If you were to drive to New York City, you would need to cross the Hudson River to get there. The Hudson River separates islands that make up some of New York City from the mainland. Manhattan, for example, is isolated by natural “motes” on each side. The Hudson River separates it from New Jersey, while the Harlem River and East River separate it on the east side from the rest of the city boroughs. You can cross this barrier by passing through a tunnel or crossing over a bridge. Without these, you would need to pass through the waters to complete the journey.
Maybe we think times are not so prosperous. But if we open our eyes a little and see our standard of living, and if we look around at other countries, we will see that we are living in prosperous times. God is very interested that we maintain a simple lifestyle even in times of prosperity, and that we are examples of the believers in our lifestyle.
Recently I saw a sign that boldly proclaimed that America is a Christian nation. I was not able to figure out the thinking behind that statement. I felt more kinship with Isaiah in chapter 1 verse 4, where he said, “Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.”
What shall I do? We all find ourselves either asking that question or at least pondering it at times. Recently as I was driving down the interstate I saw a sign that read, “West bound lanes closed ahead. All traffic must exit.” I was faced with the question, “What shall I do?” Since there was no convenient alternate route, I made the mental decision to stay as long as I possibly could, then find a detour. Travelling went fine for a while, but before I knew it there were brake lights ahead of me, and travelling came to a stop. Things had not gone as planned!
One of the greatest resources that God has given to the Christian church is old people. Blessed is the congregation that has many of them! The proverb writer tells us that “the hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness” (Pro 16:31).
The wearing of a plain suit coat for men has been a blessing to the Mennonite church for many years. It represents one effort to keep the world’s fashion out of the church and maintain a degree of uniformity. We consider this subject occasionally and understand what relevance this practice holds for us today.
I recently remarked, after a particularly beautiful rain, that it was just what my raspberries needed. One individual who heard my comment asked me a simple question, “Do your raspberries have seeds?” I assume that his question meant that he did not appreciate seeds in his raspberries. I thought about Genesis 1:11, where God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself...” From the beginning, before the fall, God planned that fruit would have seeds.
The book of 1 Samuel opens with a spiritually dark picture. In Chapter 3 Verse 3, we are told that the Word of the Lord was precious. The Word of the Lord should always be precious to His people, but this is not what this word means in this context. Here precious means rare or uncommon. Why would God allow His Word to become rare or uncommon?
In the Old Testament, God’s Word came to His people through the medium of faithful prophets. The Holy Spirit would also come upon certain individuals at specific times for specific needs.
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.