Best line of the episode:
Locke: Why did you do that? You just killed everyone on the freighter!
Ben: (coldly) So?
There are two more season left of this show and tons of questions left unanswered. The thing that makes this show so great is that it constantly plays this game of give and take with the viewer. For every mystery it answers, it reveals an even bigger mystery. You're constantly left with this feeling of "Oh, now I know" and at the same time "What the crap does that mean?" It's story-telling at its best!
In one section on whether or not the USA is a Christian nation he prints the following quotes by politicians I'm sure you've heard of:
"There's power, wonder-working power, in the goodness and idealism and faith of the American people." (President Bush, 2003 State of the Union Address) Putting "America" in where the old gospel hymn places "the blood of the Lamb" is not only idolatry, it also just doesn't have the same ring to it; try singing it on Sunday morning. (Claiborne's commentary, not mine.)
"The ideal of America is the hope of all mankind. ... That hope still lights our way. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (George W. Bush, Ellis Island, 2002)
And the recent words of Barack Obama on The Late Show with David Letterman (April 9, 2007): "This country is still the last best hope on earth."
Reading these quotes and dozens more like them just got me to thinking about how closely we associate patriotism with religion. I think the lines are so blurred that often we're blind to it. If you're like me, you hear patriotic, political statements like the ones above and at first you don't think anything about it. You even agree and swell with pride. It takes modern-day prophets to point out the error of such statements and the error of our own way of thinking to wake us up. Such prophets are difficult to hear, but necessary to keep us on the straight and narrow.
Don't get me wrong - I'm not suggesting that patriotism is a sin. I'm as patriotic as the next guy. I love this country and consider us blessed to have the freedoms we have. In fact, this last Sunday I played a short video to recognize our soldiers and highlight Memorial Day. The intent was only to remind the church to be thankful for God's blessings in our lives. Not to suggest that the USA is "God's chosen country" or to make any comment on the war or anything - simply a reminder to not take for granted God's blessings. But when we make or agree with statements like the ones above, it crosses the line. It turns "American ideals" into an idol. We have but one Savior, one hope, one power, one light - his name is Jesus.
"I don't find fault with your acts of worship,
the frequent burnt sacrifices you offer.
But why should I want your blue-ribbon bull,
or more and more goats from your herds?...
Spread for me a banquet of praise,
serve High God a feast of kept promises,
And call for help when you're in trouble --
I'll help you, and you'll honor me."
I hope my worship is God-centered and meaningful. Am I worshipping God by keeping my promises, or am I dishing out a plate full of "blue-ribbon bull"?
Psalms 36:5-6 (MSG)
God's love is meteoric,
his loyalty astronomic,
His purpose titanic,
his verdicts oceanic.
Yet in his largeness
nothing gets lost;
Not a man, not a mouse,
slips through the cracks.
Now when David lived in his house, David said to Nathan the prophet, "Behold, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under a tent." And Nathan said to David, "Do all that is in your heart, for God is with you."
But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, "Go and tell my servant David, 'Thus says the LORD: It is not you who will build me a house to dwell in. For I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up Israel to this day, but I have gone from tent to tent and from dwelling to dwelling. In all places where I have moved with all Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people, saying, "Why have you not built me a house of cedar?'"
I love the fact that we serve a God-on-the-move! He doesn't need a fancy house, a tent is more to his liking. When we want to build monuments, he prefers to build momentum.
- People are difficult for one of two reasons - their selfishness or your selfishness.
- Ministry happens in the interruptions of life.
and when you're under attack, remember:
- God is in control.
- your enemy is ruled by fear.
- faithfulness always defeats fear.
- REJOICE & NEVER QUIT!
I saw this video of a 13-yr-old contestant on Britain's Got Talent last night. What a great lesson in dealing with difficult people!
I was reading a Fast Company article about the way Microsoft is trying to
re-image itself. They've hired an ad agency called Crispin Porter + Bogusky.
Creative genius, Alex Bogusky, made one of those statements I can't get out of
my mind: "Life conspires to beat the rebel out of you."
It's true isn't it?
One of the things I love about Jesus is that He remained the rebel his
entire life. He didn't bow to the Pharisees. He didn't bow to Pilate. Truth is,
He didn't bow to anyone except His Heavenly Father. That is what it means to be
a spiritual rebel.
In the words of Dorothy Sayers: "To do them justice, the people who
crucified Jesus did not do so because he was a bore. Quite the contrary; he was
too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up
that shattering personality and surround him with an atmosphere of tedium. We
have declawed the Lion of Judah and made him a housecat for pale priests and
pious old ladies."
The last thing I want to touch on is Tolle's teaching about what he calls the "pain-body".
- The remnants of pain left behind by every strong negative emotion that is not fully faced, accepted, and then let go of join together to form an energy field that lives in the very cells of your body. ... This energy field of old but still very-much-alive emotion that lives in almost every human being is the pain-body. -pg. 142
- Why is the suffering body of Christ, his face distorted in agony and his body bleeding from countless wounds, such a significant image in the collective consciousness of humanity? Millions of people, particularly in medieval times, would not have related to it as deeply as they did if something within themselves had not resonated with it, if they had not unconsciously recognized it as an outer representation of their own reality - the pain-body. They were not yet conscious enough to recognize it directly within themselves, but it was the beginning of their becoming aware of it. Christ can be seen as the archetypal human, embodying both the pain and the possibility of transcendence. -pg. 144
- It has been said that "God is love" but that is not absolutely correct. God is the One Life in and beyond the countless forms of life. Love implies duality: lover and beloved, subject and object. So love is the recognition of oneness in the world of duality. -pg. 106
Here Tolle reduces the crucifixion to a symbol of the hurt in all of us. This is not the reason millions of people over the last 2,000 years have identified with the crucifixion. They identify with it because the Holy Spirit cries out to their spirit that the crucifixion is the only hope for mankind. Jesus death on the cross is the purest act of love the world has ever seen. To say that God is not love is to completely and totally misunderstand the truth of the Scriptures. In fact, to take portions of the gospel message and claim it as wise teaching (as Tolle does repeatedly), but discard the rest as false, is lunacy. The Bible is either God's revelation to man and His blueprint for restoring man to God, or it's the insane rantings of very misguided men. You can't have it both ways.
Tolle writes that the name of the book, A New Earth, is from the Bible's teaching about a new heaven and a new earth. In his mind the "new earth" is humanity becoming Present, Conscious, and ridding themselves of ego. This is his predicted next phase of human evolution. He closes the book with this sentence:
- A new species is arising on the planet. It is arising now, and you are it! -pg. 309
There will be a new heaven and earth someday, but not the one Tolle speaks of. It will be one ruled by Jesus, our risen Savior. A world free of sin and death, a world restored to God's original design. A world where God will give us new bodies and all things will be set right. This world will be brought about by God alone - not by anything we do. Pure and simple, Tolle teaches a works salvation and a false God.
Psalm 23:6a (MSG)- Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life.
If that won't get me through the day, nothing will. This is why the English poet, Francis Thompson, referred to God as The Hound of Heaven.
God, help me to listen for your movement, so I know when and where to follow you.
Please pray for the Chapman family. I know I have personally been blessed beyond measure over the years by Steven’s ministry. I can’t even begin to imagine what the family is feeling at this moment. Lift up a special prayer for the son involved in the accident – I’m sure this is especially tough on him.
- Beyond the realm of simple and verifiable facts, the certainty that "I am right and you are wrong" is a dangerous thing in personal relationships as well as in interactions between nations, tribes, religions, and so on. -pg. 69
- All religions are equally false and equally true, depending on how you use them. You can use them in the service of the ego, or you can use them in the service of the Truth. If you believe only your religion is the Truth, you are using it in the service of the ego. Used in such a way, religion becomes ideology and creates an illusory sense of superiority as well as division and conflict between people. -pg. 70-71
- There is only one absolute Truth, and all other truths emanate from it. ... The Truth is inseparable from who you are. Yes, you are the Truth. If you look for it elsewhere, you will be deceived every time. The very Being that you are is Truth. Jesus tried to convey that when he said, "I am the way and the truth and the life." These words uttered by Jesus are one of the most powerful and direct pointers to the Truth, if understood correctly. If misinterpreted, however, they become a great obstacle. Jesus speaks of the innermost I Am, the essence of identity of every man and woman, every life-form, in fact. He speaks of the life that you are. -pg. 71
Do I really need to point out everything that's wrong with this view of truth? The fact that he would teach that there IS absolute truth and we are each our own absolute truth is mind-numbing! He either doesn't know the meaning of the word absolute or he is choosing to redefine it. I keep thinking of that line from The Princess Bride - "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." (insert heavy Spanish accent.)
Our view of truth at Living Hope Church can be summed up with two statements:
- The Bible is true...absolutely!
- The Bible is true whether you choose to believe it or not.
Psalm 106:20 - They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass.
I wonder what senseless things in my own life I hold on to in exchange for God's glory?
- ...a sacred sense of Presence, a deep peace and serenity and complete freedom from fear. This phenomenon must have been familiar to St. Paul, who used the expression "the peace of God which passeth all understanding." -pg. 56
- When forms around you die or death approaches, your sense of Beingness, of I Am, is freed from its entanglement with form: Spirit is released from its imprisonment in matter. You realize your essential identity as formless, as an all-pervasive Presence, of Being prior to all forms, all identifications. You realize your true identity as consciousness itself, rather than what consciousness had identified with. That's the peace of God. The ultimate truth of who you are is not I am this or I am that, but I Am. -pg. 57
This is just another example of Tolle asserting that, in fact, we ourselves are God. He continues to use Biblical language to convey this. First, by quoting Paul - which I found interesting because Paul, above any other Biblical personality, writes more to warn Christians against this very kind of teaching and boldly declares its evilness. Second by using Almighty God's chosen name for Himself - I Am. Tolle teaches that we are the I Am.
In my research I did on Tolle's background I found that while he does admit to being influenced by the Bible, his strongest influences, or the teachings he felt he most identified with, were Hindu sacred texts/teachings and Buddhist sacred texts. However, in A New Earth, the vast majority of quotes from sacred texts come from the Bible (I'd say the ratio is at least 3:1). He quotes the Old and New Testaments and loves quoting Jesus directly to reinforce his own world-view. Yet, by his own admission, the Judeo-Christian texts are not his biggest influence.
This is not by accident. It's a calculated move on his part to mislead Christians who may not be well-versed in the Scripture. By taking Biblical passages and twisting them, sometimes slightly - sometimes greatly, he is able to give naive Christians a false sense of security so they embrace his teachings as equal with the Bible.
2 Peter 2:1-3 (ESV) -- But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
I found a fantastic website today called Lostpedia. It's modeled after the Wikipedia website (which I also love) and is truly a comprehensive guide to everything you might possibly want to know about LOST - including theories, behind-the-scenes stuff, and even spoiler alerts. I just looked at it for a little bit and couldn't believe how many little LOST clues/mysteries that have aired in the past that I had forgotten about. Great site if you're a LOST fan!
- Throughout history, there have always been rare individuals who experienced a shift in consciousness and so realized within themselves that to which all religion points. ... Through some of those men and women, "schools" or movements developed within all major religions that represented not only a rediscovery, but in some cases an intensification of the light of the original teaching. This is how Gnosticism and mysticism came into existence in early and medieval Christianity, ... It is through those esoteric schools or movements that the major religions regained the transformative power of the original teachings. - pg. 16
In Tolle's teaching, the major world religions (specifically Christianity here), can only be beneficial when enlightened spiritual gurus or mystics add to it. The Gnostics he speaks of were a heretical group of "Christians" who believed that God is an evil god, Jesus was merely a wise man - not God, and that spiritual salvation comes through increasing our knowledge. The gnostic teachings also penetrated Judaism and is where the Kaballah movement originated. According to Tolle, the Scriptures alone have no transformative power. The light of God's Word needs to be intensified by a mystic in order for it to regain its power.
Contrast that to what we believe, as the Reformers put it - Sola Scriptura (only the Scriptures), Sola Gratia (only by grace), and Sola Fides (only by faith). The Scriptures are the sole authority in our lives and our sufficient in themselves for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. And salvation is a free gift (grace) from God that we receive through our faith in Jesus Christ.
Tolle goes on to say:
- What is arising now is not a new belief system, a new religion, spiritual ideology, or mythology. We are coming to the end not only of mythologies but also of ideologies and belief systems. The change goes deeper than the content of your mind, deeper than your thoughts. In fact, at the heart of the new consciousness lies the transcendence of thought... - pg. 21
This is just a new way of saying that everyone should come to their own truth. There is no absolute truth. The human spirit can't be tied down by religions or belief systems. When you are your own God those things are irrelevant.
This all reminds me of something a college professor taught one day. He said, "There are no new heresies. They're always the same as they've been for thousands of years. They just package them differently from time to time."
- According to Christian teachings, the normal collective state of humanity is one of "original sin." Sin is a word that has been greatly misunderstood and misinterpreted. Literally translated from the ancient Greek in which the New Testament was written, to sin means to miss the mark, as an archer who misses the target, so to sin means to miss the point of human existence. It means to live unskillfully, blindly, and thus to suffer and cause suffering. Again, the term, stripped of its cultural baggage and misinterpretations, points to the dysfunction inherent in the human condition. -pg. 9
Mr. Tolle here again demonstrates that he is the master of the half-truth. Sin does literally mean to miss the mark. However, it does not mean to "miss the point of human existence." It means to miss the mark of God's righteousness. God is perfect and holy. We are not. Therefore, as Romans 3:23 states, we all "fall short of the glory of God". This is another example of Tolle making faith me-centered instead of God-centered. But sin goes beyond morality, it's really about abusing our relationship with God. The very best definition of sin I've ever heard is found in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (edited by Walter A. Elwell). It goes like this:
"The meaning of sin is quite different in a religion based on the gospel from one based on law. Sin, in an evangelical perspective, is not so much the infringement of a moral code as the breaking of a covenental relationship. Sin is not an offense so much against law as against love. In legalistic religion, sin is the violation of a moral taboo. In evangelical religion, sin is wounding the very heart of God. The opposite of sin is not virtue, but faith."
The reason I felt I needed to read this and spend some time teaching about it, is because of its danger. The average person with not enough Biblical knowledge or foundation could easily think, Oprah's a good person. She wouldn't steer me wrong. This book quotes Jesus on every other page. That can't be bad. I might actually grow spiritually through this book. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. Oprah might be a good person, but by promoting this book she is leading people down a very dangerous path. Tolle might quote Jesus repeatedly, but he takes Jesus' words and twists them to back up his own message.
For the next couple of weeks, I wanted to highlight some of the heresies of A New Earth. This will also help me process some of my thoughts as I prepare to preach on the need to be on the lookout for false teachers (like Tolle) one Sunday in July.
Let me first say that if you remove all the heresies from this book, you'd have a pretty decent self-help book that occasionally offers some valuable advice. The book would also be half as long because it is full of teachings that are contradictory to Christian doctrine.
In a nutshell, Tolle believes that we are all God. Jesus was God. Buddha was God. I am God and you are God. He uses multiple terms to convey this. Awareness, Presence, I Am-ness, etc... The basis for his overall teaching is evolution. He believes that by being enlightened, learning to live in "the now", and learning to live without the "ego" (his concept of sin), we are literally bringing about the next phase of human evolution. Thus, human evolution would be something like pile of goo - fish - monkey - human - humans enlightened to the fact that they are God.
Here are a couple of teachings from Chapter 1, The Flowering of Human Consciousness:
- Once there is a certain degree of Presence, of still and alert attention in human beings' perceptions, they can sense the divine life essence, the one indwelling consciousness or spirit in every creature, every life-form, recognize it as one with their own essence and so love it as themselves. -pg. 4
- The possibility of such a transformation has been the central message of the great wisdom teachings of mankind. The messengers - Buddha, Jesus, and others, not all of them known - were humanity's early flowers. They were precursors, rare and precious beings. A widespread flowering was not yet possible at that time, and their message became largely misunderstood and often greatly distorted. It certainly did not transform human behavior, except in a small minority of people. -pg. 6
- The second reason is that the act of recognition itself is one of the ways in which awakening happens. When you recgonize the unconsciousness in you, that which makes the recognition possible is the arising consciousness, is awakening. You cannot fight against the ego and win, just as you cannot fight against the darkness. The light of consciousness is all that is necessary. You are that light. -pg. 8
In these three examples, Tolle teaches the need to become aware that you, along with all other matter, are God. Early spiritual teachers like Jesus and Buddha became aware of this before the rest of humanity was ready to accept it. Their teachings were misunderstood. While Jesus was trying to teach us that we are all God, Christians misinterpreted him and believed that he alone was God. You get a hint of it here in the third example, but later in the book Tolle directly quotes Jesus saying "I am the way, the truth, and the life..." and states that by saying this Jesus was actually teaching that each of us is our own way, truth, and life. Or as he says here, we are our own light.
Hopefully, the heresy here is clear to all Christians. The Bible teaches that there is only one true God and thank God his name is not Jeff. Jesus Christ is literally the only path to salvation. Jesus wasn't just a wise teacher - He was and is God in the flesh. All spiritual teachings do not lead to the true God. Only Jesus. Only the Word of God
As soon as I saw this, I couldn't help but think of the majority of churches in America today. I don't believe it's ever intentional, but a church begins to die when it focuses more on it's structures, buildings, or traditions, and less on its mission, it's Savior, and the world around it in need of Jesus. Eventually they come to a point where they would rather sacrifice the "clock" to save the "glass".
The hard reality for the vast majority of churches is that in order to see progress and get the clock started again, the MUST destroy their structures, traditions, or whatever else is keeping them from carrying out their Biblical mandate. This process is never painless. It creates conflict. It stretches people far beyond their comfort zones. It will ALWAYS mean that people will leave. For most churches, this is just too high a price. Most opt for the path of least resistance and revel in their glory days. When this decision is made (whether intentionally or passively), the church IS DEAD. It may be a slow death, but it's a death nonetheless.
For an older church to be a vital, Kingdom-minded, agent of life-change - it must intentionally make tough choices, expect pain, BBQ more than a few sacred cows, and be prepared to see people they love leave for another church. That sounds harsh, but it's the reality I've seen time and time again. The beautiful thing is the benefits far outweigh the downside (and it's a pretty stinkin' big downside). When a church is living out its call, embracing the Holy Spirit, loving a lost world, and experiencing the power of changed lives - it's beautiful. It's something worth dying for.
I've chosen the following books for our series which will run throughout the month of July:
In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson
This is a fantastic book that will give us an opportunity to discuss facing our fears and dreaming God-sized dreams.
A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle
This is the most talked about book in a very long time. It outlines a new spirituality and is being promoted heavily by Oprah Winfrey currently. We'll take a look at some of Tolle's teachings and discover how they square with God's Word.
Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne
This is a book that will stretch you and will give us an opportunity to talk about the Christian's role in politics.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
If you've got kids, chances are you've heard about this one. The two Wimpy Kid books currently hold the #1 and #2 spots on the New York Times Bestsellers List for Young Adult Fiction. We'll spend this week talking about navigating a rocky road called FAMILY.
I seriously can't wait for this series! I think we're going to have a lot of fun with it and learn some great things. For all of you Living Hopers out there, feel free to purchase these books and read them before hand. We'll also have some of them for sale at church during the series.
So I notice that almost everyone had come to my blog through www.esv.org/blog. This is the official website for the English Standard Version Bible that I posted about last week. Turns out they did a little post about my blog post. Very cool! Check it out. The following conversation took place between me and my daughter Mollie:
ME: So, Mollie, if you think about what this means...the Bible is writing about your Dad. Some people wonder what it would be like to be in the Bible, but I finally made it.
MOLLIE (dryly): Dad. You are not IN the Bible.
ME: No, but I'm in the Bible's blog and that's pretty close. Quit ruining it for me!
MOLLIE (dryly): Dad...you're retarded.
...and then my "big head" bubble burst. Thanks anyway, ESV, for sending all the traffic my way!