Episode 13

       Jesus had a new mission project for me: I was to secretly infiltrate a local Christian church.
       Several months had passed since the start of my mall witnessing and beach ministry. At first, I was not even aware I had started a new mission. Initially, all I
was instructed to do was to join the church congregation and take part in as many church activities as possible. After a few weeks, I was given additional instruction. My task was to search for suitable contacts and make friends with them. Then I was to subtly introduce them to the concept of Christian meditation as a means of communion with God. The ultimate goal was to start a meditation group within the congregation.
       The new venture began during my mall witnessing activities when I met a dedicated Christian named Wayne. He asked me which church I attended.
       "Oh, I am not a member of any one church," I replied. "I regard myself as a member of the body of Christ, and all denominations are part of the body."
       "Do you attend a local church?" Wayne asked politely.
       "Yes, I have been to several churches in the area. I attend whichever church the spirit leads me to at the time."
       Wayne invited me to his own church, Hope Chapel, in Hermosa Beach. I had
heard of it, but had never attended there. During my meditation that evening, the
inner voice told me to visit this church.
       I first visited Hope Chapel for a Sunday evening service attended by about 2000 people. A band, along with several singers, began the service with contemporary Christian music. The preaching that followed seemed to be based on conservative biblical theology. Although the speaker was gifted, I decided that he obviously needed educating in the more advanced ideas that Jesus was bringing to the planet.
       A few days later, the inner voice of meditation encouraged me to attend Hope Chapel regularly. I subsequently attended a series of lectures for newcomers to the
church, and, after completing it, took a more advanced course required for church
membership. The advanced course was taught by a likable member of the pastoral
staff named Ken. Being British countrymen, Ken and I became friends.
       Up to this time, I had regarded my church attendance as a form of education intended to expand my knowledge of the Christian church. This background enhanced my skill in witnessing to people of various religious persuasions whom I met on the boardwalk at Venice. But now the inner voice of meditation informed me I had a special mission to perform in this particular congregation.
       Ginger was my first contact at Hope Chapel. An attractive woman in her early thirties, she played an electric violin in the church band. Having at one time been enthusiastic about the use of electric violins in rock and roll bands, I was most interested in her playing techniques. After the closing song one Sunday evening, I walked up to the stage and congratulated her on her skill. We talked a little about her violin.
       A couple of weeks later, I bumped into Ginger in one of the hallways after an evening service. After talking about our mutual appreciation of rock music from the sixties and seventies, our conversation moved to a discussion of our current spiritual lives.
       Suddenly the inner voice interjected, "Tell her about your meditation practice."
       "Ginger, actually, the main spiritual discipline I practice is meditation," I said with a bit of hesitation.
       "Oh, so do I," Ginger replied enthusiastically. "I would go crazy without it."
       I felt overjoyed on hearing her statement and didn't even feel the need to elaborate on what I had meant by "meditation." I just sensed that she was obviously talking about the practice of Eastern-type, silent contemplation upon the cosmic. As we talked a little more about our interest in meditation, I suggested that we should start a Christian meditation group at the church. Ginger thought it was a great idea.
       At this point, Ken, the British staff pastor, approached and joined us. Even though we were well acquainted, I was hesitant to continue the conversation about meditation. For an instant, I consciously focused inward to listen for  any possible warning spoken by my higher self. When there was only silence, I assumed that it must be OK to continue the conversation.
       "Ken, we were just discussing the idea of starting a Christian meditation group," I said.
       "Hmmm, well, err, err," Ken muttered as a response to my statement.
       I interjected, "You know, meditation is spoken of a lot in the Old Testament.
David, according to the Psalms, often practiced it as a form of communion with
God, a process of listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit. It was also commonly
practiced in the monasteries during the Middle Ages but it has since become a lost
art, a victim of the frantic hustle and bustle of modern living."
       Ken seemed only mildly interested in what I was saying. He commented casually, "Well, you will have to try to start a group here. I am sure some people will be interested."
       Ginger spoke right up, "Yes, I do it myself. It is a wonderful experience to sit still and relax and give yourself time to be with God.
       The prospect of starting a Christian meditation group at Hope Chapel excited me. My desire was to make friends among the church members and to help bring them into a closer relationship with Jesus. I regarded myself as part of an effort planned by Christ to bring his children into direct communion with himself. Believing that I was a born-again Christian who had a special, direct relationship with Jesus, I wanted my Christian "family" to come into that same relationship. I believed that if all Christians would listen to the voice of Jesus as I did, then the gospel would be spread quickly, and the Lord would soon return permanently as ruler over his kingdom on the planet.
       As part of my effort to learn all about Christian doctrines, I frequently visited the local Christian bookstore in my town. Often I amused myself by browsing through the books that attempted to discredit the New Age. Digesting them with interest, I even found them quite entertaining. Even though I considered myself a born-again Christian, I still identified myself as part of the New Age. I believed I possessed the "full gospel," a fusion between Christianity and New Age ideas.
       As I read the anti-New Age books written by my Christian "brothers," I wished I could persuade the authors that no real conflict existed. I wanted them to understand that the New Age and Christianity were just separate arms of God's great plan to reconcile himself with mankind.
       Even though I regarded myself as a New Ager, the inner voice prohibited me from confiding this to anyone. During my ministry activities at Venice Beach, I often passed peddlers selling New Age jewelry and music. I wanted to stop and share with them the fact that I was New Ager. However, each time I tried to approach them, my higher self immediately interjected, "No. Don't do it." It was as if I were allowed to present only a Christian image to all the people I met.
       Jeff was another friend I met at Hope Chapel. A bright young man in his late teens, he loved to tell people he met about the Lord. My accounts of mystical experiences resulting from practicing Christian meditation fascinated him.
       Wayne, the man who first told me about Hope Chapel, was another totally devoted Christian whom I tried to influence. He constantly carried his Bible and loved to share the Word of God with people he met. We, too, became good friends.
       I told Wayne that his studying of the Word was an excellent activity, but I stressed that something far greater than the Scriptures was available.
       He became excited when I told him that he could actually practice the presence of God and listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. I backed my claim by reminding him that Jesus told his disciples that the kingdom was within them.

       The word was on my mind as soon as I woke up in the morning. Marantz? What is Marantz? I had never heard the word before.
       During breakfast, the word kept popping into my mind. I thought, "Perhaps it is the name of a new car model I heard advertised on the radio."
       Racking my brain as to what Marantz was, I finally concluded it must be a new model of Japanese car. I began to wonder if it was an omen from God that I would soon need to purchase a new car.
       Later that day I went to Hope Chapel for the evening service. As I glanced at the church bulletin's advertisement page, an ominous shiver ran down my spine as I read the first line.
       Marantz stereo for sale....
       "Wow, the Holy Spirit has been at work again," I exclaimed, knowing that the
name Marantz had been planted in my mind the previous night. I regarded the
occurrence as an indication from the Holy Spirit that I needed to contact the person advertising the stereo.
       I called up the guy and asked him about the stereo. Telling me his name was Greg, he asked me to come over to his place to inspect the Marantz system.
       As I entered his apartment, I scanned the room for any clues as to why I had been sent there, clues such as New Age books. I focused on a large book on the table - a book about India. Hmmm, I thought, interesting.
       The inner voice told me not to purchase the stereo, but rather to just become acquainted with Greg. During our long and friendly conversation, I began to speculate whether he was destined to be part of the meditation group I aspired to start in the church.
       Shortly after the visit with Greg, my clandestine mission to infiltrate Hope Chapel with New Age teachings came to a sudden and abrupt halt. My parents - long suspecting that I was involved in a questionable religion - had been praying for me for a long time. A stranger in a gospel meeting also prayed for me at a very critical time. These prayers promoted a strange move of the (real) Holy Spirit, which resulted in my experiencing a dramatic and unexpected "illumination." The result was incredible: My twelve-year relationship with the New Age fell apart in one gigantic crash as the Mastermind's ugly web of deception was torn asunder.


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