Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Guest Post: How Then Shall We Live?

By: T. A. McMahon
The Bible is an amazing book. Although this is certainly true, it’s also a huge understatement. All accolades fall short; no adjectives come close. Yet that should hardly be surprising since God is the author. As we’ve written elsewhere, the Bible is God’s direct communication to mankind. And since He is infinite, apart from His Word there’s no way that finite man can know in truth anything beyond God’s general attributes that are revealed in creation (Rom:1:20). Everyone can surmise that the material world, from the sweeping expanse of the universe to the intricate complexity of a cell, could not have created itself. A Designer had to have been involved, and the Designer must have attributes of astonishing intelligence, power, and presence. Observation and logic are enough to lead anyone to that conclusion.
On the other hand, the specifics regarding God’s character, as well as His purpose and plan for those whom He created, cannot be arrived at through human opinions, speculations, and guesses. Finite man is basically clueless when it comes to the specifics, which is a major reason why there are so many different religious beliefs and practices in the world. God must inform humanity about things it cannot figure out, which He has done clearly through the Scriptures. One of those things (which is the focus of this article) is the way that a biblical Christian, one who has believed the gospel for salvation and desires to obey the instructions of God’s Word, should go about living his life.
The Bible is sometimes referred to as the “Manufacturer’s Handbook,” which is a good description regarding the overall content of Scripture. However, not too many people care to read instruction manuals. This attitude doesn’t serve them well when it comes to the functioning of their latest kitchen appliance or video entertainment device, leading to the inevitable frustration of “why isn’t it working?” The same attitude regarding the Bible will cause a believer to reach that exasperation stage and far worse. As Proverbs states in two verses: “There is a waywhich seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (14:12; 16:25; emphasis added). “Death,” in this case, means separation from God. In those areas of a believer’s life where he hasn’t looked to the Scriptures for God’s instruction, he has to supply his own ideas. That causes him to go his own way, thus separating him from God’s “way.” The “end thereof” ultimately leads to a condition that at best is devoid of God’s grace and at worst is destructive physically and spiritually.
Recently I’ve been reading the Apostle Peter’s Epistles and found the first chapter in his second letter to be a compact volume of God’s instruction for believers as well as a great exhortation to do what it says. Though it’s not God’s full counsel regarding His instructions for everyone who claims to follow Jesus, it’s an excellent self-evaluation piece for us to consider, no matter our degree of maturity in Christ.
Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.
Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me. Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance. For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as, they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (2 Peter:1:1-21)
These are indeed God’s words, relayed by His Holy Spirit, and written through the human instrument whom He chose to pen them, Simon Peter. Although Peter was gloriously transformed at Pentecost from the hit-or-miss Peter we read about in the Scriptures prior to that event, these were God’s words and not Peter’s own ideas but expressed through Peter’s manner of communication. This is made clear at the end of the chapter but needs to be underscored at the beginning: the declarations are from God himself.
Verses one through four assure us that Jesus is God and that He has supplied believers in Him with precious faith through the knowledge of Him, empowering us with all things that pertain unto life and godliness. “All things” means all things. That phrase asserts the sufficiency of God’s Word. What source other than God could supply anything that pertains to life and godliness? There is no other source. What Jesus has fully supplied enables every believer in Him to join in His divine moral nature, His godliness. As we are reminded in 1 Peter:1:15-16: “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of [conduct]; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” That is the only way that the sinful, lustful corruption of the world can be overcome.
If, as His Word proclaims, the Lord has given us all that is necessary for us to live our lives in a way that is pleasing to Him, what then is our part? This involves a willingness to do what He has instructed. That answer may seem obvious, but it is either resisted or avoided by many Christians today. Verses five through seven of 2 Peter 1 exhort the believer to cultivate what our Lord has provided, helping our faith to grow. For a mature faith to flourish, we must add virtue, knowledge, self-control, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity, i.e., love. Love, of course, is the chief quality of godliness and must superintend all of God’s promises.
Too often we read those words and blow past them as if they were simply platitudes or spiritual clichés. On the contrary, there aren’t many verses that are more practical in their fruitfulness. If we will only put them into practice, “they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter:1:8). This, by the way, is not “head knowledge” but knowledge that produces godly fruit. Those individuals who miss that, for whatever reasons, the Scripture characterizes as blind and forgetful as to what Jesus has already done for them by paying for their sins.
Some Christian writers have addressed their concern over the lack of good works produced by those who claim to follow Jesus. Sadly that is a reality of our day. However, a few authors have sought to correct that condition by teaching that true believers who lack good works will receive temporary punishment at the judgment seat of Christ where rewards are bestowed. No. That is an error and is not supported by Scripture; moreover, it creates a Roman Catholic-type of Purgatory, which involves the expiation of sin by the individual himself. It’s also a denial of Christ’s full payment for our sins, i.e., the gospel. What has been referred to as the Bema Seat of Christ for rewards and losses has nothing to do with the sins of believers. Jesus will judge our works by rewarding those endeavors that have eternal value and dismissing those that are worthless (1 Corinthians:3:13-15).
Second Peter 1:10-11 is an exhortation to diligently fulfill the ministry, the works, and the purpose that the Lord has called us to. Our willingness to do just that is a guarantee of spiritual fruitfulness: “For if you do these things, ye shall never fall.” It also encourages us to press forward earnestly that upon entrance into heaven we may hear those wonderful words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew:25:21).
Peter knew from the Lord that he was close to the time of his death, and his heart was to remind fellow believers of the things he had taught that would cause them to grow in the faith. To that end, he gives us some insight regarding a glorious event that he, James, and John had witnessed. Even beyond Peter’s personal preview of Jesus being glorified (as He will be again when He returns), the teaching stresses the foundation to all that he had written above. In conclusion, he notes that what he is relating was a fact of history, and that he was an eyewitness of what he saw, heard, and felt on the Mount of Transfiguration. Be assured that in our present times when the experiential has become the guiding authority of most people’s lives, both in the world and in the church, no one has had an experience like that (2 Peter:1:16-21).
Peter, James, and John saw Jesus glorified before their very eyes. It was no altered state of consciousness, no visualization, no conjured-up imagery produced by some contemplative, Eastern mystical method. It was a God-produced reality. None of those who teach that God cannot be known by the senses, the intellect, or the written Word but can only be experienced, have ever, nor could ever, produce such an extraordinary event. Moreover, what they do produce through their occult methodologies is fake—if not a direct demonic deception.
Peter certainly acknowledges the amazing experience on the Mount. But then he says, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed” (verse 19). Why, however, should we accept as true the personal, subjective experience that Peter described? Some modern so-called Bible scholars consider it a myth. It would definitely be questionable except for the fact that Peter’s experience is documented in the Word of God, and according to Jesus, “Thy word is truth” (John:17:17). Furthermore, the true experience is supported by “a more sure word of prophecy,” and we are exhorted to “take heed” to God’s written Word. Believers are certainly privileged to have experiences in the Lord, but those experiences must never take the place of nor diminish the authority of Scripture.
As wonderful as spiritual experiences can be, they are personal and subjective and are a byproduct of a believer’s relationship with the Lord. They lack the objective basis for one to discern whether or not they are true. For example, a Christian friend relates how the Holy Spirit was leading him in a certain situation. Although that experience was consistent with Scripture as a principle, yet because of its subjective nature, one can’t really verify that it was indeed Holy Spirit led. In some cases, the situation may be so contrary to the Word of God that it can be readily dismissed as not of the Lord.
Scripture, on the other hand, is objective. It is a believer’s plumbline against which he is to determine what he believes or is being taught. As Isaiah wrote, “To the law and to the testimony [God’s Word]: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (8:20).
Peter concludes the chapter by underscoring the fact that prophecy (meaning the written words of Scripture) did not originate from man (himself included), but the words came through chosen men of God who wrote them down as they were given by the Holy Spirit. Numerous other verses confirm this, including 1 Thessalonians:2:13: “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.”
So, we have the words of God ! My hope is that everyone who has just read that sentence will take the significance of it to heart. God has given us His words ! And, as we’ve noted here in Peter’s second Epistle as one example, His Word contains instructions for every follower of Jesus Christ that we all must obey if we are to be fruitful and productive in our lives as believers. There is no other way to please God.
McMahon, T.A.. (2016, July 1). How Then Shall We Live?. thebereancall.org. Retrieved July 5, 2016 from http://www.thebereancall.org/content/how-then-shall-we-live

Friday, June 3, 2016

Guest Post: New Age Mysticism Pt3

T. A. McMahon
In his 2006 book, Yoga and the Body of Christ , Dave Hunt noted that there were more than 500,000 references on Google Search for “Christian churches and yoga.” Today, that search brings up more than 10 million! In part two of this series “New Age Mysticism Déjà vu” (March 2016), I explained that the heart of yoga is an Eastern mystical view of God as an impersonal force or energy. In light of that belief, so-called Christian yoga is an attempt to reconcile two contradictory beliefs and practices, which can never happen. Any endeavor that tries to Christianize the practice of yoga is akin to turning to Christ-rejecting pagan religions in order to draw closer to Him. That is both nonsensical and blasphemous.
In this series dealing with the intrusion of Eastern mysticism into the church, it would be a huge error to overlook another growing practice among Christians—a practice that may even exceed the numbers of those involved in yoga: Christianized martial arts.
The information contained in this article is drawn primarily from two former practitioners and teachers of the martial arts, Gaylene Goodroad and myself. Throughout my college days, I competed in the sport of intercollegiate Judo and participated in AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) tournaments. As head of my college Judo club I helped instruct new members and teammates. After graduate school, I moved to the West Coast and studied aikido at what then was considered the top aikido dojo [training center or school] in the country. For more than a decade I was engrossed in the history and cultures that produced the martial arts.
Gaylene Goodroad’s experiences were more concentrated and advanced than my own due to the fact that she had studied under the personal guidance of highly revered teachers (whom I could only access by reading their books). She has written of her involvement in karate (advanced black belt degrees in two of the arts, and as a sensei) and has presented her evaluation of the martial arts in general in her booklet My Life in “The Way . ”
The truth is that anyone who claims to be a Christian, i.e., to be a follower of Jesus Christ, needs to follow His teachings! As obvious as that should be, and as much as it is professed, fewer and fewer Christians (a group that includes many who call themselves Bible-believing Christians) truly adhere to the necessity of going by the teachings and instructions of the Word of God. Although the Bible is wonderfully profound, its fundamental truths can be readily understood by every believer who is born of the Spirit of God. God, who is no respecter of persons, does not play favorites regarding one’s intellect (Acts:10:341 Corinthians:1:27). He makes very clear the revelation of Himself, His characteristics, His plan for His creation, His solution for the problem of sin, the reconciliation of the lost to Himself, and other essential issues.
A major characteristic of our eternal creator God is that He is personal . He is the Creator of everything. Furthermore, He created mankind in His image, i.e., with personal attributes. The gospel is the revelation of the personal God of creation who so loved His personal creatures that He became one of them in order to save them from their sins. What Christian would deny that? There are those who do—those who are in cults that carry the name of Christ in their title but who deny the biblical Jesus, and those in liberal denominations whose theology is as fickle as the wind. Yet there are also Christians who are unwittingly entertaining a view of God that denies the personal God of the Bible. Who might they be? Those who are involved in the Eastern spirituality of martial arts.
Goodroad quotes Gichin Funakoshi, the father of modern-day karate: “By the time I had been practicing Karate for some years, and as I became more familiar with the art, I became more conscious of its spiritual nature…” ( Karate-Do p. 86).
The preponderance of martial arts is rooted in the foundational belief of Eastern mysticism, which is that God is an impersonal energy—a nonphysical force. This nonphysical energy is what makes up the mystical power in nearly all of the martial arts practices. Everyone who has long been part of the martial arts scene has, at some point, witnessed the actual power itself, whether it was related to the utilization of ki ,chi , quigong , kundalini , prana , or other Eastern mystical power devices. From my experience, aikido demonstrated the most obvious use of such power, and that power is all the more desired the longer one continues in his or her own particular practice. Sooner or later, one discovers that physical techniques have a limit, and further advancement can be realized only through spiritual development. An exception to this would be a short-term self-defense class that is devoid of any spiritual aspects and utilizes only the physical techniques found in some of the spiritually oriented martial arts.
The spiritual seduction, on the other hand, is real and can attract any practitioner at any level. One well-known writer/devotee of karate, who had no interest in karate’s religious aspects, notes what is most common among martial artists: “Only after several years of training did I come to realize that the deepest purpose of the martial arts is to serve as a vehicle for personal spiritual development” (Joe Hyams, Zen in the Martial Arts , cited in Gaylene Goodroad, My Life in the Way , p. 9). Exactly what is involved in that spiritual development? I personally witnessed my own aikido instructors and others in public exhibitions performing feats that defied any natural explanation. The founder of aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, who was a disciple of a grand shaman (one who is said to mediate between mankind and the world of the spirits), was able to demonstrate extraordinary abilities that are beyond the laws of physics. He claimed that his abilities were derived from his spiritual beliefs: “Each one of us is inherently a god or a goddess. Cooperate with all the myriad deities of this world, and fulfill your duty as a messenger of the divine” (John Stevens, Aikido , p.9, cited in Goodroad, My Life in the Way ,
p. 12). It is no coincidence that Ueshiba’s words reflect the lie of godhood that was offered to Eve by Satan speaking through a serpent inGenesis:3:5.
What then of Christian martial arts? As with Christian yoga, there is a denial of any Eastern mystical influence in the Christianized program, which it is claimed has been modified to conform to Christianity. Even if that were the case, which it is not, what part of any martial arts endeavor is reflected in the New Testament teachings related to the church, which is the bride and the body of Christ? None whatsoever! Yet various “Christianized” programs emulate many of the aspects that are clearly unique to the Eastern martial arts with its spiritual roots. For example, many work out in a dojo , dress in traditional gis , wear color belts to signify ranks, and bow to a sensei , or teacher. Aside from the original spiritual meanings related to those things, where is any of that found in the Scriptures? If it’s not found in the Bible, why label it “Christian”? Somehow the mystical aspects of the martial arts have blinded multitudes of Christians from seeing what should be obvious.
In regard to various forms of self-defense, which is what the martial arts are all about, would it make biblical sense to start a “Christian” wrestling club or a “Christian” boxing association? What do those endeavors have to do with Christianity? How about a “Christian” mixed martial arts organization? As absurd as that clearly is, one such organization crowned an American Christian Mixed Martial Arts champion last year [emphasis added]. The inclusion of such things is both unbiblical and irrational. Worse yet, some identify the demonic power of kior chi energy to be the power of the Holy Spirit. In a book titled Christianity & Martial Arts Power , by Michael Chen, a back-cover endorsement declares, “Throughout the book, [the author] uses numerous appropriate and instructional passages from the Holy Bible and connects them to essential martial art concepts such as chi , or life energy.”
In her testimony booklet, My Life in “The Way”: From the Broad Way of the East to the Narrow Way in Christ , Gaylene Goodroad documents the overwhelming influence of Chuck Norris and his mixing of the Eastern mystical worldview with his Christianity. No one has been more effective than Norris in promoting the martial arts in America, which he has done by means of his wins in karate championships, his martial arts programs for young people, and the many movies and TV series in which he has starred and exhibited his skills. Norris’s first autobiography tells of his having learned occult metaphysical concepts from Napoleon Hill and others (see The Seduction of Christianity re Hill). In a 2004 rewrite of his autobiography, Against All Odds: My Story , Norris tells of his relationship with Jesus Christ: “…a very real transaction between God and me took place at [a Billy Graham Crusade] that night. I committed myself to follow him…and he committed himself to me as my Savior and Lord…” (Norris, pp. 29-30, cited in Goodroad, My Life , p. 45).
Whether or not Norris is a true believer is between him and the Lord. However, he has nowhere repented of his belief in the Eastern occultism that he endorses in his books, such as The Secret Power Within: Zen Solutions to Real Problems : “The monk finally told me to open my eyes, and when he did so, it was like waking up…that was when I first became aware that there was more to the martial arts than just the physical, and it was a turning point in my life…” (pp. 3-5). Norris knows the spirituality of Eastern religions far better than he knows the Bible. That lack of biblical awareness, unfortunately, has led to a spiritually disastrous mistake: the unwitting attempt to syncretize the personal God revealed in Scripture with an impersonal energy. He declares, “The fact is that everyone has ki , which is really little more than a technique of visualization allowing one to utilize the internal energy that we all have and letting it flow through the body” (pp. 127-30). No, it is far more, according to martial arts literature: It is the energy that governs the universe and the individual, the cosmic truth, i.e., god as a “force.” One cannot hold to both ideas: God as a force and the God of the Bible, which are diametrically opposed to one another.
In this day when many appear to have lost the ability to really think , holding contradictory beliefs is commonplace. Sadly, not thinking biblically is also commonplace in the church with the same results for professing Christians. Gaylene Goodroad, however, writes that after confessing her sinfulness and putting her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the only way for her to be reconciled to God, the Lord saved her. He then opened her heart and mind, enabling her to recognize the false beliefs she not only had held but had taught for a number of years. She writes, “At the time of my conversion, I had also dedicated over thirteen years of my life to the martial arts. Through the literal sweat of my brow, I had achieved not one, but two, coveted black belts, promoting that year to second degree—Sensei Nidan. I had studied under some internationally recognized karate masters, and had accumulated a room full of trophies while [husband] Steve was stationed on the island of Oahu.
“I had unwittingly become a teacher of Far Eastern mysticism, which is the source of all karate—despite the American claim to the contrary. I studied well and had been a follower of karate-do: ‘the way of the empty hand.’ I had also taught others the way of karate, including a group of marines stationed at Pearl Harbor. I had led them and others along the same stray path of ‘spiritual enlightenment,’ a destiny devoid of Christ. In 1992, I renounced both of my black belts, after discovering the sobering truth about my chosen vocation in light of my Christian faith. For the years since, I have grieved over the fact that I was a teacher of ‘the Way’ to many dear souls—including children. Although I can never undo that grievous error, my prayer is that some may heed what I have written here.” (Her booklet My Life in “The Way” is available as a free download on TBC’s website ).
As noted, the popularity of martial arts among Christians is staggering. Certainly, the huge numbers show that it has reached far beyond a fringe element within Christendom. One would expect better discernment among conservative Christians and their organizations even though we are in a time when the Word of God is neither studied nor endured and is rarely referenced. Bob Jones University has the Judo-Gentlemen and the Champions for Christ Karate team. Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) has short-term mission trips that teach tae kwon do . Liberty University conferred an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree on Chuck Norris, who is also a contributing columnist for WorldNetDaily (WND ). The list goes way beyond those few examples, and it would seem to be overwhelming when one considers the appeal to Christian youth through the influence of movies. No one has to explain to a youth today what the “Force” of Star Wars is all about. They also get the Yin Yang symbol that adorns their lunchboxes, along with the image of Master Splinter of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles . Many are all the more confused by being told that God is the Force . I wonder how many children of Christian parents understand the uncomplicated characteristics of the personal God who is revealed in Scripture and who created them. Just recognizing His personal attributes would be helpful. My encouragement to parents and grandparents is to start with that lesson for their children’s sakes.
There is no justification for incorporating Eastern concepts and practices into one’s walk with the Lord. They lead multitudes of Christians to participate in techniques that come from the world of the occult and will ultimately deceive them regarding the character of God and, therefore, the very Gospel itself. Our prayer for this three-part series is that believers who read the articles will better recognize the inherent dangers of the New Age Movement and Eastern mystical concepts.
McMahon, T.A.. (2016, May 1). New Age Mysticism Déja-vu — Part Three. thebereancall.org. Retrieved June 3, 2016 from http://www.thebereancall.org/content/new-age-mysticism-d-ja-vu-part-three

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Guest Post: A God Who Hides Himself

[Excerpts from Psychology and the Church by Dave Hunt and T. A. McMahon]
There can be no doubt that we are in the "perilous times" that Paul warned would be characterized by men being "lovers of their own selves" (2 Timothy:3:1-2). Man has always been narcissistic, but for the first time in history self-love is praised and promoted--and selfishly "looking out for Number 1" is a virtue! Even among many evangelicals God commands little reverence and is generally treated as though He exists primarily to fulfill man's desires.
Multitudes of Christians uncritically accept heresy from a Benny Hinn who promises physical healing that doesn't happen, but they refuse correction that would bring desperately needed spiritual healing. Millions seek happiness, but few desire holiness. The gifts are eagerly sought; the Giver is slighted. The pursuit is of blessings rather than the Blesser. Paul's desire "that I may know him" (Philippians 3:10) has been exchanged for "that I might know myself and have my plans blessed by Him." Yet the Bible plainly states that God "is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Hebrews:11:6). Those who seek blessings from God rather than seeking Him are to be pitied no matter how much health or wealth they imagine they receive by positive/possibility thinking. Such self-centered prayers are not "answered" by God but by circumstance or Satan.
Many Christians selfishly imagine that the above verse provides a formula for getting a car, house, good job, and other things from God. Yet what a bad bargain it would be to receive the whole world instead of Him! God wants to reward us with Himself, but most Christians are seeking everything else. Yes, we do have needs in this life and He has promised to meet them. But He has told us to seek first the kingdom of God (which is "not meat and drink" [Romans:14:17] but Himself reigning in our hearts) and His righteousness (Matthew:6:33), and whatever needs we have will be supplied. Those who seek God with the whole heart have no anxieties! This-not psychological therapy-is the antidote for unhappy or fearful souls.
Today's world is rushing headlong to judgment. Many Christians, caught up in the mad pace, find little time for the one worthwhile pursuit both for this life and the next: knowing, loving, and worshiping God. Christianity has been formularized: a few songs, some prayers, a brief, uplifting sermon, hasty parking lot greetings; then, conscience too easily appeased, a hurried departure to the real world of earthly pursuits and pleasures. How paradoxical that the lives of His professed followers leave so little room for God! It is not our natural bent to seek Him but rather to hide from Him. We can only seek God as He first has sought us and draws us to Himself through the wooing of His Holy Spirit in our hearts. This He will do if He is our true and deep desire.
What does it mean to seek God--and, after all, what is the point? Is He not "a God who hides Himself"? Where was God in the Gulag, or Auschwitz? Where has He been hiding in Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Israel, Somalia, or in the earthquakes, hurricanes, tidal waves, tornadoes, floods, and fires that ravage this earth? Where is God when we pray and have no sense that anyone is hearing or even cares? Where and why does He hide when we need Him most? Has He no pity for the weeping widow or orphan?
God is not mocked. He is too loving and wise to jump to the aid of those who, having turned a deaf ear to the witness of creation and conscience, now suddenly cry out in disaster for His help. The very tragedy prolonged may prove to be the only means of causing a stubborn heart to turn to Him at last. Christ didn't rush right back to Bethany to raise Lazarus from a sick bed but waited to raise him from the dead in a far greater demonstration of power. The cry must be deeper than a plea for mere rescue from trouble. One's utter hopelessness without God--the opposite of self-esteem, self-worth, etc.-must be seen and the sin of self-importance and self-will confessed. One's desperate need of Him not only in the present circumstances but for eternity must be confessed if God is to be known.
It is not easy for God to reveal Himself. He won't reward mere curiosity. It requires a passion to know Him on our part. How can He help those who, if He worked a miracle in response to their cry, would give credit to Buddha, to Allah, or to some "spirit" or idol or occult force? Reinforcing faith in false gods would not be a kindness but would only grease the road to hell. God hides Himself--not from those who can see but only from those who won't. The ego of man is so inflated that it obscures the God who fills the universe, whose infinite wisdom and power are conspicuous in every leaf and star.
Men are blinded because of their freely chosen false ideas. Most people are not interested in knowing the true God but a "god" who suits their taste, with whom they feel comfortable, and who gives them their desires. Masons, New Agers and members of many of the numerous Twelve-Steps programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous insist that any concept of a "higher power" will do; just believe in "God as you conceive Him to be." God will not reveal Himself to that false faith--but Satan will happily oblige to foster such delusion.
Even many professing Christians have been deceived by popular church-taught formulas for knowing God. One of the most deadly is the belief that God or Christ can be known by visualizing them as one imagines them to be. These visual images conjured up in "inner healing" or "two-way prayer" sometimes even speak, and this is the fastest way to pick up an "inner" or "spirit guide"-literally a demon masquerading as "God," "Christ," "Mary," or whomever one wished to meet and visualized for that occult purpose. The demonization that takes place is not entered into deliberately but is a form of entrapment about which the visualizer cannot complain because he has involved himself in unbiblical techniques that cheapen God and lead in a direction that common sense ought to recognize as deadly.
Nearly thirty years ago, Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini declared, "The purest joy in Islam is to kill and to be killed for Allah!" Since then, hundreds of "suicide bombers" have demonstrated their faith in this Allah of Islam, who promises rewards in "Paradise" for murdering innocent women and children, the more victims the greater the reward-and especially if they are Jews. Such is not the God of the Bible, who is love and whose followers He empowers to love in His name even their enemies.
Now God hides Himself from a world determined not to follow Him but to take its own way. As it was in Israel, so today, everyone wants to do whatever he wants. Any gods will be accepted and honored that honor man as he is, call for no repentance, and promise a false peace built upon "the brotherhood of man." The true God is hidden from a world that has sunk to such depths that He can only reveal Himself in the worst judgment ever known.
Yes, "the day of the Lord will come" (2 Peter:3:10). When Christ returns, as He left, to the Mount of Olives, the entire world, including the fish, birds, animals, and insects, will tremble at His presence (Ezekiel:38:18-20). God will reveal Himself to the entire world in judgment: "Every eye shall see him . . . and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him" (Revelation:1:7), and all flesh will know that He is God!
May our passion be to know and love Him now. May our lives be characterized by a reverent fear of Him. And may we persuade those about us to know, through Jesus Christ, the only true God, whom to know is life eternal.
Hunt & McMahon. (2008, January 1). A God Who Hides Himself. thebereancall.org. Retrieved May 1, 2016 from http://www.thebereancall.org/content/january-2008-extra-god-who-hides-himself

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Guest Post: New Age Mysticism Pt2

The New Age Movement seems to have faded away since it came on the scene quite vigorously in the 1970s. Actually, it hasn’t faded away but has “faded into the woodwork.” Many of its teachings and practices have become so accepted in Western society that they’re commonplace, seemingly far removed from their Eastern mystical roots. Terms like karma, yoga, meditation, guru, mantra, etc., have become part of our everyday language, without any hint of their religious origins and connections for most people. Additionally, a number of programs have arisen that deceptively promote Eastern meditation as non-religious science by calling it mindfulness .
Yet there are some who are sounding the alarm that potential danger lies hidden in the spiritual foundations of meditation. They recognize that the faith of Christians who participate in these practices is being undermined. Gaylene Goodroad, researcher and writer for Herescope, quotes former mystic Christine Pack regarding her first meditation experience: “In the space of 20 minutes (because that’s all the time it takes to do a meditation), my worldview shifted dramatically…the Christianity of the Bible was no longer a valid spiritual path for me. Why? Because Christianity is the only religion with such unbending and exclusive truth claims. (‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life....no one comes to the Father but through Me.’— John:14:6)…. And meditation counters this claim by generating an experience in which a person feels a profound sense of interconnectedness and oneness with ‘all’ that feels completely counter to the exclusive truth claims of Christianity. It feels like you have just had an encounter with God, that you have been in the presence of the Divine...only, you haven’t. Let’s look at the logical conclusions that practicing mystics must come to if they are staying true to their belief system: If I can experience God through meditation, if I can ‘cross the divide’ through my own efforts, then the Cross of Calvary has no meaning. And Jesus was a liar when He said that He was the only way to God. And the Bible was wrong where it says that without Christ we are dead in our sins and trespasses (no ‘divine inner spark’ already living within each person).” 1
The experience of “oneness with ‘all’” doesn’t necessarily happen to everyone who meditates, but the potential is there for everyone who practices it, no matter the goal of the practitioner—whether seeking spiritual enlightenment or simply relief from stress. That latter point, including being more productive in one’s job, school, or family environment, is what is being heralded by the promoters and publishers. Noted Hollywood director David Lynch, a disciple of Transcendental Meditation’s (TM) founder Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, started the Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace. Yet while denying its religious roots and basis, he declares, “If you don’t already meditate, take my advice: Start. It will be the best decision you ever make.” 2 Another meditation foundation that is being eagerly received by educators is MindUP. It has Buddhist roots, whereas TM’s source is Hinduism—although that information is often hidden by their promoters.
MindUP’s mindfulness meditation claims to train the brains of both adults and children to develop the “social and emotional skills to reduce stress and anxiety for healthier, happy lives,” with no religious attachments. That’s quite attractive to Americans, a society given to self-helps and whatever else may seem to solve their problems. Yet the rush to solutions in the US is nearly always based upon a zeal without knowledge. That would account for the overwhelming growth of another “mind-adjusting” business—psychotherapy, the pseudoscience that has created far more problems than it has solved while becoming a multi-billion-dollar industry.
Should American consumers be concerned about the increasing number of meditation offerings? Have any warning labels or caveat emptor (buyer beware) caution signs been attached to TM or MindUP by their promoters? Not even in the small print. Is that because, as they say in the sports world, “No harm, no foul”? Hardly, as a growing number of concerns of late are being reported, such as this article in The Washington Post titled: “Meditation and mindfulness aren’t as good for you as you think: There are negative side effects that no one ever talks about.” Here are some excerpts: “Mindfulness is a technique extracted from Buddhism in which one tries to notice present thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgment....What was once a tool for spiritual exploration has been turned into a panacea for the modern age—a cure-all for common human problems, from stress to anxiety to depression. By taking this ‘natural pill’ every day, we open ourselves up to the potential for myriad benefits and no ill effects, unlike synthetic pills, such as antidepressants, with their potential for negative side effects….Mindfulness has been sold to us, and we are buying it.…After examining the literature from the last 45 years on the science of meditation, we realized with astonishment that we are no closer to finding out how meditation works or who benefits the most or the least from it.” 3 So much for the “science” of meditation!
It’s interesting that this report by a secular newspaper states simply and clearly what TM and mindfulness meditation programs have lied about from their introduction: “Mindfulness has been separated from its roots, stripped of its ethical and spiritual connotations and sold to us as a therapeutic tool. While this may not deny its power as a technique to change our state of consciousness and with implications for mental health, it arguably limits its ‘naturalness,’ as well as its potential—at least as originally intended.” The secular article concludes with this: “So if you go into it [the practice of mindfulness meditation]—as with taking any other kind of pill – keep your eyes open. Don’t consume mindfulness blindly.” 4
The undisclosed “negative side effects” run the gamut from continuing depression to demonization to suicide. The Atlantic printed an article titled “The Dark Knight of the Soul: For some, meditation has become more curse than cure.” Dr. Willoughby Britton oversees a retreat center that ministers to meditators who are there not to restore themselves with meditation—they’re recovering from it: “I started having thoughts like, Let me take over you , combined with confusion and tons of terror,” says David, a polite, articulate 27-year-old who arrived at Britton’s Cheetah House in 2013. “I had a vision of death with a scythe and a hood, and the thought, Kill yourself , over and over again.” Another young man being treated is “Michael, 25, a certified yoga teacher [who] made his way to Cheetah House. He explains that during the course of his meditation practice his ‘body stopped digesting food. I had no idea what was happening.’ For three years he believed he was ‘permanently ruined’ by meditation.” 5
Dr. Britton is an assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the Brown University Medical School. The Atlantic article continues: “She receives regular phone calls, emails, and letters from people around the world in various states of impairment. Most of them worry that no one will believe—let alone understand—their stories of meditation-induced affliction. Her investigation of this phenomenon, called ‘The Dark Night Project,’ is an effort to document, analyze, and publicize accounts of the adverse effects of contemplative practices.” 6 In America: The Sorcerer’s New Apprentice , Dave Hunt and I attempted to inform the Body of Christ of our concerns about the spiritual and physical dangers of Eastern mystical techniques and practices that many Christians were being attracted to and seduced by, believing they were simply engaging in physical and mental exercises that would improve their minds and bodies. Few seemed to be listening as we explained that Eastern meditation leads to the same kind of altered state of consciousness as psychedelic drugs, even though meditation and other related mind-altering techniques (repeated mantras, visualization, sensory deprivation, yoga asanas, etc.) were being touted as a “natural” approach without the side effects of drugs. In that 1988 book, we noted some of the New Age organizations that have faced up to the claimed “nonexistent,” yet real, horrendous side effects, such as the Spiritual Emergency Network, which maintained a hotline and referral treatment service for those whose lives had been spiritually and physically wrecked. The Spiritual Emergency Network continues today although with the adjusted new title: “The Spiritual Emergence Network.”
Even among those who are acknowledging the present and potential damage of mystical practices, there seems to be a type of bondage involved. Dr. Britton, for all of her great concerns, candidly admitted, “There are parts of me that just want meditation to be all good. I find myself in denial sometimes, where I just want to forget all that I’ve learned and go back to being happy about mindfulness and promoting it, but then I...meet someone who’s in distress, and I see the devastation in their eyes, and I can’t deny that this is happening.”
Tragically, there are many in the church, whether Christians in name only or true believers, who are ignorant of, oblivious to, or in denial regarding the dangers of New Age/Eastern mystical beliefs and practices. Dave Hunt, in his 2006 book Yoga and the Body of Christ, reported that “Astonishingly, there are about 586,000 references on ‘Google Search’ under the heading ‘Yoga for Christians.’” Today that same search brings up more than a million resources. Anyone concerned?
Let’s review some undeniable facts. New Age mysticism is a latter-day re-establishment and reworking of Eastern mysticism for the West. At the heart of it all is the view of God as an impersonal spiritual Energy or Force that can be manipulated by the mind of man, a concept that rejects the personal Creator God who reveals Himself in Scripture through His Holy Spirit. The way to connect with the “God” of Eastern mysticism is through experiencing an altered state of consciousness via mind-altering methods such as drugs, meditation, visualization, yoga positions, repetitious chanting, sensory deprivation (Sufi whirling, Indian sweat lodge experiences, isolation cells, etc.). All of these are forms of sorcery, a term found in Scripture (in the Greek, pharmakeia , translated as magic, sorcery, enchantment), and a practice condemned therein. Writers for major secular newspapers and magazines have recognized the fact that the meditation promoted by organizations (e.g., MindUP, TM) that declare it to be scientific with no religious connection, as well as beneficial with no side effects, are misguided if not fraudulent.
If the secular press can discern the harmful errors contrary to the claims of the meditation businesses, where is the discernment among Christians? The criticism that they seem to be climbing aboard the Titanic even though it’s lurching is sadly true. Consider Rick Warren, who is arguably the most recognized and influential evangelical pastor today. Hoping to help those among his church members who struggled with weight loss, he introduced The Daniel Plan. As part of that plan, he turned himself and his flock over to the guidance of three medical doctors, all of whom promote mystical meditation: Dr. Mehmet Oz, Dr. Daniel Amen, and Dr. Mark Hyman. Dr. Oz is a Sufi mystic, the national spokesman for TM, and a devotee of New Ager Oprah Winfrey. Dr. Amen is a psychiatrist who teaches the Japanese spiritual-energy practice of Reiki. Dr. Hyman teaches Buddhist meditation. Furthermore, on his RWToolbox Twitter page Warren directs followers in the contemplative meditation practice of “centering prayer”: “Choose a simple word, phrase, or verse from Scripture….Take time to become quiet….Let them [your thoughts] go….Be with Jesus. Listen. Be still.” Warren is hardly alone in Christianity’s slide into Eastern mysticism.
Evangelical conferences for youth have started their days with yoga. A writer for Christianity Today says “Yes to Yoga.” She claims, “The three hours a week I spend doing yoga not only make me more flexible, tone my muscles, and relax me. They also draw me closer to Christ. They are my bodily-kinetic prayer.” 7 Can yoga have some physical value? Yes. But at what cost? Smoking also has some value in that it calms and relaxes the smoker. However, unlike yoga meditation, it carries a warning label regarding its potentially deadly consequences.
Amazingly, there is a network of Christians who practice different forms of yoga, such as Jesus Yoga, Yahweh Yoga, Holy Yoga and Kid’s Holy Yoga, Praise Moves, Yogafaith, and Christoga. They have a website that speaks for all regarding its purpose: “We are drawn together through our individual and collective experience that yoga and meditation deepens our Christian faith….We simply feel called to share our experiences with the hope they’ll draw others to deepen their faith through embodied contemplative practices” (See www.christianspracticingyoga.com/). The Christian Yoga Magazine website declares that it is a resource “for people of all religious traditions to explore how they can integrate Eastern physical and spiritual practices—such as yoga, meditation and Tai Chi—into their daily lives while remaining true to their deepest spiritual beliefs” (See www.christianyogamagazine.com/about/).
There’s little doubt that many of the proponents of Christian yoga are sincere people who just want to make Christianity and yoga compatible. It seems obvious that this would be inexcusable, but given the present state of Christianity—which seems to welcome, with arms wide open (despite glaring contradictions), any additions or modifications—we find it happening with increasing frequency. This is experiential ecumenism, part of the process at work in the development of the religion of the Antichrist. Furthermore, it’s a fulfillment of prophecy, along with an encouragement to press on: “Remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; how that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts…sensual, having not the Spirit. But ye…building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference: and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh” (Jude 17-23).
The only faith that can be deepened in truth is biblical faith, which is diametrically opposed to the teachings and practices of Eastern mysticism and its Westernized stepchild.   TBC
  1. Christine Pack, “What Is Mysticism?”, www.solasisters.com/2011/03/what-is-mysticism.html, cited in Gaylene Goodroad, “Eastern Meditation as the Universal Cure-All,” www.herescope.blogspot.com , November 23, 2015.
  2. www.davidlynchfoundation.org/message.html.
  3. Miguel Farias and Catherine Wikholm, www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/06/05/meditation-and-mindf....
  4. Ibid.
  5. Tomas Rocha, www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/06/the-dark-knight-of-the-souls/....
  6. Ibid.
  7. Agnieszka Tennant, www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2005/mayweb-only/42.0b.html.

McMahon, T.A.. (2016, March 1). New Age Mysticism Déja vu – Part Two. thebereancall.org. Retrieved April 2, 2016 from http://www.thebereancall.org/content/new-age-mysticism-de-ja-vu-part-two