Sunday, March 20, 2011

Deceit Recognized

It has been days since I have had the strength to type on the blog-rolls (aside from my St. Patty's greeting at KOG!)  Such is the way of the enemy when a serious message needs to be delivered.  Spiritual Warfare is hard, but it proves that God is calling us to do something great or important.  As I type this I am listening to Aaron Shust sing "To God Alone".  I am drawing strength from the prayer that preceded this session and as you read on, I pray that the message I have to share today sparks a desire in your heart to dig deep, see truth, and lean on the Lord Jesus for strength and guidance....

It started with a book by Brian McLaren, "Finding Our Way Again; the return of the ancient practices".  I requested this manuscript in the hopes of gathering some 'training material' for our ministry.  I signed up with  Book Sneeze to receive it for free in return for a fair review of the material.*

What I didn't expect was the kind of 'training' I received.  Instead of learning how to share the gospel, develop a closer relationship with Christ, or shine the light on the idea that it's not about religion, it's about relationship... I found myself plopped down in the middle of a battle field.  Crossfire whizzing by overhead.  Before I could gain my bearings I was belly down, crawling along the hard dirt ground... trying to make my way to the nearest fox hole without being turned to Swiss cheese by the bullets of lie and deception.

Faith in this new millennium has become a battleground.  It has sickened me and torn at my heart to see this.  As a missionary called to speak into the lives of Americans in the United States it is ever obvious.  The multitude of religions, the agnostics, the atheists, the Darwinists; believing in alien seeding, evolution with or without God as part, religious doctrine that casts judgement and gives Christianity a bad name, anarchists who just want it all torn down and people left to fend for themselves... most if not all has NO scientific or experiential basis.  My heart breaks.

I thought this book would give me answers to all that.

The answers I got were that this war is waging in all realms, in all sectors, and some of the gunfire issues from what looks like Christianity but is actually the enemy in disguise. God revealed to me, it is time someone spoke out.

“But I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman—that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet—to lead my servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin and to eat food offered to idols. “Therefore, I will throw her on a bed of suffering,and those who commit adultery with her will suffer greatly unless they repent and turn away from her evil deeds."  - Revelation 2:20,22

"Finding Our Way Again" is introduced with this thesis:
"We have lost the path and are seeking to rediscover our faith as a way of life shaped and strengthened by ancient practices..."

Mr. McLaren goes on to support this statement by asserting these paths to obtaining a rediscovery of our faith:
  • - Spiritual Practices: in which he claims it is not about spirituality but about humanity, to build character
  • - Aliveness: here he refers back to the claims of Spiritual Practices and adds that we should open our eyes to see what really goes on around us and embrace it as "real" and worth living for
  • - Using Aliveness and Spiritual Practices to Stay Awake To God: to join Him

It isn't until the end of the book that he shares the fourth path to spiritual enlightenment:
  • - Rediscover the Ancient Ways: the Abrahamic practices that tie the three main world religions together (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam)

At first glance these directives seem noble.  And, truly, they are.  But, "Buyer Beware".

"And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ," - Philippians 1:9-10

For those who walk in the light and peace of Jesus Christ, you have the Holy Spirit residing in you.  His voice will speak to you when scandal is afoot.... and you must listen.  From the moment I cracked the cover of this book, I heard His voice whisper to me, "Be mindful".

Mr. McLaren craftily supported his theories.  Often making very good and just points of love and tolerance of all peoples regardless of religion, race, or economic status.  A true Christian character trait should espouse that theory.  I even used his reference to an artist under the tutelage of his Master in my March missions newsletter.

But this is the the trickery the enemy uses.  Taking what is honest and pure about Jesus and the scriptures and tainting it with ideas from man.  I wish to use the platform of this book review to issue some key phrases and ideas to WATCH FOR when reading what seems to be Christian material:

Social Justice is a statement Mr. McLaren uses often and an idea (upon some biographical research) he strongly promotes.  Social Justice on the surface seems like a viable idea.  It advocates for the rights of the less fortunate, equality, and order.  However, the means to achieving Social Justice are more commonly implemented by government rule over rights and distribution of wealth (meaning, if you want to obtain any kind of wealth... forget it!  Even your rights and choices are taken away and controlled)

Jesus Freak is presumed to be a cliche' adopted in the 60's and 70's and often applied to people who are crazy about Christ.  However, if someone claims to support this movement (like Mr. McLaren does in this book) they are essentially admitting to being part of a group that was experimenting in religious socialism.  A mini-test to communal living where they oppose individualism and democracy and all belongings and finances were evenly distributed among the commune.

The 3 Main World Religions are the Same which is just not true.  Up through Abraham we may have a lot of commonalities but beyond that, the other two religions obscure the truth of Christ.  Only Christianity preaches this Truth and Light that Jesus is the way to heaven.  I don't believe we should war with opposing views but I do believe it is our obligation to put our light on the lampstand in this matter.  Greying the lines only makes it quicker and easier to corrupt what is good and right... don't be fooled.  Mr. McLaren not only makes this bold reference but he also refers more to our relationship with God and seems to avert to what a true relationship with Christ should be.  Red Flag right there.  Christianity should spend more time preaching the gospel of Christ then just focusing on a feel-good idea of God.  The scriptures have so much fact, there is no need to weed in our fiction.

"We need a fusion of the sacred and secular" is a direct quote from pages 4 and 5.  It is not true.  We need to keep what is sacred... that is what makes it so.  We do need to take our light and walk into the middle of what is secular in order to shine the Love of Christ more brightly.  But a fusion, no.  If you taint what is sacred with what is secular you are muddying the waters of the purity of Christ and His message to live as an example.

"Like a muddied fountain and a polluted spring is a righteous man who yields, falls down, and compromises his integrity before the wicked." - Proverbs 25:26 (Amplified)
"Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” - 1 Corinthians 15:3

"The kind of person you are becoming determines how much of God you can experience and even which version" another direct quote... where do I start?  First of all , this statement suggests God is changing and therefore reality is changing as well.  In fact, God is unchanging, He is eternal, and truth is not relative.  Truth is embodied in Christ.  Second of all, you either experience God or you don't... there is no in between.

“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed." - Malachi 3:6

"Accordingly God also, in His desire to show more convincingly and beyond doubt to those who were to inherit the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose and plan, intervened (mediated) with an oath." - Hebrews 6:17 (Amplified)

Jesus is like Mohamed, Abraham and Moses because he had an encounter with God, another assertion in this book which is just not true.  Jesus was God in flesh.  How do you encounter yourself?  This is another attempt to grey the lines of faith and devalue all that Christ stood for.

"And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” - Acts 4:12

It is ok to combine different beliefs, Mr. McLaren suggests this when talking about a Buddhist who excepts Christ and how they should not forgo their Buddhist practices in light of their new-found faith.  Jesus says "I am the way, the truth, and the life, no-one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6)  How can a person worship both Christ and Buddha and still receive true blessings from above?

"No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other..." - Luke 16:13

Social Gospel sounds... interesting.  Socially sharing the gospel?  Or, what I thought with "socialism" being the word of the decade, was Socialism in Gospel.  Guess what?  I was right.  It is applying the gospel to social problems typically by way of Social Justice.  Most supporters of Social Gospel believe that Jesus can't return until we rid earth and mankind of its problems.  What supporters of the Social Gospel don't realize is that Sin entered the world in the Garden of Eden.  As a result the happenings on earth are strongly influenced by Satan and absolute purity on this planet is impossible without Christ coming first, not the reverse as inferred by proponents of the Social Gospel.

"Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me... You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." - John 8:42,44

The socialistic undertones in this book lend to Mr. McLaren's idea that man should solve the problems of our culture by getting everyone closer to the God of Abraham (not the Lord Jesus Christ).  By suggesting this he blurs the lines of true faith in Jesus and suggests that MAN is the source of change. Only God can issue change.  Man's job is to put his light on the lampstand, preach the Good News, stand firm in our faith, and, not for a minute, think we can do it of our own strength by passing laws or letting go of Truths in order to accommodate the lost.

"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth." Revelation 3:16-17

Theistic Evolution or Evolutionary Creationism states that God created the earth and placed all the ingredients here needed for life.  Those ingredients then evolved and formed as per Darwin's Theory of Evolution.  I could write on about this for hours.  When I discovered this term I did a great deal of research that, perhaps, I may share another time.  I did receive an interesting fact last week:
“Genesis is quoted from or referred to in the rest of the Bible more than any other book of the Bible. In the New Testament alone, there are at least 200 quotations from—or references to—Genesis. In fact, there are over 100 citations or direct references in the New Testament to the first eleven chapters of Genesis. And every one of those eleven chapters is referred to somewhere in the New Testament.
“If Genesis isn’t true, then Jesus Christ would have been lying. Also, the rest of the Bible collapses, since every biblical doctrine of theology—directly or indirectly—is founded in the book of Genesis. That’s why Genesis is referred to so often throughout the Bible. Believing Genesis is the key to fully understanding God’s Word.” -Answers in Genesis
In Chapter 18 of "Finding Our Way Again" Mr. McLaren speaks in depth about his beliefs in Theistic Evolution.

"Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." - John 1:3

Progressive Evangelical or Progressive Christianity believes in the "love one another" aspect of the gospel... which is good.  However, they believe in fulfilling that calling by social justice.  They believe that salvation is only found as a collective and not as an individual and therefor all social and environmental problems need to be solved or fixed.  Again, we should be accepting and loving towards fellow man, but we should not sacrifice of our beliefs or demean the gospel to accommodate other systems of belief.  Progressive Christianity often seeks to do just that.

Social Action applied in the realm of faith and politics ultimately says that the ends justify the means.  It doesn't matter what you have to do to get to where you want to be.  Sacrifice morals, ideas, beliefs... just as long as you reach the ultimate goal you want to achieve.  Not only does this morph into self-actualization, deaming acts worthwhile only if they improve upon self determined goals and ideas, but this leaves out what our primary focus should be which is Jesus Christ and the simplicity of His teaching... which does not call us to step on anyone for any reason.  His example shows us to stay true to our faith, no matter the consequences. 

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful." - Hebrews 10:23

All of the terms and ideas above are just a basis.  There are many other ways the enemy tweaks terms and conversations to serve his purpose.  "Finding Our Way Again" revealed a path that sought to lead to the edge of a cliff.  It set me in a battlefield where all sides were yelling and shooting at each other.  Mr. McLaren spent more time quoting non-experts, socialists and even some atheists than he spent quoting the Bible itself witch brings up another point:

When reading a book about faith EVERY chapter should have at least one if not multiple quotes from the Bible, intertwined with the text of the book and used to support all ideas discussed. Without God's Word, the ideas in Christian manuscripts are nothing more than ideas.  "Finding Our Way Again" spent many chapters without quoting from God's word and some of the quotes were inadequately used.

Whether we are reading books, listening to politicians, enjoying a good sermon, or talking with an acquaintance... if they espouse any one of the views discussed above we MUST proceed with caution.  This is the vocabulary of the enemy.  He is crafty and shifting and can take on the form of Christian ideology in order to draw you in. The enemy knows we are smart so his plans have become more creative and deceiving, but do not loose hope.  Lean on Christ and listen to His Holy Spirit speak the Truth within you.

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." - Romans 12:2

Most of all, speak out for your faith.  Don't be afraid to declare the Truth.  Warn people of false teachers so they are not deceived.  Wave a hand before blind eyes and pray that they might see.  We may not be able to stop the evils that run rampant in this world but we can certainly set our lights out on our lampstands or in our windows.  We can spread the word of Truth when lies seem to prevail.

Truth does not change.  This book would have you believe you need to change to see the changing truth... and you don't.  Simply put... I give this book two thumbs way down, 5 negative stars, and I recommend that everyone pass it on!  All books by Brian McLaren spread the same horrific message, encourage others not to support his message.

* This book review is my opinion alone.  Book Sneeze provided this book free of charge in exchange for my honest opinion.

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