"Some preachers will keep silence about the truth, and others will trample it under foot and deny it. Sanctity of life will be held in derision even by those who outwardly profess it, for in those days Jesus Christ will send them not a true Pastor, but a destroyer."
Almost as important to Francis as his 'elder brothers' are his 'brothers'. On 23 June 2014, Francis had a group of evangelicals over to the Vatican as his guests. After touring St. Peter's Basilica the group lunched with Francis for over two hours. The Catholic media in general has been silent on this matter as has the Vatican. Isn't it interesting that like the times the rabbis have been to the Vatican we get no official word on what was discussed, only in the media controlled by the visiting groups do we read of it. No word yet, if Francis and the evangelicals reveled each other with blasphemous jokes. It wouldn't surprise us if they did. Maybe they all rolled around together on the floor and spoke in tongues? This visit came shortly after Joel Osteen, a group of religious Mormons, and evangelicals came to visit Francis on 4 June 2014. One has to love the irony of the situation, Francis who rants on and on about rich priests, how the church must be poor, and how one needs to live a simple lifestyle had as guests some of the wealthiest evangelicals who preach the prosperity gospel. This simply means they believe in getting rich and money is an outward sign of how much God loves them. Is Francis a hypocrite or what?
Here is what Francis said only two days after meeting with the evangelicals at his general audience,
"There are those who believe they can maintain a personal, direct and immediate relationship with Jesus Christ outside the communion and the mediation of the Church. These are dangerous and harmful temptations..."
"...On the contrary, you cannot love God without loving your brothers, you cannot love God outside of the Church; you cannot be in communion with God without being so in the Church, and we cannot be good Christians if we are not together with those who seek to follow the Lord Jesus, as one single people, one single body, and this is the Church."
We at Call Me Jorge... bet Michael Voris and company over ChurchMilitant.tv are salivating all over this quote making video after video of what a hardliner Francis is. The sad thing is they ignore events which show Francis in an un-catholic manner and focus exclusively on quotes which they interpret to mean something very different from what Francis intends. Francis is a modernist and the words communion, Church, and mediation have an entirely different meaning to him than what they meant up until the 1960s to Catholics. So yes, Francis is a hypocrite and that is stating it rather mildly.
Below are two articles written by two of the evangelicals who were guests of Francis. In our opinion, these articles are just as important as the ones the rabbis have written about Francis and the Novus Ordo church. Brian Stiller's, Lunch With the Pope, and James Robinson's, Witnessing the Miracle Jesus Prayed For, are very interesting for what they have to say about the message Francis is sending to evangelicals.
“Let yourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit, with that same freedom. And please, do not cage the Holy Spirit!”
Brian Stiller with Francis
Lunch With the Pope by Brian Stiller
The inevitable question I’m asked when one knows I’ve been with the Pope is, “And what is he like?” Here are some personal observations from a recent visit.
Impressions in the first moments so frame how we see an individual. This, my second meeting with Pope Francis, an almost three-hour conversation and lunch, allowed me to more carefully form impressions.
From the outset his charm set us all at ease. As we moved from the greeting hall to the conversation room, he stood by the door to turn out the lights. I noticed that gone were the papal slippers and instead shoes with dangling laces. At lunch, eaten in the cafeteria, it wasn’t the waiters who served us drinks; Pope Francis served Geoff Tunnicliffe, Secretary General of the WEA and me. His presence undermines pomp or circumstance. One has to remind themself that sitting across the lunch table, smiling through moments of joy is one of the most influential persons in the world. His celebrity is muted by his kindly ordinariness. His influence is corralled by his loving affection for people. His power leans towards the poor, those trampled underfoot.
Two dominant gifts showed. First his pastoral instincts and gifts are so evident. I asked, “When you were presented on the balcony in St Peter’s Square after your election, did you plan to ask those in the square to pray for you and then bow in silence?” He laughed. “No,” he said, “in that moment I sensed the Spirit leading me to do that.” So I asked, “When you did so, how did you feel?” He looked at me and smiled, “I was so at peace.”
We talked about Christians marginalized, pressed under the weight of government power or the majority presence of other faiths. He listened and then told a remarkable story. In his years in and out of Rome, he became friends with the pastor of a Pentecostal Church in Rome. In time he came to learn that the church and pastor felt the power and presence of the Catholic Church, with its weighty presence, obstructing their desire to grow and be a witness. “So,” he said, “this July I will preach in his church on a Sunday and offer an apology from my church for the hurt it has brought to their congregation.”
Offsetting his loving and endearing pastoral gift is the prophetic: not in foretelling the future but speaking forth the word of God.
Our lunch was just days after he had announced a shocking judgment in Calabria, south Italy, condemning the mafia for their “adoration of evil,” declaring all mobsters effectively excommunicated from the Catholic Church. Of earthquake proportion, this declaration will surely rattle communities where the Catholic Church and mobsters have for centuries lived along side each other. They are finding that Francis is more than just a cordial, pastoral priest from South America.
In the coming days we will hear of his determination to bring the administration of the Vatican under control, replacing leadership, cleaning up the Vatican Bank and speaking to the unspeakable matter of sexual abuse. His prophetic vision sees through haze and hears past chants, cutting open hypocrisy of religious self-interest.
I know some will wonder if we lack discernment, dining as we did with the head of a church many see as heretical. As an Evangelical, I’m clear in the importance of the Reformation and the role our community plays in announcing the Good News. I celebrate our understanding of the Scriptures as our only and final authority, the priesthood of every believer, the life-giving moment of rebirth and freedom for churches and ministries to spring up under the inspiration of the Spirit. No one is interested in rewinding the clock. Also to construct a united church isn’t doable and neither is it in our interest. Such plans do not lead us to fulfill Jesus’ prayer in John 17 that we be one in Christ.
My counter argument to those who might dismiss friendship with the pope is this. For Evangelicals and Protestants, of all shapes and sizes, the state and condition of the Roman Catholic Church matters. Of the over 2 billion Christians, one-half are linked to the Vatican. About 600 million are Evangelicals and another 550 million members of the World Council of Churches, (which includes the Orthodox Churches). As a world body, it is our calling to have contact with other major Christian communities and faiths. Conferencing with Rome no more compromises our doctrinal commitments than it would by meeting with the heads of other religions. We do that as a natural and important role of our calling. In places where Evangelicals are marginalized, having this official connection allows us to raise issues and ask for responses we would never otherwise get.
In a worldwide community of faith, the work and role of each Christian community matters. Given that 50 percent of those who call themselves Christian affiliate with Rome, when its spiritual and ethical authority is diminished it affects the entire world. When Rome loses her way, when corruption characterizes her financial dealings, when sexual scandals rob her of moral influence, when she fades from view in strongly declaring the nature and salvation of Christ, secularism rules.
It’s fair to ask what kind of Catholic Church we as Evangelicals want to see. At lunch I asked Pope Francis what his heart was for evangelism. He smiled, knowing what was behind my question. His comment was, “I’m not interested in converting Evangelicals to Catholicism. I want people to find Jesus in their own community. There are so many doctrines we will never agree on. Let’s not spend our time on those. Rather, let’s be about showing the love of Jesus.” (Of course Evangelicals do evangelize Catholics and Catholics do the same to us. However, that discussion we will raise another day.)
We spoke about how in our diversity we might find unity and strength. Borrowing from Swiss Protestant theologian Oscar Cullman, we reflected how “reconciled diversity” allows us to stand within our own understandings of how Christ effects salvation. And then we press on to deal with global issues like religious freedom and justice and other matters, which affect our wellbeing.
We are in the middle of a major religious shakeup worldwide. The Middle East is on the edge of what we know not. Islam is on the rise. The Gospel witness permeates much of the global south. So what of the future?
A vibrant pope, spiritually vital, tough in ethical leadership and competent in overseeing his world communion is critical. What he says and does has a profound affect on us all. It matters to us that the Spirit rests upon him in wisdom and courage.
Evangelicals need not hide behind fear of engagement. Working on human suffering and matters of injustice with Christians who have a different tradition and read the biblical text differently does not violate who we are or what we believe
Working on the world stage, it is evident there is respect for our distinctive evangelical message and regard for our responsibility and calling to represent our Christian community. International cooperation among Christians is built on that respect.
James Robison and Francis high fiving!
Witnessing the Miracle Jesus Prayed For
by James Robison
Satan – Lucifer, Beelzebub, the Father of all lies – has focused his fury against the church of the living God. Perhaps in the center of Satan’s crosshairs is his attack on the prayer of Jesus in John 17 that all believers live in unity. God revealed this assault to me and many other church leaders around the world, and also millions of saints and prayer warriors who have been praying diligently for the prayer of our Lord Jesus to be answered in our day. I believe I am beginning to see the walls of division that have held many Christians captive and divided, often silencing the witnesses of those Jesus commissioned to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
I believe we are going to be blessed to see Jesus’ prayer answered. For years on LIFE Today, I have encouraged our viewers with these words: “If you want your prayers answered, seek to be an answer to someone else’s prayers.” Upon hearing that challenge, many have found great comfort and released rivers of compassion toward others.
After hip surgery five years ago when I battled staph infection and was so weak I could not lift a cup of water to my lips, God got my full attention. He spoke through Isaiah 58:6-12 and I saw the importance of living in freedom, touching the suffering, the hungry, poor, and downtrodden. I recognized the promise that our prayers would be answered quickly and we would become a free-flowing stream and a well-watered garden, restoring the foundations upon which we must build. During that time God instructed me to focus my attention on Jesus’ prayer and encouraging others to begin fulfilling it through us in our day.
I believe I am beginning to witness what Jesus prayed for. Over three years ago, many respected evangelical leaders and Spirit-filled Catholics began meeting together to pray for God’s will to be done and to bring true believers together in supernatural unity. We know it is God’s will for those who have been born from above to become bold witnesses for His glory and Kingdom purpose and to go into all the world and make disciples of Christ. We have been commanded to love God with all of our heart and our neighbors as ourselves. The enemy has kept many Christians from loving one another as Christ loves us and have failed to recognize the importance of supernatural unity even with all of the unique diversity.
I believe the prayers of earnest Christians helped lead to the choice of Pope Francis. Many were amazed that a humble man, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, filled with such love for the poor, downtrodden, and overlooked from a radically socialist country (Argentina) could be named Pope. From the moment it happened, I felt like it was an answer not only to the prayers of truly concerned believers, but even a step toward seeing Jesus’ prayer answered.
This week I was blessed to be part of perhaps an unprecedented moment between evangelicals and the Catholic Pope. On Tuesday, for nearly three hours, a few of us were blessed to meet in an intimate circle of prayerful discussion and lunch to discuss not only seeing Jesus’ prayer answered, but that every believer would become bold, joy-filled witnesses for Christ.
Consider some events leading to this supernatural gathering at the Vatican in Rome. Years ago God told me to reach out beyond the safe, comfortable walls of my Southern Baptist tradition. He wanted me to reach beyond denominational barriers and seek to bring the family together so the church would put His arms around a hurting world and pull everyone close to His heart. I reached outside my sectarian Baptist comfort zone to Pentecostals, Charismatics and Catholics, as well as those outside the church.
To the shock of many, I stood on the platform next to the very charismatic Ken Copeland and welcomed attendees of his Believers’ Convention to Tarrant County Convention Center. During that very brief welcome as I was leaving the podium, Ken Copeland grabbed me by the shoulder and said, “The Holy Spirit is all over you. Get back up there and keep sharing.” I gave testimony of the dynamic power of God to set captives free, even defeated preachers like I had been. Estimates were that over 7,000 people flooded the altar even before I could give the invitation. I have never stopped reaching out in love beyond walls that have been have built for personal comfort and which, too often, diminish the power of the Gospel message. Because of friendship, I have continued to share my heart with Ken and Gloria and he has asked me to speak into his life and to those he seeks to teach and help. They have blessed me and Betty faithfully with their love and encouragement.
Unknown to either of us, Ken’s ministry and LIFE Outreach were both supporting an evangelical Episcopal named Tony Palmer who ministered and helped the poor in Buenos Aires, Argentina. There was a Catholic bishop, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, overseeing the area who was also ministering to the poor. Tony went to him and said, “I want to let you know that I will work at your side. You are the senior minister in this area and I will submit to your loving leadership.” Immediately in that humble relationship, a bond of love and peace was formed. They knew they were brothers in Christ and over the years their relationship continued to grow. Our Missions Director, Steve Coetzee, was also very close to Tony Palmer and encouraged us to faithfully support his mission outreaches.
When Jorge Mario Bergoglio was chosen to be Pope Francis, Bishop Tony Palmer was surprised and pleased. He felt, however, he would likely never hear from him again and would certainly understand why. But suddenly, he received a call from Pope Francis asking him to come to the Vatican to visit. Tony assumed it would simply be a handshake, a moment or two together and perhaps a photo, and then he would go back home. But Pope Francis made it clear, “No, I want you to come to my private apartment and spend the day with me.” There in prayerful discussion the Pope talked about his desire to see the world evangelized for Christ. He wanted to see Catholics and Protestants become a family as faithful witnesses. He shared that he wanted us to be brothers and the importance of the prayer in John 17 being answered. He wanted to personally know Protestant and evangelical leaders.
Tony told him he would soon be going to a large ministers’ convention that Ken Copeland hosts and there would be thousands of ministers there. Tony asked, “Would you like to write them a message or send a note?” Pope Francis said, “I would like to give them a video message. Hold up your iPhone and record what I say.” That message was like a glorious shot heard around the world, not just because of the love and compassion expressed, but also the desire for God to heal His family and that everyone would know Christ and believers would be like a family and become bold witnesses. It was joyfully received by thousands of ministers and Kenneth Copeland responded by simply reading the desire of God expressed through Paul in Ephesians 4:13, “Until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”
When the Pope received that message and others also saw the Pope’s message on LIFE Today as Pope Francis encouraged Tony to share the message on our program around the world, he then asked for Tony Palmer to invite Betty and me, Ken and Gloria, and a few other evangelicals to come meet with him in Rome.
Bishop Tony Palmer brought the group of seven together. (Gloria Copeland was unable to attend because she was speaking at a conference.) We went to the Vatican and met in the presence of the Lord. The love coming from every person was overwhelming.
During lunch everyone shared their gratitude for what God was doing. The Pope made it very clear that he wanted every believer to become Spirit-filled, joy-filled witnesses. After Ken had lovingly spoken a few words of encouragement and prayed for the Pope with meekness and humility, I asked through the translator if I could say a few personal words to Pope Francis. In those moments I talked about being an evangelist and how for 50 years we have been seeking to win people to Christ and challenging Christians to become faithful, compassion-filled witnesses. I went on to say that so many people in our Protestant churches do not really know Christ.
I shared the testimony of how I was christened in the Episcopal Church as a boy, but did not know Jesus. Later, I had a supernatural new-birth experience and Jesus became the Lord and love of my life. As a fatherless, homeless boy, I now had a father and the love of God flowed out like a river. Amazingly, God called me to be an evangelist and I have never stopped proclaiming the Gospel to the ends of the earth. I told him how Betty had been baptized through immersion in a Baptist church, but during our relationship and hearing the excitement that filled my heart, she said, “James, I don’t know Jesus like that. He’s just someone I’ve always heard about.” One glorious Sunday morning the little Baptist Sunday school teacher left her seat in the choir, came forward, put her hand in the pastor’s hand, and said, “Brother Hale, I just gave my life to Jesus.” He said, “You’re the best girl in our church!” She said, “Preacher, stop telling me how good I am. I just met Jesus and He changed my life!” That was 53 years ago and she is full of Jesus. I said to Pope Francis many Protestants have never had a personal relationship with Christ even though they are church members, and I have seen many Catholics who don’t seem to know Jesus.
Pope Francis had written recently that, “Too many Catholics look like they’ve been to Lent with no Easter… It’s a mistake for them to look like they’ve been to a funeral” as he challenged Catholics to witness and never try to control the Holy Spirit, but yield to Him. The Pope responded in our personal conversation with such a dynamic evangelical message desiring all people who have religious associations (all Protestants, all Catholics – no matter who they are) as Paul said to the Corinthians, “to examine themselves whether they be of the faith.” He said he wanted everyone to have a personal life-changing encounter with Christ and enter into a personal relationship with Jesus and become bold witnesses for the Gospel. Religion is not the way; Jesus is.
So fervent was his message that as he concluded I said, “As an evangelist, I want you to know what you just said deserves a high five!” The translator communicated what I was saying and in a moment of exuberance he raised his hand and gave his first high five ever. What a beautiful picture of love and supernatural oneness for the sake of the Gospel and those Jesus came to redeem.
We continued in such glorious fellowship that words could never begin to describe it. I am fighting back tears even as I write, so glorious was the manifest presence of Jesus. I couldn’t help but wonder in those moments if Jesus, as He did when Stephen was stoned leading to the conversion of Saul of Tarsus to become Paul the Apostle, perhaps once again stood at the right hand of the Father looking down on that scene in Rome between Evangelicals and the Pope, turn to the Father and say, “Look, I think my prayer is about to be answered. Look, Dad, maybe we can put Your arms around the world that I died to redeem and I live to fill to overflowing with Your joy, peace and love.”
Oh, how I hope and I pray that is the case and in my lifetime I cannot only see the prayers of so many answered, but above all I will live to see the prayer of the Lord Jesus answered for His glory and kingdom purpose. Dear God, please let it happen and let me gladly be a part of it.
Francis with Thomas Schirrmacher.