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NEW BOOKLET: The Cross and the Marijuana Leaf

NEW BOOKLET: The Cross and the Marijuana Leaf  by Linda Nathan 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 The Cross and the Marijuana Leaf, click here.

The Cross and the Marijuana Leaf

By Linda Nathan

Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug worldwide, with 5 million daily users worldwide.1

Should Christians use pot? Should they condone the use of it in our society? What would Jesus do? The author’s extensive experience, biblical approach, and current research provide clear guidelines for those struggling with today’s exploding drug culture.

INTRODUCTION

WHAT’S HAPPENING?
For the first time in U.S. history, Christians in America are facing the challenge of a majority approval of marijuana. A recent Gallup Poll revealed that 58% of Americans now favor its legalization, and 67% of ages 18 to 29 back legalization. Yet when Gallup first asked the question in 1969, only 12% favored legalization.2

By September 2017, there was some form of marijuana legalization in 29 states and the District of Columbia.3

This massive change has occurred in less than fifty years, and it is a major sign of the seismic shift occurring in our culture—a shift that should concern Christians deeply.

But some Christians are uncertain how to view this shift, for the Bible doesn’t mention marijuana directly—or does it?

What do we know about marijuana? Is it good for our health? Or can it be harmful and even lead to psychosis? But, most important, how does the Bible deal with it?

Before we continue, let me tell you a little about myself and why I’m writing this booklet. I think it’s fair to say my involvement with marijuana stretches over half a century, through experience, observation, and research. My husband Richard and I met in San Francisco in 1962 and spent fourteen years in the Bay Area counterculture. By the grace of God, we survived the ’60s meltdown for thousands of young people into corruption, crime, and madness. And we personally experienced and saw with our own eyes the destructive effects not only of marijuana but also of some of the other drugs to which it opened the door. And the pot we smoked then was much milder than what is available today.

I thought I knew all about marijuana from my experiences during the ’60s and ’70s. But as I researched what is happening today, I saw that it’s now an entirely different ballgame. Today’s marijuana has a much, much stronger psychoactive (THC) content. Billionaires now power its promotion. And radical changes are occurring in our society as a result.

Besides our personal experience, Richard, who has a B.S. in Biology and a Master’s in Christian History, has spent the last 24 years working in psychiatric and drug treatment centers where he has continually observed the devastating effects of marijuana and other drugs.

So, let’s look at what’s happening.

TWO MOVEMENTS IN ONE: MEDICAL AND RECREATIONAL
Although there are around 400 derivatives of the marijuana plant, the battle for legalization focuses mainly on two: medical marijuana (cannabidiol or CBD) and recreational marijuana (tetrahydrocannabinol or THC).

“Recreational” marijuana (THC). Currently (2017) eight states (Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Massachusetts, Maine, and Colorado) plus the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes, but the movement is growing rapidly as other states are moving toward legalization.4 More on recreational marijuana later.

Medical marijuana (CBD). By September 2017, twenty-nine states and Washington DC had medical marijuana laws, and another eighteen had passed CBD laws.5 CBD has minimal THC content. Therefore, many states have legalized it for specialized cases, primarily with childhood epilepsy or seizures. Some believe that legalizing CBD isn’t the same as legalizing medical marijuana because it’s not using the entire plant.6 A common assumption is because the CBD extract has some healing benefit, then the entire plant does too. But there are many dangers with using the entire plant.

Later, I will discuss the use of marijuana for medicine and the positions of major medical organizations.

Many powerful factors are propelling these movements, but first, we need to know what the Bible says. While it doesn’t address the issue of marijuana specifically, it has a great deal to say about its effects and about God’s demand for holiness for His people.

THE BIBLE SPEAKS

1. We are to obey the law. We are to obey the Law of God (Romans 13:1–2), as well as the laws of the land, unless those laws conflict with God’s law (Acts 5:29). Marijuana is still illegal by federal law except within approved research situations.

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. (Romans 13:1)

2. We are to live soberly. The Bible tells believers to be sober and practice holy behavior. Marijuana (THC) can lead to a vulnerable, drunken type of state.

Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. (Romans 13:13)

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

3. Marijuana can be harmful. There is a great deal of scientific evidence concerning its mental and spiritual harm, which is discussed later. According to the Bible, our bodies are not our own; we belong to Christ.

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Corinthians 6:19–20)

4. Only God’s Word can transform our minds; supposed “consciousness-raising” drugs can be spiritually dangerous. Here again, I speak from experience: Under marijuana, the soul can become more vulnerable to false teachings.

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)

5. Marijuana can lead to idolatry and demonic bondage. Whatever has power over you becomes an idol, and behind every idol is a demon. Richard has observed marijuana leaf tattoos on many young psychotic patients, sometimes entwined with a cross. The idolatry of drug abuse involves both spiritual and physical bondage.7

Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Corinthians 10:14)

Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils. (1 Corinthians 10:21)

6. Marijuana is a method of sorcery. This is one of the strongest arguments against Christians using marijuana and the reason why it opens the door to worldview changes. Witches have used it and other such drugs for centuries to contact the demonic realm. The Bible uses the word pharmakeia for “sorcery,” which is the root of our modern word “pharmacy.”8 Consider the following thoughts from a Bible forum:

Marijuana is a hallucinogenic. This is one of the reasons why using it is sorcery and witchcraft. With the use of drugs, you are opening yourself up to all sorts of spiritual attacks and seducing spirits. Mind-altering drugs are used in witchcraft to alter your reality. This can be very dangerous. This is why God calls us to be sober and avoid attacks from Satan (1 Peter 5:8).9

Let us make it our concern to grow in holiness through obedience to Christ. Scripture exhorts us:

For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. (Galatians 5:13)

TURBO POT—
NOT YOUR GRANDMOTHER’S MARIJUANA

It occurred to me lately that these new ultra-high THC level marijuana breeds or what the kids refer to as (KB) Killbud mixed with any other narcotic is [sic] altering the children’s minds in such a destructive way the consequences are irreparable.10

When I committed my life to Jesus Christ, I knew that I needed to give up marijuana and other hallucinogenic drugs. I realized that the influence of these drugs was the opposite of the influence of the Holy Spirit. The two are incompatible.11

Now, maybe despite the Bible’s warnings about how we are to live, you’re not convinced that there isn’t some good in using marijuana recreationally.

But there’s a vital fact many people don’t realize: The current weed is immensely more powerful than it used to be—to the point of being hallucinogenic. In their book Going to Pot, William Bennett and Robert White explain:

Let’s acknowledge that today’s marijuana is at least five times stronger than the marijuana of the past. The THC levels of today’s marijuana average around 15 percent, but go as high as 20 percent and above in the dispensaries found throughout the states that have legalized it for ‘medicinal’ or recreational use. The marijuana of today is simply not the same drug it was in the 60s, 70s or 80s, much less the 1930s. It is much more potent, leading to a great many more health risks.12

The Marijuana Potency Project at the University of Mississippi has found levels of THC as high as 37 percent. That is a growth of a psychoactive ingredient from 3 and 4 percent a few decades ago to close to 40 percent.13 (emphasis added)

WHAT IS THC, AND WHY DO HIGH LEVELS MATTER?
Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that gives the “high.” Synthetic versions can be very harmful.14 Consider the following:

The difference between 3 to 5 percent THC and 13 to 30 percent THC is very significant. It is like comparing a twelve-ounce glass of beer with a twelve-ounce glass of 80 proof vodka; both contain alcohol, but they have vastly different effects on the body when consumed. Indeed, many argue that because of the difference in potency, it is not even the same drug we once knew. Some have taken to calling today’s marijuana “industrial marijuana” or “turbo pot.”15

A hallucinogen. Such high levels can be hallucinogenic and cause profound perceptual distortions of reality. Regular use may lead to “flashbacks” or (sometimes frightening) hallucinations that can reoccur for years. There may be panic and anxiety attacks, and health problems. Used with other drugs or medications, it can lead to vomiting, stroke, increased blood pressure, convulsions, seizures, and nerve problems; and it can affect babies in the womb.16

Psychosis. And then there is the connection with psychosis. “Nine studies following hundreds to thousands of people for decades searched for a connection between marijuana use and psychosis. All but one of these studies suggest a connection between marijuana use and schizophrenia.”17

Other studies reveal the connection between high pot use and a clinically significant increased risk of developing schizophrenia and other mental illnesses during adolescence.18 Our own experience has shown that you can’t know how it will affect you; it might seem fine for a while and then act without warning as a depth charge in your soul.

Sir Robin Murray, a psychiatrist at King’s College in London, says, “Even I, 20 years ago, used to tell patients that cannabis is safe. It’s only after you see all the patients that go psychotic that you realize—it’s not so safe.’”19 My husband says amen to that, having worked 24 years at treatment centers.

MARIJUANA AS MEDICINE?
PART I: THE BATTLE

In 1970, the US Congress placed marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act because they considered it to have “no accepted medical use.” Since then . . . [21% of the U.S. population] now lives in a state where smoking weed is legal.20

There is no level of marijuana use that is actually completely safe. . . . even the casual use of marijuana changes the brain.21

This new marijuana is waaaaaaay beyond simple medical use for pain.22

The controversy rages. The Journal of the American Medical Association defines medical marijuana as:

. . . the use of cannabis or cannabinoids as medical therapy to treat disease or alleviate symptoms. Cannabinoids can be administered orally, sublingually, or topically; they can be smoked, inhaled, mixed with food, or made into tea. They can be taken in herbal form, extracted naturally from the plant, gained by isomerisation of cannabidiol, or manufactured synthetically.23

So, do the Bible’s warnings apply only to using marijuana with THC? After all, the CBD used for medical purposes doesn’t contain THC. Does it?

Actually, CBD does contain the hallucinogen THC, in varying ratios. Some claim the two work together therapeutically and that “a patient’s sensitivity to THC is a key factor to determining the ratio and dosage of CBD-rich medicine.”24 But many advocates don’t differentiate and insist on using the entire plant.

Proponents argue that it can treat the symptoms of chemotherapy-induced vomiting, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, childhood epilepsy, and neuropathic pain. Testimonials are the main support for other conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, glaucoma, Crohn’s disease, and Alzheimer’s.25

In 2015, The Journal of the American Medical Association published the preliminary conclusion of a compilation of 79 studies of the experiences of 6,000 patients who used marijuana for self-medication. The report stated:

Smoking pot was found to be of little use in relieving symptoms for many ailments, among them hepatitis C, Crohn’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Researchers found that smoking pot did show some success in relieving nausea caused by chemotherapy, and “spasticity” for multiple sclerosis patients. The authors of the study did not rule out other medical benefits, but found little evidence of any so far.26

Opponents decry marijuana’s dangers, the fact that it lacks FDA approval, and that legal drugs make marijuana unnecessary. They point out its addictiveness and that it can lead to harder drug use and mental problems; they also say it “interferes with fertility, impairs driving ability, and injures the lungs, immune system, and brain. They claim medical marijuana is a front for drug legalization and recreational use.”27 There is no clear optimal dose for its various approved conditions. THC concentrations vary widely; and sometimes users breed out CBD, which can ameliorate THC’s negative effects, to increase THC’s potency.28 Furthermore, marijuana smoke can contain up to 70 percent more carcinogenic materials than tobacco smoke.29

No one medicine has ever been recommended or used for the number of diseases and ailments political proponents of medical marijuana say it is a therapy for. The proponents have turned it into some kind of major miracle drug while, at the same time, the scientific literature finds marijuana either dangerous or of extremely limited use, and often both.30

Now let’s look at the positions of professional medical associations.

MARIJUANA AS MEDICINE?
PART II: THE MEDICAL COMMUNITY SPEAKS

The American Psychiatric Association—

There is no current scientific evidence that marijuana is in any way beneficial for the treatment of any psychiatric disorder. In contrast, current evidence supports, at minimum, a strong association of cannabis use with the onset of psychiatric disorders.31

Medical treatment . . . should not be authorized by ballot initiatives.32

The American Medical Association—
In November 2013, the AMA retained its longstanding position that “cannabis is a dangerous drug and as such is a public health concern.” Recent policy changes call for further well-controlled studies.33

The American Society of Addiction Medicine—
The ASAM warns against marijuana’s adverse effects on mind and body, its increasing potency, and its influence in precipitating relapses in alcoholism and other drug dependencies. It recommends carefully controlled medical use and drug education for early school grades and health workers.34

The American Cancer Society—
A 2013 position paper states that cancer patients may receive benefit from marijuana, which can “help alleviate the nausea, vomiting, wasting, and muscle spasms caused by chemotherapy in some patients.” The ACS supports more research for treatments for cancer and its side effects, but it does not advocate marijuana legalization.35

The American Ophthalmological Society—
In 2014, the AOS reaffirmed its stand that marijuana does not help glaucoma. Ophthalmologists believe marijuana has side effects that could endanger eye health, increasing risk for cancer and eye diseases.36

The American Academy of Pediatrics—
In 2015, the AAP reaffirmed its opposition to legalizing marijuana for either recreational or medical use. It recommended protections for children in states that have legalized either. It says, “For adolescents, marijuana can impair memory and concentration, interfering with learning, and is linked to lower odds of completing high school or obtaining a college degree. It can alter motor control, coordination and judgment, which may contribute to unintentional deaths and injuries. Regular use is also linked to psychological problems, poorer lung health, and a higher likelihood of drug dependence in adulthood.”37

CRITERIA FOR MARIJUANA AS MEDICINE
The general conclusion appears to be, “If marijuana is to be used for medical purposes, it should be subjected to the same evidence-based review and regulatory oversight as other medications prescribed by physicians.”38

Bennett and White offer the following controlled program for obtaining medical marijuana: a) A physician specialist for the patient’s chronic condition must sign a special waiver; b) Approval by the Institute of Medicine; c)Both patient and physician must sign a formal statement under penalty of federal perjury charges limiting the marijuana to that patient only; d) The patient must sign a waiver of understanding releasing the government of any liability regarding marijuana’s possible adverse side effects; e) It must be a standardized dose of government-provided marijuana; f) A hospital pharmacy must fill the government-approved, doctor-certified prescription; g) The patient’s prescriptions must be based on the doctor’s regular reviews.39

So, if marijuana is still illegal on the federal level, and all these authorities oppose or caution about its legalization, why is the legalization movement growing so rapidly? This is a question that begs an answer.

BIG MARIJUANA AND CULTURAL CHANGE

“The pro-legalization movement hasn’t come from a groundswell of the people. A great deal of its funding and fraud has been perpetrated by George Soros and then promoted by celebrities,” said John Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy under George W. Bush. “The truth is under attack, and it’s an absolutely dangerous direction for this country to be going in.”40

Marijuana use in the United States before the ’60s was mostly underground; but as its popularity spread, the public became much more accepting, until by the ’90s,

]L]eaders and politicians stopped speaking of the harms of marijuana . . . anti-drug ads became less prevalent . . . arguments on behalf of marijuana use were no longer answered . . . a market was found to create medical marijuana and call marijuana medicine because of its analgesic effects, and . . . Hollywood made punch lines out of the use of marijuana in blockbuster movies and popular television shows.41

NEVERTHELESS, LEGALIZATION TODAY IS NOT A GRASSROOTS MOVEMENT.

Billionaire financier George Soros and other wealthy people jump-started it and are maintaining it. Soros “has become one of the largest supporters of drug reforms ranging from medical marijuana use to the easing of sentencing for drug charges. His foundation has donated about $200 million to drug reforms since 1994.” He has also spent around $80 million on reforms through a nonprofit network and his mouthpiece, the Drug Policy Alliance.42 Soros provided 68% of the financial backing to pass Washington State’s 2012 initiative and is focusing on other states.43

Other promoters include the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and billionaires Peter B. Lewis, PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel, and Sean Parker and Dustin Moskovitz of Facebook.

THE NEW GOLD RUSH
Today the pot industry is viewed as the “new gold rush,” with “hundreds of tributary businesses.”44

Sales of marijuana grew 30% in 2016, and as long as acceptance continues to gain steam, the industry could hit $20.2 billion in North America within four years, according to a marijuana market research firm.45

The legalization movement and industry are transforming our culture and institutions.

THE POT PRESIDENT
Former President Obama’s administration greatly expanded the movement. He openly admitted smoking marijuana when young, calling it merely a “bad habit and a vice,”46 and supported legalized pot in Washington State and Colorado. In April 2013, his administration even told the Supreme Court to ignore a lawsuit by Oklahoma and Nebraska opposing legalized pot in Colorado.47

The Obama administration also pressured the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of the Department of Justice to consider removing marijuana from the list of the country’s most dangerous drugs.

That list was created as part of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970, which consolidated all federal drug laws into a single comprehensive measure and defined marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance, alongside heroin, LSD and other drugs that the government says have no medical value and the highest potential for abuse. That meant marijuana was saddled with the strictest possible restrictions and penalties.48

To date though, the DEA has maintained its “core priority” to oppose marijuana and prosecute “those who manufacture, distribute, or possess any illegal drugs, including marijuana.”49

However, movement is underway to reclassify cannabis as a non-Schedule I drug, allow states to regulate medical marijuana programs, remove CBD from the Controlled Substances Act, and reconcile federal banking issues in the legal marijuana industry.50

DRUG-DEALING STATES
George Soros also funds studies about the profits from marijuana legalization.

Colorado. Such a study found that marijuana legalization could generate as much as $100 million in state revenue after five years. “That research was widely considered to have influenced the election.”51 (emphasis added).

Washington State. Marijuana sales generated $70 million in tax revenue during the first year of legalization, with over $257 million in sales.52 But one business owner said $70 million is low and sales should increase.53

Logan Bowers, who co-owns a recreational cannabis store in Seattle, claims there’s a “cultural shift happening in Washington, Colorado and other states that have started to legalize marijuana use.” 54 (emphasis added) Although the article doesn’t describe that “cultural shift,” I know it well. And my husband sees its results every day.

POPULAR ARGUMENTS FOR AND AGAINST

You talk to the kids and with everything that’s going on with it being legalized in Colorado and comments being made that it’s just not that bad for you, the kids are taking it one step further and they’re telling me, “It’s just an herb. It’s OK. In fact, it’s used for medical purposes, it’s not bad for you. It’s good for you.” And that’s the belief our kids are getting.55—Fourteen-year veteran, Salt Lake City Police Department

There’s a wide spectrum of opinion about legalizing marijuana, but the battle doesn’t fall on a simple Left-Right continuum. Some Republicans favor it and some Democrats oppose it. Issues involve personal health and freedom, tax revenues, public policy, expense to our justice system, cultural change, and states’ rights. Many believe a ban would be futile.

Bennett and White conclude in Going to Pot that most advocates are poorly informed because of deliberate falsehoods by interest groups, ignorance about the strength of today’s marijuana, and unwillingness to give it up.56

Even Christians have many different views, as you will see in the chart below.

FOR

Divine intervention. Pot is God’s intervention to bring healing and relief. Even Jesus must have smoked it because it grew in the Middle East then.

AGAINST

What can bring temporary relief isn’t necessarily good (e.g. alcohol, opioids, etc.) (1 Corinthians 10:23). To assume that Jesus Christ smoked it because it may have been around is an irrational unbiblical leap.

FOR
Relaxation. It relaxes me, so it must be good.

AGAINST

Don’t count on it. Marijuana is not a sedative; it can excite and even stimulate hallucinations and psychosis. The present high levels make it unpredictable.

FOR
God’s creation. God created everything and gave us the plants of the field (Genesis 1:29).

AGAINST

God created deadly nightshade, too, but we treat it with care. This is a fallen creation.

FOR
Not from Satan. Satan doesn’t create, so marijuana couldn’t be of Satan.

AGAINST

Instead of creating, the devil spins webs of deceit (2 Corinthians 11:3).

FOR
Freedom. Jesus wasn’t legalistic; Christians live by grace.

AGAINST

This is true, but Scripture clearly says that we are never to use our freedom as a license to sin (Romans 6). And the Bible has given us many instructions on how we are to live including being sober minded and avoiding drunkedness.

FOR
Fairness. Trust the democratic process.

AGAINST

The democratic process also brought us homosexual marriage and transgender bathrooms.

FOR
Just an herb. Marijuana is just a medicinal herb.

AGAINST

Opium can be medicinal too, but recreationally it’s destructive.

FOR

Popularity. My friends all use it.

AGAINST

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world” (1 John 2:15; see also 2 Timothy 2:22).

FOR
Bigotry. You’re a bigot to oppose pot.

AGAINST

Don’t be afraid to be criticized for standing for righteousness. Be bold. (1 Peter 4:1–5)

FOR
Legality. It’s okay for Christians in states with legalized pot.

AGAINST

It’s still illegal on the federal level, and even if that changes, it won’t make it safe or right. You can sin with legal and social approval.

 

WHAT CAN CHRISTIANS DO?

For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things. . . . Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices. (2 Corinthians 2:9, 11)

Many Christians today are confused about marijuana. This may result from:

Lack of education

Misreading the Bible / rejecting biblical authority

Peer pressure and moral laxity in churches and society

Confusing propaganda

Naiveté and/or ignorance of the devil’s wiles

Here in Washington State, we’ve not witnessed any noticeable Christian resistance to the “legalization.” On the contrary, we’ve encountered apathy in some churches and casual openness to it in some church youth groups. Online, youth pastors sometimes seem uncertain. There seems to be little awareness of its spiritual dangers. A woman who had opposed a marijuana factory in her neighborhood called us after our letter protesting the new law was published. She’d approached many Christian neighbors, but few had signed her petition. There was a lot of apathy, she said, an attitude of, “Well, it’s a law now, what can we do?”

Well, there’s a lot we can do. First and foremost, we can pray. In spite of all that is happening in the world today, including the growing use of marijuana and other drugs, as Christians, we serve a God who cares and who listens to our prayers.

We can also help to educate those around us, in our homes, churches, and neighborhoods. And while it may seem like a hopeless case there are some encouraging signs. As of this writing, the White House has announced that we should expect to see greater enforcement of federal marijuana laws, regardless of states’ laws. Attorney General Jeff Sessions opposes the drug. Furthermore, marijuana is still classified on the federal level as a Schedule I drug along with heroin, LSD, and ecstasy.

But the battle will continue. The exploding marijuana industry is up in arms about losing its huge profits from a possible major crackdown. While President Donald Trump doesn’t oppose medical marijuana, the White House views recreational use differently. The Department of Justice (DOJ) is examining the whole issue. If the White House and the DOJ go easy on the “legal” states, the marijuana industry will continue flourishing, with the states as drug dealers. But if the DOJ cracks down, marijuana will increase as a powerful symbol of rebellion. One thing is clear: President Trump, the DOJ, and the country need our prayers.

No one knows which w

ay the nation will go.

But which way will you go?

Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. (2 Peter 3:17–18)

To order copies of The Cross and the Marijuana Leaf, click here.

ENDNOTES
1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24904437.
2.https://tinyurl.com/y7zl4f5y.
3. http://www.governing.com/gov-data/state-marijuana-laws-map-medical-recreational.html.
4. http://www.refinery29.com/2016/04/107985/where-is-weed-legal; www.westword.com/marijuana/eleven-states-considering-pot-laws-in-2017-8720; see a current map of state marijuana laws at http://www.governing.com/gov-data/state-marijuana-laws-map-medical-recreational.html.
5. https://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=006473; https://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000881; and http://www.governing.com/gov-data/state-marijuana-laws-map-medical-recreational.html.
6. See http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000881 and http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=006473. See a chart of medical marijuana pros and cons at http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000141.
7. There is a good discussion about this at https://justprayno.org/tag/idolatry.
8. See http://www.revelation.co/2010/01/27/what-does-the-bible-say-about-marijuana-is-smoking-pot-a-sin-in-gods-eyes.
9. See http://bibleforums.org/showthread.php/127483-Sorcery-Drugs-In-The-Bible for a thorough discussion. Also http://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-sorcery.html.
10. William Bennett and Robert White, Going to Pot: Why the Rush to Legalize Marijuana Is Harming America (New York, NY: Hachette Book Group, 2015), p. 152.
11. http://www.sosmin.com/pdf/marijuana.pdf.
12. Going to Pot, op. cit., p. 172.
13. Ibid., p. 18.
14. See http://spiceaddictionsupport.org/what-is-spice.
15. Going to Pot, op. cit., pp. xiv–xv.
16. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/can-marijuana-use-during-pregnancy-harm-baby.
17. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/03/06/390143641/pot-can-trigger-psychotic-symptoms-for-some-but-do-the-effects-last.
18. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/marijuana/there-link-between-marijuana-use-psychiatric-disorders.
19. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/03/06/390143641/pot-can-trigger-psychotic-symptoms-for-some-but-do-the-effects-last.
20. http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org; http://www.businessinsider.com/marijuana-in-america-20-of-americans-can-now-access-legal-weed-2016-11.
21. Going to Pot, op. cit., p. 92. Also see http://adf.org.au/drug-facts/hallucinogens.
22. Ibid., p. 19.
23. “Cannabinoids for Medical Use: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis” (The Journal of the American Medical Association, June 2015, at http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2338251).
24. https://www.projectcbd.org/guidance/cannabis-dosing.
25. “Problems with the Medicalization of Marijuana” (2014, at http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1874073; https://tinyurl.com/yd6tet2a).
26. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jul/12/editorial-a-bust-for-medical-marijuana.
27. http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org.
28. “Problems with the Medicalization of Marijuana,” op. cit.
29. Going to Pot, op. cit., p. 19.
30. Ibid., pp. 61–62.
31. https://web.archive.org/web/20161003070041/https://www.recoveryanswers.org/pressrelease/apa-position-statement-on-marijuana-as-medicine.
32. Ibid.
32. http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/addiction/marijuana-and-psychiatric-patient
33. http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/11/20/ama-reaffirms-opposition-to-marijuana-legalization; http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/sourcefiles/AMA09policy.pdf.
34. http://www.asam.org/docs/publicy-policy-statements/1marijuana-5-062.pdf.
35. http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.source.php?sourceID=001399.
36. https://tinyurl.com/yb5mxrt9.
37. https://tinyurl.com/zolhjrl.
38. Going to Pot, op. cit., p. 68.
39. Ibid., pp. 65–66.
40. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/apr/2/billionaire-george-soros-turns-cash-into-legalized.
41. Going to Pot, op. cit., pp. 177–178.
42. https://tinyurl.com/ybt8ph67.
43. https://tinyurl.com/mfqdk4o.
44. http://www.msnbc.com/the-cycle/how-marijuana-could-be-the-new-gold-rush; http://www.fox5ny.com/news/160812124-story.
45. https://tinyurl.com/yctqxtm9.
46. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8pZ2AC_pv0.
47. https://tinyurl.com/y962aclb; http://countercurrentnews.com/2016/01/obama-tells-supreme-court-to-legalize; https://tinyurl.com/y8am2h57.
48. Joel Warner, “Marijuana Could Soon Be Rescheduled As A Less Dangerous Drug By The DEA, So Why Aren’t Cannabis Proponents Excited?” (04/14/16, https://tinyurl.com/yd3bvlm2).
49. The DEA Position on Marijuana, https://www.dea.gov/docs/marijuana_position_2011.pdf, p. 1.
50. See http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/10/us/washington-marijuana-70-million-tax-dollars.
51. https://tinyurl.com/ya9tkpqg.
52. “Pot Money Changing Hearts in Washington” (July 2015; http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/10/us/washington-marijuana-70-million-tax-dollars).
53. Ibid.
54. Ibid.
55. Going to Pot, op. cit., p. 12.
56. Ibid., p. 82.

Note: To follow this discussion and for updates, visit http://www.logosword.com/blog.

AUTHOR BIO: Linda Nathan spent many years in the ’60s and ’70s West Coast counterculture before Jesus Christ rescued her. She has a B.A. in psychology and master’s work from the University of Oregon, and ten years in the legal profession. Since 1992, she has provided professional freelance writing, editing, and publishing consultation services through her company, Logos Word Designs, LLC (www.logosword.com). You can visit Linda on the web at www.logosword.com.

To order copies of The Cross and the Marijuana Leaf, click here.

Taizé Worship – Growing in Popularity, But Roots Are in Mystical Monasticism

Taizé Worship Service

Taizé Community in France during a worship service (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons; copyright owner: Damir Jelic; used with permission)

By Chris Lawson
(Author of Taizé: A Community and Worship: Ecumenical Reconciliation or an Interfaith Delusion?)

The worship practiced at Taizé has attracted many people from around the globe and from many different denominations. While many of the words found in Taizé worship music are words found in Scripture or words that do not necessarily contradict Scripture, the Taizé songs and worship services themselves are centered around contemplative, ecumenical, and oftentimes emergent spirituality themes. The emphasis is not on the teaching or exhortation of the Word of God but rather is to help participants “experience” God through sensory-focused music and singing. A church association in the UK describes the Taizé worship style as such:

The contemplative worship practices of the Taizé community are promoted at an annual international conference. Taizé worship is being incorporated in a wide variety of churches, both Protestant and Catholic and its pattern of devotion is emulated in other monastic communities around the world.

A Taizé worship service involves sung and chanted prayers, meditation, a period of silence, liturgical readings, and use of candles. There is no preaching. The style of prayer practiced at Taizé has attracted many worshippers from around the globe and from many different denominations.1

The main focus on the Taizé worship is the chanted prayers, meditations, and songs. However, the Bible warns against such practices:

[W]hen ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. (Matthew 6:7-8)

The Contemplative Network, an online resource for those interested in meditative prayer practices, describes Taizé worship and prayer like this:

For those familiar with Taizé common prayer, but unfamiliar with Centering Prayer practices, they will discover that they grow from the same root of seeking to surrender the mind and heart to the intimate presence of God. They share the same spirit of ancient monastic traditions to open space to let the Word of God reverberate in all its dimensions. Those who have tasted of this open space during the silent period of a Taizé common prayer service may find themselves well disposed to explore related contemplative practices such as Lectio Divina and Centering Prayer.2

The Taizé worship is not based on the objective Word of God but rather offers spiritual experiences that are subjectively appealing to the flesh. In Scripture, we are instructed to build up the inner spiritual man and to resist the carnality of the flesh (Ephesians 3:16, Romans 8:1-16).

Jesus Christ instructed His disciples that they should not use repetitive prayers (chanting) like the heathen (New Agers, pagans, etc.) do. Anytime experience is given higher regard than God’s Word, it puts followers at risk of becoming victim to deception and even dangerous spiritual realms. Mystical and esoteric experiences are subjective, meaning they are not founded on anything solid or concrete. It is the Word of God (the Bible) that is to be our steering mechanism through life. Consider these verses that show the importance of the Word of God. You won’t find any verses giving credence to seeking after mystical experiences:

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. (Hebrews 4:12)

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. (Psalm 119:9)

Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:31-32)

Taizé Worship Influenced by Catholic Prayers

The repetitive Taizé songs are influenced by the Roman Catholic notion that a person needs to say a certain amount of repeated prayers in order for them to be enough (e.g., the Catholic works mentality—which dictates that one must do enough works to reduce the time in Purgatory).

An example in Roman Catholicism would be the Rosary—a droning repetition of the same set of prayers, something like this: six repetitions of Our Father, fifty repetitions of the Hail Marys, and three repetitions of the Glory-be prayers. These repetitive prayers are usually said before or after mid-week Masses.

Jesus said, when asked about how to pray, to only pray to God (not Mary or saints or angels) and to not repeat the same prayers over and over again like the pagans “for they think they shall be heard for their much speaking.”

Six different Psalms tell us to sing a new song unto the Lord, but not one tells us to chant. Now Psalm 136 is unique in that it uses the refrain “his mercy endureth for ever,” but this is not a chant in that each refrain is a response to a different statement. So, unlike the psalms, the Catholic uses endless repetition out of guilt (in doing penance) or to be heard by God or from the sense that the Taizé songs are sung to allow participants to go into mind-altering trance-like states.

Taizé Worship Practices Similar to New Age Meditation

Sadly, many of the spiritual experiences occurring during Taizé worship services are similar to what takes place during New Age meditation. The following quote is from Lacy Clark Ellman, author of the New Age website, A Sacred Journey. Her quote is from “Inside the Taizé Community: An Interview with Brother Emile.” The processes (i.e., techniques) she mentions are reminiscent of many transformative occult practices. Regarding Taizé worship, Ellman explains:

Singing their [Taizé monks] chants left me transported—centering me, bringing me peace, and thus opening me up to the Sacred. I’ve been known to describe it as the perfect combination of the contemplative and charismatic—the words simple and liturgical in nature, with the repetition making space for the Sacred Guide to enter. . . .

Instead of trying to facilitate an experience with bright lights and catchy songs, the [Taizé] brothers invite visitors into their own experience—a rhythmic practice of chants, reading, and [meditative] silence in languages found across the globe. They didn’t explain what was going on or how to participate, apart from a board that displayed which song was to be sung next.3 (emphasis added)

The problem with this explanation is that occultists (shamans, sorcerers, witches, etc.) and New Age practitioners around the globe are receiving similar experiences, in varying forms, through spirit contact via spiritualism, séances, channeling, etc. So too, non-Christians enter varying levels of voluntary and involuntary possession states using this same process.

Instead of encouraging Christian worship settings that provide for a clear understanding of sound biblical preaching and teaching of the Bible, Taizé worship services provide a fast track to spiritual experience via unbiblical forms of prayer, meditation, and silence. In many cases, they bypass the Bible altogether. In settings like this where anything goes—chanting, centering down to enter “the silence,” lengthy repetitive singing, and meditative/altered states—any form of spirit contact can occur.

Considering these things, it is of utmost importance that Christians heed this biblical warning:

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)

When people are not being taught the Bible and warned about the dangers of false doctrine and non-biblical practices, they will inevitably, in mystical Taizé type settings, end up under the influence of deceiving spirits. As the above passage describes, strong delusion will overtake them. This is no small problem as it is running rampant in the church throughout the world.
The true Christian has only one option at this point, and that is to obey Scripture and separate from those who bring teachings contrary to the Word of God.

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. (Romans 16:17-18; emphasis added)

(This is an excerpt from Chris Lawson’s book Taizé: A Community and Worship: Ecumenical Reconciliation or an Interfaith Delusion?)

Endnotes:

1. The Cornilo Churches, UK (http://www.cornilochurches.org.uk/taiz.htm).
2. The Contemplative Network, “Prayer With the Songs of Taizé (http://www.contemplative.net/prayer-with-songs-taize-t-1_43.html).
3. “Inside the Taizé Community: An Interview with Brother Emile” (http://www.asacredjourney.net/2013/08/taize).

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

Pew Forum Study: One-in-Five U.S. Adults Were Raised in Interfaith Homes

bigstockphoto.com

bigstockphoto.com

LTRP Note: The Pew Research Center is a liberal secular think tank. We sometimes post the results of their studies as they can show the direction that Americans are going, spiritually. In this particular study, it states that over one fourth of millennials are raised in homes where more than one religion is represented. No wonder this younger generation is so confused, and more evidence of the coming one-world, interspiritual religion.

(2 Corinthians 6:14) “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness.”

“One-in-Five U.S. Adults Were Raised in Interfaith Homes”
Pew Research Center

Roughly one-in-five U.S. adults were raised with a mixed religious background, according to a new Pew Research Center study. This includes about one-in-ten who say they were raised by two people, both of whom were religiously affiliated but with different religions, such as a Protestant mother and a Catholic father, or a Jewish mother and a Protestant stepfather. An additional 12% say they were raised by one person who was religiously affiliated (e.g., with Protestantism, Catholicism, Judaism or another religion) and another person who was religiously unaffiliated (atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular”). . . .

[T]he number of Americans raised in interfaith homes appears to be growing. Fully one-quarter of young adults in the Millennial generation (27%) say they were raised in a religiously mixed family. Click here to continue reading.

Letter to the Editor from a Former Young Life Leader: “My biblical background was considered a liability instead of a blessing.”

LTRP Note: Please also refer to the two articles below this letter to the editor.

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bigstockphoto.com

Dear Editor,

I read with great interest the history of how Lighthouse Trails came into being. As you unfolded the story, it was so evident of how the Holy Spirit had been working behind the scenes to put all of the pieces in place. Truly a confirmation of the importance of this ministry and how it has become a lighthouse to pilgrims/travelers who are striving to maintain their footing in such a turbulent sea of compromise.

I especially took notice of your experience with Young Life as my own was not too different. Having joined the staff after high school with the purpose of working with teens, I soon began to notice the compromises creeping in and no one else seemed to be concerned. It all came to a head when I took a stand and insisted I attend a retreat they had planned with the local [Catholic] Abbey before permitting my Campaigners to go. That, in itself, caused a major problem. After attending and taking my stand, it was apparent that my biblical background was considered a liability instead of a blessing. Over many days of discussion, I finally had to offer my resignation as I felt I could not agree with the ecumenical direction Young Life was taking by aligning itself with a Catholic fellowship.

That was many years ago, and it is sad to realize how so much compromising was happening then long before the flood of what is taking place today. Satan has been busy, and the standing for the truth has turned into a determent rather than a badge of honor.

Thank you for your persistence in seeking out the truth back then and following the Holy Spirit’s direction to establish Lighthouse Trails Publishing. It has provided such a needed and trusted resource to those of us who desire to stand upon the Word of God. Your ministry is shared with many others and prayed for daily.

In His Soon Coming Name.

C ________

Related Material:

Letter to the Editor From a Former Young Life Leader: Watered-Down Gospel, Contemplative Authors, & Emergent Leanings

Young Life’s History of Embracing Contemplative Authors Continues

 

 

Letter to the Editor From a Former Young Life Leader: Watered-Down Gospel, Contemplative Authors, & Emergent Leanings

youth

photo from bigstockphoto.com; used with permission; digitally altered by Lighthouse Trails.

In 2012, Lighthouse Trails posted an article titled “Young Life’s History of Embracing Contemplative Authors Continues,” showing that the Christian youth organization, Young Life, was introducing Young Life leaders and kids to contemplative/emergent authors and speakers. The article we wrote talked about a meeting we had in 2002 with the Young Life director of training in Oregon, hoping to persuade him of the dangers of the contemplative prayer movement and hoping he would pass along the information to the leaders at the Young Life headquarters in Colorado, which he promised to do. As you can see in our 2012 article, as well as the letter below written by a former Young Life leader, Young Life has not discontinued its promotion of contemplative/emerging. The letter below is just one leader’s experience, but we believe it contains valuable insight into how an organization, which started with a sincere desire to help young people, can get off track by minimizing its focus on the Gospel and the Word of God in order to “reach kids.” As we have so often said, so many leaders in the church have set aside the true lasting power of the Gospel for limited powerless substitutes.

Dear Editors of Lighthouse Trails:

I have benefited greatly from the research on your website, helping me to understand the origins of false gospel movements in the Christian community.

It has been nearly five years since I resigned from working for a popular, global youth ministry. Because of its popularity, it has been difficult for me to discuss my experience and found few who want to hear the reality. I want to share my story in hope of helping someone else who might be struggling, as I did.

My husband and I discovered Young Life in our late twenties when we moved to a smaller town. After going through the “40 Days of Purpose” book with our church, we were determined to find a place of service where our gifts could be used for God. I had a college degree in public health with an emphasis in adolescence and had worked in several youth organizations to prevent kids from using alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. I sincerely thought that as a Christian, if I were serious about helping kids, with Jesus as the only real solution instead of a band-aid fix from a state program, then I should go all-in. I would forsake my public health career to serve the Lord in ministry.

My husband jumped in to volunteer as a leader, and I took a part-time job as an office administrator for the local Young Life chapter. We quickly became absorbed into the culture of this ministry of warm and generous Christians.

“Incarnational Evangelism” is the term I began reading and learning about as I immersed myself into the culture. It’s difficult to describe the fast-paced, messy, impulsive, do-whatever-it-takes-to-love-kids by serving them to Christ environment I dove into. Every week at club, we would try to lure the kids with a media-rich, party atmosphere and then a short gospel message, attempting to convince them that Jesus was what they needed. There was also great pressure to get them to camp at the end of the year because surely their eyes would be opened if we prayed hard enough and loved hard enough too. There at camp, away from hometown distractions, they would hear the gospel a little every night followed up by a cabin discussion. Through our example of loving them, the hope was that the Holy Spirit would work on hearts, and they would see Christ and realize He is “better than beer” and would fulfill them, giving them an abundant life. And, if they rejected the gospel, that was okay, because we would love them anyway. We did not realize we had created in our selves a kind of pseudo-martyr philosophy.

It wasn’t long into my time there before I thought I would make this my career. I eventually moved up from office administrator and volunteer leader to part-time, career, middle-school program director.  I remember adopting this different perspective of serving Christ and sharing the gospel without ever having to talk about hell, God’s judgement, or that no one is righteous by his own works. Despite Young Life’s Statement of Faith in which I agreed and signed onto, it was the philosophy of incarnational evangelism and its focus on love and grace that became more dominant (largely due to the books and spiritual formation training I was given).  I actually started to believe that I could reject the notion I had from reading the Bible, that I’d really have to suffer rejection like Jesus did in order to share the gospel.  I remember thinking, this mighty, positive, well-funded, popular, contagiously exciting and loving community of people, adventure, and rewards, would be my new avenue to a lifetime of serving God! This was a pseudo-servant attitude of sacrifice that I was developing; later it would come crashing down.

In my town, Young Life had a very positive image with many leaders in the community who personally supported it monthly. The director of the program was hard working, charismatic, and seemed to know everyone and was liked by everyone. Later, I realized what a conflict of interest this was as the pressure to maintain your program funding sources required you to cultivate a sterling image in the community. This came at the cost of sharing the true gospel, which proclaims that we are all sinners in need of God’s mercy and salvation found in the righteousness of Jesus Christ alone. Rejecting that puts you in violation of the Law and under eternal judgment. The social pressure to draw wealthy supporters causes directors to keep the message warm and fuzzy but frighteningly devoid of the truth and meat of the gospel. Our focus was off-center from the truth of the whole gospel. Instead, the focus became serving our community by reaching out to lost kids and helping them get through this difficult time in their life by loving them and spending time with them. I became another program builder, promoter, fundraiser, and half-truth teller in a branded YL shirt with a smiley face.

Frantically running from one activity to the next, all the while praying and wanting people to come to Christ but with very little lasting fruit, I became disturbed. In the schools, I would do what is known as “contact work.” I spent time volunteering in various ways, often as mundane as crowd control at lunch time, for example. This would permit you to visit with students, making contact so that eventually the kids would see you as a friendly face. Then, in time and through word of mouth, kids would come to club where a snippet of the gospel was mingled with exhilarating games, crazy stunts or skits so that kids were entertained and able to listen to you tell the most important part of why we get together: Jesus.

We bent over backward to serve kids to Christ. Feeding, entertaining, listening, and driving them to and fro, leading them by fun experiences and hopefully meaningful conversations that would discuss Christ, but honestly it didn’t come up as often as I would like. Often, kids learned that they could just smile and tell us what we wanted to hear in order to get what they wanted or needed that day. Some would want to meet and study the Bible, but the truths from Scripture just never seemed to take effect in their lives. I’ll never forget one encounter with some girls who were regular attenders and classic examples of shallow soil. They told me they knew that every question asked in small group discussion could be easily answered. All you had to say was either, “Pray more, or read the bible more.”

Don’t get me wrong, I sincerely loved and prayed for the kids I ministered to, but I was so ineffective at leading them to Christ, I felt like a poser. I wanted them to know the Lord like I did, but I was cut off from sharing the gospel or talking about it at school where I was spending my time. Kids would ask me, “Why are you here?” I couldn’t tell them it was to share Jesus because I would get thrown out of that public school because the understanding we had made with the administrators was, that we were there to assist them and be a positive adult role models, not evangelizing kids in the hallways. As a program leader, I walked a fine line not wanting to upset relationships in the community that took a long time to build.  I just had to say, “It’s because I care about kids, and that’s why I’m here.” Kids who had been to camp before with me would say, “This is the lady that took me to camp.” I became just a gateway to a cool summer camp that was like a resort for exclusive young people who got into the “club.” Not just anyone can go to a Young Life camp, you have to come with a leader from a Young Life area group.

The founder of Young Life, Jim Rayburn, taught that if you can “win the right to be heard” in a kid’s life, then they will automatically want to hear the gospel and likely want Christ to change their life too. In addition, if you are as compelling in Christ, like Jim Rayburn was purported to be, then flocks of kids will come to hear the gospel. He taught that when they know that you care, they’ll listen to whatever you have to say because that’s all that a kid these days is looking for.

This was the illusion of what has become modern youth ministry. It was productive in activities, busyness, and massive effort while producing metric data of campers and club attendees. You show this to your donor list of business leaders, and they are proud to support it. But on the other side of the same coin, it was absolutely fruitless in converting hearts to Christ and saving lives from a slavery of sin. So afraid of losing our hip, entertaining youth haven with the community, we often missed the opportunity to share the whole gospel truth. This is where I started noticing that I was not being faithful to Christ. We were not teaching of God’s righteousness or need to repent of sin in accordance with God’s Word. I was promoting another gospel of love and grace, and I was living a lie to these kids.

At camp, there was a ceremony at the end of the week for kids who made commitments to Christ. These commitments were by way of a leader so they could be corroborated. Some were legitimate, some were merely caught up in the emotion of the week or trying to garner favor from leaders or other campers, perhaps. The ceremony entailed throwing a rock in the pond symbolizing their old life, then putting another rock on a pile symbolizing their new life.  From that moment on, they were supposed to enjoy reading the free Bible they were given, remembering they were new creations in Christ; you were forgiven and free. In reality, these kids were exhausted, sunburned and barely understood their emotions, thoughts or what they had actually committed to. The ceremony was as good as it got when it came to follow up. The kids were being released into the wild soon and with that, the rush of emotions from their time “on the mountain” would end. Often, so would their new found faith as well.

I tried so hard in following up with kids when we got home. Often kids went from their “camp high” back to life, and didn’t want to get together and study the Bible with me. And honestly, why would they?! There is a saying that I heard later, that “What you lead them by, you lead them to.” We were leading the kids to Jesus by fun, emotional attachment to leaders, experiences, but not by the Word of God. I was convicted when I read scripture teaching “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). In my time at Young Life, the scripture “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7), was not something we truly esteemed. We did not use it to lead kids to Christ, clearly and from the beginning. It was as if I was ashamed of the gospel.

After praying and trying to work out a time to connect with kids upon returning from camp, it was time for the hectic cycle to begin again. Time to get back to club/camp promotion (there were short Fall and Winter camps also), fundraising golf tournaments, the annual auction, and of course, contact work to get a new crop of kids to the next fun activity where they just might hear about Jesus.  When I would become depleted during these times, questioning whether this was really working, I would look at the smiley face postcards of myself and other leaders with kids that we would send to donors. Maybe watch an inspirational video from the Young Life national office to pump me up about how faithful we were to Christ. All this to assuage my disturbed conscience as I gradually understood how far from the gospel we were. We also attended mandatory, regional Young Life staff meetings and trainings, which also helped numb the conscience and wrestling of my mind with the Holy Spirit’s convictions that something was not right.

However, the spiritual food we received at these trainings was a heavy dose of flattery, “understanding youth culture,” and spiritual formation teaching. I was given free gifts of books by contemplative and emerging church authors, Young Life-branded clothing, and my very own Message/NIV parallel Bible. We were led through lectio-divina exercises, silence, fasting, prayer, coupled with great food and fun play times with other staff. To help us feel valued these often took place at the beach or a donor’s nice home. I loved these times of get away and retreat; they made me feel special and important, but they didn’t answer some of the nagging problems with the fruitlessness I was seeing as a result of our great efforts to win kids to Christ. We were not trained in how to share the gospel, basic apologetics, like refuting arguments of evolution or inerrancy of Scripture. The intern training program and staff trainings I went to did not handle that information, but it was reserved for those who went to seminary classes through Young life. It wasn’t until after I left Young Life that I realized the reasons for that lack of training were likely due to how controversial these issues had become in the church. As many differing and more liberal interpretations of Scripture were being taught, we seemed to shrink away from specific views on doctrine. What I learned instead through the staff training was that it was better to keep a “good vibe going” through self-help focused spirituality and experiencing “God’s love” through the staff community.

I was conflicted and really dying on the inside, surely grieving the Holy Spirit. After several episodes of spiritual abuse with my direct supervisor that led me to seek a counselor for anxiety, I realized something was very wrong. I believed the Word of God to be my source of strength and clarity. Yet I was so confused how to reconcile what I was reading with what I was doing in ministry. The two seemed worlds apart, and no one else involved in the ministry seemed to see it. I was getting depressed and barely able to keep going in my work. In one of many prayer times with the Lord, at the end of my rope, I cried out to the Lord. My heart truly wanted to bring Him glory with my life. I repented of seeking a group of people promoting another Jesus, another gospel instead of being true to His word. God woke me up and revealed once again to me through Scripture how dangerously involved I had become in promoting a false gospel. I had been listening to false teaching and in love with the group experience instead of in love with Him and His Word. I learned that you cannot separate God from His Word.

Through my time in Young Life, I was exposed to the teachings of: The Message and Eugene Peterson, Brother Lawrence, Dallas Willard, N.T. Wright, Brennan Manning, Richard Foster, Tony Campolo, Rob Bell, Jesus Calling and Sarah Young, Henry Nouwen, William P. Young, Upper Room Book’s “Guide To Prayer,”  John Piper, Phillip Yancey, Chris Lowney (Jesuit Leadership), Stephen Covey, Donald Miller, Peter Scazzero and more. After five years of ministry, I resigned from Young Life, and the Lord has been very good to me and my family. I don’t doubt that other leaders may have had a better and more honest-to-Scripture experience in this ministry, but this was mine and why I had to leave.

Jennifer Roberts (pen name to protect her privacy and her family)

Related Information:

For resources from Lighthouse Trails that deal with protecting children and youth people, click here.

An Insider’s View of the 2015 Jesus Culture Conference Themed: “One Encounter Changes Everything”

JCSac2015_04By L. Sharp

Lines were wrapped around the ARC Pavilion, which holds a maximum capacity of about 8,000. There were banners with the UC Davis theme: ONE DAVIS, ONE WORLD. The conference was sold out. 10 nations (aside from the U.S.) were represented. There was much emotional excitement in the air as people were waiting with great anticipation to get into the “Jesus Culture” event. About one third of the attendees were 30-40 years of age. The rest were mostly 20 or younger.

Attendees were also given a conference program. The front page said: “ONE ENCOUNTER CHANGES EVERYTHING” and had an intro section written by director of Jesus Culture, Banning Liebscher (former youth pastor at Bethel Church in Redding, CA).

The intro read:

Throughout history there have been momentous gatherings where the people of God came together to seek His Presence, to see Him show up in power and in love. One thing we know: when God shows up everything changes.

In Acts 9, the Apostle Paul has such an encounter on the road to Damascus, God shows up and surrounds Paul in His light, changing his life and forever making history.

We are believing God to come again like that in these next 2 days. We are believing for such an encounter for you. For your friends. For your family. For Sacramento. We have invited some of the most significant church leaders, speakers, and worship leaders to come to Jesus Culture Conference Sacramento.

Our prayer is that everyone would meet God, encounter His love, and live forever changed. That they would in turn live a life to see their city and region transformed through God’s love and power. This is what will bring revival. This is what we are burning for.

JCSac2015_05The major themes of “burning hearts for Jesus,” “awakening,” “glory,” “burning with passion,” “burning fire,” “revival,” “one voice,” etc. were prevalent throughout the songs of the conference.

Jesus Culture is a “Christian” worship band that began as a younger generation offshoot of Bethel Church’s worship ministry.  It has only been in recent years that the Jesus Culture band has exploded in popularity around the world. Though based in Sacramento, the Jesus Culture band tours the world regularly and draws crowds in the tens of thousands, filling arenas around the world. The Jesus Culture band has also recorded many albums and continues to grow exponentially in popularity worldwide. The Jesus Culture Facebook page has over 2 million followers!

JCSac2015_11Their main draw is their talented young musicians who all grew up in Redding’s Bethel Church spiritual environment, so for them, everything about God is always experienced through the senses. This is seen through the full-on sensory musical experiences provided during each Jesus Culture performance. Also, on occasion, the band leaders may “prophesy,” “declare,” etc. to this young generation and may lead the attendees into “deeper levels of ‘intimacy’ with God” through their musical-leading techniques.

The Jesus Culture band is drawing young people in the California area away from their conservative Bible-teaching churches. They are doing this (as evidenced by their 2015 Sacramento conference) by creating a mentality that “Jesus Culture” is spiritual, experiential, passionate for Jesus, and any conservative Bible-teaching church and its music is “religious,” “unspiritual,” “dead,” and “lacking passion for Jesus.” In September 2014, Banning Liebscher started a Jesus Culture church plant in Sacramento.

Liebscher kicked off the conference with this theme, which permeated the entire conference:

Jesus Culture is all about raising up revivalists, leaders, catalysts . . . In these next 27 hours, God is going to mark things. We believe ONE ENCOUNTER with God will change your lives. I believe God is raising up a generation who is willing to lay themselves down, to exalt Jesus. In the next 27 hours, we are praying that you would be marked, that in 10, 20, 40 years, you would still be marked by what God will do in the next 27 hours. We believe tonight we are here for God, and we are here for God to mark us with His Presence.

The music, combined with flashing colored streamed lights, white blinding lights, and synthesizers brought attendees to a heightened musical-sensory, near mind-altering state. Fog lights were used on occasion to try and create the “sense” of God’s presence in a visual “glory cloud.” There were also rotating circular white or colored lights shone on the walls during some songs (like the hippie days of psychedelic experiences).

The 8,000 attendees embraced it all: lifted up their hands, swayed their bodies to the music, jumped up and down, sang, shouted, and willingly entered into an almost trance-like state at times.

At the end of the first night’s music time, Banning Liebscher concluded with this:

I remember being baptized at age 5. At 17, I encountered Jesus. Everything changed. I met Jesus. I got introduced to revival, where the Holy Spirit gets poured out . . . You will never do this (bring revival) without ENCOUNTERING THIS BURNING, PASSIONATE LOVE for Him. This is not birthed out of obligation or a sense of duty. WE NEED TO HAVE ENCOUNTERED GOD, who passionately loves us, and in response to that revelation, we surrender! I believe we will see revival in cities, in this nation, in the nations! The same spirit that possessed the Reformers, Moravians, and other revivalists will possess you. Lord, I pray You would possess them.

The speakers for the 2 days conference included:

1) JOHN GRAY: according to his own website (www.johngrayworld.com), he currently serves as an Associate Pastor at Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas under the leadership of pastor Joel Osteen. In September 2000, while youth pastoring in New, John felt he had found the call of God on his life: to impact youth and young adults with the Word of God through music, comedy, and preaching—all at the same time. John’s talk in a nutshell had 2 main points:

1) John claimed in Matthew 24, ” Jesus said there would be these things (earthquakes, famines, etc.), but before it all goes down, a generation will rise with passion and purpose!”

2) John then went on to “teach” on Mark 2:1-10 (the narrative of the paralytic, whose friends brought him in through the roof, for Jesus to heal him). According to John Gray, the friends of the paralytic were the “they” in the paralytic’s life, because they brought him to Jesus and supported him until he got his healing. The “religious” people who hindered him from coming to Jesus were the “them” in his life. John then said: “You need to identify who the “they” people are in your life, who will bring you to Jesus. Banning, and those in Jesus Culture are my “they.” I need people who can bring me to Jesus. Think about the people in your life . . . Who are the “they” who bring you Jesus? Who are the “them” who prevent/hinder you from coming to Jesus? . . .The “they” are relational and loving. The “them” are religious and judgmental. . . .There is power in having the “they.” There is power in community.”

2) SAM RODRIGUEZ: He is leader of the National Hispanic Leadership Conference representing more than 40,000 churches. He also pastors New Life Christian Worship Center locally in Sacramento. He was announced at the conference as the new Hispanic pastor at the Jesus Culture church plant in Sacramento. In December of 2014, Sam was flown to Washington D.C. to consult with President Obama to discuss Obama’s immigration reform strategy. Rodriguez is also a member of ICAL (International Coalition of Apostolic Leaders) and also part of the NAR [New Apostolic] movement.1 His wife Eva Rodriguez and Sam’s sister were part of Roma Downey’s “Women of the Bible” television 2-hour event in December 2014.

JCSac2015_17 Sam began with this: “Gideon, in Judges 6, went in one chapter, from failure, to surviving, to thriving! He emerged as leader of his people . . . I believe this generation will have an ENCOUNTER WITH GOD. Not known for failure, this generation will be known for its cry for His glory. We are in one of these 3 states:

 1) Failure (in Egypt)

2) Surviving (in the desert)

3) Thriving (in the promise)

Sam continued with:

Everyone occupies one of these 3 spaces. Repeat after me: Failure, survive, thrive. Everyone has to go through a process. The idea is not to get stuck. Prophetically I declare that your season of failure is over! You must be defined by the heaven you are headed to, not your past failure. . . .When Gideon in Judges 6 is hiding at the threshing floor, Heaven shows up and says: ‘You are a mighty warrior.’ When you have a legitimate encounter with God, you understand your true identity.

AN ENCOUNTER WITH GOD REVEALS YOUR TRUE IDENTITY . . .JCSac2015_12

You are defined by God’s spirit inside of you. Raise your hands and say: “I AM that I AM” says that “I am . . .” ( “I am a mighty warrior, I am a chosen generation, etc. . . .”)

The crowd was starting to get louder and more excited as they cheered loudly . . .

Sam then shared a 2006 testimony of the healing and conversion of an 80-year-old Muslim cleric in Pakistan. Sam said, “In the Bush administration, I was invited to speak in Pakistan to a gathering of about 17,000 people.”

Sam then shared the dramatic testimony of this Muslim cleric’s healing of blindness and resultant conversion, and Sam concluded with: “AN ENCOUNTER WITH GOD CHANGES YOU!” Sam had the attendees repeat in a mantra-like fashion: “If you know who you are, and what you have, nothing is impossible . . . If you know who you are, and what you have, nothing is impossible . . .” He then pointed to the guy on stage with an axe, getting ready to cut down a wooden pole. Sam explained the wooden pole represents (for the attendees) the Asherah pole in the Judges 6 narrative of Gideon. That Asherah pole reminded Gideon of his past failures. Sam went on to say: “Gideon had an encounter with God, and he learned: 1) Who he was (a mighty warrior) 2) What he had (God’s strength and favor) 3) His purpose (defeat the Midianites) 4) He realized he had to cut down reminders of what the Enemy had built in his life, and use that wooden debris, to fuel the fire that would propel him forward into his destiny of thriving! Sam dramatically set up the guy with axe with this: “So goes the Asherah pole, so goes Sacramento . . . So goes Sacramento, so goes California . . . So goes California, so goes America . . . So goes America, so goes the world!! Here comes your breakthrough!!”

Right then, the guy on stage used his axe and started cutting down the Asherah (wooden) pole. It took about 5 seconds, and then there was loud cheering and a huge uproar from the crowd of 8,000! This was meant to be a “prophetic” act, similar to when the Old Testament prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah were told by God to do certain acts as prophetic symbols of real future events (e.g. pointing to the future invasion by Babylon, destruction of Jerusalem, etc.)

Sam then said, “I have declared your season of failure is over. We will thrive! No more failures.” Then, the “failure” sign on stage was torn. Then the “survive” sign on stage was torn. On stage, the attendees saw visually a threshed wooden pole with its remnants scattered on stage and one solitary sign remaining: “THRIVE.”

“Your failure season is over. Jesus Culture, get ready to thrive!!” And, with this, great shouts and loud uproars from the crowd ensued. Sam then told the attendees to pray: “Jesus define me. It is You in me. We will build shalom. We will cut down the Asherah pole. We will change the world!”

3) BANNING LIEBSCHER

Scott Thompson (who had spoken earlier in the day and runs Bethel’s School of Supernatural Ministry in Atlanta, GA), spoke quite a bit before Liebscher got up to speak. Here is some of what Scott had to say:

God loves your city, your state, your nation. He wants to bring heaven to earth. He wants fire to fall from heaven. Put a hand on your heart. Let’s pray a dangerous prayer together: “Jesus, here I am. Point heaven into my life. Show off through me, that people would look at my life and glory in my Father. Send me back as a pillar of fire, a fire in my eyes, a fire in my bones, a fire in my belly, that can’t be controlled by my surroundings . . . Jesus, make Your name famous through me . . . We thank You Lord that 2015 is the year heaven is seen on earth.”

Banning Liebscher started the final talk of the conference.  Liebscher highlighted four things that needed to be “accessed” with regards to the Holy Spirit in order to experience revival:

 1) We need to access the Holy Spirit as the seal of our salvation or as the promise of our salvation

2) We need to access the Holy Spirit as the One who takes, guides, and leads us into experiencing the deeper things of God.

3) We need to access the Holy Spirit’s empowerment that enables us to become like Jesus.

4) We need to access the Holy Spirit’s empowerment that enables us to do the works of Jesus.

He continued with: “You have to access and activate all four of these attributes of the Holy Spirit. God calls us to impossible things, but He doesn’t leave us alone. He gives us the Holy Spirit to enable us to do the impossible. For 20 years I’ve been calling a generation to revival, but we need the Holy Spirit to enable us to become revivalists!”

After a brief alter call, the conference ended. God’s mercy was seen that last night with a good number (several hundred) leaving the conference even before the final talk ended and a larger number leaving even before the final altar call started. Out of the 8,000 attendees, perhaps God will rescue some. One thing is for sure, Jesus Culture is not going away anytime soon, and the band and its conferences are attracting more and more Christian young people around the world . . . Over 2.1 million Facebook followers and growing!

Endnote:

  1. http://apprising.org/2014/05/30/rick-warren-and-nars-samuel-rodriguez-headline-erlc-at-the-sbc

Related Material:

 The New Age Propensities of Bethel Church’s Bill Johnson

FALSE REVIVAL COMING?—Part 1: Holy Laughter or Strong Delusion?

Multi-Sensory Worship: Prayer Stations, Icons, Incense, and Candles

 

 

 

 

 


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