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Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday

The Season of Lent is Upon Us

The Easter Season is my favorite time of year. It isn’t as commercialized as Christmas, but that isn’t the reason I love Easter. The reason is, it is the culmination of why God sent His Son. The ultimate act of love – God’s great desire to be in a covenant relationship with us. For every single person, God would have us to say “yes” I accept your offer, and because Jesus gave up His life for me, gave me a way through the sin God can’t look upon – took that sin on Himself, I’m willing to dedicate my life to You.

The Lenten season begins with Ash Wednesday (February 10 this year). If you look on your calendar, chances are you wont even see an acknowledgement of Ash Wednesday. But it’s so important to us Christians, it is the beginning of Lent, a sober time of fasting and penance, a time of reflection on how we are living up to our part of the covenant relationship we’re in with God, what He did for us, how ugly our sin actually is and how beautiful Jesus’ sacrifice was.

We sometimes try to lighten the ugliness of our sin by saying someone else’s sin is worse. The truth is that every sin is abhorrent to God, no matter how we try to lighten it up, so just between you and God, between me and God, let’s not white wash our sin with that, “I’m doing the best I can, I’m a good person” nonsense. It is only through the blood of Jesus we get washed clean as we repent, that’s why being good and doing good isn’t enough. The only thing we can do is repent and repent again.

Lent means newness. New opportunities, new life, new goals. It’s really the “do-over” season when we wake up from our slumber and meet God full on in our desire to live out our salvation clothed in the righteous clothing called Christ.
Romans 13:14 (NIV), “Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Lent is about other clothes we should wear under the cloak of Christ as well:
Colossians 3:11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. 12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

The Season of Lent is approaching, let us dress ourselves properly as we prepare for Easter.

Pastor Betsyimage

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Things that Flow

It’s been so long since I’ve blogged. It had become distastful to me. A form of mass narcissism where words pounded me and meaning left me hollow. So long since I’ve even logged in, I had forgotten what my username and password was. Newtown Ct. is why I’m here. If you feel these words are giving you a pounding and have the potential to leave you hollow – I know the feeling, but God has placed something on my heart, I believe this. So here I am, for this time, using this forum, to express this God feeling – this is me letting flow the things that flow from my heart and my hands, and my eyes.
Everyone seems so shocked at the events at Newtown, the brutality of the young man who could deliberately set out to kill these babies. I’m shocked as well, but this level of evil and even greater evil is in the world. Children this age and younger are being sold into sex slavery by their own parents and children this age and younger are being brutalized everyday by family members. Evil abounds. Life has lost its value through mass abortion. I stood up for life on a facebook page recently and the reply comment was: “mark her comment as spam. It is 3 minutes of self important whining you will never get back.” wow. Life has lost its value in many ways from the unborn to the little children all the way to the elderly who are pushed aside as having lived out their usefulness. How the great heart of God must break over the condition of evil in the hearts of the very human race He loves so much and gave so much for. I fear we can even sink to greater depths of evil if those of us who are friends of God continue to wait on someone else to step in and do the Great Commission for us.
Until we demand something of ourselves, something of value is taken from us each time evil steps into the spotlight. Until we can truly “fear no evil for Thou art with us” we will keep on shaking our heads and clicking our tongues and wonding how this world got into the mess it’s in and we will continue to be blinded to our very role in creating that mess by our complacency and failure to step up and get on the front line of the battle.
I’m so sad because for the community of Newtown, Ct there will be 26 families trying to celebrate Christmas while dealing with the heartbreak and devistation of this one evil act (27 counting the gunman’s family – and we should count them and pray for them). I can’t even imagine how many people these families consist of – hundreds – and they will go through the rest of their lives never being able to celebrate this most beautiful time of year without having to deal with the horror of this year. I pray that God will manifest His love and comfort into each heart and dwell richly there. If I know anything, I know that God can take man’s evil and use it for His good. God can do anything. He is Light and in Him there is no darkness.
Last Sunday, if you are in church, you probably were experiencing an Advent wreath lighting ceremony. It was a special Sunday for the Advent wreath because it was time to light the pink candle. The other three candles surrounding the Christ Candle are purple. The first two Sundays in Advent the front two purple candles are lighted and the third Sunday the pink candle on the right rear is lighted. A friend of mine e-mailed me recently when one of the children she taught in Sunday School ask the question, “why is the pink candle always on the right rear?”
And the reason is:
The Pink candle is on the right because the right side is the place of honor. It is at the rear because up until the third Sunday of Advent the wreath is still half dark but when the pink candle is lighted and the light shines “through” – light suddenly wins the day! Darkness rules no more or even has even ground! That is one reason it is the candle of hope.  If there was ever a time we needed to see the pink candle lit, it was last Sunday!  If there was ever a time we needed to be reminded that we shouldn’t give up on the hope of Light winning and reigning, it was last Sunday!
God in His mercy and grace reminded me last Sunday, that through my deep sadness for all the loss in Newton that Light wins, it will always shine through the darkness. And that light lives right now and forever in the hearts of all who love Jesus. We have a responsibility to go and light our world and to be the very light that shines through the darkness of sin. It takes such courage to do this, but God calls us to it and He will give us the courage and strength.

Matthew 5: 14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,f that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.g 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

The Holy Bible  : New International Version. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984, S. Mt 5:14-16

The Holy Bible : New International Version. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984, S. Jn 3:16-21

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Ears to Hear

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD before Eli.  And the word from the LORD was rare in those days, visions were infrequent.  And it happened at that time as Eli way lying down in his place (now his eyesight had grown dim and he could not see well), and the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the Temple of the LORD where the ark of God was, that the LORD called Samuel, and he said, “Here I am.” Then he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.”  But he said, “I did not call, lie down again.”  So he went and lay down.  And the LORD called yet again, “Samuel!”  So Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am for you called me.”  But he answered, “I did not call you, my son, lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, nor had the word of the LORD yet been revealed to him.  So the LORD called Samuel again for the third time.  And he arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.”  Then Eli discerned thta the LORD was calling the boy.  And Eli said to Samuel, “Go lie down, and it shall be if He calls you, that you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for Thy servant is listening.’  So Samuel went and lay down in his place.  Then the LORD came and stood and called as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”  And Samuel said, “Speak, for Thy servant is listening.”  And the LORD said to Samuel, “I am about to do a thing in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle.”

Oh my!  There is so much of interest to me in these verses.  Samuel, still a boy and hadn’t come to know the LORD, nor had the word of the LORD been revealed to him.  But God still was calling Samuel.  And He kept calling until Samuel answered.  In a time when the word from God was rare and visions infrequent, God spoke to a child allowing a boy to hear him.  God told Samuel that what He was about to do in Israel would make both ears of everyone who heard tingle.

First, I think most of us think about the New Testament times and think on the fact that God spoke so often and Jesus walked and taught on the earth and God allowed many miracles and visions to occur among the believers.  Second, I also think that we don’t consider that God really speaks very often today and there are few visions.  And third, I believe that God is getting ready to make every ear that is “tuned in to Him” tingle with what He is about to do.  Sometimes in order to really hear God, we need to listen as children, eager to catch a word, eager to hear what our Father has to say.  I have to wonder how often we ask God to speak to us?  Mostly we do plenty of talking to God – and that’s great, but it shouldn’t end there, we need to allow time for God to speak to us.

During this time in Scripture the nation of Israel was very wicked.  No one was interested in listening to God, hearing His word.  People were busy with their own lives, too busy breaking God’s commands.  The last thing they had time for was listening to a prophet speak the word of God to them.  And so, the word of God was rare.  Sounds uncomfortably familiar.

You may or may not know this, but in the wake of the Revolutionary War there was a moral slump in this country.  Drunkenness was epidemic; out of a population of 5 million, 300,000 were drunkards.  At a rate of 15,000 per year they were being buried.  Profanity was shocking and for the first time in the history of the settlement, women were afraid to go out at night for fear of being assaulted.  There were bank robberies every day.  Churches – the Methodist being the largest at the time – were losing more than they were taking in.  The second largest was the Baptist, and they said that this time was their most wintery season.  The Presbyterians met in General Assembly to deplore the ungodliness of the country.  From the Congregationalists, the Rev. Samuel Shepherd in Lenox, Mass. had not brought in one single young person into fellowship in 16 years.  The Lutherans were so languishing they thought of joining with the Episcopals who were even worse off.  The Prostant Bishop of New York, Bishop Samuel Provost, quit functioning.  He had confirmed no one in so long that he decided he was out of work, so he took up other employment.  The Chief Justice of the United States, John Marshall, wrote the Bishop of Virginia that the Church was too far gone ever to be redeemed.

Voltaire said that Christianity would be forgotton within 30 years time and Tom Paine cheerfully preached this news all over America.  By the way, because of his ridicule of Christianity, Tom Paine was ostracized and at the time of his death in 1809 there were only 6 people at his funeral.

Is any of this sounding familiar for our time?  The great church historian, Kenneth Scott LaTourette, said that it seemed that the church was about to be ushered out of the affairs of men.  The church had its back against the wall and it seemed it was about to be wiped out.  But God had other plans.  What did God do to change all this?

It came through the concert of prayer.  In New England, there was a man of prayer named Isaac Backus a Baptist pastor and in 1794 when conditions were at their worst, he sent out a plea for prayer.  In the colleges of the time a poll was taken at Harvard and it was discovered that wasn’t even 1 believer in the whole student body.  A poll was taken at Princeton, a more evangelistic campus, and they found only 2 believers and only 5 who weren’t part of the filthy speech movement of the day.  Students rioted, had a mock communion at Williams College.  They had anti Christian plays at Darthmouth, Nassau Hall at Princetonwas burned down, a bible was taken from a Presbyterian church and burned in a public bon fire.  Christians were so few on campus they met in secret like a communist cell and kept their minutes in code so that no one would know what they were doing to persecute them.

Isaac Backus addressed his plea for prayer to ministers of every Christian denomination in the United States.  The churches responded, Bishop Frances Asbury adopted it for all the Methodists, the Baptist Association, the congregational, the Reformed , the Moravians, the Presbyterians joined in until America was a interlaced network of prayer meetings.  The first Monday of each month was set aside to pray and it wasn’t long before God worked and Revival began.  It broke out in Conn. And spread to Mass. When it reached Kentucky, it hit a temporary road block but from extra-ordinary prayer of the faithful, in the Summer of 1800 the great Kentucky Revival caught fire and 11,000 people came to a communion service.  The Pastor put out a call for help and Baptists, Methodists, and ministers of other denominations came all working together – Ecumenical.  The revival swept Tenn. Then burst over to North and South Carolina and throughout the frontier.  That was the turning point and from this came the amazing missionary movements, social reform, education guidelines, evangelistic drive.  More than 600 colleges in the Mid West were founded by revivalists.
Is the Word of the Lord rare in your life? How often do you listen to the Word of the God? How often are you able to come to public worship? What about in your own private life? Is the Word of the Lord rare in your private life? Are you too busy to have a private devotional life with God? Are you too proud, too self-reliant – “I’ve just never done that sort of thing before – I don’t read the Word of God on my own.” Or maybe you do, but it’s very quick, not much thought goes into it, because you need to get on with those things that are more important in your life.

It’s interesting to me that when people begin to drift away from God, one of the most common things they will say is:  “But I pray all the time.”  God just isn’t listening to me.  We want God to hear us, but we don’t even consider that we should be listening to Him.  We just want to do all the talking and demand that God do all the listening.  Today we are so caught up in our own needs, we pay little attention to the needs of others.  We could care less about the deplorable condition of people’s lives.  We just don’t want them bothering us, after all, they got themselves into their own mess.

Isn’t it interesting, that verse 7 tells us that “Samuel did not yet know the Lord, the Word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.” God was still a stranger to Samuel. And so it is with so many people, God is still a stranger. We’re too busy to listen, and we pray at times when we remember, but really, we are failing to make his Word a priority in our lives. God becomes more and more a stranger to us. We make excuses, but in the end, we are sinning, and we know it.

But what happens when we stop, and listen to our God? Three times God called out to Samuel, and Samuel did not know it was the Lord. Finally Eli figured out what was going on – God was finally speaking, and Samuel was the one God had chosen to speak to. And then verse 10: “The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other time, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

From that moment on, God spoke to Samuel on a regular basis, and Samuel listened. He came to know God for who he really was, what he was really all about. He became a prophet that everyone respected in Israel, because everyone knew that God was speaking to Samuel, and Samuel was listening.

Isn’t it amazing, that we can get to know the true God, not by doing something difficult or complicated, but simply by listening? What a blessing it is when we take time out of our busy lives and listen to our God! For example, did you hear the voice of God this morning? Did you make time for Him for a moment this morning?  When was the last time you confessed your sins to Him?
And did you hear what God said to you after you confessed your sins? God told you that his Son, Jesus Christ, has taken all of your sins away. God told you that Jesus, his Son, has died as a sacrifice for you, to pay for all the mistakes you have made in your life. God told you that because of his Son, Jesus, he completely forgives you for all of your mistakes, all of your sins. And not only does He forgive you, once you confess your sins and repent, He remembers them no more.  Were you listening when God spoke to you and said these things to you?

These wonderful words of faith are words that we would like to feel and speak every day to our Lord, Jesus Christ. What an amazing God we have, that he would give us this kind of faith simply through his Word. What an amazing God we have, that he asks us to do nothing more than listen, to say, as Samuel says, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” Jesus told Nathanael, “You shall see greater things than these,” and Nathanael did. He eventually saw Jesus rise from the dead and ascend into heaven.

We have not, because we ask not. James 4:2

I challenge you today to ask God to speak to you – to give you visions – to fine-tune your waiting ears.  I promise they will tingle with His response!  And pray church!  Pray like never before – and not just ordinary prayers, pray extra-ordinary prayers for if ever the church needed another Spiritual Awakening, it is now!  Our backs are against the wall once again.  We are in deplorable condition and we need the tide to shift from the secular to the sacred.  We need healing that only God can bring.  It’s time for prayer meetings, for people to care enough to go to extra-ordinary lengths to pray – giving up lunch hour, praying half the night away, setting aside and calling others to a specific prayer time – on our faces before our Holy God.  All ONE body, no denominational boundries here.  Here is your challenge, now is the time.

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A Time To Cling

There are several of my brother and sisters in Christ fasting for eternal purposes, I am also involved in fasting at this time and while I will not go into details of why, let me just say that I have taken some people into my confidence on why I seek God and His will through fasting and prayer for Him to accomplish something in the church that will open hearts to Him in a new way.

Last night a friend textd me on how I was doing.  There have been struggles as there will be in the early stages of a fast, but last night I was filled with joy that God was up to something amazing and I shared those feelings with my friend.  God placed a phrase in my heart on Sunday, the first day of my fast, “It is well with my soul”  I’ve shared that phrase several times and it is well with my soul today.  God is at work in His church!  That gives me great joy!  I want to see a vast army rise up – an army of God to combat the apostasy and complacency I see through out the church of America.  We are not prepared for persecution, we are not prepared to stand firm when we are sifted, we are not prepared to face the wrath of the enemy.  Please church, stop being “church people” and enter into relationship with one another and with God!  This isn’t about you or me, it’s about us being who we need to be to grow the kingdom!  Let God do amazing things in your life so you can share them with those who are hopeless, lost, struggling, hurting!  Be blessed today so that you can be a blessing to others!

Ezekiel 37:9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.
11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”
The Holy Bible  : New International Version.

Something is happening to me as I fast and pray.  I have begun not only to dream, but to remember the dreams.  This is something unusual for me as I rarely remember dreams.  I think it’s significant.  Last night I dreamt that there was a large tree in a forest.  Larger than any other trees, it was beautiful and had great branches reaching out to touch many of the other trees around it.  It was warm and I liked the idea of resting beneath the shade of the tree.  The breeze would cause the leaves to rustle so I knew that it was growing season because of the leaves and the warmth.  Light filtered through at times and filled me with even more warmth.  Almost like there were two sources of warmth, one from the tree and one from the heavens.

I realized that I had an sapling in my hand.  Not much more than a switch, but it was important that I plant the sapling as close to the large tree as possible.  The dream fast-forwarded from there and it seemed like the large tree wasn’t in a forest any longer but standing alone in a court-yard type place with other people coming and going.  As I walked by the tree I did a double take because the sapling I had planted beside the large tree had attached itself to the larger tree with hundreds of little fingers all up and down the length of the sapling making it look somewhat like a centipede.  I thought to myself in the dream, I wish I could draw this!  But the fingers/roots were like a vine that affixes itself to a wall or something akin to that and I felt like each little finger was a person clinging to the tree and it was a sure feeling that without the large tree the smaller tree would wither and die with all her little roots shriveling up and dying also.

 

 

I think it’s obvious that this dream was a dream that calls the church to cling to the Cross of Christ – He offered Himself up on a tree.  Christ is the tree, the warmth of the season is of God, He gives us a chance to cling to Christ and Christ alone Who is the Author and Perfector of our faith.  Without Him we can do nothing and with Him nothing is impossible.  We can rest in His presence and we can attach  ourselves to Him in such a way that we can take on His very characteristics.  Without Him we are lifeless and unusable, we hinder the process unless we are willing to afix ourselves to Him and grow in Him.  God has given us a season to do what needs to be done, but that time is limited.  Let’s get along side of Him and get busy!

Daniel 4:10 Thus were the visions of mine head in my bed; I sawb, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great. 11 The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth: 12 The leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it wasmeat for all: the beasts of the field had shadow under it, and the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof, and all flesh was fed of it.

b I saw: Chaldee I was seeing
The Holy Bible  : King James Version.

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God Seeks the Lost

You can find many religions in our world and they all seem to have one thing in common: People seeking God.  They seek God through any number of philosophical or cultural practices, trying to do what ever it takes to make a connection with God.

But Christianity is different: God is seeking us.  This is what Christmas is all about.  It is God pursuing humanity.  The coming of the Christ child has nothing to do with trying to unravel the mysteries of God through personal or intellectual or mystical abilities.  In that little child in the manger, God tood the initiative and revealed Himself to us.

There is a story of a young man traveling around the countryside in a spiffy sports car.  He screeched to a halt when he saw an old gentleman at a crossroads.  The young man shouted at him, “Do you know how far it is to the city?” “No.”  “Well then, can you tell me what time it is?” “Can’t say that I can, young man.” “You don’t know much, do you?”  “No, but I’m not the one who is lost.”

We call come across people who know an awful lot, but they are very lost.  And many times, they don’t know that they are lost.  All of us have been in the “lost” category at some time.  People are made for God, but they have lost God, and they may be driving around looking good and sounding intelligent, but they are totally disoriented.  Sometimes they feel like life isn’t making a lot of sense, but they don’t know why.  That’s what we mean by lostness.

The word “lost” in Scripture is sometimes translated as ‘perish.’  To perish is to slowly deteriorate.  Can’t we relate to this?  Sometimes we sit down and look at our lives in light of where we were ten years ago, and we’re horrified to discover how far we’ve come.  Yet we are hard pressed to see how we got to where we are.  It’s been a slow, insidious, careless, undisciplined deterioration of spirit.  Sometimes we look at habits that dominate us, and we remember when we thought we has so much control over our lives.  That’s lostness.

Wherever youlook, people’s lives seem to be unraveling.  They make a wrong decision or take a wrong turn, and suddenly their lives are in shambles.  There are many people who have started life’s journey on the wrong premise, have based actions on wrong conclusions, and who will finish up at the wrong destination uless something changes dramatically.  That’s what lostness means.

The good news is that God came looking for people who are lost and wandering and disoriented.  He came for us.

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I was greatly displeased and threw all Tobiah’s household goods out of the room. I gave orders to purify the rooms, and then I put back into them the equipment of the house of God, with the grain offerings and the incense (Nehemiah 13:8-9).

The high priest had allowed his grandson to marry the daughter of Sanballat, the governor of Samaria, who was an ally of Tobiah the Ammonite. Both of these were vitriolic, bitter enemies of Nehemiah. This cozy alliance led to an invitation to Tobiah to actually move into the temple itself. To make room for him, the high priest took over the storeroom that was set apart for the grain, oil, and incense used by the Levites in their purification and ritual ceremonies. So there were two wrongs involved. An Ammonite and his family were actually living in the temple, contrary to the Law of Moses; and, they had deliberately defrauded the Levites of their rights of storage.

When Nehemiah returned he went into prompt and passionate action. He threw the baggage out, fumigated the room, and returned the oil, grain, and incense to their proper place. Many people feel that he overreacted. Today we do not get upset by the presence of evil and think it strange that a man should act like Nehemiah did.  We have lost to a great degree our ability to express outrage and public indignation over things that are wrong.   There are many different ways that Satan will try to influence the body of Christ.  He tries many tactics because he wishes to break the heart of God and what better way to break God’s heart than to influence His people to accept or become indifferent to certain things that would allow them to entertain acceptance of alternate beliefs or lifestyles that are out of the will of God.

Ok, now is where I am going to step out and really step on some toes.  There is a thing called “Holy Yoga.”  This is a contradiction in terms because there just cannot be anything “Holy” about Yoga.  Yoga is an Hindu form of stretching and the movements are designed to pay homage to the many different gods they worship.  I have become convicted about this over the past month and am going to take a strong stand for God here.  I’ve been told that I am overreacting.  But in the general conversation when it comes up on this matter, normally the “holy” part is not mentioned, just the “yoga.”  God wants us to take care of our bodies and to be healthy and strong for Him.  But to try to incorporate a false belief system into the Christian life is not the answer.  The Bible is clear that there are just some things that shouldn’t be “mixed” together.  God asks His people to stay pure for Him.  Not allowing the world to filter into the New Creation He desires you to be.

syn·cre·tismNoun/ˈsiNGkrəˌtizəm/

1. The amalgamation or attempted amalgamation of different religions, cultures, or schools of thought.  Please consider this:

SA writes: “I am in a dilemma…I have spoken personally to my Parish Priest about my concerns about Yoga taking place now 3 times a week in our community hall. Some parishioners attend the yoga sessions. I have prayed for about 3 years to see yoga removed, to no avail… I personally know the dangers of Yoga, having practised it for about 3 years, but have renounced and confessed my taking part in yoga. Nobody seems to be bothered… Can you please give me some guidance, I do not know what to do now…”

This is a problem that only seems to get worse over time. The New Age movement is making its greatest advances into our faith on the backs of people who think they can “Christianize” fitness programs such as yoga and tai chi and thereby render them harmless.

Think about it – if this was possible, why couldn’t we just “Christianize” occult practices such as tarot cards and palm reading? How hard would it be to create a Christian deck of tarot cards and associate biblical prophecies with each one? And couldn’t we justify palm reading by saying that God created our bodies so when we read our palms, we’re just reading what God put there?

I know it sounds silly, but what’s the difference between this and what people are doing when they attempt to Christianize a Hindu practice?  And yet they’re doing it everywhere, and getting away with it!

If you really want to get mad, check out this story about “Catholic” yoga classes being held at the parish hall of none other than Sacred Heart Cathedral in Chicago! The woman responsible for bringing it to the parish claims that Catholics who take the class will experience “a growth in their faith life, and a growth in their sense of the Holy Spirit within” (I kid you not) This is in spite of a statement in the same article made by an expert in Hindu spirituality who says yoga cannot be anything but religious, and to detach it from its religious roots is offensive to Hindus.  (My thanks to M&LB for sending us this link):
http://cbs2chicago.com/local/catholic.yoga.controversy.2.1515067.html#addComments

The bottom line is simple – what these people are engaging in is syncretism.

Syncretism is the attempt to reconcile or merge opposing philosophies or principles and is a hallmark of the New Age Movement. This is why you see retreat centers offering tai chi and yoga alongside Catholic prayer and the Mass. Syncretists believe all religions are equal, and convincing us of this is a crucial step toward ushering in One World Religion, a major goal of the New Age Movement.

Unfortunately, this plan is achieving success because of a general lack of knowledge about yoga – and Christianity – which results in a hopeless blurring of the lines.

Everyone who participates in yoga, especially here in the West, needs to understand that the physical exercises of yoga are only one of eight limbs of this practice, none of which are designed to be isolated from the others. Yoga is all one big package designed to achieve “Kaivalya” (ultimate freedom) by releasing the soul from the chains of cause and effect (karma) which tie the person to continual reincarnation. Yoga employs physical postures (asanas) along with the seven other limbs – moral restraint, religious observance, breath control (pranayama), sense withdrawal, concentration, meditative absorption and enlightenment (Samadhi) to achieve this goal. This complex ancient science of self-purification and development is all aimed at yoking the practitioner to the Hindu God known as Brahman.

But what has happened here in the largely Christian West is that people wanting to cash in on the yoga-craze either to fill their pockets or their pews (or both) have fallen into the trap of thinking they can simply substitute Christian teachings for these Hindu concepts and thereby render them Christian. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple and major mistakes have been made by some of the leading proponents of “Catholic” or “Christian” yoga.

Elliot Miller, research specialist in Eastern religions for the Christian Research Institute, lists several major contributors to the field of “Christian yoga” in the U.S., all of which base their teachings on flawed understandings of either yoga, Christianity, or both.

The most influential is Nancy Roth, author of An Invitation to Christian Yoga (Seabury Books, 1989) and an Episcopal priest with “an ecumenical ministry in spirituality.” Roth claims she would use the relaxation and visualization time at the end of class to focus on Jesus even though the class was chanting “om” and all their exercises had Hindu names.

Eventually, she came to the realization that “there needed to be a new Christian asceticism that respected the integration of body and mind and reflected both the newest research in psychology and physiology and the wisdom of other, even more ancient spiritual traditions.” Christian yoga was her answer to this problem.

As Miller writes: “Roth’s words appear to reflect an inclusivist theology that is common in mainline churches such as the Episcopal church. Inclusivism holds that salvation is through Jesus Christ alone, but Christ’s salvation can extend even to those who do not consciously believe in Him, imparting to them gifts of grace or spiritual riches that can benefit those of other faiths, including Christians.”

As a result, “Roth’s interfaith exploration and synthesis of East and West laid the conceptual and practical foundations for Christian yoga, and the marks of her influence are evident throughout the movement,” Miller writes.

Two more recent authors who admit to being influenced by Roth’s work are Susan Bordenkircher (Yoga for Christians, 2006) and Brooke Boon (Holy Yoga, 2007). Both of these writers believe yoga can be redeemed and made into a holy practice to the Lord, even without a major revamping of yoga, Miller writes.

In studying their writings, he found significant theological flaws. For instance, knowledge of one’s true self is the ultimate goal of classical yoga, but has never been the goal of Christian spirituality. In order to “baptize” this major difference, Boon reconstructs the yogic goal of “acquiring the deepest knowledge of oneself” to “acquiring the deepest knowledge of oneself in Christ” and thinks she has fixed this problem.

However, as Miller points out, “Adding Christ into the equation does not make the pursuit of self-knowledge in ‘Holy Yoga’ any more of a Christian practice than adding sprouts to a greasy hamburger makes it health food.”

This is exactly the same error made by those who think they can “Christianize” the concept of a universal life force energy (chi, qi, ki, prana) simply by calling it the Holy Spirit. We can no more call chi the Holy Spirit than we can call a dog a cat. Why not? Because you can’t change the nature of something just by changing its name. Chi will always be chi, a dog will always be a dog, and yoga will always be yoga, no matter what you call it.

Profound errors are also found in Bordenkircher’s work. For instance, she does an awkward job of “Christianizing” the Hindu concept of bodymind (the idea that the body and mind are a single entity) a pantheistic belief that has no basis in Christianity.

“Because of this teaching, not only are the postures of yoga created for the end result of mind control, but it is also believed that the mind or soul cannot reach its potential if the body is beset with weakness,” Miller explains.

This non-Christian concept is found in the Christian yoga espoused by Bordenkircher. She writes “As your range of motion decreases, your ability and desire to do certain tasks will likely be affected. Your attitude may be negatively affected . . . your relationships may even suffer as you struggle with self-image and esteem.”

Even though the Bible does teach that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit and that they must be kept healthy in order for us to follow the Lord more effectively, “it is not true, however, that our moral decisions are determined by our bodily condition or that Christian sanctification flows from, or depends on, a sound body,” Miller points out.

These are just some of the flaws Miller uncovered in these works which are fueling the “Catholic” and “Christian” yoga craze in the U.S. Notice how subtle these errors are. One needs a theologian to point them out. And many of them – such as our pastors – don’t catch them either!  So how can we expect the “average Joe” in a yoga class to understand all this?

My advice to anyone who has a problem with yoga showing up in their parishes or schools is to attempt to educate the parties responsible about yoga. I have written a “quick read” on this subject (see the New Age Resources on the navigation bar above) that was designed to be used for exactly this purpose. Make sure these efforts are backed by continual and persevering prayer. Pray until the situation is resolved – even if that means praying until the day you die.

This article by Elliot Miller may also prove helpful, particularly to pastors:
http://www.equip.org/articles/yoga-exercises-and-christianity

This article gives an easy-to-remember acronym to the false teaching that yoga can be Chritianized: http://www.equip.org/hank_speaks_outs/how-should-christians-respond-to-yoga

Have I stepped on your toes?  Am I overreacting?  You have the right to your own opinion.  But I believe that God is convicting me and allowing me to seek His will and I will not be associated with a practice that I feel is out of His will and may result in creating a mixed and false message.  Now matter how unpopular I might become as a result.    The thing is, you can’t have it both ways.
You might remember an incident in the New Testament when Jesus came into the temple and found it filled with moneychangers. Jesus reacted in a way similar to Nehemiah. He made a whip and went around the temple, upsetting tables and driving the moneychangers out. It indicates that there is a time for strong stands against the evils that others have indifferently accepted.

Evil invades us quietly. Before we are aware of it, we have compromised and gone along with standards widely accepted. We find the people of God have often been corrupted by this kind of thing. When it comes down to individuals, this is a picture of our struggle with our flesh. We must be prepared to be drastic and take often painful action to clear up the things that are wrong in our own affairs. Many Christians allow evil to take root in their own lives. This story pictures the way these false forces can invade our lives and take up rooms in the very temple of our spirit, polluting and destroying us in the process. Take action. Do not allow these evil things to remain. Even if it takes painful effort to do so, end it! That is what this great story in Nehemiah teaches us.

Lord,
forgive me for the ways in which I allow subtle compromises to creep into my
thinking and my choices. Help me to be as ruthless in judging and dealing with
my own sin.

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Who Are You?

Are you a Pillar? – One who worships regularly, gives freely of both time and money.

Are you a Supporter? – One who gives time and money if he likes the pastor.

Are you a Leaner? – One who uses the church for funerals, baptisms and marriages, but gives no time or money to support the church.

Are you a Special? – One who helps and gives occasionally for something that appeals to him.

Are you an Annual? – One who dresses up, looks serious, and goes to church on Easter.

Are you a Sponge? – One who takes all the blessings and benefits, but gives nothing to support the church.

Are you a Tramp? – One who goes from one church to another but supports none.

Are you a Gossip? – One who talks freely about everyone and everthing except Jesus Christ.

Are you a Scrapper? – One who takes offense at everything and is always criticizing everybody and keeping things stirred up.

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