Matt Slick – The Dangers of the Practice of Contemplative or Centering Prayer

by Matt Slick

Centering prayer is popping up within the emerging church movement. Centering prayer, also known as contemplative prayer and listening prayer, is the practice of relaxing, emptying the mind, and letting one’s self find the presence of God within. It involves silence, stillness, patience, sometimes repeating something, and the practice of “not knowing” as the person seeks God’s presence.

Centering Prayer is a method of prayer, which prepares us to receive the gift of God’s presence, traditionally called contemplative prayer. It consists of responding to the Spirit of Christ by consenting to God’s presence and action within. It furthers the development of contemplative prayer by quieting our faculties to cooperate with the gift of God’s presence.

Centering prayer is “the opening of mind and heart – our whole being – to God, the Ultimate Mystery, beyond thoughts, words, and emotions.” So, it is a non thinking, emptying of the mind that seeks to find God in a way that is “closer than consciousness itself.”2 Why? Because, according to the contemplative mystics, absolute truth is unknowable just as God is mystically unknowable. Sure, they know that they can know things in truthful ways, but ultimate truth is not perceivable via the senses and mind. Experiencing God is through silence, emptying of self through contemplation in the quiet of the mind and soul. Some directions for centering prayer are offered at contemplateiveoutreach.org: Here are four guidelines it recommends.

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Additional information on this topic is available by Pastor Mike Hoggard in his video “The Mystery of Contemplative Prayer.” Click here to watch the video.

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David Mathis – What’s the Big Deal with the Puritans?

He was the kind of adolescent who would keep secret reading material stashed under his mattress. Long after he was supposed to be fast asleep, the teenage Joel Beeke would lay in bed with the light still on, pouring over the pages. He had stumbled across his father’s forbidden collection, and long before most youths are exposed to the adult world, Beeke was getting acclimated.

By Beeke’s own admission, he was raised in a hyper-Calvinist home, and his wandering heart found a haven for indulgence. It was the Puritans.

These old English pastors and theologians, from the second half of the 16th century and the entirety of the 17th century, informed his mind, wooed his heart, and began guiding his life. He was only nine years old when he found the Puritans on his father’s shelf and began devouring the grace they exuded. Far from the staid and prudish caricatures we hear far too often, Beeke was finding the Puritans to be “the happiest group of people who ever lived on the face of the earth.”

Beeke now has been enjoying the Puritans for over 50 years, and he has authored, with Mark Jones, Puritan Theology, the book he says he’d dreamed of writing as a teenager. He’s eager to help as many as he can “get a flavor for the incredible riches of their spirituality.”

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Sarah Flashing – A Gracious Defense: How Do You Do It?

Campus debates, academic conferences, scholarly journals—these are some of the places where apologetics is engaged by the Church’s well-equipped defenders. These contexts lend to the structured, sophisticated arguments that have the power to persuade the most determined atheist and unsure agnostic, but are also useful in local coffee shops, family dinner tables and local school board meetings. We are called to give an answer for the hope within wherever we find the truth of God’s word being challenged, wherever Christianity is under assault, whenever Christians are persecuted for their allegiance to Jesus.

“yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” (1 Peter 3:15-16 ESV)

It’s easy to forget the second half of the charter verse for apologetics ministry. Our defense of the faith is to not only be true and reasonable, but gracious and kind.

How we give an answer isn’t ancillary to the nature of our defense, though sometimes it seems that aspect of Peter’s charge is missed or ignored. The nature of our interaction is as important as the meat of the answer because it is difficult for those on the receiving end to separate the message from the messenger. I believe this is what motivates Peter to write that we take on the moral aspects of the gospel in giving an answer. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to give expression to the “hope within” if it manifests in the form of aggression or hostility. This establishes a contradiction between God’s love and the requirement of his followers to love others which, ultimately, undermines any otherwise reasonable defense of the faith. If not motivated by a love for God and for others, it will be quickly known.

With gentleness and respect—it would seem there is no other way to present the truth of Christianity to the unconverted because the gospel cannot be understood apart from grace in the first place. So, with every bit of caution and courage, our answers should be presented in such a way that our personal integrity is unharmed and God not held responsible for our words in the minds of the unregenerate.

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Ravi Zacharias – Why I Am Not An Atheist

Dr. Ravi Zacharias’ lecture at Princeton University on the topic, “Why I am not an atheist.”

The follow-up question and answer session:

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Tony Breeden – Why Animals, Humanity and the Rest of Creation Suffers for Adam’s Sin

In a post called “A theological argument against young earth creationism,” J W Wartick has argued that Biblical (young earth) Creationism is “morally impermissible.” His reasoning? Because animals died because of Adam’s sin, not because of anything they themselves did.

If you’re reading that from an orthodox Christian worldview, something about his argument should be bugging you right from the get-go, but we’ll get to that.

He outlines the argument thus:

  1. If animals did not die before the fall, then their death must be the result of sin.
  2. Animals are incapable of sinning (they are not morally responsible agents)
  3. Therefore, animal death must be the result of a morally culpable agent’s sin.

At no point does his argument start with the Bible because he is supposing he can simply use Young earth Creationism’s presuppositions against us. So he’s not asking if Young Earth Creationism is Biblically correct but whether it will stand up to his rational critique. In this regard, his objection is more philosophical than theological. Note that he does not argue thus:

  1. The Bible says that death entered the world by Adam’s sin.
  2. Therefore no death could have occurred before Adam’s sin, human or animal
  3. Therefore the death recorded in the fossil record must have occurred after Adam’s sin

This line of reasoning would have caused him to ask what could have caused the death we see in the fossil record after Adam’s sin; inevitably, he would have been drawn to the Noachian Flood as a probable candidate.

In any case, we can firmly establish that he’s not starting with the Bible as his ultimate authority. Furthermore, we can note that his argument here is no different than similar objections presented by atheists, who claim that God is unjust for making us morally culpable for Adam’s sin. [Both objections are answered below].

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Dr. Albert Mohler – Atheists in the Pulpit: The Sad Charade of the Clergy Project

“It is hard to think of any other profession which it is so near to impossible to leave.” That is the judgment of Richard Dawkins, perhaps the world’s most famous living atheist, as he welcomes unbelieving pastors to join the Clergy Project, a group designed to help unbelieving pastors make their way out of the ministry. Apparently, some are not moving out very fast.

Dawkins explains that the Clergy Project “exists to provide a safe haven, a forum where clergy who have lost their faith can meet each other, exchange views, swap problems, counsel each other — for, whatever they may have lost, clergy know how to counsel and comfort.” Dawkins, who once held one of the world’s most coveted academic posts, has now reduced himself to addressing small gatherings of atheists and celebrating a motley crew of pastors who have abandoned the faith — even if some have not abandoned their pulpits.

The Clergy Project’s own statement is even more blunt, describing itself as “a confidential online community for active and former clergy who do not hold supernatural beliefs.” Most people, believers and unbelievers alike, are no doubt in the habit of thinking that the Christian ministry requires supernatural beliefs. That assumption is what Richard Dawkins and the Clergy Project want to subvert. More precisely, they want to use the existence of unbelieving pastors to embarrass the church and weaken theism.

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Michael Ovey – The Right to Ridicule?

‘The wisest and the best of men-nay, the wisest and best of their actions-may be rendered ridiculous by a person whose first object in life is a joke.’ Thus comments Jane Austen’s character Darcy in Pride and Prejudice to Elizabeth Bennett. Ridicule is a theme running throughout the novel, and Austen certainly does a fair amount of it herself.

But there are questions about its proper application. Shortly after Darcy’s speech, Elizabeth’s father remarks about his plans for a future guest: ‘There is a mixture of servility and self-importance in his letter, which promises well. I am impatient to see him.’ He later amusingly engages this guest in a conversation which displays the guest’s servility and self-importance for all to see-all, that is, except the guest. The scene is both entertaining and yet disturbing. For sure, the reader feels that the guest ‘deserves’ ridicule. But nevertheless Elizabeth’s father is determined to bring out the worst in his guest to amuse himself and the more perceptive of his daughters. Elizabeth’s father has rightly seen two serious vices in his guest’s character, yet encourages them rather than steering his guest toward safer ground.

Elizabeth’s father later risks ridicule himself as his weakness contributes to the seduction of his empty-headed youngest daughter, but his final response to this runs: ‘For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?’ His defence of ridiculing others is, if you like, that he is prepared to be ridiculed back. The hint is that if he is prepared to take ridicule, he is in some sense allowed to dish it out.

This takes us to the broader question of the use of ridicule in human engagements, and especially in theological discussion. For the way that a discussion is held and carried forward can be as important as the final conclusion. Thus, the basic distinction between a true argument and a valid argument in elementary logic recognises that a true answer can be reached for inadequate reasons. Similarly, Eph 4:13 indicates that truth must be expressed in a particular way-in love (an application of the general NT insistence on charitable other-personed love). Luther’s reflections on how an externally ‘righteous’ action can be produced by self-seeking and self-pleasing are very pertinent here. And it is in the context of the way Christians should conduct themselves in theological discussion that I want to examine the use of ridicule.

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Mathew Sims – A Discussion on “Submission” from Eph. 5

Scripture-1024x574 If we’re going to think properly about submission within marriage, we need to think about it within the context of the sacrificial love for Jesus.

Jesus spent part of his earthly ministry dialoguing with the religious leaders of his day. Often times that took the form of these leaders trying to trip up Jesus. The Apostle Matthew reports on one of these times. “Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians” (22:15-16). Now this first round was about paying taxes to Caesar. He subverted their silly question by answering, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (v. 21). Just as we pay taxes to Caesar because his image is imprinted on the coins; we must give back to God what’s imprinted with his image. “They were amazed” (v. 22). Round two. The Sadducees tried a riddle about who gets the wife in resurrection if she had several husbands. Jesus answers their question, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage” (v. 30) then takes a simple verb is and makes the point God is not the God of the dead. “They were astonished” (v. 33).

Round three. You might think the religious leaders might have learned their lesson, but the Pharisees get together and think they may have found a sticky question about fulfilling the law. “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (v. 36). As with the previous question, Jesus doesn’t just answer their question, but goes further.

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (vv. 37-40)

All the law hangs on love. That’s a tough pill to swallow. All the law doesn’t hang on righteousness or justice or mercy? Those things are certainly central, but they aren’t the nail in the stud. Early in a private moment with his disciples in Matthew 20, the sons of Zebedee approach Jesus and ask if they can sit next to him in his kingdom. The other disciples are angry, but Jesus says,

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (vv. 25b-28)

It shall not be so among you. Those in authority in the Church are not tyrants, but servants loving those under their authority. Jesus connects this to his future cross-work (“to give his life a ransom for many” v. 28).

When discussing how Christianity informs our home, people inevitably ask me about submission and headship. Why should a woman have to submit to her husband? Why should men have authority? Doesn’t this lead to abuse?

The underlying assumption most of the time is the one subverted by Jesus in Matthew 20. These people have in mind a type of headship and submission in the vein of the rulers of the Gentiles—one that lords over people. My question is almost always, “Would you have a problem with a wife submitting to someone who loved, led, and served like Jesus?”

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Mark Bowron – Yeshua HaMashiach: Our Passover Lamb

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
(John 3:16 KJV)

The life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth have formed the basis for a major world religion (Christianity), have appreciably influenced the course of human history, and, by virtue of a compassionate attitude toward the sick, also have contributed to the development of modern medicine. The eminence of Jesus as a historical figure and the suffering and controversy associated with his death have stimulated us to investigate, in an interdisciplinary manner, the circumstances surrounding his crucifixion. Accordingly, it is our intent to present not a theological treatise but rather a medically and historically accurate account of the physical death of the one called Jesus Christ.

Jesus of Nazareth underwent Jewish and Roman trials was flogged and was sentenced to death by crucifixion. The scourging produced deep stripelike lacerations and appreciable blood loss and it probably set the stage for hypovolemic shock as evidenced by the fact that Jesus was too weakened to carry the crossbar (patibulum) to Golgotha. At the site of crucifixion his wrists were nailed to the patibulum and after the patibulum was lifted onto the upright post (stipes) his feet were nailed to the stipes. The major pathophysiologic effect of crucifixion was an interference with normal respirations. Accordingly death resulted primarily from hypovolemic shock and exhaustion asphyxia. Jesus death was ensured by the thrust of a soldier s spear into his side. Modern medical interpretation of the historical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead when taken down from the cross.

After Jesus and his disciples had observed the Passover meal in an upper room in a home in southwest Jerusalem, they traveled to the Mount of Olives, northeast of the city. Owing to various adjustments in the calendar, the years of Jesus’ birth and death remain controversial. However, it is likely that Jesus was born in either 4 or 6 BC and died in 30 AD. During the Passover observance in 30 AD, the Last Supper would have been observed on Thursday, April 6 (Nisan 13), and Jesus would have been crucified on Friday, April 7 (Nisan 14) At nearby Gethsemane, Jesus, apparently knowing that the time of his death was near, suffered great mental anguish, and, as described by the physician Luke, his sweat became like blood.

Jesus left the Upper Room and walked with His disciples to the Mount of Olives and Garden of Gethsemane,where he was arrested and taken first to Annas and then to Caiaphas. After His first trial before political Sanhedrin at Caiaphas’ residence, Jesus was tried again before religious Sanhedrin, probably at Temple. Next, He was taken to Pontius Pilate, who sent him to Herod Antipas. Herod returned Jesus to Pilate, and Pilate finally handed over Jesus for scourging at Fortress of Antonia and for crucifixion at Golgotha.

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Book Review – Contentment, Prosperity, and God’s Glory by Jeremiah Burroughs

“I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:12-13)

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:31-34)

The above passages, especially in this day and age where the so-called prosperity gospel has gained such popularity in the church, are far too often ignored. Do we really understand what it means to rely on the God who knows the very number of hairs on our head (a quick count certainly for some) and who “clothes” the lilies of the field? Is Christianity about glorifying God with what He has given us or about the search for what God gives us in the physical sense as a badge of His delight in us? These are serious questions that face the church today.

Contentment, Prosperity, and God’s Glory by famed Puritan pastor and author Jeremiah Burroughs speaks to this very issue of what Scripture means when it calls us to be content. Originally the appendix to Burrough’s work “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment,” a true classic in its own right, Contentment, Prosperity, and God’s Glory is a collection of three sermons that address a number of key issues that remain relevant in the life of the believer, especially in today’s prosperity gospel driven climate. The somewhat antiquated language of the Puritan authors has been edited to make this edition a bit more readable while not changing any of Burrough’s salient thoughts.

Most believers view contentment as a product of knowing how to deal with adversity. After all, what better time to trust in God than when the proverbial chips are down, right? Burroughs reminds the reader that contentment is best practiced and learned when one knows how to be full. He rightly notes “we cannot learn how to be full unless we understand the mercies God has granted us. If a man should enjoy many mercies and does not understand them, he has not learned how to be full. He must prize the mercy God has granted to him at a suitable rate.” But wait, there’s more!

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