Why Leadings?

Not to lead, but to be led            -- by the Holy Spirit.

See Leader, Servant, or Slave? in the section below, "Walking the Walk".

Jack in Denali National Park, 2012.

God's Wrath

Why was Sodom destroyed? Ezekiel tells us in chapter 16, verse 49: "This was the sin of your sister, Sodom: Pride, full-ness of bread, and abundance of idleness. Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy."

That's also why Jerusalem was destroyed.

And now, with greed as our national virtue, what hope is there for the United States of America? We are afflicted by imperialistic pride, obesity, and entertainment addiction, and we are all called to do our part to "strengthen the hand of the poor and needy".

"Strengthen the hand" is the King James wording. Modern translations say "help the poor and needy." And there's a world of difference between the two. Helping the poor = as little as throwing some cash in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas time. That's charity. It's doing for, not doing with.

My Grandmother was right about charity. On a below-zero day, she went out on the back porch with a skillet to throw hot grease on the back-yard snow. She shivered as she re-entered the kitchen and said, "Wooooh, colder than charity."

Strengthening the hand is much different. We get personally involved with another person who needs help, and we work with her or him to get the needed help. That's risky. You're vulnerable. It takes prayer, time and patience. You need knowledge and wisdom from the LORD. There are great rewards, however. You get a brother or sister.

Strengthening the hand is great work for our churches -- which we ignore far more often than we perform. Why? Because we're afflicted with the Ameri-can curse of individualism. Christians are to be a tribe -- a tribe that takes care of each other. In Galatians 6:16, Paul calls us "the Israel of God" -- the new 13th tribe.

Jesus said, "The poor you shall always have with you." He didn't mean that as a curse -- the notion that the poor are an inevi-table nuisance and expense, to be hidden in the slums. Rather, He was saying, "You shall always be among the poor."

When you strengthen hands, you fulfill Deuteronomy 15:4-5: "However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God . . ." It's a glorious responsibility and promise.

And how do prosperous Americans fulfill that promise? Generally, by making sure they have no contact with people who are poor -- and we have been that way from our beginnings in the 17th century. Early villages in Massachusetts solved the problem by out-lawing poor people. Today, we deal with the same problem by confining the poor in urban reservations, our slums.

As the Supreme Court Bailiff says at the beginning of each session, "God save the United States of America..." 

Sunday
Jan222017

Chapter 2. The Next Chapter

The Lord’s answers to prayers are often spectacular. That happened to me on Friday evening, August 5, 2016, when I went to Dean and Jan Summers’ home for our regular dinner and worship. Two unexpected visitors were there—unexpected both to me and to the Summers. Jeff and Tami Kipphut, newly arrived in Seattle, had been recommended to friends who would provide hospitality during their stay.

The hospitality couple were unable to accommodate the Kipphuts because of conflicting schedules, so they referred them to a friend who lacked room, and she referred them to the Summers. So, on reflection, I realize that the Lord went to some trouble to set up a meeting between the Kipphuts and me.

Jeff and Tami Kipphut were spectacular answers to prayer. Why? Here’s some background. As I’ve written before, I lived in Christian community more than half of the decade from 2000 to 2010 and realized that Christian community was my natural and sensible way of living.

When I moved to Seattle in July, 2010, I promptly began looking for established Christian communities in Seattle. Seattle has dozens of communal living groups, but nearly all are focused on nature, ecology, and sustainability. I only found two that were Christian, and they were Christianity lite. I wasn’t interested.

During the summer of 2016, the Lord nudged me to renew my search. The results were disappointing, but I realized I really needed Christian community. In church, we talk a good game, but we don’t walk the walk. And the walk is clearly laid out in the final paragraphs of Acts 2 and Acts 4.

Acts 2:41-47: Those who accepted [Peter’s] message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. 

Acts 4:31-37: After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them.

From time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Those two passages are a heavy teaching. Almost no American Christians today take them seriously. Luke gives us a picture of Christian tribal living, where believers share possessions and mutually submit to each other, living in forgiveness, love of Jesus, and love of each other.

Note especially verse 4:34. “. . . there were no needy persons among them.” That is a fulfillment of Deuteronomy 15:4. “However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you.”

After the Exodus, the first time in Scripture that Deuteronomy 15:4 came to life was among Jesus’ first followers in Jerusalem. Remember that the Old Testament provision for Social Security was letting the poor glean the edges of the fields. They may have survived, but they were still poor. But in that first fellowship of Jesus people, all shared, all were equal, all prospered. Note that "prospering" doesn't mean you're rich. It means you have enough to share.

Note also that in Galatians 6:16, St. Paul calls Jesus’ followers “the Israel of God.” That label makes sense if we are living tribally, in genuine community.

This sort of Christian communal activity of course is non-American. We Americans expect to do what we want to do when we want to do it. The goal in life for most of us is to get as much as we can and keep as much of it as we can. After reading the ending of Acts 2, one comment was “Sounds to me like a bunch of Christian hippies. Or worse, Christian socialists.”

Well, it may not be their thing, but it is my thing. For two decades, I’ve been longing for real Christian community, for at least five reasons.

+ I have become a functional hermit. Yes, I’m living in an apartment complex with nearly 300 seniors. However, I’ve probably never seen half of them. Of the half I’ve seen, I hardly know any of them well. We’re in a large apartment complex, and we see some people in the dining room, but we’re not in real fellowship. We lead separate, lonely lives. In spite of many efforts by me to dissolve this isolation, I might as well still be living in the suburbs.

+ My cravings still enslave me. In Jesus, I can fight them, but too often, I don’t want to resist. I need Christian fellowship to be delivered. As I’ve said before, we can stand almost anything but freedom. In community there is protection from the world, the flesh, and the Devil, and I need that protection.

+ My life is undisciplined. Some days, I goof off the whole time. I know I should be reading the Bible and praying, contacting neighbors who are hurting, or doing more writing, but instead I’m on the computer wasting a day of my life.

+ My lifestyle usually separates me from Jesus. I seldom have anyone to call me to account for my misuse of time, skills, and finances.

+ I have longed for an integrated lifestyle. Three decades ago I was director for Sign of the Cross Housing. Then my life was fragmented between job and family. My wife, Margaret, commented, “Of course, Jack has a mistress—his job.” 

However, I experienced this fragmentation vividly again in September, 2016, when I was at the Christian Community Development Association conference in Los Angeles. My heart bled for several of these wonderful people who were conducting marvelous urban ministries—and shredding their lives. I know, because I’ve been there. They’re devoting their lives to working with and for the poor—and that ministry is so demanding that it can damage their relationship with their spouse and children.

But a devoted Christian’s life doesn’t have to be so difficult. In the communal living which God commends in Acts 2 and 4, each person has a lot of rough edges that need polishing through mutual forgiveness, but life is integrated. Husbands and wives are in ministry throughout the week, but work and home life are coordinated, not in opposition. Worship is an on-going event, not a specialized activity separated from the other six days.

So, on August 5, 2016, I became excited when I learned that Jeff and Tami Kipphut were scouts from the Bruderhof to explore possibilities of establishing communities in the Northwest.

What is the Bruderhof? The Bruderhof web site states: "We are an intentional Christian community of more than 2,700 people living in twenty-three settlements on four continents. We are a fellowship of families and singles, practicing radical discipleship in the spirit of the first church in Jerusalem. We gladly renounce private property and share everything in common. Our vocation is a life of service to God, each other, and you."

Eberhard and Emmy Arnold. Photo from "Christian History Magazine"History: "Our community was founded in 1920 in Germany by the Protestant theologian Eberhard Arnold, his wife Emmy, and her sister Else von Hollander. Appalled by mounting social injustice and the horrors of World War I, they sought answers in Jesus’ teachings, especially his Sermon on the Mount. Through this search they felt a call to radical discipleship: to give up everything for Christ.

"They moved from their Berlin townhouse to a remote village, Sannerz. There, with a handful of like-minded seekers, they began to live in community of goods after the example of the first church in Jerusalem. Soon they adopted the name Bruderhof – literally, 'place of brothers.'

"Over the next fifteen years, the community’s ranks swelled with young people from all over Europe, eventually numbering 150. After Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, however, the community became a target of National Socialist oppression because of its stand of conscience. For instance, members refused to use the Heil Hitler greeting, serve in the German army, or accept a government teacher in their school. In 1937, the secret police dissolved the community at gunpoint, seizing its assets, imprisoning several members, and giving the rest forty-eight hours to leave.

"With the help of Mennonite, Quaker, and Catholic friends, all members were eventually reunited in England, and by 1940 the refugee community had doubled in size through an influx of English members. Meanwhile, World War II had broken out, and the British government advised the group either to accept the internment of its German nationals or to leave the country.

"Determined to remain together, almost all members of the community – mostly city-raised Europeans – emigrated to Paraguay. There they spent the next twenty years as pioneer farmers in a harsh, unfamiliar climate, while also founding a hospital that served thousands of local patients. Three members remained in England and soon were building up a new community there as dozens of newcomers continued to arrive.

"In 1954, the first American community was founded in Rifton, New York. Today there are twenty-two Bruderhof communities in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Paraguay, and Australia."

Beliefs: "Our life together is founded on Jesus, the Christ and son of God. We desire to love him, to follow him, to obey his commandments, and to testify in word and deed to the coming of his kingdom here on earth. (John 1:1-14; 14:6; Col. 1:1-15-20.)

"Our faith is grounded in the Bible, the authoritative witness to the living Word of God. Through the Holy Spirit, we seek to be guided in all things by the New and Old Testaments. (2 Tim 3:14-17.)

"We hold to the teaching and example of the early Christians and affirm the apostolic rule of faith in the triune God as stated in the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds. (Acts 2:42-4)

"We stem from the Anabaptist tradition, but feel akin to all who are pledged to full discipleship of Jesus. We recognize his power to work in all people, regardless of their creed or walk of life."

Web Site: For more information on Bruderhof family life, education, mutual care, living simply, and the three Bruderhof companies, go to their web site, www.Bruderhof.com

YouTube: Probably the best references for the Bruderhof are found on YouTube. The short videos show what life is like at the Bruderhof. In so many ways is similar to ours; in so many ways it's different. See for yourself. www.youtube.com/user/BruderhofCommunities

Readings: Recommended are:

Plough Magazine and Plough Publishing at www.plough.com/en

A brief history of the Bruderhof by Charles E. Moore in Christian History Magazine,        https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/our-garden-must-be-gods-garden/

And at least four books:

Baum, Markus. Against The Wind. [A biography of Eberhard Arnold] Walden, NY: Plough Publishing House, 1998.

Arnold, Emily. A Joyful Pilgrimage (formerly Torches Together.) Walden, NY: Plough Publishing House, 1999.

The Bruderhof. Foundations of our Faith & Calling, Walden, NY: Plough Publishing House, 2012.

Mommsen, Peter. Homage to a Broken Man. Walden, NY: Plough Publishing House, 2015.

As I thought about Jeff and Tami Kipphut, I realized that they are apostles—sent to us in the Northwest to establish a new Bruderhof community. I looked forward to developing events in our region. However, events were also developing back at the New York Bruderhof Mount Community. Jeff is a teacher in the Bruderhof consolidated high school. Another teacher was covering for Jeff while he and Tami were in the Northwest, but her husband suffered a heart attack. She had to care for him, so the Kipphuts had to return to the Mount.

Family Concerns

In the midst of my wondering what the Lord has in store for me, my family has doubts and questions. The Bruderhof has not come to them as good news. From their viewpoint, I'm thinking of trading my blood family for a remote, foreign family.

“In joining the Bruderhof, you’d give them all your investments?” Yes. “But what happens if you discover later that this isn’t the life for you? Do they restore your funds?” No. However, that donation doesn’t occur until after a year’s novitiate. By then, I’d know whether or not I want to make a life’s commitment.

“Would you be able to attend your grandchildren’s graduations?” Probably not. But there are two responses to that question. First, I may not live that long anyway. Second, each teen grandchild can have a summertime visit with me at the Bruderhof. That will let them experience an alternative world in Jesus, which otherwise they might never know.

“Dad, you easily become enthusiastic about concepts. And then, in a while, you move on. I worry that you’ll get in the Bruderhof and then become disillusioned.” That’s a valid concern. Visits to the Bruderhof and my year’s novitiate will let me know whether this is the life for me.

“If you join the Bruderhof, you’ll be giving up your free will,” my son challenged. “Yes,” I replied, “but you also give up most of your free will when you marry.” “And that’s why I’m not married,” he replied.

My son was equally blunt about another matter. “You’re thinking of joining a cult.” I disagreed, but that too is a concern, and that’s why I’m willing to dip into capital and fly to New York state to make a Bruderhof visit.

In my eighties, I’m still ready to explore and expand. Early in 2017, I expect to visit a Bruderhof in the Hudson River Valley and experience their life together in Jesus.

[Recommended: The following chapter relates some of my experiences at the Bruderhof Mount Community on the Hudson in early 2017. Scroll down to the section on the right, "Christian Community," and click on Chapter 3.]

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Purpose of this blog is to compile several books for my grandchildren to read in 20 years.

Copyright  ©  2017 by Jack Towe

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