150 appeal on behalf of sexual minorities in MC USA
By Tim Huber Mennonite World Review
One hundred fifty Mennonite Church USA pastors and others credentialed for ministry have signed a letter calling on denominational leaders to “change church policies” to “make space for congregations and pastors who welcome and bless” gay and lesbian Christians and other sexual minorities.
The letter was sent Jan. 24 to MC USA Executive Board members, conference ministers and other leaders.
Letter organizers stated in a news release it is the “biggest collection of Mennonite pastors and credentialed leaders to affirm equal treatment for those in same-sex relationships.”
The letter asks for an end to the discipline of pastors and congregations that dissent from MC USA’s teaching position that homosexual practice is a sin.
The teaching position is based on the MC USA Confession of Faith, which states that “God intends marriage to be a covenant between one man and one woman for life,” and by denominational statements from the 1980s that define “homosexual, extramarital and premarital sexual activity as sin.” (source)
By Heather Clark
Christian News Network
LOS ANGELES – A mass homosexual ‘wedding’ was officiated live during the 56th annual Grammy Awards show on Sunday.
The event featured both homosexual and heterosexual couples–34 in all–who exchanged vows on stage, which was decorated to resemble a wedding chapel and featured a large choir.
During the occasion, the popular rap/hip hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis performed their hit song One Love, which celebrates homosexuality and criticizes those who interpret the Scriptures to define same-sex behavior as sin.
“The right-wing conservatives think it’s a decision/And you can be cured with some treatment and religion/Man-made rewiring of a predisposition,” Macklemore rapped on stage. “Playing God, aw nah, here we go/America the brave still fears what we don’t know/And God loves all his children is somehow forgotten/But we paraphrase a book written 3500 years ago.” Click here to read more.
Check out this new “scrapbook” of photos sent over last week from the Bryce Homes for Widows and Children in Kenya. The new latrines (which were paid for by Understand the Times and Lighthouse Trails readers) are continuing to go up. Also in here, you will see some photos of how some of the widows must travel to get water for family use from a borehole. But soon Widows Lewnida and Alice will have a well built right next to their two homes (also thanks to our donors). Thank you Lord for Your faithfulness!
The background music in the slideshow is from Amanda LeBail’s CD A String of Pearls. Amanda is from the UK and sings beautiful irish-styling hymns and other biblically-based songs. You can listen to clips of this CD here.
To learn more about the Bryce Homes missions project (supported by Understand the Times and Lighthouse Trails readers), click here.
By Paul Proctor
Used with permission.
There seem to be two kinds of people in our world today: those who are preparing for the inevitable and those who are, for whatever reason, ignoring it. The warnings are everywhere. They’re like blaring civil defense sirens that never shut off. You would think everyone could hear them – but only a few have responded. The rest just continue on as they always have, unaffected by the unrelenting sound of the sirens.
Have you ever considered what your life would be like without just one modern day element, like electricity? In the 1800s it wouldn’t have been a big deal; but here in 2010, it would be catastrophic.
Remember that strange missile that soared through the sky unannounced and undeterred off the coast of California a few years ago? If a small nuclear device had been aboard one of those and detonated high enough over Middle America, chances are most, if not all, of our country would have gone dark and stayed dark for months or years. And many of the things we take for granted every day that are powered by electricity would have been indefinitely shut down, having had the insides fried by an electromagnetic pulse generated from the explosion.
Forget the abrupt halt that would have come to Wall Street and Main Street, not to mention our out-of-service cell phones, telephones, televisions, radios, computers, traffic lights, streetlights, coffee makers, microwave ovens, hairdryers and all those plug-in appliances we rely on each day to keep and prepare food for our families.
What do you think powers all the pumps and filtering systems that keep “clean” water coming into your house, condominium or apartment? Imagine life without drinking water and running water for showers and flushing toilets. Guess you could build a little outhouse in the back yard or alleyway if you’re not the shy type and your neighbors don’t object. But, don’t build it around any nearby creeks or ditches because that may be where you have to go for water to drink – that is, if you don’t mind the taste of fertilizer, weed killer, and animal feces.
Think there will be plenty of bottled water for you to buy at the grocery store when the power goes out? Even if any are open for business or have anything left on the shelves, you’ll need lots of cash to make your purchases since today’s registers and payment card systems are all electronic and computerized. Remember, those ATM machines are electronic and computerized too, so if you don’t already have plenty of cash on hand, you’ll probably be without the means to purchase food, water or anything else when the grid goes down.
Maybe you have some non-electronic items around the house you could take with you to the store to barter with. Not really sure you’ll have many takers though. After all – it is food and water we’re talking about here and supplies would be limited. And, that’s assuming your highly computerized automobile will even start or run to get you there. I suppose you could ride your bicycle to the store if you have one – if it’s not freezing or icy outside. But, I really don’t think you’d be able to carry much back home with you on that bike anyway.
Logic suggests that when the power goes out for an extended period of time, desperation will eventually lead to growing violence and theft as a means to survive. Are you prepared for that? I’m not trying to frighten anyone here. I’m just trying to point out how easily, quickly and dramatically things can change under certain circumstances and how important it is that we all thoughtfully and carefully prepare ahead of time – not wait to see what happens.
And if you think the government will help you under these conditions, remember, they’re going to be without electricity too and many of the electronic and computerized systems, equipment and devices it runs.
But the most important inevitability we should prepare for is our own demise. If you do not know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior – the One who gave His life on that cross 2000 years ago to pay for your sins and mine, then I encourage you to get on your knees right now in repentance and faith and confess that you are lost, dead in your sins and in desperate need of His salvation. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and receive the forgiveness of sins and the everlasting life only He can provide.
None of us know how much time we have left in this life or whether we will even survive another night – much less the difficult years ahead. Heed the call right now and surrender your heart and life over to the only begotten Son of God. Don’t wait for another time, another invitation or another opportunity, because it may not come.
Faith doesn’t procrastinate or panic – it prepares.
“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” – Romans 10:13
We have to be prepared to take the security measures necessary for our immediate protection. . . .The answer is to promote views that are open-minded and tolerant towards those who are different, and to fight the formal, informal and internet propagation of closed-minded intolerance.” – Tony Blair
The following article (below) written by Tony Blair illustrates further the world’s efforts to bring about peace (without Christ) and its move toward a one-world religion, which will reject biblical Christians as extremists who are prone to terrorism. Of course, this is absurd as true born-again believers in Christ are not prone to violence. What Tony Blair and other leaders are really calling for is a world where those who say Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation are silenced. If you don’t believe that, consider what Blair’s co-comrade Rick Warren said about Christian fundamentalists (meaning those who adhere to biblical doctrine):
Warren predicts that fundamentalism, of all varieties, will be ‘one of the big enemies of the 21st century.’ ‘Muslim fundamentalism, Christian fundamentalism, Jewish fundamentalism, secular fundamentalism – they’re all motivated by fear. Fear of each other.’ (Rick Warren, from the Philadelphia Inquirer, 2006)
A false “Christ” is coming—the Bible predicts it—and he will hate Israel, the Jews, and Bible-believing Christians. While the world is going to do what it is going to do, how is that many of Christianity’s main leaders are falling into step with this world system that will eventually bring about the Antichrist? And how is it that within most denominations (including Calvary Chapel, Southern Baptist, Assemblies of God, etc.) there are many pastors promoting this apostasy and going unchecked and unchallenged? Remember what Rick Warren said about the new reformation he is hoping to help bring about, that it can come not just through Christians but through Muslims as well. He calls it a reformation from God.
Who’s the man of peace in any village – or it might be a woman of peace – who has the most respect, they’re open and they’re influential? They don’t have to be a Christian. In fact, they could be a Muslim, but they’re open and they’re influential and you work with them to attack the five giants. And that’s going to bring the second Reformation.—Rick Warren, May 2005, Pew Forum on Religion
By Tony Blair
“Religious difference, not ideology, will fuel this century’s epic battles”
The last weeks have seen a ghastly roll call of terror attacks in the obvious places: Syria, Libya, Iraq and Lebanon, as well as Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia and Pakistan. Also suffering are places where we have only in recent years seen such violence: Nigeria, and in many parts of central Africa, in Russia and across central Asia, and in Burma, Thailand and the Philippines. We can either see all of these acts of killing as separate – produced by various political contexts – or we can start to see the clear common theme and start to produce a genuine global strategy to deal with it.
The fact is that, though of course there are individual grievances or reasons for the violence in each country, there is one thing self-evidently in common: the acts of terrorism are perpetrated by people motivated by an abuse of religion. It is a perversion of faith. But there is no doubt that those who commit the violence often do so by reference to their faith and the sectarian nature of the conflict is a sectarianism based on religion. There is no doubt either that this phenomenon is growing, not abating. Click here to continue reading.
We have to be prepared to take the security measures necessary for our immediate protection. Since 9/11, the cost of those measures, and their burden, has been huge. However, security action alone, even military action, will not deal with the root cause. This extremism comes from a source. It is not innate. It is taught. It is taught sometimes in the formal education system; sometimes in the informal religious schools; sometimes in places of worship and it is promoted by a vast network of internet communications. Click here to continue reading.
NEW BOOKLET TRACT: So You Want to Practice “Good” Contemplative Prayer . . . What’s Wrong With That?
So You Want to Practice “Good” Contemplative Prayer . . . What’s Wrong With That? written by Lynn Lusby Pratt is our newest Lighthouse Trails Print Booklet Tract. The Booklet Tract is 10 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of So You Want to Practice “Good” Contemplative Prayer . . . What’s Wrong With That?, click here.
So You Want to Practice “Good” Contemplative Prayer . . . What’s Wrong With That?
By Lynn Lusby Pratt
How about if we call a spade a spade? I’m speaking of contemplative prayer. If you’ve been using the term as the new way to describe your own practice of getting alone with God, being quiet, and praying silently . . . well, you haven’t been doing contemplative prayer (also called centering prayer, breath prayer, and Jesus’ prayer).
It’s easy to misunderstand. Popular writers and teachers portray contemplative prayer in vague language that seems “almost intentionally inaccessible.”1
About seven years ago, I began to seriously investigate its true nature. Having some knowledge of Eastern religions and the occult, I soon saw red flags. I found that contemplative prayer is neither contemplative (thinking deeply) nor prayer (talking to God). Instead, it involves a mantra (a word or phrase repeated for ten to twenty minutes) as the means for erasing thoughts.
I would have voted for the practice not to be called contemplative prayer! But alas, it’s too late. That term and its meaning have been established for centuries.
The process itself is the same for mystics of all religions—in Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, in Hinduism with transcendental meditation and Yoga, in Sufism (Islamic mysticism), in the meditation of New Age spirituality, and in contemplative prayer. Participants are advised to choose a “sacred word.” But the repetition renders any words meaningless (ask a psych prof), so it doesn’t really matter whether a Christian says “Jesus loves me” or a Buddhist says “Hail to the Lotus.” The repetition induces an altered state of consciousness in which the practitioner senses a “union with the divine,” having presumably contacted the god of choice.
“But that can’t be!” you protest. “I know what I read about contemplative prayer.” Do you?
ASK THE EXPERTS
We can learn all we need to know from two recognized experts on the subject, Richard Foster and Thomas Merton.
Richard Foster, author of the best-selling Celebration of Discipline, contends that contemplative prayer is not Eastern. But what he describes matches Eastern practice, and he favorably refers to Eastern and occult proponents. In his book Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, Foster teaches that the practice is “unmediated,” exclusive—“not for the novice,” “wordless,” and dangerous—requiring that “prayers of protection” be offered against dark forces before one attempts it.2
Unmediated. Scripture speaks of Jesus as our mediator (1 Timothy 2:5) and the Holy Spirit and Jesus as intercessors (Romans 8:26, 34). I have no idea what Foster considers a hindrance in normal prayer that should be bypassed in favor of “unmediated” prayer.
Exclusive. Are we to believe Jesus forgot to tell us that certain prayer is reserved just for the initiated? And that this secret was only finally figured out by medieval mystics? Where’s the evidence?
Wordless. Foster does not mean praying silently, in our minds. Upon further study, it’s clear that he means no word spoken or thought. No content. Is there in the Bible a kind of prayer with no content? Is this “silence” (also sometimes called the void or the pure darkness) a sacred place where God speaks and acts?
Dangerous. No true prayer offered to the true God could accidentally dial a wrong number! The Lord hears us when we call (Psalm 4:3; Isaiah 58:9). I submit that dark forces are frequently contacted during contemplative prayer because mysticism opens occult doors.3
The late Thomas Merton’s books remain popular with Christians even though his Catholic theology gave way to Buddhism—a religion with no creator God and, of course, no Jesus. Merton said that Buddhism is “an opening to love,”4 and “I see no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity . . . I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can.”5 Merton echoes Foster’s four points about the nature of contemplative prayer:
Unmediated. Merton speaks of “direct realization” and even of going “‘beyond God’ to the ultimate perfect emptiness.”6
Exclusive. What is experienced is “the sign of the Spirit upon the Chosen People of God.” Do it wrong, and you’ll be “impervious to the deepest truths.” Only in this experience can you find God, he says, but he also scolds “people who try to pray and meditate above their proper level.”7
Wordless. “Often making use of no words and no thoughts at all.”8
Dangerous. There is a “danger of psychological regression,” a “deep dread and night,” a descent into “dread to the center of our own nothingness.” A person may “find himself getting all kinds of strange ideas.”9
OUT IN THE OPEN
To peel off another layer, we find many pro-contemplative writings relatively open in their explanations—like these articles from three different websites.
1. The article “Contemplative Prayer in the Western Tradition” states that contemplative prayer goes “beyond the level of sense perception.” Even the word mantric is used to describe the repetitive, mind-emptying technique.10
2. “The History of Centering Prayer” specifically mentions that Fathers Pennington and Keating, the architects of centering prayer, went to “ancient sources” to revive this “simple method of silent prayer for contemporary people.”11 You might assume those ancient sources mean the Bible. But in their book Finding Grace at the Center, Pennington and Keating are clear that they draw on Eastern practice: “We should not hesitate to take the fruit of the age-old wisdom of the East and ‘capture’ it for Christ. . . . [We should] acquaint ourselves with as many of these Eastern techniques as possible. . . . Many Christians who take their prayer life seriously have been greatly helped . . .”12
3. At contemplativechristian.com, proponents try to tie contemplative prayer to the Bible and dispel any idea that it is a “new age belief system” but admit the practice is in all world religions. The writer is excited about the “deliberate efforts to encourage contemplative prayer” in Protestant churches, stating, “The Protestant Church can’t boast of this kind of historical tradition, as its concern for the Bible as sole truth has limited its receptivity.”13
I find it impossible to mesh with Christianity the “contemplation” of the mentors named on the third site. There’s Thomas Merton again; Richard Rohr, who hosts Zen retreats at his center14; and Teresa of Avila.
Teresa of Avila was the medieval nun best known for her book Interior Castle, whose contemplative experience was described as:
. . . a sweet, happy pain, alternating between a fearful fiery glow, a complete impotence and unconsciousness, and a spell of strangulation, intermitted sometimes by such an ecstatic flight that the body is literally lifted into space. This after half an hour is followed by a reactionary relaxation of a few hours in a swoon-like weakness, attended by a negation of all the faculties in the union with God. From this the subject awakens in tears; it is the climax of mystical experience, productive of the trance.15
Though the biographies of medieval contemplatives tell of levitation, self-torture and starvation, and erotic encounters with entities, today’s promoters tend not to mention that!
I’m stunned when some respond, “I do contemplative prayer but not your definition of it.”
It’s not my definition; we’ve established that. But for the sake of argument, let’s say there are two kinds of contemplative prayer: a good kind rooted in “ancient Christian practice” and a bad kind rooted in Eastern/occult practice. Then we should be able to produce two lists of experts, one promoting each kind.
But after years of research, I’ve come up with only one list—because there is only one.
Both the people who claim contemplative prayer is not of Eastern/occult association and those who gladly affirm its occultic roots reference and recommend the same list of experts—those mentioned above and more. Philip Yancey labels such experts “masters of prayer.”16 J. K. Jones calls them a “lush rainforest of spiritual giants.”17 The Web Site of Unknowing speaks of their “fascinating theological insights.”18
Such recommendations influence us, especially after we’ve already been seduced by ethereal words like these:
“In silence and contemplation, we rest from all of our human striving and division.”19
“Move beyond thinking into a place of utter stillness with the Lord . . . and then God works.”20
“It is to this silence that we all are called.”21
A vast crowd has been quoting and recommending today’s proponents of contemplative prayer while also misunderstanding them. If the writer is following in the footsteps of Foster, Merton, and the medieval Catholic mystics, then he or she absolutely does not mean normal silent prayer and legitimate biblical meditation. The “contemplation” and “silence” of the mystics is mantra meditation. That’s what the authorities being referenced mean.
If you’re not doing contemplative prayer, this might be a good time to consider not applying that term to what you are doing.
And . . . well, if you have been doing contemplative prayer, please research further what’s been presented here. Look to the Scriptures. Our God is not silent on these things. Isaiah speaks of the Lord abandoning his people because they had adopted practices “from the east” (Isaiah 2:6). Deuteronomy 12:30, 31 is just one of many passages with warnings about being “snared” by false worship: “Inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? Even so will I do likewise. Thou shalt not do so unto the Lord thy God.” We can take some cues from Jesus’ instruction against using “vain repetitions, as the heathen do” (Matthew 6:7). And there’s Peter’s call to prayer, which speaks of clearheadedness, not an empty mind: be “sober, and watch” (1 Peter 4:7).
This is just the tip of the iceberg, friends. Contemplative prayer is a dangerous, unscriptural practice. And that’s calling a spade a spade.
To order copies of So You Want to Practice “Good” Contemplative Prayer . . . What’s Wrong With That?, click here.
1. Ken Wilson, Mystically Wired: Exploring New Realms in Prayer (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2009), p. 9.
2. Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (New York: HarperCollins, 1992), pp. 155-157.
3. Occultists themselves admit this connection. For example, in Richard Kirby’s book, The Mission of Mysticism, he states, “The meditation of advanced occultists is identical with the prayer of advanced mystics,” p. 7.
4. Thomas Merton, Zen and the Birds of Appetite (New York, NY: New Directions Books, 1968), p. 79.
5. David Steindl-Rast, “Recollection of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West” (Monastic Studies, 7:10, 1969).
6. Thomas Merton, Thoughts on the East (New York, NY: New Directions Books, 4th Printing), pp. 70, 76.
7. Thomas Merton, Contemplative Prayer (New York: Doubleday, Image Books edition, 1971), pp. 109, 103, 101, 37.
8. Ibid., p. 42.
9. Ibid., pp. 40, 100, 101, 35.
10. “Contemplative Prayer in the Western Tradition” (http://www.kyrie.com/inner/contemplative/contemplative_prayer_western_tradition.htm).
11. “History of Contemplative Prayer” (http://web.archive.org/web/20100718142654/http://www.contemplativeoutreach.org/site/PageServer?pagename=about_history_prayer).
12. M. Basil Pennington, Thomas Keating, Thomas E. Clarke, Finding Grace at the Center (Petersham, MA: St. Bede’s Pub., 1978), pp. 5-6.
14. Richard Rohr is the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation (https://cac.org/richard-rohr).
16. Philip Yancey, Prayer (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), p. 184.
17. J.K. Jones, “What the Monks Can Teach Us” (Christian Standard, 2/22/09, http://christianstandard.com/2009/02/cs_article-1128), p. 7.
18. Carl McColman, “Who Are the Christian Mystics?” (http:www.anamchara.com/mystics).
19. Ruth Haley Barton, “Make a Joyful Silence” (Sojourners, February 2009, http://sojo.net/magazine/2009/02/make-joyful-silence).
20. Tony Jones, The Sacred Way (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), p. 15.
21. Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart (New York: Ballantine Books, 2003), p. 66.
To order copies of So You Want to Practice “Good” Contemplative Prayer . . . What’s Wrong With That?, click here.
by Paul Proctor
Used with permission.
I have addressed, on numerous occasions, the Church’s ongoing efforts to reinvent Christianity into a global religion of Results & Relationships by using the powers of pragmatism and consensus to artificially grow itself into something more widely accepted by the world instead of faithfully proclaiming the Word of God “in season and out” as we are commanded to do in 2nd Timothy 4:2. The leaders of the new spirituality and its church growth movement have always had a hard time avoiding the “wide gate” and “broad way” choosing clever methods of “evangelism” that are not only incompatible with God’s Word, but also prove them unwilling to trust Him with the increase – ever looking for something more clever, spectacular and impressive to glory in and boast about to a watching world.
“…for men to search their own glory is not glory.” – Proverbs 25:27b
“So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” – 1st Corinthians 3:7
There’s no better example of this than a story from The Baptist Standard where Christians are encouraged by a “veteran missionary” to employ what’s called “The Camel Method” to evangelize, where the Quran is used, instead of the Bible, to share Christ with Muslims – a method that reportedly utilizes “selected verses” and “doesn’t teach or lecture, but asks questions.”
Isn’t this exactly what dialectically trained facilitators have done for years in many seeker-sensitive and Purpose Driven churches to draw and hold large and diverse crowds of potential converts with a lot of non-offensive opinion sharing and relationship building in order to find common ground and greater tolerance for one another through compromise and group dynamics? That may be the agenda of global socialists at the United Nations, but it’s not the Bible’s agenda for Christians or the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m sure the UN would have no problem with a program like this where sidelining biblical truths for a contrived unity is celebrated and syncretism is the spirituality of choice.
“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” – Proverbs 14:12
According to the report, missionary Kevin Greeson, who “has served 16 years with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board,” is “working to start Christian movements among Muslims in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal…” adding that “his goal focuses less on individual conversions and more on starting spiritual movements that will result in thousands of Muslims becoming followers of Christ.”
Greeson: “Our generation can’t afford to be satisfied or happy with winning one lost person to Christ. There are so many lost people, we can’t be happy with that.”
“…I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” – Luke 15:10
Certainly most Christians would like to see more than one person they witness to repent and receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, but where in God’s Word are we commanded to “take up thy Quran” and “go ye into all the world and start a movement?” Sure it sounds lofty and high-minded in our Big Box culture where consumers like to impress each other and get the most for the least; but isn’t this more of an exercise in ecumenical egomania and spiritual sleight-of-hand than humble obedience to Jesus’ call to “take up thy cross” and “go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature?”
It’s alarming enough that the Bible is set aside with this method of “evangelism,” but it’s outright heresy that Jesus Christ is presented as the son of Allah, since Allah was widely recognized and worshipped as a pagan moon god even before there was a Mohammed.
How then can the truth set you free if it begins with a lie?
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9
Related Articles and Information:
“A “New Evangelism” for the 21st Century” by Mike Oppenheimer (Let Us Reason)