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Is Your Church Doing Spiritual Formation? (Important Reasons Why They Shouldn’t)

[The following is the beginning of the latest booklet/tract from Lighthouse Trails. You can link to the booklet’s entire content.]

Is your church involved in a Spiritual Formation program? If so, you might want to ask the question, what exactly is Spiritual Formation? It’s a fair question, and one that, if not asked, could end up surprising you when your church changes in ways you never imagined.

A Christianity Today article states: “Spiritual Formation is in.” The article defines Spiritual Formation in this way:

Formation, like the forming of a pot from clay, brings to mind shaping and molding, helping something potential become something actual. Spiritual formation speaks of a shaping process with reference to the spiritual dimension of a person’s life. Christian spiritual formation thus refers to the process by which believers become more fully conformed and united to Christ.1

Such a definition would hardly send up red flags. But what this definition excludes is how this “process” of conforming and uniting to Christ takes place and who is eligible to participate in such a process.

The “how” is done through spiritual disciplines, primarily through the discipline of the silence. The silence is an altered state that is reached through a mantra-like meditation, breath prayers, or some other meditative practice. The idea behind it is that if you go into this silent state, you will eliminate distractions (thoughts) and be able to hear God’s voice. He in turn will transform you to be like Christ. The “who” (who can practice these disciplines and become like Christ) is anyone (according to Spiritual Formation pioneer Richard Foster and other proponents of Spiritual Formation). A Christian, a Buddhist, a Muslim, even an atheist—anyone at all can benefit from the spiritual disciplines and become like Christ (the question is which Christ?). continue reading

…He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed… (Acts 17:31)

“Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31)

I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another. (Isaiah 42:8)

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25)

We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (1 John 3:16)

Bill Johnson, False Teacher

At 1:02 in the video, Bill Johnson says, “You can only give away what you have. Can God give away sickness? No, he’s not sick. You can’t give cancer if you don’t have it.”

According to the Bible:

Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.

But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly.

For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. (1 Corinthians 11:27-30)

HT: Marsha West

Bonus: click to read How To Kill An Alcoholic?

How to kill an alcoholic

It has served as a trap for many. Portrayed as powerful and effective, those who fail via Alcoholics Anonymous are always blamed. The program, on the other hand, is portrayed as infallible. Thus have many been doomed to try again and again in a system that simply cannot help them.

This has been happening for a long time now.

Despite the elasticity of A.A.’s higher power concept (where anything and everything can be defined as “god”), A.A. is very much a fundamentalist religion in terms of the following Big Book “scriptures”:

1.) “Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way.” (Chapter 5, How It Works)

2.) “We thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not.” (Chapter 5, How It Works)

These fundamentalist passages thus serve to lock alcoholics into the A.A. system, while also teaching contempt or distrust for alternative ways of gaining sobriety. Particularly opposed is the idea of getting help in “church.”

Researcher Rober Tournier observes that A.A.’s “continued domination of the field and its members’ claims to be spokesman for the victim have fettered innovation … and tied us to a treatment strategy which … is limited in its applicability to the universe of alcoholics.” [1]

It is the strangest contrast: While the higher power concept is elastic, the above mentioned A.A. “scriptures” may as well be cast in iron and set in cement.

And so it goes on and on. We continue to rely on this “invent-a-god” religious system that simply does not help most overcome addiction. Please understand this is not saying that A.A. does not work at all–for some it works very well indeed. Unfortunately, it is a death sentence for many others.

What do we know about A.A.’s success rate? According to an article in the Washington Post:

Although AA’s emphasis on anonymity makes it difficult for outside researchers to determine its success rates, some have tried. What they have found doesn’t inspire much confidence in AA’s approach. A recent review by the Cochrane Library, a health-care research group, of studies on alcohol treatment conducted between 1966 and 2005 states its results plainly: “No experimental studies unequivocally demonstrated the effectiveness of AA or TSF [12-step facilitation] approaches for reducing alcohol dependence or problems.”

AA itself has released success rates at times, but these numbers are based only on voluntary self-reports by alcoholics who maintain their ties to AA — not exactly a representative sample.

Even taken at face value, the numbers are not impressive. In a 1990 summary of five membership surveys from 1977 through 1989, AA reported that 81 percent of alcoholics who began attending meetings stopped within one month. At any one time, only 5 percent of those still attending had been doing so for a year. [2]

There are people in A.A. I greatly respect. I respect how they are willing to help anyone at any time. Unfortunately, this system has been trapping and killing many. Let it be clearly understood what is being said here: While nothing can help an alcoholic who does not want to quit drinking, AA does not work for most motivated alcoholics.

Until we understand that A.A. is part of the problem, we will always be pointed away from solutions.

Endnotes:
1. Robert Tournier, quoted in Journal of Drug Issues, Volume 10, pg.150
2. “We’re addicted to rehab. It doesn’t even work.” Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/06/AR2010080602660.html

Sinner Man

Court cases ruling A.A. and N.A. as religious

On November 14, 1999 the U.S. Supreme Court refused to overturn, thus allowed to stand, a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ordering that forced attendance at Narcotics Anonymous meetings end immediately, because it was a violation of Freedom of Religion. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and the high courts of the states of Tennessee and New York have also made the same ruling.

Legally, Alcoholics Anonymous is established as a religious organization. And so is Narcotics Anonymous. Lawyers and judges now consider the issue “a moot point”, one that is so thoroughly established that they will not argue the point again. They just accept it as a given.

As far as the courts of the USA are concerned, Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are, beyond a doubt, organizations that engage in religious activities. And their meetings qualify as religious services. It’s a done deal. Nobody denies it but Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and the other 12-Step groups.

*The above is taken from http://www.orange-papers.org/orange-spirrel.html. (Scroll way down.) Thank you, Orange!

Contextualization Fail (Satire)

Truthinator strikes again…

Rolling back AA’s fake Christian origin

AA’s murky history can seem very confusing. Prolific pro-AA author Dick B. continues to present AA’s origin as biblically rooted. But Alcoholics Anonymous is like a pie. One can claim it is made with lemon meringue ingredients, but if tar, rat poison, and glass shards are also in the mix, was it ever really a lemon meringue pie? A little leaven… (1 Corinthians 5:6)

AA’s origin must include AA co-founders Bill Wilson’s and Dr. Bob Smith’s biblically forbidden spiritualism, Dr. Bob’s freemasonry, the meditative Silence/spirit communication learned from the Oxford Group,[1] and the anti-biblical teachings of William James.

It doesn’t stop there. Many other influences helped give birth to AA, including Carl Jung, Emanuel Swedenborg, and the New Thought heresy of Emmet Fox.

Those who have heard early AA’s “roots” were biblically pure might want to investigate Emmet Fox and AA’s use of his heretical book, The Sermon on the Mount. This text was actually used as a teaching manual in AA until AA’s own instructional Big Book was completed.

As pro-AA author Dick B. himself acknowledges, Fox’s “writings were favored by [AA co-founders] Bill W. and Dr. Bob.”[2]

That is correct. And the AA co-founders could not have been Christians if they “favored” and used these writings in AA.

Why? In The Sermon on the Mount, Emmet Fox teaches: “The ‘Plan of Salvation’ which figured so prominently in the evangelical sermons and divinity books of a past generation is as completely unknown to the Bible as the Koran. There never was any such an arrangement in the universe, and the Bible does not teach it at all.”[3]

“But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:33)

Fox’s book bristles with “teachings” that sincere Christians would not share with alcoholics.

Like the Gnostics, Fox was a purveyor of “secret knowledge.” He writes, “Wonderful as the ‘outer’ Bible is, it is far less than one percent of the ‘inner’ Bible—the Bible that is hidden behind the symbols. If you have been reading the Bible without the spiritual interpretation, you have not found the real message of the Bible, for that lies below the surface.”[4]

Fox’s influence should always be considered when one hears of references to the Bible in early AA. People assume, logically enough, that if the co-founders were mentioning the Word of God, this must mean they were Christians. But the unsaved Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith viewed the Bible along the lines of Fox’s esoteric spiritual wisdom, rather than believing it to be the literal Word of God. One cannot, after all, promote anti-Biblical heresy and simultaneously believe and obey the Word of God.

And, like many in AA, they looked to the Bible for generic spiritual principles—love your neighbor, help your fellow man, and so on.

Interestingly, Bill Wilson had already been exposed to those who greatly admired the Bible, yet still didn’t believe it to be the Word of God. He married into a Swedenborgian family, and became very familiar with this religion’s Christ-rejecting interpretation of God’s Word.

Fox’s new thought teachings likely strengthened… click here to continue

[Endnotes can be found at end of original article]

Psalm of Thanksgiving

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, call
upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples.
Sing to Him, sing praises to Him;
Speak of all His wonders.
Glory in His holy name
Let the heart of those who seek the Lord be glad.
Seek the Lord and His strength;
Seek His face continually.
Remember His wonderful deeds
which He has done,
His marvels and the judgments from His mouth, (1 Chronicles 16:8-12)

*Thank you Paul for sending this verse, and thanks as well to Charlotte and the faithful Discernment Sisters.

How do we help Christians leave Alcoholics Anonymous?

What can we do to help Christians who are caught in A.A.? Some fear leaving, having been taught, over and over, that sobriety is impossible without A.A. For others, Alcoholics Anonymous has become an idol. Some time ago, I wondered what it would be like for missionaries from another country to experience A.A., and to learn about the effect it has had on Christians.

What if a brother and sister, raised by missionary parents in a remote part of Africa, without much access to media and internet, were sent to America to evangelize those in Alcoholics Anonymous? They would, I believe, view Alcoholics Anonymous in a way many Christians do not–that is, according to the Bible.

So here is my fictitious (yet accurate) account of the hold Alcoholics Anonymous has on many, as seen through the eyes of two young missionaries from Africa:

Mama and Papa,

We are in America at last. The Lord has sent us into the strangest belief system. The men and women here seem impervious to the Gospel, but the Lord has given us great love for them.

This religion teaches that virtually anything can be defined as a god. During their meetings these people gather and pray in unity, but the “god” each individual prays to can be as varied and unique as particles of sand in our African desert. It is unsettling watching them join in the Lord’s Prayer, because most do not know Jesus, and therefore cannot know the Father.

This religion was founded here in America in the 1930s. It is a very American system of belief and worship. Very democratic, one might say. In this belief system, it is not important what one worships, only that one must worship something. In fact, initiates who come seeking help, but who have trouble inventing or envisioning a god, are often told they can worship a “doorknob,” or even the group itself to begin their spiritual journey.

The first time we heard this we thought it was a joke-some form of esoteric humor. But it is not. It truly is not. We have heard the “doorknob-deity” speech a number of times now. It apparently serves as their starter-god. Like the training wheels on a bike-only there until the child is ready for the next big step. Believe in something, newcomers are told; believe in anything; just believe.

We have been documenting the various deities the members describe as their gods. One worships nature; another an unseen force; several pray to the universe, others to diverse spiritual entities. Some claim to worship the divinity in man. A woman in this sect recently proclaimed we are all part of God! We pray hard for her.

In this sect one can also find Mormons, non-Christian deists, Wiccans (modern day witches, very popular in America), and many who follow heretical versions of Jesus Christ. There is simply no limit to the gods that can be revered in this belief system. Here it doesn’t matter whether the god you worship is an ant-or an avalanche-or an avocado.

It has been ferocious spiritual warfare. Mama and Papa, we are tired. This mission field…it is like living, not in a Christian nation, but in the pages of the Old Testament. This seems virtually the same to us as Jeremiah 2:27. These are people, “Who say to a tree, ‘You are my father,’ and to a stone, ‘You gave me birth.’ For they have turned their backs to Me, and not their face.’”

We fear most of these people will go to their deaths rejecting Jesus Christ. Our daily prayer is that the Lord will bring other missionaries to share the gospel with them. Here is where it gets complicated, for in the midst of this paganism, some that worship the Jesus of the Bible are also present!

There are Baptists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals and Lutherans. Sadly, most haven’t come to share the gospel. They are not here to testify. They are here as participants of this multi-god religion. These saints attend their churches, acknowledge the Bible as the Word of God, but nevertheless belong to this undeniably anti-Biblical religion.

This made us angry at first. But the Lord has begun to reveal how deceptive and seductive this religion is. So seductive, in fact, that these Christians don’t believe this to be a religion at all. They believe this to be a “spiritual program,” a distinction that has no validity. In their minds this simple phrase, “spiritual program,” allows them to attend these meetings, despite what their Bible proclaims.

They have turned to this belief system because it promises freedom from the bondage of sin they were (or are) trapped in. Mama and Papa, they come to this religion to free themselves from alcohol!

It is hard to understand. Somehow they have learned to come here rather than submitting to Jesus and seeking help within Bible believing churches. What about prayer meetings? What about Bible study? What about falling on one’s face before a holy, all-powerful, compassionate Christ?

These Christians believe only through attending this all-gods religion can they be free. But it is a strange sort of “free,” because they have to attend these meetings for life. In fairness, they have been encouraged to participate by their own pastors, family members, and by other Christians who already attend. For seventy years Christians have been part of this movement.

In their churches on Sunday they call God by that Name above all names: Jesus Christ the Savior. But here, in their all-gods sect, they call Jesus by the term all members use for their various gods. So Jesus becomes a “higher power.” Thus has the Savior been placed in the pantheon, the temple of the gods.

In addition to this, when Jesus is mentioned (which is rare), the pagan people in this movement often get upset. Responses have included anger, sarcasm, and a general unease. The enemy is very active in this place.

It is obviously an anti-Biblical belief system, yet Christian after Christian has testified how wonderful this spiritual organization is. On the positive side, it has been encouraging to see Christians occasionally seek out non-believers after the meetings and invite them to church-but, as for boldness in the actual meetings, there is little of it.

Members carry around this religion’s “bible,” which they call the Big Book. There are actually Christians here who read it more frequently than the Word of God. You will have difficulty believing what we are now going to tell you. A Christian man who belongs to this all-gods religion invited us to attend church with him last Sunday. Badly needing fellowship with believers, we gladly accepted.

The service was wonderful. The Word was preached. Right after church our friend asked if we wanted to go back to the all-gods sect (he of course does not call it that.) We agreed, knowing the Lord would have us pray or proclaim the Gospel, or come alongside one of these lost and hurting souls.

Mama and Papa, the all-gods meeting was held right in his church after service. His pastor has allowed this! Since when does a pastor open the House of God to a non-Christian religion? Yet here in America, it seems a common practice. In America it is very important to be “nice.” The Bible does tell us to be kind and loving-but also holy. Holiness, it seems, has been lost here.

In Deuteronomy 16:21 our Lord is commands: “You shall not plant for yourself an Asherah of any kind of tree beside the altar of the Lord your God, which you shall make up yourself. You shall not set up for yourself a sacred pillar which the Lord your God hates.”

The Lord does not want false gods worshiped alongside Him. But because the reality of a Holy God seems obscure to these Americans, they think nothing of planting an all-gods belief system right in the Sanctuary. Pray for Fear of the Lord among these people.

Last week we had an exchange with a Christian woman after her all-gods sect had finished meeting. We asked her point blank how she could Biblically justify belonging to this movement. We asked her to read Galatians 1:6-8 to us:

“I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!”

Does this not concern you, we asked, that Christians are sending people into a religion where Christ is but one god among many? Is not Paul’s warning clear?

She rolled her eyes. “This is a spiritual program, not a religion.”

Clearly the enemy uses this all-gods movement to dull Christians down, and to point the unsaved anywhere but Christ. This strategy has been marvelously effective.

Please pray that our Lord raise up other missionaries to send to these people in Alcoholics Anonymous. There are so many lost people here. This hurts to say, but many of the Christians, who love this all-gods sect, need missionaries almost as badly as the unsaved.

Pray the Lord of the Harvest sends laborers,

His missionaries In Deepest, Darkest A.A

***** ***** *******

So there you go. That’s it from the fictional African missionaries. How do we reach Christians in A.A.? With love. With the Truth of the Word. Through prayer. And by warning the Body of Christ about the anti-biblical nature of Alcoholics Anonymous. When the church as a whole understands, there will be change.

It is also a sad fact that some people do not want to be reached–their hearts are with Alcoholics Anonymous.

For the church, it must be about prevention: Understanding that A.A. is not biblical means we do not acquiesce or encourage Christians to participate. We show them other ways, biblical ways, and we pray for them as they seek the Lord.