We all enjoy the convenience of smart phones, especially being able to access scads of bibles, devotionals and sermons all at the swipe of an app. I use them. I’m glad for them.
But I’ve also become spiritually lazy through them. No more hunting through books…just input a few keywords and, voila! It’s all right there.
Among other things, technology has begun to erode my previously razor sharp memory, and my powers of deductive reasoning. I have begun to deliberately force myself to remember things in real world brain work, trying to avoid using Google to think for me. And as I’ve done so, I can feel the strength of God-given reasoning returning a synapse at a time. Like other muscles, the brain atrophies through lack of work and exercise.
Though technology has made the Bible easier, it’s done two other things. One- it has made us spiritually and Word-lazy. We don’t study to show ourselves approved unto God much, because we don’t have to. We just keyword, copy, paste…sort of glancing over the verse.
Now, I’ve never been good at “addresses” – you know, which chapter and verse. But from age 15 on, I was so hungry for the Word that I devoured it, reading it over and over. Not because I’m smart. In fact, my brain was just new age mush when I came to Christ. God’s Word healed me. And it supernaturally was put in my heart and in my mouth. I can quote the Word nonstop, though I can’t always tell you exactly where it is.
It’s not something I take any credit for. It is a miracle of the power of God’s Word. It will do the same for anyone who diligently reads His Word.
Now let me ask you a question, and please be honest: How often do you sit down and have a deep, anointed quiet time with your iBible? (Insert cricket sound here.)
Second question: when was the last time you picked up a real bible and had a deep, anointed quiet time with God?
If people are honest, many will admit that there is something major missing from the virtual devotional world. Yes, you might find a book quote snippet or two that sparks a fire, and I’m thankful for that. But I personally feel an emptiness staring at a screen version of God’s Word. But that’s just me. I love the book, the underliner, the lack of Facebook switching distraction (you know you do it!) and the silence and absence of artificial light. Just something to think about…
Next: if your only bible study is your virtual Bible, how much have you retained? If you come up lacking, I encourage you to get the hard copy, shut off the media and sit with God, slowly read, and let Him speak. It is powerful when you feel His presence come from those Holy pages and begin to make those words come alive to you. It is an intimacy I personally have never really obtained from a 4 inch phone version of the scriptures. Am I the only one?
But there are two other considerations we need to make in our attachment to virtual Bibles and virtual religious devotional lives.
The most immediate concern is this: One of the things that made us so strong as young believers when I was first saved was that we carried our Bibles to school, to work, to restaurants, everywhere. Yeah, pretty radical by today’s standards. But we knew it marked us, and friend, we WANTED to be marked! (Crazy Christians – aren’t you just showing off?) Hey – when your boyfriend/girlfriend buys you a ring or a locket, do you keep it at home in your drawer? If you’re engaged, do you hide the ring in your house, in your pocket? If you do, it’s probably a sign that you still want to “play the field.” Or you’re not really serious about getting married. Or maybe you’re kind of embarrassed by your fiance.
One of the bad things about smart bibles is it allows us to remain hidden secret believers. No one needs to know we’re a Christian. And we’re largely OK with that. Because, you know, we don’t want to offend anyone…
I’m glad for one of our local Christian school groups which is actually doing a challenge to the kids to carry their Bible for a number of days. And I know it will get them to think, as some will carry it and feel squeamish, trembly, uncertain. Many will get mocked. But many I am sure will be strengthened, and perhaps emboldened. And frankly, that is something a virtual smart Bible won’t do. Any of that.
Here’s the other concern with smart Bibles. What happens when (not if) “Christian extremists” get marked for their “radical” and “dangerous” views about abortion, homosexuality, drugs, sex before marriage, Jesus coming back, the Antichrist and the tribulation? (There are still a FEW young people still being taught that in church, right? Right? (More crickets…)
Well, that is coming, and probably sooner rather than later. And with it will come the confiscation at some point of the book we hold so dear. And it occurred to me that once they identify you as “one of those Bible extremists that are dangerous to society,” then it will be as easy as….switching off your phone service, and there goes your access to the Word of God.
You think it can’t happen? Oh, you must be a new evangelical American Christian.
Because surely, it will come. And when it does, what will we then do?
I believe the book Fahrenheit 451 is instructive. It was about a society in which all books were confiscated and burned. The books survived because each person BECAME a book. They memorized it. The books lived because they lived in the person’s memories and words. And you could only destroy the book by destroying the person.
I think you see where I am going here. There’s probably a reason early Muslim teachings called Jews and Christians “the people of the book.” Because they were so dedicated and committed to the Holy Writ. We are so, so far from that, folks.
This is the time for some crash-course Bible reading and memorization. The time will come when we may not have access to the book we hold so dear. So I’d like to urge you, not to dispense with your electronic scriptures, but get hold of the real thing and read it every day. Feel the pages. Smell the paper. Cherish the words. Underline the places that the Holy Spirit speaks to you. Let it become once more – while we still can – people of the Book.
I remember in the former Soviet Union – an atheistic, satanic monster that killed far more Jews and Christians than Hitler ever dreamed of – people would give anything just for a fragment of the Word of God. One young teen girl stood by helplessly as KGB agents threw her Bible to the ground, ripped it, spat on it. When they finished, she knelt down weeping and wiping the spit away with her long hair – until they executed her.
May God help us to cherish His word that much!
Oh, and one more thing. And I am dead serious. Think about purchasing some small Bibles, either the whole Bible or a small New Testament with Psalms – and hide them away. If we all did that a few at a time, then when the electronic Bibles are taken away, we will have hard copies of the real thing. We back up our computers and print hard copies. Now is a good time to make sure we have backups, too. The day may soon come when it will be the most hated – and by real believers, rare and cherished – book on the planet.
“Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Psalm 119:11
Roma Downey first came into our lives and hearts as “Monica,” the angel in training in the successful television series, “Touched by an Angel.” A feel-good, moral and new-age tinged show, many people’s memory of Roma was her angel character saying, in an angelic Irish brogue, “God luvs ya!”
Years passed. Suddenly, Roma Downey and her husband Mark Burnett lit up the media sky with their successful television miniseries,The Bible. Christians – especially those with fond memories of Monica – were thrilled at the presentation of the Bible by what seemed to be the newly evangelical team of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, founder of Lightworks media production company. The church embraced them – no questions asked. (Note: Even the name of their production company, Lightworkers, is very telling. In the New Age, a “lightworker is “any being dedicated to the cultivation of inner presence and the elevation of awareness in self and other selves. This being is called a lightworker and is an evolutionary step toward a state of “LightBeing.”) (http://lightworkers.org/what-is-a-lightworker-are-you-a-lightworker)
Much of what we call the evangelical church has for decades been enamored with “Hollywood conversions” and saved entertainers. From Donna Summer to Eldridge Cleaver, from Bob Dylan to Stephen Baldwin, we have too often promoted and used their testimonies without giving them time to grow in their faith, and many did not make it.
Unfortunately, our longing for affirmation and importance in “the real world” and desire to be accepted and “relevant” in this media-driven age has created a church that will automatically accept someone who says “Jesus” as being one of us without asking any questions as to what they really believe.
Thus is the case of the meteoric rise and wholesale embracing of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey.
After The Bible series came the movie Son of God. It was the most highly promoted Christian event I can remember in 40 years. Soon Mark and Roma were on nearly every Christian television and radio program there was.
They sound like us. They say the right things. And to our shame, they are in many ways more Christ-behaving and giving than many Christians.
But they are not of us. Roma Downey is, in fact, a New Age initiate.
She is not a “dabbler.” She hasn’t merely got a few unsanctified New Age ideas. She is, in fact, a deeply committed follower of the new spirituality and its ideas.
- She is a graduate with a degree in “spiritual psychology” from the University of Santa Monica, a premier new age training center. Its founder, John-Roger, (http://www.john-roger.org/)
is one of the most well-known new age teachers over the last thirty years. Experiencing an auto accident when he was young, a spirit known as the “mystic traveler” began to speak to him, then “through” him. Everything he does – and teaches – is based on that experience. He is a “trance channeler.” His organization, MSIA or Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness, is well-known in the New Age world. This is some of what he teaches:
“When a person participates in MSIA and works with the Mystical Traveler, that person is, if anything, “submitting” to himself/herself, to the Christ within, to the God within. And that is really a joyous surrender to love. To be an initiate of the Traveler is to devote yourself to the God within you, to devote yourself to Spirit, to returning to your home, the Soul, from which you originally came before you incarnated onto this earth. It means devoting yourself to working out the karma you’ve accrued while being here and to releasing yourself from that karma through grace and your good works, so that you are free to rise into the heart of God.”
“If you feel you aren’t worthy of God, that you’re too small or not as good as God, then stand up. Face God on equal terms, as a co-creator and one who also owns the sun, the moon and the stars.”
This is the teacher – and the foundation of the education – that Roma Downey is proud to have learned under, and graduated from. Ms. Downey is a new age initiate. There is no way that Ms. Downey could have gone through this university without knowing exactly what it was. Any believer in Jesus and His Word would have never gone to such a school, or, if they became believers afterward, they would have renounced it. Unfortunately, Ms. Downey was still finishing her degree in “spiritual psychology” when she gave her interview about the Bible series. (http://becksmithhollywood.com/2009/04/roma-downey-happy-out-of-spotlight/)
What kinds of things was Ms. Downey learning in her education at Santa Monica University? Let’s take a look:
– Soul-Centered Co-Creation
– Experiencing enhanced spiritual awareness through knowing yourself as a Divine Being having a human experience.
– Tools for spiritual evolution.
– Working with the patterns associated with each of the eight chakra centers in service to deep healing physically, mentally, emotionally, and within the unconscious, with the focus of further awakening to the Authentic Self.
From their own curriculum description, we read:
“(Spiritual Psychology) empowers them to convert their everyday life experiences into rungs on the ladder of Spiritual Evolution …Spiritual Psychology is the study and practice of the art and science of human evolution in consciousness.
Practically, it means learning how to surrender—or let go of— anything that disturbs one’s peace. It also means sacrificing our illusions of separation. Essentially, this ‘surrendering’ and ‘sacrificing’ is work that can and has been called ‘healing,’ which includes healing on the physical, mental, and emotional levels in service to the deeper revelation of who we truly are as Loving, Peaceful, Compassionate, and Joyful beings. We refer to this level of awareness as the Authentic Self. And, by the way, assuming we get through the current challenges, these very same skills will be exactly the same ones that will be highly valued as we transform into a more peaceful highly globalized world.”
This has been the education of Roma Downey. But it gets worse.
Ms. Downey recited a rosary prayer for a CD called, “Practical Praying” by John Edward.
John Edward is best known for his psychic TV show in which he “talked to the dead.” Ms. Downey has been on his show and allowed him to “channel” her “mother.”
Ms. Downey is an avid reader of new age material by such well-known new age writers as Tony Robbins and Eckhart Tolle who are worlds away from any biblical truth. Ms. Downey’s husband speaks to Roma’s spirituality in glowing terms this way: “You’re so self-realized you’re practically levitating.”
Roma Downey’s acknowledged mentor is Della Reese, her angel-boss Tess on Touched by an Angel. Della is a well-known and acclaimed singer and actor for many years. She is also the pastor of UpChurch in Southern California. Her mentor is Minister Johnnie Colemon, pastor of the megachurch Christ Unity Center in Chicago. Colemon was a pioneer of the “new thought” movement, which is a new age metaphysical teaching that is based on “healing meditation and positive thought.”
What does Rev. Reese believe and teach?
“These are core, foundational principles that we teach.
God is everywhere, evenly, equally present! Omnipresence
(There is no spot or situation where God is not!)
God is all the power in the universe! Omnipotence
(God is all there is, there is nothing else!)
God is all the wisdom/intelligence in the universe! Omniscience
(In the beginning, God!)
All humankind is made in the image-likeness of God. We are all spiritual beings having a human experience.
Thoughts are things! Our thoughts are creative. They produce definite results. When we control our thoughts, we control our lives.
When we are aware of God’s Presence in all that we do, we can experience God’s Goodness in all that we do. We spend quality time in prayer (speaking sincerely with God and listening for God to speak with us) and meditation (taking time to become still and focus on God’s Truth).
When we practice truth principles, we set the Law of God in motion to bless our lives. Divine Law produces Divine Good. A child of God, we can look to God for:
While many of these ideas have tiny shreds of scriptural backing, they are most akin to some of the modern power of positive thinking Christianity put forth by people like Joel Osteen and Kenneth Copeland. But these are not rooted in sound doctrine, but rather its genesis comes from from Unity School of Christianity sources.
Below are some of the people Rev. Reese admires and emulates:
“Thoughts from Great Spiritual Leaders:
‘The philosophy of Jesus is a workable philosophy, a way of life. Jesus taught of the depth of potential of man and his spiritual unity with God. Perhaps he was ahead of his time. Only recently have scientists, philosophers, psychologists and educators began to catch the idea of an integrated whole as the guide for studying man or life or the universe. This is the concept of spiritual unity that is found between the lines in all of Jesus’ teachings.
Eric Butterworth – Discover the Power Within You.
‘I am a firm believer that Jesus was the WayShower, the model for each of us to follow. As he explained to the disciples, if we know Him, then we automatically know the way to the Father, which is also the way to Truth and to Life. This, then, is the first thing which we should understand about the meaning of, Try Jesus. Jesus is our perfect model. If we accept his words as true and accept his life as the perfect example, then we have at our disposal the means to teach, heal and bless ourselves and our others in our daily activities.
Dr. Barbara King – Transform Your Life.
‘We must instill into the mind the fundamental proposition that good is without bounds. Only good and loving-kindness shall “follow me all the days of my life.” (Psalms 23) We must get this concept, rather than continuing to think there is a power of evil as opposed to the power of Good. We experience good and evil because we perceive a presence of duality rather than unity.
Ernest Holmes – The Science of Mind.’
Every existing thing is the expression of thought. Man-made things are the expression are the expressions of man’s thought; all else and man himself, is the expression of Divine Thought. The entire solar and planetary system; the sun, the moon, the stars, the clouds, the rivers, the mountains, valleys, trees, flowers and birds; all, all are expressions of thought. And just as the creations transcend infinitely the work of man, so naturally must the mind in which they originated transcend the mind of man. The universe is the expression of the Universal Mind, …of God.
Rabbi Morris Lichtenstein – How to Live.
Live from the premise the the spiritual-world is real, that it is friendly to you. Make God your only source of energy, and let his infinite wisdom determine the channels through which your every need is fulfilled.
Charles Roth – Mind: The Master Power.
‘Think enthusiastically about everything, but especially about your job. If you do, you will put a touch of glory in your life. If you love your job with enthusiasm, you’ll shake it to pieces. You’ll love it into greatness.
The Reverend Norman Vincent Peale.
‘As we grow as unique persons, we learn to respect the uniqueness of others.
The Reverend Robert H. Schuller.”
Although Rev. Reese also includes a couple of quotes from well-known Christian pastors, her base theology clearly comes from new spirituality teachers such as Eric Butterworth and Norman Vincent Peale, people who were clearly outside of Biblical faith. You will not hear her proclaim Jesus as Lord, or the Bible as the perfect Word of God, or Jesus as the only way to the Father. He’s just a “way-shower.”
This is Roma Downey’s spiritual mother and most cherished mentor.
It is neither inaccurate nor speculative to say that Ms. Downey is rooted and grounded in metaphysical new age beliefs.
I truly love Mark and Roma. And I truly pray for them, as one who came from that world, to come to meet the real Jesus.
I fear that the likelihood of that is greatly hindered by the evangelical leaders who have surrounded them, adored them, courted them even – without (1) Discerning whether they are truly biblical Christians, or (2) Asking the questions that might uncover their true beliefs and thus give them a chance to be brought into the truth by those who CARE enough about these things and KNOW the dangers of new age thought to help them come to know the real Jesus.
When the History Channel movie series was first released, I had obvious concerns because I knew where Ms. Downey came from spiritually. Then Son of God was going to be released, and I saw everyone accepting that they were believers without question. What I knew stood in clear contradiction to what everyone assumed about them.
When a major Christian book retailer started stocking The Story of God and All of Us, a book based on the movie The Bible with Roma and Mark as authors, I felt I needed to inform the bookstore’s representatives of the concerns I had unearthed. I received a brief e mail reply in which the representative said yes, we are aware of some issues, and we decided they would release it “for the greater good” in spite of the issues. But what he ended with completely floored me:
“I listened to Roma Downey tell about her involvement in making the miniseries and was impressed by her powerful Christian testimony.”
It was as if nothing I had brought to his attention made him think that Roma was anything but someone “with a powerful Christian testimony.”
It was clear that people were unwilling to consider these concerns, either for financial reasons, or because they were afraid of being “divisive,” or because they themselves did not see an issue with Ms. Downey’s core spiritual belief system.
So here we are now, and Ms. Downey is doing a new series on the women in the Bible. And I can already be fairly certain that they will include Mary Magdalene, who was also prominently featured in Son of God. Why? Because in the ancient occult teachings that had infiltrated the early church through Gnosticism, they taught that Mary Magdalene was in fact the thirteenth disciple.
With all this in mind, would it not be of great importance, considering Mark and Roma’s vast influence on the western Christian media, to ask some very crucial questions to make sure they are truly Bible-believing, evangelical believers that adhere to the basic doctrines of the inerrancy of scriptures, the supremacy and exclusivity of Jesus as the way of salvation, and that salvation only through the cross?
No one appears to be asking those questions. No one seems to know why it matters.
Here is the simple truth: Either Mark and Roma know exactly what they are doing, and are aware of their role in bring about synchronicity between Christianity and all faiths, or they do NOT know the difference between what THEY believe and what Biblical faith requires. If it is the first, then we are in real danger in letting them even deeper into our circles of influence than we have. If they do not, then we are indeed poor stewards of God’s things and God’s house. And if people who are in a position of influence DO know that Mark and Roma represent another belief system foreign to the faith we hold dear and choose to ignore those issues for the “greater good” of “spreading the good news,” then we are the ones that should be in great fear. For it is our responsibility to care for the flock:
“For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.” (Acts 20:29)
Last year I had an opportunity and a mandate to hand Ms. Downey a copy of my friend Warren Smith’s testimony book, The Light That Was Dark. I do not know if she has read it. I do believe God is reaching out and trying to save them. All of this is written with the understanding that these are people Jesus died to redeem, and He loves them very much.
Knowing that is all the more reason that we should NOT purchase these products, promote these media ventures nor embrace these people UNTIL we have clarity on who they really are. And if they turn out to have been masking new age religion through words like Roma’s “I have always loved Jesus since I was a child” to try to convince us they are one of us, then the truth needs to be known and we need to hear it from THEM. And if it turns out that they are confused followers of a false belief system that teaches that “we are all divine,” then SOMEONE needs to sit down with them and explain to them who the real Jesus is.
I believe a very simple set of questions needs to be asked and answered by our friends:
Is Jesus the only way to God? Do we all have the “Christ spirit?” Are we all divine? Is the Bible the infallible Word of God? Knowing that the Bible forbids necromancy, are you sorry you worked with John Edward? Is what you learned from John-Rogers University compatible with your Christian faith?
These are basic, reasonable and crucial questions, and it’s on us if we do not ask them but continue to promote people who by all appearances and facts on the ground, are very much following another Jesus than the one that the scriptures attest to. And God will hold us responsible for not doing so.
Roma was recently asked to host one of the largest contemporary Christian music events in decades to help raise money for persecuted believers worldwide. Good cause, to be sure. But again, a little leaven leavens the whole lump. If we are willing to ignore or accept the clear biblical conflicts that Roma has presented us with “for the greater good,” then how much MORE will we be willing to overlook next time? Or even start receiving and believing? We are, in the western church, already on the slow slide to doctrinal dissolution and biblical rejection of the essentials of the faith that have stood for thousands of years. Every compromise is a snowflake in the landslide we are about to witness.
The greater concern – one that those I have communicated with in places of influence have failed to understand – is that it’s not about one series, one movie, or one book. It is about new or innocent believers seeing not only these movies or reading the book but watching those in Christian media and evangelical positions of influence give their complete stamp of approval to them, even if they hide the little secrets of new age issues they are choosing to ignore “for the greater good.” What happens when, as often happens, the average believer does see the movies or read the book and thinks, “I wonder what else Roma has done?” And then they find themselves getting Roma’s CD that she did with necromancer John Edward, or reading Eckhart Tolle, or Tony Robbins, or heading to the UpChurch website and slowly finding themselves seduced by another Jesus? Do we not owe it to God to be responsible stewards of His flock to raise the warning and make sure we do not participate in such compromise that can injure those who are trusting our spiritual leadership in these matters? I believe to not do so is to stand before God saying that we knew, but we did nothing about it. We cannot afford to be so complicit.
Let’s pray diligently for Mark and Roma, for we too were once in darkness and ignorance of the true Savior, and He redeemed us from a dark pit. And let us do all we can to hold our leadership’s feet to the fire and make sure they do not promote what God clearly has warned us about.
Gregory R Reid, YouthFire Ministries