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from 828 Ministries:

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. — Romans 16:17-18 (ESV)

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel– not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. — Galatians 1:6-10 (ESV)

Only let your manner of life be worthyof the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, – Philippians 1:27 (ESV)

https://www.charismanews.com/opinion/77917-join-kenneth-copeland-and-lou-engle-in-these-healing-prayers-for-the-body

The bible prophesies in Revelation the state of the world leading up to the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. While the date cannot be known, the birth pains can be felt, and one area of Eschatology experts agree on is the establishment of a one world religion. We need to be ever vigilant against the calls for false unity, which are heard nearly every day from the purpose driven industrial complex. To them, a unified church means more suckers to sell their wares to. To Satan however, it means unifying the people of God in something other than His Gospel and we need to make sure that the true remnant stays unified in Christ. The above link is to the most recent call for false unity. So, let us reason together once more and be reminded what we need to be watchful for.

This week, we are in the midst of praying through the 40-day Jewish season of repentance, Teshuvah. The word “Teshuvah” literally means to return to the presence of God. It is a season of introspection and repentance for Christians to come into unity with God, as Jesus prayed in John 17:21. However, as Jesus prayed, unity with God also requires unity with each other in Christ (John 17:20-23). Yet, almost since the beginning of Christianity, believers have quarreled about Christian doctrine and church government. The first Jerusalem Council served as an example of a favorably resolved dispute (Acts 15). However, other disputes resulted in division and treatment of opponents as non-Christians. As Ralph Martin famously said, “The body of Christ is broken.” Today there are many denominations and doctrines which create a great diversity within the body of Christ. Yet, we can still be united in Christ. Lutheran theologian Oscar Cullmann said, “Unity in the church … is unity in diversity … recognizing others in all their variety as true Christians.” — Ron Allen

Would it surprise you to learn that there is no Christian season called Teshuva? Or that the word actually means to simply repent? When scouring the Jewish calendar, we see no such record of the season of Teshuva. The only Christian referent we could find was to the wildly heretical ministry of Perry Stone. So, the notion that this Jewish word for repentance is secretly a season for Christians to return to the presence of God, be introspective, and come into unity is absolutely made up. The entire thing is a work of fiction. Christians have quarreled since the beginning because God is so clear about being careful to avoid false doctrine. Paul only tells Timothy to guard two things. His life and his doctrine. His doctrine because the eternal lives of his listeners is at stake. Our first key verse is crucial to understanding unity because disunity is sown in the body through the admission of false teaching. Most charlatans point to discernment ministries or people criticizing what is false as the source of disunity but it is their false teaching that divided the body to begin with. The second key verse is crucial to remember that only the Gospel, the true Gospel, has the power of God to save someone. What does that mean preacher? That means without the preaching of the uncompromised Gospel of Jesus Christ, no one gets saved — period, full stop. I have had well intended people ask me if people can get saved through a heretical ministry such as Joel Osteen’s and the answer is no. Not according to the bible anyway. Now, can Osteen force someone to seek the truth and thus get saved by someone else presenting the Gospel? Of course, but that person is saved in spite of Osteen, not because of him.

read the full article here.

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from Vox:

A new priest named Mindar is holding forth at Kodaiji, a 400-year-old Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan. Like other clergy members, this priest can deliver sermons and move around to interface with worshippers. But Mindar comes with some … unusual traits. A body made of aluminum and silicone, for starters.

Mindar is a robot.

Designed to look like Kannon, the Buddhist deity of mercy, the $1 million machine is an attempt to reignite people’s passion for their faith in a country where religious affiliation is on the decline.

For now, Mindar is not AI-powered. It just recites the same preprogrammed sermon about the Heart Sutra over and over. But the robot’s creators say they plan to give it machine-learning capabilities that’ll enable it to tailor feedback to worshippers’ specific spiritual and ethical problems.

“This robot will never die; it will just keep updating itself and evolving,” said Tensho Goto, the temple’s chief steward. “With AI, we hope it will grow in wisdom to help people overcome even the most difficult troubles. It’s changing Buddhism.”

Robots are changing other religions, too. In 2017, Indians rolled out a robot that performs the Hindu aarti ritual, which involves moving a light round and round in front of a deity. That same year, in honor of the Protestant Reformation’s 500th anniversary, Germany’s Protestant Church created a robot called BlessU-2. It gave preprogrammed blessings to over 10,000 people.

Then there’s SanTO — short for Sanctified Theomorphic Operator — a 17-inch-tall robot reminiscent of figurines of Catholic saints. If you tell it you’re worried, it’ll respond by saying something like, “From the Gospel according to Matthew, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Roboticist Gabriele Trovato designed SanTO to offer spiritual succor to elderly people whose mobility and social contact may be limited. Next, he wants to develop devices for Muslims, though it remains to be seen what form those might take.

As more religious communities begin to incorporate robotics — in some cases, AI-powered and in others, not — it stands to change how people experience faith. It may also alter how we engage in ethical reasoning and decision-making, which is a big part of religion.

For the devout, there’s plenty of positive potential here: Robots can get disinterested people curious about religion or allow for a ritual to be performed when a human priest is inaccessible. But robots also pose risks for religion — for example, by making it feel too mechanized or homogenized or by challenging core tenets of theology. On the whole, will the emergence of AI religion make us better or worse off? The answer depends on how we design and deploy it — and on whom you ask.

Some cultures are more open to religious robots than others

New technologies often make us uncomfortable. Which ones we ultimately accept — and which ones we reject — is determined by an array of factors, ranging from our degree of exposure to the emerging technology to our moral presuppositions.

Japanese worshippers who visit Mindar are reportedly not too bothered by questions about the risks of siliconizing spirituality. That makes sense given that robots are already so commonplace in the country, including in the religious domain.

For years now, people who can’t afford to pay a human priest to perform a funeral have had the option to pay a robot named Pepper to do it at a much cheaper rate. And in China, at Beijing’s Longquan Monastery, an android monk named Xian’er recites Buddhist mantras and offers guidance on matters of faith.

What’s more, Buddhism’s non-dualistic metaphysical notion that everything has inherent “Buddha nature” — that all beings have the potential to become enlightened — may predispose its adherents to be receptive to spiritual guidance that comes from technology.

At the temple in Kyoto, Goto put it like this: “Buddhism isn’t a belief in a God; it’s pursuing Buddha’s path. It doesn’t matter whether it’s represented by a machine, a piece of scrap metal, or a tree.”

“Mindar’s metal skeleton is exposed, and I think that’s an interesting choice — its creator, Hiroshi Ishiguro, is not trying to make something that looks totally human,” said Natasha Heller, an associate professor of Chinese religions at the University of Virginia. She told me the deity Kannon, upon whom Mindar is based, is an ideal candidate for cyborgization because the Lotus Sutra explicitly says Kannon can manifest in different forms — whatever forms will best resonate with the humans of a given time and place.

Westerners seem more disturbed by Mindar, likening it to Frankenstein’s monster. In Western economies, we don’t yet have robots enmeshed in many aspects of our lives. What we do have is a pervasive cultural narrative, reinforced by Hollywood blockbusters, about our impending enslavement at the hands of “robot overlords.”

Plus, Abrahamic religions like Islam or Judaism tend to be more metaphysically dualistic — there’s the sacred and then there’s the profane. And they have more misgivings than Buddhism about visually depicting divinity, so they may take issue with Mindar-style iconography.

They also have different ideas about what makes a religious practice effective. For example, Judaism places a strong emphasis on intentionality, something machines don’t possess. When a worshipper prays, what matters is not just that their mouth forms the right words — it’s also very important that they have the right intention.

Meanwhile, some Buddhists use prayer wheels containing scrolls printed with sacred words and believe that spinning the wheel has its own spiritual efficacy, even if nobody recites the words aloud. In hospice settings, elderly Buddhists who don’t have people on hand to recite prayers on their behalf will use devices known as nianfo ji — small machines about the size of an iPhone, which recite the name of the Buddha endlessly.

Despite such theological differences, it’s ironic that many Westerners have a knee-jerk negative reaction to a robot like Mindar. The dream of creating artificial life goes all the way back to ancient Greece, where the ancients actually invented real animated machines as the Stanford classicist Adrienne Mayor has documented in her book Gods and Robots. And there is a long tradition of religious robots in the West.

In the Middle Ages, Christians designed automata to perform the mysteries of Easter and Christmas. One proto-roboticist in the 16th century designed a mechanical monk that is, amazingly, performing ritual gestures to this day. With his right arm, he strikes his chest in a mea culpa; with his left, he raises a rosary to his lips.

In other words, the real novelty is not the use of robots in the religious domain but the use of AI……..

Read the full article here.

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from Yahoo:

Witchcraft is thriving in the US, with an estimated 1.5 million Americans now identifying as witches – more than the total number of Presbyterians. As Christianity declines across the country, paganism has swung to the mainstream, with witchcraft paraphernalia for sale on every high street and practices normalized across popular culture. In the past two years, it has also become darkly politicized.

Dakota Bracciale, a 29-year-old transgender/queer witch and co-owner of Catland Books and witch shop in Brooklyn, is pleased with the outcome of the ritual hex placed on US Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in October. The curse, carried out from Catland Books, was well attended by witches, atheists ad humanists – and was followed around the country on social media.

Millennials, says Bracciale, are looking for spiritualism outside traditional religion. “The hex centres on the notion that we live in a universe of chaos, entropy, destruction, death, decay with a final ending of oblivion – scientists are telling us. So the witch does everything for themselves – there is no other help in this universe of decay and chaos. If you don’t get in the driver’s seat things will just get worse,” the witch said.

In a wide-ranging discussion with the Telegraph, Bracciale, who described the interview questions as “sensationalist”, talked about political hexes and witchcraft in general.

Bracciale is “absolutely” willing to cause physical harm through a hex – “no issue with that”. And while Bracciale would have been just as pleased with the new Supreme Court Justice’s death, resignation or physical disfigurement, the main goal of the Kavanaugh hex, and the three hexes on President Donald Trump from Catland Books this summer, was to “let them be exposed for who they are – especially as impotent men”. The curse began with a recitation of the Biblical scripture Psalm 109: 8: “let his days be few, let another take his office.”

Catland Books is replete with Christian images including the Archangel Michael, Christian defender against the demonic, and the Virgin Mary. Bracciale, a self-described sexual abuse survivor, who grew up in a born-again-Christian evangelical cult in Arizona, takes umbrage at the notion that witchcraft and Christianity are mutually exclusive. Witchcraft “has a ton of roots in Christianity”, the Brooklyn witch says. Indeed, in Bracciale’s view, the Bible is a spell book, particularly the Book of Psalms.

Witchcraft is powerful, according to Bracciale, because of the “intersectionality of feminism, sexuality, gender, the fight for freedom, eschewing the patriarchy and having sort of a vitriolic response towards it”.

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You are seeing an ever increasing number of humanistic thought and ideologies overwhelm virtually all of Christianity today. It is at the point where a majority of pastors and leaders have basically given up believing what the Bible says verbatim! This includes other topics such as suicide, an increasing number of confessing Christians have no problem with believing that a Christian who commits suicide goes straight to Heaven!!

from Pulpit and Pen:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

John Piper, a longtime figure in the New Calvinism movement, has proven himself in recent years to handle even the most basic doctrinal aspects of the Ordo Salutis clumsily. After butchering the doctrine of Justification almost beyond the point of recognition, being accused of holding to a modified form of Federal Vision or denying Sola Fide altogether (the accusations are not without merit), Piper’s Desiring God has now denied the heart and substance of the doctrine of Sanctification. While claiming that there is a “final justification” that is based on increased holiness, Piper’s website now argues that homosexuals cannot expect to be made holy, leaving them damned in their sins as a tragic and ironic result. Written by guest contributor, Jackie Hill Perry, and posted by Desiring God, an article on September 4 argues that we should stop telling gay people that God can make them straight.

To make the point of the insane levels of Downgrade in this argument, let me illustrate it in the following ways:

“Stop telling murderers that if they come to Jesus, he will keep them from killing people.”

“Stop telling thieves that if they come to Jesus, he will keep them from thieving.”

“Stop telling blasphemers that if they come to Jesus, he will keep them from profaning his name.”

“Stop telling idolaters that if they come to Jesus, he will keep them from idolatry.”

The argument from Perry is sinister, sick, and perverse. That Desiring God would post the refuse is beyond incomprehensible. It is irresponsible, detestable, and destructive. In order to craft her narrative, Perry operates under the presumption that so-called  “Same-Sex Attraction (SSA)” – the Bible would call this the desire for sodomy from a depraved and fallen heart – is not a sin. Although a shocking proposition to many evangelicals who haven’t been paying attention, the line of thought that SSA is not a sin has become a common one, advocated for mostly by the same New Calvinists who are a part of the new “woke” Social Justice movement and they speak in terms of “gay Christians” and “sexual minorities.” Even more shockingly, Perry says that telling gay people that God can reorient their sinful hearts is a “different Gospel.”

She writes:

I know, I know, some of us Christians believe that we are only pointing our gay and lesbian friends to the miraculous. To the power of God to make all things and them new. Well-meaning believers, in an effort to encourage or cast vision to their same-sex attracted (SSA) friends or family, preach this gospel often. This gospel is not the good news of Jesus however, but another gospel. A gospel that I call “the heterosexual gospel.”

Calling something “another Gospel” is a damning accusation from Perry toward anyone who believes in the doctrine of Sanctification, the belief that the Holy Spirit will continue a work in us after salvation, giving us a new heart with new desires. Paul says that anyone who is preaching another Gospel is “accursed” (Galatians 1:8). Essentially, Perry places all right-thinking and orthodox Christian believers (who have always identified homosexual desire as a sin) under the Galatian curse.

The woman continues:

The heterosexual gospel is one that encourages SSA men and women to come to Jesus so that they can be straight, or it says that coming to Jesus ensures that they will be sexually attracted to the opposite sex.

Clearly, mortifying sin and becoming like Jesus is one of the reasons one should want to come to Christ. New Calvinists should have no problem looking to Owen’s Mortification of Sinto examine this point further.  In fact, a hatred of sin is a sign of the Holy Spirit’s work in conversion. Anyone with homosexual desires who God wants to save will want to come to Jesus to be straight (and to put to death the rest of their sin as well). Furthermore, we should rightly reject Perry’s claim that coming to Jesus won’t ensure they’ll be sexually attracted to those of the opposite sex, and we should clarify in the strongest terms that what the Scripture teaches (from the verse at the top of this article) is that if they don’t stop lusting after those of the same sex, they will have no part of Heaven.

Perry goes on to call heterosexuality “idolatry” and creates a false dilemma between “being straight” and “being made right with God.”

When the gospel is presented as “Come to Jesus to be straight,” instead of “Come to Jesus to be made right with God,” we shouldn’t be surprised when people won’t come to Jesus at all. If he is not the aim of their repentance, then he will not be believed as the ultimate aim of their faith. They will only exchange one idol for another and believe themselves to be Christian because of it.

While there are plenty of heterosexuals who are right with God, we can say with all the authority of Holy Scripture that there is no homosexual on Earth – anywhere – who is right with God. Romans 1 presents that sin in particular as a demonstration of lostness. Paul says that homosexuals will not inherit the Kingdom of God. In other words, while heterosexuality doesn’t make us right with God in and of itself, everyone right with God will be a heterosexual and their sexual desires will be properly oriented toward that which is natural and not grossly deviant.

Again, Perry’s argument doesn’t make any sense when applied to any other list of sins not championed by the religious left. At no point would you (or should you) hear Christians claim that the Holy Spirit’s work in our heart should not be expected in the life of a believer. Only in the most recent of days has homosexuality received a privileged, special status among evangelicals and the deviant desire seen as an exception to the power of the Spirit’s transforming work.

What the gay community needs to hear is not that God will make them straight, but that Christ can make them his.

First, there is no such thing as a “gay community.” Communities are built around shared values, not shared deviancies. We would not classify pedophiles, necrophiles, or murderers as a “community.” The nomenclature itself is compromised. Secondly, when Christ “makes them his,” he makes them straight. God has no homosexual children. That is the Scripture; deal with it.

God has not come mainly to make same-sex attracted men and women completely straight, or to get them hitched. Christ has come to make us right with God. And in making us right with God, he is satisfying us in God. That news is good for a reason. For it proclaims to the world that Jesus has come so that all sinners, gay and straight, can be forgiven of their sins to love God and enjoy him forever.

If the Spirit’s transformative work can’t make the sinner whole in Christ, then the news is not that good. What is missing from Perry’s article and John Piper’s Desiring God is any indication whatsoever that the doctrine of Sanctification even exists. It appears not even to be an afterthought or speedbump on her way to apostasy.

Perry claims that God has saved her out of the gay lifestyle, but uses her unique position as one of evangelicalism’s growing chorus of “gay Christian” voices to minimize the abomination of Same-Sex Attraction and preach against the work of the Holy Spirit to fully redeem sinners.

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No this is not a satirical article. It is actually true! This is what happens when you cast yourself adrift from eternal truth, and into subjective truth along with a society that is concentrated on self! The unending selfishness of “me” constantly grinds against others subjective truth and everyone winds up destroying the ability to have a civil and stable society. Then an evil power that is united in hatred and a lust for power comes in and destroys what is left of the society and imposes an iron totalitarianism!  Do not believe me read human history and read God’s word!

from Metro:

Rejoice, Halloween lovers, the much-awaited day is almost within sight. And of course, that means lots of ‘spooky’ merchandise and retailers peddling anything related to pumpkins, ghosts, and witches. Beauty Brand Sephora is kicking off the season with its ‘witches starter kit’ which includes perfume, tarot cards, sage, and a rose quartz crystal. But witches, who identify with the pagan religion of Wicca (or simply practice witchcraft), are not happy with the French company making a quick buck out of their beliefs.

‘Sephora is definitely guilty of culture appropriation,’ Indigo, who practices witchcraft, told Metro.co.uk.

‘I don’t think they’re doing it to spread awareness about the craft, they’re doing it just for profit in my opinion.

‘Although most witches do use what’s in the Sephora box, most of us feel that it’s wrong for just anyone to grab those things and be like “oh hey I’m a witch now” because it’s sacred to us.’

Other followers of the faith had similar views on Twitter.  ‘My religion is not a trendy overpriced aesthetic’, said one. This sentiment was shared by Siera who identifies with Pagan Witchcraft. She said: ‘Sephora selling “witch kits” actually makes me really upset. ‘Witchcraft isn’t something you just throw around, people put their entire being into this way of life and work so hard at it.

I’ve been made fun of way too much for being a witch for it to just become another trend.’ Another user, Katie, felt the same: ‘Witchcraft is a sacred and personal religion, not something to turn pastel and profit off of (sic),’ she said. ‘If you want to exploit my religion like this, you better make Tumblr aesthetic “entry-level kits” for all of the major world religions.’

Another Witchcraft follower. who was ‘appalled’. urged people to support local spiritual shops rather than a large chain retailer like Sephora.

But the backlash opened up other important discussions. Many online said Sephora was benefiting off parts of Wicca is akin to brands culturally appropriating other existing religions and cultures. Witches were criticised for not speaking up for other instances of appropriation whereby individuals or companies benefit from a minority group, usually without consent. Some also mentioned the use of white sage which is significant to Native Americans who use it for medicinal purposes and cleansing ceremonies. They were concerned that Sephora’s use of the sacred herb could make it difficult for indigenous Americans’ to perform their rituals (as a result of fewer sources).

 

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from Herescope:

Creating A “Low-Intensity Faith”

The Wall Street Journal wrote last week that “Italian journalist Eugenio Scalfari, a friend and frequent interviewer of the pope, reported that the pontiff had denied the existence of hell.”

Sinners who die without achieving eternal salvation “are not punished,” the pope said, according to an article by Mr. Scalfari in the Itlaian newspaper La Repubblica. “There is no hell; there is the disappearance of sinful souls.”[1]

Predictably the Vatican would later release a statement that partially denied the report, but also “stopped short of a specific denial.”[2] This clever dialectic maneuver is a perfect example of two steps forward, one step back. Now the issue of hell is on the table and up for debate, once again illustrating how the Pope Francis has “shaken up perceptions of Catholic doctrine.”[3]

The Pope is merely following in the steps of other theologians and leaders who have professed orthodoxy out of one side of their mouth while teaching new doctrine.[4] Their strategies appear to be the same. The Wall Street Journal’s Vatican correspondent, Francis X. Rocca, describes it:

For more conservative critics, the pope’s approach amounts to promotion of a “low-intensity Catholicism that can be easily welcomed by those far from the faith and even hostile to it,” said Sandro Magister, a Vatican expert who writes for Italy’s L’Espresso magazine.

The nun turned her back on the class. (We were still not safe from scrutiny… we all knew she also had eyes in the back of her head.) Jimmy Cummings could make these strange voices and sounds and get us giggling… and then when the good sister turned around to find the culprit, Jimmy could instantly take on the countenance of a cherub and someone else would be blamed. His unique ability served him well. He is now Voice Actor Jim Cummings… the voice of Winnie the Pooh!

I digress… Back to what the nun had written on the green blackboard. She took the pointer, a weapons grade staff with a rubber tip that looked like a ballistic missile, and pronounced the phrase she had written:

Ex Cathedra 

She then went on to explain that whenever the Pope was seated in the chair (also called the throne of St. Peter) whatever he said was infallible. He was not to be questioned for he was speaking in the place of God. The Latin phrase ex cathedra means “from or out of the chair”

There was another Latin term we would learn:

Imprimatur 

Imprimatur was the term used to describe the authority of the Church when it came to anyone publishing anything that had to do with the teachings of the Church. It was an official endorsement or sanction… a seal of approval. Yet another Latin phrase would be the official Imprimatur:

Nihil Obstat

It means “Nothing is in the way or is unacceptable or offensive.”

Two days ago, I was listening to a national talk show. I actually got on the air and was able to engage the host on a topic that is important to me… how the media is intentionally trying to undermine our values and beliefs. After the conversation and just before the commercial break, the host teased the topic for the next segment:

“Stick around folks, did you hear the Pope said there is no Hell?”

The current Pope has made numerous remarks that seem to confute not only Catholic Dogma, but the Bible itself. He took a lot of heat when he opined about the whole issue of homosexuality. “Who am I to judge?” I mean no disrespect, but I said out loud when I heard it, “I know who you are… You are Vicar of Christ on earth, the unquestionable representative of God to over a billion people. You sit on a throne, and utter remarks that are deemed to be infallible. You and those who rule with you can excommunicate people, hence cut them off from the means of grace… ergo consigning them to the Hell you said is not what the Bible describes, and Jesus believed to be real. In the New Testament, Jesus mentioned the word Hell more than He did Heaven.”

The implications of all this are far reaching. What else in the Bible will be deemed to be inaccurate or false? Does the word infallible mean… sometimes or ‘sort of’? And what of all the tormented souls who died believing that they were damned to Hell? The Pope is reported to have said that the unrepentant ones don’t go to Hell. They just disappear. The Bible describes torment that never ends… a Dante’s inferno.

There is an angst that is palpable in our world… Constitutions mean nothing. Vows mean even less than nothing and we, lemming-like, rush to fall into the abyss as the institutions of power in our country disassemble all that was based on God’s word.

Listen to this noble school mission statement:  

“Christo et Ecclesia”

For Christ and the Church! This is the founding mission statement of Harvard! Princeton had this lofty goal for its students, To know God in Jesus Christ… to live a godly sober life.”[6]

God said, “For I am the Lord. I change not, therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:6) The writer to the Hebrews said under the unction of The Holy Spirit, “It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the Living God!” (Hewbrews 10:31) We have for a long time meekly submitted to the abandonment of the very notion there is such a thing as Truth. One writer quipped “God created man in his own image and likeness… and now man has returned the favor.”

I remember preaching a message years ago in which I talked about the Bible’s use of the word authority. Now for Catholics, authority rests in a man who speaksex cathedra… from the chair. For those who rule us politically their authority can be described as ex officio… out of the office they hold. But for the believer in Jesus, the authority that He grants us is based on our relationship with Him. The word translated authority in the Greek is exousia. It is a derivative of the verb “to be” It can be rendered ‘Out of who I AM’.

Is there a Hell? Is it how the Bible describes it? I read in the Bible that there is a hell and that Jesus affirmed it and warned that some will go there. I have staked my life on its veracity.

I hold that the answer does not rest with a man, or an organization, or a tradition. The Bible says, “All Scripture is God breathed.” (1 Timothy 3:16) “Heaven and earth shall pass away,” said Jesus, “but My Words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:35, Mark 13:31, Luke 21:33) That is proof enough for me.

The Truth:

For the truth about hell, see Pastor Larry DeBruyn’s excellent article, “An Imaginary Cosmic Reality,”[7] where he refutes the denial of hell. Here is a brief excerpt:

Many, even Christians, reject the teaching of the Lord Jesus and His Apostles regarding the eternal punishment of the wicked. They point out that no biblical word expresses the concept of “eternity,” but only “a long period”or “remotest time” (Hebrew ‘olam) or “age” (Greek aion). They argue that because of these words’ multifaceted meanings there is no word in Scripture expressing a forever category of time. Therefore it is presumptuous for anyone to think hell will never end. But the Apostle John describes the state of being consigned to the Lake of Fire as one of being “tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10). The time frame expressed is in multiples of forever-s, one of ages of ages. These multiples of ages is the longest concept of time the Greek language, or perhaps any language, can express (Greek plurals, eis tous aionas ton aionon, Revelation 20:10). Combined with “day and night” (Greek, hemeras kai nyktos), “for ever and ever” nuances a timeless existence in which 24/7, for ages of ages, the unholy trinity—the beast, the false prophet, the devil—and others will be confined. Together, the clauses express the “the unbroken continuity of their torment” in perpetuity.

“And I say unto you my friends,
Be not afraid of them that kill the body,
and after that have no more that they can do.
But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear:
Fear Him, which after He hath killed
hath power to cast into hell;
yea,
 I say unto you, Fear Him.” 
(Jesus, Luke 12:4-5)
“Jesus saith unto him,
I am the way, the truth, and the life:
no man cometh unto
 the Father, but by Me.”
(John 14:6)

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We have seen this in the past and there are two major errors that lead to this kind of conduct: 1. Raising a pastor up to be a CEO Superstar type of figure who becomes immune to oversight. 2. Errant non-Biblical teaching. If a church is following Biblical teaching and guided by the Holy Spirit in all that it does this would not happen!

from The New York Times:

SOUTH BARRINGTON, Ill. — After the pain of watching her marriage fall apart, Pat Baranowski felt that God was suddenly showering her with blessings.

She had a new job at her Chicago-area megachurch, led by a dynamic young pastor named the Rev. Bill Hybels, who in the 1980s was becoming one of the most influential evangelical leaders in the country.

The pay at Willow Creek Community Church was much lower than at her old job, but Ms. Baranowski, then 32, admired Mr. Hybels and the church’s mission so much that it seemed worth it. She felt even more blessed when in 1985 Mr. Hybels and his wife invited her to move into their home, where she shared family dinners and vacations.

Once, while Mr. Hybels’s wife, Lynne, and their children were away, the pastor took Ms. Baranowski out for dinner. When they got home, Mr. Hybels offered her a back rub in front of the fireplace and told her to lie face down.

Stunned, she remembered feeling unable to say no to her boss and pastor as he straddled her, unhooked her bra and touched her near her breasts. She remembered feeling his hands shake.

That first back rub in 1986 led to multiple occasions over nearly two years in which he fondled her breasts and rubbed against her. The incidents later escalated to one occasion of oral sex. Ms. Baranowski said she was mortified and determined to stay silent.

“I really did not want to hurt the church,” said Ms. Baranowski, who is now 65, speaking publicly for the first time. “I felt like if this was exposed, this fantastic place would blow up, and I loved the church. I loved the people there. I loved the family. I didn’t want to hurt anybody. And I was ashamed.”

Mr. Hybels denied her allegations about her time working and living with him. “I never had an inappropriate physical or emotional relationship with her before that time, during that time or after that time,” he said in an email.

Since the #MeToo movement emerged last year, evangelical churches have been grappling with allegations of sexual abuse by their pastors. A wave of accusations has begun to hit evangelical institutions, bringing down figures like the Rev. Andy Savage, at Highpoint Church in Memphis, and the Rev. Harry L. Thomas, the founder of the Creation Festival, a Christian music event.

Ms. Baranowski is not the first to accuse Mr. Hybels of wrongdoing, though her charges are more serious than what has been reported before.

In March, The Chicago Tribune and Christianity Today reported that Mr. Hybels had been accused by several other women, including co-workers and a congregant, of inappropriate behavior that dated back decades. The allegations included lingering hugs, invitations to hotel rooms, comments about looks and an unwanted kiss.

The accusations did not immediately result in consequences for Mr. Hybels. At a churchwide meeting where Mr. Hybels denied the allegations, he received a standing ovation from the congregation.

The church’s elders conducted their own investigation of the allegations when they first surfaced four years ago and commissioned a second inquiry by an outside lawyer, completed in 2017. Both investigations cleared Mr. Hybels, though the church’s two lead pastors have since issued public apologies, saying that they believe the women.

In April, Mr. Hybels announced to the congregation he would accelerate his planned retirement by six months and step aside immediately for the good of the church. He continued to deny the allegations, but acknowledged, “I too often placed myself in situations that would have been far wiser to avoid.” The congregation let out a disappointed groan. Some shouted “No!”

On Sunday, one of the church’s two top pastors severed his ties with Willow Creek. After services, the Rev. Steve Carterannounced that he was resigning immediately in response to Ms. Baranowski’s “horrifying” allegations about Mr. Hybels.

Mr. Carter said he had a “fundamental difference” with the church’s elders over how they had handled the allegations against Mr. Hybels, and had been planning to resign for some time.

Mr. Carter did not appear as scheduled at Sunday services at the church’s main campus, and the congregation at the second service was told that he was so sick that he was vomiting backstage.

No mention was made of Mr. Hybels or the allegations against him at either service at the main campus.

In many evangelical churches, a magnetic pastor like Mr. Hybels is the superstar on whom everything else rests, making accusations of harassment particularly difficult to confront. Such a pastor is seen as a conduit to Christ, giving sermons so mesmerizing that congregants rush to buy tapes of them after services.

In the evangelical world, Mr. Hybels is considered a giant, revered as a leadership guru who discovered the formula for bringing to church people who were skeptical of Christianity. His books and speeches have crossed over into the business world.

Mr. Hybels built a church independent of any denomination. In such churches, there is no larger hierarchy to set policies and keep the pastor accountable. Boards of elders are usually volunteers recommended, and often approved, by the pastor.

But the most significant reason sexual harassment can go unchecked is that victims do not want to hurt the mission of their churches.

“So many victims within the evangelical world stay silent because they feel, if they step forward, they’ll damage this man’s ministry, and God won’t be able to accomplish the things he’s doing through this man,” said Boz Tchividjian, a former sex crimes prosecutor who leads GRACE, an organization that works with victims of abuse in Christian institutions.

“Those leaders feel almost invincible,” said Mr. Tchividjian, a grandson of Billy Graham who has consulted with some former staff members accusing Mr. Hybels of wrongdoing. “They don’t feel like the rules apply to them, because they’re doing great things for Jesus, even though their behavior doesn’t reflect Jesus at all.”

A Sign

In 1984, Ms. Baranowski was walking to her car in the vast parking lot of Willow Creek one night after services. She had just been praying about whether to apply for a job at the church she saw posted.

Suddenly a car screeched to a stop beside her, and the driver rolled down his window. It was the church’s pastor.

“Could I drive you to your car or something?” offered Mr. Hybels, who was then 33. Her car was nearby, but she accepted the ride.

It seemed like a sign from God.

Mr. Hybels later also described the meeting as a miracle: He had been driving out of the parking lot when God urged him to go back and find the woman he drove by.

“That night I had no idea how offering help to a person who probably didn’t need it would affect my life and ministry,” he wrote in one of his first books.

Soon after, she left her position as a computer systems manager. She found great purpose in working for a church that was adding more than 1,000 new members a year. She served as Mr. Hybels’s gatekeeper, fielding calls from pastors across the country eager to tap him for advice.

“It was a wonderful time,” she said. “I thought maybe God was just being good to me, and I think he was. But I couldn’t understand: Why did he select me? Because I didn’t think that highly of myself.”

Ms. Baranowski kept handwritten notes she received from Mr. Hybels. In one, Mr. Hybels praised her work and said, “I am praying that your new small group” at church “will be a source of much happiness and strength in your life.” Then he added, “P.S. Plus, you are a knockout!”

Mr. Hybels was regarded as a maverick in the evangelical world for giving women leadership positions.

Nancy Beach, who joined the staff soon after Ms. Baranowski, said the work was exhilarating.

“We were at the center of this grand adventure,” said Ms. Beach, the first woman appointed by Mr. Hybels to be a “teaching pastor,” meaning she could preach at services.

Ms. Beach recalled that Mr. Hybels was an exacting boss who got angry if the sound system was fuzzy or if a Christmas drama wasn’t performed smoothly. And he didn’t tolerate personal misconduct. After one staff member had an affair and another was discovered with pornography, she said, “They had to speak publicly to everyone affected. They lost their jobs.”

Ms. Beach is among the women who have recently come forward in articles accusing Mr. Hybels of harassment. She said that on a work trip to Spain in 1999, he invited her to his hotel room and gave her a long hug that made her feel uncomfortable.

She didn’t speak up until recently, when she heard there were other women with similar experiences.

“That’s what makes some of this so confusing, because he has been a champion for women,” said Ms. Beach, who has since left Willow but still preaches widely.

‘Humiliated, Guilty and Ashamed’

In the late 1980s, crusading against pornography was a top priority for evangelicals. Mr. Hybels told Ms. Baranowski that he had been told to educate himself on the issue by James Dobson, founder of the ministry Focus on the Family, who had been appointed by President Ronald Reagan to an anti-pornography commission.

Calling it research, Mr. Hybels once instructed Ms. Baranowski to go out and rent several pornographic videos, she said, to her great embarrassment. He insisted on watching them with her, she said, while he was dressed in a bathrobe.

One night, she said, Mr. Hybels felt too sick to go to a church event, so he sent his wife in his stead to introduce the guest speaker, a famous evangelist from India. He asked Ms. Baranowski to bring him something to eat, and fondled her again, she said.

Ms. Baranowski said that during the years of harassment, Mr. Hybels never kissed her, and they never had intercourse. She was particularly ashamed about the oral sex. She grew increasingly wracked by guilt and tried to talk with him. One day in his office, she told him that it was unfair to his wife, that it was sin, and that she felt humiliated.

That night she recorded in her journal what he had said in response: “It’s not a big deal. Why can’t you just get over it? You didn’t tell anyone, did you?”

His attitude toward her slowly began to change, she said. She moved out of the house after two years. In the office, he began to suggest she was incompetent and unstable. He berated her work in front of others. She grew depressed and poured out her feelings to God, filling 20 spiral-bound journals.

On May 11, 1989, she wrote, “I feel like an abused wife.”

She feared that she would be forced to stand in front of the congregation and confess, like the other employees who were fired. She was relocated to work in a converted coat closet.

Mr. Hybels finally sketched out an exit plan for her on a piece of note paper, which she kept. She resigned from Willow after more than eight years.

Mr. Hybels said in an email last week that Ms. Baranowski had “wanted a bigger challenge than being my assistant” and changed jobs “on good terms.”

She saw a counselor, who said in an interview that she remembered only that Ms. Baranowski was “humiliated, guilty and ashamed” because of her relationship with Mr. Hybels. The counselor, who spoke with Ms. Baranowski’s permission, requested anonymity because she did not want to be part of the controversy.

She recalled of Ms. Baranowski, “She felt she had lost her connection to God.”

Since leaving the church, Ms. Baranowski said she has struggled to keep a job, lost her condominium, moved from state to state, and had migraines and panic attacks.

“I carried Bill’s responsibility, for things he should have been responsible for,” she said.

Ms. Baranowski told only one friend, the Rev. Don Cousins, about one month after she left the Willow staff. She begged him to stay silent, and he did, until now.

The entanglement with Mr. Hybels “altered the trajectory of her life,” said Mr. Cousins, a well-known evangelical leader who worked at Willow for 17 years.

“She had been a very high-performing person, committed, high-caliber, responsible,” said Mr. Cousins, now a pastor in Orlando, Fla. “And the church was her life.”

Mr. Hybels went on to expand Willow to eight sites with 25,000 worshipers. He published more than 50 books, many on ethics, like “Who Are You When No One’s Looking.”

He was a spiritual adviser to President Bill Clinton and stuck with him through his impeachment. He drew speakers like Colin Powell, Bono and Sheryl Sandberg to his annual Global Leadership Summit, which has continued and will be held later this week.

When news of the other allegations against Mr. Hybels broke, Mr. Cousins encouraged Ms. Baranowski to get in touch with Ms. Beach. The two women had a tearful reunion. Both wish they had confronted Mr. Hybels at the time so they could have spared other women from harassment.

Ms. Beach remembers traveling to 27 countries representing Willow Creek and hearing pastors say hundreds of times that they owed their churches’ success to Mr. Hybels.

“How could he have done all this good,” she asked, “when there were such dark things happening behind the scenes?”

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