LIGHTHOUSE TRAILS RESEARCH           November 23, 2016     LIGHTHOUSE TRAILS PUBLISHING
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Letter to the Editor: Three Generations of Seeing the Truth

Dear Lighthouse Trails:

Many years ago when  I was teaching an adult Sunday School class, I was so impressed with the importance of a certain book, I had the whole class order that book by Ray Yungen. It was called A Time of Departing.

It was all about how a new movement was entering the church. It went by a variety of names: spiritual formation, contemplative prayer, contemplative spirituality. It included topics like centering prayer, meditation, lectio divina, and visualization. It is a linking of Catholic and Eastern religions and has nothing biblical in it. Both my adult children and their spouses were in the Sunday School class.

Five years passed, and we got a new pastor who began to talk of John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila among others (they are Catholic saints, and the Catholic link to all this is immense). Because we had read Ray Yungen’s book five years earlier, we were aware of the error that was being preached. All of our family were very active in the church – some had been there for over 20 years and held positions of authority – but we had been warned so we took our families, after having warned many others, and left.

Because of housing, our families went to two different Assembly of God churches. One day I saw sign-up sheets on tables in the foyer of one of the churches.  One was for Spiritual Formation classes. I hoped it wasn’t what I feared it was. Things had seemed calm for approximately five years.

On Sunday Oct. 9 of this year (2016), the Spiritual Formation Pastor gave a sermon and told of his visits to Catholic monasteries. He then asked everyone to close their eyes, take deep breaths, picture Jesus, look at His face (during this time gentle music began to play), think of a time during the week that made you sad  and invite Jesus into your thoughts. This is visualization. It is called an Ignatian exercise after Catholic founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius Loyola. It is everything that Ray Yungen described in his book, and the pastor stood there and led all those thousands of people in an exercise totally unbiblical. He then suggested they do this 2-3 times a day whenever they encounter difficult or sad situations. He says he does this every day himself. My granddaughter – who was 13 at the time we left the former church and is 20 now – knew what she was listening to. She had heard us speak of Ray’s book often. She had been educated just as the Lord would have her to be.

How strange that this book has followed us. Yesterday, I was preparing for my Thursday night meeting with the woman I’m discipling. We are studying the 23rd Psalm. The author of the book suggested we read Gal 5. What I found there made me think of what happened at these two churches: Gal 5:9: “A little leaven [or a few false teachers] leavens the whole lump [or misleads the whole church].”

On Sunday Oct. 16, a week after the Spiritual Formation Pastor gave his sermon – the author of the book that tried to warn everyone about this danger, Ray Yungen, died of a complication of a leukemia treatment at the age of 64. There are many of us who mourn his passing and highly respect his life. He has helped keep us from darkness and walking in the light. May God be pleased and say “well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

His concern at the end of his life was not only for his generation and the darkness that had infected us but ensuring that it not touch the next. That was the kind of man Ray was—always longing to expose the darkness. My granddaughter shows that his legacy continues.

Barbara W.

Christianity is Missing Out on Something Vital – Is This True?

By Ray Yungen

Contemplative advocates propose that there has been something vital and important missing from the church for centuries. The insinuation is that Christians have been lacking something necessary for their spiritual vitality; but that would mean the Holy Spirit has not been fully effective for hundreds of years and only now the secret key has been found that unlocks God’s full power to know Him. These proponents believe that Christianity has been seriously crippled without this extra ingredient. This kind of thinking leads one to believe that traditional, biblical Christianity is merely a philosophy without the contemplative prayer element. Contemplatives are making a distinction between studying and meditating on the Word of God versus experiencing Him, suggesting that we cannot hear Him or really know Him simply by studying His Word or even through normal prayer—we must be contemplative to accomplish this. But the Bible makes it clear that the Word of God is living and active and has always been that way, and it is in filling our minds with it that we come to love Him, not through a mystical practice of stopping the flow of thought (the stillness) that is never once mentioned in the Bible, except in warnings against vain repetitions in the New Testament and divination in the Old Testament.

Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton (the man who inspired Dallas Willard and Richard Foster) said that he saw various Eastern religions “come together in his life” (as a Christian mystic). On a rational, practical level, Christianity and Eastern religions will not mix; but add the mystical element and they do blend together like adding soap to oil and water. I must clarify what I mean: Mysticism neutralizes doctrinal differences by sacrificing the truth of Scripture for a mystical experience. Mysticism offers a common ground, and supposedly that commonality is divinity in all. But we know from Scripture “there is one God; and there is none other but he” (Mark 12:32).

In a booklet put out by Saddleback Church on spiritual maturity, the following quote by Henri Nouwen is given:

Solitude begins with a time and place for God, and Him alone. If we really believe not only that God exists, but that He is actively present in our lives—healing, teaching, and guiding—we need to set aside a time and space to give Him our undivided attention.1

Henri-Nouwen

Henri Nouwen

When we understand what Nouwen really means by “time and space” given to God, we can also see the emptiness and deception of his spirituality. In his biography of Nouwen, God’s Beloved, Michael O’ Laughlin says:

Some new elements began to emerge in Nouwen’s thinking when he discovered Thomas Merton. Merton opened up for Henri an enticing vista of the world of contemplation and a way of seeing not only God but also the world through new eyes. . . . If ever there was a time when Henri Nouwen wished to enter the realm of the spiritual masters or dedicate himself to a higher spiritual path, it was when he fell under the spell of Cistercian monasticism and the writings of Thomas Merton.2

In his book, Thomas Merton: Contemplative Critic, Nouwen talks about these “new eyes” that Merton helped to formulate and said that Merton and his work “had such an impact” on his life and that he was the man who had “inspired” him greatly.3 But when we read Nouwen’s very revealing account, something disturbing is unveiled. Nouwen lays out the path of Merton’s spiritual pilgrimage into contemplative spirituality. Those who have studied Merton from a critical point of view, such as myself, have tried to understand what are the roots behind Merton’s spiritual affinities. Nouwen explains that Merton was influenced by LSD mystic Aldous Huxley who “brought him to a deeper level of knowledge” and “was one of Merton’s favorite novelists.”4 It was through Huxley’s book, Ends and Means, that first brought Merton “into contact with mysticism.”5 Merton states:

 He [Huxley] had read widely and deeply and intelligently in all kinds of Christian and Oriental mystical literature, and had come out with the astonishing truth that all this, far from being a mixture of dreams and magic and charlatanism, was very real and very serious.6

This is why, Nouwen revealed, Merton’s mystical journey took him right into the arms of Buddhism:

 Merton learned from him [Chuang Tzu—a Taoist] what Suzuki [a Zen master] had said about Zen: “Zen teaches nothing; it merely enables us to wake and become aware.”7

Become aware of what? The Buddha nature. Divinity within all.

That is why Merton said if we knew what was in each one of us, we would bow down and worship one another. Merton’s descent into contemplative led him to the belief that God is in all things and that God is all things. This is made clear by Merton when he said: “True solitude is a participation in the solitariness of God—Who is in all things.8

Nouwen adds: “[Chuang Tzu] awakened and led him [Merton] . . . to the deeper ground of his consciousness.”9

This has been the ploy of Satan since the Garden of Eden when the serpent said to Eve, “ye shall be as gods” (Genesis 3:4). It is this very essence that is the foundation of contemplative prayer.

In Merton’s efforts to become a mystic, he found guidance from a Hindu swami, whom Merton referred to as Dr. Bramachari. Bramachari played a pivotal role in Merton’s future spiritual outlook. Nouwen divulged this when he said:

Thus he [Merton] was more impressed when this Hindu monk pointed him to the Christian mystical tradition. . . . It seems providential indeed that this Hindu monk relativized [sic] Merton’s youthful curiosity for the East and made him sensitive to the richness of Western mysticism.10

Why would a Hindu monk advocate the Christian mystical tradition? The answer is simple: they are one in the same. Even though the repetitive words used may differ (e.g. Christian words: Abba, Father, etc. rather than Hindu words), the end result is the same. And the Hindu monk knew this to be true. Bramachari understood that Merton didn’t need to switch to Hinduism to get the same enlightenment that he himself experienced through the Hindu mystical tradition. In essence, Bramachari backed up what I am trying to get across, that all the world’s mystical traditions basically come from the same source and teach the same precepts . . . and that source is not the God of the Old and New Testaments. That biblical God is not interspiritual!

Evangelical Christianity is now being invited, perhaps even catapulted into seeing God with these new eyes of contemplative prayer. And so the question must be asked, is Thomas Merton’s silence, Henri Nouwen’s space, and Richard Foster’s contemplative prayer the way in which we can know and be close to God? Or is this actually a spiritual belief system that is contrary to the true message that the Bible so absolutely defines—that there is only one way to God and that is through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, whose sacrifice on the Cross obtained our full salvation? If indeed my concerns for the future actually come to fruition, then we will truly enter a time of departing.

For more about Ray Yungen’s work, visit: www.atimeofdeparting.com.

Endnotes:

1.. Henri Nouwen, cited in Saddleback training book, Soul Construction: Solitude Tool  (Lake Forest, CA: Saddleback Church, 2003), p. 12.

2. Michael O’ Laughlin, God’s Beloved (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2004), p. 178.

3. Henri J.M. Nouwen, Thomas Merton: Contemplative Critic (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row Publishers, 1991, Triumph Books Edition), p. 3.

4. Ibid., pp. 19-20.

5. Ibid., p. 20.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid., p. 71.

8. Ibid., pp. 46, 71.

9. Ibid., p. 71.

10 . Ibid., p. 29.

Protecting Children? – “Child Characters Speak 100+ Instances of Profanity”
bigstockphoto.com

bigstockphoto.com

By Bill Bumpas
OneNewsNow

New research on primetime broadcast television finds that networks are increasingly creating and airing programs in which teenage and even child characters use overtly sexualized and foul language.

The Parents Television Council conducted the study between February and May of this year, examining all primetime shows on the four broadcast networks. Dr. Christopher Gildemeister, author of this new PTC study, says the increase of young TV characters swearing and talking about sex is disconcerting because children are influenced by what they watch.

“As a parent it’s hard enough to keep your kid from picking up swear words on the playground or from watching TV,” he says. “But if they’ve got other kids on TV swearing, that really normalizes it – and that really teaches children that it’s perfectly okay, as well as sexualizing the kids to think about things that they’re probably too young for.” Click here to continue reading.

 

 
Trevor Baker Singing About the “North American Christian”

The Saskatchewan cowboy, Trevor Baker, has a song about the “North American Christian.” It’s certainly something to think about. Click here to listen to the song. This song is from his The Lonely Road album. Trevor Baker always tells it like it is in a spirit of love and strength.

 

 

Letter to the Editor: Three Generations of Seeing the Truth
Christianity is Missing Out on Something Vital – Is This True?
Protecting Children? – “Child Characters Speak 100+ Instances of Profanity”
Trevor Baker Singing About the “North American Christian”
Commentary: What Do Hitler, Alice Bailey, and Replacement Theology Adherents Have in Common?
Remembering the Enticing Appeal of Richard Foster and Beth Moore’s Be Still Film

Ironside: “Substitution”—He Took Our Place

NEW! Understand the Times Radio with Roger Oakland
“Thinking Outside the Box”
Times of Israel: “Kirk Douglas Gets Early 100th Birthday Gift From Jewish Group”
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Commentary: What Do Hitler, Alice Bailey, and Replacement Theology Adherents Have in Common?

By Philip Gray
Free-lance writer and contender of the faith

What Do Hitler, Alice Bailey, and Replacement Theology Adherents Have in Common? Basically, the answer to that question is that in all three cases, they reject the Jews as God’s chosen people. Those who embrace Replacement Theology probably don’t realize that the thinking behind Replacement Theology is some of the thinking behind occultist Alice Bailey as well as Hitler when it comes to the Jews. Now we are not saying that people who adhere to Replacement Theology would want to kill the Jews as Hitler did; but Replacement Theology adherents need to understand that behind this view of the Jews lies a far more sinister aspect. Satan hates the Jews (partly because he knows God will use them in the culmination of things in the last days to end Satan’s days). That view of the Jews can start “innocently” by saying the Jews and Israel are no longer significant with regard to Bible prophecy. But it is not a far step from that thinking to anti-Semitism. Let’s just take a brief look at Alice Bailey and then Adolph Hitler and see what they thought about the Jews:

Alice Bailey

Alice Bailey

Consider these statements by Alice Bailey in her book The Externalization of the Hierarchy.

The force emanating from that section of humanity which is found in every part of the world and which we call the Jewish people. What I say here has no specific reference to any individual; I am considering the world problem, centering around the Jews as a whole. . .  The Jew, down the ages, has insisted upon being separated from all other races but he brought over from the previous system the knowledge (necessary then but obsolete now) that his race was the “chosen people.” The “Wandering Jew” has wandered from System One to this where he must learn the lesson of absorption and cease his wandering. He has insisted upon racial purity . . . this insistence has been carried down the ages . . . When humanity has solved the Jewish problem (with the understanding cooperation of the Jew) and overcome ancient antipathies and hatreds, it will do so by fusing the problem in one vast humanitarian situation. When that happens, the problem will be rapidly solved and one of the major difficulties will disappear off the face of the earth. Racial fusion will then be possible. Our earth humanity and the group of human beings who are far more ancient in their origin than we are, will form one humanity and then there will be peace on earth. . . . .

The solution will come, as I said, when the races regard the Jewish problem as a humanitarian problem but also when the Jew does his share of understanding, love and right action. This he does not yet do, speaking racially. He must let go of his own separative tendencies and of his deep sense of persecution. (p.40-42, 1998 edition, Lucis Trust)

As for Hitler, we know without a doubt that he did not consider the Jews God’s “chosen people.” Rather, he wanted to eliminate them from the face of the earth. But where did he come up with this demonic evil idea? While there are different factors involved in the answer to that question, Mike Oppenheimer provides the documentation to show what was perhaps the greatest influence on Hitler and his views about the Jewish people:

Hitler’s ideas about the Aryan race came from the Thule Society. Thule was supposedly a lost island inhabited by an ancient race that were “masters of wisdom” (much like the mythology of Atlantis or Lemuria and the spiritual hierarchy, the White Brotherhood today). Though unseen, they are a superior highly intelligent beings working behind the scenes (as Benjamin Crème states). Hitler believed he was in contact with them and that they gave him power and energy. Through his alleged contacts with this mythical superior race, he believed he was destined to lead the Aryans to rule the world. Hitler’s vision of the world was that Germany would unite the world under his leadership which would last for 1,000 years.

Contance Cumbey, in her book The Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow, summarized Hitler’s path to being Germany’s messianic figure: “While still a very young child, Hitler was initiated into the finer mysteries of the occult. He attended a Benedictine monastery school near his German home. “The occult interests Hitler gained in this school, stayed with him all of his adult life and helped to shape his future spiritual philosophy.” . . .

Hitler, Himmler and Goebbels were Catholic in their background before they indulged themselves into a new spiritual worldview. Occult books were some of Hitler’s favorite reading. It was in the early 1920s Dietrich Eckart introduced Hitler to The Secret Doctrine, by [Helen] Blavatsky. He was taught its secrets by Professor-General Karl Haushofer (Suster), who was a member of the Berlin Lodge of the Vril Society. One of the primary qualifications for one to be admitted to the Vril Society was to have a minimum ability in Blavatsky’s “Secret Doctrine.” Karl Haushofer was alleged to be a master of the secret doctrines espoused by Blavatsky, and it was he who initiated prisoner Adolf Hitler at Landsberg Prison. . . .

Helen Blavatsky

photo: Helen Blavatsky

Cumbey notes: “Hitler rightly believed he had established communication with Lucifer, from whom he openly coveted possession” (Secrets of the Rainbow p.101). It should not surprising to find that he was led to The Secret Doctrine that glorifies Lucifer.

The “Secret Doctrine” held that they originated in Atlantis and that one of the seven Atlantean races was that of the Aryans.” The Aryans were the master-race or supermen of the Atlantean races.” The myth of Aryan superiority was the basis for Hitler’s Nazism and ethnic cleansing of the Jews. . . .

Hitler seemed to have favored Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine above other books he had. We do know that U.S. Army historians catalogued Hitler’s personal library and found numerous occultic volumes heavily annotated in Hitler’s fancy handwriting. Among the books was one that Hitler often kept by his bedside, the occult standard The Secret Doctrine by Madame Helen P. Blavatsky (Kubizek). (Adolf Hitler, The Occult Messiah, Gerald Suster, 1981).

Blavatsky not only claimed these masters were directing the work of the Theosophical Society but were also guiding the evolution of the human race throughout history. Thus Hitler found his place in the grand scheme of these masters. (“Hitler’s Spiritual Master – Maitreya,” Let Us Reason Ministries)

We can easily say that Helen Blavatsky shared a similar view about the Jews as Alice Bailey. In fact, Bailey probably got at least some of her anti-Semitic views from Blavatsky.  In Blavatsky’s book The Secret Doctrine, she wrote:

Judaism, built solely on Phallic worship, has become one of the latest creeds in Asia, and theologically a religion of hate and malice toward everyone and everything outside themselves. (Blavatsky, H.P.. The Secret Doctrine (Kindle Locations 20502-20503). Chios Classics. Kindle Edition)

Blavatsky also said the Jews were “degenerate in spirituality” (Ibid. Kindle location 15961).

The point of this commentary is to show Christians, especially adherents of Replacement Theology, that occultic influences have worked their way into the church and altered the way Christians think about the Jews, Israel, and  the Word of God. It’s tragic to think about Martin Luther and how he turned against the Jews in a most vehement manner; then Hitler, centuries later, used the sentiments of Luther to convince the German people that the Jews were an inferior people so that he could more easily commit the horrendous atrocities against them. (Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, LT edition, endnote section)

In Mike Oppenheimer’s booklet called Israel: Replacing What God Has Not, he offers some valuable insights. In closing, here are two paragraphs from that booklet:

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! . . .

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).

Thanks to people like Neale Donald Walsch (Conversations with God author), who said in his book that sold millions of copies that Hitler did the Jews a favor by killing them, or people in the emergent church like Tony Campolo and Brian McLaren, who reject the notion that the Jews and Israel have any significance in the present day or the future, people’s (including many evangelicals and other Protestants)  views of the Jews and Israel are fast changing. When you consider how anti-Semitism is growing throughout the world, as Christians, let us ask ourselves, “Are we to think as the world thinks? Are we to think as occultists think?” God forbid.

Remembering the Enticing Appeal of Richard Foster and Beth Moore’s Be Still Film
Be Still DVD

 

In 2006, a DVD film was released by Fox Entertainment called Be Still. Lighthouse Trails wrote extensively about it at the time, warning our readers that the DVD was an infomercial for contemplative prayer. Recently, a caller who very much understood the deceptive dynamics of the contemplative prayer (i.e., Spiritual Formation) movement, reminded us about the film, and we e-mailed her a copy of all the transcripts (we had transcribed the entire film in 2006). The film includes Richard Foster, Buddhist-sympathizer Catholic convert Peter Kreeft, Dallas Willard, Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Michelle McKinney Hammon, Max Lucado, and Calvin Miller. You can read some of our previous coverage here.

You can be sure that in the last 10 years since Be Still was released, the contemplative prayer movement has grown by leaps and bounds, and we have no doubt that this film has had a lot to do with this spread.

Below we have posted portions of the transcript from three of the segments (there were six altogether) of the Be Still film. You may need to read between the lines to understand the message that is being promoted because the film was  a seductive and enticing infomercial to draw people into the practice of contemplative prayer without coming right out and saying what contemplative prayer really entails. (After all, viewers could get specific instructions later by reading the writings of these people in the film). For those not familiar with the contemplative prayer movement, it may be a good idea to read this article by Lynn Pratt, “So You Want to Practice Contemplative Prayer? What’s Wrong With That?”

Within these quotes, the italicized words are added by LT for emphasis.

“Contemplative Prayer: The Divine Romance Between God and Man”

Narrator:

We live in  frenzied chaotic world under a constant siege of business and noise. The weapons of mass distraction are everywhere. We are bombarded by millions of advertisements daily. The Christian community is not exempt. We were designed to experience fullness of joy, yet many only experience fullness of schedule. Where can we go to find rest and peace?

Be still and know that I am God. We find peace in God’s presence. We get to know God better through prayer. Prayer is relationship and two-way communication with God. Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. But how can we experience abundance if we don’t learn to slow down? We need to stop and quiet ourselves to spend time in real relationship with God.

Contemplation is different from other types of Christian prayer. Contemplative prayer involves less telling God what we want to happen in our lives and more listening for God’s call to us in our heart through Scripture. As we develop the inward attentiveness to God’s divine whisper, we begin to experience His presence more throughout the day.

“What is Contemplative Prayer?”

 Richard Foster, author “Prayer”:

Contemplative prayer is listening prayer. It is attentiveness. You know how our children will talk with us and sometimes we wish that they would just listen to us. Now, that’s what contemplative prayer is. It’s being all ears to what the Father has to say to us.

[French Catholic mystic] Nicholas Grou said, “O Divine Master, teach me this mute language which says so much.” That’s the idea. It’s very simple, isn’t it? That we become attentive to God. God’s interested in us, what we have to say. We learn to become interested  in what God has to say to us.

Priscilla Shirer, author of “He Speaks to Me: Preparing to Hear the Voice of Go”:

Most of my prayer time is filled up with what I’m saying to Him, as opposed to just being quiet and actually giving him an opportunity to speak to me. And of course I’ve thought about hearing the voice of God all my life, and I’ve thought about wanting to hear Him, but it never occurred to me that I needed to consciously go into His presence with my mouth closed, giving Him an opportunity to get a word in edgewise.  And so I’ve just begun in my prayer life over the past year of my life to make a conscious effort to be in a time of prayer, and yes, to speak to Him, but to consciously say, okay, I’m done talking now, because I’m just gonna sit here in the stillness and wait to see what it is that you want to say to me.

Dallas Willard, PhD.,former  Director, School of Philosophy, USC:

It is somewhat like, uh, the story of electricity with Benjamin Franklin. And actually, we know now that electricity’s everywhere. I mean, our blood cells wouldn’t work without electricity. But it was Franklin who made the effort to contact it, as it were. So the famous story about the kite in the electric storm, and the current running down the line and jumping the gap and causing the spark and so on. And of course it’s a wonder that the old fellow wasn’t killed on the spot with it, because lightning has been doing that for a long time.

Buddhist-sympathizer Catholic convert, Peter Kreeft:

It’s easy to allegorize it. The key is Franklin’s own ego. And the sky is God. And the electricity is grace and the kite line is prayer. And he’s sending himself up to God in order to get charged.

Jerry Shirer:

When my son and I, Jackson, when we play sports or when we play baseball or when he kicks the ball, I always want to try to instruct him on how to do it and what to do. This is how you do it, Son. You do it this way. Well, it hit me. Where Jackson doesn’t want to be with me to receive instruction necessarily. He just wants to be in my presence. And that was the amazing thing. He goes, “You know, Dad, don’t—I don’t need your instructions. I don’t need this. Dad, I’m just happy just being with you.” You know? And that was the thing for me. And that just, you know, made me understand my relationship with Christ. It’s not about me speaking or saying, Lord, this is what I want. He goes, “Jerry, just spend time with Me.”

Richard Foster:

Contemplative prayer can be experienced everywhere, in small groups of people, when you’re alone, when you’re at work, in all kinds of situations. You take a passage of Scripture, a very simple passage, and you simply lean into the passage and you allow the Lord to teach you.

Narrator:

Churches, small groups and individuals around the world have structured a spiritual life around the practice of Christian contemplation.

“Historical Overview”

Dallas Willard:

Very interesting that even Aristotle, the great Greek philosopher, thought the highest human good was contemplation. But he thought it was contemplation of truth, not contemplation of God. Still, he was onto something big. And it was later on the Christians came along because Aristotelian contemplation turned out not really to do a lot for people. But Augustine, for example, corrected Aristotle and taught that it was God that we contemplate, because He is the only final good and we lift our minds and hearts to Him through Christ, and that gives us the kind of life-giving joy and sufficiency that Aristotle understood to be true happiness.

Beth Moore:

One of the lives that has affected me deeply is Saint Augustine, that after wrestling with God for such a long time, and God just chasing him and hunting him down, I remember thinking to myself, I want to be that way about God. When God’s hunting me down, I wanna slow down and be caught by Him. If He’s chasing me, I want Him to catch me. And that’s what God did with Saint Augustine. And he knew the fiery passion of God’s love, not just a God of the law, but a God of the heart, a God that chases the heart of man, to pick up all its pieces and make it whole.

Peter Kreeft, PhD, Professor of Philosophy, Boston College:

[The mystic] Kierkegaard, probably the greatest Protestant Christian mind of all time, said many times something like this—This is almost the last page of his journal shortly before he died. He said, “If I could prescribe only one remedy for all the ills of the modern world, I would prescribe silence. Because even if the word of God were proclaimed in its fullness, it would not be heard. There is too much noise. So begin with silence.”

Narrator:

The stresses we live with are so invasive, we begin to believe we’re nothing but these things. We believe they have the power to define who we are and how we live. We must learn to desire a oneness with God that transcends all these things.

“The Need for Contemplative Prayer”

Max Lucado, Pastor, Author, “Cure for the Common Life”:

You know, people are in such a hurry all the time. I talked to a man recently who had completed 60 ironman triathlons. And the guy’s in his 60s. I said, What’s the secret? He said, “Start slow and taper down.” That’s my new motto in life. He said, “Everybody gets out on these races, and they start running as hard as they can, and they wear out. They can’t finish.” He said, “The secret’s to start slow and taper down.” I thought, you know, that’s right. Cause really in life, we start slow. And Jesus said, “Anybody who would know the kingdom of God needs to come like a child.” Children start slow, in our parent’s lap, at our mother’s breast, sleeping a lot, thinking a lot, learning a lot, but then somewhere along the line we think we gotta ratchet up. And so, yeah, I think it’s time to slow it all down a little bit.

Priscilla Shirer:

I’m reminded of Matthew, chapter 17, during the Transfiguration, Jesus was there with Peter, James and John and it says that God called out from the heavens, God the Father, called out from the heavens. And here’s Jesus standing in front of them with His face shining. And I mean, they are just amazed at what they are seeing and God the Father calls out and says, “This is My Son whom I love, and I am well pleased.” And this is the command that God the Father gives. He says, “Listen to Him.” Here’s Jesus in all of His glory, and the one thing the Father says that He’s, we’re supposed to do is listen to Him. And so, if that’s the one command that God the Father would give at this point, at this incredible point in biblical history, that we listen to Him, then I think we oughta be making some time to come aside from our busyness and listen to what it is that our Father has to say to us.

Calvin Miller, Professor, Author, “Into the Depths of God”: [Miller is a proponent of Marcus Borg who openly denied many tenets of the Christian faith.]

One of the great things that silence does, it gives us a new concept of God. God is not just somebody there to hear us, a doting grandfather who puts his arms around us and says, “Honey, I’ll see what I can do for you.” God is an activist. That’s why I believe in praying the Scriptures. When you open up the Bible and you pray the Scriptures back to God, you’re experiencing something really wonderful, and what you’re experiencing is, you’re reading back to the Author of the Word of God His own words. Now I’m not, I’m not a great writer. But when somebody says to me, “I read your book,” that’s a great gift to give me.

Beth Moore:

God’s Word is so clear that if we are not still before Him, we will never truly know, to the depths of the marrow in our bones, that He is God. There has got to be a stillness. We’ve got to have a time to sit before Him and just know that He is. We live in such an attention-deficit culture, and we’re so entirely over stimulated, so much coming at us at once, one image after another, that if we are not careful, we are going to lose the art of meditation, to just sit before God and know His peace, that He really is in control, and that nothing is happening that’s not being sifted through His fingers, and He is God upon the throne.

Richard Foster:

The wonderful thing about contemplative prayer is that it can be found everywhere, anywhere, any time for anyone. [Foster believes that contemplative prayer is for anyone, not just believers in Christ.] We become a portable sanctuary, so that we are living our life, wherever it is, aware of the goodness of God, the presence of God.

Tim Lundy:

If there ever was an age that the church—and a time period when the church needed the practice of solitude and silence, it’s now. We live in the information age. And I love it. I love the technology. I love the opportunities it gives us. But I also recognize that every day there’s hundreds of emails. We’re connected to a world wide web. We have cell phones. We, whether we’re in a car, or on an airplane or at our home, somebody can be in contact with us. And all those are great resources, but if in the middle of it we don’t stop, if we don’t get silent and practice that and be alone with God, all that becomes just a drain on us. And so the very people you’re trying to connect with and minister to, you have no energy for.

Dallas Willard:

Now because silence is such a radical thing, and it does mean that you give up control of your situation, you can see what a tremendous impact that would have on the American church, in their services, in their meetings of various kinds. Suppose they practice silence in some of their meetings. That would actually give a place for God to break in. And who knows, He might have something to say even to a committee meeting, if they would be silent long enough. It would mean that, for example, the pastors and the leaders in the services would not feel like they have to control everything, that again, God is in control. And that’s the way God is. He more or less waits for us to get tired of running things and then He’s glad to help.

Katherine A. Brown-Satzman, [promotes guided imagery] Executive Director, UCLA, Healthcare Ethics Center:

And in the process of that, physiologically, everything begins to shift. Blood pressure comes down. Breathing changes. Our mind quiets. And we can actually get to this state of where our body can heal in a much better way, because it’s not fighting all of this, right? It’s not amped up.

“Fear of Silence”

Dallas Willard:

If silence is a condition of this experience, a lot of people really are not going to undertake it. It’s very difficult to get anyone to be silent. And I think it’s because in silence they really do surrender their control over how they appear. One of the things we do in talking is to adjust our appearance. And to abandon that as a project is really major. So we keep jabbering. You go to the ordinary church service, you can hardly find 15 minutes of silence. But silence is one of the great spiritual disciplines. And in fact you’re not going to get very far in contemplative prayer unless you know how to be silent. And by that I mean that you really are comfortable with it and you’re practiced in it.

Narrator:

Christian meditation is the practice of being in the presence of God. Its ultimate goal is to seek only God and receive His guidance and grace.

Richard Foster:

Let me give just a little example of contemplative prayer for an individual. I was using Scripture—one of the Psalms, a brief Psalm, like recently I used Psalm 9. And first I would read it through, just out loud to myself, and just become aware of the texture of the Psalm. And then I’d do a second reading. And there I would highlight whatever passage  seemed to strike me in any way—a phrase or a sentence. And then I would do a third reading, and there I’m coming—I’m reading only the highlighted passages, and I look for any phrase, any sentence that speaks particularly to my condition. And that particular day, Psalm 9, the passage was, Be gracious to me, O Lord. Isn’t that wonderful? And I was going through some difficult time, and it was so helpful then, for the entire day, to utilize that particular passage. Be gracious to me, O Lord. Whatever I’m doing, whatever work it is, whatever situation with the children or with my wife or whatever—Be gracious to me, O Lord. See? That’s contemplative prayer.

LT: [Richard Foster is describing lectio divina here; but while he’s trying to make contemplative prayer sound very innocent here, we know from years of studying his writings, that he believes contemplative prayer to be much more than just picking out a passage of Scripture and thinking about it throughout the day. He and other contemplative figures teach that in order to go into the contemplative stillness, that special word or phrase needs to be repeated over and over to help eliminate thoughts and distractions.]

“The Difference Between Eastern and Christian Meditation”

Tim Lundy:

What I see in Christian meditation—it’s not escape from the world. It’s an escape to something and to someone. And so it’s an opportunity to stop, and you’re getting away from the world, but you’re moving toward God and connecting with Him.

Dallas Willard:

The loss of self that is meant in the Eastern traditions, really does mean that the individual dissolves. And that solves the problems of desire and passion, which is the curse of human life on that view of things. See, the Christian and Jewish teaching, and for that matter the Islamic teaching, is that the distinctness of the individual is a good thing. And that God has intended that and means to preserve it. So the response to the human condition is not the disappearance of desire but the dominance of love.

Beth Moore:

That’s the difference with meditation. We’re not just speaking to our inner selves. We’re not just speaking to a more positive thought process that day. We pray to the God of the universe, the king of all creation, is my Abba, Father. That’s who I’m talking to. And when I have that kind of attitude—that I’m talking to somebody that really can change my circumstances, that really can change my heart, that really can empower me to be different than I’d be, to do what I cannot do, to know what I cannot possibly know—I’m gonna tell you something—My approach is gonna be transformed. I’m not just talking, I’m not just trying to get my head together, I’m talking to someone. And I happen to be talking to the God of the universe.

LT: [What Beth Moore and Dallas Willard are saying here is that the method is the same but the intent is different; but we say that if the method is the same, you are going to get the same results. As Ray Yungen has said, two people can jump out of a ten story building with one saying “fly, fly,” and the other saying “fall, fall,” but the results will be the same.]

Narrator:

There’s a peace that surpasses understanding. We know that stress will always be there, but we ground our hearts in such oneness with God that His power can transform our lives.

“How God Speaks Through Scripture”

Richard Foster:

Learning to distinguish the voice of God from just human voices within us comes in much the same way that we learn any other voice. You know, there’s a tone to a voice. Satan pushes and condemns. God draws and encourages. And we can know the difference. And then there’s a spirit in a voice, isn’t there? Remember it was said of Messiah that He would not break a bruised reed nor quench a smoldering wick. You see, Jesus would never snuff out the smallest hope, never crush the needy. And that’s  the spirit that we look for in the voice of God. And then, third,  there’s the content of the voice. And in the final analysis, that is the most clear evidence. You see, the voice of God, the Davar Yahweh, is always consistent with the way God has spoken in the past. And so Scripture, then, becomes a primary means by which we understand God speaking to us today. It will always be consistent with the way He has spoken in the past.

LT: [Satan comes as an angel of light and his ministers as ministers of righteousness. This “test” by Richard Foster is very flawed.]

Mark Brewer:

Sometimes the longest distance in our spiritual journey is that 18 inches from our head getting it down into our heart. And the power of this contemplative prayer, this inner life, is it takes the knowledge which is all the facts and figures, and it makes it wisdom by applying it.

LT: [What contemplatives mean when they say from the head to the heart is what contemplative Henri Nouwen meant when he said: “Through the discipline of contemplative prayer, Christian leaders have to learn to listen to the voice of love … For Christian leadership to be truly fruitful in the future, a movement from the moral [doctrine] to the mystical is required.” (from Nouwen’s book, In the Name of Jesus)]

Calvin Miller:

Can you think about how God must feel when a Christian comes into His presence reading the 23rd Psalm? Lord, You are my shepherd. You make me lie down in green pastures. You lead me beside still waters, all for Your name’s sake. I think when we say those things back to God, as the author of those words, He’s delighted. And the silence confirms that we are people, and we’re talking and God’s listening. But the best times are when God starts talking and we’re quiet enough to hear Him.

Beth Moore:

Second Timothy 3 tells us that all Scripture is God-breathed, and that means that every single word on that paper has come fresh out of the mouth of God. What I try to remember every single time I read Scripture is that it still has the warmth of God’s breath on it. You can’t separate the words of God from the mouth of God, or you’ve just got sterile words sitting on a page. God’s Word is different than that. It’s the very word out of His mouth. Therefore it comes with fresh breath. Because it’s eternal, that means time is not attached to it. So it’s as fresh today to me as it was the day it came out of His mouth and onto the paper. That’s the way I look at it.

LT: [According to this statement by Beth Moore, without the contemplative aspect, the Word of God is “sterile.” We are not taking what she said out of context. This is totally typical of the contemplative mindset. Remember what she said above, without the stillness, you can’t really know God. She also says that “you can’t separate the word of God from the mouth of God,” but the Bible says in Psalm 138:2 that God’s Word is magnified above His name, so surely His Word is magnified above His “breath.” If you stop and really think about what she is saying here, you will see how distorted this thinking is.

Narrator:
The practice of contemplative prayer can be a vital part of our everyday lives. But we must make time for it.

“The Fruit of Contemplative Prayer”

Beth Moore:

A true lover of God once spoke about practicing God’s presence. To me, that’s such a part of contemplative prayer. That we are able to absorb the reality, that as we commune with God through prayer, that He is with us, that His Spirit, for those of us who are in Christ, fills us, that we are drawn near to Him, that our souls find rest in Him, that we’ll realize that it’s not just words on a page, but it’s the presence of God, the voice out of His mouth, that calms us, or perhaps stirs us, gives us peace or perhaps brings us into a holy passion, that we respond to His presence.

Calvin Miller:

But if we don’t do it, all we are is an inner wrangling that never ceases. We move from hassle to hassle to hassle. One may stick a little Jesus in here or there, but without the silence, there’s no healing. There’s no healing.

From the segment called “Cloud of Witnesses: Contemplative Figures Throughout History”

Beth Moore, Author “A Heart Like His”:

You know one of the things that time gives us is that it erases the lines between so many different sections of the people of God. Because many years later it doesn’t matter any longer that this person was of this practice in the Christian faith and this person of another. Time somehow blurs those lines, and we are profoundly moved by the historical narratives of all of their lives of so great a cloud of witnesses that we can look back on and see what kept them running the race, what kept them running toward the face of Christ at the end of that finish line.

Dr. Mark Brewer, Pastor, Bel Air Presbyterian Church, Los Angeles:

Through the ages a lot of us as Christians think that the Holy Spirit’s been on sabbatical since the first century and now He just showed up. But He’s been very active in the lives of all of His people. I think of some of the desert fathers—they called themselves God’s athletes in the third and fourth century. They left this corrupt Roman Empire to go and to seek God and they made what they called this holy place for God. That’s why they fasted and why they lived such simple lives, was so the Lord could encounter them.

Richard Foster, Author, “Prayer”:

[The mystic] Madame Guyon was a French lady of the 17th century. She had children. She had an ordinary life experience. But she learned, you see, how, in that, to live with God. Her book, “Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ,” is one of the sweetest little books on contemplative prayer. And she wrote it for people who couldn’t read themselves. Her book was meant to be read to them.

Richard Foster:

[Mystic] Teresa of Avila was a Spanish lady in the 16th century, a contemporary with [panentheist] Saint John of the Cross. An incredible leader, administrator. A woman of immense skill and ability and a woman of deep prayer.

Jerry Root, PhD, Professor, Wheaton College:

One of my favorite stories relates to the medieval contemplative Julian of Norwich. She was from England. And she claimed to have had revelation from God and she wrote about it shortly after she had these experiences. She was in her early 20s. Twenty-five years later she wrote about it again. She hadn’t had a new experience with God, revealing Himself to her, but she wrote about it 25 years later, having allowed 25 years of contemplation to inform what this meant to her. There’s one story that occurs in both accounts. She said that God spoke to her and told her to pick up a chestnut. She picked it up and God spoke to her and said, “All the great truths can be found even in a chestnut. God made it. God sustains it. God loves it.”

And I think all of the great contemplative writers have present application, if we’ll look for it.

[The mystic] Evelyn Underhill would be a relatively modern contemplative. She died in the early 1940s. At Oxford University you had to be a male to teach, until Evelyn Underhill came along. She was the first woman given lecture-wide status throughout the university. She was towering intellect. She wrote 39 books on Christian spirituality [i.e., contemplative spirituality] and philosophy of religion. And Evelyn Underhill tells a great story about a friend of hers who had been to Scotland, to the island of Iona. Iona is an island that’s sacred for the Scots because it’s where Columba first brought Christianity to Scotland. Every Scot needs to make the pilgrimage to Iona sometime in their life because the roots of Scottish Christianity are there. Well, Underhill’s friend had been to Scotland and had been to Iona, and when she returned her Scottish gardener said to her, “Where did you go for your vacation?” And Underhill’s friend said, “I’ve been to Iona.” And he says, “Oh, Iona’s a thin place.” She said, “What do you mean?” He said, “It’s a thin place because there’s not much between God and Iona.”

And all of life, properly looked at, in some senses, is a thin place. Everywhere we look, in a world made by God, a world inhabited by God, God is calling us to worship Him. . . . There’s another medieval contemplative named Brother Lawrence. He was responsible for the book “Practicing the Presence of God.” Many people don’t realize that Brother Lawrence was a pot scrubber in a monastery. He wasn’t a full-fledged monk. He was a brother who would come in and scrub pots for the monks so that they could spend their time in prayer. And it was while he was washing pots at a kitchen scullery that he practiced the presence of God. In essence, Brother Lawrence would tell us the kitchen’s a thin place. Scrubbing pots is a thin place. All of life—especially the struggle of life—is a thin place. God wants to meet us in those places.

Dallas Willard:

Brother Lawrence’s experiences were rather different. They involve some things that are quite like this type of prayer. But for example, a major experience for him was viewing a tree that had lost its leaves in the winter and was all stripped bare, and the realization that this tree still had life in it, and that this life would flourish again in the spring. His sense of that seemed to bring him into a kind of unity with that life that he began to practice. And of course, he had a very lowly, menial position, caring for the kitchen and the needs of the monastery. So he learned then to see God in all things.

Richard Foster:

Brother Lawrence, in his wonderful book, “The Practice of the Presence of God,” said, “Those who have the gale…” He means the wind. “…of the Holy Spirit go forward even in sleep.” Isn’t that wonderful, that we can move forward in our spiritual life even when we’re sleeping? I often try, as I am entering sleep, to just give my life to God—my heart, my mind, my thinking, my dreams, whatever they might be. And then you wake up in the morning and you’ve advanced in the Spirit. You see, that’s part of contemplative prayer as well.

From the segment, Alone With God:

Woman:

Find a simple and quiet place where you can be comfortable for about 20 minutes. But you don’t want to get so comfortable that you miss your intimate time with God because you’ve fallen asleep. If I’m in bed, I prop up on a pillow and try to sit up as straight as possible, not in the counting sheep position.

Take a few deep breaths. Begin to relax and slow yourself down. As you inhale, think of the Holy Spirit breathing life and peace into your body. And as you exhale, remember the verse that says to cast all your cares upon Him.

 

 

Ironside: “Substitution”—He Took Our Place

By Harry Ironside

Although the word substitution is not in the Bible, it stands for a great truth that runs through the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. That is, the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ, in infinite grace, took the place of poor, lost, guilty sinners, and made it possible for a holy God to reach out in mercy and save all who would come to Him in the name of His beloved Son.

I do not have one particular text in mind, but I have been thinking of five different passages in the New Testament where we get the same expression—He “gave himself”; and I want you to think with me of these Scriptures. The One who gave Himself was our Lord Jesus Christ, and I should like you to notice what it was for which He gave Himself.

HE GAVE HIMSELF FOR ME
In the Epistle to the Galatians, the apostle Paul writes:

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20; emphasis added)

Note the individuality of it. Paul, who had been a bitter persecutor of the people of God, who had been an enemy of the Cross of Christ, one day had his eyes opened, and he suddenly realized that the One who had died on that Cross went there for him, that He had taken his place, that it was love that led Him to go to that shameful death. From that moment the heart of Saul of Tarsus went out in adoration gratitude to our Lord Jesus Christ; and until the very end of his days, he found his greatest joy in trying to give some evidence, by a life of service, of his love for the One who had thus loved him.

THE WORD IS NOT IN THE BIBLE—BUT THE DOCTRINE IS
Notice how Paul speaks of Him: “The Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” There you have the very heart of the Gospel—“Himself for me.” That is substitution. Some people tell us, because we do not find the actual word “substitution” in the Bible, that the truth of it, the fact of it, is not there. And so they talk of atonement by other means than by substitution—atonement by example or atonement by reconciling love, that leads men to turn to God adoringly, simply because of the goodness that He showed in seeking them out in the person of His Son. But no, the Word of God makes it very definite. The work that took place on Calvary was a substitutionary transaction. It was the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s own blessed, eternal Son, who became man for our redemption, giving Himself on our behalf.

“The Son of God loved me, and gave himself for me.” That is the language of faith. When a poor, needy sinner looks at that Cross and sees, as it were, the blessed Savior hanging there, he says, “He was there for me; it was my sins that put Him there; it was in order that I might be fitted for the presence of God that He went into the darkness and endured the judgment of God. He is my Substitute. The Son of God loved me, and gave Himself for me.

HE GAVE HIMSELF FOR US
But it is not only for me, it is also for us. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, we read:

And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour. (Ephesians 5:2; emphasis added)

I am so thankful that in my thinking I do not have to limit the gift of God’s grace in the person of His Son to just some little group, as though it were just for a small elect company that Jesus died. “He gave Himself for us.” I can look out over the whole wide world, whether men are saved or unsaved, and say to them on the authority of the Word of God that “He gave himself for us”—for everyone of us. Whether you be Jew or Gentile, whether you be very religious or have no time for religion, I would say to you, “ The Son of God gave himself for us.” He saw us in our lost condition, and He went to Calvary’s Cross in order to redeem us. That is how the prophet Isaiah puts it. He looked on down through the centuries and by faith he saw the very scene of Calvary, and he cried out, “[H]e was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

THE GOSPEL FOUND IN THE OLD TESTAMENT ALSO “YOU KNOW THE GOSPEL, DON’T YOU?”
I remember a number of years ago, I went over to a town in Minnesota to hold some meetings. My wife and our eldest son, just a little child at the time, went with me. When we got there, a big, burly highland Scotsman met us. He said, “Now you come along with me; I am going to take you to my house. We are going to sleep you there, and then across the way at the McKenzies, they will eat you.” Of course, I new he didn’t mean anything cannibalistic, and I was glad to accept the provision made. We went to his house and settled ourselves and then went over to the McKenzies for our meal.

I remember one Sunday we left to go down to the meeting in the afternoon, and it happened that there was one daughter in the family who had not yet received the Lord Jesus Christ as her Savior. The mother said, “Will you pray for Jean? She knows the way, but somehow she doesn’t seem to want to come. She says she is young yet, and she wants to have her fling before she settles down.” Well, we did pray for her, and some way or other as I preached that afternoon in the big tent, I couldn’t help seeing Jean way in the back, eagerly listening to the message. When it was over, I thought she might be one who would move to the front when the invitation was given, but instead of that, I saw her get up and hurry away, and I felt a little bit disappointed. When I finished speaking, I felt a little bit disappointed.

When I finished speaking with those who had come forward, I went on home, and when I got there I found, as I opened the front door, my wife was sitting there with an open Bible and Jean beside her. My wife turned to me and said, “Come and join us. I am trying to show Jean that Christ died in our place, but someway or other she can’t seem to grasp it.” So I sat down with them and said something like this: “Jean, you know the Gospel, don’t you?”

“Yes,” she said, “I think I do.”

“What is the Gospel?”

“Well, it is that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.”

My wife said, “I have been showing her Isaiah 53.”

The Bible was open at that chapter so I said, “Look, you have it right here, ‘But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.’ Don’t you see, Jean? Christ died for you, He took your place, He bore God’s judgment against your sins.”

“I see what is written there,” she replied, “but somehow I can’t get hold of it for myself. It doesn’t seem to mean anything to me.”

So we got down on our knees and prayed that the Spirit of God Himself might make the great truth of the substitutionary work of the Cross real to her; and then I said to her, “Jean, while we are here on our knees, I want you to read the words for yourself, and we will pray that the Holy Spirit will open them up to you.”

And so she read them: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” Then she said, “Yes, I see it, but I don’t seem to be able to make it my own.”

CAN YOU SEE YOURSELF IN THE GOSPEL?
“Perhaps it would be different now if you will just read it again and change the pronoun, putting it into the first person singular. Read it like this: He was wounded for my transgressions’; because you see, Jean, it really means that. He was wounded for the transgressions of all of us, yours and mine. Read it that way.”

She started to read, “He was wounded for my transgressions.” She stopped as the tears began to flow. She wiped them away and read on, “He was bruised for my iniquities,” and again she stopped; and then she read, “The chastisement of my peace was upon Him,” and then she fairly shouted, “Oh, I see it! With His stripes, I am healed.” And in a moment the light had shone into her darkened heart. She saw that the Lord Jesus was her substitute; He had taken her place. We gave thanks, and then she said that she must go and tell her “Mother.” She didn’t know that all the while her mother had been standing outside the window and had heard the whole thing. Out the front door she went and down the garden path and around to the side, and she ran right into that mother’s arms, “Oh Mother, Mother, I’m saved; by His stripes I am healed.” What joy that brought to the mother’s heart, and what a happy time of rejoicing we all had then!

You see, that is substitution. That is the very pith and marrow of the Gospel. He gave Himself for our sins.

HE GAVE HIMSELF FOR THE CHURCH
Next we do have a special group mentioned for whom He gave Himself. In the last part of the fifth chapter of Ephesians, we read:

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it. (Ephesians 5:25; emphasis added)

When we get home to Glory, when we who have been redeemed to God by His precious blood are presented faultless in the presence of our heavenly Bridegroom, we shall look up into His face, and we shall be able to say, “The Son of God loved the Church, and gave Himself for it.”

You remember the story that is told of one of the generals of Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, and the one who overthrew, in God’s providence, the mighty Babylonian Empire. One of his generals came home from a campaign and was shocked to find that in his absence his own wife had been arrested and was languishing in prison, charged with treachery against her country, and the trial was to be held that very day. The general hastened to the court of Cyrus, and the guards brought in his own beloved wife. She, poor woman, pale and anxious, tried to answer the charges brought against her, but all to no avail. Her husband, standing near, heard the stern voice of the Persian ruler pronounce the death sentence. In a moment, as they were about to drag her away to behead her, he ran forward and threw himself down at the feet of the Emperor. “Oh sire,” he cried, “not she, but me. Let me give my life for hers. Put me to death, but spare my wife.” And as Cyrus looked down upon him, he was so touched by his deep devotion and his love for his wife that his heart was softened. He remembered, too, how faithful this servant had been, and he gave command that the wife should go free. She was fully pardoned. As her husband led her out of the room, he said to her, “Did you notice the kind look in the eyes of the Emperor as he pronounced the word of pardon?”

She said, “I did not see the face of the Emperor. The only face I could see was that of the man who was willing to die for me.”

Oh, when we get home, when we see the face of the Man who did die for us, how our hearts will praise Him! How we will rejoice in His presence as we say, “The Son of God loved me, and gave Himself for me.”

HE GAVE HIMSELF FOR OUR SINS
We need to realize that He died not only to deliver us from the judgment due to our sins, but He died for us in order that we might be delivered from the power and pollution of sins right here and now in this life. In Galatians 1:4, we have these words:

Our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father. (emphasis added)

He gave Himself for our sins, not simply that we might have our past sins forgiven, nor that we might stand justified before Him as to the future, but in order that the power of sin might be broken in our lives, that we might no longer be subject to Satan’s authority, that we might be free men and women, living here to the glory of the Lord Jesus.

This is one of those truths I do want to press upon you who have but recently been brought to a saving knowledge of Christ. Dear young Christian, do not be satisfied to know that you are saved from Hell, blessed as that is, but oh, go on day by day to a fuller walk with God, that you may be saved from sin, and that your whole life may be lived to His glory.

HE GAVE HIMSELF FOR ALL
Somebody might raise the question, “Well, it is perfectly true that it says He gave Himself for us, and He gave Himself for the church, and He gave Himself for our sins; but are you really sure that it applies to everybody? May He not, after all, have had just some particular elect company in view when He thus gave Himself, and if we do not belong to that company, what right have we to come to Him at all and to expect Him to do anything for us?” For answer, will you look at the first Epistle to Timothy, chapter 2, verses 5 and 6:

For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. (emphasis added)

Oh, dear friends, do not allow anything to narrow down your conception of the inclusiveness of the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. “He gave Himself a ransom for all.” Do not try to read into that what it does not say. Some people say, “Well, of course, you know we must understand the words ‘the elect’ to come in there. He gave Himself a ransom for all the elect.” Oh no, God does not need you and me to help Him out. He knows what to say, and He means what He says. When He writes, “He gave Himself a ransom for all,” He means us to understand the words exactly as they are written.

They used to tell a story about a certain professor of theology at Princeton Seminary in the days when Princeton was pretty rigid as to what they called “a limited atonement.” One day one of the students looked up and said, “Professor, just what is our stand in this seminary on the atonement?”

The teacher replied, “Well, we stand with Dr. _____; we preach the theology of Dr. _____, and he taught a limited atonement—that Christ died only for the elect.”

Then said the student, “And over at New Haven, Connecticut, (At that time New Haven was a very sound seminary,) what do they teach there? What is Dr. Taylor’s theology?” The professor said, “Over there they teach that God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

“Oh,” said the student, “well, I’ll accept that because that is what the Bible says. That is not just Dr. Taylor’s theology nor New Haven doctrine; that is the Word of God.”

And so we say to you, whoever you may be, the Lord Jesus gave Himself a ransom for all. On Calvary’s Cross, He put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. In other words, when He presented Himself there as a substitute for guilty humanity, He finished the work that satisfied every righteous demand of the throne of God and met all the claims of His holy nature, so that on the basis of it, any poor sinner in all the world who comes to Christ and puts in his claim will be saved on the basis of the substitutionary work of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is the doctrine of the atonement as we have it in the Bible. There is no other in this blessed Book, and so we put the question to you: have you put in your claim? There are a lot of people who know all about it, but they have never believed and acted upon it.

THE TRAGEDY OF FAILING TO CASH IN GOD’S PROMISES
There is a story of a veteran of the Civil War who was found living in wretched poverty. The city authorities found him in such a deplorable state that they thought all they could do was to take him to the county poor farm. One of them happened to notice something on the wall. It wasn’t exactly a picture; it looked more like a document of some kind. He took it down and looked at it, then he asked, “What is this, my friend?”

The poor old man replied, “That was sent to me by Abraham Lincoln himself, and I kept it because it has his signature on it.” It turned out to be a check. I forget the amount of money, but it was really a pension check signed by the President and sent to this man years ago. Instead of cashing it, the poor man had kept it all the time and had framed it and hung it there on the wall. In the meantime, he got poorer and poorer, until he was a candidate for the county farm. They found that the government at Washington would still honor the check, although it was years old, and so they had enough to take care of the man comfortably until he died.

Oh, do not be content just to have the statement of the substitutionary work of the Lord Jesus, but come to Him for yourself, trust Him as your own Savior. Cash in on it. He gave Himself a ransom for all.

Related Articles:

Celebrating the Atonement and the Resurrection While Promoting Contemplative – A Profound Contradiction

Understanding the Difference: Biblical Atonement or New Age At-One-Ment?

Marcus Borg on Atonement, the Resurrection, and the Son of God

The Shack Author Rejects Biblical Substitutionary Atonement

 

 

 

NEW! Understand the Times Radio with Roger Oakland – January 14, 2016 Broadcast

Roger Oakland, the founder and director of Understand the Times, International and Bryce Homes International has announced plans in the very near future for a 24/7 Internet radio station. Today's 49-minute broadcast by Roger can be listened to below. Roger is discussing the Calvary Chapel movement in this broadcast. You will also hear music by the Saskatchewan Gospel cowboy, Trevor Baker. Please pray for Roger as he stands on the front lines of defending the faith. His new book, The Good Shepherd Calls: An Urgent Message to the Last-Days Church, is going to press on November 30th and will be released December 18th (you can click that link above to see the issues discussed in this important book.) If you cannot veiw the video screen below, click here.

 

“Thinking Outside the Box”

By Tamara Hartzell
(Author of Reimagining God and In the Name of Purpose)

“Thinking outside the box”

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

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

“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (2 Timothy 4:1-4)

“Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” (1 Timothy 4:16)

The importance of the Word of God simply cannot be overstated. Without it, we do not have the truth, faith, or salvation of God. And without the truth, faith, and salvation of God, we do not have God. Scripture is replete with teachings and warnings that make this perfectly clear. One example of many is 2 John 1:9:

“Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.”

Where do we get the doctrine of Christ in which we are to abide to have God? From the Word of God.

“But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:14-16)

“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” (1 Peter 1:23-25)

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17)

It is the faith of God that comes by the Word of God. Not only does the Word of God give us the truth and faith we are to believe in order to have God, but it also gives us the truth and faith we are to obey in order to please and serve God. And yet people in today’s Christianity are no longer willing to accept this faith as is. Rather than simply believe and obey, people want the freedom to “rethink” and “reimagine” God and His Word into a fashion that they are willing to accept and, incredibly, even go so far as to claim that God’s own Word of truth puts God in a “box.” In other words, they want the truth and faith of God set “free” from the Word of God. Thus, they do not see the Word of God as the truth but as merely a “story” with “changeable” and “debatable” “metaphor” that can be interpreted and retold however anyone chooses. This then gives people their desired freedom to “think outside the box” where they can conveniently “reimagine” their own “story” of who they “rethink” God to be.

Naturally, whether or not these stories line up with God’s Word is irrelevant to those who prefer to “think outside the box” of God’s Word. In fact, if they did line up with the Word of God, then it would defeat their purpose of “thinking outside the box.” And since “rethinking” and “reimagining” God and His Word is what people today actually want, they are turning to fables for their faith and “truth.” Fables are not the truth, and the truth is not a fable. This is why God’s Word warns that people are turning away from the truth and unto fables. Nevertheless, more and more people are trying to turn fables into the truth—i.e., “reimaginings” into reality—and are dancing around in circles desperately trying to bring the two together as one in a harmonious relationship. This is, in essence, turning the light off to look for “truth” in the corner of a dark round room.

“The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” (Psalm 119:130)

“But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:23)

“And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” (John 3:19-21)

The light of God’s Word is just too bright for today’s light-intolerant eyes. More and more people are seeking relief outside the “box” and are intentionally turning away from the Word of God, away from the truth, away from the faith, trying to “find God” in the darkness. However, in the darkness people can no longer tell the difference between what is true and what is false, even when it is obvious. And as a result, they are blindly bearing with those who present them with “another Jesus,” “another spirit,” and “another gospel” that deceptively affirm their shift from light to darkness, and even lead them astray to another “God.” But they don’t see it that way. Since people imagine that God’s Word of truth is just a manmade “box” from which God and His truth need to be set free, they see it as simply a matter of “finding God” wherever they choose to look. Sadly, this rapidly increasing deception is clearly seen in today’s shifting Christianity.

“For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.” (2 Corinthians 11:4)

“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.… But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1:6-7, 11-12)

“For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13)

Since more and more people in today’s shifting Christianity are rejecting the Word of God as the word of man, and even accepting the word of man as the word of God, one needn’t go far to see the many counterfeits being sold to the eager buyers who see no need to beware. In fact, since people now imagine that outside the “box” of God’s Word is the “genuine” and inside the “box” of God’s Word is the “counterfeit” they will only see a need to beware of God’s Word inside the “box.” Thus, reviling those who believe the genuine is the genuine and the counterfeits are the counterfeit, they are heeding those who believe the counterfeits are the “genuine” and the genuine is the “counterfeit” because the counterfeits are the “genuine” they are willing to accept. But, naturally, those who prefer to “think outside the box” don’t see it that way.

Many people are likewise choosing to see man’s fables as the “truth” about God because man’s fables are a “reimagined” “truth” they are willing to accept. Absurdly, those who seek to justify “reimagining” God and His Word even claim that Jesus taught parables in order to teach truth to the multitudes. This claim in itself “reimagines” God’s Word in order to justify “reimagining” God’s Word. Jesus Himself gave the reason for His parables, which is the opposite of man’s imaginations in more ways than one. He spoke in parables to keep the truth away from those who did not have ears to hear and had already chosen to close their eyes and ears to the truth. Sadly, some things never change.

“And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (2 Timothy 4:4)

“Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.… For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.” (Matthew 13:9-13, 15-16)

If that isn’t clear enough:

“And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.… Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.” (Luke 8:10, 18)

Those who have chosen to turn their ears away from the truth and unto fables only seem to have the truth. The truth is “Thus saith God,” “Thus saith the Lord,” and “It is written.” This is the settled truth of God, which He has recorded for us in His Word. God’s truth is what it is and never changes despite man’s never-ending vain attempts to “rethink” and “reimagine” God’s Word for God. Truth tells us what is and what is right or wrong. Stories are the opposite. Stories are relativism and allow each person to decide for themselves what they want the meaning to be. This is exactly the freedom desired by those who are shifting from truth to fables. They want the freedom of uncertainty rather than the what is of certainty. Since having ears to hear the truth is necessary to be able to hear the certainty of its meaning, it was to His disciples and not to the multitudes that Jesus told the meaning of His parables:

“If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given.… And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it. But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.” (Mark 4:23-24, 33-34)

Because the Lord Jesus Christ is God, even His parables to the multitudes are “Thus saith God” and “Thus saith the Lord.” And since even the meaning of His parables has been recorded in God’s Word of truth, for us the meaning is not relative as many now think, but rather, “It is written.” On the other hand, man’s imaginative fables are nothing more than “thus imagines man.” Contrary to the popular opinion of those blinded in the darkness, they are not the truth and not the Word of God, and the Lord Jesus Christ and His teachings are not a “style” to emulate. He is the Lord, Whom we are to believe and obey.

“I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.” (Psalm 138:2)

“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3-4)

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

“It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.… From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.” (John 6:63-64, 66-68)

“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

Too many people in today’s shifting Christianity are seeking to set the truth of God free from the “box” of God’s Word rather than seeking to be set free themselves by God’s Word of truth. Instead of looking for “truth” in the corner of a dark round room they would be far better served looking for truth in a corner of the “box.” But, sadly, those who are shifting from the light of the narrow way of absolute truth to the darkness of the broad way of relative “truth” are doing so on purpose, albeit blindly, along with their eyes closed and ears covered. They feel “boxed” in by the narrow way, and the broad way gives them the freedom outside the “box” to “rethink” and “reimagine” God and His narrow way into a broader “truth.” With this freedom, people can have a relationship with God however they choose, right?

“He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” (John 12:48)

(This is an excerpt from Tamara Hartzell’s book, Reimagining God: Turning the light off to look for “truth” in the corner of a dark round room; used with permission.)

Volume One

Volume Two

Times of Israel: “Kirk Douglas Gets Early 100th Birthday Gift From Jewish Group”
Kirk Douglas, 2006 at 90 years old (photo: bigstockphoto.com)

photo: Kirk Douglas, 2006 at 90 years old working at a mission for the homeless in Los Angeles (photo: bigstockphoto.com)

LTRP Note: An interesting news piece, different than what usually comes out of Hollywood. If you have never watched the documentary film, Israel, A Nation is Born, it is worth the price. Distributed by Caryl Productions.

By Edith M. Lederer
Times of Israel

NEW YORK (AP)—Legendary actor and producer Kirk Douglas has received an early 100th birthday present—an award from the World Jewish Congress for his strong support for Israel, including starring in the first Hollywood feature film shot in the newly established nation.

Ronald Lauder, the organization’s president, said Douglas, who was born Issur Danielovitch on Dec. 9, 1916, was “always proud of his Jewish roots.”

He pointed to Douglas’s starring roles as a Holocaust survivor in the 1953 movie “Juggler,” which was filmed in Israel, and as Jewish US Army Col. David “Mickey” Marcus, who helped save the Jewish state in 1948, in the 1966 movie “Cast A Giant Shadow.” Click here to read more.

 

 

Can't Find Information in Your Research? Try This Great Tool!

Are you looking for information that you can't find on Lighthouse Trails? Try the amazing search tool at Deception in the Church (the ministry of Sandy Simpson). The search tool there searches eighteen discernment and research sites all at the same time with one search. Here is the link to that tool: http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/search9.html. And as with everything you read and hear, always use discernment, and weigh everything against Scripture. No website or ministry is perfect (including Lighthouse Trails), but the Word of God IS! Praise God for His faithfulness.

NEW BOOKLET: Remembering the Persecuted Church and Why We Need to Pray

NEW BOOKLET: Remembering the Persecuted Church and Why We Need to Pray by Susan Moore is our newest Lighthouse Trails Booklet.  The Booklet is 18 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Our Booklets are designed to give away to others or for your own personal use. Below is the content of the booklet. This booklet contains photos. To order copies of  Remembering the Persecuted Church and Why We Need to Pray, click here. 

bkt-sm-pc-4-sRemembering the Persecuted Church and Why We Need to Pray
By Susan Moore

per-se-cute (transitive verb): to oppress people; to systematically subject a race or group of people to cruel or unfair treatment, e.g. because of their ethnic origin or religious beliefs.1

My family and I had been burdened and praying for the Soviet Union for many years. Then, in 1994, our dream came true—a door opened for us to serve as missionaries in Moscow, where we were able to encourage the saints and help disciple the harvest of new believers that the end of the Cold War had afforded. In 1996, we were asked to travel to Rybinsk, a rural town ten hours (by train) north of Moscow on the Volga River. We were to deliver children’s Bibles and other Christian literature to the House of Prayers Evangelical Christian Baptist Church. During our three day visit, we stayed in the guest room of Pastor Kravtsov and his family. In this single-story wooden house with a large vegetable garden, the pastor and his wife raised five children and held secret worship services every Sunday for the better part of twenty-five years.

I asked Pastor Kravtsov if I might ask him a few personal questions. The translator interpreted, and it took no encouragement for him to nod his approval. “Tell us when you started your walk with God,” I asked. His eyes sparkled as he began to reflect.

“I have carried my cross since childhood,” he said, “from the first years of my life. My father was arrested for preaching about Christ. Most of what I know of him has been told to me. He was killed in 1933. I was only 3 years old at the time.

“But I do remember my grandfather. Because of him everything [the spread of the Gospel] started in our village. During the First World War, he was captured by the Austrians. A few years later, he came back as a believer—not an Orthodox believer, but a Christian Baptist. For that time, 1917, that was something new. People in our village somehow felt the presence of the truth, and they started coming to his house. And his house became a house of prayer. I can hardly imagine that in this little wooden house every Sunday for twenty-five years from different parts of town, believers would come to worship in spite of the high risk of persecution.”

I asked my brother, “What has been the most difficult time in your life as a pastor?”

“This was the time of the greatest persecution of the church—the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s,” he told me. “I would not live a day without someone from the KGB harassing me or tempting me to compromise my faith. In 1965, a brother from the United Baptist Organization came from Moscow and asked me to be the recognized pastor here. At that time, I was preaching and leading the people but was not called pastor. My wife and I stayed awake the whole night discussing the difficulties of this decision. The KGB already knew about the offer, for the following day they came and informed me that if I decided to be the pastor, they would take me straight to prison. My wife said to me, ‘Leonid, to be a pastor is a calling from God. You need to make up your mind if you will follow. God knows. He will take care of your family if they put you in prison.’ God did protect me, and I did not go to prison for some time.”

On the last day of our visit to Rybinsk, I stood near the back of the narrow church hall of the House of Prayers. There were about 300 other saints standing with me: Women in dark-colored dresses, scarves covering the hair of the married ones; men in white shirts, buttoned to the top. All were solemn, yet somehow the sense of joyous awe was palpable. This was the close of the more than two-hour church service we had just shared together. Sixty-two-year-old Pastor Leonid Kravtsov was serving Communion from a stoneware chalice—personally, individually—to all 300 members of his Baptist congregation. As I waited for him to reach our pew, I reverently surveyed my surroundings, noticing the wall of honor covered with the faded images of church members who had served prison time for their faith in Jesus Christ during the harsh years of Communist repression. A poster depicting this mural had hung on the kitchen wall of our California apartment in years gone by. We had used it as a family reminder to pray for the health and safety of these believers as they languished in prison and labor camps. At that moment, I found it difficult to believe I was actually standing there sharing in the oneness of the communion of saints with such courageous believers.

We Should Pray Because God Answers Prayer
We should pray for persecuted Christians because God answers prayer. I have first-hand evidence of this. In 1978, we started praying for Lida Vashchenko and her six relatives who sought asylum in the United States Embassy in Moscow. Known as “the Siberian Seven,” for five years, they feared for their lives if they stepped foot outside the sanctuary that the embassy provided. Due to political pressure from the West and God’s intervention in answer to prayer, they were allowed to emigrate in 1983 and settled in Washington State.

In that same year Christian musician Valeri Barinov was institutionalized in an insane asylum for his “crazy” insistence that Jesus Christ was alive and a personal friend of his. A prayer campaign was launched on his behalf, and today he is living free in England.

God’s answer to prayer results in captives being released. He also answers prayer by bringing spiritual and physical comfort to those who are suffering as a result of their faithfulness to Christ. Soviet prisoner Mikhail Khorev, at a time of deep despair and suffering, had even thought about praying for his own death. Then one morning, everything changed. He was summoned by the authorities from his dank and cold cell and allowed to shower and change into fresh clothes. What was the cause of this sudden kind treatment? He had no idea. But later he discovered the secret.

I did not know about the international attention to my case. The letters that had been printed in Vestnik Istiny had attracted a lot of attention. Many believers all over the world were praying for me and the other Christians in Russian prisons. Pressure was put on the governments to do something about our situation. That was the reason for my reprieve. But God orchestrated all of it, I am sure. His perfect will was being done.2

In August 2016, Russian president Vladimir Putin resurrected an old law which prohibits the free preaching and sharing of the Gospel. Those in violation of this new law will be issued severe fines. In the 1960s and 1970s, Georgi Vins, a young Baptist pastor in the Soviet Union, was in a similar situation. By the time it was over, he had spent eight years (starting at the age of 32) in Soviet prisons. Vins, a leader in the underground church in the Soviet Union until he was imprisoned, recounts one prison experience in his book The Gospel in Bonds. After being classified as a “Red Stripe” prisoner (one who was at risk of escaping the labor camp), Vins was subjected to the cruel treatment that this designation entailed. Even though he assured his captors that as a Christian he was compelled to obey any rules they inflicted which were not directly contrary to the Word of God, the Christian prisoner was awakened every two hours throughout each night, this after the usual ten-hour day of back-breaking hard labor. The additional undeserved harsh treatment nearly broke his spirit. He wrote:

Never had I felt so forlorn, so abandoned in that strange prisoner world. It was as though nothing existed except the desolate camp, nothing but prisoners and guards, pressure and slavery.3

Then one day without explanation, the red stripe was removed, and he was allowed to resume the routine of a “normal” prisoner. Vins sang hymns of praise to the Lord, his Deliverer.

Life was easier without that red stripe. I felt as though I were already halfway to freedom! Years later, I learned that Christians in my country and around the world had prayed for me and petitioned the Soviet government on my behalf. How thankful I am that they remembered the prisoners, including me.4

We Should Pray Because the Bible Tells Us To
Jesus warned His disciples that those who follow Him will face persecution. The Book of Acts records the beginning of the fulfillment of this prediction. Some of the apostles were arrested and beaten. Stephen was stoned to death. James, the brother of John, was executed by sword. John Foxe recounts the martyrdom of James:

No sooner had Herod Agrippa been appointed governor of Judea, than . . . he raised a sharp persecution against the Christians and determined to make an effectual blow by striking at their leaders. . . . when James was led to the place of martyrdom, his accuser was brought to repent of his conduct by the apostle’s extraordinary courage. His accuser fell down at the feet of James requesting his pardon, professing himself a Christian, and resolving that James should not receive the crown of martyrdom alone. Hence they were both beheaded at the same time.5

Shortly after this, King Herod put Peter in jail, chained between two guards with additional guards posted outside the cell door:

Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. (Acts 12:5)

I don’t know about you, but I have always found the account of what happens next in this story to be somewhat amusing. A bright light shone in the prison, an angel appeared, and Peter’s shackles fell off. But the angel had to poke Peter to wake him up. Peter must have still been half asleep for we read the angel’s sharp commands as though Peter couldn’t figure these things out for himself. “Get up! Now get dressed! Put your shoes on! Now your coat. Come on, follow me!” And the angel led him out of prison and into the city and then left him.

Peter then made his way to a home where he must have known the believers would be gathered. But the very saints who had been praying for Peter could not believe it was him knocking on their door. Much confusion ensued before they opened the door and let him in. The Scripture says, “They were astonished.”

I think I am a bit like that too. I pray for the persecuted church, for captives to be delivered. God hears. God answers! And then I am astonished.

The writers of the New Testament epistles understood our reluctance to pray such lofty prayers, so they left us exhortations to “remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body” (Hebrews 13:3) because when “one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). There are others:

Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith. (2 Thessalonians 3:1-2)

For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us; Ye also helping together by prayer for us. (2 Corinthians 1:8-11)

Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. . . . Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints. (Ephesians 6:11-12, 18)

We Should Pray Because Persecution Continues
We should pray for the persecuted church because the need is greater today than ever before. In fact, reports from organizations whose mission is to keep track of persecutions committed against Christians worldwide reveal that more than twice as many Christians were killed for their faith in 2015 than in the previous year—which makes 2015 “the deadliest year for Christians worldwide.”6

When the statistics are broken down, the numbers are staggering. Whether by firing squad, stoning, beheading, being burned alive, or some other horrific means, it is documented that thousands of Christians suffer some form of violence because of their faith (including beatings, rape, or destruction of property) every year worldwide.7

According to a 2016 report from a persecution watch-dog group, North Korea ranks number one in countries that persecute Christians:

For the 14th consecutive year, North Korea was listed at No. 1 on the World Watch List, again making it the greatest persecutor of Christians in the world with a persecution rating of 92 out of 100. As the Kim regime continues its intolerance toward religion, between 50,000 to 70,000 Christians are suffering in regime labor camps.8

A 2013 news article titled, “North Korea Executed 80 People for Watching TV and Owning Bibles” reports on religious persecution in the Communist country:

The North Korean leadership forces its citizens to embrace the Juche ideology “which mixes Marxism with worship of the late ‘Great Leader’ Kim II Sung and his family . . . Practicing the Christian faith is illegal in North Korea, where merely owning a Bible is considered criminal. . . . any person caught with one is sent—along with three generations of his or her family—to prison.9

Sadly, some North Korean believers choose to keep their faith a secret. Still others courageously flee their homeland in an attempt to find safety in neighboring China. There, they not only find themselves unwelcome refugees, but they are placing kind-hearted Chinese Christians at risk as well. In 2016, Chinese Pastor Han from the city of Changbai was hacked to death. Authorities said his murder was to warn Chinese Christians not to assist North Korean Christian refugees.10

In fact, China has stepped up its efforts to quell the rapid spread of Christianity. A recent tactic of razing churches under the guise of “zoning conflicts” resulted in Chinese Christian Ding Cuimai being buried alive as she attempted to block the bulldozing of the church she attended.11

One article revealed that persecution in China against Christians has exploded:

China’s sentencing of Christians exploded more than 10,000 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to a new report from China Aid Association, an organization that exposes religious freedom and human rights abuses.12

According to this article, the persecution has intensified due to the growth of Christianity in China:

In response to the growth of Christianity in China, the Chinese government has instituted various campaigns to persecute both house churches and government-sanctioned TSPM churches throughout China by harassing, abusing, arresting, and, in many cases, sentencing pastors and church members to prison.13

Because we have all seen the ghastly images on the news, it comes as no surprise that nations in the Middle East and Africa—such as Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, and Nigeria—are leaders in nations where Christian martyrdom most often occurs.

One report states that Islamic extremism is the main source of persecution in 41 of the top 50 countries—that is, 82 percent of the world’s persecution of Christians is being committed by Muslims. As for the top ten worst countries persecuting Christians, nine of them are Muslim-majority—that is, 90 percent of nations where Christians experience “extreme persecution” are Muslim.14

In the regions of Iraq where ISIS has gained a stronghold, Christian families are aware of the life or death choices they may be forced to make. As the Koran instructs, all non-Muslims must choose one of three choices: convert to Islam, pay a tribute fee (which is most often their home, business, and all possessions), or be put to death. Along with this, their daughters may be forced to marry ISIS fighters, and their sons may be compelled to join the fight. Faced with such unimaginable decisions, most choose to join the growing flood of refugees fleeing their homeland.

Needless to say, I could give pages and pages of examples of persecution against Christians. Satan and his minions have waged war against the saints down through the ages using governments, ideologies, and false religions as their earthly instruments. A quick read through the table of contents of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs will bear this out. Christians face danger and difficulties for worshipping as they desire in a large portion of the world. Islamic ideology is spreading throughout the globe, seeking to eradicate or neutralize those perceived to be a threat to the progression of their religion; it is clear to see that Satan’s methods have not changed down through the centuries; he has merely chosen Islam as his newest tool.

And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. (Revelation 12:10-11)

We Should Pray for Those Who Persecute
Let us not forget to pray for those who persecute. Unless such wretched souls repent and turn truly to the Lord, they will spend eternity in Hell. The Bible says, “Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not” (Romans 12:14). And Jesus said:

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)

This poem by Georgi Vins is a good reminder for us to pray for the persecutors as well as the persecuted:

To My Persecutors
My persecutors, I do not curse you,
And at this hour under the burden of the cross
I pray for you and bless you
With the simple humanity of Christ.

I am pure before you: by word and deeds
I have called you to good and to light.
I have so much wished that your hearts
Would be possessed by the lofty ideal of love.

But rejecting this kind summons
You answered with rabid enmity.
My persecutors, I do not curse you,
But I am saddened by your fate.

The immortal examples of history
Speak of the futility of persecution—
The fires of love and abundant faith
Burn enthusiastically through the whole land!

My persecutors, I do not curse you,
And at this hour under the burden of the cross
I pray for you and bless you
With the simple humanity of Christ.15
—Georgi P. Vins
Anyusha Prison Camp, 1968

What Can We Do?
What can we do in the face of such overwhelming evil as persecution for our faith?

First, we can remember that God is on His throne, and in the end, He will make things right.

And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled. (Revelation 6:9-11)

We can identify with those who are suffering, as the Bible instructs us. It helps to remember that each number in the statistics represents a real person. Stay informed and learn the names, faces, and stories behind the numbers; though many of them will never be known by you and me, God knows each and every one.

We can remember that the battle the persecuted church is facing is a spiritual battle. And the weapons of our warfare on their behalf are spiritual as well.

The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds. (2 Corinthians 10:4)

And therefore, we must pray without ceasing.

Persecution—Will We Be Ready?
At the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions held in Salt Lake City, where speakers such as Brian McLaren, the Dalai Lama, and Marianne Williamson spoke to over fourteen thousand attendees, eye witnesses reported that in the midst of this interfaith event, there was an overstated hostile sentiment regarding Bible-believing Christians. One eye-witness stated:

The Christian view of “salvation” has the inclusion/exclusion message of “we are in—they are not.” The interfaith movement cites this as an evil. In other words, to say salvation is by Christ alone, and there is a Hell and there is a Heaven is not accepting of other faiths. It is exclusive, unaccepting of other religions, especially because they believe “God accepts all, God is in all.” The Christian orthodox view of Heaven and Hell will no longer be tolerated as they says it divides humanity.16

Christians in the Western world should realize that persecution and martyrdom have been the norm for countless believers in the past centuries of Christianity and now in much of today’s non-Western world. The question we have hanging over our heads is, will Western Christians have what it takes to stand for their faith and even die for their faith? With all the comforts and freedom Western believers have enjoyed, will this ease of being a Christian believer help or hinder our ability to live (or die) for our faith. Suppose a government threatens to take away our homes, our jobs, and our comforts if we refuse to stop standing for the truth of the Gospel and sharing it with others—would we be willing to lose all for the sake of Christ? It’s a question every Christian needs to ask himself. In the meantime, let us remember the persecuted church, and let us continually pray for those believers who make up this important and suffering segment of the body of Christ.

Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ. (Philippians 3:8)

Many are my persecutors and mine enemies; yet do I not decline from thy testimonies. . . . Princes have persecuted me without a cause: but my heart standeth in awe of thy word. (Psalm 119: 157, 161)

To order copies of  Remembering the Persecuted Church and Why We Need to Pray, click here. 

(Susan Moore is a free-lance writer and researcher who has done editing, formatting, and researching for Lighthouse Trails and other discernment ministries, such as The Berean Call and Understand the Times, for many years.)

Endnotes
1. Encarta Dictionary
2. Harvey Yoder, A Small Price to Pay (Berlin, OH: TGS International, 2006), p. 226.
3. Georgi Vins, The Gospel in Bonds (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2014), p. 43.
4. Ibid., p. 46.
5. John Foxe, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails, 4th printing 2014), p. 22.
6. Samuel Smith, “2015 Deadliest Year for Christians Worldwide, Open Doors’ World Watch List Finds” (Christian Post, January 13, 2016, http://www.christianpost.com/news/open-doors-world-watch-list-2015-deadliest-year-christians-killed-for-faith-jesus-christ-154875/#LkRkiwVfOjTUWLw6.99).
7. Ibid.
8. Ibid.
9. Sharona Schwartz, “North Korea Executed 80 People for Watching TV and Owning Bibles” (The Blaze, November 12, 2013, http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/11/12/reports-north-korea-executed-80-people-for-watching-tv-and-owning-bibles).
10. Bob Unruh, “North Korea suspected in fatal attack on Chinese pastor” (WND, 5/7/2016, http://www.wnd.com/2016/05/north-korea-suspected-in-fatal-attack-on-chinese-pastor/#x21TjPoZ2Ybroa7g.99).
11. Brynne Lawrence, “Church Leader’s Wife Dead After Buried Alive During Church Demolition (China Aid, April 16, 2016, http://www.chinaaid.org/2016/04/church-leaders-wife-dead-after-buried.html).
12. Bob Unruh, “Sentencing of Christians explodes 10,000% in China” (WND, April 25, 2015, http://www.wnd.com/2015/04/sentencing-of-christians-explodes-10000-in-china/).
13. Ibid.
14. Raymond Ibrahim, “Muslims Claim Lion’s Share of Christian Victims” (WorldMag, March 7, 2016, http://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/262036/muslims-responsible-worst-year-modern-history-raymond-ibrahim).
15. Georgi, Vins, The Gospel in Bonds, op. cit., p. 13.
16. Lynette Irwin, “Eye Witness Account at Parliament of the World’s Religions 2015 Reveals Growing Animosity Toward Biblical Christians” (Lighthouse Trails Research blog, October 21, 2015, http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=18411).
To order copies of  Remembering the Persecuted Church and Why We Need to Pray, click here. 

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