Posts Tagged ‘print booklet tracts’
When Hitler Was in Power – Memories of a Jewish Girl written by Anita Dittman with Jan Markell is our newest Lighthouse Trails Print Booklet Tract. The booklet tract is 14 pages long and sells for $1.50 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of When Hitler Was in Power – Memories of a Jewish Girl, click here.
1939 Breslau, Germany
I was twelve years old and entering early teen years living in Nazi Germany. Often as the lights went out at night, I lapsed into self-pity and cried myself to sleep. I knew it would be a long winter with minimum food rations, crowded, substandard living quarters, and that never-ending dread of the Gestapo knock on the door. More and more Jews feared venturing into the streets.
Rising costs for tuition and school books and the increased anti-Semitism made my school life miserable and my future education questionable. In addition, home conditions were difficult. Two of Mother’s sisters had come to live with us in our one room, and we had to share the kitchen and bath with additional families.
Mother’s sisters—Aunt Friede and Aunt Elsbeth—were endlessly annoyed at my strong faith in Jesus and Mother’s growing interest in Him. Their nagging, coupled with the unbearable bedbugs in our apartment, made life a chore. I gave Aunt Elsbeth my bed and slept on a lumpy, bedbug-infested sofa, falling asleep each night while arguments rang through the room.
We hardly dared go to Pastor Hornig’s church. The macabre scenes we saw on the way caused bad dreams at night as our subconscious relived what we had seen: Jews by the hundreds being herded into trucks as they stared glassy-eyed with fear at being separated from loved ones. Since we were in a Jewish ghetto, we could look out our window almost any day and see such scenes on the street below. The more we were identified as Jewish Christians attending a Protestant church, the more free time we were given.
By fall, the war began in earnest. Germany surged ahead, optimistic because of her swift victory in Poland. The frighteningly diabolical trio of Adolf Eichmann, Reinhard Heydrich, and Heinrich Himmler was ordered to find a “final solution to the Jewish problem,” and it was generally understood that the final solution meant total extermination.
Auschwitz and Dachau, two of the more deadly camps, would strike similar terror within the Jews of Europe. Rudolf Ross was put in charge of the genocide at Auschwitz. Upon his orders, two thousand Jews would be gassed at one time. As men, women, and children were shoved together into massive “shower rooms” some were stamped on their chests with a coded number that indicated they had gold teeth. When they finally realized they weren’t taking a shower, they screamed and cried for mercy, but their cries fell on deaf ears. Amused guards watched through peepholes as they suffered and died. Hideous horror stories began to trickle out of the various camps, putting unbearable pressure on European Jews, who knew that they were all potential gas-chamber victims.
In 1939, Germans began experiencing a fear of their own as the country scurried for air-raid shelters. Bombs weren’t falling on Germany yet, but drills had begun. Homes and businesses complied with blackout regulations, and planes frequently raced across the German sky that fall, though without dropping any deadly weapons.
1940—Berlin, Germany—Away From Home
By the summer of 1940, the Führer had made himself the master of western Europe as he invaded Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, and France. They all would fall before the year’s end. It began to look as though Italy would enter the war as an ally of Germany. But as long as England remained undefeated in the war, a complete German victory was not possible in the West. British resistance stiffened that spring and summer under the incomparable leadership of Winston Churchill. Britain was sending her planes in increasing numbers over the skies of Germany. As the Germans attacked Allied cities and sunk Allied ships, Britain began to retaliate by dropping bombs, and Germany started melting beneath her burning cities.
That August we heard terrifying news: The Germans had bombed a residential section of London, and word got out that the British Royal Air Force would retaliate by hitting Berlin (where I was attending school). Thus, the war was brought home to Germany, and Berlin’s air-raid shelters became my home away from home. If life for the German people had once been an inconvenience, it now was a hellish nightmare. The siege began in Berlin, but soon the whole country would be in rubble.
When the bombing began, we children thought of the nightly air raids as nothing more than dangerous thunderstorms, during which everyone scrambled for the shelters—only basements really. At first the British hit only government centers in Berlin. Sometimes, however, the shrill sirens interrupted our light sleep as often as three times a night. And each time we would dash frantically to the shelter beneath our apartment building.
As the war got worse, so did general living conditions. Yet no true German dared to let defeat or discouragement cross his mind. It was still unthinkable. What about the thousand-year Reich? Hitler surely had things under control; this was only a temporary inconvenience. It was a small price to pay for the Fatherland and the glorious days that lay ahead for the Reich.
The air attack intensified in the fall of 1940 as Berlin received the brunt of the Allied bombing. The basement bomb shelters were almost useless against a direct hit, for a shell would race through ten stories to the basement, burying hundreds of victims. As Hitler intensified the fighting on the battlefront, the Allies intensified their reign of terror from the sky.
Life in the shelters was nerve-racking. We couldn’t move for fear of using too much oxygen. Even if bombs exploded all around us, we were careful not to utter an anti-Nazi statement because several staunch Nazis were sure to be in any given bomb shelter.
As the winter winds began to blow, I missed Mother and the familiarities of home even more. Christmas was in the air, and though Mrs. Michaelis assured me she would send me home for the holiday, I knew that at a moment’s whim she could change her mind. Then early in December, my school principal handed me a note: “Because of your non-Aryan background, you will no longer be allowed to attend classes at this school.”
Early 1941—Home Again in Breslau
Brown-shirted storm troopers were marching through the towns, terrorizing everyone and delighting in making life miserable for the Jews, whether by teasing and taunting or by acts of brutality. They ridiculed and beat Jews everywhere and randomly hauled off individuals or families to prison. Cattle cars were filled daily as trainloads of frightened Jews were shipped to secret destinations throughout the tranquil German countryside.
As I walked to the gymnasium of the school I was attending now, I saw bold signs proclaiming “No Jews Allowed” on nearly every store. Other signs warned Germans to stay away from Jews, who had been banned from theaters, parks, and all recreational areas. Everywhere I looked, I saw anti-Jewish slogans and posters. Many of the posters had the photograph of a Jew who had just been arrested for some concocted crime. In sharp contrast, flashing neon signs illuminated Hitler’s picture.
The Nazi flag was hung proudly outside of most homes in Breslau. Inside, Germans were required to have a picture of the Führer somewhere in the house. Hitler was pressing the Christian pastors to have his picture placed at the front of church altars.
Hitler’s contorted and strained voice blasted hate propaganda from the radio almost daily; he frantically blamed “international financial Jewry” for the war and warned Germans that every living Jew was an archenemy of the Reich. Jews had absolutely no rights and weren’t entitled to own property.
More and more Jews trembled behind locked doors. We learned that a brother and a sister of Mother’s had been picked up and taken to a camp. Another brother and his wife took their own lives rather than face a concentration camp ordeal. It was inevitable that the random confiscation of Jews should hit our house that winter.
Mother tried to be a peacemaker for her three quarreling sisters. However, when she attempted to help them, they would gang up on her because of her growing love for Jesus, who Pastor Hornig had told her was the Jewish Messiah. Mother could no longer deny the power of Christ in our lives. She had to talk about Him; it was a natural overflow of love. But her sisters insisted that it was Jesus’ followers who had hounded the Jews since the first century. They claimed the Nazis were all Christians on the basis of them being Gentiles and having attended Catholic or Lutheran churches. Many of those very churches had now sold out to the Führer, allowing his picture to be on their church altars. It made no sense to my aunts to worship Jesus, a phony dead man in whose name millions of Jews had been persecuted, tortured, and killed.
“But those people aren’t really Christians!” I insisted, not fully grasping the accuracy of my statement. “They just give real Christians a bad name.”
“Nonsense!” insisted Aunt Elsbeth. “All Gentiles are Christians.”
That month Bulgaria was peacefully occupied. Then Germany invaded Yugoslavia, and soon tanks would roll into Athens. Hitler gave an injunction demanding merciless harshness in the war. Whereas at one time the German code of ethics had protected civilians and property, now everyone and everything was to be destroyed by the German soldiers. But every such act of brutality only increased the Allied assault on Germany, so in the end every German paid for the Führer’s madness.
All internal affairs were being handed over to Martin Bormann, who began to carry out a ruthless assault on the Christian churches in Germany. More than ever we feared for the Hornigs and the believers at our church, for they would be prime targets for Bormann’s men because of their interest and love for the Jewish people. Gestapo agents always were planted in the church services now.
The fresh breezes of spring 1941 brought us little relief from our agony. I gave serious thought to dropping out of school because of the rampant anti-Semitism at the gymnasium. My teachers followed Nazi orders to be hard on all students who weren’t Aryans, and the other young people didn’t want to risk being my friend. I felt terribly lonely there—for a fourteen-year-old without a friend is like a violin without a bow.
One by one the apartments in our Jewish tenement were emptying as the arrests increased. In June, we heard the dreaded knock again. This time they came for Aunt Friede, who was seventy-three years old. We tried very hard to swallow our tears again, for we knew it would only upset Aunt Friede more to see us crying over her. Again, no explanation was given and no destination revealed.
A great part of the terrifying fear related to the arrests was the unknown factor of the prisoner’s destination. Was it jail or a concentration camp? Was it a work camp or a gas chamber or a firing squad? One seldom knew until sometimes family members received a postcard from prison or perhaps word was smuggled out that the person had been killed. The fate of millions would never be known. They would simply become statistics.
One by one or all at once, families disappeared and were separated in the ordeal of Nazi Germany in 1941. We never saw Aunt Käte, Aunt Friede, or Aunt Elsbeth again.
Hitler’s hunger for power and blood had no end. Next he invaded Russia in an effort to eliminate the “Eastern menace” of Bolshevism. The Führer didn’t realize, of course, that this was a fatal miscalculation. A world war was now inevitable. America pledged economic aid, and the Allies started fighting back even harder.
Hitler was sure the Russian campaign would be swift, a fair weather war. Thus the Russian winter became as much his enemy as the Russian soldier. More than 750,000 German soldiers would die from the winter elements as they became bogged down in their advance on Moscow. Because of the devastating defeat, the Jews would suffer even more and be made to pay for Hitler’s mistake.
Only one synagogue was left in Breslau after the burnings of 1938 and 1939. Recently it had been made into a prison for Jews who were waiting for processing before being sent off to the camps.
After school one day, I made my way to the crumbling synagogue. During the long walk in the December cold, I considered the paradox of Nazi Germany. As Christmas approached, Germans celebrated the birth of Jesus; yet they worshiped the godless Nazis. The peace, joy, love, and hope that are synonymous with Christmas were strangely muted in Hitler’s Germany, but few gave up the futile dream of the marvelous thousand-year Reich. Few were ready to allow the idea of defeat to enter their minds, even though smoke from burning Berlin rose five miles high in the sky and uncounted thousands of German soldiers were dying on the Russian battlefront. Routinely the Russians announced the names of their captured German prisoners over the airwaves of underground radio stations. The prisoners’ relatives knew they would never see their husbands or brothers again when they heard their names; the camps in Siberia never sent anyone home.
Hitler’s attention was focused mainly on the Russian front in the spring of 1942, though the Africa corps drove further and further east toward the British-held Middle East. The Americans joined England’s Royal Air Force in dropping bombs on German cities. In the coming weeks and months, Cologne, Rostock, Lubeck, and Berlin would become piles of rubble. But, thankfully, the planes still avoided Breslau.
That spring brought both the bitter and the sweet. Our good friends the Sandbergs were finally taken away. We sorrowed as we remembered the longing of their hearts to be reunited with their sons, who had fled to England before the war.
That May I turned fifteen, and I finished my confirmation classes with Pastor Hornig. Mother scraped a few cents together to make me a lovely white dress. Pastor Hornig tested me in front of the entire congregation at St. Barbara’s; it was one of the highlights of my life. I was thrilled to be able to please Pastor Hornig and Mother as I gave all the right answers in my test. Mother looked at me proudly from the audience. My eyes flashed between Pastor Hornig and Mother as I drank in their looks of approval and praise. This was the best gift I could give them.
My eyes also saw an unfamiliar face in the congregation. We learned later that it was another Nazi spy. It was no secret to anyone in Breslau that Pastor Hornig aided Jews—both believers and unbelievers. Gestapo agents followed him frequently and planted themselves in the church services in order to monitor any anti-Nazi statements.
Shortly after this, I was handed another familiar note in school, telling me not to return to classes because of my Jewish heritage.
About the same time that spring, Reinhard Heydrich died. He was one-third of the Eichmann-Himmler-Heydrich trio—the masterminds behind the Jewish persecution. The blood of thousands—perhaps millions of Jews was on his hands.
To this day, the Nazi Holocaust continues to prevent many Jewish people from believing in God. Satan uses it as the biggest stumbling block for the numerous Jews who can’t accept that a loving, all-powerful God would allow such a horrible thing to happen. Granted, millions perished, yet God also allowed millions to survive.
The Reich suffered a terrible defeat at Stalingrad as the Russians captured 220,000 German prisoners in February 1943. Solemn music was played for three days on the radio as all Germans mourned the loss. At last, Germany was experiencing the type of pain she had been inflicting on others.
We had heard that defeat was also occurring in North Africa, and the air war against Germany was merciless now. A layer of smoke blanketed the land as Hamburg and other cities were being hit day and night. A concentrated Allied attack on German U-boats caused the Germans to lose the battle in the Atlantic.
Finally, the Allies demanded the unconditional surrender of the Reich, but for Hitler that was unthinkable. Instead, he declared that an attitude of defeatism would be punishable by death, and the empty propaganda that promised a glorious day for Germany continued to be screamed over the airwaves.
How much longer would the German people believe in the illusion of the glorious Fatherland? How much longer would they follow the mad pied-piper and trust him with their sons, fathers, and husbands, many of whom would never leave the Siberian prisoner-of-war camps? How much longer would they be blindly obedient to the Führer, who admittedly had no compassionate thought for a human life? He even willingly sacrificed his own German people if they weren’t perfect specimens of the Aryan race. When would the prayers of Christians around the world hasten the demise of the German demagogue and strangle Satan’s attempt to bring only sorrow and sighing into the world? How much longer, God? We knew that one swift blow of God’s judgment could end the despair, and we believed that real Christians around the world surely had calluses on their knees from praying for the nightmare to end.
As winter turned into the spring of 1943, we heard that the Allies had won the war in Africa, which gave Mother and me a surge of hope. But true to the pattern, as the Reich suffered, our supervisor became more strict and rigid, allowing hardly any conversation during our long workday. Only hungry rats scurrying along the beams above us broke the monotony.
Rumors began to fly about some of the Reich’s concentration camps being liberated in the coming year. The camps now held millions of Jews from Germany, France, Belgium, Holland, Austria, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and the Balkans.
However, our dreams were suddenly shattered one balmy spring day when we heard about the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto. Five-hundred-thousand Jews had been herded into the ghetto to starve to death. Finally the Germans went in to kill them or crowd them into death camps; however, the starving but determined Jews fought back with everything they had. Then Hitler sent in three thousand more troops to quickly take over the ghetto with tanks, armored cars, artillery, and flame-throwers. Only five-hundred Jews lived to tell of the annihilation of the ghetto and its people.
That week we could hardly speak to one another without choking back tears of grief and anger; even within the purest heart, bitterness raged toward the Nazis. Our faith was shaken and our hope dimmed. The atheists among us cursed, while the Jewish unbelievers withdrew into themselves. The religious Jews prayed harder and asked why. We Christians comforted one another and realized that some answers would be available only in heaven.
The Allies landed in Normandy. Rumor had it that everyone who had even one Jewish grandparent was now going to be picked up in a last-ditch effort to wipe out the Jewish race. Hitler would make the Jews pay, of course, for his mistakes in the war, a pattern that was never broken.
The stories from the camps told of massive gassings and shootings. Following a gassing, the bodies would be cremated in giant ovens. Giant smokestacks coughed out soot from burning bodies, blanketing most of Europe. Fellow prisoners, or in some cases family members, would then be ordered to break up the remaining bones and bury them in mass graves.
The worst horrors took place in Auschwitz, from which few ever escaped or lived to tell their stories. It was estimated that almost three million already had perished there, and at the end of the war it would be learned that eighty percent of those sent to Auschwitz died.
The most gruesome story leaked out early in 1944 and would later be documented. Hitler informed Himmler that it was not enough for the Jews to die; they must die in agony, for they were only germs, not people. Himmler was ordered to devise a plan to make thousands of Jews die a horrible death. He got the idea of placing Jewish prisoners in freight cars having their floors coated with a layer of dehydrated calcium oxide. The substance caused terrible burns, and prisoners often suffered for days before dying an awful death in the freight cars, which were left in a secluded place.
Hitler had only to whisper and ten thousand prisoners would die that day.
The human mind and body could not logically withstand such pressures and uncertainties, especially if a person had a loved one in a camp or if he himself was on the Nazi blacklist. Added to the other horrors was the constant threat that a death-camp experience awaited him after a harsh midnight knock on his door. The Nazi blacklist included more than just Jews. Christians who were suspected of hiding or aiding Jews were on it, as well as anyone who uttered an anti-Nazi sentiment. A time would come for all of us to be hauled off to death camps unless the Allies—with God’s help—could rescue us.
To order copies of When Hitler Was in Power – Memories of a Jewish Girl, click here.
5 Things You Can Do to Protect Your Kids From Sexual Predators written by Investigative Sergeant Patrick Crough is our newest Lighthouse Trails Print Booklet Tract. The booklet tract is 14 pages long and sells for $1.50 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of 5 Things You Can Do to Protect Your Kids From Sexual Predators, click here. There is also a bonus section: Safety Check List in the booklet.
5 Things You Can Do to Protect Your Kids From Sexual Predators
by Investigative Sergeant Patrick Crough
I. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate!
We must make it a point to communicate with our children every day to learn what is going on in their lives and who they are having daily contact with. Our children are exposed to school staff, counselors, coaches, day care providers, summer camp staff, and/or babysitters every day. Their social horizons have been expanded at a far too rapid pace. Many of us parents enjoyed a more relaxed childhood in the 1950s and 1960s when it was common to have our mothers home all day with us.
Like the faithful shepherd who checks each and every one of his sheep for parasites, diseases, and injuries, we must physically hold and hug our children and communicate with them every day. We need to reach out and make that connection, and we must listen to them carefully. I constantly made the mistake of using the little time I was around the house to tell my children what I wanted them to do. I rarely took the time to ask them what was going on in their daily lives. Under the pressure of making a living and supporting a family, I would spend the time talking at my children rather than with them. Our two-way discussions were few and far between. Fortunately, for our children, their mother did not make the same mistake. My wife always knew the who, what, when, where, and how of their daily lives. Through her patient guidance, I eventually learned this very important principle. As I became more experienced in investigating sexual crimes against children, I realized just how important daily two-way conversations really are.
As soon as a child possesses the ability to carry on a conversation, there are two absolutely necessary questions every parent or guardian should ask their child every day: What bad things happened to you today? And, what good things happened to you today? Another way to phrase these questions is: Who treated you badly today? And, who was nice to you and made you feel special today? Even if your children were with you all day, still ask them these questions as a matter of routine. This way, from a young age they will be programmed to have this discussion with you. Based on the numerous interviews I have conducted with child victims and their parents, I believe it will prove invaluable to your efforts to keep them safe from predators who desire to seduce and abuse them. Remember that during the trust and courtship phases of the grooming process, the child is unaware of the real reason why the predator is treating him with such favor. Therefore, at this point in the relationship the child has no reason to hide anything from his or her parents. If the parents are communicating with their children daily about who they are interacting with and what they are doing with them, the children should still be willing to share everything. While any conscientious parent would like to know what bad things happened or who may have mistreated them, I believe the more important question to ask is, “What good things happened to you today?” My reason is simple: The child has not yet made a secret pact with a predator that comes with the seduction phase, so he should be willing to share all of the great things this person is doing for him because he is happy and excited about it. Because the child’s morals have yet to be compromised, he is most likely going to remain open and honest with his parents when questioned about his relationship with the undetected predator.
II. Debriefing And Gathering Intelligence: Sharing A Meal
Feed my lambs. (John 21:15)
Most cultures make sharing a meal a special occasion. Whether it is a holiday, a special celebration, a date, a family gathering, or a business luncheon, we share meals with people as an act of social acceptance and personal intimacy. It allows us to interchange our thoughts and feelings, as barriers to open and honest conversation melt away in a festive, inviting atmosphere. In the Bible, we can see how God used the acts of animal sacrifice and sharing a meal to fellowship with His people around the temple. Jesus communed with His disciples over meals and dined with anyone who invited Him. Consuming food with another person has a way of putting us on the same social plane.
In the police detective world, we employ a technique known as “debriefing and gathering intelligence.” In essence, that is what we need to do as parents to learn about what goes on in our children’s daily lives when they are not with us. I urge you to share a special meal with your children—not to gather intelligence for disciplinary action but to assist you in keeping them safe. It should prove helpful to take your child out to a restaurant, for it will be much easier for him to open up to you in a neutral setting. Your authority as a parent is the greatest in the home; eating there may hinder your ability to make your child feel comfortable enough to speak openly about matters he would consider more personal in nature. It doesn’t have to be an expensive or fancy place. Most children and teenagers enjoy pizza, burgers, chicken wings, chicken fingers, tacos, and ice cream. My daughters enjoyed going to cafés in the Park Avenue area of Rochester.
I used this tactic with great success while raising my daughters through their teenage years. I would take them out to lunch separately to their favorite café. It was amazing how chatty either one would become as we sipped our sodas or iced teas, awaiting our meal. By the time we were buttering our bread and starting our soup and salad, she would be revealing everything about herself, her sister, and her friends. It usually kept me a step ahead of my daughters, and I truly believe that several tragedies were avoided because of these intimate meals with both of them.
III. Network With Other Parents
Parents should work with each other and compare notes. Children, like adults, put their own spin on much of the information they share. Unfortunately, our children are not always as honest as we need them to be. Usually that is because they are trying to prevent their parents from finding out something about their past or future participation in a questionable activity. So it would be fruitful for parents to set their pride aside and communicate with each other about what their children are sharing with them. This is an effective way to check the veracity of what your children are telling you, and this keeps them safe. A typical example is when a young teenage girl makes plans to meet the sexual predator she has been talking with over the Internet for the past two months. She lies to her parents, telling them she is going to stay overnight at a friend’s house. Too many times in this scenario, for whatever reason, the parents never check with the friend’s parents to confirm such arrangements, and the girl ends up raped or murdered.
If parents make a habit of networking with each other, these types of situations can be prevented. Likewise, law enforcement agencies are much more effective in their fight against crime when they share information with each other rather than harboring secrets because of territorial pride, which is an unfortunate reality in many jurisdictions. If networking and sharing information works for the police, then it will be useful for parents as they attempt to protect and supervise their children. We hold back because we don’t want to appear backward, paranoid, or overprotective. We also are afraid of appearing that we don’t trust our children. Satan’s best weapon against man is man’s own pride. Don’t let it get in the way of protecting your children.
IV. Monitoring the Internet & Cell Phones
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the Devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
I was investigating crimes against children long before the Internet became part of our daily lives. When I began my career, the Internet was still very much in the infant stages of its development, and its use was limited to the corporate world. But as it has evolved to its present state, the frequency of crimes against children has increased astronomically, and its use is beyond our ability to regulate. No longer is your child safe in the confines of your home under your close supervision. The Internet is the predator’s Trojan horse into what is supposed to be your fortress and sanctuary from the outside world. It makes the predator both invisible and insidious as your child willingly invites him into his or her life via cyberspace. I have met child victims who communicated with their offender over the Internet right under their parents’ noses. Because chat room language is cryptic and hard to decipher, it allows the child victim to become involved, and eventually seduced, online by a predator. Many times the child will be lured out of the safety of his or her home to be sexually offended, or even kidnapped and murdered.
There is no possible way to accurately determine just how many encounters occur between children and predators over the Internet daily throughout this nation. While law enforcement is making a gallant effort to police the dangerous and illegal aspects of cyberspace, it will be ill equipped to even scratch the surface for many years to come. Therefore, parents must shoulder the burden of monitoring their children’s Internet activity. This task has become even more difficult within the past two to three years as cell phones have been manufactured with the technology to access the Internet and to send and receive e-mail and text messages. Nearly every cell phone manufactured today also includes a camera or video and audio recording capabilities. While I understand that parents give their children cell phones in the hopes of keeping them safer, I view a cell phone in the hands of an unsupervised child or young teenager as a grave liability. A predator will use the cell phone to seduce and lure a child away from safety. When parents ask me my opinion on children and cell phones, I tell them to seriously consider not allowing their children to possess one until they are old enough to drive. It is my feeling that children should not be unsupervised until then. At that point, owning a cell phone would be a matter of safety in case they break down or get lost while driving alone. But until then, a cell phone would only increase their child’s risk of crossing the path of a sexual predator. If you feel that your child needs one, I highly encourage you to buy one without Internet capability and that you can limit to give and receive calls only from specific phone numbers. You should monitor your child’s phone activity to make sure he or she did not override your security controls.
I have labeled the children of today as the “Internet Generation” due to their highly advanced computer skills and propensity to seek out and use websites such as YouTube and MySpace. Websites such as these motivate and enable children to promote themselves to the rest of the world and provide personal biographical information for anyone to read. They also allow children to display seductive photographs of themselves and share their sexual fantasies. These websites are feeding grounds for predators, arming them with all of the information they need to choose and pursue multiple potential victims. Jesus told us that in the last days men would acquire great knowledge and become lovers of themselves. He obviously foresaw the future. Satan is brilliantly orchestrating man’s own lustful desires and the technological advances of today into an apocalyptic outcome.
Pre-teens and early teenagers are the most common victims of those who roam cyberspace. These age groups are beginning to experience the development of their own sexuality, so they are curious and open for erotic conversation. The predator is all too ready to satisfy and enhance that child’s curiosity. This leads the child to be secretive and lie to her parents about her newfound friend. I have found that most children will share this kind of activity with at least one close friend. Because it is exciting to them, they feel the need to tell someone about it. This is why I always try to interview the child victim’s friends if they make themselves available. Many times the victim will share things with a close friend about her experiences with the predator that she would not share with any adult, let alone the police.
V. Protecting Your Child With Prayer & the Word
Raising a child has never been more treacherous than it is right now, and it is only getting worse. I grew up during the tumultuous 1960s and 1970s, when the youth turned the social system of this country upside-down. But back then, the country was being built by the generation of World War II. It was far from perfect, but they laid a rock-solid foundation of wholesome morals and religious beliefs that were by and large based upon biblical Christianity. As a result, God blessed this nation with an economy that was second to no other in the world.
While the past fifty years have seen unprecedented, incredible technological advances, the granite foundation built by our parents and grandparents has been reduced to shifting sand. Aside from being fleeced by greedy and unscrupulous high-level executives, much of corporate America appears to be downsizing and outsourcing many traditional and manufacturing jobs to other countries. Additionally, we’ve become a population that places a distortedly high value in entertainment, pouring billions into the sports and gambling, pornography, and drug industries. Personal debt is off the charts. We have evolved into a nation of pleasure-seeking people pursuing a “comfortable” lifestyle at the expense of our own eternal salvation.
This is the legacy we are leaving our children. As a result, our children’s own morals and values are being corrupted. Tragically, many of the people they admire are nothing more than lovers of themselves, indifferent to the world around them. These so-called role models, whom we adults have placed on a pedestal and financially supported, are leading our children down the wide path of self-destruction. Satan, the master deceiver and manipulator, loves every bit of it.
Too many times, I have lain in bed during the desolate night hours worrying about my children. I worry about their health, their personal safety, and their future. When they were younger, I would think about my own mortality, wondering how they would cope without me to love and protect them. I have often stated in exasperation that being a parent feels like I have been sentenced to a life of worrying. As parents, we know that many dangers, both physical and spiritual, surround our children. It is for this very reason we should call upon God’s Holy Spirit to protect our children, comfort us, and take away our needless worry. And we should bury deep within our hearts God’s Word that is a “twoedged sword” that will give us discernment:
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)
I have learned that replacing worry with prayer is not only good for my children’s sake but it comforts me and gives me a sense of peace that is beyond my ability to attain on my own or from another human being. It fills that void in me that nothing else seems to fill. Jesus instructed his apostles not to worry and stated that worrying doesn’t help any situation (Matthew 6:27). Easier said than done, but it is true. I can’t think of one instance where worrying assisted me in resolving any issue, especially one involving my children. We must learn to surrender our worries, failures, and lamentations to the Lord every day. This is especially true in the evening when the enemy likes to torment us as we try to rest. Jesus said:
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
Some of the heaviest burdens I have borne as an adult had to do with my children. The enemy will attack us through our children in an attempt to distract us, weaken our faith, and ultimately separate us from God. Therefore, we must pray unceasingly for strength, wisdom, and comfort. While God does not require us to pray on our knees, I suggest that praying parents take a knee whenever possible to pray for their children. A sincere act of respect and honor toward our Heavenly Father on behalf of our children demonstrates true humility. The Bible teaches us that “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6). For our children’s sake, parents should pray fervently and daily before God. We will worry far less and sleep more soundly as a result.
Consider this Scripture from Colossians as a foundation of daily prayer for your children:
[We] do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness. (Colossians 1:9-11)
The Lord desires to protect you and your children. The Bible is so clear about this. If you do not have a relationship with Him or if you do not know whether He even exists, I suggest you begin simply to ask God to reveal Himself to you. The Bible says He will do that to the one who sincerely, with all of his or her heart, seeks after Him.
As for America, we need only look to the history of the Roman Empire to determine our pending fate as a nation. I believe the only way to change our country’s Titanic course for the sake of our children is to pray unceasingly for parental guidance, repentance, and salvation. If we, as parents, repent from our own rebellion and sin and then call upon the Lord with a sincere and humble heart, He will answer (2 Chronicles 7:14). But we need to keep knocking on the Lord’s door every day. Don’t allow unclean spirits to convince you that you are not worthy or good enough to ask the Lord for help. Jesus tells us in the Gospels that He came to cure those who are sick and in need of Him, not the self-proclaimed healthy people (Matthew 9:11-13). We are in the midst of a universal spiritual war. And those who name the name of Jesus Christ can come to God boldly:
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
Prayer, with a repentant and humble heart toward the Lord, and God’s holy Word are our best weapons against the Devil and his demonic army. Come together as a married couple, as a family with your children, together with other believing parents, and with brothers and sisters in your church to pray and spend time together in His Word. Jesus told us that where two or more are gathered in His name, He will be present (Matthew 18:20).
To order copies of 5 Things You Can Do to Protect Your Kids From Sexual Predators, click here.
Bonus Section: Safety Check List
Keep the following list in the forefront of your mind as you make decisions and monitor your children’s activities. Be diligent in safeguarding your children from those inside their social circles using these principles, and you will automatically protect them from those outside their circles. Some of these points below may not always prove practical in every situation, but I offer them as ways to assure that your child is not victimized. The higher you can hold these standards, the more you can rest assured to your child’s safety.
1. Offers of assistance
Be suspicious of people who manipulate their way into your lives under the ruse of assisting you through a difficult time. Do they continue to offer assistance when it is no longer needed?
2. Great Personal Investment
Remember, it’s often the men you trust most and who display obvious affection toward your children who are the ones most likely to molest them. Have they made personal sacrifices, investing time and money to gain your trust? The child predator does this for the sole purpose of obtaining access to a child and eventually separating her from her parents.
3. Seeking constant contact
Be leery of the person who is constantly seeking contact with your child because he “loves children.”
4. Professionals seeking alone time with your child outside their normal role
If your child is involved with a child-care professional, teacher, coach, mentor, or counselor in an extracurricular activity in a way that stretches beyond what he normally does for most children, stay on top of the situation and watch the relationship very closely. There are legitimate people in these professions who extend themselves beyond their professional role for the right reasons. However, the predator will utilize this type of relationship to gain alone time with a child. Terminate the relationship if this person appears overly motivated to be alone with your child frequently.
5. Teenage boys providing childcare
Stay away from allowing teenage boys to care for your children unattended, even if they are younger siblings. Teen boys are not in control of their raging hormones and are influenced by today’s sensual world via the Internet and other forms of media. If they are left alone with defenseless small children, they might decide to experiment on them.
Terminate your relationship with the person who becomes, or attempts to become, possessive of your child. This is definitely a red flag. Stay away from them.
7. Interest in pornography
If the child’s father is a chronic voyeur of pornography, then do not allow him to be alone with the child. As I pointed out earlier in the book, not every man who looks at pornography is going to molest children; however, a man who is addicted to pornography is at more risk than one who isn’t.
8. Excessive compliments
Be suspicious of any male who excessively tells you how attractive your child is.
9. False sense of security in your child’s education or “street smarts”
Increasing children’s awareness of the danger that exists in this world is a good thing. However, the responsibility of keeping children safe falls directly on the shoulders of God’s appointed shepherds, their parents. While safety information provided by schools is valuable, I believe it may give some parents a false sense of security that their children are equipped to protect themselves from being tricked and seduced by a child predator. Children seek attention from those they look up to. This is what makes them so vulnerable. As they get older, you will need to give them more freedom; but don’t stop protecting them, because they are still emotionally vulnerable. Asking a child of any age not to fall victim to the cunning seducer is like asking a lamb to protect itself from a wolf.
To order copies of 5 Things You Can Do to Protect Your Kids From Sexual Predators, click here.
Israel: Replacing What God Has Not written by Mike Oppenheimer is our newest Lighthouse Trails Print Booklet Tract. The booklet tract is 14 pages long and sells for $1.50 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of Israel: Replacing What God Has Not?, click here.
At a time when a clear and biblically sound understanding of Bible prophecy is most important, we find the church, paradoxically, having less knowledge of it, especially as it relates directly to Israel. Most evangelical Christians throughout history have supported the Jews and the modern state of Israel, but things are changing. The church, from its infancy, believed God had a future plan for Israel based on Scripture (Acts 3:19). This plan included the national restoration of Israel to the same land from which they were eventually dispersed. As time went on and the church drifted further and further away from her Jewish beginnings, many began to erroneously believe the church had replaced Israel. But in this day and age when we see biblical prophecy being fulfilled on such an unprecedented and unparalleled scale—with God’s continual protection and restoration of the Jews to their land, there should not be those who walk in disbelief with regard to God’s promises. But there are!
A growing number within the church are holding to the position that Israel as a people and a nation has no further place with God and that Israel is eternally cast off for their rejection of the Messiah. They believe national Israel no longer has a future in any part of God’s plan. They also believe all the promises given to Israel have not only been revoked but transferred to the church and that the church is now the “true Israel.” Some even go so far as to make disparaging and untruthful remarks, which suggest the Jewish people are now no longer a “chosen people of God” and are cursed because of their unbelief or that they have inherited all the curses of the law found in Deuteronomy 28–33.
They believe all the blessings belonging to Israel have now been transferred to the church, but they neglect to include the curses found in Deuteronomy 28. If one is going to lay claim to the blessings of Deuteronomy 28, then one must lay claim to the curses as well. Nor can we live under the Old Covenant and the New Covenant at the same time. But, these teachers would strip the Jews of the inheritance God pledged to them (and never revoked) and apply all these blessings to themselves. But God sees through the arrogance, and jealousy, that is being rekindled in these last days. Ironically, those who have taken such a stance have proclaimed curses on themselves, for God said He would curse those who curse Israel. Deuteronomy 28 is a conditional covenant of Moses that God extended to the nation of Israel, but we would do well to hold fast to the New Covenant of grace that has now been extended to both Jew and Gentile.
Adherents of this Replacement Theology teaching claim the church was already in place in the Old Testament and was an assembly of believers. Therefore, the church, in their mind, becomes the continuation of Israel. Since Pentecost of Acts 2, the term “Israel” now refers to the church, they say. However, if one takes a closer look at how the words in the Book of Acts are used, one will see this is not so. If this is true, then why are there so many distinctions made between Israel and the church throughout the Book of Acts and why are so many distinguishing statements also made throughout Paul’s epistles? Such inconsistency can only originate from a man-made doctrine built on a false presupposition at best.
The very first occurrence of the Greek word ekklesia in the New Testament is found in Matthew 16:18. The word “church” (ekklesia, or assembly) is often thought to mean Israel by replacement theologians as a generic meaning for an assembly of worshipers. Thus, they assume the word church is a Greek word for Israel. They believe this is what Jesus the Messiah meant in Matthew 16:18 for the word church (it is only used again in the New Testament Gospels in Matthew 18:17). This would mean there always was the church (i.e., “the church” is Israel continued in the New Testament). However, in Matthew 16:13–20, the word “church” literally means “those called out,” referring to those who confess Jesus is the Son of the Living God—something that was not yet revealed in the Old Testament (this will be further explained as we look at Romans 11). These “called-out ones” are not in reference to the Mosaic Law that was given to the nation Israel but to a whole New Covenant.
In the New Testament, the term is used also in the narrower sense of a single church, or a church confined to a particular place. There is the church in the house of Aquila and Priscilla (Romans 16:5), the church at Corinth, the churches in Judea, etc. As I stated earlier, if one were to keep substituting the word Israel for church throughout the New Testament, they would soon begin to see the problems it would create.
In Acts 8:3, Saul persecuted the “church” from house to house. He certainly was not persecuting Israel.
Acts 2:47: “And the Lord added to the church [Israel?] daily such as should be saved.”
Acts 8:1: “And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church [Israel?] which was at Jerusalem.”
Acts 11:26: “And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church [Israel?], and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.”
And in Acts 15:4: “And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church [Israel?], and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.”
The fact that Jews were called out of unbelieving Israel to be part of the church does, in every sense, go against the church being Israel.
In the same way, if one uses the word “church”or “the church” interchangeably for Israel, even more problems occur.
Matthew 2:20 says, “Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel [church].”
Matthew 8:10: “[T]o them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel [the church].”
Matthew 10:6: “But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel [the church].”
Matthew 15:24: “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel [the church].”
Matthew 19:28: “[Y]e which have followed me . . . ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel [the church].”
Luke 24:21: “But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel [the church].”
Would it not be prudent then to let the word “Israel” mean what God would have it mean in its consistent, designated, biblical
context, and the term “the church” be what God would have it mean in its longstanding, God-given context as well?
[T]hey asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6. See also Acts 3:12; 4:10; 13:24.)
Was he restoring the church? Of course not.
As Israel rejected the chief Cornerstone, Peter remarks that the believers are, “coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious . . . as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4–5).
You “are built up a spiritual house”—oikodomeisthe. These have become a congregation of faith among those who disbelieve.
The Nation Israel
Israel was always referred to as the nation made up of Jews who are physical descendants of not just Abraham (as are the Gentiles) but Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Seventy-three times in the New Testament the term “Israel” is used. In the majority of the instances given, Israel is referred to in the national, ethnic sense. There are three main passages used to try to prove the church is Israel. They are as follows: Romans 9:6, 11:26; and Galatians 6:16. I Corinthians 10:18, however, cites “Israel after the flesh” as the true, believing Israel among the unbelieving—just as in Romans 9:6 the Apostle Paul makes a distinction between two Israel’s—one who believes, and the other who doesn’t. And yet, both are ethnic Israelites, but only one has the measure of faith necessary to enable them to faithfully uphold their end of their covenant with God. For without faith, it’s impossible to please God.
Galatians 6:16 is often used to prove that the church is Israel. This view maintains that the “Israel of God” is comprised of Gentile believers. The “Israel of God,” however, clearly is comprised of those Jewish believers who, in sharp contrast with the Judaizers, followed the rule of salvation by faith alone. Here Paul is speaking only of a division within ethnic Israel.
Some of them are believers and thus truly Israel, whereas others, though ethnically Israelites, are not truly Israel, since they are not believers. No Gentiles, therefore, are found in this statement at all.
This Replacement Theology view is often held within groups such as Reconstructionists, Dominionists, and Kingdom Now adherents who hold to a view that we will build God’s kingdom on earth before Christ returns. This non-biblical view presupposes that the Gentile will be able to establish what the Jew could not, but this will never happen.
God, however, has entered into a binding covenant with and is committed to the people of Israel. He has made an everlasting covenant with Israel and cannot break His Word. There are those in the “church” who take the position that His first covenant promises to the Jews are now null and void. Paul makes it clear to the church in Rome saying, “Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin” (Romans 11:1). On this basis alone, we are provided with scriptural proof that Replacement Theology teaching is wrong. In Ezekiel 36, God makes it very clear that He will never abandon Israel—not for their sakes alone, but because His name and His reputation are on the line. Jeremiah writes immediately after the promise of a New Covenant:
Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The Lord of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. (Jeremiah 31:35–36)
God is so adamant about His covenant with Israel here that He would sooner revoke the existence of the stars and planets that He would withdraw His covenant with Israel.
In other words, God cut an everlasting blood covenant with Abraham:
And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. (Genesis 12:1-3)
This has not been revoked. To this nation, God will give a land—the land of Canaan (Genesis12:1, 7; 13:14–15, 17; 15:17–21; 17:8). God will bless those who bless this nation and curse those who curse it (12:3). God laid down a divine principle that has been seen and proven time and time again throughout history.
When you go against Israel (cursing the people like Balak tried to get Balaam to do), you are going against the Messiah who created Israel to be a blessing to all nations.
Another Scripture to consider is found in the Book of Joel:
I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land. (Joel 3:2—emphasis added.)
Also, in Genesis we read:
And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him.” (Genesis 12:7)
He promised a land—specifically, the land of Canaan. The emphasis of Genesis 17:9–14 is that circumcision is a token of God’s covenant with Israel—being performed on the eighth day of a boy’s life. Circumcision was to be a sign of one’s Jewishness, or the seal of the covenant.
God chose to confirm His covenant with Jacob, as evidenced in Genesis 28:13–15. Then it was confirmed through all of Jacob’s twelve sons, who fathered the twelve tribes that came to comprise the nation of Israel (Genesis 49).
Israel was given laws and instructed in all the ways by which to be distinguished, set apart and separate from the Gentiles. Yet, now we have teachers saying the Gentile church is Israel. Such Gentile Christians who claim they are the true Jews and are of the notion they have replaced Israel, should take heed of and fear the words of Jesus when He states that those who “say they are Jews” but are not, are liars and are of “the synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:9; 3:9).
The promises made to both Abraham and his seed are unsearchably rich in blessings which have not yet come to complete fulfillment but await the Messianic Kingdom. The Abrahamic Covenant contains both physical and spiritual promises. The physical blessings were limited to the Jews (such as the land), whereas the spiritual blessings were to extend to the Gentiles through the Messiah only (upon their being grafted into the Olive Tree). In the Old Covenant, the Gentiles had to convert to the religion of Judaism (but this still did not make them Jewish).
God revealed that it was to be through Sarah’s son Isaac that the Abrahamic Covenant would be confirmed (Genesis 26:2–5, and 24). Case in point examples of this include: Exodus 2:23–25; 4:24–26; 6:2–8; 32:11–14; Leviticus 26:46; Deuteronomy 34:4; II Kings 13:22-23; I Chronicles 16:15–19; II Chronicles 20:7–8; Nehemiah 9:7-8; Psalm 105:7–12; Luke 1:54–55, 68–73; and Hebrews 6:13–20. These verses explain how the Abrahamic Covenant is the basis for Israel’s Exodus from Egypt, for giving them the land, for Jewish survival throughout the centuries despite their disobedience, for the coming of the Messiah, the resurrection of the dead, and for Israel’s final redemption and restoration.
Israel has become the focus for a watching world, always making front page news, and yet ironically and unfortunately, much of the church, to their own shame, no longer believes in the nation’s relevance today. It is Satan, of course, who has instigated hatred and anti-Semitism towards the Jewish people throughout the centuries. The closer we come to the end of all things and in the final analysis especially, he will be seething, and his rage will be unchecked, for he knows his time is short, and he will do everything in his power to annihilate them in a more horrific manner than even what Hitler was able to inflict upon the Jewish people.
In the meantime, we would all do well to remember that any teaching, doctrine, or interpretation must be based upon all of what Scripture has to say on a given subject (both Old and New Testament passages), and not just upon a single verse. We must take the whole counsel of God’s Word. When we study Israel, there is a wealth of information in the Bible awaiting our discovery concerning the people, the nation, and its future. Replacement Theology and its antagonistic view of Israel is perpetuating an anti-Semitic stance within the church.
What one believes about Israel is of utmost importance and pivotal to understanding the Bible and the end times. This should be all too apparent, if not self-evident when we study the Word. Old Testament promises made to national Israel will literally be fulfilled in the future just as they were literally fulfilled in the past. The details to support this can be found in abundance in the Old Testament, and we find that both John (in the book of Revelation) and Paul in his epistles often draw on a number of passages to prove their points.
As I’ve stated more than once already, but cannot stress enough, if Israel is truly no longer God’s “chosen people,” we find numerous problems inherent with this position that cannot be reconciled with God’s character, His promises, or Scripture.
Romans 11 contains scriptural precepts which are critical to understand. To get the complete picture, read chapters 1–10 of Romans through thoroughly. Also, chapters 1–2 of Romans points out how all men are without excuse because of the evidence of the truth of God, which has been with us from the beginning, revealed in creation, and found in nature.
Romans 2 discusses the Jew and the law. It points out the futility of trying to obtain salvation through the law—that Jews, God’s chosen ones do not have any advantage over the Gentiles for salvation. For we all have sinned, we all have missed the mark and fallen short of God’s glory. There is none truly righteous—no, not one. The law shows us just how short we fall of God’s holiness. In fact, the Jews who have more knowledge of God, will have even more to answer for. The chapter closes with the statement that it is not enough to be circumcised externally to be a Jew, but rather God’s concern is for the heart to be circumcised or transformed—not an outward change in the flesh but in the inner man.
In Romans 3–8, we are told that the Jews had an advantage over the Gentiles in that they were given the truth of God’s Word (the oracles of God) and were entrusted to keep it. However, both the Jew and the Gentile have sinned, and the law did not, does not, and will not justify any of us. None of us are justified apart from a genuine faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul raises the question in Romans 9–11 regarding the rightful place of Israel. On this matter then, Paul has this to say:
For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh. (Romans 9:3)
If the church was in any kind of position to replace Israel, Paul could not have made such a strong statement. However, we need to pay close attention to how Paul defines Israel throughout the book of Romans and his other epistles.
It’s obvious that God’s everlasting Covenant is still in effect with Israel because of what Paul states earlier in his very same letter to the Romans. He goes on to identify his people—distinguishing them from the Gentiles and the church:
. . . who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen. (Romans 9:4–5)
Certainly, these are not Gentiles or “the church” of which he is speaking.
In summary, what can be said for Israel? God says that we are to bless them and not curse or turn against them. Of the Jew, Paul stated “unto them were committed the oracles of God” (Romans 3:2). Jesus Himself said that “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). And though they have been dispersed throughout the world, God has blessed and prospered them wherever they went. We, therefore, owe a great debt to the Jewish people; and Israel is still Israel and will continue to have a special place in God’s heart and significance in the future of our planet. Remember, God has said of the Jew:
For thus saith the Lord of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye. (Zechariah 2:8).
To order copies of Israel: Replacing What God Has Not?, click here
NEW PRINT BOOKLET TRACT: Can Cultures Be Redeemed? (Some Things You Should Know About the Indigenous People’s Movement)
Can Cultures Be Redeemed? (Some Things You Should Know About the Indigenous People’s Movement) written by Nanci Des Gerlaise is our newest Lighthouse Trails Print
Booklet Tract. The booklet tract is 18 pages long and sells for $1.85 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of Can Cultures Be Redeemed?, click here.
Nanci Des Gerlaise
[Indigenous People’s Movement] leaders teach that God has been redeeming cultures and that He placed in all cultures a way for men to have a relationship with God outside of the Gospel.1
DID GOD CREATE CULTURES?
A growing trend in the evangelical church is what is referred to as “redeeming the cultures” or “Cultural Identification.” Essentially, it is the idea that God created cultures and has no desire for anyone to leave their cultural practices but can incorporate their belief in Jesus into their already existing culture. Mike Oppenheimer of Let Us Reason Ministries has studied this “redeeming the culture” movement extensively and writes:
The new idea being presented is that God has left certain elements in every culture that are redeemable qualities, pathways to Himself . . . that He revealed Himself to nearly all indigenous people groups prior to the Gospel being brought to them [and that] in every culture “God has left treasures and worthy traditions within the indigenous cultures” [and that] we can bring Jesus Christ to people and then leave them to worship God in their own cultural and religious ways. . . .
What is taught is that God set forth His plan of salvation through all ancient cultures and that “redemptive analogies” can be found in most, if not all, cultures.2
But did God really create cultures? I do not believe He did because cultures are man-made. Webster’s Dictionary defines culture as being: “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group.” Another definition states:
The quality in a person, or society that rises from interest in arts, letters, scholarly pursuits, etc. 2). a particular form or state of civilization.3
On the contrary to what leaders in the “redeeming the cultures” movement teach, most cultures were “pagan, polytheistic and animistic.”4 For most of these cultures, there was a significant emphasis placed on religious practices. Oppenheimer points out that the words culture or society cannot be found in the Bible, but rather it talks about “nations” and how these nations worshiped false gods as opposed to the “one true God”5 (read Romans 1).
What does the Bible have to say about the different nations (cultures)? In Deuteronomy, we are cautioned to:
Take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them . . . that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods. (Deuteronomy 12:30-32)
And Deuteronomy 18:14 tells us not to “follow the abominations of those nations.”
In all of human history, God has sanctioned just one culture, and that was Israel. This may be a humbling thing for other cultures to accept, but this is what the Word of God clearly demonstrates as the prophet Isaiah said, “I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory” (Isaiah 46:13). Then, after Jesus came and died upon the Cross, people from every other culture were given the opportunity to accept God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. The Bible says that we can be grafted in as adopted sons and daughters. And God takes the born-again, grafted-in believer and separates him or her from the world to Himself “to take out of them a people for his name” (Acts 15:14).
Also in Acts, Barnabas and Paul cried out to the Gentiles, who were about to offer sacrifice to them, saying:
[W]ho in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. (Acts 14:16, emphasis added)
Paul and Barnabas said this because they were shocked by the ignorance and blasphemous behavior of the people.
The apostle Peter reminds us that God has set apart “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people” so that we who believe on Him would be called “out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:6-10). God calls people out of their cultures and invites them to come into His kingdom.
CAN WE REDEEM THE CULTURES?
In the Gospel of Matthew, it says:
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20)
We are to go and preach to the different cultures and teach them “to observe all things” that God has instructed in the Word of God. Nowhere in Scripture does it even remotely suggest that one’s culture is to be redeemed. And yet, there are leaders within Christianity who are teaching this very thing. In a YWAM training manual, it states:
Appreciating one’s culture is appreciating the creation of God in a unique and beautiful manner. As disciples of Jesus Christ we are also called to redeem our culture as we grow in God.6
Within the Indigenous People’s Movement, leaders are teaching that each culture already had God’s truth before they ever heard the Gospel. Leon Siu, a leader of this movement, states:
A few years ago some friends and I were contemplating how we would be able to reach indigenous peoples and we thought that what was prevalent at that time was a misconception among, within the church of God’s presence here in the islands. The misconception that, as was expressed earlier, was that God didn’t arrive until the missionaries arrived. You know, and so when we started to look at this we started to look into our culture and see what things within our culture what God had originally intended for this particular group of people, Hawaiians.7
But Scripture tells us that the Gospel was kept a “mystery” hidden “from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints” (Colossians 1:25-26). This is why Jesus gave that command to the disciples to go to all the nations sharing the truth of God’s Word. The people of the world’s cultures did not have that truth until it was brought to them.
On Leon Siu’s ministry website, it states that they want to show “indigenous people, missionaries and Christians . . . the true nature of Jesus,” saying that His way is not to be a “foreign religion that destroys people groups and their cultures, but one that brings people groups and their cultures to their highest fulfillment.”8
Sandy Simpson, founder of Deception in the Church ministry in Hawaii, has written an expose titled “Reasons to Reject the ‘World Christian Gathering on Indigenous People’s Movement.” He tells readers:
In the Old Testament God revealed Himself to the Jews exclusively and there was no salvation apart from the Jews. In the New Testament God revealed Himself through the apostles, and especially through Paul to the Gentiles. All the gods of the nations were and are false gods (Deuteronomy 32:17; 1 Corinthians 10:20, Jeremiah 16:19, Amos 2:4).
Even the “supreme beings” of the nations are not God, as in the case of Amen (Amon) of Egypt (Jeremiah 46:25), Hadad of the Arameans (1 Kings 20:28), Marduk of Babylon (Daniel 3:16-18) and many other “detestable” gods.9
Another research ministry, Discernment Research Group, warns that “the new heresies teach that man can come to Christ without the Gospel of Salvation but by some other avenue inherent in their culture and religion.” DRG describes what this view is really like:
And they don’t need Jesus to be saved, but can call upon their own local deity. And once they get “saved,” they can “redeem” the pagan religious practices in their culture and make it part of their new faith. They never need to separate from their old ways. In fact, they are encouraged to bring back the old pagan ways!10
We cannot call on strange gods and find salvation. The Bible is absolutely clear about this:
Hear, O my people . . . if thou wilt hearken unto me; There shall no strange god be in thee; neither shalt thou worship any strange god. (Isaiah 81:8-9)
This “progressive” way of looking at evangelism is prevalent and widespread now. One of its key leaders, Daniel Kikawa, author of Perpetuated in Righteousness, believes that:
Christians should cease representing Jesus as the Son of the foreign God of a foreign people. . . . We should instead introduce Jesus as the Son of their creator God.11 (emphasis added)
John Dawson, president of YWAM, would agree with what Kikawa says. He states that Kikawa’s book “points the way to an exciting new understanding” of the Gospel.12
But this “new understanding” is very flawed. You can’t just add Jesus to any religion or cultural belief system and say that is the biblical Gospel. The Bible says, “strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life” (Matthew 7:14). In man’s carnal mind, he cannot accept this. But when we learn to trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, and when we come to believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, then we can rejoice that He has provided a way of escape from eternal damnation. He has not left us alone. We no longer complain or lament that there is only one way to Heaven—rather, we rejoice that there IS a way to Heaven. It is like this little analogy: A woman is in a house caught on fire, and there is no way to get out. Suddenly, in through the door bursts a big strong firefighter. “Ma’am, I am here to rescue you.” Will she say, “Are you the ONLY way out?” No, she will rejoice that there IS a way out. That is how God earnestly, zealously, and jealously longs to have it be with us.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)
The following comparison chart shows the differences between man’s view and God’s view of cultures:13
Man’s View: All cultures are equal in their worth.
God’s View: All cultures are not equal.
Man’s View: God loves all cultures and nations as they are.
God’s View: God does love all people but not their cultures. He does not accept their various ways to worship but has given man the correct manner in which to worship.
Man’s View: All religious practices and rituals are acceptable ways to approach God.
God’s View: Only one way is given by God that is acceptable, through Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son.
Man’s View: We are all united as one humanity and should accept everyone as they are.
God’s View: Our humanity is united in sin (in Adam), resulting in our separation from God, and we need to be united in Christ. Christ, and Christ alone, then becomes our common denominator.
Man’s View: All the gods of the nations are the same or have insignificant differences.
God’s View: The gods of the nations are false; YHWH alone is God, and there is no other according to His own Word.
Ephesians tells us that before we heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we were without hope. We cannot obtain this hope through the gods of the nation’s cultures.
Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh . . . That at that time ye were without Christ, being . . . strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. (Ephesians 2:11-12)
What will happen to the false gods, which have no life in them? Jeremiah tells of their future:
The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens. (Jeremiah 10:11)
NATIVE AMERICANS & THE MISSIONARIES
Native American author and lecturer for the Indigenous People’s Movement, the late Richard Twiss, taught that the Gospel was a “source of division and stumbling block for First Nations peoples and this is to be blamed on Western missionaries.”14
In a sense, Twiss is partially correct in saying that the Gospel was a source of division. It was, and it still is! Quoting from the Old Testament, listen to what Paul says about Jesus:
Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and a rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. (Romans 9:33)
And Jesus said:
Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division. (Luke 12:51)
It is true that the Gospel does divide. It divides truth from error.
Western missionaries did lead First Nations people to God through the Gospel and still do today. But the World Christian Gathering of Indigenous Peoples (WCGIP) teach the traditions of men and belittle those faithful missionaries who gave of themselves to lovingly share the Gospel with the First Nations and Native American people. Sandy Simpson explains that while there were some “misguided missionaries” who tried to “change indigenous cultural values to Western ones,” the IPM leaders “ignored the many missionaries who, in presenting the Gospel and sound doctrine, necessarily preached things that were in opposition to demonic cultures and practices like those of the Indians.”15 Simpson explains further:
The missionaries were faced with heathen cultures, not unlike their own in the past, and attempted to apply biblical principles, in cooperation with those in First Nations, to come up with a way of living in accordance to the Word of God. . . .
Mistakes were made, but if you talked to the first generation of converts . . . you would understand fully what First Nation’s cultures were like at the time. Sexual perversion, women and child abuse, murder, human sacrifice, ruling elite who lorded it over everyone else, worship of demons, and other atrocities were commonplace. Those who heard the Gospel preached to them and recognized the freedom in Christ offered were saved and delivered from the evil in their cultures.16
The IPM leadership does not understand what these cultures were like before the missionaries came. Simpson also states:
[The missionaries] were not sent to bring culture nor was that their purpose. They were primarily bringing God’s values, the Bible, and applying its time-tested truths, together with First Nations peoples, so that they might be light and salt to the nations.17
Terry LeBlanc, a leader in the Indigenous People’s Movement, tries to convince people that the “American Indians were not worshiping different gods or worshiping incorrectly before the missionaries brought to them Christ.”18 LeBlanc states:
There’s a myth that we have labored under for centuries in indigenous communities and the myth is that we are a godless heathen people.19
What the IPM is teaching in their vilifying of missionaries is a tactic also used by leaders in the emerging church movement, which convinces people that the former or biblical way of doing things is inherently bad. This is the platform they use to introduce radical new ideas to create a paradigm shift that is, unfortunately, unbiblical and leads people further and further from the Gospel message of salvation.
A book that I recently wrote the foreword to is titled Stories From Indian Wigwams and Northern Campfires. The book was written by a Canadian missionary who lived for many years among the Cree people in Manitoba in the late 1800s. When you hear Egerton Ryerson Young’s account of his life with the Cree as a missionary, it is a much different account than what is being told in North American public school history books and by groups like the Indigenous People’s Movement. In the foreword of Young’s book, I wrote:
“[T]he Gospel was shared with Natives, including medicine men, which so often resulted in decisions being made for Jesus Christ. . . . [Mr. Young] shares very extraordinary events as he journeys to the remotest parts of Canada sharing the Gospel to the lost. He describes witnessing boldly to medicine men regarding their pagan beliefs with very encouraging and positive results achieved by no other than the Holy Spirit.
“Young tells [a] story of an old Chief who was taught the truth by a missionary regarding his belief in paganism. The missionary urged him to renounce this pagan, mystical spirituality and become a Christian. The old Chief was aware that he was a great sinner and needed a Savior. What an illustration this story is to show that God has placed in each of our hearts a conscience to know right from wrong.
“[T]he Gospel is indeed for everyone, and a loving God desires that none should perish without hearing about the Gospel (2 Peter 3:9). God does not accept the diverse spirituality of all cultures as being locked into truth. For Him to accept false and contradictory spirituality, while the Gospel calls all to repentance and belief in the Savior, would make God a liar—because there can only be one truth. And God cannot tell a lie because He is just and holy.”20
What is being taught in the new “emerging” way of doing missions (or the “new missiology”) is that we cannot teach that salvation is the finished work of the Cross and that we must incorporate any unredeemable “articles of affection” to godly worship such as: fetishes, tobacco, peyote, sweet grass, drums, prayer feathers, frenzied dances, etc.
But to do so is idolatry in God’s eyes and is blatant syncretism, from which we need to repent if we have engaged in these forbidden practices. We are redeemed and purified only by the blood of Jesus Christ, not through man-made efforts such as sweats, smudging ceremonies or via any ritual or ceremony. Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins on the Cross and declared, “It is finished!” Therefore, no other avenue is available by which we can be purified or redeemed. Remember, there is only one mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ Himself (1 Timothy 2:5). But look what He promises those who remain true in standing in the faith:
Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife [the saints] hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. (Revelation 19: 7-9)
Titus Coan was a missionary in the 1830s to the Hawaiian Native people. Though he is little known today, some say he was the greatest missionary who ever lived. His is another example of the contrast between biblical missionaries to the Native people and the new missiology that is being presented by Leon Siu, Richard Twiss, John Dawson, Terry LeBlanc, and the other IPM leaders. In this account by Coan, it’s not difficult to see what happens when the true biblical Gospel is preached:
At one place where I preached, there was an old and hardened Chief, who neither feared God nor regarded man. I preached to him fearlessly, personally, pointedly, calling him by name, and in the presence of his people. I charged home his guilt upon him, and in the name of the Lord urged him to immediate repentance. He was much moved, and promised repentance the first day, but I was not satisfied that his proud heart was broken.
On the second day I renewed the charge. He stood the siege for awhile, but at length his feelings became insuppressible, and all of a sudden he broke forth in a cry that almost rent the heavens. The sword of the Spirit was in his veins. He submitted on the spot, and appears like a newborn babe. The effect of this scene on the congregation was overwhelming. The place was shaken. Multitudes cried out for mercy, and multitudes turned to the Lord. I could tell you of many similar facts. God has done great things for us. I feel like lying in the dust and adoring His grace.21
Oh that more missionaries today could have such zeal and confidence in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is that glorious thing that washes away all our sins and gives us garments of purity and cleanness to wear for eternity.
THE TOWER OF BABEL
This brings us back to Genesis 11:3-4 where the people decided to build a temple or ziggurat (ziggurats looked like pyramids with steps or ramps leading up the sides), which was built as a monument to their own greatness. In verse 4, the tower was a great human achievement to the people themselves and not to God. We often build monuments to ourselves such as those described above. It can be in the form of expensive clothing, fancy vehicles, huge homes, or jobs with titles that we use to give us identity and self-worth. Yet when we do this, we are usurping God from His rightful place in our lives. Are there “towers” like this in your life? It’s a question we should all be asking ourselves. Since the attempt to build the tower of Babel, man has never ceased in his attempts to attain greatness and stature.
Cultural spirituality, with its many traditions, is not supported by Scripture; rather we are met with God’s consistent warnings throughout the Bible, one of which is found in Colossians:
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit according to the traditions of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8)
And in the Gospel of Mark, we find:
Making the Word of God of no effect through your traditions which you have handed down. And many such things you do. (Mark 7:13)
The word ‘culture’ appears nowhere in the Bible from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation. The Greek word paradosis translates into the English word “tradition.” Pay careful attention to what God has to say about tradition in the following verses:
Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? . . . Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. (Matthew 15:2-3, 6)
Also see Matthew 15:2, 3, 6; Mark 7:3-13; and Colossians 2:8.
Man developed culture at Babel and passed down this same teaching to all generations to this apostate age in which we live. Grandpa used to share how the New Age (the New Spirituality) hijacked Native Spirituality. Yet, in all this, one thing remains certain—all unbiblical teaching originates from Babel.
The “redeeming the cultures” mindset:
. . . permits the Word of God to be “contextualized” to a pagan culture through images, icons and symbols, thereby retaining the pagan elements of that culture. Using “redemptive analogies” (another heresy), these pagan beliefs and practices are claimed to be “redeemable” and are “christianized.” Even the name of God is being changed to that of pagan deities!22
The resurgence of Native Spirituality made a huge comeback because these traditions were kept alive in the underground world and originate from the age-old idolatry and witchcraft Deuteronomy 18:10-11 warns against. To blend error with truth results in damnable heresies resulting in swift destruction, which the Bible warns us strongly about:
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. (2 Peter 2: 1)
Scripture gives no indication at all that we are to esteem the cultures or traditions of men. In Amy Dueckman’s article about the circle event, she says:
Opening the evening, members of the Sto:lo Coqualeetza Elders group of Chilliwack presented a special welcome with songs. Aldred then addressed the group, telling of his experiencing Christianity as a Native person who wondered if the Gospel was just for white people, or if it could speak to him, too. “When the Gospel is shared, it must be in the heart language of the people,” he concluded. “Instead of telling [people] how to be Christian,” he asked, “how about just telling them the story?”23
What story would that be? We do not have the authority to change the way we are to share the Gospel! We are commissioned to go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. God is in the business of redeeming individual people that He might set apart a people for Himself. He did not say, “Go into the world and disciple the nations using stories!” The only story we are to share is the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to preach Christ crucified!
Man’s rebellion against God in Babel, following the flood, once again became a situation requiring God’s judgment and intervention due to mankind’s wickedness. Had God not confounded man’s language, which in turn resulted in man being dispersed and disseminated into nations, man’s wickedness only would have worsened with no end in sight. If you read from Genesis 1 to Genesis 11, you will read that God created man, birds, animals, fish, and creeping things. It does not say that He created cultures. God told the people to be fruitful and multiply. Man disobeyed, and instead, in his rebellion, man attempted to build a city to avoid being sent away. But God did just that anyway after they rebelled the second time by refusing to go forth and multiply (Genesis 10:30-32; Genesis 11:1-11). Man developed his own heathen traditions and passed down this teaching at Babel. In the Old Testament, plenty of evidence exists where God told the Israelites what they should do about other gods that were worshiped within the constructs of other belief systems (other cultures):
And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect: and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth. (Exodus 23:13)
For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the LORD made the heavens. (Psalm 96:5)
When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. (Deuteronomy 18:9)
Today, God is bidding Christians everywhere, from all cultures, to separate ourselves from all the idolatry imbedded in our traditions and to hold fast to the Gospel–God’s plan for salvation for whosoever will believe on Him (John 3:15).
To order copies of Can Cultures Be Redeemed? BOOKLET TRACT, click here.
1. Sandy Simpson, Deception in the Church, “Reasons to Reject the “World Christian Gathering on Indigenous People” Movement” (http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/reasonstoreject.html).
2. Mike Oppenheimer, “Culturizing Christianity” (http://www.letusreason.org/current70.htm).
3. Random House Dictionary, taken from Let Us Reason website: “Looking For God in All the Wrong Places” (http://www.letusreason.org/Emerge13.htm).
4. Mike Oppenheimer, “Culturizing Christianity” (http://www.letusreason.org/current70.htm).
6. YWAM, Island Breeze Training, “What is a Discipleship Training School?” (http://web.archive.org/web/20070712212212/http://www.islandbreeze.com.au/training.htm).
7. Leon Siu, Aloha Ke Akua, Word to the World with host Danny Lehmann, KLHT, 2001, show #544, courtesy Sandy Simpson, Deception in the Church who transcribed this program.
8. Aloha Ke Akua Ministries (http://akaministries.tripod.com/aloha).
9. Sandy Simpson, “Reasons to Reject the ‘World Christian Gathering on Indigenous People’ Movement” (March 2006, http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/reasonstoreject.html).
10. Discernment Research Group, “The Indigenous People’s Movement” (August 2, 2007, http://herescope.blogspot.com/2007/08/indigenous-peoples-movement.html).
11. Daniel Kikawa, Perpetuated in Righteousness (Aloha Ke Akua Pub; 4th edition, 1994), p. 27.
12. Aloha Ke Akua “Books” page (http://akaministries.tripod.com/aloha/id3.html).
13. Mike Oppenheimer, “Culturizing Christianity,” op. cit.
14. Sandy Simpson, “Reasons to Reject the ‘World Christian Gathering on Indigenous People’ Movement,” op. cit.
18. Mike Oppenheimer, “Culturizing Christianity,” op. cit.
19. Terry LeBlanc, Word to the World program #542, as cited by Mike Oppenheimer, “Culturizing Christianity,” op. cit.
20. Nanci Des Gerlaise, from the foreword of Stories From Indian Wigwams and Northern Campfires (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2011).
21. Titus Coan, Missionary to Hawaii (http://www.path2prayer.com/article/1051/revival-and-holy-spirit/books-sermons/new-resources/famous-christians-books-and-sermons/titus-coan-missionary-to-hawaii).
22. Discernment Research Group, “The Newest Heresy of the NAR: Orality” (Herescope blog, March 8th, 2006 (http://herescope.blogspot.com/2006/03/newest-heresy-of-nar-orality.html).
23. Amy Dueckman,“Listening Circle Brings Together Two Cultures” (Intotemak, Mennonite Church Canada, Summer 2006, Vol. 35, No. 2, www.mennonitechurch.ca/files/news/intotemak/intotemakv35n2.pdf).
To order copies of Can Cultures Be Redeemed?, click here.
The information in this booklet is extracted from Muddy Waters. Muddy Waters: an insider’s view of North American Native Spirituality is written by Nanci Des Gerlaise, a Canadian Cree First Nations. Nanci is the daughter and grandaughter of medicine men and was raised on a Canadian settlement.
Native Spirituality “Renewal” & the Emerging Church written by Nanci Des Gerlaise is our newest Lighthouse Trails Print Booklet Tract. The booklet tract is 18 pages long and sells for $1.85 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of Native Spirituality “Renewal” & the Emerging Church, click here. There is also a bonus section in the booklet: “New Age Elements in North American Native Spirituality.”
While those practicing Native Spirituality may believe they are practicing a completely unique form of spirituality, originating with them, they couldn’t be further from the truth. Native Spirituality is just one part of a vast movement that is creating a paradigm shift in our present-day culture away from biblical Christianity and replacing it with an all-inclusive interspiritual global religion that relies heavily upon mystical practices. The results will create a “Christianity” that has no resemblance to biblical Christianity whatsoever.
As part of this massive global shift, many Native American or First Nations tribes are exploring the renewal of their ancient spiritual traditions and reinstituting ancestral and mystical practices. Natives involving themselves in this pursuit see this as an opportunity to bring recognition to the forgotten and once persecuted Native American religion. They fail to realize that they are actually participating in a mass deception spreading throughout the world in the days prior to Christ’s return.
One example of this “awakening” among Native Americans took place on July 30th, 2007, when the Lummi Nation in Washington State sponsored the Paddle to Lummi Canoe Journey 2007 for six days. Its motto was Traveling the Traditional Highways of Our Ancestors, and its theme was Xwialken etse Tl’aneq—Lummi for the Return of the Potlatch.1
Salish canoe families from around the Northwest Coast gathered to celebrate their first potlatch since 1937. Potlatches, a distinctive tradition in the area, focused on stabilizing relationships among tribes, feasting, celebrating, and giving gifts. The call was to celebrate “as the Lummi Nation Reawakens, Renews and Revives their ancient traditions.”2
Many other examples exist, as well, that show how this spiritual “renewal” is taking place within the lives of Native Americans and First Nations people. Richard Twiss,* (see * below) of the Lakota Sioux tribe, looked for this renewal or awakening among Native people. In his book, One Church, Many Tribes, Twiss states:
This is a time of transition in ministry among indigenous believers around the world—a time of exploration and sincere inquiring of the Lord for new perspectives and approaches to Native ministry. Around the globe among indigenous Christians, cultural identity is surfacing as the key dynamic in this emerging new Native ministry paradigm and spiritual awakening.3 (emphasis added)
Christians are debating the use of Native American drums, gourds, rattles and dances as legitimate expressions of godly faith. In the next decade or so, this controversy will also subside and we will hear and see indigenous sounds and movements in church services across the land in glorious worship to Jesus Christ. Indeed, that day is already dawning.4 (Emphasis added)
What Twiss is saying is very scary because a lot of people will be deceived into thinking that what he is proposing is a good thing. But while many Native American Christians, like Twiss, are looking for a great spiritual awakening within the First Nations and Native American groups—primarily by incorporating Native Spirituality cultural practices into their Christianity—right under their noses, a massive worldwide deception authored by Satan is incorporating Native Spirituality into its plan and is surging forward, ultimately forsaking the purity of the Gospel message.
Native Spirituality Incorporated into Society
While Native Spirituality is being introduced into the lives of countless Native people, at the same time, Native Spirituality is being incorporated into contemporary culture: in popular forms of interspirituality such as goddess worship5 in public schools where teachers are requiring their classes to study Native religion as part of multiculturalism; throughout the environmental movement;6 and in the work of prominent politicians such as former Vice President Al Gore.7 Even the movies Pocahontas and Dances With Wolves have given mainstream culture a “crash course in Native spirituality.”8 Partly in overcompensation for very real injustices committed against Native Americans, Native Spirituality has become politically correct inasmuch as traditional biblical Christianity is on a fast track to becoming politically incorrect. Sadly, in the process, the Gospel which is “the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16) is being pushed aside, as if it were to blame—leaving countless numbers of people—both Native American and non-Native—without the sure hope that only comes through knowing Christ.
Native Spirituality and the Catholic Church—”A Natural Fit”
TheCatholic Church has joined the ranks of those embracing Native Spirituality. In a November 2006 article by Western Catholic Reporter titled “Catholic School Makes Room For Native Spirituality,” the principal of Ben Calf Robe Catholic School in Alberta states that the school, made up of 200 native children, “combines the teaching and Gospels of the Catholic Church with the various aspects of native spirituality.”9 The article states:
There are four sacred drums in the school and some 60 drummers. Drumming is the sacred heart beat of Mother Earth, Richardson said. “When the drum is beat upon, we believe that all of the prayers within the children are lifted to God.” . . . In their monthly liturgical celebrations, the school uses the Catholic rite but they bring in native spirituality in the methods of smudging and the prayers to the Creator.10
The principal of Ben Calf Robe Catholic School says that the “similarities between Catholicism and native traditions and processes are evident.”11 He adds:
[W]e believe Catholicism and native spirituality are equal . . . We don’t see one being more important and we don’t see them being entwined. We do see them over-lapping at times.12
In another article “Native Spirituality Celebrated in Catholic School System,” a Native Studies teacher in the Canadian Catholic school system “is very serious about joining two strands of his Métis heritage—Catholicism and Native spirituality—something he sees as a natural fit.”
13 This resonance between Native Spirituality and Catholicism isn’t strictly limited to Canada either. It’s happening in the United States too. In an article in the News of the Northwest Jesuits, a Montana Jesuit novice says he has found “a beautiful marriage between Catholic and Native Spirituality,” and is encountering “new light” in the sweat lodge.14 The article describes what transpires in a sweat lodge ceremony:
The space eventually is packed with Nakoda and White Clay tribe members of every age, surrounding the awestruck Jesuit guest. Three young men bring rocks from the blazing fire outside and drop them into a pit. The holy man—whom Herman describes as entirely Indian and entirely Catholic—douses his flashlight and begins splashing water and tossing sweet grass on the smoldering stones. Red sparks dance, intermittently lighting up the many Native faces. The people chant sacred songs in their native language, calling on their local saints, the ancestors.15
Native Spirituality Embraced by Mainstream Christianity
Within the evangelical/Protestant church, Native Spirituality is cropping up more and more all the time. For instance, the Mennonite Church Canada offers on their Resource Centre website a Medicine Wheel Poster. It states:
This poster is a tool for living in harmony with God, each other and creation.
It’s a part of the Reaching Up to God our Creator resource box which highlights the common ground of Aboriginal Sacred Teachings and the Bible, in the hope of fostering respect and understanding among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities.16
Also on the Mennonite Church Canada website is a booklet titled Teachings of the Sacred Tree “to compare Aboriginal Sacred Teachings about the Sacred Tree and the Bible’s use of trees.”
17 The site also offers several resources by Native American Richard Twiss, a leader in the Indigenous People’s Movement (IPM), as well as several other resources on Native Spirituality, the emerging church, and contemplative mysticism.
The ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) is another Protestant denomination that is embracing Native Spirituality. In Lutheran Woman Today magazine, the president of a Lutheran seminary wrote this in an article titled “Dream Catchers: The ELCA Commission for Women”:
Beside the bed of my now-teenage daughter hangs a dream catcher, one of the many treasures of Native American culture. According to legend, the dream catcher filters dreams, sending good ones to the sleeper and trapping bad ones until they evaporate at dawn’s first light.
I thank God for the past 15 years of history during which the Commission for Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has been a dream catcher for thousands upon thousands in our church and beyond.18
You can find examples all over the Internet of mainstream Christian groups and denominations that are integrating Native Spirituality. Medicine wheels, circles, dream catchers, sweat lodges, and shamanism—it’s all there.
The Emerging Church, The New Age, and Native Spirituality
The emerging church is a movement that is said to be a new way to do Christianity, a way that is supposed to reach out to the postmodern generation in a more relevant way than traditional Christianity. In reality, the emerging church, which is really a merging church, is a full-scale ecumenical effort to unite all religions against biblical Christianity by using mystical practices to accomplish this. In the emerging church, doctrine becomes unimportant while unity at all costs becomes the most important thing.
Richard Twiss talks about “heal[ing] the rifts”19 between Natives and Anglo-Saxons, Democrats and Republicans, men and women, rich and poor, etc. and asserts how we can “all have a part to play in the healing of our nation [America].”20 This is exactly what the emerging church is proposing to do. But the healing of the nations (America, Canada, or any part of the world) is not going to happen before Jesus Christ returns. The teaching that we can, in and of ourselves, usher in the Kingdom of God on earth now before His return is heretical. Our focus, as Native or non-Native Christians, needs to be the preaching of the Gospel according to the Holy Scriptures. It is not the earth we are to save but rather men, women, and children’s souls.
When Twiss tells us to “imagine Native believers enjoying the fragrant aroma of burning sage, sweet grass or cedar” 21or “smudging,22 I believe he is misleading many. Galatians 3:28 tells us, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” In other words, our focus as born-again believers isn’t to practice rituals from the cultures we were born into. We are born again, into a brand new culture—God’s culture. The one “culture” that God has bestowed on all mankind is the Gospel; it is the one heritage passed on to us by God, yet we are destroying it today.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
In 2010 at the Emergent Village Theological Conference, Richard Twiss was part of this emerging church event. A blog for the event states:
Richard Twiss . . . began by blessing us with sage incense and having a member of his team dance a healing dance. . . . He moved from rejecting his reservation upbringing, to re-discovering his heritage and hating white people, coming to faith in Christ through evangelical churches, walking away again from his heritage, to re-re-discovering his Native culture and integrating it into his faith.23
The emerging church fits in very well with Native Spirituality and Catholicism. Icons, incense, earth-based spirituality, ushering in the kingdom of God, and healing for the earth through ecumenical unity, mantras, and chanting—these are all elements they have in common with each other.
In One Church, Many Tribes, Richard Twiss echoes Rob Bell, a leader in the emerging church. Twiss talks about removing the barriers between the “sacred” and the “secular.”24 He says that “Native people do not have a split view of reality.”25 On Bell’s national tour, Everything is Spiritual,26 Bell tells his audiences that God is in everything and no gap exists between the secular and the spiritual. Twiss says that “Western Christians struggle with . . . a dualistic belief”27 with regard to the secular and the spiritual. Whether Twiss realizes it or not, he is describing a core viewpoint in the New Age and occultism, according to the maxim “as above, so below,” where the secular (the flesh or carnal man) and the spiritual (God) are one. I think this explanation by Christian author Ray Yungen demonstrates the subtleties that lie within bridging the gap between the secular and the spiritual (i.e., man and God) in his book A Time of Departing:
Satan is not simply trying to draw people to the dark side of a good versus evil conflict. Actually, he is trying to eradicate the gap between himself and God, between good and evil, altogether. When we understand this approach it helps us see why . . . Jack Canfield said he felt God flowing through all things. . . . Such reasoning implies that God has given His glory to all of creation; since Satan is part of creation, then he too shares in this glory, and thus is “like the Most High.” . . .
If the all-is-one view were true, then salvation through a Redeemer would become unnecessary and Jesus’ death on the Cross would be rendered altogether futile and pointless. In order for the Cross to make any sense, there must be a separation between God’s perfect nature and Man’s sin nature.28
The Native view, which maintains there is no division between the secular and the spiritual, goes against what the Bible says about the wretched carnality of man. God is so holy and so pure that He cannot even look upon such sinfulness. It is only through the perfection, sinlessness, and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, and through being washed clean by His blood that anyone can be saved.
There is a gap between the sacred and the secular, and there is only One mediator who can rectify that. Native Spirituality, Catholicism, and the New Age—none of these belief systems can do it nor can they eradicate that huge chasm that has been fixed between God and man. This may be hard for us to understand because the Bible also says “God so loved the world . . .” and is “not willing that any should perish” (John 3:16 and 2 Peter 3:9). But yet, by the same token, John 3:16 also makes it very clear that only “whosoever believeth on Him will not perish but will have everlasting life.” He has bestowed upon every man and woman the ability to believe upon Him in as great a measure as He has also given every man the ability to reject Him. Thus, we are all without excuse.
The plan of the emerging church is to see the earth “healed” by bringing in a global, all-inclusive kingdom of God that would include all religions and all people. The problem with an all-inclusive “kingdom” is that there is no room for a Savior who proclaims there is only one way to Heaven. One very popular New Age/New Spirituality proponent who believes man is on the threshold of enlightenment and healing for the earth says this:
It will take an unprecedented act of courage, on a grand scale. You may have to do something virtually unknown in the annals of human history. . . . You may have to give up some of your most sacred beliefs. . . . let me make something clear. The era of the Single Savior is over. What is needed now is joint action, combined effort, collective co-creation.29 (emphasis added)
How is the world going to grab hold of this “collective” effort to unite together and save the world? Through mysticism and occult practices. And because mysticism is such a major component in Native Spirituality, the emerging church, and the New Age, it is easy to see how these three spiritualities are really on the same path. And it is a path that excludes the single Savior of the world.
These are perilous times for all Bible-believing Christians. Jesus said that if we follow Him, the world will hate us, and we will suffer persecution. Many have gone before us who have paid dearly with their very lives. May God give us that kind of faith.
If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. (John 15:19)
* * * *
* On February 9, 2013, Richard Twiss (58), co-founder and president of Wiconi International and author of One Church Many Tribes: Following Jesus the Way God Made You died of a heart attack.
To order copies of Native Spirituality “Renewal” & the Emerging Church, click here. There is also a bonus section in the booklet: “New Age Elements in North American Native Spirituality.”
1. Lance Dickie, “The Pull of History and Healing” (The Seattle Times, July 27, 2007, http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2003807813_lance27.html).
2. Lumni Nation (http://www.whatcomvolunteer.org/HOC__Organization_Profile_Page?Oid=0018000000t9HvPAAU).
3. Richard Twiss, One Church Many Tribes (Ventura, CA: Regal Books from Gospel Light, 2000), pp. 20-21.
4. Ibid., p. 21.
5. For an excellent article on contemporary feminism and goddess worship, see Berit Kjos’ “Welcoming the Goddess,” chapter 5 from her book, Under the Spell of Mother Earth (online at http://www.crossroad.to/Books/ UnderSpell/5-goddess.htm). The chapter also features an informative chart, “Common Practices of Earth-Centered Religions,” which shows the common practices of pagan religions: trance states, dreams and visions, divination, spiritism, magic/sorcery, charms/amulets, solstice rites, serpent worship, and sacred sex.
6. There is an excellent article about earth-based spirituality called “Native, Indigenous, and Nature Religion” from Dave Hunt’s book, Occult Invasion (ch. 8, online at http://www.ankerberg.com/Articles/new-age/NA0201W2.htm).
7. See “Al Gore’s Vision of Global Salvation: Quotations from his 1992 best-seller: Earth in the Balance” by Berit Kjos (http://www.crossroad. to/text/articles/Gore7-99.html).
8. Philip Jenkins, Dream Catchers: How mainstream America discovered Native Spirituality (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 5.
9. Bill Glen, “Catholic School Makes Room for Native Spirituality” (Western Catholic Reporter, November 6, 2006, http://wcr.ab.ca/old-site/news/2006/1106/bencalf110606.shtml).
13. Pamela Sexsmith, “Native Spirituality Celebrated in Catholic School System” (The Aboriginal Multi-Media Society, 2006, Vol. 4, Issue 5, http://www.ammsa.com/node/14133).
14. Pat Walsh, “In Montana a Novice Finds ‘a Beautiful Marriage Between Catholic and Native Spirituality’” (News of the Northwest Jesuits, Spring 2008, http://www.nwjesuits.info/news/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=32:in-montana-a-novice-finds-a-beautiful-marriage-between-catholic-and-native-spirituality&catid=8:vocations-a-formation&Itemid=14).
16. Mennonite Church Canada website’s Resource Centre (http://www.mennonitechurch.ca/resourcecentre/ResourceView/5/10786?useref=0).
18. Michael L. Cooper-White, “Dream Catchers: The ELCA Commission for Women” (Lutheran Woman Today, March 2004, http://www.lutheranwomantoday.org/back/04issues/0304article3.html).
19. Richard Twiss, One Church Many Tribes, op. cit., p. 23.
21. Ibid., pp. 132-133.
22. Ibid., p. 133.
23. Emergent Village Theological Conference, http://iowaemergent.blogspot.com/2010/11/emergent-village-theological-conference.html
24. RichardTwiss, One Church Many Tribes, op. cit., p. 92.
25. Ibid., p. 91.
26. For more information on Rob Bell’s Everything is Spiritual tour, see the DVD Quantum Lie with Warren B. Smith and Bob DeWaay at www.lighthousetrails.com.
27. Richard Twiss, One Church Many Tribes, op. cit., p. 93.
28. Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2nd ed. 2006), pp. 108-109).
29. Neale Donald Walsch, The New Revelations (New York, NY: Atria Books, 2002), pp. 175, 157; as quoted from Deceived on Purpose by Warren B. Smith (Magalia, CA: Mountain Stream Press, 2nd edition, 3rd printing), pp. 61-62.
To order copies of Native Spirituality “Renewal” & the Emerging Church, click here. There is also a bonus section in the booklet: “New Age Elements in North American Native Spirituality.”
The Labyrinth Journey: Walking the Path to Fulfillment?, written by Carl Teichrib, is our newest Lighthouse Trails Print Booklet Tract. The booklet tract is 18 pages long and sells for $1.85 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of The Labyrinth Journey, click here.
Symbols are keyholes to doors in the walls of space, and through them man peers into Eternity . . . Symbolism, then, is the divine language, and its figures are a celestial alphabet.1
. . . symbolical rites are the external expressions of man’s inward desire to unite with Divinity.2
Whilst we cannot be exactly sure what the labyrinths were used for, they were clearly a symbol of the Christian way, representing the path of the soul through life.3
I was struck by the simplicity of the above statement: that labyrinths are “clearly a symbol of the Christian way.” This is an interesting position, especially given the fact that the authors of this particular quote admit, “we cannot be exactly sure what the labyrinths were used for.”
We live in a day and age where many “new things” are sweeping through the Christian church. Some of these alternative directions are simply a reflection of changes in style and format. However, in our exploration towards alternative forms of spiritual expression, it is imperative that doctrinal discernment and discretionary principles come into play. This is especially true as society rapidly embraces a plethora of alternative spiritual practices, beliefs, and paths. Sadly, we as Christians often flounder in doing our homework, and in that vein we may inadvertently open our congregations to highly questionable choices and spiritual experiences.
Paradoxically, while the evangelical Christian community talks about “spiritual warfare” and “putting on the full armor of God,” many of these same churches can be found embracing that which they claim to counter. In seeking relevancy, we have become dangerously “experiential,” and old forms of mysticism are becoming centerpieces in “experiences of faith.”
The labyrinth prayer walk, which follows a single winding path to a central location, is a case in point, and I hope to show the reasons why Christians should not embrace this practice. Primarily jump-started by a UK-based Christian movement in alternative spiritual expressions and by an influential San Francisco cathedral, denominations around the world are embracing labyrinths as a viable part of the spiritual journey. But are labyrinths part of the Christian encounter, as suggested by the third introductory quote above?
My first experience with a labyrinth happened years before the idea become so popular in Christian circles. I was doing research work on occult philosophy at the Theosophical* headquarters in Wheaton, Illinois, and after spending a better part of the day reviewing esoteric literature, I went for a walk across the grounds to clear my head. There, toward the back of the property, was a labyrinth that had been set up as a place for spiritual release and expression.
As a Christian researcher and author on globalization and religious trends accompanying our changing international situation, I wasn’t surprised by the fact that a labyrinth was set up at this intensely “occult” location. It made perfect sense.
Understand, Christians looking for ways to bring in new relevancy within church worship did not rediscover the labyrinth as a spiritual tool. As we shall see, it’s been part of the esoteric world for a very long time. Which is why, today, labyrinth walks and “prayer journeys” are being promoted by Rosicrucian groups,4 at New Age festivals and celebrations5 and throughout the neo-pagan New Age world. Not surprisingly, one of America’s largest witch, shaman, and neo-pagan assemblies, the Pagan Spirit Gathering at Wisteria, OH, holds a nighttime Summer Solstice Labyrinth ritual, which is described as a “transformative, walking meditation through an all-night labyrinth formed by 1000 lighted candles.”6
Embarking on the Journey
Counter to the statement “we cannot be exactly sure what the labyrinths were used for” is a wealth of literature, some easy to obtain, others that should be kept hidden on dusty shelves. This material paints a fascinating picture on the uses and purposes of the labyrinth as a conduit for the mystical. But before we venture down this path, it’s important that we journey into the recesses of ancient mythological history.
The primary historical focal point for the lore of the labyrinth goes back to Cretan and Greek tales of Queen Pasiphaë, her perverse sexual desire for a specific sacrificial bull, an abominable act of bestiality, and the birth of a strange hybrid offspring—the dreaded Minotaur, which lived in a labyrinth built to cage him.7
Each year, King Minos, the husband of Pasiphaë, demanded that seven boys and seven girls be given as a sacrificial tribute to be devoured by the Minotaur. One year, a hero named Theseus accompanied the children. Taking a ball of twine, he unravelled the string as he went through the labyrinth, giving him a trail leading back out. Once inside the labyrinth, Theseus followed the maze to its center, where he battled with the Minotaur and eventually beat the creature to death.
The labyrinth containing this Minotaur was not the typical single-path labyrinth of today but rather a complex maze containing halls and chambers. However, esoteric philosophers have long understood that the Minotaur maze directly corresponds to the ancient (and now modern) spiritually-connected labyrinth walk—the long soul journey with its many twists and turns, the ultimate arrival at the central convergence point, the struggle with the inner monster—and the final victory over the forces of darkness and ignorance (which can only happen when one is illumined at the center), and the repeated journey back to wholeness and the light of day. This esoteric significance of the Cretan story has never been lost on the initiates of the Mystery Schools.
Don’t forget, this Grecian/Cretan story was immersed in the pagan religious context of the day; that’s the metaphysical origin of the labyrinth as we can trace it. Hence, the story of Pasiphaë, with its labyrinth journey and inner battle, is of interest first and foremost to the world of occult lore for the simple reason that this is the intended context.
Following the Path
In following the path of knowledge concerning the spiritual uses of the labyrinth, one doesn’t have to go to the Pagan Spirit Gathering or delve deeply into occult literature (though, we will examine some esoteric writings). Plenty of information abounds in various reference works. Take, for instance, The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols.
In discussing the labyrinth as a religious tool, The Penguin Dictionary associates the maze (labyrinth) with the Buddhist Mandala—an aid in the spiritual initiatory journey. Consider the various other metaphysical interpretations of the labyrinth [note: square-bracketed comments indicate an explanation provided by this author]:
In the Kabbalistic tradition [the Kabbala is a series of texts which make up the school of Jewish mysticism] taken up by the alchemists, mazes filled a magical function which was one of the secrets attributed to Solomon. This is why the mazes in cathedrals, “those series of concentric circles broken at given points on the circumference to provide a strange and tangled pathway,” came to be called “Solomon’s Maze.”
The maze also takes one to the centre of one’s self, “to some hidden, inner shrine, occupied by the most mysterious portion” of the human personality. To reach the centre of the maze, like a stage in the process of initiation, is to be made a member of the invisible lodge [the high-calling of the Mystery Religions] which the maze-makers always shroud in mystery or, better still, have always been left to be filled by the finder’s own intuition.8
Jack Tresidder’s Dictionary of Symbols explains:
[M]any labyrinths are unicursal, having no traps but leading sinuously along a single path. These were often used in early temples as initiation routes or more widely for religious dances that imitated the weaving paths of the sun or planets. They reappeared in patterns on the floors of medieval Christian churches as “roads to Jerusalem”—paths symbolizing pilgrimage.9
Other reference works on symbols—and a labyrinth is both a spiritual tool and a religious symbol—give similar definitions (as an example, see The Herder Dictionary of Symbols). While the meanings are varied, they do pulse with a similar theme, even when associated with the early Roman Catholic cathedrals. And this theme is repeated and more deeply probed by esoteric philosophers and New Agers—it’s the path of mysticism, esotericism, and occultism.
Reaching the Center
If the labyrinth is a path leading to one specific point, what does the wayfarer expect to find when he or she arrives?
On the mystical journey to spiritual fulfillment, the middle-eye of the labyrinth becomes a place of divine illumination. Even Kimberly Lowelle Seward, the past president of The Labyrinth Society (a network of labyrinth scholars and enthusiasts) recognizes this basic function: “The labyrinth is an archetype of transformation. . . . [It] serves as a bridge from the mundane to the divine.10
The promotional website for the Breemie Labyrinth in the UK gives an almost identical explanation:
The labyrinth is an archetypal spiritual tool, found across many times and cultures. While a maze is a left-brain, rational puzzle, the labyrinth involves the right side of the brain, and helps us access our intuition, providing a portal to the Divine.11
Kathy Doore, an author on sacred spaces, freely describes the spiritual implications of the labyrinth:
Labyrinths are temples that enhance and balance and bring a sense of the sacred—a place where we can confirm our unity with the cosmos, awaken our vital force and elevate our consciousness. These structures are space/time temples where we can behold realities that oddly enough transcend space and time. The orientation, form and geometry of a labyrinth has symbolic as well as spacial importance. It is a mirror for the divine. . . .
Moving through a Labyrinth changes ordinary ways of perception connecting the inner and the outer, the right brain and the left brain, the involutional and the evolutional through a series of paths that represent the realms of the Gods and Goddesses. These realms are associated with planetary movement as a process that induces Union with the One.12
Divine illumination is the end-goal of esoteric philosophy; it’s the central arena of occultism. Manly P. Hall, one of the 20th century’s greatest esoteric philosophers and an eminent Masonic historian, tells us that the labyrinth was symbolic of man’s search for truth.13 Other occult scholars tell us that the labyrinth symbolized to the people “the difficulty of finding the Path to God.14 All of this points to the same thing—the mystical realization of our own divinity.
As Hall states in his book on Freemasonry:
Man is a god in the making, and as in the mystic myths of Egypt, on the potter’s wheel he is being molded. When his light shines out to lift and preserve all things, he receives the triple crown of godhood.15
Rosicrucian authority Christian Bernard explains this mystical goal as the building and unfolding of the inner Temple:
The Temple of the Universe, the Temple of the Earth and the Temple of Life are only one in the Temple of Man. This is why the time has come to work towards rebuilding it, for the Messianic Light must emanate from the Heavenly Jerusalem which vibrates within us.16
Laying it out very plainly, Annie Besant—an early Theosophical leader—simply said, “Man is not to be compelled; he is to be free. He is not a slave, but a God in the making.”17
Different Paths, Same Meaning
Part and parcel of labyrinth symbology is initiation, the mystical process of inner transformation. Robert Macoy’s Dictionary of Freemasonry, like so much of the esoteric literature, connects the meaning of the labyrinth with this concept. Defining the labyrinth, Macoy wrote, “In the ancient mysteries the passages through which the initiate made his mystical pilgrimage.”18
As stated above, initiation is the process of inner transformation. To that end, esoteric societies and occult orders employ initiation as a vital component to spiritual advancement. Indeed, initiation is the pathway, the journey, to mystical completeness. This is the occult metaphor of the labyrinth, a metaphor that is played out in a host of mystical similes. Consider the following archetypes. Keep in mind, each example is replete with historical and religious connections to the Mystery Religions, of which the labyrinth is but a part.19
Freemasonry: When the Masonic candidate undergoes his initiation, he is led on an invisible path from station to station throughout the Lodge room. Each point and part of this journey is given an esoteric explanation—that is, the real meanings are cloaked in allegory and symbolism. After completing the journey around the Lodge, he is led to the center of the room where he kneels before an altar. The Worshipful Master asks what the candidate most desires, and the initiate responds with “Light.”20 Know this, the light requested is not incandescent light or some other physical light energy, but spiritual illumination.21
Order of the Golden Dawn: Initiations rites such as the Ceremony of the Grade of Philosophus have the candidate embark on a spiritual journey, following an invisible yet tangible path throughout the Lodge room. This journey, like that of Freemasonry, is intended to elevate the candidate’s level of transformative enlightenment.22
Ancient and Mystical Order Rosae Crucis: In AMORC’s Temple ritual, Second Portal, the student partakes in an allegorical journey searching for light and knowledge. While engaged in the ritual, the student follows a path to each point on the compass, and returns to a central triangle. Again, like the two other illustrations above, this act is part of the mystical journey towards “light” and cosmic unity.23
Order of the Eastern Star: As a co-Masonic body, the OES engages in a series of ritualistic initiations. Unlike Freemasonry, the OES ritual work is performed on a giant floor-rug pentagram. This pentagram, with an altar placed in its center, is called a Labyrinth. Each of the various initiation rites—journeys on the path to greater understanding—takes place in and around this Labyrinth.24 Beulah Malone, Past Grand Matron and Secretary of the OES explains:
The winding in and out of the labyrinth symbolizes the human soul stumbling and struggling through life; learning by mistakes and experiences that the way leading to the supreme life and to God is not easy but is a way of testing one’s power and strength.
By following the examples symbolized in the lives of the heroines of our Order [This is part of the OES Labyrinth journey], we may come into a full light of His Star and into wisdom and understanding. The great magnet of our Star as it shines forth in the world is missioned to bring Unity, the Truth of Fatherhood of God, and Brotherhood of Man.25
And herein lies the deeper spiritual meaning of the labyrinth walk that has become so fashionable today: It’s the symbolic journey of illumination, completely spiritual in nature and dependent on our works—the “journey,” or the “testing [of] one’s power and strength.”
The path to the center of the labyrinth is as the invisible but tangible path leading to the esoteric altar; it’s an initiation into the mystical.
The Path of Completion: Returning from the Center
Hundreds of Christians have taken part in labyrinth prayer walks, and many churches across North America and Europe are embracing this tool as a means to expand their spiritual experience. The Rev. Jill Geoffrion, a “certified labyrinth facilitator” and author of such books as Christian Prayer and Labyrinths and Praying the Labyrinth, writes:
We are currently in a period of historic labyrinth revival. Churches, retreat centers and Christian camps are placing these prayer tools inside and outside. Christians all over the world are installing labyrinths in their yards and gardens. Many are using the labyrinths as a ministry tool, bringing portable versions to prisons, national denominational conferences and church group meetings. It is conservatively estimated that there are over 5,000 labyrinths in the United States alone. God is blessing the use of the labyrinth; many are being drawn closer to Jesus, experiencing healing and gaining spiritual clarity as they pray on its path.26
I must admit her pronouncement sounds appealing. But this particular statement by Geoffrion doesn’t paint the whole picture. On her labyrinth prayer website, Geoffrion offers suggested prayers for different labyrinth events. In dedicating a new labyrinth, she suggests that those in attendance form a circle on the pattern and extend “the energy that is in our hearts and minds through their hands towards the labyrinth.” Following this exercise is a meditative time where each person physically lays hands on the labyrinth and calls forth “the image of a loved one walking this labyrinth and receiving what is needed.” After more “imaging,” she recommends this responsive prayer:
Community: We dedicate this labyrinth to spiritual awakening and reawakening.
One: With hearts extending in many directions, Let us pray…Sacred Sustainer, Way to wholeness, Creator of possibilities, Supporter of change, Forgiving Releaser, Freedom, Honesty, Wisdom, Hope, Joy…we thank You for the beautiful spiritual tool on which we are standing.27
Geoffrion suggests other reflective meditations for the labyrinth, including short prayers from the “Christian Tradition,” “Egyptian Tradition,” “Hindu Tradition,” and “Sufi Tradition.”28
For Christians holding to the exclusive message of Jesus Christ in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by me,” a serious rift is now encountered. It’s the dilemma that exists between what Geoffrion’s first quote described versus the religious pluralism that the labyrinth appears to propagate. And because of the nature and metaphysical history of the labyrinth, this spiritual pluralism is inescapable. However, this ever-widening religious inclusiveness—which is the expression of the esoteric idea of the Fatherhood of God—shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, in the labyrinth experience every path is relevant, every road is right, every religion is valid.
Granted, Geoffrion is but one spokesperson representing the Christian labyrinth prayer encounter. Grace Cathedral, however, carries a little more clout. In fact, Grace, San Francisco’s prominent Episcopal Church, has been North America’s “pathfinder” congregation in the labyrinth movement, hosting prayer walks on their two labyrinths for years. Moreover, Grace’s outdoor labyrinth is open 24 hours, and the church now has an involved global networking organization dedicated to advancing the labyrinth experience. Hence, Grace has been viewed by many Christian labyrinth advocates as the driving influence for this new spiritual expression in North America.
There’s no doubt that one reason for Grace Cathedral’s success is their connection to Chartres Cathedral in France. As an ancient medieval church, Chartres hosts an original pattern that is today’s recognized prototype for the Christian prayer walk. Grace meticulously copied Chartres, has marketed it very well, and is now a major spokes-church for the Chartres experience. Consider Grace’s website titled “Walking the Labyrinth: Reflections from Chartres,” which stated:
A profound meditation tool, a metaphor for the spiritual path, a feminist Christian icon, a symbol of Mary or even all Christianity, even perhaps an almost cult-like centerpiece of a movement—the labyrinth is, most everyone can agree, a powerful inspiration.29
Grace is open about the deeper meanings of the labyrinth. On the front piece to their labyrinth website, Grace states:
The Labyrinth is an archetype, a divine imprint, found in all religious traditions in various forms around the world. By walking a replica of the Chartres labyrinth, laid in the floor of Chartres Cathedral in France around 1220, we are rediscovering a long-forgotten mystical tradition that is insisting to be reborn.30
And Grace also points out that the labyrinth is a shared interspiritual esoteric tradition:
In Native American culture it is called the Medicine Wheel and Man in the Maze. The Celts described it as the Never Ending Circle. It is also called the Kabala in mystical Judaism. One feature they all share is that they have one path which winds in a circuitous way to the center.31
The labyrinth exercise, Grace further explains, should be viewed in three parts:
Purgation (Releasing)—A releasing, a letting go of the details of your life. This is the act of shedding thoughts and distractions. A time to open the heart and quiet the mind.
Illumination (Receiving)—When you reach the center, stay there as long as you like. It is a place of meditation and prayer. Receive what is there for you to receive.
Union (Returning)—As you leave, following the same path out of the center as you came in, you enter the third stage, which is joining God, your Higher Power, or the healing forces at work in the world. Each time you walk the labyrinth you become more empowered to find and do the work you feel your soul reaching for.32
As an institution, Grace is no ordinary church. Not only has it been extremely influential in propagating the labyrinth prayer walk, it has been a hotbed for global interfaith work.
In the 1990s, William Swing was Bishop of Grace. During the 1995 United Nations 50th Anniversary, Swing proclaimed that Grace would work towards the building of a global interfaith network. After an intense amount of travel and lobbying, Swing succeeded in forming the United Religions Initiative—one of the world’s leading UN affiliated inter-religious partnerships. Today, the URI is an active player in advancing global religious unity.
Why does this matter? Remember, between various esoteric philosophies and the labyrinth concept, a parallel runs between both themes—unity. As a spiritual interface, and as Grace Cathedral reminded us, the mystical labyrinth belongs to “all religious traditions.” Remember the Eastern Star’s labyrinth? Unity, the Fatherhood of God, and the Brotherhood of Man was the proclaimed magnetism of their Star. Manly P. Hall, speaking of the Masonic interfaith ideal of the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man, penned these words:
The true Mason is not creed-bound. He realizes with the divine illumination of his lodge that as a Mason his religion must be universal: Christ, Buddha or Mohammed, the name means little, for he recognizes only the light and not the bearer. He worships at every shrine, bows before every altar, whether in temple, mosque or cathedral, realizing with his truer understanding the oneness of all spiritual truth.33
This is the starting point of the occult concept of “the divine.” It tells us that every path on the journey is unique, yet each is true. In order for the mystic to move onward and upward, to return from the center of the labyrinth, he must accept his inner divinity. As Hall says, “[T]he way of salvation has been hidden within us.”34
Reiki master Kate McManus, in her article “Walking the Fire Labyrinth,” tells of her friend’s spiritual journey:
This year a friend mentioned an event that was to be held further out west a week after our winter magic festival. She described it as a fire labyrinth ritual in which a stone labyrinth would be lit at night to be walked with conscious intent and so mark the end of the year and begin a new one, a shedding of the old and birthing of the divine child.35
Years ago, Paul Clasper drew this religious inclusiveness into a completed package:
The new mingling of faiths will cause a fresh interpenetration of ideas and customs. Out of the encounter some paring of outmoded encrustations will perhaps take place. The new intercourse will fructify in more inclusive, universal faiths, perhaps even a new world faith as a basis for the coming world civilization.36
What Have we Learned?
In an earlier quote by the Rev. Jill Geoffrion, she proclaimed that “God is blessing the use of the labyrinth; many are being drawn closer to Jesus, experiencing healing and gaining spiritual clarity as they pray on its path.” On the surface this sounds great. But is God really blessing this “new thing”? Moreover, can God bless something that has its origins in esoteric doctrine and ancient pagan mythologies? Adding to its historical pagan significance is the fact that the labyrinth has never lost its occult meaning. As mentioned earlier in the article, labyrinths are still being used, and will continue to be used, as an instrument of pagan spirituality.
If God is going to bless labyrinth prayer journeys, how is He going to deal with Deuteronomy 12:1-14, 18:9-13 and Exodus 34:10-17? In each of these Scripture passages God explicitly tells His people to refrain from anything used in pagan practices. Moreover, the entire book of Jeremiah is a warning against involvement in alternative religious practices.
Furthermore, if God is going to bless labyrinth prayer journeys, how is He going to excuse the interfaith aspect that is common throughout the movement? John 14:6 clearly states that the only path to the Father is through Jesus Christ, and by no other way.
Beyond all of this, just as walking the labyrinth is used for initiation in cults, it serves as a catalyst to draw people into more serious forms of New Age or eastern-style meditation cloaked under terms like “the silence,” “centering prayer,” or “contemplative prayer.” Yes, the majority of Christians would affirm that their labyrinth prayer walk is completely focused on Jesus Christ. That may be true, but it doesn’t excuse the fact that the labyrinth is, by its theological nature, an inter-religious and deeply mystical device. If God is going to bless the labyrinth experience, how is He going to deal with 2 Corinthians 6:14-16?
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
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1. Manly P. Hall, Lectures on Ancient Philosophy (Philosophical Research Society, 1984), p. 357. Hall was one of the 20th century’s most celebrated esoteric philosophers, founder of the Philosophical Research Society, eminent Freemason, and a respected lecturer on occult doctrines and the Mystery Religions.
2. Roberta H. Lamerson, F.R.C. “Initiation” (Rosicrucian Digest, November, 1984), p. 21.
3. Kevin and Ana Draper, Steve Collins, and Jonny Baker, “Labyrinths and Mazes” (http://www.labyrinth.org.uk/historypage1.html). Website promoting labyrinths as an alternative Christian experience.
4. The Toronto lodge of the AMORC Rosicrucian order hosted a labyrinth journey the first Sunday of every other month (September, November, 2005; January, March, 2006). Location: Rosicrucian Regional Cultural Centre, 835 Broadview Ave, Toronto, ON.
5. See the Pagan Spirit Gathering website at https://www.circlesanctuary.org/index.php/circle-magazine/sample-articles/solstice-fires-of-the-pagan-spirit-gathering. Another example is the Breemie Labyrinth Mid-Summer Festival at http://www.sacredway.co.uk/Breemie%20main/mhaydenlabs.htm.
6. See https://www.circlesanctuary.org/index.php/pagan-spirit-gathering/rituals-and-celebrations.html.
7. Joseph Campbell, Occidental Mythology: The Masks of God (Arkana, 1991), p. 20. See also The Dictionary of World Myth (Facts on File, 1995), p.135. Other ancient labyrinth myths and stories exist that are rooted in Egyptian and various other Mesopotamian locations.
8. Jean Chevalier and Alain Gheerbrant, The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols (Penguin Books, 1996), pp. 643-644.
9. Jack Tresidder, Dictionary of Symbols (Chronicle Books, 1997), pp. 117-118.
10. The Labyrinth Society, http://www.labyrinthsociety.org.
11. See footnote 5.
12. Kathy Doore, “Myth and History of Labyrinths”(“Official Blog of Kathy Doore,” http://www.labyrinthina.com/path.htm).
13. Manly P. Hall, The Secret Teachings of All Ages (Philosophic Research Society, 1989).
14. C.W. Leadbeater, Ancient Mystic Rites (Quest Books, 1986), p. 51.
15. Manly P. Hall, The Lost Keys of Freemasonry (Macoy, 1951), p. 92.
16. Christian Bernard, So Mote It Be! (AMORC, 1995), pp. 87-88.
17. Annie Besant, Esoteric Christianity (Quest Books, 1966), p. 220.
18. Robert Macoy, A Dictionary of Freemasonry (Gramercy), p. 215.
19. Historians and occult philosophers who assert this link between the Mystery Religions and today’s esoteric societies include Manly P. Hall, Foster Bailey, Albert Pike, C.W. Leadbeater, Israel Regardie, Papus, A.E. Waite, Eliphas Levi, J.D. Buck, Albert Mackey, H.P. Blavatsky, Henry C. Clausen, George H. Steinmetz, Joseph Fort Newton, and many others.
20. See Look to the East: A Ritual of the First Three Degrees of Masonry. See also Duncan’s Masonic Ritual and Monitor and Albert Pike’s Morals and Dogma.
21. Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, p. 252 and Foster Bailey, The Spirit of Masonry, p. 108.
22. See Israel Regardie’s The Golden Dawn and What You Should Know About the Golden Dawn.
23. Rosicrucian Initiation, Temple Section, Second Portal, AMORC.
24. See Beulah H. Malone, Let There Be Light; see also Robert Macoy, Adoptive Rite Ritual; Ritual of the Order of the Eastern Star, published by the authority of the General Grand Chapter Order of the Eastern Star.
25. Beulah H. Malone, Let There Be Light (Masonic Home Print Shop,1958), p. 97.
26. Jill Kimberly Hartwell Geoffrion, Christian Uses of Labyrinths (http://library.stkate.edu/pdf/trw%20lab-christian%20uses.pdf).
27. Jill Geoffrion, Dedication of Deep Haven Labyrinth (article no longer available online).
28. Jill Geoffrion, “Prayers from Varying Traditions to Use at a Labyrinth” (http://web.archive.org/web/20101229071645/http://www.jillgeoffrion.com/prayers4labusedifreltrad.html). I give Geoffrion sarcasm credit; she includes a short prayer from the American Secular Tradition—“whatever!”
29. Grace Cathedral, Walking the Labyrinth .
30. Grace Cathedral labyrinth homepage: http://www.gracecathedral.org/labyrinth.
33. Manly P. Hall, The Lost Keys of Freemasonry (Macoy Publishing, 1923/1951), p.65.
34. Manly P. Hall, The Mystical Christ (Philosophical Research Society, 1951), p. 248.
35. Kate McManus, “Walking the Fire Labyrinth: A Winter Solstice Encounter” (http://healing.about.com/od/labyrinthspiritual/a/firelabyrinth.htm).
36. Paul Clasper, Eastern Paths and the Christian Way (Orbis Books, 1980), p.108.
To order copies of The Labyrinth Journey click here.
For more information on labyrinths, visit www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/labyrinth.htm. Also visit the author’s website, Forcing Change Ministries, at www.forcingchange.org.
* Theosophy is a blend of mystical traditions, ancient mystery religions, and eastern philosophies.
Setting Aside the Power of the Gospel for a Powerless Substitute, written by David Dombrowski, is our newest Lighthouse Trails Print Booklet Tract. The booklet tract is 12 pages long and sells for $1.50 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. This booklet is specifically geared toward passing out to those who are involved with some kind of spiritual deception. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of Setting Aside the Power of the Gospel for a Powerless Substitute click here.
Setting Aside the Power of the Gospel for a Powerless Substitute
By David Dombrowski
If I were to say to you that much of the church today has set aside the power of God, would you be shocked? After all, we live in a time where having the power of God in your life is a major theme preached from pulpits across the country. And book after book, sold in massive quantities, pour off the presses promising a special connection or intimacy with God that will revolutionize your life and make it more dynamic. Yet, I believe I can prove that in fact, the power of God is being laid aside, and I will tell you how.
Back in the late 1990s, our family was visiting various churches in search of a new home church, and we noticed how many pastors would begin their messages with a Scripture but then launch into a lengthy talk that can best be described as a teaching based on behavioral psychology. For many sitting in the pews, this type of message had much appeal as the seeker-friendly movement was really taking off, and teachings about building relationships seemed more paramount than building a relationship with God based on the Word of God. At any rate, the preaching of the Gospel seemed to be held in second place, thereby creating a condition in the church where conviction of sin and the preaching of the Cross waned, while teachings appealing to the masses became more palatable and popular. Increasingly, it became a capital sin to offend your audience in a seeker-friendly church, and seeing as the preaching of the Cross is an offense to those who are perishing, the Gospel was seldom heard in these churches that were increasing in numbers—of which many were still unsaved. A case in point that illustrates this is a couple who attended Saddleback Church for years, but the wife was troubled by the fact that her husband did not know the Lord during that entire time. Then they started attending a church that preached the Gospel on a regular basis, and the husband got saved in the first two weeks. Yet Saddleback and the Purpose Driven movement have grown exponentially over the years. Ironically, for that couple, hearing the Gospel for two weeks, beyond saving the soul of that husband, did more to enhance their marriage relationship than hearing a social gospel for years. Suffice it to say, there is an unusual power to transform lives for the better when the Cross is preached and the doctrines of repentance, justification by grace through faith, and being born and renewed of the Holy Spirit are expounded upon. But, then again, the preaching of the Cross is offensive to those who are perishing.
The Uniqueness of Christianity
Let us pause for a moment and think about what makes Christianity uniquely different from the world’s religions. Christianity teaches that man is sinful and God is holy; consequently, man is unable to save himself. Heaping up good deeds does not atone for the fact that man’s sin has separated him from God. Then Jesus came as a sin offering to atone for sin, thereby eliminating our separation from God. As we receive Him by faith as our Savior, our sins are forgiven and the Holy Spirit indwells and transforms us where we can rightfully say we have been born again. Jesus then has Lordship over our lives as we continue to trust and yield our lives to Him (we will say more about that later). But the religions of the world all teach the opposite—that man is basically good and has the power within himself to live a life pleasing to God, and thereby through his good works is able to save his own soul. Unfortunately, when the preaching of the Gospel was set aside in favor of a more seeker-friendly social gospel, it seems that the armor of the church was also laid down, and much of the false teaching of the world’s religions crept in.
Whatever happened to the Christian church? Those of us who are old enough to remember can recall the unrest of the 1960s including the Viet Nam War and the Hippie movement. It was an era of a lot of experimentation not only with drugs but with eastern religions and varied lifestyles. Then came the Jesus Movement where many lives were transformed under the preaching of the Gospel. Many people forsook their old lives and habits. All over the land, the phrase “praise the Lord” could be heard, and Bible prophecy was so popular back then as countless numbers were considering that we could be in the last days. Yet, over time, the joy and excitement of that new era waned, but I have not heard an explanation why. Most likely, the answer does not lie in any one thing, but one thing in particular happened, and that again is the laying aside of the Gospel. Perhaps multitudes of believers, in the exhilaration of the times, had a sense that their needs and expectations would be met by the Lord.
Didn’t the Gospel Work?
But then stories of woe began to emerge at the tail end of the Jesus Movement. Many who had come to the Lord began to return to their old ways and habits. Some went back to drugs, others to deviant lifestyles. Others, who thought they would find sure victory in the Lord, found that they lacked the power within to overcome their life-controlling and destructive habits. Also, you would hear stories . . . like the one where a trusted Sunday-school teacher had been molesting kids. And, those bound by pornography never forsook it, or they returned to it.
Now the question is, if all of these negative things were happening or beginning to happen again, who or what was to blame? It seemed that multitudes had given the Gospel a good shot, but for many it was not working.
Let me tell you, there is a great undoing effect to those who try to live as Christians but find they are living in defeat. Then, too, hearing story after story of Christians, many of whom you may have known personally, falling to a defeated lifestyle is also most disconcerting. In either case, the conclusion for many must have been that the Gospel was not working—that it was powerless to transform lives. Hence, the preaching of the Cross has been stilled. It has been estimated that at least fifty percent of American pastors view pornography (largely on the Internet) on a regular basis. These estimates may in fact be quite conservative when we consider how many are probably too ashamed or afraid to admit their addiction. Pastors with life-controlling habits such as this are also often faced with a dilemma of who to look up to for help as they are supposedly at the top rung of the ladder and expected to live flawless lives. Then, when they go to preach on Sunday morning on the power of the Cross, they find that they cannot because they know their lives are marred by defeat. Likewise, the wives of these pastors go through an incredible hell as they feel both challenged and insulted by something that has now robbed them of their husbands’ affection and devotion. One thing I might say in passing is that years ago I heard there was an agenda among the communist party to destroy our nation, not by warfare, but from within by corrupting our morals largely through pornography. Now if the communist party has not attempted this, then Satan certainly has, knowing that the husband is a key figure and a prime target in destroying the family unit.
What we find then is that the Gospel, both for pastors and their congregations, seemingly is not working. The natural recourse for this would be to blame God, but rather than do this, other avenues of finding victory in God are being explored. The fact of the matter is that once the Gospel has been determined to be powerless, there is a scrambling for answers and new teachings. Hence, with this in mind, one can see why such a flood of new teachings has cropped up today—whether it be practicing eastern mysticism via contemplative prayer, the re-emergence of the spiritual disciplines of the Desert Fathers, or the varied teachings of the emerging church.
Brian McLaren, in his endorsement on the back cover of Alan Jones’ book, Reimagining Christianity, has this to say:
It used to be that Christian institutions and systems of dogma sustained the spiritual life of Christians. Increasingly, spirituality itself is what sustains everything else. Alan Jones is a pioneer in reimagining a Christian faith that emerges from authentic spirituality.
These are the words of an emerging leader pointing to the work of another emerging leader and, in a nutshell, telling us that the power of the Gospel is dead, and we need to explore other options. And the options most commonly turned to are New Age and eastern meditative practices. What you get from these teachings is that in the core of every human being is a “divine center” (i.e., God himself), and if you tap into that through meditation, you will find your own divinity and have limitless power. Sadly, what Brian McLaren has to say in the above quote has become the running orders of many Christians who have forsaken dogma (doctrine) for experience. Rather than seeking sound teaching, they seek an experience or “anointing” that works for them and empowers their lives. But, all the while, as they are engaging in experience-based “Christianity,” they are becoming further removed from the truth of Scripture.
There Is Power
The Bible affirms that there is power for the believer. David sang these words after being delivered from the hand of Saul: “God is my strength and power: and he maketh my way perfect” (2 Samuel 22:33). In Psalm 62, David sings, “God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God” (Psalm 62:11). Then in Psalm 68, David says, “O God, thou art terrible out of thy holy places: the God of Israel is he that giveth strength and power unto his people” (Psalm 68:35). Without question, Scripture
declares overcoming power to God’s people; but then why are God’s people lacking it and looking for it now?
We don’t need to search very far for the answer to that question, for the answer can be found in the words of Paul:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)
Then in his Gospel, John says, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12). From both of these Scriptures, it is clear that God gives power to the believer for holy living—but that power is found in the Gospel to those who believe it.
Apparently, what has happened in the church is that there has been so much failure that believers have reckoned the Gospel to be powerless and have looked essentially to “other gods” for help. Jeremiah speaks of our day when he says:
But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you. But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward. (Jeremiah 7:23–24)
Regardless of what our natural instincts may tell us, God has declared that His overcoming power is to be found in the Gospel. Yes, a struggle may ensue for a period of time, but that is all the more reason to hold fast to the Gospel because only in it can true and lasting victory be found.
In Romans chapters 7 and 8, Paul describes the inner turmoil that may ensue in a person’s life as he struggles with sin. Theologians speculate if Paul was speaking of his own struggles, and if so, before or after his conversion. I believe that Paul was writing of both our struggles and his own struggles both before and after conversion. And the lesson learned is that once we become believers, we cannot go back to trying to live in victory in the flesh; just as it did not work before conversion, it will not work now. This is what is happening in the church today, and it will fail because victory can only be found in the power of the Gospel. We can never live an overcoming life in the flesh (i.e., our own strength). Our power and might is found in the Lord, and that is why Paul directs us in Romans to live in the Spirit:
For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. (Romans 8:13)
And this is all a part of the Gospel message because when we receive Christ at conversion by trusting in His atoning work as a free gift, God imparts His Holy Spirit to us (Romans 8:9), and we are born again or “born of the Spirit” (John 3:6). The life of the Christian means death to self (the flesh) but also new life in the Spirit that enables us to bear the fruit of the Spirit. Have you ever wondered how you can bear the fruit of the Spirit if your life is not empowered and directed by the Spirit? Each day we need to give Jesus Lordship over our lives—and that means that just as we trusted Jesus to save us on the day we came to Him we need to trust Him to guide our steps as we commit our way to Him. In other words, just as we trusted Christ to save us on the day we received Him, we need to continue to trust Christ to complete His work in us. Remember that we were purchased by God through the death of His Son, so our lives are no longer our own, but we belong to Him.
Cling to the Gospel
If you are a Christian and your life is full of struggle, do not forsake the Gospel, but cling to it more fully knowing that you are not strong, but God is strong. Whether it be facing temptation or being chased by life’s circumstances (as David was chased by Saul), our power and victory is found in the Lord only and not in ourselves. Do not ask the Lord to help you live the Christian life, but allow Him to live the Christian life in and through you. Eastern mysticism and the New Age teach that in the center of our being we will find God (and become God-like or Christ-like); Christianity teaches that in the center of our being we find a heart that is utterly wicked and deceitful. Have no dealings with the old nature, but be renewed in the Holy Spirit. Remember that God promised to make a new covenant with us, not written on stony tablets but engraved on our minds and hearts (Hebrews 8:10). This New Covenant has the power to transform the human heart. Before Jesus went to the Cross, He spoke of this when He said, “this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). In other words, Jesus was leaving a testament or will that would take effect after His death—with His own blood serving as the stamp or seal validating that will. It is interesting to note that if you take your Strong’s Concordance and look up the Greek word for “covenant” (like the one used in Hebrews 8:10 above) and compare it with the Greek word for “testament” (like the one just used by Jesus), it is exactly the same Greek word. Jesus’ death on the Cross was not only that perfect sacrifice for sin, but it also sealed the covenant prophesied in Jeremiah 31 and repeated in Hebrews 8:10 that God would write His laws on our minds and hearts. This is the marvelous transformation that so many people are looking for but think the Gospel is too weak to provide; yet it is the only sure and true way to holy living. The Gospel is that new covenant, and it is available to us when we acknowledge that apart from Him we can do nothing. Jesus said:
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. (John 15:5)
So, if we abide in the Vine (Jesus) we will be victorious in our quest to live the Christian life. Have nothing to do with substitutes to the Gospel message. God saves and transforms people His way and not our way. Any other way is futility and idolatry.
We are living in a time of mass deception and delusion. If you were to fall off a cliff and only had a rope to hold you, would you not hold onto that rope more tightly? That is what we must do with the Gospel. Jesus’ death on the Cross purchased our salvation; we have also been bought by His blood, sealed in a new covenant, and His indwelling presence empowers us to live the Christian life. There is no other power to save!
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
(1 Corinthians 1:18)
For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. (1 Corinthians 4:20)
Now also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to everyone that is to come. (Psalm 71:18)
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