Archive for December, 2007

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Open Letter to Church Planters (Especially Sacramento)

December 26, 2007

Among other things, I have been a church planter. The current church I am a member of is an 8-year old church plant and started around the same time as dozens of other church plants in our area of Sacramento. But what I want to say is to all church planters and especially to those brothers and sisters of mine in Northern California.

It is time to stop the foolishness.

To illustrate what I mean, let me tell you a story. I am the oldest of the church planters in our area and I have found this truth to be genuine: God will never bless His church with all his promised blessings unless there is a sense of unity in a given area. Unity of God’s people attracts the Presence of God and his blessings. Because I believe this, I have spent time getting to know the other church planters of our area. One of the best ways of doing this is to take them out to lunch…no one turns down a free lunch – especially pastors.

One gentleman went to lunch with me and we had a very nice time sharing together. I listened keenly to the vision he had for reaching out to people and was impressed with his honesty and genuine love of teaching the Bible. At the end, I extended my heart to him and asked if we could continue to grow as colleagues and friends. His answer not only startled me, it brought great grief.

“I don’t need any more friends. Especially not other pastors. Thanks, and God bless you.” Those were his exact words. I am not exaggerating in the least. He said all of this with a straight face and I am sure there is a very good rationale for his answer that I can’t fathom at this point. Perhaps he is trying to manage his time better. Perhaps he has been hurt by other pastors and has chosen to be friends with those that he chooses. Perhaps God told him not to be friends with too many. Or perhaps he is dealing with years of thinking he needs to be everyone’s friend and now has to obey God as to whom he befriends.

All of those are valid reasons and I can accept them. But subsequent experiences with church planters has lead me to see the possibility of another darker reason. Just by way of background for those reading this not familiar with this blog, I am not just a church planter. Being a counselor, I have also counseled a good number of church planters. In addition, I have been an instructor at several church planter seminars and have spoken to hundreds of planters and received their opinions on a number of subjects, including how they feel about other pastors.

Here is what I think may be happening with this group. Planters are the Entrepreneurs of the Church Society. As we all know, entrepreneurs are creative, hard-working, innovative, “outside the box” thinkers, aggressive, type-A, personalities. They take risks and have much higher failure rates than established companies. Yet, where would American culture and business be without them. They are the growing edge of finance and ideas in our world.

Every field of endeavor has their entrepreneurs. Medicine has the Patch Adams type. Computers have Steve Jobs. Anthropologists have Dian Fossey, poets have e e cummings, songwriters claim endless inventors. Even churches need the innovative and type-A thinkers. But with the positive side comes the flip side as well.

Entrepreneurs are lone wolves. They buck the trends. Because of this, they tend to be self-absorbed, overanalytical, neurotic, fear failure, and take too many financial risks. They value success in terms of size and numbers and see others in the same field as the “competition”. As you can see, this does not lend itself to the Presence of God and the His blessings.

The community we started in has had 41 church plants in 8 years. For the most part, these pastors do not privately get along very well. Only the old guys do very much together outside of a few official gatherings. Some pastors have been known to rejoice when other church plants fail. Part of the reason they do this is because of a shift in American church culture. The fastest growing churches in America are almost all recent church plants. They are setting the trend for all who will follow. If you look at the histories of the most successful church plants in the past decade, they all have the same biography: We did it ourselves, we only work with ourselves, we are making a name for Jesus by ourselves and you will want to come and find out how we did it. What I observe in my community is a group of entrepreneureal church leaders who want to succeed and see other church plants as the competition. Granted, it makes our area a very innovate and creative place to attend church. However, when each one wants to be the next Saddleback or the next Bayside or even the next great new California “wunderkirk”, it eliminates the possibility of really working together for a common goal. I doubt that is what God wants. The people who could be the greatest asset and encouragement to one another are perceived as the enemy. This has to stop now.

There are a couple of churches in America who are notable exceptions to this church planting debacle. In a follow up article, I will focus on those who have done it differently.

So here is my battle cry. Church planters: please, listen to the Holy Spirit and seek to do and pray things that don’t benefit you in any way. The way we are acting right now is closer to the philosophy of Ayn Rand than it is the Bible. Ayn Rand taught that the highest virtue was dedicated self-interest. She taught that helping others doesn’t help you or them. Is this what the Bible teaches?

I am curious especially what other pastors want to say about this subject. I welcome your input on this entry.

UPDATE ON THIS ARTICLE: I would be wrong not to publicly mention four men who have done much to try and help unity in Sacramento. One of them had to close his church, but he had a heart for Natomas. I thank Mike Stipech of Fountainhead Church for always showing that there is one church in Sacramento…with 31 flavors. I thank Pat McDaniel of the now retired City of Grace Church…you cared enough to love even when others ignored. I thank John Stone of Crosspoint Church…John, every time you call to pray and to encourage it is a Godsend. And to Ron Vanderwell of The Gathering Church. You keep plugging away at unity when everyone else is too busy (me included). You are loved by the Father and may your tribe increase.

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Watch Those Toys…for Society’s Sake?

December 24, 2007

The health scare of 2007 was definitely lead. All of a sudden, if lead came within ten yards of a child’s toy we should watch for the tell-tale signs of brain damage: excessive drooling, a sudden interest in Michael Bolton music and the desire to put Brittney Spears posters on the wall. Since we have had lead in our diet, our homes and cars and even in our bodies for at least 4,000 years, I don’t think we have to run to the garbage cans any time soon. In fact, the chemical symbol for Lead is Pb, which stands for “plumbing”. All plumbing used to be made of lead and none of our ancestors died obviously from lead poisoning.

But now the toy health scares are becoming toy mental health scares. In Seattle, a day-care center operator was noticing that certain patterns were showing up in the use of the Lego collection. Several workers at the Hilltop Children’s Center noticed something about the children’s building habits. According to one observer,

It seemed that the children at Hilltop were occupying themselves with building a Legotown, a model of a city complete with houses, shops, public buildings, and even air fields using lego building blocks. It was then that teachers Ann Pelo and Kendra Pelojoaquin began to notice things that they found disturbing. There were disputes over the ownership of “cool pieces” and instances of older children bullying younger ones.

You will instantly observe that this is how all children play and therefore the workers at this day-care center should be prescribed Prozac and told to take a couple of extra days over Christmas.

However, their solution was that the children could only build publicly held buildings, cooperative housing developments that no one can claim any sense of ownership or pride in having constructed. And if anyone wants to change the structure they have to get the permission from the rest of the cooperative. George Will, writing for Newsweek calls this kind of approach to education “Ready, Fire, Aim” methodology. Or as Lewis Black observes about conservative and liberal policies on education, “Conservatives have nothing but bad ideas and liberals have no ideas.”

However, as stupid and unnecessary as the action of the day-care workers, they do underscore a point my wife and I have made for years. My wife has observed children for decades (since her undergrad degree is in Developmental Psych) and notices that the most accurate showplace of a child’s current attitudes about life will emerge in their use of toys. Toys are the tools of a child; the miniature skills and developing concepts that toys allow reveal how a child is perceiving the world around them. In some cases, this is easy to see. The child that makes everything from a carrot to a candy cane into a gun may be developing serious issues with rage. A child that draws pictures of the family and draws a second picture on the back of the page and places one parent there is definitely dealing with issues concerning that parent. The child that is always building schools with lego blocks should probably be considered for the advanced learning classes somewhere. Parents can learn a lot about what a child is thinking about the world around them by observing how they use toys, especially new toys.

Of course, not all toys reveal negative attitudes from kids. The child that uses fingerpaints on the walls of their bedroom may be designed in the framework of Martha Stewart (pre and post-incarceration, of course).

And the grandparent that buys fingerpaints and drum sets for their grandchildren have their own issues.

Merry Christmas.

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CRI Answers Critics of Theophostic

December 20, 2007

The pattern is about the same every time. A church member finds great relief and restoration through the Theophostic process. They desire that other believers find the same thing. But they don’t want to do anything that their church will have problems with. So they go to the pastor or the elders and ask that they look into Theophostic before advocating it for their church. People who do this are trying to be helpful to their churches by submitting everything to leadership. But they also want to be helpful to everyone by bringing in a ministry that has shown to bear fruit.

The leaders of the church often do the same thing. They will do a Google search on the word Theophostic. If you do that, you will find a whole host of links that essentially go back to the same five or six websites that criticize this ministry. Most, if not all, the criticism is formed on four foundations:

1. TPM sounds like other therapeutic techniques that have been shown to be heretical. Often this is a result of doing an incomplete reading of the materials by people who have never been part of the training. Most often, TPM is associated with the Inner Healing, Healing of Memories and Memory Regression camps. It has nothing to do with any of those teachings.

2. Ed Smith has changed the way he words the description of the TPM process over the years in answer to legitimate criticism. Most of this criticism came from those of us within the training circle and was directed in how the training sounded more than how it was enacted. The criticism here is that if something is legitimate and from God it will never change. Not only is that unbiblical (for the Bible tells us that we need to grow in our understanding of the Truth) but it doesn’t even make sense. All techniques of ministry have a man-made element and a Godly element. It cannot be any other way if you involve mankind. The man-made element must improve over time.

3. The use of any terms in common with Psychology. Because Ed doesn’t use a Scripture verse every two paragraphs in his training manual, there are people who see him as relying too heavily on modern psychology. As a psychologist, I can tell you that there is little of modern Behaviorism in the model, and what is there is fairly accurate in its biblical understanding. The Bible knows more about the psyche of man than we do. Anything that accurately addresses our psychological profile is right.

4. The technique relies on God speaking to individuals. This goes against the majority of those in the so-called “Watchman” or “Heresy Hunter” camps. Since almost all of them are cessationist in viewpoint, they reject any revelation that comes from God to individuals. They have to do a song-and-dance routine in explaining how the Bible was written. It would be good to read Dr. Jack Deere’s book “Surprised by the Voice of God” to get a historical perspective on how the Cessationist movement walked away from the voice of God. Dr. Jack used to be a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary until he started to hear God’s voice. They wouldn’t let him stay after that.

One of the best-known organizations dedicated to hunting down heretics and cults is the Christian Research Institute (CRI). They have done a very extensive amount of research into TPM and have concluded that the basic core beliefs of Theophostic are biblical. Here is the study if you would like to read it. Hopefully that counterbalances some of the heresy hunters and their criticisms. If you are one of those pastors or elders directed here to do research on behalf of your church, then I encourage you also to read the many thousands of blog entries and testimonies online concerning how much help TPM has given Christians.

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Biblical Foundations of Theophostic – The Power of the Lie

December 20, 2007

Theophostic Prayer Ministry seeks to rid the individual of lies more than anything else. The process ultimately relies on God to communicate Truth to the individual, and it is that truth that conquers the lie. But TPM is built upon an assumption – that a lie is powerful enough to radically change a person’s life. Let’s take a few moments to examine from Scripture whether that assumption is valid.

Adam and Eve: In Genesis 3, we see Adam and Eve frolicking around the garden, enjoying the fruits of God’s place of paradise (the word “eden” means “delights”). The only restriction on their freedom is the command to stay away from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. At the beginning of chapter 3, the devil, in the form of the Serpent, speaks to Eve about this arrangement. In his dialog with her, he questions whether God is indeed telling her the truth. When she tells him that the penalty for touching the tree is death, the enemy tells a boldfaced lie: “You will not surely die” he fibs (Genesis 3:4). From this lie comes the fruit of sin and death. From this lie comes the fall of mankind and alienation from God. From this lie comes the barrier placed between us and the Tree of Life. That is one powerful lie. It transformed the people who believed it into completely different beings rapidly.

If you wanted to ruin a person’s life, it would be best to have them believe a simple lie, either about themselves or the world around them. The earlier in the person’s life you sowed that lie, the more harvest you would get from it. However, you would have to wait until the person began to make universal conclusions about their life…beginning somewhere between 4 and 6. Curiously, most of the fundamental lies identified in TPM are identified from the time period between ages 4 and 9.

So what power does a lie have? It truly can cut us off from the Truth of God. This is the testimony of Jesus on the subject in John 8:43-45:


43Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!

Believing a lie means that we cannot really comprehend what Jesus is trying to say (v. 43). Believing a lie means we belong to the devil, at least in that area of our thinking (v. 44). It can cause us to carry out what the enemy wants us to do in opposition to what God wants us to do (v. 44). We cannot believe God because he speaks the truth (v. 45), which sounds like a lie and the enemy speaks a lie which sounds like the truth.

Let me give an example of what this might look like. Early in a young man’s life, he experiences pain in relationship to his older brother. The pain might take the form of ridicule at being clumsy. Out of that pain, the enemy lies to him and tells him that he will never fit in, no matter how much he tries. A series of painful experiences in childhood and early teenage years reinforce this lie and actually cause the young man to begin to isolate himself from everyone. When people seek to get close to him, he uses sarcasm and violence to push them away. To dull the pain of being isolated, he gets involved in online role-playing games and gets obsessed to the point of pseudo-hallucination (it happens more and more frequently these days). When his Christian parents speak of God, he laughs at them and says that God is just a cruel hoax. In fact, he cannot believe in God because of a simple lie that gets in the way. When he hears that God wants to love him and be close to him, he thinks that God is lying. He has fallen into the trap of the Father of Lies.

The only nickname Jesus gives the devil is to refer to him as the Father of Lies. All lies have their origin in devilish beliefs. 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 reveals that God will allow the enemy to foist a worldwide lie on the human race which will speed the Last days to the final battle. Yes, a lie is powerful. It is more powerful than any dream, sin or action. Lies take the place of what Truth is supposed to do in our lives. Lies that we believe are like little cancers eating up the good cells in our bodies.

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PC Pharisees

December 13, 2007

Two Christian apologists have helped us define the moral dilemma that America has been in for at least a decade. In his book “The Christian in Today’s Culture” Chuck Colson describes the death of what is called “A Moral Consensus”. Moral consensus is a culturally shared belief that there is a set of right and wrong actions that all members of that society must adhere to. Though this is not the true basis of law, the principle of Moral Consensus is the only way that we can be truly outraged when someone does something wrong. Moral Consensus allows us to lay consequences on those who break the law. Moral Consensus allows us to censure those who will not live their lives according to accepted ethical and moral standards.

But with the development of the idea that we cannot tell other people how to act in their private lives we allowed our Moral Consensus to be eroded. We now have a molehill of moral imperatives where we used to have a mountain. No longer can we say that fornication is wrong, infanticide is wrong, debt is wrong, hatred is wrong, treating parents with contempt is wrong. If we do, we are meddling in the affairs of others. So instead of making moral statements, we have traded them in for a more innocuous, and perhaps more sinister form of societal censure. I am speaking of being politically correct.

Here is where Ravi Zacharias comes to our aid. In a series of messages he delivered at Yale University earlier this year, Ravi said that we have replaced our moral imperatives with a series of societally accepted phrases and haute couture ideas that really don’t mean much at all. Instead of doing something about a morally offensive problem, we rename it in nicer sounding words so that people don’t have to feel alienated. Someone isn’t committing adultery, they are simply being polyamorous. We aren’t in debt, we are investing in the economy.

Politically correct language has replaced Moral Consensus as the basis upon which we feel and express our ethical/moral belief system. Unfortunately, this is not much different from what the Pharisees did. Instead of honoring their parents, they found ingenious ways of giving their money to other religious causes instead of helping mom and dad. They became expert at sounding like biblical geniuses but only talked the talk…they didn’t walk the walk.

Today’s Pharisees are those who demonize how people word their criticisms of society instead of focusing upon the real moral issues themselves.

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Christmas Music

December 10, 2007

Our cell group spent some time this week discussing some of the new Christmas albums. We had an eclectic variety that was awesome and I want to give you two highlights from that list. I also invite you to respond with some of your new favorites.

New Fav #1: Relient K – “Deck the Halls and Bruise Your Hand”. There are three songs that are worth the entire album. Their rendition of “The 12 Days of Christmas” goes beyond any of the others in both musicality and originality. But for some reason, the song-writer doesn’t know what a “pear tree” is. The second one is “I Celebrate the Day”. The lyrics are as powerful as “Mary Did You Know” but the music is even better. Their version of Handel’s Messiah is off the charts original and punkish. If you’re tired of Christmas elevator music, this one rocks your world.

New Fav #2: Celtic Woman – “A Christmas Celebration”. This multi-talented celtic group does not let down their creativity to produce a pap Christmas CD. This has several songs that owe their allegiance to the Celtic music tradition. Listen especially to “Don Oiche Ud I Mbeithil”, “The Wexford Carol” and “Christmas Pipes”. This is one to load down to your MP3 player and take it with you to let friends listen to. They’ll be impressed at how worldly-wise you have become.

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Disclaimers

December 7, 2007

At least one person has complained that I am painting too rosy a picture about both TPM and the entire process of Sanctification. Though I believe that God desires our inner man to be transformed and renewed in this life (see 2 Corinthians 4:16 which says “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.), I also realize that this is a process and doesn’t happen quickly.

The question is raised “Are you saying that TPM always results in transformation inside?” “Always” would be a big word as would “regularly”. Rather than try and answer that directly, I want to answer this one: Why doesn’t TPM seem to work the same for everyone? If getting rid of lies is supposed to clean up our thought life and therefore set us free, why don’t some who go through TPM feel free?

There are many reasons for this and I want to lay out some of them. This is not, by any means, an exhaustive list.

1. Not All Inner Problems Are Caused by Lie-Based Thinking: There are other emotional and spiritual problems we might have that don’t really involve believing a lie. And there are physical difficulties that can add to a person’s emotional well-being and trauma. I remember going to a chiropractor years ago and being treated for a back ailment. At the same time as he was treating my back, he also noticed that I was suffering from allergies. He claimed that chiropractic could help that too. He also claimed that diabetes and liver damage from drinking could be cured by his methodology. The same mistake can, and is, made with TPM. It is not a cure-all for everything that ails you. I too am skeptical of fantastic claims of success without any failures. Some depression is caused by hormonal imbalances, stress, tumors, bad diet and any number of other causes. A person may see some relief through TPM, but because the underlying cause is something other than a lie, they may not see the same level of relief that others find.

2. Clutter: TPM recognizes that not every problem we accumulate in a memory is a lie. There are other problems in the memories that can stay even when the lie leaves. These may include: unforgiveness, bitterness, unforgiven sin, resentment, sadness, anger, demonic attacks and vows. All of these are separate problems and often are dealt with in follow up sessions. I personally went back two years after my initial TPM session to do a follow up because some of the same symptoms I thought were completely gone were coming back. My clutter was a combination of bitterness and a vow I had made. This was in the same memory where the lie was dealt with.

3. Other lies/Other memories/Same manifestation: In a posting several years ago, I mentioned that some people have a tendency to manifest the same reaction to many different lies. This can lead people to believe that they are still in their original lie when they are actually free from one but in bondage to another.

4. Same lie/Other memories/Different manifestation: In the same light, there are some lies that take new shapes later on in a person’s life. Dr. Smith describes this as a “morphed lie”. At the same time, there are lies in our lives that are reinforced by several traumatic experiences and each of these memories needs to be visited in order for the person to report complete freedom. I did Theophostic with a missionary some years ago and they reported a small amount of freedom in their thinking. But the lie still felt true in some circumstances. They were greatly discouraged that TPM had not worked for them. They went to another colleague of mine who did TPM again and then a third time. Each time it was the same lie with a different memory. Dr. Smith calls this a “Memory-linked lie”. Each link needs to be broken for the person to experience peace in that area of a lie.

5. Confusing TPM with Obedience: Just because we have been released from a lie doesn’t mean we don’t have to fight to be obedient to the Lord. It will always be a struggle to obey what God has commanded us until we come to the New Heaven and New Earth. There are patterns of behavior that we set down that still need to be confronted after we have been set free. I was doing TPM with a support group for Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior many years ago. One lady said she didn’t have any more symptoms of OCD while the other four did. I thought maybe that TPM had worked for only one of them. A few months later, one of the ladies who saw her symptoms stay the same admitted “I like my symptoms. I don’t want to stop”. No one can make us obey the Lord. But she also admitted that her fear of not being in control was not the impetus for washing her hands many times a day. She just didn’t want to stop. That’s a much different story.

6. Guardian Lies: One of the most common category of lies we believe are called “Guardian lies”. These are not the lies that we deal with that are affecting our behavior. For the most part, they are the lies that prevent us from continuing to get the restoration we need. Here are some examples of Guardian lies we see often in TPM:

-I am already changed enough
-This won’t work for me
-God doesn’t want this for me
-This is too weird for me
-I must be doing it wrong
-Others are lying…there is no real change
-Nothing happened to me.

7. The Unknown: I leave this one to those who can honestly say their problem doesn’t fit into the first six. We don’t know everything. There are problems that we just can’t solve. I did TPM with one man several years ago and we seemed to get rid of many lies. And his doctor couldn’t find anything wrong with him physically. All the clutter seemed resolved and the Guardian lies were not there. But he still reports that he has a sense of being unloved even though God tells him he is loved. I can’t understand it either. But this I know. That is not the rule. Usually TPM difficulties fall into the first six areas. However, I have learned to keep the 7th one open. Maybe we’ll learn more down the road. It is a mystery that only God can bring relevalation to.

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