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Monthly Archives: December 2011

Doors, Part One

I learned two new things I often incorrectly assume about ‘doors’ this week. First, that we Christians (especially in the West) assume God opens and closes them and we can rest secure in ordering our steps according to these “open doors,” but that’s not necessarily true. Second, that we often ascribe the verse about “God standing at the door of our heart, knocking” to the door of the heart of the unbeliever; Jesus waiting to be let in. That also, is not necessarily true.

This post will discuss the first “ah ha”: An open door does not mean God opened it.

I am reading “Tempted and Tried” by Russell Moore. In a chapter called “Slaughterhouse Drive” (about how cows are mercifully and calmly lead to their unexpected and painless death) there is this disturbing news:

You are being watched. The demonic powers have had millenia to observe human nature. . . . The spiritual powers out there are expert cosmic farmer-ranchers and are customizing a temptation plan that fits with the way your desires, particularly, work. They notice what turns your head, what quickens your pulse. Like the Roman guard feeling around, with a spike in one hand, on the Lord Jesus’ arm, seeking his vein under the skin, the demonic beings are marking out your weak points, sizing you up to that they might crucify you. They’ll find what you want and give it to you. . . Sometimes Christians make decisions based on opportunities come open. In our spiritual lingo we often talk about “open doors” and “closed doors” and “seeing where God is at work” in circumstances, as evidence of God’s leading us to do something or other. There’s a sense in which that’s wisdom, observing the situation around us in order to make a decision. But sometimes people will assume the “open doors” in their lives are all signals to go forward. How could it not be right when everything seems to be fitting together perfectly? But what if something wicked is just ahead of you, opening those doors for you, right down to the chambers of hell?

In looking back on my life I can see how this is so true. I grew up in a church where people were often heard to say “where God closes a door, He opens a window.” And I grew up believing circumstances such as opportunities landing in my lap, or plans abruptly interrupted were “signs” that I should walk this way or that. Looking back I see many “open doors” I walked through blindly…and right into a snare or deep, dark pit. Like the open door in the back of the wardrobe that is so difficult to be found again from the side of Narnia, the pit is hard to crawl out of…

This is not a word of gloom and doom, but hearkening to the wisdom of the author of the book cited above, to Proverbs, and to Christ Himself who clearly tells us that He is “sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

I must not forget I am not excused from the wrestling mat. If I am to follow Christ I must be a discerning disciple of His word and how to practically apply it (“study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth”), I must put on the whole armor required for spiritual warfare, I am not to dismiss or minimize the determination of the enemy to keep me ineffective for the Kingdom (at the minimum) and destroy me (at the heart of the liar’s plan).

In this country we do so much in solitude and too little in community. Wrestling with cosmic powers of evil and engaging in spiritual warfare are not activities I wish to do alone. Pray for each other, confess to one another, encourage one another, bear one another’s burdens, speak the truth to one another in love: “We are better together,” especially in battle.

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Snakes and Ostriches

My head has been in the sand. (Well not really, but sorta.) I recently read a the December issue of a financial newsletter to which my husband subscribes. This one is less about market research and more about the vast decline of our government, our businesses, our communities, and our society. It is about ethics, or the lack. It is an even-handed article, citing immense corruption and wrong-headed thinking on both sides of the aisle. Some quotes from the piece:

“I do agree that the nation will soon face a choice between heading down the path towards fascism… or turning back the power of government and restoring the limited Republic that was our birthright. I continue to believe Americans will choose personal liberty.

“Please realize, I’m not taking a political side here. I’m not saying the Democrats are singularly responsible for the state of our country. I’m not saying the Republicans are all to blame. And I’m not saying this is a black problem or a white problem. The problem is rooted in the corrupt belief that you can live at the expense of your neighbor… that we have become a nation where the vast majority of people believe their well-being is primarily, someone else’s responsibility.

“This bankrupt belief has taken complete control of our government, educational system, medical industry, and our corporations. And unless we demand better from each other and our political leaders, our society is doomed to collapse under the crushing weight of the Corruption of America.

It’s time we got back to our traditions as Americans and started doing more to take care of our families, communities, and ourselves.”

Here is the full text, shared with permission from the author:

http://www.stansberryresearch.com/pub/reports/201112PSI_issue.html

It’s about as clear as day that we’re headed for disaster, but what is the Christian’s response? It’s clear we have a responsibility to speak up, to vote, to educate ourselves about what our local, state and federal governments are up to, and we should line up all responses with the word of God. I share this here because the church SHOULD be in the State’s business insofar as we are called to be light and salt. Let’s not check our brains at the door when it comes to politics, public education, business or social programs.

Let’s be wise as serpents yet gentle as doves: Not mean as snakes and stupid as ostriches.

 
 

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Who Am I to Judge?

How many times have you heard someone misquote scriptures, admonishing us not to judge? Usually these folks also misquote scriptures about loving one another. In their theology we are neither to hold each other accountable nor point out any shortcoming or behaviors that would hinder either the person or the church. We’re just to “love” — whatever that kind of “love” means.

I think one of the reasons the American Church is weak and ineffective is because we have bought into the secular worldview of “tolerance” to the point that commands to encourage one another in the faith are about as watered down as the trite, “I’ll lift you up in prayer” and the wimpy, “Hang in there.” So when a sister in the faith is caught up in sin, or a brother’s actions clearly do not honor or bring glory to God, we look the other way. And those new to the faith or just considering Christ see this and think, “Why should I ‘get saved’? I’m as good or better than they are!” If you can’t tell the difference between the people in the pews and the brothers in the bars, what’s the point of church?

The title “Christian” means “little Christs.” We are to strive to be like Jesus. We are “the called out ones.” We are “set apart.” We are strongly admonished not to love the world or the things in the world. We are God’s family. We are the “bride of Christ.” Now if I dress like a hooker, drink like a fish, swear like a longshoreman, or stab my friends in the backs, you have every right (as my Christian brother or sister) to take me aside and lovingly point out to me my shortcomings (and if I was behaving like that you might also question whether I was following Christ!). I have told my friends that I expect them to show me my blind spots. I think if they don’t, they must not love me very much. Hebrews 3 tells us, “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

In order to point out someone else’s mistake you must make a judgment about it. How else can you know? You see the behavior, you compare it to what God’s word says, you make a judgement as to whether it lines up or not, and act or speak accordingly. If you use my bathroom and find porn under the sink, it’s not a stretch to discern a problem. Discernment is sound judgement. Then you need to speak the truth in love. (This is extends to discerning bad from good, from better, from best doctrine as well, but that’s another post for another time…)

In 1 Corinthians 2:14 we read that the spiritual person is to judge all things. We have the mind of Christ. This does NOT mean we make a value judgement on our brother or sister. We do not make a judgment on the “severity” of the sin. We do not judge the heart or the motives. Leave that to the only One who can. Who is to say one sin is worse than another? And why do we presume to classify certain temptations as worse than others? Why do we shun the gay guy but come along side the man struggling with a porn addiction?

In 1 Corinthians 5 we see that church strongly chastised for not grieving over sin practiced by someone in the their midst and were called to remove that person from their fellowship. And of course we all know Matthew 18 where Jesus tell us to show our brother his fault privately. If he doesn’t repent, take a couple of others, and so on. We also know Jesus told us we need to take the ‘log’ out of our own eye before we can help a brother with the ‘speck’ in his. How often do we do this? And how often do we avert our eyes, embarrassed and sad and grieved but unresponsive?

I think another reason for missing the boat in this area is our lack of authentic Christian community. I Corinthians 12 tells us that “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” We are called to bear one another’s burdens and often than burden is unrelenting temptation as in the case of those recovering from addictions or struggling with homosexuality. Doing life together is often messy. We don’t want to get messy with others. So we leave them to struggle alone, we look the other way, we don’t follow Christ’s commands.

We are one body. We are to suffer together, we are to rejoice together. We are to encourage one another and hold one another accountable. We can do none of this if we don’t know each other. Strong and deep community breeds honest relationships; brothers and sisters with log-less eyes helping each other with specks. Outside a few vibrant small groups, I think this is largely missing in the church today. Let’s prayerfully consider how we might cultivate an authentic, vibrant, discerning, sin-confessing, healing community of believers. I’d like that very much.

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2011 in God's Word, Obedience, Relationships, Sin, The Church

 

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Why I Won’t Do Yoga

Seems that Americans will try to do just about anything these days, so I guess it is no surprise that I get funny looks when I tell friends I won’t go to a yoga class with them, let alone even consider it as an acceptable form of “exercise” for myself.  And with so many church-going folk spending more time on a yoga mat than in church (or maybe even in the word) without even a second thought to it, we don’t have to wonder long why the American church is in such disrepair.

The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj, meaning “to bind, join, attach, and yoke – to direct and concentrate one’s attention on, to use and apply.” It also means “union” or “communion.” It is generally translated as “union of the individual atma (loosely translated to mean soul) with Paramatma, the universal soul.” This may be understood as union with the divine by integration of body, mind, and spirit. In essence, one who attempts yoga may loosely be referred to as a yogi.

Yoga is a path for transcending the ordinary mind (basically suspending thought) in order to merge with your “higher self” or “God self.” So when yoga means “to yoke,” this is to yoke with Brahman (i.e., the “Infinite,” the “Universal Spirit,” the impersonal force that the Hindus call “god”) via the realization of an altered state of consciousness, thereby theoretically releasing oneself from the bondage of endless reincarnation. Yoga comes out of the Hindu Vedas. It can be traced back to a religious leader, Patanjali. Shiva, one of Hinduism’s three most powerful gods, was known as “The Destroyer” and he’s called Yogi Swara or the “Lord of Yoga.”

There are many forms of yoga today. Of roughly the 10 most common in America, hatha-yoga is one of the most popular practiced by those looking for relaxation and stretching exercise. But there is a common misconception in the West that hatha-yoga is just a neutral form of exercise, an alternative for those who hate to run or lift. But hatha-yoga is one of the six recognized systems of orthodox Hinduism and is at its roots most definitely religious and mystical. It is also one of the most difficult and potentially spiritually dangerous forms of yoga.

While there a number of translations, the term hatha is derived from the verb hath, which means ‘to oppress.’ Hatha-yoga is designed to suppress the flow of psychic energies through channels (symbolic, or psychic passages on either side of the spinal column), thereby forcing the ‘serpent power’ or the kundalini force to rise through the central psychic channel in the spine (the sushumna) and up through the chakras, the supposed psychic centers of human personality and power.

Yoga scholar Hans Rieker declares, “Kundalini [is] the mainstay of all yoga practices.” Swami Vivekananda summarizes the kundalini experience as follows: “When awakened through the practice of spiritual disciplines, it rises through the spinal column, passes through the various centres, and at last reaches the brain, whereupon the yogi experiences samadhi, or total absorption in the godhead.”

Despite the health benefits it proponents claim, there are numerous warnings in authoritative yoga literature which caution that yoga can be physically, mentally, and spiritually harmful if not practiced correctly.For instance, many yogis warn that yoga practice can endanger one’s sanity. In describing the awakening of “kundalini” (coiled serpent power) Gopi Krishna records his own experience as follows: “It was variable for many years, painful, obsessive…I have passed through almost all the stages of…mediumistic, psychotic, and other types of mind; for some time I was hovering between sanity and insanity.”

Westerners mistakenly believe that one can practice hatha-yoga apart from the philosophical and religious beliefs that undergird it. This is an absolutely false belief. … You cannot separate the exercises from the philosophy. … ‘The movements themselves become a form of meditation.’ The continued practice of the exercises will, whether you … intend it or not, eventually influence you toward an Eastern/mystical perspective. That is what it is meant to do! … There is, by definition, no such thing as ‘neutral’ Yoga” (Like Lambs to the Slaughter, pp. 93-95).

Yet a significant number of American Christians either experiment with yoga or become adherents of some yoga discipline. Most seem unaware that yoga cannot be neatly separated into physical and spiritual dimensions. The physical is the spiritual in yoga, and the exercises and disciplines of yoga are meant to connect with the divine.

Douglas R. Groothuis, Professor of Philosophy at Denver Seminary and a respected specialist on the New Age Movement, warns Christians that yoga is not merely about physical exercise or health. “All forms of yoga involve occult assumptions,” he warns, “even hatha yoga, which is often presented as a merely physical discipline.” While most adherents of yoga avoid the more exotic forms of ritualized sex that are associated with tantric yoga, virtually all forms of yoga involve an emphasis on channeling sexual energy throughout the body as a means of spiritual enlightenment.

Dr. Albert Mohler cites in a recent blog, “When Christians practice yoga, they must either deny the reality of what yoga represents or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace of yoga. The contradictions are not few, nor are they peripheral. The bare fact is that yoga is a spiritual discipline by which the adherent is trained to use the body as a vehicle for achieving consciousness of the divine. Christians are called to look to Christ for all that we need and to obey Christ through obeying his Word. We are not called to escape the consciousness of this world by achieving an elevated state of consciousness, but to follow Christ in the way of faithfulness. . . . The embrace of yoga is a symptom of our postmodern spiritual confusion, and, to our shame, this confusion reaches into the church.”

If you are interested in physical exercises that are designed to improve your health, you should not consider yoga, which is designed for death, and teaches how to reach this state of consciousness where you achieve a better reincarnation. Even the physical yoga positions come directly from Hindu scriptures, and are designed to put you into a state of consciousness where you imagine that you are God. If you are a Christian who thinks you are getting relaxation or exercise, you are really getting Hinduism! If you think you are getting science, you are actually getting religion. This is NOT a practice that should be embraced by Christians or anyone who wishes to remain free from seducing spirits.

 

References:

http://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/Psychology/yoga.htm

http://www.swamij.com/yoga-meaning.htm

http://www.inplainsite.org/html/yoga_and_christianity.html

http://www.hinduwebsite.com/yoga.asp

http://www.albertmohler.com/2010/09/20/the-subtle-body-should-christians-practice-yoga/

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2011 in Belief, Current Events, Society

 

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