Breaking Free Of Religion
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.
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.
When I first made my exodus from organized religion, I remember talking with someone online about aspects of the Christian faith and the term “orthodoxy” came up. Now, up until that time I had always presumed I held to orthodox Christianity, because my understanding of orthodoxy was with regard to the doctrine established by Jesus Christ and His apostles in the first century. I still hold to that ideal; However, as I began to re-examine the actual definition of the term orthodox, I found that embracing this concept was not as simplistic as I once presumed.
Here is this literal definition of orthodox from Webster’s Dictionary:
1. accepted as true or correct by most people : supporting or believing what most people think is true.
2. accepting and closely following the traditional beliefs and customs of a religion.
This is the dictionary definition of “orthodox” and was a bit of a shocker to re-read… “Accepted as true or correct by most people…” What? I could care less about what “most people” think with regard to the Christian life. What the Lord Jesus says is true is the only truth I desire to accept! Orthodox refers to “supporting or believing what most people think is true…” What they THINK is true? Since when has the Lord Jesus called anyone to support and accept what most people THINK is true? If you don’t mind me saying, that’s likely one of the major reasons why we have so many church organizations today that are all over the place with doctrine. It’s not that there is a problem with doctrine; The problem is that they are basing their doctrine on orthodoxy – what most people think is true… rather that drawing the truth from out of the Scriptures as plainly as Jesus spoke. We have pastors and teachers everywhere, giving their twist on doctrine and these become divisions apart from the sound doctrine once delivered to the saints, as we read about in Scripture.
The following is an excellent article, authored by our friends at ecclesia.org.
Why Believers should not attend Church
[Note. There are many godly people who attend church, and there are many positive things about attending church. Many people have discovered and accepted Christ in a church. This article is not putting down churches as far as a place to gather and hear the word of God, because it does not matter where one hears God’s Truth, as long as they hear it! However, this article deals with the topic of “how” we are to worship God, and addresses the belief that one must worship God in a physical building called a church. There is a difference between going to a place to hear God’s Word, and going to a place to worship God.]
Galatians 4:30-31 – There is a Scripture that tells us what to do: “Expel the slave mother with her son, for the slave son will not inherit with the free son.” Isn’t that conclusive? We are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.
Galatians 5:6 – For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.
Matthew 24:1-2 – And Jesus went out of the Temple, and on the way his disciples came to him, pointing out the buildings of the Temple. But he, answering, said to them, “See you not all these things? truly I say to you that here there will not be one stone resting on another, which will not be pulled down.” (In other words… “Not impressed boys!”)
Acts 7:48-51 – “However, the Most High doesn’t live in a house built by humans, as the prophet says: ‘The Lord says, “Heaven is my throne. The earth is my footstool. What kind of house are you going to build for me? Where will I rest? Didn’t I make all these things?”‘ “How stubborn can you be? How can you be so heartless and disobedient? You’re just like your ancestors. They always opposed the Holy Spirit, and so do you!”
Okay folks, so I’m not especially brilliant with the titles I come up for blog posts sometimes (haha)… I’m even worse with book titles. I would never make it as a pastor (thank God)… Well, except for the long sermon part. By-the-way, someone asked me if this post could be made available as a PDF eBook, so here you go – just CLICK THIS LINK. I might add that this will be a bit of a lengthy rant (and everyone who knows me said, “as usual” – ha), hopefully not too redundant – although I admit I tend to reiterate things a lot when I am impassioned about something and really want people to sense the intensity of the conviction I believe the Lord has given me. I NEED AN EDITOR! That might have to wait until I get Truth-For-A-Small-Fee.com published. Hey, I’m kidding you! Hopefully some will find this affirming and also encouraging. May God highlight the truth and whatever may be more of me than Him, I pray it will not be a distraction from His truth.
I’ve also got my helmet on today in case of flying bricks (grin)…
To me this is a subject (i.e. “church” & “religion”) that is so “settled” now for me (because of my own journey that I have traveled), yet I continue to get emails about it and occasionally run into discussions with Christians who take great offense at some of my conclusions (or at least are disturbed by them and want to argue). The subject regards whether or not Christians need to (or whether or not they should) attend church. Most of you who frequent this site already know my thoughts on this for the most part. I have heard arguments on both sides of the issue; however, in my personal life, I refuse to let it be an issue at all anymore, since I truly believe that Scripture is so very clear on the matter and God truly has set me free. Nevertheless I will share (or rather I should say “reiterate”) some of my personal convictions on this matter.
As always, I invite each reader to consider these things in the light of prayer, your own study of the Bible, and to lean assuredly on the voice of the Holy Spirit who is the One that guides you into all Truth (John 16:13-15). I would not wish to presume God’s will for any person, but these are my sincere thoughts. To some this will sound like I’m “preaching to the choir”. But since, most of the time, the choir resides in a church service, perhaps that’s exactly who needs to hear this. Absolutely, lean on God and follow His instruction for your life according to the path He sets before you, day by day. With that introduction I offer this as food for consideration for those who have ears to hear. If you would like to respond (whether in agreement or total disagreement), please feel free to do so at the close of this posting.
So let’s get right into this…
While reading an article on another website recently, I started to think about how most church-going Christians tend to categorize and compare themselves against other folks. I feel pretty confident in talking about this subject because I was one of those church-going people for better than 30 years of my life. The article I was reading made a point about how the Lord views people as opposed to how religion often tends to categorize them. While I wouldn’t want to be guilty of plagiarizing the article I read (which was about the author’s perspective on the rapture – not the direction of my comments here), I do want to draw from some of the author’s example and utilize the following comparison for this discussion.
For the sake of example, let’s talk about a guy we’ll call Josh… Josh is a believer in Jesus; However, probably very few typical Christians would recognize him as such. For starters, Josh doesn’t go to church. Josh doesn’t have a pastor. Josh doesn’t tithe. In fact, Josh doesn’t give money to any church organization at all and, even worse, he often sleeps in on Sunday morning. Josh also doesn’t care too much about religious stuff, he doesn’t sport a fish emblem on the back of his car, he doesn’t wear Christian t-shirts, he doesn’t watch TBN, and doesn’t employ any of the typical religious lingo (what I call “Christianese”) that most other Christians do.
The impression that many church-going folks might probably gather from Josh is that Josh is not really a Christian… and I have to say that, if that frame of thinking is true of church folks who are sizing up Josh on these “qualifications”, then I’m quite sure I’m not a Christian either (at least in the eyes of a lot of these people)… In fact, I’m probably in even more spiritual trouble than our buddy Josh because I actually wear a t-shirt sometimes that says “No More Religion”, I have a website geared toward people who don’t “do church” anymore, and my wife wasn’t even a Believer when I married her (and I knew it)! By all traditional appearances, neither Josh nor myself are likely to win any “Christian-of-the-Year” awards and most church-goers, judging by typical religious standards, are going to shake their heads in disappointment at how far we have fallen.
But now I have to ask those who are concerned about Josh (or about myself… and many of those who fit in our boat of un-church-ish-ness), what does the Bible reveal as evidence of Christ at work in the life of true Believers? Jesus himself said that a good tree bears good fruit and that we would know those that belong to God by the fruits they bear… The question is, are we judging people according to the actual “fruit on their tree” – or according to some other religiously-invented criteria?
This last weekend was quite an interesting one for me and my wife. I thought I share it with you guys for fun… To start off, my wife had been watching TV earlier in the week and there was an advertisement for a local “Holistic Living Expo” at the convention center in town… She saw the pretty hand-made jewelry and natural soaps and other pretty things in the ad and wanted to go… So, we went. I knew, before arriving, that this would not just be a “pretty things” expo, but rather (what I call) a juju-fest. In other words, this is where all the new age knuckleheads pop out from under their rocks. Well, I was up for a little dose of crazy so we went. On the way in to the conference hall, I put my arm around my wife and just asked the Lord to keep His hand on us and protect us from anything the devil might intend for our deception or destructive influence. Though it’s rare that I ever even get near one of these kinds of events, I always seem to get a splitting headache from it. This day was no different. In case anyone is wondering, no, I didn’t go to a Sozo session or a certified TheoPhostic counselor to get relief (although they probably had their own table here too – hehe). It cleared up as soon as we got clear of the building. (ha!) Must have been a natural result of no longer inhaling the second hand marijuana smoke.
Recently, my wife and I watched the action-packed movie PRIEST. It’s about a warrior priest living in a futuristic society that is controlled by the Catholic Church. The Church rose to power after its priests defended the people against a massive attack of vampires. Now those vampires are back and one priest requests permission from the clergy to leave the city and find his daughter who has been taken captive. The Church, however, does not wish to acknowledge that there is any mounting threat and does not want the people’s faith in the Church shaken so the priest’s request is denied.
The priest rebels and decides to go rogue…
by David Y.
This last week I took a trip with my wife to Seattle to visit family. While we were there, we took a day trip up to beautiful Mount Rainier National Park to enjoy God’s creation. It was simply amazing! If you ever have the chance to visit the Seattle area in Washington, I encourage you to try and make a trip up to the mountains. They are simply spectacular and Mount Rainier is especially a sight to behold.
That was one of the highlights of our trip, as well as the joy of visiting my mom who as been recovering from a recent hip surgery and is doing awesome (thanks everyone for your prayers)! Another “highlight” of our trip (and, yes, I’m being a little sarcastic) was attending church with my family. I only make it home to visit my family every few months (sometimes longer), but when I do, mom likes all of us to go to church together.
Now, bless her heart, she means well, but I must tell ya that I’m not a big fan of her church. Nothing really in particular, but I suppose that right there is also the reason… It’s just a stereotypical religious organization. Of course my family doesn’t see it that way I suppose. To them it’s pure awesomeness (hehe).
We walked in and took a seat. A few moments later the service started and everyone hopped up on their feet to sing (on cue I might add). For a moment I felt like I was in an airplane just before take-off, watching the stewardess explain how to work a seatbelt; The worship leader started out by saying, “Come on everybody, clap your hands like this,” as if no one had a clue how to engage this strange new activity called hand-clapping.