Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Transcendental Meditation Promoted as Health Benefit

Posted by Christine Pack

A recent study at the Medical College of Wisconsin showed that the regular practice of Transcendental Meditation in at-risk patients was shown to reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke by 47%. Stated the news article reporting on the story:
"The practice, which involves the continual repeating of a mantra, was found to reduce high blood pressure, cholesterol and thickening of the arteries. It....also protects against diabetes........If Transcendental Meditation were a drug conferring so many benefits, it would be a billion-dollar blockbuster."
Well, hey, when you put it like that, putting yourself into an altered state of consciousness and entering into the demonic realm doesn't sound half bad, huh? After all, there could be health benefits.... 

Christians, in all seriousness, this is to be expected of lost people. They will chase their idols for an entire lifetime, and with single-minded pursuit, all the while shaking the fist at their sovereign Creator God. But this stuff is not - IS NOT - for Christians. We are a holy people, set apart by God for his purposes. We must not link to the wicked, demonic gods of false religions. The Bible speaks about those who practice occultism as starting out seeking knowledge, but ending up in a place of distress, darkness and anguish:
"And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness." (Isaiah 8:22)

photo credit: Grand Velas Resort via photopin cc

 Additional Resources 

The Difference Between Biblical Meditation and Mantra Meditation 

 A Time of Departing, by Ray Yungen

Friday, June 24, 2011

Book Review, The Life You've Always Wanted, Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People by John Ortberg

by Gary Gilley, Southern View Chapel

John Ortberg, a teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church, published The Life You’ve Always Wanted in 1997 and expanded it in 2002.  The book provides a good taste of the style and content of the teaching at Willow Creek and its many clones.  Concerning style Ortberg is entertaining, interesting and enjoyable.  He uses freely and well numerous stories and illustrations that present his understanding of the Christian life as inviting.

As for content much of what Ortberg offers is helpful, practical and biblical.  The book, however, is heavily laced with the teachings, and teachers, of mysticism and Roman Catholic traditions and rituals.  The authors he draws from and quotes are a virtual Who’s Who of mystics both past and present:
Richard Foster (pp. 9, 81, 100, 112, 113, 143)
Dallas Willard (pp. 10, 27, 35, 43, 52, 66, 92, 106)
St. John of the Cross (pp. 36, 157)
Thomas Kelly (pp. 76, 140, 150)
Thomas Merton (pp. 85, 95, 96)
Henri Nouwen (PP. 86, 99, 158, 161, 180)
Julian of Norwich (p. 91)
George Fox (p. 142)
Ignatius of Loyola (p. 142)
The Desert Fathers (pp. 171, 180)
Francois Fenelon (p. 173)
Madame Guyon (p. 186)
In addition, there are assorted liberals and Roman Catholic leaders that he quotes positively including:
James Dunn (p. 31)
G. K. Chesterton (p. 61)
Mother Teresa (pp. 66-68)
Carl Jung (p. 77)
Tony Campolo (p. 104)
Pope John XXIII (pp. 124, 207)
Soren Kierkegaard (pp. 11, 175, 218)
And as expected, since this book is about “spiritual disciplines for ordinary people,” there is much borrowed from Roman Catholic tradition, especially from the mystical wing (pp. 44, 54, 98, 102, 131, 201).

Ortberg is interested in Christians being transformed into Christlikeness—this is highly commendable.  But he sees the means of this transformation as the mystical practices that finds their roots not in Scripture but in the rituals and techniques developed mostly in early Roman Catholicism.  In addition, being open to and obeying supposed extrabiblical instructions from God are absolutely essential for spiritual transformation (p. 143).  According to the author it is essential that the believer learn to discern the extrabiblical voice of God (pp. 140-154).

What good can be gleaned from The Life You’ve Always Wanted is poisoned by the false teachings and emphases which are predominant throughout.  Ortberg is taking his readers not back to Scripture but to Roman Catholic mysticism.  Yet, Joseph Stowell, former president of Moody Bible Institute and now president of Cornerstone University, can endorse the book on the back cover with these words, “John, in his winsome ‘let’s sit down and talk about this’ style, has crafted a powerful convicting book on the process of spiritual transformation.”  I find this endorsement an amazing indictment on the condition of evangelicalism today.

 Additional Resources 

John Ortberg Quotes Thomas Merton

John Ortberg: "You Don't Become Holier...You Become 'You-ier'!"

Monvee—The New Evangelicalism about Me: A Review of John Ortberg's The Me I Want to Be

Thursday, June 23, 2011

On the Unbiblical Nature of Altar Calls

"When the presence and the power of Jesus leaves, we go to other stuff to get things to happen. You don't need to alter the gospel, you don't need to soften the demands of the gospel - which is to alter the gospel. Think about Jesus' 'closing statements' if you want to call it the invitation. Jesus would just say 'Repent.' He'd say, 'Take up your cross and follow me.' He'd say 'Deny yourself.' He'd say 'Hate your father and mother, brothers and sisters, in comparison to your love for me.' How about that for an invitation?

The narrative text of Jesus' sermons shows that he did not sit around and beg folks to follow him. He gave the gospel, and the next thing they saw was his back as he was walking away.

I've heard people say, 'Well, Jesus had people come publicly, so we ought to ask people to come publicly.' I don't want you to just come publicly, I want you to live the rest of your life for him. I want you to do more than just get to the front....I want you to get to Him, and love Him, and joy in Him, and treasure Him, so that the totality of your life begins to look like one who's following Him.

We've got ten million southern Baptists who walked somebody's aisle, and prayed somebody's prayer and checked somebody's card and raised their hand....we've got ten million of them that do not come to church. And when they face Jesus one day, at the Judgement Bar, they're going to quote some preacher.....'Well, Pastor said if I'd come to the front...I did that. Pastor said if I prayed that prayer....I did that.' Do you not realize that if you give the flesh a hoop to jump, the flesh will do it every time? But one thing the flesh cannot do is cause your spirit to be born again." - Jeff Noblit, The Spirit of God at Work in God's Church, 6/5/11

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ann Voskamp’s Best Selling Book One Thousand Gifts – A Collision of Inspiration and the New Spirituality

reprinted in its entirety from The Lighthouse Trails newsletter (June 20, 2011)

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp is a 2010 Zondervan title that is a New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon Best-Seller. The author is a contributing writer for DaySpring, and she has a blog that receives 40-50 thousand visitors every week.1 Voskamp has risen quickly in popularity, with invitations to various conferences and other events. (In April, she spoke in Portland Oregon at the Q Conference sharing a platform with popular Christian figures like Luis Palau and Louie Giglio).

Ann Voskamp’s sincerity and her desire for a relationship with the Lord are unarguable. Her honesty in her own shortcomings and frailties is admirable. Her description of how she witnessed the death of her baby sister (run over by a farm truck) when she herself was very young is heart-wrenching. What’s more, few would disagree with the overall key theme of the book that we should give thanks to God in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Voskamp shares how practicing thanksgiving and gratitude has changed her life. Thinking about 1 Timothy 6:6 (“godliness with contentment is great gain”), it is true that being thankful and content does have great gain in the believers life.

But One Thousand Gifts, as well-meaning as the author may be, is not a book we can recommend and in fact is one we must warn about. We do not want to cause distress to Ann Voskamp; but given the high popularity of her book, we are compelled to issue this warning.

It is clear by reading One Thousand Gifts that Ann Voskamp reads and admires several mystics, panentheists, and universalists. Her book is peppered with quotes by Sarah Ban Breathnach (a New Age author launched into stardom by Oprah), Teresa of Avila, Julian of Norwich, Evelyn Underhill, Brennan Manning, Annie Dillard, Thomas Acquinas, Buddhist sympathizer and Catholic convert Peter Kreeft, Walter Brueggemann, Francis de Sales, Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Henri Nouwen, and Jean-Pierre de Caussade. Many of the statements Voskamp says in her book would resonate with these authors showing that Voskamp has absorbed some of the beliefs of these people. In addition, Voskamp’s popular blog lists a number of contemplative/emerging authors on her book list page: Richard Foster (Celebration of Discipline), Adele Ahlberg Calhoun (Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, a primer on Eastern style meditation), and emerging church author Phyllis Tickle are included.

In reading One Thousand Gifts, we are reminded of author Sue Monk Kidd (The Secret Life of Bees), who started off as a conservative Southern Baptist Sunday School teacher, but when she began reading Thomas Merton and other mystical writers, her spiritual outlook changed dramatically. The progress of Monk Kidd’s spiritual change can be seen from one book to the next. Today, she is a self-proclaimed worshipper of the goddess Sophia and states in her book The Dance of the Dissident Daughter that God is in all things (panentheism) even graffiti and excrement. Monk Kidd says:
Deity means that divinity will no longer be only heavenly … It will also be right here, right now, in me, in the earth, in this river, in excrement and roses alike. (p. 160)
Ann Voskamp echoes Monk Kidd when she states that God is “present in all things,” even “sewage flowing downriver” (p. 110-111)

The last chapter of One Thousand Gifts, “The Joy of Intimacy,” Voskamp devotes to what she calls ”intimacy” with God. But brace yourself, you won’t find the way she talks about intimacy with God in the Bible. We share the following with you not to shock you for theatrical sake – its to show where the “new” Christianity is heading. We think it important, in light of the many young women who are reading this book, to quote Voskamp’s view of “intimacy” with God which she also calls the “mystery of that romance.” Voskamp says:
Mystical union. This, the highest degree of importance. God as Husband in sacred wedlock, bound together, body and soul, fed by His body, quenched by His blood . . . God, He has blessed – caressed. I could bless God – caress with thanks. It’s our making love. God makes love with grace upon grace, every moment a making of His love for us. . . . couldn’t I make love to God, making every moment love for Him? To know Him the way Adam knew Eve. Spirit skin to spirit skin. . . The intercourse of soul with God is the very climax of joy . . . To enter into Christ and Christ enter into us – to cohabit. (pp. 213, 216-217).
We find Voskamp's mixture of sexual and spiritual language when referring to a relationship with God offensive. The most “intimate” relationship anyone ever had with God on this earth was the one Jesus Christ had with His Father; but nowhere in the Bible does Jesus (or the disciples) use sexual language and innuendos to describe the relationship between God and man. And in fact, the Bible tells us that sexual union was given to man, in the confines of marriage between a man and wife, for procreation; the Bible also tells us that in our eternal heavenly home, there will be no marriage (the need for procreation will not exist). If we, as Christians, were supposed to think about our relationship with God in sexual terms, wouldn’t God have made that clear in His word? It’s like the contemplative prayer movement that emphasizes repeating a word or phrase over and over to be intimate with God. But nowhere are we instructed to do this in Scripture. It’s as if the Holy Spirit who inspired men to write the books of the Bible left out vital elements that now contemplatives and emergents are enlightening us to. God forbid that we should think so. Books like One Thousand Gifts have added to what God has said in His Word.

Voskamp isn’t the only emerging-type author to use sexual language when talking about intimacy with God. We see an increase in books and speakers talking about” intimacy with God” (most of these writers are proponents of contemplative – that’s no coincidence – but rather signs that tantra spirituality (sexual experiences combined with mystical experiences)) is entering the church now. One of the most popular books today on marriage, Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas (promoted by Calvary Chapel, Focus on the Family, and Rick Warren) is laced with quotes by or references to (about a dozen instances) Mary Anne McPherson Oliver’s book, Conjugal Spirituality, a primer on tantric sex; McPherson Oliver says that “mystical experiences can be associated with erotic love.” McPherson Oliver tells readers to use mantras and breath prayers during the sexual experience to help induce the tantric mystical experience. The fact that one of today’s most popular Christian books on marriage has so many references to this book is a telling sign of what has entered the evangelical/Protestant church. The popularity of One Thousand Gifts is another sure indication.

Today, the “new” progressive Christianity is more sensual than spiritual. Appealing to the senses (making it sensual) and the carnal man rather than strengthening the spiritual man within. Scripture warns us though: “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:6). One Thousand Gifts may be the poster book, so to speak, for the latest carnally-minded book, taking a place in line with The Shack.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sin, Church Discipline and Thoughts About Bob DeWaay - Part 2

Posted by Christine Pack

In Part 1 of my two part post about Sin, Church Discipline and Thoughts About Bob DeWaay, I described my friendship with Pastor Bob DeWaay, how it came about, and how his diagnosis of alcoholic hepatitis had come as a profound shock to me. This was true not only for me, but for all who knew Bob. According to his wife, who had also become a friend of mine, she had truly never known a thing during Bob's years of secret alcohol abuse. She explained to me that both she and Bob are pretty independent, and that they gotten into a habit of going to bed at separate times. She told me that this was in part because Bob had suffered from insomnia for years. It seems he had a difficult time getting his mind to "turn off" so that he could fall asleep.

In hearing Bob's wife describe his difficulties with insomnia, my youngest son came to mind. My older son is like me: if he gets still enough, he's asleep in about 15 seconds. My 8-year-old, on the other hand, is extremely intelligent and has a mind that simply doesn't want to quit "consuming." His I.Q. has tested in the genius range, and he already reads at an adult level, composes music and writes poetry. His mind seems like a hungry animal to me, sometimes, and I find myself struggling to stay a few steps ahead of him! And he also has a very difficult time getting his mind to "turn off" so that he can fall asleep. So in listening to Bob's wife talk about Bob's problems with getting to sleep, and how, unbeknownst to her he had turned to alcohol to help him shut his mind off, I began to have some sympathy for his problem. This is not to say that Bob was not in sin. He was. And as this secret sin came to light, it was also obvious that Bob had gone to some lengths to hide his drinking which, in alcoholic fashion, had grown progressively worse over the years.

So. What did I do? I prayed for Bob. I prayed for Bob's wife and adult children, and how the fallout of this would affect them. I prayed for my friends at Twin City Fellowship. I prayed for the church itself. And to their credit, the elders of Twin City Fellowship did the right thing - the biblical thing - and exercised church discipline...and part of that involved removing Bob from the pulpit.
The purpose of church discipline is the spiritual restoration of fallen members and the consequent strengthening of the church and glorifying of the Lord.”
As providence would have it, more than a thousand miles away from Twin City Fellowship, I was also observing another church discipline issue play itself out.

Now, it is one thing to know about church discipline, and know that it is right and ought to be done, and the method for how it ought to be done, etc. It is another thing entirely to observe it playing out before your eyes. These are real people, not case studies, but real flesh and blood people, and their actions have often hurt not only themselves but the people around them. But, we must also assume, because we are biblically commanded to, that they are our brothers and sisters in Christ, and do everything that we can to bring them back into the faith and restore them, until and unless they outright reject all appropriate disciplinary efforts (and thereby, in essence, reject God and his authority over their lives).

So in these two church discipline situations that I was aware of - one in Minneapolis, MN and the other in the church of someone close to me - profound sin* was discovered. And in both circumstances, church discipline was exercised.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Matthew 18:15-17
There is a roughly 4-step model for how church discipline is to be carried out, taken from Matthew 18:15-17;
(1) Go privately to the person and tell him his sin alone. (Matthew 18:15) If he refuses to listen, 
(2) Go again, but take some witnesses. (Matthew 18:16) If he refuses to listen, 
(3) Tell the church. (Matthew 18:17a) If he still refuses to listen, 
(4) Treat him as an outsider. (Matthew 18:17b)
In observing both of these church discipline situations (the one close to me, and the one in Minneapolis), I watched two very different scenarios play out. As the sharp blade of Scripture was pressed into each set of circumstances, only one of the parties repented, bent the knee in humble submission, and accepted the consequences of their sinful actions. That was Bob. But in the other disciplinary situation that was playing out and which I was observing, that person did not submit to church discipline, would not repent, and chose, ultimately, to walk away from family, friends and church.

Now, I am not saying Bob DeWaay is perfect or without sin, and I'm not even saying that this sin might not ever grip him again. I pray with all my heart that it doesn't, but as his Christian sister, I can only pray that he holds fast to the Lord come what may, because perseverance to the end is one of the true marks of a born again Christian:
"But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved." Matthew 24:13 
"By standing firm you will gain life." Luke 21:19 
"You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised." Hebrews 10:36
So in closing, I've written this 2-part series of articles, in essence, to explain why I still consider Bob DeWaay a brother in Christ, and why I still publish his articles and radio programs from time to time on this blog. Some folks have gotten upset with me for continuing to post links to Bob's articles, and so this post has been percolating in my brain for a long time, as my way of explaining that I watched this horrible situation play out in exactly the way I hoped it would with Bob. Please bear in mind, this could have gone the other way. I didn't think it would, I certainly hoped it wouldn't, but on the front end of this, really, who knew how this would all shake out? And as my husband says, you can't get all excited and call the game in the first quarter. You have to be patient and watch.

So again, I can't say that I know how this is going to play itself out ultimately. I only know that I am so thankful that God gave us a model for church discipline so that when - not if, but when - we find ourselves in sin, there is a loving, biblical model for helping us to see and repent of our sin, and be restored to fellowship. Yes, Bob was caught in profound sin. Yes, his sin was damaging and painful to many around him, including his church. But when discipline was applied, he did not cut and run. He humbly bent his knee, and accepted what the elders of his church thought was appropriate. Can we ask for more than that?

* Of course, all sin is profound sin, and is grievous because it is committed against a holy God. But in these two church discipline situations, I'm discussing the kind of sin that involves deception, hiding, sneaking and deceived parties. Jerry Bridges takes on the subject of all sin being profound sin in his very excellent book Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate. From the back cover of Dr. Bridges' book:
"Have Christians become so preoccupied with the major sins of our society that we have lost sight of our need to deal with our own more subtle sins? Jerry Bridges returns to his trademark theme of holiness and addresses a dozen clusters of specific "acceptable" sins that we tend to tolerate in ourselves - such as jealousy, anger, pride, unthankfulness and judgmentalism.....In his admonitions, Jerry offers a message of hope in the profound mercy of the gospel and the transforming grace of God as the means to overcome our subtle sins."
But for the purposes of this article, I'm discussing, as I noted, the more obvious sins - gross sins - and the kinds of sins that most true Christians would be likely to instantly recognize as sin: theft, adultery, murder, etc., rather than the subtler shades of these sins that can often slip by even true, born again Christians (impatience, jealousy, unthankfulness, etc.)

Additional Resources 

Sin, Church Discipline and Thoughts About Bob DeWaay - Part 1

Posted by Christine Pack

Bob DeWaay is the former pastor of Twin City Fellowship, a church that he pastored for over 20 years. Last fall, it was found out that Bob had been diagnosed with alcoholic hepatitis, which had come about as a result of years of secret alcoholic drinking. When this secret sin came to light, the elders of Bob's church did the right thing - and the hard thing - and disciplined Bob by removing him from the pulpit and placing him under church discipline. And Bob, as I thought he would, submitted to this discipline.

As Bob's friend and sister in Christ, I have written these two articles (Sin, Church Discipline and Thoughts About Bob DeWaay) under the guidance of my husband and my own pastor for several reasons:

(1) To put the spotlight on both sin - and how we must biblically respond to it - and church discipline - and what our biblical model is for this. God disciplines those He loves.....and ALL of us will be in need of discipline/rebuke/correction at some point in our Christian walks. I thank God that He has provided a biblical model for us to follow;

(2) So that those in the Christian community might have a clearer picture of what happened in this situation. I think there's a lot of "I heard something bad about him, but I'm not sure what the story is" kind of thinking out there;

(3) So that when this issue arises, and I am questioned (as I have been) about why I still publish Bob DeWaay's CIC articles or CIC radio shows from time to time, I can simply point to these articles I have written as an explanation that I'm aware of the sin, I've observed the situation, and I've reached my conclusion. This is not to say that I think that Bob will never be in sin again, only that biblically, this is the model I must follow. Bob's teachings have never been in dispute, and for 20 years, he has been the foremost expert on false teachings and how they have crept into the church. As far as I am concerned, his work still stands.

Part 1 of these 2 articles is below, and Part 2 can be read here.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

My friendship with Bob DeWaay, former pastor of Twin City Fellowship, began several years ago when I was a new Christian. I had been saved out of the New Age movement, in which I had been discipled very deeply in mysticism, mantra meditation, yoga and a panentheistic worldview for more than a decade.  To my dismay, as a new Christian, I began to recognize that many of the same teachings I had once embraced, but now rejected as a born again Christian, were coming into the church, of all places. The church.....the beloved Bride of Christ.  And even though many of these practices were being cloaked in Christian terminology, they were nonetheless identical in nature to what I had practiced as a New Age mystic.

Wheel of Life
Over a period of weeks, that stretched into months, that stretched into years, I researched what was going on. I began to understand the avenues by which these practices were stealthily finding their way into the church. I was discouraged and disheartened to say the least. And what's more, I felt fiercely protective of the Church, and angry that these deceptive, confusing, demonic activities were now being packaged as "Christian."

I knew that the roots of yoga were occultic, and that yoga was formulated to help its practitioners prepare themselves for death, so that they could be released from the karmic wheel of life, and it infuriated me that this practice was being marketed as a stress-relieving technique.

I knew that the so-called desert fathers, who are today heralded as early Christians who had a secret understanding of how to get to the "deeper life," were really Roman Catholic mystics who were deeply influenced by the pagan cultures of the east which surrounded them. Thus, they crafted for themselves a kind of prayer that used biblical terminology, but also incorporated mantra meditation from pagan cultures...a type of "prayer" which is found nowhere in Scripture.

It was during these many months of research that I found a voice in the wilderness warning about these things.  That "voice" was Bob DeWaay.  I also found other voices and blogs and articles - many of them extremely helpful - but I kept returning again and again to Bob DeWaay's articles and radio program. I think that both his training as a pastor, and perhaps his engineering background as well, helped him to methodically work through these issues in a way that was uniquely very clear, very easy to understand and very biblical, all at the same time.

At one point during my many months of intensive researching, I called the church office where Bob DeWaay was pastor (Twin City Fellowship in Minneapolis) to order one of his books, and instead of getting an answering service or the church secretary, I heard Bob DeWaay's voice on the other end of the phone. I went ahead and placed my order, and then I said, somewhat hesitantly: "This is Pastor Bob DeWaay, isn't it?" I knew that it was; I had heard his voice many, many times on the very excellent Critical Issues Commentary radio program that he co-produced with one of the elders from Twin City Fellowship, Dick Kuffel. Bob confirmed that he was, indeed, Bob DeWaay, and then in a tumbling rush, I began to pour out my story about having been in the New Age, but that God had intervened in my life and saved me out of my depravity, but I was now seeing these New Age practices flowing into the church, and how very thankful I was that he was writing and talking about these things. Thus began our friendship, which was quite sporadic, but every 6 months or so, I would call or email Bob with a question or concern, and he would very kindly give me his thoughts, links to articles, etc.  I was amazed that a pastor hundreds of miles away would have genuine pastoral concern about the spiritual well-being of someone so far away. And yet I have heard this same story from others who have gotten to know Bob in the same way: that they got in touch with him seeking help, answers, counsel, etc., and that, if he had any familiarity with the topic, he would always give generously of his time and knowledge.

In the summer of 2010, Bob, knowing of my background in the New Age, asked me if I would consider writing an article for his Critical Issues Commentary newsletter. Would I consider it? What an honor: I had read every CIC issue ever written.  The CIC's date back to the early 1990s, and they had been a tremendous source of both information and biblical encouragement to me. It seemed to me that God had uniquely given Bob insight into false teachings and false teachers; he was sounding the alarm on many issues long before many others even had any awareness that anything was wrong. In both his articles and radio program, Bob DeWaay put the spotlight on many issues facing today's church. Here are just a few of the topics covered:
- the Seeker Sensitive Movement 
- the Church Growth Movement 
- the man-centered teachings of The Purpose Driven Life movement (Rick Warren) 
- the Emergent Church Movement  
- the Spiritual Formation/Spiritual Disciplines movement ("Christianized" mysticism) 
- Oprah Winfrey's New Age underpinnings  
- the false teachings of the hyper-Charismatic movement (the New Apostolic Reformation movement, Latter Day Rain, IHOP-International House of Prayer, Kansas City "prophets," Mike Bickle, etc.) 
- the false teachings of the Word of Faith movement (also known as "Name It and Claim It" and "Prosperity Gospel") 
- the assault against Sola Scriptura in today's postmodern church
On his radio show, in his calm, measured way, Bob took on all these false teachings and movements, and meticulously examined their claims against the truth of the Bible. A voice like his was very much needed in the church, and I was so thankful for God to have raised him up.

In the fall of 2010, my husband and I made plans to attend a conference in Minneapolis, and to also attend Sunday morning service at Bob's church, Twin City Fellowship. I was looking forward to finally meeting Bob in person, and being able to thank him for his hard work and faithfulness to God's word. As I expected, Bob DeWaay was gracious and kind in person, and I was so thankful to be able to meet him and speak with him. However, he commented to a friend of mine that he was not feeling well, and asked her for prayer. She conveyed this to me later, as he had mentioned this to her as an aside.

Several days later, after my husband and I had returned home from the conference, I called Bob's wife, who had also become a friend, just to say "hello." She reported shocking news to me: that Bob had been hospitalized, only a few days after my husband and I had been there, that the doctors didn't know what the problem was, but that they had indicated that Bob was pretty seriously ill. I asked her if I could post what she had told me on Facebook, and ask for prayer. She said yes, and so I did. Over the next several days, there was a tremendous outpouring of concern from those who heard this news about Bob.

But a few days later, I spoke again with Bob's wife and was told something that was even more shocking that my last conversation with her had been. The doctors had finally figured out what the problem was: Bob was suffering from alcoholic hepatitis, brought on by a number of years of alcoholic drinking. Bob's wife had never known a thing. And to say the least, I was floored.

(Continue reading Part 2 here)

photo credit: kleer001 via photopin cc

 Additional Resources 

Sin, Church Discipline and Thoughts About Bob DeWaay - Part 2

The "Gospel" In Relationships?

Critical Issues Commentary - Articles

Critical Issues Commentary - Radio

Friday, June 17, 2011

Interview On "A Trojan Horse in Healthcare"

Posted by Christine Pack

On April 18, 2011, we posted an article here entitled "Wellness: The New Age Trojan Horse in Healthcare" by guest writer Marcia Montenegro (Christian Answers for the New Age). This article detailed how alternative medicines and healing techniques have conditioned Americans to become more attuned to eastern thought, specifically the panentheistic view of "God" as an impersonal essence, force or energy that permeates all things (in contrast to the Christian worldview of God as a distinct and separate entity, apart from his creation).

After  this article was posted, Ingrid Schlueter of the Crosstalk radio show (VCY America) had the author of the post (Marcia Montenegro), and Christine Pack (one of the authors of this blog) on her show to discuss this article. This was a fast-paced show, and we covered a lot of ground in a very short amount of time.  A must-listen for anyone with questions or concerns about alternative health methods.

Listen to the show in its entirety here.

photo credit: Grand Velas Resort via photopin cc

 Additional Resources 

Are We All Syncretists Now? A Conversation About Evangelical Christianity and Alternative Medicine with Historian Candy Gunther Brown
 (Dr. Al Mohler)
"Universal Energy" the Key to Health? (Christian Answers For The New Age)

Problems with Alternative Medicine (Christian Answers For The New Age)

 John Ankerberg Resources and Articles 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Justin Peters On The Dangerous Word of Faith Movement

“The dangers of the Word of Faith Movement are as real as they are pervasive. The message from thousands of pulpits is that God wants you to be happy, healthy, and rich. But this is not biblical Christianity, as Justin Peters so adequately demonstrates in his exceptional presentation. With clarity and credibility, Peters exposes the Word of Faith Movement for what it really is—a farce. Local churches will benefit greatly from his personal experience and vast research on this important topic.”

Dr. John MacArthur
Pastor, Grace Community Church
Sun Valley, CA

 Additional Resources 

Justin Peters' DVD Collection "A Call For Discernment"

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Temptation

Pastor Jeff Noblit,
Grace Life Church
"Satan says (to today's pastors), 'Don't worry about following the Word of God too closely. Don't force a two thousand year message and two thousand year old methods on this contemporary culture.' Satan says 'There are new ideas, there are clever, creative approaches that will work better. Don't emphasize biblical doctrine, don't make the Cross the center of your message...this will bore people, even offend people. If you want results and a big name and big numbers and big popularity, you must accomodate today's world.' It comes at us all the time. Satan's point is this: if you'll just violate Scripture, God will bless, protect and breathe on your carnal efforts. But that's a lie." 

-Jeff Noblit, Grace Life Church, The Temptation of Jesus (Sermon from 5/15/2011)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Former IHOP Member Explains Why IHOP (International House of Prayer) Is A Cult

Posted by Christine Pack, reprinted in full, with permission from the author
(formerly published on The Gospel Masquerade blog)

International House of Prayer (IHOP)
A cult? Strong word you might say...and you are correct. It is not a word I use lightly or carelessly to label anything. But much prayer, time and years of research and personal experience have brought me to the conclusion that I can say confidently that the root system--or foundation--that IHOP is built on follows the basic premises and signs of a cult religious group. When I first left IHOP, I went through a severe culture shock that is hard to put into words. When I began studying the signs of cult fallout and the things that cult members go through after leaving a cult, my eyes began to open to what I had been a part of and recently come out of.

Below I have listed some common signs of cult operation. Below them, I cite in RED text short examples of my personal experiences at IHOP which illustrates these particular signs in action. After 5 years of being out of IHOP, I still hold to my position that it is a dangerous place for people’s hearts and have seen much destruction of families, relationships and marriages of those who have been involved with this movement.

I appreciate your taking the time to read and prayerfully consider the research and personal testimony I’ve included below.

1. A destructive cult tends to be totalitarian in its control of its members' behavior. Cults are likely to dictate in great detail not only what members believe, but also what members wear and eat, when and where members work, sleep, and bathe, and how members think, speak, and conduct familial, marital, or sexual relationships.

Mike Bickle
As an intern at IHOP, our day to day lives were closely monitored and dictated. I was not allowed to go anywhere or leave IHOP premises without express verbal permission from a community leader except on our one day off. Our schedules started early in the morning with hours in the prayer room, then classes, then back to the prayer room. Our nights often ran late with required attendance at EGS (Encounter God Services) or any other special event Mike Bickle spoke at that we were required to attend. Sometimes we had to attend worship sets that ended at 10 pm or midnight. Sleep was minimal and was often un-restful when I did get it. Sleep deprivation is a commonly used tactic in many cult groups to weaken the mind and make a person more susceptible to the embracing of the doctrines taught by that cult. There are many biological and psychological effects of sleep deprivation on the mind.

2. A destructive cult tends to have an ethical double standard. Members are urged to be obedient to the cult, to carefully follow cult rules. They are also encouraged to be revealing and open in the group, confessing all to the leaders. On the other hand, outside the group they are encouraged to act unethically, manipulating outsiders or nonmembers, and either deceiving them or simply revealing very little about themselves or the group. In contrast to destructive cults, honorable groups teach members to abide by one set of ethics and act ethically and truthfully to all people in all situations.

Anyone who rebelled against IHOP’s rules went through a strict disciplinarian process. At its most minimal level of discipline, for an intern, this meant the loss of having a day off and having to do manual labor. Everyone was kept on a short leash. We also had weekly groups as interns that we were required to participate in where everyone was "interrogated" and pressured to open up and share their personal struggles, etc and answer personal questions about their lives, struggles, thoughts, fears, and walks with G-d. It often felt like going to some kind of confession (as in Catholicism) and some interns out and out refused to be so vulnerable and disclosing in front of people they did not know. We were all given journals and told that we had mandatory writing assignments to complete. We were to record details of our IHOP prayer room times, things God spoke to us, dreams, visions, or whatever else that happened in us spiritually and then had to turn in our journals weekly to have an internship leader review/read them. In the last month or so I was at IHOP, I paid particularly close attention to the fact that internship leaders ironically prayed things over me in prayer times or at the altar in the prayer room that related directly to things I had put in my journals. So what often might have seemed prophetic was the result of the information about me they already had access to.

3. A destructive cult has only two basic purposes: recruiting new members and fund-raising. Altruistic movements, established religions, and other honorable groups also recruit and raise funds. However, these actions are incidental to an honorable group's main purpose of improving the lives of its members and of humankind in general. Destructive cults may claim to make social contributions, but in actuality such claims are superficial and only serve as gestures or fronts for recruiting and fund-raising. A cult's real goal is to increase the prestige and often the wealth of the leader.

There was always an underlying pressure to bring people into IHOP. We were encouraged to invite others and get them to join what we were doing. IHOP campaigns big time to recruit new interns. At every conference, advertising and marketing videos are used to this day to promote the internships. They are played on large TV screens like presidential campaigns and are just part of the propaganda used to "sell" young people on this new version of what walking with God is supposed to look like.

Each intern paid $4,500 to attend a 6 month internship. This covered some books/teaching material we were given as well as food, lodging etc. Check this out though: Every intern lived in the Hernhutt apartments (located next door) which IHOP owned anyway so the only expense was utilities and general upkeep. There was no rent. Plus when there was a mandatory fasting day, weekend, week, etc. no meals were served. So those who didn’t choose to fast had to go out and buy food and no interns were not allowed to have jobs so this got to be a big expense since there wasn't extra money to live on.

I lived in a 2-bedroom apartment. It housed 6 girls from the ages of 20-23. 4 of us shared one room and 2 shared another. The prayer room costs nothing to attend and is free and open to the public. So hmmm….$4,500 for meals, my electric bill and some IHOP books. I currently live in my own apartment, pay all of my own bills including rent, food, gasoline, renter’s insurance, credit card bills, student loans, electric, cell phone, etc etc and ALL of that costs me approximately $1,500 a month. So basic math says that someone was getting a big paycheck because my expenses would have never cost that in an internship program where we were given so little.

4. A destructive cult appears to be innovative and exclusive. The leader claims to be breaking with tradition, offering something novel, and instituting the ONLY viable system for change that will solve life's problems or the world's ills. But these claims are empty and only used to recruit members who are then surreptitiously subjected to mind control to inhibit their ability to examine the actual validity of the claims of the leader and the cult.

In the time I was there Mike often used “them and us” types of statements when referring to “the church” or those outside of IHOP. We were given a sense of being on the “cutting edge” because we were ahead of the church and were doing something new & innovative that was going to sweep the world. It all sounded good so everyone wanted to be in on it as a “forerunner” and liked the label of being on the front lines. So no one dared questioned it.

5. A destructive cult is authoritarian in its power structure. The leader is regarded as the supreme authority. He or she may delegate certain power to a few subordinates for the purpose of seeing that members adhere to the leader's wishes. There is no appeal outside his or her system to a greater system of justice. For example, if a schoolteacher feels unjustly treated by a principal, an appeal can be made to the superintendent. In a destructive cult, the leader claims to have the only and final ruling on all matters.

Our family became friends with a Jewish couple who were in KC for a conference. They were part of the Ethiopian Jewish congregation in Israel and were missionaries in the US. They had some grave concerns and red flags (regarding IHOP’s theology, the model that is used with everything IHOP related, etc) that they attempted to meet with Mike and discuss. After being brushed off by Mike multiple times in his refusal to meet with him…even though they were Jewish leaders from Israel and Mike knew of them, he finally told these friends of ours that “This is how we do things here. This is just how IHOP is. It’s not for everyone.” If there was something you didn’t like or didn’t agree with, you were basically told “IHOP wasn’t for everyone so if you couldn’t handle it, maybe you shouldn’t be here.” There was no actual accountability for anything deemed wrong/un-Biblical. We were told that IHOP has its own “culture” and you must assimilate into that culture and language to really understand it. If you had a problem with something, you were told that you just had not been around long enough to understand how they did things OR that you just weren’t a good fit. These were the answers I was given when I met with internship leaders right before leaving. There was never actual admittance of wrong doing or hurting anyone who was caught in the crossfire.

6. A destructive cult's leader is a self-appointed messianic person claiming to have a special mission in life. For example, leaders of flying saucer cults claim that beings from outer space have commissioned them to lead people away from Earth, so that only the leaders can save them from impending doom.

Every intern was required to listen to the 12 hours of IHOP’s recorded history on CD footage. Much of this content was heavily edited before its publication. These tapes told of “prophetic words” and signs that were given to some of Mike’s mentors (Bob Jones, Paul Cain, etc)—who were all naming him as the leader of the next “big thing” God was doing. Over and over and over again I’ve heard it said (both directly by Mike as well as from others) that he (Mike) would be the leader of a movement that “changed the nature and expression of Christianity in the earth”. Every time, all recognition points to Mike. His “mission” to transform the church and capture the hearts of America’s youth has been his declared goal since the early 1980’s. One of the major dangers is that these grandious sounding claims and "prophetic" words are laden with flattery, narcissism, elitism and are a perfect guise under which anything Mike introduces through IHOP can fall under the heading of being a "new thing" God is doing.

This elitist teaching puts Mike on a pedestal and he has a Messianic-like devoted following of people who would do anything if he told them to without a moment of questioning or hesitation. From my observations and experiences on staff, IHOP members do not think for themselves or question Mike's interpretation of scripture or the slant in the way he teaches it. At any conference, one will easily observe that if Mike recommends a book or promotes a teaching, a t-shirt or a speaker, at the next break, ALL of that item will be sold out in their bookstore. When I was on staff, I heard people continually sing Mike’s praises around the clock and quote more of what Mike says or thinks or teaches than actual scripture.

Mike has an alluring charisma and many seem to be instantly drawn to his convincing appearance of direction and purpose. He teaches with passion and emotion rather than truth and it's that charisma that draws and hooks people causing many to blindly follow (and defend) his message.

I believe that the IHOP lifestyle by and large sets people up for disillusionment through the false hope that its deception provides. It is a pseudo, manufactured reality where people are told “you can live in Nirvana and enjoy the 'high' of being in God’s presence 24/7 and that can be ALL that you live for” so people sell all that they have, buy into a dream and move across the country to be a part of a ministry that makes captivating claims…and then their world often crumble to ashes when things aren’t as they seem once they arrive.

Mike's primary target and focus is on the young people. His appeals from the pulpit and his well-polished speeches aim at capturing the hearts of America’s youth. Children and youth are not told or encouraged to respect or honor the parents G-d gave them. Instead, wedges are driven between families and a seed of pride, rebellion and elitism gets planted into the hearts of youth when they are told things like the following…

This is a very close paraphrase of what I’ve heard many, many times at One Thing, IHOP conferences and in teachings by leaders:

“YOU are called to be on the cutting edge. Come here and join a community of other people who are like you, called to what you’re called to. We understand you. You’ve been mis-understood in the church. You’ve had your wings clipped, your gifts misunderstood. Here you can fulfill your forerunner calling that your family just hasn’t understood about you. You might feel like you don’t fit back home, you’re on the outside, no one understands the fire in you. Well we get it. You are the leaders that G-d is raising up in these end times and you will be kings and queens on the earth—reigning with Him. You were made for this place. IHOP is an incubator for people like you.”

Narcissistic speeches like this instill a sense of pride, arrogance and elitism in the hearts of youth who hear it and it feeds their need for validation and identity. They run to IHOP, leave their families, join internships…hoping that what they’ve heard is true. They go to IHOP looking for identity…instead of finding it in Jesus.

Once outside of the IHOP environment, they are terrified and overwhelmed by the “real” world and don’t know how to function in it when they’ve been in an intensive internship environment. There is a degree of re-acclimating to normal life that feels like an IHOP detox afterward. It’s a severe emotional drop because the hyped up services and conferences that were your manna are now gone and when there is no prayer room, your life in God feels empty and lifeless. Many simply don’t know how to engage with God in a real day-to-day basis once they’ve left. I experienced this and heard the exact same thing from a handful of my friends after they left IHOP and the internship. At that point when disillusionment sets in, I know many interns that walked away from God completely upon leaving the internship and went back into lifestyles worse than the ones they left when they came to IHOP originally.

7. A destructive cult's leader centers the veneration of members upon himself or herself. Priests, rabbis, ministers, democratic leaders, and other leaders of genuinely altruistic movements focus the veneration of adherents on God or a set of ethical principles. Cult leaders, in contrast, keep the focus of love, devotion, and allegiance on themselves.

I believe my statements above illustrate this so I won't be redundant.

8. A destructive cult's leader tends to be determined, domineering, and charismatic. Such a leader effectively persuades followers to abandon or alter their families, friends, and careers to follow the cult. The leader then takes control over followers' possessions, money, time, and lives.

Youth are pumped up at conferences and then go home to tell their parents they are moving to Kansas City to join IHOP, be part of an internship, etc. At the time, sadly, they don't realize how much more they are giving up and leaving behind than just their families. I was hurled into a system that took control of my time, when I ate, slept, had time alone, etc. Picking up the pieces of my heart and rebuilding a Biblical view of God after getting outside of IHOP was quite a long process. I hope that by sharing all of this, I am able to spare others the heartache of what I went through.

Please don't just take my word for it. Start doing your own research. Ask the Father to lead you as you pursue what is TRUTH. Don't just stop at the facts--look deeper. Do Google searches on cults and ask the Lord to unveil deceptions.

Blessings to you on your journey of walking with Him.

photo credit: vasekvi via photopin cc
photo credit: Nathan Bedford via photopin cc

 Additional Resources 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Chain Emails, and What Exactly Is the Gospel?

"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile." Romans 1:16

The following is a chain email that I received in my in-box yesterday morning. You know the kind: they're typically short letters with a feel good message, often there is some mention of God, and usually something dire is vaguely threatened if you "break the chain" by not resending the message to 14 of your closest friends. It is extremely rare that I ever forward any of these messages that show up from time to time in my email, but on the few occasions when I have deemed a message worthy enough to have forwarding privileges, the one thing I always do is remove all the silly threatening at the end. We can either be superstitious, or we can be people who trust in God's sovereignty, but we cannot be both.

Anyway. I received the following one just yesterday morning, and it has been verified on Snopes (for what that's worth) as a true story. My commentary will come at the end of the email.
A seminary professor was vacationing with his wife in Gatlinburg, TN. One morning, they were eating breakfast at a little restaurant, hoping to enjoy a quiet, family meal. While they were waiting for their food, they noticed a distinguished looking, white-haired man moving from table to table, visiting with the guests. The professor leaned over and whispered to his wife, 'I hope he doesn't come over here.' But sure enough, the man did come over to their table. 
'Where are you folks from?' he asked in a friendly voice. 
' Oklahoma,' they answered. 
'Great to have you here in Tennessee,' the stranger said, 'What do you do for a living?' 
'I teach at a seminary,' he replied. 
'Oh, so you teach preachers how to preach, do you? Well, I've got a really great story for you.' And with that, the gentleman pulled up a chair and sat down at the table with the couple. 
The professor groaned and thought to himself, 'Great......Just what I need.....another preacher story!' 
The man started, 'See that mountain over there? (pointing out the restaurant window). Not far from the base of that mountain, there was a boy born to an unwed mother. He had a hard time growing up, because every place he went, he was always asked the same question, 'Hey boy, Who's your daddy?' Whether he was at school, in the grocery store or drug store, people would ask the same question, 'Who's your daddy?' 
He would hide at recess and lunch time from other students. He would avoid going in to stores because that question hurt him so bad. 'When he was about 12 years old, a new preacher came to his church. He would always go in late and slip out early to avoid hearing the question, 'Who's your daddy?' 
But one day, the new preacher said the benediction so fast that he got caught and had to walk out with the crowd. 
Just about the time he got to the back door, the new preacher, not knowing anything about him, put his hand on his shoulder and asked him, 'Son, who's your daddy?' 
The whole church got deathly quiet. He could feel every eye in the church looking at him Now everyone would finally know the answer to the question, 'Who's your daddy?' 
'This new preacher, though, sensed the situation around him and using discernment that only the Holy Spirit could give, said the following to that scared little boy: 'Wait a minute! I know who you are! I see the family resemblance now, You are a child of God.' 
With that he patted the boy on his shoulder and said, 'Boy, you've got a great inheritance. Go and claim it.' 
'With that, the boy smiled for the first time in a long time and walked out the door a changed person. He was never the same again. Whenever anybody asked him, 'Who's your Daddy?' he'd just tell them, 'I'm a Child of God.'' 
The distinguished gentleman got up from the table and said, 'Isn't that a great story?' 
The professor responded that it really was a great story! 
As the man turned to leave, he said, 'You know, if that new preacher hadn't told me that I was one of God's children, I probably never would have amounted to anything!' And he walked away....
The seminary professor and his wife were stunned. He called the waitress over and asked her, 'Do you know who that man was -- the one who just left that was sitting at our table?' 
The waitress grinned and said, 'Of course. Everybody here knows him. That's Ben Hooper. He's governor of Tennessee!'
Someone in your life today needs a reminder that they're one of God's children! 
'The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of God stands forever.' ~~Isaiah 
I received the above chain email from my mother, who is a fairly new Christian. But she is most definitely born again: she is a transformed person, she is growing in holiness, and she loves God and the truth that set her free with all heart. This is how I responded to her:
"Sweet story, but definitely not one to send to anyone who is lost......they already think they are God's children (the arrogance of the unregenerated heart!!)
There is nothing in this story of the gospel message as we know it from Scripture:
- Nothing of wretched and depraved man, who rebelled against his sovereign creator God and sinned by breaking God's moral laws,
- A high and holy God (with whom no sin can dwell),
- God's righteous wrath against sin,
- God's remedy for this situation: His Son, Jesus, the "God-man," who came to earth and lived the life that we could never live, and in so doing, earned the right to offer his life as an unblemished ransom for many. Only those who repent and place their faith in Jesus' death on the Cross can appropriate this "payment" made on their behalf.....only those have the right to be known as "children of God." All the rest are children of wrath.....they are under God's wrath.
The problem with sending such a story to people in our country/culture is this: 
- The lost already think (mistakenly, that is) that they know God, and have a relationship with him, and this story will do nothing to help them see their wretched depravity and need for a Savior; and 
- The saved - who might respond emotionally to this story - are letting their own minds unconsciously "fill in the gaps" that are missing in this supposed gospel presentation. 
Perhaps the Governor of Tennessee, Ben Hooper, truly is a Christian, and wants to share Christ with others through this story. God bless him for that! But this message does not have enough of the critical components of the gospel message to be salvific."
Feel good messages that make people smile aren't necessarily a bad thing, but when they imply salvation without even giving a true gospel message, then they are dangerous.  Eternity is what is at stake here. It is important for us as Christians to remember that we have the one thing that the rest of the world does not: salvation. This is no small thing, and it is imperative that we think through what exactly the full gospel message is, so that we can share this message of hope, this Good News, in a lost and dying world that so desperately needs it.

photo credit: Sean MacEntee via photopin cc

 Additional Resources 

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism Is Not Christianity