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May 10, 2006 
 Coming From the Lighthouse Newsletter
  • Focus on the Family Answers Lighthouse Trails
    Defends Contemplative Author

    Zondervan Publishing Purchases Youth Specialties

    Henri Nouwen and Interspirituality

    Be Still DVD Database

    Brian McLaren's New Book, The Secret Message of Jesus

    Spiritual Formation Forum - May 2006

    Purpose Driven Worship Conference
    Welcomes Contemplative Speaker

  • Christianity Today Brings Spiritual Formation to Over 70,000 Churches
  • This Week's Featured Articles


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    "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." Colossians 2: 6-9

    Focus on the Family Answers Lighthouse Trails -
    Defends Contemplative Author

     Letter from James Dobson's office shows Focus on the Family's affinity with contemplative spirituality.

    On April 26th, Lighthouse Trails Publishing contacted Focus on the Family, via telephone, sharing concerns about FOF's recent promotion of contemplative author Gary Thomas. On May 5th, Lighthouse Trails received a letter from Timothy Masters of Focus on the Family's "Office of the Chairman." Masters responded to Lighthouse Trails with the following:

    [D]ue to the unusual nature of your inquiry, our phone representative has taken the liberty of forwarding your message to the staff here in Dr. Dobson's office for special handling.

    While we are pleased that our phone call has received attention from Dr. Dobson's personal office, statements made in the letter by Masters have left us concerned and disheartened. Masters said that the staff:

    ... found nothing within the pages of Sacred Parenting [by Gary Thomas] that contradicts the Christian faith or Dr. Dobson's philosophy ... we are not in a position to address the contents of Mr. Thomas's other writings ... but this much we can tell you: there is and always has been a strong tradition of contemplative prayer in the Christian church that has nothing to do with mantras and Eastern meditation. To confuse the two, as you have done, is to jump to an unwarranted conclusion based on a misunderstanding of certain features they appear to share in common.

    In light of Master's apparent conviction that the two camps (Christian and Eastern contemplative) are distinct and unrelated, it is important to note here that Tilden Edwards, the founder of the largest and most influential contemplative school in the US, would disagree that the two are indeed different. Edwards revealed that contemplative prayer is the Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality in his book, Spiritual Friend (of which Richard Foster endorsed, calling it an excellent spiritual book).

    While FOF states they are "not in a position to address" Gary Thomas' other books (which clearly promote contemplative), the book that FOF does promote, Sacred Parenting, devotes an entire chapter to contemplative spirituality, calling it the "active discipline" of "true listening," and saying it is the way we can "seize heaven and invite God's presence into our lives" (pp. 58-59). In that chapter, Thomas names two people who had a major impact in his prayer life: contemplative/mystic Teresa of Avila and Frank Buchman, initiator of Moral Re-Armament, now called Initiatives of Change, an inter-faith organization working towards globalization. Buchman was a controversial figure, partly due to his 1930s public statements showing admiration for Adolph Hitler. And according to cult expert Dave Hunt, Buchman was involved in both mysticism and the occult:

    MRA founder Frank Buchman ... embraced new revelations through occult guidance [and]helped to set the stage for the New Age movement.... He inspired thousands on all continents to meditate ... decades before Maharishi Mahesh Yogi left India. (Hunt, Adaptation of Occult Invasion, 1998)

    Gary Thomas devoted three entire pages to Buchman in Sacred Parenting. All things considered, this book hardly seems like it will be a "tremendous help and a great inspiration to those moms and dads who choose to take advantage of its message." On the contrary.

    The question must be asked, when Masters states that "there is and always has been a strong tradition of contemplative prayer in the Christian church that has nothing to do with mantras and Eastern meditation," which authors have or do teach contemplative prayer excluding the mantra and Eastern-like meditation? Richard Foster, whom Focus on the Family now promotes? Gary Thomas? Thomas Merton? Brennan Manning? Henri Nouwen? (All of whom can be found on FOF websites and all of whom teach mantra-style meditation)

    We must also ask, can Focus on the Family rightfully disregard the contents of Gary Thomas' other writings, writings in which he tells readers to repeat a word or phrase for 20 minutes until the "word becomes part of you." Did the Apostle Paul, or the Psalmist or Jesus Christ ever give such instructions? Of course not. Gary Thomas' website clearly promotes practices such as lectio divina and centering prayer all the while encouraging visitors to read the works of Thomas Merton and Basil Pennington, both of whom wholeheartedly and without reservation embraced Eastern mysticism. Incidentally, Thomas teaches Spiritual Formation at Western Seminary. By promoting one of Thomas' books, FOF is directly promoting contemplative prayer.

    Focus on the Family has entered into an unbiblical territory that can spiritually harm many people, including children. It is our prayer that Dr. Dobson and other Christian leaders will look at the facts fairly before proceeding any further down this path.

    Other Focus on the Family connections to
    Contemplative Spirituality

    Various quotes by the above- mentioned contemplatives:

    "Mystics throughout the ages have sought to reach this destination, a quiet spiritual refuge" Gary Thomas, Sacred Parenting

    "Asia, Zen, Islam, etc., all these things come together in my life. It would be madness for me to attempt to create a monastic life for myself by excluding all these. I would be less a monk."—Thomas Merton, quoted in A Time of Departing, 2nd ed., p. 60)

    It is my sense, from having meditated with persons from many different [non-Christian] traditions, that in the silence we experience a deep unity. When we go beyond the portals of the rational mind into the experience, there is only one God to be experienced."—Basil Pennington, Centered Living, p. 192

    "The quiet repetition of a single word can help us to descend with the mind into the heart."—Henri Nouwen

    "Choose a word (Jesus or Father, for example) as a focus for contemplative prayer. Repeat the word silently in your mind for a set amount of time (say, twenty minutes) until your heart seems to be repeating the word by itself, just as naturally and involuntarily as breathing."—Gary Thomas, Sacred Pathways, p. 185

    "We should all without shame enroll as students in the school of contemplative prayer."—Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 1978

    "[T]he first step in faith is to stop thinking about God at the time of prayer. Choose a single, sacred word or phrase that captures something of the flavor of your intimate relationship with God. A word such as Jesus, Abba, Peace, God or a phrase such as 'Abba, I belong to you.' ... repeat the sacred word inwardly, slowly, and often. When distractions come, ... simply return to listening to your sacred word.... [G]ently return [your mind] to your sacred word."—Brennan Manning

    To read an important account of Gary Thomas' connection with Rick Warren, see chapter 8 of A Time of Departing, 2nd ed.

    Zondervan Publishing Purchases Youth Specialties
     Leading Christian Publisher Zondervan Acquires Ministry Organization Youth Specialties

    "GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., May 2, 2006 – Zondervan, the world’s leading Christian communications company, today announced it has acquired Youth Specialties, a youth ministry organization that provides quality publications, resources, training, and encouragement for youth workers and youth-oriented organizations around the world. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

    The acquisition marks the culmination of a 30-year business relationship, including a co-publishing and distribution partnership, between the two companies."

    Read Entire Press Release on the Youth Specialties Website 
    Henri Nouwen and Interspirituality
     Nouwen wrote the foreword to this 1993 book on Hindu and Buddhist practices.

    Disciplines for Christian Living: Interfaith Perspectives, written by interspiritualist Catholic priest Thomas Ryan, is a handbook on Buddhist and Hindu meditative practices. Ryan, who speaks of "essential Buddhist disciplines," teaches readers and followers to practice the presence of God through meditation. Henri Nouwen, who wrote the foreword to the book, says:

    I am convinced that this book will be of great help and support to the many people who have a deep faith in Jesus but are at a loss when they look for ways to practice it in their busy and always changing lives.

    In addition, a book written by the late Nouwen (With Open Hands) and re-released in a new edition last month, has a foreword by Sue Monk Kidd. Monk Kidd, author of The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, is a highly popular author and promoter of pantheism and contemplative prayer. The fact that she wrote a foreword for Nouwen's book is another indication of Nouwen's affinity for both contemplative and interspirituality. And yet, countless Christian organizations, colleges and churches are using Nouwen's books as sources for spiritual growth. This has and will have detrimental effects.

    Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God's house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God. —Henri Nouwen, From Sabbatical Journey, Henri Nouwen's last book page 51, 1998 Hardcover Edition

    Be Still DVD Database
     In case you need some information on both the DVD and the use of Psalm 43:10, this database of information may help.

     Brian McLaren's New Book, The Secret Message of Jesus
     Another book by emerging church leader has been released.

    Brian McLaren's New Book, The Secret Message of Jesus
    by Berit Kjos
    Who Defines the Kingdom of God?

    Where is the Kingdom of God?  How inclusive is it? Who defines the terms?  Today's emerging church has already moved the boundaries of His Kingdom. It has redefined God's Word and is fast embracing the latest versions of the old Gnostic quest for secret knowledge (gnosis) and self-actualization, whether through mystical experience or collective imagination.


    Stamping out faith in Biblical absolutes is central to this transformation. A mind anchored in God's Word won't compromise, but when that anchor is removed, the current of change can carry that mind anywhere. As Jesuit scholastic, Mark Mossa, wrote in his endorsement of Brian McLaren's latest book: "The Secret Message of Jesus challenges us to put aside our sterile certainties about Christ and reconsider the imaginative world of Jesus stories, signs and wonders."

    Read Entire Article, Who Defines the Kingdom of God?
    Spiritual Formation Forum - May 2006
     Pastors and other Christian leaders will attend this conference and will get hearty helping of Eastern/New Age teachings.

    The 2006 Spiritual Formation Forum will take place this month. Dr. Larry Crabb, one of the Board of Directors says, "The next reformation is due," and the Forum will have a significant role in this movement, which is to say that contemplative prayer (i.e., spiritual formation) will be a major part of this coming reformation that even Rick Warren believes is about to happen.

    Speakers for this year's event include: Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Larry Crabb, and there will be a labyrinth on site.
    The Board of Directors for the Spiritual Formation forum include representatives from Saddleback Church, Dallas Theological Seminary , World Vision, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and others. Partners of the event include Biola University, InterVarsity Press, RENOVARE, the Navigators, Leadership Institute and many others.

    Spiritual Formation Forum Website 

    Purpose Driven Worship Conference
    Welcomes Contemplative Speaker

     John Ortberg will be a featured speaker at Rick Warren's Worship Conference.

    On June 27-30, 2006, the Purpose Driven Worship Conference and Festival will take place. John Ortberg, author of The Life You've Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People and God is Closer Than You Think, has been promoting contemplative for some time. His being invited to the Purpose Driven Worship Conference should end once and for all any doubts about Rick Warren's affinity for contemplative spirituality.

    In Ortberg's 2005 book, God is Closer Than You Think, Ortberg quotes favorably from contemplatives such as Anne Lamott, Annie Dillard, Gary Thomas (Sacred Pathways), Brother Lawrence ("who danced violently like a mad man when he practiced the presence"), interspiritualists Tilden Edwards (Shalem Institute), Thomas Kelly (Divine Center in all), Jean Pierre de Caussade, Frederick Buechner, Meister Eckhart as well as Dallas Willard and Thomas Merton. He quoted many of these same people in his book, The Life You've Always Wanted.

    John Ortberg also co-authored a book with contemplative Ruth Haley Barton and encouraged the use of lectio divina, calling it a "slow meditative practice."

    For solid documentation on Rick Warren's affinity with contemplative spirituality, read A Time of Departing, 2nd ed.

    Christianity Today Brings Spiritual Formation to Over 70,000 Churches
     Through CT's Building Church Leaders Program, millions of people will be trained in contemplative.

    See Christianity Today's Spiritual Formation Program



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