Mandatory Yoga?

In a recent news article, a story was published from a San Diego parent whose children are being required to attend yoga classes at their public school.

The article went on to say:

“Yoga is now taught at public schools from the rural mountains of West Virginia to the bustling streets of Brooklyn as a way to ease stress in today’s pressure-packed world where even kindergartners say they feel tense about keeping up with their busy schedules.”

Right now, yoga is everywhere. It has become the “coolest” exotic fad to hit popular culture in years.

Yet we aren’t hearing many people tell us the truth about the dangers of yoga.

Let’s begin with the escalating yoga hype in the media.

Last year, NBC Nightly News did a rather flattering promotion of yoga as a positive alternative for inner-city kids.

It was about three urban siblings who learned yoga from their father as a means of growing spiritually who were now teaching yoga to elementary age kids in Baltimore, MD.

Their activities were being hailed by NBC as a positive alternative to gang involvement by helping these children do something “positive” for their minds and bodies.

Admittedly, almost anything seems like a positive alternative when compared to gang violence and drug abuse.

But it doesn’t stop there. The yoga promotions are coming from all directions. It turns out that the news media as a whole seem to be pushing yoga as if it was the cure for cancer… more so, as if it was spiritually harmless and divorced from the occultic spirituality from which it came.

The positive press and endless promotions of yoga seem over-the-top. One headline reads: “Pilot Study Shows Yoga Positively Impacts Students’ Ability to Handle Stress” (December 10, 2011).

The study wants to convince us that yoga is the answer to all human ills. They say it makes us more attentive, improves memory, improves academic performance, lowers blood pressure, and prevents drug abuse.

But in spite of all the hype, the reality is that yoga is a spiritual expression through the physical world. And that spiritual expression is anything but Christian.

Anyone who thinks that yoga is just a harmless physical exercise that involves twisting and stretching on the floor is simply unaware of the spiritual roots of this Hindu/Buddhist practice or the occultic symbolism behind its techniques.

The public school decision in San Diego is the latest step in an ominous trend.

A Harvard-educated religious studies professor found the San Diego district’s program to be “pervasively religious, having its roots in Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist and metaphysical beliefs and practices.”

It is a sad fact that more and more people who call themselves Christians are now practicing some form of yoga and then angrily defending it as in perfect harmony with Christianity.

This shows that Christians are (1) either denying what yoga really is; or (2) they’re ignorant of what yoga is; or (3) they don’t understand what Christianity is and how Christian doctrine is at odds with yoga according to the fundamental tenets of both.

I have a strong suspicion that #2 and #3 are most likely. Most people don’t understand yoga or Christianity well enough to postulate a coherent argument on the nature or fundamentals of either.

That’s why so many professing Christians are getting involved in it. And even well-taught Christians are getting swept in by yoga’s constant marketing as “harmless” and “beneficial.”

The fact is, yoga cannot be separated from its spiritual roots in Hinduism and Buddhism. There is no way to harmonize these false religions with biblical Christianity. As noted earlier, even the postures and positions of yoga have occultic spiritual implications.

Right now there is growing acceptance of yoga within mainline Christianity.

I know that even some hospitals and local YMCAs have yoga classes offered to members as innocently as if they were cycling classes. I understand the strength of the positive hype on people’s understanding of this.

Not only that, but my wife tells me that it’s difficult to even find a pair of exercise pants at a clothing store without them changing the name to “yoga pants.”

This is all part of the deception. In the minds of most people, yoga is now synonymous with exercise… healthy, harmless exercise.

But there are apparently enough naïve churchgoers (and pastors) who have convinced themselves that yoga is nothing more than stretching on the floor and deep breathing, that a growing number of churches now offer weekly classes on yoga.

They apparently don’t understand how Hindus and Buddhists spread their faith. To be sure, yoga is a form of witnessing for the tenets and beliefs of Hinduism and Buddhism.

That’s right. Yoga is a form of pagan evangelism for what they believe about “the divine” and their body. In its most sanitized forms, yoga builds an attractive bridge into the realm of accepted practice so that more people will embrace it as beneficial.

However, it is impossible to sanitize the role of sexual energy in virtually all forms of yoga and of ritualized sex in some yoga traditions so as to make it “safe” and “harmless” for even young children to practice in local churches (and this actually happens in some churches).

The more one understands what yoga really is, the more outrageous and disturbing all of this positive sensationalism from the media seems to be.

Paganism is beguiling the Bride of Christ.

So from a Christian perspective, what are the problems with yoga? And why should Christians have no associations with this practice?

For starters, yoga begins and ends with an understanding of the body as a channel to the divine. This is irreconcilably at odds with the Christian understanding of our bodies and how we truly know God through faith in Christ.

Christians are not supposed to empty their minds by thinking about nothingness or to see the human body as a means of connecting with and coming to know the divine.

Instead, Christians are called to fill their minds with the Word of God. The Bible is the external Word that comes to us by divine revelation.

It does not come to us by means of meditation upon nothingness while muttering incomprehensible syllables with fingertips lightly touching.

But someone will argue, “When I practice yoga, I only meditate on Scripture. I think about Jesus and my favorite praise songs.”

My answer to this is that what you are practicing is neither true yoga nor true Christianity; it’s called syncretism. You are mixing Christian concepts with a distinctly pagan practice.

Here’s another problem. Yoga cannot be neatly separated into physical and spiritual dimensions. In practicing yoga, the physical is the spiritual.

The exercises, movements, and disciplines of yoga are meant to connect the practitioner with the “divine” which is deep within them.

Yoga is not merely about physical exercise or health. All forms of yoga involve occultic presuppositions. That’s why there is no such species as “Christian Yoga.” The very idea is as incongruous as “Christian Satanism.” They oppose each other. Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).

Many forms of yoga in America are often presented as a merely physical discipline of relaxing and stretching. But if all you want to do is relax and stretch on the floor, then don’t call it “yoga;” call it stretching or exercising because yoga means much more than that.

It is surely greivous to God and a scandal to the church when people who call themselves Christians associate the name and reputation of Christ with occultic practices that deny everything that Jesus Christ taught His people to believe and practice.

Association with yoga may speak louder than words to the unsaved around you; and what it says does not exalt the truth about Christ. It does the opposite.

Over ninety percent of those who practice yoga are women and many of them are claiming to be Christians.

Christians who understand the dangers of yoga need to say something to warn the body of Christ about the seduction of their minds and bodies by the religious zeal of paganism. It is so subtle and deceptive.

Right now, there is an evangelistic passion in our world to promote and defend yoga. That’s what’s happening in San Diego right now.

Those who speak against it or even question its spiritual dangers are vilified in the blogosphere and in the press.

If you are a Christian, leave the promotion of yoga and the other forms of paganism to the pagans. Let the church be the place where Christians understand what the Bible means by what it says. Let those who name the name of Christ come out from the world and stop imitating its sinful practices.

Pastor Kevin


First Love

With many Americans thinking of Valentines Day this month, I thought it would be profitable for us to turn our minds toward the master love that sustains all other loves.

Years ago I received a letter that contained this arresting sentence: “We order our lives by what we love.” What a thought! The letter went on, but I never forgot that sentence.

That sentence has a diagnostic effect on us. It makes us think of the greatest love of all.

I’m referring to Christ’s love for His own and our love in response to Him.  To see this, we need to get the connection between love for Jesus and obedience to His Word.

The connection between love for Jesus and obedience to His Word is all over the Bible. It’s especially in John chapter 14. In John14:15, Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”

John 14:21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him.”

In John 14:23 “Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word…”

John 14:24 “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.”

Now the church at Ephesus was very obedient, and yet they still had a serious problem.

It was to the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:4 that Jesus said, “…I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” [ESV]

That’s a surprising statement. This was a doctrinally sound church. They were tireless in their labors and patient in their trials. They even had effective outreaches to their community.

Even though the Ephesian church had so much in its favor, the misdirected love issue was a total deal-breaker!

Jesus said: “I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first…” The sentence in Greek is even more emphatic: “Your first love you have left.”

Isn’t that an amazing indictment in light of all their service and work? They were a strong church. They were active in ministry. They guarded the faith with discernment.

The verb for “left” implies a complete cessation. Apparently, the Ephesians had substituted external activities in place of genuine love for Jesus. That’s so easy for us to do.

This warning should be a wake-up call to any person who thinks that as long as I’m involved in church activities (I go to Sunday school; I attend the worship services on Sunday morning and evening, and all the Bible studies), I’m all paid up with Jesus… Wrong.

Those things, by themselves, don’t please Him.

Even if you couldn’t do any of those things due to health or disability, You could still bring Him great honor and glory simply by loving Him first and preeminently.

Everything we do for Him must flow from this preeminent love for Him.

What does preeminent love mean?

It means love for Jesus that trumps all the other loves in your life. You’ll still have other loves in your life – and that’s not wrong; but preeminent love for Christ esteems Him above those other loves.

What exactly does Jesus mean by saying “you have abandoned the love you had at first”? Various scholars have offered (at least) three major interpretations of this phrase, but only one of them seems valid to me.

The first view takes it to mean “first in time.”

They say: “You need to go back to the love you had at the very beginning of your Christian walk. That was the time when you had such warm feelings for Jesus and everything was so fresh and new. You need to go back to that.” That’s one view.

The second view is another variation of the “first in time” position, “…The kind of love you had for Jesus and each other at your organization as a church 35 years earlier.” That’s the second interpretation.

But the most straightforward and natural interpretation of this verse won’t allow for either of those positions. The word for “first” here is not first in time, it’s first in priority. This is a supremacy word for first… protos. Hence the word preeminent.

Therefore, the third view – which I believe is the best view – takes it to mean, “Your love for Jesus must be supreme – first in priority before all things.” Without that kind of love, everything else you do for Jesus is only misdirected love.

Instead of honoring Jesus with your labor and service, without this first-place love for Him, your religious activities actually become a great offense to Jesus.

The command He gives to the Ephesians is: repent. That means “stop” what you’re doing and turn in the other direction. The consequences of not repenting are disastrous.

One of my friends in the pastorate asked his congregation: “How long will the benefits last when you say ‘no’ to God? And how long will the benefits last when you say ‘yes’ to God?

Another question you might ask yourself which will help you find the right answer to those questions is this: “How long do you plan to be dead?”

The consequences of not repenting are eternally disastrous. But the joys and benefits of returning to Jesus as first above all others is rewarding for all eternity.

J.C. Ryle made another comment that really hit me hard.

Ryle said, “Of all the things that will surprise us in the resurrection morning, this, I believe, will surprise us most: that we didn’t love Jesus more before we died.”

Doesn’t that statement move you?

It all goes back to that one arresting sentence in the letter I read: “We order our lives by what we love.” So based on your own diagnosis, who or what is your first love?

Yours in the Truth,
Pastor Kevin