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Anabaptist Voice

Dear friends, bothers and sisters in Christ,

Greetings from warm Tucson, Arizona, where the temperature has been in the 80s, a bit above normal.

Our son Pat is back from his week long trip to the western Canadian Hutterite colonies. Son David is scheduled to return from his four week trip to the Far East on Saturday. Here is a photo of mighty Yota, the son of David’s cousin, carrying a log. And granddaughter Eryn has returned from visiting New York City with some classmates.

Our semi-weekly Bible study group met again on Friday night at Mel and Becky Perry’s home. We studied chapter two of Philippians which includes the teaching to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” After the Bible study, Larry Campbell gave his testimony of what the Lord is doing in his life, which was very powerful. He is totally blind in both eyes due to two separate injuries.

On Saturday afternoon we went to the nearby Tohono Chul Park which was described in a National Geographic magazine as a ‘hidden treasure’. Here is our daughter Naomi’s description of the park. “We saw flowers more than anything else! Mostly flowering cactus plants. There were flowers there that we've never seen before - with so many different colors! The park has put name plates in front of many of the plants but not all and we wished they had. I brought my wheelchair along, but that park wasn't made for wheelchairs, I had a difficult time pushing myself so Mom and Dad sometimes had to help. Most of it was hilly too, which made it even more difficult. Mom spotted a small lizard in one of the gardens. I brought both of my cameras along. Neither one of them had too much film in it, they were both running low. There weren't too many pictures to take anyway. We also saw a lot of different kinds of cactuses - different sizes and shapes! It was a very interesting place! But would I want to go there again? From my point of view, it was ok, but if I had my choice, I'd probably pick somewhere else.”

One cactus in the park seemed to be crawling on the ground like a snake and another was called the octopus cactus because it had arms going all over, being held up by branches of other plants.

On Thursday, Michi and her friend Nancy Garlock went to the Tohono Chul Park for a guided tour. Afterwards they spent the afternoon with Naomi.

Michi and Naomi visited at the home of Donna Davis and her mother on Monday. On Tuesday morning, Ricky Scruggs came over again for a Bible study. We discussed Hebrews chapter 11, called the ‘faith chapter’. It is interesting to note that the teaching there considers faith to be looking forward to the Kingdom of God, considering oneself to be an alien and stranger while living here on earth. Ricky will be teaching on this chapter next Sunday at the Sober Church in Tucson. It meets in the Calvary Baptist church Sunday morning prior to the regular Baptist church meeting.

We received the most interesting birth announcement card this week from Heather Gardikis, who as a little child used to attend our home meetings with her parents, Paul and Dolly Laperle. Heather’s second baby, little Tori Gardikis joined the ‘Perfect Baby Club’ at 3:33 am on 2/19/2005. Her new dad sent a press release to the Associated Press and then called the family! The announcement card quoted Proverbs, “May your father and mother be glad; may she who gave birth to you rejoice.” (Proverbs 23:25)

Some of you may have heard about the Canadian Hutterite missionaries in Nigeria, Africa, who were injured in a robbery at the Palmgrove Hutterite community near Lagos. We received an email from Clara Wollman describing the incident. This is the second time that Hutterite missionaries from Canada were injured in a robbery in Nigeria. It happened on a Sunday night about 1 am. A half dozen robbers with guns broke into their residence, shouting and screaming, demanding money. They shot Paul Wollman and ransacked the place, taking money and what ever valuables they could find. It was a very frightening experience but the missionaries are determined to continue doing the Lord’s work.

We had a long talk this week with Christy Hofer of the Flat Willow Hutterite colony in Montana. She had gone to Florida last month to attend the wedding of a Hutterite woman, Rosanna Walter, who has left the Hutterian Brethren Church and gone into the world. Christy is a single woman about Rosanna’s age who freely speaks her mind and did so with Rosanna, telling her that she is heading in the wrong direction!

A couple people called this week and admonished us about getting involved with what they would call worldly Christians; they are concerned that we would lose our way on the narrow path to the Kingdom of God. During this past year we have been to a number of non-Anabaptist churches and home Bible studies, which has been quite an education for us.

We follow the Anabaptist understanding of Christianity rather than the common evangelical or Protestant understanding. As a brief review of Christianity, recall that the Protestant religion began in the 16th century as a protest against the abuses of the Catholic religion. Luther was a reformer. However, there were others during Luther’s time that went beyond Luther, not trying to reform the Church but attempted to return it to its Biblical foundation. They rejected infant baptism and war, things which Luther accepted, and tried to restore the concept of unselfish love (agape love) in the Church as practiced in the Book of Acts. These people, who believed in obeying all that Jesus and His apostles taught, were called Anabaptists by their opponents (meaning they accepted only believer’s baptism and rejected infant baptism). Thousands of the non-resistant Anabaptists were martyred by the Catholic and Protestant governments in the 16th century.

So you can see that there is quite a gap, quite a difference, between the beliefs and practices of the Anabaptists and that of other Christian groups. And for our readers who have never been to a non-Anabaptist church service, let us give you a brief view of what they are like. They generally start with singing, with a number of people up on the stage in front leading the singing, supported by musicians, including guitar players and usually drummers. They use sound systems to enhance the music. The people stand up in most churches during the singing; the song is projected on a screen in front. Following the singing, which generally lasts 20 – 30 minutes, someone usually preaches a bit about giving money to the church and then a collection is taken up by the ushers who pass a collection plate around. After that the minister preaches for about an hour or so. Some of the churches will give an ‘altar call’ at the end of the service, inviting people to accept Jesus as their Savior. Whether it is a Baptist church, an independent ‘community’ church or a Pentecostal church, all pretty much follow this same pattern for their Sunday morning service. The people who come to these services dress like non-Christians; they watch TV and wear jewelry and other outward adornments.

That is what their outward services are like. Their inner beliefs are well expressed here by Virgil Stokes, pastor of the Faith Community Fellowship of Tucson, in his email on Monday.

Virgil wrote: “I have had opportunity this week to think a lot about religion… During this same time, I have also talked with other folks who have a religious background – Protestant and otherwise. In these conversations I see a common thread: religion demands that I achieve something in order to experience God’s love and acceptance. There is some kind of outward action or symbol that marks me as being “holy”. That misses the point terribly… Every human has some area where he can be questioned in motives, actions, or words. The devil will take the smallest failure or perceived failure and magnify it until it becomes a dark cloud in the mind, obliterating the sunshine of God’s love… For this reason alone, I have to take a stand against legalism wherever I see it. If my salvation is contingent on my performance, then so is my healing. Grace – grace – grace. It means I can relax and receive, stand and resist, rejoice and be confident in hope because I never have to wonder about where God stands in regard my healing or where I stand in regard to my God. It is really finished.”

We do believe, as does Virgil although he doesn’t mention it here, that a person must be born again (John 3:3, 5). Unless a person is born again, they have little interest in seeking the Kingdom of God because they have not been fully enlightened and have not tasted the heavenly gift (Heb 6:4).

We believe that God’s grace gives us the power to be faithful children of God whereas God’s mercy is shown to us when we sin and repent. Mercy is not the same as grace. Grace is power, mercy has to do with forgiveness.

A common idea that many non-Anabaptist Christians seem to have is that they are now saved and what they do, their subsequent actions and lifestyle, has no effect on their eternal salvation. They will say that they are saved by grace and that they don’t have to ‘earn’ their salvation, that the blood of Jesus saves them.

They believe that they are saved by grace and not by works, which is certainly Biblical. However, they tend to misuse the teachings of the apostle Paul in this regard. Paul taught against works as defined by the Jews of his day, such as circumcision and ceremonial washings. He even went to the leaders in Jerusalem for support, and as we read in Acts 15, they agreed with him that such things were not required for salvation. It is the same today for those groups who teach that certain actions are required for salvation, such as the group that says that one must be baptized three times forward or another group says you must be baptized three times backwards. These are the kind of works what Paul is preaching against. Nowhere does he say or even hint that it is not necessary to obey all of the commands of Jesus. Obviously a person’s actions, their lifestyle, their ‘performance’, affects their salvation. Otherwise, all would be saved, and there would be no need to live a holy life, as Jesus and all of His apostles said we should.

Most Christians today tend to see Jesus as a sacrifice on the cross but not all readily see Him as their teacher, as the one who tells them how to live. This can be easily shown by reviewing the teachings of their pastors in regard to fulfilling the third part of the Great Commission, the part about teaching converts to obey all that Jesus taught (Mt 28:20). This part of the Great Commission is largely ignored.

This is also shown by their problems with many passages in the New Testament such as this one in I John 3:7-8 where it is written: “Little children, do not allow anyone to deceive you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil.” Isn’t it a sin to disobey the teachings of Christ and His apostles?

Most Christians readily accept Jesus as their Savior, as a sacrifice on the cross for them but not all readily accept any of His and His apostles teaching that would affect their daily life, their lifestyle. The idea of accepting the teachings of Christ regarding the non-swearing of oaths, the non-resistance to evil men, the forsaking of possessions is foreign to many of them, as is the idea of accepting the teachings of the apostles regarding the role and dress of women.

Michi and Naomi are probably the only women in the Tucson area that wear a head covering, publicly showing their obedience to the teachings of the apostles.

The Anabaptists believe, as do most Christians, that we are saved by grace, that Jesus is our savior. However, the Anabaptists go farther and believe that a born again person will grow in spiritual maturity, learning to obey God and conform their life to all that Jesus and His apostles taught. They have no problems with any of the New Testament teachings, readily accepting everything taught there as being their rules for living, seeking to please their heavenly Father. This is most readily observed in their understanding of love; they, the Anabaptists, take it to mean not just loving their family members but to go beyond that to try to love, in practical ways, their fellow members of the Body of Christ (I John 3:16-19), just like the early church did as shown in Acts 2:44-47 and Acts 4:32-5:11. Their love for one another, not just their family members, made them truly children of God.

The one and only test in the Bible for knowing that we are truly saved is our love for one another. John wrote: “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers.” (I John 3:14) Is this test taught in most Christian churches?

We believe that salvation is a process. The first step is to be born again, born from above so that a person has a deep, strong desire to seek the Kingdom of God in their lives. The next step is to repent, change their way of living from following that of the world to following that taught by Christ and His apostles. This is obviously an on-going process, one that may take a lifetime as we are always being lead to a higher level of holiness as we respond to the gentle guidance of the Holy Spirit working in our lives. As we grow in faith, we also grow in obedience. Without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He rewards those who seek Him. (Heb 11:6)

The apostle Peter teaches, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY’.” (I Peter 1:13-16) Shouldn’t this be our goal? One of our favorite songs is “From Glory to Glory He’s Changing Me.”

In summary, we do see the difference between the Anabaptist beliefs and practices and those of other Christians. We realize that some Christians will persecute us, perhaps only subtly, because of our beliefs, just as the Catholics and Protestants did our 16th century spiritual ancestors. But we also realize that we must remain true to the teachings of Christ and His apostles, always viewing the teachings of the apostles in the light of the teachings of Christ, for He is both our Savior and our Teacher.

Our heavenly Father loves every one of us. He knows where we are on the path of life and He guides us gently to Him. We want to know Him, we want to follow Him.

Here are some other responses to our last newsletter.

Mark Peters in Ohio wrote: “Well spoken! We were so blessed by your email and the contents of life with Christ, versus the world. Oh, God help us to live as you, not as ourselves.”

Ron of Jesus Christ's Community in New York state wrote: “We agree about TV... for those who do the time is so much better spent in prayer and in loving service to those in need. Sometimes we can't see or hear the heart needs of others for our selfish entanglement with things like TV or video games, anything that distracts us from the labor of love... Bless you all and the work of your hands...”

Clarence Folsom, a retired Pentecostal preacher in Georgia wrote: “As for TV I do believe it can rob you of your time with God and I guess I am guilty of watching... But if a person believes it is wrong then for them to watch it becomes sin to them for they have went against their conscience.. So let every man judge himself in this matter.. But I am in agreement TV is a thing that has hurt many children...”

Michael Harris in Indiana wrote: “I am so interested in this Michael Hirsch that you mention! The name sounds a little familiar. What colony is he thinking of joining in Montana? I wish him the very best. Is there a way that I could get in contact with him? He is close to my age (I am 31).”

Miguel de Luis of the Canary Islands wrote about a poor barefoot, illiterate Romanian woman who always reminded her children of her favorite Bible verse: “Thy Word I have hid in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee.” (Psalm 119:11) As she was dying, her family and Christian friends gathered at her bedside. She said to them, "When I was hungry, you brought me food, when I was cold, you brought me firewood, when I was sick and lonely, you visited me." And then she closed her eyes and went to sleep.

We welcome your comments and suggestions regarding this newsletter and living the Christian life.

We close with Psalm 103, a psalm of David:

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases;
Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with loving kindness and compassion;
Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is His loving kindness toward those who fear Him.
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.
But the loving kindness of the LORD is from everlasting
to everlasting on those who fear Him,
To those who keep His covenant
And remember His precepts to do them.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!

May the joy of the Lord bless you today!

Don, Michi, Naomi and Jim Murphy
9036 N. Mexican Sage Place
Tucson, AZ 85742-4526