Dear friends, brothers and sisters in Christ,
We greet you in the Name of Jesus, our Lord and Savior!
The year 2005 is almost over. It has been a blessed year. Every one of us is
well under God’s grace and love. One big event this year was the beautiful
blanket that Naomi crocheted for Don. It is shown in the photo below on Don in
the office (it’s not actually that cold here in southern Arizona). The other big
events this year were our trips.
In August, Jim and Naomi went to visit Patrick and his family at the James Valley Hutterite church in Manitoba. After they came back, Don and Michi went to visit Mike and his family and David in the Seattle area. Then we rented a car and went to visit our old friend Hutch in central Washington, foster daughter Stephanie in Spokane (we went together to the Healing Rooms in Spokane) and then on to visit 4 of the 5 Hutterite colonies in Washington. From Spokane, we flew to Grand Forks, ND, to visit the Forest River Hutterite colony. Pat and his family came down to visit us there.
Does our Father God want us to move to the Forest River colony? Or does He have something else for us? We are waiting. We want to do His will. Please pray for us. We have received invitations to get involved with helping to form a Hutterite-like church in Ohio and another in Maine.
At the CDO church the other evening, the young speaker was talking about Christmas and said that Christ came into the world to die for our sins. It seems that he, like most Christians, see Jesus mainly as a baby in the manager and as a sacrifice on the cross. But is this the correct view? Don wondered about it and spent some time going through the Gospels to see what Jesus had to say about why He came into the world.
Jesus said, "I came to preach good news." (Mk 1:38, Luke 4:43)
Jesus said, "I have come as a light into the world." (John 12:46)
Jesus said, "I have come into the world to bear witness to the truth." (John 18:38)
Jesus said, "I came to cast fire on the earth, to cause division." (Luke 12:49-51)
Jesus said, "It is for judgment that I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind." (John 9:39)
Jesus came to establish the kingdom of God here on earth and those who obey and follow His teachings are citizens of His kingdom. That radical view of Jesus is seldom presented today. However, in his book titled "The Kingdom That Turned The World Upside Down", David Bercot brings this truth back to light.
We have sent copies of this book to a dozen Hutterite colonies and several individuals. Some of the readers of this newsletter may be unfamiliar with the Hutterites, a church that began in 1528. They are Anabaptists, like the Amish and the Mennonites, but they differ in that they follow the example of the early church in living together with all things in common (Acts 2:44-47 and Acts 4:32-5:11). They are not allowed to have any assets or income of their own (Luke 14:33, Luke 12:33, Mt 6:19-34) nor are they allowed to go to outside courts to settle disputes (Mt 5:25, 39, I Cor 6:1-11). There are about 500 Hutterite churches in the US and Canada (more properly called the Hutterian Brethren Church).
Don just finished reading a 385 page book titled "The Courts and the Colonies" and subtitled "The Litigation of Hutterite Church Disputes", written by Alvin Esau who is a professor of law at the University of Manitoba. The book, which was published last year by the University of British Columbia, is about the recent lawsuits involving Hutterite colonies, mostly in Manitoba.
Up until just a few years ago, the Hutterian Brethren Church had an almost 500 year history of unity but now, in the last 15 years, about 10 percent of the Hutterite churches have split from the rest and are under the leadership of a Hutterite bishop in Manitoba, who before the split was the head elder of all the Hutterite churches.
A central cause of the split was over the issue of going to outside courts to settle internal disputes, usually money or property. All property in a Hutterite church is owned by a non-profit organization. This becomes an issue when someone decides to leave the church and wants what they consider to be their fair share of the common church property, property that they lived and worked on all their lives. In the United States, because of the separation of Church and State in our constitution, such disputes are not so easily taken to law courts but in Canada they can be.
About 15 years ago the former head elder began initiating law suites in Manitoba to settle disputes with people who left or were told to leave Hutterite churches there. This eventually resulted in his being removed as the head elder since going to law was supposed to be forbidden in the Hutterite church (and in any church that claims to be followers of Christ). Other factors involved in his dismissal included his financial investment schemes and his relationship with the excommunicated Bruderhof group in New York. His dismissal caused a split in the church as the former head elder refused to accept his discipline and he formed a new denomination consisting of those Hutterite churches that agreed with him.
The split is more than just over going to court; it really is a division between the liberals and the conservatives. The liberals, although obviously wrong on the issue of going to court, do have attractive features such as being open to outsiders, supporting missions and being less rigid on clothing and living issues. The conservatives appear to have little interest in missions and are a bit strong on clothing and such things. Of course, when compared with non-Hutterite churches, even the liberal Hutterites will appear very conservative.
The ideal church is one that is full of love and power, Godly love and Holy Spirit power. Is there such a church today? A church where the presence of the Lord God is so strong that its members live in peace and joy? (Isaiah 55:12) A church where each member loves the other members as they love themselves? Is it possible to love one another as you love yourself when you live in private property and have enough to live on while another member is in need? (I John 3:17) Of course not! (Although some people’s concept of love can be quite strange, such as saying that a person can in love kill others, as some ‘Christians’ have said in regards to the war in Iraq.)
Love must be shown in various ways, and not just in having equality in possessions as early church did and the Hutterites do today. There must also be the humility of considering the other members of the church to be more important than you (Phil 2:3).
True love is shown when the church members are producing the fruit of the Holy Spirit that is active in their lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, fidelity, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23).
According to the apostle Paul, the Holy Spirit produces not only the Godly fruit but also gives power to the church in the form of heavenly gifts to the members of the church (I Cor 12:7-11). These are the gifts of Wisdom, Knowledge, Faith, Healing, Miracles, Prophecy, Distinguishing of Spirits, Praying with Their Spirit (‘speaking in tongues’ as in I Cor 14:2) and Interpretation of Tongues (I Cor 14:13).
Many people, including many Hutterites, do not believe that the Holy Spirit still gives these gifts. Therefore, of course, they will never receive these gifts because they do not seek them (I Cor 14:1). Some will even say these things are of the devil, thereby, according to Jesus, committing an unforgivable sin (Mt 12:31-32).
If the Bible is correct, a church with Holy Spirit power will have the gifts of the Holy Spirit manifested in its members. And Jesus says that its power will even include the keys to heaven! (Mt 16:19, John 20:23)
So when we search for a church full of love and power, do we settle for less that the fullness that God has provided for us?
In our daily church services this week we are going through the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus asked: "Who do you said that I am?" (Mt 16:15)
Don, Michi, Naomi and Jim Murphy