Sunday, August 12, 2018

"Watch Therefore:" By Guest Writer Sarah M. Hofer.

'Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when He cometh shall find watching.' Luke 12:37

We Hutterites are now living in a golden age. Never before in our history has there been such a long period where the authorities have left us alone to live and worship as we wish. The communities we live in are safe, secure and prosperous.
Around us, the world is changing at an incredibly rapid pace. The Christian worldview that has shaped societies for over two thousand years is under fire and in some places, almost obsolete. Self is worshipped in place of God and truth is considered relative. The world is at our gates, trying to win the hearts and minds of our young people. It is a time to be on our guard, for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the powers of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.’
That our love and zeal has grown colder in these peaceful, easy times must be acknowledged. Good times do not generally make for good Christians. Consider the words of Jesus to the Church of Ephesus: Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent.’
The early Hutterites saw clearly that to follow in the footsteps of their master Jesus, a life of self-denial and loving service to their fellow man was required. They believed that community of goods was the necessary outward expression of a life truly committed to Christ and His kingdom. 'And all that believed were together and had all things in common.'This is the vision that the Hutterite Church has tried to uphold in the long centuries since the Reformation.
From their beginnings in Austria where they witnessed to the truth with their lives, their journey with this vision led them across Eastern Europe. Many times they established flourishing communities on the estates of noblemen, but the periods of peace never lasted for long. Suffering terrible persecution and unjust treatment, they fled on to next place, refusing to deny their God and faith. Finally, to escape military conscription in Russia, they left behind the comfortable farming villages they had established and immigrated to America.
In addition to their steadfast faith, they took their language, culture, and customs with them across the Atlantic Ocean to the New World. Thanks in part to the legacy of our forefathers, the Hutterite church has managed to preserve a distinct identity and faith in modern day America; where many other cultures and religions, of greater numbers, have assimilated.
Our church has been able to take an uncompromising stand on many issues, refusing to conform to the world. From head coverings and male leadership, to divorces and gay marriages, the church has not bowed to popular opinion and trends but has kept its doctrines scriptural. 'Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever.'
The current modern worldview is a dangerous lens through which to look as we seek to preserve our faith. Condoning the values of the world in our church makes us increasingly resistant to the guidance of the Spirit. We have a rich treasury of literature and the background of a godly heritage that help correct our vision and bring us back to the Biblical foundation of our beginnings.
The literature includes the sermons preached in our church services, written centuries ago by Spirit-filled elders with a deep faith in Jesus and a sincere love of the brethren. From their genuine spiritual and communal experience they wrote of issues that we are still dealing with today. The sermons provide commentary and profound Biblical insights, as well as serving as a safeguard against the tendency to drift away from Scriptural truths. Our community gathering at the end of every day to listen to the Word of God, to sing and pray together, strengthens our bond and acts as a constant reminder of Whom we serve. 
Part of our heritage are the laws, practical arrangements, and accepted codes of behaviour maintained throughout our history to govern our communities and keep our people separate from the world. If these standards are in accordance with Biblical teachings, we should consider what we might lose if we abandon them. ‘Prove all things, hold fast to that which is good.’ But we must be careful lest we adhere only to the letter of the law without seeking after the Spirit. That path constitutes a barren and meaningless religion.
Adding strength to the structure of the church is the accountability of each individual community to all the other Hutterite communities, and the accountability between each believer to the other. Brotherly admonition keeps our vision clear and vibrant, so that none among us may be led astray by the deceiver. 
Our elders have an important role in preserving the vision of our church. They are gatekeepers of the church of God, watching for our souls as they that must give account. A gatekeeper needs to be sober and vigilant, for the enemy circles the house of God, seeking whom he may devour.
‘Watch therefore; for ye know neither the day not the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh.To hear the words: ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant,’ when our Master returns is our sincere hope and longing.
In preserving our vision, we believe we are fulfilling our Master's will and giving our children the best possible hope for their eternal future. Through the Church we can bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, protected from much of the harmful influence of the world and providing them with a Christian worldview and valid counter-culture. Then when the Spirit comes to these young people, the vision comes gloriously alive, its truths illuminated from within, and unites them to all true believers. 
Our church provides for the widows, the sick and the elderly, it provides discipleship and accountability. Rightly lived, it is the fulfillment of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount; it is the city set on a hill, whose light shines so that all men see it. 
We do not know what the times will be like when the next generation finds themselves being the leaders and elders of the Hutterite Church.  The Bible prophesies terrible times before that great and notable day of the Lord comes. By the grace of God we hope to be a small part of preserving this vision for them against that day.

"Dear brothers, I plead with you to keep watch against disunity, for you can well imagine the terrible disasters that would come in its wake and what great suffering would befall widows and orphans.
Watch that you keep firmly to the fine old Church Ordnungen and follow them without moving the boundary stones.
Hold firm to Christian community, and fight with all your might against stinginess and selfishness, for covetousness is the root of all evil and destroys everything good.  Guard against innovation and starting on a new course. Take special care, my brothers, not to compete against or take advantage of one another, for that is not right.
I appeal to you before God to give fatherly care to the widows and orphans and to concern yourself faithfully with the needs of the church.
Always act in the fear of God, following truth, justice and righteousness.
Tell the elders as a last request that I urge them before God to be wholehearted in taking on the responsibility for the Lord's Church and giving all their strength to its care. 
I commend you to the protection of the Almighty God. May He care faithfully for His people, bless you, keep you in peace, uphold and preserve you. Amen. Amen."

Hutterite Elder Klaus Braidl. Neumuhl Community, Moravia. 1611 

Sarah M. Hofer

Monday, July 30, 2018

Bob's Objection With Christianity.

 Bob “My main objection to Christianity is that anyone can live a horrible, even murderous life and just before they die they can proclaim Jesus and go to heaven.” 

 Louie Vetter. Yes that’s a valid concern Bob, but consider this. For someone living that kind of life, chances are Christianity is not very real to them. To pay lip service to Jesus for insurance purposes with their last gasp is not going to make Jesus any more real than before. There is the story of the sinner on the cross, but that is a single Biblical example of true remorse at point of death. Someone living a sinful life with a sinner-on-the-cross action plan is probably quite blasphemous to God and His grace. Whatever keeps a sinner from following Jesus while he’s sinning, will most likely keep him from grace on his deathbed.  

  Consider this saying from Jesus, “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” 
John 4:35

 The highest genetic potential of a seed is on the day it is planted, every day after that potential yield is lost to various environmental stressors, disease and insects.

 Are we any different? These four months to harvest are like the days of our life. We have a set number of days till our last. A day lived in the lust of our eyes or flesh is a day lost, never to be regained. It is a day where we denied the rain and blessings of the Holy Spirit that our loving Father wanted to pour out over our dry and parched eternal soul. 

 When a field is white to harvest the yield is set. Rain and perfect growing conditions at this point are too late. When the autumn of our life is upon us, will we have the grace, power and will to increase the one pound our Lord gave us? Or will our yield be set with the lifestyle and decisions we deliberately chose? 

 “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them.” ~Ecclesiastes 12

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Pentecost. The Coming Down Of The Holy Spirit.

   As the time of compassion drew near when God wanted to fulfill his promise and have mercy on the lost human race, he sent his Word, who was in and with God in the beginning. By means of his messenger Gabriel, he sent Word to a virgin whom he had previously chosen. As soon as she believed, she was sealed with the Holy Spirit. Then she was told, “Power from on high will overshadow you, and the Holy Spirit will come down from above into you. Therefore, the Holy One who is to be born of you shall be called the Son of God. (Excerpt from Peter Riedemann’s Hutterite Confession of Faith)

 We can imagine how blessed Mary felt to have born Jesus, the Son of the Living God! How amazing that must have been to carry the maker of the universe inside her!

 But 33 years later mankind brutally beat, and ridiculed her beloved son Jesus, murdering him with the most agonizing and cruel death they could devise by nailing Him to a cross and mocking him till he breathed his last. But Jesus defeated death, leaving his mankind in the carved out, rocky tomb, and arising victorious. Before he left earth for his heavenly home he made a promise: He promised to send  down his Holy Spirit from above into us, to dwell in us. If we but receive his gift we can have the Spirit of God living inside us, guiding us and providing comfort and wisdom. Unbelievable passion to want to be part of the very creatures he created! 

 But unlike the Virgin Mary, whom after a short while bore the fruit of the Holy Spirit in a stable in Bethlehem with the baby Jesus, we get to house the presence of the Holy Spirit in the temple of our bodies. Imagine, our earthly body a living temple to the Creator God! We are never more alone or afraid, for in us radiates the power, love, and comfort of a mighty God who spoke the whole universe into existence with merely a word! Who loves us so thoroughly and personally that he sent his Son down to us, to inhabit human form and live according to our human conditions, knowing full well that he would be rejected and killed, but knowing also that it was the only way to reconcile man to God.

 So how grand we build that temple, or not, to his Holy Presence is up to us. The natural outworkings of our human condition are fleshly and manifest themselves as described in Galatians Chapter 5: Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. 

 I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Eins Betrübt Mich Sehr Auf Erden.

One thing grieves me beyond measure,
That so few will enter heaven,
Oh, just where should I begin,
There’s so many people dying,
The Son of God they are denying,
Leaving earth, bound fast to sin.

Everywhere, in every nation,
Men live in retaliation,
From across all walks of life,
Few are those who gain salvation 
Most are striding to perdition. 
Oh, what are the reasons why?

It’s not hard to see the answer
Man is full of hate and envy, 
In a life that denies God,
Indulging their inner vices,
Just as if they didn’t cognize,
Heavens road is oh so small. 

Pride and self-glorification, 
Boasting and self-adoration,
Greed takes over more and more,
As the self fights for attention
Do we even want redemption?
Is that the way the heavens door?

Throwing banquets, eating, drinking,
Playing, dancing, fleshly thinking,
Living in the moment bold,
Can that be the path to heaven,
Then it’ll be to slight the faithful,
Surely this will not work so. 

People make no qualms of lying, 
What’s more commonplace than cheating, 
Just as if it were okay,
He who does right, he is losing,
Dishonesty ends up winning,
Greed and money pave the way.

Oh how common cussing, swearing,
Blaspheming God in heaven,
Don't the children know that well?
‘Tis no wonder, that corruption, 
Young and old die in destruction, 
Heading down the path of Hell.

Stealing honour from another,
Spiting, envy, and dishonour, 
Isn’t that now common place?
Finger pointing, accusations,
Repeating false allegations,
More and more, that is the case.

What do we hold more important, 
Than exerting every effort
Gathering material goods.
Gold and silver, rare held treasures,
Harm our spirit without measure
Loved and sought out by the world.

Those who take others possessions, 
Will in fear and pain be sweating 
Eternal in the fires of hell.
Even though so many know this,
Stand accused before their conscience,
Yet they do not seem to care. 

Who seeks virtue, wisdom, morals?
Look how far the youth has fallen,
Where is trust, humility?
Those who seek to follow Jesus,
Mocked, ridiculed, and mistreated,
Persecuted constantly. 

My child, turn and follow Jesus,
Look at what he taught and showed us,
What his deeds and actions were.
He, the truth, way, life, forever,
Follow him, you’ll make no error,
That’s the best advice for you.

Brotherly love is fundamental, 
Without it we’re barred from heaven, 
Love God with your heart and soul.
If we show love to another
We will never grieve our brother,
We will also not grieve God.

Keeping reins upon our passions,
Curbing evil wants and habits,
If we seek eternal life.
Those who seek a life of pleasure,
Will not find a place in heaven,
Stand in judgement when they die.

Poverty and will to suffer,
Bravely facing persecution, 
That's food for the chosen few,
Praising God, strong hearts so faithful,
Suffer willing all that’s painful,
Blessed who learns this virtue.

Do you want to follow Jesus,
Oh, so live a life that’s righteous, 
Seek out the minority,
Once this poor, short life is over
God will give you one eternal,
Greet you into royalty.

So my friend, so let it happen,
Come what may, I will be ready, 
As God wants, so it will be.
Lord, please be my guide and shepherd, 
In my thoughts, my words and actions,
And through your love, grant me mercy. 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Thoughts on the Humboldt Broncos Bus Crash.

  I have been following the Humboldt bus crash with empathy and a great sense of loss. When I first heard about the crash it didn’t affect me too much, but as the details and stories started to emerge, as faces and names were announced, the significance of what had happened started to sink in. 14 out of 28 dead, and the rest all in the hospital. Some in critical condition, some paralyzed, reality and horror set in. 
Then comes the comprehension of the vast number of people this tragedy has affected. Every parent who has ever lost a child. Every parent who has ever seen off a child on a bus. Everyone who has ever tried to make sense of a senseless tragedy.

 As the funerals rack up, the idea of ‘not fair’ and the question of ‘Why?’ looms large. If God in Heaven is a caring and loving God, why didn’t He intervene? 

 The question that countervails in my mind is: Did we want Him to? What kind of a question is that, you may ask? Of course we want God to intervene, to prevent bad and horrible stuff from happening. But at what level? 

 Do we want Him to intervene at loss of life and limb? Yes, we do. Do we want Him to intervene at health and well being? Yes, we do. Do we want Him to intervene at injury and happenstance? Well, maybe or maybe not. Do we want Him to intervene on our bad but deliberate decisions? I think this time most of us would agree that we wouldn’t. We are our own man and want the freedom to say what we want, and do what we want, and no one better stand in our way. That is our right! How else can our lives have meaning?

  These are valid points, but we can’t have it both ways. We can’t demand that God intervene and then demand He shouldn’t. We love the freedom of free will and charting our own course, but when tragedy strikes we demand interference. We  love the promise of God walking with us through the valley of the shadow of death, but balk at the thought of walking with Him every day. In essence, we really don't know what we want, and we for sure don't know what's best for us. How can the creation argue with the Creator?

“Be still and know that I am God.”
Psalm 46:10.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Where are the miracles of Jesus today?

And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”
Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
 Matthew 11:4-5

Reading these accounts of Jesus makes us wish He was amongst us today. There are so many he could heal! And so many ailments; cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, the list goes on and affects us all.

But there’s one thing we can take comfort in, and that is that Jesus sees and knows the afflictions and burdens we bear and carry. If our prayers for healing don’t get answered right away maybe it’s because of the possibility that our earthly instances, sufferings, and struggles will serve to soften our hardened, wayward hearts to His message of hope and glory.

 But maybe Jesus is working miracles today. Miracles far greater than the healing of our bodily sicknesses. Maybe he’s healing our spiritual ailments, by making the blind in faith to see, the crippled in sin to walk, the deaf to His Word to hear, and the dead in spirit to live. Maybe he’s performing miracles that will make us whole not only for a few years or decades, but throughout eternity.

For even if we would get a temporal reprieve from our earthly sicknesses, there is still old age to contend with. And there’s no getting away from that. It’s only the fact that Jesus conquered the grave that we have hope. Only that truth can make the sting of death be swallowed up in victory.

Viewed from that angle, we have no argument with the shaper of the clay and the firing kilns that we walk through. They can serve to turn us into the worthy vessels that God desires us to be and oh, what a miracle that would be!

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. ~Paul in Romans 8:18

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Am Ölberg Weiß Ich Eine Stätte.

I know a place near Mount of Olives,
Secluded from the rushing world,
The Kidron murmurs in the valley,
The olive trees stretch out their boughs.
There you see naught of manmade clamour
But rolling hills, forest and sea,
And all around this quiet courtyard,
The garden of Gethsemane.

There lay the Holy One in prayer,
In dark of night upon His knees,
The promised child of faithful fathers,
Cried out to God despairingly.
A heart so full of fear and pleading
An anguished and forsaken soul.
And from His sacred, stricken forehead
Flowed heavy drops of crimson blood.

O Lord, you worked on my salvation
You feared for me in dark of night,
Alone, removed from all creation
You cared and prayed with all your might.
My thoughts are always near that courtyard
No matter where I go or stay’
I close my eyes and see the garden

That harboured God, Gethsemane. 

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