Posts Tagged ‘Rick Warren’

Saddleback Youth Worker Ruben Meulenberg Charged With 5 Felony Counts – Saddleback Remaining Tight Lipped on Staff Issue

Ruben Meulenberg mug shot

The following is an update from two recent Lighthouse Trails articles: Saddleback Church Youth Worker Arrested for Molesting 14-Year-Boys Brings Issue to Surface”  and “Saddleback Church Statement Appears to Downplay Role of Alleged Molester Ruben Meulenberg.”

Ruben Meulenberg, the youth worker at Saddleback Church who was arrested for allegedly molesting two 14-year-old boys at Saddleback, has been charged with 5 felonies related to the molestation of the boys. At least one of the boys was 13 when the abuse began.

The following public information on the case has been released by the Orange County District Attorney’s office:

Case # 17HF0707

Date: May 30, 2017

YOUTH MINISTRY MENTOR CHARGED WITH COMMITTING LEWD ACTS ON TWO JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL BOYS

SANTA ANA, Calif. – A youth ministry mentor was charged today with committing lewd acts on two junior high school boys.

Defendant Charges Court Date
Ruven Meulenberg, 32, Lake Forest
  • Three felony counts of lewd acts on a child
  • Two felony counts of lewd acts on a child under age 14

Sentencing enhancement

  • Multiple victims
Continued arraignment

  • June 9, 2017, 10:00 a.m.
  • Department CJ-1, Central Jail, Santa Ana
  • Bail: $1 million

Circumstances of the Case

* At the time of the crime, Meulenberg is accused of being a volunteer youth mentor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest in a position of trust with access to children.

* Between May 2016 and May 2017, Meulenberg is accused of committing lewd acts on 13-year-old boys John Doe 1 and John Doe 2, both on and off church property.

* Between May 18, 2017, and May 22, 2017, the defendant is again accused of sexually molesting the victims, who were then 14 years old.

* On May 24, 2017, a Saddleback Church representative reported suspected inappropriate conduct to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD), who investigated this case.

* Meulenberg was arrested by OCSD on Thursday, May 25, 2017.

Prosecutor: Deputy District Attorney Courtney Thom, Sexual Assault Unit

After Lighthouse Trails released its May 29th article questioning whether Saddleback was downplaying the role in which Ruben Meulenberg had at Saddleback, the Christian Post ( which calls itself “the nation’s most comprehensive Christian news website“) wrote an article titled “Was Saddleback Church Youth Mentor Who Was Charged With Molesting Boys a Volunteer?” in which they referenced the Lighthouse Trails article questioning Saddleback’s recent statement on Meulenberg being just a a volunteer. Interestingly, the Christian Post article revealed that as of yet Saddleback has not answered the question as to whether Ruben Meulenberg was on staff at Saddleback. While it may be true that he was a youth volunteer, certain indicators, as we pointed out in our previous article, suggest that Meulenberg may also have been on staff (see Appendix below), a claim that Saddleback has not yet denied or admitted.

The Christian Post article said that Rick Warren has not yet made a public statement about the case. According to the Christian Post’s website search engine, the online paper has featured Saddleback Church and/or Rick Warren in over one thousand articles since 2004, and most, if not all, praise and promote the work of the Purpose Driven pastor and his church.

While in the bigger picture of Ruben Meulenberg and his victims, it may not matter at all whether he was truly on staff at Saddleback or not; but if Saddleback Church is refusing to admit that he has been paid for any of his services, either as a contractor or a staff member, this should certainly raise questions as to how much can the mega-church be trusted to protect the children under its care. If facts about abuse at Saddleback are being kept in the dark, this will not produce the kind of environment where healing can take place for victims or where parents can feel secure about their children’s safety.

Appendix:

LinkedIn has the following information about Ruben Meulenberg:

Ruben Meulenberg

Saddleback Church | TornadoTwins | Age of Edge (game development)

Age of Edge, Corp

Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences

Orange County, California Area

Media producer operating in 5 areas: videogames, film, books, music & curriculum.

Companies founded:
– TheGameBible.com: in-house project, turning the Bible into a full videogame (www.TheGameBible.com).
– TornadoTwins.com: became the world’s largest game development youtube channel in 3 months.
– FPSControl.com: tool to help midsize game studios create multi-platform games
– GamePrefabs.com: game development store [sold to Unity Tech; world’s #1 game tech corp]
– more

Projects:
– Feature film: wrote, directed and co-produced Saddleback Kids’ first feature film with production staff & volunteers. Used by 700+ churches and given out to 3000 children at Saddleback Lake Forest.
– Curriculum: co-founded fastest growing children’s church curriculum organization in Holland. Trained Saddleback Church’s children’s production staff to use this format.
– Music: founded world’s largest youtube channel on dubstep development (reached in 2 weeks), reached most-votes in Newsboys remix competition, created dance album for Saddleback Church, scored Triumph motorcycle commercial (engine sounds as bass).
– Game Development: developed YouVersion’s Kid-Bible-App prototype in under two weeks. Co-organized web’s largest gamedevelopment competition with cgsociety.org, trained thousands of game developers worldwide (including Disney’s “where’s my water” app developers), developing “The Game Bible” (see above).
Writing: Oversaw writing of 3 years worth of narrative video series for Saddleback Church Childrens’. Wrote “The Unplugged”, a book to help software developers create quickly and on as low a budget as possible.
– Marketing: helped triple attendance count on the annual online conference “The Twelve”, resulting in 10,000+ attendees. Redesigned Saddleback Kids’ summer outreach program, helping it rise from 4% new visitors in previous years to over 30% new visitors.


Appendix 2:

YouTube Comment from Lighthouse Trails author Gregory Reid regarding Saddleback and youth groups:

I had an associate that went to Saddleback to look for cool church ideas and loved the idea that the sign over the youth building said, “No adults allowed.” I was mortified. Creating an isolated youth subculture is deadly and creates a breeding ground for predators. I wrote a book called The Color of Pain that includes a checklist for identifying pedophiles, I think it’s a crucial book in this vulnerable time for youth. When I was a youth pastor I did extreme vetting on every single volunteer or person who showed interest in our youth ministry, even the older college volunteers, and I watched them like hawks. Had to remove two adults who were predators looking for a kill. (source)

Gregory Reid is a child sexual abuse survivor. He wrote about his childhood in his book Nobody’s Angel. His later book, The Color of Pain (published by LT) is a tribute to men who were sexually abused as boys.

Saddleback Church Statement Appears to Downplay Role of Alleged Molester Ruben Meulenberg

On Friday evening (May 26), Saddleback Church released a statement about the arrest of Ruben Meulenberg, the man who allegedly has been molesting boys at Saddleback. The Saddleback statement called Meulenberg a “student ministry volunteer.” Here is the full statement:

We are shocked and grieved to share that this week a Saddleback member reported that a student ministry volunteer had acted inappropriately with two 14-year-old boys. Of course, our staff quickly reported this accusation to our Orange County Sherriff’s Department. The next day, the volunteer was arrested on suspicion of the offense. The investigation of the accusation is now in the hands of the proper authorities.

We ask you to do two things: first, please pray for the Saddleback families who are involved in this sad matter; second, please pray for the investigators as they determine the facts. As followers of Jesus, we always want the whole truth to come out because Jesus taught us that lies enslave us, but the truth sets us free.

As a part of Saddleback, you know that our church has been built on the service of thousands of volunteers who donate hundreds of thousands of hours of their time. Most of you know that for decades we’ve had extremely high requirements and strict procedures in place for anyone who volunteers in our student and children ministries.

To be considered for volunteering with kids or students, we require fingerprinting, professional background checks, and personal interviews. We also use services that report any illegal activity to us immediately. In this case, the accused volunteer had no record of arrest or criminal charges. Also, our church requires volunteers who work with students or children to complete an annual training regarding appropriate conduct. Our system of safeguards has safely served over 40,000 students and children for 38 years.

Please pray for everyone involved. We love you.

Kurt Johnston, Student Ministries Pastor & Elder

 Steve Johnson, Executive Pastor & Elder (source)

Lighthouse Trails has since learned that Ruben Meulenberg, at least according to two sources (one by a source very close to Rick Warren and Saddleback), is not merely a volunteer at Saddleback – he is also a staff member. The first source is from an article written by public relations journalist Larry Ross, who states:

The Meulenberg brothers are versed media artists, programmers, consultants and the creators of FPS Control. As experienced professionals in the media industry, their training materials have trained over 20,000 musicians and 40,000 game and app developers globally, including Disney Mobile. Some past clients include ING Bank, Thompson, Pearson Education, RedHat, Logica CMG and Orange. They reside in southern California and serve on staff at Saddleback Church in the technology, communication and marketing ministries. (http://alarryross.com/tornado-twins-develop-unprecedented-video-game-the-game-bible-series/, emphasis added)

Ross has close ties with Rick Warren and Saddleback and has written numerous promotional reports on the Purpose Driven pastor.

The second source is from a Point of View interview done in 2014 where Meulenberg is described as a staff member at Saddleback:

The Tornado Twins’ materials have trained over 20,000 musicians and 40,000 game and app developers globally, including Disney Mobile. Some past clients include ING Bank, Thompson, Pearson Education, RedHat, Logica CMG and Orange.

Born and raised in the Netherlands, the Tornado Twins immigrated to the United States to create meaningful media. They reside in southern California and serve on staff at Saddleback Church in the technology, communication and marketing ministries. (https://pointofview.net/show/wednesday-october-22-2014/, emphasis added)

Ruben and Efraim Muelenberg (photo from YouTube 2 second clip; used in accordance with the US Fair Use Act)

If indeed Ruben Meulenberg is a staff member and one with a significant role in youth ministry at the mega church, then the statement released by Saddleback on May 26th has downplayed or minimized Meulenberg’s role at the church.

In addition to Ruben Meulenberg’s apparent staff position, his father, Abraham Meulenberg, is a pastor at Saddleback in charge of interfaith outreach. He was involved with Rick Warren’s efforts to form alliances with the Muslim community (source). Ruben’s mother, Marieke Meulenberg, is also a staff member at Saddleback, and according to her LinkedIn page, she serves as Project Manager and Volunteer Coordinator for the Office of the Pastor (source).

In various capacities, Ruben Meulenberg appears to have been quite involved at Saddleback. As you can see from this video of a Junior High “Glow Light” event, the Meulenberg brothers have been involved with training and influencing  the youth at Saddleback  (you may find this video disturbing as you watch the Meulenberg brothers, who call themselves the Tornado Twins, lead a large number of Saddleback Junior High kids into a frenzied state). The identical twin men have also introduced video games to Saddleback youth, and in fact, Rick Warren has encouraged and promoted one of their games as you can read in this Christian Post article, “Rick Warren Praises Twins’ Efforts to Create a Bible Video Game That Isn’t ‘Cheesy.”  And according to an Amazon web page, Warren also co-authored a book with Ruben Meulenberg along with some other authors titled Transformed: How God Changes Us. It seems very clear that Ruben Meulenberg has had more than a “volunteer” role at Saddleback, thus making the Saddleback statement misleading.

We hope Rick Warren and his staff will not try to minimize this tragic situation or their role in it in their failure to protect Saddleback kids. And we hope they will be honest with the parents as to what has really taken place. The facts seem to show that Reuben Meulenberg has been an integral part of Saddleback and has, unfortunately, had free unguarded access to the kids who trusted him.

Related Information:

5 Things You Can Do to Protect Your Kids From Sexual Predators

From an Investigative Sergeant—Helping Sexually Abused Children: A Calling, A Ministry, and a Mission

8 Things You Should Know About Boys Who Are Sexually Abused

Saddleback Church Youth Worker Arrested for Molesting 14-Year-Boys Brings Issue to Surface

A Lighthouse Trails reader has alerted us to a news story in the Los Angeles Times  (see below) about the arrest of a 32-year-old Saddleback Church male youth worker who has been accused of molesting two 14-year-old boys at Saddleback. Some may wonder why we are posting a news story about child sexual abuse. Since the early years of Lighthouse Trails, we have included in our reporting issues on child sexual abuse, in particular, within the church.

Photo: Seducers Among Our Children; Crough

Regarding the fact that this is Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church where the alleged molestation occurred, we need to make some comments. First, we know that child sexual abuse happens in many churches (partly because Christians are generally very trusting people and predators know this is a good place to find unguarded children), and we certainly cannot directly blame Rick Warren or his Purpose Driven movement for what happened. However, there is some indirect blame here, not just with Saddleback but with all seeker-friendly, church-growth churches. In a statement sent out by two of Rick Warren’s pastors on May 26, it said that Saddleback Church “require[s] fingerprinting, professional background checks, and personal interviews,” for all who volunteer to work with “kids and students.” But this is not nearly adequate as many molesters have never been caught or arrested, and predators are not going to admit that is what they are in personal interviews.  Herein lies the problem: The seeker-friendly churches have been guilty of allowing unsaved and/or newly saved or immature Christians to become Sunday school teachers, youth workers, missionaries, Bible study leaders, etc., and this is wrong (and unbiblical). They do this, in part, because they want to make everyone at the church feel welcomed, useful, and comfortable. And in some cases, seeker-friendly churches have a deficit in saved and/or mature believers who can lead and teach so they use what they have (many unsaved or immature Christians).  But they have done this at the expense of those in the congregation who are trusting them to guide and teach them and also to protect their children while in church. Unbelievers especially should never be put in any position of leadership, mentoring, or teaching (or working in any capacity with children or teens). Period. So at least in this respect, Saddleback has created a potentially dangerous environment for children by the very nature of their seeker-friendly, church-growth model in how unbelievers or immature believers are allowed to lead, teach, and help.

Photo: Color of Pain; Reid

Now we want to make one thing clear, sexual abuse of children doesn’t just happen in seeker-friendly churches. For example, it also happens in legalistic churches where an abuse of authority is occurring and people (and kids) are afraid to speak up. It also happens in churches that are neither seeker-friendly nor legalistic in cases where there is just downright naivety and ignorance by the adults. There was a case several years ago in a church in Portland, Oregon where a young man had joined the Sunday School teaching team. He was working in a classroom as an aid with a teacher of children under 7. Often,  he was seen taking a child to go to the bathroom, but no one thought twice about it. A few years into this, it was discovered that he had molested dozens of church children during the bathroom visits. Many of these molested kids grew up with many painful issues.

If you belong to a church, no matter what kind it is, you better make sure your church has implemented a safety plan to protect kids. In this day and age where sexual deviance is at an all-time high in our society, it takes more vigilance than ever to make sure children do not become victims of sexual abuse.

Photo: Color of Pain; Reid

It is heartbreaking to think about who-knows-how-many boys at Saddleback Church have been molested by this 32-year-old male predator. Their lives will never be the same. And no seeker-friendly, purpose-driven, church-growth strategy is going to help them in the long run. They are going to need a true relationship with Jesus Christ and a life sustained by and developed in the Word of God. They are going to need parents and teachers who also have these qualities. Substitutes like spiritual formation, contemplative prayer, celebrate recovery etc. will never take the place for the real thing.

For the two 14-year-old boys at Saddleback who were brave enough to come forward, we say bravo. You did the right thing, and we pray that you will keep your eyes and your heart toward the Lord during this tough time and not allow Satan to use this to destroy your lives.

Finally, we urge parents to do everything you need to do to protect your children from becoming victims of sexual abuse. Two of our authors address this issue in their books, articles, and booklets—Investigative Sergeant Patrick Crough and Gregory Reid.  To read some of the articles and reports we have published on child sexual abuse and how to protect your kids such as Patrick Crough’s article “Protecting Your Child From Sexual Predators – With Prayer & the Word,” see the links below.

As for the LA Times news story below, let us pray for the boys who have been victimized and also that all victims of this pedophile/homosexual will come forth. The power of sin lies in its secrecy, especially in the case of child molestation. We always thank the Lord when such matters are no longer concealed. That’s when healing can begin for the victims if given the wisdom of the Lord.

Parents who suspect their children have been victims of Ruben Meulenberg are being urged to contact OC Crime Stoppers at (855) TIP-OCCS. (source: ABC News: http://abc7.com/news/oc-youth-mentor-accused-of-lewd-acts-with-2-teen-boys/2041417/. )

By Joseph Serna
Los Angeles Times

Ruben Meulenberg

A youth mentor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest has been accused of acting inappropriately with two teenage boys while he volunteered there, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said Friday.

Ruven (Ruben) Meulenberg, 32, was arrested Thursday and booked on suspicion of lewd and lascivious acts on a child and is being held on $100,000 bail, authorities said. Jail records show he is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in a Santa Ana courtroom.

Detectives were alerted to the situation after a 14-year-old boy told his parents that Meulenberg had molested him, Lt. Lane Lagaret said. The parents told the church’s youth pastor, who called the Sheriff’s Department, Lagaret said.

Another 14-year-old boy turned up during the detectives’ investigation, Lagaret said. Click here to continue reading. (See information below about Ruben (Ruven) Meulenberg.)

Ruben (Ruven) Meulenberg: Has worked for years with his identical twin brother Efraim Meulenberg in video game development. According to KidMin Academy where the brothers are listed as faculty:

Ruben and Efraim Meulenberg have trained 40,000 game developers, 20,000 musicians, thousands of children’s- and youth workers globally, and have been in ministry for 15 years. They’re known for their breakthrough work at Saddleback Church and founded KidsWantAnswers.com, through which they bring cutting edge media and curriculum to churches and families.

Watch this 2015 video (if you can bear it) of the Saddleback Junior High “Glow Party” that was produced by the Meulenberg brothers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oS38vpsqTtc. Witnessing how Saddleback Church is “teaching” their junior high kids to go into a frenzied state as has happened here in this video is distressing. Is it any wonder that things are out of control at Saddleback Church?

“Glow Party” at Saddleback Junior High group, produced by Ruben and Efraim Meulenberg

And this news video story about possibly more victims:

Related Information:

Protecting Your Child From Sexual Predators – With Prayer & the Word

Boy Scouts’ Rulings Put Boys at Risk (and “Letter to the Molester” and “What Being Molested Cost Me”)

5 Things You Can Do to Protect Your Kids From Sexual Predators

Bill Gothard Resigns from Institute in Basic Life Principles Under Allegations of Sexual Abuse (And How to Spot the Signs of a Sexual Predator)

“Tom White, Abuse, VOM, and the Power of the Internet”

NEW BOOKLET: Teresa of Avila – An Ancient Mystic Who Helped Shape Today’s Spiritual Formation Movement

NEW BOOKLET: Teresa of Avila – An Ancient Mystic Who Helped Shape Today’s Spiritual Formation Movement by Carolyn A. Greene is our newest Lighthouse Trails Booklet. The Booklet is 18 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Our Booklets are designed to give away to others or for your own personal use. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of Teresa of Avila – An Ancient Mystic Who Helped Shape Today’s Spiritual Formation Movement, click here.

Teresa of Avila – An Ancient Mystic Who Helped Shape Today’s Spiritual Formation Movement

By Carolyn A. Greene

Editor’s Note: Today, it is not uncommon for Christian leaders and teachers to recommend the writings of Teresa of Avila. For instance, the late theologian Dallas Willard encouraged his followers to read Teresa’s Interior Castle saying Teresa is “an example to follow.”1 Christian publishers like Bethany House, Thomas Nelson, and Multnomah Press have published books by Teresa of Avila. Rick Warren, author of the highly popular Purpose Driven Life, says her writings are among “great, classic devotional works.”2 Pete Scazzero, author of the popular book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, lists Teresa of Avila’s book, Interior Castle as one of his “top ten books.”3 Gary Thomas, author of Sacred Pathways and Sacred Marriage, favorably references Teresa of Avila numerous times in his book, Thirsting for God. And not surprisingly, contemplative authors such as Richard Foster and Henry Nouwen see her as a fellow mystic.
In 2009, Lighthouse Trails published Castles in the Sand, a story involving a young troubled girl who begins attending a Christian college where she is introduced in her Spiritual Formation class to the writings of an ancient mystic, Teresa of Avila. The following booklet is taken from Castles in the Sand narrating Teresa’s life. While Castles in the Sand is a work of fiction, Teresa of Avila is a real, historical figure (1515-1582). The depiction of her life in this booklet is based on historical records (see bibliography at end of booklet). Quotes and paraphrases of her writings are taken from her actual written works. The lives of other characters portrayed in this booklet are created from composites of true stories.
While some readers may find some of Teresa’s mystical experiences (that at times included involuntary levitating) troubling to read, it is important to understand that the “spiritual ecstasies” Teresa of Avila encountered were the result of her practicing a meditative prayer, much like one that is being practiced by countless Christians today through the Spiritual Formation (i.e., contemplative prayer) movement. We pray this booklet will illustrate how mystical prayer methods are dangerous and introduce the practitioner to occultism and its tormenting “fruit,” something you will not be warned about by those who recommend you study the ancient mystics. And now, the story of Teresa of Avila.
________________________
And still they told me my visions were the work of evil spirits! For six years, I was on trial . . . six years! So many prayers and masses said, I grew weary of them all! Yet still the trances and favors have become more violent and frequent . . . oh, I am in distress, such great distress. I am weary, and so tired . . . so very, very tired.—Teresa of Avila

Teresa of Avila was a Carmelite nun who was born in Spain in 1515. As a young girl with an active imagination and great love for books, she was profoundly affected by her mother’s death, which left her emotionally empty. In despair, she threw herself before an image of the Virgin Mary and begged her to be her new mother. This extreme devotion to the Mother Mary soon gave way to an interest in fashion as her beauty blossomed. With it, the passion for reading, writing, and romance was rekindled. Teresa’s concerned father sent her away to boarding school at an Augustinian convent. However, when Teresa fell dreadfully ill with malaria, the nuns sent for her father who came to take her home.Recuperating from the serious illness and suffering from headaches, Teresa read a book given to her from her uncle called The Third Spiritual Alphabet by Francisco de Osuna, from which she learned the practice of the prayer of recollection.* Though previously not interested in reading about such things, her illness had transformed her into a more serious kind of girl. She soon learned to practice “the prayer of quiet,”** a state where the soul is completely absorbed.

Weary of the worldly things that had once given her pleasure, she made secret plans to escape to the Carmelite Monastery without consent from her father and pursue a serious life of prayer, as her uncle had been urging her to do. Teresa later wrote about receiving “favors” that the Lord granted her as she continued to practice her “mental prayer” and the prayer of quiet, two stages of mystical prayer.

“It used to happen, when I represented Christ within me in order to place myself in His presence, or even while reading, that a feeling of the presence of God would come upon me unexpectedly so that I could in no way doubt He was within me or I totally immersed in Him. This did not occur after the manner of a vision. I believe they call the experience ‘mystical theology.’ The soul is suspended in such a way that it seems to be completely outside itself. The will loves; the memory, it seems to me, is almost lost. For, as I say, the intellect does not work, but it is as though amazed by all it understands because God desires that it understands, with regard to the things His majesty represents to it, that it understands nothing.”
The practice of the prayer of quiet continued to bring Teresa into what she called the state of union, the place where intellect and will cease to function over which she soon had no control. As the years passed, Teresa’s headaches and visions began to take their toll. She was counseled by the Jesuit Fathers to give up her “interior” prayer, but that didn’t help.
One day, she cried out, “Oh these visions! What tortures I have endured . . . how can I bear it?” she wailed. “I even gave up mental prayer. I . . . I gave it up. I did! First I waited to be free of sin, but they found no fault in me. Not a fault! Yet I was visited again, more visions . . . more revelations . . . to this most miserable sinner as I.”
Behind her, she could hear the group of nuns that stopped a short distance away, pausing for a moment before turning and walking in the other direction.
“Indeed, I have dreaded the time of prayer,” she whispered now, lest the others murmur about her even more. “Even Father Francis became afraid of my graces . . . in great distress they insisted I had been deceived by Satan. So I . . . I punished myself, oh I did, I did, in order to resist the effects! To no avail! Father Alvarez said . . . he said it was friendships I must give up, but that changed nothing. Then he told me I must recite a hymn, and I did. That was when the angel came . . . the angel . . . oh, how it pierced me! They told me . . . they said my visions were illusions of Satan and told me to point my finger in scorn at another. I tried to obey them, to no avail, so ridiculous they all are, so now I hold this crucifix in my hand at all times . . .”
She wiped her face with her wet sleeve and held up the wooden crucifix.
“And still they told me my visions were the work of evil spirits! For six years, I was on trial . . . six years! So many prayers and masses said, I grew weary of them all! Yet still the trances and favors have become more violent and frequent . . . oh, I am in distress, such great distress. I am weary, and so tired . . . so very, very tired . . .”
Her voice was weaker now as she shifted her weight from one aching knee to another on the cold, stone floor. “Yet I fear there is more sorrow ahead . . . I fear delusions . . . already they are calling for me . . . more inquiries to tell me I am deluded. How can they be sure they aren’t deluded and deceived as well? Every one of my examiners tells me something different! 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 . . .”
Gradually the pitiful sounds of her whimpering subsided as the dreadful footsteps that echoed from the far end of the corridor grew closer and then stopped. She straightened the folds of her habit, held her head high, and with a faraway look in her eyes, turned to face her visitors.
“Sister Teresa,” a man’s voice said. “Come now, we must ask you more questions.”

 Teresa referred to these favors, or trance states of mystical ecstasy, as “true union.” Some of her contemporaries who observed these experiences were concerned about Teresa.

“Where is she anyway?” said Sister Catherine, who had just come in with a basket full of freshly picked tomatoes.

“Maybe she is in a trance,” joked Sister Maria. Just last week they had all watched as Teresa had gone into another trance in the kitchen while holding a hot pan of oil. Now accustomed to her trances, their greater concern was the possibility of Teresa spilling the little, precious oil they had left.
“The priests have advised her that the visions are of the devil, and to make the sign of the cross whenever she has one,” said Catherine, the youngest nun among them. “She won’t be coming into the kitchen for a few weeks. She is fasting and doing penance.”
“So that’s why she wears a cilice!” chimed in Maria.
“A cilice. What’s that?” asked Catherine.
“It’s an undergarment made of coarse animal hair. It scratches terribly and makes you very itchy. Pray to Our Lady that you will never be ordered to do mortification and be told to wear one,” said Carmelita. “I think slicing onions in this kitchen is torture enough.”
The sisters giggled.
“I think it’s a terrible thing,” said Rosa, a serious-minded nun and the oldest among them all. “Poor Teresa. We must not talk about our dear sister in this manner. If one decides to practice penance, it is only to share the sufferings of the Lord as His bride to be one flesh with Him.”
Rosa 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.”
Teresa eventually began to write about her spiritual experiences, which included hearing voices and experiencing visions during ecstatic states of rapture in which she felt herself being lifted from the ground by a powerful force outside of her control.
QUESTIONED FOR HERESY
The cell was cold. There was no table or chair. Only a rough, straw mattress in the corner provided any reprieve for the room’s sole occupant. A barefoot nun in a clean but worn habit of coarse serge knelt near the window. The last glimmer of evening light softened the lines on her aging face. Her sparse ink supply allowed no rewriting, but there was no need to reread the lines she had already written. Having commanded her to record her experiences, her confessors would weigh her story on the Inquisition’s scale of heresy.
Some said the voices she heard in her head were of the devil. But Teresa was desperate to explain that these revelations she received were from the Lord! It was the Lord who granted her these great favors and visions which she called ecstasy. They humble the soul, thought Teresa, strengthening and helping it to despise this life.
During these experiences, she seemed to receive a clearer understanding of the Lord’s rewards. Yet, she struggled with the fear these visitations also brought. She could no longer resist them or keep them a secret. Not only were the revelations themselves frightening, but visionaries like herself were often burned at the stake. Since her writings would remain in the hands of her Inquisitors for some time, she must choose her words carefully, yet tell the truth.
Dipping her quill in the inkstand, she continued to write about her life, pausing only to rub her arthritic shoulder now and then. This was to be her final writing. She was working on chapter twenty, trying to explain the difference between union and rapture and their effects.
“It seemed to me, when I tried to make some resistance, it was as if a great force beneath my feet lifted me up. I know of nothing with which to compare it; but it was much more violent than the other spiritual visitations, and I was therefore as one ground to pieces; for it is a great struggle, and, in short, of little use, whenever our Lord so wills it. There is no power against His power.”
As Teresa wrote, the light grew dim. She lit her candle, then continued to write on the parchment set on the window ledge:
“Further, I confess it threw me into great fear, very great indeed at first; for when I saw my body thus lifted up from the earth, how could I help it? Though the spirit draws the body upward after itself and that with great sweetness, if unresisted, the senses are not lost; at least, I was so much myself as to be able to see I was being lifted up. The majesty of Him who can effect this so manifests itself, that the hairs of my head stand upright.”
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.
“I have to say that when the rapture was over, my body seemed frequently to be buoyant, as if all weight had departed from it; so much so that now and then I scarcely knew that my feet touched the ground. Yet during the rapture itself, the body is very often as if it were dead, perfectly powerless. It continues in the position it was in when the rapture came upon it—if sitting, sitting; if the hands were open, or if they were shut, they will remain open or shut.”
But she wasn’t the only one. There were others, even in this place, to whom her Lord was granting the same special graces as the ones He had granted her. Others too had experienced raptures so deep that they would appear as though dead or in a trance, sometimes for days.
As she continued to recall her own experiences, she wrote about the priest who told her God had sent her so much sickness because she did no penance, and he had ordered her to practice acts of mortification. During one such time of obedience, her spirit was carried out of her body in such a state of ecstasy that she heard words instructing her not to have conversations with men, but with angels.
She described the angel she had seen in bodily form . . .
“He was not large, but small of stature, and most beautiful—his face burning, as if he were one of the highest angels, who seem to be all of fire: they must be those whom we call cherubim. I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron’s point, there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God. The pain is not bodily, but spiritual; though the body has its share in it, even a large one.”

Berninis sculpture of The Ecstasy of St Teresa. Public domain.

The famous marble statue called “Ecstasy of Saint Teresa” by Gianlorenzo Bernini depicts the sensual scene of the mystical experience described by Teresa of her encounter with an angel. She is reclined on a cloud with her head thrown back awaiting the thrust of the angel’s golden spear.

In the quietness of her room, Teresa had often found herself falling into a deep trance, later pondering the exquisite state of bliss she experienced during these mysterious episodes. However, lately, she found herself losing control. For example, she could no longer prevent them, even when she was in the company of others. They all knew. Some were even sworn to secrecy. But did they know how she had recently grown to fear these times? Increasingly, she struggled to resist these frightening instances when her body was raised from the ground as she prayed. Yet it was no use. She was helpless to stop it.
Teresa slowly straightened and rubbed her stiff joints. She turned to gaze at the crucifix hanging on the wall of her cell as it reflected the candlelight. Her pen rolled across the ledge of the window where she had laid it and dropped onto the stone floor as she grabbed her rosary and began counting the beads, repeating the evening prayer. Immediately, a familiar burning sensation began to grow deep within her, welling upward in surges. It was happening again . . . She grabbed hold of the ledge and began frantically to pray that no one would come through the door and restrain her again.
She recalled other times these involuntary levitations occurred. One of the eye witnesses of the favors and levitations of Teresa of Avila was said to be Sister Anne of the Incarnation.
One young nun was well acquainted with Teresa’s trances, which she referred to as the “transport of the soul.” She had witnessed some of the most disturbing occurrences in Sister Teresa’s life but had been vowed to secrecy. She hadn’t been the only one in the choir loft that unforgettable day, waiting for the bell to ring, when they saw Teresa’s body rise inexplicably about half a meter off the ground. She’d actually been off the ground! Sister Teresa’s body had hung in mid-air, as Sister Anne had later recounted with fresh incredulity! This incident had quite terrified some of them. Since Sister Teresa’s body had been trembling as well, Sister Anne had cautiously held her hands under the raised feet of Sister Teresa for the duration of the ecstasy. It had lasted nearly half an hour before she’d sunk to the floor and then stood among them, lucid once again. Teresa had turned to her calmly and quietly and asked how long she had been there, watching. It was then that Sister Anne had been sworn to secrecy, but that kind of secret wasn’t the kind that could be kept quiet for very long.

There had been other incidents as well. Teresa’s friend, a bishop, once saw her grab the bars of an altar grill during communion to prevent herself from rising into the air, as she cried out to be delivered from her ecstasy. Numerous times, and on different occasions, many others had also seen her raised from the ground. Sister Teresa had always called these experiences “Favors of His Majesty.”

As instructed by her advisors, Teresa wrote everything she knew about entering what she called the interior castle or inner rooms of the soul. She believed the key to achieving union with Christ in the center room was by way of prayer.

“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.”
The priest browsed through the first pages while Teresa rubbed the back of her neck. Her joints ached, her head hurt, and she was exhausted after finally completing the most important portion of her written work, so far. It had been an extremely troubling time in her life. During the last two months, her superiors had required this writing, yet she had also been expected to fulfill her regular duties, despite severe weakness. Added to that was the torment of living in fear of the next revelation or rapture that would come upon her without warning.
“So tell me, these first three rooms, or mansions, as you call them,” asked the priest, with undisguised fascination, “what stage of the journey do they symbolize?”
“The first three mansions are for those who are just beginning to learn the practice of mental prayer.”
“And the next ones?”
Weak from exhaustion, Teresa did not wish to explain. It had been difficult enough writing about these things with the turbulent noise that throbbed in her head: the roaring sound of rushing rivers and oddly, the whistling of birds pulsated continually in her mind. It was most disturbing when she was conscious of her faculties and her soul was not suspended in ecstasy. Whenever an ecstatic experience occurred, she believed it was from the top of her head that her spirit was released and moved out at great speed.
“The last four,” she began slowly, trying to shut out the roar of a waterfall in her head, “are for those who have begun to experience the indwelling after having entered the spiritual realm. It is the fourth dwelling that is the turning point, and the one most souls enter. This is where one moves from mere meditation to contemplation. It is an interior awareness when God suspends the soul in prayer with rapture or ecstasy or transport.”
“I see,” said the priest, stroking his chin. “Here I see you have written about water and worms.”
Must they keep prodding? She had done as they had asked, and there were chores to be done.
“Yes, like the spring that wells up filling every crevice, so is God’s presence to one who reaches spiritual union. But one must be dead to the outward senses and alive to His Majesty, like a silkworm that dies to produce a little white butterfly. So is Divine union in the center of the castle.”
How could she explain that although she had only mentioned seven inner mansions, there were many more rooms contained in each one, and courtyards with fountains, gardens, and labyrinths in which one could be consumed?
Teresa grew increasingly uncomfortable and longed to leave. Unaware of her misery, the priest abruptly rose to his feet.
“This will take some time to read,” he said hastily, and escorted Teresa to the door.
“I pray it is satisfactory,” she said humbly, trying not to reveal the tremendous pain in her head. “It is my strong desire to aid you in serving His Majesty. If the theologians examine my writings and find any error, it is only because of my ignorance. Perhaps I shall be in purgatory for writing this book, but I pray He shall free me from this and pardon my sins.”
The priest nodded. “We will examine the work and speak to you soon.”
The door closed behind Teresa. Her rough wool habit scraped her bare ankles with each step as she walked quickly down the dim hallway. Pausing before a statue of St. Joseph, she knelt and prayed, “I submit to the teachings of the Holy Catholic Roman Church, may the sovereign Master be praised.”

Tired and aching, she made the sign of the cross and hurried back to the convent. Perhaps she could distract herself from the inner turmoil by spinning more wool.

Teresa referred to the final stage of her “spiritual betrothal” prayer process as “rapture.” In this deepest trance state, she experienced “delectable pain” that penetrated the bowels of the soul.

In her latter years, Teresa seemed to be increasingly fearful of these favors, or painful bouts of spiritual ecstasy and levitation which she could no longer control.

“Whenever I have tried to resist the onset of a rapture, it has felt like a powerful force was lifting me from the soles of my feet. I don’t know what to compare this force to. It is far more cataclysmic than anything I’ve experienced in the previous stages of prayer. The struggle is so ferocious that it utterly wears me out. But in the end, fighting is futile. If this is the Beloved’s desire, there is no power equal to his . . .

“Still, I confess that this particular favor terrified me. If you don’t resist, the same force that carries your soul away in rapture will elevate your body with equal gentleness. Yet when you see yourself lifted off the ground and remain conscious enough to witness the event, the majesty of the One who can cause such a thing is enough to make your hair stand on end.”
Teresa often used erotic metaphors to describe these violent mystical experiences that overpowered her. She also wrote that it felt like she was being torn apart, and the aftermath of the detachment was so severe that at times she lost consciousness, being racked with torment and her bones disjointed.
CONCLUSION
The Bible teaches us that the believer who is born of the Spirit is still in control of his senses or as Paul puts it, “the spirit of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14: 32-33; emphasis added).A Christian is not taken over by the Holy Spirit like a demonically possessed person. While God often works in ways we can’t understand, we will not experience weird things like levitation and psychic detachment that knocks us out and leaves us feeling physically sore. Anyone who practices the contemplative prayer techniques of mystics like Teresa of Avila is stepping into dangerous spiritual territory.After founding the Discalced Carmelites (barefoot nuns), Teresa of Avila fell ill and died at the age of sixty-seven. Even though her writings were controversial and she was interrogated during the Inquisition for heresy, she was later declared a Doctor of the Roman Catholic Church for her teaching on prayer and today, she is often looked to as a viable resource on prayer.

_________________________
* Teresa describes this prayer of recollection as to “withdraw from those things by which your external senses are distracted.” It is a method of contemplative prayer wherein  one puts a deep mental focus on one thought thereby entering an altered state. See her book St. Teresa’s Own Words: Or, Instructions on the Prayer of Recollection. Teresa says practicing this method will more quickly lead “to the prayer of quiet” that she is so well know for.
** In Teresa’s book Interior Castle, she says the “prayer of quiet” is the entering into the “fourth mansion” (i.e., fourth stage) of meditative prayer calling it the “supernatural element of the mystical life.”
To order copies of Teresa of Avila – An Ancient Mystic Who Helped Shape Today’s Spiritual Formation Movement, click here.
Endnotes
1. http://www.dwillard.org/resources/RecReading.asp.
2. The interview where Rick Warren said this can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVCY8pW-ACs.)
3. Peter Scazerro, “My Top 10 Books: Spring/Summer 2013” (http://www.emotionallyhealthy.org/2013-books-i-am-reading/).
Photo Credits
Cover: Painting by Baron François Gérard (French, 1770-1837), 1827, “Saint Theresa.” The photo used is a reproduction of a work that is in the public domain; taken from Wikipedia.
Page 4: Paul Hill, “St. Theresa of the Child Jesus,” used with permission from istockphoto.com.
Page 16: Painting by Peter Paul Reubens in 1615. The photo used is a reproduction of a work that is in the public domain; taken from Wikipedia.
Back cover: From fotosearch.com; used with permission.
To order copies of Teresa of Avila – An Ancient Mystic Who Helped Shape Today’s Spiritual Formation Movement, click here.
Bibliography
Note: The books listed in this bibliography should not be considered a recommendation. The author of Castles in the Sand and this booklet has used these books for research as well as for citing.
Teresa of Avila; The Interior Castle.
Hodder & Stroughton Christian Classics
Edited by Halcyon Backhouse, 1988
Teresa of Avila; Selections from the Interior Castle.
Harper Collins Spiritual Classics, 2004
Teresa of Avila; St. Teresa’s Own Words, Or, Instructions on the Prayer of Recollection. Waxkeep Publishing, Kindle Version (not dated)
Malone, Mary T; Women and Christianity.
Orbis Books Volume III, 2003
Teresa of Avila; The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila: Volume 1 and Volume 2
ICS Publications, 1976; http://books.google.ca/books?id=lpo1vV1kXDUC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false.
Teresa of Avila; Teresa of Avila: The Book of My Life; translated by Mirabai Starr. http://books.google.ca/books?id=wVLtJ-JFVcQC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false.
Osuna, Francisco de; The Third Spiritual Alphabet.
Paulist Press, Translated by M.E. Giles.
The Classics of Western Spirituality, 1981.
Dalton, Rev. John; The Letters of St. Teresa.
London: Thomas Baker, I, Soho Square. Translated from the Spanish, 1902, http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/teresa/letters/letters.html.
Teresa of Avila; Life of St. Teresa of Jesus of the Order of Our Lady of Carmel. Translated from the Spanish by David Lewis; Third Edition Enlarged
With Additional Notes and an Introduction by Rev. Fr. Benedict Zimmerman, O.C.D.; http://www.ccel.org/ccel/teresa/life.html.
Foster, Richard; Prayer, Finding the Heart’s True Home.
HarperCollins, 1992, First Edition.
St. Teresa of Avila; The Complete Works of St. Teresa of Avila: Volume 1 and 2; translated and edited by E. Allison Peers; London: Burns& Oates; 2002 edition.
To order copies of Teresa of Avila – An Ancient Mystic Who Helped Shape Today’s Spiritual Formation Movement, click here.

How to Find a Bible-Believing Church

                                                                   bigstockphoto.com

We have often been asked, “How do I find a good Bible-believing church?” There are many believers who are struggling to find one in their own communities. To start with, we usually recommend they make phone calls to potential churches and ask a few concise questions such as:

“Do you have a Spiritual Formation program at your church?” or “Has your church implemented aspects of the Purpose Driven Movement anytime in the past 10 years?.”

Since thousands of churches would answer yes to both or at least one of these questions, they are worthwhile to ask, and it would certainly narrow down the scope of one’s search. Here are a few other questions that could be asked:

1. Is the pastor using The Message “Bible” in his sermons and studies? Because this paraphrase is very often used by pastors and teachers who promote contemplative spirituality or emerging spirituality (as the language in The Message helps support these false teachings), it is another indicator that a church is going in the wrong direction.

2. Is the church affiliated in any way with the Willow Creek Association? Oftentimes, a church has not implemented the Purpose Driven Movement but is, rather, hooked up with Willow Creek. This is as problematic as Purpose Driven. See our article on our website titled, “No Repentance from Willow Creek—Only a Mystical Paradigm Shift.”

3. Is the church connected at all with Bethel Church of Redding, California? Bethel’s hyper-charismatic influence is huge today, and many churches are getting on board with the Bethel craze. That would include Jesus Culture too, which is an offshoot of Bethel. Before starting your search for a church, make sure you understand what the Word of Faith/NAR, hyper-charismatic movement is. Lighthouse Trails has several trustworthy authors who write about these issues. You’d be surprised to learn how extensive this influence has been in North American churches, even in ones that do not consider themselves charismatic.

3. Ask a potential church if it would mind mailing you a few recent Sunday programs. When you get them, look for some of the key terms used within the contemplative/emerging camp: missional, servant leader, soul-care, spiritual formation, transformation, transitioning, silence, organic, authentic, reinvent, spiritual disciplines, Christ follower (the term Christian isn’t typically liked too well by contemplatives and emergent) Christian formation (or Christian spirituality) (a term often meaning the same as Spiritual Formation). Just using these terms alone doesn’t suddenly make a church contemplative or emerging, but it does show that at least one person in leadership at that church is reading books of that persuasion, and eventually that person’s influence will affect that church adversely.

In addition to those three questions, be sure and visit a church’s website as there you may be able to find the answers to these questions without making the phone call. When on a website, see if there is more talk about unity, “culture,” social justice, and relevancy than about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You can check out the doctrinal and mission statements but be on guard—a church can have a solid-sounding doctrinal statement and be actually going in an entirely different direction. Listen to an interview called Beware the Bridgers for some information on that. And by the way, remember who some of the more popular ”bridgers” are, closing the gap between “rightly dividing the Word” and spiritual deception in millions of people’s lives: Beth Moore, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Tim Keller, John Piper, etc.—those who claim to be orthodox biblical Christians but who promote contemplative spirituality and/or emerging spirituality.

When on a church’s website, you can usually find out which conferences the church is involved with or recommending to their church members. The IF: Gathering conferences are growing tremendously in popularity all across North America, but as Cedric Fisher has documented in his booklet IF It is of God—Answering the Questions About IF: Gathering,  IF is an avenue through which emergent theology is entering the church. There are many other conferences and events, usually with high attendance, taking place yearly that are pumping up Christians with heretical ideas and “theologies.” If you find out a church you’ve been researching is involved in any of these, that is a big warning sign.

Also, once your search for a new church has narrowed down to a few churches, a weekday visit to those churches’ bookstores would be important. Look for books by Richard Foster, Gary Thomas, Henri Nouwen, Brennan Manning, and other authors discussed and critiqued on the LT website. Chris Lawson from Spiritual Research Network has a booklet that provides an extensive list of authors who fall within the contemplative, emerging camps. It’s an excellent resource.

While searching for a good church, it would be important to find out where a particular church is at in relation Jesus Calling and The Shack. Many churches have been allowing New Age ideas into their congregations through such books. Be sure to read former New Age follower Warren B. Smith’s materials which will help you identify what the New Age is and how it can disguise itself as a better, newer “Christianity.”  You might ask about women’s and men’s Bible study groups and which books are being used at these meetings. That will tell you a lot.

When all this has been done to find a Bible-believing church, if there are any in your community that have passed the contemplative/emerging/seeker-friendly/hyper-charismatic test, maybe it’s safe to take your family for a Sunday visit. Are many of the people walking in carrying Bibles? Seeker-friendly and church-growth churches discourage that because it might “offend” unbelievers (or as they say unchurched) coming to church. Does the pastor at some point in his sermon talk about the Cross (the atonement) and salvation (and mention of hell)? These are subjects that many churches avoid because of the “offensiveness” of that message. Better to offer an espresso drink and a little rock n roll music during the service and a psychology-based, feel-good message that appeals to the carnal senses (sensual) rather than build up the spiritual man.

Once you have found a church that seems to be sound, you should not stop being discerning. That must be ongoing. That might seem like a ”paranoid” or overly concerned attitude to have, but if we remember the many verses in Scripture that talk about spiritual deception (right from the Garden of Eden all the way to the Book of Revelation), we will realize it is the responsibility of the Christian to be discerning and watchful. And the Bible frequently talks about the latter days before Christ’s return where deception will run more rampant than ever before. Roger Oakland gives a list of signs to look for to see if a church is becoming or has become contemplative/emerging. As you begin to attend a new church, this list may be helpful to you and your family:

Scripture is no longer the ultimate authority as the basis for the Christian faith.

The centrality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is being replaced by humanistic methods promoting church growth and a social gospel.

More and more emphasis is being placed on building the kingdom of God now and less and less on the warnings of Scripture about the imminent return of Jesus Christ and a coming judgment in the future.

The teaching that the church has taken the place of Israel and Israel has no prophetic significance is often embraced.

The teaching that the Book of Revelation does not refer to the future, but instead has been already fulfilled in the past.

An experiential mystical form of Christianity begins to be promoted as a method to reach the postmodern generation.

Ideas are promoted teaching that Christianity needs to be re­invented in order to provide meaning for this generation.

The pastor may implement an idea called “ancient-future” or “vintage Christianity” claiming that in order to take the church forward, we need to go back in church history and find out what experiences were effective to get people to embrace Christianity.

While the authority of the Word of God is undermined, images and sensual experiences are promoted as the key to experiencing and knowing God.

These experiences include icons, candles, incense, liturgy, labyrinths, prayer stations, contemplative prayer, experiencing the sacraments, particularly the sacrament of the Eucharist.

There seems to be a strong emphasis on ecumenism indicating that a bridge is being established that leads in the direction of unity with the Roman Catholic Church.

Some evangelical Protestant leaders are saying that the Reformation went too far. They are reexamining the claims of the “church fathers” saying that communion is more than a symbol and that Jesus actually becomes present in the wafer at communion.

There will be a growing trend towards an ecumenical unity for the cause of world peace—claiming the validity of other religions and that there are many ways to God.

Members of churches who question or resist the new changes that the pastor is implementing are reprimanded and usually asked to leave.

Roger has these signs listed in his booklet/article How to Know When the Emerging Church Shows Signs of Emerging into Your Church.

May God bless you and guide you in your search. It may seem like an insurmountable task, but we know there are still good churches out there because we often hear from pastors who are staying the course and are aware of the times in which we live. May God lead you to find one of these churches.

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural [carnal] man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. . . . For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:12-16)

Kingdom-Now Evangelicals

By Roger Oakland
While I believe Rome leads the way with the bold claim that God chose Peter and the succeeding popes to take the title of “Vicar of Christ” and determine what the sheep should or should not believe, other groups believe they have been called to usher in or even prepare and set up the kingdom of God here on Earth without the presence of the King. Often taking the position that Jesus will not actually physically return to rule and reign for a period of one thousand years, these groups see themselves as chosen by God to be human vessels for this purpose.
Common names for this teaching are: Kingdom Now, Dominion Theology, and Reconstructionism. It is the idea that before Christ can return, the world must be brought together in unity and perfection, and this work will be done by the Christian church. Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven P.E.A.C.E. Plan, Jim Wallis’ social gospel agenda, and Tony Campolo or Brian McLaren’s emergent church are a few of the avenues through which this is being propagated. The goal is to basically eradicate all the world’s ills (e.g., disease, poverty, terrorism, and pollution) and thus, we will have created a “Heaven on Earth” Utopia.

While creating such a world sounds very good, it is not what the Bible says is going to happen. Many Scriptures, in both the Old and New Testaments, describe a very different scenario, such as the following:

Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. (Matthew 24:9-14)
The following list of some of the erroneous teachings in Kingdom-Now theology illustrate how dangerous this belief system is, yet it has tremendously pervaded the church today:
Prophetic Scriptures are denied or fulfilled in 70 AD (as is also the belief of preterism).
The church is the new Israel (replacement theology).
Armageddon is the ongoing battle between the forces of light and darkness.
The Antichrist is a spirit, not an actual person.
We are already in the Tribulation, but at the same time, we are in the Millennium. It doesn’t get any stranger! It’s one or the other.
Rather than following traditional Bible prophecy, they follow “new revelations.”
Modern-day prophets must be obeyed and not judged for their inaccuracy.
They want to restore the Edenic nature even though Eden is where sin began.1
This movement has swept the planet, and those who refuse to join hands are considered “colonial,” “militant fundamentalists,” and “narrow-minded crackpots” who are not willing to catch the “new wave” and get on board with the mighty revival that is moving the world toward unity and peace. Many of the leaders in this movement have no problem whatsoever joining with the pope in Rome and the kingdom-of-Earth plans he has for joining together with other religions, including Islam.
While some discerning Christians can see how this trend plays a role in light of Bible prophecy, there is a huge portion of Christianity that does not. These are those who are reading books by authors who promote emerging church (or “progressive Christianity”) ideas for the postmodern generation that reject the teachings of the Bible and embrace establishing the kingdom of God on Earth right now. They are willing to join hands with other religions by reinventing Christianity into a “broad-way” spirituality where all are saved and part of God’s Kingdom. No longer do they believe in the “narrow road” to eternity. The kingdom of God is for all religions, they say (and even for those who believe in nothing). Unity, peace, connectedness, and oneness is all that matters, while biblical doctrine is being set aside as irrelevant to the “new reformation” at hand. Obviously, such a view leaves little room for the Cross and the biblical Gospel. And Scriptures such as this one are overlooked:
And he [Jesus] went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are. (Luke 13:22-25; emphasis added)
Unfortunately, while there may be many pastors, like Rick Warren, who still hold to a personal belief in Jesus Christ as their Savior, the time will come when the path they are now taking may cost them dearly. It is my hope that these leaders might wake up to see what they are doing before it is too late. And let us not forget the countless number of people following these shepherds who may never embrace a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ because of the truths being withheld from them for the sake of “peace” and “unity.”
It is also grievous to know that a good number of “Christian” leaders no longer believe (or have never believed) in the Cross as a propitiation for sin but maintain their belief that such a concept is both archaic and barbaric. They hold to the view that Christianity needs to be reinvented for our times. Brian McLaren, who in 2015 represented “Christianity” at the Parliament of the World Religions in Utah, holds to just such a view. In one interview, he said that the idea of God sending His Son to a violent death is “false advertising for God” and he equally rejected the doctrine of Hell as well.2
In addition, McLaren has played a significant role in promoting kingdom-now theology as can be seen in his book The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth That Could Change Everything. McLaren, who was once listed by Time Magazine as one of the top 25 most influential persons associated with evangelical Christianity, has sought to upgrade the Christian faith in order to make it relevant for today. He asks a number of questions at the beginning of his book that imply the church has misrepresented Jesus’ core message and promotes the idea that Christians need to be honest with themselves even if that means altering their faith. In his book, he makes the following statement:
Sadly, for centuries at a time in too many places to count, the Christian religion has downplayed, misconstrued, or forgotten the secret message of Jesus entirely. Instead of being about the kingdom of God coming to earth, the Christian religion has too often been preoccupied with abandoning or escaping the earth and going to heaven . . . We have betrayed the message that the kingdom of God is available for all, beginning with the least and last and the lost—and have instead believed and taught that the kingdom of God is available for the elite, beginning with the correct and the clean and the powerful.3
In McLaren’s 2016 book titled The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way to be Christian, he describes this all-inclusive “kingdom of God” that incorporates “multifaith [i.e., all religions] collaborations.” He states:
This kind of collaboration leads to a fresh understanding of what it means to evangelize. I was taught that it meant converting people to the one true religion, namely, my own [Christianity]. Now I believe evangelism means inviting people into heart-to-heart communion and collaboration with God and neighbors in the great work of healing the earth, of building the beloved community, of seeking first the kingdom of God and God’s justice for all. Members of each tradition bring their unique gifts to the table, ready to share and receive, learn and teach, give and take, in a spirit of generosity and vulnerability. Neither my neighbors nor I are obligated or expected to convert. . . . As we work together for the common good, we are all transformed. Those who haven’t experienced this kind of transforming collaboration simply don’t know what they’re missing. . . . Through multifaith collaborations, I have come to see how the language Paul used about one body with many members (1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12: 4– 5) applies not only to differing gifts among individual Christians but also to differing gifts among religions.4 (emphasis added)
While many evangelicals have now pushed Brian McLaren to the sidelines of evangelical Christianity, others have continued carrying on his message, sometimes in more subtle ways. But as the Bible says, there is nothing new under the sun. Satan’s devices are always in play. His goal is to destroy the message of the Cross, and while he cannot ever actually destroy it, he can cause untold numbers to reject it by offering them substitutes. But we know there is no substitute for the finished work on the Cross by Jesus Christ, who is the only Savior for mankind.
What Does This Tell Us?
There is a common cliché: if it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, and has feathers like a duck—it is a duck! Efforts are underway to establish the kingdom of God on Earth right now without the King. Is this what Jesus intended would happen, or are we being misled by human beings who are following the thoughts of their own imagination or worse yet the inspiration of Satan?
While the idea that the kingdom of God is being established here on Earth by human leaders has been around for centuries, we should pay special attention when current events reveal that though the world gets worse and worse, we are being told it is getting better and better. When false religions become part of the kingdom, then clearly, this is not God’s kingdom, but rather it is the kingdom that belongs to the god of this world. Jesus made it very clear there are two kingdoms—one of God and one of this world—when he told Pontius Pilate shortly before He was crucified, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). Jesus also said to Pilate in that same conversation “Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.” Ask yourself this, are you hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd, or is it the voice of the god of this world who leads a kingdom that is not of God?
Endnotes:
1. Taken from “Kingdom-Now Theology” (Lighthouse Trails blog, March 6, 2007, http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=3295).
2. Interview by Leif Hansen (The Bleeding Purple Podcast) with Brian McLaren, January 8th, 2006); Part 1: http://web.archive.org/web/20090103090514/http://bleedingpurplepodcast.blogspot.com/2006/01/brian-mclaren-interview-part-i.html; Part II: http://web.archive.org/web/20060127003305/http://bleedingpurplepodcast.blogspot.com).
3. Brian McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006), pp. 78-79.
4. Brian McLaren, The Great Spiritual Migration (New York, NY: Convergent Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, 2016), Kindle location 2768.
(Roger Oakland is the author of several books, booklets, and is featured in many teaching DVDs and films. His latest book, The Good Shepherd Calls, deals with the apostasy taking place in the church today.)

Rick Warren and Brian Brodersen Prove: “A Photo Is Worth A Thousand Words”

Courtesy of Understand the Times

Connect the dots and draw your own conclusions (See related articles under picture)

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