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Archive for May, 2009

The Dutch Reformed Church’s [Accelerated] Downward Spiral into Apostasy

Posted by Tom Lessing on May 17, 2009

Someone recently asked me “How is it possible that anyone who once proclaimed a steadfast faith in Jesus Christ can apostatize from the truth and begin to follow another Jesus, and yet still believe that they are following the real Jesus?” In hindsight I knew my answer was rather flimsy at the time and I felt like kicking my own rear-end for not having provided a better reason for our postmodern malady of chronic apostasy. I must admit I felt much better when I realized that when Paul grappled with the phenomenon of apostasy he could only express his astonishment at the serious and very dangerous defection from sound biblical doctrine in the church at Galatia without giving any sound reasons. The most amazing thing about their apostasy was that it happened so quickly. It accelerated at an alarming rate since Paul’s last missionary journey to Galatia and very soon after the false teachers began to infiltrate the church with their menacing heresies. It indicates that when doctrinal error is allowed to continue unabated and is not immediately nipped in the bud it will quickly spread like a cancerous tumour, spreading rapidly from body cell to body cell until the entire body is infected and eventually killed (2 Timothy 2:13-19). Incidentally, rev. Attie Nel of the DR Church Bergsig delivered a sermon on this passage but instead of warning his congregants against the manifold false teachers of our time, he singled out the “whistle-blowers” as the whipping-boys and cancer carriers and advised his congregants to rather surf the site http://bible.org if they needed solid biblical mentors or teachers to guide them on their spiritual journey. He said:

N.T. Wright “Today there are three persons who’ve had a very significant influence on my life: N.T. Wright, SCOT McKNIGHT and Eugene Peterson. In South Africa: Stephan Joubert and Jan van der Watt, and even Adrio König. Everyone of us should have a teacher or two in our lives, preferably more than one [and] say: ‘I am eager to learn from you.’ However, people learn in different ways. Some learn through reading; others though listening; yet others learn though talking, discussion. I do not like to talk because I am a slow thinker, but I’m an avid reader and listener. Now, I’m going to give you a website’s name where all three of these things occur. There’s a lot of reading-matter, very good reading-matter and conservative theologians; they publish daily on that site and there is also sermons you may listen to, and there’s a place where you can chat with others. The address is very simple, www.bible.org. Pop in there; you can also make those persons your teachers.”

Toward the end of his sermon rev. Nel says:

“Make God the first love, the only love in your life. Having said that, one wonders, ‘but how do I live it?’ And one of the persons I heard speaking about this, this week, he said ‘Just love Jesus.’ That’s all. Only love the Lord. If you love the Lord and if you love Him more than anything else everything falls into place. Its so easy. Its so easy. Its not an emotion. I do not choose to feel something. I choose to be something. How does it feel to love your wife? I don’t know . . . All I know is that I would do nothing to hurt her. How does it feel to love your wife? I don’t know . . . I do not know what it feels like. All I know is that when I keep my children in safety, that is what my wife wants of me . . . ‘Just love Jesus’”

These are indeed precious words but unfortunately precious words do not always paint the full picture. Jesus Christ also wants rev. Attie Nel and all the other pastors in the Dutch Reformed Church family to keep God’s children safely, just as his wife wants him to keep their kids in safety. Didn’t  Jesus say that our love for Him will be mirrored in the way we feed and keep his sheep and lambs? (John 21: 15-17). To love Jesus is therefore much more than a mere pious wish to “just love Jesus.” In fact, Scripture never says that we should “just love Jesus.” Love for God finds its highest expression in the way you handle and practice His Word (doctrines) (John 14:21, 21; 2 John 9) and also in the way you feed and keep his children. In the first place, to keep God’s children safely means to preserve and feed them within the constrains and parameters of His Word so that they may grow spiritually and to protect them against the unscrupulous attacks of false teachers. Are our pastors doing that? No, say I, because they are delivering up the sheep and the lambs to teachers who are saying and doing things contrary to our Great Teacher, Jesus Christ. They are leading the sheep and especially the lambs along ways that seem right but the ends thereof are the ways of death (Proverbs 14:12).

N.T. Wright, one of rev. Attie Nel’s influential teachers, is a bishop in The Church of England who are confusing Christians with his book “What Saint Paul Really Said.” He is also one of the co-writers of a book that is causing an uproar in the church, called “Stricken By God, Nonviolent Identification & the Victory of Christ edited by Brad Jersak en Michael Hardin. Several distinguished leaders in the Emergent Church, amongst them Brian McLaren, have endorsed it with gusto. Bishop Wright is an highly esteemed person in the Emergent Church. On page 119 of his book “What Saint Paul Really Said” he wrote the following on the doctrine of justification.

"’Justification’ in the first century was not about how someone might establish a relationship with God.  It was about God’s eschatological definition, both future and present, of who was, in fact, a member of his people."

With this concoction readers are expected to rethink the concept of justification. According to Wright “justification” cannot be interpreted in terms of God’s imputed righteousness of His Son to save sinners, but merely as an expression or locution (metaphor) of God’s covenant faithfulness in vindicating Israel in the face of the nations. No wonder Paul lamented:

Galatians 1:6-7 I am surprised and astonished that you are so quickly turning renegade and deserting Him Who invited and called you by the grace (unmerited favor) of Christ (the Messiah) [and that you are transferring your allegiance] to a different [even an opposition] gospel. Not that there is [or could be] any other [genuine Gospel], but there are [obviously] some who are troubling and disturbing and bewildering you with a different kind of teaching which they offer as a gospel] and want to pervert and distort the Gospel of Christ (the Messiah) [into something which it absolutely is not].

The apostle John was equally astonished when he was shown the apocalyptic MYSTERY BABYLON, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH and the woman who was drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus (Revelation 17:6). In fact, the very same word “thaumazo { thou-mad’-zo}” is used in both these passages. Unfortunately astonishment (amazement, bewilderment and shock) have been replaced by admiration and appreciation, even to the extent that the once disallowed and disavowed doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church are being assimilated in Protestant circles with accelerated zeal and wonderment. Those who fail to notice the globally orchestrated and unrelenting efforts of some of the most revered spiritual leaders in both the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches to reverse the Reformation need to surf the internet for only a few hours to see how far they have progressed to eradicate the divide between the two. During my research on the internet I happened to stumble on a site entitled PBS that seems to be on the forefront of providing international news and views via their television stations and internet content. They claim to reach more than 65 million people every week and invite their viewers and listeners to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; hear diverse viewpoints; and take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. I was particularly interested in their page called RELIGION AND ETHICS and its cover story “Protestant Mary” which appeared on December 17, 2004. Kim Lawton, Managing Editor/Correspondent and award winning reporter, producer, writer and editor who has worked in broadcast media and print for nearly 20 years covering religion, ethics, and culture, interviewed several well-known clergy and academics. She introduced Prof. Timothy George, Southern Baptist and dean of the evangelical Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama, as one of a growing number of theologians and writers urging evangelicals and other Protestants to stop ignoring Mary. She also interviewed Professor BEVERLY ROBERTS GAVENTA (Princeton Theological Seminary) who is calling for a new Protestant examination of Mary.

So even in order to understand fully what those Gospels are about, which is so much what Protestants prize, we have to pay more attention to her. We can’t just bring her out for Christmas Eve and put her back away on the 26th.

Mother Mary Why do we need to pay more attention to Mary when she hardly or ever contributed to the advancement or illumination of the Gospel? That task was given to the twelve apostles of whom Jesus once said: “Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” We dare not show any partiality when Christ himself singled out every person who does the will of His Father in heaven to be his brother and sister and mother. Mary who presented herself to God so that He may accomplish His will in regard to the incarnation of God the Son, was indeed blessed but so are the poor in spirit, they that mourn over their sins, the meek, the hungry who thirst after the righteousness of God, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. No one can deny that Mary was a blessed chosen vessel of God, for had He not done so our blessed Lord and Saviour could never have partaken of flesh and blood so that our sins and transgressions could be judged in His torn and bloodied body on the cross. The virgin vessel was blessed but no more than every man, woman and child who do the will of His Father in heaven. As soon as we place Mary on a pedestal to single her out for special attention above all the others whom Jesus Christ referred to as his brothers and sisters and mothers, we are dangerously close to the Mariology of Roman Catholicism. Mariology in the Roman Catholic tradition is not just about bringing Mary out of Christmas Eve and examining her position for a better and fuller understanding of the Gospels. The ultimate goal of Mariology is to proclaim Mary Co-redemptrix with Jesus Christ. The following definition of the word “Co-redemptrix” appears on Wikipedia.

Co-Redemptrix in Roman Catholic Mariology refers to the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the redemption process. It is a separate concept from Mediatrix. The concept of Co-redemptrix refers to an indirect or unequal but important participation by the Blessed Virgin Mary in redemption. She gave free consent to give life to the redeemer, to share his life, to suffer with him under the cross and to sacrifice him for the sake of the redemption of humankind. Co-Redemptrix has not been formally defined as a dogma, although petitions for declaring it (along with Mediatrix) a dogma have been submitted to the pope by various Cardinals and bishops. It would become a fifth Marian dogma if approved by the Holy See.

Millions of Roman Catholics have signed and submitted a petition to the Pope, pleading with him to declare Mary Co-redemptrix, Mediatix and Advocate for all Christians. On April 9, 1997 the late Pope John Paul II referred to the role of Mary in the crucifixion during an audience as follows:

Mary … co-operated during the event itself and in the role of mother; thus her co-operation embraces the whole of Christ’s saving work. She alone was associated in this way with the redemptive sacrifice that merited the salvation of all mankind. In union with Christ and in submission to him, she collaborated in obtaining the grace of salvation for all humanity…In God’s plan, Mary is the ‘woman’ (cf. John 2:4; John 19:26), the New Eve, united to the New Adam in restoring humanity to its original dignity. Her cooperation with her Son continues for all time in the universal motherhood which she enjoys in the order of grace. Trusting in this maternal cooperation, let us turn to Mary, imploring her help in all our needs. (Emphasis added)

The ominous reality about the growing world-wide appeal to proclaim Mary the Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate for all Christians is that it has taken on an increasingly supernatural dimension with the many Marian apparitions throughout the world. In many of these Marian apparitions she claims to be the Mediatrix, Advocate, Saviour (Ark of peace) and ever-present, titles which belong to Christ alone. Her most alarming claim is that she is the Co-Redemptrix or Co-redeemer of the world. The following quotes are directly from the lips of the “Mary” many people have seen in her apparitions throughout the world.

I stand here as the Co-redemptix and Advocate. Everything should be concentrated on that. Repeat after me: The new dogma will be the dogma of the Co-Redemptrix. Until I’m acknowledged, there with the most holy Trinity, has willed me to be, I will not be able to exercise my power fully in the eternal work of co-redemption and in the universal mediation of graces.”

She claims to have suffered with Christ for the sins of the world.

I love you even if you are far away from me and my son. I ask you not to allow my heart to shed tears of blood because of the souls who are being lost through sin.

For a long time I have suffered for you. If I don’t want my son to abandon you, I am forced to pray to him myself without ceasing. You pay no heed. However much you would do, you can never recompense the pain I have taken for you.

I boldly assert that his suffering became my suffering because his heart was mine. And just as Adam and Eve sold the world for an apple, so in a certain sense my son and I redeemed the world with one heart.

I am she who is related to the divine Trinity. I am the virgin of Revelation.

My children, I am the Door of heaven and a help on earth.

She encourages her children to venerate her statues.

As mother I want to tell you that I am here with you represented by the statues you have here. Each of my statues is a sign of a presence of mine and reminds you of your heavenly mother. Therefore, it must be honored and put in places of greater veneration. You should look with love at every image of your heavenly mother.

She also encourages her followers to build shrines and temples to her honour

I ardently desire a temple built for me here where I can show and offer all my love, compassion, help and protection, for I am your merciful mother.

In 1999 in Amsterdam she was not only hailed as the Co-Redemptrix but also for the first time as The Lady of all Nations. In one of her apparitions she said the following-

When the dogma, the last dogma in Mary’s history has been proclaimed, the Lady of Nations will give peace, true peace to the world. The nations, however, must say my prayer in union with the church. They must know that the Lady of all nations has come as Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate.

The Marian apparition now claims that she is not only Mary the mother of God but also Lady of all the Nations and as soon as the Pope declares her to be the Co-Redeemer with Christ she will usher in a new era of peace.

Speak about the mother of the Eucharist because the mother of the Eucharist closes history. All the messages come from God and everywhere that I am appearing I am speaking about the same things. Because of the triumph of the Eucharist, the mother wants all the churches to be reunited so that there will be only one church for all the people (Emphasis added).

You may have begun to wonder why I am telling you these things and how they tie in with the Dutch Reformed Church’s downward spiral into apostasy. Not only has the emerging mystical spirituality (contemplative prayer, centering prayer, lectio divina, lectio continua, enneagrams, labyrinths, solitude, the silence, meditation, breath prayers, the Jesus prayer, contemplative retreats, twelve cross stations, Jesus candles, icons, Ignatian contemplation, the Desert fathers etc.) taken the church by storm, it is beginning to show its true colours and purpose which is to bring Protestants back into the Roman Catholic fold.

Prof Beverly Gaventa The Faculty of Theology at the University of Stellenbosch and Communitas will be hosting a three-day conference on the theme “What can we learn from the book of Acts about being a Missional Church?” from 18-20 May 2009. The conference will launch research groups that will work on seven themes in the Book of Acts over a period of three years. The project aims at bringing together two major discussions within the context of theology and church practice. Proff. BEVERLY GAVENTA (Princeton Theological Seminary) who I have already briefly introduced to you as a promulgator for a new Protestant examination of Mary and SCOT McKNIGHT (North Park University, Chicago) will be the main speakers at the conference. Like Prof. Gaventa, McKnight urges Protestant churches to honour Mary. The following excerpt appeared in one of the site Lighthouse Trials Research’s newsletters:

In emerging church leader, Scot McKnight’s book, The Real Mary: Why Evangelical Christians Can Embrace the Mother of Jesus, McKnight says thatScot McKnight Protestant Christians are the only Christians who do not honor Mary. He recommends that Protestant churches all practice an "Honor Mary Day" (p. 144), saying she "leads us to a Jesus who brings redemption … To listen to Mary is to hear the message of Jesus’ death and resurrection as a mega-event whereby God established a new kind of power, a new kind of family, and a new kind of kingdom" (p. 145). McKnight describes this great event as a time when the world will come together and worship Mary (Emphasis added).

McKnight who is already having a great impact on the emerging church is also passionately promoting the Eucharistic Jesus in Protestant circles. He says that "the Eucharist profoundly enables the grace of God to be received with all its glories and blessings."(Scot McKnight, Turning to Jesus, (Louisville, KY: Westminister John Knox Press, 2002 edition, p. 7).

It is evident that the Dutch Reformed Church’s three-day conference on the theme “What can we learn from the Book of Acts about being a Missional Church” is nothing but a well-disguised effort to promote the Roman Catholic Church’s New Evangelization programme. Many young Dutch Reformed Church clergy are progressively opting for a missionary strategy to establish the Kingdom of God on earth and are urging people to become followers of Jesus. The Jesus they are following is slowly but surely morphing into the Eucharist Jesus who is repeatedly sacrificed on the altars of Roman Catholic cathedrals throughout the world. For more information on this subject read here.

Jeremiah 44:15-25 Then all the men who knew that their wives were burning incense to other gods, and all the women who stood by – a great assembly – even all the people who dwelt in Pathros in the land of Egypt, answered Jeremiah: As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not listen to or obey you. But we will certainly perform every word of the vows we have made: to burn incense to the queen of heaven and to pour out drink offerings to her as we have done – we and our fathers, our kings and our princes – in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; for then we had plenty of food and were well off and prosperous and saw no evil. But since we stopped burning incense to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have been consumed by the sword and by famine. [And the wives said] When we burned incense to the queen of heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, did we make cakes [in the shape of a star] to represent and honor her and pour out drink offerings to her without [the knowledge and approval of] our husbands? Then Jeremiah said to all the people – to the men and to the women and to all the people who had given him that answer – The incense that you burned in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem – you and your fathers, your kings and your princes, and the people of the land – did not the Lord [earnestly] remember [your idolatrous wickedness] and did it not come into His mind? The Lord could no longer endure the evil of your doings and the abominations which you have committed; because of them therefore has your land become a desolation and an [astonishing] waste and a curse, without inhabitants, as it is this day. Because you have burned incense [to idols] and because you have sinned against the Lord and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord or walked in His law and in His statutes and in His testimonies, therefore this evil has fallen upon you, as it is this day. Moreover, Jeremiah said to all the people, including all the women, Hear the word of the Lord, all you of Judah who are in the land of Egypt, Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: You and your wives have both declared with your mouths and fulfilled it with your hands, saying, We will surely perform our vows that we have vowed to burn incense to the queen of heaven and to pour out drink offerings to her. [Surely] then confirm your vows and [surely] perform your vows! [If you will defy all My warnings to you, then, by all means, go ahead!] (Emphasis added).

When a church, their leaders, their countrymen and their country refuse to listen to and heed God’s warnings in His Word, He leaves them to their own devices and allows them to fall even deeper into their self-inflicted, apostatized and idolatrous lifestyles. Like Israel of old they too have their pious reasons for their disobedience. Our country has been in the grip of crime and violence for a very long time and despite the many warnings from various corners throughout the country, church leaders, and especially our younger generation church clergy, have unremittingly and obstinately followed their own “new-hearty” and “labyrinthy” ways to bring peace to our land. They too say “we and our fathers, our kings and our princes – in all the cities of South Africa – will bring peace, prosperity and happiness through our own efforts and methods. We have tried the old ways but it didn’t work. Let us therefore rethink the Gospel; let us listen to the followers of other religious persuasions and work in union and in harmony with them to save our beloved country.” God  says to them “Surely, then confirm your new vows to usher in My Kingdom on earth with your abominable ways; honour the queen of heaven as my people have done in olden times. If you will defy all My warnings to you, then, by all means, go ahead! But!  remember what I have said through my apostle Paul:

1 Corinthians 10:9-12 We should not tempt the Lord [try His patience, become a trial to Him, critically appraise Him, and exploit His goodness] as some of them did – and were killed by poisonous serpents; Nor discontentedly complain as some of them did – and were put out of the way entirely by the destroyer (death). Now these things befell them by way of a figure [as an example and warning to us]; they were written to admonish and fit us for right action by good instruction, we in whose days the ages have reached their climax (their consummation and concluding period).

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Rending the Veil from the Bottom to the Top.

Posted by Tom Lessing on May 5, 2009

Matthew 27:51 And at once the curtain of the sanctuary of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; (Emphasis added)

What do you think the result would be if we were to do a survey asking people the question: “If you were able to bring about the most important and revolutionary event in the entire history of mankind, what would you do?” The majority would probably want to find a cure for AIDS or cancer, or usher in a Rent Veil lasting global peace. Some would probably want to eradicate poverty once and for all. Believe it nor not, these are not the the most important things the post modern and “emergent” thinkers are aiming to do, although they may say so. What they do have in mind is to seek “new” ways and means of entering into the presence of God. Since mankind’s Fall many have tried to take the kingdom of heaven by force (their own efforts), simply because they have rejected God’s way. Don’t be hoodwinked by their manifestos of “wanting to alleviate poverty,“associating with the poor by living amongst them,” “following in the footsteps of Jesus by exemplifying his example.” These are all stepping stones (own efforts and good works) to bring them into the presence of God.

In ancient times it was a very dangerous and a life threatening experience to approach a king without his permission. Even today, in some parts of Africa, you are not allowed to enter a village without the resident chief’s permission. The normal procedure is to first request the chief’s personal assistant to convey your wish to visit him. He would then inform you if and when you may meet with the chief. When an appropriate time is set the envoy meets you at the entrance of the village and accompanies you to the chief’s house in the centre of the village. Don’t even think to knock on his door. That’s bad manners. The envoy enters the chiefs house alone, informs him of your arrival and only then may you enter his home — provided that the chief does not decide to reverse his initial invitation and turn you away at the last moment. Frustrating . . . ? Very frustrating, but that’s the way you need to express your respect and appreciation for the chief as your superior in his village. Not only that; it also proves to the envoy and his chief that you are prepared to humble yourself in their presence. There is a similar narrative in the Old Testament. When Mordecai, queen Esther’s uncle disclosed Haman’s plot to destroy all the Jews, he begged her to approach her husband, king Ahasuerus, on his throne and to inform him of the murderous plot. She was at first reluctant because it was too dangerous for her to do so uninvited. Here’s how Esther answered her uncle.

Esther 4:11 “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that for any man or woman who comes to the king to the inner court who is not summoned, he has but one law, that he be put to death, unless the king holds out to him the golden scepter so that he may live. And I have not been summoned to come to the king for these thirty days.” (Emphasis added)

The outcome of this event is well-known. When queen Esther approached the king he held out his golden sceptre as a gesture that she may come closer and she touched the top of his sceptre, acknowledging thereby his supreme authority over her as her king and her lord. Had she not done so a multitude of her brethren, the Jews, would have been murdered in a plot which had been orchestrated by Haman. If royal protocol in those days were adhered to so strictly how can we possibly expect the King of kings and the Lord of lords to accept manmade ways to approach Him in His most holy sanctuary in heaven? However, adherents to the Emerging Church are increasingly turning to manmade ways to usher themselves into the presence of God. Indeed, they are forcefully trying to rend the veil from the bottom to the top. In their endeavors to accomplish this the new breed of “Christian” ministers, pastors, apostles, disciples and teachers are demanding a complete change in the way we think about our spirituality, and particularly in the way we experience Christianity.

The prefix “re” has become one of the most potent lingo doohickeys in our postmodern society. Despite it’s two-lettered confines it has a vast potential to revolutionize your life. Words like “think,” “imagine,” “construct,” “define,” and “paint” (with due thanks to Rob Bell in his “Velvet Elvis”) have taken on a whole new meaning when the prefix “re” is added. By doing a quick google search of the words “rethink” and “rethinking” on the internet I was dumbfounded to see the following results:

  • Rethinking our world (1 300 000 results)
  • Rethinking leadership (2 020 000 results)
  • Rethinking the future (1 340 000 results)

The idea of rethinking our world, leadership and the future is not limited to the secular world but is also increasingly and aggressively advocated in the church. One of the leading proponents of the “possibility thinking” or “positive thinking” cult, Robert Schuller, hosted a “Rethink Conference” in his Crystal Cathedral last year. A conference was scheduled for this year but has been postponed to 2010. Many of the speakers at last year’s conference, amongst them, Erwin McManus, Kay Warren (wife of Rick Warren) and Dan Kimball are proponents of contemplative mysticism and meditation. Fifty e-church members in South Africa, including Stephan Joubert and Dries Lombaard attended the conference in 2008 to rub shoulders with these most distinguished thinkers who are bent on changing the face of Christianity for evermore. They have made a great impact on our younger South African church clergy who in  turn are influencing many young people and introducing them to contemplative mysticism. The e-church websites (Afrikaans and English), engineered by Stephan Joubert and Dries Lombaard respectively, are vigorously promoting the contemplative spirituality under the guise of “loving and following Jesus.” In fact, all the followers of Jesus are welcome to comment on their sites and to participate in a relational conversation provided that you are also an avid follower of their gurus, Rob Bell, Leonard Sweet, Nelus Niemandt, Erwin McManus, Doug Pagitt and many other contemplative Christian mystics. Those in agreement with Stephan Joubert and Rob Bell that truth may be found in other religions such as Buddhism, Judaism and even atheism are more than welcome on their websites but you will be summarily ostracized as soon as you sound a warning against their contemplative buddies.

In accordance with the “rethinking” culture of the contemplatives, I have decided to rethink, re-imagine, and reconstruct at least one passage from Scripture (Matthew 7: 22-23) to illustrate how they are trying to rend the veil from the bottom to the top.

Lord, Lord, look what we have done for you! We have done some real honest-to-good bundubashing by clearing away some trash and debris in the bushveld and built a beautiful labyrinth. We really do not know how our Afrikaans Reformed youth will react when we introduce them to our labyrinth but we are trying to make them genuine followers of you. Maybe this is something of what we are trying to do as followers of Jesus. To clean out the rubish [sic] in the world in order to create places where people can find peace, harmony, and connect with transcendence. Then the “Labyrinth Jesus” who they follow with so much love and commitment answered: “I have always known you. You have trod my way (labyrinth) faithfully, lovingly and with gusto. Enter into the holy presence of my father.”

Amazed? . . . . Shocked . . .? Thinking . . .? What nerve does he have to change and rethink the Word of God in such a blasphemous way? Before you decide to stone me with some of the “klippies” you used to build your labyrinths, read here very carefully. What’s up with these guys? Don’t they ever read their Bibles to learn what the real Jesus has to say about lasting peace, harmony and connectedness with God? Have they become so blind to the truth that they are mindlessly resorting to all kinds of dredge and dust-filled ways to seek after God’s peace and presence? Have they forgotten what Jesus said?:

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.

Labyrinth in Grace Cathedral San Francisco This is definitely not the “labyrinth-Jesus” speaking here. Who is this “labyrinth-Jesus, anyway? To find a suitable answer we need to go back into pagan history. Wikipedia provides an elaborate history of the origins of the labyrinth which proves that it is not of God. Roger Oakland explains the meaning of the labyrinth as follows in his book “Faith Undone.”

The labyrinth is a maze-like structure that is growing in popularity, used during times of contemplative prayer. The participant walks through this structure until he comes to the center, then back out again. Unlike a maze, which has several paths, the labyrinth has one path. Often prayer stations (with candles, icons, pictures, etc.) can be visited along the way. The labyrinth originated in early pagan societ­ies. The usual scenario calls for the prayer to do some sort of medi­tation practice, enabling him or her to center down (i.e., reach God’s presence), while reaching the center of the labyrinth. (Emphasis added)

What lies at the heart of contemplative practices such as the labyrinth, silence, breath prayers, solitude, Jesus candles, icons, the Jesus prayer, lectio continua, lectio divina, 12  stages of the cross, which allegedly usher you into the holy presence of God? It all started with Cain’s bloodless sacrifice. Labyrinth Dad Adam and mom Eve taught him, as they did their son Abel, that God’s infinite holiness demanded no other way to approach Him but through the shedding of an innocent victim’s blood. Cain, however, despised God’s slaughtering of an innocent victim to cover up (atone for) their nakedness (sins) and decided to appease and satisfy Him with his own efforts and good works. Since then his way, in biblical terms known as the way of Cain (Jude 1:11), has been perpetuated throughout the ages by men and women who equally despise God’s remedy for our sins. Brian McLaren’s outright denial of the true meaning of the cross is symptomatic of the emergent movement.

"Perhaps our ‘inward-turned, individual-salvation-oriented, un-adapted Christianity’ is a colossal and tragic misunderstanding, and perhaps we need to listen again for the true song of salvation, which is ‘good news to all creation.’ So perhaps it’s best to suspend what, if anything, you ‘know’ about what it means to call Jesus ‘Savior’ and to give the matter of salvation some fresh attention. Let’s start simply. In the Bible, save means ‘rescue’ or ‘heal’. It emphatically does not mean ‘save from hell’ or ‘give eternal life after death,’ as many preachers seem to imply in sermon after sermon. Rather its meaning varies from passage to passage, but in general, in any context, save means ‘get out of trouble.’ The trouble could be sickness, war, political intrigue, oppression, poverty, imprisonment, or any kind of danger or evil." (A Generous Orthodoxy, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004, p. 93).

The crucifixion to McLaren is nothing more and nothing less than a temporal alleviation of mankind’s suffering caused by sickness, political intrigue, oppression, poverty, imprisonment (regardless of the reasons for a criminal’s incarceration) or any kind of danger or evil. Rob’ Bell’s philosophy of salvation is also related to the temporal in this world and not so much a place (heaven or hell) you go to in the afterlife after you’ve died. His problem is not with Jesus who wants to save all people and restore all things to Himself but with those who affirm that only certain people go to heaven. At his Mars Hill Pastor’s Conference held in January 2007 he asked some pertinent but very dangerous questions — dangerous for those who believe him.

Going to heaven? .  . . “That’s it?” The best we can do is some other just fire insurance? Just have to save  Rob Bellsouls? That’s message to the world? That’s despair. . . . Is that the best God can do? I need help today. . . . Is this what Jesus waved in front of people?

Some Jesus’ should be rejected.  . . . The Jesus who herds people in and kills them should be rejected. Do you believe in a God who would create billions of people only to watch them burn with no chance for any other sort of future? What kind of God do you believe in?

If you were asked the question “How does a person get saved, converted, in, redeemed, etc.?” and you only had the Bible to answer the question . . . you would have lots of answers. [It] Involves acts of love that demonstrate a change of heart, awkward exchanges, it’s all over the place . . . People come to Jesus in all sorts of ways. When we say “this is how it’s done” – it would be nice, but the problem is it’s not the way we see it. People stumble into the kingdom in all sorts of ways. Observations based on passages – how does a congregation move forward, how do you move forward, how do you proclaim? Salvation is holistic in nature. Jesus wants to save all of us. Jesus wants to save you from your past, from fear, from crippling worry, hatred, the myth of redemptive violence, from hating, racism, poverty, anything that hinders the full shalom that God created for the entire world. (Emphasis added)

Bell’s gospel of hope (in contrast with God’s Gospel of despair), declaring that Jesus wants to save all of us even from the scourge of poverty, is the most unkind, frivolous and destructive bit of exegeses I have ever heard. During his 2007 pastor’s Conference he warned that some Jesus’ ought to be rejected but he has no qualms whatsoever to embrace another Jesus who claims he wants to save the poor from their poverty. His Jesus is definitely not the Jesus who said: “You will always have the poor with you” (John 12:8). There are billions of desperately poor people on the earth. What are they supposed to think of a Jesus who wants to save them from their poverty but fails to do so? I am aware of a “Christ” who has  promised to alleviate and even eradicate the plight of the poorest of the poor. His name is Maitreya.

All major religions are expecting a divine messenger, albeit under different names, says Creme, and Maitreya has come in fulfillment of the prophecies of each. He has come earlier than anticipated by many religious groups because of the urgency of the times, in order to offer his counsel to a world in crisis. His priorities are simple: food, shelter, health care and education for everyone as guaranteed rights. His advice to humanity is just as simple. Share and save the world. When the plight of the poor and starving millions is alleviated then the recovery of the environment will become the first priority (Benjamin Creme during a press conference on 15 August 2006) (Emphasis added).

My task will be to show you how to live together peacefully as brothers. This is simpler than you imagine, My friends, for it requires only the acceptance of sharing. How can you be content with the modes within which you now live: when millions starve and die in squalor; when the rich parade their wealth before the poor; when each man is his neighbor’s enemy; when no man trusts his brother? Allow me to show you the way forward into a simpler life where no man lacks; where no two are alike; where the Joy of Brotherhood manifests through all men. Take your brother’s needs as the measure of your action and solve the problems of the world. (The Christ is Now Here, advertisement in the Rand Daily Mail, 24 April 1982).

Is this the Jesus Rob Bell is referring to? It must be because the real Jesus of the Bible is quite capable of saving people from the righteous judgments of God even by utilizing the dire circumstances caused by extreme poverty. In countries like China many people have found salvation in Jesus Christ after they had lost everything — their homes, their wives, their husbands, their savings, etc. They have learnt to be content with what they have despite their extreme poverty (Hebrews 13:5).

The preaching of the Gospel in order to save souls from the righteous judgements of God is to Rob Bell a Gospel of despair? Its just a fire insurance? No! says Rob Bell, the message of the Gospel is that God would never have created billions of people only to have them burn in hell with no chance for any other sort of future. His inference that people come to Jesus in all sorts of ways for their salvation opens the door wide for people of all religious persuasions to indulge in contemplative mysticism. It is therefore no wonder that such a low estimate of Christ’s sacrifice has lead to the notion that labyrinths and other contemplative practices are mystically empowered to bring anyone, regardless of their opinion of the cross, into the presence of God. In a downloadable PDF document of Bell’s Mars Hill church the sixth phase of the mystic practice of “lectio divina” the following advice is given.

Contemplation
Finish by focusing your attention on the fact that God’s presence is with you. If as you try to focus on God’s presence you sense a need to read the text again, to continue meditating, or to simply continue talking with God, allow yourself to do so. As you do, know that you are in the presence of God. (Emphasis added).

Voila! Your own doing (works) of “lectio divina” brings you into the holy presence of Almighty God. They are merely perpetuating Cain’s way of rending the veil from the bottom Stephan Joubert & Dries Lombaard to the top. These are the men some of our most revered and respected spiritual leaders, amongst them Stephan Joubert, Dries Lombaard, Dries Cronjé and many other young pastors, are looking up to for spiritual guidance. Dries Cronjé, a spiritual buddy of Dries Lombaard and Stephan Joubert had the following to say about Rob Bell on their e-church site:

Recently, I was privileged enough to get my hands (and eyes!) on Everything is Spiritual by Rob Bell.

You ask "Why Rob Bell again? Didn’t you review his material last time?" Well, I’m learning quite a bit from this most-genial disciple of Jesus and I want to share my excitement. My next post will be on someone different… Promise.

“The most-genial disciple of Jesus?” Really? The one who unashamedly distorts the Gospel of salvation? The one who promotes a kind of universalistic redemption?  Have we grown so accustomed to our wilful apostasy that we wilfully refuse to discern the spirit of antichrist in those whom we regard as followers of Jesus?

In my introduction I mentioned Esther who was afraid to approach her husband, king Ahasuerus, because she feared that he may not extend his sceptre of authority and approval to her. Although we are admonished to fear God, for it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31), all believers who have been cleansed of their sins in the blood of Christ have the confidence and boldness to enter into his presence in the most holy of holies in heaven. They may do so anytime and anywhere for the rest of their lives here on earth until they meet with Jesus face to face.

Hebrews 10:10-22 Therefore, brethren, since we have full freedom and confidence to enter into the [Holy of] Holies [by the power and virtue] in the blood of Jesus, By this fresh (new) and living way which He initiated and dedicated and opened for us through the separating curtain (veil of the Holy of Holies), that is, through His flesh, And since we have [such] a great and wonderful and noble Priest [Who rules] over the house of God, Let us all come forward and draw near with true (honest and sincere) hearts in unqualified assurance and absolute conviction engendered by faith (by that leaning of the entire human personality on God in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness), having our hearts sprinkled and purified from a guilty (evil) conscience and our bodies cleansed with pure water. (Emphasis added)

What more do we want? What more do we need? Those who believe they may enter into the presence of God by means of their dusty and filthy labyrinths in the bushveld or even on the dusty marble floors of lofty cathedrals and other mystical contemplative paraphernalia are deceived and are deceiving others, especially our youth. They are not following Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, but another Jesus. Stop your nonsense and return to the cross of Jesus Christ. The blood of His cross is God’s sceptre He extends to everyone who is willing to touch the cross in faith for their salvation so that they may enter into His presence with rejoicing and eternal thanksgiving.

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