En Gedi: Finding rest in the wilderness!

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Posts Tagged ‘BIBLICAL’

Be My God in the Wilderness

Posted by Scott on June 25, 2009

In 1823, Glass signed on with a crew of trappers heading up the Missouri River to Ft Henry, in southwestern Montana.  Halfway to their destination, Glass, who was about 40 years old, was tracking game when he stumbled upon a mother grizzly and her two cubs.    The bear reared up and dug her teeth deep into his flesh, ripping off large chunks of raw flesh.  His companions came down the path and shot the large six-foot creature through the head and the bear collapsed dead on top of Glass.  The hunters, thinking there was no way the man could live through the night, made him a bed out of buffalo hide and watched for him to die.  However, the next morning, Glass was still alive.  The leader of the mission, Major Andrew Henry, decided that the trappers needed to move out of the hostile Arikara Indian territory and paid two men to stay with Glass in what they thought was his final hours of life.  Glass, however, held on to life.  After three more days, the men paid to stay with Glass abandoned the trapper, taking his knife and his gun.

Glass woke up and found himself alone and unable to stand up and walk.  he began to crawl on his belly the estimated 100 plus miles back to Ft Kiowa.  This crawl was through the middle of the feared Arikara Indian territory.  So, inch by grueling inch, Glass, crawled along and had learned as a young man from the Pawnee Indians how to survive off the land.  He dragged himself through the rough rugged land, getting his strength by eating wild berries and rotting meat from carcusses of buffalo calves killed by wolves.  After nearly six months, Glass crawled into the town of Ft Kiowa.  After a lengthy time of healing, Glass, resumed his life as a trapper again.  It would be a nice ending if he lived happily ever after right, but ten years later while on a trip along the Yellowstone Rive, the feared untamed Arikara Indians killed Glass dead.

A story like this keeps us glued to each sentence does it not?  The trauma, the pain, the desolation, the coldness, then the heat, the spilled blood, loss of flesh, the fear, the loneliness and more are all a part of the wilderness.  People who have survived such traumatic situations in the wilderness have experienced some or all of the traits I mentioned before.  Nearly anyone who found themselves in the wilderness would tell us they really did not think they would come out of it alive.

All of us probably could tell of a story of wondering in the wilderness while setting in the middle of our living rooms, setting in a pew at church, at our desk at the office, or any other day to day place we go.  The wilderness does not have to be hundreds of miles from us, it can be right where we are at this very moment.  The lonely feeling in the middle of twenty friends, the coldness on a ninety five degree day, or the depression before the sun comes up over what most would seem is a great life, all of these expressions and more can infect our very souls when captured in a desolate wilderness that no one can drag us out of or possibly even find us there.

This takes us to another true story from the Old Testament of the Bible.  We find Moses as a young man in his late thirties living life large.  He has everything he could ever want or need.  He has the finest education in the land, can go wherever he so desires.  I would say that Moses was not found “wanting” for anything by today’s worldly standards.  However, Moses found himself growing deeply troubled by the treatment of his blood kinsmen in the land.  He could sense God’s calling on his life to get his people out of Egypt, but how or where.  After the death of an Egyptian soldiers at the hands of Moses, he ran…he ran so far the Egyptians could not find him. 

Moses found himself in the desert wilderness, desolate and starving at a sheep ranch.  The smelly, dirty, rank life of a sheep herder was before him.  So, for forty years Moses went from the top of the business world to tending the backsides of nasty sheep.  The arrogance, self-determination, and self-reliance faded away over the forty years in the desert wilderness.  Moses learned a great deal while in this desolate dry land, but most of all he was pressed down to total obedience to God and ready to take commands and do things God’s way in the release of the Israelites from Egyptian captivity.

God places us in humiliating situations in strange ways, but it is necessary in order for us to understand the importance of total denial of our self and total obedience to His commands.  Self-denial is described in many ways, but most vivid is we are to murder everything about our selves that gets in the way of obedience to God.  Whatever we do, say or think that draws our desires from doing what God wants us to do should be spiritually mortified.  The wilderness experiences of professional trapper, Hugh Glass and God’s commander on the ground in Egypt, Moses, came at what they would tell you a “strange time”.  As Believers, however, we must embrace the wilderness experiences as a purposeful part of God’s sovereign plan.  God’s plan is to use us in the advancement of His kingdom and His greater glory.  We must yield ourselves to this season of life when we feel lonely, traumatized, in horrific pain, bleeding from exposed flesh, so hungry our ribs are showing or thirsty.  The strength, direction, and ability to learn are planted deep within us by God Himself and when needed, He will draw out of that well.

The wilderness in my own life has been a time that God has revealed, through His Word, just how big He really is.  He has pulled me beyond my comforts, pummeled my arrogance to the ground, humiliated me into a corner, and jerked all of my securities not founded in Him from underneath my feet putting me on my back looking straight up to Him.  He uprooted my family, taking our home and placed us in another land.  At times it does get lonely, desolate, jobless, food-less, painful, and emotionally draining.  I have been jerked awake many mornings in a sweat in fear of the unknown followed by days of deep debilitating depression.  I hope to show in future writings just what God taught me in my travels through the spiritual & financial wilderness.  The training ground found in the wilderness yielded such rich spiritual food directly from the hand of God that no silver spoon found in this lush plentiful land of the world are not worthy to deliver it to my mouth. 

I have a favorite saying that I have internalized that has been adapted from John Piper, “God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him in the deepest parts of the wilderness.”  I must be found totally satisfied in His glory, His presence, His Being even in the middle of the most traumatic depressing wilderness I could ever imagine. 

The wilderness is not easy, it is not a time of pampered rest.  The wilderness is a working season of life that we are required to trust God more, listen to God more, lay our souls bare, mortify our sinfulness daily, and speak only when God prompts us to do so.  It is a working ranch that smells foul at times, causes us to be sick to our stomachs, can leave your wondering, and may cause blisters on your heart, but at the end of the wilderness is where we meet the foot of the mountains and start our ascent to better lands…our climb to the higher ground of God’s greatest pleasure, His own glory.

-scott bailey (c) 2009

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70,000 Christians displaced in India!

Posted by Scott on December 3, 2008

India – More than 70,000 Christians displaced in Orissa

UPDATE: The Voice of the Martyrs contacts working to assist believers affected by attacks in Orissa state report that more than 70,000 Christians have been displaced and forced to live in refugee camps.

“At the Peyton Sahi relief camp which houses 35 families and 130 distraught tribals, Chabila Naik, a man who ran an orphanage for 50 children in Sarangada spent three days in the forest after their houses and churches were razed [with fire]. He has not been reunited with the children,” VOM sources said.

Stories coming from persecuted believers in Orissa are heartbreaking. Christians spent days hiding in the forest following the attacks that erupted on August 24, after the murder of a prominent Hindu leader by Maoist extremists. “One family which did not want to be named said they had to leave their elderly mother in the jungles while the others walked through rain and darkness for 60 hours to get out of Kandhmal,” VOM sources added.

“We had no choice; I could either save my wife and two kids, or stay with her and ask for death for all of us. But, I am sure God has saved her, though I have no idea where she is,” the man told VOM sources with tears in his eyes.

VOM is assisting displaced believers in Orissa and other areas in India where persecution has spread. Pray for believers who face these intense hardships and have in some cases lost contact with family members. Ask God to protect them and provide for their needs. Pray their testimonies will draw nonbelievers into fellowship with Him.

News provided by Voice of the Martyrs.

To contribute to the cause and others Living Stones Ministry is seeking to raise $1,000 in the month of December to be used for purchases of nearly 100 Action Packs that are to be filled with blankets, clothing, towels, and other new or slightly used items.  100% of the gifts that come in will go for causes in India, Packistan, China, and Indonesia.  You can send your gifts to LIVING STONES MINISTRY, C/O SCOTT & DANA BAILEY @ PO BOX 213, PROSPER, TEXAS 75078.  Upon receipt of your gifts we will send you a prayer brochure with a free book or DVD offer inside from Voice of the Martyrs.  Thanks for your consideration and gifts.  If you cannot give financially, that fine, because we need prayer warriors for these regions as well.  May the Lord bless your giving and/or prayers.

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What is faith and salvation to you? All to Jesus….

Posted by Scott on November 7, 2008

Watch this 3 part video from great preachers of old:  Tozer, Ravenhill, & Reidhead.  The lettering is hard to read, but the messages from these men are timely and just as relevant as they were the day they were spoken as God’s Word is still relevant today as it was 2000 plus years ago.  Let the messages with God’s Holy Word pierce you deep.


PART 1

PART 2

PART 3

We should have no other plans or purposes in this life other than to glorify our Almighty God!

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A Halloween that changed the world!

Posted by Scott on October 31, 2008

On October 31, 1517, something happened that changed the world. No, it had little to do with Halloween. Do you know what it was? Even the man who did it didn’t know the effect it would have. On October 31, 1517, a Roman Catholic Augustinian monk and priest by the name of Martin Luther (1483-1546) nailed a notice on the door at Wittenberg Castle church in Germany. To Luther, it was a relatively small act. This was the common way of scheduling a debate in those days. But the world has not been the same since.

Martin Luther is one of my favorite historical characters. This is not because he was perfect. He certainly had flaws (don’t we all?). It is because he so bravely stood for what he believed to be right and, by doing so, certainly helped to pierce the veil of darkness that then shrouded the world. Four hundred ninety years ago this month he nailed his famous “ninety-five theses” to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany.

Martin was the firstborn son of Roman Catholic parents. His father Hans was a miner who scraped up enough money to send his brilliant son to university; there Martin studied the law. He earned his bachelor of arts in 1503 and his master of arts degree in 1505 at the age of twenty-three.

One July day, a thunderstorm frightened Martin as he walked along. He begged Saint Anne, the miner’s saint, for help, and vowed to become a monk. A few days later, Martin joined the Augustinian monastery at Erfurt.

In those days, almost everyone in Europe was a Roman Catholic. Martin Luther hoped to find salvation for himself by being a perfect monk. He did all the prayers and works and confessions required of him. He venerated the relics. But he still felt unworthy of God. He believed he could never please God; he knew his sins and his sinful nature remained and that he was worthy only of eternal punishment.

He talked to one of the supervisors in his monastery about his troubled thoughts but found no peace in the solutions offered by the Roman Catholic teaching. Luther was given the jobs of teaching and preaching, so he spent a lot of time studying the Scriptures. Finally, God showed him the answer to his doubts. “The just shall live by faith,” wrote the apostle Paul in Romans 1:17. This meant that Martin could be justified (declared not guilty and seen as righteous) before God only by faith (putting his trust in Jesus Christ as His Savior), not by any works he could do. In Scripture, he had found the truth, and the truth had set him free!

Luther began to teach this doctrine to others. But he found himself in conflict with many of the Roman Catholic doctrines. He felt certain that the wrong doctrines could be straightened out by study and debate. He felt sure that the pope and the leading men of the Roman Catholic Church sincerely wanted to teach right doctrine from the Bible. He believed the church leadership had merely slipped into error, and they would readily correct themselves when the errors were exposed. This is why he nailed ninety-five points for debate to the church door on 31 October 1517. He wanted to initiate a scholarly debate.

But the reaction he received was vastly different than he expected, in two ways. First, the pope and leaders of the church did not want to debate. They did not want to change anything. They did not believe they were wrong! They firmly believed the authority to interpret Scripture lay with the pope and the church’s traditional teachings. They had no intention of listening to a German monk!

Second, the citizens of Wittenberg and many other areas began reading what Luther had written, and were in great agreement with it. (It had been originally written in Latin, the language of scholars and of the church, but it was very soon translated into the common German language.) Luther’s ideas and teaching spread like wildfire throughout Germany and soon to distant parts of Europe.

Luther continued to write about the doctrines he was finding in the Bible. He began teaching many things that were contrary to the official Roman Catholic teachings. He wrote several tracts and booklets. He was sincerely attempting to wake up and clean up the Roman Catholic Church. He was truly trying to educate the people in Scripture, for up until this time, people only knew and believed what the church leaders told them. Most people could not read Latin, or even get their hands on a Bible. Now, they were hearing the words of Scripture, which had been kept hidden from them by their leaders. They were astonished and edified by what they were now reading.

The pope was trying to raise money, by various methods, to build St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. One of the methods was to sell indulgences. A friar named Tetzel came into the neighborhood hawking these slips of paper. He taught the common people a jingle that said something like, “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs.” Many people still assumed the Roman Catholic Church and the pope had authority over them. The only way to have forgiveness of sins, they believed, was to get it from the pope. The people were eagerly buying these indulgences to free their loved-ones from purgatory and to give themselves license to sin. Martin Luther spoke out against this practice saying it is not in line with the teachings of the Bible. The pope and other church leaders found their sales dropping off and decided to put a stop to this Martin Luther!

Luther was summoned to a religious court hearing before the Emperor Charles V, church leaders, and civil leaders in the city of Worms, Germany. They asked him to retract his writings. They commanded him to stop teaching contrary to the Roman Catholic Church. He replied, “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason, for my conscience is captive to the Word of God, I cannot and I will not recant for it is neither right nor safe for a Christian to go against his conscience. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.”

Charles V pronounced Luther an outlaw. He declared, “We want him to be apprehended and punished as a notorious heretic.” He also made giving food or shelter to Luther a crime and gave permission for anyone to kill Luther. Luther escaped death because of the daring, undercover operation of Frederick III, Elector of Saxony (the part of Germany where Luther lived). Frederick had Luther “kidnapped” by masked men and whisked off to Wartburg Castle, where Luther grew a beard and, for about eleven months, pretended to be a knight. During his stay at Wartburg, Luther continued to write. He also translated the New Testament from Greek into German so his countrymen could read it for themselves in their own language.

Many began to look to Scripture alone as the authority for their beliefs. They began to reject the authority of the pope and the Roman Catholic Church. The people questioned Roman Catholic doctrines. Most importantly, many began to rely on faith in Christ’s atonement and righteousness for their salvation, instead of upon works, penance, and indulgences.

But while at Wartburg, the Reformation began to get out of Luther’s control. He returned to Wittenberg to try to stop people who wanted to make extreme changes beyond what he had taught. Luther considered these people (who included Anabaptists) to be radicals and troublemakers because they were preaching the equality of man, the separation of church and state, and believer’s baptism. To Luther, this was going too far.

We might wonder how Luther could think this. But it might help if we try putting ourselves in his place. He was born into an extremely dark time in history. He was a monk and priest in a church that claimed to be the only way to salvation, yet it did not understand the Gospel. And, unlike today, Luther could not just read the writings of ministers in other churches or walk out of the Catholic Church and into a Bible-believing church to get help. Any churches outside of the Roman Catholic Church were small, persecuted, scattered in the wilderness, and secretive. Luther was brought up in, educated in, and totally surrounded by a worldview that contradicted the Gospel. But despite this handicap, God, by His grace, opened Luther’s mind to the Gospel and used him to light a light in that dark world.

True, his doctrines and practices were not perfect. But would any one of us, coming from the same background, living in the same circumstances, have done any better? Not only did God use him to directly preach the Gospel, but his influence resulted in many others preaching the Gospel. In fact, Luther was probably the most influential man to have lived from the time of the apostles to now. The Protestantism that sprang from his movement has helped to mold our civilization.

It is also true that some of the radicals did go too far and introduce violence. Luther wrote, “Do you know what the Devil thinks when he sees men use violence to propagate the gospel? He sits with folded arms behind the fire of hell, and says with malignant looks and frightful grin: ‘Ah, how wise these madmen are to play my game! Let them go on; I shall reap the benefit. I delight in it.’ But when he sees the Word running and contending alone on the battle-field, then he shudders and shakes for fear.”

One of the most controversial events in Luther’s life was his connection to the Peasants’ War that started in 1524. At first, Luther expressed sympathy for the peasants’ complaints. But when the peasants became violent, Luther himself instigated violence by telling the nobility to treat the peasants without pity and put them down like mad dogs: “Whosoever can, should smite, strangle, and stab, secretly or publicly.”

So, Martin Luther was a complex person. He made great strides in some areas, especially in promoting the authority of the Bible alone, justification by faith alone, and freedom of the conscience. Yet, odd as it may seem to us today, Luther could not see that these teachings opened the door to more civil and religious freedom than he was willing to allow in his time. But these freedoms would inevitably come as people, including the Anabaptists and other radicals whom Luther tried to suppress, took these ideals to their natural conclusions, resulting in the religious freedoms and open society we have today.

© Copyright 2007 Peter and Mary Ditzel wordofhisgrace.org

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Does God Predestine Some to Hell? Great Video by Mark Kielar

Posted by Scott on October 29, 2008

Romans 9:17-18

17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”[a] 18Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

Exodus 7:2-5

2 You are to say everything I command you, and your brother Aaron is to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his country. 3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, 4 he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. 5 And the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.”

Exodus 9:12

12 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said to Moses.


So, God either actively or passively intervenes in peoples lives.  The same opportunities to accept the gospel are present, but the intervention of God is different.  Remember also, God’s common grace that all men enjoy whether deserved or not.  Without the hand of God restraining this vile evil that exist in man, the world would not be tolerable by any human being or beast.  God is Sovereignly at work in the lives of His people for our greater good and ultimately His greater glory.   Praise the Lord He first loved me and sought me out like the hound on the trail of a rabbit…nothing will deter the will of God.


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Quiet Heroes!

Posted by Scott on October 7, 2008

Quiet Heroes by A.W. Tozer

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth…. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. –Matthew 5:5-8

We have but to become acquainted with, or even listen to, the big names of our times to discover how wretchedly inferior most of them are. Many appear to have arrived at their present eminence by pull, brass, nerve, gall and lucky accident. We turn away from them sick to our stomach and wonder for a discouraged moment if this is the best the human race can produce. But we gain our self-possession again by the simple expedient of recalling some of the plain men we know, who live unheralded and unsung, and who are made of stuff infinitely finer than the hoarse-voiced braggarts who occupy too many of the highest offices in the land. . . .

. . . the church also suffers from this evil notion. Christians have fallen into the habit of accepting the noisiest and most notorious among them as the best and the greatest. They too have learned to equate popularity with excellence, and in open defiance of the Sermon on the Mount they have given their approval not to the meek but to the self-assertive; not to the mourner but to the self-assured; not to the pure in heart who see God but to the publicity hunter who seeks headlines. Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 96-97.

“Lord, I thank You this morning for all the unknown but faithful pastors serving churches in quiet places. We do place a lot of emphasis on the ‘personalities’ and big-church leaders. Thank You for the ‘quiet heroes‘ and their faithful service; give them great encouragement today. Amen.”

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The End of the Nation? Russia Chooses Death Over Life

Posted by Scott on October 7, 2008

Reports out of Russia indicate that the recent military clash with Georgia may have represented something more like desperation than opportunism.  Murray Feshbach of The Washington Post reports that, all things considered, Russia is actually close to a national collapse.

“Predictions that Russia will again become powerful, rich and influential ignore some simply devastating problems at home that block any march to power,” Feshbach reports.  “Sure, Russia’s army could take tiny Georgia. But Putin’s military is still in tatters, armed with rusting weaponry and staffed with indifferent recruits. Meanwhile, a declining population is robbing the military of a new generation of soldiers. Russia’s economy is almost totally dependent on the price of oil. And, worst of all, it’s facing a public health crisis that verges on the catastrophic.”

The health crisis turns out to be a barometer of sorts — and a warning of a far greater disaster that looms.  Russia is falling into the rank of nations with the lowest life expectancy and highest rates of early death.  No one appears concerned enough to do anything.

As Feshbach reports:

Recent decades, most notably since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, have seen an appalling deterioration in the health of the Russian population, anchoring Russia not in the forefront of developed countries but among the most backward of nations.

This is a tragedy of huge proportions — but not a particularly surprising one, at least to me. I followed population, health and environmental issues in the Soviet Union for decades, and more recently, I have reported on diseases such as the HIV/AIDS epidemic ravaging the Russian population. I’ve visited Russia more than 50 times over the years, so I can say from firsthand experience that this national calamity isn’t happening suddenly. It’s happening inexorably.

According to U.N. figures, the average life expectancy for a Russian man is 59 years — putting the country at about 166th place in the world longevity sweepstakes, one notch above Gambia. For women, the picture is somewhat rosier: They can expect to live, on average, 73 years, barely beating out the Moldovans. But there are still some 126 countries where they could expect to live longer. And the gap between expected longevity for men and for women — 14 years — is the largest in the developed world.

The recent military incursion into Georgia, brutal as it was, may represent a futile attempt to show force while Russia still has force.  The number of young men of military age in the population is crashing — as is the number of young women who could give birth to future soldiers.

In order to understand this, consider this shocking headline from the St. Peterburg Times [Russia]:  “Experts — 64 Percent of Russian Pregnancies End in Abortion.”

As the paper reports:

The low birth rate remains one of the key reasons behind Russia’s ongoing demographic crisis. According to official statistics, every fourth teenage girl in Russia has some form of gynecological ailment or reproductive health disorder.

Each year in Russia, more than 64 percent of all pregnancies end in abortion, while in Western European countries the level is below 25 percent. By comparison, there are 10 to 15 abortions per 100 pregnancies in the U.K. and 5 or 6 per 100 in the Netherlands.

One in ten women who undergo an abortion in Russia is below 18 years of age, doctors say. Gynecological disease rates for teenage girls in 15-17 age group, have jumped by an alarming 30 percent in the last five years.

In a twist only Fyodor Dostoevsky might understand, Russian authorities, alarmed by the population collapse, declared 2008 as the ‘Year of the Family.’  Government campaigns to encourage bearing children were launched, but with no apparent impact.  In a stunning disconnect, the government still offers free abortions.

What country can live with aborting 64 percent of its babies?  How can such a nation survive?  It has brought death into its own wombs.  The babies who are born are the lucky few.  The vast majority never see life outside the womb.

In recent days The Los Angeles Times has reported that a small pro-life movement has begun in Russia, but without much influence as of yet:

A fledgling antiabortion movement is beginning to stir in Russia. Driven by a growing discussion of abortion as a moral issue and, most of all, by a government worried about demographics, doctors and politicians are quietly struggling to lower what is believed to be one of the world’s highest abortion rates..”

 

“The attitude has changed,” abortion practitioner Alexander Medvedev said. “Even in community clinics, doctors are trying to dissuade patients from abortion. Now teenagers come to see us with already two or three abortions, and it’s horrible.

The report indicates that some medical authorities and social observers are truly concerned, and exceptions for late-term abortions are harder to obtain. Nevertheless, the sheer number of abortions defies comprehension and appears unlikely to fall.  A reluctance to define the issue in moral terms means that authorities try to argue from the grounds of public health and population needs.  But once the moral ground is abandoned, so is the hope of any recovery.

Lincoln Steffens, an American apologist for the Bolshevik Revolution and the early Soviet regime, once infamously declared of the Soviets:  “I have been over to the future, and it works!”  Well, the current crisis in Russia may well be a warning of the future collapse of civilization.  Once a nation takes the Culture of Death into its heart, what rescue is possible?

________________________

The more familiar form of the quotation from Lincoln Steffens (“I have seen the future and it works!”) was not made known until after his death and may be a misquotation supplied by his widow.

 

 

For more on the article go to Al Mohler  and other articles by Dr. Al Mohler Jr.

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Critique of “The Shack”!

Posted by Scott on September 26, 2008

THE SHACK, “Elousia,” & the Black Madonna

IMAGINATION, IMAGE, AND IDOLATRY

By Pastor Larry DeBruyn

Herescope

Mackenzie Allen Philips’ youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack’s world forever. In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant “The Shack” wrestles with the timeless question, “Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?”
description of The Shack on www.amazon.com

God is Truth. That He is Truth distinguishes Him from idols which are false. Of the Lord, the prophet declared, “There is none like Thee, O Lord; Thou art great, and great is Thy name in might,” and explained of those who create idols, “But they are altogether stupid and foolish In their discipline of delusion—their idol is wood!” The prophetic commentary which follows then states, “Beaten silver is brought from Tarshish, And gold from Uphaz, The work of a craftsman and of the hands of a goldsmith; Violet and purple are their clothing; They are all the work of skilled men. But the Lord is the true God . . .” (Jeremiah 10:6-10, NASB).[1] In this vein, A.W. Tozer once wrote: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”[2]

But idols arise out of human imagination. Humanoids make god however they want him/her/it to be. In the description of the declension into idolatry, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man (Emphasis mine, Romans 1:21-23a, KJV). Imagination creates images — even idolatrous images — and the images can either be material or mental, actual or verbal.[3]

Words can create mental pictures. Someone once said that a picture is worth a thousand words. In an image-oriented age where people watch more and read less, this statement makes its point. But words can also create images. Through the mind’s eye, we see. Someone once defined idolatry as thinking wrong thoughts about God. So the question becomes, with the stroke of his verbal brush and in his bestselling novel The Shack, what picture of God does William P. Young create? I am fearful that the book’s painting of God, even though fictional, might promote the wrong image of Him.

The novel tugs at the emotional strings of its readers, and for just that reason the book has become a bestseller in the fiction category. I am therefore aware that I am about to tread where angels might not dare. This pastor realizes he is about to enter the personal and emotional space of the human heart. People feel very deeply about this book and its author. I ask only, as you read Young’s book with an open heart, that you might also read this theological review of the book with an open mind.

We now proceed to look at the theology of The Shack.[4] We turn to the ideas presented in the book about God. The god of The Shack (In this reference, I refuse to spell God with an upper case “G.”) is an imagined hermaphroditic trinity, consisting of a retreat center owner and hostess who goes by the name of “Elousia,” a carpenter-handyman by the name of “Jesus,” and a gardener who goes by the name of “Sarayu.” In order, we consider the three main characters, and another omniscient and sensual lady who goes by the name of “Sophia,” or Wisdom.

THE FIRST PERSON — At first mention, and according to Mack’s wife Nan’s understanding, the first person of the godhead goes by the name of “Papa” (perhaps alluding to the Apostle Paul’s designation of Him as “Abba,” Romans 8:15). But upon Mack’s arrival at The Shack, “Papa” morphs into a large and loving African-American woman named “Elousia” (i.e., a combination of the Hebrew name for God the Creator, “El,” and the Greek word “ousia” suggesting a Platonic meaning of “being” or “existence”).[5] Among other characteristics, “Elousia” describes herself as, “the Creator God who is truly real and the ground of all being.”(The Shack, 111).

This name for God appears to be borrowed from the writings of theologian Paul Tillich (1886-1965), who referred to God as “the Ground of Being.” By so designating deity, Tillich meant that, “God is not a being alongside others or above other but God is Being-itself or the Ground of Being.”[6] Likewise, to Tillich, “God is not a being, not even the highest of all beings; he is being itself, or the ground of being, the internal power or force that causes everything to exist.”[7] This conception of God compliments the conception of deity amongst devotees to the New Age/New Spirituality.

Even though Tillich’s assertions about deity were esoteric and complex, Young presents a Tillich-like scheme of deity who describes herself as “the ground of all being” that dwells “in, around, and through all things . . .” (The Shack, 112). Such a view of God is acknowledged to be panentheistic (i.e., God dwells “through all things”).[8] This may explain why, toward the end of his life, Tillich no longer prayed. He only meditated. To him there existed no personal or transcendental God to pray to. God was immanent only, his “ground of being.” So like an airplane, which is refused take-off for reason of mechanical failure, the concept of god in The Shack never gets off the “ground.” However, according to The Shack’s picturing of God, there may be a similarity even more startling.

Having finished reading The Shack, and while surfing the Internet, I was quite smitten when inadvertently, I ran across an internet article by Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox, The Return of the Black Madonna: A Sign of Our Times or How the Black Madonna is Shaking Us Up for the Twenty-First Century. Fox’s description of the Black Madonna (or the ancient Egyptian goddess Isis as she is alternately understood) included her supposed leading of distressed people to find emotional healing within themselves. This description seemed to possess, at first glance, an eerie parallel to the black goddess character (“Elousia”) created by William Young. The comparison upon further reading, study and thought, revealed that their similarity was more than just color. In both writings, two similar personages emerge. I proceed to note a few of the analogies between Fox’s Black Madonna and Young’s “Elousia.”

First, Fox states that, “The Black Madonna invites us into the dark and therefore into our depths. This is what the mystics call the ‘inside’ of things, the essence of things. This is where Divinity lies. It is where the true self lies. It is where illusions are broken apart and the truth lies.”[9]

In The Shack, we note the word “darkness” occurs frequently. It is as if darkness is archetypal to Mack’s Great Sadness. This is especially noticeable in his appearance before “Sophia.” In the chapter “Here Come Da Judge,” darkness is the dominant aura surrounding Mack’s experience. As he entered the cave, “with his hands outstretched in front of him, he ventured a couple of steps into the inky darkness and stopped.” (The Shack, 151). To create Mack’s experience, Young heaps up references to amplify “darkness”—“deep shadows . . . inky blackness . . . dim light . . . darkened room.” Similarly, in Fox’s words, the Black Madonna “invites us to enter into our grief and name it and be there to learn what suffering has to teach us.”[10] By entering the darkness, Mack dealt with his sadness. In contrast, 1 John 1:5 informs us that “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (KJV).

Second, Fox also notes, “The Black Madonna calls us to Grieve. The Black Madonna is the sorrowful mother, the mother who weeps tears for the suffering in the universe, the suffering in the world, the brokenness of our very vulnerable hearts.”[11] Fox goes on to say, “To grieve is to enter what John of the Cross in the sixteenth century called the ‘dark night of the soul.’ We are instructed not to run from this dark night but to stay there to learn what darkness has to teach us.”[12]

In The Shack, at the climactic moment when “Papa” (AKA “Elousia,” the black goddess) enfolded Mack into his/her arms and gently invited him to “Let it all out,” the story records that in a moment of emotional catharsis Mack “closed his eyes as the tears poured out . . . He wept until he had cried out all the darkness, all the longing and all the loss, until there was nothing left.” (The Shack, 226).

Third, Fox explains that “The Black Madonna calls us down to honor our lower charkas [sic] . . . The Black Madonna takes us down, down to the first charkas [sic] including our relationship to the whole (first chakra, as I have explained elsewhere is about picking up the vibrations for sounds from the whole cosmos), our sexuality (second chakra) and our anger and moral outrage (third chakra). European culture in the modern era especially has tried to flee from all these elements . . . in religion . . .The Black Madonna will not tolerate such flights from the earth, flights from the depths.”[13]

To those unacquainted with eastern religion, Fox’s words appear as mumbo-jumbo. But according to Yoga teaching, chakras are, “vortices that penetrate the body and the body’s aura, through which various energies, including the universal life force, are received, transformed, and distributed.”[14] It is believed that there are seven points of entry for the energy; among others, they include,

  • “The root (muladhara) [which] is located at the base of the spine and is the seat of kundalini . . .
  • The sacral (svadhisthana) [which] lies near the genitals and governs sexuality . . . [and]
  • The crown (sahasrara) [which] whirls just above the top of the head.”[15]

The experience of the entrance of energy into the body, which can happen spontaneously, is called kundalini (Sanskrit for “snake” or “serpent power,” named as such because of the belief that it lies coiled within the body ready to strike at any moment). Kundalini describes the mystical experience when energy enters the body and arouses the “sleeping serpent” (Shouldn’t we compare this to Genesis 3:1?). When that happens, wham . . .! This transient moment of arousal is defined to include, “physical sensations . . . clairaudience, visions, brilliant lights . . . ecstasy, bliss, and transcendence of self.”[16] With this description in mind, let’s look at one incident in The Shack to see if Mack, the novel’s main character, experienced kundalini.

Upon hearing the sensual Sophia ask him, during his journey into the darkness, “Do you understand why you’re here?” the novel records that, “Mack could almost feel her words (clairaudience) rain down on his head first (the 7th chakra) and melt into his spine (the 1st chakra), sending delicious tingles everywhere (the 2nd chakra). He shivered (physical sensations) and decided that he never wanted to speak again (transcendence of self). He only wanted her to talk (bliss) . . .” (The Shack, 153). What do you think? Did Mack experience kundalini? If so, then it came to him at a spontaneous moment in the darkness via the voice of the goddess-like Sophia.

Fourth, Fox states that, “The Black Madonna calls us to our Divinity which is also our Creativity.” He goes on to state that The Black Madonna “expects nothing less from us than creativity. Hers is a call to create, a call to ignite the imagination.”[17] On the next point Fox again states, “The Black Madonna calls us to Diversity. There is no imagination without diversity — imagination is about inviting disparate elements into soul and culture so that new combinations can make love together and new beings can be birthed.”[18] His Black Madonna calls us to a magical consciousness that has nothing to do with Scripture.

Likewise, when the goddess-like Sophia calls upon Mack to role play as The Judge, to sit in judgment over all other persons including God, she notes his pensiveness about assuming such an awesome responsibility. Sophia says to Mack: “‘Your imagination,’ she interrupted his train of thought, ‘is not serving you well at this moment’.” (The Shack, 160). In the Front Matter of the book, Greg Albrecht informs the potential reader, “You will be captivated by the creativity and imagination of The Shack, and before you know it, you’ll be experiencing God as never before.” Young’s novel itself serves to ignite the imagination, something Fox writes that the returning Black Madonna is also doing.

Other parallels between Fox’s Black Madonna and The Shack’s Elousia — their gender diversity, nurturing of hurting hearts, emphasis upon developing personal relationships, concern for the environment, and so on — form archetypal metaphors around which the mystery of life and suffering can be probed and explained, and upon which transcendent values can be formulated and applied for the social welfare and unity of the world’s diverse and divided population. These ecumenical metaphors are increasingly making their way into the evangelical church, especially via the Emergent Church.

The feminization of deity extends back to time immemorial. The Egyptian goddess Isis, in which Matthew Fox finds his precedence for the return of the Black Madonna, was likely the source for all the female deities of ancient Middle Eastern religion, including the idolatrous “queen of heaven” worshiped by the women and men of ancient Israel (Jeremiah 7:18-20; 44:15-19). The Black Madonna and “Elousia” find themselves in company with an idol goddess that Yahweh could not, and did not, tolerate before His face (Exodus 20:3-4). We now consider the second person of Young’s trinity.

THE SECOND PERSONThe Shack describes Jesus to be a quite human person, a relatively unattractive Middle Eastern Jewish man with a “big nose” who functioned as the retreat center’s repairman. (The Shack, 111). As regards Young’s portrayal of Jesus’ humanity, there is little disagreement. The author’s portrayal of Jesus in a literary symbolic sense seems reasonable and within the bounds of Scripture (See Matthew 1:1-17; Romans 1:3; Isaiah 53:2; Mark 6:3).

Nevertheless, the author leaves the door open for the idea that Jesus originated from “Papa-mama.” In explaining the derivation of woman from man, The Shack‘s Jesus tells Mack: “We created a circle of relationship, like our own, but for humans. She out of him, and now all males, including me, birthed through her (Eve), and ALL originating from God” (capital emphasis mine, The Shack, 148). Seemingly, this dialog makes Jesus’ birth to be as profane as the rest of humanity, thus calling into question His being the “only begotten of the Father” (meaning unique, or only one of His kind, John 1:14). Theologically, doubt is also aspersed upon Jesus Christ’s eternal generation.[19] After this assertion, the novel pictures Jesus’ desire to join all humans in “their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, into my Beloved.” (The Shack, 182)[20] In this regard, never once in the novel is Jesus (His human name) ever referred to as “Christ” (His self-chosen messianic and divine name, Matthew 16:16).

Young presents his readers with a very human Jesus who comes up short of being Christ. We turn now to the third member of The Shack’s trinity.

THE THIRD PERSONSarayu, the retreat center’s gardener — perhaps referring to Spirit’s production of fruit for Christian living (Galatians 5:22-23) — is the character meant to represent the Holy Spirit. Just after his introduction to her, Mack asks The Shack‘s Jesus, “Speaking of Sarayu, is she the Holy Spirit?” Jesus answers, “Yes, She is Creativity; she is Action; she is Breathing of Life; she is much more. She is my Spirit.” Mack responds, “And her name Sarayu?” Jesus explains, “That is a simple name from one of our human languages. It means ‘Wind,’ a common wind actually. She loves that name.”(The Shack, 110)

Sarayu is likely a Sanskrit word (the language that is the most important religious and literary language of India). It might also be construed to compare to the blowing of the wind in the necessary new birth spoken of by Jesus (John 3:8). But by naming the Spirit Sarayu, there seems to be allusion to the Rig Veda, the Hindu scriptures, for Sarayu bears semantic and phonetic resemblance to Vayu.[21] In so naming the Spirit with the Indic word for “wind,” is the author making overture to eastern religion?

Nevertheless, the novel’s impersonation of the Holy Spirit as female contradicts Jesus’ clear statement that the Spirit is neither an “it” nor a “she,” but “He” (John 16:13).

Is there a fourth member of Young’s polymorphous trinity? Maybe . . . we are left to our imagination.

WISDOMSophia, though separate from the trinity, but secluded not far away from the resplendent retreat center, is a divine-like lady-judge, who is wise in all the ways in which “Papa” conducts his/her affairs (See Proverbs 8:1-36; 1 Corinthians 1:24.). In her verbal exchanges with Mack, she clearly possesses clairvoyant, if not omniscient, perception. (The Shack, 156, 160)

IN CONCLUSION, The Shack, under the cover of biblical allusion, presents a god which may be likened to a deity of eastern mythology and mysticism. The reader ought to beware lest biblical allusion be used to peddle theological illusion. But you ask, “How can that happen?” How can scriptural allusion promote spiritual delusion? I would point out that Satan used biblical allusion to tempt Jesus. In the second phase of the temptation of Christ, Satan alluded to Psalm 91:11-12, to which Jesus responded by quoting Deuteronomy 6:16, “It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (See Matthew 4:5-6, KJV.). Presenting a potpourri of spirituality combining biblical allusion with mystical illusion and mythological delusion, The Shack will surely resonate with an Emergent Christian mindset that attempts to flirt with the New Age/New Spirituality of postmodernism. The fact that the novel is fiction makes no difference — it communicates wrong ideas about God. As A.W. Tozer wrote,

Wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous. The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true.

“Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear. The long career of Israel demonstrates this clearly enough, and the history of the Church confirms it. So necessary to the Church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards decline along with it. The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God.

“Before the Church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, ‘What is God like?’ and goes on from there. Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is, and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind.” [22]

THE TRUTH:

“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.” (2 Corinthians 11:3-4)

ENDNOTES
1. The Apostle Paul also remarked of the reputation of the church at Thessalonica how they, “turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God” (I Thessalonians 1:9). Scripture also records that both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are also Truth (John 14:6; 1 John 5:7, 20). In this vein, one must note John’s closing word: “Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).
2. A.W. Tozer,
The Knowledge of the Holy, The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1961) 12
.
3. The word “imagination” (Greek, dialogismos) literally means, “the thinking of a man deliberating with himself” (Romans 1:21, KJV). On this point, it is appropriate to note that
William P. Young accounts for the origin of his novel for reason of personal and private conversations he had with God on his daily work-commute from Gresham to Portland, Oregon. World magazine reports that, “Young used 80 minutes each day . . . to fill yellow legal pads with imagined conversations with God focused on suffering, pain, and evil.” (See Susan Olasky, “Commuter-driven bestseller,” World, June 28/July 5, 2008, 49.) Paul, the apostle states that idolatry germinates out of people “deliberating” within themselves. This is gnosis spirituality which is ever in contest with the Logos spirituality of the Bible. The Word finds its origin with God (John 1:1, 14). Gnosis, the basis of the New Age/New Spirituality, finds its origin in the mind of man, or perhaps might even be received from demons (1 Timothy 4:1).
4. In that in the Front Matter The Shack book receives rave theological kudos, it is not unfair to investigate and evaluate the book’s theology, especially the doctrine of God known to systematic theologians as the category of Theology Proper.
5. On this point, I find it interesting that the novel has not yet been accused of racial stereotyping, i.e., that God is pictured as being a “large” or “big black woman” (The Shack, 84, 86), and that Jesus comes from a Jewish nation of people with “big noses” (The Shack, 111).
6. John P. Newport, Paul Tillich (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1984) 108. Newport also observes that in the “grounding” of God, Tillich “seems to synthesize the pantheistic element of immanence with the theistic element of transcendence in a way that leans toward pantheism.” (110). Newport’s assessment may be too generous. At the end of his life, Tillich might have been an out and out pantheist. Of Tillich’s book, Courage to Be, Erickson remarks that it “appears to have more in common with Hinduism than it does with historic Christianity.” See Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998) 334.
7. Erickson, Theology, 333.
8. For sake of explanation, pantheism teaches that God is all things while panentheism holds that God dwells in all things. For sake of analogy, a tree is not God (pantheism), but the sap which is the “life force” in the tree is. God is “in” the tree, but the tree is not God. See Erickson, Theology, 333.
9. Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox, “The Return of the Black Madonna: A Sign of Our Times or How the Black Madonna Is Shaking Us Up for the Twenty-First Century,” Friends of Creation Spirituality, January 2006, Article Number 1 (
http://www.matthewfox.org/sys-tmpl/theblackmadonna/).
10. Ibid. Article Number 8.
11. Ibid.
12. Ibid.
13. Ibid. Article Number 3.
14. Rosemary Ellen Guiley, “Chakra,” Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experience (San Francisco: Harper Collins Publishers, 1991) 86.
15. Ibid. 86-87.
16. Guiley, “Kundalini,” Encyclopedia, 319.
17. Fox, “The Black Madonna,” Article Number 6.
18. Ibid. Article Number 7.
19. When it acknowledged Jesus to have been “begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead,” it might be construed that the Chalcedonian Creed (AD 451) allows for a concept that God originated Jesus (See
http://www.carm.org/creeds/chalcedonian.htm). However, to imagine the mystery surrounding the Trinity to be analogous to some kind of human begetting (i.e., as in the Mormon doctrine of God) is improper. The relationship of the Father and Son to each other is their personal relationship, and it would be well for us creatures not invade their privacy (i.e., mystery). Their relationship is theirs alone. Though the unity for which Jesus prayed may be compared to that of His with the Father, it is only similar to (“as”), but not the same as their unity (John 17:21).
20. In this regard, one can note the capitalization of “Beloved.” When used in the NASB translation of the Bible, “Beloved” is capitalized as when Paul wrote of the grace God bestowed upon the believer “in the Beloved” (in Christ, Ephesians 1:6, NASB, NKJV, NRSV, 1901 ASV). Thus when the “Jesus ” of The Shack said he desires people to be transformed “into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, into my Beloved” (The Shack, 182), it is as if Jesus envisions that humans can achieve a theotic state of “being” that morphs into divinity. While believers are “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), we are not consumed of it (Romans 7:14ff.).
21. “Word Mythology Dictionary: Vayu,” Answers.com (
http://www.answers.com/topic/vayu-2).
22. A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy,
9.

Pastor Larry DeBruyn is the author of Church on the Rise: Why I am not a Purpose-Driven Pastor. This article used with permission.

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The Centrality of the Family-Protestants, Baptist, Emergents Listen up!

Posted by Scott on August 13, 2008

I ask that you listen to a message by Voddie Baucham back in 2006.  This is still a timely message and worth listening to at least 5 times so that you have every part of it.

Message

 

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Rick Warren leading an unbiblical-ungodly call!

Posted by Scott on July 29, 2008

Christian broadcaster and author Tom McMahon says evangelical pastor Rick Warren’s belief that the church must take the lead in solving the world’s problems of poverty, disease, and war cannot be reconciled with the scriptures.

 

 

 

 

Pastor Warren will be hosting an interfaith meeting next month with 30 Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders “to discuss cooperation for the common good of all Americans.” Warren’s P.E.A.C.E. plan mobilizes churches to address global problems. But McMahon, president of The Berean Call ministry, says the popular Christian author is introducing evangelical Christianity to the social gospel that he learned from his mentor, social scientist Peter Drucker.
 
“As a Christian, as a biblical Christian, I have real concerns about this because I don’t find this in the scriptures,” McMahon explains. “You see, it’s true the world has all kinds of problems, but he’s working on the symptoms and avoiding the root cause, which is the sin nature of humanity. So how can you work with all kinds of people [who are] called ‘people of faith,’ but it’s not biblical faith?”
 
McMahon contends that only the biblical gospel can change the heart of man, and that Warren is compromising that by working with people who reject the gospel of Christ. He says that although Pastor Warren claims his life’s calling is “to proclaim the gospel truth of salvation in Jesus Christ,” it is doubtful that gospel will be proclaimed at the interfaith meeting.
 
“I believe that Rick has a low view of prophecy,” McMahon contends. “Well, I think he needs to heed the words of Jesus [in Luke 18:8]: ‘When the Son of Man cometh shall He find faith upon the earth?’  Well, ‘people of faith’ yes, but certainly not the faith that Jude exhorts true believers to contend for.”

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