Monday, December 27, 2010

"Sincerity" the Most Important Thing?

"The plain truth is, that “sincerity and earnestness” are becoming the idol of many Christians in these latter days. People seem to think it matters little what opinions a man holds in religion, so long as he is “earnest and sincere”, and you are thought uncharitable if you doubt his soundness in the faith! Against this idolatry of mere “earnestness” I enter my solemn protest. I charge every reader to remember that God’s written Word is the only rule of faith, and to believe nothing to be true and soul-saving in religion which cannot be proved by plain texts of Scripture. I entreat him to read the Bible and make it his only test of truth and error, right and wrong." - J.C. Ryle

J.C. Ryle wrote this almost a hundred years ago, but this is every bit as true now as it was in Ryle's day.  "Sincerity," especially, seems to be the chief measuring stick that today's postmoderns go by:
"Hey, as long as it works for you..." 
.....with the "it" merely being incidental and the "you" being of primary importance, when in fact the 'it' of Christianity is of paramount importance, and the 'you' is of very little importance.  (The 'it' of the Postmodern Manifesto, of course, refers to one's set of beliefs, one's doctrine, as it were.)

We all have friends who have succumbed to this newfangled way of Postmodern thinking.  They nod sagely, and they pat your hand when you attempt to speak truth to them, and they rush to assure you that you need not worry for them....after all, what they have 'works' for them.

But doesn't truth matter?  One of my favorite Christian pastors of today says that often he will go to a college auditorium and stand up at the podium and boldly proclaim:
"I am a seeker of truth!"
And when he does this, he says that he will most likely receive a standing ovation.  Cheers and hollering and fist pumping all around.  But, when he follows up this statement with this proclamation:
"I have found Truth.  I know exactly what Truth is!"
.....he is often booed and jeered.

Why is this?  Why is the pursuit of truth thought to be such a high and noble calling, and yet the proclamation of one's having found Truth deemed to be insufferably arrogant?

As Christians, we know that Truth is not a is a Who.  It is Jesus Christ, who said:
"I am the way, the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father but through me." (John 14:6)
Truth isn't just what feels good, or what seems to work (pragmatism).  And yet many of today's church leaders seem to go by the maxim that if their church is growing, then "God must be in it."  But growth is not the sole measure of a church's spiritual health.  After all, today there are many, many examples of churches that are growing by leaps and bounds, but which routinely offer up self-help messages designed to tickle the ears of the hearers, messages about abundant living, good health, how to parent, be a good spouse, manage one's finances, etc., rather than sound biblical teaching.

But isn't it doctrine, in fact, that teaches man how he can be reconciled to a high and holy God?  Shouldn't this be the main job of the church?  Teaching about the essential doctrines of the faith and calling for repentance of sin and faith in Christ's atoning death?  After all, this was how Jesus and the apostles taught.

Think of it this way: wiccans, pagans, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists are all very sincere in their beliefs. It's just that they are all sincerely deceived.  They all have's just that it's wrong doctrine.  And please understand this: the depth of their sincerity will be no safeguard whatsoever against the fires of hell awaiting them on the Day of Judgment.  Does this not give us all pause?

Just for the record, below are the essential doctrines of the Christian faith.  So essential to the faith are these truths, that lack of belief in even one of these doctrines is considered to be heresy.  I'm putting these doctrines forth because I keep having conversations with people who have no idea whatsoever that there are even essential beliefs a Christian must hold to in order to be considered orthodox.  (The result, of course, of an entire church generation having been primarily fed with ear-tickling, self-help messages.)  So here they are:

The Five Essential Beliefs of the Christian Faith
1. The Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2. The Virgin Birth. 
3. The Blood Atonement.
4. The Bodily Resurrection.
5. The Inerrancy of the Scriptures. 

Not many words are used in comprising the above list of the essential beliefs of the Christian faith, but many challenging concepts are contained therein, are they not?  In fact, all true, born-again believers have had to wrestle through the hard truths contained in these 21 words, not to mention their implications.  If you have never seen this list before, I invite you to dwell on it and its truths, and make sure that you are in wholehearted agreement with them.  And if you are not, then, by all means, let the wrestling begin.  Your eternity depends upon it.

Friday, December 17, 2010

On Christmas Dispositions

by Jeremy Clarke, Legacy Baptist Church, NW Arkansas

I think no other time of year reveals the deep ruin of this world as vividly as Christmas.  This is a season, it seems, that brings an uncanny insurgence of feigned virtue; a season saturated with the deceitful schemes of ingenious marketing tactics and ploys intended to generate some measure of public sentiment so as to invoke the great machine of covetous consumerism.  I abhor the world’s even mild, transient, opportunistic attempts at identification with the virtues and symbols of our faith.  The whole Christmas “campaign” just accents the blackness and ignorance of a world that is perishing and passing away….and I have to be especially diligent not to become embittered by it all.

In that context, I was struck (as sovereignty would have it) with a simple question from an old Puritan work that I happened to be reading this morning.  The question posed was this: “Can you, if truly a Christian, contemplate the costly advent and agonies of the Son of God on your behalf, and yet be indifferent to the prosperity of the cause for which He came and died? Can you behold the Father of eternity resigning the Son of His love in compassion to you, and yet be careless about the conversion of a perishing soul?”

For me the question was internalized this way: “While it is true that the world’s “Christmas” is a mockery of our Lord Jesus Christ, why is my governing disposition one of embitterment, rather than of pity and compassion for those who will traverse December 25th…and all of their life…completely ignorant and darkened to the realities of the incarnate Christ, and to the free offer of salvation?” Likewise, if you profess to be a Christian, then you must know, as do I, that you are surrounded by souls that will exist forever.  What’s more, God has granted you to know the worth of a soul; to know the grim danger of unbelief and unfathomable glories of heaven, having illumined you and having called you through His gospel.  And will you, or I, with cold embitterment this Christmas, behold a dead world while simultaneously withholding the word of life?

If the Christian is to radiate Christ in December….and in whatever brief span of life awaits beyond…. consider this:
He who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death.” (James 5:20)
It is, of course, God who has sovereignly chosen and who sovereignly does the saving, but His people are to be compassionate mouthpieces and instruments for His gospel.  Can a man truly believe the gospel and yet be inactive in its proclamation?  Not hardly.

What then? Christ Himself taught:
“The night cometh in which no man can work.” (John 9:4)
That is to say that there is coming a time when there will be no further opportunity to labor for the glory of God in the salvation of men.  What motivation then is ours to aspire to crowd the time we have with gospel labors!  If pity will move us at all, if compassion will mobilize us at all, it must move us here…and now, beloved.

Look to the Christ of the real Christmas who became for your welfare a Man of sorrows and suffering.  Think of that moment when you step into eternity and into His presence….and of those you will meet again who were snatched from an eternal night by the Spirit-empowered gospel uttered by the instrument of your lips.  Is there a carol known that can express the joy of being joined with them in the eternal songs of heaven sung to the glory of Christ? If there be such a one, may it be our song this Christmas.

photo credit: the idealist via photopin cc

 Additional Resources 

For the Christian: "I Will Never Leave You Nor Forsake You"

Legacy Baptist Church, Northwest Arkansas

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dan Kimball of the Emerging Church and Lectio Divina

by Ken Silva,
The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him. (Proverbs 18:17)
Things Aren’t As Simple As They May Appear
Apprising Ministries has been among those pioneering the mission filed of online apologetics and discernment ministry and it’s a well known fact that a major focus of mine has been the sinfully ecumenical neo-liberal cult of the Emergent Church aka the Emerging Church
In covering the EC I’ve been showing you, as well as carefully documenting, the really awful impact these rebels against the final authority of the Word of God are having upon the church visible through their postmodern version of Progressive Christian theology—a Liberalism 2.0—often referred to as “big tent” Emergence Christianity.
One of those involved with the EC, right from very early on, would be Dan Kimball, author of the book The Emerging Church. You may recall that I wrote a piece concerning Kimball last February called Curious Associations Ed Stetzer, Dan Kimball, And Tim Keller MissionSHIFT where I pointed you to this rather odd association of alleged Reformed men with Kimball. I also told you that I have spoken to him numerous times over a period of five years via email and by phone.
However, I ceased doing so because each time Kimball had asked me to keep any of the details off the record, which really doesn’t help at all; for you see, when one is a teacher in the public arena like Dan Kimball, via church conferences and books etc., then their beliefs and teachings are there for all to see. The problem which then arises is when one later says privately that they might believe other than their public record would indicate, then they themselves are introducing confusion. Recently Dan Kimball gave an interview, as you can see in Dan Kimball On The Record; some of which he chose to use to take some swipes at those of us in this line of ministry that he referred to as “watchdog discernment ministry.”
As I told you in Emerging Church Leader Dan Kimball On “Discernment Ministries”, he would also go on to writeA call for Christian discernment web sites to lovingly discern each other where this well known spokesman within the youth ministry sector EC would opine “a couple things” he “wanted to express” because:
someone I know has been hurt from a recent series of inaccurate things reported on Christian “discernment” web sites and in the comments on those web sites. In fact, many people get hurt from these web sites all the time. So often from misrepresentation and those posting not having facts correct about people… It is far too easy for people to make judgments, so incredibly often it is by those who have not even read the books by the very authors they judge. Or taken the time to look at the accuracy of web sites who may quote a sentence or two but never look at the context it was written from.  
I think that some (not all, but several) of these Christian discernment web sites and the people who comment on them and follow them don’t take these words of Jesus seriously [refers to John 7:24]. They judge by mere appearance. Not just the people who run the web sites, but also the people who make comments on them or link to them etc. They judge by appearance. They judge by guilt-by-association. They judge by taking sentences out of context to build a case for what they already pre-believe to prove their point. Almost cult-like actually, in how things can be twisted to make a point. (Online source)
Yeah, I can see here we can be thankful that Dan Kimball himself was above making any “judgements” about “several” anonymous “cult-like” Christian ”discernment web sites,” which he just knows “don’t take [the] words of Jesus seriously,” who “have not read” any books they write about, and simply “build a case for what they already pre-believe.” Kimball then went on to state:
I just think it is time for Christian discernment web sites to turn their focus on each other for a while. Like they do for “false teachers” in examining them, maybe they need to look out for “false discerners”. Figure out which ones are credible and which ones aren’t. Discernment web sites need to be discerning each other. I wish they would develop some sort of screening system or a code of discernment tools to hold each other accountable to that. Use your discerning skills and truly discern each other for a change to weed out the false discerners from the true discerners. (Online source)
To which I replied to him in the combox of his post: 
“Use your discerning skills and truly discern each other for a change.” Hmm, that sounds like it would also apply to leaders within the Emerging/ent Church as well, no?
(Online source)
Unfortunately, in a fashion quite typical of leaders within the Emerging Church, Kimball responds ignoring the substance of my comment: 
Hi Ken!
Thanks for commenting! Yes, we should be discerning what we teach constantly through the lens of Scripture. Absolutely!
And with discernment web sites they should be doing that all the more since that is 100% of what they do and focus on. I believe so much of the poorly done discerning would be cleaned up if discernment web sites held each other accountable and screened each other and checked the accuracy of what they report as they do with those they discern in the church world.
Thanks again for the comment! Hope all is well! (Online source)
So I had to spell it out for him: 
“I believe so much of the poorly done discerning would be cleaned up if discernment web sites held each other accountable and screened each other and checked the accuracy of what they report as they do with those they discern in the church world.”
I know what you mean; so much of the poorly done teaching would be cleaned up if Emerging Church web sites held each other accountable and screened each other and checked the accuracy of what they teach by Scripture as they do with those “fundamentalists” in the church world they so love to criticize.
I’m just sayin’. Thanks again for the the chance to comment! Hope all is well too!
(Online source)
Before One Begins To Teach They Should First Know What They’re Talking About
In other words, what’s sauce for the emerging goose is sauce for the discerning gander; if Dan Kimball doesn’t see a need for leaders within the Emerging Church to hold each other accountable and check their accuracy, then who in the world is he to pass judgment upon some anonymous so-called discernment websites that he’s apparently lumped all together? Kimball also trots out a favorite Emergent Church contrived complaint: “They judge by taking sentences out of context to build a case for what they already pre-believe to prove their point.” Right; yeah, because these guys apparently are above criticism, then it’s obvious that “they,” whomever they may be, must be blah, blah, blah.
Well, using Lectio Divina as an example, I’m about to show you that it’s Dan Kimball who is the one that’s causing the confusion; not discernment people, because his writings concerning it never gave any indication that he was merely reading the Bible as Lectio Divina. Kimball tells us in that aforementioned interview:
I was with about six or seven people once in Colorado, and someone said, “All right, we’re going to do Lectio Divina”; and they opened up to a passage in Scripture—I think it might have been the Psalms, I’m trying to remember, and they, you know, it was like “all right.” And I’d never heard of it before, but then that’s what it was called; sit around in a circle and someone just starts, y’know, and they’ll like open up the Bible and they read a section—I’m opening up my Bible right now—and they read, say, “Psalm” and it was “The Lord lives. Praise be to my rock. Exalted be God my savior.” That’s Psalm 18:46.
And then, they’d pause for a moment just like that and they’d say, “The Lord lives. Praise be to my rock. Exalted be God my savior.” An’ I think they read two or three verses and then w-went around the circle and I’m like, “You know that was refreshing!” We didn’t, you know, there was no mystical chanting, of like, losing your mind—it was—you’re reading a Bible verse, three or four times, and it was—it was actually—and what Irealized was it was just you were calming down for a moment, in the rush of meetings, and stuff that you were about to go into; and I’m like, “That was, I loved reading Scripture.” It was not the “emptying of mind” or’s going into some weird, meditative state of, you know, whatever. It was reading a Bible verse three or four ti[mes]—what the heck was wrong with that?
What’s wrong with that would be: This isn’t even Lectio Divina in the first place. The fact is, Dan Kimball is the one who writes promoting Lectio Divina, and then with no disclaimer in his teachings, he turns around and redefines what it is. Therefore, Kimball is the one who is taking things out of context, and not discernment people criticizing this practice of Counter Reformation spirituality, which I pointed out in Spread Of Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism: Lectio Divina most certainly does involve Contemplative/Centering Prayer (CCP)—meditation in an altered state of consciousness—the main vehicle of CSM aka “silence.” You see, this practice of antibiblical ascetism—and all the so-called spritual disciplines—would flower in the monastic traditions of apostate Roman Catholicism; i.e. this contributed to why the Lord would send His Reformers in the first place to bring us back to His Word.
Protestants adhering to sola Scriptura ala Reformation theology 1) don’t get to redefine practices that originated within Roman Catholicism, and 2) they would not even use these practices because they negate sola Scriptura in favor of sola Feelings-a. The tragic truth is, the Emerging Church was a Trojan Horse which unloaded corruptContemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM) ala Living Spiritual Teacher and Quaker mystic Richard Foster—and his spiritual twin Dallas Willard—within the mainstream of evangelicalism. It’s also beyond question that this CSM—rooted as it is in the Counter Reformation (hello!) spirituality of apostate Roman Catholicism—masquerading as spurious Spiritual Formation—was planted within the EC as a key core doctrine right from its inception; and when evanjellyfish embraced the EC it began moving away in earnest from the Biblical theology of the Reformation.
Men like Dan Kimball have been assisting this slide into apostasy e.g. with his recommending Lectio Divina as in the following: 
We have neglected so many of the disciplines of the historical church, including weekly fasting, practicing the silence [ala Desert Fathers], and lectio divina.[1]
As well as this:
In Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican churches, you’ll find a well-developed calendar and more set pattern of worship. In many American branches of the church, however, liturgical practices were removed and forgotten a long time ago. Yet among emerging generations there is a desire to embrace Christianity’s ancient forms of worship, which includes liturgy.
In the book Soul Shaper, Tony Jones explains a lot of ancient spiritual disciplines and shows how they can be attractive ways of worship for emerging generations. Lectio Divina, which is the practice of repeatedly meditating and praying through a passage of Scripture, and many other spiritual exercises are being reintroduced in emerging worship gatherings.
There is also a growing practice in emerging worship to focus on the Christian calendar, which is organized around two major seasons of sacred time: Advent. Christmas, and Epiphany; and Lent, Holy Week, Easter, and Pentecost. Churches that have used liturgy for some time are breathing new life into their “routine” practices. Other emerging worship gatherings are revising ancient practices.
Then the below, which comes from an article by Kimball that ran in Ministry Toolbox at of fellow Druckerite, the Purpose Driven Pope Rick Warren. In this piece called Emerging worship: Moving beyond only preaching and singing Kimball explains:
Ok, now Dan Kimball is claiming he that he apparently doesn’t understand what actual Lectio Divina is, but this really doesn’t help his case at all because he’s the one who just said we need to: “Take time to learn the history of various expressions of worship.” So, did Dan not even take his own advice then? I mean, as I showed you previously in Spread Of Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism: Lectio Divina, under “Helpful Books” Kimball himself recommends the below from Tony Jones, progressive/liberal “theologian in residence” at the church of his equally heretical quasi-universalist pastor Doug Pagitt. You probably know that both are part of the unholy trinity in the Emergent Church along with Living Spiritual Teacher and Emerging Church guru Brian McLaren:
And when we read posts like this from Dan Kimball, even though he makes claims to the contrary, it’s a bit hard to believe that he didn’t know what his friends—whom he’d known for at least eight years or so—were teaching.
O but Dan Kimball doesn’t know what those heretics teach, believe, and confess. Well, be that as it may, underVia Contemplativa: Contemplative Approaches To Spirituality in the book Kimball has just recommended, his own friend (then at least) Tony Jones informs us that what Dan Kimball calls “a contemplative praying of the Scriptures” above was “cemented” into “Western monasticism” by “St. Benedict (c.480-c.550).”[3] In his book, which Dan Kimball wanted us to know is so “helpful,” Jones continues on the very next page to teach:
Lectio divina was articulated further by Guigo II (c.1117-c.1198, the ninth prior of the Grand Chartreuse, a Carthusian order in France. In his book Scala Claustralium (The Ladder of Monastics), Guigo writes:
One day I was engaged in physical work with my hands and I began to think about the spiritual tasks we humans have. While I was thinking, four spiritual steps came to mind: reading (lectio), meditation (meditatio), prayer (oratio), and contemplation (contemplatio). This is the ladder of monastics by which they are lifted up frtom the earth into heaven.. There are only a few distinct steps, but the distance covered is beyond measure and belief since the lower part is fixed on the earth and its top passes through the clouds to lay bare the secrets of heaven [Casey 59]
These four steps have been foundational in the practice of the lectio divina ever since.[4]
Now I’d be absolutely fascinated to see how Dan Kimball can explain how I’ve taken any of this out of context in order to fit some preconceived ideas I might have. I happen to be a former Roman Catholic and it’s an indisputable fact that Lectio Divina involves those four steps, which does also include the transcendental meditation-lite in an altered state of consciousness known as Contemplative/Centering Prayer. This is confirmed by no less an authority than the late Roman Catholic monk and supposed “Spiritual Master” Basil Pennington, a close friend of revered CSM guru Thomas Merton, who explains:
For the past twenty-five years we have been sharing Centering Prayer in all parts of the world. In all our prayer workshops we have always included lectio. For the monk and nun, lectio and contemplation, Centering Prayer, are all part of one reality.[5]
Finally, we consider Benedict XVI Promotes Biblical Meditation: Ancient Practice Could Bring Renewal to Church where we’re told that this spiritual Benedict Arnold, who will have forgotten more about Lectio Divina than Dan Kimball would ever know, instructs us he “believes that the recovery” of “the practice of lectio divina,” is going to usher in some kind of a ”new spiritual springtime for the Church.” Well, he must be just ecstatic as he watches foolish pretending to be Protestants doing just that as they follow other lost sheep coming home to antichrists of Rome. Pope Benedict continues:
“If this practice is promoted with efficacy, I am convinced that it will produce a new spiritual springtime in the Church,” stated the Holy Father. To promote “lectio divina,” Benedict XVI suggested “new methods, attentively pondered, adapted to the times.”…”lectio divina” became a mainstay of religious life. The monastic rules of Sts. Pacomius, Augustine, Basil and Benedict made the practice of diving reading, together with manual work and participation in liturgical life, the triple base of monastic life.
The systematization of “lectio divina” in four steps dates back to the 12th century, explained the Holy Father. Around 1150, Guido, a Carthusian monk, wrote a book entitled “The Monks’ Ladder,” where “he set out the theory of the four rungs: reading, meditation, prayer and contemplation,” according to the Pope. “This is the ladder by which the monks ascend from earth to heaven.” (Online source)
So, as you can plainly see, when someone on a discernment website—whatever that means—says that Dan Kimball promotes practices of Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism it’s precisely because they have done their homework and followed Kimball’s own advice to learn the history of various expressions of worship. The fact is, words mean what they’ve been defined by dictionaries and encyclopedias have defined them, or we lose any ability to even communicate. In the end, it’s been proven now that it is Dan Kimball himself who is out of context here concerning Lectio Divina, and not someone like me.
[1] Dan Kimball, The Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity for New Generations [Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Youth Specialties, 2003], 223.
[2] Dan Kimball, Emerging Worship: Creating Worship Gatherings for New Generations [Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Youth Specialties, 2004], 93.
[3] Tony Jones, Soul Shaper: Exploring spirituality and contemplative practices in youth ministry [Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Youth Specialties, 2003], 037. 
[4] Ibid., 038.
[5] M. Basil Pennington, Lectio Divina: Renewing the Ancient Practice of Praying the Scriptures [New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1998], ix.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Dan Kimball Gives A Statement

In a recent interview, radio host Chris Rosebrough and Emerging Church Leader Dan Kimball both asserted Kimball's orthodoxy, in that both stated that Dan Kimball believes, teaches and confesses the cardinal doctrines of the Historic Christian Faith, and that he is thus orthodox and ought to be welcomed as a brother in Christ.  The reason this is somewhat controversial is because Dan Kimball was one of the main leaders almost ten years ago in a movement which has come to be known as the Emerging Church Movement (ECM).  The ECM, over time, has moved further and further away from the cardinal doctrines of the Historic Christian Faith, and now many of the main leaders outright deny the fundamentals of the Christian faith:

    - The inspiration of the Bible by the Holy Spirit and the inerrancy of Scripture as a result of this.

    - The virgin birth of Christ.

    - The belief that Christ's death was an atonement for sin.

    - The bodily resurrection of Christ.

    - The historical reality of Christ's miracles.

So given Kimball's early involvement with the ECM, there is some controversy as to what he now believes, teaches and confesses.

But as I stated to Kimball in a recent Facebook thread, my concern with him is not what he currently teaches, but rather with the mystics (and mystical practices) associated with the ECM that he has recommended to his readers/followers, including:
Dallas Willard
Tony Jones
Henri Nouwen
Mark Yaconelli
Kimball sidestepped my question by employing the very popular postmodern technique of redefining terms: he told me that, for him, these mystical practices he has recommended (contemplative prayer and Lectio Divina) have never been about entering into an altered state of consciousness via mantra meditation or some other mind-emptying technique.  He also explained that his idea of "contemplative prayer" is meditating deeply upon God's word.

This is all well and good...except that the mystics Kimball has recommended to his readers/followers do employ the use of mantra meditation and spiritually dangerous mind-emptying techniques in the contemplative prayer and Lectio Divina that they teach.

Our entire Facebook exchange follows:

Dan - I'm glad you chimed in. I have a question not regarding what you currently teach, but what you have promoted in the past. (I have great respect for Chris, and if he says that you are now orthodox in what you believe, teach and confess, I will take his word for it.) I guess my concern is with the mysticism you've promoted in the past, especially the Lectio Divina and contemplative prayer (Emerging Worship).

I remember you saying on the interview with Chris that you weren't involved in mystical stuff...that for you, none of what you participated in involved mantra meditation or mind-altering techniques. I believe you, because in my research, I have not found anything that even hints that you are a mystic.

But my question is this: contemplative mysticism has been around now in the church for almost a decade and has led many into a very dangerous spiritual realm. And you were yourself aligned with the guys who've been most responsible for bringing it into churches. Now, I know that you have separated from those guys, and I commend you for that. But my questions is this: are you open to making some kind of public statement about the dangers of contemplative prayer and mysticism, given that as a leader, many look to you for leadership in spiritual matters and as one of the early emergent guys you had a hand in pointing people toward these dangerous practices?

If you like, we can discuss this privately. I'm not sure FB is the ideal forum for a discussion like this.

Christine - I hadn't even heard of the term "contemplative prayer" as is defined in the discernment circles until I read how it defined there. So, so much is how you define these terms - I think being "contemplative" is not a bad thing as we pray, meditate on Scripture etc. but if contemplative means emptying your mind, going into chants where you lose your thinking or the ways I have read discernment sites describe that - for one, we never have practiced that in our church. I never have promoted or taught people to do that. The Scriptures teach in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." That is why in our church we try to constantly stress the importance of being immersed in Scripture for our guide and the importance of knowing the Bible. So in answer to your question, I would not approve nor endorse forms of mindless chanting or the types of things I have read defined as what "contemplative prayer" is as defined on the discernment web sites. But I would encourage you to search out when someone or a church is being accused of being "contemplative" (like ours was) has anyone ever gone there to see if what is being said is true? Does someone have a video of a church that is being accused of doing mindless chants or emptying their minds and going into mystical trances? Has someone actually seen it? Or is it speculation and then people like yourself assume what is reported is true? That is why so many times as people have come to our church who are looking to prove we are doing these things, all come away with not seeing them happening. Like Matt Slick. Or Jim Belcher. Or the Masters College students who came up to visit and after apologized as they had made judgments based on what they were taught. Or a guy from a Calvary Chapel who read a book from one of the discernment self-publishers that was in town and visited and then said he was totally misled by what he read and realized it wasn't accurate when he checked things out. That is what I am stressing in all this. So, would I promote mystical, emptying of minds and mindless chanting? No. Never have. Would not teach that in our church and never will. If someone says we do, then please show evidence of that we practice tis type of "contemplative prayer" as the way it is defined by discernment web sites. Thank you Christine!

Dan - I'm not saying at all that your church is now teaching or has ever taught mind-altering mantra meditation....just that your past alignment with those who DO teach it - not to mention your usage of the same terms - has confused many in the body of Christ when you use the same terms.

I'm not speculating on anything...only going by the terms you've used in your own books.

Would it not serve the Body for you to clear up this confusion with a more direct public statement? There are many who are in danger of being led into the dangerous realm of mysticism over a misunderstanding of these terms. I do sense that you have great compassion for believers....surely you are moved by those weak in the faith who can be easily confused?

And, a public statement just might take the firepower away from discernment sites making unfounded allegations....

Hi Christine! 

OK, if this helps here is a statement. I have never taught nor practiced contemplative prayer as the discernment ministries define it - meaning to lose your mind in endless chanting or going into altered states of consciousness and practicing "the silence". We DO read Scripture verses cognitively several times (as I described and did in the interview) and we do stop (as I hope every Christian does) and quiet our hearts. But this altered states of consciousness is something I never have taught, nor practiced and if someone thinks I have then please show a video, show me describing it (not just using a term, as I explained on Chris's radio show. When I have written the term in the past "lectio divina" I clearly explained what I meant to Chris by that. And I don't even use that term anymore because it is confusing if associated with "altered states of consciousness". 

I will write about this now, as it gets re-quoted a lot on discernment web sites about me, but shows a point. If you read on Lighthouse Trails web site that I wrote practice "the silence", that actually was editorial addition that they put in. I wrote talking about having times of "silence" (which we all should have and that sentence was talking about how in many contemporary worship gatherings it is "go go go" and no slowing down or any time to stop and pray. So I said how we need times of quiet or "silence" in worship gatherings to pray and probably like you do in your own church. However, they chose to add the term "the" in there to fit the description of "the silence" they were trying to make a case for. That is why it is brackets, but it reads like I wrote it. Same for the statement on when they added "desert fathers" to a sentence that I was talking about people practicing the disciplines of the historic church (prayer, Bible study, fasting etc.) in church history from all ages. So many younger people haven't been trained in these basic disciplines of the faith. But then on the Lighthouse web site, they added "desert fathers" to try and show what they were hoping to prove. But go to my actual book, and it isn't there. They added it. I then contacted them to even tell them they did not have it correct what I was meaning there and asked them to remove their words they added to my sentences and they refused. This is why I find discernment web sites to not always be helpful as someone like yourself trusts the reports of these web sites. 

Hope that helps and I have to now get back to writing. I am on a writing retreat right now and even coming on here shows that I am taking the time to respond and care about truth being accurate. I can only speak for myself and our church and as the interview with Chris stated things can be altered to prove someones hopes or preconceived thinking and we need to go to the actual source or person and go to the actual writings and read them in context. Without context you can take Bible verses and start cults (like happens) and you have to read in context when someone quotes something from someone's book especially when manipulated to prove a point someone is trying to make. That is inaccurate reporting when done like that. Again, I have to shut off my internet right now and get back to writing as I only have a few days to get a lot done here and I hope by me coming on here for a little while enables you to hear my heart and actual evidence from the source vs. what may be inaccurate. I always want to be held accountable, absolutely. But accountability means going to the person to see if what is suspected is true, checking out the facts, hearing the other side of the story etc. and doing so with humility and the approach Jesus spoke of when we should first remove our own plank in our eye so our posture is one of humility and to restore, and to follow Matthew 18 to check with someone first etc. Thanks for your interest and I wish we could sit down in person and talk, I wish you could come to our church and see what we do week to week etc. and what I teach and practice. OK. Back to writing and thank you again.

Dan - I haven't "trusted" any discernment sites - I'm merely going by your usage of these terms. The terms themselves are leading people astray because to the vast majority of people who have any familiarity with these practices, Lectio Divina and contemplative prayer ARE about using chanting or repetitive phrases as techniques to enter into an altered state of consciousness.

Any Google search for "Lectio Divina" will bring up any number of sites giving the classic Lectio Divina techniques for entering into an altered state of consciousness.

Maybe we can talk more about this privately. I have personal experience with mysticism, having myself practiced Lectio Divina and other forms of mantra meditation before being saved.

I'm hoping that what you're hearing from me is not that I'm concerned about what you're presently doing, but in your usage of this term, as well as past promotion of this practice and alignment with those who are very much talking about entering into an altered state of consciousness when they say "Lectio Divina."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Dan Kimball Goes On Pirate Christian Radio

Posted by Christine Pack

Dan Kimball, pastor of Vintage Faith Church (Santa Cruz, CA) and author of such popular books as Emerging Worship, They Like Jesus But Not The Church, and Sacred Space was recently interviewed on Chris Rosebrough's radio program regarding his past association with what has come to be known as the Emerging Church Movement (ECM).

In Kimball's defense, in the early, formative years of this movement, the apostate agenda of emergent was kept somewhat hidden to a certain extent from some of the key leaders in this movement.

What this meant is that, over time, the ECM began more and more to reveal their true beliefs and underlying theology (a form of Universalism, or "All paths lead to God.")  This caused a schism to develop within the movement, and thus some of the early leaders - rightfully so - separated themselves from those with whom they were formerly aligned.

However, there has remained tremendous confusion about who and what is orthodox/not orthodox.  Dan Kimball has made efforts to some extent to not be aligned with the outright heretics of the Emergent Church Movement (Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Samir Selmanovic, Tony Jones, etc.), while still retaining some of the outward trappings of the Movement (uber cool atmosphere in the church he pastors, a hip hairstyle, etc.).

Now, it has never been the hipster Christianity trappings of the ECM that bother me.  (After all, who doesn't like Starbucks coffee and a good band?)  No, the most troubling characteristic of the ECM is their rejection of Reformation Theology and their wholehearted embracing of Roman Catholic monastic mysticism.

But as far as I can tell, Dan Kimball is not a mystic.  And to say that he is takes the spotlight off the real issue, which is that for several years he was in lock-step with those who are mystics, and he himself also recommends these mystics in his own books.

More to come on this topic, but until then, the entire interview can be listened to here.

 Additional Resources 

Dan Kimball and Lectio Divina

Christian Maturity and How It Relates To Discernment

What Is Biblical Discernment?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

How Much Witchcraft is Okay?

Posted by Christine Pack

The final installment of the Harry Potter series opened nationwide on Friday, 11/19/10, with the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  This has been one of the most highly anticipated movie openings in cinema history, with many theaters playing the movie on multiple screens and adding midnight showings.

Christians, too, have been caught up in reading the Harry Potter books and watching the movies, making statements such as this:
"I have read and fallen in love with these books. There is no element of witchcraft to be found in them."

"This is an area of liberty for me."

"I've read the books and there is no witchcraft."

"It's all in good fun.  This is all fantasy and the magic has no basis in reality.  But the movies are exciting and fun to watch."
Now, speaking as someone who has done Wicca/witchcraft before, I can attest that the Harry Potter books DO contain actual spells and witchcraft.  But don't just take it from me that the Harry Potter books contain actual witchcraft:
In her own words in an interview, author J.K.Rowling admitted that she studied witchcraft and mythology in order to write her books more accurately. She said, "I do a certain amount of research, so when I'm mentioning a creature, or a spell, I will find out exactly what the words were, and find out exactly what the characteristics of that creature or ghost were supposed to be." She went on to say that about one-third of what she had written is based on actual occultism. (J.K. Rowling interview on The Diane Rehm Show, WAMU, NPR, 10/20/99)
So according to the author of the Harry Potter books, one third of the Harry Potter books are actually occultic. Is this really okay for our Christian children? As Christians, just how much "occultism" should we allow into our spiritual diets?  One half?  One third? One teaspoon?  Perhaps this short story will help illustrate my point:
Brownies With a Difference
Many parents are hard put to explain to their youth why some music, movies, books, games, and magazines are not acceptable material for them to bring into the home to see or hear. One parent came up with an original idea that was hard to refute.
He listened to all the reasons his children gave for wanting to see a particular PG-13 movie: it had their favorite actors, everyone else was seeing it, even church members said it was great, it was only rated PG-13 because of the suggestion of sex-they never really showed it, the language was pretty good-they only used the Lord's name in vain three times in the whole movie, the video effects were fabulous and the plot was action packed. Yes, there was the scene where a building and a bunch of people got blown up, but the violence was just the normal stuff, it wasn't very bad. Even with all these explanations for the rating, the father wouldn't give in. He didn't even give them a satisfying explanation for saying, "No." He just said "No."
Later that evening, this same father asked his teens if they would like some brownies he had prepared. He explained that he had taken the family's favorite recipe and added something new. They asked what it was. He calmly replied that he had added dog poop. He stated that it was only a tiny bit and that all the other ingredients were gourmet quality. He had taken great care to bake it at the precise temperature for the exact time. He was sure the brownies would be superb.
Even with all the explanations of the perfect attributes of the brownies, the teens would not take one. The father acted surprised. There was only one little element that would have caused them to act so stubbornly. He assured them that they would hardly notice it at all. But they all held firm and would not try the brownies.
He then explained that the movie they wanted to see was just like the brownies. Satan tries to enter our minds and our homes by deceiving us into believing that "just a little bit" of evil doesn't matter. With the brownies, just a little bit makes all the difference between a great brownie and a totally unacceptable product. He explained that even though the smallest amout of dog poop makes the brownie totally unacceptible, they seemed to having no problem consuming a movie movie of similar ingredients. The movie people would have us believe the movies which are coming out are acceptable for adults and youths to see, they are no more so than dog poop brownies are edible!
Now when this father's children want to do something or see something they should not, the father merely asks them if they would like some of his special dog poop brownies and they never ask about that item again.
Now, I can't say what it should look like in your family as you work through this issue. To make hard and fast rules in this area is to fall into legalism.  But shouldn't we wrestle through these issues with much thoughtfulness and prayer, rather than just mindlessly allowing our children to consume what is cultural and popular?

I can say for myself that giving up my own attachment to these occultic types of books (including Harry Potter) was in some ways hard, because it's true, the characters are often magnetically compelling and the story-lines, of course, are designed to draw the reader in.  I prayed and prayed about it, and truly God did a work for me that I could not have done myself (this was when I was a very new Christian).  I began to be almost physically ill and was emotionally/spiritually very unsettled when I would try to read these books.  My new "spiritual eyes" just refused to cooperate with me when I tried to read these books!  I ended up going through the library in our home and filling 3 large garbage bags with stuff of this genre.  Up to that point, I truly had no idea how much of this stuff I had consumed and "enjoyed" was rather sobering, to say the least.  Again, I'm not saying that's going to be everyone's experience, but I really encourage Christians who think of this as an area of liberty to pray through this issue, and if they come under conviction, I would suggest beseeching the LORD for help in being free from the bondage to these things.

The passage that God really used to bring conviction for me was this:
"Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.  Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD; because of these same detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the LORD your God." Deut 18:10-13
Unfortunately for those who would claim this as an "area of liberty" for them, there is no caveat at the end of the above passage which says:
"However, if you are a mature Christian and relish stories of an occultic nature, you may indulge your mind in them at your discretion."
Didn't Jesus teach us that harboring sinfulness in our minds (lust, anger) was the same thing as actually committing the sins themselves (adultery, murder)?  So the question must be asked: If Christians harbor the sinfulness of occultism in their minds through what they read, what would that mean, according to the standard that Jesus has given us? (Matthew 5:21-30)
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." (Philippians 4:8)

photo credit: bibicall via photopin cc

 Additional Resources 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Is Death Still the Next Great Adventure?

What is Christian Liberty? by John MacArthur

Saturday, November 13, 2010

On The Scriptures

by Jeremy Clarke
Legacy Baptist Church, Northwest Arkansas

The Bible is a treasure of inestimable worth, preserved through the ages so that it might be the steady and cherished companion of God’s people.  To that end, the believer is commanded to search the Scriptures, to feed on the truths therein, and to saturate his/her mind with their unfailing instructions.  “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,” (Colossians 3) said the apostle Paul to the church at Colossae.

The word of God is, of course, the reflection of the pristine mind of God, and therefore ought to arrest our devout attention. It ought to be desired as the source of our nourishment and growth in Christ.  “As new-borne babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” (1 Peter 2) To be sure, those pilgrims who have shone with the brightest luster for Christ, those who radiate joy inexpressible are those who have loved and esteemed most the word of God.  And why would we not cherish this inexhaustible treasure??  It is the message from God Himself pertaining to the gravest of issues.  It expounds an imminent judgment, thus soberly and authoritatively revealing Jehovah as an infinitely holy, deathless, sovereign, omnipotent Spirit to whom all must appear and give an account in order to be actualized into an eternal state that can never, ever be altered.  So too the word of God discloses the adorable Christ, reveals a second life, uncovers an eternal world, and depicts a colony of redeemed humanity triumphing in the fullness of joy and in the glory of the presence of their Savior for all eternity.  What sort of treasure is this book compassionately preserved for our discovery!

To that end, the Lord Jesus said “It is these [the Scriptures] that bear witness of me.”  (John 5:39) Oh, how important is such a statement by our Lord!  The word of God guides a man  to eternal life, diffusing life-giving light when made effectual by the Spirit of God, to reveal Jesus Christ as He alone who provides the righteousness that God demands.  Rest assured, then, we cannot prize the word of God sufficiently.  It was David who said, “Thy testimonies are wonderful!” and “My eyes fail with longing for Thy word.” (Psalm 119)…..and rightly so, Christian!   The Scriptures lead our thoughts beyond the temporal; beyond the concerns of a few vain, mortal years; beyond the circumstances and issues of this life to those awful and glorious scenes that await a man after the advent of his certain death.

How foolish then is preoccupation with the wisdom of this world and with its “books?”  “Be warned, the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body.  The conclusion when all has been heard is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.  For God will bring every act to judgment; everything which is hidden, whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12). Vain is that transient knowledge that can catalogue all of the world’s discoveries, and yet has rendered itself ignorant and barren to the precepts of the infinitely wise and immortal God.

The Scripture exceeds all that could ever be commended by human wisdom in this fleeting world.  How foolish it is then, particularly for that man or woman who, having tasted God’s redemptive grace, shuns the very written expression of His grace, preferring instead to relegate it to a mere fancied, half-hearted reading….and even that on rare occasions.  Let the word of God be your continual delight, Christian! Let it receive your continual reverence.  “Thus saith the Lord, the heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool; but to this man I will look, to Him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at MY word.” (Isaiah 66)

photo credit: knowhimonline via photopin cc

 Additional Resources 

For the Christian: "I Will Never LeaveYou Nor Forsake You"

On Serving One Another In Love

On Serving One Another In Love

Discontentment Is A Sin

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Too Low A View of Regeneration

Posted by Christine Pack

" 'Well, I was out here on the highway, and I was driving and I had a flat tire and I got out to change the tire, and when I was changing the tire, the lug nut fell off, and I wasn't paying attention that I was on the middle of the highway.  I stood up and there was a 30-ton logging truck going 120 miles an hour about ten yards in front of me, and it ran me over and that's why I'm late.'  Now, there would only be two logical conclusions. One, I'm a liar or two, I'm a madman. You would say, 'Brother Paul, it's absolutely absurd. It is impossible, Brother Paul, to have an encounter with something as large as a logging truck and not be changed.' And then my question would be to you, What is larger? A logging truck or God? How is it that so many people today profess to have had an encounter with Jesus Christ, and yet, they are not permanently changed?"

- Paul Washer, Having Too Low A View of Regeneration

photo credit: TranBC via photopin cc

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Hereafter, A Review

The following is a great review by my friend (and former New Ager) Marcia Montenegro, of the current movie Hereafter. The thing that jumped out at me in Marcia's review was her commentary on a line from the movie about a "conspiracy of silence" that supposedly surrounds the supernatural realm with regards to what happens to people "on the other side." It's really almost laughable to me that Clint Eastwood would proffer such a theory: after all, as a culture, we are almost insatiable when it comes to having an appetite for the supernatural.  There is no shortage today of supernaturally-themed movies / TV programs / games / toys / books / etc.  And while we may be somewhat more sophisticated in our "paganess" today, in that we don't wear bones through our noses and do rain dances, the underlying sin is the same....and that is a desire for hidden knowledge, and a rebellion against God's revealed truth in his Word. God's Word tells us plainly that astrology, communicating with spirits, communicating with the dead, divination, reading signs, etc. are all off-limits...and yet what fascinates our culture and our youth today? Exactly those things. This is a movie that Christians should steer clear of.  And now, for my friend Marcia's more in-depth review......

by Marcia Montenegro,

This movie, directed by Clint Eastwood, is a rather understated meditation on what lies beyond death. There are three stories around this theme that converge at the end. The movie offers no clear answers but does promote a belief that one can contact the dead.

One story revolves around a well-known French journalist, Marie, who has a near death experience when she is hit on the head and goes underwater in a tsunami, almost dying, or perhaps dying and coming back. It is not clear which. However, the film shows this as a fleeting episode and all Marie sees is a bright light and some shadowy figures. It is more of a dreamlike vision than what is normally thought of as a near death experience.  This experience sends her on a quest to understand what happened, and to begin to believe that there is life after death. Her obsession with this finally leads her to talk to a hospice doctor who gives her some documents and then to write a book about it.

Matt Damon stars as George, a former psychic in San Francisco who gave it up because he considers it a curse. He is persuaded by his brother to do a reading for a friend. When he briefly holds the man’s hands, he gets visions and is able to tell the man about his dead wife and give him a message from her. Trying to live a normal life, George takes a cooking class where he meets a beautiful woman. Later at his place, she finds out about his past. George tells her that he had an illness as a child that affected his brain and he had to have several operations, during which he died and came back. He tells her that after this he had migraines and nightmares, and then started seeing dead people. Thinking this was a mental illness, pills were given to him. They took away this ability but also deadened him in other ways, so he stopped taking the pills.

The woman talks George into doing a reading. He is very reluctant but does it anyway. He gets a message from her father about something her dead father did to her in her past that is emotionally devastating. She flees and George never sees her again.

The third story involves a young boy and his twin brother in London whose mother is alcoholic and a drug addict. This bonds the boys even more closely together.  After the older twin, Jason, dies in an accident,  the younger twin, Marcus, deeply grieving, is moved to a foster home (due to the mother’s need to go into rehab). Marcus searches the Internet for psychics and mediums, and then steals money from the foster parents so he is able to consult several of them. None of them give a message from Jason. One day, Marcus sees George’s former website and this leads to the intersection of stories at the end.

Marie ends up in London at a book fair to read portions of her book, which is titled “Hereafter: A Conspiracy of Silence.” George leaves San Francisco after losing his job and travels to London to see the home of his favorite author, Charles Dickens. He, too, ends up at the book fair in order to hear a famous actor read Dickens. Marcus is taken to the book fair by his foster parents, whose son works there as a security guard.

At the book fair, George comes across Marie and is captivated by her. When his hand accidentally brushes hers, he has a vision. She is also taken with him, though no reason for this is given. Marcus sees George at the fair and recognizes him: “You’re that psychic, aren’t you?” George denies it and tries to get away, but Marcus follows him, loudly declaring, “Yes, you’re that psychic! I saw you on the Internet!”

Marcus ends up waiting outside George’s hotel. Taking pity on him, George lets him into his room where, once again, he gives in to someone’s desire to contact a dead loved one.  It is no surprise to the viewer when George gets a message from Jason for Marcus since George has been accurate in the other readings. Jason has few words to say about how he is doing, “weightlessness” being one of them, an attribute he thinks is “cool.” Jason urges Marcus to live his own life and to stop wearing Jason’s cap. The final words from Jason are, according to George, “If you’re worried about being on your own, don’t be, because he [Jason] is you and you are him.” I do not find this message comforting at all but apparently it is supposed to be a profound revelation.

Marcus asks George where Jason is but George admits he does not know, even after all the readings he has done.  So there are some things even George does not know about life after death. Getting messages from the dead may bring comfort, or sometimes grief (as it does to the woman in the cooking class), but George is clueless as to the location of these dead people.

Although George is called a psychic, he is more technically a medium, someone who claims to contact or hear from the dead.  All mediums are psychics, but not all psychics are mediums.

The fact that George gets all his information by merely touching the person’s hands is not in keeping with the way most psychics and mediums operate. Normally, they go into an altered state (similar to a light hypnotic trance) in order to receive the information.  Also, they are not as accurate on all details as George is.  No psychic that I know of claims 100 percent accuracy.

It is interesting that the three stories converge in London, which is known as a center of spiritualism, a belief in and practice of contacting the dead.

Marie’s book title, “Hereafter:  A Conspiracy of Silence,” is a joke. Marie states that no one wants to talk about this topic. But what conspiracy or what silence do we see in our culture about near death experiences or life after death? In fact, we see the opposite! There is a surfeit of books, television shows, movies, and internet sites devoted to these topics, such as the movie “The Sixth Sense,” and others, and popular television shows like “Medium,” and “Ghost Whisperer.” A surplus of psychics and mediums offer to contact the dead. Sylvia Browne, James Van Praagh, and John Edward, who have all written bestsellers (and Browne and Van Praagh continue to write), are just a few of many. Books speculating on life after death, claiming to document messages from the dead, and proffering accounts of so-called near death experiences fill the bookstore shelves.

What is lacking in today’s culture is the truth: that God condemns calling up the dead or even consulting a medium and denounces it as spiritual adultery (Lev. 19:31, 20:6; Deut. 18:11; 2 Kings 21:6; 2 Chron. 33:6; Isaiah 8:19).

Any information on a dead person from a medium, if not coincidental or discovered through fraud, is coming from demons. All psychics and mediums have spirit guides whom they consider benevolent. Sylvia Browne often talks about hers, Francine, and has said that most of her (Browne’s) information about what she calls “the other side” comes from Francine. Naturally, these guides are demons and may be what the Bible calls “familiar spirits.” Mediums, psychics, astrologers, card readers, palm readers, and others cannot operate without them.

The movie, in providing a main character who seemingly can contact the dead, gives not a valid message about the dead or about life after death, but rather a deadly message: contact with the dead is possible and is acceptable.  This is a message that opposes God’s word and should be rejected.

 Additional Resources 

Marcia Montenegro's Testimony

Thursday, November 4, 2010

For the Christian: “I Will Never Leave You Nor Forsake You”

by Jeremy Clarke, Legacy Baptist Church, Northwest Arkansas

On Trials:

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the circumstances that confront us; of the state we find ourselves in from time-to-time, and of those seasons in life when the issues of life seem to overwhelm and dishearten us. I suppose the frequent prayer requests as of late have served to renew my appreciation for all of this.  I have been reminded that, of those insulated from affliction, the children of God are not numbered among them.  Common and diverse are the trials that we encounter.  Whether a suffering child or an estranged family hostile to the gospel… adversity and affliction seem to abound.  And while the issues of life may not belong exclusively to the children of God, their divine and joyful purposes most certainly do.

“But if you are without chastisement, then you are illegitimate children and not sons” says the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews.  Shortly thereafter, Hebrews records that God chastens “...for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.” (Heb 12:10).  The annals of Christianity reveal that the greatest models of the faith; those who shone brightest for Christ, were intimately acquainted with trials and suffering.  Take a moment to catalogue them if you like: Job, Joseph, Elijah, the prophets, Paul and the entire company of Christ’s apostles. Each one groomed for eternity in the great furnace of adversity.  Job himself, in the midst of incomprehensible affliction said, “When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23)  Again, God may intend any number of outcomes for the trials that confront us.  As mentioned above, they may be directed in order to purify us.  At other times they may be intended to develop perseverance/strength, as James affirms for us: “…knowing the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1).  Still, at other times, the Lord may see fit to leverage adversity in order to develop within us the spiritual discipline of resignation, submission and contentment.  Of this lesson, even the great apostle Paul learned, uttering “I am well content with weaknesses…distresses… difficulties” (2 Cor 12).

While the Lord may have many reasons for our adversity, for each one the child of God has as many reasons to rejoice.  Each one is sent compassionately. Each one accompanied by His limitless grace. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”  Further, each one will end ultimately in….what? Good (Rom 8).  What wonder!  Listen, would our Father in heaven ordain that which does not benefit His blood-bought child? Scripture clearly tell us that if God has given the Lord Jesus for us….His own Son….He will not refuse us any real good (Rom 8:32).  Is a loved one sick?  Can’t God heal the sick? Surely then if He has not brought health, then He must see it best to appoint sickness.  Apply this perspective to every one of your circumstances.  If it is a season of great pain that you endure, then it is a season appointed by the Lord….and it must be a good one that He appoints because “Every good thing bestowed, and every perfect gift is from…..where? Above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1).

There is a story of a little girl standing at a street corner, seeking tentatively to cross the street.  Looking at path before her, and realizing the danger, she trembled.  A kind policeman happening by and seeing the fear on her face, casually approached her and took her hand into his….and together they began to cross the divide.  Occasionally, a honking horn or passing car would cause her to flinch a bit and hesitate, but each time the policeman would strengthen his grip on her hand to reassure her, until finally they reached the other side, together.

The man who tells that story, makes this point: “It's not our grasp of the Lord that matters, it's His grasp of us.  Let me draw my comfort no more from my frail grasp of Thee.  Let me henceforth rejoice with awe in Thy strong grasp of me.” 

Beloved, no matter what your trial today, the grip of Christ is ever strengthening around your hand to assure you of His presence….and He will not let go.  “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  The times and seasons of life are fleeting, friend.  Adversity only hastens our eternity.  And once steeping across into our eternal rest, your faith and mine will only give way to sight; today’s affliction will give way to peace, and this dark day will be resigned to a bright eternity in the resplendent presence of Our great Comforter and Friend…..where sorrow and pain and suffering all must say their farewell. Even so, come Lord Jesus…

photo credit: camil tulcan via photopin cc

 Additional Resources 

On Serving One Another In Love

Discontentment Is A Sin