Sunday, October 28, 2012

On the Wings of Eagles

Posted by Christine Pack

I would like to point our readers to a wonderful and encouraging sermon by Pastor Gary Gilley of Southern View Chapel. Pastor Gilley gave this sermon while visiting Twin City Fellowship in Minneapolis, MN.  The sermon is titled On The Wings of Eagles and the text is taken from Isaiah 40. This is a wonderfully edifying sermon that extols the greatness and the sovereignty of God.

The sermon can be listened to in its entirety here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Attorney Susan Burke On the Child Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Against Sovereign Grace: SGM Church Leaders Told Parents "Not To Call The Police"

Posted by Christine Pack

Attorney Susan Burke
Talk show host Janet Mefferd recently interviewed Susan Burke, the attorney heading up the lawsuit against Sovereign Grace Ministries. The allegations in this lawsuit are that Sovereign Grace Ministries concealed sex abuse allegations in Maryland and Virginia. Sovereign Grace Ministries is headed by popular pastor/author/speaker C.J. Mahaney. Mahaney is currently a member of The Gospel Coalition, and has also been very influential in the Charismatic Calvinists/New Calvinists/Young-Restless-Reformed movement.

During the interview, Susan Burke who filed on behalf of the plaintiffs in this case had this to say about a potential class action suit:
"We have three families, three families have kind of stepped forward and are willing to serve as representative plaintiffs. I've heard from and been in touch with many other victims as well. So we decided that this would be, because of the subject matter and how traumatic it is for people to come forward, we thought that the most protective device here would be a class action. And even just since we've filed, we've had a few more folks reach out to us as well. So, sadly, it's not just the three."
Burke also made the following allegations:
· The Sovereign Grace pastors protected the perpetrators. 
· They kept the incidents quiet and did not alert others in the church. 
· They used intimidation to enforce the silence. 
· It appears they were more concerned about the reputation and the finances of the church. 
· They portrayed the civil authorities as untrustworthy. 
· They portrayed the pastors as being trustworthy to handle the situation. 
· They emphasized homeschooling and created fear and distrust of secular authorities. 
· The pastors had little training for their position, either in seminary or otherwise. 
· The parents were led to believe that they were the only ones that had had this happen, due to the culture of silence. 
· Various blogs helped people to find one another and realize that they were not the only ones who experienced these events. 
· These incidents fall well within the statute of limitations. 
· More people are coming forward so the class action suit is the most logical way to help those coming forward. 
· She emphasized the story of a 3 year old child who was made to meet with and "forgive" her abuser. The poor child was so afraid she hid under a chair. 
· The son of a high level church official was involved in some form of predation.
(Thank you to The Wartburg Watch for compiling the above list)

More interviews by Janet Mefferd documenting the progress of the SGM class action lawsuit:

 Additional Resources 

The Sex-Abuse Scandal That Devastated a Suburban Megachurch (The Washingtonian)

Flagship Churches Prepare To Leave As Lawsuit Charges C.J. Mahaney's Sovereign Grace Ministries With Coveirng Up Child Sex Abuse

Copy of Lawsuit Filed Against Sovereign Grace Ministries

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Does Mysticism Lead Us To God?

Posted by Christine Pack

Tomorrow's New Age Global Oneness Summit is proclaiming that spiritual growth and peace can be achieved on earth, in our time, through meditation and people on earth awakening to their own inner divinity (a panentheistic concept).  From the promotional materials:
"Mystics teach us our sense of separation is an illusion perpetuated by the fear-driven mind. However, a deep sense of oneness is within reach, if only we can move beyond habitual thinking and patterns."
As I have written in the past, this is the New Age/New Spirituality concept of salvation: that all human beings are already connected to "Divinity." Divinity is the New Age concept of "God" and is known by different names: Divinity, Source, God, Essence, Vibration, etc. This God/Divinity is thought to be something, as I noted above, that all humans, regardless of spiritual background or beliefs, can "awaken" to or evolve to through meditation and positive self-talk.

Translation: If you are a born again Christian, your ideas of "sin" and "separateness" from God without Christ are "fear-driven" and based just on "habitual thinking and patterns." If you oddball Christians could just get with the program, the whole planet could evolve to a better place, a more peaceful place, you see...
"Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?" (1 Cor 1:20) 
"Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become 'fools' so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: 'He catches the wise in their craftiness'." (1 Cor 3:18-19)
Fellow believers, the truth is that mysticism does not and cannot lead us into union with God. The carnal "wisdom" of a man-made utopia without the God of the Bible, the one true God who alone determines how it is that man is reconciled to God, is a lie that dies very hard. This is a modern day version of "'Peace! Peace!' when there is no peace." (Jeremiah 6:14). Peace does not come from "awakening" to one's own divinity, because this is not truth. We don't need to awaken to the fact that we are already God....we need to awaken to the fact that we are eternally separated by our sins from God, and we desperately need a Savior. Only then can peace be achieved, true peace, the peace that comes by repenting and placing our faith in Christ's atoning death for the forgiveness of sins.

Incidentally, this Global Oneness Summit features a round-up of today's most prominent New Agers and mystics:
- Neale Donald Walsche (author of the Conversations With God books) 
- Jean Houston - one of the founders of the Human Potential Movement, a New Age movement based on eastern mysticism and occultism 
- Barbara Marx Hubbard (author of the book The Revelation, her New Age version of the last book of the Bible by the same name) 
- Ken Wilber (a New Age mystic, and also the author of a book filled with New Age concepts that popular Emergent Church Movement author Rob Bell highly recommends to his own readers) 
- Michael Beckwith (a New Thought teacher who has been on Oprah many times, and who teaches that your words and your thoughts create your reality, an idea contrary to biblical truth, and similar to Word of Faith teaching) 
- Jack Canfield (author of the Chicken Soup For the Soul books) 
The reason this is an important event for Christians to be aware of is because most, if not all, of these New Age/New Spirituality/New Thought concepts are now coming into the church in "Christianized" forms: contemplative prayer, Lectio Divina, labyrinth, prayer circles, breath prayers, Word of Faith "name it and claim it," etc.

 Additional Resources 

Mysticism: A Counterfeit Holy Spirit

Interview With A Former Mystic

What Is New Age Eschatology?

Conversations With (an Occult) God - a critique of Neale Donald Walsche

Conversations With (an Occult) God - quotes from Neal Donald Walshe's books

Conversations with God - a critique by Russ Wise (Christian Information Ministries)

Can Mysticism Lead To God?

Barbara Marx Hubbard - What does she believe?

What Is Mysticism?

Chicken Soup For The Soul - a Review

Rob Bell Recommends New Age teacher Ken Wilber to His Readers

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Lawsuit Claims Sovereign Grace Ministries Concealed Sex Abuse

Posted by Christine Pack

The Washington Post is reporting that a lawsuit claims that Sovereign Grace Ministries concealed sex abuse allegations in Maryland and Virginia. This is a horrible story, and one I have heard rumblings about for several years. Sovereign Grace Ministries is headed by popular pastor/author/speaker C.J. Mahaney. Mahaney is currently a member of The Gospel Coalition, and has also been very influential in the Charismatic Calvinists/New Calvinists/Young-Restless-Reformed movement.

In an interview with Janet Mefferd, Attorney Susan Burke who filed on behalf of the plaintiffs had this to say about a potential class action suit:
"We have three families, three families have kind of stepped forward and are willing to serve as representative plaintiffs. I've heard from and been in touch with many other victims as well. So we decided that this would be, because of the subject matter and how traumatic it is for people to come forward, we thought that the most protective device here would be a class action. And even just since we've filed, we've had a few more folks reach out to us as well. So, sadly, it's not just the three."
More interviews by Janet Mefferd documenting the progress of the SGM class action lawsuit:

 Additional Resources 

UPDATE: 1/18/13 Attorney Bill O’Neil Interviewed on the Janet Mefferd Show About the Sovereign Grace Ministries Lawsuit

Flagship Churches Prepare To Leave As Lawsuit Charges C.J. Mahaney's Sovereign Grace Ministries With Covering Up Child Sex Abuse

Copy of Lawsuit Filed Against Sovereign Grace Ministries

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Yoga Can Be Hazardous To Your Health

Posted by Cathy Mathews and Christine Pack

Because we have written with such frequency about the spiritual hazards of yoga, many of our regular readers might be tempted to look at the title of this article and think that we will again be discussing the spiritual dangers of yoga. Not so. Today we want to point you to an article in the New York Times (How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body) which enumerates the potential physical dangers of yoga. You didn't know yoga could be dangerous? Please read on from the article:
"A healthy woman of 28 suffered a stroke while doing a yoga position known as the wheel or upward bow, in which the practitioner lies on her back, then lifts her body into a semicircular arc, balancing on hands and feet. An intermediate stage often involves raising the trunk and resting the crown of the head on the floor. While balanced on her head, her neck bent far backward, the woman 'suddenly felt a severe throbbing headache.' She had difficulty getting up, and when helped into a standing position, was unable to walk without assistance. The woman was rushed to the hospital." 
"(A) 25-year-old man was rushed to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, in Chicago, complaining of blurred vision, difficulty swallowing and controlling the left side of his body. Steven H. Hanus, a medical student at the time, became interested in the case and worked with the chairman of the neurology department to determine the cause (he later published the results with several colleagues). The patient had been in excellent health, practicing yoga every morning for a year and a half. His routine included spinal twists in which he rotated his head far to the left and far to the right. Then he would do a shoulder stand with his neck 'maximally flexed against the bare floor,' just as Iyengar had instructed, remaining in the inversion for about five minutes. A series of bruises ran down the man’s lower neck, which, the team wrote in The Archives of Neurology, 'resulted from repeated contact with the hard floor surface on which he did yoga exercises.' These were a sign of neck trauma. Diagnostic tests revealed blockages of the left vertebral artery between the c2 and c3 vertebrae; the blood vessel there had suffered 'total or nearly complete occlusion' — in other words, no blood could get through to the brain." 
"The first reports of yoga injuries appeared decades ago, published in some of the world’s most respected journals — among them, Neurology, The British Medical Journal and The Journal of the American Medical Association. The problems ranged from relatively mild injuries to permanent disabilities. In one case, a male college student, after more than a year of doing yoga, decided to intensify his practice. He would sit upright on his heels in a kneeling position known as vajrasana for hours a day, chanting for world peace. Soon he was experiencing difficulty walking, running and climbing stairs. Doctors traced the problem to an unresponsive nerve, a peripheral branch of the sciatic, which runs from the lower spine through the buttocks and down the legs. Sitting in vajrasana deprived the branch that runs below the knee of oxygen, deadening the nerve. Once the student gave up the pose, he improved rapidly. Clinicians recorded a number of similar cases and the condition even got its own name: 'yoga foot drop.'"
The article can be read in its entirety here. (Please note that this article does not address the underlying religious roots of Yoga; it only addresses the potential harm it can cause to your body.)

photo credit: lululemon athletica via photopin cc

 Additional Resources 

Yoga Alliance Shows Its Hindu Teeth

Christian Yoga an Oxymoron? 

Yoga Training: Not Just Exercise

Yoga For children: Not Child's Play

Yoga: From Hippies To Hip

Yoga: Its Spiritual Roots Can't Be Separated From Its Physical Movements

"Christian" Yoga?

Julia Roberts: "I'm Definitely A Practicing Hindu"

Doctor Prescribes "Therapeutic" Yoga For A Christian Woman

Universalism: The Gospel Message of Emergent and New Age Spirituality

Southern Baptist Seminary President Al Mohler on Yoga: "It's Not Christianity"

Karma Just Doesn't Cut It

Monday, October 8, 2012

Interview With a Former Member of Tim Keller's Church

Posted by Christine Pack
Jonathan Cousar,
City of Deception

Jonathan Cousar, a friend and fellow writer, was recently interviewed about his concerns over mysticism at Tim Keller's church (Redeemer Presbyterian) in Manhattan. Jonathan discussed what happened when he became aware of Tim Keller allowing Roman Catholic Mysticism to be taught at Redeemer, and what played out when he tried to bring his concerns to the leadership. Jonathan was a member of Redeemer for almost 20 years.

You may listen to this show in its entirety here.

 Additional Resources 

Learn to Embrace Your "Inner Monk" at Pastor Tim Keller's Redeemer Presbyterian Church?

Lectio Divina at Tim Keller's Redeemer Presbyterian Church - material adapted from the book Sacred Companions by David Benner. (From David Benner's bio: "I first heard of spiritual direction through reading Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, and this quickly led me to an engagement with the Orthodox tradition of the Christian faith. It was here that I encountered the Jesus prayer – a gift from the Russian Orthodox Church – something that was to change the way I opened myself to God in prayer for ever. Here I also encountered the gift of using icons as an aid to prayer. This led me back to the Christian mystics I had long been attracted to but not ready to really engage, and to the discovery of the Benedictine and Cistercian traditions of centering prayer and lectio divina..... I discovered the Sufi mystical poets, Hafiz and Rumi, people who have been intimate spiritual companions since that first meeting. Within a few years, my wife and I were blessed to be invited to spend several extended periods of dialogue with Buddhists and Taoists at the Tao Fong Shan Centre for Christian Spirituality and Interfaith Dialogue in Hong Kong. Once I tasted the richness of meeting people of other faiths in this sort of sacred place there was no turning back. I quickly discovered that I had more in common with those on a spiritual journey within other religious traditions than I had with Christians who had allowed faith to be reduced to beliefs and counted the holding of these beliefs to be their journey. It remains so to this day.")

Ron Choong’s Ties to Tim Keller and His Heretical Teachings (City of Deception, Jonathan Cousar)

Tim Keller and Social Justice (Sola Sisters)

Tim Keller Recommending Roman Catholic Mysticism (Sola Sisters)

Learn to Embrace Your "Inner Monk" at Pastor Tim Keller's Redeemer Presbyterian Church? (Sola Sisters)

Redeemer's Tim Keller Recommends Ignatius of Loyola? (Sola Sisters)

Tim Keller and the Problems with Ignatius of Loyola (Sola Sisters)

What Is Mysticism? (Sola Sisters)

Mysticism: Spiritual Crack (Sola Sisters)

Catholic Mysticism Infused Into Our Society (Berean Beacon)

Why the Reformation Was Important (Sola Sisters)

After The Darkness, Light (Post Tenebras Lux) (Sola Sisters)

Biblically Explaining The Heresy of Catholicism (Dr. John MacArthur)

A Chart With Christian/Catholic Views Side-By-Side (Berean Beacon)

Testimony of a Former Roman Catholic Priest....From Darkness to Light (Berean Beacon)
Tim Keller

Far From Rome Near To God (Amazon)

On The "Faith" of Mother Teresa: John Ortberg Strikes Out (Sola Sisters)

The Myth of Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa A Lost Soul (Berean Beacon)

Mother Teresa in Her Own Words (Sola Sisters)

CNN Reports That Mother Teresa Underwent Exorcism (CNN Archives)

BBC Reports About Exorcism Performed on Mother Teresa (BBC Archives)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Quotes (and A Few Random Thoughts) From Rick Warren's Interview with Oprah

Posted by Christine Pack

Saddleback pastor and Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren (dubbed "America's Pastor" by Time magazine) recently joined Oprah Winfrey on Friday, October 5 on her livestreaming Lifeclass. Below are a few comments by Rick Warren taken directly from his interview with Oprah, along with some of my commentary.
Rick Warren: “I highly recommend you make God the most important person in your life. Because He loves you unconditionally.”
What about the biblical proclamation that the wrath of God abides on ALL men, unless they come to him in the way He has ordained....through the shed blood of Jesus?
Rick Warren: “If you build your security around a man, he can die. But if you build your security in your relationship to God, that can never be taken from you.”
But no mention of Jesus or how to be in a right relationship with God to this audience.
Rick Warren: “All of us have things we want to change in our lives......If you want to change the way you act, you have to start....with your thoughts.”
This is a Christianized version of something called "New Thought" which is a New Age practice. This is a practice in which one believes, and acts upon the belief, that their thoughts have God-like power to change circumstances. This belief is also what undergirds the Word of Faith movement.
A woman from Norway called in and said: "Who is God? What does that mean? I was raised Catholic....."
In response to this woman, who was clearly receptive to hearing from a pastor about how to be in relationship with God, Rick Warren did not give the gospel. He is response was something along the lines of, you've got to find God and find God's purpose for your life (paraphrasing). As they were cutting away to break after that segment, Rick Warren leaned over and asked Oprah about that caller, and indicated that he had been expecting a different caller. Oprah and the producer replied to him that this caller's question had seemed more urgent, and that's why they put that caller at the front of the line.
Rick Warren: "God is love."
This reason this bothers me is because so many professing Christians today, when asked about God, will say exactly this: that God is love, as if love is the most important attribute of God, and somehow trumps all of his other attributes. But the truth is that all of God's attributes (love, mercy, grace, justice, wrath, sovereignty, omnipotence, etc.) are in perfect, balanced proportion. I'm not saying God is not loving....but that in this interview (and what I hear at large from most Christians) is that God is the Beatles song.

Rick Warren is addressing this audience as if they all know and affirm what he means by God (as in, the God of the Bible).
Rick Warren: “When God wants to do something great in your life, the first thing He does is give you a dream.” 
Rick Warren: "God is more interested in your character than your career......You're not taking your career to heaven, you are taking your character." 
Really? I hope I'm not taking my character to heaven.....I need the imputed righteousness of Christ. That is the ONLY way I will stand faultless before the throne.
Rick Warren: "It's all about service." 
He has said this a few times. This is pure LAW-based teaching. But this is NOT what "it" is all about. "It" is all about knowing God rightly as He is revealed in his Word, and responding in humble obedience to his command to repent and believe on Christ for the forgiveness of sins. This is works righteousness.....this is a false gospel.
Rick Warren: "God never wastes a 'hurt." 
He's completely mischaracterizing Rom 8:28-29 to this audience....those promises are for believers only. Is he somehow under the impression that he is addressing Christians?

The only thing Rick Warren said that came even close to a gospel message was when he said something like, Jesus loved you *this much* (stretching out hands so they're in the hanging-on-the-cross position). Warren paraphrased Jesus's message for us thusly: "I love you so much I'd rather die than live without you." That last part is a direct quote, even though it's Warren paraphrasing, because, well, Jesus never said that. Jesus said "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." But to hear Warren tell it, poor needy Jesus is up in heaven, wringing his hands, just hoping you will let him come and live in your heart. That is just an abominable way for a pastor to describe the Lord of this Universe. Jesus is NOT some needy stalker girlfriend who's emotionally overwrought at the idea that you don't want to be with Him.

 Additional Resources 

Rick Warren and Joel Osteen Join Hands With Oprah

Rick Warren Get's John Piper's Stamp of Approval?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Rick Warren and Joel Osteen Join Hands With Oprah

Article by Christian researcher and apologist, Marcia Montenegro. Marcia is a former professional astrologer and writes at Christian Answers for the New Age-CANA). Reprinted with permission.

On October 5th, along with others on Facebook, I watched 3 hours of live taping of Oprah’s Lifeclass online. This included an hour of Word Faith preacher Joel Osteen with Oprah and 2 hours of megachurch Pastor Rick Warren with Oprah. These programs will air later on the OWN network (Rick Warren’s two shows will air in early 2013).

 God's Word First 

Before discussing this, let’s look at God’s word. First of all, we are told to handle God’s word correctly: “Be diligent to (present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).

It is important not to take scripture out of context, or to misapply it. Reading a passage in context and in comparison to other scripture on a similar topic or theme solves most mistakes or deliberate misuses of scripture applications.

Both Word of Faith teachings (Joel Osteen) and New Thought (Oprah) use scripture and claim Christianity, but take the Bible out of context to prop up false teachings. One of the most widely misused passages is Proverbs 23:7, “As a man thinketh, so is he.” This is quoted by almost every New Thought teacher who has ever lived to support the view that your thoughts determine the reality of your life. The deeper belief here is that your thoughts can alter reality, and that positive thoughts attract positive events while negative ones draw negative events. This is actually a principle of sorcery.

How do we know what Proverbs 23:7 really means? It’s easy to discover if one examines the entire passage. Then it becomes obvious that the text is denouncing acting outwardly one way while inwardly thinking another way. Starting at verse 6, we read: "Do not eat the bread of a selfish man, or desire his delicacies; for as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, 'Eat and drink!' But his heart is not with you." Rather than buttressing New Thought principles, this passage is condemning selfish, hypocritical behavior!

The subtle deception of New Thought is that renewing one’s thinking can be done through techniques and self-effort. This is Satan’s counterfeit of the putting on of the “new self” and renewal of the mind by the power of the Holy Spirit, which only happens when one has believed in Christ and been regenerated by the Spirit (see Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 4:16; Eph. 4:23; Col. 3:10; Titus 3:5).

 Joel Osteen 

Osteen gave his usual Word of Faith teachings that words have power over our lives and this is the way to change our lives. He gave the same kind of affirmations that are taught in New Thought and the New Age, so Oprah was totally on board with this. Affirmations are statements that one repeats, verbally and/or in writing, so that they will become true.

Oprah was spiritually influenced by Unity minister Eric Butterworth’s teaching that Jesus came to show how to achieve Christ Consciousness (the realization that we all have an inherently divine nature). I was not surprised at anything Osteen said, nor that Oprah found him in line with her views.

 Rick Warren 

However, although Rick Warren has had New Age Dr. Oz at his church (along with a supposedly Christian doctor who also endorses some New Age practices), I was hoping he (RW) would somehow give the gospel in the midst of his motivational advice, but he never did. He used the imagery of a poker game to explain we are dealt certain cards, and then gave a teaching on this that sounded like moralistic self-help programs I’ve heard so many times, throwing in a few Bible quotes taken out of context or misquoted. It was something almost any New Ager could accept. God becomes a tool for self-improvement and success.

Warren referred to Jesus, but took scripture out of context and applied things said to believers to everyone. He also misused the Proverbs passage that says “as a man thinketh, so is he.” This passage is a famous passage misused by New Thought proponents and is used in “The Secret.”

What was really hard to watch is when a woman in Norway Skyped to say she realized she needed God but wanted to know who God is and she asked, “What should I do?” It was clear that she was ripe to hear the gospel and needed Jesus! It was a great opportunity to share the gospel with her, and at the same time, for Oprah to hear it. Instead of giving the gospel, Rick Warren seemed uncomfortable and finally just said something like, ‘Go to God and find your purpose.” It was a terrible moment! The woman looked surprised and sad, like she was expecting something else. I prayed for her later and am hoping that the many Christians who witnessed this will pray for her.

Not only that, but when Oprah referred to God, as she often did, Rick Warren agreed with her as though she was referring to the biblical God, which she was not. He even said a few times, “Oprah has a good point.” No, she never did! She was speaking totally out of her New Thought/New Age beliefs. I am grateful that RW recommended that people read the gospel of John. That was the best thing he said.

 A Different God and The True God 

New Thought followers and New Agers will refer to God and Jesus, but it is a god who is a tool for self-betterment and success, and a Jesus who inspires as a human example – not the righteous God who has wrath on sin nor the God-man Jesus who through is death and resurrection is found forgiveness of sins and eternal life to those who believe.
"He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." John 3:18

"Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.” Acts 10:43

 Additional Resources 

New Thought: Making the Straight Ways Crooked - A Warning For Christians

Rick Warren Get's John Piper's Stamp of Approval?