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Archive for the ‘Practices’ Category

(revised 11/16/13)

Malone University Spiritual Formation Department recently posted the following Chapel schedule – showing its increasing promotion of Evangelical Friend  Richard Foster’s Spiritual Formation/ Contemplative Spirituality heresies.

Click here [broken link – article no longer online] for the original site of this chapel schedule. I have emphasized certain points by bolding, and inserted comments in [brackets].

Home / Office of Spiritual Formation / Chapel Information / Chapel Schedule

Chapel Schedule

alkfdj Click here for a printable list of chapels, so that you can plan for those you’d like to attend or check off those you’ve already gone to.

The Spring semester traditionally features several Signpost Series chapels. The purpose of the Signpost Series is to invite guests to speak about how they integrate their faith with their specific area of expertise or academic discipline. This gives us a wider perspective on how the Christian faith is woven into all areas of life – academics, relationships, politics, media, sport, etc.

Chapels have different emphases, based on the day of the week. Tuesday chapels are “Community Worship,” featuring worship of God through prayer, Scripture, sermon and song. Wednesday chapels are “Convocation,” which includes a variety of topics, artistic presentations, lectures and guest interviews. Friday chapels are “Spiritual Formation,” featuring teaching on Christian spiritual disciplines and practice of those disciplines together in the Sanctuary.  See the Friday dates below to find out which disciplines will be addressed and what they encompass — work cited: Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun. [Click here to read Amazon info, and click here to view many pages online. This book is extremely heretical and extremely dangerous theologically. I can’t believe Malone University – which once held to a staunchly fundamentalist Wesleyan Holiness theology ala its predecessor Cleveland Bible College – is allowing this book to be endorsed and cited. Click here, here and here for discernment ministry exposes of the book and its author/compiler.]  Evening chapels include a variety of speakers and topics in a workshop format.

Malone Chapels are held Tuesdays (10:30-11:10 a.m.), Wednesdays (10:05-10:45 a.m.) and most Fridays (10:05-10:45 a.m.) in the Sanctuary of the Johnson Center for Worship and the Fine Arts. Evening chapels vary in time and location.

Chapels will begin Tuesday, January 15.

Tuesday, January 15, 10:30 a.m.: University Chaplain Randy Heckertsue nicholson

Wednesday, January 16, 10:05 a.m.:  Suzanne Nicholson, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biblical Studies, “Who is Jesus?”

Friday, January 18, 10:05 a.m.: Pastor Stan Hinshaw, Lead Pastor of Canton First Friends Church, “Why do spiritual disciplines matter?” www.firstfriends.org/leadership/pastoral-team [With all due respect, many pastors in the Evangelical Friends denomination have been warned about the heresies and dangers of  Spiritual Formation/Contemplative Spirituality – yet they continue to spread these occultish practices. I believe God will someday judge them accordingly, if they do not repent. “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” (see Luke 12:47-48).]

Tuesday, January 22, 10:30 a.m.: Jeff Leon, Malone Life Coach, sharing the Gospel and kicking off the Signpost Series

Wednesday, January 23, 10:05 a.m.: Jeff Leon, Signpost Series

Friday, January 25, 10:05 a.m.: Celia King, Director of Service Learning; Discipline: TBA.

Tuesday, January 29, 10:30 a.m.: University Chaplain Randy Heckert

terry thomas Tuesday, January 29, 7-9 p.m. in Silk Auditorium (MH): Terry Thomas, Ph.D., Professor of Biblical Studies at Geneva College, “How to Read the Bible” workshop. Students should attend from 7-9 p.m. www.geneva.edu/object/faculty_terry_thomas

Wednesday, January 30, 10:05 a.m.: The Quaker Testimonies – understanding peace-making, simplicity, integrity and equality. www.esr.earlham.edu/support/comprehensive-case/the-vine/the-quaker-testimonies [Earlham is a school administered by the Friends United Meeting denomination. FUM is non-evangelical i.e. not born again. A close reading of this and other pages on their website will make this obvious.]

Friday, February 1, 10:05 a.m.: Director of Spiritual Formation Linda Leon; Discipline: Slowing – a spiritual discipline which helps us to savor the moment and curbs our addiction to busyness, hurry and workaholism.

Tuesday, February 5, 10:30 a.m.: Rev. Saleem Ghubril, Exec. Dir. of The Pittsburgh Promise,saleem ghubril “Loving and Serving Our Neighbor,” Signpost Series.   www.pittsburghpromise.org/about_staff.php

Wednesday, February 6, 10:05 a.m.: Rev. Saleem Ghubril, Signpost Series

Friday, February 8, 10:05 a.m.: Resident Directors Stacy Utecht and Mike Hansen; Discipline: Pilgrimage – walking while keenly aware of God’s presence.

Tuesday, February 12, 10:30 a.m.: University Chaplain Randy Heckert

Wednesday, February 13, 10:05 a.m.: Ash Wednesday Service (understand Ash Wednesday via www.christianity.about.com/od/holidaytips/qt/whatisashwednes.htm)

Friday, February 15, 10:05 a.m.: University Chaplain Randy Heckert; Discipline: Silence and Solitude – freeing oneself from addiction to noise and entering into time alone with God.

diana swoopeTuesday, February 19, 10:30 a.m.: Rev. Diana Swoope, Ph.D., Arlington Church of God, “Faith and Civility in Culture,” Signpost Series www.arlingtonchurch.org/content_about_us/swoope.htm

Wednesday, February 20, 10:05 a.m.: Singer and speaker Justin McRoberts, www.justinmcroberts.com

Friday, February 22, 10:05 a.m. Student Director of Spiritual Formation Avery Linn; Discipline: Fasting – to let go of an appetite in order to seek God on matters of deep concern for ourselves and others.bob book

Tuesday, February 26, 10:30 a.m.: Annual Senior Preacher chapel featuring Bob Book and James Talbert

Tuesday, February 26, 7-8 p.m. in JC Memorial Chapel: Tom Willett, musician, author and entertainment industry executive speaking on “Faith and Creativity,” Signpost Series. www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Willett james talbert

Wednesday, February 27, 10:05 a.m.: Departmental Convocation (students attend convocation at various campus locations TBA)

Friday, March 1, 10:05 a.m.: Chapel Worship Coordinator Tim Longbrake; Discipline: Music – understanding music as a way to worship God.

No chapels this week – Spring Break!

Tuesday, March 12, 10:30 a.m.: University Chaplain Randy Heckert

Wednesday, March 13, 10:05 a.m.: Theological panel with guests Steve Moroney, Ph.D.,   Bryan Hollon, Ph.D.,  and Woolman Lecturer Eleanore Stump, Ph.D.

celia king Friday, March 15, 10:05 a.m.: Celia King, Director of Service Learning: Discipline: Writing as Soul Care – writing and reflecting on God’s presence and activity in, around and through me.

Tuesday, March 19, 10:30 a.m.: Annual Excellence Chapel, including staff/faculty awards

Tuesday, March 19, 7-8 p.m., JC Memorial Chapel: evening chapel with Spiritual Formation staff Tim Longbrake and Linda Leon

Wednesday, March 20, 10:05 a.m.: Faith and Expression – panel of guests representing literature, music, theatre and the visual arts; featuring poet and author Julia Kasdorf, Signpost Series. www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/362

No Friday chapel this week due to the Air Band setup in the JC Sanctuary.

Tuesday, March 26, 10:30 a.m.: Exploring Worship chapels focused on Passion Week. Student may choose from three JC locations (same options will be given today and tomorrow). Watch for more information to come.  (What is Passion Week?
See http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Christianity/2007/03/FAQ-Christian-Holidays-During-Holy-Week.aspx).

Wednesday, March 27, 10:05 a.m.: Choose a different option from yesterday.

No Friday chapel this week due to Easter Break.eric hehman

Tuesday, April 2, 10:30 a.m.: Football head coach Eric Hehman, “Faith and Sport,” Signpost Series

Wednesday, April 3, 10:05 a.m.: Rev. Alistair Begg, Senior Pastor of Parkside Church, www.truthforlife.org

Friday, April 5, 10:05 a.m.: Director of Spiritual Formation Linda Leon; Discipline: Meditating on the Names of God – contemplating names and titles for God which express His character, presence and authority.

Tuesday, April 9, 10:30 a.m.: University Chaplain Randy Heckert

Wednesday, April 10, 10:05 a.m.: Alumni Career Chapel (students attend chapel at various campus locations TBA)

Friday, April 12, 10:05 a.m.: Resident Director Kat Gritter; Discipline: Prayer of Examen – to notice both God and our God-given desires throughout the day.

This will be the final Friday chapel of the semester.

jj heller Tuesday, April 16, 10:30 a.m.: Musician JJ Heller, www.jjheller.com

Tuesday, April 16, 7-8 p.m., Stewart Room (BCC): evening chapel with Spiritual Formation staff Tim Longbrake and Linda Leon

Final Chapel: Wednesday, April 17, 10:05 a.m.: Senior Chapel, an annual tradition organized by the senior class representatives

FOR FURTHER RESEARCH (Correspondence, etc.)

Clips of various Spring 2013 chapel sessions

Following is a list of contacts in Malone’s Spiritual Formation Dept.; click here for the original list.

Pastor Randy Heckert

University Chaplain
330.471.8280
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Randy

Pastor Randy Heckert

University Chaplain
330.471.8280
eurpxreg+znybar+rqh

linda

Linda Leon

Director of Spiritual Formation
330.471.8442
yyrba2+znybar+rqh

 Celia

Celia King

Director of Service-Learning
330.471.8632
pxvat+znybar+rqh

   Edee

Edee Putnam

Support Person
330.471.8441
rchganz+znybar+rqh

Jessica

Tim Longbrake

Graduate Assistant/Chapel Worship Coordinator                                       330.471.8493
tlongbrake@malone.edu

Jeff

Jeff Leon

Spiritual Formation Volunteer
330.327.5565
woyrba+znybar+rqh

tanya

Tanya Hershberger

Spiritual Formation Volunteer
330.588.8828
oygurefuoretre+znybar+rqh

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Why is it that so many Christians today are turning to heretical Emerging/ Emergent teachings? And why is it that when they are confronted, they refuse to heed the Truth, instead hardening their hearts?

Years ago, I heard a pastor condemning occultish habits (such as watching movies like “Ghost” and “Field of Dreams”). Although I am a born again Christian, at that time I considered such movies as “entertainment” and “containing Christian themes.” I had watched “Ghost” recently, and “Field of Dreams” several nights before. After hearing the pastor, my eyes were opened, my heart was softened, I repented and immediately quit watching these New Ageish movies.

Yet, when Emerging/Emerging people are confronted concerning similar occultish practices (such as Spiritual Formation’s contemplative spirituality) they harden their hearts. I think this hardness results from a combination of deluding spirits, one’s sinful nature, etc. – and the fact that most Emerging/Emergents don’t really know the Lord as their Saviour.

I believe we are approaching the  Apostasy/Falling Away of the End Times. Consider this verse:

“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition” (II Thess. 2:3)

Could this “falling away” be the postmodern (Emerging/Emergent/Emergence) movement? Apparently many think so – Googling [“apostasy” “falling away” “Emergent”] brought up many hits.

My Facebook Friend John Henderson provides some insights on these issues in an article which I have reposted below. Click here for the original source of John’s article. I have emphasized certain points by bolding, and inserted comments in [brackets].

When God Sends Deluding Spirits—The Mystery of Iniquity
by John Henderson on Wednesday, November 7, 2012 at 8:54am

I was asked why it is that so many people are fooled so easily in politics and religion.  Is there an answer as to why the man-on-the-street interviews by TV comedians reveal an amazing disconnect with reality?  I know they edit out sensible responses for effect, but they still have enough stupid stuff to produce a segment.

A traditional Wesleyan holiness Christian recently asked on Facebook for material to share with pastors who claim to be evangelical but are still toying with teachings of those who promote the emergent error.  This Christian man said they were “Emerging pastors who say things like: ‘We hold to the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. Yes, we quote McLaren, Sweet, etc. but there is a lot they say that we don’t agree with doctrinally.’”  His bewilderment is justifiable and my response was: “You might keep in mind that they are playing with semantics [they had claimed to be emerging rather than emergent]. There is no difference. They have learned to blend the lingo of biblical thought with their error so it sounds more gospel. They are just as much into it as anything. I think it is Proverbs that talks about taking fire into the bosom, etc. You still get burned.”

That reference is Proverbs 6:27-28.  It refers to committing adultery with a prostitute but is certainly applicable in this context.  After all, following anti-biblical error is spiritual adultery with the whore of heresy.

“Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?  Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?”

It is not possible to believe some truth and some error and there still be truth.  Truth is not truth if it is diluted with false doctrine.  I would be more successful finding a good tomato sandwich in a garbage can than I would in finding truth slathered with error’s doctrines.

There is no doubt in my mind that we in the church, as well as in the entire world, have turned a sharp corner towards massive delusion.  It has always been in our midst but the winds of delusional aberrations have fanned the flames of error into an uncontrollable fire that is spreading faster than Hurricane Sandy spread flames that destroyed more than 100 homes on Staten Island in a matter of mere moments.

2 Timothy 3:13 – “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.”

1 Timothy 4:1-3 – “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron….”

2 Thessalonians 2:7-12 – “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

It is bad enough in politics when it is merely “secular” but far worse when people who should know better follow blindly after this delusion. It is a delusion that once was chosen under the influences of satanic allurements.  Now it is being sent by the hand of God to damn those who have chosen to be damned.  Their sin of delusion has spun out of their control and God now directs it to its ultimate destination.  In a real sense, they asked for it and they are now getting what they asked for but they are unable to control its consequences.  Thy made the choices and He delivers the results.

Hurricane Sandy provides other examples of this.  I think of two.  One woman who rode out the storm was almost taken away but barely survived.  She told a reporter that the reason she remained behind was that it wasn’t this bad last year.  Another woman tragically lost her two young sons, ripped right out her arms, because she waited too long to try to escape the storm.

Hurricane Katina had a tragic story as well.  A group decided to ride out the storm in some sort of club or bar on the beach in a partying spirit.  Searchers never found them and assumed they had been washed out to sea.

The “hurricane” of God’s judgment is on its way.  The Bible’s “meteorologists” (prophets) tell us plainly of its path and conditions.  As in Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress,” we are plainly told to flee from the City of Destruction—from the wrath soon to come.  A few pay attention and flee to the Cross but most ignore it, blindly presuming that somehow they will be alright in the end.  That may be the doctrine of a Rob Bell Universalist, but it is not the message of the Scriptures.  While the false teachers of emergent heresy smoothly lull souls into waiting for Hell, the storm stays on his track and gets closer by the moment.  It cannot be stopped, diverted, delayed, or explained away.  It can only be ignored to fatal peril.

The title of this article indicates that God is sending this delusion.  It has arrived at the point that God no longer just allows deception to present itself.  He pushes it along because He has been so completely ignored, misrepresented, and outright denied that He is turning His back on rebellious mankind and is turning loose of the restraints that have held it back.  False teachers wade about in the blowing gales and floods of demonic onslaughts saying that everything will be okay, that it is not as bad as it seems and has been reported.  And people believe them in astounding numbers.

The same Christian I mentioned above [at the beginning of this article] sent me a reply that should be shared here in part:

“I’m starting to view all Emerging/Emergents ‘through a new lense.’ Specifically, they ALL oppose Fundamentalism and the Fundamentals of 1910-1915. The new Nazarene book that [a discernment ministry] mentioned – Square Peg – seems representative of their almost violent opposition to Fundamentalism.”  He may have been referencing another comment about a student at a Nazarene university who had been disciplined for objecting to a professor’s orders to exclude references to “emergent” on the school’s website announcing an upcoming guest emergent/missional speaker at the university.  The student had objected on the grounds of its being disingenuous.

Proverbs 6:15 – “Therefore shall his calamity come suddenly; suddenly shall he be broken without remedy.”

Proverbs 29:1 – “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.”

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 PAGAN PRAYER BEADS AND PAGAN ROSARY BEADS
In recent years, a prayer tool called the “Pearls of Life” has become more common, particularly in the Emerging/Emergent Church movements. The Pearls of Life are an ecumenical Lutheran prayer beads/rosary. Unfortunately, the Pearls of Life (like every kind of prayer beads/rosaries) has occultic pagan origins and is used in an occultic contemplative way.

Before looking at prayer beads/rosaries in general, let’s look at the Pearls of Life. My first thoughts upon hearing about this were:

1) The Pearls of Life seem to be a Protestant version of the Catholic rosary (which is occultic and idolatrous). Many of the heresies of the Rosary will also be heresies of the Pearls of Life.

2) Both the Pearls of Life and the Catholic rosary involve ritual (which is occultic).

3) I assume the Pearls of Life, like the Catholic rosary, are viewed as a “means of grace.” They both involve salvation by works (people falsely believe they can get to Heaven by doing works).

Let’s look at the invention of the Pearls of Life. I found the following excerpt here. Note – throughout this blog, I am emphasizing certain points by bolding, and inserting comments in [brackets].

“This site is about Pearls of Life – an ecumenical rosary from Sweden. For better description there is a basic book of Pearls of Life by Martin Lönnebo [if he is heretical, his invention the Pearls of Life will be heretical], which you can order from a Swedish Publishing company VERBUM.

Martin Lönnebo, Lutheran emeritus bishop in Sweden, was considering what could help us in praying, what a person needs when he/she is distressed, how the church could support young parents to pray with their children… And he made a conclusion that a rosary could be a practical device for these purposes, and also a help in spiritual training [perhaps he was thinking of Richard Foster’s occultic Spiritual Formation], which he finds even more important than physical or mental training.

He named the rosary “Frälsarkransen”, which means “The Wreath of Christ” (the name is in Norway and in Denmark “Kristuskransen”). He wanted to emphasise the meaning of silence in prayer. Praying is not only speaking in words, it is being in front of God, with empty hands, listening. Just being. Seeing and touching the beads ease to concentrate and remember the most important things in life…”

And following are excerpts providing more details, found here:

The “Pearls of Life” (in Swedish, they are known as frälsarkransen, which means “the lifebuoy”) were invented by Bishop Martin Lönnebo of the Church of Sweden [in 1996]… Bishop Martin had long been interested in the spirituality of the Eastern Church and fascinated by the mixture of formality and informality in Orthodox worship, with its candles and icons and prayer beads, and he set about designing what became a “prayer bracelet”. After trial and error, he finally decided on a set of eighteen beads in which he summarised the message of the Christian faith.

Bishop Martin wanted a tangible means of communicating that faith, and from his studies of eastern spirituality he knew something of the ways in which beads are used as aids to prayer in world religions. In Islam, a rope of 33 beads enables Muslims to focus their prayers on the 99 Beautiful Names of God. there are similar aids to Hindu and Buddhist devotion. In Western Christianity the Rosary holds pride of place. It has a whole literature devoted to it, mostly by Roman Catholic writers, but with significant contributions from Anglican writers such as Austin Farrer and from the Methodist Neville Ward. In the Eastern Church ropes of “prayer knots” are an aid for those who wish to fulfil St Paul’s injunction to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), running through the rhythms of the Jesus Prayer.

Martin Lönnebo’s “Pearls of Life” are very different from the Rosary. There is no single prescribed way of using them as there is for the Rosary. They are, Bishop Martin insists, “a lifebelt not fetters”. Those who have sufficient leisure can work their way in prayer round the bracelet. In other circumstances it may be more appropriate to focus on a single bead or group of beads. They aren’t only a way of praying. They can also be used as a framework for teaching. The beads can be linked to stages in the life of Jesus, as well as opening up Christian experience. In the Church of Sweden, and in North Germany, they are widely used as an aid to catechesis. Our partner diocese of Växjö (which is, incidentally, immediately south of Bishop Martin’s former diocese of Linköping) has used it for some years now as a basis for preparing young people for their confirmation. Their great advantage is that they are discreet, and they are portable. They can be carried in a handbag or a pocket or they can be worn, like any bracelet, on the wrist.

The “Pearls of Life” are a means of developing prayer, deepening faith and broadening understanding. Some who use them do so at the beginning or end of the day. Some find them a helpful framework for a prayerful reflection on the events of the day that has just passed. Others like to focus on particular beads on particular days (for example, the Resurrection pearl on a Sunday)…

So what is the problem with prayer beads/rosaries? The problem is, they are a contemplative aid. Thus all Christian-based prayer bead/rosaries are occultic. It doesn’t matter whether they are Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican or whatever – they all work the same way.

I found additional excerpts here, which describe the specific dangers of all prayer beads/rosaries.  (Although this article mainly discusses Tony Campolo, it also includes some very insightful info about prayer beads/rosaries):

To enter this “spiritual realm” [of Richard Foster’s contemplative prayer/contemplative spirituality] it is essential for the participant to empty the mind of all thoughts, as well as lay aside Biblical notions on sin, Jesus Christ, grace and salvation. There are a host of web sites aimed at Christians [there are more than 78,000 such sites on the topic]. Advocates suggest that instead of a “sacred word” you could use the Stations of the Cross as a labyrinth tool for prayer, or Anglican Prayer Beads. These prayer methods are closely akin to the Tibetan Buddhist Prayer Wheel [which can be purchased on line for $25 ~ free shipping]. Just think of it: For only $25 you can contact God!

All of these “methods” to be employed in our prayer lives are intended to make us feel good about God ~ any God. And if we feel good about him, he obviously feels good about us. An ELCA web site tells us: “When most people think of prayer beads the Roman Catholic Rosary is most likely to come to mind – or perhaps Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu Prayer beads. Eastern Orthodox prayer ropes or beads are also very popular. But, the use of prayer beads is increasing among people of many faith traditions,…”
 
Through contemplative prayer in its various forms and practices we readily find the connection between Catholics, Buddhists, Lutherans, Moslems, Episcopals, Hindus and Evangelicals.
 
The ELCA [Evangelical Lutheran Church of America] site goes on to say that the “use of prayer beads creates a rhythm that discourages distractions and focuses attention so that the one who prays can more readily move into God’s presence.”
 
The Bible-believer wants to know: Where is the God of the Bible in all this? Is He equally present in all religions, able to be contacted by Moslems and Buddhists in the same way that a Christian comes to know Him through Jesus Christ? And what about Jesus? Did He need to die? Why, if God can be contacted using a method, what did Jesus’ death do for us?…

See also this detailed Wikipedia article, describing the occultic, contemplative use of prayer beads/rosaries in a number of world religions.

The book Praying with Beads by Nan Lewis Doerr and Virginia Stem Owens (pp. vii-ix) also discuss the pagan history of prayer beads/rosaries. Click here to read online.

FOR FURTHER READING

Heresies of the Catholic rosary

Detailed Catholic article explaining and endorsing the Catholic rosary

Wikipedia article on the Catholic rosary

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(blog under construction)

My good friend Manny Silva posted this blog, in which he exposed the dangerous Quaker contemplative practice of “centering down.”

I’m sure many in what has become the “Emerging/Emergent” Evangelical Friends denomination see no problem with centering down. Plus the Evangelical Friends use the WordAction curriculum, which as Manny describes is starting to tout centering down.

Beware The Leaven Coming Into Your Church Curriculum

Posted on April 2, 2012 by reformednazarene

Colossians 2:8-12 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

Reflecting God
is an adult Sunday School journal with daily devotionals written for each month by various writers, prepared by the WordAction company.  It is not only prepared for Nazarenes but also for churches that are in the Wesleyan tradition.  They state that: “WordAction is the world’s leading provider of Wesleyan Sunday School lessons and curriculum for children, youth, and adult Sunday School, as well as a leading provider of small group resources and devotional material for family or personal daily devotional times.”

I have read these lessons many times, and have used this or similar curriculum books in teaching Adult Sunday school classes.  For the most part, it has solid reliable material.  However,  a friend alerted me to this particular lesson, which I had not seen.  I am working on another edition that a good friend also sent me a few months ago to review.  So now its time for a word of warning, and a word of serious caution.  The caution is this: WordAction may possibly be gearing up to slowly start promoting contemplative spirituality practices that are at the core of the spirituality of the emergent church movement.

Here is an excerpt from the Feb 8 lesson titled Center Down (and for those who don’t understand this yet, I will explain what this means:

“The Quakers quiet their hearts and spirits before God when they gather for worship through a meditative state they call “centering down.”  When they rest in the Lord and “wait” on him, they believe that he will bring understanding, direction, and peace.”

In addition to serving God, Brother Lawrence, the author of the book “The Practice of the Presence of God,” advises that we stay in touch with him.  He said, “There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful, than that of a continual conversation with God.  Those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it.”

This is a blatant promotion of mysticism!  And I point out the elitist-like last sentence that suggests that only those special people who practice and experience contemplative prayer will truly understand God!  This is the mindset of the mystics, that they are special.  My friends, I have come to the point in my last three years researching that anyone using the word EXPERIENCE must at least be scrutinized as to what he means by it when he uses the word!  It more often than not means an experience that is outside the bounds of Scriptural teaching.  Please remember this.  It is essentially a type of experience whose goal is to reach some kind of union with God.  And please note again what they said: “they believe.”  Not, “Scripture says”.

First of all, the Quakers (Religious Society of Friends) are a religious group that claims to be Christian, and they promote a weird doctrine that we have some sort of “Inner Light” within us.  The founder was George Fox, who at a young adult age, had a strong mystical experience.  He became convinced that “person requires no spiritual intermediary but can receive direct understanding and guidance through one’s own “inward light,” which is supplied by the Holy Spirit.” (Source)  He believed that everyone has a divine spark within them that can respond directly and personally to God.

The Inner Light, according to respected Quaker author Howard Brinton, “can be reached only by ‘centering down,’ to use an old Quaker phrase: that is, by concentrating our attention on the inward side of life where the soul’s windows open toward the Divine.…” (Brinton, 1953). “Centering down” means turning away from ego-driven pursuits, from selfish individual concerns, and allowing oneself to be moved by a spiritual intelligence greater than one’s everyday consciousness.  (Source: Paths of Learning.net)

Their most famous member today is perhaps Richard Foster, the modern day guru of contemplative spirituality, who believes that anyone (not just Christians) can be a “portable sanctuary for God”; who recommends contemplative prayer but at the same time warns that we need to pray a prayer of protection before participating; and also warns that novices should not do it.

So when they promote centering down, they are promoting a practice that is part and parcel the same as the practices of Eastern mysticism.  Here is a description of the Quakers’ practice of centering down, as explained by the Rev. Sue Annabrooke Jones on her website:

Meeting actually begins when all are joined in that silent “waiting upon God” that the Quakers call “centering down.” With mind and body stilled, members sit in deep contemplative silence together for one hour, each person attuned to his or her own inward light.
During a meeting someone may feel moved to speak. When this happens, it comes from a deep religious experience and a conviction that this experience must be shared. This spoken ministry, which is usually brief and simple, requires no response, and is intended as meditative seed for everyone else in the group. This unique cross-fertilization component distinguishes Quaker meditation from other forms of meditation which, even when practiced in a group, remain ultimately a solo activity.
  (Source: CosmicLotus.org)

Is this a biblically sound practice that belongs now in a Nazarene holiness publication?

And then there is Brother Lawrence. Who is Brother Lawrence?  He was a 17th century monk who “developed a technique–mostly through inspiration and intuition–which leads to results akin to those developed by the continued practice of either Zen or mindfulness meditation.” (Source: Lighthouse Trails)

He was part of the Carmelite Order, which was run by the very contemplative Teresa of Avila, another monastic practictioner who was also influenced by Jewish Kabbalic mysticism.  His “practicing the presence of God” as he coined it leaves much question as to how this can be verified as real or not.  It is not because it is too subjective, and leaves a wide open door for anything to be conjured up in ones imagination.

In his document, “Evangelicals Turning To Catholic Spirituality”, David Cloud describes the epidemic that is racing through the evangelical world, which is one of embracing more and more the monastic Eastern mysticism of the Desert fathers and early “church fathers”, although this clearly does not include the real early church fathers, i.e. the apostles themselves.  You will not find anything close to this that they ever wrote about in Scripture.  However, in this report by Cloud, you will clearly be disturbed by seeing some well known names of today who have favorably promoted some of these practices.  It is what it is, and we have to deal with the facts.

In Scripture, we are told that “a little leaven leavens the whole lump.”  (Gal 5:9).  Satan attacks us from within, after he slips into our churches in disguise, often through the undiscerning and sometimes well meaning minds of many Christians.  I consider this an attack upon the church, even if the rest of this curriculum book is on solid ground.  We cannot allow Satan to grab a foothold in any way in our church literature, just as we cannot allow him to gain a foothold in our universities, churches and pulpits.

So beware, you have been warned to watch what you read, and judge it by the word of God.  Nowhere in Scripture are we taught to “practice the silence” and “wait for God to speak.”   Reflecting God is a wonderful sounding title, but this particular lesson truly does not reflect God, but rather subtly reflects the doctrines of demons being promoted in our denomination today.  Do not tolerate this for one second.  Do not compromise a bit on any of this.  This is being sent to the publishers of WordAction, so that hopefully with this warning, they will take great care that they are not becoming complicit in the infiltration of ungodly teachings in our Christian books.  No excuse will be acceptable for this.  I pray it was a mistake that will not be repeated.  But if so, it will be exposed again for what it is.

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More and more Protestant churches are practicing Ash Wednesday. Why?

The postmodern (Emerging, Emergent and Emergence) movements are growing by leaps and bounds within the Protestant denominations. Many postmodern Protestant denominations (mainline/liberal as well as evangelical) are getting increasingly involved in Spiritual Formation (which quotes many Catholic mystics), as well as Ash Wednesday, Lent, Advent, and other liturgical “holy days” first practiced in Roman Catholicism.

My point is, more and more Protestant churches are “giving in” to Catholic teachings and practices, not vice versa. Which brings us to the five solas. Protestant church leaders, who have traditionally held to the five solas, are presenting more and more practices from Catholicism, which does not hold to the five solas. As a Protestant who believes the five solas are the true teachings of God’s Word, I find this very troubling.

Here is a helpful Wikipedia article, which mentions the various Protestant views of the five solas: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_solas

Now on to a discussion of Ash Wednesday itself.  Regarding Ash Wednesday and Lent as times for true repentance, there are certainly many Catholics (and Protestants) who do not truly repent during these times. Why else the huge popularity of Mardi Gras the day before Ash Wednesday? In fact, there is an entire Catholic “Carnival” period between Christmas and Ash Wednesday: http://www.americancatholic.org/features/mardigras/ In light of this, it seems to me many Catholics are not truly repentant during Ash Wednesday and Lent – they are just playing church and/or trying to get to Heaven by “good works” and abstaining during Ash Wednesday and Lent.

I came across an excellent article by Craig Portwood exposing the pagan origin of Ash Wednesday.  Click here for the original text of this article. In my repost below, I have emphasized certain points by bolding, and inserted comments in [brackets].

“The pagan origin of Ash Wednesday”
by Craig Portwood

It’s not mentioned in the Bible. None of the apostles observed it. Nowhere are Christians commanded to keep it. It was not even officially practiced until nearly 1000 years after Christ’s resurrection. Like so many other non-biblical “Christian” customs, it has pagan roots. It’s a sad fact that modern Christianity has appropriated so many customs from the practice of the heathens, that one might wonder if it should still be called Christianity.

The early Pagan origins of Ash Wednesday

[The following drawing may appear irreverent, but I am including it anyway  to illustrate how unbiblical the practice of Ash Wednesday is. Throughout the Old Testament, God condemned Israel for borrowing a number of  “trivial” pagan practices from its neighbors. I believe our sinless Lord Jesus, knowing the pagan origin of “ashes on the forehead,” would have refused to take part in this sinful practice.]

This ritual “imposition of the ashes” is purportedly in imitation of the repentant act of covering oneself in dust and ashes. The marking of believers on Ash Wednesday is done in combination of another extra-biblical routine called “Lent.” Despite Christ’s command to his followers to abstain from the practice of disfiguring their faces during fasting, it has become a regular practice. He also told us to wash our faces during a fast.

The practice of putting ashes on one’s forehead has been known from ancient times. In the Nordic pagan religion, placing ashes above one’s brow was believed to ensure the protection of the Norse god, Odin. This practice spread to Europe during the Vikings conquests. This laying on of ashes was done on Wednesday, the day named for Odin, Odin’s Day. Interestingly enough, according to Wikipedia, one of Odin’s names is Ygg. The same is Norse for the World Ash. This name Ygg, closely resembles the Vedic name Agni in pronunciation.

The Norse practice which has become known as Ash Wednesday was itself, drawn from the Vedic Indian religion. Ashes were believed to be the seed Agni , the Indian fire god. It is from this name that the Latins used for fire, ignis. It is from this root word that the English language got the words, ignite, igneous and ignition. Agni was said to have the authority to forgive sins. Ashes were also believed to be symbolic for the purifying blood of the Vedic god Shiva, which it is said had the power to cleanse sins.

Lent

Lent is a period of 40 days preceding the observance of Easter, where the observers are expected to fast or cease from having the use of some other “luxury.” Like the majority of modern, so-called Christian practices, its beginning can be traced to heathen practices.
In his book The Two Babylons, Alexander Hislop observed:

Let any one only read the atrocities that were commemorated during the ‘sacred fast’ or Pagan Lent, as described by Arnobius and Clemens Alexandrinus, and surely he must blush for the Christianity of those who, with the full knowledge of all these abominations, ‘went down to Egypt for help’ to stir up the languid devotion of the degenerate church, and who could find no more excellent way to ‘revive’ it, than by borrowing from so polluted a source; the absurdities and abominations connected with which the early Christian writers had held up to scorn. That Christians should ever think of introducing the Pagan abstinence of Lent was a sign of evil; it showed how low they had sunk, and it was also a cause of evil; it inevitably led to deeper degradation. Originally, even in Rome, Lent, with the preceding revelries of the carnival, was entirely unknown….

In the early 19th century, German explorer Alexander von Humboldt noted the practice among the pagans in Mexico, being held in the spring. His account states:

Three days after the vernal equinox…began a solemn fast of forty days in honour of the sun.

A Lent of forty days was also commemorated in Egypt. According to by English scholar John Landseer, in his Sabean Researches (1823), an Egyptian Lent of forty days was held in honor of Osiris.

There is a spiritual signature which bears witness to the spirit of these traditions. It is called Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras. It is the custom of living it up to get our fill of all the enjoyment the world has to offer before setting off to “Church” in mock repentance on Ash Wednesday. Such celebrations are an indication of the spirit behind the facade.

[Click here for the Wikipedia article on Ash Wednesday. And click here for the Wikipedia article on Mardi Gras, which includes a description of the “Carnival” time period between Christmas and Mardi Gras.]

The Truth

Christ made it plain in John 4:23-24:

But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

To be sure, those who observe modern “Christian” practices are religious. They may have personal conviction, but they are missing a vital element of the faith. They are lacking truth.

Mark 7:7

Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

The Bible tells us in chapter 9 of the book of Hebrews, that we are made clean by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. No amount of ritual or work of the hand of man can accomplish this.

1st Peter 1:13-16 tells us:

Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

The word holy means set apart, different from the rest. If we keep traditions which are not of God, how can we be holy? From what then are we different if we do as they do?

Not everyone has the conviction nor the courage to be set apart from the rest of the world. The sad truth is that mainstream Christianity lost her way, having fallen into apostasy long ago. This apostate tradition is continued by priests, pastors and preachers, ordained not by God in the power of the Holy Spirit, but by men in the spirit of the world.

And their followers wouldn’t have it any other way.

© 2010 Craig Portwood

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