Author Archive: Robert Martin

About Robert Martin

I am an "ethnic" Mennonite from my pedigree (born and raised in the Mennonite church) but perhaps non-traditional Mennonite in thought and practice. I'm a seminary student currently and I'm working on my Masters of Arts in Ministry at Biblical Theological Seminary in Hatfield, PA. As my "tent making", I'm a computer software quality assurance analyst for a small software firm. In other words, I break things. I could name drop and play the Mennonite game about my parents, grandparents, etc, but I've come to desire that my faith and ministry stand on their own rather than borrowing from the "prestige" of my family.

Everything Else Is Rubbish

A sermon on Isaiah 43:16-21; John 12:1-12; Philippians 3:4-14 at Bally Mennonite Church on March 17th, 2013. The audio version can be downloaded by clicking here.

A question for you:  What are some of the things we do that we consider righteous things to do?  Can you list them?

There are certainly things in this life that we consider to be righteous things to do.  Worshiping, justice issues, caring for the poor, advocating for peace, morality and purity issues, ethics of life and nation, love of neighbor, etc., are all things that we consider righteous.  I categorize them into three categories. (more…)

The Pros and Cons of Ethnic Mennonites

This originally appeared on my own blog Abnormal Anabaptist. Tim has posted his article here so I thought it would be a good idea to put like with like.

Fellow MennoNerd Chris Lenshyn posted this morning an article presenting the tension that exists between those of us who are ethnic Mennonites (like me) and those of us who have found their way into the Mennonite denomination from other traditions (through various methods and such).  Let me quote a little bit of what Chris shared (the full article can be found here): (more…)

United States National Religion

I’m guilty of a form of idolatry.  It is really rather insidious.  It has a guise of being in keeping with the Kingdom but it ends up taking away my time that I should be doing following Christ into the world.  I listen to a whole different set of priests.  I read a different set of scripture.  There are even temples and altars where, if I wanted to, I could go worship.  Through this idolatry, I claim that I can change the world for the better, that if I just figure out the right way to think, the right people to follow, the right ways to act, then the world will be redeemed.  I spend hours at this, literally at times.

I don’t think I’m the only one.  Thousands and millions of people in our country follow this idol.  It consumes them.  It causes marital strife.  It breaks up the fellowship of believers.  It causes divisions and factions, both within the church and without.  Hateful things are said in the name of this idol because, just like with any religion, there are different ways of viewing the same thing and sometimes things are up to interpretation.

This idol is actually global.  There are people all over the world consumed by this form of worship.  Depending upon what nation you live in, there are different ways in which it is practiced.  But, essentially, it all comes down to the same thing.

What idol am I talking about?  One word: politics.

Think about it.  How many times have you been lambasted for voting a particular way, or listening to a particular commentator, or reading a particular online blog, or any number of things?  How many times have you been criticized at not being a “good person” or, for that matter even, a “good Christian” just because you support a particular party, platform, or candidate?  This idol knows no political party.  Democrat Christians yell at Republican Christians and vice versa.  Progressives attack Conservatives.  Left and Right.  Blue and Red.  We have become obsessed in our churches with aligning ourselves with a particular expression of politics to the point where politics is preached from the pulpit, it’s published in our church newsletters, it’s documented in our church publications, and it’s spoken about in the fellowship time on Sunday morning.  And, again, no side is guiltless.   I would not even say one particular side is any better or worse than another.

Please don’t get me wrong.  I do believe that we have a responsibility to speak the gospel into our culture and that includes to speak the gospel to the people in our government.  But when it becomes an all consuming passion of “I’m right, you’re wrong”, then it becomes an idol.  We start categorizing each other by party.  We start looking for ways of defending our position through Scripture and other teachings.  It becomes a goal to prove that our way of looking at politics is somehow more Christian than another.  We write letters to newspapers and Congressmen/women to try and convince them that our way is somehow more Christian than thier way and so on.

And the result?  We look like a bunch of whining, argumentative, bigotted (both sides), unforgiving, petty, malicious, vicious, nasty people who will shoot down, knock down, run over, blast, insult, slander, and libel anyone who does not agree with us.  And yes, Mennonites do this to.  And Methodist.  And Baptists.  And Catholics.  Need I go on?

Meanwhile, people go unfed.  People go without sufficient clothing for the winter.  People go without homes.  People can’t afford to pay medical bills.  People sit and cry in the dark because there is no one there to show them any semblance of love.  People live in fear of their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, husbands, and wives.  People live in the darkness of the depression because, to them, there is no hope.  And we see this and we do our politics, claiming somehow that politics will solve these problems.  We have plenty of food, LOTS of clothes, extra money to go on vacations, to movies, out to eat, etc.  We spend our time watching football, baseball, soccor, playing video games.   And we do our politics because that will fix it all.  Guess what?  It won’t. And it hasn’t yet, neither here in the US or anywhere else in the world.  And that goes for right, left, conservative, liberal, etc.  One group says more government will fix these problems.  One group says less government will fix these problems.  One says more laws to regulate things.  One says less laws.  One says more enforcement of laws.  One says less enforcement.  Well, they are all wrong because there is only ONE who can fix it all.

My home blog is not about politics and there’s a reason for that.  We are not supposed to be about politics.  We are supposed to be “boots on the ground” people.  The politics of Jesus time did not allow for people to do the work of the Kingdom.  Nor did the politics of Paul’s experiences.  Or the politics of anyone in the first century or so of the church.  In fact, the politics of the world didn’t really become a factor in allowing the Kingdom to move until Constantine and then, instead of the politics assisting in the Kingdom, the politics took over the Kingdom.  Then we just got a NEW set of politics that either you followed the specific church of Constantine or you were not in “the Kingdom”.  So, for over 2000 years,  politics has been more a hindrance and enemy of the church than a helper.

And here we are, still trying to do things using the world’s system of politics, laws, government, etc, to try and shoe-horn the Kingdom into the world.

So, I’m calling it what it is.  It is an idol.  We have put up an idol of the world system of government, politics, etc, that somehow that human system is going to usher in the new Kingdom.  To make our government equivalent to the Kingdom is to repeat the mistakes of centuries past where human government, under the guise of being “The Kingdom”, due to the corrupting nature of power and the propensity for humans in power to give in to that corruption, perform attrocities like the Crusades, slavery in the US south, the Inquisition, the oppression of the Native American nations both in North and South America (go watch the move “The Mission” sometime to see how church and politics did “kingdom” work), and countless other oppressive, selfish, and evil practices, all done in the name of Christ and the Kingdom.

The Kingdom is already here, among us.  It is in our grasp.  We hold it in our hearts because the Spirit that comes from God molds us into it.  We are the Kingdom.  The world can be influenced by us and we can have a voice in the “politics”… but what should rule our lives is not the desire to make over the world systems in Kingdom image, but to live like citizens of the Kingdom no matter what world system we find ourselves in.  All the martyrs of the past knew this in their hearts.  They lived in the Kingdom no matter what the politics.  Some died in the Kingdom because of the politics.  Some died in the Kingdom because the politics professed to BE the Kingdom and killed them for it.  The Kingdom is here.  We should live like it.  Move ahead.  Be the Kingdom.

And how will the Kingdom fix it all?  Because lives change.  Hearts change.  People get redeemed and they look around and they see what God sees and how they are supposed to act and live and be and move.  Changed lives see hungry people and buy them a hamburger.  Changed lives see a man with no shoes, begging for money in the city and buy him a pair of shoes.  Changed lives see the homeless and offer them the extra room in their house.  Changed lives see the people struggling to make ends meet while the bills pile up and they quietly pay off the bills and remove that stress.  Changed lives climb into the darkness with the lonely and scared and depressed and sit with them in the dark, holding them and giving them the comfort that comes from presence and love.  Changed lives speak into the violence and fear in the family, showing love to those who need love and intervening where necessary, even giving up their own safty.

And how do lives change?  By the Spirit.  And how do we get the Spirit?  Through Jesus.  And how does that happen?  People speak, people give witness, people are out there showing what Jesus can do by their actions.  All those changed lives doing things?  That’s Jesus.  When the changed lives do things, people see Jesus, people want to know about this Jesus that gave them hope.  And the people with the changed lives share Jesus.

All the kingdoms of this world will pass away, even the “mighty” USA, but God’s Kingdom will continue.  I prefer to try and live for the permanent Kingdom rather than the temporary.  And for those of you who will criticize that I’m calling for quietism be assured that I will still have my Kingdom views influence what I do in the world of politics, but no more will politics become equal to the Kingdom.  Instead, I strive for the goal, I press on, I desire the greater gifts of love, faith and hope.  I allow my life to change and, as it changes, I get up, get out, and do what changed lives do.  Go, into all the world, and make disciples.

The idol of politics is no more.

The Word made Flesh – An examiination of the Mennonite COF, Part 2

To be honest, in reading this article, there’s not a whole lot that needs to be added.  I think the framers of the confession did a remarkable job of wrapping up a lot in a very short piece.

However, what I would like to comment on is something that seems to have received lesser emphasis in our current culture.  This article talks a lot about Jesus’ acts and what he did and achieved as a human among us.  It deliberately talks about him as someone other than God the Father.  He’s a prophet, a high priest, a king, a servant, a Savior, the Son of God, the incarnate Word, the Lord and final judge.  But there is something that gets passing mention that I think is important to re-emphasize.

See, in today’s pluralistic society, people like Jesus are a dime a dozen.  There are so many religious figures that people can point to as a “good person” or a “prophet like no others” or an “inspiring figure”.  People can be disciples of almost anyone, any great teacher.  What sets Jesus apart from all the others?

I think the COF points this out when it says

As fully divine, he is the one in whom the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. During his earthly life, Jesus had an intimate relationship  with his heavenly Abba and taught his disciples to pray “Abba, Father.” He is the image of the invisible God, and “all things have been created through him and for him, for he is before all things.

But I think that something brought out in the commentary needs to be brought fore-front in our theology discussions in the church.  The commentary points out a passage from Colossians 1 as specifically discussing Jesus divinity.  We recognize one God.  We recognize one creator.  With one God and one Creator and Paul being a VERY Jewish man also steeped in Monotheism, these statements in Colossians bring us pause. (more…)

Some ponderings

Okay… I know I owe a post on Article 2 of the Confession of Faith… life has been strange lately.

In any case, something my wife mentioned today made me wonder some stuff.  Here are some questions that I think the Christian church in the USA needs to seriously ask themselves.  Likewise, these are fair questions for any Christian in any society today.  Please note, these are not political questions, these are ecclesiology and missiology questions.  They apply no matter what the politics, governmental structure, economic philosophy, or what not that you are currently living under.

  1. If your government were to fail utterly today and a tyranny that is unfriendly to the mission of the church arise in its place, what would you, as a Christian, do differently?
  2. If there is something you would do differently, why aren’t you doing it now?
  3. What is preventing you from making those changes in your life?

I personally need to think very hard and very carefully about these.   The answers may be a lot harder to deal with that appear on the surface.

If you are challenged by these questions, please comment here or on the corresponding FaceBook link.  Let’s start this discussion now, before it becomes necessary.

“I AM” – An examination of the Mennonite COF, Part 1

Note: This is a repost from

One of the ideas behind confessions of faith and creeds and the like is to attempt to answer questions being asked by people of the current culture and society as relates to matters of faith and the practice thereof.  So, in these posts I make about the articles of the Mennonite Confession of Faith I’m going to attempt to address them in how well they answer the questions of our current society and culture.  And, honestly, I do so with great humility.  I am by no means an expert in sociology or culture, nor am I a pillar when it comes to theological discussion.  But I am someone who struggles at times with belief and faith and what it means.  Perhaps we need more people like that talking about theology than people who study in the ivory towers.

So, with great trepidation, here I go.

The first article of the Confession of faith is simply titled “God”.  I think this is an important factor.  Any religion you pick has some sort of concept of a supreme deity or deities.  Even those that are devout atheists (those who adamantly deny the possibility of any existence of such a being) have something to say about supreme beings, albeit in the negative.  And yes, I consider atheism to be a religion in the purest sense of the word.  So, it is important for a confession of faith to start with a defining statement about that ultimate question: Is there a God?

Note that the article in the confession answers that question in the positive.  The Mennonite Church part of the body of Christ definitely believes that there IS a God.  We must establish that first.  There is a God and He has made Himself known.  Now, note that I am using the male pronoun.  Considering some words from one of my sisters in the church (Hi, KrisAnne!), I use this pronoun, not out of saying that men are superior or that God Himself has a gender.  However, the traditional form of addressing one aspect of God is as “Father” or “Son”, both being male indicators.  Rather than muddy the waters with some sort of strange way of addressing God, making up pronouns or words (like “godself”), I’ll bow to tradition simply because the English language is insufficient to truly describe God in those sort of terms.  However, as I said, God has no specific gender and even is described in very feminine ways in various scriptural passages.  Humans, male and female, were made in the image of God in that both human genders display the characteristics of God.  So, we can not say God is male or female, but is God.

Here we go…

Note:  This is a repost from my personal blog at  Since there are a number of post-modern/post-Christendom Anabaptist radicals hanging out here, I thought y’all would enjoy participating in the conversation.

Remember this post?

And this one?

It’s been a little over a year since I set that challenge before myself.  Well, guess what.  I’m starting this now.

See, I’m working on my MLI for the Mennonite Church Leadership Database and one of the questions in that database is my reactions and responses to the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective.  Since I’m going to be spending the time looking at that in detail for that purpose, I thought I would blog about my reactions as well.

If I can swing it, tomorrow I’ll be hitting Article 1 on God.  If y’all wanna follow along with me, you can read the articles as I go.  I’ll be sticking to the order in the document.

Before that, though, you might want to review the Introduction.  There’s a lot of information there about the importance of Confessions but also points out that the commentary published along with the Articles are important in understanding the articles as they were written.  Instead of looking at the commentary as “opinion” commentary (as some commentaries on Scripture are), these commentaries should be viewed the same way the book of Romans would be if Paul had written it as a blog article and interacted with commentary.  (more…)

“In the world…”

I’m embarking on an interesting adventure this fall, one of my choosing (to borrow some terms and phrases from Wayne Speigle’s sermon this past week). See, I love movies. I like to watch the characters unfold, the plot thicken, and all those little surprises and such that come up. But I’ve also recently learned to love to hear the messages that movies try to tell us. The filmmakers (directors, producers, screenwriters, actors, etc) are telling us a story in a rather fascinating medium that allows elves to live on screen, dragons to fly, robots to laugh, and monsters (both “real” and figurative) to be overcome. Through that story, they are trying to convey ideas, theories, and worldviews in a hope that we will understand them and where they are coming from. Some filmmakers even do so to try and “convert” us (watch “Gorillas in the Mist” sometime…). So, this fall, I’ll be leading a Sunday School hour discussion time on film, the stories they tell, the messages they speak, and our responses to them. I’m looking forward to this adventure. (Shameless plug: If you’re going to be in the Bally/Boyertown area anytime during the months of September through November, come on by Bally Mennonite Church at 10:45 AM and join us!).

One criticism that I’m bound to get on this (and I’ve heard some of this already from a few places) is “Why are we talking about watching some of these movies from Hollywood? Why not show and talk about Christian movies?” This bothers me somewhat (lots of things bother me, as many of you already know). I recently read a blog article from someone else (I can’t remember where and if you’re reading this and you’re the culprit, please speak up) about the “ghettoizing” of Christianity. Music is performed and Christians historically have done one of two things. Either we have denounced it as “from the devil” and called for boycotts and other protest means (and this is not relegated only to “Rock ‘n’ Roll”… read up on Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach sometime) or we’ve “redeemed” it and made our own music and made it “OK” to listen to. Books are written and the same things are said and done. Poems are made. TV programs are made. And now, suddenly, we want to do the same with movies. (more…)

Have We Lost Our Way?

(This is a repost from my home blog at

A new issue of the online version of “The Mennonite” church publication has been released.  I just got my e-mail today.  I enjoy getting this weekly dose of information from the primary publication of my denomination.  It keeps me informed as to what’s going on at the denominational level and gives me some different insights on modern issues from a Mennonite perspective.

However, I must say that this morning’s issue disappointed me.  Not because of the lack of content, nor because it somehow didn’t meet the professional standards of the publication.  It disappointed me because of the content itself.  The lead article in today’s e-mail found here discusses how the health-care reform bills currently being worked on by the US federal government coincide with Jesus’ inaugural sermon from Luke 4.

On one level, I agree with this article.  The Kingdom of God is a kingdom in which there is no more poverty, no more disadvantaged, no more illness, no more pain, where everyone can come to the table of the Lord with equal stature and be blessed by God.  Amen.  Preach it.  Come Lord Jesus.

What disappoints me about this article goes towards the roots of what the Anabaptist movement and the Mennonite denomination has been about for centuries.  (more…)

Joining the community

To quote one of my favorite Sesame Street characters of my early years:

“Hello, Everybodeeeee!” (gotta love Grover).

I’ve just been given the privilege to be a contributor here on YAR and it was suggested that I give a bit of an intro so y’all know who it is writing this stuff.

For what it’s worth, concerning my denominational “pedigree”, I was born and raised in the Mennonite denomination.  At that time, the churches I went to were the MC churches (as opposed to GC).  My life started in Puerto Rico as the second son of two mission minded people.  My parents got their start in PR in Voluntary Service and spent 10 years there all told.  So, culturally speaking, while I’m German Mennonite by descent, my preferred flavor of church is a little less traditional.

I’m not sure how “young” I am.  I’m 36 years old.  But I guess I’m “young” in that I’m not stuck in the Mennonite/Anabaptist “church as usual” mentality.  We need to start thinking about what it means to BE the church and not just GO to church.  Life in the “church” is so much more than Sunday morning and the “church” is so much more than the institution that runs that Sunday morning service.  “Church” is who we are every day and should define what we then do every day.  If Sunday morning “go-to-meeting” should go away, the church will still be the church. (more…)