Saturday Sampler: March 11 — March 17

Extruded CrossesI admire Albert Mohler’s grasp on church history and his practical way of applying it to our present-day Christian experience. So I appreciate Ligonier for featuring Why Controversy Is Sometimes Necessary in their blog this week. Mohler reasons from insights that wouldn’t have occurred to me, making it a fascinating article.

Check out Six Significant Things I’ve Learned from John MacArthur by Leslie A of Growing 4 Life. She makes several interesting points, even beyond the six that comprise the body of her blog post.

Evaluating the rise of the NAR movement in Berean Research, Amy Spreeman demonstrates How abandoning Sola Scriptura shipwrecks your faith. I recommend this piece to anyone who believes that God supplements His Word by speaking to them directly.

Evangelism requires a balanced attitude, as Jordan Standridge shows us in Facts Don’t Care About Your Feelings, But Christians Should in The Cripplegate. His words particularly encourage me, since I often struggle with guilt that my mom evidently never came to saving faith before she died. Yes, my tone in witnessing to her was sinful, and I need to declare the Gospel with much greater gentleness and humility, but I must remember Who ultimately determines salvation.

Are You a Contender? asks Rebecca Stark in an essay for Out of the Ordinary. I especially love her point drawing a correlation between contending for the faith and knowing God’s Word. Ladies, contending for the faith is a responsibility that each of us must take seriously.

The End Time by Elizabeth Prata looks at The entertainment-driven church that’s so prevalent in evangelical culture these days.  Heed her wise words.

In a guest post for Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc, Marcia Montenegro describes The Basic Spirituality of Yoga to show us why Christians must avoid this practice. Marcia practiced Hatha Yoga for 20 years prior to her conversion to Christ, and therefore handles the topic with authority. If you’re at all considering yoga as a means of exercise, I beg you to read this article and seriously think about the points she raises.

Tim Challies suggests a few reasons Why Some People Aren’t Christians. His insights appear simple, but they are also profound. If you feel discouraged regarding your evangelism efforts, this blog post might give you some helpful perspective.

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How On Earth Could Yoga Violate The First Commandment?

LotusBlogging about yoga, and so-called Christian yoga in particular, intimidates me. So many people (including one close friend of mine) feel that I really don’t understand the ability to practice yoga’s physical exercises without getting involved in the spiritual aspects like meditation. As a result, I pressure myself to write blog posts absolutely dripping with documentation. I assume that that practice gives me credibility.

It should.

But it rarely does.

I’ve learned that most evangelicals who engage in yoga simply aren’t interested in having anyone challenge them on this matter. They may not express open hostility toward me (some have, admittedly), but they certainly don’t take my point of view seriously enough to read the articles I present to them. One friend did read them and thankfully withdrew from her yoga class, but most give me a metaphorical pat on the head in silent acknowledgment that I don’t understand the subject as well as they do.

In response to their obvious condescension, I’ve collected several online articles explaining the various reasons that Christians should stay away from yoga. In anticipation of this essay, I looked at a few of them, hoping for a few quotes that would help make my case that yoga violates the First Commandment.

And God spoke all these words, saying,

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me. ~~Exodus 20:1-3 (ESV)

Did you know that every yoga pose represents worship to a Hindu deity? I must document this claim, even though all my research repeatedly verifies it as fact. Marcia Montenegro of Christian Answers for the New Age writes:

The Yoga most practiced by Christians is Hatha Yoga. The poses themselves are often depictions of Hindu deities, and the hand positions mimic the hand positions seen on the statues of Hindu gods. These hand positions are called mudras and are thought to help manipulate and channel prana, a supposed divine force or breath of the universe.(Source)

This quote, added to similar quotes from a variety of Christian and Hindu articles I’ve read about yoga over the past 11 years, affirms that yoga can’t be separated from its Hindu origins.

In opposition to those who try to separate the physical aspect of yoga from its Hindu foundation, the Hindu Wisdom website states otherwise:

Yoga is an integral part of the Hindu religion. There is a saying: “There is no Yoga without Hinduism and no Hinduism without Yoga.” The country of origin of Yoga is undoubtedly India, where for many hundreds of years it has been a part of man’s activities directed towards higher spiritual achievements. The Yoga Philosophy is peculiar to the Hindus, and no trace of it is found in any other nation, ancient or modern. It was the fruit of the highest intellectual and spiritual development. The history of Yoga is long and ancient. The earliest Vedic texts, the Brahmanas, bear witness to the existence of ascetic practices (tapas) and the vedic Samhitas contain some references, to ascetics, namely the Munis or Kesins and the Vratyas.

Now, I may be no more than an aging housewife with only a Bachelors degree in English Literature, but I beg you to consider the possibility that I’ve actually done my homework on whether or not Christians should practice yoga. Before you dismiss my concerns, do some research of your own. And ask yourself if practicing a form of Hindu worship allows you to obey the First Commandment.

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The Blessing Of Failing At Yoga

In 1966, many people in Marin County, California (where I grew up) developed an interest in spiritual experiences other than traditional Christianity. In accordance with that spiritual climate and influenced by a co-worker who liked experimenting with the various trends of that era, my mom donned a black leotard and enrolled in a local yoga  class. (I have reason to suspect that other members of her church also took yoga.)

After a few sessions, Mom came to believe that, although I obviously couldn’t do the poses, the breathing exercises would be good for my lungs. Additionally, she hoped the meditation might reduce my muscle rigidity caused by my Cerebral Palsy. So she canceled our babysitter and took us to class with her.

Being the type of twelve-year-old who eagerly embraced anything new and different (remember, in 1966 very few people had even heard about yoga), I felt really special because my family took yoga. I remember trying to teach some of the breathing techniques to a friend at school. Far from being resistant, I loved yoga!

Yet I couldn’t  seem to get the hang of meditating. I tried, but my active little mind simply refused to empty itself. And the breathing techniques demanded more effort than I wanted to make. After only a few weeks, the frustration at my inability to understand and achieve a meditative state led me to conclude that I couldn’t do yoga. I still thought it was wonderful; it just wasn’t for me.

I knew, even then, that yoga came from Hinduism. Back then, I believed all religions worshiped the same God, so I saw no contradiction between yoga and the liberal form of “Christianity” that my mom’s church modeled. But soon after the Lord convinced me that Jesus alone provides salvation, I realized the demonic origins of all eastern spirituality. Though I didn’t enjoy displeasing my mother, I had to renounce yoga, steadfast in my conviction that it represents darkness. Scripture commanded me to separate from it.

14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
    and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
17 Therefore go out from their midst,
    and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
    then I will welcome you,
18 and I will be a father to you,
    and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.” ~~2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (ESV)

Admittedly, I separated from yoga (and other new age practices) with a self-righteous attitude that now breaks my heart. I believe I could have honored Christ more had I demonstrated more humility. That said, I have no doubt that I must stand firm in my position that yoga and Biblical Christianity have absolutely nothing in common.

So it troubles me that many evangelicals now incorporate yoga into their “devotions,” believing that their poses (which represent various Hindu deities) enable them to “worship” the Lord Jesus Christ on a deeper level. Those who practice so-called “Holy Yoga” in reality pollute themselves and, by extension, the Body of Christ. I stand so decidedly against yoga, particularly when professing Christians embrace it, because I love Christ enough to want His Church to worship Him in purity.

Let me repeat that my inability to practice breathing and meditation did not embitter me toward yoga. During the five years between my last yoga class and my conversion to Christ, I wholeheartedly supported Mom’s interest in yoga, and regretted my failure to grasp meditation.That failure, however, causes me to rejoice that God overruled my desire to practice even these two aspects of yoga. In His faithful providence, He protected me from yoga’s demonic influences so that I could worship Him biblically.  May He likewise keep other Bible-believing Christians from this damning practice.

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Autobiography With Purpose: My Doctrinal Homecoming

Header May 2013

Reading the Pyromanics blog

We need to set aside discussion regarding Brookville Baptist Church until my next Autobiography With Purpose installment so that I can give you an idea of changes that the Lord made in my theology in the years between 2006 and 2012. Actually,  the word “changes” seems a little misleading, since my shift in doctrine felt more like a spiritual homecoming than a new beginning.  At any rate, I’ve realized (mostly from thinking about it at 2:30 this morning) that a narrative of what happened with Brookville would make much more sense if I first explained what the Lord was doing with me between Sunday morning services.

Shortly after I joined Facebook in 2008, I re-connected with a friend I’d known when we both attended Church of the Open Door in San  Rafael, California. We’d known each other since about 1977, at times being fairly close.  Around the time I moved to Massachusetts to marry John, this lady and her husband also relocated their family, causing us to lose touch for roughly six years until Facebook reunited us.

To my shock and dismay, I soon learned that my friend had become heavily involved in Holy Yoga. Even though I’d known since first coming to Christ that yoga is diametrically opposed to Biblical Christianity, I began searching out Christian websites that offered biblical explanations for rejecting the practice. My search led me to Sola Sisters, a blog written by two women who had been saved out of New Age philosophies.

Sola Sisters not only helped me in my research on yoga; they addressed the problems with Rick Warren, evangelical mysticism and other issues infiltrating the church.  Many of their blog posts verified misgivings I’d had regarding a wide variety of teachings and popular teachers I’d encountered over the years.  In addition, their emphasis on Scripture and the Five Solas of the Reformation beautifully complemented John MacArthur’s radio broadcasts, which John and I listened to each morning.

It wasn’t long before I started clicking links on Sola Sisters’ blogroll. That practice led me to the Pyromanics blog, maintained by Dan Philips, Frank Turk and Phil Johnson. I recognized Phil Johnson as being part of MacArthur’s Grace To You ministry, so I eagerly read the blog and was introduced more fully to Reformed Theology. Through Sola Sisters I also found Erin Benziger’s Do Not Be Surprised blog, which opened doors to more discernment and Reformed Theology blogs and websites than I could hope to mention in today’s autobiography.

As I explored these blogs and studied Scripture in more systematic ways, I would often come upon ideas that my past churches (and, to a lesser extent,  Brookville) had talked me out of embracing. Most notably, they refuted so-called Christian psychology and the erroneous idea of building up self-esteem.  Frequently, I’d read an article and think, “Yes! I thought the passage said that!”

There were still instances, of course, when I struggled with my Armimian background.  I had difficulty realizing, for example, that I couldn’t take any credit for my salvation.  But through His sovereignty and providence, the Lord Jesus Christ began ushering me into Reformed Theology.  The tension I experienced at Brookville came largely as a result of this doctrinal redirection, but the joy of coming home greatly eclipsed that discomfort.  At last, I knew what I believed and why I believed it.

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On Exploiting Scandal (And Claiming Discernment)

Bible Mask MedievalErin Benziger created quite a stir last week with her soul-searching blog post, Please Don’t Call Me A Discernment Blogger.I’ve spent this past week thinking about her comments on the matter, hoping to develop perspective on my approach to The Outspoken TULIP. Although I haven’t yet come to any hard and fast conclusions, I wanted to present  a few of the thoughts I’ve had thus far.

For starters, I most definitely agree that many so-called discernment blogs show anything but Biblical discernment. Having tangled, a few short months ago, with a self-proclaimed discernment blogger who believed John MacArthur, Al Mohler and Steve Lawson deserve to be denounced as false teachers with questionable affiliations (largely basing her claims on rumors that have either been debunked or never had credible substantiation to begin with), I can attest that discernment blogs often devolve into gossip tabloids. Additionally, I subscribe to a couple blogs that go overboard in their attempts to serve as watchmen against heresy, and sometimes I wonder if they honor Christ. Sensationalism sells, and bloggers know it.

I know it!

Like Erin, I’ve noticed that I attract the most readers when Beth Moore or Rick Warren appear in the title of an article. And yes, I’ve exploited their names whenever I wanted more hits. As much as I’d like to shift the blame to my readers’ apparent appetite for scandal, I need to take responsibility for whetting that appetite. Am I much different than Barak Obama, who never lets a crisis go to waste? (What a chilling comparison!)

But the problem becomes complicated by the glaring lack of discernment in churches that claim to be Bible-believing and conservative. Evangelicals in the 21st Century do need to be warned about popular teachers and trends that deviate from the clear teachings of Scripture. Neither Erin nor I contest that point. Like her, I draw on Jude 3-4:

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (ESV)

Just yesterday I listened to a podcast that lamented a disturbing trend engulfing young evangelicals. Quite rightly, the guest and co-hosts attributed the popularity of this trend to the ignorance of doctrine that leads to the lack of discernment that opens people up to unbiblical worldviews. I nodded in agreement with most of what they said…until they promoted a conference featuring a speaker who is known for doctrinal error in her own right. For all their talk about how discerning they are, the hosts and their guest flabbergasted me with their eagerness to sit under this false teacher.

So yes, we need bloggers brave enough to  speak out against false teachers and doctrinal error. Admittedly, the Church has always battled perversions of the Gospel,  and it has faced darker days than it faces now (remember the Middle Ages, when Roman Catholicism denied people access to Scripture). Yet today’s Biblical illiteracy, which is   much less excusable, proliferates over the Internet with astounding force. Obviously, we desperately need Christians who will stand firmly against deception in the Church.

But, dear sisters in the Lord, there’s a big difference between contending for the faith and using Beth Moore to attract readers. I regret doing so, not because Erin’s article exposed my sin, but because I’ve acted in a manner that dishonored the very God I claimed to represent.

Again, let me be clear: Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer, Rick Warren, Sarah Young and many other false teachers need to be called on the carpet for ways that they deceive evangelicals. I’m not finished writing about them, because people aren’t being warned. Likewise, I have more to say about Holy Yoga, Charismatic churches, contemplative prayer, the evangelical embrace of psychology and other disturbing trends. As I said earlier, these very serious problems must be addressed.

But they must be addressed for the right reasons. I know that my blog’s stats  always skyrocket when I type Beth Moore’s name in the title. I also know that they plummet when I blog about Jesus Christ. And while that certainly says something sad about my readers, it says something even worse about me! It says that I’m willing to  capitalize on false teachers and doctrinal error for the sake of making a name for myself.

The Outspoken  TULIP exists, first and foremost, to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping women to stand for Him as the Church faces increasing persecution. Discernment is part of that equipping. But Biblical discernment goes much deeper than exposing false teachers and doctrinal error. Ultimately, we develop discernment by studying and obeying God’s Word. Maybe I’ll never be a big-name blogger by deciding against using Beth Moore as bait to hook readers, but hopefully the Lord will tell me, when I stand before His throne, that I served Him well.

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I Do It!

Tulips01Although many years have passed and she’s now a grown woman, the memory of the child frowning with insistent determination remains vivid. Nearing her second birthday, she was developing a sense of autonomy, causing her to react to her mother’s attempts to help her by screwing up her reddened face and shrieking, “I do it!” Typical of a toddler, she’d punctuate her personal declaration of independence by kicking and swatting, pretty much forcing her mother to back off and allow her to accomplish the task without adult intervention.

So many adults behave that way toward God, seeking salvation, spiritual well-being and purpose through human effort. Prayers, meditation, good deeds and/or spiritual exercises promise that they can achieve God’s presence, favor, karma or blessing through their own efforts. Human potential…isn’t that the article of faith? When all is said and done, God is really an extension of them, so their rituals release that which is divine in them.

They may couch their human potential faith in Biblical terminology, even acknowledging that (in a certain sense) God is outside them, but even then they believe that He somehow depends on their actions.They recount having “made a decision for Christ,” proudly displaying the date carefully written in their Bibles as iron-clad proof of their conversions. They talk about their spiritual gifts of “speaking in tongues” and “discerning demonic spirits,” pointing to subjective experiences of “words” from God.

Or they may draw more on Eastern Mysticism, employing yoga, breathing techniques, or Tai Chi to release whatever “spiritual entity” that dwells within them. Attempts at altruism may be their chosen vehicle, or religious practices like prayer beads. They “pray through” labyrinths (that chalk one on Boston Commons creeps me out), mediate while coloring intricate mandalas in “adult coloring books,” pray “breath prayers” or have erotic dates with Jesus.

And if they’re not Charismatic, they dazzle you with their firm grasp on eschatology or how many Bible verses they’ve memorized. They attend every church activity without fail, and  “serve” on several committees. Even daily Bible reading, done with the attitude that getting through a certain  amount of chapters per day, can be perverted into a way to merit God’s applause.

But God simply isn’t impressed with our attempts to reach Him. From His perspective, human potential is, frankly, putrid to Him.

We have all become like one who is unclean,
    and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
    and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. ~~Isaiah 64:6 (ESV)

The phrase, “filthy rags” means menstrual cloths–eww! Not a very flattering image of human efforts to actuate God’s power, is it? This ugly verse, however, is only one of many to expose humanity’s helplessness to  redeem itself. I’ve chosen to use it here because its graphic imagery shocks me (and hopefully shocks you) into realizing that He despises our attempts to earn His regard.

God cannot accept human offerings (unless they come with humble acknowledgment that even those offerings originally come from Him) because He will not share His glory. He declares that we cannot do it. That we are intrinsically helpless…completely dependent on the Lord.Yet, wondrously, that very helplessness opens the way for Him to reach us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. ~~Romans 5:6 (ESV)

He calls us to lay aside our repugnant endeavors to attain His favor, blessing or power, realizing that He does it! His work on the Cross finished everything, and His Resurrection from the dead gives us power that comes only from Him. We can kick and scream like tyrannical babies all we want, and He may abandon us to our delusions of autonomy. But the true Christian finds peace in surrendering to the Lord’s soothing reassurance: “It is finished.”

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