LIGHTHOUSE TRAILS RESEARCH          May 29, 2018     LIGHTHOUSE TRAILS PUBLISHING
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The ONE Who Makes Sense in a Crazy Mixed Up World

By Trevor Baker

Stories of school shootings, bus crashes and multiple innocent deaths on a Toronto sidewalk have our minds left bewildered. In moments like these, we search for answers to it all. Some, I believe, go even deeper than that in search of answers to life itself.

It can almost be certain that at least a few of the family members and friends of the victims have reached out to God in their darkest hour. It is possible that some may even have had their lives changed forever as they looked to the Heavens. That one they call the Savior, Jesus Christ, was there to meet them with outstretched arms as they cried themselves to sleep.

The stories of these people who have had a 180 degree turn around are not posted in the papers or talked about on the evening news. This world has never been very comfortable with those who fall in love with God, preferring to write them off as “kooks.”

While there certainly are lots of “kooks” who follow other “kooks” within man-made religion, Jesus Himself can never be accused of being a “kook.” He is the One who brings peace into hearts that can’t make sense of this mixed up world.

This is a song that the Lord gave to me in 2015 (click here). It sums up how I feel in those sad moments when the world tries to take our breath away.

Trevor

(You can follow Trevor on Facebook.)

Related Articles:

Trevor Baker – Songs For a Troubled Church

The Lonely Road by Trevor Baker – The Cost of Following Jesus

Signs of the Times in Song with Trevor Baker

 

They Call It “Bibliolatry” (Bible Worship) – But Could it Be a Contemplative Smoke Screen?

In an article titled “How Evangelicals Became Over-Committed to the Bible and What Can Be Done About It,” Biola University professor J.P. Moreland says that  evangelical Christians are too committed to the Bible. He states:

“In the actual practices of the Evangelical community in North America, there is an over-commitment to Scripture in a way that is false, irrational, and harmful to the cause of Christ,”  [Moreland] said. “And it has produced a mean-spiritedness among the over-committed that is a grotesque and often ignorant distortion of discipleship unto the Lord Jesus.” The problem, he said, is “the idea that the Bible is the sole source of knowledge of God, morality, and a host of related important items. Accordingly, the Bible is taken to be the sole authority for faith and practice.(source)

While Moreland gives examples such as non-charismatics who steer clear of any and all venues such as “impressions, dreams, visions, prophetic words, words of knowledge and wisdom,” there may be more behind his statements than meets the eye. This idea of “bibliolatry” (the idolizing of the Bible) did not originate with Moreland. Contemplative Brennan Manning (who gets many of his ideas from mystics like Thomas Merton and William Shannon (Silence on Fire), once said this:

I am deeply distressed by what I only can call in our Christian culture the idolatry of the Scriptures. For many Christians, the Bible is not a pointer to God but God himself. In a word–bibliolatry. God cannot be confined within the covers of a leather-bound book. I develop a nasty rash around people who speak as if mere scrutiny of its pages will reveal precisely how God thinks and precisely what God wants.”–Brennan Manning, Signature of Jesus, pp. 188-189

Without checking the further inferences of such statements, some may agree with Manning and Moreland solely on the idea that we should not worship a leather-bound book but rather the One of whom the book is about. But few “over-committed” Bible-believing Christians would argue with that. Christians who believe the Bible is the actual inspired word of God know that the Bible is not God Himself, but it is the Jesus Christ proclaimed in that Bible who is to be worshiped. But they also know that within the pages of the Bible are the holy words, ideas, and truths of God. So for Moreland and Manning to suggest that these types of Christians don’t really worship God but rather pages in a book is a misrepresentation of Bible-believing Christians.

Scot McKnight is another who uses this term, bibliolatry. In his book A Community Called Atonement, McKnight says, “I begin with the rubble called bibliolatry, the tendency for some Christians to ascribe too much to the Bible” (p. 143).  Emerging spirituality figure Walter Brueggemann uses the term in his book Theology of the Old Testament (p. 574).

There may be a logical reason why these men condemn those who adhere to the Bible too strongly. All have something in common – they all promote contemplative spirituality. And, as we have shown time and again, those who embrace the  contemplative spiritual outlook, often shift their focus from the moral (doctrine) to the mystical as Henri Nouwen suggested in his book In the Name of Jesus:

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 to the mystical is required. (p. 32)

In Moreland’s book, The Lost Virtue of Happiness, he talks about rediscovering important spiritual principles that have been lost. In Faith Undone, Roger Oakland cites this book in explaining the problem of mysticism:

Two of the spiritual disciplines . . .  are “Solitude and Silence” (p. 51). The book says that these two disciplines are “absolutely fundamental to the Christian life” (p. 51). . . .  Moreland and Issler [co-author] state:

In our experience, Catholic retreat centers [bastions of mysticism] are usually ideal for solitude retreats . . . We also recommend that you bring photos of your loved ones and a picture of Jesus . . .  Or gaze at a statue of Jesus. Or let some pleasant thought, feeling, or memory run through your mind over and over again (pp. 54-55)….

Moreland and Issler provide tips for developing a prayer life. Here are some of the recommendations they make:

[W]e recommend that you begin by saying the Jesus Prayer about three hundred times a day (p. 90).

When you first awaken, say the Jesus Prayer twenty to thirty times. As you do, something will begin to happen to you. God will begin to slowly begin to occupy the center of your attention (p. 92).

Repetitive use of the Jesus Prayer while doing more focused things allows God to be on the boundaries of your mind and forms the habit of being gently in contact with him all day long (p. 93).

Moreland and Issler try to present what they consider a scriptural case that repetitive prayers are OK with God. But they never do it! They say the Jesus Prayer is derived from Luke 18:38 where the blind man cries out, “Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me,”(p.90) but nowhere in that section of the Bible (or any other section for that matter) does it instruct people to repeat a rendition of Luke 18:38 over and over. (from Faith Undone, pp. 117-119)

To be sure, the worship of any leather-bound book would be unscriptural and idolatrous, but we have never known or heard of a single case where a Christian advocates or practices Bible worship. As far as that goes, we have known countless Christians who respect (revere) the Bible as being the inspired Word of God; now if that were a point deserving criticism and condemnation, then we would necessarily need to place the apostle Paul under such scrutiny for having said, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16). Was Paul a Bible worshiper? We know he was not. We also know that he never instructed anyone to repeat words or phrases from the Bible over and over for the purpose of achieving a “silence” (i.e., a mind-altering state). Such a practice is not taught anywhere in Scripture; hence, we propose that it is just such a practice that is a misuse of Scripture. Is it mere coincidence that in virtually every case where someone uses the “bibliolatry” argument, that person also promotes contemplative prayer, a practice that cannot be supported through Scripture? And by downplaying scriptural authority, cannot the contemplative viewpoint be easier to promote within Christianity?

One last case in point about “bibliolatry” comes from Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho  (NNU) where Dr. Jay McDaniel was invited to speak. McDaniel is a self-proclaimed “Christian” Buddhist sympathizer. When asked by a student at the lecture whether he believed that Jesus was “the way, the truth, and the life,” McDaniel stated that if Jesus had meant to say that He himself was the way, the truth, and the life, it would have been egocentric and arrogant of Jesus – He only meant to point people in the right direction – letting go of ego and grasping love. McDaniel stated also that Buddhist mindfulness (eastern meditation) is just as truth filled  as doctrine and theology. He said there was an overemphasis in the church on doctrine calling it bibliolatry (idol worship of the Bible). (source

There is an attack on the Word of God. That’s no new thing–secular humanists, New Agers, and philosophers have attacked the Bible for centuries. But this attack of which we speak comes from within the ranks of Christianity out of the halls of highly respected universities and off the presses of successful Christian publishers, and it is being carried forth by those who gain access into the hearts of men and women through their use of contemplative spirituality.

What can we make of this idea of “bibliolatry”? The following statement offers some valid insight regarding this idea that Christians put too much emphasis on the Bible:

Today some are saying that the Bible is a lesser revelation than the Son. But if we do not make much of the Bible, then we cannot know much of the Son, for our only source of information about the Son (and hence about the Father) is through the Bible. Furthermore, if the Bible is not to be trusted,  then again, we cannot know truth about the Son . . . if the Bible is not completely true, we end up with either misinformation or subjective evaluation. Jesus Himself asserted that the Bible revealed Him (Luke 24:27, 44-45, John 5:39). (A Survey of Christian Doctrine, Ryrie, p. 17)

In summary, we find it rather odd that in a time in history when many churches are hardly even opening the Bible, that Bible-believing Christians would be accused of focusing  too much on the Bible. Our continual plea to all Christians is to be diligent in their study of the Scriptures and to be as the Bereans who “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). We should also note that Jesus never corrected people for studying the Scriptures but rather for their lack of understanding them. Paul nailed it on the head when he said, “Study to show thyself approved unto God . . . rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Could this accusation of “bibliolatry” be nothing more than a smoke screen to further the contemplative agenda?

To understand more about the contemplative idea of moving from the moral (doctrine) to the mystical, read chapter 4, section 1 of Faith Undone, “Experience over doctrine” and chapter 3 pages 61-64 (about Nouwen) of A Time of Departing.

"Why Jesus Is No Longer the Only Way for Many American Christians"

Courtesy Roger Oakland, Understand the Times

Comment from UTT: The article below indicates that the trend being promoted by the emerging church that Jesus Christ is not the only way for salvation is being widely accepted by those who call themselves Christian.Without question, this is the apostasy the Bible foretold would happen in the last days.

"Why Jesus Is No Longer the Only Way for Many American Christians"

Christian Post
Leonardo Blair

Just over two months ago, as winter landed its final blows of snow in New York City, Michael A. Walrond Jr. of Harlem's 10,000-member First Corinthian Baptist Church landed an ideological blow of his own in traditional Christendom. Walrond, who was named "One of the Lord's Foot Soldiers" by Newsweek magazine, told his congregants that the belief that anyone who doesn't believe in Jesus is going to hell is "insanity." "There was a time when you would see people in the pulpit say, 'well, if you don't believe in Jesus you going to Hell. That's insanity in many ways because that is not what Jesus even believes," he said in a viral clip posted to Facebook . Read Full Article....

The ONE Who Makes Sense in a Crazy Mixed Up World
They Call It “Bibliolatry” (Bible Worship) – But Could it Be a Contemplative Smoke Screen?
"Why Jesus Is No Longer the Only Way for Many American Christians"

Biblical Prophecies of the Second Coming of the Messiah

"Christians Must 'Unhitch' Old Testament From Their Faith, Says Andy Stanley"
Guest Commentary: Spiritual Discernment What It Is and How to Get It
NEW BOOKLET: How to Find a Good Church (And What To Do if You Can’t)
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Biblical Prophecies of the Second Coming of the Messiah

By Tony Pearce
Light For the Last Days Ministries

A time of unparalleled trouble to precede the Day of the Lord

Prophecy
And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time. (Daniel 12:1)

New Testament parallel
[F]or then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. (Matthew 24:21)

Focal point of this time of trouble to be Jerusalem

Prophecy
And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it. (Zechariah 12:3)

New Testament parallel
And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. . . . Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. (Luke 21:20, 24)

All nations to be gathered for the final battle

Prophecy
Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O LORD. Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat [Hebrew word means “The Lord judges”]. (Joel 3:11-12)

New Testament parallel
For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon. (Revelation 16:14, 16)
Messiah to come in the clouds of heaven

Prophecy
I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven. (Daniel 7:13)

New Testament parallel
[A]nd then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (Matthew 24:30)

Messiah to be visible as one who has been pierced

Prophecy
And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son. (Zechariah 12:10)

New Testament parallel
Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. (Revelation 1:7)

Messiah to come to the Mount of Olives

Prophecy
Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east. (Zechariah 14:3-4)

New Testament parallel
Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet. (Acts 1:11-12)

Messiah to come with the saints

Prophecy
[A]nd the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. (Zechariah 14:5)

New Testament parallel
Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints. (Jude 14; “saints” in the Bible means all who truly believe in the Lord)

The wicked to flee from the coming of the Lord

Prophecy
In that day a man shall cast his idols . . . to go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth. (Isaiah 2:20-21)

New Testament parallel
And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb. (Revelation 6:15-16)

The Lord to establish righteousness and peace on the earth. Satan to be unable to deceive the nations

Prophecy
And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Isaiah 2:2-4)

New Testament parallel
And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years . . . that he should deceive the nations no more . . . Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:1-3, 6; extracts)

Israel to be saved and blessed of the Lord in the midst of the nations

Prophecy
In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land: whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance. (Isaiah 19:24-25)

New Testament parallel
And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. (Romans 11:26-27)

Following the Millennial reign of Messiah on earth, God to create new heavens and a new earth

Prophecy
For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain. (Isaiah 66:22)

New Testament parallel
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away . . . And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. (Revelation 21:1-3; extracts)

(An extract of Tony Pearce's book, The Messiah Factor)

"Christians Must 'Unhitch' Old Testament From Their Faith, Says Andy Stanley"

LTRP Note: The following article is posted for informational and research purposes and not as an endorsement of the source or the content.

By Michael Gryboski
Christian Post

North Point Community Church Senior Pastor Andy Stanley has stated that Christians need to "unhitch" the Old Testament from their faith.

In the final part of a recent sermon series, Stanley explained that while he believes that the Old Testament is "divinely inspired," it should not be "the go-to source regarding any behavior in the church."

To justify this, Stanley preached last month about Acts 15, which described how the early church decided that Gentile converts did not need to strictly observe Jewish law to become Christians.

"[First century] Church leaders unhitched the church from the worldview, value system, and regulations of the Jewish scriptures," said Stanley.

"Peter, James, Paul elected to unhitch the Christian faith from their Jewish scriptures, and my friends, we must as well." Click here to continue reading.

Guest Commentary: Spiritual Discernment What It Is and How to Get It

By Dr. Shelton Smith*
Used with permission.

Spiritual discernment! What is it? Where do you learn about it? Is it something we need? If so, how do we get it? Okay, let’s see if we can find the answers to these questions.

There are many things that we can do without spiritual discernment.

We can go to a fast-food restaurant, order a hamburger, pay for it and walk out with everything settled without one scintilla of spiritual discernment. People do it all the time. They read the menu, they speak up and they use their math skills to pay the bill.

If you have no spiritual discernment at all, you can still get a ham­burger. But many are the things in your life that cannot be solved by mathematics.

Doctors run tests to assess why we are being bothered by some physical malady or difficulty. We are glad they can do so much so well, but not everything can be solved by medical science.

Recently there was a man on TV who said he believed it is just a matter of time before robots could actually run the world. I don’t know if that’s true, but the expansive long arm of technology is accelerating at an enormous rate these days.

Somebody said something to me yesterday about an eight-track tape. They came on the scene a few years back but then quickly disappeared. I thought cassette tapes were exciting; but now there are CDs, MP3s, iPads, smartphones and a whole lot more coming.

But technology is not a panacea for solving the great problems of our world or in your life.

You can do all kinds of things with the vast knowledge available to you; but there are things so vital to you that if you don’t have the dimension here described as ‘spiritual discernment,’ you are going to miss them by a country mile.

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit search­eth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teach­eth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.—1 Corinthians 2:9–14

Now you may ask, “What is this spiritual discernment?”

Spiritual discernment is that decisive ability to see things as God sees them, to count things as God counts them, to understand things as God reveals them and to accept things as God declares them.

Lack of Spiritual Discernment Leads to Ill-Judged Decisions

The first thing we learn here is that some decisions we make prove to be foolish simply because we do not have access to the “spiritual discernment” God offers to us.

Amazingly, there are times when we try to figure out a way to wiggle around the meaning of something we’ve read in the Bible. It is the folly of fools to do such, but it happens.

Spiritual discernment not only reads it; but it also sees it clearly, understands it, and receives it fully. He who has spiritual discernment says, “God has revealed this and I’m going to accept what He has said!”

Sometimes we can see things clearly, but we get balky and then we back up on God. We must not do that if we want to be enabled with the eternal, God-given ability of discernment.

God says, “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (vs. 13).

The Unsaved Cannot Have Spiritual Discernment

There is a second truth revealed here. Unsaved people cannot have spiritual discernment. Verse 14 says, “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

That’s why the unsaved laugh at the concepts of Creation, why the world laughs and mocks us for urging people to live pure lives instead of living like animals in a barnyard. The unsaved world despises us!

That’s why when you turn on the TV, you cannot surf the channels without seeing some ploy being presented that promotes the immoral lifestyle. It is glamorized everywhere. It is presented as exciting, but they do not tell you the whole story.

The unsaved world does not have spiritual discernment, and they cannot have it as long as they are unsaved. They may be smart. They may be clever. But spiritually wise they are not because they do not possess spiritual discernment.

Do you wonder why the Supreme Court makes some of the absolutely stupid decisions it does? The answer is obvious. The majority of the judges that sit on the Court are unsaved people.

Do you wonder why the United States Congress does some of the absolutely unthinkable things it does? It does not take a calculator to figure this out. Many of the people who sit in those legislative bodies are not saved. Consequently, they are lacking spiritual discernment.

Do you wonder why some of the things coming from the state capitol are absolutely crazy? Do you wonder why we just can’t seem to get folks flowing in the right direction?

Because the unsaved do not see what God sees. They do not understand what God has revealed. They do not count things as God counts them.

The unsaved simply do not accept what God has declared to be the truth! In other words, the unsaved do not have spiritual discernment, so they go out and make crazy decisions about all kinds of things.

Not All the Saved Have Spiritual Discernment

The third truth revealed here is this. Although spiritual discernment is imparted to spiritual men, not everyone who is saved has it. When a person gets saved, he has the opportunity to become a spiritual person. But if he continues to dally in the world’s carnalities and not follow the directions God gives, he will be saved; but he will be a carnal saved person.

If a saved person lives in carnality, you can put him beside an unsaved person and probably not be able to tell any difference.

And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?—1 Corinthians 3:1–3

Spiritual discernment is imparted to saved men who are spiritual men. Notice in this passage the contrast which is drawn between the carnal and the spiritual. Verse 1 says, I couldn’t talk to the Corin­thian church like they were a spiritual church because they’re more like babies.

They didn’t have any maturity or tutoring whatsoever. They were simply doing whatever they wanted to do. They were functioning by their emotions, by their feelings and by their “want-to’s.” In so doing, they were carnal.

Verse 3 has given us a powerful formula: ESD. When God’s people are driven by Envy, Strife and Division, there you will find carnality. That carnality blocks our ability to make spiritual decisions.

You say, “There are some people in our church who seem always to be in some kind of a stir.” This is the problem! ESD! Envy, strife, division!

You know what happens when you come to Christ? Your conversion starts a war in you between the flesh and the spirit (Galatians 5). If you feed the flesh, carnality results. If you feed the spirit, then a spiritual man emerges.

The principle here is a major one. Spiritual discernment accrues to spiritual men.

I remind you that the wisdom of God is contingent upon our walk with Him. If you expect to be able to do things as God decrees them—see what God sees, feel what God feels, understand what God has revealed—it is necessary that you walk with Him.

You are kidding yourself if you say, “I’m going to social drink and party with the world, but I’ll come to church on Sunday and get enough so I can make the right kinds of decisions.” Worldly, carnal behavior robs a Christian of spiritual discernment.

Get this fixed in your mind, and don’t forget it. Spiritual discernment is imparted only to spiritual men.

The Word of God Advises Spiritual Discernment

This passage teaches us that spiritual discernment is taught to us by the Holy Spirit of God. How does He do that? He wrote a Manual for us, and it’s right here in front of you! It is called the Bible.

Some read the Bible and then say, “Paul said,” or, “Moses said,” or whoever. Listen, when you pick up the Bible, you are not listening to Paul or Moses; you are getting the very Word of God.

Paul and Moses were secretaries; they were not the authors. They put down what God dictated to them. Second Peter 1:21 says, “The prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

We have the Word of God, the mandates of God, written in the Bible. That’s the reason we need to read it, study it, memorize it, hear it preached, and then take it to heart. The Holy Spirit of God can teach us the concepts that will enable us to be spiritual.

People ask about whether or not they should smoke or drink beer or go to honky-tonks or play rock music or dress like the world and so on. They are wanting some verse which says specifically, “Thou shalt not smoke filtered cigarettes,” or, “Thou shalt not drink light beer,” or whatever.

God, being omniscient, wrote for us what we need on those subjects before cigarettes and beer were invented. He gave us the concepts that enable us to view the issues through the lens of the God-given Book. We are then prepared to make a decision by discernment to judge like we ought to judge.

You say, “Wait a minute! You’re talking about judging.” You’re exactly right! The favorite verse of the weak, compromising, carnal crowd is Matthew 7:1: “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”

They quote it with a preconceived conception of its truth. Consequently, they misapply it to support their own ideas and agenda.

It amazes me that they don’t read the following six verses. The full context makes clear we are not to judge unjustly, but it does not mean we are not ever to act on information and make decisions. How do I know? Because 1 Corinthians 2:15 says, “He that is spiritual judgeth all things.”

Spiritual discernment helps you judge whether or not a preacher to whom you listen is a real man of God. In fact, Matthew 7:15 and 16 say,

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits.

Do you not inspect fruit before you buy it? That is judgment. Not all apples are alike, nor are all cantaloupes or watermelons or peaches. And not all “prophets “are alike. As there are good and bad apples, so are there good and bad “proph­ets.” . . .

Matthew 7 tells us a Christian should have a spiritual ability that enables him to make the right judgments.

The decisions we make must be taught of the Holy Spirit of God as He has revealed them in the Manual—the Book—the Bible.

How to Discern Spiritual Discernment

He that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.—1 Corinthians 2:15-16

Spiritual discernment is discernible as we identify ourselves with the mind of Christ. We learn to think like He thinks, “comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (vs. 13).

Sometimes we say, “Why can’t we do things in our church like the churches around town do?”

You cannot compare the spiritual things with a worldly institution or organization, but you should compare a spiritual matter with a spiritual standard.

In other words, go to the Bible, and base your judgment on what the Bible standard is, not on the standard of what everyone else in town is doing.

We begin to do things not based on the consensus of the local ministerial association or the local ecumenical movement but on the consensus that is built out of the mind of Christ.

In so doing, this spiritual discernment He gives us allows us to make decisions and judgments that need to be made, and we make them properly.

The Bible says, “I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 3:2)

We need milk sometimes; but to make a balanced diet, we also need meat—something with vitamins and protein. If we are going to have a good, solid feeding, we’re going to have to eat at God’s table.

Spiritual discernment recognizes the human and the divine. God is not going to do His work unless we give Him our hands, our bodies, our minds. He has chosen to do His work in any given place through human instruments. That is why He says one plants, another waters, but He gives the increase.

If I say, “I will let God do whatever He wants to do, but I’m going to do what I want to do,” then I have missed it because I have not spiritually discerned and ascertained what it is that God is up to in our town.

Spiritual Discernment or Lack Thereof Has a Payday

Whenever we discern things as we ought to, we understand the payday is out there someday and “every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour” (3:8).

Some may read that and think it is a work-your-way-to-Heaven verse. That’s not what the passage says. It says he who is saved will be rewarded and he will be rewarded for his labors.

But if he is not saved, he will not even be at the Judgment Seat of Christ when the rewards are handed out. Instead, he will be at another place called the Great White Throne Judgment where punishments are handed out (Revelation 20).

If we do things God’s way, see things as God sees them, count what God counts, and accept the things God has declared, spiritual discernment has a payday.

Without spiritual discernment, you may let acid get into your soul, and bitterness will build up. You’ve swept the church, cleaned out the choir loft, polished the furniture, but nobody tells you you’ve done a good job.

Some of you work very hard building up your bus route, going out soul winning—and every time you come in third. Somebody always beats you out of first or second place. You don’t get the certificate or the Bible. You don’t get to go out to eat with the pastor. You’ve labored hard, but nobody publicly recognizes your efforts.

Understand that the rewards for God’s work are coming! Your pastor may miss it, your friends may miss it, but God never misses a thing!

I had the privilege to be the pastor of a great church for a long time. I’d had a taste of being bruised and kicked around. But when I came to the Sword of the Lord, I quickly learned I had stepped onto the frontlines of the battle where I would face hostility every day.

You never get used to it, and you hope it will go away someday. In the meantime, I still get up every day so excited I can hardly stand it. I say, “Thank You, dear God, that You let me be alive today. Thank You that I have the privilege to stand in the gap and do whatever it is that You want done today!”

You ask, “What if somebody knocks you over the head and walks on you?”

That’s not only likely to happen, but I expect it to happen. I live with it because I know who is keeping the score. I know one of these days God will distribute whatever reward He has in mind for me.

When you get weary in the work or you get overshadowed and passed over, remember that “every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour” (1 Corinthians 3:8). Don’t let some little piece of trash get lodged in your craw.

This Scripture teaches that when we discern things as we ought to discern them, we will see the approaching of the day of reckoning.

Verse 10 says, “Let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.” I don’t want to be a part of some liberal outfit. I don’t want to be in a church that is a part of the National Council of Churches. I don’t want to be connected with a church where the money in the offering plate goes to support some lobby which is promoting homosexual causes.

I don’t want to be a part of a denomination where they are congregating in their executive committee to debate whether or not to ordain homosexuals to the ministry. I don’t want to be a part of that! I have a responsibility to give my tithe, but I don’t want it to go to fund those wicked causes.

There is a payday coming. I must reckon and take heed how I build upon the foundation of Christ! God is not going to make all of our decisions for us. We have a responsibility to make them ourselves. To do so necessitates we possess spiritual discernment.

When I get up in the morning, I’m glad God has not preordained what I shall have for breakfast. I’m sure He would do a good job if He did, but He allows me to make that choice.

If we walk with God and get the wisdom of God, we will have spiritual discernment and the spiritual ability to see what God sees, count what God counts, understand what God reveals and accept what God declares. It is out of spiritual discernment that we are equipped to make wise choices like we ought to make.

I remember the Saturday morning in September many years ago when as a lad I heard the Gospel for the first time. I remember getting saved and shortly after, I began to think differently and to feel differently about things. I began to ask myself, Is this what a Christian should do? Is this the way I should think?

In my early teen years, I knew I needed to go to church. We lived four miles from the church, and I walked to church every Sunday morning. Several folks gave me a ride home, and I walked back on Sunday night and Wednesday night.

In the wintertime, even in the dark, I walked to church Sunday and Wednesday nights. The Lord put it in my heart that was where I needed to be. I thank God I decided early on to get into the habit of going to church.

In high school, I had already announced I was going to be a preacher. In fact, God had already given me numerous opportunities to preach. I received some “pet names” from the folks in the Egyptian school I attended—some were complimentary; some were derisive. . . .

Spiritual Discernment Magnifies Christ

I was just a young preacher about twenty-two years of age when I was first influenced by the Sword of the Lord. I read in its pages about soul-winning churches and the men who were winning hundreds of people to Christ.

Oh, brother, did I get excited! I had been winning people to Christ, but I didn’t know you could go at it and win them all the time!

God had said it in the Book. He had revealed it in the Book, and I accepted what God said. I asked, “Can God do something with a little guy like me?” Glory to God, I found out He could! . . .

I decided a long time ago I would not put off soul winning. I would not put off doing what I knew I ought to do, because God said I ought to be following Him and in following Him I am fishing for Him. So I just set about to do it.

How successful have I been? The success ratio is not the big issue. I need to get to plowing the ground and sowing the seed. Letting God do His work through me—that’s the big issue.

I decided as a young preacher I would be excited about every opportunity I had. I determined I’d try to remember I was representing the Lord every time I got up to preach, and I wouldn’t waste people’s time if I could help it. . . .

I’m just saying, use whatever opportunity God gives to you. Don’t look at the numbers and say, “Well, we’ll do this if there is this much or that much.” No! Do what God has given you to do, no matter the numbers, and do it fervently.

I made some personal choices, one of which was that I would not be for sale. There have been some times when it would have been a whole lot easier to have turned and looked the other way, when it would have been easier to have said, “All right, let the guy preach,” or, “All right, let that singing group come.” But I didn’t do it. Why? Because I made some choices.

Somewhere along the way, you have to see what God sees, count what God counts, understand what God reveals. If you are going to act upon and accept what He has declared, then you must say, “I’m going to do it God’s way! Whatever the price, I am not selling out!”

If we get this spiritual discernment, it does something in us to make us want to magnify Christ in our lives. We all have to deal with the old ego—our humanness, our wanting to be somebody. We should just remember that we are not much—we were even less before Christ found us, and we wouldn’t be headed anywhere or doing anything except for the grace of God.

Remember that you “are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s” (vs. 23); then make the decision that you will be a billboard for Jesus, a mouthpiece for the Saviour. Magnify Christ, living or dying. If we get up every day and say, “That’s who I am; that’s what I want to be about,” it will keep us from doing a lot of silly stuff and getting trapped in a lot of foolishness.

Magnify Christ. Make a big to-do about Jesus.

I heard this as a teenager: “I’ll do the best I can with what I have, where I am, for Jesus’ sake, today.” It reminds me of that piece that says, “Only one life, ’twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

The unsaved world does a lot of crazy things we can avoid. But in order to avoid them, the saved must shake off the carnality, come into the spiritual arena, and see what God sees, count what God counts, understand what God reveals and accept what God has declared to be truth.

When we do that, we are in possession of an unusual, unique ability called spiritual discernment. When the Devil comes peddling his wares, we have the know-how to deal with it. When someone says, “Come and run with this hang-loose, half-hearted, ecumenical crowd,” we have wisdom about how to say no. . . .

You cannot get a graduate degree in spiritual discernment. I don’t know how much of it you have, but you need to keep working at it so you’ll be sure to have it on any given day. If you don’t have it, you’ll fall back into carnality and begin doing things the way the world does and that’s always a mistake!

Spiritual discernment: seeing what God sees, counting it the way God counts it, understanding it as God reveals it, and accepting it as God declares it. Get it and don’t let go of it!

*Dr. Shelton Smith is the editor of the Sword of the Lord newspaper. The website is: http://www.swordofthelord.com. The article above is an extract from an article in the paper; it is used with permission.

(photo added by Lighthouse Trails from bigstockphoto.com; used with permission)

 

NEW BOOKLET: How to Find a Good Church (And What To Do if You Can’t)

NEW BOOKLET: How to Find a Good Church (And What To Do if You Can’t) by the editors at Lighthouse Trails is our newest Lighthouse Trails Booklet. The Booklet is 18 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Our Booklets are designed to give away to others or for your own personal use. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of How to Find a Good Church (And What To Do if You Can’t), click here.

How to Find a Good Church (And What To Do if You Can’t)

By the Editors at Lighthouse Trails

Some Questions to Ask
We have often been asked, “How do I find a good Bible-believing church?” There are many believers who are struggling to find one in their own communities. To start with, we usually recommend they make phone calls to potential churches and ask a few concise questions such as:

“Do you have a Spiritual Formation program at your church?” or “Has your church implemented aspects of the Purpose Driven Movement anytime in the past ten years?”

Since thousands of churches would answer yes to both or at least one of these questions, they are worthwhile to ask, and it would certainly narrow down the scope of one’s search. Here are a few other questions that could be asked:

Is the pastor using The Message “Bible” in his sermons and studies? Because this paraphrase is very often used by pastors and teachers who promote contemplative spirituality or emerging spirituality (as the language in The Message helps support these false teachings), it is another indicator that a church could be going in the wrong direction. Possibly, the pastor just isn’t aware of the problems with The Message. If he is open to receiving information about it, that can be a good sign that this particular pastor/church is willing to become educated. However, if after giving the pastor some reliable information, The Message is still being quoted, this would not be a promising sign that the church is trying to be discerning.

Is the church affiliated in any way with the Willow Creek Association? Oftentimes, a church has not implemented the Purpose Driven model but is, rather, hooked up with Willow Creek. This is as problematic as Purpose Driven. See our article on our website titled, “No Repentance from Willow Creek—Only a Mystical Paradigm Shift.”

Is the church connected at all with Bethel Church of Redding, California? Bethel influence is huge today, and many churches are getting on board with the Bethel craze. That would include Jesus Culture too, which is an offshoot of Bethel. Before starting your search for a church, make sure you understand what the Word of Faith/NAR, Latter Rain, and Apostles and Prophets movement is. Lighthouse Trails has several trustworthy authors who write about these issues. You’d be surprised to learn how extensive this influence has been in North American churches, even in ones that do not consider themselves charismatic or Word Faith.

Ask a potential church if it would mind mailing you a few recent Sunday programs. When you get them, look for some of the key terms used within the contemplative/emerging/new spirituality camp: e.g., missional, servant leader, soul-care, spiritual formation, transformation, transitioning, silence, organic, authentic, reinvent, spiritual disciplines, Christ follower, Christian formation (or Christian spirituality—a term often meaning the same as Spiritual Formation). Just using these terms alone doesn’t suddenly make a church contemplative or emergent, but it does show that at least one person in leadership at that church is reading books of that persuasion, and eventually that person’s influence will affect that church adversely.

Ask the pastor or other leader at a potential church this: “What books on prayer and spiritual growth would you recommend? The answer to this question should give a clear picture of where the church leadership is at in many respects. If you are not familiar with the names of the authors the pastor recommends, do some research. Lighthouse Trails Research Project has a vast amount of research on many of today’s contemplative/emergent authors. Also try Let Us Reason Ministries and Spiritual Research Network.

Doctrinal and Mission Statements
In addition to these types of questions, be sure and visit a church’s website as there you may be able to find the answers to these and other questions without making the phone call. When on a website, see if there is more talk about unity, “culture,” social justice, relationships, and relevancy than about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If it does talk about the Gospel, make sure it isn’t talking about the “social gospel.” You can check out the doctrinal and mission statements, but be on guard—a church can have a somewhat solid-sounding doctrinal statement and be actually going in an entirely different direction. Listen to a Lighthouse Trails interview called Beware the Bridgers for some information on that (a free link on our blog or a CD at the store are both available). And by the way, remember who some of the more popular “bridgers” are closing the gap between “rightly dividing the Word” and spiritual deception in millions of people’s lives: Beth Moore, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Tim Keller, John Piper, etc.—those who claim to be orthodox biblical Christians but who promote contemplative spirituality and/or the new spirituality.

Conferences
When on a church’s website, you can usually find out which conferences the church is involved with or recommending to their church members. The IF: Gathering conferences are growing tremendously in popularity all across North America, but as Cedric Fisher has documented in his article/booklet IF It is of God—Answering the Questions About IF: Gathering, IF is an avenue through which emergent theology is entering the church. There are many other conferences and events (e.g., Catalyst, The Gathering, Global Leadership Summit, Storyline, Wild Goose Festival), usually with high attendance, taking place yearly that are pumping up Christians with heretical ideas and “theologies.” If you find out a church you’ve been researching is involved in any of these, that is a big warning sign.

Books and the Bookstore
Once your search for a new church has narrowed down to a few churches, a weekday visit to these churches’ bookstores would be important. Look for books by Richard Foster, Gary Thomas, Henri Nouwen, Brennan Manning, Phil Yancey, John Ortberg, Leonard Sweet, Dallas Willard, and other authors discussed and critiqued on the Lighthouse Trails website. Researcher Chris Lawson has a booklet titled A Directory of Authors: Three Not Recommended Lists that provides an extensive list of authors who fall within the contemplative, emergent/new spirituality/New Age camps. It’s an excellent resource. You can buy the booklet for less than two dollars or print it for free from our blog.

While searching for a good church, it would be important to find out where a particular church is at in relation to Jesus Calling and The Shack (two of the biggest sellers within the Christian market today). Many churches have been allowing New Age ideas, such as “oneness versus separation” into their congregations through such books. It’s essential to read former New Age follower Warren B. Smith’s materials which will help you identify what the New Age is and how it can disguise itself as a better, more enlightened “Christianity.” You might ask about women’s and men’s Bible study groups and which books are being used at these meetings. That will tell you a lot. And don’t forget to find out which books are being used for the young people. The new spirituality often enters a church through youth and college groups unbeknownst to the adults in the congregation.

Remaining Discerning
When all this has been done in your search for a Gospel-focused, biblically sound church, if there are any in your community that have passed the contemplative/emerging/seeker-friendly/church-growth/Word of Faith/NAR/new spirituality test, maybe it’s safe to take your family for a Sunday visit. Are many of the people walking in carrying Bibles? Seeker-friendly and church-growth churches often discourage that because it might “offend” unbelievers (or as they say unchurched) who come to church. Does the pastor at some point in his sermon talk about sin, the Cross (the atonement), and salvation? These are subjects many churches avoid because of the “offensiveness” of these messages. Better to offer an espresso drink and a little rock n’ roll music during the service and a psychology-based, feel-good message that appeals to the carnal senses (sensual) than to spiritually build up the inner man.

That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man. (Ephesians 3:16)

Once you have found a church that seems to be sound, you should not stop being discerning. That must be ongoing. That might seem like a “paranoid” or overly concerned attitude to have, but if we remember the many verses in Scripture that talk about spiritual deception (right from the Garden of Eden all the way to the Book of Revelation), we will realize it is the responsibility of the Christian to be discerning and watchful. And if you have a pastor and church leaders who are truly led by the Lord, they will want you to be discerning. The Bible often refers to the latter days before Christ’s return where deception will run more rampant than ever. We must be discerning.

Signs to Watch Out For
In Roger Oakland’s booklet How to Know When the Emerging Church Shows Signs of Emerging Into Your Church, he gives a list of signs to look for to see if a church is becoming or has become emergent. As you begin to attend a new church, this list may be helpful to you and your family:

Scripture is no longer the ultimate authority as the basis for the Christian faith.

The centrality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is being replaced by humanistic methods promoting church growth and a social gospel.

More and more emphasis is being placed on building the kingdom of God now before Jesus Christ returns and less and less on a coming judgment.

The teaching that the church has taken the place of Israel and Israel has no prophetic significance is often embraced.

The teaching that the Book of Revelation does not refer to the future but instead has been already fulfilled.

An experiential mystical form of Christianity begins to be promoted as a method to reach the younger generation.

Ideas are promoted teaching that Christianity needs to be re­invented in order to provide meaning for this generation.

The pastor may claim that in order to take the church forward, we need to go back in church history and find out what experiences were effective to get people to embrace Christianity (e.g., turning to the Desert Fathers).

While the authority of the Word of God is undermined, images and sensual experiences are promoted as the key to experiencing and knowing God. These experiences include icons, candles, incense, liturgy, labyrinths, prayer stations, contemplative prayer, experiencing the sacraments, particularly the sacrament of the Eucharist.

A strong emphasis on ecumenism is occurring indicating that a bridge is being established that leads in the direction of unity with the Roman Catholic Church.

Some evangelical Protestant leaders are saying that the Reformation went too far. They are reexamining the claims of the “church fathers” saying that communion is more than a symbol and that Jesus actually becomes present in the wafer at communion.

There will be a growing trend towards an ecumenical unity for the cause of world peace—claiming the validity of other religions and that there are many ways to God.

Members of churches who question or resist the new changes that the pastor is implementing are reprimanded and usually asked to leave.

The Mind of Christ
The task may not be easy finding a church that teaches (and believes) the Bible as if it truly is God’s Word. And, obviously, there are many issues that have to be considered. May God bless you and guide you in your search. It may seem impossible at times, but we know there are still good churches out there as we often hear from pastors who are staying the course and are aware of the times in which we live. No church is perfect, of course; but we can and should expect a church to believe and proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, that the Bible is God’s Word wholly and fully, that He desires for all to come to repentance and be saved (2 Peter 3:9), and that false teachings that lead people away from these truths should be identified and exposed. We should also expect a church to emulate God’s Word more than relating to and unifying with the culture around us. May God lead you to find one of these churches.

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural [carnal] man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. . . . For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:12-14, 16)

WHAT TO DO IF YOU CAN’T FIND A CHURCH

On almost a daily basis, the office at Lighthouse Trails Publishing receives phones calls from believers who tell us they cannot find a church to attend in their communities. Having gotten to know many of these people over the years, we can testify that these are not “church-hopping,” overly critical, mean-spirited people but rather are ones who love the Lord with all their hearts and love being part of a church body. In other words, they are not the kind of people who just go around from church to church criticizing every little thing that is wrong. On the contrary, many of them are willing to concede on some issues but not on serious matters such as some of the ones we’ve mentioned in this booklet. And after searching and praying wholeheartedly for a home church, they have come to the painful realization that there is not a church within driving distance (some are willing to drive sixty miles to church) that is not embracing the new spirituality.

If that is you and your family, you may be asking, “What do we do? We can’t find a church.” While Lighthouse Trails has always been very reluctant to advise people as to whether they should quit a church or just not go to church at all, we have offered some thoughts about this in a general sense. The reason we don’t advise specifically is because each family needs to seek the Lord in prayer and study His Word to find what His will is for their particular situation.
The following are some thoughts to consider while trying to decide what to do if you cannot find a church.

1. First and foremost, parents need to protect their children. If the church you are attending or thinking of attending is promoting false teachings such as some of the ones mentioned in this booklet and your children are in Sunday School or youth group, then you are putting them in harm’s way by allowing them to be taught by new spirituality teachers week after week. Thus, in the case where children or teens are involved, we always advise, you have to do what it takes to protect your children.

2. We know that some people decide to stay in a church that is going astray with the hope they can influence and help educate leadership and members. If you are able to actually do this, this can be very beneficial to the church (again, as long as your children aren’t being subjected to false teachings). While we do hear stories from our readers where they have approached church leadership with their concerns and are given a green light to help bring the church up to speed on these issues, more times than not, the stories we hear are quite the opposite. What we are being told by most is that when they approach the pastor and/or the leadership with concerns, they are treated with much resistance and often contemptuously, even to the point where they are told that if they don’t like the way the church is being run, they can leave. We can’t tell you how many times someone has been told to leave even after decades of faithful service. So what we are saying here is this: if your church will allow you to freely share information with leadership and congregants and if the leadership will actually heed your warnings and get rid of the offending material, then it may be best to stay and help. But if you are being told that you can stay as long as you keep quiet, you may really need to seek the Lord as to whether this is what He would want you to do.

3. If your decision has been affected by point one and two, then you are most likely now without a home church. It can cause an overwhelming sense of loss if you suddenly don’t have a church to attend. But remember, you have the Lord, and you have His Word. You are not alone. Here are a few practical ideas to help you:

For Teachings/Sermons: If you have Internet access, search out a few good livestream services that you can watch on Sunday mornings. If you don’t have Internet access, find out if a reputable ministry has a sermon lending library (in the form of DVDs).

For Fellowship: Pray and ask the Lord to bring you into contact with likeminded Christians living in your area where you can meet together on a regular basis. You can use the Lighthouse Trails Facebook page or our blog to leave a comment about looking for fellowship in your region. Of course, before meeting with any stranger, choose a public place (don’t meet in any dark alleys with someone you have never met).

You might consider starting a “discernment” study in your home or a restaurant or library auxiliary room. You may be able to let interested folks know about it through your local newspaper with a small ad or on a local community Facebook page.

If it is just your spouse or family (or a couple families), you can come together for a home “church” service (“where two or three are gathered . . . there am I in the midst”—Matthew 18:20). Pick up a few used hymnals from a local thrift store or the Internet that you can use for your worship time; you can watch a sermon online and spend time in the Word and in prayer.

While not having a church to belong to is not an ideal situation, we are living in a time of great spiritual delusion described in the Bible. In our human nature, it feels “safe” to be in a large group surrounded by others, but in comparison to the two-thousand-year history of the true church, the compromised condition of an abundance of North American churches is not the norm. The norm for the church has been persecution, isolation, imprisonment, and believers secretly meeting in homes or elsewhere. Just read Georgi Vin’s book The Gospel in Bonds to see this.

We are quickly approaching a time in North America (and throughout the western world) where it will not only be unpopular to be a Bible-believing Christian, it will be illegal. Meanwhile, an apostate “Christianity” is gathering momentum where the foundations are being destroyed while outwardly everything may appear to be normal.

In closing, keep in mind that God intended the church to be a place for building up the body of Christ and not for tearing it down. You are not alone if you are at a loss for good fellowship. In this booklet, we have offered some practical advice, but in our day, we must all seek the Lord in how we can best serve Him and find the fellowship we need.

Letters From Our Readers, From Those Who Searched For a Church

Where are the Shepherds?
With the influx of the heresies that are being introduced into the church, how am I supposed to go about finding a church that’s not being infiltrated? I keep looking for churches where I have recently moved to. On the outside, churches appear okay on the surface; but, for example, I visited a church online, then I saw a number of books that they are promoting and couldn’t condone. I was with a church for many years that I saw going in the wrong direction and spoke to an elder, also to no avail. Where are the shepherds? What’s a sheep to do?

Only A Few Aware
My husband and I recently left our little country church. The pastor there is practicing “Spiritual Formation.” He began as a co-pastor, but when the other pastor had to resign due to health reasons, it became evident something wasn’t quite right ever since the co-pastor assumed the position of lead pastor.
On the surface, everything seemed OK, but then we noticed some of the deacons resigned and left the church. Some of these folks were friends, whom we had been in Bible studies with, small groups, etc. At first, we thought they left because the pastor left. But there was something else we just couldn’t put our finger on. . . .

Attendance was continuing to dwindle; we started to make some phone calls to the deacons who resigned. As our calls were returned one by one, the common thread was the pastor wanted them to read a book by Ruth Haley Barton [a highly influential contemplative/emergent teacher]. . . .

We have been searching for another church in our area. Now that we are on our toes and know what to look for, it has become quite difficult to find a good church home. . . Knowing what we know now about SF and emergent, contemplative, etc., it has proven difficult to settle down anywhere. It’s like choosing the lesser of the evils. One multi-site church is seeker sensitive and Purpose Driven and offers Karate and Yoga. In the other community church, in the next county over, you are in a rock concert during worship, the lights down, and the band on the stage singing “to” you not with you.

Anyway, that’s where we are at. I was thinking and praying about doing a Bible study on the emergent church and SF and contemplative. Folks in our area have not heard of this. We didn’t until six months ago, and it’s been a revelation. There is only a few of us here who are aware of this movement slithering into our local churches.

Religious Correctness in the Churches
Our Christian churches are being strongly influenced by what I call Religious Correctness. It is similar to Political Correctness. If you question anything, you are told to sit down and shut up. Do not rock the boat.

I am a former Roman Catholic who now knows and loves Jesus Christ. In Sunday school class at my church, when I questioned Mother Teresa, and I also brought up some of the anti-biblical practices of the RCC, I was told that I could either keep quiet or leave.

Besides that, last Sunday’s sermon at that same church was all about getting more of the un-churched in our community to come to church. Nothing about a sinner’s need for a Savior was even mentioned.

The methods of Rick Warren and Bill Hybels for filling churches with more people are being adopted all over America. Instead of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a church is now supposed to be run like a business. Growth is the most important thing. Thankfully, the Lord has already led me to a strong Bible-believing church.

Popular Authors Leading Church Astray
I visited a church in my area for the first time today. When I looked online at the church’s doctrines before my visit, the doctrines looked very biblically sound. The church’s site clearly states that the pastor preaches from the Bible verse by verse, and he did. With all of the faithfulness to the Word of God that I observed, I was very surprised to glance at some bookshelves, which was the church library for this small church and see one of Dallas Willard’s [a pioneer in the contemplative prayer movement] books on the shelf! I didn’t get a chance to look through the other books, but I wish I had now for the purposes of this letter. The pastor even attended Bob Jones University, which I know you have listed as not being contemplative. These contemplative books clearly seem to be getting into the hands of pastors and Christians everywhere. A pastor’s seminary and even an individual’s denomination doesn’t seem to dictate who is reading them. As I was thinking about my experience today and doing some research on your site, I found this list of The Top 50 “Christian” Contemplative Books – A “NOT Recommended Reading List” and 25 Christian “Bridgers” to Them and am planning to share this list with the pastor from the church I visited today and others. I pray that more Christians will realize that many popular authors and teachers are leading the church toward a new, mystical spirituality and away from traditional, biblical Christianity. I pray that Christians will take heed, compare every teaching and practice of men to the Word of God, and warn others so that more will know what is happening today within the church.

Asking for Answers at Church, But Ignored
My nondenominational home church started making changes, mostly subtle, a tad unusual, but nothing overtly alarming or distressing. For example, they started reading from The Book of Common Prayers. Popular authors like John Ortberg and Gary Thomas were taught, and since they sounded good and got the stamp of approval from our leaders, we followed along. Here’s a surprising change, coming from a nondenominational church with missionary denominational roots: they started practicing Lent and even had an Ash Wednesday service. My mother was raised Roman Catholic and hates that religion (not Catholics). I was raised to avoid any and all things Catholic (except Catholics!). So I listened intently when a pastor informed us about the Ash Wednesday service. It was justified with “our church fathers did it, so we will.” Naively, a friend and I decided that reasoning was fine. I was heavily pregnant with my second child that evening. As they were calling people up to get ashes on their forehead, pew by pew, I was having contractions. When they were just a few pews away, we had to leave due to my contractions. The Lord was working to reveal something to my heart, something about WHY He would prevent me from participating in this ceremony, but I couldn’t connect the dots at the time.

Sometime soon after our second child was born, my mom became practically unhinged with concern. She was listening to radio teaching while she was driving, and someone reported that Lynne Hybels said she had no problem with referring to Mary as “Queen of Heaven.” Ma pulled over to the side of the road, the sensation being like a punch in the stomach. See, this title is given by Catholics to Mary and is unabashedly heretical. Lynne Hybels, however, is the wife of Bill Hybels, the pastor of Willow Creek Community Church.

Sober and grieving, we had to address the issues at my church. We penned a letter to all the pastors, buying and sharing informational books on this movement, and asking for answers. We were ignored. A year later, a respected person there raised concerns about us, and then we were called. That meeting with the senior and another pastor revealed that the senior pastor did breath prayers (mystical prayer), and their pride was palpable. It was our second blow dealt by leaders we had loved and trusted.

We fully believe that if you are wondering for yourself if you are being called to take a stand against this apostasy, just humbly ask the Lord for wisdom. Humility is essential here. Yet this stand we are proposing is no small task. In Matthew 10, the Lord warns that He did not come to bring peace but a sword, dividing people from those whom they love most dearly for His namesake. Everything and everyone must be laid down at the altar; we can hold nothing back. Personally, we cannot count the relationships that have been lost or damaged due to our stand, nor can we express the personal toll this has taken on us. But by God’s grace, we endeavor to surrender all. Jesus is worth it!

Church Pastors Knew Exactly What They Were Doing!
A few years ago a friend at my church came up to me looking quite disturbed and said, “Can you believe our church is teaching contemplative prayer?”
I just looked at her in shock and asked, “What’s wrong with contemplating and praying?”

She said, “No, no, no! You don’t get it—it’s not that—it’s Contemplative Prayer!”

I asked again, incredulously this time, “What’s wrong with contemplating and praying? I don’t have a problem with that—at all.”

She said, “You don’t get it—but I’ll bring you a book next week that will explain it.” And she brought Ray Yungen’s, A Time of Departing.

It helps to have an open mind. If a Christian brother or sister tells you they have something they want you to consider—at least be willing to consider it. I started the book with an open mind and was quickly engrossed by it. It very methodically and logically lays out the case against contemplative prayer/spirituality/meditation. By the end of the book, I realized what our church was doing was really dangerous and completely unbiblical. It’s a prominent well-known megachurch in New York City where I had heard the pastor speak out against eastern/mystical meditation from the pulpit so I naively thought he must not be aware that the church was promoting it in several of its weekend classes.

After reading Yungen’s book and doing a little further study, I had the information I needed to go to the leadership of the church to warn them what they were getting into. I say naively, because as it turns out, they knew exactly what they were doing, and they had every intention of continuing it. They knew it was unbiblical, but they didn’t care. And that’s all I needed to know to make my decision whether to stay or leave the church. I decided to depart. It truly was a time of departing for me!

I will be forever grateful to Ray Yungen and this book for being the instrument God used to open my eyes to this new/old teaching that is consuming churches everywhere. Every Christian in America needs to know about this—even if you’re in a good church. Even good pastors can be fooled by it because it’s so subtly deceptive. And it’s absolutely pervasive. It is everywhere.

Booted Out Harshly
I went through a very difficult period when attending Calvary Chapel __________. I was very uncomfortable with what they were permitting and promoting. I was very distressed. I had concerns about The Message bible, Billy Graham, Anne Graham Lotz’s Circle Prayer, Greg Laurie, and a few other things. I was told to spit out the bones. I asked them to show me that approach in Scripture—they ignored me. I raised concerns again and was booted out harshly. It was mean. It hurt. LHT helped me to understand the concerns were reasonable. I am still sad for the way things ended—but God comforts me—I am okay. I think this is what happens sometimes, and what happened to me is mild in comparison to other situations. This has encouraged me to read and study God’s Word.

Many Churches Destroyed
The Purpose Driven Life teaching with its rock-like music bands has destroyed many churches in our area. It has become difficult to find a God-honoring, truth-preaching congregation. After different tries, we now look for truth-preaching pastors on TV. We do miss the fellowship with other believers.

One of the “Better” Churches
At one of the “better” churches in our area (the pastor still preaches straight from the Bible, speaking the truth in love), the pastor has also unfortunately been promoting Sozo, a new counseling method popularized by Bethel Church of Redding, CA, which has been engaging in problematic practices for some time. That local church also promotes “word of faith” teachers. I attended a Bible study there with a friend, and one of the leading women of the church was actively involved in reading Jesus Calling every day. It is very sad and very concerning to see “strong” Christians falling for these things.

We Thought We Were Safe
We left a moderate Baptist Church in Raleigh because of the emergent teaching. Thank the Lord, a number of families left because once we connected the dots, we left. We were all rather shaken that this extreme theology could be right under our noses and we didn’t recognize it.

So, my husband and I found a conservative church with their statement of faith reflecting the five fundamentals of the faith. We thought we were safe, but we still met with the pastor and his wife to be on the safe side. We discussed our previous experience, gave the minister books and materials from your website, and we were assured he would not tolerate emergent.

An assistant pastor, with the approval of the senior pastor, showed Jeff Bethke’s film, and he quoted Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (what is a Baptist pastor doing quoting him!). I just assumed he was ignorant, and perhaps he was. But I documented the dangers of these two people and gave it to him. No follow-up desired. At this point, I’d be flipping out if I was a pastor reading this information. But, no response to me. Then, a Sunday-school teacher was allowed to introduce Bill Hybels and his teaching. Then 1,000 Gifts [by Ann Voskamp] is allowed to be taught to the women. I documented in detail the dangers, the leaven, being brought into the church. I left it with the pastor and his wife. Again, at this point, after reading these articles, I’d be flipping out wanting to know, “What on earth!”

Then a familiar call comes to our home (this is our second church dealing with this) from the pastor basically telling me to stop it. Asking the pastor if he had a problem with 1,000 Gifts, he said 90% was solid and 10% questionable. I replied that since when do we as Christians put percentages on allowable heresy. I said, “I don’t mind if this book is taught as long as you also use this as a teaching time to warn about emergent and panentheism and all of its authors she references.” Deaf ears. Then I find out the Bible study leader for the women loves Jesus Calling and 1,000 Gifts. Where is the discernment? The pastors are not guarding their flock. We are sick at heart. This pastor said he reviewed Lighthouse Trails and had problems with you all.

Wish Pastors Would Be Honest
If the “new spirituality, soul care, contemplative prayer” are a gauge of what is happening, it seems like it is blossoming in leaps and bounds in the world. But what concerns me is that, often one would be able to attend our church and hear a magnificent, passionate sermon, and many of the sermons that are preached are such that they just couldn’t get any better. But then we hear of someone like Ruth Haley Barton’s series of Bible studies being held at the church. Occasionally, we hear of names of authors whose writings seem questionable, being mentioned in sermons, and there is little mention of the return of Christ anymore. And the word “sin” is hardly ever mentioned. The church does a lot of good things for suffering people in various parts of the world, and I sincerely believe that many of the people attending have never even heard of this new spirituality.

What I truly wish is that if the pastor/pastors are striving to guide the church in the direction of the new spirituality, that he/they would come out and tell us and be honest about their intentions. I sincerely think they should be more truthful, but possibly they fear division in the church. And so it goes on—a slow trend to the new!

I don’t attend the church anymore, but I am very concerned for my children and grandchildren. I tell them what I sincerely think is happening, and after hearing it several times, I think that young people believe that we “old folks” are of another generation and that they now know a new and better way. Am I alone in my thoughts?

To order copies of How to Find a Good Church (And What To Do if You Can’t), click here.
_________________________________
Editor’s Note: If you would like to share your experience in trying to find a biblically based church, please feel free to write to us. We will share your letter with our readers (without using your last name). We hope this booklet has been some help to you in your own situation.

You may find further information and materials on: www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com and www.lighthousetrails.com.

 

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