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from Got Questions:

The resurrection of Jesus is important for several reasons. First, it witnesses to the immense power of God Himself. To believe in the resurrection is to believe in God. If God exists, and if He created the universe and has power over it, He has power to raise the dead. If He does not have such power, He is not a God worthy of our faith and worship. Only He who created life can resurrect it after death, only He can reverse the hideousness that is death itself, and only He can remove the sting that is death and the victory that is the grave’s (1 Corinthians 15:54-55). In resurrecting Jesus from the grave, God reminds us of His absolute sovereignty over life and death.

Second, the resurrection of Jesus is a testimony to the resurrection of human beings, which is a basic tenet of the Christian faith. Unlike all other religions, Christianity alone possesses a founder who transcends death and who promises that His followers will do the same. All other religions were founded by men and prophets whose end was the grave. As Christians, we take comfort in the fact that our God became man, died for our sins, and was resurrected the third day. The grave could not hold Him. He lives, and He sits today at the right hand of God the Father in heaven.

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul explains in detail the importance of the resurrection of Christ. Some in Corinth did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, and in this chapter Paul gives six disastrous consequences if there were no resurrection: 1) preaching Christ would be senseless (v. 14); 2) faith in Christ would be useless (v. 14); 3) all the witnesses and preachers of the resurrection would be liars (v. 15); 4) no one would be redeemed from sin (v. 17); 5) all former believers would have perished (v.18); and 6) Christians would be the most pitiable people on the earth (v. 19). But Christ indeed has risen from the dead and “has become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (v. 20), assuring that we will follow Him in resurrection.

The inspired Word of God guarantees the believer’s resurrection at the coming of Jesus Christ for His Body (the Church) at the Rapture. Such hope and assurance results in a great song of triumph as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:55, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

How do these concluding verses relate to the importance of the resurrection? Paul answers, “…you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (v. 58). He reminds us that because we know we will be resurrected to new life, we can suffer persecution and danger for Christ’s sake (vv. 29-31), just as He did. We can follow the example of the thousands of martyrs through history who gladly traded their earthly lives for everlasting life via the resurrection.

The resurrection is the triumphant and glorious victory for every believer. Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose the third day according to the Scripture. And, He is coming again! The dead in Christ will be raised up, and those who remain and are alive at His coming will be changed and receive new, glorified bodies (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Why is the resurrection of Jesus Christ important to salvation? It demonstrated that God accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. It proves that God has the power to raise us from the dead. It guarantees that those who believe in Christ will not remain dead, but will be resurrected unto eternal life. That is our blessed hope!

from lighthouse trails research:

By Roger Oakland
Understand the Times, International

In February of 2013, Understand The Times published a commentary on our website titledWhat’s Next For Rick Warren.

In this commentary, we provided evidence to show that Warren and Tony Blair were partnering together with the Roman Catholic Church in the formation of a P.E.A.C.E. Plan that leads towards the formation of a global religion in the name of Christ for the cause of peace. Documentation for this premise can be supported by numerous statements that both Warren and Blair have made publically from messages they have given or articles that have been written explaining their ideas.

While many who read that commentary doubted or denied such a Warren-Rome connection, a new YouTube interview with Rick Warren and Raymond Arroyo of EWTN (published and posted on Apr 11, 2014), reveals the statements we made about the Warren-Rome partnership were accurate prophetic warnings with regard to what would happen in the future.

The YouTube description of the interview with Warren and Arroyo states:

“Part II of our exclusive interview RICK WARREN, pastor of Saddleback Church in Southern California. Rick talks about the expansion of his ministry abroad, the Vatican delegation that recently came to Orange County to study his church’s style of evangelization, and which television channel he finds himself watching most often and the show that draws him.”

We highly recommend you watch the entire 30-minute interview, which was done at Saddleback Church at some date previous to the publishing date of April 11, 2-14. The interview is loaded with information that provides further insight into Rick Warren’s pathway to Rome that he has actually been supporting for quite some time. For instance, in 2005, Warren created the Purpose Driven Life Catholics program as you can see from the image below (which is taken from Rick Warren’s website). (To continue reading this article, click here.)

from Stand Up For The Truth:

You will want to be aware of this: On March 12 it was announced that the radical Muslim Brotherhood has built the framework for a political party in America that seeks to turn Muslims into an Islamist voting bloc.  Several news organizations have carried this:

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‘Muslim voters have the potential to be swing voters in 2016,” said Nihad Awad in launching the benign-sounding U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations, whose membership reads like a Who’s Who of Brotherhood front groups.

“We are aiming to bring more participation from the Muslim community.”

USCMO also aims to elect Islamists in Washington, with the ultimate objective of “institutionalizing policies” favorable to Islamists — that is, Shariah law.

This development bears careful monitoring in light of the U.S. Brotherhood’s recently exposed goal to wage a “civilization jihad” against America that explicitly calls for infiltrating the U.S. political system and “destroying (it) from within.”

USCMO LogoThe subversive plan was spelled out in hundreds of pages of founding archives that the FBI confiscated from a Brotherhood leader’s home in the Washington suburbs after 9/11.

Translated from Arabic, the secret documents listed a number of Brotherhood front organizations — some of which just happen to make up the newly formed USCMO.

Front and center is the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, the catalyst behind this Trojan horse jihadist political party.

CAIR is linked in federal criminal court documents to the terrorist group Hamas, the Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch. CAIR’s chief Awad, who announced the USCMO at the National Press Club, is so radioactive, the FBI refuses to do outreach with him and his so-called Muslim-rights group until it can “resolve whether there continues to be a connection between its executives and Hamas.”

Equally troubling is the Muslim American Society, another founding member of the USCMO. MAS was formed as “the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States,” a 2007 Justice Department court filing states. A 2011 MAS press release praised Osama bin Laden as “a visionary who believed in an Islamic state in Afghanistan.”

The list of bad actors doesn’t end there. The chairman of America’s new Islamist party is none other than Oussama Jammal, who once headed the notorious Bridgeview Mosque in Chicago.

One of that mosque’s leaders was arrested and jailed for funneling millions to Hamas. And one of its most honored guests was bin Laden’s spiritual mentor, the late Palestinian cleric Abdullah Azzam. Some of Azzam’s relatives are Bridgeview members.

“The walls were covered with Hamas posters and recruiting literature showing masked gunmen brandishing automatic weapons. . . . You could see daggers plunged into Jewish hearts wrapped up in American flags,” said Steve Emerson, describing the mosque in his book “American Jihad.” “They even had a library filled with terrorist videos.”

As Bridgeview’s president, Jammal blasted the FBI for arresting terrorist members and even expressed doubts that al-Qaida was responsible for 9/11.

Not to worry. As head of the USCMO, he’ll see to it that the council places “premium” importance “on defining the common good based on the Quran and the model of the prophet (Muhammad), and coordinating institutions to implement that common good in American society.”

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Jammal and his equally checkered Brothers have a 30-point “policy platform” for “promoting Islam’s core universal principles to benefit American society” — none of which includes combating radicalism within the Muslim community.

Can any Muslim join USCMO? Nope. First you must fill out a four-page application and pass Brotherhood inspection. Then you have to cough up $1,000 a year — $3,500 if you want a voting membership.

Islamic reformer Zuhdi Jasser says he won’t be accepted. That’s because, as he astutely observes, America’s first Muslim political party is made up “of the inner core of American Islamist organizations” trying to “deceive Americans as an innocent ‘Muslim coalition.’”

Originally published here

from Now The End Begins:

UPDATE MARCH 29/2014: This story caused an impact heard ’round the world, and within 24 hours it forced Hillsong United pastor Brian Houston to issue the standard quickie denial of the things he said in the video clip below. In interest of fairness, click here to read the full context his denial of Chrislam. You can make up your own mind if he is sincere or not, and if he meant what he originally said or not. We take it at his word and believe he meant what he said in the video segment below. The story stands.

One by one, the huge mega-churches with their 5,000+ member congregations are beginning to reveal their true agenda. The Emergent Church, powered by the Rick Warren machine, is a huge promoter of Chrislam, the demonic hybrid of Christianity and Islam. Now Hillsong United in Australia has thrown their hat into the same ring.

Listen to the word of Hillsong United leader Brian Houston:

“How do you view God? In a desert there’s two types of birds: there’s vultures and there’s hummingbirds. One lives off dead carcasses, rotting meat. The other lives off the beautiful, sweet nectar in a particular flower on a particular desert plant. In the same desert, they both find what they’re looking for.

Do you know – take it all the way back into the Old Testament and the Muslim and youwe actually serve the same God. Allah to a Muslim, to us Abba Father God. And of course through history, those views have changed greatly. But lets make sure that we view God through the eyes of Jesus, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the beauty of a Saviour, the loving open inclusive arms of a loving God. And that way we’ll lead out of that and you’ll be purposeful about your leadership and you’ll draw people just like the Lord Jesus always does through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Chrislam is a LIE, and it can damn your soul to Hell if you believe it. The God of the Bible and the god of Islam have nothing in common. One is real, and the other is fake. Obviously, Brian Houston cannot tell the difference.

Anyone who tries to tell you that God and Allah are the same is a liar, and you should run from that false teaching as fast as you can.

from The Middle East Quarterly:

A mere decade ago, Christian Zionism was seen as an emerging force in American politics. As if out of nowhere, a block of fifty to one hundred million friends of Israel were poised to enter the national debate and safeguard the U.S.-Israel relationship for generations to come. Evangelical love for Israel appeared so solid that the only debate within the Jewish community was whether or not to “accept” it.

How quickly things change. The days of taking evangelical support for Israel for granted are over. As they are increasingly confronted with an evangelical-friendly, anti-Israel narrative, more and more of these Christians are turning against the Jewish state.

There is troubling precedent for such an about-face. At one time—prior to the 1967 war— the mainline Protestant denominations were among Israel’s most reliable American supporters. Israel’s opponents, therefore, targeted these denominations with mainline-friendly, anti-Israel messages. There are still many mainline Protestants who support Israel today. But to the extent the mainline denominations act corporately in connection with the Jewish state, it is to divest from it. And it is from Israel—not Iran—that they seek to divest.

In a similar fashion, Palestinian Christians and their American sympathizers are successfully promoting a narrative aimed at reaching the rising generation of evangelicals and turning them against Israel. As a result, more leaders of this generation are moving toward neutrality in the conflict while others are becoming outspoken critics of Israel. Questioning Christian support for the Jewish state is fast becoming a key way for the millennials to demonstrate their Christian compassion and political independence. In short, this population is in play.

The Shift

There is nothing new about the efforts to drive a wedge between America’s evangelicals and Israel. Many in the anti-Israel camp have been working for years to do exactly that. Anti-Israel Palestinian Christians such as Sami Awad and Naim Ateek have traveled the country telling American Christians how their “brothers and sisters in Christ” are being oppressed by Israel’s Jews. Left-leaning evangelicals such as Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo, and Serge Duss have echoed this narrative in their corner of the Christian world. Duss’s sons, Brian and Matt, have worked diligently to mainstream their father’s views within the fields of Christian philanthropy and Democratic Party policy-making, respectively.

Until the past couple of years, however, there was little reason to believe that these individuals were influencing Christians beyond their own narrow circles. Almost every significant evangelical leader who took a position on the issue came out squarely behind the Jewish state. A center-right evangelical world simply was not taking its political cues from these stalwarts of the left.

This situation is changing dramatically. With every passing month, more evidence is emerging that these anti-Israel Christians are succeeding in reaching beyond the evangelical left and are influencing the mainstream. In particular, they are penetrating the evangelical world at its soft underbelly: the millennial generation. These young believers (roughly ages 18 to 30) are rebelling against what they perceive as the excessive biblical literalism and political conservatism of their parents. As they strive with a renewed vigor to imitate Jesus’ stand with the oppressed and downtrodden, they want to decide for themselves which party is being oppressed in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Whoever first defines the conflict for these young people will win lifelong allies.

Of Polling and Documentaries

In October 2010, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life conducted a major survey of evangelical leaders attending the Third Lausanne Congress of World Evangelization in Cape Town, South Africa. When asked with which side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict they sympathized, these leaders answered as follows:

All Evangelicals (Global)

Sympathize With Israel—34%
Sympathize with the Palestinians—11%
Sympathize with Both Equally—39%

American Evangelicals

Sympathize with Israel—30%
Sympathize with the Palestinians—13%
Sympathize with Both Sides Equally—49%

The survey contained two bombshells. It showed that only a minority of those evangelicals polled sympathized primarily with Israel. And it demonstrated that American evangelical leaders were actually less inclined to support Israel than evangelical leaders in general.

These figures may mean that evangelical support for Israel was never as universal as was commonly believed. But they may also demonstrate that years of grassroots efforts by Israel’s critics were beginning to bear fruit even before their recent intensification.

The year 2010 was one of dramatic escalation in the efforts to drive a wedge between American evangelicals and Israel using the medium of film. In the span of that one year, no less than three major documentaries were released attacking Christian support for Israel. These were hardly the first anti-Israel movies to be produced. What made these films special was that they were focused on discrediting Christian support for Israel. While First Run Features’ Waiting for Armageddon was produced and directed by a team of secular documentarians, two other films—With God on Our Side (Rooftop Productions, 2010) and Little Town of Bethlehem(EthnoGraphic Media, 2010)—were made by Christians specifically for Christians. With God on Our Side was produced by Porter Speakman, a former Youth with a Mission (YWAM) activist while Little Town of Bethlehem was funded and produced by Mart Green, chairman of the board of trustees of Oral Roberts University and heir to the Hobby Lobby arts and crafts stores fortune.

These two Christian-made films are masterpieces of deception. They feature compelling protagonists wandering earnestly through a Middle Eastern landscape in which all Arab violence, aggression, and rejectionism have been magically erased. Thus the Israeli security measures they encounter along the way—from the security fence to Israel’s ongoing presence in the West Bank—are experienced as baffling persecutions, which any decent person would condemn.

More recently, in November 2013, another anti-Israel documentary—The Stones Cry Out—was released. Like its 2010 predecessors, this documentary specifically tailors its anti-Israel message to a Christian audience. The film’s website laments: “All too often, media coverage of the conflict in Palestine has framed it as a fight between Muslims and Jews.” The not-too subtle goal of The Stones Cry Out is to reframe the conflict as a fight between Christians and Jews.

The Stones Cry Out begins with the story of Kfar Biram, a Christian Arab village on Israel’s border with Lebanon. Israel expelled the village’s residents in 1948 in order to, in the words of the film’s website, “make way for settlers in the newly created state of Israel.” The film then moves on to “the expropriation of the West Bank in 1967″ and the plight of modern Bethlehem, which is “hemmed in by the wall.” As such language repeatedly makes clear, the filmmakers did not craft a nuanced critique of Israeli policies. They produced instead a modern passion play.

In an interview about the film, Bethlehem pastor Mitri Raheb summarizes the changes taking place in the American evangelical world:

It’s not a hopeless case. The first time I went to the States in 1991, most of the people I met knew nothing about Palestine. That has changed a lot. I see among the evangelical Christian community more openness towards the Palestinians.

Raheb is right about the openness. And this could be a good thing if it leads to an honest examination of the issue. Unfortunately, Raheb and his colleagues are exploiting this openness by telling a one-sided narrative of Jewish persecution of Christians that may sow the seeds of future hate.

Of Campuses and Conferences

The effort to delegitimize Israel on America’s college campuses has quickly progressed from news item to cliché. The annual Israel apartheid weeks and the repeated divestment campaigns targeting everything from university pension funds to cafeteria humus have become all too familiar. But what many observers do not realize is that the effort to demonize Israel is also being waged on America’s Christian campuses.

Perhaps the most troubling example comes from Wheaton College in Illinois, commonly referred to as the “evangelical Harvard.” Some of the most prominent church leaders in America have graduated from Wheaton, including the Rev. Billy Graham, Sen. Dan Coats (Republican, Indiana), and George W. Bush’s former speechwriter Michael Gerson.

Wheaton is also the home of Gary Burge, one of America’s most prominent anti-Israel evangelicals. Burge travels the country and the world accusing the Jewish state of the worst of crimes and engaging in a mockery of Judaism that borders on anti-Semitism. When Christians United for Israel (CUFI) announced plans to hold an event at Wheaton in January 2009, Burge went on the offensive. CUFI’s student members came under such intense pressure that they moved their event off-campus: There would be no pro-Israel event at the evangelical Harvard.

Another of America’s leading Christian schools, Oral Roberts University (ORU), has deep conservative Christian roots. Oral Roberts himself was a Pentecostal televangelist and a strong friend of Israel. Some of the leading preachers in America graduated from ORU, and its board of trustees has included pro-Israel Christians such as pastors John Hagee and Kenneth Copeland and Bishop Keith Butler.

But things may be changing at ORU. The current chair of ORU’s board of trustees is the aforementioned Mart Green. He is reported to have “saved” ORU with a $70 million cash infusion. In January 2013, ORU’s board of trustees elected Billy Wilson as the university’s new president; a few months later, Wilson was named as a speaker for 2014 at the leading anti-Israel Christian conference, “Christ at the Checkpoint.”

Bethel University in Minnesota provides a further example. While this school lacks the national reputation of Wheaton or ORU, it is likely more representative of the direction that America’s Christian colleges are taking. Bethel’s leaders are neither leading nor funding the effort to delegitimize Israel but are merely the products thereof. Like many Christian schools, Bethel emphasizes racial reconciliation and cultural openness and has accordingly developed numerous opportunities for its students to study abroad. In 2010, Bethel’s president Jay Barnes and his wife Barb visited Israel and the Palestinian Authority to explore the prospect of building a study abroad program there. During the trip, they visited Bethlehem and were exposed to the standard Christian anti-Israel narrative. Like so many of her fellow travelers, Barb Barnes apparently bought into this one-sided presentation. Shortly after her return, Barnes posted a poem on the university’s website that summarized the leading anti-Israel themes of these tours:

Incredible conflict exists in the land of Jesus’ birth/ I believe God mourns.

The wall is a constant reminder of many lost freedoms/ I believe God mourns.

For more than 60 years, people have lived in poverty in refugee camps/ I believe God mourns.

Apartheid has become a way of life/ I believe God mourns.

Extreme disproportional distribution of resources, such as water, exists/ I believe God mourns.

Hundreds of villages have been demolished to make room for settlements/ I believe God mourns.

Human rights violations occur daily/ I believe God mourns.

The Christian population is declining as many are leaving to avoid persecution/ I believe God mourns.

The Barnes visit did not motivate further study ultimately yielding a more nuanced understanding. In October 2012, President Barnes hosted a “Hope for the Holy Land” evening at Bethel, a one-sided, blame-Israel speaking tour featuring Sami Awad, Lynn Hybels, and other long-standing Christian critics of Israel.

One need not be a student to be exposed to this anti-Israel narrative. In recent years, the number of Christian conferences focusing entirely or partially on criticizing Israel has grown along with the attendance at these conferences.

Since its founding in 1979, Bethlehem Bible College in the West Bank has been a leading source of the anti-Israel Christian narrative. In 2010, it launched a biennial conference called “Christ at the Checkpoint.” The name of the conference along with a photo of the Israel security fence that forms its logo invoke the increasingly popular meme that Jesus was a Palestinian who would be suffering under Israeli occupation today much as he suffered under Roman occupation millennia ago.

In 2010, the conference brought 250 Christian leaders and activists to Bethlehem; in 2012, that number was more than 600 including such mainstream evangelical leaders as mega-church pastor Joel Hunter and Lynne Hybels, wife of mega-church pastor Bill Hybels, who has since become a key evangelical critic of Israel.

The days when one had to travel to Bethlehem to hear such anti-Israel voices are now over. The anti-Israel narrative of “Christ at the Checkpoint” is now being shared at major Christian conferences in the United States including those organized by Empowered21 and Catalyst.

Empowered21, the preeminent gathering of Pentecostal/Charismatic Christians, provides a troubling example of this trend. Its leadership is a who’s who of Pentecostal and Charismatic luminaries from around the world, including many longstanding friends of Israel. However, the leading critic of Israel among these leaders, Mart Green, appears to be playing an outsized role in setting the conference’s agenda: Its 2012 conference in Virginia included a talk by Sami Awad and a screening of Green’s film, Little Town of Bethlehem.

Empowered21 has announced that it will hold its 2015 global congress in Jerusalem. Given the conference’s connections to Sami Awad and Mart Green, there is some skepticism whether the choice of location was intended as a sign of solidarity with the Jewish state. Only time will tell if the organization’s leadership will permit the conference to become a one-sided Israel bashing fest.

Troubling developments are also taking place at the annual Catalyst conference. First launched in 1999, Catalyst has quickly grown into the largest gathering of young evangelical leaders in America with more than 100,000 leaders having made the annual trek to Atlanta to participate in this conference since its inception. Additional Catalyst events are now being held in Florida, Texas, and California.

In the past, Catalyst studiously avoided discussions of the Arab-Israeli conflict. In 2012, however, Lynne Hybels was invited to address “Peacemaking in Israel/Palestine.” No one was asked to provide a pro-Israel perspective. As journalist Jim Fletcher observed after attending Catalyst 2012:

In dozens of random conversations, I noted that Millenials … expressed solidarity with the Palestinians and annoyance with Israel. This is a seismic shift in the American church and a serious threat to Israel’s one traditional area of support.

In addition to speaking at major conferences, anti-Israel speakers such as Burge, Awad, Hybels, and Steven Sizer tour churches across the country. The flyer for a September 2013 evening with Burge provides a sense of the climate at these events. Entitled “Christian Zionism: A Problem with a Solution,” the flyer includes a string of three lies that form the core of the new Christian anti-Zionism:

Zionists in Israel have created a state that wants racial purity. Many Zionists want native-born Christians to leave Israel. Christian Zionists in America support Israel because they believe this will accelerate the second coming of Christ.

Trips to “Israel/Palestine”

A growing number of organizations are bringing an increasing number of Christian leaders, influencers, and students to visit “Israel/Palestine.” These trips are well marketed and seek out mainstream evangelicals by claiming to be both pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian—or simply “pro-people”—but never anti-Israel. Yet these trips tend to focus on Palestinian suffering and to blame Israel alone for this suffering.

The Telos Group, founded in 2009 and funded by George Soros, is typical of these new organizations. Run by a savvy team professing a moderate agenda, Telos promotes itself as “a leading organization of America’s emerging pro-Israeli, pro-Palestinian, pro-American, pro-peace movement.” Their tours take visitors to both Israel and the Palestinian Authority where they meet with both Israelis and Palestinians. What could be more evenhanded?

Yet these tours are carefully calibrated to teach their participants that Israeli policy is the source of Israeli and Arab suffering and the only real barrier to peace. The Palestinian speakers include extreme critics of Israel such as Mitri Raheb and Archbishop Elias Chacour (both featured prominently in The Stones Cry Out). The Israeli speakers, while not as extreme, are stalwarts of the far Left who likewise blame Israel for the region’s problems. A brief visit with an Israeli right-winger—usually a settler—does more to confirm this one-sided narrative than challenge it. Telos organizes approximately fifteen of these trips every year.

Another recent arrival on the scene is the Global Immersion Project. Founded in 2011, the project seeks to “cultivate everyday peacemakers through immersion in global conflict.” But thus far, the only conflict they study is that between Israel and the Palestinians, and the only trips they make are to “Israel/Palestine.” In 2014, they have two “learning labs” scheduled in the Holy Land.

These newcomers have joined an old stalwart of the movement, the Holy Land Trust. Founded in 1998 by Palestinian Christian activist Sami Awad, the organization claims to promote nonviolent solutions to the conflict with Israel. However, Awad has stated quite clearly on his blog that nonviolence is “not a substitute for the armed struggle. This is not a method for normalization with the occupation. Our goal is to revive the popular resistance until every person is involved in dismantling the occupation.” The Holy Land Trust promotes a strongly biased version of history in which Israel alone is to blame for the absence of peace. It shares this message to those who visit on their various service projects, olive harvesting initiative, and “Palestine Summer Encounter.”

The Generational Divide

Despite these troubling inroads, it is unlikely that an older generation of evangelicals raised to support Israel will abandon it en masse. The greater threat comes from the younger generation that never developed such bonds and seems quite eager to question them. There is a real danger that these films, conferences, and campus attacks will combine to create a generational shift in attitudes toward Israel.

Most of the evangelicals who dominated Christian political activism for the past few decades—men such as Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Francis Schaeffer—were vocal supporters of Israel. While their children may share this perspective, they tend to talk about it less. In fact, Schaeffer’s son Frank has become a vocal critic of “the largely unchallenged influence of Christian Zionism.”

Making matters worse, there is a cadre of rising young evangelical stars who are bonding on trips to Israel and the Palestinian Authority and returning to push their fellow evangelicals away from the Jewish state. This is a largely well-coiffed and fashionably dressed bunch dedicated to marketing Christianity to a skeptical generation by making it cool, compassionate, and less overtly political. Questioning support for Israel and expressing sympathy with the Palestinians is fast becoming a hallmark of this clique.

This generational divide is best highlighted by the example of Christian publisher Steven Strang and his son Cameron. Steven Strang publishes Charisma, a leading evangelical monthly with a consistently pro-Israel perspective. He has also published works by many prominent Christian authors, including pro-Israel stalwart John Hagee. Strang was, until recently, regional director for Christians United for Israel. His son Cameron publishes Relevant, a highly popular magazine among millennial evangelicals, claiming to “reach about 2,300,000 twenty- and thirty something Christians a month” through its print and online publications.

Less than a decade ago, Relevant was as pro-Israel as Charisma. In December 2005, for example, it published a powerful, pro-Israel piece called “Israel: Why You Should Care.” In 2006, Relevant interviewed the author of this article for its weekly podcast, and the interview could not have been friendlier.

Then Lynne Hybels took Cameron Strang to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories, and everything changed. During Israel’s 2008-09 Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, Relevant published an article titled, “Is Israel Always Right?” in which the author dispensed with any balanced analysis of urban counterterror operations to conclude: “When I examine Israel’s choices like I would that of any other nation, I find myself appalled that they’re not doing more to protect the innocents [in Gaza].”

When Israel confronted Hamas again in November 2012, Relevant published an article titled, “How Should Christians Respond to the Middle East Crisis” by Jon Huckins, a co-founder of the Global Immersion Project. The article was an extended exercise in moral relativism, noting the suffering on each side without attributing blame. Huckins never once criticized Hamas, but he did take a thinly veiled swipe at Christian Zionists by blasting the “hateful stereotyping, racism, and violent response [to events in Gaza] being disseminated by Christians.”

Relevant‘s May/June 2012 cover featured Donald Miller, author of the New York Timesbestseller Blue Like Jazz (2003), which was made into a 2012 movie. In August 2008, Miller delivered the first night’s closing prayer at the Democratic National Convention. He is considered a rising star among America’s 20-something evangelicals who comprise many of his 189,000 Twitter followers. Miller visited Israel and the Palestinian territories with Strang and has since embraced the anti-Israel narrative. On November 12, 2012, Miller blogged “The Painful Truth about the Situation in Israel.” Here he repeated a number of outrageous lies about Israel he likely heard during his visit:

In September a group of journalists and I visited Israel and stood on a hill overlooking the wall separating Israel from Gaza. From our viewpoint, we could see the controversial territory where 1.6 million Palestinians have been walled in and secluded from the outside world. They are, essentially, imprisoned.

The walls erected around the West Bank and Gaza separate families from families. Many mothers will not see their children again. Millions will never return to the homes their families had occupied for hundreds of years. … Thousands of Palestinian students at American universities will never see their families again.

Israel gives most Palestinians fresh water once each week. … In Gaza, Israel also rations their food, allowing only so many calories per human being.

The Response

Freeze the frame today, and the pro-Israel side is still far ahead in the battle for the hearts and minds of America’s evangelicals. Just one pro-Israel organization, Christians United for Israel, has over 1.6 million members, chapters on more than 120 college and university campuses, and sponsors thirty-five pro-Israel events across the country every month. Anti-Israel Christians do not come close to matching CUFI’s size, activity, or influence.

But the long-term trends are now coming into sufficient focus to discern a challenge. Anti-Israel Christians are on a roll. While small in number, these activists seem to have extensive funds. They are taking far more Christian leaders and influencers to Israel and the Palestinian Authority than the pro-Israel side. Through these newly-minted allies, they are reaching an ever expanding network of evangelicals in the United States.

The threat is not that these activists will turn the majority of American evangelicals into Israel haters. They do not have to. The real danger is that they will teach their fellow evangelicals a moral relativism that will neutralize them. The day that Israel is seen as the moral equivalent of Hamas is the day that the evangelical community—and by extension the political leaders it helps elect—will cease providing the Jewish state any meaningful support.

Those who reject such facile moral equivalence must take this threat seriously. They cannot let the evangelical community go the way of the mainstream Protestant leadership. They must not forget that big lies must be confronted early and often. And they dare not ignore the fact that Israel’s enemies are telling very big lies to some very influential Christians—and telling them quite well.

from Worldview Weekend:

The Scripture: “For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit”.

The Twist: People sometimes misuse this scripture to say, “After someone dies, they’re going to get the chance to hear the Gospel one more time. There will be a second chance for the dead to hear the Gospel, be saved, and go on to heaven.”

his twist, of course, is not what 1 Peter 4:6 is teaching, so let’s examine the verse in context to find the real meaning. Here, Peter is speaking of people who heard the Gospel and responded but are now dead at the time Peter is writing this passage. Peter is rejoicing in the fact that the people he references were saved before they died, that they heard the Gospel while they were alive, but now they are dead physically.

The Apostle goes on to say “that they might be judged according to men in the flesh.” And what does that mean? He is saying that these people, while they were alive in the flesh, were judged by men and were martyred. They were put to death for their faith. These Christians were murdered, but the good news Peter reports is that even though they are dead physically, they still live in the spirit because they were in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:1 offers a similar teaching: “But there is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” The people to whom Paul refers are alive in Christ. And similarly in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15, we read: “

But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.

Paul is comforting the Thessalonian Christians by saying, “Don’t worry that those who have died are somehow going to miss out on what is to come or on the coming of the Lord or on the blessing that is to come. They will not miss out at all.” In verses 16-18, he explains further exactly how this will work out:

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

And indeed, those are comforting words, are they not? We don’t have to worry that if we die before the Rapture we are going to miss out or that those who have died have already missed out.

When someone uses 1 Peter 4:6 to say that those who are dead get a second chance to hear the Gospel, their contention flies in the face of the clear biblical teaching that  “it’s appointed unto every man to die once and then face the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). To press the point, some of these folks will use Lazarus as an example. Didn’t Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead? And don’t we see other people raised from the dead in the New Testament? Yes, but those represent a very limited group of people to whom this happened. The normal standard is that people die one time and then face judgment. No one should assume you can wait to accept the Lord, that you’ll have a chance tomorrow or next week or next month or next year. Today is the day of salvation for anyone. If you want to be saved, you need to understand your sinfulness. You need to understand that you deserve hell, that you deserve the wrath of God, and that you need to repent of your sins and turn from your sins and place your faith and trust in Jesus Christ. You have no guarantee of tomorrow. And you certainly will not have another chance after you die to hear the Gospel and to respond.

The danger in the twisted interpretation of 1 Peter 4:6, of course, is that it can encourage people to think they don’t have to be concerned about eternal issues while in this life. But people need to understand their need to repent of sins and place their faith and trust in Christ now.

Similarly, I would say to believers that we dare not delay in witnessing to someone. There is no guarantee that the person with whom we need to share will be with us tomorrow or the next day or that we’ll have a chance to share the Gospel with them sometime in the future. Whenever you witness to someone that may be that person’s very last chance to come to God—forever.

SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL

from Dr.Brian Mattson 

In Darren Aronofsky’s new star-gilt silver screen epic, Noah, Adam and Eve are luminescent and fleshless, right up until the moment they eat the forbidden fruit.

Such a notion isn’t found in the Bible, of course. This, among the multitude of Aronofsky’s other imaginative details like giant Lava Monsters, has caused many a reviewer’s head to be scratched. Conservative-minded evangelicals write off the film because of the “liberties” taken with the text of Genesis, while a more liberal-minded group stands in favor of cutting the director some slack. After all, we shouldn’t expect a professed atheist to have the same ideas of “respecting” sacred texts the way a Bible-believer would.

Both groups have missed the mark entirely. Aronofsky hasn’t “taken liberties” with anything.

The Bible is not his text.

In his defense, I suppose, the film wasn’t advertised as such. Nowhere is it said that this movie is an adaptation of Genesis. It was never advertised as “The Bible’s Noah,” or “The Biblical Story of Noah.” In our day and age we are so living in the leftover atmosphere of Christendom that when somebody says they want to do “Noah,” everybody assumesthey mean a rendition of the Bible story. That isn’t what Aronofsky had in mind at all. I’m sure he was only too happy to let his studio go right on assuming that, since if they knew what he was really up to they never would have allowed him to make the movie.

Let’s go back to our luminescent first parents. I recognized the motif instantly as one common to the ancient religion of Gnosticism. Here’s a 2nd century A.D. description about what a sect called the Ophites believed:

“Adam and Eve formerly had light, luminous, and so to speak spiritual bodies, as they had been fashioned. But when they came here, the bodies became dark, fat, and idle.” –Irenaeus of Lyon, Against Heresies, I, 30.9

It occurred to me that a mystical tradition more closely related to Judaism, calledKabbalah (which the singer Madonna made popular a decade ago or so), surely would have held a similar view, since it is essentially a form of Jewish Gnosticism. I dusted off (No, really: I had to dust it) my copy of Adolphe Franck’s 19th century work, The Kabbalah, and quickly confirmed my suspicions:

“Before they were beguiled by the subtleness of the serpent, Adam and Eve were not only exempt from the need of a body, but did not even have a body—that is to say, they were not of the earth.”

Franck quotes from the Zohar, one of Kabbalah’s sacred texts:

“When our forefather Adam inhabited the Garden of Eden, he was clothed, as all are in heaven, with a garment made of the higher light. When he was driven from the Garden of Eden and was compelled to submit to the needs of this world, what happened? God, the Scriptures tell us, made Adam and his wife tunics of skin and clothed them; for before this they had tunics of light, of that higher light used in Eden…”

Obscure stuff, I know. But curiosity overtook me and I dove right down the rabbit hole.

I discovered what Darren Aronofsky’s first feature film was: Pi. Want to know its subject matter? Do you? Are you sure?

Kabbalah.

If you think that’s a coincidence, you may want a loved one to schedule you a brain scan.

Have I got your attention? Good.

The world of Aronofsky’s Noah is a thoroughly Gnostic one: a graded universe of “higher” and “lower.” The “spiritual” is good, and way, way, way “up there” where the ineffable, unspeaking god dwells, and the “material” is bad, and way, way down here where our spirits are encased in material flesh. This is not only true of the fallen sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, but of fallen angels, who are explicitly depicted as being spirits trapped inside a material “body” of cooled molten lava.

Admittedly, they make pretty nifty movie characters, but they’re also notorious in Gnostic speculation. Gnostics call them Archons, lesser divine beings or angels who aid “The Creator” in forming the visible universe. And Kabbalah has a pantheon of angelic beings of its own all up and down the ladder of “divine being.” And fallen angels are never totally fallen in this brand of mysticism. To quote the Zohar again, a centralKabbalah text: “All things of which this world consists, the spirit as well as the body, will return to the principle and the root from which they came.” Funny. That’s exactly what happens to Aronofsky’s Lava Monsters. They redeem themselves, shed their outer material skin, and fly back to the heavens. Incidentally, I noticed that in the film, as the family is traveling through a desolate wasteland, Shem asks his father: “Is this a Zoharmine?” Yep. That’s the name of Kabbalah’s sacred text.

The entire movie is, figuratively, a “Zohar” mine.

If there was any doubt about these “Watchers,” Aronofsky gives several of them names: Semyaza, Magog, and Rameel. They’re all well-known demons in the Jewish mystical tradition, not only in Kabbalah but also in the book of 1 Enoch.

What!? Demons are redeemed? Adolphe Franck explains the cosmology of Kabbalah: “Nothing is absolutely bad; nothing is accursed forever—not even the archangel of evil or the venomous beast, as he is sometimes called. There will come a time when he will recover his name and his angelic nature.”

Okay. That’s weird. But, hey, everybody in the film seems to worship “The Creator,” right? Surely it’s got that in its favor!

Except that when Gnostics speak about “The Creator” they are not talking about God. Oh, here in an affluent world living off the fruits of Christendom the term “Creator” generally denotes the true and living God. But here’s a little “Gnosticism 101” for you: the Creator of the material world is an ignorant, arrogant, jealous, exclusive, violent, low-level, bastard son of a low level deity. He’s responsible for creating the “unspiritual” world of flesh and matter, and he himself is so ignorant of the spiritual world he fancies himself the “only God” and demands absolute obedience. They generally call him “Yahweh.” Or other names, too (Ialdabaoth, for example).

This Creator tries to keep Adam and Eve from the true knowledge of the divine and, when they disobey, flies into a rage and boots them from the garden.

In other words, in case you’re losing the plot here: The serpent was right all along. This “god,” “The Creator,” whom they are worshiping is withholding something from them that the serpent will provide: divinity itself.

The world of Gnostic mysticism is bewildering with a myriad of varieties. But, generally speaking, they hold in common that the serpent is “Sophia,” “Mother,” or “Wisdom.” The serpent represents the true divine, and the claims of “The Creator” are false.

So is the serpent a major character in the film?

Let’s go back to the movie. The action opens when Lamech is about to bless his son, Noah. Lamech, rather strangely for a patriarch of a family that follows God, takes out a sacred relic, the skin of the serpent from the Garden of Eden. He wraps it around his arm, stretches out his hand to touch his son—except, just then, a band of marauders interrupts them and the ceremony isn’t completed. Lamech gets killed, and the “villain” of the film, Tubal-Cain, steals the snakeskin. Noah, in other words, doesn’t get whatever benefit the serpent’s skin was to bestow.

The skin doesn’t light up magically on Tubal-Cain’s arm, so apparently he doesn’t get “enlightened,” either. And that’s why everybody in the film, including protagonist and antagonist, Noah and Tubal-Cain, is worshiping “The Creator.” They are all deluded. Let me clear something up here: lots of reviewers expressed some bewilderment over the fact there aren’t any likable characters and that they all seem to be worshiping the same God. Tubal-Cain and his clan are wicked and evil and, as it turns out, Noah’s pretty bad himself when he abandons Ham’s girlfriend and almost slays two newborn children. Some thought this was some kind of profound commentary on how there’s evil in all of us. Here’s an excerpt from the Zohar, the sacred text of Kabbalah:

“Two beings [Adam and Nachash—the Serpent] had intercourse with Eve [the Second woman], and she conceived from both and bore two children. Each followed one of the male parents, and their spirits parted, one to this side and one to the other, and similarly their characters. On the side of Cain are all the haunts of the evil species; from the side of Abel comes a more merciful class, yet not wholly beneficial — good wine mixed with bad.”

Sound familiar? Yes. Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, to the “T.”

Anyway, everybody is worshiping the evil deity. Who wants to destroy everybody. (By the way, in Kabbalah many worlds have already been created and destroyed.) Both Tubal-Cain and Noah have identical scenes, looking into the heavens and asking, “Why won’t you speak to me?” “The Creator” has abandoned them all because he intends to kill them all.

Noah had been given a vision of the coming deluge. He’s drowning, but sees animals floating to the surface to the safety of the ark. No indication whatsoever is given that Noah is to be saved; Noah conspicuously makes that part up during an awkward moment explaining things to his family. He is sinking while the animals, “the innocent,” are rising. “The Creator” who gives Noah his vision wants all the humans dead.

Many reviewers thought Noah’s change into a homicidal maniac on the ark, wanting to kill his son’s two newborn daughters, was a weird plot twist. It isn’t weird at all. In the Director’s view, Noah is worshiping a false, homicidal maniac of a god. The more faithful and “godly” Noah becomes, the more homicidal he becomes. He is becoming every bit the “image of god” that the “evil” guy who keeps talking about the “image of god,” Tubal-Cain, is.

But Noah fails “The Creator.” He cannot wipe out all life like his god wants him to do. “When I looked at those two girls, my heart was filled with nothing but love,” he says. Noah now has something “The Creator” doesn’t. Love. And Mercy. But where did he get it? And why now?

In the immediately preceding scene Noah killed Tubal-Cain and recovered the snakeskin relic: “Sophia,” “Wisdom,” the true light of the divine. Just a coincidence, I’m sure.

Okay, I’m almost done. The rainbows don’t come at the end because God makes a covenant with Noah. The rainbows appear when Noah sobers up and embraces the serpent. He wraps the skin around his arm, and blesses his family. It is not God that commissions them to now multiply and fill the earth, but Noah, in the first person, “I,” wearing the serpent talisman. (Oh, and by the way, it’s not accidental that the rainbows are all circular. The circle of the “One,” the Ein Sof, in Kabbalah, is the sign of monism.)

Notice this thematic change: Noah was in a drunken stupor the scene before. Now he is sober and “enlightened.” Filmmakers never do that by accident.

He’s transcended and outgrown that homicidal, jealous deity.

Let me issue a couple of caveats to all this: Gnostic speculation is a diverse thing. Some groups appear radically “dualist,” where “The Creator” really is a different “god” altogether. Others are more “monist,” where God exists in a series of descending emanations. Others have it that the lower deity “grows” and “matures” and himself ascends the “ladder” or “chain” of being to higher heights. Noah probably fits a little in each category. It’s hard to tell. My other caveat is this: there is no doubt a ton of Kabbalistimagery, quotations, and themes in this movie that I couldn’t pick up in a single sitting. For example, since Kabbalah takes its flights of fancy generally based on Hebrew letters and numbers, I did notice that the “Watchers” appeared to be deliberately shaped like Hebrew letters. But you could not pay me to go see this movie again so I could further drill into the Zohar mine to see what I could find. (On a purely cinematic viewpoint, I found most of it unbearably boring.)

What I can say on one viewing is this:

Darren Aronofsky has produced a retelling of the Noah story without reference to the Bible at all. This was not, as he claimed, just a storied tradition of run-of-the-mill Jewish “Midrash.” This was a thoroughly pagan retelling of the Noah story direct from Kabbalist and Gnostic sources. To my mind, there is simply no doubt about this.

So let me tell you what the real scandal in all of this is.

It isn’t that he made a film that departed from the biblical story. It isn’t that disappointed and overheated Christian critics had expectations set too high.

The scandal is this: of all the Christian leaders who went to great lengths to endorse this movie (for whatever reasons: “it’s a conversation starter,” “at least Hollywood is doing something on the Bible,” etc.), and all of the Christian leaders who panned it for “not following the Bible”…

Not one of them could identify a blatantly Gnostic subversion of the biblical story when it was right in front of their faces.

I believe Aronofsky did it as an experiment to make fools of us: “You are so ignorant that I can put Noah (granted, it’s Russell Crowe!) up on the big screen and portray him literally as the ‘seed of the Serpent’ and you all will watch my studio’s screening and endorse it.”

He’s having quite the laugh. And shame on everyone who bought it.

And what a Gnostic experiment! In Gnosticism, only the “elite” are “in the know” and have the secret knowledge. Everybody else are dupes and ignorant fools. The “event” of this movie is intended to illustrate the Gnostic premise. We are dupes and fools. Would Christendom awake, please?

In response, I have one simple suggestion:

Henceforth, not a single seminary degree is granted unless the student demonstrates that he has read, digested, and understood Irenaeus of Lyon’s Against Heresies.

Because it’s the 2nd century all over again.

Postscript

Some readers may think I’m being hard on people for not noticing the Gnosticism at the heart of this film. I am not expecting rank-and-file viewers to notice these things. I would expect exactly what we’ve seen: head-scratching confusion. I’ve got a whole different standard for Christian leaders: college and seminary professors, pastors, and Ph.Ds. If a serpent skin wrapped around the arm of a godly Bible character doesn’t set off any alarms… I don’t know what to say.

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