Dec 26, 2008

Retreat to worship in spirit

by Dan Grubbs

Not long ago, I taught about the spiritual disciplines of retreat and solitude to a group of young adults. In my study and research in preparation for the lesson, I believe I had a personal revelation about worshiping God and about Christ’s words in John 4:23-24. Maybe everyone else already understands this, but I wanted to share what the Holy Spirit showed me during my study.

Worshiping in spirit was sort of vague in my thinking (admittedly, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer). When I read this story about the Samaritan woman at the well, frankly, I just assumed that Christ was focusing on the mental dialogue we can have with God. Here’s the passage for those not familiar with it. “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshiper shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

I will confess to having a limited understanding of what Christ truly meant from His perspective. To what was Christ referring when He used the word “spirit”? Many will point to the corporate prayer and singing as important elements of worship.Others will remind us of giving and service as worship. I agree fully that these are examples of worshiping our God. But, I’m not convinced that is completely what Christ was talking about in this passage.

Here’s where my thoughts began to been enlarged about worship. I was digging into Christ’s and Paul’s examples of practicing retreat and solitude when I realized that these ‘spiritual’ disciplines are, I believe, largely what Christ was talking about. Paul going into Arabia; Christ slipping away into the wilderness; are examples of retreat and solitude to be alone with God to worship.

Christ was, in part, referring to worship as those times we are in communion with our Creator. It’s like the famous quote about Paul. Before his Damascus experience, Saul ‘said’ his prayers to God. After conversion, Paul ‘prayed’ his prayers. He was in connection as a personality with the personality of God.

When we retreat away from our schedules, our activities, and generally the ‘noise’ of living, and spend time in solitude with God, we are worshiping in spirit. That eternal part of us is ‘together with’ the eternal Spirit. This is exactly what the word communion means — together with. This is what Christ teaches us that the Father seeks from us.

This prompted me to quickly review other spiritual disciplines. I came to the same conclusion for each. When we can put ourselves away, and enter into a spiritual discipline, we are in communion with God and thus, worshiping Him in spirit.

You may ask, “Where’ve you been? That’s a principle the church has understood to be true for thousands of years.” I cannot deny that this truth was pre-existent to my own personal realization of it. Nor can I deny that I should have grasped this sooner. However, when I look around, I don’t see the fruits of a church who is regularly practicing the spiritual disciplines that lead to “worshiping the Father in spirit.”

In fact, what I see is a church who has come to revere time itself and put away the spiritual disciplines and salve our conscience with singing hymns and praises on Sunday and having a running dialog with God amidst the activities of our day. Do not misunderstand me. Corporate worship is vital, and we are not to neglect it.

We are privileged to be able to communicate with our God at any conscious moment. But, these things are not to replace the communion we experience with the personality of God when we (among other times) meditate, sit in silence, close the closet door, or retreat away where we will not be disturbed.

I know I’m taking a narrow picture of what spiritual worship can be. But, I think we need a foundation upon which to build other forms of spiritual worship. I’m quite sure that there are other disciplines that we could arguably focus on. But, as I said, we must begin with a foundation. Imagine the worshiper coming to Sunday service or a Bible study who has spent the week with a daily retreat. How much sweeter will our singing, our offering, our service, and our fellowship be?

We must teach our children, our youth, our young adults, our middle aged, and our elderly that we must practice the discipline of retreat to answer the call of worshiping the Father “inspirit and truth.”

C.S. Lewis put it this way: “God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other…God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”

Dec 24, 2008

Is "family" the new idol?

by Dan Grubbs

Well, I'm not sure I can say it's a new idea that "family" has become a distraction from our focus on God, but my larger point is that our society has used the family as an excuse for a deteriorating individual relationship with God.

What sparked this line of thinking is the fact that Christmas church services are nearly non-existent in a country where Dec. 25 is a specifically Christian celebration of the birth of the Messiah. Oh, there are Christmas-eve services aplenty still. But, according to an article by Amy Sullivan for Time, services on Christmas day are hard to find. Sullivan speculates, "most Protestant churches are closed on the actual religious holiday. For most Christians, Christmas is a day for family, not faith."

My unbelieving acquaintances would think Sullivan is daft for writing that last sentence. They'd say, "Of course Christmas is a holiday for the family." But, what struck me is Sullivan's central point -- that Christmas is no longer a day for faith. Her article indicates that this is a reflection of our cultural evolution in America where the family has been raised "to a sacrosanct level."

Now, before anyone goes down the road thinking I'm advocating that we abandon our familial responsibilities and lock ourselves away in some utopian cloister, think again. What I'm simply pondering on is how we in America live out our priorities.

If we claim that we are followers of Christ and desire to be obedient to His teachings and commandments, then our lives should be ordered in priorities that begin with our personal relationship with God, then our relationships and responsibilities to our families following. With that, then, I ask the simple question, What would stop us from attending a Christmas day church service? And, I believe the honest answer would be because we have family plans and activities that don't involve our local assemblies.

In my mind, one question leads to another. Therefore, I ask, how does this behavior reflect the choices we make regarding God? One thing I do know is that our God is a jealous God. He desires all of us, not just part of ourselves. It's also been my experience that when some distraction gets in the way of our relationship with Him, He will often remove that distraction. As the logical flow continues, if we esteem anything higher than God, it has then become an idol. Where does that leave us, then? As stark as it may sound, many of us has made an idol of our families insomuch as we esteem them (by our behaviors) higher than we do the Creator and Lover of our souls.

Can families remain at home and celebrate Christmas in a way that is faithful to Christ? Absolutely. To deny that is simply silly. However, I am sceptical that the majority of Christian families are actually celebrating Christmas day in a way that their focus is on their need for a Messiah to come to Earth.

Dec 20, 2008

Bound with unbelievers

by Dan Grubbs

My previous post may seem like it made too far a stretch to connect King Saul with Rick Warren. I understand that sentiment. However, I think there are other biblical teachings that directly apply to this situation in which Rick Warren finds himself.

2 Corinthians 6:14-15 is the main text I'll refer to in my disagreement with Warren accepting the invitation to deliver the prayer for the inauguration. Paul is teaching the believers in Corinth not to connect themselves with the false teachers around them, and secondarilly, not to associate themselves with unbelievers. The passage reads:
Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have
righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or
what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an

In application to our own lives, the idea of being bound together is often referred to as unequally yoked, as two draft animals yoked together to work for a common purpose. If you yoke two oxen that aren't matched as a collaborative pair, you can't plow the field properly. If believers yoke themselves together with those who are in opposition to God and His word, they will be unequally yoked.

It is clear that President-elect Obama stands in opposition to God on many issues. This fact cannot be denied. What partnership can we, as believers, have with one who so starkly stands in opposition to the God whom we serve?

Continuing in the 2 Corinthian passage, God calls believers out from among such as President-elect Obama, whose public position on many issues count him as one associated with darkness.

Should we pray for Mr. Obama? Absolutely! Not only as the leader of our nation, but more importantly, for his relationship with God to be healed. Yet, Mr. Warren will not be praying for Mr. Obama's salvation on Jan. 20, but instead, will be by his presence, endorsing the agenda of the chief executive.

Dec 19, 2008

Is that bleating of sheep and lowing of oxen I hear?

By Dan Grubbs

If I wasn’t a fan of Rick Warren before, I certainly am not a fan now that he will deliver the invocation at President-elect Obama’s inauguration next month. I’ve read that Mr. Warren views this as an opportunity for national healing. However, I see this as something else.
I don’t think God was too happy about King Saul withholding the sword from Agag, the Amalekite king, and brought back spoils of war when Saul was directly commanded by God to destroy all.

Of course there’s not a direct comparison of Mr. Obama with Agag, but there is something of a parallel. Mr. Obama's support of the slaughter of millions of American citizens, among other things, should cause Mr. Warren to refuse, just as Saul should have put the enemies of God to the sword.

Any man should always consider their actions from God’s perspective, considering how they fit into His plans as we understand them through the Bible. I’m not convinced that Mr. Warren’s motives to accept the invitation to deliver the invocation are healthy. As Ruben Navarrette, Jr., wrote for CNN, Mr. Warren’s appearance is supposed to be about “American’s learning to agree to disagree without becoming disagreeable.” This feels a lot like wanting to negotiate with Agag, an enemy of God; or, at best Mr. Warren is attempting to make a pleasing act of sacrifice. However, let’s review how God’s prophet Samuel replies to Saul, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.”

Personally, I could not make a public endorsement of Mr. Obama in this way because abortion is disobedience to God. And, there’s no apologetic to rationalize this appearance in any other way than a public endorsement.

Yes, Mr. Warren has been vocal about abortion, marriage and moral issues in this society. But, there is no eternal healing that can happen by delivering this invocation. And, it’s eternal healing that a pastor is supposed to be about.

Dec 17, 2008

Mentoring, it's a God thing

by Dan Grubbs

It’s interesting that today’s church, as hard as it works at small-group ministry, often misses Paul’s clear teaching in Titus about the older women teaching the younger and the older men guiding the younger men.

Small group ministry is absolutely vital. It’s there were the church experiences a profound blessing as the body of Christ. It’s a lot of what Act 2:41-47 is all about. But, why do local congregations have the tendency to make small groups homogeneous by age or life stage?

There is merit to meeting in fellowship with others going through similar things in life. But, this leaves out the more significant needs of mentorship, which is very effective when it occurs in the context of a small group. Today’s church needs to be careful about how it builds small group ministries and any limits it may impose.

Simplistically, discipleship is that growth and work we exercise in our spiritual lives to be more Christ like and glorify Him. We can’t rest on the fact that we are saved. Christ commands us to learn, grow and do, after that blessed work of salvation in our lives. But, that learning and growing and doing is severely limited if we rely solely on corporate assembly. We see this clearly in 1 Thessalonians.

Mentoring works

The secular world understands the results of mentorship. One of the most successful social programs I know is the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. It has helped thousands of young people grow into productive adults when the odds were against them. Are the odds against young people growing up sound in the faith today?

Business has even latched on to mentorship in its management training efforts. Businesses around the world understand mentorship and use it for succession planning. Companies will continue in their successful strategic plans largely through some form of mentorship. What legacy will today’s church leave to its younger members to take up?

I know there are many local churches with awesome mentorship programs. I’ve seen the lives of young people profoundly impacted by a caring and loving Christian mentor. But, without the willingness of mature Christians to mentor a younger believer, every program will fail. For, it’s in a mentoring relationship that the Truth can be passed on by teaching and by example.

Mentoring is a biblical model

A walk through the gospels will reveal Christ’s own example of how mentoring is the key to discipleship. Being who He was and understanding their future purpose, Christ took on 12 men for this purpose.

In this amazing mentoring relationship, Christ is the model for all who answer this call. He loved them, first. He guided them. He impacted their personal lives in everyday ways. He challenged them. He corrected and rebuked them. He imparted His knowledge of God’s will to them. This is our challenge to be the kind of mentor to young believers as Christ was to the Apostles.

Mentorship is also displayed in detail in almost all of Paul’s epistles. We need to emulate what Paul did and how he loved the people with whom he ministered.

Maybe at no other time in history is the need for mentorship greater than it is today. This is largely because of our mobile families and our normal mentors no longer live in our nuclear or extended families.

What should you do about it? Check out the biblical passages below to aid our understanding about mentoring:

Job 12:12 “Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?”

Psalm 71:17-18 “Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.”

Deuteronomy 1:37-38 “You also shall not enter. Joshua son of Nun, your assistant, shall enter
there; encourage him, for he is the one who will secure Israel’s possession of it.”

2 Timothy 2:2 “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit
these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

Titus 2:1-7 “But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance. Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips, nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored. Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, wit, purity in doctrine, dignified.”

Dec 15, 2008

Is the church making disciples as Jesus did?

by Dan Grubbs

John Warr, an 18th-century apprentice shoemaker, was determined to be a faithful witness for Christ. Another apprentice was hired, and John repeatedly talked to him about spiritual things. That new worker, however, didn’t want to be bothered. Then one day he was caught exchanging a counterfeit shilling for a good one. In his guilty humiliation he asked John for help and prayer. Through the faithful witness of John Warr, that man put his faith in Christ and developed into a committed disciple.

The young apprentice was William Carey, who later became a remarkably fruitful missionary to India. Carey’s life and ministry had a tremendous influence on the cause of worldwide gospel outreach in modern times.

Jesus said in John 15:8, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit.” This could be discouraging to Christians who can’t preach, sing, teach, or go to the mission field. They might see themselves as stuck in a situation that makes fruitful service impossible.

If that’s how you feel, then take courage from the example of John Warr. His impact on a co-worker brought glory to God and untold blessing to multitudes of people around the world.

In a world where bigger is usually assorted with better, it seems that Jesus might be considered a failure by today’s standards. After all, the Lord spent most of His time with only twelve disciples, one of whom betrayed Him. However, Jesus knew that by concentrating on twelve disciples He would leave this world, but leave behind a legacy. Here are eight elements of Christ’s disciple-making strategy:

  1. Jesus concentrated on teaching, training and developing twelve disciples into church leaders. By putting quality ahead of quantity, the Lord set a pattern for how godly leaders are to develop. There can be no short cuts to developing leaders for the church. Mark writes, “He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.” (Mark 3:14) The Lord selects those He wants. No person can presume to be a leader of God’s people by their own volition.
  2. Jesus concentrated on twelve because He wanted future leaders to give their entire attention to building well-rounded godly character. It is a myth that godliness can be manufactured through large theological factory like settings. Even Paul commended Timothy for learning lessons on godliness when he wrote, “You know all about my teaching, conduct, purpose, patience, love persecutions, sufferings and perseverance.” (2 Tim. 3:10) Real training happens in the context of a total life experience.
  3. Jesus employed His thoughts, emotions and efforts to assure that the apostles would replicate His life and thinking into the body of believers. In Acts 2:42-47 it says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and the apostles did many wonders and miraculous signs. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” The apostles knew no other way but concentrated ministry that sprang from a total commitment to the Lord in all dimensions of life.
  4. Jesus focused His objectives on twelve apostles who would teach through their examples. Many people were amazed at the transformation in the lives of twelve ordinary men. Luke wrote, “When people saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13) We become a lot like the people we spend most of our time and mental energies on.
  5. Jesus condensed many of His most complicated teaching to simple statements that could be transmitted through the those with little or no education. Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31,32) By concentrating much of His teaching in a few statements, the disciples could easily retain, reinforce and reproduce what they had learned.
  6. Jesus used local settings to keep His teaching contextualized. The Lord never went beyond 75 miles from the place of His birth. By using local people, with local illustrations and local situations, the Lord was able to provide a rich context that was easily reproducible.
  7. Jesus aimed at particular people who were most apt to respond to His message and have a life changing experience. While the world is looking for better methods, Jesus looked for better people. Pray and ask the Lord for wisdom in selecting a few disciples to train for godliness.
  8. Jesus distilled the grains of truth from volumes of knowledge so everyone could read and study His life and teachings. In God’s providential wisdom, the life and ministry of Christ is recorded in the Bible. Yet, the Bible says, “In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col. 2:6) We should follow Christ’s example in keeping our teaching straightforward, principled and consistent with our Master’s example.

Dec 13, 2008

Author stresses urgent need for fearless witnessing

by Allie Martin

A Georgia-based evangelist is trying to motivate and equip believers to reach friends and strangers for Jesus. In his book One Thing You Can't Do in Heaven (Genesis Publications, 2004), Mark Cahill says when it comes to witnessing, Christians can overcome fear and have confidence.

Cahill says every follower of Jesus Christ is called to be a witness, and each believer needs to redeem the time and make the most of every chance to share the gospel with the lost.

As the minister is fond of pointing out to fellow Christians, “We can worship God in heaven, we can praise God in heaven, and we can sing songs to God in heaven, but one thing we cannot do is share our faith with a nonbeliever in heaven — because they're not going to be there.”

Passionate about communicating a sense of the urgency of witnessing and helping people come to a saving knowledge of Christ, Cahill suggests that, for unbelievers, time is swiftly running out. Therefore, he says, “if we're going to reach them, we have to reach them here, and we've got to reach them now.”

The author of One Thing You Can't Do In Heaven says Christians have opportunities to share their faith in Christ on a daily basis and must not be afraid to talk about the realities of hell to unbelievers. However, he suspects that many believers who forego these opportunities do so because they are afraid of rejection.

But Cahill says he learned in his own spiritual walk that God's Word addresses his fears about being rejected by unbelievers as he shares the gospel. “When you read the scriptures,” he notes, “it says that they're actually not even rejecting me—they’re rejecting Jesus Christ [Matt. 10:22a]. And if you really think about it, it ought to hurt me a whole lot more that they're rejecting Jesus and not that they're rejecting me.”

However, it can be easy to forget this, Cahill says, “because of our prideful ways as people” and to think, as he has, “Oh, they rejected Mark Cahill.” But today the Great Commission-minded minister says, “Forget Mark Cahill. They're rejecting the Son of Almighty God.”

And that, the evangelist says, is what should bother believers far more than any personal rejection. “That should bother us to pray for these people,” he says. “That should bother us to share our faith to make sure they don't go anywhere near hell.”

Cahill resides in Stone Mountain, Georgia, and often leads witnessing efforts at music concerts, art festivals, sporting events, and homosexual gatherings in the metro Atlanta area. He also travels around the U.S., addressing more than 25,000 people annually at churches, retreats, conferences, and camps, in an effort to equip and challenge more of the saved to go out and reach the lost.

This article appears with permission of © 2004

Dec 8, 2008

In the world, of the world, what's in a preposition?

by Dan Grubbs

I believe many of us in Christ’s church have forgotten the concept of in the world but not of it. Have we withdrawn to the comfort of our fellowship body, or have we stepped out in faith in the big bad world?

In the passage of 2 Timothy 3:1-17, Paul paints a bleak picture of the conditions “in the last days.” Not wanting to get into eschetological weed here, but it’s no stretch to see some of the conditions Paul is talking about in this passage in today’s society. It’s enough to make a believer want to retreat and protect ourselves from the world around us.
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” The first question we need to ask ourselves is if we think there is good cause to protect ourselves and families from the kind of activities and behavior that Paul lists in the first four verses? But, maybe a better question is if
withdrawal from this kind of society is what Christ meant for our lives.
It’s a fact that Christians have pulled themselves and their families out of the world to the security of their local churches, small groups, private schools, or home-school cooperatives. Frankly, it’s comfortable in these places and certainly less painful.

However, I believe it’s exactly these conditions Christ had in mind when He was addressing the people in His sermon on the mount. When we read Matthew 5:13, we can see what Christ wants us to be when facing the world. Here He uses an effective metaphor to make His point. “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.”

What does Christ mean by being salt? Of course He means we’re to be effectual for Him in the world. So, how do we balance being salt and keeping from being victimized? This is actually a faulty question because it isn’t if we’re gong to be persecuted, the question is when. But the scriptures teach us that we’re to step out into the world anyway. Yet, there is benefit from being persecuted by the world and we should never shield ourselves and our loved ones from these blessings.

Yet, our motivation to be obedient to God’s will and Christ’s teaching is not for our own benefit, but to save the lives of those who are perishing all around us.

In light of Paul’s warning to Timothy about difficult times ahead, we may think that we’re silly if we subject our families to these conditions. But, Paul also gives encouragement and counsel for dealing with life in these circumstances. What does Paul say will happen to such people who persecute believers? Paul references in verses 8-9 a passage talking about those who opposed God. Exodus 7:10-12 “So Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh, and thus they did just as the Lord had commanded; and Aaron threw his staff down before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh also called for the wise men and sorcerers, and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same with their secret arts. For each one threw down his staff and they turned into serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs.”

Why did Paul referenced this story of Jannes and Jambres at this time? How does this relate to what Paul is writing to Timothy?

Just as if Paul anticipates any rebuttal from Timothy, he gives him verse 14 to tell Timothy how to deal with the difficult times. “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them; and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

So with the learning and understanding of the gospel, Timothy — and we today — are supposed to be salt in this world regardless of the conditions.

I believe that we need to remember an important verse when we consider the rest of this letter to Timothy. 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline,” (sound judgment).

So, if we’re to face the dark world and not withdraw from the world, how shall we go into the world? How shall we equip ourselves? What are we to do once there? I can point to verses 16-17 for the answer. “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

Armed with the gospel and God’s word, we step out in faith. But, where are these good works supposed to take place? In and among other Christians? In some cases, yes. However, if we limit our ministry there, we become tasteless salt to Christ. He charged us to “go” and be salt and light in the world. I am sure we all agree that we are not to withdraw out from the world, but be in the world. That’s what Christ meant by being salt. If we withdraw, then we are worth nothing to Christ and cannot be used by Him, and we might as well be discarded and trampled underfoot.

I am certainly not advocating against gathering together in corporate worship and fellowship or against home schooling. What I want to point out is that many of us have retreated to these places to escape the world when it’s precisely the world into which we are to go.

I’ll end with seven tough questions we all need to contemplate in our own lives:
  1. Are we as effective for Christ as we can be?
  2. Have we equipped ourselves and our loved ones to be effective?
  3. Are we cunning craftsmen for God in the world?
  4. Do we have the courage to face difficult times?
  5. Have we withdrawn from the world in some ways?
  6. Have we withdrawn our loved ones from the world?
  7. Do we truly believe that our serpents will swallow the world’s serpents?

Dec 5, 2008

Today's ecumenism is not Christian unity

by Dan Grubbs

Should we be burdened by the fact that many of the masses who consider themselves Christian are committed to ecumenism? I believe ecumenism as is being practiced today is a danger to believers. Ecumenism proponents are fully convinced that bringing together denominations, sects and creeds, even of divergent doctrine, to be a living out of Christ’s prayer for unity. I'm convinced they are misunderstanding Christ's high priestly prayer.

With no intention to offend, I will use the church of Rome as an example of why ecumenism as is currently being practiced, is not what Christ was praying about to the Father when He prayed for unity. Those who reach out to the members of the church of Rome should realize what ecumenism means to them.

The truly justified who may reach out to a Catholic in ecumenical effort should know what the follower of the church of Rome understands his Vatican to proclaim about ecumenism. Summarily stated, the Roman church wishes to bring “separated brethren” back to the “only” Catholic church.

There may be some Catholics who will deny this is the case and only want to work together with people of other faiths to further their social agenda. However, regardless of how any individual Catholic believes, his church has made ecumenism “back” to the church of Rome of utmost priority.

The Roman church has issued what it refers to as “Unitatis Redintegratio” or a Decree on Ecumenism. In it, the Catholic church reinforces the Second Vatican Council’s position that the “restoration” among all Christians is "one of principal concern.” This sounds simple enough upon face value. However, when we read the fullness of the decree, we see just what position the Catholic church takes on people who are not officially members of the church of Rome.

Quoting from Chapter 1 of the decree, the following excerpt, in my opinion, makes very clear what the Catholic church’s desire is: to “restore” Christians “back” into the Catholic church, and only then, will there be one “Body of Christ.”

Nevertheless, our separated brethren, whether considered as individuals or as
Communities and Churches, are not blessed with that unity which Jesus Christ
wished to bestow on all those who through Him were born again into one body, and
with Him quickened to newness of life -- that unity which the Holy Scriptures and
the ancient Tradition of the Church proclaim. For it is only through Christ's
Catholic Church, which is "the all-embracing means of salvation," that they can
benefit fully from the means of salvation. We believe that Our Lord entrusted
all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone, of which
Peter is the head, in order to establish the one Body of Christ on earth to
which all should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the people of
According to this official Vatican decree, there can be no unity unless you are a member of the Catholic church. The decree states that people "are not blessed with that unity which Jesus Christ wished" unless they restored to the church of Rome.

So before anyone joins together with someone else in an effort of ecumenism, I encourage them to fully understand what that other person understand to be the motivation. In the case of the church of Rome, the motivation is to point out your error and bring you back into the church he believes is the exclusive means of salvation!

Dec 3, 2008

False doctrine leads to deception

by Donna J. Kazenski

Most Christians today have no problem discerning that Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Masons, etc. are teaching false doctrine and leading many astray. However, there are many who are not able to discern truth from error. As a result, they have placed themselves in the hands of the enemy and are being led down a path of deception and destruction.

Paul warned that false teachers would attempt to infiltrate the church from both the outside and from within. Peter wrote, “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction,” 2 Peter 2:1 (KJV). The word translated as “privily” not only describes the method by which false doctrine is smuggled into the church, but also describes its deceptive purpose.

The original Greek word pareisago, is a three-fold word that begins with the preposition para. Para means “alongside” and describes the smuggling operation. False teaching runs alongside true doctrine. This creates a deception difficult to detect because it is close to sound doctrine.

Those who work with money must be trained to know the difference between a counterfeit and a genuine dollar bill. Spiritually speaking, we can apply these same truths when it comes to exposing false teachings that are propagated in the body of Christ today. We must allow the Lord to minister to us and train us according to His holy word and by the power of His Spirit. We must be careful that we do not allow another Jesus or another gospel to lead us into error.

The next part of pareisago is the Greek word eis which means “into”. Usually men or women from within the ranks of Christianity will run these false teachings alongside (para) true doctrine for the purpose of getting their deception into (eis) the church. The final part of this word is the Greek word ago. This word means “to lead”. The end result of false doctrine is for individuals to be led astray.

The Greek word pareisago reveals that false doctrine runs right alongside true doctrine, to get it into the body of Christ and to lead individuals astray.

The sad fact of the matter is that many times the deception is brought into the body of Christ by respected leaders and laymen. Therefore, we must learn to eat the meat and spit out the bones or we will find ourselves choking on what we should never have consumed.

Hebrews 13:9 tells us not to be not carried away with divers and strange doctrines. The church must not be quick to embrace every teaching that comes from the pulpit. We must learn to sift the teachings given to us through the filter of the scriptures. The word of God will expose which is error and which is truth. We must pay attention to what God’s word is saying. If what we are hearing is not lining up with the word of God, we would save ourselves from deception and heartache if we would just learn how to spit out the bones.

In Matthew 22:29, Jesus told the Sadducees that they didn’t know the scriptures very well. I believe this is one of the major problems of the body of Christ today. We do not know the scriptures or the power of God. We have settled for less than God’s manifest presence in our midst. We have neglected spending time at the Master’s feet in prayer and adoration of who He really is. We have accepted the teachings of man instead of the word of God. We have negated the power of God because we do not know Him in the way that we should know Him. We have embraced everything that has been dished out to us, but we have not yet learned how to embrace the Cross and the Christ who died upon it.

The early church tapped into this power as they gathered together in one accord and began to seek the Lord of glory. They didn’t seek after new techniques or the latest Christian fad; they sought after the power of the Holy Spirit and they received the power needed to evangelize the whole known world. They possessed what many of us do not possess today.

They spent time with Jesus and as a result of their relationship with Him; they experienced His power to seek and save that which was lost. They manifested His power to those who needed His supernatural touch.

If we want to see the power of God manifested in our midst, we must focus our eyes upon Jesus and allow ourselves to be saturated with His word so that we will be able to discern between that which is truth and that which is error. May the Lord turn us from that which is counterfeit to that which is genuine.