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Archive for the ‘Apostasy’ Category

from Defending Contending:

Imagine if you will, the following scenario:

A shepherd guarding his sheep observes a wolf among the flock cloaked in sheepskin. He stands up and yells “Wolf! Wolf! Run! Run!” And immediately the sheep begin to scatter, but not all. A small group turn to the sheep dog and, with an arrogant smirk plastered across their faces, respond, “But did you pray for the wolf?”

Bewildered as to why these sheep were ignoring his warning, the shepherd reiterates the danger of the wolf’s presence with an even more impassioned plea for the sheep to escape the impending doom that’s about to befall them. However, they stand firm and go back to their grazing on the plush green grass beneath their feet.

Mumblings of,”Who is he to judge?” and, “As for me I’ll be praying for the wolf” can be heard among them as they reassure themselves of their peace and safety while the wolf takes them out one by one until there are none left.

There are many one-liners regurgitated by ‘wolf defenders’ designed to silence those who would try to warn the flock. If you’ve ever exercised your discernment regarding a false prophet, there’s no doubt you’ve encountered the all famous “judge not” defenseripped and twisted from its context.

However, there’s another less popular but equally insidious argument used by wolf defenders that’s designed to put shepherds, sheep dogs, and watchmen on the defense. The diversionary tactic I speak of is “Are you praying for _________?”

This trite platitude is usually employed in the context that we’re not supposed to expose the wolves but only pray for them, and if we have not prayed for them then we are somehow committing a greater wickedness than the wolves themselves if we dare criticize them (woe to those who call evil good and good evil).

This often-used excuse to avoid defending truth and to–conversely–help further the advance of those devouring the flock got me wondering; are we supposed to pray for the wolves?

First of all I want to say up front that I do not believe praying for a wolf is wrong, a sin, nor am I saying that you shouldn’t do it. Furthermore, this post is not intended to discourage you from doing so, but only to raise the question are we supposed to pray for the wolves?

I would also like to preface this thesis by clarifying that when I speak of wolves in this post, I am not referring to the rank and file who have fallen under the spell of their leaders, but the leaders themselves (Think: Helen Ukbato, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Gloria Copeland, Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, et al).

With that said, allow me to present some thoughts on this matter.

Although false teachers and their false teachings are addressed in almost every book of the New Testament, strangely absent is any command or even example in which we are to pray for them. There seems to be no precedent for or allusion to God’s love and grace in the writings of holy writ being applied to false prophets. I am not saying that God’s love and grace is not capable of reaching any and all whom He chooses to bestow it upon, but what I am saying is that there seems to be a vast chasm between His love/grace and the false teachers–a chasm commonly traversed by God in His dealings with the common sinner, but never seen traversed for the wolves.

We see in the New Testament time and time again where the sinner has repented unto life, but we don’t ever see where a wolf (one who is actively shipwrecking the faith of believers) has repented unto life. Additionally, wolves are spoken of by Jesus and the Apostles in some of the harshest, condemning tones found in all of the Bible (and rightly so because the damage they cause is eternal).

I have found nowhere in Scripture that we are directly or expressly commanded to pray for those who seek to shipwreck our faith and damn our souls to Hell for eternity. The argument in favor of praying for the wolves is commonly couched in our command to love and pray for our enemies, but are false teachers what Jesus was referring to when He said this? Do they fit in the context of His use of the word “enemies” in that text?

I submit that when one looks at the context of “your enemies,” He is speaking of those persecuting you, and not false teachers or prophets.

Compare the references to “your enemies” in Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27-28, Luke 6:34-35, and Romans 12:20 (in which all are referring to those who persecute you and in which we are instructed to feed them, lend to them, love them, and pray for them) with the admonition about deceivers in 2 John verses 9-11. Here we are instructed to not even to permit them into our homes or even greet them. You will notice a stark contrast between how we are to treat those who persecute us (who can only kill our bodies) and those who bring a false gospel (who can drag our souls to eternal torment in the Lake ofFire).

There is a blazing distinction between those who persecute us and who spitefully use us, and that of the wolves. Nowhere does Jesus nor any Apostle precede, interrupt, or conclude the teaching against a wolf in order to pray for them; nor are we instructed to. When Jesus warns us to beware of the wolves He doesn’t conclude by telling us to pray for them.

Unlike the anonymity of the elect who we do not know–and so we proclaim the Gospel to all as we are instructed to do—the wolves we can know because they are said to be easily identified by their fruit (Matthew 7:15).

So why is the Bible silent on whether or not we’re supposed to pray for false teachers? Perhaps the reason can be found elsewhere in Scripture.

Jude 13 and 2 Peter 2:17 tells us that they’ve been “reserved” for darkness and Paul tells us in Galatians 1:6-9 that they’re “accursed.” This does not sound like there’s any hope for them, but that their fate is already sealed, thus rendering any prayers for them–although commendable–of the utmost futility.

We can no more pray into Heaven an “accursed” false prophet who’s “reserved” for destruction any more then we can stop God through prayer from burning up this present earth that He’s “reserved” for fire (2 Peter 3:7).

We also see that there’s an imperishable inheritance “reserved” for those born again (1 Peter 1:3-4). I would as soon expect man to be capable of altering this “reserved” blessing as much as he would be able to derail the “reserved” judgment of a wolf, in addition to being able to derail the hope that believers are “destined” not for wrath but for salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:9).

The surety of something being “reserved” by God cannot simply be glossed over. We see this again in 2 Peter 2:1-4 in which God’s judgment of the wolves is from “long ago” and is “reserved” for them just like it is for the angels who sinned.

If both Jude and Peter tell us that these men are “reserved” for Hell, and Paul tells us they’re “accursed,” then I can conclude and fully understand why we are never commanded or shown by example to “Love false teachers and pray for them.” Anyone, including our enemies, can be granted repentance unto life (Acts 11:18), but it seems to me that Scripture reveals those “reserved” for darkness cannot.

We’ve all heard stories of Christian persecutors coming to saving faith in Jesus Christ, but can anyone recall a wolf who ever turned from their ways to embrace the Truth? Is there any record of these men or women repenting of their spreading of “another gospel” and turning to the True Gospel?

How about Joseph Smith? Brigham Young? Gordon B. Hinckley? Charles Taze Russell? Judge Rutherford? Mary Baker Eddy? Ellen G. White? David Koresh? Marshall Applewhite? L. Ron Hubbard? Herbert Armstrong?

As far as history shows, all of the above men and women died rejecting the true Christ and His Gospel and dragged countless souls to an eternal fiery damnation with them. And their false doctrines of demons continue to seduce and deceive millions today.

I know that my thesis of not praying for a false teacher may be atrocious to some of you. “After all” you say, “God would never not have us pray for someone. But is the idea reallyinconceivable?

I submit the following precedents for your consideration:

As for you, do not pray for this people, and do not lift up cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with Me; for I do not hear you. Jeremiah 7:16

Therefore do not pray for this people, nor lift up a cry or prayer for them; for I will not listen when they call to Me because of their disaster. Jeremiah 11:14

So the LORD said to me, “Do not pray for the welfare of this people. When they fast, I am not going to listen to their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I am not going to accept them. Rather I am going to make an end of them by the sword, famine and pestilence.” Jeremiah 14:11-12

Although I don’t believe it is wrong nor a sin if you pray for a wolf, I do believe, however, that the argument that unless you’ve prayed for a false prophet then you can’t speak out against a false prophet is nothing more than a straw man. It’s a weak attempt by those protecting the wolves to divert the attention away from the wolf and his wicked ways, and putting the one exposing him on the defense . . . a clever tactic I would expect Satan to employ.

I’m also not saying that I’ve never prayed for a wolf, nor am I saying that I never will pray for a wolf, but if you have not prayed for a wolf I see nothing that would exempt you from exposing and resisting one.

At the end of the day, which shepherd will have more sheep: The one who actively guards his flock with stern warnings about who the wolves are and how to spot them, or the one who sits under the tree praying for the wolves while they are preying on his flock?

 

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from The Daily Mail:

Born the daughter of a minister in Georgia, Janice Crouch grew up among all the trappings of the church and a life of holy devotion.

But before she passed away yesterday, days after suffering a massive stroke at her Florida home, the 78-year-old lived a life of enormous wealth funded by her Evangelical TV empire.

Alongside her husband Paul, Crouch preached to millions of viewers on a weekly basis, promising them wealth if only they would open up their own pockets and donate to her.

Using that money the couple bought adjoining mansions in Florida, jets worth almost $60 million and a $100,000 mobile home just to house Janice’s dogs, according to a lawsuit filed in 2012

In a lawsuit filed by granddaughter Brittany Koper after she was sacked from her position as the couple’s accountant, they were accused of receiving $300,000 to $500,000 in meal expenses, as well as the use of chauffeurs.

Koper’s lawsuit, reported by the New York Times, also claimed that staff members at the network, including sound engineers and chauffeurs, were ordained as ministers so their salaries could be tax exempt.

This also made it easier for the Couches to claim their 13 mansions as ‘parsonages’, also exempting them from a good deal of state and federal taxes.

Koper added: ‘My job as finance director was to find ways to label extravagant personal spending as ministry expenses.’

Janice, or ‘Momma Jan’ as she became known, also founded the Holy Land Experience in Orlando, a bizarre theme park that she took to overseeing personally.

Troy Clements, a former executive at the park, said that Janice’s belief that she was doing the Lord’s work led her to justify extravagant spending on personal whims.

Clements told the New York Times that he was once forced to remodel a cafe on site three times in six weeks.

When Janice was challenged on the behavior, she simply responded: ‘No one has told me “no” for 30 years, and you’re not going to start now.’

Clements also said that, when she began the remodeling project, she rented two rooms at the adjacent Loews Portofino Bay Hotel in order to be close to the project.

One room, he said, was for her – while the other housed her two Maltese dogs along with her clothes. The rooms were rented for two years, he added.

Read the full article here.

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“The rocker said many people get caught up in select Bible passages that focus on homosexuality. Pearson said he has a different view.”

And this is always the sad refrain these days, and what these people fail to realize is that Jesus validated all of scripture, so if you decide to pick and choose which Bible passages that you will accept then you are openly declaring that you are against God and you cannot in anyway still claim to be a Christian!

from abc6:

Trey Pearson has been playing in a Christian rock band since he was 14 years old. Pearson’s group, Everyday Sunday, signed a record deal and started touring all over the world. Pearson, 35, is now coming out to fans after what he said was a lifelong struggle with his sexuality.

“I grew up in a conservative Christian home and was very much taught in church and family just that homosexuality was wrong and that God hated it,” said Pearson. “From a very young age I knew I had attractions there, but I always felt really horrible about it and so I always tried to push those down and tried to be straight.”

Pearson was married to a woman for seven years and has two children. Now that marriage has broken up, and the two are friends.

“When she was able to understand, and when I told her, she was able to just hug me, tell me how much she loved me and tell me how proud of me she was. That is when I was able to realize I was going to be OK.”

The West Jefferson native said he is grateful for pastors who are understanding of his choice, because many are not.

“When you experience some of the hatred, you experience some of the fear and the way that they almost want to make you out to be the wolf in sheep’s clothing. They will try to villainize you and demonize you. That way you can’t try to have an honest conversation about it.”

The rocker said many people get caught up in select Bible passages that focus on homosexuality. Pearson said he has a different view.

“The most important thing is to love your neighbor as yourself and if you can do that, you can learn how to love God, and by doing that you are loving God.”

He added, “I have no problem being gay and being a Christian. I believe Jesus absolutely loves me they way I am. He created me this way.”

Pearson will headline the Pride Festival in Columbus this year at Goodale Park.

“I absolutely know that God will be with us as we celebrate at Pride festival and God is with me, as I seek God in everything I do.”

Pearson said he has talked to many gay people who are hurting and he wants to help them.

“To feel like I can be a voice for those people, and so many of them have been Everyday Sunday fans, that have felt that rejection from the church, to hear my story and feel like it can be used in some way to help them in their life, that is a pretty amazing feeling.”

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“Joel Osteen is an especially toxic example of this approach. He promotes what he calls the power of “I am.” “Look in the mirror,” he says, “and say, ‘I am.’ Tell yourself that you’re healthy, strong, and successful.” He also warns against saying bad things of yourself because if you do, those bad things will come looking for you. Yet, this is the occultism known as positive confession or shamanism. To dress it up as Christianity, Osteen uses scripture out of context (of course) and twists it to his own ends.”

from Worldview Weekend:

For most of the past century, Walt Disney productions have entertained millions of people with animated tales of magic. Since Mickey Mouse first starred in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, we’ve seen the supposed wonders of the supernatural at work. It’s all meant for fun, of course, and the good guys always win.

But are there really any good guys?

When it comes to real magic, the answer is “no.” Although you may have heard a distinction between black magic—special powers used for evil—and white magic—powers used for good—both are from the demonic realm. White magic is meant to look good, but it’s not. By God’s standard, it is evil, too.

 Seduced by Magic

White magic may well be more dangerous than its dark alternative because it is actually black magic camouflaged as something good. People have always been fascinated by the idea of magic. As A. W. Tozer notes, “So strong is the bent of the human heart toward magic that there has hardly been a time when the faith of Christ has not been plagued with it.”

Strange as it may seem, many people who claim to be Christians these days are fooling around with various forms of magic, Gnosticism, and mysticism, all of which derive from the occult. Many have wrapped occult practices, techniques, and messages in a veneer of Christianity by using Christian titles, terminology, and slogans.

Many within the New Age movement talk about Jesus, God, salvation, or atonement, but they’re playing with words. The New Age is nothing more than the old lie of Satan which he first tried with great success on Eve in Genesis 3:4: “You will be like God.” To people today, that means we each get to decide what is right and wrong. We can discover hidden knowledge. We decide our own truths. Some churches now even offer “Christian yoga,” yet there’s nothing Christian about it. Yoga means yoke or union with a Hindu god.

Yoga’s cousin, transcendental meditation (TM) is likewise popular, originally brought to America by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the mid-twentieth century. Despite the popularity of drug use in the 1960s, many Americans did not want to take drugs to discover their “inner Christhood” or deity through an altered state of consciousness. As a result, the Maharishi took advantage of the opportunity to bring Hinduism to the United States. He gave yoga the more marketable name, transcendental meditation, and brought it to the West.

So, yoga is an integral part of Hinduism, a thoroughly occult-based religion, and we’re supposed to believe it can be Christianized? I don’t think so.

Christians have also gotten involved in other practices unbecoming to Christ followers. Take automatic writing, for instance. It’s the idea that you can read a verse and then sit in silence, waiting for the Lord to tell you—either audibly or “in your spirit”—a message to write down. The practice is supposed to reveal what a particular verse means.

New Age author Helen Schucman actually claims to have written a whole book through automatic writing. A Course in Miracles is acclaimed by devotees to be the ‘Bible of the New Age.’ And who is the entity that supposedly helped Schucman write her bible? She claimed it was Jesus, but no doubt any help she received was from a demon with the boldness to call himself Jesus.

So now automatic writing shows up in Christianity—even among evangelicals. Jesus Calling, one of the best-selling Christian books in the past decade, is written by Sarah Young. Although she doesn’t claim automatic writing as the source for her work, she does acknowledge the influence of God Calling, a devotional book by A. J. Russell in the 1930s. Russell, a New Age mystic, created the book by editing the journals of two unnamed women—the “two listeners”—who credited automatic writing as their source.

Although I don’t agree with everything Merrill Unger writes, he offers an insightful overview of what magic like this is all about:

Magic may be defined as the art of bringing about results beyond man’s power through the enlistment of supernatural agencies. White magic is black magic in pious masquerade. It uses, in a magic way, the name of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, along with Bible phrases and terminology, but is demonic—demonic in character. . . .

It is carried on in many so-called Christian circles. It is called white because it parades under the banner of light in contrast to black magic that openly enlists the aid of the powers of darkness.38

Despite this, many Christians involve themselves in occult practices such as Kundalini yoga. This particular “brand,” popular with some evangelical circles, manifests involuntary bodily movements supposedly induced by a connection with the Holy Spirit. In Hinduism, these are called kriyas and are actually a sign of contact with demons. I detail this in Religious Trojan Horse and show its popularity within the Word of Faith and New Apostolic Reformation movements, in particular. Similar manifestations embraced by many so-called Christians include holy laughter, barking like dogs, crawling around on all fours, and experiencing uncontrollable shaking of the head, the body, or extremities. Those who demonstrate these unbiblical manifestations believe them to be a sign that the Holy Spirit has come upon them. Unger, obviously, has warned that such a claim is not to be trusted. Even if these people attribute the manifestations to the Holy Spirit, they are actually the work of Satan, the very sort of activity we see in Hinduism and the New Age.

In my Worldview Weekend mega-resource, worldviewpedia.com, I archive video clips of false teachers like Kenneth Copeland and the late Kenneth Hagin involved in holy laughter, rolling on the floor, and being drunk in the spirit. In one, Hagin announces, “Drunk again, drunk again” as people in the audience stumble around, laughing and acting drunk, supposedly overcome by the Holy Spirit. In truth, it is a form of white magic in its typically pious masquerade.

We often see evidence of black magic around us as well. At the mall, you’ll see people in Goth outfits—black trench coats, black shirts, black makeup, and the like—and wearing occult jewelry. That’s the basis of the Gothic look. So, the influence of black magic is fairly easy to spot. Many of them are into the Wicca religion, occultism, or black magic.

White magic, on the other hand, is more difficult to address because its many forms of camouflage include hints of the truth. One of Satan’s most effective strategies is to insinuate just enough truth to attract an audience that would not be attracted to darker things. People then mistake the partial truth for the whole truth, and Satan succeeds in undermining the Gospel. It’s the sort of false teaching we see from sources like Trinity Broadcasting Network and Daystar.

These are outlets for selective truth. At times, I’ve turned on their television programs just to see what they’re teaching, and I’ve noted, “Well, that’s true. This guy is reading from the Bible and is actually teaching it accurately. He described that verse in context.” They offer just enough truth to build credibility with listeners. People in the audience are wooed into thinking the teachers are reliable and therefore don’t recognize when they shift into Scripture-twisting mode. Suddenly, an unwitting audience is believing things like “you need to send in your faith seed,” “apply the power of positive thinking,” “name it and claim it,” or “your words have power to create your future.”

Joel Osteen is an especially toxic example of this approach. He promotes what he calls the power of “I am.” “Look in the mirror,” he says, “and say, ‘I am.’ Tell yourself that you’re healthy, strong, and successful.” He also warns against saying bad things of yourself because if you do, those bad things will come looking for you. Yet, this is the occultism known as positive confession or shamanism. To dress it up as Christianity, Osteen uses scripture out of context (of course) and twists it to his own ends.

Christians should not be duped by such things. Scripture warns us against white magic. In 2 Corinthians 11:14-15, Paul says:

Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore, it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.

White magic is Satan transforming himself into an angel of light, and the consequences can be extremely serious. For instance, I suspect that Moroni, the angel who allegedly appeared to Joseph Smith and gave him the tablets which Smith “translated” into the Book of Mormon, was a Satanic angel of light. It started one of the largest modern-day cults, the Church of the Latter Day Saints. I believe the same is true of many cult leaders today. They think they’ve encountered an angel when, in fact, they are involved with a demon.

Unfortunately, this is not just a television phenomenon. Chances are there are one or more “churches” in your community that are packed on Sunday morning. One might even be the biggest church in town. The pastor, though, is not really a minister of God. He’s preaching a false Gospel, and the implications for the church leader and his congregation are bleak. Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me” (Matthew 12:30). People are either believers and in the camp of God, or they are in the camp of Satan. So, many “pastors” are not true pastors; they’re hirelings (John 10:12). And as 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 says, their “end will be according to their works.” Those who masquerade as ministers of righteousness really work for Satan.

Scripture records a revealing story of white magic at work. Look at Acts 16:16-18:

Now it happened, as we went to pray, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And he came out that very hour.

Divination is another word for magic and is also an occult practice. Any time you see the word divination, you’re talking about something that deals with the occult.

The slave girl in this story apparently is able to reveal information, like a fortune teller, that supposedly comes from the spirit world. Her owners sold her divination services and made a lot of money. They certainly didn’t care about her soul. They were interested only in the money. The demon speaking through her did as so many false teachers do today. It laced its comments with just enough truth to be convincing. “These men are the servants of the Most High,” it announced, “who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” That is, after all, exactly what Paul and his companions were doing. Yet the demon had a seriously ulterior motive. It was using the girl to infiltrate the group of believers. And isn’t that what goes on today? Demonically inspired false teachers infiltrate the Church, speaking just enough truth to build credibility and attract an audience.

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This is absolutely Despicable!

from Christian News:

Lou Engle of The Call is again raising concerns after a Roman Catholic leader prostrated at his feet on Saturday in declaring that he wanted to “kiss his feet” in an act of reconciliation between Christians and Catholics, and Engle returned the act by likewise kissing the man’s shoe.

The gesture took place during “Azusa Now,” an event hosted by The Call, which was attended by over 100,000 people at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

“Believing that decades of globe-spanning prayer have saturated the heavens, we will boldly ask God for the rain of revival,” a description of the event states. “We will consecrate an entire day—15 hours—for the purpose of unity, miracles, healing, and the proclamation of the gospel.”

Engle had specifically invited Roman Catholics to attend the event.

“We just want to welcome our Catholic brothers and sisters from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to gather together to pray,” he said in a promotional video. “Come join your brothers and sisters at the Memorial Coliseum believing for a move of unity and an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.”

One segment of the event featured Matteo Calisi, a Roman Catholic leader who had been appointed by “Pope Benedict” to serve on the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and had also served as president of the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships. Calisi founded United in Christ, an organization that strives for ecumenism between Christians and Catholics.

During the segment at Azusa Now, Calisi told the audience that division between Christians and Catholics is a “diabolical sin,” and that Jesus “doesn’t care” that Christians and Catholics disagree on biblical doctrine.

“He doesn’t care about our differences,” he said through a translator. “We’re not going to be known by our differences … but for the love we have for one another.”

“We Catholics … we want to ask you Protestants for your forgiveness for not respecting the love of Jesus,” Calisi said. “Please give us your forgiveness and your mercy.”

He stated that he wanted to wash Engle’s feet on stage as a gesture of reconciliation, but since it was not possible, he desired to instead kiss his feet.

“We wanted to, Lou, kiss your feet as Catholics,” Calisi said, to which Engle nodded. “And just honor you with this gesture right now.”

Calisi then laid prostrate Engle’s feet, clutching one foot with his hands. Engle placed both hands upon Calisi’s back as he did so.

When Calisi stood, Engle moments later fell to the ground prostrate at Calisi’s feet and kissed one shoe, as others gathered around to lay hands on them. Calisi then spoke against what he called a “spirit of division” between Christians and Catholics.

While some characterized the gesture as a “tender moment,” others expressed deep concern.

“What’s up with Lou Engle letting the representative of the Catholic Church kiss his feet because it would logistically be impossible to wash his feet?” wrote one man from Brazil. “I seem to remember John falling at the feet of an angel … and the angel freaked out! He yanked John up onto his feet and admonished him for doing so. Worship God!!! was the charge set forth by this angelic being who understands the Kingdom of Heaven!”

“This kind of stuff must stop!!! I don’t care where it happens, the ‘holy environment’ it happens in, to whom the ‘honor’ is bestowed or the intentions behind it I call malarky!” he said.

“Besides all of the bad teaching etc., shame on Lou for letting anyone bow prostrate to him and kiss his feet,” another said. “What a big difference from true, biblical apostles like Paul who tore his garments and corrected such an error. The rampant, false teachings and practices in pockets of the American ‘church,’ makes me feel literally sick to my gut.”

The incident begins at approximately 6 hours 55 minutes into the video

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From The Daily Mail:

Around the world, people are beginning to turn their backs on religion.

For some time, researchers have observed this trend as it ripples through developed countries, with the United States standing out as the exception.

Now, a new study reveals this is no longer the case; with each passing generation, Americans too are steadily becoming less religious.

As religious belief declines in much of the Western world, it’s largely been thought that the United States had resisted the trend.

Research from Duke University and University College London (UCL) challenges this idea, revealing that the number of people in the US who claim religious affiliations or attend Church has dropped.

And, the belief in God is dropping as well.

The study published in the American Journal of Sociology examined US data from the General Social Survey, which is conducted every two years.

Comparisons with data from Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand revealed an overall drop in religious belief over time.

In the United States, this drop has been very gradual, making it difficult for scientists to detect due to lack of data.

The decline, they found, has occurred generationally.

‘None of these declines is happening fast, but the signs are now unmistakable,’ said David Voas, a social scientist with UCL and co-author of the study.

‘It has become clear that American religiosity has been declining for decades, and the decline is driven by the same dynamic – generational differences – that has driven religious decline across the developed world.’

Researchers found each generation is subsequently less religious than the one before.

In one example, the team found that 41 percent of people aged 70 and older reported they attend church services at least once a month.

For people just under that age bracket, 60 and younger, only 18 percent attend church at this frequency.

And, just 45 percent of people ages 18-30 reported they have ‘no doubt God exists,’ compared with 68 percent of those 65 and older who said the same.

‘The US has long been considered an exception to the modern claim that religion is declining,’ said Mark Chaves, the study’s other co-author, and a professor of sociology, divinity, and religion at Duke.

‘But if you look at the trajectory, and the generational dynamic that is producing the trajectory, we may not be an exception after all.’

The researchers say the data remains consistent over time, reflecting the trend seen elsewhere in the world.

‘If you break it down over five-year chunks,’ Chaves said, ‘each age group is a little less religious than the one before it.’

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from Berean Path Ministries

wolf

Never in its history has the evangelical church been more intentional and more systematic in its efforts to imitate the world than in our day. In fact, worldliness, which used to be a sin to be avoided, has not only become an obsession for the church, today it has become the evangelistic technique of choice.

In the Old Testament, God told Israel, “You shall not do what is done in the land of Egypt where you lived, nor are you to do what is done in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you” (Lev. 18:3). In the New Testament, the apostle Paul told the church, “Do not be conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:2). Nonetheless, today’s self-appointed evangelical relevance experts tell us that the only way to reach the world is to be like the world. We must talk like them, dress like them, be entertained like them, sport tattoos like them, address human sexuality like them, and so on.

Jesus said, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own” (John 15:18). Clearly Jesus expected His followers not to be mirrors of the world. However, today in a bizarre inversion of Jesus’ intention, the goal of many evangelicals is to be as much like the world as possible in order to be loved by the world. This upside-down thinking is purportedly used as a precursor to evangelism.

Where did this notion come from? In our era, identifying with the world as a sure-fire evangelistic technique first flourished in youth groups in the 1970’s. Eventually, youth pastors like Bill Hybels spawned the church growth movement by packaging an adult version of that strategy. As a result, imitation of the world touched every facet of church life. The church buildings of the church growth movement were intentionally designed to look like shopping malls and corporate headquarters. On the inside they were laid out to remind seekers of rock concerts and coffeehouses. The messages were crafted with worldly desires in mind: light humor, self-help, plenty of sports references, and Hollywood movie clips employed as sermon illustrations.

The next generation has gone a step further. Today we do not design the church to look like a coffee house. Cool churches meet in coffeehouses and bars (Grab a brew and share your view is one church’s catchy slogan), and, to pull off this new, “We’re just like you,” evangelistic technique, Christians have to sport tattoos, various body studs, and drink their share of suds.

Unfortunately, there have been two unintended consequences of adopting worldliness as an evangelistic technique. The first is worldly pastors, or “cool pastors.” The charge toward cool has been led by a young generation of “bad-boy” preachers, always eager to test the fences with their language, risqué comments, and leisurely behaviour.

However, it’s becoming clear that preachers who push the boundaries in their sermons do so because they are living beyond those boundaries in their lives. When a preacher spends so much time admiring and courting the world, it has a way of evangelizing him more effectively than he evangelizes it. Ultimately, such preachers do not edify or disciple the flock. They become immersed in an unholy culture, and they have no ability to help others escape its clutches.

After worldly preachers, a second unintended consequence of making worldliness an evangelistic technique is worldly parishioners. What’s bad for the pulpit is bad for the pew. If the church’s meeting place, music, message, and evangelism are all crafted to shelter or promote worldliness, it’s not rocket science to figure out that eventually the congregation is going to be worldly. What you work for is what you get, and when you turn worldliness into an evangelistic strategy, what you get are Christians virtually indistinguishable from the unbelievers around them. In fact, at times one wonders if they are even Christians at all.

Where does it all lead? Well, one only has to go to the Bible and consider the Corinthian church, the New Testament’s most worldly congregation. The problem was not that the church was in Corinth, but that too much of Corinth was in the church (1 Cor. 8). If you want to know where worldliness exalted as an evangelistic technique leads, just consider what happened to the church of Corinth when they failed to unhitch themselves from the culture following their conversion.

Among other things, they esteemed worldly philosophies over divine revelation (1 Cor 1:18-21; 2:1-2, 6). Evolution and postmodernism anyone? They adopted the rampant selfism of the culture (4:6-7), and embraced, even exceeded, the culture’s tolerance of gross sexual sin (5:1-2, 6). In light of that, is it any surprise that today’s cool churches consistently capitulate on the issue of homosexuality?

The Corinthian church also mirrored the culture’s sex-on-demand attitude (6:12-20), and was promoting worldly ideas about marriage and divorce (chp. 7). Furthermore, the Corinthians’ entertainment habits were a virtual duplicate of the world’s, as they continued to enjoy the drunken and immoral revelry of the feasts at the pagan temples (10:7ff.). Also, following the lead of the Greek mystery cults, the Corinthian believers mistakenly continued to define spirituality as a state of ecstasy in which one forfeits mental and physical control, slips into trances, and speaks inaccurate and uncontrollable prophecies in the name of God (12:3; 14:26-33). That’s where worldliness led the church of Corinth, and it is not difficult to see the same things happening in churches today.

Evangelism is at the heart of the church’s mission, but how we do it is critical. Simply stated, worldliness produces worldliness, not conversions. It corinthianises the church. To evangelize the world, we must embrace a different tactic, expressed so powerfully by the apostle Paul: “Prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world…” (Phil 2:15).

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