Dancing with the Devil

Published in Leader Statesman (Versailles, MO, June 9, 2016)

Rev. David L. Zapf, Bethel Mennonite Church

Power, sex, and money are the three arenas in which humans most often dance with the devil and indulge in idolatry. An indication of this is found in Deuteronomy 17:16–17, where we read the following instructions: “[The king] must not acquire many horses for himself…. And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.” The horses represented power (military might). The king was instructed to show sexual restraint even though polygamy was common during the time of the Old Testament. The command to refrain from acquiring excessive silver or gold spoke against the temptation to acquire wealth through heavy taxation or military conquest.

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Daniel in the Political Lion’s Den

Published in Versailles, MO, Leader Statesman, February 24, 2016

Pastor’s Pen

Rev. David L. Zapf, Bethel Mennonite Church

From where I sit, the 2016 presidential campaigns seem at least as nasty as they have ever been in American politics. I can appreciate a lively, even heated debate over different points of view. What bothers me is that ad hominem attacks have become the substitute for clear thinking. As an alternative, I wish we had more Daniels in politics.

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Cockroaches and Resurrection

Published in Leader Statesman (Versailles, MO, November 25, 2015)

Rev. David L. Zapf, Bethel Mennonite Church

Imagine yourself going to a fine restaurant. As you walk up to the entrance, the delicious smell of freshly cooked food activates your salivary glands and your mouth waters in anticipation of the meal you are about to be served. You enter the restaurant. The dining area is beautifully decorated and the staff is very friendly. You are seated. You order your favorite meal. Soon your meal is served. It is artistically arranged on the plate and looks like it has been prepared to perfection. Just as you are about to take your first bite, you see a large cockroach crawl out of the green beans. How does that one negative impact all the positives about your dining experience? If you are like me, the one negative cancels all the positives!

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An Uncomfortable Position

Published in Leader Statesman (Versailles, MO, August 5, 2015)

Rev. David L. Zapf, Bethel Mennonite Church

The decision by the majority of the Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 26, 2015, put me in an uncomfortable position. The Question put to the court was, “Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?” Their Answer, by a 5 to 4 vote, was, “The Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-State” (Obergefell et al. v. Hodges, http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/14-556_3204.pdf, p. 1 of “Syllabus”).

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After Shock and Awe, Little has Changed

Published in Leader Statesman (Versailles, MO, April 16, 2015)

Rev. David L. Zapf, Bethel Mennonite Church

Rapid Dominance, popularly known as “Shock and Awe,” was a military strategy developed in 1996 by Harlan K. Ullman and James P. Wade from the National Defense University. The strategy was employed in March of 2003 as part of the Iraq War. Without first declaring war, a coalition of forces led by the United States quickly overwhelmed Iraqi forces and gained control of the government. By December, 2003, the Ba’athist government had collapsed and Saddam Hussein had been captured.

Unfortunately, gaining control of the government and defeating the enemy are not one and the same. To this day, the region remains a hotbed of sectarian violence. It seems that instead of Rapid Dominance a military strategy of Total Dominance is needed.

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Peace on Earth?

Published in Leader Statesman (Versailles, MO, December 24, 2014)

Rev. David L. Zapf, Bethel Mennonite Church

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased” (Luke 2:14). That is what the angels announced at the birth of Jesus Christ. At the time, the Jews were under the oppression of the Romans. In fact, Joseph and Mary had traveled to Bethlehem in response to a decree by Caesar Augustus that they be registered for purposes of taxation.

At the time of the birth of Jesus, Israel was a troublesome little kingdom, strategic in its location, but otherwise of little importance to Rome. The Jews, for their part, resented Rome. Prior to the angels’ announcement, a number of Jewish leaders had attempted to win independence for Israel, but they had been easily crushed by Rome’s mighty power.

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Halloween: To Celebrate or Not to Celebrate

Published in Leader Statesman (Versailles, MO, October 29, 2014)

Rev. David L. Zapf, Bethel Mennonite Church

Nothing evil. That was my grandmother’s wisdom about Halloween. The word Halloween came into use around A.D. 1745 and is of Scottish origin. It is a shortening of All Hallows’ Eve, which means All Saints Eve. All Saints Day has origins in Christianity in the 7th century A.D. as part of the Church calendar which also includes Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. All Saints Day was the day set aside to remember faithful departed believers.

Halloween coincides with the celebration of Samhain, the “Feast of the Dead,” one of two “spirit-nights” of the pagan religion Wicca. For Wiccans, this is a time to study the “Dark Mysteries” and honor the “Dark Mother” and the “Dark Father” (http://wicca.com/celtic/akasha/samhainlore.htm). The Feast of the Dead originated in Celtic-speaking countries (north-west Europe).

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Christianity at Odds with Every Other Worldview

Published in Leader Statesman (Versailles, MO, April 30, 2014)

Rev. David L. Zapf, Bethel Mennonite Church

Easter is passed and Memorial Day is coming. Both events memorialize sacrifices that have been made on behalf of others. There is one huge difference, however, between the two events. Easter is not just a remembrance of the sacrifice of Christ (that particular event is known as “Good Friday”), but especially of the Christian claim that Jesus rose from the dead. Were it not for the resurrection, Jesus would simply join a long list of others who have given their lives for an ideology.

Because of the resurrection, Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). It is this claim that sets Christ and Christianity at odds with every other worldview.

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The River of Life

Published in Leader Statesman (Versailles, MO, January 1, 2014)

Rev. David L. Zapf, Bethel Mennonite Church

Another year comes to an end and a new one begins. Have you made any New Year’s Resolutions this year? Are they the same ones you made last year? A typical list of top 10 New Year’s Resolutions include things like spend more time with family and friends, exercise more, enjoy life more, get out of debt, learn something new, get organized, help others, quit smoking, lose weight, and quit drinking. The last two resolutions are often preceded by eating and drinking too much on New Year’s Eve.

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Death and Life are in the Power of the Tongue

Published in Leader Statesman (Versailles, MO, September 4, 2013)

Rev. David L. Zapf, Bethel Mennonite Church

Proverbs 18:21a says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (ESV). I quote this verse from the English Standard Version of the Bible because it follows the original language word order closely, and in this case I think that the word order is significant. “Life and death,” in that order, is the common expression in the English language, but here the word “death” comes first.

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