A Tale of Two Ordnungs

By David Servant

Before I moved to Smicksburg, Pennsylvania, I always assumed that Amish communities across the nation were all the same. Like most “English” Americans, I thought that the people who drove horse-drawn buggies all followed a uniform way of life. Once I relocated, however, into the heart of Pennsylvania’s third-largest Amish community, and in proximity to several other Amish communities, I began to realize there were differences that make just about every Amish community unique in some way. I learned that there was something called the “Ordnung,” that governed every aspect of Amish life, and that every community’s Ordnung is different. So there are actually hundreds of different Ordnungs among the Amish. Some are more conservative and some are more liberal.

A Tale of Two Ordnungs

As an example, I learned that it is OK for Smicksburg Amish, among whom I live, to ride in cars and even pay English drivers to drive them, but they are not permitted to own or drive cars. The Johnsonburg Amish, however, just 30 minutes away, are permitted to own vehicles, but they are not allowed to drive them. So they also hire English drivers.

I’ve asked Amish folks what the moral difference is between sitting on the right side and left side of the front seat of a car, but so far, no one has been able to give me an answer. I’ve also wondered how paying someone to do what would be a sin for me to do is any different than committing that sin myself. If I paid someone to murder my enemy and then said, “I would never commit murder,” everyone would know I was only fooling myself.

The Truth About the Johnsonburg Awakening

By David Servant

News travels very fast among Amish folks! So you’ve probably already heard about the Johnsonburg Awakening in Pennsylvania. I’ve been blessed to have witnessed it from the day it began, which was January 31st of this year. That was the day I met Jonas ——–, an Amish minister who had been born again a few weeks earlier, and Levi ——–, an Amish bishop who had been born again a few years earlier.

The truth about the johnsonburg Amish awakening

Both of those Amish men, of course, had been baptized when they were teenagers, and according to Amish belief, that is when they were supposed to have been born again. But by the time I met them, they both had come to realize that they had not actually been born again when they were baptized as teenagers. When they were baptized then, they said and did what they were expected to say and do, but they did not possess a genuine faith in Jesus Christ. It wasn’t until years later that they truly believed in Jesus—as evidenced by their genuine repentance and subsequent heart-obedience to His commandments. That is when they were truly born again. When someone truly believes in Jesus, Jesus becomes their Lord, because that is who He is. Jesus is Lord! In fact, the Bible calls Him the King of kings and Lord of lords! One day, He will rule the entire world. If Jesus is not your Lord, you don’t actually believe in Him. You may think you do, but you don’t. As the apostle James wrote, faith without works is dead, useless, and cannot save anyone (see James 2:14-26). And as the apostle Paul wrote, “For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living” (Romans 14:9).

When Jesus becomes someone’s Lord, that is when they actually believe in Him, and that is when they are born again. That is the spiritual “regeneration” and “new birth” that are both mentioned in the 1632 Dordrecht Confession, an experience that was the centerpiece of all the original Anabaptists’ faith. Your Anabaptist ancestors hundreds of years ago were all born again, just like Levi and Jonas. If they could speak to you from heaven, they would tell you that what I’m writing to you is the truth.

To Everyone Who is Hoping to be Good Enough to Get into Heaven

By David Servant

Dear Friends,

If you are a regular reader of my monthly e-teachings, you know that I’ve been working for more than a year on writing consecutive chapters of a book that is tentatively titled, Sex is for Christians. I’ve been publishing those chapters each month as e-teachings. This month, however, I’ve taken a pause in that almost-finished writing project to pen the article below. The reason is because I’ve found myself in the middle of what seems to be a once-in-a-three-hundred-year opportunity to serve some steeped-in-tradition local Amish people who are being born again. My family and I have been helping them launch home Bible studies, something that is not only not done in Amish culture, but something that is actively discouraged and sometimes forbidden. Amish leaders have discovered that Amish people who start reading the Bible often leave the Amish. The reason they do, of course, is because they discover that salvation is not something that is earned by keeping hundreds of man-made rules, but by faith in Jesus Christ.

Although I’ve written the article below to help unsaved Amish people, many of the points could be helpful for Christians who know that, as James wrote, faith without works is dead and cannot save. Those folks sometimes struggle with wondering if they have sufficient works to validate their faith. Similarly, some folks who know that holiness is part of the salvation equation have questions about the assurance of their salvation. Others wonder about the legitimacy of the idea of sinless perfection. If you are in any of those categories, keep reading!

David


For everyone who is hoping to be good enough to get into Heaven

Although I’m writing to everyone who is hoping to be good enough to get into heaven, I’m thinking of two people in particular. They are an Amish couple in their 50s who have been taught all of their lives that you can’t know until you die if you will make it into heaven. The reason is because they’ve been told that heaven hinges on their holiness, and no one will know until they die if they were holy enough. Until then, they can only hope for the best.

Beyond that, the standard for holiness in Amish communities is not just the Ten Commandments or the Golden Rule. There are hundreds of other unwritten rules contained in what they refer to as the ordnung, or “order,” that legislate every detail of Amish life and culture. Every Amish adult is expected to affirm their agreement to their local ordnung twice annually. Unrepentant infractions are grounds for excommunication. As you might have guessed, because good Amish people can only hope they will be considered worthy for heaven, excommunicated Amish people have no hope at all. Rather, they are told that they will burn in hell. That fear is a big part of what has perpetuated Amish culture for hundreds of years.

In Amish thinking, anyone who says he is certain of attaining heaven is prideful. Only proud people, they say, would ever think they are good enough for heaven.

Senior Sex

Sex is for Christians! Biblical Insights for a Lifetime of Purity and Pleasure - Chapter 14

PLEASE NOTE: This e-teaching is not appropriate for children, preadolescents, and many adolescents.

Picture of older couple in bed - Chapter 14, "Senior Sex"

Now there came to Him some of the Sadducees (who say that there is no resurrection), and they questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife, and he is childless, his brother should marry the wife and raise up children to his brother. Now there were seven brothers; and the first took a wife and died childless; and the second and the third married her; and in the same way all seven died, leaving no children. Finally the woman died also. In the resurrection therefore, which one’s wife will she be? For all seven had married her.”

Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; for they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection” (Luke 20:27-36).

Strangely, although the Jewish sect of the Sadducees in Jesus’ day did respect the Law of Moses, they didn’t believe there was an afterlife or that anyone would be resurrected. In their thinking, death was the absolute end (which is why some say they were “sad you see”).

One of their proof texts was the Mosaic Law’s regulation concerning levirate marriage, something we’ve considered in an earlier chapter. How could there be an afterlife if one woman had been repeatedly married, widowed, and remarried? In heaven, she would be married to multiple living men! Since polyandry was unthinkable, in their minds that ruled out any possibility of an afterlife. (They would, no doubt, have been OK with Solomon having 700 wives and 300 concubines forever.)

The Sadducees, however, were clinging to a few flawed assumptions. They reasoned that if there was an afterlife, those who were married prior to their deaths would still be married. Surely, they assumed, no married woman would be another man’s wife in the afterlife. Jesus revealed, however, that there will be no marriage at all in the next life. Death ends the marriage covenant, which is why Christian marriage vows generally include the words, “till death do us part.”

For those of us who are happily married, being unmarried in heaven is a sad thought. For that reason, my wife and I have already agreed to be best friends forever. Still, we wonder how heaven could be heavenly without our marriage. We can only assume that heaven holds something even better, although unimaginable. Might perfect love make possible perfect relationships with all the saints, so that we will all, in a sense, be “married”?

Your Sexy Temple

Sex is for Christians! Biblical Insights for a Lifetime of Purity and Pleasure - Chapter 13

PLEASE NOTE: This e-teaching is not appropriate for children, preadolescents, and many adolescents.

Your Sexy Temple e-teaching graphic

“Ah, you are looking so nice and fat!”

Those words would hardly be perceived as a compliment in the United States, where many of us are overweight. Yet there are many countries where those sentiments are sometimes spoken as a sincere compliment. I’ve been to some of them. Without exception, those nations are generally poor, and being overweight is a sign of wealth, because it indicates that one can afford more food than most people. In many parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America, when someone tells you that you are fat, he is being kind.

No country better exemplifies that cultural phenomenon than Mauritania, in northwest Africa. Mauritania is mostly desert, and food is often in short supply. In rural Mauritania, people only survive if they live near an oasis. You can understand why being overweight is desirable—and even prestigious. So much so that Mauritanian men prefer heavy women. A heavy wife is the sign of a rich man. Skinniness is associated with poverty.

You are So Beautiful

Sex is for Christians! Biblical Insights for a Lifetime of Purity and Pleasure - Chapter 12

PLEASE NOTE: This e-teaching is not appropriate for children, preadolescents, and many adolescents.

"You Are So Beautiful", chapter 12 of "Sex Is For Christians"

She was a Ukrainian beauty, no denying that. Her long, dark hair hung past her shoulders, standing in sharp contrast to all the other women in the church, who had their hair in buns or tucked up under bonnets. She sported a blouse and skirt, while they all wore long dresses. She was wearing bright red lipstick and some rouge on her cheeks; every other female face was unembellished. They knew the Bible reported that wicked queen Jezebel had once “painted her eyes” (2 Kings 9:30).

The church was on the outskirts of Keiv, Ukraine’s capital, and it was the early 1990s. Ukraine had recently been released from the iron grip of the former Soviet Union, and its formerly-persecuted churches were experiencing freedom for the first time in decades. I was with a team of American pastors who were traveling around Ukraine preaching in churches, and on one occasion, even at a regular meeting of local communist party members.

On this particular cold winter Sunday, we were visiting a Pentecostal congregation that was meeting in their middle-aged pastor’s house. It was jammed full of sincere folks who sat on backless wooden pews. Men and women were segregated into sections. The dark-haired young beauty whom I previously mentioned had innocently seated herself in one of the men’s sections, a fact to which she never became aware during the morning’s hymn singing and several sermons. I noticed a number of the younger women in a different corner of the house looking at her and laughing amongst themselves.

Sexual Secrets of a Shulammite and a Shepherd

Sex is for Christians! Biblical Insights for a Lifetime of Purity and Pleasure - Chapter 11

PLEASE NOTE: This e-teaching is not appropriate for children, preadolescents, and many adolescents.

"The Shulammite and the Shepherd" e-Teaching Graphic

I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
If you find my beloved,
As to what you will tell him:
For I am lovesick.

What kind of beloved is your beloved,
O most beautiful among women?
What kind of beloved is your beloved,
That thus you adjure us?

My beloved is dazzling and ruddy,
Outstanding among ten thousand.
His head is like gold, pure gold;
His locks are like clusters of dates
And black as a raven.
His eyes are like doves
Beside streams of water,
Bathed in milk,
And reposed in their setting.
His cheeks are like a bed of balsam,
Banks of sweet-scented herbs;
His lips are lilies
Dripping with liquid myrrh.
His hands are rods of gold
Set with beryl;
His abdomen is carved ivory
Inlaid with sapphires.
His legs are pillars of alabaster
Set on pedestals of pure gold;
His appearance is like Lebanon
Choice as the cedars.
His mouth is full of sweetness.
And he is wholly desirable.
This is my beloved and this is my friend,
O daughters of Jerusalem
 (Song 5:8-16).

Although the Shulammite’s metaphors and similes regarding her beloved husband may seem unusual to most modern readers, there is no mistaking one thing: she liked him very much. And although it is probably safe to assume he was a young man of good character, her admiration of him (that you just read) focuses on his face and body. Take note that we are still reading from the Bible, and it is safe to assume that her enthusiasm over an attractive male was God-given. So this is not an “unspiritual” topic.

Solomon’s Sex-Filled Song

Sex is for Christians! Biblical Insights for a Lifetime of Purity and Pleasure - Chapter 10

PLEASE NOTE: This e-teaching is not appropriate for children, preadolescents, and many adolescents.

Solomon's Sex-Filled Song, Part 1 (Header Image)

How beautiful and how delightful you are,
My love, with all your charms!
Your stature is like a palm tree,
And your breasts are like its clusters.
I said, “I will climb the palm tree,
I will take hold of its fruit stalks.”
Oh, may your breasts be like clusters of the vine,
And the fragrance of your breath like apples,
And your mouth like the best wine! (Song 7:6-9a).

Many people wonder how the Song of Solomon ever made it into the Jewish and Christian Bible. The usual explanation is that it was likely authored by Solomon (although no one knows for sure) who, according to 1 Kings 4:32, famously authored 1,005 songs. Beyond that, some theologians say that the sensuous scenes described in its chapters are actually allegories of God’s love for Israel or, prophetically, of Jesus’ love for His bride, the church.

It is certainly possible that a prolific polygamist and songwriter could have authored the Song of Songs, as it is alternatively called. Is it, however, an allegory for God’s love? No such claim is made anywhere within the Song of Solomon or elsewhere in the Bible. And I can’t resist asking: Is God’s love for His people truly analogous to a man admiring a woman’s breasts? Moreover, was Israel’s reciprocated love towards God of equal magnitude to His love for them, as is depicted between the lovers in Solomon’s song? Has the church’s reciprocated love been of equal magnitude? If God wanted to describe His devotion to Israel or the church with a marital metaphor, wouldn’t it seem more appropriate if He focused on His covenantal relationship and redemptive sacrifice, as He unmistakably did in other places in Scripture (for example, Is. 54:5-7; Hos. 2:19-20; Eph. 5:25-27)?

The Dating/Courting Christian: How Far Can We Go?

Sex is for Christians! Biblical Insights for a Lifetime of Purity and Pleasure - Chapter 9

PLEASE NOTE: This e-teaching is not appropriate for children, preadolescents, and many adolescents.

"The Dating/Courting Christian. How Far Can We Go?"

Among all the strange, sexual stories in the Old Testament, one stands out as being perhaps the most patriarchal. It involves a young, single woman, an orphan named Esther. She lived with her uncle (or cousin), Mordecai, among an exiled community of Jews in Susa, the capital of the ancient Persian Empire.[1]

Persia’s king, Ahasuerus, hosted a half-year party for his court and dignitaries that showcased “the riches of his royal glory and the splendor of his great majesty” (Est. 1:4). During the final seven days of the exhibition, all the citizens of Susa were invited to a lavish banquet at which “the heart of the king [became] merry with wine” (Est. 1:10). Like any drunk husband might do who possessed a trophy wife, Ahasuerus decided to exhibit his woman, so he ordered the royal eunuchs to summon beautiful Queen Vashti. She, however, was not a woman who appreciated being put on display before a hall of half-drunk men so they could gawk at her face and body as all their wives stoically pretended not to mind. So she refused to comply.

Her dissent enraged King Ahasuerus, so he consulted his royal advisors, all men, to ask what should be done to Queen Vashti. Worried that her insubordination might embolden all of Persia’s wives to disrespect their husbands, they quickly reached a consensus:

Queen Vashti has wronged not only the king but also all the princes, and all the peoples who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. For the queen’s conduct will become known to all the women causing them to look with contempt on their husbands by saying, “King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought in to his presence, but she did not come.” And this day the ladies of Persia and Media who have heard of the queen’s conduct will speak in the same way to all the king’s princes, and there will be plenty of contempt and anger. If it pleases the king, let a royal edict be issued by him and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media so that it cannot be repealed, that Vashti should come no more into the presence of King Ahasuerus, and let the king give her royal position to another who is more worthy than she. And when the king’s edict which he shall make is heard throughout all his kingdom, great as it is, then all women will give honor to their husbands, great and small (Est.1:16-20).

As you probably noticed, women’s liberation had a rough start.

More about Masturbation

Sex is for Christians! Biblical Insights for a Lifetime of Purity and Pleasure - Chapter 8

PLEASE NOTE: This e-teaching is not appropriate for children, preadolescents, and many adolescents.

"More About Masturbation" graphic by David Servant

In spite of the Bible’s complete silence on the subject of masturbation, some Bible believers have been very vocal, and very negative, about it. For example, Victorian-era physician John Harvey Kellogg, the inventor of Corn Flakes and a devoted Seventh Day Adventist, wrote a 600-page book in 1877 titled, Plain Facts about Sexual Life.[1] In it he devoted three entire chapters to the causes, consequences and cures of masturbation, which he termed self-abuse, self-pollution and a secret vice. Kellogg claimed that masturbation was “the most dangerous of all sexual abuses because [it is] the most extensively practiced… nearly universal,” and warned:

It may be begun in earliest infancy, and may continue through life. Even though no warning may have been given, the transgressor seems to know, instinctively, that he is committing a great wrong, for he carefully hides his practice from observation. In solitude he pollutes himself, and with his own hand blights all his prospects for both this world and the next…

In Kellogg’s view, even an innocent baby—who like most babies discovers that touching his or her genitals feels pleasurable—could commit the damning sin of masturbation. One alleged proof in Kellogg’s mind of masturbation’s great wrongness is that the masturbator “carefully hides his practice from observation.” I wonder if Dr. Kellogg ever noticed that married couples do the same regarding sex? Or that most everyone seeks privacy when they relieve themselves? Is that because married couples think that marital sex is wrong, or that everyone believes urination is immoral? Is it not true that even the most immodest people still maintain some sense of modesty regarding their genitals?[2]