Yoga Mats In The Sanctuary

Why would a church that had “Bible” in its name offer a yoga class?

In the past several years, many evangelical churches have either encouraged their people to attend so-called “Christian” yoga classes or they have offered such classes themselves. Strangely, few Christians seem bothered by the historical link between yoga and Hinduism, apparently accepting the popular assumption that the physical exercises can be separated from their spiritual origins. Sadly, Hindu yoga practitioners almost universally refute this idea. Appealing to the Hindu scriptures, a writer for Yoga International explains:

According to the scriptures, hatha yoga is a complete path leading to physical health, mental clarity, and spiritual illumination. Hatha yoga practices combine asanas (physical postures), pranayama (breathing exercises), concentration, and meditation. The word hatha is itself an indication of the goals and objectives of this practice: ha means “sun,” and tha means “moon.” Thus, “hatha yoga” is the practice that enables a practitioner to balance his or her solar and lunar energies. Hatha yoga practices create a state of harmony in body and mind by balancing the solar and lunar, masculine and feminine, active and passive aspects of oneself. Unless you combine the disciplines associated with breathing and meditation with the physical postures, you cannot expect to achieve this harmonious state. And without this inner harmony, we waste a great deal of our time and energy fighting the distractions and disturbances arising from both the inner and outer worlds.

https://yogainternational.com/article/view/what-is-the-purpose-of-asana

People in so-called “Christian” yoga classes may very well use the yoga poses as nothing more than stretching exercises, but eastern yoga practitioners would argue that they don’t practice true yoga if they make this separation. On that point, we’d do well to avoid misrepresenting our exercise routines as yoga.

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Throwback Thursday: “But My Experience Is CHRISTIAN!”

Originally published August 9, 2018:

Experience Bible

If you want attention on Facebook, simply post something to the effect that God no longer speaks directly to people. Even better, include a quote by Justin Peters. You’ll get impassioned (though occasionally nasty) diatribes in your comments feed for days!

Once in a while, someone will argue from Scripture. I respect such people, even if I disagree with their application of God’s Word. At least they want to remain Biblical in their stand for continualist teaching.

The vast majority of continualists, however, rely primarily on their personal experiences to refute the notion that God only speaks to us from His Word now that the Apostolic Age has ended. For them, personal experience is the final word, against which no one can argue. Indeed, anyone who dares to argue must be condemned as a hypocritical Pharisee who has been deceived by Calvinism. As such, claims that God speaks exclusively through Scripture must be dismissed.

I’ve written several articles demonstrating from God’s Word that the closed canon of Scripture necessitates that God has given us all the revelation we need until Christ returns, and I anticipate writing more such articles in the near future. As long as professing Christians attack the sufficiency of Scripture, we absolutely must stand firm on the ground that we need nothing more than what the Holy Spirit has provided through Sacred Writ.

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ~~2 Timothy 3:14-17 (ESV)

As a former Charismatic who remained a partial continualist for several years,  I well understand the difficulty of thinking that a cherished experience might not have been a personal revelation from the Lord. When I challenge my continualist friends to examine their experiences and consider the possibility that God didn’t directly speak to them, my stance hurts them. Believe me, I get that!

But it doesn’t work to refute cessationist teaching by appealing to personal experiences. As I demonstrated yesterday,  personal experience fails as an evangelism tool because Mormons, atheists and liberal “Christians” can come back at us with experiences supporting their beliefs. Experiences can always be challenged with conflicting experiences.

It’s ineffective, therefore, to use personal experience as a substantiation for either Charismatic or continualist teaching. Sure, such stories tug at the emotions, but they don’t often direct people back to the Bible. Please, continualists, use God’s Word to make your case.

Wanting God To Talk Less About Himself And More About Me

The person quite agreed:

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. ~~2 Peter 1:2-4 (NASB95)

Absolutely, he said — Scripture tells us everything we need to know about God. In that respect, he said, we need no further revelation. Most definitely, we can affirm the sufficiency of Scripture. But he clung to the popular idea that God speaks to people directly, giving personal guidance on decisions like which car to buy or whether to change jobs. In his mind, Christians can’t make these types of decisions unless the Lord speaks to them specifically. The thought that God speaks only through Scripture was simply unthinkable.

As I contemplated his position, I realized that this person cared more about having God talk about relatively inconsequential details of his life than about knowing Who God is and how to honor Him. Scripture wasn’t enough for him because it focuses on the Lord rather than on our daily lives.

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I No Longer Think I’m Moses Jr.

During my years in Charismatic churches, I frequently heard that Christians possess the same Holy Spirit that worked through the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles. I quite agree. The way we applied that belief, however, now troubles me. We expected that His presence in our lives meant that we had the power to perform miracles, and certainly that God would speak to us personally. Long after we abandoned the miracle idea, we clung to the conviction that God augmented Scripture with personal words.

In the past 30 years, the idea of hearing directly from the Lord has seeped into non-Charismatiic churches. In the 90s, Henry Blackaby’s book, Experiencing God, swept through Southern Baptist churches, insisting that all believers needed to hear from God regularly. In fact, the book said, failure to hear direct and personal words from God indicated definite problems. Beth Moore introduced Blackaby’s ideas to her audience, which transcends denominational boundaries, and now it’s almost universally assumed that every Christian should hear from God independent of the Bible.

This trend disturbs me for a number of reasons, causing me to write more posts about it than I can count. I’m dumb enough to think that people will see how unbiblical this teaching is. Sadly, I periodically bump into the reality that people don’t want to surrender their perceived experiences.

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Discernment Isn’t Spiritual ESP

An online friend recently warned against a popular false teacher on her Facebook page, only to have one of her personal friends harshly castigate her in a comment. It’s a familiar scenario. I’ve been through a similar experience, so I definitely sympathize. Women can become downright brutal towards anyone who dares to challenge their favorite false teacher.

As happens nearly every time, my friend’s critic didn’t address any of the actual objections to the teacher, despite the ample documentation that my friend provided. Instead, the critic argued from emotion, twisting Scripture in an attempt to shame my friend for raising valid concerns. That common tactic often works well to silence those who call out false teachers because no one wants to step on someone’s toes. Outbursts of emotion make us want to smooth things over so that everyone feels good. It also avoids having to really think through the relevant issues from a Biblical perspective. Emotion shuts down a challenge quickly and (in the mind of the person using emotion) effectively,

So I found the avoidance of addressing my friend’s points a bit telling. I wish she had responded with more maturity, countering objections from properly handled Scripture. (Of course, Scripture really only would have validated my friend’s position.) But as troubling as the appeal to emotion was, several people were even more troubled by the women’s claim to be discerning.

I am one of those people,

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Flashback Friday: Promise From God Or Baptized Divination?

Originally published March 22, 2017:

Arriving at the conference, I enjoyed the anticipation. The year before, I’d met Shane (not his real name). Shane and I shared an interest in ex-gay ministry as well as ministry to people living with AIDS, but we also both enjoyed writing. During the year leading up to this conference, he initiated a lively correspondence, often sending me samples of the book he had started writing about how God prepared Christians for marriage. Of course, he’d won my heart. My attendant/roommate and I entered our dorm room to find a tiny scroll, artfully tied with a green ribbon, placed on each of our pillows. She unrolled mine for me, revealing “A Scripture Promise For The Week.”

“Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland. ~~Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)

I knew (intellectually) that I should resist the urge to interpret the “Scripture Promise” as assurance that my long history of romantic disappointment had ended, but Shane did things that week (and afterward) to further kindle my hopes. I’ll spare you the messy details of how my history with Shane played out, and  say only that the “new thing” in verse 19 had absolutely nothing to do with my romantic desires.

That memory comes to mind as I think about the narcissism in contemporary evangelical circles. Interestingly, when I read Isaiah 43 during my Quiet Time all these years later, I keep its historical context, as well as its prophetic intent in mind. Isaiah prophesied about two events: the Jews’ release from the Babylonian Captivity and (ultimately) the Messianic kingdom. Back in that dorm room during the conference, I turned that broad promise to Israel and the Church about God’s glorious plan for His collective people into a horoscope-like prediction tailored to my  selfish aspirations.

Most present-day evangelicals play similar games with God’s Word, I’m sorry to say. To a very large extent, pastors, teachers and   Christian books encourage us to privatize God’s Word into personal promises that spin far away from God’s main point. Yes, He guides us through Scripture’s principles–even in terms of selecting a spouse–but He most certainly doesn’t want us  wrenching fragments out of context as if the  Bible lends itself to some sort of baptized divination.

As I’ve been reading through the Old Testament these past few years, the Holy Spirit has shown me that I must read it at face  value rather than digging around for personal intimations. I may learn from His dealings with Israel, particularly as  I see my rebellion as a mirror image of theirs. I may see His call to holiness and apply it. But when  I make His promises to them for His kingdom into allegories about my personal fulfillment, I err. And I forget that Scripture revolves around Him!

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Flashback Friday: Intimacy With God May Be Less Complicated Than You Think

Originally posted December 20, 2019;

Pensive Woman02

As my girlfriends and I approached our 30th birthdays, panic and despair set in. We watched other women in the church take wedding vows while we spent lonely Saturday nights without dates. We joked sardonically that we differed from trash because trash gets taken out once a week. (The men in the church failed to appreciate our humor.)

One friend met regularly with me for a while to talk and pray about coping with our singleness. She began encouraging me to develop intimacy with the Lord, explaining only that she sometimes fantasized about Him. I don’t know if those fantasies were romantic — and I don’t think I want to know. At the time, however, I desperately wanted Him to remove the pain and loneliness I felt.

My friend’s exhortations to cultivate intimacy with God left me with the impression that such intimacy came through mystical experiences. I assumed that I would feel His presence in a way that would obliterate my desire for a husband. Obviously, my motives for wanting intimacy with Him were entirely selfish.

Yet the Lord does call Christians to a type of intimacy with Him that has nothing to do with our romantic desires. Even better,  we don’t have to search for spiritual experiences in order to enjoy this intimacy. All we have to do is open a Bible.

In His last discourse with His disciples before His arrest, Jesus talked to them about the intimacy He would have with those who love Him.

18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. ~~John 14:18-24 (ESV)

Notice the relationship between loving the Lord and knowing His Word. He establishes that relationship because knowing Scripture reveals Who He is.

As we read the Bible systematically and in context, we learn Who God is, how He acts and what He thinks. We see what He loves, what He hates and why he tolerates what He hates. We see His power in creation and His righteousness in judging. We see His wrath toward sin, His compassion toward the repentant and His unwavering commitment to His standards.

We see His humility in becoming a Man Who would die a criminal’s death in order to save those who believe in Him. And we see the powerful promise of His resurrection. We see His plan to return to earth, and then His ultimate plan to create new heavens and a new earth where His Bride will worship Him eternally.

He discloses all those things and more through His Word because He loves us enough to reveal Himself to us. The Bible allows us to have incredible intimacy with God — an intimacy so much more powerful than my friend’s fantasies.

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Please Don’t Thank Your Lucky Stars

Moon and Stars

The conversation after church shocked me. If he had been a new Christian, perhaps I wouldn’t have been quite so taken aback. But he had been saved for several years, and church leadership apparently considered him to be spirituality mature.

When he mentioned his horoscope, I couldn’t believe my ears! And he said it so casually, as if it was all very normal for a Christian to read horoscopes and give a little credence to astrology. After all, he wasn’t overly invested in the practice. It was an amusement that maybe had enough credibility to warrant his attention.

How a Christian could hold such an opinion baffled me then and continues to baffle me 23 years later.

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I’d Almost Forgotten That People Still Think God Speaks To Them Directly

Maybe a blessing of the current controversies about John MacArthur opening his church and feminism creeping into Reformed churches is that I haven’t been hearing as many claims about personal words from God. I spent decades in churches and parachurch ministries where such expectations were normative, making it kind of surprising that I’d now be shocked to come across them. But when a friend on Facebook shared a word that God had supposedly spoken to her, it indeed caught me off guard.

In a way, I’m glad it surprised me. How refreshing to think that people depend on the Bible rather than personal revelation to hear the Lord speak! He certainly speaks to me each morning as I open His Word and work through it in context. In the past few years that I’ve approached Scripture using proper hermeneutics, the Holy Spirit has taught me more about spiritual things than I’d ever learned when I believed God spoke to me apart from Scripture.

Apparently I’ve grown accustomed to hearing Him speak through His Word.

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Keys To Discernment: Qualified By The Lord (Reboot)

Week after next, I will resume writing fresh installments for this Bible Study series on Colossians. As most of you know, I’d begun writing it in January, but at the end of February a compression fracture in my back forced me to take a furlough from it. For about a month now, I’ve been rolling the installments out again to provide continuity before we dive back in. Occasionally, I add comments to my original posts, so you might just want to read these reboots.

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Have you ever noticed the way your pastor uses the pastoral prayer at the beginning of your church’s Sunday service as an opportunity to share spiritual truths? He doesn’t do that by accident. He’s so committed to your spiritual development that he takes every possible opportunity to expose you to sound doctrine.

The apostle Paul uses prayer to begin his letter to the Colossian church, eager to steer them away from the false teachings of both the Judaizers and the pre-gnostics that threatened the churches in Asia Minor. We started examining his prayer last week, so let’s look at the passage again and pick up where we left off.

For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.

13 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. ~~Colossians 1:9-14 (NASB)

Verse 11 shows Paul praying that, as the Lord fills them with knowledge, wisdom and understanding, the Colossians, will be strengthened. But he hastens to explain that the strength must come according to His glorious might, not from the knowledge in and of itself. The pre-gnostics maintained that knowledge brought power, but Paul turns it around to teach that knowledge comes through God’s glorious might.

Remember that all false teachings point to human achievement instead of looking to God’s grace and providence. The Judaizers and the pre-gnostics each believed that their systems would bring them spiritual prestige. Paul corrects their error immediately by affirming that the strength isn’t originated in them. He puts the spotlight solely on God.

Moving on to verse 12, we learn that the Father qualifies us to share in the inheritance of the saints of light. Man, do I wish we had the time to unpack everything in this verse! For purposes of our particular study, however, it’s best to concentrate on how Paul uses his prayer to repudiate the wrong idea that salvation depends either on human effort or on the attainment of special knowledge.

The fact that the Father Himself qualifies us for salvation turns both heresies on their heads, doesn’t it? It increases the emphasis on God that we just saw in the previous verse. Paul makes sure that his original readers see that neither works nor mysticism gives them any claim on eternal life. Only the gracious love of God the Father makes us worthy to receive the inheritance of His kingdom.

Verse 13 describes how the Father accomplishes our qualification. He personally delivers us from the domain of darkness and transfers us into the kingdom of His Son. We make absolutely no contribution, either by religious rites or by obtaining secret knowledge. Paul again deliberately keeps the focus on God, beginning to demonstrate the contrast between the false teachers that inhabited Colossae and the purity of the Gospel.

In fact, verse 14 introduces the doctrine that God’s Son is our source of redemption, providing the forgiveness of sins. Paul adds this clause quite cleverly, attacking both the Judaizers and the pre-gnostics deftly.

Keep in mind that the Judaizers, although they acknowledged that Jesus died for their sins, still insisted on Jewish rituals (especially circumcision) to achieve right relationship with God. To them, Paul insists that forgiveness of sins can be found only — and completely — in Jesus Christ. It is in Him that we have redemption and the forgiveness of sins. His New Covenant renders the demands of the Old Covenant unnecessary.

Remember also that the pre-gnostics believed in a complete separation between the physical and the spiritual. Thus, sins they committed physically weren’t actually sins as far as they were concerned. Redemption came through their secret knowledge and they had no need for forgiveness.

Do you see how succinctly Paul addresses both groups of heretics in one small statement? Forgiveness is necessary in dealing with sin, and it can only come through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Paul wants the Colossians to understand this fundamental point so that they can stand against both groups of false teachers.

Like the First Century Colossians, we are bombarded with teachings that take the emphasis off of Christ. Subtly, they suggest that we must add works or have deeper spiritual experiences before we can really know the fullness of the Christian life. We also must keep returning to the basic Gospel message that Jesus atoned for our sins. Clinging to that truth will protect us from a large amount of false teaching.

Today we have watched Paul call out false teaching simply by infusing his pastoral prayer with sound doctrine. Next week we should arrive at my favorite passage of Scripture, which describes the supremacy of Christ. We’ll see how Paul silences false teachers by exalting His deity. I look forward to studying this passage with you.

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