Nazarene Social Justice and It’s Socialist Connections

4/29/2010- UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: Since we posted this yesterday, some of the links directly connected with OKC 1st have mysteriously disappeared.  At the end of this post, I have a cached picture of the Social Holiness site with the Nazarene connection at the bottom.

This update is from my friend at exnazarene:

January 25, 2010 by exnazarene

*UPDATE*  April 25, 2010 – Apparently, OKC 1st  Church of the Nazarene has removed it’s link on their main church website that showed their affiliation with the Industrial Areas Foundation.  However, another point of reference with their involvement via their Minister of Social Justice, Lance Schmitz, can be found HERE at a Social Holiness website that claims it operates as a Ministry of Oklahoma First Church of the Nazarene.  (I suggest people make copies of these pages before they also disappear.)

In addition, here is another news article that associates Minister of Social Justice, Lance Schmitz, as a committee member of an interfaith community coalition called the Oklahoma Sponsoring Committee, that is directly linked to the Industrial Areas Foundation.  The article can be accessed HERE.

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The radical liberal agenda has enjoyed success in secular schools and organizations for several decades, and to a mild degree in some of the liberal denominations from the turn of the last century.

It makes sense that the next stronghold to assault would be to infiltrate the ranks of the conservative Christian schools and conservative denominations.  But through what method?

Enter the Emergent Church Movement and its’ emphasis on “social justice”. Here’s the strategy:

  • Re-package the primary mission of Jesus coming on the earth from being one of redemption of souls, to one of setting things right for the poor and marginalized in society.  Paint those (conservatives) who hold to a salvation message of personal repentance of sin, and faith and trust in Jesus as the only Way, Truth and Life , and re-cast them as Pharisee’s and mean-spirited fundamentalists who know nothing of compassion for the down and out.
  • Promote the emergent church as the first to discover compassion for others and care about societal ills.   Do this under the catch phrase of “bringing in the kingdom” and/or being “missional” .
  • Take a low view of scripture and introduce doubts as to its’ authority and reliability.
  • Focus mainly on the “good works” of Jesus, while  avoiding  unpleasant topics such as sin, its consequences, personal responsibility, and above all else stay away from the subject of hell.

The following link will take you to an article from The Tulsa Beacon entitled The Wolves Are At the Door. The article was posted in April 2009.

In the article you will read the connection between the Industrial Areas Foundation , of which Oklahoma First Church of the Nazarene is a supporter, and Saul Alinsky , who was a Communist sympathizer and socialist , and the term “social justice”. Here is a quote from the article:

“Saul Alinsky used the poor to further a radical agenda, while ostensibly helping them. Although the IAF has disavowed some of Alinsky’s more extreme views, they still use his methods and seek to work within unsuspecting Catholic and Protestant congregations, and among other constituencies, to further a decidedly liberal agenda. From our research, you won’t ever see IAF working with its protégés to encourage conservative principles in public policy.”

Also of interest would be this interview given by the Minister of Social Justice of Oklahoma First Church of the Nazarene to Sojourner’s Magazine, which is a magazine with a radical liberal/progressive Leftist (chrisitan) agenda whose founder, Jim Wallis has ties to the Communist Party.

It is also of interest, that it is common to find a link to Sojourner’s at emergent nazarene blogs, such as this one and this one.

The people in the pews in the Nazarene Church need to wake up and start asking questions and demand answers from their leadership.  The only way to turn the Nazarene denomination around from this liberal agenda is for those in the pews to gather together and pray, repent from straying off course, fast, and create a grass roots movement of those that care about Biblical integrity and Biblical foundations that have been under assault from the Left.  The Nazarenes need to ask the question of the following from Psalm 11.

If the foundations are destroyed,  what can the righteous do? Psalm 11:3

Leonard Sweet: Emergent/New Age Hall Of Shame

Leonard Sweet is fast becoming very popular in the Nazarene denomination.  He has been invited to several pastor’s seminars around the country, and also makes regular speaking appearances at some Nazarene universities.  Sweet is currently the E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism at Drew University, Madison, NJ and a Visiting Distinguished Professor at George Fox University, Portland, Oregon.  Sounds impressive, but who is he, and why is he in my Emergent Church/New Age Hall of Shame?  And if he is, am I way off base to list him, or is something seriously wrong with Nazarenes and other Christians inviting him to speak at evangelical seminars, universities, and churches?

He is scheduled to be the plenary speaker at the Northwest Regional PALCON seminar for Nazarene pastors, hosted by Northwest Nazarene University.  Yes, the same Northwest Nazarene University that had Dr. Jay McDaniel as a guest lecturer a few years back, whose talk was extremely difficult to get through, especially knowing that he was essentially speaking unchallenged to students at NNU.  The same university that brought Brian McLaren there for his Everything Must Change tour, with his translation of John 3:16 meaning to save the earth, not people.  So to me, no surprise that Sweet shows up at this school, for it is extremely sympathetic to emergent thought, contemplative spirituality (aka spiritual formation), New Agers and extreme liberal speakers.

He will also be a featured speaker at the National Worship Leader Conference this year, both at the Southwest Regional in New Mexico, and the East Regional in Pennsylvania.

Sweet is described at Lighthouse Trails Research as a New Age sympathizer.  He is linked to many New Agers and promoters of contemplative spirituality, including Rick Warren, whose Purpose Driven Life book is full of New Age references and approving quotes.  According to Zondervan, Sweet has teamed with Rick Warren for an audio seminar titled The Tides of Change, and is collaborating with Brian McLaren and Jerry Haselmayer for a church consulting corporation called Helix21.  Sweet’s most famous book, perhaps, is Quantum Spirituality, which for whatever reason, was left out of the bio that was listed for PALCON Conference.  Perhaps it was a “good” thing, because it is a strange book that speaks well of his New Age leanings, with his emphasis on the “Christ-consciousness”, and his fascination with the “New Light”.

He has been at Southern Nazarene University, where you can listen to audio clips from the Dream Big Seminar.
He spoke at Eastern Nazarene College a few years ago at a pastor’s seminar.
He was a plenary speaker at the Church of the Nazarene’s M3 Conference.
In my post from Nov 5, it tells of his sponsorship by the Northwest Nazarene District at a local Nazarene church, and also describes much of his New Age influence.
And on, and on, and on we could go with more appearances at Nazarene venues.

And from my friend at the sadnazarene blog, here is a post on how Sweet and other colleagues are coming out with yet another new Bible (The Voice), because apparently none of the present Bible versions fit their “emergent lens”, as they like to often say.  On the site promoting The Voice it is described as “holistic”, “sensitive”, “beautiful”, “balanced”.  Apparently the King James version and all the others are… what?  Insensitive?  Ugly?  Unbalanced?  So Sweet is probably just another of those folks who are just not happy with a literal, accurate translation of the scriptures, but instead want to put their post-modern slant to it.  The KJV is just not good enough anymore to reach this new generation, is it?

In his own words, here is a writing by Sweet called A Magna Carta For Restoring The Supremacy Of Jesus Christ.  Sounds good, but if you read it and are impressed, remember this:

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. 2 Peter 1:21-2:3

For a review of some of his more extensive quotes, see Sandy Simpson’s article from his site Deception in the Church.  In the meantime, below is Leonard Sweet’s Hall Of Shame poster.  If any pastor goes to the PALCON Conference at NNU, you most likely will not hear Sweet’s most radical theories or spiritual ideas, especially from Quantum Spirituality and other books.  Trust me, he is not your typical evangelical.  In my opinion, based on all that I know, he’s not a good choice for teaching Christian pastors or lecturing on Christian spirituality.  His New Age thinking is just not found in the Bible, so that in itself is a disqualifier.  He should be shunned, not welcomed, as it is a scriptural command to do.  But we ought to pray for him, and for those who continue to invite him to speak, especially to young immature Christians.  As Pastor Tony preached last Sunday, a lion seeks it’s prey first from among the weakest, not the strongest.

New Friends: Mission Venture Ministries

I’m taking a small break from the usual “emergent” emails to pause and thank God for the many new friends I have gained in the past year.  In a recent comment on one of my blog posts, I listed just a few of the names of the new friends throughout the country and even around the world, who have been a great blessing to me and my family in the midst of all this “emergent madness” going on in the evangelical world.  I have been telling my fellow Christians, that deciding to stand for truth in response to what Christ commands, rather than keeping silent, has brought some of the greatest blessings in our lives.

My wife Monica and I have grown in our faith, and have been strengthened and sustained by the encouragement and prayers of our new friends, many who have gone through more difficulties than we ever have.  So to those who think, or are worried that we might be falling apart from all this “emergent madness”, don’t worry; that’s not possible when you place your faith and trust in Jesus Christ.  But to those who have ministered to me and my wife in the past year, I pray for God’s richest blessings on you.  You know who you are and what you have meant to me, and I look forward to meeting many of you in person someday.
Which leads me to one of our most recent friends that we have found, and that I want to thank also because they are investing in their own time to help me.  I want to introduce you to Helena and David Russel.  Please go to their website when you have a chance, especially if you have friends who like to read in Spanish or Portuguese.  The following is from their About page: “Our mission is to lead people worldwide to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and to help strengthen the local church.”

Their ministry is called Mission Venture Ministries, and as I said, there is also a Portuguese and Spanish version of the website.  So that means of course that they are very busy trying to get their posts online in three languages! And that’s on top of their duties as missionaries, leading in Bible studies, and ministering to others in various other ways.

Here are their links:

http://missionventureministries.wordpress.com/

http://mvmportuguese.wordpress.com/

http://mvmspanish.wordpress.com/

How did I meet them?  Sometime in March, Helena contacted me and said she had been on my Portuguese Reformed Nazarene blog.  After reading one of the articles, in which I asked if anyone might be interested in helping me translate some articles into Portuguese, she felt led by the Lord to contact me and volunteer to do what she can for me.  Needless to say, she has been translating several posts already for me, in between lots of other things.

Helena and her husband, David, are independent missionaries who are ministering to the Hispanic population in Arizona (where my favorite vacation spot is, Sedona).  David is American born and grew up in the Nazarene denomination.  Helena was born in Brazil, and they have many friends who are Nazarene.  I think I can summarize their testimony a little bit in this way: they are two Christians who will allow God to use their talents in any way that God desires to use them.

I thank them both for their kindness and encouragement, and certainly for Helena’s willingness to translate my blogs into Portuguese.  This is very important, as we want to reach out and give information to our Portuguese brothers and sisters.  May God bless them richly in their ministry.  Please take the time if you can to drop them a note of encouragement on their website.

In Christ,

Manny

For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men?
for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.
Galatians 1:10

The Seductive Poison of Apostasy

The following from Eric Barger is more disturbing news about one of our publishing arms of Nazarene Publishing House:

April 7, 2010

A look at 180, a new book from the Nazarene Publishing House


What if your church or your denomination’s official publishing house used denominational funds to print, publish and promote a book that extols the joys of rejecting biblical authority. That’s right, rejecting the Word of God. This is exactly what many biblically sound Nazarenes are now experiencing.
The latest and perhaps one of the most visible signs of distress for Nazarenes is the release of a troubling new book through an arm of the Nazarene Publishing House. 180: The Stories of People Who Changed Their Lives By Changing Their Minds is a product of a Nazarene-funded entity called “The House Studio,” which is listed under the covering of the Nazarene Publishing House in the 2010 General Board Reports of the Church of the Nazarene for the year 2009. (See: http://www.ncnnews.com/nphweb/html/ncn/article.jsp?id=10009016)

180 is a compilation of several authors, including Emergent leader and author, Leonard Sweet, Frederica Mathewes-Green (who, along with Sweet and Emergent godfather, Brian McLaren, contributed to the book The Church in the Emerging Culture: Five Perspectives), G.P (Graham) Taylor (author of Shadowmancer), and Baptist-bred biographer-turned-fiction-writer, Ace Collins. A few of the other contributing authors include Emergent youth speaker, Mark Oestreicher, Karen Spears Zacharias, Patricia Raybon (who has endorsed contemplative spirituality and favors Catholic mystics), Cameron Conant and Bob Buford, the founder of Leadership Network, (the suspected genesis point which spawned today’s Emergent movement and its original leaders). Buford also served as the initial chairman of the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management, now known as “Leader to Leader Institute.”

The promotion for the 180 book states: How does a fundamentalist become less conservative? What makes a person intent on marrying choose to remain celibate and enter the priesthood? How can a scientist give up believing in certainty? What makes an organ-playing pastor’s wife hit the road with a band and her bass guitar?
These are all intriguing questions, sure to bring people into a fuller, more holy walk with Jesus, right?
Conant’s chapter explains how he began his adult life as a conservative but when his wife left him he saw the “error” of his Republican ways. Mathewes-Green tells the story of how she migrated from the pro-choice position to become pro-life, which, of course, is actually a good thing. Taylor’s part in the book was about how a dope smoking kid got straight – but like the majority of what 180 offers, there is no hint that God, His Son, His Spirit, or His Word had anything to do with the transformation.
Another contributor to 180 is self-described “professional adventurer” Melissa Jenks.

As a promotional sample of the book, Jenks’ chapter was apparently sent to every Nazarene pastor in March, 2010, as a part of the quarterly “Nazarene Communicator.” It was because of this mailing that a distressed Nazarene pastor called, making me aware of the book.
Jenks begins, “I used to believe that the Bible was true. Completely true-every single word. (In the words of theologians, inerrant.)
“I now believe that the Bible is true. Completely true-every single word.
“So what’s changed? I no longer believe that in order to be absolutely true, the Bible has to be literally true. It doesn’t have to mean that earth and life in it were created in seven days. It doesn’t have to mean that Methuseleh lived 969 years. It doesn’t have to mean that Joshua stopped the sun in the sky or that the streets of heaven are paved with actual gold.”

Along with promoting feminism and the view that American Christians are a rather hopeless and self-centered lot, Jenks follows with the concept that one can be an evolutionist (like her) and a Christian, too; that beliefs are inconsequential to one’s being identified as a “Christian”; and the conclusion that there are many people who reject the historic teaching of the Church but should be unquestionably accepted as real Christians.
Whether its called liberalism or Emergent, heretical or just plain goofy, these ideas are surely not within the bounds of authentic Christianity. In fact, as I stated in my March 19th e-update (“Where is the Leadership?”), notions like these more closely relate to the very lie that got us humans into this mess in the first place i.e., “Hath God Said?” (Genesis 3:1).

Then comes the book’s most regrettable chapter, authored by Nazarene university professor, Karl Giberson. It’s called “Giving Up on Certainty,” which is exactly what the author tells 180 readers he has done concerning the Scriptures. Giberson is one of the world’s most noted proponents of the theory of “Open Theism,”* an evolutionist, and a professor at his alma mater, Eastern Nazarene College. (*Note that Open Theism hypothosizes that God does not know what the future holds.)
Giberson’s chapter in 180 recounts a sad story simliar to that of liberal theologian, Marcus J. Borg. He retells how his experience in Bible college led him away from his previously held position of certainty that the Bible was true and gave him in return a profound intellectual uncertainty for the Word of God. Portraying textbook-like postmodernity, Giberson’s contribution to 180 amounts to little more than a clear cut, egregious denial of the Bible. He claims to have made this change based on a series of events and teachings he received in college, including an old and baseless charge that assorted prophecies found in Scripture were actually fraudulent. I don’t care how intellectual he may be or how many degrees he has, or how many doting peers he may have showering him with awards and prestige.
The question needs to be asked: What is this guy doing teaching in an allegedly evangelical school? How many more students will enter once-trusted Bible colleges only to have their minds twisted and their belief in God’s Word shredded because someone who does not believe the Bible has been allowed to stand unquestioned before them as an authority?

In thinking of the Gibersons and Borgs and other assorted heretics that infest seminary classrooms all around us, I can’t help but remember the compelling phrase Jesus used as He addressed the educated but empty hypocrites of His day. Just before calling them snakes, he said the converts of these false teachers become twice the child of Hell than their mentors (Matthew 23:15)! I think I know something of how Jesus was feeling about this topic but before I allow myself to go there and tell you what I really think, let me introduce a mother named Ann. She has experienced one of the worst nightmares imaginable for any Christian parent. Year after year, Ann trained her son up in the ways of God. When the time came she sent him off to Bible college only to find that some so-called “intellectuals,” within the confines of what she thought was a solid theological institution, injected him with the seductive poison of apostasy, obliterating both her own life’s work and her son’s relationship with God.
Ann wrote me at www.ericbarger.com. She stated:

Thank you for your stand for truth and the defense of the Word of God which is now under attack through the emergent movement.  This is being taught as the new post-modern “truth” at many so called “Christian” universities. I have a son who has been captured by this vain philosophy being taught at a Nazarene university.  I am praying for his return to the truth of God’s Word as he was trained up for 12 years at home and in school to affirm God’s Word as absolute truth.  The university taught from a New Testament book written by Bart Erhman, a self-proclaimed agnostic and academic expert in textual criticism.  That class has derailed my son’s faith.

I wrote back:

Thanks for writing Ann. I grieve when I hear reports like this. It is heart-wrenching. Hang in there and please let me know how it’s going. Remember, you are not alone. There is a godly remnant inside the Nazarene Church who are fighting for your son and for other sons and daughters. Let me know if there is anything we can provide for you or do.
By the way, which Nazarene University did your son attend?
God bless you!
Eric

Ann responded:
Thank you for your response.  My son graduated 2008 from Point Loma Nazarene University and I have also have a daughter enrolled at PLNU finishing her junior year.  The university has invited emergent authors/speakers to mandatory chapels and is offering contemplative prayer retreats. I have written the General S/P of the Nazarene organization (Jerry Porter) and also the University president in this regard.  The S/P sent me three documents put out by the Nazarenes concerning the emergent church which all clearly emphasized a strong biblical foundation and God’s Word as truth.  However, the reality of these speakers in chapel and contemplative retreats are contrary to those documents. The University president has not responded.

Ann
The introduction to the 180 book states, “Even though we’re not out to change your mind on anything, we hope to stretch it a little.” Stretch it a little? But how? By relying on human stories to emotionally appeal to us that drugs and abortion are evil – but never relating what the Word of God states on the topics? Then worse, by casting doubt on the Word of God with the kind of conflicting, faith-breaking doubletalk found in 180? Call me old-fashioned, but I thought the mission of the Church was to produce materials and teaching that uphold the authentic Gospel of Jesus Christ. Can you imagine Peter, Paul or any of the other Apostles writing a chapter in 180? I think not. God is indeed in the mind-changing business – make that the renewing of the mind through His mighty Word (Romans 12:1-2, Psalm 119:11)! If we need anything today it is voices that refute false beliefs instead of endorsing them. Rather than question marks, we must add exclamation points to the emphatic teachings of the Bible!

Call me narrow-minded but I’ve had it up to my eyeballs with the progressive, supposedly intellectual tripe some so-called Christian educators are foisting on young minds while consistantly downplaying and discouraging systematic theology, expository preaching and sound doctrine. It has become a vogue part of allegedly “higher” Christian education today to constantly question and doubt biblical truths rather than uphold them – all in the name of “critical thinking.” This isn’t some sort of postmodern apologetics. Instead, it is nothing short of subversion and is the very veil with which those who are guided by the spirit of rebellion cloak themselves.

Rebellion is indeed the spirit of the age we live in and it is at work inside the Church. The apostle John exclaimed, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (I John 4:1). I am more convinced with each passing day that what we are battling is nothing short of the attempted complete destruction of the historic Church by some within the borders of our theological institutions and denominations. Just look to those formerly sound theological giants of the recent past, Harvard, Princeton and Yale. Have we forgotten that they were once home to the greatest defenders of biblical truth in the world? It is surely no stretch that one would have to spend considerable time and effort to find many authentic Bible believers within their walls today. We must wake up before their fate becomes ours.

Considering the fact that evolution and open theism are being accepted and heralded in Nazarene universities, and books like 180 are being printed and promoted by the official publishing arm of the Church of the Nazarene, make one wonder what is next. However, as most of you know, Emergent heresy is certainly not confirned to any one denomination. Concerned Christians should be watching, examining, challenging, and demanding accountability from those in leadership. Lest there be more heartbreak such as Ann’s, and for the sake of the next generation, we can do no less. Ladies and gentlemen, TRUTH comes with a price and this is what contending for it looks like.
For an extensive menu of information on this and related issues visit “The Church of the Nazarene and the Emergent Church” at our website, www.ericbarger.com.

(For a review of this book by Nazarene pastor Peter Migner: The book “180” By The House Studio Just Went The Wrong Way)

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Get to Know Eric Barger and Take A Stand! Ministries

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Emergent/New Age Hall Of Shame, Part. 1

Stand For Truth Ministries held it’s first official presentation in Fall River, MA.  The topic was “Dangers of the Emerging/Emergent Church.”  Blessings and many thanks to Pastor Tony Costa and the church leadership at Igreja Evangelica for the opportunity to speak.  This is a solid Bible believing church, and I appreciate their support.  We met some great folks, including a couple whose story of being ostracized by church leadership for simply raising questions about doctrinal concerns, was very familiar.  We also spent time speaking with a young man who is a street evangelist, as well as a friend of his, who will be keeping in touch with us about his ministry.  We passed out free copies of the Emerging DVD, Dr. Michael Youssef’s sermon on The Shack novel, as well as other resource materials.  It was a long day doing two sessions, but we are thankful to God for the opportunities.  To schedule a speaking engagement at your church in the New England area, drop us a note at standfortruthministries@gmail.com.  For those who missed it, I will be posting the video in a few weeks.

One of the parts of the presentation was the discussion of some of the movement’s main leaders and “heroes”.  Following are highlights of just a small part of the emergent/New Age hall of shame.  It is still a wonder to me why these false teachers are so admired by many Nazarenes and other Christians, especially pastors and leaders.  These men are misleading and deceiving countless Christians, and many who recognize this stay silent.  Exposing these false teachers over and over again is essential for the protection of all Christians, for waking up those who are deceived, and for the defense of the faith.

Emergent/New Age Hall Of Shame, Part. 1





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Manny Silva,
Stand For Truth Ministries

“The entirety of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.” Psalm 119:160
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[Stand For Truth Ministries is a self-supporting ministry dedicated to fighting emergent church ideology and other false teachings.  Your prayers are asked for more than anything else.]

The Prayer of Hezekiah (Isaiah 37:14-20)

by Pastor Joe Staniforth, ordained minister, Church of the Nazarene

In these last days, it is becoming increasingly difficult to live victorious lives as Christians.  We are constantly under siege, as apostasies of all kinds are pounding on the walls of the church.  If we are to be victorious, we must seek not only to be “fervent” in our prayers, but also formidable.  The formidable pray-er is one who prays, not only with zealousness for his Father‘s House, but in ways that honor both God and His word.  He is immovable in His devotion to righteous ways.  For it is the “the effective, fervent prayer of a RIGHTEOUS man” that will “avail” against all the sieges of the devil (James 5:16).  King Hezekiah was such a righteous man.  He prayed in a way that was pleasing to the Lord.  Therefore, the Lord made him a formidable Kingdom in the face of the apostate Assyrians.

When the city of Jerusalem was under siege by the Assyrians, the Judean King, Hezekiah, turned to the Lord with a prayer.  In his hand was the letter of another King, King Sennacherib of Assyria, containing a threat against Jerusalem:  “Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you, saying , ‘Jerusalem shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’” (Isaiah 37:10). The Assyrian empire was feared throughout Mesopotamia and both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel.  In fact, they had carried much of the people of the Kingdom of Israel away captive (II Kings 18:10), and overcome major cities in the Kingdom of Judah (II Kings 18:13) .  Until this time, the Lord has used Assyria to bring judgment: “the rod of My anger.” (Is. 10:5). But now, she would dare to challenge, not only the city of God, but God himself.  For this reason, she was a rebel – like any apostate.

There are two points that I would like to consider concerning Hezekiah’s prayer:  The location and the motivation.  If we are to be victorious against all the sieges of the evil one, then we must honor God with both our location and motivation for prayer. First of all, let us look at the location of his prayer – ‘the House of the Lord’ (Isaiah 31:14)   The Lord would bring victory to Hezekiah because the King had honored God with his place of prayer.  He knew the Lord “dwelt between the cherubims” of the temple (Is. 37:16) and not the high places of other gods.

Prayer is not limited to the house of the Lord.  We do not need the church building in order to offer a prayer, especially now that the veil into the holy of holies has been torn in two (Luke 23:45).  In the Old Testament, the Israelites were commanded:  “But you shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses, out of all the tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go.” (Deut. 12:5).  In the New Testament, Jesus told the woman at the well, that the people would no longer ‘worship the Father” in a temple, but “in spirit and in truth.”  (John 4:23,24)

However, if we are to worship “in truth” can we do so in places that are strictly forbidden by the Lord?  Hezekiah was heralded as one of the greatest kings because he rid the land of the “high places:”

He removed the high places and broke the sacred pillars…He trusted in the Lord God of Israel, so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor who were before him.” (2 Kings 18:4a,5)

The high places were stations set on mountains or hills where secular religious rites were performed.  Certain peoples in the land of Canaan believed that their gods dwelt in these places.  The Israelites often used these places to worship the Lord their God.  For example, when King Manasseh repented of his rebellion against God, he removed many of the idols from the house of the Lord, but allowed the worship of God to continue upon the high places (II Chr. 33:15, 17).  However, is worship or prayer on such places justified, because it is directed toward God?

There is no doubt that Hezekiah considered the Word of the Lord as the authority on all matters of life, as did his great-grandson – King Josiah.  Josiah was dedicated to the Lord from the age of eight. However, after the book of law was rediscovered in the temple, the light of God‘s Word served to expose many abominations within the land (II Chr. 34:8-28).

King Josiah had obviously rediscovered a commandment of the Lord given in Deuteronomy.  Before the Israelite army entered the promise land, the Lord said:

“You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills under every green tree.” (Dt. 12:2)

When the Israelites were in the ministry of dispossessing the land of evil, the Lord commanded a clean sweep.  This included, not just the destruction of evil people, but also evil places. In this same chapter the Lord commanded those who would use pagan methods to meet with Him:  “You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way.” (Dt. 12:31)  Therefore, when Josiah saw the abominations of these worship stations, he repented, destroyed them and removed those priests who were responsible for conducting such worship from certain positions (2 Kings 23:5, 9).

Nazarene academic institutions and Nazarene churches across America have adopted new places of prayer called labyrinths and prayer stations.  Until recently, a labyrinth was used in Trevecca Nazarene University by students.  At the Nazarene Youth Congress in St Louis, 2007 I personally witnessed a labyrinth in a prayer room, upon which youth were encouraged to offer up their prayers. It was located across from two simulated confessional booths, made with black curtains.  Thousands of youth were encouraged to use the prayer room at the main assembly. Furthermore, at the 2009 General Assembly in Florida, two different rooms were set up with prayer stations, and people were encouraged to join together for prayer in these places by General Secretary David Wilson.

Nowhere in scripture are we instructed to use a labyrinth as a place on which to pray.  On the contrary, these maze-like structures (also called ‘prayer walks’) have their roots in the pagan mythologies of the ancient world.  For example, in Greek mythology, the minotaur dwelled in the center of a labyrinth, and used his home as a place to devour young people.  In the ancient religion of Buddhism, the labyrinth is referred to as ‘mandala’, meaning ‘sacred design.’  Like the high places, they were associated with the worship of false gods and rediscovered on shrines – places of worship.  Also, we can trace the use of labyrinth in the “sacred” tradition of Roman Catholicism all the way back to 324 AD in a basilica of North Africa (Saward, “The Labyrinth in Ireland,” n.p.).  However, as there are no grounds in scripture for the labyrinth, it is evident that these Catholics had borrowed from pagan cultures.

More recently, labyrinths were introduced and popularized in religious circles in America by Dr. Lauren Artress, an Episcopal Priest.  On a visit to Chartes Cathedral in France, she discovered a Labyrinth that had been covered by chairs.  She removed the chairs, and gave this report of her experience in her book, Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Tool: “Everyone in our group felt an awesome, mysterious sense of grounding and empowerment from the walk.  Looking back on that experience, I feel we touched the Holy Spirit.  Each of us had ventured to the centre of our beings in the Chartres labyrinth that day” (Artress, “Excerpt from Walking a Sacred Path,” n.p.). Artress then introduced the labyrinth to Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.  Since then, labyrinths have been on the rise in churches and other religious establishments all across America.

Prayer stations can be found in a labyrinth or by themselves.  Quite simply, different stations, perhaps on a table or the floor, are set up along a predetermined route.  At each of these prayer stations, you may find books on contemplative prayer, Bible verses, pictures, icons, candles or other devices to create a multisensory type of experience.  The “stations” are much-like the “stations of the cross” – a ‘sacred’ tradition of Romanism.  Originally, pilgrimages to Jerusalem were conducted by monks who sought a ‘holy’ experience, and stopped at “stations’ or monasteries along the way.  In time, the Franciscans of the 1600’s built shrines in Europe, to duplicate those in the Holy Land.  However it was not until 1731 that Pope Cement XII permitted all churches to build stations inside their buildings.  A standard fourteen stations were set, each representing an incident in the bitter pilgrimage of Christ’s journey to the cross (some of these incidents are not found in the Bible).  Like the prayer stations, participants were given images and icons as a multisensory aid to prayer and meditation.*

Though many are quick to defend these places, due to a sensory experience they have undergone, we simply cannot afford to avoid one of the essential tenets of the Christian faith:  “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (II Cor. 5:7)  Participants in prayer stations are encouraged to walk in a place where one relies upon the multisensory world, and not the Word.  Can God honor a place that would test this truth?   Can we replace faith with touch and feel?  At the foot of Mt. Sinai, the Israelites were not faithful enough to simply wait upon the Lord.  Hence, they created the Golden Calf.  When Aaron saw it, he used this image to worship the Lord – “a feast to the Lord.” (Exodus 32:5)  Instead of simply closing their eyes, and faithfully praying to God who had set them free from their captivity, they had turned back to the images of Egypt.

In the Word, there is only one “image of the invisible God” and His name is Jesus (Col. 1:15).  He is the one that serves as the mediator between God and man (Heb. 6:15).  Whenever we replace Him with places laden with props to appeal to the senses, we have begun the work of image making (Deut. 4:24). We will inevitably end up worshiping the image, and not God Himself.  Take for example the Roman Catholic Mass: The wafer has become such an image.  Instead of a symbol of Christ‘s body, it has now, in essence, become the body of Christ, to which a priest may bow after performing transubstantiation.

In scripture we find the perfect example of a symbol that had become more than God had intended it to be – the bronze serpent.  Because the people had required something tangible with which to worship, Hezekiah not only had to destroy the high places, but also “broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made” (2 Kings 18:4).  What had once been a symbol of Christ’s sacrificial death (John 3:14) had now become an image of worship: “the children of Israel burned incense to it, and called it Nehushtan” (2 Kings 18:4).  This is a definite indication of the danger of relying upon sight and not faith. As we now have the one that the brass serpent represented, Jesus Christ, why do we need icons, pictures and candles to draw us close to Him?  Jesus said: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” (John 12:32)

Despite the great dangers of using such places for prayer, Trevecca Nazarene University president, Dan Boone, has recently sought to defend the use of both prayer stations and labyrinths.  Although a labyrinth has now been removed from this university, “to keep from offending”, the president does not admit to any wrongdoing. (Boone, “Dr. Boone’s Comments on Trevecca”, n.p.)

Although Dan Boone has used labyrinths and prayer stations in an effort to bring revival, can God grant victory when His Word is defiled by the use of pagan methods, especially when we take into account that our young people are being taught “to stumble in their ways, from the ancient paths”? (Jer. 18:15).  Hezekiah saw victory because he destroyed such places and met with the Lord on holy ground! Both he and his people were promised by the living God that the Assyrians would be sent back, and the nation would “sow and reap” once again (Is. 37:29,30).  Perhaps we may experience such revival, if we return to praying in places that are pleasing to the Lord!

Secondly, let us look at the motivation for Hezekiah’s prayer.  In the conclusion, he states:

“Now therefore, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, that all the Kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the Lord, even Thou only.” (Isaiah 37:20)

Hezekiah’s soul reason for seeking victory over the Assyrians was that God may be glorified.  With the fall of each city prior to the siege of Jerusalem came the fall of hope and the gods in whom they had trusted.  For this reason, the Assyrian leaders had become proud.  Although the Lord God of Israel had used them as an instrument of punishment, they now used the authority given them to turn against the one true God:   “Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their countries from my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem from my hand?” (II Kings 18:25).   It was Hezekiah‘s desire that the Lord defend the city of Jerusalem, so that, unlike the gods of other cities, the world would know that He was the only God.

Assyria did not understand that the Lord God Almighty could not be worshiped on pagan places.  Rabshakeh, a spokesman for King Sennacherib, mocked Hezekiah from without the city walls:

“But if thou (Jerusalem) say to me, we trust in the Lord our God, is it not He, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away, and said to Judah and to Jerusalem, ‘ye shall not worship before this altar.’” (Isaiah 36:7)

Rabshakeh lacked discernment.  He had assumed that the Lord was like any other god, and could meet with His people in those same places that the pagans pray.  He could not understand why Hezekiah had destroyed the high places.  Furthermore, his pride had far exceeded his sense of judgment, and would soon lead to his downfall.  The Holy One would not tolerate such a challenge to His authority.

In the same way, much of the leadership in the Nazarene denomination has displayed as much discernment as Rabshakeh.  For instance, in a video by the pastor at Sojourn church of the Nazarene in the Dallas, Texas area, the labyrinth is endorsed when its winding path is compared to the Christian journey (Anonymous, “Sojourn Video”, 2009).  Furthermore, the allowance of prayer stations at the General Assembly in Florida reeks of a complete lack of discernment.

Let us understand that Hezekiah knew that there would be even greater dangers ahead, if the Lord did not give them victory.  If the Assyrians had overrun Jerusalem, the people of this city would have assumed that their God was a god of compromise: He would be seen as a god who commanded his people to destroy all the high places, but would not be willing to defend “righteous men” like Hezekiah who obeyed His commandment.  Such a god would be nothing short of a hypocrite. He is certainly not the one true God, who gets all the glory when men diligently follow His Word.

Have we not presented our youth with a god of compromise, when we encourage them to pray to God in such pagan ways?  Are we no longer teaching them to walk by faith, and not by sight when we give them aids of all kinds with which to pray?  Is Jesus not enough, that we need images and icons?  Where has all the discernment gone?

At the close of the gospel of Luke, the physician writes:  “And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:45) Jesus opened the apostles understanding of the scriptures, in order that they may fully comprehend the significance of His death and resurrection (Luke 24:46-48).  Jesus died so that His bride, the Church, may be purified of all her pagan ways (Eph. 5:25,26).  These men’s eyes had to be opened to this truth because they had been called by Jesus to be the leaders in the church.  Their task was set before them: “to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His blood.” (Acts 20:28)  Therefore, they were given discernment by God, so that the church for which He had paid such a heavy price would not become tainted by such things as pagan praying.

Yet, within the Nazarene Church, men have been allowed to rise up among us, who have been given no such understanding of scripture.  They hold positions behind our lecterns and our pulpits, but they do not hold to the truth that is found in God’s Word:  They do not count the blood of Jesus Christ sufficient enough to free us from all sin.  And, as I have already stated before, they have caused the little children of our academic institutions to fall for their pagan practices (Mat. 18:6).  Did not Christ die in a pagan place, outside the walls of Jerusalem where the Assyrians stood, that He may purify His body from all paganism?  God have mercy on us!

My dear fellow Christians, let us look to the young King Josiah, for the last time.  When He had rediscovered the Word, he tore His clothing and repented of the sin of a nation (II Kings 22:11).  Then, he rid the land of the high places and the hypocrites who instituted them.  For this, the Lord brought a time of blessing to the land of Israel once again. I call upon you to do the same.  We must cry out first for his mercy for the Nazarene denomination.  For He is merciful to those who seek His mercy (James 4:8).  However, there is also a time for removal.  Let us pray, on holy ground and not high places, that the Lord will remove all our leaders who will not repent.  Let us pray, in faith and without the aid of any visuals that times of blessing may return.  May we see His victorious church rise once again – the church that will resist the very gates of Hell and every apostasy that rises from its pit! (Mat. 16:18) Let us pray that God will be glorified among His people!  Praise His holy name!

*Since writing this article, I have noted two Nazarene Churches that are now using Stations of the Cross during their Easter events.   The first church is based in Houston, Texas and the other is given by way of an announcement at a Nazarene Church in Visalia, California.

WORKS CITED

Saward, Jeff.  “The Labyrinth in Ireland.” No Pages. Cited March 15, 2010. Online:

www.labyrinthos.net

Artress, Lauren. “Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Practice.”  No Pages. Cited March 15, 2010. Online: www.ereader.com

Boone, Dan. “Dr. Dan Boone’s Comment on Trevecca.” No Pages.  Cited March 15, 2010.  Online: http://reformednazarene.wordpress.com/emergent-church-what-is-it/dr-boones-comments-on-trevecca/

Anonymous.  “Sojourn Video.” No Pages. Cited March 15, 2010.  Online: http://www.youtube.com.