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Archive for the ‘Religious Babylon’ Category

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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Todd Bentley was rotten and a false teacher from the start, so this article should not surprise anyone!

from The “Christian” Post:

Stephen Powell, an estranged protégé of controversial evangelist Todd Bentley at Fresh Fire USA, has publicly dismissed his mentor as “not fit for public ministry,” alleging that he has a “perverse sexual addiction” that has driven him to prey on interns.

Citing personal and reported testimony, Powell, who runs Lion of Light Ministries in Pineville, North Carolina, alleged in a lengthy post on Facebook Thursday that Bentley “has an appetite for a variety of sexual sins, including both homosexual and heterosexual activity.” He was not immediately available to respond to The Christian Post’s request for further comment on Friday.

Powell also charged that Bentley’s behavior is enabled and covered up by his wife, Jessa, as well as Christian leaders in the evangelist’s orbit such as Rick Joyner, author of The Final Quest and founder of Morning Star Ministries and Heritage International Ministries.

Joyner helped Bentley create Fresh Fire USA in 2009, the year after Bentley separated from now ex-wife, Shonnah, and got involved in an emotional relationship with a staff member. Joyner was also part of the “healing team” that was formed to help restore Bentley after the divorce and emotional affair.

In a Facebook Live broadcast on Friday, Joyner said he currently has no authority over Bentley and acknowledged being aware of accusations that he had preyed on interns. He also acknowledged that Powell had come to him and tried to pressure him into taking swift action against Bentley. He accused Powell of operating in a spirit of “witchcraft” for going public with his knowledge.

“When people come to me with pressuring, manipulating, especially threatening if I don’t do something their way, or in their time, I know that’s the devil,” Joyner said. “That’s in Scripture, counterfeit spiritual authority which is called witchcraft. That is not the Holy Spirit. We’ve got to start recognizing what is from the Holy Spirit and what is not.”

Powell said that even though he had been aware of misconduct by Bentley over the years, much of the evidence supporting his current allegations came to light this summer after he started appealing to Joyner to stage an intervention.

“Down through the years, Todd [Bentley] has made sexual advances toward (and in some cases engaged in sexual sin with) a number of different men and women outside his marriage, many of them interns and/or students under his leadership care in the church,” Powell alleged.

Powell cited testimony from a male intern who claimed in 2013 that Bentley offered to pay him $1,000 if he allowed him to perform oral sex on him.

He said the intern told him: “‘There was a time that I was with Todd and I was struggling to get by. … I was living with my sister, working a job, just trying to pay my bills and get by, and Todd was supposed to be my mentor you know. And we’re hanging out and he’s paying for me to eat out, paying for me here, paying for me there, you know, and always showing off his money you know. … And he was like, ‘I know you’re struggling so’… I don’t know how it came up, but He was like, ‘Can I suck your d— for $1,000?’ And I’m like, ‘What?’ I was like, ‘What the F is your freaking problem?’ … And I was like, oblivious. … And you know, it was not just that. … I saw pictures of His wife naked, fully naked, the whole nine yards.”

He said he was told by another male intern who witnessed what happened that he informed Joyner of Bentley’s actions but ultimately “nothing was done and Todd was still allowed to go on in ministry as if everything was okay.”

In a response on Facebook Friday, Bentley admitted to “having a past” and noted that the allegations against him weren’t new.

“I decided to come out in a public way ahead of what has been brewing in recent months….This isn’t something new as many of the things that I’m dealing with do go back up to six, seven years. Yes, old stuff. I do have a past and many of the things I’m being accused of today come from the fact that I’ve had cracks in my foundation. I’m not about to hide, try to lie or run from the fact that I have a past in which my wife and my therapist [have been a part],” he explained.

He said he has been working with a therapist for approximately one year as well as an accountability team.

Bentley called many of the current accusations against him, “false.”

“They are gossip, they are swirl, they are speculation, hearsay and they are without any real evidence. As far as let the accusers come forth. Let them name names. Let them meet with me, with Rick. With whoever is on my leadership. I would love to be able to look in the eye of the people making the claims,” he said.

“I do have the things in my past I gotta say … whether they are six months, a year, two years, five, six, seven. Many of the things that I’ve addressed and continue to address in my life to be clean,” he said.

“I am not guilty of the things that I’m being accused of as far as those homosexual acts. Things that are taken out of context in inappropriate text messages or conversations that I had that were not right that I’ve had to own, that go back to 2013,” he said, noting that he didn’t have any sexual affairs or commit adultery.

He said he is now leaning on the prayers and support of his friends, then read a prepared statement after assuring his followers that his ongoing healing revival will continue.

In his response, Joyner explained that after he completed oversight of Bentley’s restoration in 2012 stemming from the 2008 scandal, the evangelist has been charting his own path while continuing counseling.

“I do not have authority over Todd Bentley. Those of you who know the story had the issues [that manifested in 2008]. I was asked by Peter Wagner as a representative of the Revival Alliance to oversee Todd’s restoration. I was given very few guidelines, [not] anything. Just here, you take this. We think you’re supposed to do it. I thought I was the worst one in the world to do it,” he said. “I’m not good at that. That’s not my type of calling.”

He said he prayed about it, however, and he felt like God would give him the grace to do it.

“I would say this about Todd, he’s still being restored but guess what? So am I. So are you. We still have a ways to go. I felt like the Lord showed me in 2008 that this wasn’t the last big public embarrassment that Todd was gonna have or mistake or sin. I was given a Scripture in Proverbs where the righteous fall seven times. Even the righteous fall seven times, but He said Todd would keep getting back up. He said he would fight on. But I never expected after we released him in I think about 2012, that he would be perfect,” Joyner said.

He disputes as well that nothing was done when he learned of Bentley’s behavior toward interns.

“A situation arose in 2013 when Todd, a friend brought some text messages that Todd had sent to some interns. I was appalled,” Joyner said.

“They are in the accusations that the brother put out yesterday. I was shocked. I still didn’t have authority over Todd but I went to him as a brother and I confronted him with it. As a matter of fact, I confronted him harder than I ever confronted anybody over anything. I was absolutely outraged,” he said.

“If a brother is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore them, and do it in a spirit of gentleness lest we too be tempted. So I’ve resolved to obey that. I’m not gonna turn away from anyone who is caught in any trespass. And I’ll be honest with you, working with some really public figures … my whole concept of any trespass got so stretched. And my concept of what God would give His grace and mercy to got so stretched. Even the deplorable things that Todd did do in this case, to me, they weren’t shocking anymore. And I’ve seen God help people through things way worse,” Joyner said.

He said Bentley got counseling and repented of the things he did in 2013, and he along with others will investigate the other allegations made by Powell.

“My opinion, the things that are said about me and written about me in this accusation, I thought they were not only not true but in my opinion, they were the opposite of the truth. They obviously helped me doubt everything else in it except for what was true that Todd had done way back in 2013. But the rest of it, we’re still gonna examine. We’re still gonna check out and try to get with witnesses and everything else. It’s a long process. I can’t just lay everything else I am doing down,” Joyner said.

Citing testimony he was given, Powell alleged that Joyner refused to help the young male intern who reported Bentley in 2013.

Another intern alleged that Bentley offered to pay him $500 to send the evangelist a video of him masturbating, while yet another claimed that Bentley and his wife frequently sent him explicit photos and videos.

It was further alleged by Powell that Bentley “made out with his young female assistant whom he is not married to, walked into a room, closed the door, and stayed in there for at least 30 minutes with Jessa being in the same house and knowing about it.”

Citing several other accusations in the post as well as in a Facebook Live broadcast, Powell said he was forced to speak out because the leaders of Bentley’s ministry have done nothing to address the evangelist’s behavior.

“I believe that both Todd and his wife, Jessa, are both complicit in this sexual perversion and have both participated in inviting other sexual partners, both men and women, into their marriage bed. Todd and Jessa’s relationship and marriage began in sexual sin and it appears that that sin has only grown and become stronger in their lives over the years, despite the bond of marriage they share,” he continued.

“I believe Todd is not fit for public ministry. On top of his sexual sins, he has proven to be a compulsive liar, he lacks financial integrity when handling God’s money, and he is a substance abuser that has drawn many others into these sins with him over the years. I believe Todd has proven over more than two decades of ministry, moral failures, and abuse of others that he cannot be trusted with the care of God’s people.”

Powell said he was a janitor at a small church in Alaska in 2012 when he met Bentley who “recognized a ministry gift on my life and began mentoring me in ministry.”

Bentley, he said, helped him get established as an itinerant preacher but in recent years, he began distancing himself from the evangelist after God spoke to him about holiness. He admitted to being involved in crude behavior while he was a part of Bentley’s camp but said he was never a part of any sexual acts.

“I myself have seen things over the years that I find very disturbing. I myself have seen Todd preach, pray, and prophesy over the people, only to leave the meeting, purchase hard liquor, and walk into his hotel to party the rest of the night,” Powell said.

“I myself have seen and heard Todd and Jessa speak with unclean/foul speech. I confess that I myself, at times in the past, have gotten caught up in some of this culture of speech that’s unpleasing to the Lord … what one might call ‘guy talk’ or ‘locker room banter,’ which the Lord has dealt with my heart on and I’ve repented for. But honestly, with the vile culture that has infiltrated the charismatic church, it is extremely difficult at times to have fellowship with other ministers, and build alliances with others for the kingdom, and not be affected by this stuff,” he explained.

Powell noted that he is hoping Bentley will respond to the allegations with repentance.

“At the end of the day, given the evidence I have and the 100’s of hours I’ve spent on the phone talking to witnesses, I am fully convinced that Todd & Jessa both have lost the privilege to minister to God’s people any longer, in full time ministry,” he said.

“When someone has a record of sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, inappropriate behavior, drunkenness, lying, & cheating going back more than 20 years … and they have repeatedly been offered great mercy and grace rather than disqualification from ministry, yet they continue to behave in this matter … in my mind and through what I can see in the scripture, they have lost the right and privilege to minister to God’s people ever again, in their own public ministry.”

Joyner argued that Powell acted out of frustration, which is not of God.

“This brother put out this thing yesterday, admitted he did this out of frustration because I wouldn’t meet with him. I was gonna meet with him, but at the right time and for the right reason. I was not gonna cave to his pressuring threatening, manipulating, anything else,” he said. “Frustration, I don’t think is a fruit of the spirit … If we do things out of frustration that is not going to be the Spirit of God.”

Powell argued that he, along with some of the witnesses he interviewed to compile evidence he submitted to Fresh Fire leaders, have already been threatened.

“Some of the witnesses I talked to at the beginning of my investigation have since withdrawn their testimony because they have been threatened by people involved in this network of sin and cover-ups. I’ve come across at least one witness who was paid off and made to sign a legal gag order in order to keep silent about the great sins and abominations he’s witnessed. And in some cases, I personally have been threatened with a lawsuit and violence if I revealed my findings,” he said.

Regardless of the allegations, Joyner believes that Bentley and his ministry will survive and the exposure will be “used for good, for Todd, for me.”

“I’ve seen the consequences of those who’ve done the things that this brother is doing … I was waiting to meet with him so that I could have something from God that I could give to him that might help set him free from the course that I believed him to be on,” Joyner said. “It’s a black hole when you start to believe you’re the police of the body of Christ but you’re not getting that from above. You’re getting it from the devil.”

 

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from Christian Headlines:

The president of a seminary founded in 1836 on the “infallible” Word of God says in a new interview she doesn’t believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ, the power of prayer, a literal heaven, or miracles.

Serene Jones, president of Union Theological Seminary in New York, made the comments in an interview with Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times for an article published Easter weekend. Although the author’s intent may have been to inspire readers, it also served to spotlight the leftward drift of many seminaries.

Union Theological Seminary’s founding constitution stated the seminary’s goal was to “promote” the “Kingdom of Christ.” Professors were required to affirm they believed “the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be the word of God” and the “only infallible rule of faith and practice.”

But as Jones made clear, the seminary is a very different school today.

She rejects a literal bodily resurrection of Christ.

“When you look in the Gospels, the stories are all over the place. There’s no resurrection story in Mark, just an empty tomb. Those who claim to know whether or not it happened are kidding themselves,” Jones said. “… Crucifixion is not something that God is orchestrating from upstairs. The pervasive idea of an abusive God-father who sends his own kid to the cross so God could forgive people is nuts. For me, the cross is an enactment of our human hatred. But what happens on Easter is the triumph of love in the midst of suffering. Isn’t that reason for hope?”

She rejects the idea that God miraculously heals through prayer.

“I don’t believe in a God who, because of prayer, would decide to cure your mother’s cancer but not cure the mother of your nonpraying neighbor,” she said. “We can’t manipulate God like that.”

She rejects the virgin birth.

“I find the virgin birth a bizarre claim,” she said. “It has nothing to do with Jesus’ message. The virgin birth only becomes important if you have a theology in which sexuality is considered sinful. It also promotes this notion that the pure, untouched female body is the best body, and that idea has led to centuries of oppressing women.”

Asked what happens when people die, Jones responded, “I don’t know! There may be something, there may be nothing. My faith is not tied to some divine promise about the afterlife.”

Asked how we can reconcile an “omnipotent, omniscient God” with evil and suffering, Jones responded, “At the heart of faith is mystery. God is beyond our knowing, not a being or an essence or an object. But I don’t worship an all-powerful, all-controlling omnipotent, omniscient being. That is a fabrication of Roman juridical theory and Greek mythology.”

When Kristof asked her if he can be considered a Christian after not believing in a virgin birth or resurrection, Jones answered, “Well, you sound an awful lot like me, and I’m a Christian. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said Jones rejected the “entire edifice of orthodox, biblical Christianity.”

“This is not Christianity,” Mohler wrote. “This is a new religion, a new god, formed in an image intended not to offend modern secular sensibilities. She has constructed a god from post-modern theology that in no way resembles the God of the Bible – the one true God.”

Mohler observed that Jones denied “the reality of the resurrection, the necessity of the virgin birth, the attributes of God, the power of prayer, and the existence of heaven and hell.”

“According to Jones,” Mohler wrote. “there is no cross on which Jesus died for sin, there is no Father who sent the Son to pay our ransom, there is no bodily resurrection of Christ from the dead as a sign and seal of God’s promises – indeed, she has denied everything that makes the gospel good news. She even denies that God is a ‘being.’”

Jones claims to be a Christian minister while simultaneously rejecting “every tenet of the historic Christian faith,” Mohler said.

“Why would anyone identify as a Christian minister and then deny the entire superstructure of Christian theology?” Mohler asked. “What we see here is a hope to replace biblical Christianity with a new religion without anyone noticing.”

 

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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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A Covenant That Pushes Us Much Closer To A One World Religion!

from The Guardian:

The pope and the grand imam of al-Azhar have signed a historic declaration of fraternity, calling for peace between nations, religions and races, in front of a global audience of religious leaders from Christianity, Islam, Judaism and other faiths.

Pope Francis, the leader of the world’s Catholics, and Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the head of Sunni Islam’s most prestigious seat of learning, arrived at the ceremony in Abu Dhabi hand-in-hand in a symbol of interfaith brotherhood.

The document pledges that al-Azhar and the Vatican will work together to fight extremism. Claiming to be in the name of “all victims of wars, persecution and injustice”, it warns against a “third world war being fought piecemeal”.

It says: “We resolutely declare that religions must never incite war, hateful attitudes, hostility and extremism, nor must they incite violence or the shedding of blood.”

In the first ever papal visit to the Arabian peninsula, the birthplace of Islam, the pope specifically called for an end to wars in the Middle East, naming Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya. All religious leaders had a “duty to reject every nuance of approval from the word war”, he said in a 26-minute address.

The UAE is part of the Saudi-led military coalition engaged in the war in Yemen. On Sunday, before leaving Rome for Abu Dhabi, Francis said he was following the situation in Yemen “with great concern”, and that the population was “exhausted by the lengthy conflict, and a great many children are suffering from hunger”.

In his speech on Monday evening – his first public comments during the three-day trip – he welcomed “the opportunity to come here as a believer for peace … We are here to desire peace, we are here to promote peace, to be instruments of peace.”

Violence, extremism or fanaticism could never be justified in the name of religion, he said. He also called for religious freedom “not limited only to freedom of worship”, justice and for religions to “stand on the side of the poor”.

Sheikh Tayeb, who addressed the pope as “my dear brother”, said millions of Muslims had paid the price for the actions of “a handful of criminals” following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Earlier on Monday, Francis arrived at the lavish presidential palace in Abu Dhabi in a small black Kia. He was greeted with a 21-shot salute and military flyover trailing yellow and white smoke in the colours of the Vatican flag. Horse-mounted guards escorted the pontiff’s motorcade through the palace gardens.

The pope had a private meeting with Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who later tweeted: “We discussed enhancing cooperation, consolidating dialogue, tolerance, human coexistence & important initiatives to achieve peace, stability and development for peoples and societies.”

The UAE is promoting itself as a regional leader in religious diversity and tolerance. According to the organisers of a conference on “human fraternity” this week, the UAE since its formation in 1971 has “given special attention to issues such as dialogue, tolerance, fraternity and peace. It also offered the world a model example of applying these human values through the coexistence and tolerance embraced by the various cultures, races and faiths living on its soil.”

The population of the Emirates is 90% expatriate, with people from more than 200 countries, including significant numbers from Asia who are employed in domestic service, hospitality and construction.

Christians are free to worship at churches and wear religious clothing. But Open Doors, which monitors discrimination against and persecution of Christians around the world, says the UAE government does not allow Christians “to evangelise or pray in public. Converts from Islam endure the most persecution as they face pressure from family members and the local community to recant their Christian faith.”

The government has also been criticised by human rights organisations for restrictions on freedom of expression.

Reem al-Hashemi, the UAE’s minister of state for international cooperation, said it was “important to note that openness has to have parameters, otherwise things can quickly spiral into incitement or hate. Freedom of expression has to have limitations.”

Pope Francis is to celebrate mass in front of an expected audience of 120,000 people at a sports stadium in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday before flying back to Rome.

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1 Corinthians 15:14:

“And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”

Did you think it was outrageous when a literally Satanic college professor accused God of sexual misconduct?:

That was nothing compared to the blasphemy you can hear right in church. The Reverend Rick Mawson, an 83-year-old retired United Church of Christ minister who currently leads a First Congregational Church class on progressive theology, barks that it is primitive, shameful, and offensive to believe that Jesus died for our sins. He outmoonbats even the nutty Satanist professor with the proclamation that God is a “bloodthirsty child abuser.” Seriously:

from The Tribune:

It is with a sense of joy for me to witness people tenderly holding hands, especially the young or the elderly. Holding hands can be very comforting. It is a way of being connected to another person. We all know that the experience of being embraced in another’s caring is life giving and life enhancing. Being intimately in touch with other human beings is a universal human hunger.

From the time we were conceived in our mother’s womb, we have begun to learn how important it is to be connected to another person. At our birth we experience a world separate from our mother. After being born we also start to experience something called separation anxiety even though our world is expanding to include other family members. The threat to intimacy that occurs after birth is a universal human experience. At some level, deeply embedded in us, we yearn to re-establish that connectedness with the “Source of Our Being.”

As humans we need each other to survive and thrive. Behavior that damages human relationships and their ability to thrive is a form of “sin.”

Our Hebrew ancestors told stories to explain the estrangement that humans experience in regard to the Ultimate Source of Life and Being, which we usually referred to as “God.” The earliest biblical creation story is told in Genesis chapters 2 and 3. It speaks of the disobedience of the original human couple, Adam and Eve. Their failure to obey God introduced “original sin” into what was presumed by our ancestors to be a perfect and complete world. In the story, God, acting like a stern tribal leader, condemns Adam and Eve for their disobedience by punishing them with hard labor and the pain of childbirth. The story says our ancestral parents were then banished forever from the garden of perfection.

Given the knowledge available to those ancient Hebrew storytellers, the story seemed to make sense. When humans make greedy or sinful choices there may be unwelcome consequences. The storytellers did not have, as we do today, any awareness of how life and culture continue to evolve over millions of years. The ancient creation story should never be taken literally, as if it actually happened that way. We now know our world has never been perfect and complete, it has always been in a process of becoming more complex and interrelated. Our world is a work in progress.

The sense of estrangement experienced by many humans generates a desire to be embraced by the Source of Life. That quest is for “atonement” (at-one-ment). It is a yearning to become whole again by being united with the Holy.

“Substitutionary atonement” is the commonly held, yet theologically primitive, shameful idea that God required the humiliating sacrificial death of his only son Jesus to pay the restitution price for the sins of all humanity, by suffering punishment on our behalf, so that we may ultimately be reunited with the Source of our Being. Think about the implications of that assertion. It presents the Creator, who loved us into being, as judgmentally incapable of forgiveness and a bloodthirsty child abuser. That limited view of the Divine does not make sense to me and is offensive. The theology of substitutionary atonement is based on the primitive concept of an “original sin” the stain of which is genetically passed on generation to generation from our first ancestors. This is the belief that we are all, from the time of our birth, depraved sinners in need of saving from eternal damnation, the kind of saving that can only come from the same God who requires, and can only receive, satisfaction by brutally sacrificing God’s own child.

I have come to believe that the theology that affirms, “Jesus died for my sins” is bad theology. It is our human attempt to make God take care of our problems. This primitive theology is designed to try to relieve us of responsibility for how we live our lives and treat one another.

Starkly missing in the substitutionary atonement analysis of our situation is any acknowledgment of the unlimited and unconditional grace that is offered by the Holy Source we call Love. In the life and teachings of Jesus we find one who embodied love by loving people into wholeness and by showing us how to do the same. In the freedom that comes with love, we have the choice to flourish within that abundant grace or resist it.

How can we experience intimacy with the Holy in our lives? How can we achieve a healthy sense of being at one with the Divine, the Holy, the Source of our Being? The story of the life examples and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth has been transformative to many in this regard. Guidance on how to restore intimacy with the Holy can be found in Matthew’s biblical writing (25:31-46) where Jesus is said to be speaking about how, in caring for others, we experience our most intimate contact with the One who created us. Simply said, we achieve atonement with the Love that brought us into being by compassionately loving others in response to their needs. We are ultimately accountable for what we do to provide all people with what they need to thrive.

Regardless of our particular faith tradition, we are encouraged to embrace peace, to be compassionate toward our neighbor, to love our enemies, to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to heal the sick, to visit with those in prison, to welcome the stranger, and in the process of loving others into wholeness we will be experiencing an intimate relationship with the Source of our Being.

Tenderly holding hands is a small yet significant sign of our human connectedness to each other and to our Source of Life. We are all in this together.

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from Lighthouse Trails Research:

In May of 2013, Lighthouse Trails released a report titled, “They Hate Christianity But Love (Another) Jesus – How Conservative Christians Are Being Manipulated and Ridiculed, Especially During Election Years.” In view of the upcoming elections and some of the things going on around the country in the “background,” it seems diligent to repost the report at this time. While some of the documentation in the report is a few years old, there are similar efforts going on today as are described in the report. For instance, the “Vote Common Good” (a website created on June 2018, just in time for the elections) bus tours taking place right now around the country are intending on “flipping congress.” The line up of those speaking on the tour are largely extreme liberal  emergent figures such as Brian McLaren, Shane Claiborne, Frank Schaeffer, John Pavlovitz (recently featured in a LT article), Mark Scandrette, Doug Pagitt, Samir Selmanović, Diana Butler Bass, and Nadia Bolz-Weber. Folks, these people mean business, and they won’t let up until they’ve accomplished their Marxist/Socialist-leaning, anti-biblical goals. This next election will come and go, but they will still be here, telling the world that they represent “true” relevant organic Christianity, and your children and grandchildren will believe them. We know that politics is never going to solve the problems of any country. And there is no perfect political party. But what is being presented by the people in groups like the one named above is an anti-Christ agenda. That sounds strong, but think about what Diana Butler Bass (who was part of the 2015 Parliament of World Religions) said in her book, Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening:

Conventional, comforting Christianity has failed. It does not work. For the churches that insist on preaching it, the jig is up. We cannot go back, and we should not want to. . . . In earlier American awakenings, preachers extolled “old-time religion” as the answer to questions about God, morality, and existence. This awakening is different . . . it is not about sawdust trails, mortification of sin [putting to death the old man], and being washed in the blood of the Lamb [the preaching of the Cross]. The awakening going on around us is not an evangelical revival; it is not returning to the faith of our fathers or re-creating our grandparents church. Instead, it is a Great Returning to ancient understandings of the human quest for the divine. (pp. 36, 99; emphasis added)

Several of the names we have listed above have said similar type things about biblical Christianity over the years as you can read about on our site and in our published materials. Some of you may remember our 2009 article “Brian McLaren Wants End Time Believing Christians Robustly Confronted.” As far as these highly influential emergents are concerned the “old-time religion” of being washed in the blood of the Lamb is over. And you can be sure their target is your children and grandchildren, especially ones who’ve grown up in Christian homes. When you consider how Rick Warren, Bob Buford (Leadership Network), and Bill Hybels all had a part in launching the emergent church back in the 1990s1 and then never retracted a single promotion of it, it’s difficult to witness the “fruit” of their labors these 25 years later and listen to the silence of Christian leaders who seem to care more about building their own empires than defending that old time religion.

And now the 2013 Lighthouse Trails report:

“They Hate Christianity But Love (Another) Jesus – How Conservative Christians Are Being Manipulated and Ridiculed, Especially During Election Years”

In 2008, which was an election year, books, videos, broadcasts, and news articles were pouring into mainstream America with a guilt-ridden message that basically manipulated conservative Christians into thinking that either they shouldn’t vote because “Jesus wouldn’t vote,” or they shouldn’t vote on morality issues such as abortion or homosexuality. Suddenly, all over the place, there was talk about “destroying Christianity,” or “liking Jesus but not the church,” or “Jesus for president” (suggesting that maybe we could get Him on the ballot but certainly we shouldn’t vote for anyone already on the ballot). It all sounded very noble to many. After all, everybody knows there is so much political corruption in high government and certainly as much hypocrisy within the walls of many proclaiming Christian leaders and celebrities.

This special report by Lighthouse Trails is not going to attempt to answer the question, “Should a Christian vote?” But we hope to at least show that things are not always as they seem, and what may appear noble and good may not be so at all.

In January of 2012, another election year, a young man, Jefferson (Jeff) Bethke, who attends contemplative advocate Mark Driscoll’s church, Mars Hill in Washington state, posted a video on YouTube called “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.” Within hours, the video had over 100,000 hits. Soon it reached over 14 million hits, according to the Washington Post, one of the major media that has spotlighted the Bethke video (hits as of May 2013 are over 25 million).

The Bethke video is a poem Bethke wrote and recites in a rap-like fashion his thoughts and beliefs about the pitfalls of what he calls “religion” but what is indicated to be Christianity. While we are not saying at this time that Bethke is an emerging figure, and while some of the lyrics in his poem are true statements, it is interesting that emerging spirituality figures seem to be resonating with Bethke’s message. They are looking for anything that will give them ammunition against traditional biblical Christianity. They have found some in Bethke’s poem. Like so many in the emerging camp say, Bethke’s poem suggests that Christians don’t take care of the poor and needy. While believers in Christ have been caring for the needy for centuries, emerging figures use this ploy to win conservative Christians (through guilt) over to a liberal social justice “gospel.” Emerging church journalist Jim Wallis (founder of Sojourners) is one who picked up on Bethke’s video. In an article on Wallis’ blog, it states:

Bethke’s work challenges his listeners to second guess their preconceived notions about what it means to be a Christian. He challenges us to turn away from the superficial trappings of “religion,” and instead lead a missional life in Christ.1

What the article is talking about when it says “preconceived notions” is Christianity according to the Bible. Emerging figures accept some of it but find to accept all of it is too restricting. Many of them call themselves “red letter Christians,” supposing to mean they adhere to all the red letters that Jesus said; but they have actually chosen which red letters they adhere to—they don’t accept them all. For instance, they dismiss red letters that refer to there being a hell for those who reject Jesus Christ as Lord, God, and Savior. When the word missional is used, this doesn’t mean traditional missionary efforts to evangelize the world. It means to realize that all of humanity is saved and being saved along with all of creation and that the means of salvation didn’t take place in a one-time event (the Cross) but is an ongoing procedure that occurs as people begin to realize they are all connected to one another and can bring about a Utopian society through this interconnectedness. Such emerging buzz words like missional fool a lot of people though.

Incidentally, if you’ve never read the article we posted in the summer of 2010 regarding Jim Wallis and Sojourners, “Sojourners Founder Jim Wallis’ Revolutionary Anti-Christian “Gospel” (and Will Christian Leaders Stand with Wallis?)” we highly recommend it.2 But be warned—you may find it quite disturbing when you read what the agenda behind the scenes really is.

The rally call to throw out Christianity but keep “Jesus” isn’t a new one—we’ve heard it many times before from various emerging contemplatives. Futurist Erwin McManus once said in an interview:

My goal is to destroy Christianity as a world religion and be a recatalyst for the movement of Jesus Christ . . . Some people are upset with me because it sounds like I’m anti-Christian. I think they might be right.3

And, of course, there is Dan Kimball’s book, They Like Jesus But Not the Church. In a book review of Kimball’s book, Lighthouse Trails stated that the book should really be calledThey Like (Another) Jesus But Not the Church, the Bible, Morality, or the Truth.4 Kimball interviews several young people (one is a lesbian) who tell him they “like and respect Jesus” but they don’t want anything to do with going to church or with those Christians who take the Bible literally. Kimball says these are “exciting times” we live in “when Jesus is becoming more and more respected in our culture by non-churchgoing people.”5 He says we should “be out listening to what non-Christians, especially those in their late teens to thirties, are saying and thinking about the church and Christianity.”6

According to Kimball, it is vitally important that we as Christians be accepted by non-Christians and not thought of as abnormal or strange. But in order to do that, he says we must change the way we live and behave. Kimball insists that “those who are rejecting faith in Jesus” do so because of their views of Christians and the church.7 But he makes it clear throughout the book that these distorted views are not the fault of the unbeliever but are the fault of Christians, but not all Christians, just those fundamentalist ones who take the Bible literally, believe that homosexuality is a sin, and think certain things are wrong and harmful to society . . . and actually speak up about these things.

Perhaps what is most damaging about Dan Kimball’s book is his black and white, either or reasoning (the very thing he accuses Christians of). He makes it very clear that you cannot be a Christian who takes the Bible literally and also be a humble, loving, thoughtful person. They are two different things, according to Kimball. There is no such thing as a loving, humble Christian who takes the Bible literally. His book further alienates believers in a world that is already hostile to those who say Jesus is the only way to salvation, the Bible should be taken literally, homosexuality is a sin, and we are called out of this world to live righteously by the grace of God.

Brian McLaren, the emerging church’s early pioneer, resonates with these ill feelings toward the Christian faith when he states:

I must add, though, that I don’t believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all!) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish contexts.8

Roger Oakland deals with this “we love Jesus but hate Christianity” mentality in his book Faith Undone. Listen to a few quotes Oakland includes in that book:

For me, the beginning of sharing my faith with people began by throwing out Christianity and embracing Christian spirituality, a nonpolitical mysterious system that can be experienced but not explained.9—Don MillerBlue Like Jazz

They [Barbarians] see Christianity as a world religion, in many ways no different from any other religious system. Whether Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, or Christianity, they’re not about religion; they’re about advancing the revolution Jesus started two thousand years ago.10—Erwin McManusThe Barbarian Way

New Light embodiment means to be “in connection” and “information” with other faiths. . . .  One can be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ without denying the flickers of the sacred in followers of Yahweh, or Kali, or Krishna.”11–Leonard Sweet

I happen to know people who are followers of Christ in other religions.12–Rick Warren

I see no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity. . . . I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can.13–Thomas Merton

Allah is not another God … we worship the same God. . . . The same God! The very same God we worship in Christ is the God . . . the Muslims–worship.14–Peter Kreeft

Roger Oakland relates a story from the Book of Acts:

“[T]he apostle Paul had been arrested for preaching the Gospel. He was brought before King Agrippa and given the opportunity to share his testimony of how he became a Christian. He told Agrippa that the Lord had commissioned him to preach the Gospel and:

To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. (Acts 26:18)

“Agrippa continued listening and then said to Paul, ‘Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian (vs. 28).’ Paul answered him:

I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds. (vs. 29)

“If Paul had been following the emerging mentality, he would have told Agrippa, “No need to become a Christian. You can remain just as you are; keep all your rituals and practices, just say you like Jesus.” In actuality, if Paul had been practicing emerging spirituality, he wouldn’t have been arrested in the first place. He would not have stood out, would not have preached boldly and without reservation, and he would not have called himself a Christian, which eventually became a death sentence for Paul and countless others.”15

It’s hard to believe there was not at least some political agenda in this storm of “we love Jesus but not the church or Christianity” especially witnessed in election years. And we believe this agenda was aimed particularly toward young people from evangelical conservative upbringings who had joined the emerging church movement. In a CBS Broadcast, anchorman Antonio Mora suggests there may have been over twenty million participants in the emerging church movement in the United States alone by 2006.16 Even half that number would be enough to change the results of a presidential election.

Some may contend that Jefferson Bethke’s song doesn’t have any political message at all—it’s just about hypocrisy of religious people. But interestingly, in the very first few lines of the song, Bethke raps:

“What if I told you getting you to vote Republican, really wasn’t his [Jesus’] mission? Because Republican doesn’t automatically mean Christian.”

Could there be some message here that Bethke is trying to relay? Is it just to tell people that just because they are Republican doesn’t mean they are Christian? Surely not. A fourth grader could reason that out. It’s difficult not to believe there is some other message here that just happens to be taking place on an election year.

Just consider some of the things that were said by evangelical and emerging figures during the 2008 presidential election year. And think about what you are hearing today. A lot of people love the messages being sent out by people like Dan Kimball, Erwin McManus, and let’s not forget Frank Viola and George Barna’s book, Pagan Christianity, where they condemn church practices like pastors, sermons, Sunday School, and pews, but say nothing about spiritual deception that has come into the church through the contemplative prayer movement. These latter two figures (Viola and Barna) give readers a feeling that they should hate Christianity but just love Jesus. But what Jesus are these voices writing, singing, and rapping about? It may be “another Jesus” and “another gospel” (2 Corinthians 11:4).

As the world is gradually (but not too slowly anymore) heading toward a global government and global religion, it is becoming more and more apparent that this global society will be one where “tolerance” is the byword for everything other than biblical Christianity. And what better way to breed hatred toward biblical Christians than to say “we love Jesus but hate the church” (i.e., Christians and Christianity)? Perhaps they have forgotten what Jesus said:

If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. (John 15: 18-19)

I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. (John 17:14)

This report we have written may produce more questions than answers regarding things like politics, voting, the role of Christians in the world, the view the world has of Christians, and so forth. But while we have not answered such questions, we hope we have shown that indeed things are not always as they seem and that often what seems right may actually be from a deceiving angel of light and those who appear good may actually be only false ministers of righteousness.

And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness. (2 Corinthians 11: 14-15)

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