They were called the Halbtaeufer or Halfway-Anabaptists. These people sympathized with the Swiss Anabaptists but never left the state churches to join Anabaptist brotherhoods. Some sympathized because they recoiled at the horrific treatment these defenseless brethren endured as they were chased, tortured, and slaughtered at the hands of the Swiss authorities. Others were convinced that the Anabaptists practiced a pure Gospel that they themselves did not have the courage to practice openly.
I. What Is Idolatry?
The word idolatry often brings a mind picture of heathen people bowing down to images of wood and stone. We think of Asia or Africa with their strange gods, of stone, of fire, of weird creatures, and as a result can think that civilized Western society is free from idolatry. But let us look closer at what idolatry really is and what God’s Word teaches us about it.
More than twenty years ago, I received an unsettling phone call. The caller was a Mennonite minister that I had met earlier during some church meetings. He shared that he had just concluded a conversation with a group of church brethren in which he had mentioned that a non-Mennonite couple in Pennsylvania had just been baptized into a conservative Mennonite church.
“Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous” (1Pe 3:8). This exhortation to us all is the only place in Scripture where the adjective courteous is used. The origin of the Greek word translated courteous is two words – one meaning ‘friendly’ and the other meaning ‘to rein in or curb the feelings of the mind’ – combined to form a Greek word meaning ‘friendly of mind.’ What a fitting definition! We all know that courtesy is not simply good behavior, but polite behavior.
“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt 5:13–16).
Robert is angry. One of the causes for his anger is because he has not learned to accept a “no” from his parents when he was young. His parents were easy going. Robert could pretty well have his way in whatever he set out to do. Now Robert has younger brothers and they are treated the same way. Mom and Dad seem to look the other way when the household erupts into vicious sibling rivalry. Schedules are made to be broken. all this makes Robert angry and bitter. He has been secretly viewing DVD’s and listening to rock music, but he is not sure it would matter if his parents would catch him.
Death is a reality that comes to all people, whether saved or unsaved. It is no respecter of persons, families, age, or race. It often gives us no warning.
Death ends earth-life opportunities. The finality of an eternal destiny after death sobers us. The separation of death brings us grief.
The weather is cooler, the days are shorter and the garden is dormant. All signs of creation herald the onset of fall and remind us that winter is soon to follow. The sign in front of the store was nestled in some straw bales with smooth orange pumpkins set to each side. From the sign itself, smiling snowflakes encouraged the passerby to purchase a variety of products from within the store with the message “be prepared for the holidays.” The arrangement of the sign and decor was simple enough. White snowflakes on an arctic blue background made the sign simple enough to read.
I bought my first computer over fifteen years ago while teaching Summer Bible School in Minnesota. It came with a confusing assortment of cables and software that left me somewhat overwhelmed. As the Brother who sold me the machine set himself to the task of hooking the various parts together; he explained that there was Bible software, word processing software, even encyclopedias that would run on this amazing machine. He confidently declared, “You might not understand it now, but this machine will change the way you live.” I didn’t understand.
The presence of color in the universe truly is a testimony of the greatness of the Creator. God created the light that we receive from the sun to be a mixture of all the primary colors. The prismatic effect of water droplets separates these colors so that they can be seen individually in a rainbow.