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.”
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…
“Those of you who try to earn God’s approval by obeying his laws
have been cut off from Christ. You have fallen out of God’s favor.“
That opening verse is quite a strong statement isn’t it? Yet, week after week, Christians all over the world buy into the traditional teaching that paying monetary tithes to a religious organization will earn them points with God.
Most have been taught that this is an ordinance of Scripture (yet often without really knowing exactly what Scripture fully teaches regarding the tithe). Christians are often taught that if they will faithfully tithe money (bringing it into the “storehouse” of the church), this will guarantee them favor with God, blessing, provision, protection and prosperity. The main problem with this logic (aside from the lie which suggests that God’s favor and His gifts can be purchased with money – Acts 8:20-22) is that all of these things (favor, blessing, provision, anointing, etc.) are already promised to every believer by God’s grace and to each who makes Christ his Lord. Nothing further is required. Let me put this very plainly another way: Even if you never tithe a cent of your money throughout your entire life as a Christian, it will not change God’s promise to watch over you, love you, protect you, bless you, lead you, provide for you or take you to heaven when this life is through! God does NOT want or need your “tithe” and there is nothing on earth you can do to buy His favor or blessing!
Jesus said that ALL of our provisions will be met on the basis of two things. One, that God loves us – PERIOD. Even the little flowers of the field who do not work or gather into storehouses, Jesus said the Father clothes them with beauty beyond even the splendor of Solomon – so of how much more value are we who are His dear children? Two, that as we seek only His kingdom and His righteousness, everything we have need of in this life will be provided for according to His own purpose. (Matthew 6:24-34; 7:7-11; Luke 12:15-34)
NOTE: The following article is taken from the Appendix of Peter Whyte’s book “The King and His Kingdom”, written in 1979.
While preparing the final chapter of this book I had an unusual dream, and the Lord gave me an interpretation of it.
This is the only time I have had the experience of hearing from the Lord in this manner, and the Scriptures from Proverbs, which He gave me to confirm it, were unfamiliar to me.
The following is an account of the experience, followed by the Scriptures confirming God’s interpretation.
I dreamed that I was in a spacious office talking to a young receptionist. She was about thirty years my junior, charming, pretty and exuding fresh innocence, and we liked each other tremendously.
As we walked to the door of the office I put my arm across her shoulders in a fatherly gesture, thinking of her affectionately like my own daughter.
After a few paces she trustingly responded by putting her arm around me.
She walked with me to the lobby, and as we left sight of those behind us in the office I bent and kissed her lips gently in farewell. She smiled back at me and we parted in a beautiful atmosphere, totally devoid of any sexual overtones.
I rode the lift to the car park, and for a split second I entertained a fleeting fantasy of a love affair with that fawn-like creature. I dismissed it as being unthinkable for an old married grandfather, and a Christian, too!