Christianity Today’s New 5 Year Teaching Series, the “Global Gospel Project,” May Have Political and Emerging Objectives

In their December online issue, Christianity Today announced the magazine’s “new five-year teaching venture.” The announcement article, written by CTwriter and senior managing editor Mark Galli, begins:

Ongoing controversies over the nature of the Atonement (substitutionary or Christus Victor?), the historical Adam (creation or evolution?), the afterlife (heaven and hell or universalism?), the nature of the authority of Scripture (“inerrant” or “infallible” or “trustworthy”?)—among other debates . . . reveal how confused many Christians are about the basic truths of the faith, a confusion that will worsen if we don’t respond to two pressing realities.

CT’snew “Global Gospel Project” is their answer to helping Christians become less confused about these essential doctrinal issues. Galli says that the two pressing realities that are causing this confusion among Christians are 1. that we live in apost-Christian world, and 2. because of the Internet the average Christian has become confused because he has access to the beliefs of all other religions. Galli says that:

[W]ithout being grounded in the gospel, we simply cannot live it out for long . . . With this issue of Christianity Today, we embark afresh on such an enterprise. We are calling it the Global Gospel Project (GGP), resources for a full-orbed discipleship of heart, mind, soul, and strength.

He adds:

[N]early all catechisms have been written with one tradition or another in mind—Reformed or Baptist or Catholic and so on . . .  we also need discipleship resources that embrace a broad, centrist, and historic understanding of the faith, one that recognizes the gifts of our various traditions . . .

Lighthouse Trails has strong concerns about Christianity Today’s new 5 year teaching project. Having tracked CT for nearly a decade now, we know that the magazine has been a prolific supporter and platform for contemplative spirituality and the emerging church. So in truth, they actually helped create the problem – confusion among Christians in doctrinal matters – which they say was created by outside forces,  and now they are saying they have a solution to the problem. But the problem with that is they are part of the problem. While Galli’s article says that Christians are confused because of the world in which they live, the truth is Christians are confused because Christian leaders, pastors, professors, publishing houses, and magazines are all telling Christians that they need to get on board with the contemplative/emerging bandwagon. That is what is confusing Christians – other Christians teaching New Age/New Spirituality “doctrines” and saying these teachings are biblical . . . when they are not. So it’s a bit disconcerting having witnessed CT’s role in this slide into apostasy, and now, rather than admitting their role, they are blaming everything else and saying they have the solution. This is very troubling.

As we read Galli’s article on the CT website, our eyes couldn’t help seeing advertisements, book announcements, and article titles which further increase our concerns and remind us that CT is not going to be correcting or repenting from the direction they have been going in. One billboard splashes Brian McLaren’s name across it. A rotating window at the top of the page lets readers know about wooden urns they can purchase made by Trappist monks. A “personalized cross” blessed by the monks is also available for free if one buys one of the urns (starting at just $225 apiece). The billboard links over to the Trappist monks website, The New Melleray Abbey, where many contemplative resources are available (They even have a “discernment” weekend retreat!).

We wonder just what resourcesMark Galli and CT have  in mind for the Global Gospel Project. This time last year (2010), we posted an article by Paul Proctor titled “Evangelical Church Hosts Interfaith Global Faith Forum for World’s Religions.” In that article, Proctor talks about the interfaith forum that included Mark Galli. In taking issue with this forum, Proctor stated:

The Christian Postreported recently that NorthWood Church in Keller, Texas, scheduled a Global Faith Forum for Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and atheists in hopes they would “listen to one another and even build friendships.” The report stated, “the forum isn’t a gathering of theologians to debate religions,” but instead, an “opportunity for people of multiple faiths to get to know one another, start conversations, and learn from each other.”

Yeah, try and find that in your Bible. I guess the Apostle Paul blew it. Just think what he could have learned from that infamous gathering of religious diversity on Mars Hill and all of the friends he might have made if he hadn’t been so intent on preaching Christ.

“Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” – James 4:4

Well said, Mr. Proctor. Mark Galli says in this week’s CTarticle that we all need to “embrace a broad, centrist, and historic understanding of the faith, one that recognizes the gifts of our various traditions.” Does he mean Christian traditions? Buddhist traditions? Muslim traditions? Catholic traditions?  Emerging traditions? In 2008, The Berean Call brought up Mark Galli because of a special CT issue focusing on the Ancient-Future Church (another name for the emerging church). The Berean Call article states:

In introducing its February 2008 feature article with a cover-page declaration, “Lost Secrets of the Ancient Church: How evangelicals started looking backward to move forward,” CT senior managing editor Mark Galli writes:

“You might say a number of CT editors have a vested interest in this issue’s cover story. David Neff, Ted Olsen, Tim Morgan, and I have been doing the ancient-future thing for many years, at Episcopal and/or Anglican parishes. And if this were not enough immersion in the topic, in his spare time, David Neff heads up the Robert E. Webber Center for an Ancient Evangelical Future, founded by the father of the ancient-future movement.”

Acknowledging the magazine’s inherent (and historic) bias, Galli notes that “the ancient church has captivated the evangelical imagination for some time, [yet] it hasn’t been until recently that it’s become an accepted fixture of the evangelical landscape. And this is for the good.” That, of course, is Galli’s opinion and, sadly, a growing multitude of influential Christian leaders agree.

Robert E. Webber, who died last year, is certainly the “father of the ancient-future movement,” and his many books have provided encouragement and content for leaders of Emerging Church fellowships. As a Wheaton College professor for three decades, he also played a significant part in influencing that evangelical institution’s capitulation to ecumenism, particularly its support of Roman Catholicism (see TBC 7/02, 6/02 by T.A. on ECT at Wheaton).

In a companion article this month, “Nurturing Mind and Soul,” Mark Galli, referring to the Global Gospel Project, writes: “For the next five years, we will take a more systematic and comprehensive approach to the task of forming believers in the faith.” He then tells readers that next month writers from Wheaton College and Fuller Seminary will contribute to the Global Gospel Project. Wheaton and Fuller are two of the more contemplative/emerging colleges on the scene today, but let’s take a brief look at the two contributors that CT has chosen for next month to “form believers in the faith.” You may be surprised.

Amy Black is assistant professor of politics at Wheaton College. This is interesting that CT has chosen a political professor for one of the first “resources” to help form believers in the faith. Ah, but perhaps, like in a good mystery novel, we have uncovered a possible motive for CT’s “five year plan.”  Amy Black was part of the political emerging “conversation” that helped many evangelical Christians to know who to vote for in the last presidential election (of course, we all know the results), along with people like Shane Claiborne (Jesus for President) and Jim Wallis (God’s Politics); by the way, Black is featured on Wallis’ website and is the author of Beyond Left and Right: Helping Christians Make Sense of American Politics,  which was released several months before the last presidential election. And in fact CTplayed a role in the seemingly subtle political maneuvers that took place in 2008 especially. One must wonder if the Global Gospel Project should really be named “U.S. Re-Election Project,” but perhaps this is for another article.

The other contributor that CT has chosen for next month’s Global Gospel Project on how to form Christians is Fuller Seminary professor Veli Kärkkäinen. Kärkkäinen has a particular emphasis on interfaith dialogue. He is the author of Christology, a Global Introduction: an ecumenical, international, and contexual perspective.  Kärkkäinen also teaches a course called TH536 The Theology of Jurgen Moltmann. Kärkkäinen actually features Moltmann in many of his writings and is considered to be an expert on Moltmann. Anyone who has read Bob DeWaay’s book, The Emergent Church, knows the significant role that Moltmann played in the formation of the emerging church. Listen to what DeWaay uncovers about Moltmann and thus the emerging church:

In the 1960s, German theologian Jürgen Moltmann, to be rid of despair, created what he called “a theology of hope” based on the philosophy of Friedrich Hegel, an 18th and 19th century progenitor of German Idealism. The Hegelian synthesis denies absolutes, such as absolute truth or knowledge, and instead claims that everything evolves as incompatible ideas merge into something new and better. Two incompatible opposites, such as good and evil, combine and evolve into an improved third option that surpasses both. (The Emergent Church, DeWaay, ch. 1 (Also see Herescope’s article, “Emergence Toward Convergence,” for more on Moltmann)

What really lies beneath Christianity Today’s Global Gospel Project? Unfortunately, for many CT readers, they will accept CT’s project as the Gospel. But discerning Christians must ask just what gospel is Christianity Today really talking about? Rather than a biblical Gospel, is it a pseudo gospel with political and emerging objectives?

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils. 1 Timothy 4:1

Related Articles:

Sojourners Founder Jim Wallis’ Revolutionary Anti-Christian “Gospel” (and Will Christian Leaders Stand with Wallis?)

EMERGENT MANIFESTO: Emerging Church Comes Out of the Closet

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Holy “Christian” Yoga at Women’s Ministry in Columbiana, Ohio

LTRP Note: The following is not an endorsement but rather posted for informational purposes only. Please see our links below for more information on “Christian Yoga.”

WKBN News (Columbiana, Ohio)

“I just really want to touch lives. I want to touch lives, I want to help people, I want to, you know, give hope,” said Kimberly Starr.

Starr is the owner and certified Holy Yoga instructor at Holy Yoga Women’s Ministry in Columbiana, Ohio.  The studio is the only one of it’s kind in the state. Holy Christian Yoga takes a different approach to the practice of Yoga. The moves are still the same, but the class is focused around Christianity. Each class is about an hour and a half and mixes yoga, meditation and prayer.

This past fall she opened the studio and started offering classes Monday-Friday.

“As class goes on you’re hearing contemporary Christian music, you’re hearing the word, you’re hearing prayer and you’re quieting your mind. You’re making it not only what you’re hearing, but you’re asking God to give you what it is you need for that practice, for that day,” Starr explained. Click here to read more and to view video.

LTRP Articles on Yoga:

Yoga in the Church

A Hindu Yogi Speaks: “There is no Christian Yoga.”

CHRISTIAN YOGA: Rooted in Hindu Occultism

What a Hindu Professor Tells Lighthouse Trails About Yoga

Christian Parents Beware: Sesame Street Will Teach Your Children Yoga

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The Pope’s New Evangelization Program: Bishop Ricken, Greg Laurie and Calvary Chapel

By Roger Oakland

One of the main goals we have at Understand The Times is to analyze the news in light of insights found in the Word of God. With regard to Bible prophecy, we should be very aware that doctrines of demons are taking place as part of the great falling away.[1] Even those who have been known for teaching the Word of God can will be misled as they get caught up in this Last Days apostasy.

Recently an article caught my attention with regard to Rome’s New Evangelization program. This program, put into place by Pope John Paul II, is still being promoted by Pope Benedict XVI in order to bring people to the Roman Catholic Eucharistic Jesus through a variety of plans.

The title of the article I read was “The Blessed Mother – The Vatican’s Secret Weapon?” [2]Notice that the title asks a question, which the article proceeds to answer showing how two Roman Catholic leaders, one from the USA and the other from Europe, have been both brought on board by Pope Benedict to provide leadership for Rome’s worldwide New Evangelization program.

These two men from different parts of the world had something in common, which I found to be very interesting. As the article states:

Two esteemed men, one a United States Catholic Bishop from Green Bay, WI., the other a Cardinal based in Europe, serving as the Archbishop of Vienna, suddenly seem to have very much in common.

Both men, charged with revitalizing the Catholic faith, have courageously taken action that acknowledges the supernatural presence of Our Lady.[3]

The phrase supernatural presence of Our Lady is important when studying about Last Days deception dealing with the topic of lying signs and wonders. Both of these men are promoters of the unbiblical idea that Mary, the mother of Jesus, appears in apparitions giving messages from heaven as if they were even more important than the Word of God. In their effort to revitalize the Roman Catholic Church and establish what they believe will be the kingdom of God on earth, they are promoting supernatural appearances of an apparitional woman they claim is Mary the mother of Jesus. Paul warns about this very deception in the letter he wrote to the Galatians, saying: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” [4] Click here to continue reading.

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North American Pastors and the Church on Borrowed Time

By David Dombrowski
Editor at Lighthouse Trails

The “Creeping” Effect of Apostasy
The church of today is very much astir. Everywhere we turn,  embellishments are being added to Christianity as if to improve it. The old ways do not seem to satisfy anymore. A great influx of new teachings and practices have exchanged the God of old as depicted in the pages of the Bible with a deity much more palatable to the post-modern mind. Brennan Manning illustrates this when he stated in one of his books, “ . . . the 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.”1  This “progressive” contemplative/emerging church has gone so far as to place in pulpits men who blaspheme God and who deny the atonement. But let us step back for a moment to see how emerging thought has developed. Such a statement did not come out of the blue, but as Ray Yungen suggests, a “creeping” effect made it all possible.2

Over the years, Christian leaders and pastors have stopped defending the faith and have exchanged the Word of God for things that outwardly appear very spiritual and promise a “quantum leap” into a “new spirituality.” Though there have always been those who deny Christ’s substitutionarydeath on the Cross, most of this kind of thought andteaching has been kept out of the evangelical/Protestant church. But as the walls of biblical truth were gradually torn down, it is no longer unusual to hear this kind of teaching in Christian colleges and seminaries. Much of what we see today began with men who pioneered the way to apostasy, then as a domino effect these ideas caught on and accelerated to the unbiblical thoughts and teachings we are witnessing in so many Christian circles today.

An example of this creeping effect can be seen in the Brennan Manning quote above from his 2003 book because it is nearly a word for word rendering of several lines from New Age sympathizer and mystic William Shannon’s 1995 book Silence on Fire.3This book is the biography of Thomas Merton who possibly had more to do than anyone else in giving mysticism (namely contemplative prayer) that initial push whereby it has now avalanched into the mainline evangelical/Protestant churches. But it all began as a creeping or rippling effect with the initial momentum almost imperceptibly slow.

Over the last decade or two, countless pastors and religious leaders across North America have pulled out for their evening reading books written by mystics like Henri Nouwenhoping to glean something to carry them to the next level of spirituality. Unfortunately, that quantum leap ends in the web of apostasy. As you may know by now, Henri Nouwen (also a great admirer of Thomas Merton) wrote in a provocative intellectual style that has intrigued many pastors, but what happened when these pastors stumbled upon these words:

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.4

Nouwen said these words toward the end of his life after spending years involved with mysticism. And yet, pastors, leaders, and professors are enamored with Nouwen.  And on goes that seemingly subtle creeping in of deception slowly but surely.

Calvary Chapel and the Man Who Tried to Warn Them
This past week, we were sent a short audio clip that further reminded us of the great need to stand firm in the faith in these darkening days and continue issuing warnings. The audio clip was from a segment of Calvary Chapel Pastor’s Perspective radio broadcast. Chuck Smith received a call-in where he was asked the following question: “Is it right for a Catholic woman to marry a Christian man even though she’s pregnant with his child?” Chuck struggled his way through providing an answer, but ended up saying that the differences can be resolved because he doesn’t think “they [differences] are that great.” He added, “You know Catholics are basically Christians too.” Chuck’s son, Chuck Smith Jr. was in the studio too and added, “I think the more important questions are is he a good man and do they love each other?” Hearing Chuck Smith’s lenient words toward Catholicism, not to mention allowing his contemplative promoting son to give advice to listeners, made it hard to believe this is the same man who invited and welcomed Roger Oakland into Calvary Chapel over two decades ago. One of Roger’s main warnings to the church has consistently been about the road to Rome so much of the church is taking.

Unfortunately, Roger has been ridiculed and ostracized by much of church leadership for his strong and unwavering stand against apostasy and spiritual deception – many feeling he was too extreme and negative. But as time marches on, it is beginning to appear that, if anything, what is happening to the church is worse than anyone could have anticipated or described. We actually owe Roger a tribute and a salute for his efforts to warn the church at great personal cost. Having lost two sons and having a near death experience himself, Roger has known adversity that is reminiscent of Job. But also like Job, Roger has a new perspective on what is dear in life and for him his treasure is in heaven, and his quest is saving souls.

But Roger is not one to look for praise, so let us dispense with that for the moment. However, it would be fitting to bring our readers up to speed with what really happened with Roger and Calvary Chapel. It seems that many people are confused about the attitude of Roger Oakland and Lighthouse Trails toward the Calvary Chapel movement, and a lot of them think our motivation has been to “bring them down” or destroy the movement.

The truth is, the reason why Lighthouse Trails ever got involved with Calvary Chapel in the first place was on a favorable note: Calvary Chapel, as of several years ago, was the only denomination that decided to take a corporate and public stand against the emerging church, the contemplative prayer movement and the Purpose Driven movement.5 At that time, we were in communication with Chuck and Paul Smith in the fight against apostasy. In one e-mail Chuck wrote to us personally in the spring of 2009, he said, “Keep up the good work and be not weary in well doing, for in due season you will reap if you faint not.” Roger had already been working with them for years (as Roger’s new book Let There Be Light chronicles) pleading with pastors to protect themselves and their churches from deception. At the time, a number of Calvary Chapel pastors felt Roger was right-on in what he was doing. One pastor, after having read Faith Undone (in 2007) stood before a pastor’s conference and said that this was the best and most needed book he had read for a long time. Chuck Smith read a large portion of the book at a Wednesday night meeting at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa.

So both in Roger’s case and our case, our dealings with Calvary Chapel were intended to help these pastors and their churches by providing them with research and information so they could make good decisions based on the Word of God.

However, as time went on, some of Calvary Chapel’s key leaders decided they wanted to embrace the Purpose Driven movement as well as contemplative/emerging spirituality. It seemed, almost like overnight, that Lighthouse Trails and Understand the Times went from being seen as a blessing to being seen as an enemy to Calvary Chapel. Before we knew it, our two ministries were being marginalized. Some colleagues even told Understand the Times and Lighthouse Trails to stop talking about Calvary Chapel altogether (when that didn’t happen, they distanced themselves from us). Rumors, sometimes even begun by disgruntled pastors, spread like wildfire.6

Yet, even to this day, after all that has occurred, it is our hope and desire that Calvary Chapel will rescue itself, although as a whole, a steady decline continues. We do wonder what ever happened to the pastors who at one time stood with us. Why are they silent? One of those pastors, from one of the larger Calvary Chapel churches, called us after we put out an article talking about Roger being kicked off Calvary Chapel radio (KWVE). The pastor was very upset, stating, “Our church bought over a hundred copies of Faith Undone from you! How could you write articles like this about Calvary Chapel!” The insinuation was that their buying books from us should keep us from writing about Calvary Chapel. It became evident in time to this pastor and others that losing a book customer, even a big one, would not alter our reporting. Not too long after that, we received notice that Calvary Chapel distribution had removed all Lighthouse Trails books from their distribution center (this is also talked about in Let There Be Light).

The fact remains, it has never been our intent or motive to destroy Calvary Chapel. If this happens, it will be because they did it to themselves. In the meantime, it is our hope that at least some of these pastors will take a stand.

Please keep in mind that we have never said that all Calvary Chapel pastors are heading for apostasy. On the contrary, there are a number of them who have resisted the coming tide. But now, it seems like even many of them have grown silent. If you are one of these pastors, we hope and pray you will steer the ship God has entrusted to you before you strike a bar. The Calvary Chapel vessel has been going through some treacherous waters for some time, but it seems that many now have pulled up anchor and are allowing their ships to be driven to and fro by the wind hoping they will reach the right destination by some mere chance.

North American Pastors and the Church on Borrowed Time
In his recent trip to Kenya, Africa, Roger Oakland was met with overwhelming hospitality from the pastors there. These pastors had been reading Roger’s books and are very troubled about the compromised pastors of North America and the state of the Western church.

These are humble pastors who know where their treasure lies. One day, while in Kenya, Roger was dining with some of the pastors, when he noticed one of them would not eat. This pastor, Roger discovered, was taking all his food back with him so that his family could have something to eat that day. The poverty is so great there that many living in that area are fortunate if they can have one meal a day.

In a recent Understand the Times article, Roger shares the highlights of his visit to Kenya. He hopes to start orphanages there and bring these people some practical help. He wonders too if maybe God is redirecting him to speak to pastors who will listen. Some of the pastors who came to listen to Roger had to travel at least two days journey to get there. Unlike the short 45 minute sermons in many North American churches, the sessions there went for hours.

Pastors of North America, it’s not too late, but the North American church in on borrowed time. We have become weak and spoiled, and it is time to change course, return to a no-compromise faith, the kind many of us had when we first became Christians. To straddle the fence, as has been the case for way too long, has cost the church dearly and could mean a steady erosion of biblical faith and a fall into the mire of full-blown apostasy.

While the mystics and emergents strip Jesus of who He is and what He came for, we should never forget that in Him we have a priceless treasure. Isaiah said of Him, “his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Most importantly, Jesus came to redeem us from our sins:

In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace. (Ephesians 1:7)

When Jesus spoke of the kingdom of heaven, he used a number of illustrations, one of which should have special significance in our churches today:

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. (Matthew 13:44)

While the emerging, purpose-driven, contemplative “progressives” of today are casting biblical doctrine on the dung heap more than ever, we should be holding on to it as something truly sacred for it is biblical doctrine that defines our faith and gives to us living water. Hebrews 4:12 tells us:

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

No wonder the devil wants to undermine and get rid of the Word of God, and he is attempting to do it through many who call themselves Christians.

Contending for the faith may cost us everything we have, but it is worth it, a jewel far about price. This life will soon be over, but eternity will last a very long time. Shouldn’t we be putting our treasures in heaven no matter what it may cost us now?

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. (Matthew 13:45-46)

Notes:

1. Brennan Manning, Above All, pp. 58-59 as quoted from Roger Oakland in Faith Undone, p. 195. (2003)
2. Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing, p. 94. (2nd ed. 2006)
3. William Shannon, Silence on Fire, pp. 109-110. (1195)
4. Henri Nouwen, Sabbatical Journey, p. 51. ( 1998 Hardcover Edition)
5. http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/CCSpecialReport.htm
6. http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=5382

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Trevor Baker: America – Only the Words Remain

Only The Words RemainAnother timely and meaningful message from Canadian song writer and singer, Trevor Baker. This is from his CD Only the Words Remain, which is a tribute to America. To listen to a 30 second clip of this song as well as other songs from this CD, click here.

Only The Words Remain

She stood so tall before the fall
She offered life and liberty for all
This great land where men would stand
And we recognized the leading of God’s hand

We owned the stage when wars would rage
In our Bibles
You’d find tear-stains on each page
We were such a force and God was our source
And with that in place
We charted out our course

Those patriarchs with their tender hearts
Gave what they had to God
They weren’t just playing parts
Pillars of old, they were so bold
They knew that sacred things
Were never, ever sold

The house of God could not be bought
What you saw was exactly what you got
The bended knee, the firm decree
That we would honor God
From sea to shining sea

Chorus

But somewhere the real became a fraud
We said, “we’re the same”
But what we did said we were not
And with one voice we said,
“We will not be blamed, we’re still America”
But only the words remained

The adage implies that our empty eyes
Became proof
That it was now just some disguise
The few concerned were only spurned
And most walked away
From lessons they had learned

Things began to waste
Our culture trumped our faith
And our heritage began to be erased
Freedom for all echoed in the hall
But God was not invited to the ball

Chorus

Yes, somehow the real was now a fraud
Somewhere inside the good began to rot
And hearts that get that proud
Cannot be tamed
It was still America
But only the words remained

We still play the game
Resting on our fame
Until lightening strikes
Like sport we wear His name
We know no fear
And with each passing year
The judgment that awaits us is so clear

It’s like some case
Where no one knows their place
We’ll do anything it takes to save face
The land of make believe
Has only one reprieve
To come clean and stop trying to deceive

Chorus

Deep in our hearts
We must know it’s now a fraud
We may fool ourselves
But others we will not
Must we refuse
To even show one ounce of shame
The revised America
Where only the words remain

Tag

Our dead-end street
Once was a one way lane
We’re still America
But only the words remain

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A Book Every Christian College Student Should Read

Castles In The SandLTRP Note: If you know someone who is considering entering a Christian college or seminary or someone who is already enrolled in one, we encourage you to get that person a copy of Castles in the Sand. It is Lighthouse Trails novel on the contemplative prayer/spiritual formation movement in the Christians schools. The story alternates back and forth between the life of mystic Teresa of Avila and a young woman, Tessa, in present day who has enrolled in a Christian college. Below is a chapter by chapter synopsis. We have been told by many parents and students that this book has been a huge eye opener.

1/ Run
March 2009: College freshman, Tessa Dawson, is in trouble. The book begins at the end of the story, where Tessa is running to escape the darkness that has finally caught up with her. The thin dark haired girl got more than she bargained for, and now she is fleeing the scene.

She leaned against the back of the door for a moment, heart pounding. “Okay Tessa Dawson,” she whispered to herself, “you either just did the right thing or a very stupid thing. Now run!” While her panicked eyes quickly determined the nearest exit out of the building, she scooped up the paper, crumpled it into a ball, and tossed it into a nearby garbage can before racing down the hall. Her long brunette braids bounced madly behind her as she ran toward the stairwell. Suddenly, she heard muffled shouting in the distance, then footsteps coming down the flight of stairs above her.

2/ Another Teresa
Spain, circa 1533: Teresa of Avila was born in 1915. When she was eighteen, she laid ill in a convent/boarding house. Her father comes to take her home. Delirious, her mind drifts back to a troubled youth and scene where she tried to escape with her younger brother.

Holding her little brother’s hand, she ran with him as fast as their little legs could carry them, and they made it past the city gate. Suddenly, she felt a large, strong hand grabbing her by the shoulder, abruptly ending their flight. Her uncle had caught up with them.

3/ Bus Ride
Early September 2008: The story backtracks now to Tessa Dawson’s bus ride to the college she has promised her foster grandparents to attend, much to her chagrin. Tessa has been living in a daydream world, hoping to find relief from the pain she bears deep inside. She resents the old couple for talking her into going, but now that she has waved good-bye to them, she misses them and feels guilty for her attitude. She daydreams of her horse back on the farm and recalls some of her troubled past and her future at Flat Plains Bible College.

Tears welled in Tessa’s eyes. She hadn’t meant to be so hard on them. Deep down she loved the white-haired couple who had taken her in after the accident. Jacob and Margaret Brown were Gran and Gramps to everyone, seasoned by thirty years of taking in troubled teens. They had shown her incredible kindness and patience, even though she hadn’t always shown kindness in return.

4/A Book from Uncle
Teresa of Avila, still ill and in her late teens, has been given a book by her uncle. Sick, with little else to do, the once vivacious, beautiful Teresa turns to this book of contemplative prayer practices.

Teresa woke up in a sweat again, but this time fully aware of her surroundings. It was a warm spring morning, and the birds were singing their happy songs outside the window at her sister Maria’s house in the country. She had gotten sick again and they had to bring her here. She stood on wobbly legs and walked across the cold, stone floor to open the shutters. Oh how her head was pounding! Out of breath from the exertion, she hobbled back to bed and carefully picked up the book she had been reading. Uncle Don Pedro had given her his copy of The Third Spiritual Alphabet.

5/First Day of College
It is only the first day of college, and Tessa Dawson is ready to call it quits. She learns that her roommate is a highly talkative, bubbly homeschool girl, who also happens to have lost her birth parents. All Tessa wants is some peace and quiet, and she realizes that isn’t going to happen while rooming with Katy Buckler. I’d rather be back home mucking out Sassy’s stall, she thought, as she followed the campus map and finally found her next class, Spiritual Formation101.

The students in the class seemed friendly, which put Tessa at ease, and her shyness soon dissipated. As selected students passed out a course requirement sheet, a quiet but cheery chatter permeated the classroom. The girl sitting in front of Tessa, with strawberry blonde curls hanging past her shoulders, turned around and introduced herself as Sonya.

After exchanging introductions with Sonya, Tessa began to browse over the various book titles from the syllabus textbook list. One in particular caught her interest—Selections from the Interior Castle by Teresa of Avila. Hey, great name, she thought. I think Avila is in Spain.

Tessa sketched a horse in her notebook while the spiritual formation professor outlined a detailed road map of the semester that lay ahead. Something about desert fathers and some dead guys called Ignatius and St. John of the Cross.

6/Teresa Meets Teresa
As young Teresa of Avila enters the convent, the reader finds that Tessa Dawson has taken quite an interest to the writings of this 16th century young woman. Tessa’s new spiritual director at Flat Plains, a woman who goes by the name of Ms. Jasmine, sees Tessa’s interest in the ancient nun, and she takes an interest in Tessa. It turns out that Teresa and Tessa have something in common—when Tessa and Katy have a disagreement, Tessa is drawn into finding “the silence.”

Katy shone her reading light on Tessa’s nightstand and squinted at the stack of books from her spiritual formation class. “I remember Mr. Daniels talking to us about some of the Catholic mystics from centuries ago. He said the desert fathers had learned mystical practices from those in Eastern religions. He even mentioned some Spanish mystics a few times. “You know, Tessa, you need to stop reading all these books by Saint What’s Her Name and start reading the Bible. I don’t want to sound preachy, but I never see you read it.”

Tessa glared at her roommate and closed her library book. She almost called Katy “a homeschool nerd,” but instead she bit her tongue, turned off the light, and rolled over.

7/The Fall Retreat at Quiet Waters Lodge
Tessa and her spiritual formation class are at a retreat at the contemplative Quiet Waters Lodge. While there, on a walk in a nearby woods alone, she meets a mysterious stranger on a bridge near the lodge. Later at the retreat, she manages to do a listening/imagination exercise in which she has a conversation with “Jesus” on the beach. She is excited to tell Ms. Jasmine about her success with the exercise, but her excitement is somewhat dampered as she remembers the woodsman’s words to her.

Looking out from her vantage point in the loft, Tessa could see smoke rising from log cabins between the trees. Winter had set in early this year for this northern region, and the lake already had a layer of ice. It looked like a giant cookie sprinkled with icing sugar and the cabins like gingerbread houses around its edge. The only thing missing were mountains. Tessa thought she could make out the inlet past Rocky Point where the largest of several streams fed the lake. Somewhere behind the trees was the bridge she and the retreat group had crossed during their nature/prayer walk yesterday—the same bridge on which she had bumped into the strange and mysterious woodsman.

He came from out of nowhere, or so it seemed. Tessa had been waiting until the others had gone on ahead and then stopped along the path, sat and leaned against the old wooden bridge railing to warm herself in a patch of sunshine . . . Just as she was thinking how pleased Ms. Jasmine would be with her new revelation, there he was . . .

8/ Gift of Tears
Spain, mid-16th Century: Teresa of Avila is in agony. She recalls, with tears, when she was on trial for six years and was judged severely by people because of her visions.

Oh! My soul is plunged into darkness! How I long to be alone . . . oh, when will this life ever become more than a never-ending dark night for my soul! I hear them coming even now demanding answers to unanswerable questions. How can I bear it? I want only to be alone. I just want to be . . . oh, please let me be . . .

9/The Lecture
Winter Term 2008: During a lecture in Ms. Jasmine’s class, just before Christmas break, the students at Flat Plains learn some unusual things about the ancient mystics. Ms. Jasmine also warns the class that now that they are coming into an understanding of the “deeper” spiritual matters and have experienced God in a new way, their parents and family members back at home may look at them negatively and oddly. She assured them that it was those with traditional views who had the problem, not them.

“Class, can I be honest with you?” Ms. Jasmine asked, a very serious look on her face as the room grew quiet. “When you go home, your families and friends may view you in a different light now that you’ve learned new things in this class. For example, if they notice you practicing your daily lectio divina readings, they may try to persuade you that the old-fashioned religious ideas they learned are the only right ones. This may even spark controversy within some of your relationships. But remember, the ancient disciplines you have learned were around long before they were. Fundamental Christians who have grown up with a certain narrow brand of religion can’t help it—they just don’t know any better. If they don’t understand, teach them to listen, as you have learned. Remind them that even Jesus retreated to places of solitude and silence to find union with the Father. Tell them that this is why Christmas has come, that the light may be found in each one of us!”

10/The Farmhouse
Back home, Tessa’s grandfather begins to worry about her after he receives some peculiar text messages from his foster granddaughter. Tessa kept mentioning a name that Gramps had heard before. In an old wooden chest, he stumbles upon a biography by Teresa of Avila. The book had been left at the farm many years ago by a troubled foster girl. Gramps (Jacob) and Gran (Margaret) pray for Tessa.

Jacob slid his reading glasses into his shirt pocket and closed the yellowed book. Could the spirituality described in this book have something to do with their Tessa? He tried to shake the foreboding he felt. He had heard that some Bible schools were not teaching the truth anymore, but they had sent her to good old Flat Plains Bible College. Surely, he was overreacting.
“Jacob, tell me, why are you reading this?”
“My dear Margaret, I’m not sure what to make of this quite yet, but I think there is some kind of connection between our Teresa and the spirituality of the ancient mystic St. Teresa. It’s just the oddest thing . . .”

11/Mortifications
Spain, circa 1555: A glimpse into the life (mortifications and self-abuse) of an older St. Teresa of Avila through the eyes of her sisters at the convent.

She had personally witnessed Teresa’s private confusion over the priests’ accusations that her visions were from Satan. Those accusations were the reason Teresa had taken to inflicting tortures and mortifications upon herself. Teresa was just one of many nuns who drew blood in self-flagellation. (The monks did it too, so they were told.) Perhaps she thought that wearing a prickly shirt over her wounds would make her ecstasies disappear. The purpose of such self-inflicted trials was to attain self-detachment, something of which Teresa often talked. Surely, she reaped the benefits of such disciplines, having much more tranquility and self-mastery than the rest of them. “Mortify the flesh and share in Christ’s sufferings” was the directive. Teresa’s favorite motto was “Lord, either let me suffer or let me die.”

12/Spiritual Direction Session
The relationship between Tessa and Ms. Jasmine is deepening, but Tessa is feeling some apprehension regarding some of the experiences she is having during her contemplative sessions. Yes she trusts her professor and continues going down this path. Afterall, it is a unique opportunity to have someone of Ms. Jasmine’s caliber seeing the potential Tessa has.

Ms. Jasmine took a long breath and leaned forward. “Tessa,” she began slowly, “you have learned a great deal since you came here. Now here is what I think. I believe these experiences you have been having are definitely divine. I know it is from the Master Jesus, because hearing about your experience fills me with peace and tranquility. It also reminds me of something else.” She took another sip of tea and set the cup on the floor, deep in thought. “Some who have been enlightened like this . . .” She paused, then spoke more slowly with each word, “have called this . . . the middle eye of the labyrinth. God has His eye on you, my child. You are the apple of His eye.”

Tessa felt her eyes well up with tears.

13/Angels and Voices
Spain, 1565: Teresa of Avila has been ordered to write down her experiences and visions. Her inquisitioners are charging that she is a heretic. But there were some things she could never tell them. They would never understand.

Deep in thought, she gazed at the candle’s flame. How could she possibly describe rapture and detachment with pen and paper? Mere words were not enough to explain the spiritual marriage she had experienced. How could she even speak of the intense pain that accompanied the sweetness of her visions and revelations, the great shocks she would feel when her Lord threw her into a trance, or the indescribable desire, which pierced her soul until it rose above itself. The days that followed such ecstasy never failed to make her feel as if all her bones had been pulled out of joint.

14/Jacob Searches for Answers
February 2009–One Evening: Back at the farmhouse, Jacob has a heated phone confrontation with the president of the Bible college (Frank Johnson) regarding the spiritual formation practices being taught at the school. Later that evening, Jacob researches into the late hours of the night. The more he reads, the more he realizes Tessa is in trouble. And while he can’t pinpoint it, he feels certain that Frank Johnson is hiding something.

Jacob poured himself another coffee and rapidly stirred in the cream, sloshing some of it onto the counter before continuing to argue and wave his right hand. He carried his cup back to the study, sat down on his leather swivel chair by the computer desk, and listened impatiently to the man on the phone.

“I don’t care if she was very popular with the students in the other college,” he finally responded, a little too loudly. “And I don’t care if enrollment is up this year. Moreover, may I ask why there is an outdoor labyrinth smack dab in the middle of the soccer field? . . . How do I know you have a labyrinth? Well, I’m looking at it on Google Maps right now, that’s how. Frank, some folks may regard me as just an old Bible thumper, but I happen to be one who knows how to navigate the Internet . . . No Frank, that is not true. The labyrinth is not just another way to pray. It is another way to teach that all paths supposedly lead to God. It’s paganism! We are not to worship like the pagans.”

15 /Symptoms
March 12: In a conversation with the knowledgeable Katy, Tessa is shocked to discover that the strange symptoms she has been having sound exactly like the rising of kundalini serpent power. Katy tells Tessa about a former college student named Nathan, who had gotten involved with New Age mysticism. After having a frightening experience, Nathan repented and turned to the Lord. But Tessa grows angry at Katy and storms out of the room. Later that night, she has a terrible nightmare about a serpent that is strangling her

Katy walked into the dorm room after her missions meeting and threw her keys on the nightstand. Tessa was asleep in bed but had left every light in the room turned on. It wasn’t unusual for her to fall asleep with her bedside lamp on. Katy was always the last one to turn the lights off each evening, but lately Tessa’s lamp was on again in the morning when she woke up. Perhaps Tessa was accidentally hitting the remote control in her sleep, reasoned Katy. Surely, her roommate wasn’t afraid of the dark! Careful not to wake her, Katy tiptoed around the room flicking off all the lights, except the one by her own bed. Tessa mumbled something unintelligible. Is she awake? Katy wondered. I hope so. After all, it would be nicer to say good-bye to her friend now than tomorrow at five a.m. Quietly she leaned over and shone her book light on Tessa’s face and was alarmed to see she was soaked in sweat and moaning incoherently.

“Tessa,” Katy whispered, “are you sick?”

Suddenly, Tessa bolted upright, eyes wide open, and shouted, “Somebody help me!”

16/Teresa Writes The Interior Castle
Spain, 1577: Through much difficulty due to physical symptoms and head noise (demonic?), St. Teresa has written The Interior Castle as ordered by her spiritual directors.

“As you wished, I have written everything I know.” Teresa nervously set her papers on the table before her confessors. The religious directors had ordered her to write about her method of mental prayer—her interior castle—as a book of instruction for her nuns. She had been careful to refer to herself in the third person throughout the book, as she was always under the watchful stare of her superiors. It had been a difficult task.

“But it has only been two months! You have completed it already?” the priest said, staring in amazement at the pile of papers stacked neatly before him.

“I have not only described how the soul is a castle, but also how a journey into the soul is a series of seven interior rooms, or inner courts, within the castle that one must pass through by way of prayer. Each chamber is a different stage of the journey. Read it and you shall see.”

17/A Growing Concern
March 14: The Browns grow more concerned as they learn more about Tessa’s spiritual formation teacher.

“Don’t forget your woolen mitts! Oh dear.” Margaret knew he always threw himself into physical work when he had a lot of thinking to do. She hadn’t seen her husband look this upset since that unforgettable Thanksgiving Day twelve years ago when someone had stolen ten head of his prized cattle. Even then, he had quickly calmed down when she reminded him that God owned the cattle on a thousand hills. Jacob was not the kind of man who stayed angry for long.

But something told Margaret this was going to be different.

18/New York
March 23: On her way back from her missions trip, Katy e-mails her parents from New York due to a flight mix up.

Snow was lightly falling outside the window of an Internet café in New York City as an olive-skinned girl in her early twenties wearing shorts, sandals, and an Argentinian T-shirt quickly typed at a computer.

19/Bad Counsel
March 23: Without telling Ms. Jasmine, Tessa makes an appointment with one of the school’s counselors. But she is shocked to learn that he is part of the effort to change the school into a contemplative college. In fact, his advice to her leaves her shaken. She leaves his office even more confused.

“Oh and Miss Dawson, one more thing,” he said as she paused with her hand on the knob. “St. Teresa, your namesake, also said that a venomous reptile cannot live in the presence of divine light. If we are to be Christ followers, we must choose not to join the ranks of the spiritually uncivilized who refuse to be enlightened. Please keep this in mind.”

Tessa gave a weak, “OK,” then opened the door and stepped into the hall. The door swung shut behind her with a precise click. She watched as students walked past her to their classes, chatting and laughing happily as though everything was normal and there wasn’t a care in the world. As for herself, she wondered if she was going mad. Nothing made sense anymore.

LTRP Note: That’s a synopsis of the first 19 chapters of the book. We’ll leave the last 14 chapters as a surprise. Please by all means, make sure anyone you know who is considering Christian college, of any age, to read this book. Castles in the Sand by Carolyn A. Greene.

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White House Aide: Obama Should Concentrate on Transgender Issues ‘In Whatever Time We Have Left’

(CNSNews.com) – President Obama “has been pretty clear” in his support for big-ticket items on the homosexual activist agenda – like trying to repeal the “so-called” federal Defense of Marriage Act — according to a top White House liaison to the LGBT community.

But now, “in whatever time we have left” in office, the White House has an opportunity to concentrate on lesser-known items on the LGBT activist agenda – including HIV/AIDS and helping homeless transgendered teens, Gautam Raghavan, associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, said Tuesday night.

Raghavan told an audience at the George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management  that the president has been pretty successful in pushing the homosexual activist agenda. Click here to continue reading.

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