SNARES IN MINISTRY
There are five little-spoken-of snares for anyone called of God:
- The obsession with numbers – “numbering the people. (1 Samuel 24:10) The kingdom work is “not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord.” If you only have 5, preach like it was 5,000. Stop head counting, it is a trap. “And the Lord added to the churches daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47) There will be many saints with great rewards whose churches never reached the mega dream, but they labored without ceasing in obedience no matter what the numbers.
- Corporate ambition. We rarely admit it, but we lust and envy after those with the big thing, the media attention, the best-selling book, the 24/7 church bookings. We must crucify what our flesh longs to sanctify and justify. Be content with where God has placed you and what He has given you to do. Be faithful in the little, and deal cruelly with the breaking of the commandment to not covet your neighbor’s things. (Exodus 20:17)
- The quest for financial success.
I am not against money or prosperity, But the quest for it in ministry a dangerous thing. Paul said he had learned how to be abased and abound, but in all things to be content. You will face times of material blessing and times of difficulty. It can never be the point of the work or the center of the message, and it is so easy to justify our cravings for the material by using certain scriptures. Tread lightly, friend. Paul declared the whole counsel of God. Read the last part of Hebrews 11, not just the first part of it. “He chooses our inheritance for us.”
- Power over people. Friend, you handle the Word of God, and that is a sobering thing. Anyone who gets up in front of anyone – especially these days – with even a little bit of persuasive ability or charisma, has the ability to convince and sway people with their words. When you are in ministry, you may have both the persuasive charisma AND the anointing of the Holy Spirit. This should make you tremble in fear. For we will be accountable for every word that comes out of our mouths, and most believers are trusting, innocent and for the most part unskilled in the Word. (That is why discipleship is so crucial.) Those in youth ministry need to be especially careful because there is an added vulnerability in our young sheep that requires you to understand that EVERY.SINGLE.WORD. is heard, and mostly respected, and in many cases, remembered for life – especially the words we speak in a personal or “out of the raised platform” setting – just in every day fellowship and conversation. Remember that life and death are in the power of the tongue.
It is possible to get a taste of power when you see people responding to your word, and/or His Word. I have known people who became spiritual dictators and monsters because they forgot where they stopped and God began, and began to think anything they said or did was okay. They wrecked many lives, because the lust for spiritual power is even more dangerous than the lust for political or social power, because we can so easily spiritually justify it. Don’t do it. Tell yourself every day and many times a day, “I am a foot washer, I am a servant. I am not here to be served.” Always remember, as Paul said, that “we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7) Better you never enter a platform again than to think it is your talents, your abilities or your power with words that got you there.
- The power of prestige.
Few will talk about it, but in modern evangelical ministry, it’s not about what you know, but WHO you know. As a young minister years ago, it was like that as well. I watched in Christian church, media and music circles as people climbed over people to get in the “inner circle” of those who could promote them or their ministries, and often give them bragging rights to name-drop at other Christian gatherings. I saw it as I began to “rise to the top of the Christian dog heap,” realized it was no different from the Hollywood world I knew about from growing up in Southern California, and asked God to drop me down to the bottom of the ladder if necessary rather than get my walk ruined by lusting after “being with the big boys and girls.” It is the height of spiritual idolatry. Crucify it.
Gene Edwards said, “Many pray for the power of God. More every year. Those prayers sound powerful, sincere, godly, and without ulterior motive. Hidden under such prayer and fervor, however, are ambition, a craving for fame, the desire to be considered a spiritual giant. The person who prays such a prayer may not even know it, but dark motives and desires are in his heart…in your heart.”
I have given in to each of the above traps at one time or another in my time in ministry, and God mercifully, and is still mercifully delivering me from each one. It takes guts to examine your heart and ask Him to show you what’s really there. You may not like it. You may turn out much better than I did in terms of not having these snares. And you may also not even be willing to recognize them in yourself. I pray that is not the case. God needs men and women of faith that will rise above base motives and the “spiritual” snares and become true humble servants of Jesus that have no hidden motive in their calling and desire to fulfill His will.
God bless you all and keep you under the shadow of His wing,
A number of years ago, I was engaged in a sustained and difficult battle across this nation to deal with what was, at the time, a near epidemic outbreak of occult crimes and crimes against children. We spent nearly twenty years tracking down criminal occult and pedophile groups, advocating for abused children, and extracting young people out of the occult, witchcraft and Satanism. In that time, I saw things that no human should have to see. While doing that, we were also educating churches on the dangers of the occult. At that time, occult themes and symbols were permeating the media, especially movies and cartoons. There was a deliberate effort to desensitize an entire generation to the occult. It succeeded very well indeed.
Still, we did what we were called to. If the Bible was so clear about staying away from witchcraft, sorcery, divination, reincarnation, necromancy, etc., then it was incumbent upon us to show believers how these things were infiltrating nearly everything their kids were seeing on Saturday morning and at the movies. Our success was limited. Still, it was important to let them know how the devil was sneaking into our houses in “innocent” disguises. When Pokèmon first came into the culture back in January 9, 1999 produced by Wizards of the West Coast, we had a whole other fight. (Side note – Wizards of the West Coast also produced Dungeons and Dragons, and later, Magic: The Gathering. Dungeons and Dragons was a game that at the time not only embroiled a generation in occult themes, but was tied to the suicides of several young people. Playing it led to the murder of two young people I was involved with trying to locate as missing kids. They were part of a D&D group that was actually a satanic coven using D&D to lure these two teens into their world which led to their deaths.)
Pokèmon, at first, was a seemingly harmless game that actually contained a number of occult images and themes, particularly sorcery, reincarnation, levitation, psychic powers, etc. It quickly became an obsession for children and teens. We did what we could to educate believers on this. It certainly wasn’t the Ouija board, but it contained enough occultism to be a slow poison and make kids immune to more dangerous forms of the occult later.
That quickly escalated with the next game, Yu Gi Oh, which was much more sophisticated in its occult content. So we tried to fight that battle, too. And frankly, by then, I was getting quite frustrated with Christians who played around with these things and parents who saw no harm in it, because both as a survivor of the occult world and someone who gave the best years of my life to trying to stop the scourge of real occult crime and harm to children, it was unbelievable to me that Christians treated all of it so lightly.
Soon, most of the video games were filled with occult symbols, from pentagrams and pentacles to Egyptian black magick, to Crowleyan and Church of Satan imagery and themes.
But the real devastator was Harry Potter. It succeeded in blowing a spiritual hole into an entire generation in a way that I never could have imagined. All the books – all the themes – all the concepts, morality and lessons – were straight out of a pagan worldview, and worse, much of the actual spellwork and “props” in the books were based on real-world, little-known, and very workable ritual magick. How JK Rowling knew this is anyone’s guess. But since she got the Potter idea when “Harry” kind of “appeared” to her, (“Harry just sort of strolled into my head, on a train journey. He arrived very fully formed. It was as though I was meeting him for the first time.” – From Scholastic.com interview) I don’t think it’s a stretch to say she had “help” and that help was not from God.
The consequences were that it transformed an entire generation of youth and parents into occult-conditioned vessels of a worldview and philosophy and lifestyle that is Luciferian at its very core. Man is his own god. The powers of nature are there to use. And God? Nowhere to be seen. An entire generation had been hijacked, and they didn’t even know it. It’s not that everyone went out and became wizards. They simply discarded the “archaic” faith in Jesus Christ and the Word of God. Potter was the foundational document of the new post-Christian era.
We lost that battle badly. I knew that when the majority of people defending Potter were church-going parents and “believers”, that this wasn’t the same spiritual environment I was saved into and put my all into for the sake of Jesus. This was Christianity lite. This “new church” paradigm was almost all structure with little scriptural substance left.
It wasn’t until I became youth pastor several years ago and realized that almost all of the youth were reading romance books like Twilight that were about love relationships between human teens and vampires and werewolves that I realized what the devil’s real agenda was. He wasn’t trying to turn a bunch of church kids (or Christian kids) into vampires, devil worshippers or wizards. He simply wanted to render an entire generation of church youth utterly powerless and useless to fight real spiritual warfare.
You see, there is a real war. The scriptures are very clear on this. We are in the midst of the most serious spiritual battle the church has ever known, according to Matthew 24 and significant portions of the New Testament. And you cannot fight a spiritual war unless you are trained by prayer, the Word of God and true discernment to do so.
And what I saw was an entire generation being set up to be powerless, useless and a laughingstock to the enemy in this war. If he could get them all locked down in occult books, games and activities, then they would be like helpless little lambs in the face of the giant wolf that now confronts the church of Jesus Christ. Because you CANNOT fight the devil with his toys in your back pocket. He will simply laugh at you, as he did the 7 sons of Sceva, and say, “Paul I know, and Jesus I know, but who are you?”
All of this was followed by a “new way of doing youth ministry,” which has largely consisted of lots of games, lots of fun activities and a little soft devotional or “Jesus snack” at the end. I could write volumes about how that has damaged our future potential to fight in this war, but I will save that for another time. Just know that it all has progressed, built and developed into the perfect storm which youth (and most of their parents) are unprepared to stand against.
Thank God, there are exceptions. There are small youth groups and unknown youth pastors all over this land that are not playing the Reindeer games and have decided, cost what it may, to give their kids the straight up Word of God. Games are fine. It gets rid of some of the distracting energy so kids are ready to listen. But it cannot be the center. Our DNA should be Word, Worship and Prayer. An altar call should be central. This is how lives are changed by Jesus. It is Biblical. and this is how by God’s grace we will be able to raise up true spiritual warriors for Jesus in this hour.
However, the majority of youth groups now are following the easy road, the fun road, the comfortable path. And the storm is upon us.
Who would have dreamed that I would be forced to RE-FIGHT the Pokèmon battle in this hour? With the advent of the interactive “enhanced reality” game Pokè Go, it’s come back full-force, but in a different form with a different purpose. I won’t attempt to tackle all the occult issues. I had already done that, and frankly, trying to get people who are already occult-seduced to see the danger there is not going to be productive. Frankly, if you are of those who understand what the Bible says about the occult and that God forbids it all and you are still allowing it in your “gaming world” or entertainment life, then you won’t be likely to receive any of this.
But this time, I have some other concerns. I will try to briefly give them here:
- Pokè Go, while perhaps a temporary craze, is already setting up dangerous scenarios in which those that want to rob or hurt someone can easily find a “Pokè Go” character or “training center” and lie in wait for someone to victimize.
- Pokè Go is the PERFECT game for pedophiles all across the world. Finding a game kids like and hanging out where kids hang out have always been two of the basic tools predators use to find and access kids. Even some of my youth reported some very questionable men in their 50’s and 60’s playing Pokè Go in the local park and engaging kids in conversation. Do I have to draw you a picture? Parents, if you insist all this is harmless, then for heaven’s sake, don’t let your kids go play this by themselves! Even in a group of kids, this could potentially be a dangerous game. But alone, never!
- My biggest frustration is that churches are now setting up Pokè Go stations and actively inviting players to come to their church sites, starting with Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church. It is supposedly an “evangelism” tool. I know what I am going to say will be called extreme, but just as Halloween became “Trunk or Treat” – and it was a flat out compromise with a night that was wholly formed in and dedicated to darkness – now it is seemingly ok to sanction hosting an occult game and character or characters in your church parking lot so you can “reach the unchurched.”
Pastor – youth pastor – please think about this. At what point did any of the apostles use the implements of the pagan gods to evangelize? And please don’t tell me Paul used the memorial “to the unknown god” to do so. That was on the devil’s territory and he was simply pointing out their error, not inviting them to bring their pagan gods into the house of God!
Do you believe God meant what He said in Deuteronomy 18:9-12? “When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you.”
Is there anything in that which is unclear?
To put it bluntly, you are enabling a lost generation to pursue an occult game in the hopes of inviting them to church. Isn’t it a bit like ancient Israel offering a Baal-fire waystation so Baal worshippers can get a little “fire to go” in hopes of telling them about the God of Israel?
Extreme? Maybe. But friends, if it’s doubtful, it’s dirty. We would not even be having these discussions in the early church. The early church burned all their occult tools, they didn’t let people set up shop in church parking lots just so they could lure the lost. It’s incredulous, and it’s wrong. And pastor – youth pastor – if you don’t have the guts to set the standard, how do you expect your people to not pursue the ways and tools of the occult and paganism?
The Real Concern
My last and gravest concern has nothing to do with the occult. It has to do with the dismal state of youth ministry and youth in terms of preparing them for the times that are upon us. Think about it – Isis is beheading children and believers around the world, terrorism is striking inside our borders, drugs are being legalized, Satanists are hijacking prayer invocations in public places, sexual immorality is now without boundaries, STD’s are at an all-time high, and God is being mocked in every segment of our media from movies to television, music to video games.
And what are we feeding our youth? Pablum. Baby food. And now, Pokè Go.
Folks, I have been in youth ministry my whole life, and I pray to die in the saddle of this most noble calling. There has never been an hour where we have needed to raise up solid, Word-grounded and Holy Spirit filled youth more. But this is an hour in which every young person I know – and probably that YOU know – is fighting hard to even get 5 or 10 minutes a day to spend with Jesus in His Word and in prayer. You know I am right! And establishing a strong Word and prayer and fellowship life are the most important things we can instill in youth to ensure not just their spiritual survival, but their victorious walk and calling in Jesus.
We are in a time when the struggle to do so has never been stronger, and whatever time that might possibly have been available for those absolutely critical war-training activities, has simply been taken away by an obsessive pursuit of fake monsters and a world of illusion. And if you don’t understand how the enemy delights in that little coup, then you don’t know what we are fighting at all.
What is the answer? We need to get on our knees and cry out for a generation that will surely be lost unless God raises up youth warriors to take that kingdom of darkness by force and bring out the lost into eternal life. We need to stop playing Church Lite and acting as if all our kids need is entertainment, fun and a little nice Jesus lesson (which they will forget as soon as they hit their next Pokè stop). We need to set the standard, say no to allowing your church or youth group to be a “Pokè Stop (you can request that your church be removed if someone has “tagged” you). We need to stop being an entertainment center. Worldly entertainment will always be more “exciting” to the flesh than Kingdom things because it appeals to our flesh. But we aren’t called to entertain or excite: we are called to do proclaim the mighty Name and message of Jesus, and if you do that God’s way, believe me, there will be plenty of real excitement that grows souls and changes lives forever.
We need to stop treating youth like “they can’t handle the heavy stuff.” They will have to, whether you want them to or not. Already they are facing things in their schools and with their friends that are overwhelmingly evil and spiritually devastating. It’s time to stop babysitting them and start boot camping them to face this wicked age, and prevail in Jesus.
What you do with all of this is between you and God. Many will discard this as extreme. My prayer is that some of you will wake up, grab hold of the truth, truly turn your churches and youth groups into War Rooms and get this generation ready for the battle of the ages.
More is dependent on your godly and immediate response than you will know this side of eternity.
Gregory R Reid
Every believer will at some time feel the harsh breath of the enemy when they are vulnerable, and even more so when they fail in some area: most often, the harsh control of condemnation. That is why it is a essential that we teach believers, when they fall or fail or sin, not to stay down but to immediately get up and be cleansed by the blood of Jesus and keep walking. More Christians have been derailed by condemnation than any other sin or issue. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Satan counts on us wallowing in our failure and guilt. He will lie and say, “God can’t forgive you, you’ve already failed time and again! How many times do you think He is going to keep forgiving you? The demons came back seven times stronger!”
It’s good to know that Jesus gave us that answer, when Peter asked how many times he should forgive his brother. Jesus’ reply: seventy times seven. That is a Hebrew term for infinitely; or, as many times as they ask. God will not ask of us what He will not do Himself. The greatest defeat to the oppression of condemnation is forgiveness and restoration.
You may fall, but always fall toward the cross! You are not defeated unless you quit!
– Excerpt from War of the Ages, available at Amazon and as a Kindle book.
I do not, I cannot compromise on the issue of Halloween. And I am genuinely stunned at the extent to which most Christians do. I know many godly, wonderful Christians who are Christlike in nearly every way in their lives – but mention Halloween, and you can see the stronghold. And it is a stronghold in the church. It is Achan’s idol hiding in our tent, and we have got to confront it.
First of all, what is Halloween? It is a pagan holiday. It is a Druid celebration of the dead. Samhain – or Saman – the druid Lord of the Dead – is given his worship on this night. That’s why even today, from Halloween movie marathons on T.V. to children’s costumes, the predominant themes are death, ghosts, devils and demons. Bobbing for apples was originally a form of Celtic divination concerning marriage. Masks and costumes were donned to represent the dead, ghosts and “goblins.” (Demons.) Food was left outside of homes to appease the dead who might come by, a “treat” left in hopes that the dead will not play “tricks” on the residents inside. Get the picture?
If you were ignorant of these facts, now you know the truth, and now you are responsible for that truth. No more can you say that you didn’t know. No more can you say it is simply a fun time for kids, nothing more, or pretend that it has nothing to do with the occult. It has everything to do with the occult! It is in fact Satan’s most prized holiday, and it is his coup d’etat over Christians who participate in it! And in God’s eyes, it is no different than celebrating Hitler’s birthday, or dressing up our children in little Nazi uniforms, justifying it because the kids are having fun. Do you think this position is extreme? Not at all. I work in a field where Halloween is the most important, pivotal and celebrated date on the satanic calendar, a time when children are abused horribly and sometimes even slaughtered in the ancient Druid Samhain tradition we call Halloween!
To be honest, even “Harvest Festivals” at churches make me uneasy, especially when “alternative costumes” are worn. The only costume this date deserves from believers is sackcloth, the only recognition of it a time of solemn prayer!
Knowing that this is an evil, ancient bloody celebration of demons and all things of the occult, a night when Satan’s kingdom revels and the doors of hell open wide, can you give even one good excuse to participate? Or to pass our children through this unholy fire in the name of “fun”? I am afraid that any argument is just a justification of our own spiritual cowardice in refusing to confront Halloween for what it really is.
The excuses are many, but the one most prevalent is that we don’t want our kids to feel different or “left out.” Yet I doubt you would have any problem at all keeping your teen from going to a beer bust, even though it might make him feel “different” and “left out.” Since when do we feel Halloween is so important that we’d rather our kids participate than to be seen as “different”? When did we forget that we are to raise our kids to be different, separated from the things of the world? Why do we insist on our kids being drug free, abstinent, a good Christian example, yet Halloween is scratched off of our list of ungodly activities?
I can only surmise that it is a special spiritual blindness that has to be one of Satan’s special triumphs. Satan doesn’t care if you dress as a devil or a saint. But he demands that you recognize this day. And if you do, you give him the power he craves, and if you are a believer, you give him the mockery of believers he delights in.
I know “Harvest Parties” are seen as a good alternative. I concede that if it is for the purposes of EVANGELISM, and an outreach, not a “party” then it can be a powerful tool. But if it is not that, is it not just a subtle compromise? I mean, why do we NEED an alternative at all, EXCEPT for the purpose of evangelism or prayer, especially one that fairly mirrors the worldly Halloween activities? How can you put a holy face on a night that is rooted in evil, that has its history in evil, that is to this DAY evil and “sacred” to those who have sworn their hatred to the Christ we claim to love? What message are we sending our children? Is it not, at the least, that it is okay to compromise if you have a good justification to do so?
Do you want an alternative? Then how about a Halloween night prayer meeting to confront the wicked forces that are undeniably unleashed that night, to pray for the protection of our little ones and the tearing down of Satan’s kingdom? What about a special speaker on the dangers of the occult? Have a band for the kids, or better, an educational time to tell them WHY the occult and Halloween are wrong. That way, we won’t stand before God having to explain why we deemed it more important not to rob our kids of “harmless fun” than to put spiritual backbones and warrior’s hearts into our most treasured resources.
Harsh? Make you uncomfortable? Good. Take the blinders off, then. Get honest: Why are you protective of this evil celebration? Are you afraid of being seen as a fanatic, extremist, afraid you will be made fun of? Of such hearts strong disciples of the Crucified Christ cannot be made.
Are you afraid, parent, that your child will feel separated, different? And if you allow this compromise, how then will your child fare when he is ridiculed because he won’t smoke, drink or take drugs, when your daughter is rejected, teased and taunted for maintaining her purity? A little leaven leavens the whole loaf, Jesus said. Bend to the Halloween god, well, then, the next compromise will be so much easier.
Are you afraid, pastor, that you must maintain some form of the Halloween tradition, because so many of your people insist that it is harmless, and that if you draw the line, you risk their disapproval? Is that not Saul, who disobeyed God because “he feared the people”? Surely we of all people must set the standard for the people, not the other way, even if we risk their anger, their ridicule, and even their withdrawal of support.
It is hard to write this because it is offensive, but harder still because I feel “another presence” breathing behind me who is fairly screaming that I dare not expose this unholy compromise. It is HIS day and he wants it to remain in the church. And the anger I feel from this presence convinces me that I am right.
I have told you the truth. My deepest prayer is that all who read this will abandon Halloween altogether, in any form of recognition, blatant or “sanitized,” and boycott this compromise completely, not in spite of our kids, but because of them, because we love them and we love the truth more than our own lives. Believe me, our kids won’t die if they don’t trick or treat and dress up. And no, letting them won’t kill them; but they will be the weaker for it; and it will be impossible to explain on That Day why we who were sworn to the truth of God’s Word allowed our little ones to celebrate the day of worship to Satan, demons and every unholy, unclean thing.
Halloween is the whitewashed Baal we have placed on God’s Altar. May God give all of those who read this the courageous heart of Josiah who did not rest until every idol was destroyed.
Gregory R Reid
The Dark Night of the Shack:
A Parable of Illusions
I am a spiritual realist. I came to realize a long time ago that life is harsh, that accidents are sometimes random, and that there isn’t always “a reason for everything,” and that bad things happen to good people. I also have learned that the point for believers is not always be able to solve people’s problems or take away their pain, but to be with people IN their pain when no answers come. And yes, God does miracles. And yes, we should always pray for healing, deliverance and blessings on people. But we also need to be prepared to walk with people even when no answer comes.
Herein is a dilemma: In the midst of our grieving, sin-stricken, fallen world, God does not always appear like we want Him to, or think He should. Even for believers, it is difficult to face pain and suffering without trying to mold God into our own image and likeness to better comfort us. But God is who He is. He does not change. His character, His nature and His presence do not become what they are not in order to make us feel better.
I suppose I learned this the hard way during the “inner healing” movement of the 1980’s. There were surely some good things about that movement, and I had long recognized the church’s failure to deal with people’s deeper issues and its quickness to paste an easy-answer scriptural band aid on people’s lifelong injuries and expect them to get over it. The inner healing ideas did bring healing, despite the flaws, baggage and lack of scriptural backing that the later teachings on this brought to it.
During that time, in search of some genuine healing for my own woundedness, much of which stemmed from the painfully distant relationship I had with my father, I was presented with the idea that if I just used guided imagery, I could go back to when I was a child and imagine Jesus playing baseball with me, like my father never did.
I suppose that is where I drew the line. I know Jesus was there, in my past, but I also knew He was not going to be molded to my imaginary ideas like that or to my wishes that my past were different.
In fact, the most revelatory moment in my healing came when I was crying out to God for my need for a father in my life I never felt was there, and after agonizing hours of weeping, God said, as clearly as I ever heard Him, “Die to the need to have your father.” The result was some of the most gut-wrenching weeping I have ever had – and, at the end, a depth of healing that was both profound, and permanent.
God did not answer me as asked, or imagined. Jesus did not play baseball with me. He took me to the cross, and there, exchanged His life for my pain. He did not become something He was not to make that happen. He simply asked me to trust Him in what I did not understand, and answer me in a way that would heal my heart and set me free.
The current phenomenon of the overwhelming success of The Shack, a fictional story by William Young, speaks to both our desperation to find healing from our pain, and our willingness to abandon truth to find that healing.
The Shack is a simple story about a father whose daughter is murdered, and he is in pain and unwilling to trust the God he knew before, who it appears to him had abandoned him in his hour of grief.
He receives a note while his wife and family are away, from “Papa” – which is his wife’s pet name for God. “Papa” tells him to meet him at the shack where he last saw his daughter. Reluctantly, he goes.
There, he meets four characters: First, a fictional “trinity,” and then an additional “fourth person” of the trinity so to speak, Sophia, who is the Greek and occult goddess of wisdom.
Yes, you read that correctly. Although the author would disavow that connection, perhaps saying that Sophia is an early church concept of wisdom referring to Solomon speaking of wisdom as a “she” in Proverbs, the fact is, Sophia is quite a different figure to the New Age occult world. More on that later.
Before Mack, the main character, meets Sophia to be judged he meets “Papa” – a portly, matronly African-American woman who cooks, dispenses wisdom and dispenses hugs and love. It almost reminds one of Oprah Winfrey’s role in The Color Purple, where she coincidentally plays a character named “Sophia.”
The Son of God, in Young’s book, is a Jewish young man in Khakis with a big nose who is goofy and clumsy. The Holy Spirit is a Japanese girl named Sarayu (a Sanskrit- derived word for “wind” – Sanskrit being the primary written language of Northern India). Together, these four characters provide Mack with healing and closure for his horrible loss and grief, even allowing him a glimpse of his departed daughter, not in heaven as he imagined heaven, but, according to the Son of God, in the “new cleansing of this universe.” (P. 177)
Rather than attempt to tackle all of the theological ins and outs of this mess of a book, which might TAKE a whole book, I simply want to point out a few basic issues I think we need to look at.
First, any time we take God as He is revealed in His Word and remake Him into our own pleasing image and likeness, we are opening the door to the possibility – no, the near certainty – of spiritual deception. God is who He is. He comes to us as He is. From Old Testament to New, He remains the same. “I am the Lord God. I change not.” (Malachi 3:6)
Yes, God is multifaceted. But He will NOT be molded into any image man wants to create Him in. Pagans did that, and they created Baal, Molech, Chemosh and a host of other demonic entities that they decided were “God” because they fit their needs and lusts and desires and fears. God despised these idols and demanded them to be obliterated.
God said, “I AM that I AM.” Is not that clear enough? He is who He is – no more, no less, and not subject to our attempts to reform Him into a more palatable, sensible and understandable God. I am absolutely stunned that Christians who read The Shack do not grasp what a dangerous and terrible tampering with God’s character and true nature this story has done. It’s common spiritual horse sense, if you read the Bible. I imagine what it would be like if my friends put me in a clown outfit and said, “Well, we know he’s not really a clown, but people will like him better as a clown. It makes people more likely to accept him.” But I am an intense, serious man of God, and not a clown – and any attempt for me or my friends to portray me that way is not only disingenuous and untrue, it is an insult to me as a person.
The fact is, the Biblical TRUTH is, God is not a breakfast cooking mother, and Jesus isn’t a goofy, clumsy kid, and the Spirit of the Living God is not a Japanese woman with a Sanskrit name. Father, Son and Spirit are who they are, and no matter how much we may unwisely attempt to dress them up in more attractive clothes, they WILL NOT BE DRESSED UP TO PLEASE US. Those who do so are creating an idol that will lead people into darkness.
And no, there is no judge named Sophia.
This is the second, and for me, the most disturbing element of The Shack. Two decades ago, the New Age began to partner with the dead, carnal Western organized church denominations. That melding, in part, took place through both the “Gaia” (mother earth) concept and the “Sophia” movement – and the Sophia conferences, which were designed to rewrite the gender specific references in the Bible concerning God, emasculate and feminize God, destroy church Patriarchy, and as a result, introduce “new ways” of worshipping “God” – through a variety of New Age and occultic means, including Wiccan worship, nude dancing, crystal healing, etc. Thankfully it didn’t get widespread acceptance, but the Sophia concepts and conferences are still going on, and if you do a little internet searching, you will find that most of the sites are New Age and occult websites. Because Sophia is an occult concept. She is the acknowledged goddess of wisdom in the occult world, and even they trace her origins back to the days of Solomon, when his marriage to pagan wives (which became his downfall) caused him to bring in the worship of the goddess Asherah into the house of the Lord. She is known by many names in the occult and pagan worlds, and one of the most well-known is Sophia.
In other words, the Sophia concept and movement is the deliberately designed incursion of goddess worship into the house of God today – even if disguised as “Papa.” All the occult, Wiccan and Pagan world acknowledges Sophia as the one known originally as Asherah.
So why has William Young introduced an entire vulnerable, wordless generation to the goddess? I cannot pretend to know his motives; I always assume they are noble and good until further information shows otherwise. But as always happens in the Emergent and Purpose Driven world, a dozen logical explanations and justifications will be made to spiritualize the spiritually unclean goddess infection we are asked to accept in The Shack by The Message author Eugene Peterson as a book that has the potential to do for this generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his. But, as I learned early on, calling a rake a gardening implement may sound cute, but it’s really just a rake. And Sophia is an occult goddess, even if you attempt to dress her up in religious clothes. And regardless of the author’s motives, this book is a weapon in the Luciferian EndGame to, in the hearts of man, dethrone the One Unchangeable God and Jesus the Risen King and coming JUDGE, and put Lucifer as god, and “Gaia” or “Sophia” or “mother earth” as the illusional Queen Consort of darkness disguised as “light”.
The Shack is, in the end, a perfect New Age “Christian” tome for a scripturally blind and unlearned and undiscerning generation of leaders and the youth they are misleading, for whom truth is a flexible, dispensable, changeable commodity that is being increasingly sacrificed on the altar of our craving for spiritual experience.
This is a largely fatherless generation. And a generation with a missing, or warped, or evil, or absent father image, will more easily turn to God if she is a mother. The Shack speaks to a generation that will reject the God of the Bible, who, yes, is love, but is also Holy, who redeems us, but also is sending the King of Kings back to judge everyone according to their deeds. This generation does not want God as father.
It wants a hug. But the characters of “God” presented in The Shack will be more the slow choking of truth and the embrace of the serpent who said, “Did God really say…?”
The Shack, rather than being the new Pilgrim’s Progress, simply casts Biblical truth, if not to the wind, at least by the wayside, in favor of a made-up concept of God who becomes whatever we want he – or they – or she – to be. The Shack is filled with conversations and languages that eerily resemble Neale Donald Walsch’s A Conversation With God series, in which an angry and hurt Walsch hears “God” talking, and “God” reveals himself in a way that Walsch accepts, and believes, and writes of, and exposes others to. A God who thinks Hitler will go to heaven.
While The Shack is not that radical, a careful reading of it with Bible in hand will find its theology is not “simple fiction” at all but rather a dangerous imaginative “reimagining” of the God of truth that will lead its followers on an ever-increasingly slippery path into deception. The Shack is simply the next salvo being leveled at a generation that has not been taught truth from error, and will accept whatever will bring them comfort in the night. May God grant the power of truth to expose this dangerous book for what it is.
War of the Ages is a complete guide to spiritual warfare. Is the devil real? What about demons, angels? What does the Bible say about these things? How can we fight and overcome the power of darkness in today’s world? Nearly 400 pages of scriptural and practical insights from over 45 years of experience battling the forces of evil. Solid truths and real stories. Spiritual warfare for the next generation.
Eleven Principles of Youth Ministry
Professional ministry can be a precarious business; it’s easy for people to get lost in the shuffle and chewed up by the machinery of “big ministry”. With kids, pills who need special care, this is even more precarious. Youth ministry is often the least funded, because kids are not a priority; too many view it as professional babysitting until kids can grow up and be contributors and producers. And this should not be so.
As one who has walked between these worlds, please accept the following hard-learned principles I have tried to make real in all I have done, and hope yet to do, in youth ministry.
- Keep your promises.
So many kids come from broken homes. Fathers, especially, tend to fail to keep their promises: I’ll play ball with you tomorrow. I’ll be there for your recital. I’ll be home in time to kiss you goodnight. We’ll go see that movie.
The message kids get is, adults can’t be trusted. Don’t be one of them. Keep your word no matter what it takes. If you make a commitment to do something for or with a kid, do it. A broken promise does incredible damage. Everyone fails, but too few even consider this a big deal. It is a HUGE deal to a kid. Help them, by your faithfulness, build that trust that eventually translates to a greater trust in God.
- Don’t blow your class.
How old are you? Be that age. It’s a mistake to “try” to be “cool” to “relate” to kids.
I believe kids don’t want you to come down to their level. I believe they want to be spiritually raised up to your level. Raise the standard higher. Grab their hand and lift them up. A hero isn’t “one of them” as much as someone whose life, purpose and character make them hunger for that kind of life.
When you “try to relate” it fails. Just relate to the universal needs of the heart of all kids: the fears, the loneliness, the need for love and for meaning and purpose, to the hopes and hurts and joys. And the silly laughter and spontaneity and childlike embracing of life and God and love. That’s real, and they’ll know it. Beyonce, viral videos and culture trends will soon be in yesterday’s archives. Only how you connect to kids at a heart level will remain in memory, and in true eternal things.
- Kids are not a project.
Professional ministry generally treats people like notches in a gun belt; numbers to increase their own visibility, viability and credibility. People become a project.
In my early days of ministry, I adapted the “psychospeak” of my fellow pastoral counselors, and began speaking of those who I ministered to as my “counselees.” God forgive me. Later, I moved that over to phrases like, “I worked with this kid,” as if the hurting young person who trusted me enough to share their deepest secrets and wounds was a “work.” “I worked with them.” How can a labor of love based on such precious trust be called “working with them”? God forgive me – again. God help us to dispense of such pretentious, arrogant and self-elevating nonsense. Kids are not a project to be worked – they are precious lambs to be loved, nurtured and grown. It is not their fortunate lot to be blessed by “my” infinite gifts and graces – but in reality my humbling privilege to serve them.
- Don’t drop kids when they aren’t kids anymore.
We place so little value on longevity in relationships anymore; marriages and friendships that last are increasingly rare. Yet the value of long-term relationships can’t be measured.
Modern youth work is not designed for this. It’s like school. You graduated; have a good life, goodbye. And yes, kids grow into life and in some measure outgrow their need for us.
But I learned an astonishing thing when the 86 year old woman who had raised me in Jesus, taught me, and loved me when I was still a kid, died. As I went through her things, I found a box of letters from grown men that she had taught Sunday school when they were boys – sixty years earlier! She never lost touch, nor did they. They all wrote of the profound influence she had on their lives. What a revelation!
We as youth ministers are taught to be teachers and entertainers, not necessarily disciplers, or fathers and mothers in the faith. And that is a great loss.
I told one young man who had grown to be a son in the Lord, “Even when I’m 80, you’ll still be my kid.” I think it matters, that kids know they don’t cease to be of value to us just because they grow up and move on. I was recently talking to someone who had one of his older youth becoming withdrawn and angry. As I thought about it, I realized it was like having a child, raising them, then having another: If you give all your attention to the new child and very little to the older, that child will feel rejected, useless and replaced. And as my friend moved into other things and other youth, his young friend felt that. Like in a family, a new child needs extra love and attention – but the older child needs to be included, given responsibility, and a reaffirmation that they are still just as special, just as loved.
- Hype fades; the Word remains.
I think there is some value in entertainment for kids, especially in getting the interest of unsaved kids. Young Life uses games and fun to a tremendous benefit for the Kingdom of God, and they have tremendous success in reaching kids through the avenue of these tools, and I support that 100% in that context. But beyond that, in some ways I am struck by the utter lack of entertainment in the New Testament. I think games and entertainment can be used by God, surely. But it is never a substitute for the power and presence of God. I’m okay with using the media to evangelize through music, the arts, etc. But face it – we’re glutted with it. And most of it is FLUFF. It’s smoke and glitter. And the fruit? Who knows, really? God uses what He will. But my heart longs to see kids drawn, not by hype, but by the Anointing poured out through vessels committed to giving the pure and powerful Word of God.
Most Christian music is designed to sound like the world, and many artists are just waiting to “cross over” to the big boys’ secular market. I thank God for the few who keep it pure and powerful.
Fluff Christian entertainment will pass, and little of it will transform. Seek for the higher, the eternal, that which will transform kids into living flames of fire.
- Be a flawed hero, not a plastic saint.
Apologize when you’re wrong; admit when you blow it. If you hurt someone, make it right. And above all, if you don’t know the answer to something, don’t make it up. When kids see you as you are, and yet see God still mighty in you, using you, blessing you, touching you, they will know God can do the same for them.
- Have a heart coated with steel and filled with compassion.
Kids can hurt you. Oh, boy, CAN they. Their words are often careless and thoughtless, cynical and sarcastic, mirroring the world that surrounds them. Most of the time, they don’t mean to hurt you. But they do. And you need a steel-plated, Teflon coated, non-stick heart. But not impenetrable. Understand that even when they mean to hurt you, it’s rarely really about you or toward you. It’s hurt and anger over school, rejection, parents, any number of things. Take the blows, cry later, then let God show you what’s behind their hurt. And let it go. Be mature enough to place their need above your hurts.
- It’s not as much what you say but who you are and how you love that matters.
My pastor has been my mentor and spiritual father for many years. His messages are straightforward, powerful and cut right to my heart. And of the hundreds of messages I’ve heard from him, several have been life-changing – literally. So many principles he’s taught remain rock solid principles of my life and ministry.
But in the end, it is who he is in my life that has had the biggest impact. He invested in me – trusted me – befriended me – picked me up when I fell flat on my face and gave me hope that God was not through with me. He was vulnerable, caring and real. He was- and is – always there for me.
Okay, try to be relevant if you need to, or “cutting edge” as they say – but it is your true essence in Jesus and how that changes kids that will remain.
- Trust is not a given – it is earned.
I have a small problem with the term “accountability.” It’s not used in scripture, except that “we must all give account before God.” “Accountability” was actually a corporate world term used long before the church stole it. I believe in authority in the Kingdom, absolutely. And ALL of us need relationships that are honest, challenging and healing. None of us should go it alone.
However, when you mix “accountability” with “professional ministry” and the opportunities for abuse and control are very real. I have ministered to dozens of people and kids who were chewed up by such abusive leaders and churches. Some are still trying to heal years later.
You DO have an accountability before God to protect your kids. Sometimes from each other.
But kids being “accountable” is only beneficial in the context of trust, and trust is not a privilege you assume as a leader but a sacred trust you EARN. One of the most profound things my pastor ever said to me is, “You have to earn the right to speak into people’s lives.” And with kids, that trust is hard-earned. It doesn’t come and shouldn’t be demanded automatically, but comes when they know you are safe – and that they really matter to you. Then, “accountability” will be freely given, natural, real. Are you willing to let that happen in time, willing to prove yourself trustworthy of that kind of dangerous trust?
- True discipleship is built on real relationships.
What’s the difference between a kid who grows up and has fond memories of their youth group and youth pastor, and a “lifer” – one who goes on to produce much fruit? Much of the time, it’s the difference in investment in relationship. Elijah and Elisha, Moses and Aaron and Miriam, David and Jonathan, Jesus and the 12, Paul and Timothy…life begets life…one life poured into the other, true spiritual parenting. Paul said, “We were willing to give our whole lives for you, so dear you were to us.” A Hireling is doing a job. A shepherd surrenders his life for his sheep. That’s the difference between professional youth pastoring and true youth shepherding. It’s that simple. If it’s a step for you while you wait for a “real” job as a pastor, God bless you, but move on. Kids need shepherds who are committed to them IN THE NOW with no ulterior motive but who do it because they are….shepherds.
Youth Ministry can be as mercurial and passing as adolescence itself – or an enduring, life-changing window for both kids and yourself. Build with strong materials – real relationships – invested relationships – trustworthiness, faith in their calling and potential, transparency, the solid Word of God, genuine love and commitment. If you do, it will truly bear “fruit that remains.” And YOU will be blessed because you did not settle for a quick cheap imitation, but gave it all for the real thing.
- You can only give what you have.
That is a multifaceted statement. From one angle, it means that you are limited. You can’t do or be everything. Team ministry is wonderful. For myself, I am very limited. I’m terrible at games – but others are great at doing games. I’m a teacher and a listener. I can’t do what it isn’t in me to do. Know what you CAN and are CALLED to do and let others help you with the rest.
From another angle, this statement means that you cannot give if your cup is empty. I am a true believer in the truth that the best ministry comes from what God gives to you directly. I know you’re busy. But if you are so busy that you have to scramble at the last minute to come up with a message, then your kids are going to get stale bread.
Life changing truth is truth that comes new and fresh from Father’s hand. And THAT is your first ministry, your first priority. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck forever looking for clever things to keep kids coming back week after week.
There is nothing as powerful, attractive, life changing or compelling as pure truth poured out through a yielded, listening youth shepherd who has cared enough to wait to receive from the hand of God what He has to say and give.
If youth pastors did this, I suspect the “clever games for bored and spoiled Christian kids” book industry would go belly-up in a quick hurry.
Unrealistic, you say?
Let me ask you a question: Why is the Word of God never enough?
The fault is not in the Word, but in our failure to receive that Word in a powerful, NOW revelation which when delivered will bring down the Shekinah presence of God.
Sure, let’s play games! But let’s do it because it’s fun, we all need to laugh, it makes kids feel at ease, and US less sanctimonious.
But make no mistake – it will never be a substitute for the undiluted Word of God. That is to be the ultimate standard, the ultimate goal – to let that Word penetrate and transform the hearts of every young life God has committed to our care.
Let’s redefine youth ministry – God’s Way – if we do, is there any limit to what He will do?
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
1. JESUS IS NOT “PART” OF MY LIFE!
Jesus IS my life. I will not give Him 10% of my
money, time or obedience. By His grace, I will lay
my life down at His feet and give Him 100%. I am not
2. I WILL WATCH MY WORDS.
Proverbs says that life and death is in the power of
the tongue. More people have been destroyed by
lying, criticism, judgementalism and gossip than by
any war. Before I speak, I will weigh my words, and
the consequences. I will pray, “Set a watch at my
lips, O Lord.”
3. I WILL VALUE SILENCE.
The more a person talks, the more it shows how
empty their heart is and how shallow their
relationship with God. I learn far more from listening
than from talking. I will listen to others – there are far
too few listeners. And with my Father, I will listen as
much as I pray. He wants to talk. I cannot expect
guidance or comfort, challenge or growth if I simply
hand God my wish list and walk away. The world is
too full of noise. I will remember that when God
spoke to Elijah, first there was a whirlwind, then a
fire, then an earthquake, but “The Lord was not in
them.” Then came a still, small voice. I cannot be
greatly used unless I take time to listen.
4. I WILL VALUE ALONENESS.
This is the loneliest generation in history. We are so
afraid of being alone that we will take any
friendship, date any person and go any place just to
make sure we aren’t alone. But I accept that
loneliness is a gift. It is God on the telephone. Even
if I have friends., even if I marry, there is still a
God-shaped loneliness which will never be
completely filled until I am with Him, but which
drives me to His heart while I am in exile here. I will
set apart time without TV, without radio or music,
without people and without hurrying, to just be with
Him, worshipping Him and loving Him. A great
leader once said he would not see the face of man in
the morning until he saw the face of God. By God’s
grace, this will be my goal as well.
5. ALL THAT MATTERS IS THAT WHICH IS ETERNAL.
I will set my affections on things above (the things
Jesus cares about -not success, money, power, etc.)
I am determined not to be counted among those who
have just enough of the world to be miserable with
Jesus, and just enough of Jesus to be miserable with
the world. I will count myself as a pilgrim and a
stranger in this world and strip myself of every
worldly entanglement I can, so I can please Him who
has called me to be a soldier.
I will not sacrifice eternal reward on the altar of
temporary pleasure. Knowing that the great tragedy
of judgment day will be what I could have been if I
had let Jesus really run my life, I will keep a daily
awareness that only those things I do for Jesus will
never be forgotten. Because I am away from my real
Home, wherever I find a true believer and share in
the fellowship of God’s love, they will be my home.
6. I WILL LET LIFE BREAK ME, NOT HARDEN ME.
Jesus said the rain falls on the just and the unjust. I
expect hard times, and I am determined to let no
circumstance make me bitter, or hardened to God, or
unwilling to love. In any trial, I will ask Jesus to let
it make me into a broken servant. Only when I am
broken, am I strong.
7. I WILL HAVE AN HONEST RELATIONSHIP WITH
Jesus said I must worship God in spirit AND in truth.
I will hold nothing back from God. I will yell,
scream, cry, laugh, tell the ugliest sin and the
deepest hurt to God without reservation or fear,
knowing He already knows what is in my heart. I will
eliminate all “thees and thous” and formal nonsense
from my prayers and simply talk to my Father as I
would to my friend. He is not frightened or offended
by my anger or my honesty, nor ashamed of my tears
and my wounds. I will hide NOTHING from Him, and
even when I have sinned, I will take it to Him right
8. I WILL ASK TO SEE AS JESUS SEES, AND HEAR AS
Knowing that “man sees the outward appearance but
God sees the heart”, this will be my goal as well. I
will judge no one by their dress, words or actions,
but will ask Jesus to show me their heart. A prophet
is one who “sees with seeing.” God, help me to see
as You do, hear as, You do and feel as You do, as
well as think as You do.
9. I WILL NEVER DENY IN DARKNESS WHAT I KNOW
TO BE TRUE IN THE LIGHT.
The truth of God’s love, Jesus’ power and my
purpose are easy to stand for when things go well. By
God’s grace, I will never deny these truths no matter
how much my personal fires and trials may seem to
say God does not love me, that Jesus cannot help
me or that I have no purpose. “Let God be true and
every man be a liar. Though my faith in these truths
be tested, I will spit in the devil’s face and tell him,
“Though He slay me, I will still serve Him.”
10. I WILL NEVER ASK WHY – I WILL ONLY ASK
I am not exempt from suffering or problems.
Therefore, when they come, I will not ask God, “Why
me?”, but ask Him what the trial is meant to
produce in me. “Why?” is a pointless question. But
“What for?” allows the Holy Spirit to use the
circumstance for my growth and guidance.
11. I WILL ACCEPT ROMANS 8:28 AND N0T CURSE
If I really believe that “God is at work in all things to
produce good”, then I accept that there are no
exceptions. Therefore my past, no matter how
painful, ugly or sinful, can be transformed into a
tool of compassion and forgiveness that the Father
can use to touch hurting people
12. IN THE HEALING OF MY WOUNDS, I WILL
NEVER GIVE UP.
I accept that hurts that took years to form may not
change overnight. There will be spiritual surgeries
and times of tears. I will not settle for a halfway
deliverance, but seek God’s face until my emotions
are fully healed and in God’s hands. A former
prisoner war once asked how he endured all the
years of imprisonment and still had hope. He
replied, “I never decorated my cell.” I will not
become comfortable with my wounds or the
sympathy my flesh seeks from them, and I will not
decorate my personal cell of pain, I will be free.
13. I WILL PLACE OBEDIENCE ABOVE ALL HUMAN
OPINIONS AND EXPECTATIONS.
Although I will listen to all criticism, receive and
weigh all counsel, I will
not allow anyone’s opinion to deflect me from
following Jesus and His will for me. I will always
play for the Coach and never for the crowds.
Knowing that popularity is not approval from God, I
will not allow man’s praise to feed my ego nor his
blame to defeat my spirit. Only Jesus’ opinion
14. I WOULD RATHER MY NAME BE KNOWN IN THE
CORRIDORS OF HELL – AND FEARED -THAN BE THE
MOST POPULAR, LOVED PERSON ON EARTH.
Knowing that God’s Kingdom and message is
advanced more by prayer and obedience than by
personality and persuasion, I am committed to
making sure demons know I mean business, not to
impressing the crowds.
15, I CHOOSE TO BE ALONE RATHER THAN
PARTICIPATE IN CHEAP, SHALLOW, EMPTY,
FLESH-BASED SOCIAL FELLOWSHIP MANY CALL
Paul said, “From now on we know no one after the
flesh, but after the Spirit.” I will not waste my time
socializing but find and addict myself to Christians
whose life is lived in the love of Jesus and His
16. I WILL SEEK TO BE VULNERABLE AND
TRANSPARENT COST WHAT IT MAY.
If Jesus lives in me, then I do not want people to
have to sort through the trash in my heart to see
Him., I will seek to be cleansed from all secret
sins, so that I am like a clear window through which
my Savior can be seen. I will not be afraid to share
my heart, my healing or my struggles, if that will
gain the trust of the wounded, so that I can take their
hand and place it in the Father’s healing hand.
17. D.L. MOODY SAID, “THE WORLD HAS YET TO
SEE WHAT GOD CAN DO IN AND THROUGH THE
PERSON THAT IS COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY
CONSECRATED TO HIM; AND BY GOD’S GRACE, I
WILL BE THAT MAN.”
By God’s grace, I too will be that man. I want no
other thing than for God to use my life as
completely and thoroughly as He can, and whatever
price I must pay to be that pure vessel, I will pay it
and not shrink back.
18. I WILL BE A “SAFE PLACE” FOR HURTING
The world is full of betrayal of trust and of innocence
destroyed. I realize, in the words of Floyd McClung,
that people don’t care how much I know until they
know how much I care. Therefore, I will seek to be a
trustworthy friend and a person who will not
condemn or turn back from anyone’s sins or
problems, but rather give them a place where they
can know the completeness of God’s acceptance
19. I WILL VALUE THE ONE OVER THE MANY.
Knowing that Jesus left the 99 to seek the one,
knowing that Jesus always took time for the one
person who needed Him, I will not prefer crowds to
the one life Jesus may give me to love and disciple.
20. I WILL NOT KEEP MY DISTANCE FROM PEOPLE
WHO ARE HURTING.
I will be willing to get my hands dirty and get into
the blood and guts of their lives to bring them to
Jesus’ arms, I will not be afraid to cry, for tears are
precious to God, and only an insecure and proud
man cannot and will not cry. Paul commanded that
we weep with those that weep, and I will ask God to
break my heart until my tears become powerful
intercession on behalf of the hurting soul. Knowing
that only a man afraid of himself will not show
gentleness, I seek to know God so deeply that I can
say, like David, “Your gentleness has made me
great.” Knowing that God longs to bring people to
him “with cords of human love” (Hosea) I ask God to
let me be the cords through which His love is
21. I WILL PASS ON THESE TRUTHS.
Jesus said to make disciples – followers of Him.
Knowing that Jesus has given me, through spiritual
parents, a great legacy, I will seek to instill that
legacy into all those He gives me to raise up. Then,
I will teach them how to pass it on to those they are
called to. I will never forget that God’s Kingdom is a
family and only grows as I am willing to lay down my
life to raise those He has given me to love for His
22. THE GREATEST THING IS LOVE.
Knowing that 1 Corinthians 13 is true, I will ask God
that love be the starting and ending of all I do, and
everything in between. God is love; may my life be
a vessel of that Love until He takes me Home.