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Archive for the ‘Synchretism’ Category

The reason is obvious but people continue to ignore it: The Roman Catholic “Church” is a false church, a man made organization modeled on fallen humanistic power politics. From it’s founding it was in direct opposition to how a church should function. The Bishop of Rome wanted to gather power around himself, and used his position as the Bishop of the ancient seat of power in the Roman Empire to force other churches to submit to his rule! From there on out it was downhill!

from MSN:

With revelation after revelation, a new wave of sexual abuse scandals is rocking the Roman Catholic Church and presenting Pope Francis with the greatest crisis of his papacy.

In Chile, prosecutors have raided church offices, seized documents and accused leaders of a coverup. In Australia, top church figures are facing detention and trials. And in the United States, after the resignation of a cardinal, questions are swirling about a hierarchy that looked the other way and protected him for years.

The church has had more than three decades — since notable abuse cases first became public — to safeguard victims, and itself, against such system failures. And, in the past five years, many Catholics have looked to Francis as a figure who could modernize the church and help it regain its credibility.

But Francis’s track record in handling abuse is mixed, something some outsiders attribute to his learning curve or shortcomings and others chalk up to resistance from a notoriously change-averse institution.

Analysts who have studied the church’s response to sexual abuse, and several people who have advised the pope, say the Vatican has been unable to take the dramatic steps that can help an organization get out from under scandals — and avoid their repetition.

“Each new report of clerical abuse at any level creates doubt in the minds of many that we are effectively addressing this catastrophe in the Church,” Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, warned last month. Failure to take action, O’Malley said, “will threaten and endanger the already weakened moral authority of the Church.”

Francis is credited with some meaningful moves. Last month, he accepted the highest-level resignation to date when Theodore McCarrick stepped down from the College of Cardinals. The former archbishop of Washington and longtime church power broker is accused of sexually abusing adults and minors. He faces a church trial in which he could be defrocked entirely.

But the pope has also had notable missteps. During a January trip to South America, he drew widespread criticism by saying he was convinced of the innocence of Bishop Juan Barros, accused of covering up the acts of a notorious abuser.

Francis sought to recover from that episode by sending two investigators to Chile, apologizing for his “serious errors” in handling the crisis and making a reference — unprecedented for a pope — to a “culture of abuse and coverup.” He invited Chilean abuse victims to the Vatican. He also called Chile’s 34 bishops to Rome, where, according to a letter that was leaked to the Chilean media, he accused them of failing to investigate possible crimes and destroying evidence. The bishops offered to step down en masse. So far, Francis has accepted five of those resignations.

Yet the church has struggled with a more comprehensive effort to close the chapter on sexual abuse.

Whereas transparency is typically advised, the church remains quiet about its investigations and disciplinary procedures. It does not release any data on the inquiries it has carried out. A proposed tribunal for judging bishops accused of negligence or coverup was quashed by the Vatican department that was supposed to help implement it. And, rather than being fired and publicly admonished, offending church leaders are typically allowed to resign without explanation.

“The church doesn’t like removing bishops,” said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest and a senior analyst at the Religion News Service. “Bishops are vicars of Christ in their diocese. They’re not just McDonald’s franchise owners or local managers that can be fired by the CEO. And the church has always been reluctant to give in to political pressure to remove them.”

Francis has called on churches to maintain a “zero tolerance” policy and warned about the “sin of covering up and denial, the sin of the abuse of power.” But the Vatican declined to distribute to bishops conferences suggested guidelines, drawn up by the commission advising Francis on sexual abuse, on how to respond to abuse complaints and cooperate with civil authorities.

Even when the Vatican does take action, resolution comes “at a very glacial pace,” said Juan Carlos Cruz, who was among the Chilean abuse victims who met for several days with Francis this past spring.

Cruz said he tried to tell the pope bluntly that a deeper shake-up was still needed. He specifically mentioned Francisco Javier ­Errázuriz, a member of the pope’s powerful nine-member advisory Council of Cardinals, who victims have long said ignored their abuse accusations and tried to discredit them. Errázuriz has denied wrongdoing.

“[The pope] asked us to give him time to act,” Cruz recalled. “He said, ‘I have to pray about this and let the Holy Spirit guide me on what I have to do.’ ”

Meanwhile, in the wider world, the cultural ground is shifting, and other forces are taking the lead on accountability.

A separate movement fighting abuse and harassment in the workplace has helped spread awareness about victims while diminishing skepticism about their stories.

At the same time, law enforcement agencies have been pursuing abuse cases in countries that once treated the church with deference. In Australia, some state and territory governments are even going after one of the church’s most sacred tenets and are on the verge of enforcing new laws requiring priests to report child abuse that they learn of during confessions. In the United States, the Catholic Church is bracing for the release of a 900-page grand jury report into sex crimes across six dioceses in Pennsylvania.

There have been competing calls within the American church on strengthening oversight of the hierarchy. Church leaders in Albany and Atlanta took the notable step of suggesting the involvement of expert laypeople, either to investigate or chart reforms.

“I think we have reached a point where bishops alone investigating bishops is not the answer,” said Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany. “We bishops want to rise to this challenge, which may well be our last opportunity considering all that has happened.”

A similar conversation, about how to strengthen the response to abuse, has played out for several years in the Vatican — particularly within the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which Francis created a year after he became pope. But little has come of the commission’s ideas.

In 2015, Francis approved its proposal of a tribunal, placed within the Vatican’s powerful doctrine office, that would assess cases of bishops accused of concealing or neglecting abuse. The tribunal, though, was never created. Four former members of the commission, as well as outside analysts, say the idea was thwarted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Some outside analysts say the objection could have been on legal or logistical grounds.

In an interview published last year with the Corriere della Sera, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, then the head of the doctrine office, said the Vatican already had the “tools and legal means” to handle cases. Vatican watcher Marco Politi said congregation members and others in the Vatican hierarchy were also concerned about opening a “Pandora’s box.”

“This would mean hundreds of cases that would then bounce back to Rome with a huge media impact,” said Politi, author “Pope Francis Among the Wolves,” a papal biography. “It would signify the beginning of hunting season on culprits.”

In turn, Francis used another method to bolster accountability of the church hierarchy, issuing an apostolic letter that made it clear that bishops could be removed from office for negligently handling sexual abuse. But under the current system, any of five different Vatican congregations can be involved in investigating bishops, depending on the accused person’s role and affiliation within the church, and also on whether he has been accused of coverup or abuse. Coverup cases are handled by the same congregations that help to appoint bishops.

“It’s a potential conflict of interest,” said Davide Cito, a canon lawyer at Rome’s Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. “That’s absolutely an issue.”

The stalled effort to launch the tribunal prompted the resignation from the commission of Marie Collins, an Irish abuse survivor. Current and former members of the commission said that they are not given data and information on abuse-related cases being handled by the Vatican. Krysten Winter-Green, a former commission member who was a longtime counselor for abuse victims, said they were up against a “domain of secrecy.”

“The crime in the Catholic Church remains causing scandal, not covering up,” said Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of the site BishopAccountability.org, which tracks sexual abuse cases. “Bishops all over the world are not being forthcoming.”

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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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“Graham “spread the gospel in 185 countries during his 99 years on Earth, touching the lives of many and forever changing the course of the world’s spiritual health,” according to a statement by House Speaker Paul Ryan.” ?!?!?!?

Apparently House Speaker Paul Ryan does not read the same Bible that I do!

Lest we forget:

Judges 8:22-27:

Gideon’s Ephod

“Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, both you and your son, and your grandson also; for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian.”

But Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the Lord shall rule over you.” Then Gideon said to them, “I would like to make a request of you, that each of you would give me the earrings from his plunder.” For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.

So they answered, “We will gladly give them.” And they spread out a garment, and each man threw into it the earrings from his plunder. Now the weight of the gold earrings that he requested was one thousand seven hundred shekels of gold, besides the crescent ornaments, pendants, and purple robes which were on the kings of Midian, and besides the chains that were around their camels’ necks. Then Gideon made it into an ephod and set it up in his city, Ophrah. And all Israel played the harlot with it there. It became a snare to Gideon and to his house.”

from Fox 8:

Thousands have signed an online petition calling for a national holiday in honor of the Rev. Billy Graham, WSOC reports.

The Change.org petition, which was started six days ago by user Kyle Siler, had more than 60,736 signatures as of Monday morning and is addressed to President Donald Trump, as well as senators Thom Tillis, Richard Burr and Jerry Tillman.

The petition highlighted Graham’s impact on people all over the world:

“Lets get a National Holiday for Billy Graham!! Mr. Graham preached the Gospel to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history—nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories—through various meetings, including Mission World and Global Mission. Hundreds of millions more have been reached through television, video, film, and webcasts. Mr. Graham’s counsel was sought by presidents, and his appeal in both the secular and religious arenas is evidenced by the wide range of groups that have honored him, including numerous honorary doctorates from many institutions in the U.S. and abroad. Help us with our cause of setting a national holiday to remember this great man.”

Thousands were in Charlotte on Friday to say goodbye to Graham. The private funeral service was held in a tent outside the Billy Graham Library.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence attended the funeral and were escorted by Graham’s grandson, a Major in the United States Army.

Graham, known to many as America’s pastor, passed away just before 8 a.m. on Feb. 21 from natural causes at his family home in Montreat just outside of Asheville.

Graham “spread the gospel in 185 countries during his 99 years on Earth, touching the lives of many and forever changing the course of the world’s spiritual health,” according to a statement by House Speaker Paul Ryan.

The minister was buried next to his wife, Ruth, on the property. His coffin, a plain, pine casket, was built by inmates at the Louisiana state prison.

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from Got Questions:

The existence of so many religions and the claim that all religions lead to God without question confuses many who are earnestly seeking the truth about God, with the end result sometimes being that some despair of ever reaching the absolute truth on the subject. Or they end up embracing the universalist claim that all religions lead to God. Of course, skeptics also point to the existence of so many religions as proof that either you cannot know God or that God simply does not exist.

Romans 1:19-21 contains the biblical explanation for why there are so many religions. The truth of God is seen and known by every human being because God has made it so. Instead of accepting the truth about God and submitting to it, most human beings reject it and seek their own way to understand God. But this leads not to enlightenment regarding God, but to futility of thinking. Here is where we find the basis of the “many religions.”

Many people do not want to believe in a God who demands righteousness and morality, so they invent a God who makes no such requirements. Many people do not want to believe in a God who declares it impossible for people to earn their own way to heaven. So they invent a God who accepts people into heaven if they have completed certain steps, followed certain rules, and/or obeyed certain laws, at least to the best of their ability. Many people do not want a relationship with a God who is sovereign and omnipotent. So they imagine God as being more of a mystical force than a personal and sovereign ruler.

The existence of so many religions is not an argument against God’s existence or an argument that truth about God is not clear. Rather, the existence of so many religions is demonstration of humanity’s rejection of the one true God. Mankind has replaced Him with gods that are more to their liking. This is a dangerous enterprise. The desire to recreate God in our own image comes from the sin nature within us—a nature that will eventually “reap destruction” (Galatians 6:7-8).

Do all religions lead to God? No. All people—religious or otherwise—will stand before God some day (Hebrews 9:27), but religious affiliation is not what determines your eternal destiny. Only faith in Jesus Christ will save. “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12). It’s as simple as that. Only Christianity—faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ—leads to God’s forgiveness and eternal life. No one comes to the Father except through the Son (John 14:6). It does make a difference what you believe. The decision to embrace the truth about Jesus Christ is important. Eternity is an awfully long time to be wrong.

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from: 828 ministries

I am speaking the truth in Christ–I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit– that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. – Romans: 1-2 (ESV)

I make no pretense to be expositing the key verses today. These are verses where Paul is expressing his dismay about how far lost his own people, the Jews, were at the time of his preaching. I cite them today only because I understand how Paul must have felt, albeit on a smaller scale. This great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart is borne witness by the Holy Spirit within me. I am not lying beloved. I try as always to speak the truth in Christ. I was saved almost 13 years to the day in an Assemblies of God church. A not so reformed and non-practicing Catholic who believed in a God without realizing I was my own God. It was a good church. A Gospel preaching church. A God-fearing church. Pentecostal and charismatic without many of the abuses that often come with it. We had a great pastor. A born evangelist with a true shepherd’s heart. A rare mix these days behind the pulpit. I went there that day with an equally unsaved friend and we both left that day in Christ. Within a month I was baptized and within a year I was in classes for ministerial credentials. Five years later I was a minister for the Assemblies and remained such until this month when I resigned those credentials. This technicality is irrelevant as my call was always from God and not man. The unceasing anguish is in leaving the only church family I have ever known. In 1962 Ronald Reagan remarked as he joined the GOP that he did not leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left him. That is how I feel today. I am not leaving the AG as much as the AG has already left me. Both globally and locally. My great sorrow is that the affiliation in which I learned discernment seemingly has lost theirs. The affiliation that once bravely stood up to Jimmy Swaggart now barely stands against anything.

Beloved we must understand the backdrop, which is the times in which we live. When we see the Biblical prophecies play out every night on the news and see the moral decay spiraling out of control each day, those who have eyes to see can see that we are living in the end times. The Bible warns us very clearly about these times. There will be a great apostasy, or falling away from the faith. This is very much underway in the church today. Paul warned Timothy about this:

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. – 2Timothy 4: 3-5 (ESV)

One just needs to look at what is taught today as doctrine to see the great apostasy. People follow prosperity myths, word faith myths, hyper-grace myths, false signs and lying wonders myths just to name a few. They gather around themselves teachers who specialize in teaching these myths. They wander off by choice. They choose to fall away. Their ears itch with their own passions and want teachers who will scratch them. With this understanding we must decide what side we are on. Remember, Jesus said there are only two choices:

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. – Matthew 12: 30 (ESV)

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. – Matthew 7: 13-14 (ESV)

Narrow is the gate and few are those who find it. Think about that as you watch the next false teacher speaking to tens of thousands or claiming that entire swaths of people “gave their hearts to Christ.” There are only two choices beloved. We are either found gathering people to the Gospel or scattering them away from it. Thus doctrine becomes our critical measuring stick. Our plumb line. Who we choose to associate with becomes critical as well. Who we loan our credibility to. I once viewed Francis Chan for example to be a solid bible preacher. Once he decided to promote the wildly heretical false prophet Mike Bickle however, his preaching was no longer relevant. Remember what Paul charged the Galatians with?

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. – Galatians 5: 7-9 (ESV)

A little false teaching eventually infects your theology. It spreads. It is parasitic. There can be no compromise allowed. This is not about perfection but rather purity of the Gospel. I have watched for years concerned about the direction the AG was heading in but was willing to wait and see. Anyone after all can make a mistake. Then the heresies started piling up. For me it all starts with the embracing of Rick Warren theology. The Purpose Driven Church has done more damage to the cause of Jesus Christ than anything in generations. It has eradicated the shepherd mentality amongst pastors and instead turns them into CEOs. Don’t believe me? Ask Andy Stanley, a staunch Warren adherent:

(When asked about Pastors being called shepherd) – That word needs to go away.” He added, “It was culturally relevant in the time of Jesus, but it’s not culturally relevant anymore.” – Andy Stanley (Leadership Journal, “Get-it-Done Leadership,” May 2006).

This began the slippery slope of growing churches but not the kingdom. The Assemblies embraced the Purpose Driven Life as well and coordinated their churches to all read it together. Something we even did at my church at the time. This is the same book that only addresses salvation one time and presents a nine word “sinner’s prayer” that is followed by an absurdly presumptuous – “Welcome to the family of God!”

Fast forward a few years and the AG tried to coordinate their churches again for a group reading. This time it was a book written by one of their own pastors, Mark Batterson. The Circle Maker is nothing but rank heresy. Based upon a fable found in the Mishnah, Batterson tries to change how Christians pray from being reverent to being petulant. The act of drawing circles is also taken directly from witchcraft. That does not mean the Mr. Batterson intended this. Intent however is irrelevant. The Circle Maker remains to this day a black eye upon the Assemblies. Then there are the associations the AG has chosen to make. Who they have aligned themselves with. Many are not aware of “Empowered 21,” which is self described as:

“The Empowered21 Global Council is an esteemed group of International Christian leaders, co-chaired by George Wood and Billy Wilson. These leaders give inspirational oversight to13 Regional Cabinets across the world and seeks to provide resources to address the crucial issues faced by the Spirit-empowered church.”

So the General Superintendent of the General Council of the Assemblies of God in America is the co-chair of this international coalition. Problem? Not until you see who are part of its leadership:

Bill Johnson, Reinhard Bonnke, Lisa Bevere, Kenneth Copeland, Jentezen Franklin, Brian Houston, Cindy “The General” Jacobs, Robert Morris, Phil Pringle to name a few. This is a who’s-who of false teachers and wannabe prophets. I guess Osteen, Warren and Prince were just too busy. Seriously. Why in the world would you co chair this smorgasbord of heresy? Why would you even want to be on the same website? Bill Johnson believes in grave sucking the residual anointing from dead false teachers. He runs his own school for the supernatural where he teaches people the gifts of the spirit – pure blasphemy! Robert Morris abuses his sheep and tells them to pay him his tithes before paying their rent or bills or medicine or else God will curse all of their money! General Cindy Jacobs? Are you serious? Kenneth Copeland and Brian Houston? The Assemblies should know better. Reinhard Bonnke? International charlatan who brags about raising the dead? The AG threw a banquet in his honor recently. These are not fringe elements in apostasy. These are the leaders beloved.

Then there was the extremely poor decision to get into bed with ex-Catholic mystic Roma Downey and her heretical “AD Miniseries.” When I say in bed I mean under the covers. The AG actively marketed the “church kit” that Downey was selling which turned over your local church to this miniseries for 12 weeks. Each week they would provide you with a video sermon given by a Christian celebrity to match that week’s episode. The third lesson was done by none other than George Wood. Other notable teachers in the series were the aforementioned Mark Batterson and the Hillsong false teacher, Christine Caine. The teaching aside, the actual miniseries was a disaster biblically. It was clear that one of the goals Downey had was to overstate the role of women and make any leading male character out to either be a wimp or psychotic. Beloved we are not talking about artistic license. This series simply did not correctly represent the Bible. I can understand someone who is unsaved not understanding the point but I am talking about the actual story. Mary for example did not have to convince the disciples to wait the three days for when Jesus said He would rise again. Without getting too bogged down in the detail this was another example of very poor decision making by the Assemblies regarding who they want to be found in league with.

It was no wonder then that this past year at their annual General Council one of their speakers was Christine Caine. Never mind that she is from Hillsong, the largest international heretical organization on the planet. Never mind that she is an ardent supporter of someone like Joyce Meyer. Never mind that after “shadowing” Meyer for a week she tweeted a picture of herself laying hands upon the Bible of Joyce Meyer and praying for “an impartation of her “teaching anointing and revelation.” The same Meyer who teaches Jesus went to hell and had to be born again there. The same Meyer who teaches that she never sins. The same Meyer who teaches that we are all little gods. It is no wonder then that the quote that hit the Internet from Caine that night which was taken as some deep nugget of wisdom was:

“The size of your ministry is determined by the size of your heart.” – Christine Caine

Not determined by God. Not determined by the Holy Spirit. Not determined by correct doctrine or preaching the correct Gospel. No beloved. Determined by the size of our wickedly deceptive hearts. Therein sums up the progression of falling away I have witnessed within the Assemblies for the past several years. They bought into the Warren theologies of growth and marketing. They bought into the seeker friendly notions of church growth. They continued to make whatever associations were popular and gained them more exposure with seemingly little concern about doctrine. As a minister for the Assemblies, I am expected to support them and in complete fairness I can no longer do so.

That is the global scene if you will. It is the scene everyone sees on television and being reported. What is often lost however is the local scene. We all belong locally before we belong globally. There are still some very good AG churches out there beloved. Churches who are trying to do the right thing and preach the whole Gospel. Eventually they will have to come out from among them if the Assemblies does not stop its free-fall. Locally however, the politics are even worse. The disregard for correct doctrine is widely accepted as long as you can put bodies in the seats each week. Never mind if people leave. That is a Warren principle taught in the Purpose Driven Church called “Blessed Subtraction.” This principle teaches pastors that it is OK to let sheep wander away from your flock as long as you replace them. Talk about not understanding the 99 and the one! But this point is vitally important because Purpose Driven teachings insist that we are no long in the business of reaching the unsaved but rather the unchurched. That may sound subtle but it is purely a satanic plot. Instead of focusing on their salvation pastors now focus on whether they belong to a church. Instead of focusing on their relationship to Jesus they focus on their relationship to ministry. That is why Blessed Subtraction is so widely accepted theologically even though it violates the entire Bible! As long as you replace the body then the church has not “lost” anything. But what about the sheep that wandered off?

I have watched such local abuses and continue to see them to this day. I know hundreds of people devastated by Christian leaders and a church that swore they loved them as Christ does but then casually left the pen door open and kicked them out into the cold. I heard a pastor once preach that if a congregant had a problem with someone else they need to leave. From the pulpit this was said. During a sermon. I have watched congregations be eviscerated of anyone who was biblically literate. Anyone who dared to ask any questions. Anyone who even mildly objected. I have watched Elder Boards be launching pads for ministerial preaching careers from people who have no business dividing the Word of Truth. What does the Assemblies do about it?

Absolutely nothing.

In fairness, the overall Assemblies has little power over the churches in their fellowship. The power remains at the local level and that is not necessarily a bad thing if you are ensuring the biblical authority of your ministers. Instead however the local assemblies becomes this game of politics and productivity. If a pastor is seen as a producer, meaning he can refill the seats of those who leaves and grow his church, then doctrine or abuses can be nodded and winked at. Meanwhile the landscape is littered with bloody sheep, many of whom will never set foot in a church again. It is for these local reasons and the people who cry out from their abuses that I also feel compelled to walk away. I have close friends and acquaintances who were set into spiritual tailspins, seemingly never to recover. Every month seems to brings to light a new victim locally and a new doctrinal abuse globally. And beloved, please understand that this is not a broad brush I intend to paint with. As I have said there are plenty of good AG churches and ministers who preach the uncompromised Word of God and are led by real shepherds. This is also not personal in nature, even though I could recount my own personal tales of abuse. It is not about me. It is about the sheep of the Lord and the primacy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In good conscience I cannot continue to write that believers need to come out from among the falseness in the church today and continue to proudly claim affiliation to an organization that has lost its way. I will pray for the AG because I love the AG. I ask that you do the same. I pray that this once proud organization returns to its roots of uncompromised Gospel preachers. Time is running out.

Reverend Anthony Wade – January 16, 2016

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“The Bible clearly warns us that we are to be cautious about following the ideas of men when the men who are promoting their own ideas are ignoring what God has said in His Word. There is even a danger to paying attention to what men are saying, if what they say does not line up with what God has already communicated in His Word.”

From Understand the Times:

Man’s way or God’s way? That is a very important question. When it comes to growing God’s church, is there a right answer? Some believe there are ways to promote church growth by applying certain principles that are based on human insight and growth methods. What does God say?

Every Christian wants to see the church grow. Jesus made it clear before He ascended to the Father that His followers are to be His witnesses. Believers are called to share the good news of the gospel until He returns. We want to see our churches filled to overflowing. But what happens when the Christian Church, in its zeal to reach the unconverted, begins to embrace ideas and methods that are far from biblical to attract the lost?

We must always remember that a zealous Christian leader who has the ability to communicate can also be a subtle deceiver if he or she mixes truth with error. Further, there are those who are so convinced they are standing on the truth that when they are confronted with biblical truth, they simply cannot see their error. No matter who one is or what position is held, everyone needs to be open to correction from God’s Word.

In the book of Proverbs, we are told why this happens. Solomon wrote: All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits. [1] Then to make the point even more evident a few verses later, we are admonished: There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. [2]

The Bible clearly warns us that we are to be cautious about following the ideas of men when the men who are promoting their own ideas are ignoring what God has said in His Word. There is even a danger to paying attention to what men are saying, if what they say does not line up with what God has already communicated in His Word.

At the present time, there is a trend underway that seems very exciting to many Christians. They perceive that this present generation is attracted to experience and not impressed by biblical exegesis. If a church can provide “Christian experiences” which attract attention, Christianity can be expanded, they reason. Sensory, experiential, liturgical, and sacramental encounters, they say, can be effective attractions.

However, based on church history, these methods have actually been around for centuries. And while they may attract those who are looking for a spiritual experience, experience without a biblical basis can be very deceptive and not Christianity at all.

The Scriptures shed light on what happens when human means and methods are promoted without God’s endorsement. Jesus said:

This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand.[3]

To sum it up, methods based on man’s views can be right in the eyes of men but in opposition to Jesus Christ and His Word. That is why we must be like the Bereans who “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”[4]

Remember, the last days will be a time when deception will grow stronger and stronger. Deception means that truth can be compromised. Thank God, we have His Word to keep us on the right track: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”[

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