PROPHECY UPDATE 2007

THE STATE OF THE CHURCH

PART 1

Listen to this study with Real Audio HOL1069

            Welcome to our 13th annual Prophecy Update. This year our focus is going to be a little different. You see, our Governor gives his State of the State address and our President gives his State of the Union address and that, in a sense is what I am going to do this evening.  Our first study will focus on the State of the Church and the second study will focus on the State of the World.

            In Luke 12:54-56 we are told, Then He also said to the multitudes, ‘Whenever you see a cloud rising out of the west, immediately you say, “A shower is coming”; and so it is. And when you see the south wind blow, you say, “There will be hot weather”; and there is. Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?’  Tragically many in the church today don’t know what time it is on God’s prophetic time clock, or they just don’t care. And yet, Jesus held the Jewish religious leaders and people accountable for not knowing what time it was on God’s prophetic time clock back then and yet they could tell the weather by looking at the sky! They cared more about the weather than about spiritual things, that the Messiah has come and for us, He is coming back and I believe it is soon!

            In our first study, the State of the Church, I must say in my 25 years as a Christian I have never seen the church embracing as much false doctrine, and on a overwhelming scale of Christian groups doing this, than I do today! I think that the church is very sick, I think the church is falling away from the truths of God found in the Word of God, and I think that the apostasy has begun!  I do realize that I have made some very bold statements here, but when you hear what is going on in the church today, I think you will agree.

            In Jeremiah 8:7-9 we are told, Even the stork in the heavens Knows her appointed times; And the turtledove, the swift, and the swallow Observe the time of their coming. But My people do not know the judgment of the Lord. How can you say, ‘We are wise, And the law of the Lord is with us’? Look, the false pen of the scribe certainly works falsehood. The wise men are ashamed, They are dismayed and taken. Behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord; So what wisdom do they have?  In other words, judgment was coming upon the Southern Kingdom of Judah for their idolatry and they did not even recognize it or they just buried their head in the sand and did not want to see the danger that was all around them. They were sick! They were not wise because they rejected the Words of God!

            Now why didn’t they recognize this judgment of God?  Because they moved away from the Word of God and that is happening in the church today at an alarming rate and the only solution is for those that are going down these dangerous paths is to repent, to return to the Lord and His Word instead of holding onto these doctrines of demons!

            Like it or not, I believe the Seeker Friendly movement, the Purpose Driven movement has prepared the way for what is now called the Emergent Church movement. You see, the Seeker Friendly movement watered down the Scriptures, they did not teach on things they did not like or may be offensive to people and thus, as we moved into the Purpose Driven movement, they moved away from the Bible to use paraphrase translations that support what they are teaching, but they are not of God! Thus, we have a generation of biblically illiterate people who are open for anything and everything.  They are more interested in experience than teaching and thus, the Emerging Church movement is giving them what they want – no theology, no doctrine, but lot’s of experience – which is very dangerous!

            In Revelation chapter 3, Jesus writes a letter in verses 14-22 to the church of Laodicea or the Luke Warm Church, the apostate church of the last days. And if you read this letter Jesus has nothing good to say to this church that is in need of nothing, not even Jesus for He is not even allowed into the church, He is outside knocking to get in! In fact, Jesus said, So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ — and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.  Revelation 3:16-17.

            In an article from OneNewsNow.com, May 23, 2007, Jody Brown writes:

More than 20 years of research, says The Barna Group, has revealed a disturbing trend among Americans' spiritual beliefs and behavior: their commitment to orthodox biblical perspectives is "slipping." The director of a recent Barna study says the findings reflect a "spiritual profile" among Americans similar to that of the early church at Laodicea -- a church which Jesus admonished for being "neither hot nor cold" and called to repentance.

Every year, The Barna Group explores the "state of America's faith," examining such factors as people's spiritual activity, faith identity, commitment, and religious perspective. This year's poll of more than 1,000 adults (conducted in January) indicates that while Americans are remaining spiritually active, the percentage of those who hold orthodox biblical views has fallen to its lowest level in decades.

"They've actually become less orthodox, less traditional," Barna's David Kinnaman tells Associated Press. "[M]any of their core biblical perspectives have changed."

A report released by Barna summarizes this year's findings. Among them -- two-thirds (66%) of Americans believe that God is best described as "the all-powerful, all-knowing creator of the universe who rules the world today." That is down five percent from one year ago and represents the lowest percentage in more than 20 years of similar surveys, notes the report.

In addition, says Kinnaman, "they are less likely to reject the notion that Jesus sinned (37%), and they're less likely to believe that Satan is a real spiritual entity (24%)." Both of those percentages are lower than last year and are among the lowest during the two decades Barna has tracked Americans' views in those areas. The research organization observes that such revelations call into question the sincerity of people's commitment to orthodox biblical perspectives.

Kinnaman puts it this way: while millions of Americans feel personally committed to God, they are apparently "renegotiating" the definition of God.

"They lack a consistent and holistic understanding of their faith," he says in the Barna report. "[They] say they are personally committed to Jesus Christ, but they believe he sinned while on Earth. Many believers claim to trust what the Bible teaches, but they reject the notion of a real spiritual adversary . . . "

The survey director says most Americans seem to have one foot in the "biblical camp" and one foot outside it -- placing themselves in what Kinnaman refers to as a "squishy middle."

"They say they are committed, but to what?" he asks. "They are spiritually active, but to what end? The spiritual profile of American Christianity is not unlike a lukewarm church that the Bible warns about." (Revelation 3:14-22)

It is evident, Kinnaman observes, that most Americans -- including those who say they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ -- do not hold strong and clear beliefs. He notes that "as they go from year to year, as they watch movies, as they interact with people, as they rethink their lives, religious perspectives sometimes get put on the shelf."

The ultimate result, he fears, is that the shift away from biblical perspectives will cause America's youth to conclude that the Christian faith does not represent "deep, consistent truths about the spiritual and natural world."

- Jody Brown OneNewsNow.com, May 23, 2007

 

            I am here to tell you that this departure from the faith, I believe, is the beginning of the apostasy and the end time’s church of Laodicea. Let me begin with this article regarding Willow Creek Community Church and their study regarding the Seeker Friendly movement that they began and how this movement has impacted the lives of their people and it is not what you would expect. We are told:

The headlines on a Townhall.com article this week certainly catch the attention: "A Shocking 'Confession' from Willow Creek Community Church, “The article talks about a survey Willow Creek performed and the findings of the survey:

Willow Creek has released the results of a multi-year study on the effectiveness of their programs and philosophy of ministry. The study's findings are in a new book titled Reveal: Where Are You?, co-authored by Cally Parkinson and Greg Hawkins, executive pastor of Willow Creek Community Church. Hybels himself called the findings "earth shaking," "ground breaking" and "mind blowing." And no wonder: it seems that the "experts" were wrong.

The report reveals that most of what they have been doing for these many years and what they have taught millions of others to do is not producing solid disciples of Jesus Christ. Numbers yes, but not disciples. It gets worse. Hybels laments:

Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back it wasn't helping people that much. Other things that we didn't put that much money into and didn't put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for.

Hybels explains what he feels Willow Creek should have been doing:

We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become 'self feeders.' We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between services, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.

This may sound quite noble to most that Hybels now realizes he should have been telling congregants to read their Bibles, but what are these "spiritual practices" that people should do "more aggressively on their own"? Will they be the meditative practices that are already incorporated into Willow Creek through their spiritual formation curriculum that contemplatives Ruth Haley Barton and John Ortberg created for WC? While WC may revise some of their big corporation, church-growing tactics and programs to accommodate the survey's revelations, it isn't too likely they will be getting rid of their spiritual formation emphasis. After all, spiritual practices (or disciplines) is what is at the heart of spiritual formation (with meditation at the forefront). Still remaining on their site is their Solitude page with recommended resources by contemplatives Henri Nouwen and Dallas Willard. And countless other such resources can be found on the WC website, including many from emerging leaders such as Erwin McManus and Brian McLaren.

What is Willow Creek's motive in wanting to make these changes? The Townhall article reveals a glimpse of that:

Perhaps the most shocking thing of all in this revelation coming out of Willow Creek is in a summary statement by [WC executive pastor] Greg Hawkins:

Our dream is that we fundamentally change the way we do church. That we take out a clean sheet of paper and we rethink all of our old assumptions. Replace it with new insights. Insights that are informed by research and rooted in Scripture. Our dream is really to discover what God is doing and how he's asking us to transform this planet.

It is no new thing that Willow Creek wishes to "transform the planet." They are part of the emerging spirituality that includes Rick Warren and many other major Christian leaders who believe the church will usher in the kingdom of God on earth before Christ returns. This dominionist, kingdom-now theology is literally permeating the lecture halls of many Christian seminaries, and mysticism is the propeller that keeps its momentum. If Willow Creek hopes to transform the planet, they won't be able to get rid of the focus on the mystical (i.e., contemplative). Their new Fall 2007 Catalog gives a clear picture of where their heart lies, with resources offered by New Age proponent Rob Bell, contemplative author Keri Wyatt Kent, and the Ancient Future Conference with emerging leaders Scot McKnight and Alan Hirsch as well as resources by Ruth Haley Barton and John Ortberg.

        - Lighthouse Trails, Shocking "Confession" from Willow Creek Community Church

 

            Willow Creek, along with all it’s followers, the many churches that are offshoots of this church are now embracing the Emergent Church that is very unbiblical and dangerous. This movement embraces New Age and eastern mysticism and they are not even ashamed or try to cover it up, they speak it openly and have these materials in their bookstore! Listen to what Doug Pagitt, a leader in this movement is saying:

            “At Solomon’s porch, [his church], sermons are not primarily about my extracting truth from the Bible to apply to people’s lives. In many ways the sermon is less a lecture or motivational speech than it is an act of poetry – of putting words around people’s experiences to allow them to find deeper connection in their lives . . . So our sermons are not lessons that precisely define belief so much as they are stories that welcome our hopes and ideas and participation.”

            Then what in the world is he giving people?  The philosophies and ideas of men! Bible doctrine is not important, but experience, feelings are!  And yet, the Bible tells us, even though he feels words have no meaning and thus you can’t trust the Bible, All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.  II Timothy 3:16-17. But, as he said, the Bible is no longer the source of truth, of how we are to live out our lives, even though what he believes contradicts what the Scriptures are telling us. Who are you going to believe? Many believe what Doug is saying!  He goes on to say:

            “ To move beyond this passive approach to faith, we’ve tried to create a community that’s more like a potluck: people eat and they also bring something for others. Our belief is built when all of us engage our hopes, dreams, ideas and understandings with the story of God as it unfolds through history and through us.”

            As great as that may sound to some, how do you know what is right and what is wrong, what is true and what is a lie?  You don’t know and thus, all truth is God’s truth and you then have to believe or at least not say what anyone believes is wrong!  You see, we all experience God in our own way and thus, “It’s all good!” as my son use to say! That is a very dangerous place to be and yet many are heading down that path. In Jeremiah 17:5-10 we are told, Thus says the Lord: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the Lord. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, And shall not see when good comes, But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, In a salt land which is not inhabited. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, And whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit. The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.’

            So we see the Seeker Friendly movement embracing this Emergent Church, but what about the Purpose Driven movement, are they also heading in that direction? You bet they are and when you look at the number of churches that have bought into this Seeker Friendly and Purpose Driven philosophies, you can see how wide spread this really is. Latter in our study I will share with you some of the top churches in America and how they are into this!

            Rick Warren, through his Purpose Driven books and programs, feels he is leading evangelical Christianity on a path to a second “reformation” and a great spiritual awaking. I believe he is, but not Biblical Christianity and one day those that follow these teachings will awaken into a belief system that is apart from the true and living God!  Listen carefully to what he is saying, what he means:

            “I believe that we are possibly on the verge of a new reformation in Christianity and another Great Awakening in our nation . . . The signs are everywhere, including the popularity of this book.”

            In an interview, Warren stated:

            “I’m looking for a second reformation. The first reformation of the church 500 years ago was about beliefs. This one is going to be about behavior. The first one was about creeds. This one is going to be about deeds. It is not going to be about what does the church believe, but about what is the church doing.”

            Now as great as that may sound, if you move away from doctrine, you are in danger of believing false doctrine.  Yes, we are to do good works, but good works are born out of sound Biblical teaching and not apart from it because apart form Christ, there is nothing we can do that He will accept!

Now, listen to what Rick Warren said about all this. He tells us in regards to the growth of the Emergent Church:

            In the past twenty years, spiritual seekers have changed a lot.  In the first place, there are a whole lot more of them.  There are seekers everywhere. I’ve never seen more people so hungry to discover and develop the spiritual dimension of their lives. That is why there is such a big interest in Eastern thought, New Age practices, mysticism and the transcendent.

            He further explains what the “Emerging Church” must do in order to emerge:

            Today seekers are hungry for symbols and metaphors and experiences and stories that reveal the greatness of God. Because seekers are constantly changing, we must be sensitive to them like Jesus was; we must be willing to meet them on their own turf and speak to them in ways they understand.

- Rick Warren

 

            Roger Oakland tells us in Faith Undone:

            At the 2005 United Nations Interfaith Prayer Breakfast, Rick Warren made the following comments to 100 delegates who represented various different religions:

            I’m not talking about a religion this morning. You may be Catholic or Protestant or Buddhist or Baptist or Muslim or Mormon or Jewish or you may have no religion at all. I’m not interested in your religious background. Because God did not create the universe for us to have religion.

            While he did go on afterwards and say he believed that Jesus was God, the implication was that your religion doesn’t matter to God, and being Buddhist, Mormon, or whatever will not interfere with having Jesus in your life. Donald Miller, author of the popular Blue Like jazz puts it this way:

            For me, the beginning of sharing my faith with people began by throwing out Christianity and embracing Christian spirituality, a nonpolitical mysterious system that can be experienced but not explained.

- Roger Oakland, Faith Undone, p. 174

 

There are five fundamentals of the faith, which are essential for Christianity, and upon which we agree:

  1. The Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:1; John 20:28; Hebrews 1:8-9).
  2. The Virgin Birth (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23; Luke 1:27).
  3. The Blood Atonement (Acts 20:28; Romans 3:25, 5:9; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:12-14).
  4. The Bodily Resurrection (Luke 24:36-46; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, 15:14-15).
  5. The inerrancy of the scriptures themselves (Psalms 12:6-7; Romans 15:4; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20).

And those who disagree with any of the above doctrines are not Christians at all. Rather, they are the true heretics. But listen to what Rick Warren says to those who consider themselves Fundamentalists, who adhere to the Bible:

            Today there really aren't that many Fundamentalists left; I don't know if you know that or not, but they are such a minority; there aren't that many Fundamentalists left in America. From Rick Warren talk at the Pew Forum on Religion.

Now the word "fundamentalist" actually comes from a document in the 1920s called the Five Fundamentals of the Faith. And it is a very legalistic, narrow view of Christianity ... Pew Forum on Religion

"[T]he religious right is not a fundamentalist and a fundamentalist is not an evangelical. There are all kinds of fundamentalists, Larry, and they are all based on fear. There are Christian fundamentalists. There are Muslim..." Rick Warren, on Larry King, 12/02/05

Now here is the problem. Jesus was a fundamentalist. He was very narrow-minded. He said in John 14:6, “ . . . ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ That is very narrow-minded and yet, it is absolutely true. In regards to not sharing his faith, of not offending others who believe in a different God, isn’t that what we are called to do, to spread the Gospel message throughout the world? Of course we are and if we don’t, it just shows we don’t love people because we are willing to allow them to go to Hell, feeling good about what they believe, but still going to Hell! In fact, Paul tells us, For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’  Romans 1:16-17.

Again, Roger Oakland in his book, Faith Undone tells us:

In a book by Oppenheimer and Sandy Sampson titled Idolatry in Their Hearts, they show how widespread this new missiology has become. Listen to some of the comments made by a few new missiology proponents:

New light embodiment means to be “in connection” and “information” with other faiths. . . . One can be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ without denying the flickers of the sacred in followers of Yahweh, or Kali, or Krishna.” – Leonard Sweet.

I happen to know people who are followers of Christ in other religions. – Rick Warren.

I see no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity. . . . I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can. – Thomas Merton.

Allah is not another God . . . we worship the same God. . . . The same God! The very same god we worship in Christ is the God the Jews – and the Muslims – worship. – Peter Kreeft.

- Roger Oakland, Faith Undone, pp. 178-179

 

That Jesus is not the only way by which one might be saved. It seems that they are postulating a broader gate and a broader path to heaven, a sort of “all roads lead to heaven.”  That good people by every religious persuasion may be received into heaven.  We feel that goes against the plain teaching of the Scriptures and negates the need of the cross for the expiation of our sins.  Paul wrote of those men in his letter to the Philippians and called them enemies of the cross of Christ.

And as I have said, Jesus told us, I am the way, the truth and the life, no man can come to the Father but by Me. This is not relative truth, but absolute truth.

            Obviously that is a foundational doctrine for us as Christians that Jesus is the only way and apart from Him, we will die in our sins.  But we are seeing the Emergent Church moving away from that truth and believe all roads lead to God.  Let me give you a few examples to show you what I mean.  Henri Nouwen, a deceased Catholic theologian and was ranked second in influence among Protestant church leaders behind Billy Graham in a 1994 survey, said this at the end of his life:

            Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God.

- Henri Nouwen

 

            Now why are so many moving away from the truths of God found in the Word of God? Why are they embracing this Emergent Church movement?  Why are the falling away, why is this apostasy happening? Roger Oakland explains:

            One of the arguments for promoting the emerging church in the postmodern era goes something like this: While the seeker-friendly era was successful in bringing a generation of baby boomers to Jesus, that time is past. Now we need to find new innovative methods that will reach the present generation for Jesus. Postmoderns are seeking after experiences that stimulate their senses. The emerging church, they say, can provide these kinds of experiences.

            Jim Wilson, in the book Future Church, describes the move away from the seeker-friendly, non-offensive style of Christianity towards a mystical-experiential brand:

            In the seeker age, the church tried to make its teachings and its services more user-friendly, practical, and accessible, and to market them to the un-churched. In the post-seeker age Future Churches are not as concerned with marketing services for unbelievers or entertaining believers as they are in ushering people, believers and unbelievers alike, into the presence of God. Intentionally, they do not water down their teachings or ratchet down the intensity of the service to make it more appealing to unbelievers.

            In order to appeal to “believers and unbelievers alike” and usher them “into the presence of God,” emergent leaders are promoting a number of innovative ideas. Dan Kimball devotes a major portion of his book to these ideas, some of which include the following:

 

Note the terms multi-sensory, sacred space, and vintage worship.

- Roger Oakland, Faith Undone, pp. 56-57

 

Folks, when you look at what they are teaching, contemplative prayer, centering, labyrinths, and-so-on, these are nothing more than New Age and eastern mysticism that has been brought into the church and it is not of God!  And this is not a new form of Christianity, one that is needed for the days we are living in because if Christ is not in the picture or it is another Jesus that is being spoken of, then it is not Christian, it is not of God and thus, the only other thing this can be are doctrines of demons!  And folks, they are changing the message. That is not what I say, that is what they are saying. Case in point:

Brian McLaren put it well when he admitted it isn't just the way the message is presented that emerging church proponents want to change . . . it's the message itself they are changing:

It has been fashionable among the innovative [emerging] pastors I know to say, "We're not changing the message; we're only changing the medium." This claim is probably less than honest . . . in the new church we must realize how medium and message are intertwined. When we change the medium, the message that's received is changed, however subtly, as well. We might as well get beyond our naivete or denial about this. While reaching today's generation for the cause of Christ is something we as Christians should all desire, we must remember Jesus Christ challenged us to follow Him and be obedient to His Word.

Scripture commands us to "be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2). But the emergents are leading followers in the opposite direction, teaching that the Word of God needs to be conformed to people and cultures instead of allowing it to conform lives through Jesus Christ. . . . reimagining Christianity allows a dangerous kind of freedom; like cutting the suspension ropes on a hot air balloon, the free fall may be exhilarating but the results catastrophic.

Lighthouse Trails tells us:

In the past, Willow Creek has not hesitated in lining itself up with those who promote mystical spirituality. In their 2005 Leadership Summit, speakers included Rick Warren and Ken Blanchard. Warren promotes contemplative spirituality as well as the emerging church (not to mention his interspiritual efforts), and Blanchard has been consistently endorsing and promoting eastern meditation for over twenty years. At last year's Leadership Summit, Willow Creek invited meditation promoter Jim Collins (who incidentally teamed up with Mikhail Gorbachev, Peter Drucker, and Ken Blanchard a few years ago for a global peace conference). Collins wrote the foreword for a 2005 book called My Highest Goal (by Michael Ray). Here is an excerpt from that book:

I attended a meditation-intensive day at an ashram [Hindu spiritual center] to support a friend. As I sat in meditation in what was for me an unfamiliar environment, I suddenly felt and saw a bolt of lightning shoot up from the base of my spine out the top of my head. It forced me to recognize something great within me . . . this awareness of my own divinity. (p. 28)

Laurie Beth Jones is also one of the speakers at the 2007 Lead Like Jesus event. Jones, who has participated in the very New Age Business and Consciousness conference, promotes New Age ideologies. Listen to a few of her statements:

My personal mission and vision is to Recognize, Promote and Inspire Divine Connection in Myself and Others. (From her website)

Jesus regularly visualized the success of his efforts . . . "I always do what pleases God.” . . . Was this conceit? Or was it enlightened creativity and self-knowledge? . . .    Jesus was full of self-knowledge and self-love. His "I am" statements were what he became. (p. 7 & 8 of Jesus CEO)

I proudly say I AM. I shape my own destiny. What I believe, I become. What I believe, I can do. (From back of Jesus CEO)

Today, two years after our report that Blanchard was teaming up with Rick Warren yet was heavily promoting the New Age, Blanchard is still endorsing New Age authors and teachers (like his recent foreword for Jon Gordon's new book), and he is still part of the Hoffman Institute (a think tank for New Age thought). And yet, Erwin McManus sees nothing wrong with speaking at Blanchard's conference, and Christian leaders (such as the Assemblies of God Southeastern University and CCN) see nothing wrong with promoting McManus.

But McManus by his own admission says that his spirituality is based on mysticism. In his book, The Barbarian Way, he says it has a core of mysticism. And according to McManus' friend, Jon Gordon, McManus had some positive things to say about The Secret, which is a new film based on the channeled works of spirit guides. In truth, it makes sense that McManus is part of Blanchard and Laurie Beth Jones' conference. But it makes no sense that Christian leaders are promoting Erwin McManus.

- Lighthouse Trails, A Line Has Been Crossed . . . No Turning Back

 

            Not only are they telling us that we are God, that we are divine but they are also telling us that the blood atonement is wrong!  Lighthouse tells us:

            Some leading contemplative proponents say that a loving God would not send His son to a violent death on a Cross. Brennan Manning, in his book Above All states:

[T]he god who exacts the last drop of blood from his Son so that his just anger, evoked by sin, may be appeased, is not the God revealed by and in Jesus Christ. And if he is not the God of Jesus, he does not exist (p. 58).

Although Manning takes credit for penning these words, they are actually the words of panentheist mystic, William Shannon, from his book Silence on Fire, who wrote them several years ago. Shannon stated:

He is the God who exacts the last drop of blood from His Son, so that His just anger, evoked by sin, may be appeased . . . This God does not exist. This is not the God whom Jesus Christ reveals to us" (p. 110).

What are the implications of Shannon's statement? Basically, making someone suffer a violent death to save others is not something a loving God would do. Shannon believes such a sacrifice is unnecessary because he believes all creation (all people) are already connected to God:

The goal of all true spirituality is to achieve an awareness of our oneness with God and with all of God's creation . . . and with all that is (p. 160).

Shannon says that we are all "contemplatives" ("mystics") and that "God is the Hidden Ground of Love," and we are "all one in that Ground" and "contemplative prayer [is] becoming conscious of what is already there [God]" (p. 22, 154, 160). That is why Thomas Merton said if we knew what was really inside of each other, we would fall down and worship one another - Merton's biographer totally agreed with this.

Manning, Shannon and Merton are not the only ones who downplay the doctrine of the Cross. Alan Jones, in his book Reimagining Christianity, says that "Jesus' sacrifice was to appease an angry God. Penal substitution was the name of this vile doctrine" (p. 168). Brian McLaren suggests that the doctrines of the Cross and of Hell are "false
advertising for God."

If it were true, that Jesus Christ suffering a violent death on the Cross was unnecessary for man to be saved, then Scripture becomes invalid for in Hebrews it says that "the Mediator [Jesus Christ] of the new covenant" had to die before the covenant could take effect (Hebrews 9). If Christ had not died a sacrificial death, the new covenant of grace would be non-existent, and there would be no means in which anyone could be saved.

Contemplative spirituality ultimately rejects the gospel message, and those who continue in its path will eventually follow after other gods and be led away from the salvation freely given to all who will believe. Henri Nouwen, one of the most prominent figures in the contemplative movement, said that Buddhism and Hinduism offered many spiritual treasures to contribute to the life of the Christian(Disciplines for Christian Living - Ryan). What do Buddhism and Hinduism offer? Panentheism (God in everything)

If Manning, Shannon, Merton, McLaren and Jones are right, then there is no need to preach the gospel to the lost, for there are no lost - they are already connected to God and they just need to be made aware of that. But if Scripture is correct, then believers are compelled to defend and preach this message that we are reconciled to God through the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

  - Lighthouse Trails, Would God Send His Son to a Violent Death? Some Say No

 

            I can go on-and-on showing you how this garbage has infiltrated the church and is already in the church.  There are many churches in our community that are embracing this garbage and if you are involved in one of them, speak to your pastor and share with him your concerns. Tell him to get back to the Bible and teach it verse-by-verse.  I want you to see for yourself how influential this movement is. Listen carefully:

The Church Report has released their annual "America's 50 Most Influential Churches" poll. The list is compiled each year by getting the input of around 2000 church pastors and leaders. Last year's list, on which we reported, is very similar to this year's. Willow Creek (Bill Hybels) is in the number one spot, and Saddleback (Rick Warren) is number two. As was the case in last year's poll, many of the churches (and pastors) that made it into one of the 50 spots for 2007 are pro-contemplative and/or pro-emergent churches/pastors. Here is our list of the ones that fit that group:

#1 Willow Creek (Bill Hybels)
#2 Saddleback (Rick Warren)
#3 Fellowship Church (Ed Young)
#4 North Point (Andy Stanley)
#5 Life Church (Craig Groeschel)
#6 Granger Community Church (Mark Beeson)
#10 Sea Coast (Greg Surratt)
#11 Mosaic (Erwin McManus)
#12 Mars Hill (Rob Bell)
#13 North Coast Church (Larry Osborne)
#18 Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale (Bob Coy)
#27 Calvary Chapel Capo Beach (former pastor Chuck Smith Jr. - now called Capo Beach Calvary)
#31 Menlo Park Presbyterian (John Ortberg)
#35 Wooddale (Leith Anderson)
#39 National Community (Mark Batterson)
#45 Oak Hills (Max Lucado)

There are several others churches that made the list that do not necessarily fall into the contemplative/emergent camp (at this point), but show indications that they may be heading that way. Some of those will undoubtedly make it on the Lighthouse Trails report next year as contemplative/emerging spirituality is becoming more the norm than the exception.

In our report last year, what we concluded with a statement that still holds true this year:

Many of the 50 are part of and participate in the "new evangelicalism" that approaches Christianity from a business viewpoint with strong New Age affinities. If indeed this list by The Church Report is an accurate estimation of influential churches, it is a valid statement to say that Christendom is now in some very troubled waters, both in North America and around the world.

Lighthouse Trails believes that real godly influence should be attributed to the many unrecognized Christian pastors throughout the world who have stayed true to the Word of God and faithfully preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. These shepherds of the body of Christ do not compromise truth with church-growth, seeker-friendly, Purpose-Driven and New Age practices. These are the pastors (and their churches who support them) who should be honored. They are the ones who will stand against the seducing spirits and doctrines of demons that will usher in that false "coming one" who opposes and hates Jesus Christ - the only name in which salvation lies.

- Lighthouse Trails, America's 50 Most Influential Churches - Many Pro-Contemplative/Emergent

 

            Let me try to tie things up here and show you how this is all coming together.  Lighthouse Trails tells us:

In the December 24, 2007 issue of US News & World Report, the cover story reads: "A Return to Tradition - a new interest in old ways takes root in Catholicism and many other faiths." The article illustrates the move by many (in different religions and denominations) toward "traditional practices." Some of these practices include liturgical services and the Catholic Eucharist. Calling this a shift in thinking, the article states:

"But this shift extends beyond the Roman Catholic Church. In Richardson, Texas, the congregation of Trinity Fellowship Church participates in something that would have been considered almost heretical in most evangelical Protestant churches five or 10 years ago: a weekly Communion service. . . . Trinity Fellowship is not the only evangelical congregation that is offering a weekly Eucharist, saying the Nicene or Apostles' creeds, reading the early Church Fathers, or doing other things that seem downright Roman Catholic or at least high Episcopalian....

"Something curious is happening in the wide world of faith, something that defies easy explanation or quantification. More substantial than a trend but less organized than a movement, it has to do more with how people practice their religion than with what they believe, though people caught up in this change often find that their beliefs are influenced, if not subtly altered, by the changes in their practice."

In other words, there is a move toward practices that supersedes the beliefs of those faiths. And the article suggests that those performing these practices may end up with changed views and beliefs because of the practices.

Carl Anderson, the senior pastor of Trinity Fellowship Church, explained that while he had depended on the seeker-friendly programs to build his congregation, his church was hoping to "reconnect with the historical church." Regarding Andersen's church, the article states:

Not surprisingly, that move [to the traditional] was threatening to church members who strongly identify with the Reformation and the Protestant rejection of Catholic practices, including most liturgy. . . . Trinity reshaped its worship practices in ways that drove some congregants away. But Anderson remains committed [to traditional practices].

With the emphasis on Catholic practices, it is not surprising that the US News article brings in the emerging church:

You see this at work quite clearly in the so-called emergent communities  . . . Brian McLaren, the popular author and a founder of Cedar Ridge Community Church in Spencerville, Md., recently left the pastorate to talk and write about the emergent movement and other developments in Christianity. While at Cedar Ridge, . . . McLaren instituted a Eucharistic liturgy and contemplative prayer retreats. And he appreciates the role of tradition in the new self-organizing communities that are sprouting up around the country.

Like McLaren, Tony Jones, author of The New Christians: Dispatches From the Emergent Frontier [March 2008] and national coordinator of Emergent Village, talks about the postmodern aspects of the new traditionalism. People of the postmodern mindset . . . search for new forms of community. [Jones says] "We are going to live in reconciliation with each other, and traditional practices are what restore us and hold us together."

The significance of the US News & World Report article is the fact that a major news magazine identifies this move by most major religious groups today as mystical. But many readers may not catch this because mystical practice is never discussed in the article beyond the mention of McLaren's contemplative prayer retreats. However, subtly it is. When it refers to "traditional practices," ones that Carl Andersen admits have driven some congregants away, he isn't referring to evangelical or Protestant tradition. And when the article says McLaren "appreciates the role of tradition," McLaren has proven time and again that he isn't referring to biblical tradition when he says "tradition." And when the article says that emergent leader Tony Jones speaks of "postmodern aspects of the new traditionalism," he isn't talking about evangelical or biblical traditions. What are these traditional practices? The article certainly leaves much to be desired in coming up with an answer to that, but there are some key phrases in the article that shed some light. Some of those phrases are:

* A "resurgent interest in traditional monastic and religious orders"


* "Reading the early Church Fathers [which includes the Desert Fathers and monastic mystics]"


* A growing appetite for something more than "worship that is a glorified Bible class in some ways"


* Drawing on deep traditional resources


* Ancient liturgical practices


* Recapturing those traditions that modernizers dismissed as relics


* Reviving the old stuff and traditions in a creative way


* Active spiritual formation

 

Anyone who has studied contemplative spirituality will recognize these phrases as part of that belief system, referring largely to drawing on the mystical practices of the desert fathers and other mystical sources. This "new traditionalism" is the framework for bringing in liturgy, contemplative prayer, mysticism, and the Eucharist, all of which, at the very least, point practitioners to Catholicism and ultimately an interspiritual body. A key statement in the article is when it says that "it has to do more with how people practice their religion than with what they believe." As is so prevalent within the emerging church (including Purpose Driven), there is a de-emphasis on doctrine and theology, and an emphasis on the experiential and contemplative practices.

As evangelical Christianity tears down historical barriers to Catholic practices and beliefs, these elements will burst forth into our churches unhindered and unrestricted. And the results will be devastating.

Just four miles from the Lighthouse Trails office, there is a Catholic spiritual direction center. Their bookstore is ample evidence of their outright New Age affinity. A good example would be the book titled Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav, which is consistently sold there. The book advises its readers to dwell in the presence of their non- physical guides and teachers (familiar spirits). Other Catholic retreat centers reflect this view as well. One trappist abbey features numerous titles - one called Living Buddha, Living Christ.

Our concerns are not based on anti-Catholic bigotry or hyper-legalistic misinterpretations. We believe anyone who takes the time to investigate these things will come to the same conclusions.

So much is at stake here. In addition to doctrinal conflict, it is an issue regarding a massive opening to the realm of familiar spirits (Lev. 19:31). What really is alarming is that the emerging church shares the exact same mystical approach that produced the outright New Age acceptance one finds in these Catholic retreat centers.

It is very noteworthy that Tony Jones is mentioned in the US News article; in Jones' book, The Sacred Way, Jones takes a strong stand for eastern/New Age style religious practices. Jones believes that the "new Christians" will be mystics. This will fulfill the words of mystic Karl Rahner who said the Christian of tomorrow will be a mystic . . . or he will be nothing. (1) And if the article in US News is any indication, Rahner's vision of the future Christian will come to pass as evangelicals and mainstream Christians fall in step with this paradigm shift toward the "new traditionalism" and a mystical spirituality.

- Lighthouse Trails, US News & World Report: Identifying Move Toward Contemplative Spirituality

 

In a December 6th article by Time magazine titled "The Pastor's No Square," emerging church guru Rob Bell is described as "becoming a national brand." The article reminds readers of a previous Chicago Sun-Times article that suggests Rob Bell could be the next Billy Graham. But in a rebuttal article by Lighthouse Trails titled "Will the Next Billy Graham be a Mystic?" it is brought out that Bell's mystical proclivities would mark him more for a New Age Christian than a Billy Graham type evangelist. Still, secular and Christian media alike (like Time magazine this week) continue propagating the message and the movements of Bell. And it is no secret that his Nooma films and his book Velvet Elvis can be found on the bookshelves of Christian bookstores, Christian high schools and on pastor's shelves across North America in particular.

While few could argue that Bell has "an appeal to the young" as the Time article states, what is so troubling is that it is being packaged as Christian appeal. Nothing could be further from the truth. Rob Bell is a New Age evangelist as he has so clearly shown on many occasions. For instance, and perhaps one of the most indicting statements from him, in his book Velvet Elvis he resonates with New Age Buddhist follower Ken Wilber. Bell tells readers to spend three months studying Wilber and promises them it will be a "mind-blowing introduction to emergence theory and divine creativity" (p. 192). Wilber's "emergence theory" incorporates everything from tantric sex (sexual experience mixed with mysticism), Yoga, Reiki, Zen, Kundalini Yoga, centering prayer, and magic.In fact, studying Wilber for three months (as Bell suggests) in a favorable light would easily turn the student into a Buddhist practitioner! And yet Bell's book is being used by Christian high schools and churches as a resource for spirituality. How incredible!

For those who may not understand what Bell and other emergents mean by "divine creativity," it is another way of saying that we, as humans, are co-creators with God (he clarifies this on page 157 of VE). That's quite a declaration by these New Age evangelists given the fact that a human can't even create a speck of dust. But that is what they believe - co-creators. Why? Because like all New Agers, they believe that divinity resides in all creation, including every human being - thus if we are divine we can also create. And if this is the case, as the New Age teaches, there can be no Hell, and of course no salvation needed by a Savior. New Ager Neale Donald Walsch (a favorite of Oprah's) goes so far as to say that even Hitler would be part of the kingdom of God. By the way, Walsch also says Hitler did the Jewish people a favor by killing them (see p. 166 FMSCN). This is the culmination of where all New Age thought ends.

Back to Bell. To further understand Bell's spirituality and why his material should not be considered Christian, he also refers positively to Marcus Borg in Velvet Elvis. Borg denies many of the basic tenets of biblical Christianity, including the virgin birth. Roger Oakland discusses this:

Borg explains in his book The God We Never Knew that his views on God, the Bible, and Christianity were transformed while he was in seminary:

I let go of the notion that the Bible is a divine product. I learned that it is a human cultural product, the product of two ancient communities, biblical Israel and early Christianity. As such, it contained their understandings and affirmations, not statements coming directly or somewhat directly from God. . . . I realized that whatever "divine revelation" and the "inspiration of the Bible" meant (if they meant anything), they did not mean that the Bible was a divine product with divine authority.

This attitude would certainly explain how Borg could say:

Jesus almost certainly was not born of a virgin, did not think of himself as the Son of God, and did not see his purpose as dying for the sins of the world.

If what Borg is saying is true, then we would have to throw out John 3:16 which says God so loved the world He gave His only Son, and we would have to dismiss the theme of a blood offering that is prevalent throughout all of Scripture. (Faith Undone, pp. 196-197)

The Time magazine article this week states that Bell has just finished with two national tours. The names of those tours say it all: The God's Aren't Angry and Everything is Spiritual. In straightforward language, this is the emerging way of saying that a loving God would never send His Son to a violent death on a Cross to take the place of sinners AND a loving God wouldn't send people to Hell in the first place. In addition, everything is spiritual, meaning everything is connected to one another and all is divine (this is the essence of Thomas Merton's beliefs). Rob Bell's message is contrary to biblical Christianity, and it is most unfortunate that secular media, like Time and Chicago Sun-Times, considers Bell a Christian evangelist. But while the world's assessment of Bell is unfortunate, the assessment by Christian leaders is shocking. As to date, Velvet Elvis is being sold by numerous Christian bookstores, like Southern Baptist Lifeway Stores, read by countless Christian teens in their schools and youth groups, and still has yet to be exposed by Christian leaders. But how could they expose him? Bell's spirituality is the same as Richard Foster's and Henri Nouwen's. If Christian leaders exposed Bell, they would have a terrible dilemma on their hands, for then they would logically have to expose Foster, Nouwen, Merton, Gary Thomas, John Ortberg,

Brennan Manning and the host of other contemplatives who are in the same camp as Bell. This they do not seem to have the courage or the wisdom to do. And that is a tragedy that Time magazine or the world cannot understand.

         - Lighthouse Trails, Time Magazine Touts Rob Bell - Christians Should Be Warned

            And in case you are wondering how such delusion could take place within Christendom, perhaps the words of New Ager Wayne Dyer are right:

When enough of us align in a certain way, reaching a critical mass, then the rest of us will begin to be affected and align that way also. (Interview from Science of Mind magazine, 01/93)

            And Perhaps the words of Alice Bailey, (who personified the New Age Movement) were right also when she said that the Age of enlightenment, (when everyone realizes they are one with each other and God), will come, not around the Christian church but rather through it!  That should be a warning to us folks, it is happening!

            The Bible warns us that in the last days, For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.  II Timothy 4:3-4.  That is what we see happening before our eyes today.  Now I don’t want to discourage you but I do want you to understand that we are in a battle for the truth.

Jude warns us, Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.  Jude 3-4.

            We must earnestly contend for the faith that has been entrusted to us, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but how?  Paul told Timothy and he is telling us, I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

II Timothy 4:1-2.  You see, get back to the basics, back to the Word of God and you will not be lead astray!

            I am excited about the days we are living in because I know that the Lord’s return is getting close but I am also saddened by how quickly the church is falling away and becoming lukewarm, where Jesus is not even allowed into the church, the true Jesus that is! May we earnestly contend for the faith in love, as God has instructed us to do.  As I close this first session, let me admonish you with these words from Paul, Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.  I Timothy 6:12.  And so we have seen in this study so far, the start of the apostasy, which I believe will lead to the one-world religion that is spoken of in Revelation 13:11-14 and will be headed by the false prophet!  Keep watching!