondering a little bit where it was going and reacted a bit impatiently; as there was a lot of reference to the letters sent to family and friends, much of which discussed details of Amish daily life (not related especially to their faith – things like the daily washing and sewing and labor in the field). I confess that I was eager to get to the “faith details” of their story and where that ultimately led them and cost them, but upon completion of the book I am glad that the broader context of Amish life was included, because it provide a more clear picture to help understand the way the Amish folks live and think and interact with each other.
Many times I found myself deeply admiring elements of their perspective on life and community. The Amish people – indeed – are a community that behave very much like close family. While they may not enjoy many of the conveniences of life that most Americans take for granted (and thus by their own choice) and while many of the convictions about such things are derived predominantly from religious legalism rather than the effect of a life-changing relationship with Christ, some of the principles that guide their behavior reflect noble sensibilities that many of us may find entirely admirable such as the ethics of treating one another with respect, dignity, demonstrating the value and ethic of hard work (and not just hard work but skilled work), consideration for others among the community (helping those suffering in their time of need and struggle).
I was impressed in some regard with how the Amish approached matters such as how they choose a preacher for their congregational gatherings. The community would choose a number of men and then cast lots to determine which would serve in the way of preaching and performing typical “church” duties. That’s not exactly the part that impressed me. What impressed me was that he was merely a brother among the community; no special or lofty credentials or experience required… but also his service as a preacher did not allow him the opportunity to quit his job and collect some kind of salary off parishioners, but instead required him to continue in everything expected of a man who labors to care for his family and do good in his community. He was expected to continue all of his daily work (and means of acquiring his living) just like every other member of the community. His responsibility to study the Bible and preach and serve in whatever capacity preachers normal entertain was merely in addition to his regular daily activities. In truth, the typical Amish preacher’s work ethic puts most most modern pastors to shame and allows for no excuse of “full time ministry” to remove them from such responsibilities in the name of “serving the church”. Ironic too, considering that “serving the church” is the staple of Amish religion. But as I considered how diligently they commit themselves to such endeavors and maintain the task of caring for their families and community, it made me think of the apostle Paul who mentioned that he also labored night and day to make his ministry without charge to those he served. What is sad is that, for all of these incredibly admirable qualities of Amish diligence and responsibility, so many do these things void of a close relationship with God and merely out of religious duty to the church.
In closing the book greatly inspired me and encouraged me. The loss suffered, the struggle ensued, the emotions exhausted all along this journey of a family who so desperately desired to know what it means to have a real and close relationship with Jesus Christ, even though it cost them so much.
The book probably deserves five stars; however, I gave it four only because I think some of the content might be a challenge for some readers who may not be especially interested in all the little details of Amish life and perspective. As mentioned earlier, the book takes its time presenting a somewhat detailed image of Amish life, which could strike some as slow-paced and sometimes uneventful. Since I was personally already familiar with some of these details (because I’ve studied a bit about Amish faith and lifestyle before), this dragged ever so slightly for me as well… I personally preferred the elements of direct commentary and testimony shared by the authors apart from the perhaps all-too-frequent reliance on quoting from their letters to family and friends. Still, I must remain entirely positive here because those letters served their purpose and I became more engaged with hearing them as the story continued.
The testimony in the book is told by both Ora Jay and Irene; Both share alternately their unique perspective on their journey together. I found this enjoyable and interesting and felt like I knew them the more the book went on. Though the story centered on one family’s exodus from the Amish church, there is considerable material to reflect on for anyone who has been a part of an organized and/or institutional religious group (i.e. church). Many church groups get hung up on various kinds of legalism, heavy traditional influences (that are not necessarily biblically-motivated), and misunderstandings about Christianity. There is much here to glean challenge, conviction, compassion and great encouragement from. Most of all this book presents a call to the freedom and joy that is only found in Christ Jesus! Excellent!!!
Great book! I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it entirely.
Recently, I was reading a post by radio talk show host Glenn Beck, who was talking about his Mormon faith. Strangely, a lot of Christians have embraced Glenn as a fellow Christian, ignorant of his religious affiliation. To be sure, Glenn is a Mormon and does NOT ascribe to the doctrine of Christ, but rather of the false prophet, Joseph Smith.
Glenn’s comments in his article were intended to demystify some of the odd practices and beliefs of Mormonism and present it as, essentially, a Christian denomination. One of the topics he addressed, ever so briefly, was the subject of baptism for the dead. Mormons believe that a living person can undergo baptism on behalf of a dead person, to ensure they obtain entrance into the “Celestial Kingdom”. Glenn asserts that this is just basic biblical teaching. So, what “basic biblical teaching” is he referring to and why does this matter?
Mormons argue that the Bible teaches the doctrine of baptism for the dead in 1 Corinthians 15:29. The KJV read this verse as follows:
1 Corinthians 15:29 (KJV) – Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?
As I studied this passage myself, I found that scholars have deliberated over its meaning for many years. It has sometimes sparked considerable debate and confusion among Christians. Catholics, by-the-way (and some other religious sects), also contend that baptism for the dead is biblical… and here we have a verse that appears to address the subject.
Could the Mormons be right on this? On the surface glance, one could argue, it may appear that the apostle Paul might have actually indicated that baptism for the dead was a legitimate practice… and he seems to affirm it by saying, “what would be the point of doing it if the dead didn’t actually expect to rise again?” It is therefore understandable that some Christians would stumble at the introduction to this rarely acknowledged passage of Scripture… isn’t it?
Continued from Part 2…
The person I told you about at the beginning of all this that shared the glowing testimony about their experience at the Azusa Now conference also told me that lots of people were miraculously healed. In fact, this person said they had a video of a healing they witnessed with their own eyes. I was eager to see it. In the video, a person in a wheelchair was receiving a mass of “Toronto Blessing” style prayer… Then, at one point, two large men gathered on either side of her (each taking an arm) and lifted her up and began to walk with her. As she walked (with the constant aid of these two men who never left her side), the crowd was cheering that the woman was healed. They walked with her and then all the way back to her wheelchair where they helped her sit back down in the chair. The woman then lifted her arms and was crying praise to God and everyone was cheering in joyous celebration that God had performed an awesome healing… But I did not witness any healing at all. As I mentioned, the woman never stood on her own two feet. In fact, you could see that her legs remained twisted and weak. She never cast off her wheelchair, she wasn’t ejected from it, she didn’t even get up on her own without help; she returned to it and left in it! YET, the crowd (and even the woman herself) was cheering that a miracle had occurred! Astounding!
I’ve observed this same thing in the days when I attended conferences affiliated with the Toronto Blessing movement. The guest preacher would tell hype stories about all the miracles he had performed in the past and observed… ALWAYS that happened at the last conference… Not the current one he was speaking at. I know this was routine because, at the time, I attended a ton of these conferences and never once saw any of the things these guys gave testimony of. One guy actually said that he had raised HUNDREDS of people from the dead. This kind of testimony stirred up the crowd with massive amounts of excitement and people were thronging the altars for prayer… Yet the only “miracles” witnessed were people being “slain in the Spirit” as the terminology goes. No radical healings, no confirmed miracles, nothing that would be viewed as “supernatural” in the least, yet the people cheered with as much excitement as if they were seeing elephants walking on water. After the conference people were telling testimonies to their friends about all the healings and miracles… but I noticed they were mostly just reiterating the stories the preacher had told, blended with the testimony of so many people getting prayer and “falling under the power”.
At one conference (many actually) I was asked to help catch people during prayer (as getting “slain in the spirit” was a regular occurrence at these events). I never much liked catching people and always felt that if something like that was genuine, no catcher would be necessary because God wouldn’t allow them to get hurt… Anyway, I was standing behind this lady and she was bending and swaying all over the place and then, all of the sudden, without any warning she just hit the ground with a thud. I didn’t have time to catch her. As soon as she hit the floor, she opened her eyes, grabbed my arm, and pulled me right down to where she could tell me to my face, “You’re not doing a very good job of catching! I hurt my back. You need to pay more attention young man.” To my own amazement, I spoke up and I replied, “Maybe you need to stop faking manifestations because if you really fell under the power, you wouldn’t even be talking to me right now and your back would be fine.”
In my last post, I was talking about the Azusa Now event the recently occurred down in southern California and the acquaintance/friend of mine that spoke favorably of it. In this person’s estimation it was an exciting testimony to the widespread anticipated explosion of revival that many believe is soon about to occur in America. That all sounds wonderful and just might give you goosebumps, except for the detail that the folks leading this “movement” are literally willing to disregard the doctrine of Scripture for the sake of unity among different religions; namely Roman Catholic and Protestant (though my friend who attended also indicated that “all faiths” were represented there). I mentioned in my last post how one of the leaders at this event publicly told the 100,000 people in attendance that Jesus doesn’t care that Christians and Catholics disagree on doctrine! They may call it Azusa now, but I would dare call it Apostasy Now!
I also talked about how both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism are really part of the same religious bloodline (as are virtually every Christian denomination in existence today because they all hail from a “protesting” ideology. Like Luther, they reject some of the legalism and doctrine of Mother Rome, but they have held on to much of the rest and merely “Christianized” its elements for the Christ-follower’s consumption. This is NOT how true followers of Jesus identify themselves. The identity of a true Believer is found in Christ Jesus alone and has no concern for trying to fit within the legalistic boundaries that other religions sets forth as essential, by re-labeling or adjusting those practices so that they appear “Christian”. Neither does the Gospel of Jesus afford that the doctrine of Christ is secondary to a so-called “vision of unity” among all faiths. This is a grand deception, but one that has been at work for many long years and we are now starting to see it emerge more publicly and more widespread than every before.
There is this image in many Christians’ minds that there has been this huge divide between Protestants and Catholics. Now we are seeing famous religious leaders proclaim that God is restoring unity between the two camps. But those who are not ignorant of the origin of the Protestant movement, understand that the two have always been related to each other (and in fact one literally was produced from the other). When you understand this fact, it becomes easy to see that this proclaimed “unity” (or re-uniting) is nothing more than a smoke screen to a devious delusion that has been in the works from the very beginning. Many Christians who do not describe themselves as “Catholic” have long thought their religious identification was perhaps best described by the term “Protestant”. In other words, if you’re not a Catholic, you’re a Protestant. But there is a massive problem with this concept, namely that does not come from Christ and cannot be found anywhere in Scripture. Nor is it the least bit representative of true Christianity.
Over the past several days I’ve been reading a number of articles regarding the Azusa Now 2016 conference in southern California, which an acquaintance of mine happened to attend. This acquaintance came back with a glowing report; however, I would sadly have to regard this person as one that is spiritually naive and wholly ignorant of the delusion embraced. One of the things that this person was excited to tell me about that happened was the merger of Catholics along with Charismatics; as this person put it, “They called all faiths to come together in unity in common prayer for revival.” Nearly 100,000 people of “all faiths” filled this stadium to celebrate the 110th anniversary of the famous “Azusa Street Outpouring” that is largely recognized as the event the lit the fires of Pentecostalism in the United States. Whatever opinions people may have about what happened at the original Azusa phenomenon, it is certainly clear that a select number of well-known religious leaders (such as Mike Bickle, Bill Johnson, Lou Engle, Heidi Baker, and so many others) have taken the opportunity to capitalize on this moment in history and now to push their agenda of a united movement of sign and wonder-seeking Christians who care less about biblical truth than they do the hype of religious experiences and a New Age kind of gospel mysticism that operates under a banner of love and tolerance for people of all doctrinal persuasions.
A multitude of well-known Christian leaders were present at the event. As one attender put it, “The response from the level of leaders, I looked around the room (leadership meeting Friday night), and thought, oh my gosh, this is a who’s who [of Christian leaders]”. The same person remarked that all these people were “sacrificially buying into the vision of unity, not just sort of lip service, but they are actually here and they’re actually willing to sacrifice their name, their ministry…” Curious that this “sacrifice” is not said to be for the cause of Christ, but for the sake of unity. The Bethel Church (Redding, CA) website indicated plainly that they were gathering to seek “a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit.” Apparently the existing outpouring of the Holy Spirit that God has been doing for the last 2,000 years is not good enough.
At the conference, Charismatic Christian leader Lou Engle bowed down and kissed the feet of Roman Catholic leader Matteo Calisi. Other prominent Catholic leaders gathered around to pray as Lou prostrated himself before this Roman Catholic appointee of the Pope. For those of you unaware, this Catholic leader, Matteo, has been fully recognized by the Vatican as a “minister of reconciliation”. To reconcile what you might ask? It bears noting that he is also fully supported by a sect known as the Community of Jesus (which is described by the order itself as an “ecumenical Christian community”; believing that all denominations are united in a common commitment of love and service to God – not to be divided by doctrinal differences). Matteo’s appointment by the Pope is also significant, noting that the Pope is himself hails from the Jesuit order of Catholicism. One of the sole purposes of the Jesuit order is to infiltrate non-Catholic groups by any means and reconcile them back to Rome “for the glory of God”. Matteo is also widely recognized around the world by many other organizations that describe themselves as having an ecumenical purpose (i.e. uniting variant denominations together regardless of doctrinal differences). At the Azusa now event, Matteo publicly stated that the division between Christians and Catholics is a “diabolical sin,” and that Jesus “doesn’t care” that Christians and Catholics disagree on biblical doctrine. So, as you can see, this was a major statement indeed – whether or not most of those attending full understood why.
Many church folks today, like this person I know who attended the event, do not understand that Roman Catholicism is not the friend of genuine, biblical Christianity. It may, however, be the friend of denominational groups of the Protestant persuasion, which includes Charismatic and virtually all other denominations that are not typically identified as “Catholic” affiliated. For years I also used the term “Protestant” to identify what kind of Christian I was to people that didn’t know me and that wanted to know what kind of “Christian” group I affiliated with. What I simply intended by that label was to inform the other person (especially if they were Catholic or some other non-Christian religious persuasion) that I was absolutely NOT Catholic or Mormon or any other non-Christian cult… but I have come to understand over the years that this label is wholly insufficient. The term “Protestant” simply means “protest”. It originally represented those, like Martin Luther, who protested against mainstream Roman Catholicism and divided from it to form their own church and practice their own persuasion of religion apart from the strict dictates of the Pope.
Recently, I read an article posted online that sought to appeal graciously to non-churchgoers with an attempt to woo them back into the fold. You can read the article yourself if you’re interested by clicking here. The following is my personal response to the post, which I also shared on the author’s website. Feel free to add your own comments or, better yet, visit this author’s website and share your heart there as well. I believe the author’s intention was positive, although it’s apparent that he is positively influenced by churchianic mindsets (as so many of us have been). My desire to share my thoughts with him and his readers was not to offend anyone but rather to provoke study of God’s Word and encourage a thirst for genuine Gospel liberty and deeper relationship with Christ. I sincerely would love it if this brother discovered what so many of us have also been discovering over the last several months and years concerning this wonderful life in Jesus Christ, unfettered by the chains of religion. So now, without further adieu-dieu, here is the response I shared with the author of the “Letter To A Non-Churchgoer”…
Wow, where to begin with this one… I guess let me start by saying, I was a deeply-involved church boy for 30+ years of my life. I’ve now been out of that environment for over 15. I am still a follower of Jesus and a member of the Family of God (which, in truth, is the only “church” referenced in Scripture). I appreciate the humble tones of this letter and it appears the author is manifesting good intentions; however, he fundamentally misunderstands the non-church goer on so many levels. I’m not sure I can blame his ignorance entirely. I’ve walked in those shoes too. I meant well when I did. The author’s understanding of church has likely been drilled into him by his environment… not by the Holy Spirit, unfortunately.
To his comment:
“But, except possibly for a wedding or a funeral, we never share in the enterprise I call church.”
The author may not even realize how accurately he indirectly described the reason why what he calls church is not what the Bible calls Church when he says, “the enterprise I call church.” The Church of Scripture is NOT an enterprise. It’s not a business. It’s not even a social club. Yet that is everything that today’s church program is… but, if someone cares about what the Bible presents, then “enterprise” is NOT it. According to Scripture, the Church is the body of Christ (the Family of God, the Spiritual nation of the Kingdom of God, the very PEOPLE who are born again and who live in Christ – regardless of whether or not they attend some man-made program we label as “church”).
I suppose it might seem like an odd title for a post written by a guy that neither has kids of his own, nor has much of a high opinion about “church” as most folks know it. Well, recently I was reading an article on another website (which I first viewed through a friend’s Facebook post). The article was called “I Won’t Force My Kids To Go To Church.” While I would agree with that title, the article was actually suggesting the opposite. If you’d like to read it yourself to have a clue what I’m talking about, here’s the link, but I’m not endorsing the article or the website (just FYI). I’m not really putting the author down either because I don’t know them and I have no idea what the rest of their website features. I’m sure they’re nice people and have good intentions, despite the terrible advice in the article being referenced. All I know is that this article got my dander up just a bit and so I first attempted to post a comment to the author’s website… The author, however, didn’t seem interested in including my post, so I figured I’d just talk about it here. Maybe a few of you will be interested to add some conversation to the comments on the other site, or here.
For those of you too sleepy to bother with reading the above mentioned article in preface to my own response to it, I’ll just summarize that the article’s point was essentially to shame parents for not forcing their kids to go to church. The author even insisted that to neglect doing so was a matter of life and death and eternity! After I read that statement, I had to respond. So, following, are my remarks in response…
Just a few weeks ago I visited a church organization with my mother one Sunday morning (a rare occurrence for me these days). In case you’re curious, my mother doesn’t quite hold the same conviction about church world that I do. She sees glimpses of what I have expressed to her and she listens to my heart and often nods in approval concerning the things I’ve shared from my personal experiences, but church remains an important activity she enjoys participating in (and it’s often been important to her to experience it along with family). Recently, mom relocated from her home across the miles to move in with my wife and myself due to some health issues. You can imagine the challenge here as we are not “church-going folks” these days and here we are with mom who is and she wants to find a place to attend and we’re just not in that mode or mindset at all. I’ve suddenly found myself in a position where I’m taking my mom to church because this is important to her, though I (quite honestly) detest it myself. I share this because I know many of you have found yourselves in similar predicaments and I want you to know that I understand and I hope I can encourage you with something today.
I know the feeling of thinking that if you happen to sit in a pew after which the Lord has opened your understanding about the errors of churchianity, that there might be a concern that you’re somehow endorsing it and compromising by being there. If any of you are anything like me, it’s no longer an enjoyable environment for you, but there may be times when (for whatever reason) you find yourself back in that environment and it’s unsettling. Perhaps some of you have felt a conviction that churchianity is full of error and you’ve wanted to distance yourself from it, but (in the honesty of your heart) you still enjoy and crave the experience of fellowship with other believers, or singing the songs, and sometimes just being in an environment that (for the most part) seems to at least intend to encourage people to seek the Lord and you’re a little torn by these contrasting feelings about involvement with it. You’re not alone. Lots of folks have struggled with these same concerns, including myself over the years. These days the kinds of things I struggle with concerning it have transitioned a bit (quite a bit actually), but I still relate to the many letters I’ve received about this because I really have walked through this as well and my heart goes out to those who are working through this.
The whole thing reminds me a bit of the movie the Matrix; and the thought of the “Matrix” as being “church world”. Those of you who have seen the movie might know what I’m talking about. Church world (“the Matrix”) isn’t real Christianity, but for those still inside it, they don’t seem to know otherwise. Yet some are awaking and others will find themselves “plugging” back into it from time to time (though they are no longer a part of it). It can pose a real mind trip for some of us.
Would it surprise or shock you if I dared tell you that neither Jesus, nor His apostles ever told anyone to build a church, attend a church, or call others to go to church? Would it offend you if I dared suggest that when Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, “Upon this rock I will build My Church…” He never actually used the word church at all (but that this word was added hundreds of years later)? Would it bother you to discover that the word “church” NEVER appears anywhere in the entire New Testament?
As astounding as these claims may sound, they are absolutely true. Some of you, at this point, will be saying, “How can you say that Jesus and His apostles never used the word ‘church’ in the entire New Testament, when anyone can open a Bible and see it present, page after page?” The first response I have to this concern is to remind you that the Bible was not written in English. In fact the first hand-written English language Bible manuscripts were produced in the 1380’s (over 1,200 years after the last apostle had died)!!!! That having been said, it’s important to understand that the word “church”, or at least its derivative, is older than the English language… However, it still was never used by Jesus or His apostles!
There is certainly a lot of discussion right now in the “Christian community” over the issue of gay marriage, due to the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing same-sex marriages in all 50 States. That having been said, as of the time of this writing, not all States have chosen to comply with the ruling and many Christian organizations are speaking out in anger over this decision, which essentially re-defines marriage and which many Christians fear will force them to make difficult decisions based on their conscience vs. the directive of Government, potentially leading to some folks losing their jobs or worse (e.g. being fined or imprisoned for choosing not to comply with the ruling on the basis of faith and/or conscience).
I do have my own perspectives on this issue, though I must say that I believe God’s Word speaks most adequately for itself and that anyone who is genuinely seeking Him, and who invites the Holy Spirit to lead them, will have to confront these decisions for themselves and I pray that they will find the strength to listen and obey the Lord as He directs them.
One thing that has caused me to shake my head in amazement when watching the general Christian community respond to this issue is the reaction of shock and surprise that this has happened in America. It makes me wonder where all these pew-warming people have been for the last 20+ years. While it’s true that gay marriage has not been officially legal on a national scale before today, it has certainly been endorsed by almost every outlet imaginable; from television and movies to department stores and banks. We see approval for it among political leaders, public speakers, college professors, and the general conversation of the public at large seems to indicate that almost everyone is supportive of homosexuality. Even if some don’t personally agree with it, few have been willing to speak out against it… so I am watching this unfold now with some curiosity as it appears that some of these “slumbering saints” are finding their voice all of the sudden… unfortunately, not necessarily with a positive tone.
It also seems that this is what religion tends to produce on a regular basis; people that are quite comfortably outspoken within their four little walls and among their church cliques, but who are so disconnected from the world around them and the people in that world that they have no idea how to talk with them, and many don’t exhibit any compassion for them either. They (i.e. those who are not part of this churched crowd) are simply regarded as the sorry lost, while the happy Saved remain comfy and cozy in their little religious social clubs. Jesus is their superstar, but they don’t even emulate Him. They resist touching the unclean masses, forgetting that Jesus walked among them and ate with them, drank with them, visited their homes, shared His love and life and truth with them (and that these Saved ones were once one of those “unclean masses” as well). He is still doing this, touching the lives of people, through vessels that are willing to hear His voice and act. Vessels who share the same love that God has bestowed upon them and of which they are humbly aware.