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There Were Ninety and Nine

There were ninety and nine that safely lay
In the shelter of the fold;
But one was out on the hills away,
Far off from the gates of gold.
Away on the mountains wild and bare;
Away from the tender Shepherd’s care.

“Lord, Thou hast here Thy ninety and nine;
Are they not enough for Thee?”
But the Shepherd made answer: “This of Mine
Has wandered away from Me.
And although the road be rough and steep,
I go to the desert to find My sheep.”

But none of the ransomed ever knew
How deep were the waters crossed;
Nor how dark was the night the Lord passed through
Ere He found His sheep that was lost.
Out in the desert He heard its cry;
’Twas sick and helpless and ready to die.

“Lord, whence are those blood-drops all the way,
That mark out the mountain’s track?”
“They were shed for one who had gone astray
Ere the Shepherd could bring him back.”
“Lord, whence are Thy hands so rent and torn?”
“They’re pierced tonight by many a thorn.”

And all through the mountains, thunder-riv’n,
And up from the rocky steep,
There arose a glad cry to the gate of heav’n,
“Rejoice! I have found My sheep!”
And the angels echoed around the throne,
“Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own!”

Elizabeth C. Clephane 1868

Spiritual warfare

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Spiritual warfare – the battle of the ages

Do not allow the battle to become internalized. Keep the battle at the boundaries between the kingdoms. If it becomes internalized you will feel like Eve and Adam who internalized the questions of life. Accept
God’s word. When the battle rages and is fought on the soil of your heart, keep the battle differentiated by obedience to the Word of God.

Keep the battle at the boundaries of the kingdoms. In that way you will be able to maintain your Spiritual health and your ability to fight against the forces of evil that will attempt to destroy you. The life of Job is an example.
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If Satan can deceive you into internalizing the battle, he will win because you are not strong enough to win against your own proclivities. Your own logic will fail you. Only God’s wisdom will suffice in those situations. That was the sin of Adam and Eve and they lost the battle. It is your choice now.

These battles must be won in the life of the father in the home. These battles must be won in the home. If they are, the children will be blessed. If not, the children internalize the battles.

Children from homes where the battle was won can live to help other people. Children from homes where the battle was lost, become people who struggle to just survive. For the sake of your children and for the glory of God, win that battle today!

Fixing What is Broken – Part Three

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This is part three of a three part series.

Fixing what is Broken – Part Three

Regain our focus

If we seek to save our life we will Lose it.
If we lose our life for Christ’s sake and the gospel, we will save it.

As Anabaptists we have lost our focus. From doing good, we are now doing well.
Our industry and diligence have carved our niche in the world. Mennonite is a household word. We have come a long way. A long way from where we began. A long way from where we should be.

We began as a movement emerging from intense persecution as Donatists, Albigenses, Waldensians and a list of other faithful, remnant people and groups from the early days of the Church. As the organizational church became corrupt, faithful persons and groups claimed the promises of Scripture and lived separate from the world.

The corruption of the organizational church developed into Christendom instead of Christianity. The organization claimed, Where the bishop in apostolic succession is, there is the church. But, Jesus had said, “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst.”

The faithful followers were persecuted by the organizational church for many centuries until God ordained that we should emerge as the Anabaptist movement. Persecution followed and pursued us. Catholic, Lutheran, and Reformed took our lives. Thousands were martyred. We fled and evangelized as we fled.

Prussia and Pennsylvania provided safe havens for the persecuted. Later, Russia and the Americas were fertile soil for our diligence. Our Spiritual energies were sublimated into material pursuits. Our evangelistic fervor devolved into financial exploits – doing good became doing well and we lost the distinction between them until they were coterminous.

Our Culture
Our culture is wonderful. There is nothing wrong with our culture. The whole world needs it. What is our culture? How did we get it? Our culture is simply the existential expression of taking the Bible seriously in our lives. Anyone could do this. We did it. Diligence, integrity, modesty, frugality, industry, are all commendable values. They are from God but they will not take us to God. They have become our god. We are good people. God owes us.

Our mistake
Our mistake is believing and living like our culture is the gospel. It is easy to pass on our culture to the next generation. Rules and practices are not wrong but when they become our identity, that is wrong.

Our need
We began by being diligent Bible students. Led by the Holy Spirit, we moved to being followers of Jesus. We placed God, scripture, and following Jesus first in life. We moved to loving each other as brothers and sisters and being responsible disciples of Jesus Christ in this world.

Our only hope
Our only hope is to return to exactly that. We have the answer, we have the pattern. We have the paradigm. When will we decide to follow it? Persecution may come to us and then we will return. Does that have to happen? Maybe. Probably.

We do not have to leave our diligence and industry to become more Spiritual. We just have to leave our trust in ourselves to produce what we have. Salvation is of the Lord, not of us. We can spend our lives for ourselves and our systems or we can lose our lives for Christ and the gospel.
Which will it be?
Which will it be for you?

Fixing What is Broken – Part Two

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This is part two of a three part series.

Fixing What is Broken – Part Two

What must we do?

It is not complicated. It is simple – really. There are only two issues:
1. Relationship with God
2. Relationships with people

1. Relationship with God
John Baptist and Jesus came preaching repentance and the Kingdom of God. Bring forth fruits meet for repentance. Live behaviors that indicate that you are serious about being a child of God and joining God’s Kingdom by becoming as a little child.

Confess, repent, and change your ways and become a disciple of Jesus Christ. Be His follower. Be His disciple. Know Him. Emulate Him. Follow Him. Worship Him. Commit your life to Him. Be His slave. Live for Him alone. Denounce sin. Forsake wrongs. Have a relationship with Father God that completely changes your life and makes you like Him and be conformed to the image of His Son.

And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:24-26.

2. Relationships with other people
It is only in being in right relationship with God that we can be in right relationships with people – this is our primary concern.

Our reconciliation with God shapes our relationships with people.
Our reconciliations with people shape our relationship with God.

Jesus’ words are plain – The Rule of Christ in Matthew 18 specifically tells us to go to another person alone if that person has offended you. As we follow that counsel, we restore as we actively seek reconciliation.
Matthew 5:23-24 if you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift and be reconciled. Only then can you offer your gift with clear relationship with sister/brother and with your Father God.

Body concept – we are members one of another. If one member suffers…If one member rejoices… Is your nose jealous of your ears? Does your heart envy your lungs? Does your hand take care to remove a particle of dirt from your eye?

How our bodies care for their members! That is the picture. That is the message. We are a body. There is no jealousy, no envy, no resistance to being helped. No images to maintain. We are a body and all members care for each other without tension and without resistance. We long for healing. Each member desperately wants healing for every other member. We are a body.

Third party mediation
A mediator is a person who loves and cares for both of the estranged members. That mediator brings them together on common ground. Philemon is the Biblical example. Paul loved both Philemon and Onesimus. He saw their problem. He brought them together. That is God’s plan.

God’s plan is for broken things to be fixed. He offers healing for brokenness in our relationship with Him and in our relationships with each other. That is His plan.
It is costly. It cost Jesus His life. It will cost you your life.

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? Mark 8:35-37.

Fixing What is Broken – Part Three

Fixing What is Broken – One

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This is part one of a three part series.

Fixing What is Broken

Where are we today?

The Anabaptist movement has fallen on difficult times. We are fractured and fragmented. The original vision has been lost. We are now a collection of loosely associated groups.

The Anabaptist movements began with great conviction amid great distress. The Reformation was a time of great confusion in spite of how the history books may represent this time. Martin Luther may not have been as confident as his historians say he was and the Catholic Church was in great need of renovation and revival.

In the middle of all of that arose the Anabaptists. Taking the Scripture at face value, and through the direction of the Holy Spirit, these young people forged a path of faith sourced in the Spirit led understanding of the Scriptures. The resultant persecution had a purifying effect on the group eventually scattering us around the world.

The Schleitheim agreement and Menno Simon’s writings set the direction for a solid future. Unfortunately charlatans were attracted to the movement. Most charlatans were kept outside by the afore mentioned documents. Some, however, infiltrated and set themselves up as leaders. Some of them claimed the Holy Spirit leading all the while they disobeyed the Scriptures.

Now, those centuries of history are behind us. What has happened to us? We have taken the Church and codified the beliefs and created systems of preservation.

We were a strong people. Now, we are fragile people. The New Testament was our guide. Now we have made our systems iron-clad.

Time and pressures have taken their toll and formed us into an amalgamation of groups with similarities but not with fellowship. Para church organizations are doing well, CAM, SMBI are examples.

We are in a new age. This new generation, having jettisoned the weights of debt and culture, is seeking. They need not seek very far. Many voices are offering answers. From counseling to spiritual formation and from conferences to seminars. From impressive speakers to office seekers, there is a plethora of voices vying for their/our attention.

With the contamination of long histories of organizations and affluence, this generation is seeking direction outside of our walls.

In many cases, their hearts are right. They are hypersensitive to hypocrisy. They are so hungry for real worship and Holy Spirit guidance. They do not want a bill of goods. They want truth. They will not settle for less. They should not settle for less.
Their real danger is throwing out the baby with the bath water. How will they know the difference? Can they tell the difference between baggage and luggage? One will sink them. The other will preserve them.

The Apostle Paul was a ‘wise master builder’ called by God in His day to build the Church. Who are those men today? Where are those men today?

Our culture is not wrong. Culture is needed. Our culture is good. But culture, even though Biblical, is not the gospel.

We have trusted our plans. We must learn to trust the Holy Spirit. Is the Holy Spirit in the plans? He may be. We must be sure of it by eliminating our human foibles and by renewing trust in our Creator and His Word and His Spirit.

What can we do? We have the paradigm. It is time to once again employ and apply the paradigm that worked so well before. It is God’s paradigm. It is God’s plan.

We must set aside all presuppositions and perceived ideas of man. We must set aside the fear of man. We must eliminate politics and the allegiance to man made structures and politics. We must become vulnerable in this world. Just as Jesus was, so must we be. The indwelling Holy Spirit and the Words of the Word of Scripture are our life-source. We must return to community where we are the body of Christ in this world.

Fixing What is Broken – Two

Be Thankful

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Be Thankful

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts,
To which also you were called in one body;
And be thankful.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom,
Teaching and admonishing one another
In psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
Singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

And whatever you do in word or deed,
Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
Giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Colossians 3:15-17

Take Heed

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Then Jesus said to the disciples,
It is impossible that no offenses should come,
But woe to him through whom they do come!

It would be better for him
If a millstone were hung around his neck,
And he were thrown into the sea,
Than that he should offend one of these little ones.

Take heed to yourselves.
If your brother sins against you,
Rebuke him;
And if he repents,
Forgive him.

Luke 17:1-3