In This Edition:
Pope Francis and Shimon Peres Discuss the Establishment of A United Nations of Religions
Globalist Mouthpiece Calls For the Entire Planet to Adopt the ‘National Identification System’ One European Country Has Already Established
Putin’s Pride: Danger For the World
Increasing Number of ‘Christian Artists’ Adopting Homosexual / Lesbian Theology
Islamists Demand Overhaul of All U.S. Law Enforcement Training
Top Church Destroying Countries
10 Characteristics of Religious Church Systems Jesus Warns Us Against
Atheist ‘churches’ Creeping Into the Bible Belt
Surprising Results From Bible Belief Poll
Pope Francis and Shimon Peres Discuss the
Establishment of A United Nations of Religions
08 September 2014
By Michael Snyder
Reprinted from The American Dream
Last Thursday, Pope Francis and former Israeli President Shimon Peres met for an extended 45 minute private conversation. The focus of this discussion was a proposal by Peres to establish a “United Nations of Religions”. It was the third meeting between the two men in a little more than four months. As you will see below, Pope Francis showed “his interest, attention, and encouragement” as Peres explained his proposal. Of course Pope Francis didn’t commit to anything, and we probably will not see a “United Nations of Religions” any time soon, but every idea has to start somewhere. If Pope Francis does ultimately decide to actively push for such a thing, could we eventually see a single global body that claims to represent all of the religions of the world?
It is very unusual for a Pope to meet with any world leader three times in just over four months. But it is this latest meeting between Pope Francis and Shimon Peres that was the most noteworthy by far. The following is how Fox News reported on it…
Retired Israeli President Shimon Peres has proposed a new global peace initiative to Pope Francis: A “United Nations of Religions,” given that most wars today have religious, not nationalistic, undercurrents.
The Vatican said Peres pitched the initiative during a 45-minute audience Thursday in the Apostolic Palace. The two men last met when Francis invited the then-Israeli president and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to pray for peace together in the Vatican gardens on June 8.
So exactly why does Peres want a “United Nations of Religions”?
Well, according to the Jerusalem Post it is because he believes that such a body would have the best chance of preventing war and violence in the world…
In an interview with the Catholic Magazine Famiglia Cristiana, Peres called on Francis to leverage his respect to create an interfaith organization to curb religious violence.
“What we need is an organization of United Religions… as the best way to combat terrorists who kill in the name of faith,” Peres said. “What we need is an unquestionable moral authority who says out loud, ‘No, God does not want this and does not allow it.’”
After his private meeting with Peres, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said that the Pope “listened, showing his interest, attention, and encouragement” while Peres shared his ideas. The Pope did not commit to anything, but he also did not dismiss the idea of a United Nations of Religions.
And the truth is that such an organization would fit in very well with what the Pope has been trying to do his entire tenure. He has been doing just about all that he can to “build bridges” to other religions.
For example, earlier this year the Pope authorized “Islamic prayers and readings from the Quran” at the Vatican for the first time ever…
For the first time in history, Islamic prayers and readings from the Quran will be heard at the Vatican on Sunday, in a move by Pope Francis to usher in peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Francis issued the invitation to Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during his visit last week to Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority.
Abbas, Peres, and Francis will be joined by Jewish, Christian and Islamic religious leaders, a statement released by Peres’s spokesperson said, according to the Times of Israel.
And the Pope has been relentlessly reaching out to Protestant organizations.
Here is one example of him reaching out to American charismatics from earlier this summer…
Two controversial TV preachers recently met Pope Francis in an effort to work toward tearing down the ‘walls of division’ between Catholics and Protestants.
Kenneth Copeland and James Robison are two religious leaders in northeast Texas known for drawing huge crowds to their services and events, and who were a part of leading the group identifying as a “delegation of Evangelical Christian leaders” in its meeting with the Roman Catholic pontiff late last month.
In addition, earlier this year the Pope even met with television minister Joel Osteen…
Megachurch speaker and author Joel Osteen was among a group of political and religious leaders who met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Thursday.
According to reports, Osteen was part of a delegation organized by the International Foundation in an effort to encourage interfaith relations and ecumenicism. Utah Senator Mike Lee (R), a Mormon, Gayle Beebe, the president of the interdenominational Westmont College in California, and Pastor Tim Timmons, founder of South Coast Community Church also in California, were among those who who greeted the pope, along with Osteen.
“I just felt very honored and very humbled,” Osteen told local television station Click 2 Houston. “It was amazing. And even to go back into that part of the Vatican—there’s so much history there, the place that they took us through. You feel that deep respect and reverence for God.”
And this is not something that just started recently. Pope Francis has been pushing an ecumenical agenda very hard from the very first moments of his papacy. For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “Pope Francis And The Emerging One World Religion“.
But there is one type of Christian that Pope Francis does not have anything positive to say about.
Pope Francis says that there is not any room for “fundamentalism” in Christianity…
Following his first visit to the Middle East as pope last month, the pontiff criticized fundamentalism in Christianity, Islam and Judaism as a form of violence.
“A fundamentalist group, even if it kills no one, even it strikes no one, is violent. The mental structure of fundamentalism is violence in the name of God.”
But exactly what is “fundamentalism”?
The following is the definition that Google gives when you do a search…
“a form of a religion, especially Islam or Protestant Christianity, that upholds belief in the strict, literal interpretation of scripture.”
So is Pope Francis rejecting those Christians that believe in a strict, literal interpretation of the Bible?
And precisely what is his overall agenda?
Why has he been working so hard to reach out to other major religions all over the planet?
Globalist Mouthpiece Calls For the Entire Planet to
Adopt the ‘National Identification System’ One
European Country Has Already Established
By Michael Snyder
Reprinted from The American Dream
Would you like to have a digital identity card that is automatically issued to you at birth? In one European nation, residents use such a card when they go to the hospital, when they do their banking, when they go shopping and even when they vote. This card has become so popular that this particular European country actually plans to start issuing them to millions of non-citizens all over the planet who request them. Never heard about this? Neither had I before this week. The Economist, a well-known mouthpiece for the global elite, is calling for the entire planet to adopt this “national identification system” that the little nation of Estonia has adopted. The Economist is touting all of the “benefits” of a “national identification card”, but are there dangers as well? Could adopting such a system potentially open the door for greater government tyranny than we have ever known before?
The Economist article about this national identification scheme went largely unnoticed because it had a very boring title: “Estonia takes the plunge“. But the content of the article is absolutely startling. The Economist article calls the Estonian national identification system a “cyberdream” and makes it sound like it will solve all of our problems…
There is one place where this cyberdream is already reality. Secure, authenticated identity is the birthright of every Estonian: before a newborn even arrives home, the hospital will have issued a digital birth certificate and his health insurance will have been started automatically. All residents of the small Baltic state aged 15 or over have electronic ID cards, which are used in health care, electronic banking and shopping, to sign contracts and encrypt e-mail, as tram tickets, and much more besides—even to vote.
If this was just limited to Estonia, it would be disturbing enough. But according to the Economist, the Estonian government plans to start issuing these cards to millions of “satellite Estonians” all over the world…
That has left a gap in the global market—one that Estonia hopes to fill. Starting later this year, it will issue ID cards to non-resident “satellite Estonians”, thereby creating a global, government-standard digital identity. Applicants will pay a small fee, probably around €30-50 ($41-68), and provide the same biometric data and documents as Estonian residents. If all is in order, a card will be issued, or its virtual equivalent on a smartphone (held on a special secure module in the SIM card).
Some good ideas never take off because too few people embrace them. And with just 1.3m residents, Estonia is a tiddler—even with the 10m satellite Estonians the government hopes to add over the next decade. What may provide the necessary scale is a European Union rule soon to come into force that will require member states to accept each others’ digital IDs. That means non-resident holders of Estonian IDs, wherever they are, will be able not only to send each other encrypted e-mail and to prove their identity to web-service providers who accept government-issued identities, but also to do business with governments anywhere in the EU.
The Economist hopes that Estonia will become a model that the rest of the world will follow.
But do we really want government to have that much control over our lives?
If we need this “digital identity card” to go shopping, do banking or get health care, it would also give the government the power to revoke those “privileges” in a heartbeat.
Already there are countless examples of how governments around the world are using information databases in abusive ways. For instance, one new lawsuit in the U.S. alleges that average citizens have been put in a ‘terror database’ for doing such things as buying computers and waiting for family members at train stations.
Do we really want to go even further down this road?
And of course “identity cards” can be lost, stolen and forged. The next logical step would be to permanently implant our identity cards.
To many older Americans, such a notion sounds ludicrous, but many younger Americans are so eager to adopt this kind of technology that they are actually doing it to themselves. Just check out the following excerpt from a recent NBC News article about “biohackers”…
In tattoo parlors and basements around the world, people are turning themselves into cyborgs by embedding magnets and computer chips directly into their bodies.
They call themselves biohackers, cyborgs and grinders. With each piece of technology they put beneath their skin, they are exploring the boundaries — and the implications — of fusing man and machine.
Welcome to the world of biohacking.
It’s a niche community at the literal bleeding edge of body modification, and it attracts fervent fans from a variety of schools of thought. Some simply enjoy experimenting with new tech. Others use the magnets and chips for utilitarian purposes.
Does that sound creepy to you?
But it isn’t just people on the fringes of society that are interested in these kinds of technologies.
For example, electronics giant LG says that it wants to put an electronic tracking device on your child…
Various tech companies have introduced wearable devices over the last few years that track your steps or heartbeat and even deliver your e-mails to your wrist.
Is electronically tracking your kid the next frontier?
LG announced a new device Wednesday morning, the KizON wristband, designed to let parents keep track of their child’s whereabouts. The KizON uses GPS, WiFi and mobile Internet signals to identify the user’s location in real time and sends the information to an Android app.
And billionaire Bill Gates is helping to develop an implant that “acts as a contraceptive for 16 years”…
Helped along by one of the world’s most notable billionaires, a U.S. firm is developing a tiny implant that acts as a contraceptive for 16 years — and can be turned on or off using a remote control.
The birth control microchip, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, would hold nearly two decades worth of a hormone commonly used in contraceptives and dispense 30 micrograms a day, according to a report from the MIT Technology Review.
The new birth control, which is set to begin preclinical testing next year with hopes of putting it on shelves in 2018, can be implanted in the buttocks, upper arm or abdomen.
Whether you are ready or not, these technologies are coming.
For now, they are voluntary.
But eventually a day may come when you will be required to have an “identity chip” in order to buy, sell, conduct banking, have a job or go to the hospital.
When that day arrives, what will you do?
The Gog/Magog War
Putin’s Pride: Danger For the World
Reprinted from Prophecy News Watch
As the Obama administrations draws down our forces to pre-WWII levels, and even front-line military officers are dismissed when in action against the enemy, Russia is doing something quite different. Russian president Vladimir Putin is proudly boasting of his nation’s “offensive and defensive” weaponry which is so advanced that “other armies in the world” do not yet have their equal, according to a Kremlin-controlled Russian-language website.
Russia’s feverish military build-up began in 2008 and is projected to continue through 2020. The Kremlin is determined to rival the U.S. armed forces. Moscow is almost completely remaking its military, and has developed, or is process of developing, new models of jet fighters, bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles, hypersonic missiles, submarines, and surface ships. Putin has also shaken up the Russian top brass with a completely re-done command and control structure.
The Russian army itself is projected to become more of a volunteer, professional force, much less reliant on draftees. Military pay and housing are also improving as the build-up proceeds.
There are problems, however. Russian industry is having difficulty producing modern, technically sophisticated weaponry. Moscow has turned to the West for assistance, and the West has obliged. The most enthusiastic supporter of the Russian arms industry is France, which is building two Mistral-class helicopter assault carriers. The deal for the carriers was first struck in 2008, and the delivery dates for the ships, one in 2014 and the other in 2015, have remianed firm despite the Russian invasion of Ukraine’s Crimean province.
The Mistral carriers are ideal for the rapid deployment of elite troops and support vehicles. One of the carriers is to be deployed in the Black Sea, possibly out of the recently captured port of Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula. The second carrier is slated to be used in the area around several Japanese islands occupied by Russia since the end of World War II. Tokyo wants the islands returned, Moscow refuses.
While France has decided to go through with its carrier deal with Russia, Western military aid has dried up following the Crimean invasion. The Russian military and political elite are now reviving the Soviet strategy of having all military equipment domestically produced.
How long Western nations can resist a lucrative Russian market and follow Fance’s example is difficult to assess, but exporting military technology for short term gain is tempting to nations with weak or stagnant economies.
With or without Western assistance, Moscow is determined to field an armed force comparable to the U.S. and NATO in terms of training, technological expertise, and overall effectiveness.
Russian military prowess is only one part of the threat which the United States will be facing very shortly. While Putin and the Moscow elite are glowing with pride as the Russian military begins to compare favorable with what Russians increasingly regard as the legendary Red Army, the Kremlin is not prepared to go it alone against the United States.
Putin’s pride does not blind him to the need for friends in his struggle with the United States, and in the same statement about Russia’s military might, Putin also refers to “our partners,” which, he adds, Russia is “glad to have.”
Moscow’s “partners” include the Peoples Republic of China (PRC), which is engagning in a military build-up of its own. Putin’s Latin American”partners” may, in the future, supply bases for Russian aircraft and naval forces. In addition, Cuba is a floating spy base for Russia and China. Electronic signals broadcast from the U.S., especially from the north-east section of the nation, are intercepted and analyzed. Targets include political as well as military communications.
Cuban intelligence officers and their agents operate very effectively within the United States, and are also an important source of information for Moscow and Beijing.
Putin is particularly “glad” to have the PRC as a “partner.” Moscow has stated that the political elites in both nations have nearly identical interests. One of the areas of common interest is the Asia-Pacific region.
Cooperation between Russia and China can make life very difficult for U.S. allies in the area. Japan is particularly vulnerable. Unfortunately for Tokyo, both Russia and China have reasons for weakening Japan Moscow does not want to see a strong Japan as a competitor for the Russian-occupied islands which Japan still claims. Moscow is building up its naval, air, and land forces near Japan, and Russian aircraft periodically violate Japanese airspace. China is ready to confront Tokyo over a chain of uninhabited islands (Senkaku to the Japanese, Diaoyu to the Chinese) in the South China Sea, and area which is also one of the world’s most important shipping lanes.
If Russia and China are ever allowed to intimidate Japan and possibly reduce Japan to a dependent state, the United States would be seen as powerless, and unable, or unwilling, to protect its allies. If America retreats from the Asia-Pacific region, the independent island of Taiwan would fall to China’s overwhelming might, and even the Philippines and Australia would find themselves in danger.
The United States would, in effect, no longer be a world power.
In such a situation, the United States would rapidly find itself as dependent on the will of Moscow and Bejing. Russia and China will then be the de facto arbiters of the world, and Americans would then find that even in domestic politics, the political elite of Moscow and Beijing would have a controlling interest.
Free people, in order to remain free, must remain loyal to each other. Any sign of weakness will bring on the most calamitous consequence.
Increasing Number of ‘Christian Artists’ Adopting
Homosexual / Lesbian Theology
Reprinted from Prophecy News Watch
Another artist in the genre of contemporary Christian music has openly declared her homosexuality. Vicky Beeching, a talented worship leader from Great Britain, made the announcement one week ago to the dismay of many Christians who have enjoyed listening and worshipping to her music. Her songs, “Glory to God” and “Breath of Life”, are sung at worship services all around the world. Beeching made the revelation in an interview with the “Independent” newspaper of London.
Beeching joins a number of Christian artists of late, who have openly admitted their homosexuality. In the “Independent” interview, she recounted the story of her life spent in mental anguish because of her secretive same sex attraction.” I feel certain God loves me just the way I am, and I have a huge sense of calling to communicate that to young people” stated Beeching. For the past year, Vicky Beeching has been urging churches to amend their doctrine concerning same sex unions.
These attempts to effect doctrinal change have some conservative Christian leaders concerned that this is only the swell of a massive wave barreling down on the church, seeking to force the “gay agenda” on evangelicals. Scott Lively, an evangelical attorney and evangelist, sees this onslaught as a harbinger of coming events. Lively, in a recent WND article, stated that he expects to see “attacks on Christians in America like we have never seen before”, as those seeking the approval of homosexuality by the church, go on the offensive.
The past 40 years have witnessed a domino effect as one institution after another has fallen to the relentless” gay agenda.” Just last year, the Boy Scouts succumbed to the “steam roller” of gay activism and now, “one last barrier to ‘gay’ cultural hegemony remains: the Christian church,” continued Mr. Lively.
In his brochure, Not ‘just another sin”, he, argues that a” dangerous and modern heresy called ‘gay theology” is infiltrating the church at an alarming pace. Many believers who are afraid of being called intolerant are trivializing homosexuality and calling it just another sin.” His assertion is that from Genesis to Revelation, the Bible teaches that “homosexuality is not just another sin, but is in fact a form of extreme rebellion” against the sovereignty of God.
While acknowledging that Jesus does indeed love the homosexual, Dr. Michael Brown, Christian author of the book ”Can You be Gay and be a Christian!”, explained in a Charisma blog post, that Jesus reached out to sinners in His day and changed them by His presence and words rather than affirming them in their sin. Jesus teachings and life were to be transformational to the sinner. Dr. Brown urged Christians to pray for Vicky Beeching’s repentance.
“I appeal to you, Vicky, to go back to God once again, to recognize that His Word really is clear in terms of homosexual practice, and that you can advocate for freedom and wholeness in Jesus without advocating for homosexual practice. (In fact, if you advocate for homosexual practice, you will bring people into bondage, not freedom.),” continued Brown.
Finally, Pastor Kris Vallotton, in an earlier Facebook post, explained that his many years of pastoral counseling has” taught me that when you define yourself by your temptations or your passions (instead of managing your appetite and resisting temptations); there is no bottom to that cesspool! The truth is that we all have temptations and appetites that are not healthy and must be managed, or we will live with a deep sense of shame no matter what values our culture tries to validate because God has written His own values on our hearts.”
If the church is to stand against this “gay theology”, individual Christians must arm themselves with the truth of God’s Word as they face another attempt to dilute its message of salvation and hope for sinners in need of forgiveness and transformation!
The Rise of Islam
Islamists Demand Overhaul of All U.S. Law
Reprinted from Prophecy New Watch
Islamic activists that strong-armed the FBI to purge anti-terrorism training material considered “offensive” to Muslims have made their next wave of demands, which include an overhaul in the way all law enforcement officers are trained in the United States.
The coalition of influential and politically-connected Muslim rights groups is demanding that the Obama administration implement a mandatory retraining program for all federal, state and local law enforcement officials who may have been subjected to materials they deem “biased and discriminatory” against Muslims. There must also be an audit of all federal law enforcement and intelligence gathering training and educational materials to identify and remove information that could exhibit bias against any race, ethnicity, religion or national origin, the groups demand.
Additionally, the administration must pursue disciplinary action against agents and officials who engage in discriminatory conduct as well as those responsible for the anti-Muslim training materials. Finally, the coalition insists that all federal funding to local and state law enforcement agencies be withheld unless they ban all training materials considered to be biased against race, ethnicity, religion or national origin. In short, these empowered Muslim activists want to dictate how our nation’s law enforcement agencies operate at every level.
The outrageous demands were made this month in a letter to Lisa O. Monaco, the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. Among the signatories is the terrorist front organization Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which has repeatedly proven that it wields tremendous power in the Obama administration. Founded in 1994 by three Middle Eastern extremists, CAIR got the FBI to purge anti-terrorism material determined to be offensive to Muslims. Judicial Watch uncovered that scandal last summer and obtained hundreds of pages of FBI documents with details of the arrangement.
CAIR also got several police departments in President Obama’s home state of Illinois to cancel essential counterterrorism courses over accusations that the instructor was anti-Muslim. The course was called “Islamic Awareness as a Counter-Terrorist Strategy” and departments in Lombard, Elmhurst and Highland Park caved into CAIR’s demands. The group responded with a statement commending officials for their “swift action in addressing the Muslim community’s concerns.” CAIR has wielded its power in a number of other cases during the Obama presidency, including blocking an FBI probe involving the radicalization of young Somali men in the U.S. and pressuring the government to file discrimination lawsuits against employers who don’t accommodate Muslims in the workplace.
Other signatories include the powerful open borders group Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), Muslim Advocates, Women in Islam Inc., the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), to name a few. The group’s claim that recent administration directives to promote multicultural and diversity sensitivity training in law enforcement aren’t enough because they don’t specifically address anti-Muslim materials.
Communist Chinese Congress in Session
China Establishes New ‘Christian Theology’ to Control
its Christian Population
Reprinted from Prophecy News Watch
In a country known for quixotic public campaigns, China’s latest surely ranks among its most creative. The government will create a “Chinese Christian Theology” to guide the practice of Christianity in the country, the China Daily reported Thursday.
Although the government has yet to provide any details into what this new theology entails, its purpose is clear: Speaking to China Daily, Wang Zuo, director of the State Administration of Religious Affairs, said, “The construction of Chinese Christian Theology should adapt to China’s national condition and integrate with Chinese culture.”
On the surface, it may seem strange that an officially atheist state would create a new theology. But the endeavor provides a glimpse into an increasingly religious country, and a government’s desire to deflect any potential challenge to its authority.
Since relaxing prohibitions on religious faith in 1982, the Chinese Communist Party now recognizes five official faiths: Protestantism, Catholicism, Taoism, Buddhism and Islam. Because much religious faith remains underground, it is difficult to establish the precise number of worshippers in China. But a 2007 survey estimated that 31 percent of the country’s population, a number exceeding 400 million people, practiced a religious faith of some kind. Each religion has an organized, government-sanctioned hierarchy that is headquartered in Beijing and under the direct supervision of the Chinese Communist Party.
Even with that structure in place, the government has occasionally felt the need to further exert its control over the country’s religious life. In recent years, this trend has intensified. In 2007, Beijing passed a law prohibiting Buddhists from reincarnation.
(The government has thus far not revealed whether there have been any violations.) In Tibet, government minders have replaced monks as supervisors of Buddhist temples throughout the region, reversing a long-standing policy.
In the far-western Xinjiang region, whose 9 million ethnic Uighurs practice a mild form of Sunni Islam, Beijing limits permission of Muslims to make the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, while in July China banned fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. And this month, in Karamay, the local government said residents wearing Islamic clothing, and men wearing long beards, could not legally board city buses.
China’s religious repression in Xinjiang and Tibet has a clear political purpose: Beijing regards both regions as separatist threats, and has invested large sums of money in cajoling Uighurs and Tibetans toward loyalty to the Communist Party. But Christians, who do not have a specific geographical base in China, also experience persecution. In Wenzhou, government officials in April abruptly shut down a popular church without explanation, while police tore down crosses from thousands of churches throughout the city.
China’s attempts to micromanage Christian practice in the country have done little to stem the religion’s popularity: By 2030, one influential pastor estimates, China will have nearly 250 million Christians. That would, at current projections, give the officially atheist country the world’s largest Christian population.
For now, the Chinese government appears to recognize it cannot return to the Maoist era, which largely suspended all religious life in the country. But the creation of a bespoke Chinese Christian theology is an attempt to co-opt China’s newfound devotion into an explicitly patriotic enterprise.
Still, in a country where Web searches for Jesus far outnumber those for President Xi Jinping, Beijing may have a major challenge on its hands.
Top Church Destroying Countries
Reprinted from Prophecy News Watch
Recent research has shown that there are certain countries where churches are at high risk of deliberate systematic destruction, as well as sporadic attacks through religious intolerance and terrorism. If you are a Christian and happen to live in one of those countries, chances are that you and your family will also be singled out for the destruction of your property, belongings, and even your lives.
These likely outcomes were derived from a recent Pew Research Center study which calculated the world’s top 34 countries with the most government destruction of religious property. In an article published in Christianity Today, Kate Tracy reports on this research in which other highlights derived were as follows:
• Three countries were found to have topped the church-destroying list with “100 or more” incidents: China, Russia, and Tajikistan.
• These were followed by another set of countries in the “10+ to 99” count category of churches destroyed. These were: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Azerbaijan, Syria, Pakistan, Angola, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan.
• There are another 21 countries listed in the “1 to 9” countries, including some of those notoriously and regularly covered in the press due to religious violence or intolerance, such as Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan and Egypt.
• Overall, government damage to religious property occurs most often in the Middle East and North Africa, while in the Asia-Pacific region, 16 of 60 countries had government infringement on their property.
• Between the months of November 2012 and March 2014, persecution watchdog Open Doors found that 3,641 churches and Christian properties were destroyed. The four hardest-hit countries: Nigeria (with 1,539 cases, Egypt (with 829 cases), Pakistan (with 217 cases), and Syria (with 207 cases). Syria and Egypt lined up in Pew’s second-tier ranking of countries with 10 to 99 cases of religious property damage, while Nigeria and Egypt were in Pew’s third-tier ranking, with one to nine cases reported.
• Tajikistan ranks No. 45 among the 50 countries where it’s hardest to be a Christian, while China ranks No. 37 and Russia does not rank.
• Colombia and Mexico—countries that don’t even rank among the top 50 worst places of persecution—have high rates of church property damage. Colombia had 177 cases and Mexico had 36 during the latest reporting period. Based on this finding, Ronald Boyd-MacMillan, chief strategy officer for Open Doors stated that this indicates that religious violence is more a product of state factions, rather than the overall state itself.
• The other countries rounding out Open Doors’ top 10 list for religious violence were the Central African Republic, India, Kenya, and Iraq, all with less than 100 incidents of Christian property destruction.
• China is also reportedly focusing on removing crosses, which are an integral symbol of Christianity, from as many churches as possible.
• As was recently reported by Christianity Today, Sudan recently reaffirmed its church-building ban as well as demolished a few existing ones. However, Sudan ranks low on Pew’s list, with only one to nine incidents of religious property damage.
Another similar study was published in January and also referenced by Christianity Today. The study was based on the top 10 nations “where Christians faced the most pressure and violence,” according to the 2014 World Watch List (WWL) from Open Doors International, were North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Maldives, Pakistan, Iran, and Yemen (in that order).
The countries that overlap these two lists – where the high risks of church destruction are matched with a similarly high risk of anti-Christian pressure and violence – are Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Pakistan.
Although persecution of Christians and the destruction of churches and attacks on missions and missionaries have always existed, it is emerging that Christians are the most persecuted people on earth. In a recent article published in The Independent, Paul Vallely writes: “Most people in the West would be surprised by the answer to the question: who are the most persecuted people in the world? According to the International Society for Human Rights, a secular group with members in 38 states worldwide, 80 per cent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed at Christians…. The Centre for the Study of Global Christianity in the United States estimates that 100,000 Christians now die every year, targeted because of their faith – that is 11 every hour. The Pew Research Center says that hostility to religion reached a new high in 2012, when Christians faced some form of discrimination in 139 countries, almost three-quarters of the world’s nations.”
So as disturbing as these statistics are, should anyone be surprised by them? Hardly – Jesus Christ Himself warned:
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. (John 15: 18-21).
In another scripture, Jesus addresses the same issues and statistical implications raised in these reports of the persecution of churches and Christians:
“These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them (John 16: 1-4).
However there is no cause for dismay, as God promises His peace and victory to His servants no matter what they may face:
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (John 16:33).
10 Characteristics of Religious Church Systems Jesus
Warns Us Against
Reprinted from Prophecy News Watch
Every church and/or organization has a corporate culture with norms, rules and expectations that pressure participants to conform. Some cultures are good and some bad.
That being said, there are particular attributes that characterize false religions or become the norm during religious decline in a true faith such as Christianity.
The Old Testament prophets such as Isaiah, Micah and Amos decried religious ritual that was without true righteousness, humility and love for neighbor (Is. 1:10-17; 58; Amos 5:21-24; Mic. 6:8). The line of prophets arose starting in the 8th century B.C. primarily because Israel had a tendency to focus more on adhering to the temple ritual worship of the Levitical system than the ethical lifestyle required by the Law of Moses as found in the Ten Commandments. For this, the prophets pronounced judgment upon the nation, and God dispersed the people and, on two occasions, let enemies destroy their temple.
We have the same issue in today’s church, irrespective of the denomination or expression of the body of Christ.
The following are 10 of the characteristics of false religious systems as taught by Jesus in Matthew 23:
1. There are onerous rules and regulations some call legalism (Matt. 23:1-3).
In the contemporary church, there are numerous man-made traditions and requirements that never arose from the Word, which have become an unnecessary burden upon believers. For example, in many Pentecostal churches the emphasis is on outward holiness related to attire, makeup, the cutting of hair, jewelry and other regulations. I have spoken to numerous young people who stopped attending church because these regulations made them feel weird in front of their unchurched friends. Fundamentalists in the past forbade any form of entertainment, including watching movies, listening to the radio, watching television, etc. These are legalistic efforts to bring holiness that have resulted in numerous churches losing their next generation.
2. The church leaders serve to receive prestige from men (vv. 5-7).
God makes it clear in His word that some religious leaders love the praise of men more than the praise of God (John 12:42-43). The judgment of God is against the leaders who are constantly posturing themselves within their denomination to attain the highest seats of authority and places of honor among men. Truly, some of the greatest people of God in the earth today are hidden from the public eye.
3. The leaders crave titles and moving up the ranks of hierarchical religious systems (vv. 8-11).
Today’s church is replete with people who use titles to validate their ministries. I can’t tell you how many people I have met with the title apostle, bishop, doctor or archbishop on their business cards who have very little influence in the church and secular world. Truly God doesn’t care about an apostolic title; God looks more at apostolic function and fruit. I have found that, the more a person speaks about their academic achievements and ecclesial titles, the more insecure they are as a person and about their ministry accomplishments.
I say this as a person who has been consecrated both a bishop and apostle and who flows in circles with leaders who use these titles. There is nothing wrong with these titles (both are biblical) as long as we don’t flaunt them, crave them and depend upon them for validation and/or to hide that we do not have real apostolic function and fruit. Many of the greatest leaders in the church world do not insist upon people referring to them with a title.
4. The leaders have an entitlement mentality (vv. 11-12).
I believe in the biblical principle of serving the people of God as a prerequisite to being qualified to function in the same ministry as they do. For example, Joshua was called the servant of Moses; Elisha served Elijah; David served Samuel and Saul, and the 12 apostles served Jesus.
That being said, there has also been abuse of this principle since many people desire to become leaders partially because it enables them to be waited upon. I believe younger ministers should serve older, more mature ministers out of honor and proper protocol, but at the same time older ministers should not demand it or become abusive if they do not receive it. We do not receive titles in the kingdom so we can be waited upon but so that we can have greater opportunity to serve in the church.
The more mature a Christ follower is, the more they will celebrate service as the highest form of ministry and leadership. God resists those leaders who emotionally abuse and/or lord it over those under their care (1 Pet. 5:3).
5. The leaders become a stumbling block to others seeking the kingdom (vv. 13-15).
It has been evident the past 30 years in both the evangelical and Roman Catholic churches that leaders can become huge stumbling blocks instead of assets to the kingdom. Whether it is lavish lifestyles, sexual misconduct, abuse of power, or other forms of narcissism, many believers have been turned off from Christianity by those who are supposed to represent it. Truly those who handle the Word of God will receive the most scrutiny at the judgment seat of Christ (James 3:1).
6. The leaders value and love money and wealth more than anything else (vv. 16-17).
While I do not believe church leaders should live in poverty, nor do I believe they should receive salaries from their churches that are greatly disproportionate to the average income of their congregation and/or community. The religious leaders Jesus denounced seemed to value gold more than the glory and honor of God. Leaders should never serve primarily for money but for the love of God and His people (1 Pet. 5:2).
7. The weightier matters of the Word are neglected (vv. 23-24).
Although I believe and practice the principles of tithing, fasting, church attendance and the like, they should never be an excuse for me to think I have fulfilled all of my Christian duties. Jesus says here that we ought to continue to tithe but also include in our lifestyle the practice of treating others with justice, mercy and faithfulness.
For example, if we tithe but treat our spouse poorly, neglect the poor in our midst, or mistreat others, our tithe will not do us any good. Then we are just like the Pharisee Jesus describes in Luke 18:10-14.
8. Ritual is valued more than inner transformation (vv. 25-28).
In the church we all have our traditions and rituals; whether it is the high-church liturgies of the Roman Catholic, Orthodox or Anglican churches, and/or the more informal gatherings of the Pentecostals and evangelicals. The tendency for human beings is to fall into a routine and equate our routine with true worship. Jesus told the Samaritan woman that she worshipped what she did not know (John 4), which means that people can worship in ignorance and/or without a true experience with God.
Whether it is the sacraments of denominational churches or the shouting, shaking and tongue talking of the Pentecostals, human nature has a tendency to fall into habit patterns of outward worship bereft of the life-changing dynamic of encountering the living God. We do not have to do away with these rituals, sacraments and traditions but should integrate them with true heartfelt worship and passion for our Lord.
9. They honor the departed saints without living like them in the present (vv. 29-32).
I have found that it is much easier to study about revival than to actually work hard for it. It is much easier to study church history than it is to make history. Every denomination and expression of the church has its Christian heroes of the past, but very few denominations, churches and adherents attempt to emulate the life, passion and sacrifice of the saints of old (for example: Ignatius, Tertullian, Cyprian, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Francis, Whitefield, Wesley, Edwards, Finney, Spurgeon, Moody, Hudson Taylor, John G. Lake, Wigglesworth, Maria Woodworth-Etter, Francis Schaeffer and more).
Jesus wants us to honor the prophets of old by living like them, not merely by building and revering their tombs.
10. They reject the prophets and wise men who confront their false systems (vv. 33-37).
Those who are captivated by a religious system will never listen to those speaking for God who are not of their denomination and/or do not have acceptable academic credentials. Sound familiar? The Pharisees and Sadducees rejected Jesus (John 7:14-18) and Peter (Acts 4:13) for the same reason. It is not an accident that in Luke 3:1-2 it shows that the Word of God came to John in the wilderness and not to an already established institutional leader. Thus, God bypassed the litany of prominent political and religious leaders and their systems (3:1) because they were so corrupt.
When a leader is captivated by their religious system or dead institution they become blind to the pure Word of the Lord. God has to bypass them and speak prophetically through those outside the dead institution. Those who are humble and have ears to hear (as Nicodemus in John 3) will recognize and receive the people God sends to them, irrespective of their institutional affiliation.
Truly, God cannot be contained in a temple, an institution, a denomination or any one religious system. He is Lord of all and will seek after those who worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).
May God help us to avoid these 10 judgments!
Atheist ‘churches’ Creeping Into the Bible Belt
Reprinted from Prophecy News Watch
What looks like a church, sounds like a church and behaves like a church but is not a church? It comes complete with music, instruments, singers, sermons and its own pastor and speakers. It attracts a gathering of hundreds of adherents each Sunday morning. It has social programs and seeks to help the local community. Yet it’s still not a church in the traditional sense.
Its distinguishing factor is that it is one place where God Himself is not welcome – the “Sunday Assembly” secular church movement which is an umbrella body of atheist churches around the world. The organization is said to have 75 international congregations and will add another 25 in September.
Such are the atheistic or ‘faithless churches’ that are “good without God” –and are seemingly getting increasingly proliferated across the U.S Bible belt. Typically but unsurprisingly, they have no prayer, Bibles or worship songs. The National Post recently carried a report on this, using an example from a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee. In the article, Peter Foster quotes David Lyle, a founder-member of the Nashville branch of the “Sunday Assembly” movement: “I pass seven big churches between my house and the main road two miles away, there are plenty of churches in Nashville, but we needed a place for us.”
Foster further explains that the Sunday Assembly concept offers a church experience but without the “God part” and, according to organizers, it is starting to catch on in America. It was reportedly started in London in January 2013 by a pair of British stand-up comedians. According to Sanderson Jones, one of the London co-founders, almost 400 towns from Sao Paolo to Singapore are now expressing interest in setting up an Assembly, and more than 150 of these are in America.
In addition, the movement is non-profit and hopes to tap into a rising tide of secularization which — for all the continued power of the U.S. religious Right — means that almost a third of American’s under-29s now say they have no religious affiliation. These are the so-called “fuzzy faithful.” The Nashville group, conscious of the continued stigma attached to atheism in Bible-minded places like Nashville, also performs public works, providing a monthly meal for the homeless and rounding up volunteers to clean up a local creek.
The Dallas News also recently reported that atheist Sunday Assembly co-founder Sanderson Jones is due to visit Dallas, where the growing North Texas Church of Freethought is located. Freethought is an atheist church that has been in the Dallas-Fort Worth area since 1994. They have monthly meetings, a youth group and social outings — programs usually reserved for traditional religious organizations. Its pastor, Tim Gorski, said: “We want to not only be a community for people who reject the supernatural, but also for people who need help dealing with life upsets.”
What does an average Sunday Assembly meeting entail? The Dallas News account of the first Sunday of each month perhaps summarizes what a visitor could expect. Gorski’s church meets in a conference room at the Sheraton Grand in Irving. The members, ranging in ages and background, grab coffee and send their children to Sunday school, where Gorski’s wife and kids talk about how to handle classmates who don’t accept their lack of beliefs. Gorski opens with a “moment of science” to talk about scientific innovations, followed by music appreciation, where the members listen to pieces such as Beethoven’s “Merry gathering of the country folk.”
Besides the collective mindset that “there is no God”, certain statements made by the Assembly faithful typify what your average atheistic Sunday Assembly member’s philosophy of life is:
• “It’s my personal opinion as an atheist that we should leave the word church out of our vocabulary.”
• “The idea is why not steal all the good bits about church — the music, the fellowship, the community work — and lose the God stuff.”
• “Just because I’m an atheist doesn’t mean I’m not moral…I’m a conservationist; I have dedicated my life to doing good things and helping others. I just do it for myself and not for God.”
• “Not having a church doesn’t mean I don’t have a moral code…I want to get away from this idea that you have to have God to be good. You don’t.”
So concludes the atheist: “I don’t believe in God, I want no association with the church but I will borrow what I think I can use from it. I serve myself only and I have my own moral standards without God.”
Clearly the self-professed atheist does believe in one god – the god of self. In so doing, he or she unwittingly bows to and serves the ultimate god of self – Satan himself. There is no real atheist today because God has already revealed Himself to them, as specified in Romans 1:18-20:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.
No wonder the Bible also states:
The fool has said in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity;
There is none who does good.
2 God looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.
3 Every one of them has turned aside;
They have together become corrupt;
There is none who does good,
No, not one (Psalms 53: 1-3).
Surprising Results From Bible Belief Poll
Reprinted from Prophecy News Watch
Non-Christians obviously don’t believe in the Bible – or they likely wouldn’t remain non-Christians, but would instead embrace the teachings in the Bible and become followers of Jesus Christ. This general perception seems logical enough, therefore it is quite surprising that findings from the 2014 Gallup Value and Beliefs poll actually suggest otherwise. The poll respondents comprised both Christians and non-Christians.
According to a recent report by Krista Burdine published in the World Religious News.com: “Each year the Gallup poll asks, “Which of the following statements comes closest to describing your views about the Bible?” As usual, about 75% of respondents believe it is the word of God, while 21% think it is a collection of fables. But an additional answer option this year for half the surveyed group strengthened and changed the composition of the group that believes the Bible is the word of God.” The survey has a margin of error of 5%, and taking this into account, results were as follows for the first (Form A) version:
• 28% believe that the Bible is the actual Word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word.
• 47% believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God but not everything in it should be taken literally.
• 21% believe that the Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by man.
The second or ‘Form B’ version of the survey kept these options and added a fourth, with the following results:
• 22% believe that the Bible is the actual Word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word.
• 28% believe that the Bible is the actual Word of God but multiple interpretations are possible.
• 28% believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God but not everything in it should be taken literally.
• 18% believe that the Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by man.
The impact of adding the additional fourth “multiple interpretations” option was a resonation with 31% of respondents, nearly a third. Reasons for this vary and several opinions have been offered by Burdine as follows:
• It seems to confirm the sense that American culture has become more openly pluralistic. John MacArthur, megachurch pastor and bestselling author, finds this revealing of a shift in Christian culture, claiming there is little threat to believing in the Bible as God’s Word as long as one can reserve the right of refusal and claim a misinterpretation when that Word challenges our desires.
• Another more encouraging perspective is that a greater percentage of respondents were able to attribute the Bible to God as opposed to a completely man-made collection of fables.
• Some of the Christians polled may have understood the Bible to be composed of various types of literature with parts to be taken literally while others such as proverbs and parables are to be considered allegorical or merely illustrative.
• The possibility exists that perhaps the same percentage of respondents felt the same way on Form A, but did not have a choice that best described their opinion. In this case, the survey may rather merely reflect the improved accuracy of the poll.
• It seems that non-Christians prefer to think of the Bible as a divine book that is open to interpretation, than to say it’s a true book with some non-literal content.
•About 6% of non-Christians do believe in the Bible as the literal Word of God. When examining the demographics of non-Christian literalists further, this group generally has no religious upbringing or affiliation, yet they believe in the existence of God.
They tend to be non-white, second generation Americans with less education than average, and politically liberal. Burdine concludes: “if anything, this sounds like a group disillusioned with what they have seen of religion in America, who have not found themselves compelled by what they have seen to seek out the God who literally wrote the book.”
Another potential factor that was not listed could be that Protestantism is dogged by much denominational bias, hence Christians across various denominations tend to assume that multiple Biblical interpretations are possible – just as long as core/foundational Biblical tenets of faith such as the fall of man and the redemption purchased for man by Jesus Christ are not compromised.
The question also arises as to whether this confusion is really necessary amongst Christian believers. Does the Bible itself have verses that will point us to the correct and exact interpretation of what we should believe about it? Consider this:
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).
This one scripture alone confirms that the Bible is indeed the actual and inspired word of God. It also debunks the myth, believed by an astonishing 10% of professing Christians, that the Bible is just an ancient book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by man. If this group of people ignore the authority of the holy scriptures and dismiss them in exchange for what is clearly an–age old satanic deception that has led multitudes to hell, on what basis are they calling themselves Christians rather than agnostics or even atheists? No wonder Burdine asks: “Maybe next time, someone can explain how 10% of people who identify as Christian also see the Bible as a collection of fairy tales, or manage to have no opinion on the matter.”
Just as interesting and adding to the paradox is the 6% of non-Christians who do believe in the Bible as the literal Word of God. They may fit a certain profile or demographic but in both cases of “Christian non- believers” and “non-Christian believers” perhaps another poll would really be useful in asking them why they believe as they do – assuming that they themselves even understand why.
Based on 2 Timothy 3:16, we can however safely move away from the cut-and-dried onto the slightly grayer areas: Yes the Bible is the actual Word of God but is to be taken literally, word for word? Certainly in some cases but not all, depending on the context in which each particular scripture was written. Consider these examples:
And put a knife to thy throat, if you are a man given to appetite (Proverbs 23:2).
If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into the everlasting fire (Matthew 18:8).
It is also critical to note that whereas the interpretation of the scriptures is not always literal, its meaning still has a relevant application or principle as there is nothing irrelevant or insignificant in the Bible:
For assuredly I say to you, Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law, till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:18-19).
But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).
And yes the Bible is the actual Word of God but are multiple interpretations still possible? Certainly. There is no shortage of denominations and other forms of doctrinal divisions that are proof of this, ranging from such controversial topics as the role of women in the church today, the role of the Holy Spirit and whether or not the rapture will be pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, post tribulation. So perhaps the further question that needs to be asked is, although multiple interpretations of the scriptures are not only possible but prevalent, did God intend it to be that way? Hardly: the Bible categorically states that God is not the author of confusion (1Corinthians 14:33) so it must be that any interpretations of scripture that are contradictory or irreconcilable, point to errors in the understanding of the scriptures. No wonder the scriptures admonish:
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worer who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth(2 Timothy 2:15).
This will be the third time I am coming to you. By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established (2 Corinthians 13:1)
Perhaps the failure of so many Christians to read the Bible whilst ensuring that every doctrine based on the scriptures is supported at least twice or thrice elsewhere within the Bible , is most responsible for the multiple interpretations in the church today. The natural outcomes of this are evidenced in the kind of poll results that reflect so much ignorance about the authority and relevance of the Bible within the body of Christ, and how it is to be understood and applied. How should we correct this? In part, we would do well to take some advice from David the Psalmist:
O how love I your law! it is my meditation all the day. You, through your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies: for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers: for your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep your precepts (Psalms 119: 97-100).