What is an Occult Religion?

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First of all, let’s clear up a misunderstanding. Many people confuse Occult with Cult, but the words are not the same. Occult has the same root as ocular, and involves the lack of sight or vision. It refers to “not apprehended by the mind; beyond the range of ordinary human understanding; secret or esoteric; of or pertaining to magic, astrology, or any system claiming use or knowledge of secret or supernatural powers or agencies.” Christianity does not fall into this category because it is an open religion. The Bible says that the heavens declare the glory of God;.Jesus came to reveal the Father, His majesty and power. We also have open Scripture upon which to base our faith.

It is true that in the Old Testament, God tell us that His ways are not our ways and He has wisdom that is beyond our understanding. However, the New Testament tells us that Jesus came to make His ways known to us. In fact, the last sentence in First Corinthians chapter 2 says, “We have the mind of Christ.” That means God’s thoughts and desires are available to those who truly love the Lord and live for Him.

Cult, on the other hand is “a specific system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and deity; a group having an exclusive ideology and ritual practices centered on sacred symbols; from cultus: cultivation, refinement; which is derived from colere: to tend, guard, cultivate, till.” Christianity and Judaism have sometimes been erroneously called cults. Why? Because although part of this description fits, Christianity and Judaism are not centered on symbols; but on God, Himself. Again, Christianity is an open religion. It is based on a relationship with God, not on feelings or unknowable mysticism.

Cult is etymologically related to culture, for culture also stems from colere. But culture took a turn in its meaning: it eventually added “cultivation through education” and “the intellectual side of civilization.”

Occult qualities have no rational explanation. For example, in the Middle-Ages, magnetism was sometimes called an occult quality. Newton’s theory that “gravity was effected through action at a distance” was harshly critiqued by his contemporaries as occult. Of course, they didn’t understand Newton’s concept.

All occult practices involve the invocation of a deity or deities. Therefore, occult systems are religions. Occult practices also include rituals and ceremonies which somewhat parallel traditional religions. For example, shamans – also called medicine men – are the healers and magicians of their tribes and villages as well as the religious or spiritual leaders.

Some folk attest that the traditional Judeo-Christian religions are also occult; however, there is a distinct difference when it comes to Worship. Where the occult is concerned with contacting the forces of nature (“the Force be with you”), spirits, or the imagined Masters of the Universe to affect a desired change, the true Judeo-Christian belief system is focused on worshiping, petitioning, and obeying Almighty God. True Christianity views the occult as being anything supernatural which is achieved by or through the work of Satan, evil spirits, or man himself.

Gnosticism, which has many branches and could have originated as early as 600 BC, was the basic occult philosophy that is addressed by a number of the New Testament letters. Of course, Gnosticism has its roots in the Ancient Mystery Religions which predates Noah’s flood. The Gnostics [“knowers”, or those with knowledge] believed that “knowledge” was the key to life; and that if we gained knowledge, we could achieve salvation – or at least, attain a higher spiritual position. There are several well-known organizations today which espouse the same philosophies. Rather than promoting a relationship with Jesus Christ or God the Father, they promote learning, attaining knowledge, seeking truth, or seeking light. One of the basic tenets of one organization denies the deity of Christ while exalting man. Today, the New Age Movement encompasses all of Gnosticism and a myriad of other occult religions.

It would take a number of books to list all the occult groups and their beliefs and practices, but here is something to consider:

Occult [read the definition above] practices include, but are not limited to: tarot card and palm readings, witchcraft and wizardry, self-realization, psychics, and horoscope dependency; praising and idolizing activities, music, and people; self-improvement and meditation systems that deny or circumvent Jesus and/or Jehovah God; any religion or organization that exalts the human body, mind, or spirit without depending on God, makes Lucifer equal to or greater than Jesus, makes man equal to or greater than God, or who worships anything, any spirit, or any god other than God in the Old Testament and Jesus Christ. Any religion or organization that says we can achieve or attain salvation, immortality, or perfect light without Jehovah or Jesus is an occult religion. The Bible gives us true knowledge, and leads us to our Creator, Almighty God.

Are You a Practicing Atheist?

A vast majority of you will say “No, I’m not an atheist,” while some will say “Yes, I am.” But why would I ask that question? Back to that in a minute.

Atheism has been defined as a lack of belief in God, a total denial of His existence, Atheist Symboland variations of the theme in between.  The word atheism comes from the Greek negative article “a” which means “no,” and “theos” which means “god.” Therefore, atheism is the belief that there is no god. Did you catch that? A belief that there is no God. On the other hand, many of us believe that there is a God, He is knowable, He loves us, and is involved with mankind.

The polytheistic Romans in Jesus’ day, who believed in hundreds of gods, accused Christians of being atheists simply because Christians believed ONLY in the HolyDSCN0464 Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit); while the Jews accused Christians of polytheism BECAUSE they believed in the Holy Trinity. The accusations depended on the point of reference. But that’s a story for another time. (This cross is on Mount Helix in San Diego County, just four miles from where I grew up.)

Many atheists probably don’t consider themselves anti-theists, but non-theists. Many are good, ethical, moral citizens, and strong Americans; and most atheists claim that atheism is not a belief system or a religion. But I call atheism a religion. Why?

In the atheist’s belief system: there is no God; nothing formed itself into a well-organized, majestic universe; organic life evolved from rocks; man evolved from … who knows?; there is no life after death; belief in God is wrong; and so on. But all of that is a matter of faith, and that is religion. Simply put: the atheist’s non-belief system is, by definition, a belief system. Biologist George Klein wrote: “I am an atheist. My attitude is not based on science, but rather on faith. The absence of a Creator, the non-existence of God, is my childhood faith, my adult belief, unshakable and holy.”

Many strong atheists are often aggressive in their conversations with theists and try to shoot holes in theistic beliefs. (And, sadly, many Christians are equally argumentative.) Atheists like to use logic and anti-biblical “evidences” to denounce God’s existence. However, I’ve had many interesting discussions with scientific atheists in the past, and most of them are still my friends because we didn’t hammer, degrade, insult, or malign each other. Rather, we expressed our beliefs – yes, religious beliefs – and allowed each other freedom of religion, freedom of thought, and freedom of expression.

Remember, we cannot change anyone’s mind. We must, as simply or as complex as the situation requires, present our beliefs and convictions to them and allow the Holy Spirit to work in their heart and mind.

Question MarkBut now I have several questions for you: If you are a Christian, are you a practicing atheist? Keep reading.

1.       Do you effectively deny God by your lifestyle: your language, actions, thoughts, motivations, work ethics, choice of humor, the places you go, what you watch at the theaters, on computer, or on television?

2.      When someone begins to bad-mouth God or another person, do you just sit by? Or worse, do you join in the negative conversation?

3.      If you attend church, do you attend for social purposes, out of obligation, or for business contacts?

4.     Without being abrasive or overbearing, do you openly proclaim Christ to the world, or do you hide your Christian faith in the social shadows?

5.      Would some folk be surprised if you told them you are a Christian?

A “yes” answer shows you are effectively denying God: being a practicing atheist. But if you claim to be a Christian, I want you to think about your relationship with God. Do you truly desire to live for God? I am not encouraging you to cram your religion down someone’s throat; that would be wrong. But we do need to openly, definitively “let our light shine” for the Lord – if indeed we are Christians. 

Matthew 10:32-33 says, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I willBible.docx also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.”

Let’s not try to intimidate others, but let’s allow them to experience truth and life through our lives. Let’s give them a glimpse of Christ by the way we live.

Origin, Meaning, Morality, Destiny

Where did we come from? Why are we here? What do we believe? Where are we going? There are many hypotheses, some theories, and a few facts that try to explain why and how humanity came into existence.

  1. Let’s begin with the first law of thermodynamics – well-accepted by the scientific community – which informs us that matter can be neither created nor destroyed. Matter can change shape, form, or state (ice, water, vapor, plasma), but matter cannot be made out of nothing or annihilated into nothing. That invalidates any Big Bang hypothesis – scientific or not.

To believe that something can be made out of nothing is either absurd, or is a manifestation of faith. Therefore, logically and scientifically, the mere presence of matter is a miracle and that requires a Creator. That takes us back to the Bible and answers the first question of our origin: God created us.

  1. Next, what is the meaning of life – of your life? Why are we here? If humanity and all the cosmos were merely a statistically impossible happenstance of nature, and if creatures such as the Spotted Owl, rare New Mexico Jumping Mouse, Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat, or a kitten were more important than mankind, why do so many well-meaning people who don’t believe in mankind’s importance endorse expensive self-improvement, image-enhancing, and self-esteem seminars? Those would be a waste of time; but negating mankind’s importance does explain their obsession of infanticide by fetal abortion.

The fact that humans are self-aware supports the fact that there was planning and purpose for our existence, and that we were made in the image of our Creator. Those who accept that fact might understand the dynamic meaning for our existence. So, why are we here? God created us to fulfill HIS purposes. However, we must study the Holy Bible and ask God to reveal His specific purpose for our individual life.

  1. What about morality? Through the years I’ve read about many religions, andhave been surprised at their moral contradictions. Many who believe in being
    good, kind, etc., give no basis for doing so. Their standard is to “be good for goodness’ sake”. (Sounds like Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer.) However, there must be a reason for being good, or goodness means nothing. There must be a standard by which to measure goodness, otherwise no one knows if they are being good or not.

Many today claim that there is no absolute truth, and that we all must make our own path. My questions are, Who made up the law that murder is wrong? And if there is no absolute right and wrong, Who decided that slandering your integrity is wrong? Where did we learn that stealing is wrong?

Surprise! There is a standard – the Holy Bible – and God put moral laws in place for our good and to accomplish His purposes. God placed His law in our consciences which gave us the capability of being self-aware and of knowing Him (Genesis 1:26-27, Romans 2:13-16). This defines mankind as special and separates us from the animal kingdom.

  1. So, what is your destiny? Think about it. Since God created us, God gave us meaning, and God established morality, then our destiny will dynamically involve God. Keep in mind that your and my beliefs neither eradicate nor establish truth. Truth stands on its own foundation and we either accept or reject it. A group of people can sit in a circle for as long as they desire and think world peace as intently as they know how. But judge for yourself: Is it working? Of course not, because the world rejects the Prince of Peace – Jesus. If you don’t believe me, look at the Middle-East today.

Well, you don’t have to look that far: look at our own government.

How can we create our own eternal destiny? The simple answer is: we cannot. If we break our nation’s laws, the choices are set before us. Many times we are penalized in some way (pay a fine or lose privileges) or we go to jail. In like manner, when we break God’s laws the choices are set before us in Scripture – with our eternal destiny at stake. We cannot create our destiny, but we can choose one of the two options. God wants us to choose Door #1 and that is eternity in heaven with Him. But that requires us to put our faith in Jesus Christ for this option. The only other option, Door #2, is eternal separation from God. So, where are you going? John 3:16 – God so loved the world – that includes you and me – that He gave His only begotten son – Jesus, who died for us – that whosoever believes on Him will not suffer eternal death, but will live eternally in heaven with Him.

Postmodernism

Have you thought about postmodernism lately? Do you know what it is? Let’s take a look.

One report says, “Postmodernism assumes that ‘truth’ is based on an individual’s ownQuestion Mark personal reality. For this reason, postmodernism is highly skeptical of explanations which claim to be valid for all groups, cultures, traditions, or races, and instead focuses on the relative truths of each person. In the postmodern understanding, interpretation is everything.”

Another report says: “Postmodernism denies the existence of ultimate principles or absolutes, and rejects scientific, philosophical, or religious truth which will explain objective reality.”

But philosopher Richard Tarnas presents the built-in paradox: “Post-modernism cannot on its own principles ultimately justify itself any more than can the various metaphysical overviews against which the post-modern mind has defined itself.”

Therefore, postmodernism is inherently self-conflicting.

Here are three terms with brief explanations:

1)                Pre-modernism: Ruled by authority. The individual is governed by objective reality and tradition; such as a world-view based on Bible consciousness.

2)                Modernism: The humanistic rejection of tradition and authority in favor of reason and science; such as natural or Darwinian evolution. This is based on viewing the autonomous individual as the sole source of personal meaning and truth. There are no absolutes.

3)                Post-modernism: A rejection of the self-determining individual with an emphasis upon the collective experience; such as the dissolution of distinctions, the merging of subject and object, self and other.

Postmodernists reject objective truth – perhaps best exemplified by French philosopher René Descartes’s famous statement: “I think, therefore I am”. My Biblical response to Descartes is: I am, therefore I think.

The postmodernist distorts reality and attempts to destroy the foundation of truth in order to justify his own reality – that means, he is attempting to justify his own lifestyle. For example, we read: “The term ‘justice’ means many different things to the post-modernist, depending on the positions of the members of the discussion. Outside any DSC02812.Bdiscussion of ‘justice’, there is no meaning which we can find. The concept of ‘justice’ exists only as long as we negotiate its meaning between ourselves in our society.” And that makes as much sense as me trying to push around a 300-pound gorilla!

No wonder our judicial system is in a quagmire today. They cannot identify truth. Here are several examples of postmodern confusion. The courts and lawyers do not argue for objective truth. The battle is over who can win the courtroom debate. That is a great loss for the United States of America.

  1. The concept of right and wrong has no foundation or meaning except what the individual decides – and that varies day-by-day. Many of our judges, congressmen and women, and scientists don’t know who or what the human race is. Upon launching a space probe searching for extra-terrestrial life, Carl Sagan said: “When we know who THEY are, we’ll know who WE are.” Evolution tells us that human life is an eventual product of a chance electrical discharge in the carbon-rich primordial soup millions of years ago. But the Bible tells us we are created by God; made in His image.
  2. Although our medical profession endorses pre-natal care, they don’t know or acknowledge when life begins; and some people feel free to murder these humans for whom they prescribe pre-natal care.
  3. Although A) the Bible clearly defines marriage as a union between man and woman, B) it’s obvious that the human race cannot continue without the interaction of man and woman, and C) we have proof that the family with a mother and father provide for the best chance of healthy children, postmodernists deny it all in a futile effort to deny God.

When I asked several postmodernists if it was okay to murder someone, they said, “No! That is wrong!” I asked, “On what basis?” They wouldn’t answer because the answer required a standard of right and wrong – a standard of truth that they rejected.

The world without the Bible is lost in a white-out of deception. They are in a spiritual and intellectual vacuum where truth has been sucked out. They are in a spiritual and mental vertigo without any instruments to tell them which way is up or down, left and right.

But the esteemed apologist, Dr. Ravi Zacharias presented reality when he asked: “How can something that has been current for so long be ‘post’?” He meant, How can the BibleBible and objective truth, which has been our proven standard for life for so long, now be wrong? Without a solid foundation in God and the Bible, life is hopeless, worthless, meaningless. That’s why there are so many suicides, murders, drug usage and overdoses: life is void without faith in a caring, loving God.

But Jesus Christ lived, died, and raised from the dead to offer us eternal life. That is truth you can base your life on. Choose life – and live!

Wisdom or Foolishness?

DSCN4499Do you know anything about wisdom? Wisdom is defined as: the ability to discern or judge what is true or right; the ability to make practical applications of truth or knowledge in everyday life.

Here are three reports regarding wisdom.

1)                The Queen of Sheba visited King Solomon (1 Kings 10) because she had to see this man who was purported to be the wisest man on earth. She was astonished at the wisdom (applied knowledge, sometimes called common sense) Solomon manifested.

2)                In 1996 Pastor Denny Brake in Raleigh, NC, referred to a lack of wisdom in his question about internet usage: “What do you mean Parental Discretion? How about a little Internet Discretion?” And Pastor Jack Musick once humorously prayed, “Lord, fill my mouth with worthwhile stuff, and nudge me when I’ve said enough.” The subject of wisdom has been around and discussed for quite a while. But how do we get wisdom?

Job 12:12 says, “Wisdom belongs to the aged, and understanding to those who have lived many years.” However I saw a sign that said, “Wisdom comes with age; but sometimes age comes by itself.” Sadly, that is often true, and we all have seen many unwise elderly folk who did not gain wisdom in their youth. We do not automatically get wiser as we get older.

3)                Psalm 111:10 and Proverbs 9:10 (KJV) give us a different, but corroborating, perspective. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” The NLT says, “Reverence for the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom.”

Daniel 2:21 & Luke 21:15 point to wisdom’s origination, but James 1:5 (NCV) says it explicitly: “But if any of you needs wisdom, you should ask God for it. He is generous and enjoys giving to all people, so he will give you wisdom.”

So, wisdom comes from God; but because we don’t cooperate with God, it normally takesdscn6647b[1] a while for us to grow out of our youthful foolishness. That’s why Scripture says young people should learn from the older folk: they have been around for a while, and have a wealth of information and wisdom to pass on.

With all that said, is there an application I can easily make? Yes: why is there so much immorality and violence in our society? The answer: ungodly people love foolishness which prevents them from gaining wisdom.

Look at the proliferation of extreme sexual perversion and violence in the theaters, on television, on DVDs, and on video games. We are teaching our people – youth and adults – the joy of maiming, killing, and achieving inordinate and improper sexual gratification. And then we wonder why so many people are going berserk, killing and raping people in real life.

In the scientific world we have a well-known principle: “For every action there is an equal but opposite reaction.” In this case, it is very simple: Action – teach a dog to be vicious. Reaction – the dog will hurt people.

Therefore: Action – We continue to foolishly and stupidly teach people to be cruel, self-centered, and evil: especially in the name of entertainment. Reaction – people transfer their “virtual” murderous and sexual escapades into real life situations in theaters, schools, churches, and else where. We should wake up and stop the insane proliferation of evil. But that requires people to love God and hate evil.

What is the rationale of teaching people how to be evil then take them to a psychologist so see why they are sick? There isn’t an answer. We just continue creating more ways to destroy humanity and our society, and then try to create ways to repair the damage. It’s insane.

In our public and entertainment media, we foolishly commit barbarianism and murder PICT0029bagainst imaginary people, and the result is barbarianism and cruelty against real people. We also extol the virtues of drinking alcohol, then try to figure out why we have so much death, mangled cars, destroyed lives, lost jobs, and wrecked marriages. I could go on, but that will suffice.

Should we consult psychologists? The medical profession? Pastors? Unless their counsel is focused on an appropriate application of the Word of God, they won’t have permanent solutions.

So, what is the answer? If we lack wisdom, we should ask God for it. But that requires us to study the Bible, learn from our elders, think things through, and purposely make practical applications of Biblical truth and knowledge to everyday life.

The fear or reverence of the Lord is the foundation on which God builds wisdom in our lives. And without an active, reverential belief in God, our society – including many blinded Christians – will continue the headlong plunge into the abyss of destruction. 0107121404

The only thing that walks back from the tomb with the mourners and refuses to be buried is the character of a man. What a man IS survives him. His reputation can never be buried.

How are you living? How will you be remembered? 

Will people remember you as foolish or as wise? Think about it for a while.0

The Purpose of prayer?

I’ve encountered three major concepts, with variations in each theme, which affect our prayer life. The following is a very brief overview.

First major viewpoint: Everything has been pre-determined by God, and we have nothing to say on any issue. In this scenario God has decided everyone’s fate in every situation, and all living beings (from amoeba to humans) merely play a role in a pre-planned, pre-scripted life resembling a Broadway play. I don’t agree with this, and there would be no need to pray.

Second: God has given everyone the authority to determine his/her own fate in every situation. In this scenario God doesn’t intervene. He may or may not foreknow our decisions or the outcome of our decisions. Again, there would be no need to pray. And again, I don’t agree.

Third: God desires every person to interact with Him (Deut. 30:19, Joshua 24:15, John 3:16). God created mankind with the authority and ability to make his own choices, but God gave the Holy Spirit, prophets, and eventually the Bible to mankind to enable us to know God’s desires (I Corinthians 2:16b). God knows everything that will happen, every decision that we will make, as well as the results and consequences of our decisions. However, not willing to impose His will on us, He is available to assist us in making the right decisions when we ask. I agree! God allows us to decide for ourselves because He does not want robots to worship Him. Making someone worship Him will never bring honor to Him. (See step #3 below.)

Prayer is not for the purpose of trying to change God’s mind. James 4:2b-3 says; “You do not have what you want because you do not ask God for it. And when you ask, you often do not receive it, because your motives are wrong; you ask for things to use for your own pleasures.” Nevertheless, our Father God wants to graciously act on our behalf.

God wants us to pray, but not selfishly. Jesus stated in John 16:23-24 that we are to pray to God the Father in Jesus’ name. Don’t think in terms of changing God’s mind, and don’t demand anything of Almighty God. Rather ask God to reveal to you how you should pray in each situation; then pray confidently, knowing He will hear and answer your prayers. So, what is the purpose of prayer?

  1. The purpose of prayer is to teach us to align ourselves with God.

Jesus said in John 17:22-23: “I have given these people the glory that you gave me so that they can be one, just as you and I are one. I will be in them and you will be in me so that they will be completely one.” This unity develops as we pray, study the Bible, and worship together.

  1. God’s purpose in answering prayer is to reveal our alignment with Him.

Jesus said in John 14:12: “I tell you the truth, whoever believes in me will do the same things that I do. Those who believe will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (I’ll address the purpose of miracles another time.)

  1. The purpose of being in alignment with God is to put into effect God’s will on earth.

And Jesus said in John 14:13: “If you ask for anything in my name, I will do it for you so that the Father’s glory will be shown through the Son.” (I’ll address this another time.)

  1. The purpose of effecting God’s will on earth is to prepare ourselves for ruling with God later.

1 Corinthians 6:2-3: “Surely you know that God’s people will judge the world. So if you are to judge the world, are you not able to judge small cases as well? You know that in the future we will judge angels, so surely we can judge the ordinary things of this life.”

  1. What is the purpose of ruling with God in Heaven? I don’t know; the Bible doesn’t say.

Prayer is simply talking with and hearing from God. Philippians 4:6-7; “Do not worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks. And God’s peace, which is so great we cannot understand it, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

True prayer is attempting to align our desires with God’s desires. Our lives in eternity will not be measured by what we do or what is done for us. Rather, our lives will be measured by the quality of our relationship with God.

So pray to God … and listen.