Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Second Baptism: A Scriptural Guide

Thesis:   Followers of Jesus will suffer and be persecuted in their lives.  They need not seek this out, but they should expect it and rejoice when it comes, they should not avoid it, and not fight against it.  In the end, it is only through suffering that we are saved.   Even as the first baptism takes us ritually through death into the life of Jesus, so suffering, the second baptism, takes us through death into the resurrection from the dead in Jesus.

All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
II Timothy 3:12

 For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.  For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,
I Peter 2:19-21

A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household!
 Matthew 10:24-25

If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.
 John 15:18-21 

Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin.
 Hebrews 12:2-4

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
 Matthew 5:10-12

We exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
 Romans 5:3-5

 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him. Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, 'Father, save Me from this hour '? But for this purpose I came to this hour.
 John 12:24-27

Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel's sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.
 Mark 10:29-30

The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
 Romans 8:16-18

I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions.
Colossians 1:24

He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
 II Corinthians 12:9-10

If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it.
Mark 8:34-35

Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.
 Mark 13:12-13

Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.

Acts 14:22

Sunday, May 26, 2013

What Does It Mean To Be An Anabaptist?

Dirk Willems rescuing the officer arresting him.
The Anabaptist tradition
In 1525 the reformation of the church in the West was just beginning. There was a lot of excitement about Luther’s reforms, not least of all in Zurich, Switzerland.  Zwingli was leading the city leaders into a reform there based on Scripture alone, but many of the reformation’s supporters there didn’t think that Zwingli was going far enough.  They noticed that when he spoke about certain issues, that he was more interested in his theological point, rather than actually brining the church back into obedience to Jesus.  So they baptized themselves in the name of Jesus, making each other citizens of Jesus’ kingdom instead of any kingdom on earth.  This movement grew, and they were called ana-baptists by their enemies, because it was claimed that they would re-baptize their members.  But in reality, the Anabaptists affirmed that they were spreading the one true baptism—an entrance into God’s kingdom through true understanding and not just assent to the society of the church.  This movement has continued to this day.
What Anabaptists Believe:
  1. Jesus only
“No one knows the Father except the Son”
Anabaptists hold to no theology except that stated by Jesus himself.  Even as Jesus supersedes the Old Testament law, Jesus also rules over all theology that the church itself created, whether that by Paul or by Calvin or by N.T. Wright.  And the focus of our belief is not a Jesus we create—such as a glorified, theological Jesus or a model of a historical Jesus or a cultural Jesus—but the Jesus of the gospels.  Thus, the four gospels lead us to interpret all things through the words and life of Jesus.
Since Anabaptists affirm the superiority of Jesus, we also recognize the weakness of all things human to achieve truth or justice.  Thus, any particular denomination or creed is only in a process of getting closer to or further from Jesus, but no church could ever be complete in and of itself.  Various governments may attempt to achieve justice, but they all fail.  Schools attempt to teach truth, but no matter how precise they are, they fail to achieve the full truth that Jesus gives us.
  1. Peace
“Have salt in yourselves and be at peace.”
Anabaptists are a peaceful people.  We wish to make changes in the world, but not through violence or hate speech.  Rather, we believe that we need to display the actions we want in others.  If we want peace in the world, we cannot create peace through violence.  Yes, dramatic change must happen for the world to have peace, but God can create the dramatic change—it is our responsibility to be the ideal community the world must become.
  1. Community
“Love one another”
Following Jesus cannot be done separated from others.  Jesus, again and again, commands us to “love” and love cannot be done in isolation.  We must support each other in communities and our communities must reach out to others outside of our community to display our love.  We must also support and provide hospitality so that no one within our community has need.
  1. Believer’s Baptism
“Those who believe and are baptized are saved.”
Today, it may not seem as important as an issue, but the Anabaptist communities originally began as groups who baptized only those who could understand and be faithful to Jesus.  Thus, Anabaptists don’t baptize infants or assume that everyone within a particular social group is a follower of Jesus.  That is a personal commitment that each person must determine individually, and lives out in their own lives.
  1. Love of Enemies
“Do good to those who despitefully use you.”
Because we will not cause others to be afraid of us, that makes us vulnerable to others.  Jesus showed us that even if people do disrespectful, hateful or even violent acts, that does not mean that we should return such acts in kind.  Rather, we are to display God’s love even—nay, especially—to those who do terrible things to us.  In order to have security, we do not depend on our strength, but on God’s.
  1. Communion with the outcast
“The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”
Anabaptists know what it means to be outcast, because they have been rejected.  But we are also to reach out to those who have been rejected by society.  Rather than create another outcast group, the Anabaptists connect with those who are hated, and welcome them as Jesus would.
  1. Assistance to the poor
“Sell your possessions and give to the poor.”
Jesus helped the poor with what resources he had, so also do Anabaptists.  We see the needs of the poor, and rather than simply ignoring their basic needs, we meet them with love in relationship.  We understand that it isn’t enough just to give to the poor, but to connect with them as well, because without relationship we cannot love.
What is the difference between Anabaptist and Mennonite?
Both Anabaptists and Mennonites have the same historical foundation, and much of their understanding of Jesus and life is similar.  Historically, the Mennonites have a more complex life than Anabaptists, relating to particular ethnic groups, particular nationalities, forming denominations and mission groups and going through serious cultural changes over the last fifty years.  Mennonites have often tried to follow Anabaptist ideals, but as a conglomerate of human institutions, they have often gotten caught up in the concerns of the cultures around them.
Anabaptists, however, are found not just in certain denominations or ethnic groups, nor are they limited to a certain historic line.  Anabaptists are people who choose Jesus over any human institution, and choose to follow Jesus’ ethical pattern as a personal choice.  They may gather in any denomination or create their own, separate communities.  They aren’t bound to a particular theology or ideology, but are separate from them all.  There are many Anabaptists within Mennonite groups, but they usually are a minority of them.  There are also many Anabaptists outside of Mennonite groups, but count all people who follow Jesus, no matter what group they are a part of, as a part of their global family.

If you want to know more about Anabaptism, then please check out the following blogs or podcasts that give different perspectives on what it means to be Anabaptist:

Friday, May 24, 2013

Destruction of the World Corporate System

Injustice reigns in the earth. Capitalism is corrupt, only granting freedom to the wealthy, while the poor get ground in the dust. The 200 wealthiest people in the world, all heads of corporations, control 40% of the world’s wealth, while the poorest 20% of the world live on 1% of the world’s wealth. The 40 wealthiest Western nations have 85% of the world’s wealth.

Perhaps such disparity in the world today wouldn’t be so bad if the governments and corporations of the world were concerned with justice in the world and providing equity for the poor. Instead, the wealthy of the world use their economic power as the whip on the backs of the oppressed.

The developing countries of the world are required to pay a huge amount of interest on loans, and so unable to pay back the loans, and thus their people starve. On the other hand, the United States has a trillion-dollar debt that they can refuse to pay, if they want. The corporations of the West use Chinese labor to do the menial tasks that the workers of the West find demeaning or that don’t pay enough. Then the Chinese oppress their people, telling them where to work, how to worship, where to live and how many children to have. The world corporations are creating oppression as well in Vietnam, Mexico, Haiti, Bangladesh, Singapore, and multitudes of other developing nations. And all this, while not discouraging them to cease the oppression of ethnic, religious and political minorities.

The governments of the West, especially the United States, are controlled by the corporations, who gain benefits in how much taxes they pay, what tariffs are to be imposed on imports and which developing nations are to be given benefits and which governments are to be destroyed by the U.S. military. And even the nations that receive benefits, they receive it with a price tag that requires them to act in the benefit of the West. Colonization may be dead, but the North American and European nations are controlling the world economically through the UN, the WTO and through their diplomatic carrots and sticks.

In the twenty-first century, economic power is absolute power. And absolute power corrupts absolutely.

The poor are crying out in opposition to the world corporate structure. Protests are happening all over the world. The world press is decrying the controls of the West- although the American press never acknowledges a peep of the worldwide outcry.

What will happen? Will the poor rise up and overthrow their oppressors? Will there be unification among the workers who will overcome the wealth and power of the corporations? Will a great class war happen that will change the economic structure of the world and set all people free economically? Will there be real change in humanity that will provide justice for everyone?

Give me a break.

Let’s look at this historically. Those who were truly poor have never been successful in rising up against their oppressors. From the rise of the Lombards in the 1400s to the Peasants’ War in the early 1500s to the Rebellion of John Brown in the mid 1800s to the ethnic cleansing in Rwanda in the late 1900s, when the truly poor violently rise up against their oppressors, it only ends in tragedy and in the oppressors having an example of why they need to oppress.

Violence and resistance can create an economic change, such as the French Revolution, the Labor Parties, the Communist Revolutions of Russia and China. But the economic benefits are limited to a particular class of people, usually the middle class. Thus, the poor are not assisted at all, but only those who had enough power to enact change themselves.

This is not real change. It is just trading one set of oppressors for another. And this is a summary of the history of the world, for the last 10,000 years.

There is, however, another way for real change to occur. There is a way for the world corporate system to be destroyed and to be replaced by justice. But it requires much more than most people are willing to give. It does not require power, but humility. Not control, but persecution and death.

We need to recognize that the only force that will change things in the world for good is God. God alone has the power and authority to change the world permanently. God alone has the compassion and desire to help the poor, the lowest of the low (Check it out in the Bible- Exodus 22:21-27). God alone, of all the powers that have ever existed, has dedicated himself to helping those who are truly in need (Psalm 146:3-9). And he has promised that any governmental, corporate or religious power that oppressed the poor, he will destroy (Psalm 82:1-8; Revelation 18:1-24).

However, God requires the poor to do one most important thing- to cry out to him for help. The poor must recognize his authority over them and then cry out to him (Exodus 22:23; II Chronicles 7:14; Psalm 18:6-17; Psalm 34:17; Psalm 107). They must turn from the evil things they do- from oppressing their neighbor and do good to all, and then God will listen to them (Micah 3:4; Hosea 8:2-3; Ezekiel 18:27). And those who are poor must ask God persistently for God’s deliverance from oppression and he will give it (Luke 18:2-8). Such humility is required from God to gain freedom from oppression (Luke 18:10-14).

And this way of life needs to be given to others who are poor. Many need to be shown and taught this way of life in order for the oppression of the world corporate structure to be destroyed. If a single person cries out against an oppressor, then that one will be delivered from the one oppressor. If a multitude of poor, all around the world, cry out against the world corporate structure, then the whole world will be changed. This means that we need a multitude of people dedicated to God and to cry out to him for justice to change the world.

But even the humility and the training of others is not enough. We need to prove the oppression. We need to show that oppression really is occurring- for no power overthrows another without proof. This means that we need to put ourselves in the front lines of oppression. We need to show God and the world that the world corporate structure is willing to sacrifice and kill others, but not itself.

How do we do this? Through non-violent, public outcry against oppression. Through standing in front of the violent and haters of the poor, and telling them to stop or they will be destroyed by God. Through praying for God’s justice in their presence.

And then letting them oppress us.

When they want to arrest us, we let them. When they want to punish us, we let them. When they want to hit us, we let them and we do not hit back. Instead, we make a public spectacle of their oppression. We give them an opportunity to show how evil they really are.

And they will be destroyed. By God. By someone God appoints. But the world will change.

Some say, How can you know this? This has never happened before! It can never succeed! Wrong. It has succeeded. And the poor have been released by this very method. Martin Luther King Jr. used this method against those oppressing the black communities, even allowing himself to be martyred. Gandhi used this method, systematically destroying the power of the British. The Anabaptists of the Sixteenth Century used this method- thousands dying for the Truth- and changed the face of Christianity. The Waldensians used this method, and caused there to be a resurgence of concern for the poor, including the powerful Franciscan movement. And all of these successful movements were sourced from one person- Jesus.

Jesus himself came to assist the poor. He brought them freedom and stood against the oppressive authorities that used their power for injustice. But rather than begin a violent revolution, he suffered and was executed as a rebel. And it was because of this that a movement sprang up among the poor that changed the ethical outlook of the world- Christianity. And through Jesus the Jewish government was destroyed and the Roman government was changed forever. And while Christianity has been used for many evils throughout the centuries, the teaching and life of Jesus has been used as an example of the most positive world changers that has existed.

Jesus’ method of world change is just as outlined above-
a. Do no evil, but do good to the needy according to God’s love (Mark 1:15; Matthew 7:12);
b. Cry out to God for justice (Luke 18:1-8);
c. Declare to the oppressors the judgment they will face from God (Matthew 10:7, 28)
d. Allow them to oppress you to display their evil (Matthew 5:38-48)
e. Teach the poor the message of freedom from oppression through the way of Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20)
f. And justice will prevail through the power of God! (Matthew 10:24-27)

The world system will be changed! 
but only through the way of Jesus.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Karma and Grace


God has made every one of us with two distinct moralities, battling like two dogs after the same bone.

 The morality of Karma sees every person as unequal.  Some deserve more reward, some deserve more punishment, but all deserve uniquely.  It is the task of Karma to protect, to preserve, to provide equality.

The morality of Grace sees every person as the same.  All have the same requirements to survive, to thrive, and grace gives.  Grace sees lack and responds with compassion and then action.  Grace is charity unhindered.  It is the task of Grace to nourish, to empower, to provide opportunity.

Karma and Grace are in all of us.  We all want to punish those whom we see are the worst offenders in our world.  We all want to assist those who we see are most in need in our world.  We all judge, we all empathize.

All moral arguments are based on who or what deserves which treatment.


The sinner stands before us,

Having broken the greatest of all

Having destroyed all sense of decency

Having ruined all that is good.

Karma tells us:

“He deserves nothing good!

He was born in sin,

No good dwells in him

Surrender him to the judgment of God

Get him out of our sight!”

Grace tells us:

“We are no more deserving than he

To grant mercy is to be like God

Forgiveness allows us to be forgiven

Welcome, feed and encourage.”

We receive what we give

Employers see the world in terms of karma:
“Work well for me and you will be granted pay.
Work poorly and you will be fired.”

Religions see the world in terms of karma:
“We all deserve God’s punishment.
If others do us wrong, their punishment is rightly deserved.”

Parents see their parenting in terms of karma:
“Obey and you will be granted some limited freedoms.
Disobey and face wrath.
Harm my kid and you will die.”

Governments see the world in terms of karma.
“Break the law and you will be punished.
(unless the law is broken by the lawmakers).”

Jesus sees the world in terms of grace.
“Judge not lest you be judged.”
“The merciful will have mercy.”
“Forgive and you will be forgiven.”
“Welcome the prodigal.”

How would our religion, government, jobs and parenting look different if we are following Jesus?