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The pitfalls of (Roman) Catholicism

April 5, 2013 Leave a comment

Sola scriptura. That’s how it should be in the church, right? By scripture alone should we determine authoritative truth.

Sadly, the Catholic church has strayed far from this ideal for centuries. Are Catholics still “Christian”? Well yes, by definition they believe in the fundamental doctrines of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, the Trinity, the virgin birth of Mary, and so on. However, I do think that Catholics have more obstacles and pitfalls in the way to true understanding. As I’ve pointed out in earlier posts, many (if not most) churchgoers who identify themselves as Christian may actually be in danger of lacking salvation. This danger is even more pronounced in Catholicism where distractions and false doctrines abound in alarming fashion. Some even say that deep, hardcore Catholicism toes the line that could condemn the souls of its adherents. I’d want to stay far from this line if possible, and my hope is that others will feel the same.

So what’s so wrong about Catholicism anyway? If I had to summarize it in two very succinct points, it’d be like this: 1) It is not biblically sound in some of its beliefs and practices; and 2) the work of Jesus Christ seems unfinished in the eyes of Catholics.

Let’s examine some specific points and you can decide for yourself.

Sacraments and Rituals

Out of all of Catholicism’s distinct features, the emphasis on sacraments might be the most understandable. For instance, many Catholics believe that baptism and the eucharist are necessary parts of being a true believer. In other words, in addition to placing one’s faith in Christ and following Him, a person also needs to carry out the sacraments to activate their faith and salvation. They justify this by pointing out that Jesus himself commanded that believers be baptized and to carry out the eucharist in remembrance of him.

However, while we should obey Christ and even carry out the sacraments carried out in the Bible, these are not prerequisites for salvation. Many verses clearly state that we are saved by faith alone and not by any works we do. Ephesians 2:8-9 states: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Furthermore, Jesus told the thief on the cross next to him: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” The thief was saved by a repentant heart that chose to place all faith in Christ alone. He obviously didn’t get baptized or carry out any other sacrament. When it comes to salvation, God does not make exceptions to the rule of redemption by faith. While I certainly do not recommend disobeying God, acts of disobedience alone cannot disqualify someone from salvation. After all, Jesus also commands us not to hate or lust, and yet none of us would seriously consider breaking these commands on occasion to mean that your spiritual doom is ensured.

As far as Catholic rituals such as all the kneeling, chanting, and repeating what the priest reads, this is purely human tradition and nothing more. The Bible does not prescribe these things at all, and personally, I don’t see how anything repetitive and habitual (and relatively mindless) could be edifying to one’s soul. If anything, it would simply foster a sense of false accomplishment and holiness. But these empty works do not earn you brownie points in God’s eyes. Works are evidence of what’s within, but they have no saving power in and of themselves. Apart from a real relationship with God, “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). The only time rituals had any place in worship was when God specifically instructed His people what to do (i.e., Leviticus), and each step had a purpose. God never told us to go ahead and develop our own.

I imagine that when a Catholic person visits a Protestant church, it would seem “too easy” and almost like cheating. In their minds, perhaps religion is supposed to be difficult, as most good things in life come from hard work and effort. But rituals on Sunday do not qualify. If coming to worship God is painful, something is probably wrong in either our hearts or in the service itself. The difficulty in the Christian life comes from daily sanctification, dying to ourselves, and from letting the Word of God pierce our hearts even when it hurts and is uncomfortable to our pride.

Reverence of Mary (and other “saints”)

Surely, being chosen as the earthly mother of Jesus Christ is an immense blessing. Mary deserves our respect and admiration. But there is no biblical basis to think she plays any further role in our relationship with God.

There is not a single mention in the scriptures that we need to pray to Mary or come to her as an intermediary. Paradoxically, Mary is a child of God—just as we are. Why do Catholics pray to her or use beads and such? I imagine this came about as some kind of guilty response after generations of sexism and relegating women to second-class citizens in the church. Perhaps it came from human logic after recognizing the importance and authority of mothers. But this is a unique case in human history where the child was superior to the parent in every way. Jesus obeyed her in accordance to the scriptures as an example to us, but also to indulge her out of his love and sympathy. When I read the stories of the wedding miracle (wine to water) or even when Jesus stayed behind in the temple and worried his parents, I don’t sense that he feels subjected to Mary or is dependent in the usual way a child is, do you?

The reverence of Mary is not biblically based and frankly, it is a distraction away from our complete focus on the triune God. In fact, you see frequent examples of apostles and spiritual leaders deflecting attention away from themselves and calling attention to Jesus instead.

Priesthood

After Christ’s death on the cross, the traditional role of priests became obsolete. They are no longer necessary as far as acting as intermediaries between us and God. Sorry, but that’s just how it is. Sure, they can still serve an important teaching role, but Catholic priests unknowingly overstep their bounds.

Why can we not come directly to God in prayer and confession? Are we not called children of God after we are saved? Can children not openly and honestly talk directly to their fathers? Is God a worse version of Captain Von Trapp? What gives priests the authority to take our confessions and to give absolution? Even worse, what gives any “man of the cloth” the authority to ex-communicate or condemn anyone? Only God is the righteous judge with this authority! (I won’t even delve into the grievous offenses of the past, such as indulgences and other corruptions.)

I couldn’t help noticing when watching the recent The Bible series (backed by the Catholic church) on The History Channel that there was very little emphasis on the tearing of the veil in the temple of Jerusalem. In fact, it was quickly portrayed as a thin, silky curtain falling to the ground after Christ’s death, which could happen to any curtain in an earthquake. The reality was far more miraculous: a hefty thick curtain supernaturally tore in half down the middle. This event had massive significance.

Before this happened, a High Priest would have to approach this place—the Holy of Holies—with much cleansing, prayer, and trepidation. They would even tie a rope around themselves in case they dropped dead from God’s fearsome presence…then his fellow clergy could pull his body out without risking their own lives by entering. But the tearing of the veil was a clear signal that we can now approach God boldly as his children. Once we are washed with the blood of Christ, we are pure in His sight and no longer need a priest to act on our behalf.

Only Christ can forgive our sins. A priest has no such authority, and actually never has, even according to Levitical law.

Another strange part of the Catholic priesthood is their requirement of celibacy. I’m sure they quote Paul who says that celibacy can be ideal for someone in the ministry since even marriage can be a distraction.

But celibacy is a very rare calling indeed. Most people in history have not been called or built for it. Even Peter the apostle whom Catholics revere so much was married. Are priests today called to something higher than “the original pope” himself, Peter? Marriage is more often portrayed in a positive light and is even used as a metaphor for the church’s relationship with Jesus Christ.

Consider this: Paul had to be single as the most prolific missionary the world has ever known. His calling was much different than the everyday clergyman. He was personally approached by Jesus Christ after the resurrection and ascension. Paul was directly shown glimpses of heaven and the future glories that laid ahead just to empower and motivate him to the end. He spent every waking minute preaching the Word to hostile crowds, traveling, being brutally punished and imprisoned, fleeing from death, and writing letters that compose almost half of the New Testament.

What is it that modern day priests do exactly that precludes marriage in their ministry? Marriage is a blessing and would probably prevent so many of the problems that plague the Catholic church today. It also teaches people so much about their own wretchedness and can be a great source of accountability and support.

The vast majority of men simply were not made for celibacy, and this is not an indictment on character or righteousness.

The Infallibility of the Pope

Where in the world does this notion come from? That once a person is chosen as the Pope that he suddenly becomes infallible? Show me a verse, any verse, please!

Was any person other than Jesus ever perfect and blameless? How can it be that the Pope can declare something and then every follower has to adopt that as truth? The only source of ultimate truth in our lives is the Bible. No man today qualifies as having equal footing with God’s Word.

People may reason that God chooses certain people to be pope, and maybe this could be true. Certainly, nothing happens without God allowing it. But just as kings appointed by God could fail or even fall away, popes are still prone to error. Human sin and free will are always factors.

Maybe people compare popes to prophets. It is true that prophets in the Bible always declared truth (otherwise, they would be false prophets)—even if they were sinful in other areas of their lives—but the Bible and the events that helped shape it are already finished. Prophets are used for specific purposes in light of significant historical events with heavy spiritual consequences. God always chooses prophets directly by speaking to them. God does not appoint prophets using man’s voting procedures or councils.

Crucifixion of Christ

What is it about the crucifixion of Christ that seems unfinished to people? We are not “crucifying Christ over and over again” as some people like to dramatically put it. Mel Gibson, a Catholic, insisted on using his own hands to nail the hands of Christ in the movie portrayal The Passion of the Christ because he feels he crucifies Christ with every sin.

You may notice that Catholics have crosses that depict Jesus hanging on it still. He is risen! He has defeated death and sin on the cross and left it behind. He is in glory in heaven right now, preparing for his triumphant return as king and conqueror. Why is he still on the cross in Catholicism?

To me, this seems like a clever trick of Satan. He may put it into people’s minds that this is a good way to always remember the cost paid and the pain suffered. While these things are important indeed, the more important part is Christ’s victory over death and sin. If he had simply suffered and died, he would be a false prophet and nothing more than every other criminal who died the same Roman death. But it is his resurrection that validates his claims and his deity, not the hanging on the cross.

Purgatory

Jesus uttered his famous words toward the end of his life, “It is finished.”

That means sin was defeated and that people now have a direct bridge to God (and heaven).

How in the world did the idea of purgatory come about? I am utterly confused. It is not mentioned or even hinted at in scripture at all. The Bible tells us that once we come to faith in Christ, we are seen as blameless in God’s sight. We are “white as snow.”

According to the doctrine of purgatory, our sins are NOT fully paid for, and we’re not quite ready yet. We need a little more punishment, a little more purification. Again, this plays into the erroneous emphasis on works and payment for sin outside of Christ’s redemptive work for us. It is completely unbiblical.

This is really just scratching the surface, but you’ve probably noticed the trend again and again by now; unbiblical, Jesus’ work was unfinished, not enough…these are serious red flags that make Catholicism seriously deficient in some ways. No denomination is perfect, of course, but I think this goes beyond small theological differences and misunderstandings. Hopefully, people can focus on the doctrines that are correct and find a way toward a better, more biblical truth. Sola scriptura—not tradition, not man-made systems and bureaucracies.

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Satan, the Cleverest Being Ever Created—Part 2b: Tricking Christians (and “Christians”)

March 2, 2012 1 comment

[Seems I’ve found a way to get into my blog while at work…instead of going directly to my site, I need to go through WordPress.com first. Hopefully, this will lead to more frequent updating. Previously, I could no longer access my blog because websites that are “uncategorized” (or in forbidden categories) would get blocked.]

Finally, another update! I think this will be the end of this topic for now, but I just wanted to address a couple more areas. Some of it overlaps with what I’ve already said, but I think more emphasis couldn’t hurt.

Worked-Based Salvation vs. “Grace”

This is a biggie. Often in churches, you will find Christians on both extremes of the spectrum. On one end, you’ll find a lot of well-meaning believers exhorting you to read your Bible every day, diligently attend bible study, pray x number of times per day, pay some percentage of your income as offering, smile, do charity work…etc. The list goes on and on. Without these things, you cannot be a true Christian.

On the other end, you’ll find people emphasizing God’s grace—as if that is His only predominant trait—and living however they want. They look like the world, act like the world, but because they “accepted Christ into their hearts” at some point in their lives, they think they’re set. In their minds, they have been vaccinated from the virus of damnation, and they’re free to wallow in whatever filth they please. Of course, not everyone is this blatant in their abuse, but the general sense is that absolute freedom has been attained. There’s no need to strive and give your full effort anymore. “It is finished,” right? Lukewarm living, while not ideal, is “OK”…except it’s really not.

So what’s the truth? Well, it’s a lot more nuanced than either of these extreme views. People love easy-to-digest absolutes, so some don’t like learning the finer points. But you could say it falls somewhere in between.

Is God’s grace and Jesus’ death on the cross sufficient for any person, any circumstance? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. It can save and sanctify the serial felon just as much as the nice, “wholesome” American person you work with. Christ’s blood covers anything.

But can a person be saved and live however he wants? Not really. The Bible tells us that true believers in Christ “have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” (Romans 6:18). Colossians 3:10 tells us that as believers, we “have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” In other words, when we become Christians, we are indwelt with the Holy Spirit who begins a new work in us, transforming us from the inside-out. We are on a new path toward sanctification, and while we will never quite get there in the sinful flesh, we will continually progress in our walk.

Bottom line: If we are truly saved as Christians, our lives will begin to resemble Christ more and more. We will not read the Bible simply out of duty, but with genuine eagerness to draw closer to our Lord and learn more about Him. Just as we want to learn about people we love, we want to understand God and His character on a deeper level, so we are drawn toward Scripture. We will want to fellowship with genuine brothers and sisters in Christ, eager to edify each other and grow together. We will grow in diligence with prayer—again, out of a closeness and reliance we’re developing with God—while also becoming more compassionate and kind toward others.

The first step is becoming truly saved and being indwelt with the Holy Spirit. Let’s call that Step A. The next step that will continue to happen until we die is growing closer to God and becoming more like Christ. That’s Step B. Of course, there will be setbacks along the way and slips, but the general momentum is forward and upward.

A –> B. Simple, ain’t it?

The problem with works-based salvation is that it can be misconstrued as this: B –> A. This is impossible. We as humans cannot attain salvation through works any more than a dog can clip its own toenails and brush its own teeth. Stupid analogy, but we just got a puppy, OK? 😉

On the flip side, a person cannot be a true Christian and live, look, and think just like the rest of the world (see Romans 12:2). If a person is living like this, then you have to wonder if “Step A” ever really took place. Do we see “B” happening? If not, then chances are the Holy Spirit is nowhere to be found in that person. “A” must ALWAYS lead to B at some point (though admittedly, in varying degrees). So we all need to test ourselves as 2 Corinthians 13:5 exhorts us to do.

Now, here comes a BIG disclaimer. A lot of what I’ve said is pretty common knowledge, at least in good churches. But what often gets overlooked is that diligence and acts can increase our chances of having an encounter with God. We are not always going to “feel like” talking to God, reading the Word, or loving our neighbor. Sometimes, it takes conscious effort and discipline. And you know what? That’s fine. Sometimes, people are pumped and excited to go to the gym. Other times, they have to drag themselves to go. Either way, it’s better than not going.

How do you expect to encounter God or have a spiritual epiphany if you are never learning anything new from the Bible? How do you expect to hear God’s voice leading you in a beneficial way if you never pray? When are you ever going to feel compelled to open up your wallet and give to the Lord or help the needy if you don’t ever make the plunge? It has to become less of a leap for you. Churches would all go under if offering came only from those who were completely “on fire” each week. If you never learn how to give, don’t expect to become generous miraculously without any conscious effort on your part. (Sure, it can happen if God bestows you with that gift, but don’t count on it.)

Do your best and let God take care of the rest. Don’t sit on your couch and make God drag you everywhere.

Uninformed and Extreme Bible Interpretation: Finding the Fine Lines

Throughout our history, numerous Christians—genuine or not—have embarrassed the faith through immoral behavior that they supposedly learned from the Bible.

You’ve heard the stories. A father physically assaults his child and blames Proverbs for telling him not to “spare the rod.” Men read that wives should submit to their husbands, so they go on a chauvinistic power trip. A friend points out the wrong behavior of a fellow believer, and someone will instinctively recite: “Do not judge!”

One of Satan’s favorite tricks is to blur the fine lines between good truth and destructive evil. To our human minds, it may be hard to distinguish the real differences. Spanking and disciplining a child in love can correct behavior and lead them toward a better future with moral character. Striking a child in a temper-induced rage can escalate very quickly to abuse, which is sinful and repulsive. Discipline builds up; abuse tears down.

Wives should submit to their husbands as the head of the household, but that doesn’t mean she is less valuable or some kind of servant. In fact, if people would go beyond biblical sound bites and actually learn something, they would also come across the next few verses in Ephesians 5 where it tells husbands to love their wives as themselves—that alone should get rid of any selfish expectations from a marriage relationship. But just in case we didn’t get the message, Paul further states to care for her and give oneself up for her protection, just as Christ did. We’re talking about a savior who washed his disciples’ feet and ultimately suffered and died for us. Does this sound chauvinistic to you? If wives would respect their husbands and husbands cherished their wives, we wouldn’t be seeing the rampant unhappiness and divorce we see today.

And yes, we are not to judge others insofar as we puff ourselves up with pride and look down on them. We are also not to judge hypocritically. As Jesus humorously illustrated, it’s ridiculous to point out the speck in someone else’s eye while ignoring the plank in our own eyes.

But this is different from faithfully rebuking someone in love. People in the church today seem to think that fellowship is all about hanging out, eating together, sharing some laughs…but it’s really not. It’s supposed to be about building each other up in faith, and sometimes that means pointing out potential pitfalls for their brothers and sisters in Christ. Is it “loving” to not point out that someone is developing a drinking problem? Or that their moral compass seems to be getting off kilter, possibly because of surrounding worldly influences?

Again, there’s a fine line, and as flawed prideful humans, we are prone to step over that line. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, though.

Rebuking out of love is good. Judging and looking down on another person is wrong and pride-building.

Follow the Spirit’s Lead

There sure seem to be a lot of “fine lines” to walk in the Christian faith, huh? How are we ever supposed to get it all right? Well, as mentioned before, we can’t. We are destined to fail over and over again—hopefully less and less as we grow, though. In our own wisdom and flesh, it’s very hit-or-miss.

God knew this, and that’s why He sent the Holy Spirit on Pentecost to indwell true believers and guide them. Without relying on the Holy Spirit every single day, what eventually happens is that we start slipping. In my own life, I’ve seen complacency set in alarmingly fast! Whereas we might have once stood firm on some moral issue, without leaning on the Holy Spirit for long enough, we might become lax. “Maybe homosexuality isn’t so bad after all. Who are they hurting really?” “Maybe it is a woman’s ‘choice’ to abort her baby. After all, doesn’t it statistically lead to less crime?”

Human wisdom and rationalizing can get out of hand very, very quickly. We cannot trust ourselves. Left unchecked, we may look back in a few years (or even months) and find we’re so far off the path that we don’t know how to get back on. That’s why it is important to keep equipping ourselves for spiritual battle. If people would read their Bibles more, there wouldn’t be such mass confusion over simple issues. If they would pray more, they would stay more in tune with God’s wishes for their lives, rather than getting engulfed in the tides of the world.

Christianity isn’t supposed to be “easy.” The Bible tells us we are foreigners in this world, and as such, we are never going to feel completely at ease here. If we do, then something is wrong. Our citizenship is in heaven, you guys, so inform yourselves and don’t let Satan fool you. It’s so much easier for him to trick the ignorant believer than it is someone whose mind is filled with scripture. It might start out with little things, small deviations, and before you know it, you’re far gone. And I guarantee, when we see God one day, we’re going to wish with all of our might that we tried a lot harder in this life. We’re going to wish so badly that He will say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Keep up your guard, and don’t let Satan fool you so easily. May God help us all to be good soldiers in the fight!

Satan, the Cleverest Being Ever Created—Part 2a: Tricking Christians (and “Christians”)

February 9, 2012 1 comment

Continued from Part 1…

As we’ve seen, Satan does an excellent job of tricking the world. In some cases, his work is evident in gruesome displays of immorality and wretched appearance, but in most cases, he disguises his work very well. His intent is masked with fluffy and warm exteriors, and without the right spiritual mindset (or “glasses”), we can be blind to his power.

Sadly, those in the church are not immune to his charms and tricks. In fact, you could argue that some of his most devastating victories have been won in the hearts of those who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ. Sometimes, Satan goes for the small wins and deceptions. There are a lot of those. In other cases, he methodically manages to pull off huge lies that perpetuate throughout the body of believers. I believe that many souls are lost because of this.

Generalities and vagueness aside, let’s dive into some specifics. Mind you, there’s no way I will be able to cover them all, or even a satisfactory amount. I bet I’m going to want to edit this post over and over as things come to mind. Maybe this is a work in progress…which is part of the reason why it took me so long to write it. I kept telling myself, “I know I’m going to leave out something important! I need to be prepared!” But then I realized, maybe this was a stalling tactic of some sort, paralyzing me from actually getting off my butt and doing it. Rather than tackling the whole mountain, let’s take it one upward step at a time.

(My goodness, it’s been a while. I’m babbling even more than usual.)

Satan loves to distort the concept of God’s supernatural power in the minds of believers.

You hear things like, “With God, nothing is impossible,” or “God is Almighty and All-Powerful!” These things are true, right? Right! So there’s no danger in exaggerating and stretching these things out to their limits, right?

…wrong.

Sometimes, we inject our own ideas and expectations on these truths, distorting them. And that’s exactly what Satan wants us to do. Remember, he is very, very clever. He knows when he can be blatant and obvious, and he knows when he has to be subtle. Because most people are bad at detecting subtleties (or don’t bother to really think), he chooses this route quite often.

“With God, nothing is impossible.” God is Almighty and All-Powerful!”

When we hear these things, we expect that it means that whatever God does, He would do it in the most spectacular and impressive way possible. This might mean that God works instantaneously and not slowly. With a quick *snap* of His fingers, His work is done. That’s the most powerful thing we can imagine, right? After all, if we can imagine a being doing something more quickly, wouldn’t that make it more powerful than God?

But notice the Bible said nothing about these other details. Since when is power always defined in speed and style?

If God created the world as we know it in six days, people who buy into these concepts might wonder why He didn’t do it in six seconds…or one second…or an instant. After all, if God is maximally powerful, why couldn’t He do it quicker? Certainly, a universe that is billions of years old is completely out of the question. MY God would never take that long.

Oh really? Then why did it take 150 days for the waters to recede after the great flood with Noah and his family waiting in the ark? Why did God require animals on the ark instead of just creating them all over again after it was over? Why did it take God more than an instant to create the universe? Why did Joseph have to endure so many trials and setbacks before he finally rose to power in Egypt? Why did Jesus have to reach the age of 30 before he began his earthly ministry? Why did Jesus rise from the dead on the third day rather than the second? Why did God allow the enemies of Israel to dominate and rule over them for so long? Why did it take almost 1,900 years before the Jews were given back their homeland of Israel?

The list of examples could go on and on, but you get the point. For whatever reasons, God chooses to take His time on things so that they end up just right. Remember what Peter said in 2 Peter 3:9a: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise as some understand slowness.”

With my lowly human brain, I can think of a lot of reasons explaining the examples above. And that’s with my limited perspective and knowledge. Surely, God has much more knowledge in doing what He does.

From what I’ve observed and noted, God seems to prefer directing natural processes to meet His ends. This is not lazy nor does it diminish His power; remember who created and put into place those natural processes in the first place! You think gravity and other forces just existed by themselves? There is something glorious in the way that God can manipulate His complex creation to do the job rather than going *poof, it’s done* like some kind of magic trick. Sometimes it helps to think of God more as the ultimate chess master (seeing an infinite number of moves ahead) rather than a magician pulling rabbits out of a hat.

Consider two hypothetical artists. They are both able to create the same exact masterpiece painting, but Artist A takes 10 days and Artist B can get it done in 10 minutes. Surely, Artist B is better, right? I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. If I knew he did it in 10 minutes, I would think, “Wow, that’s amazing that he is able to physically create something like that so quickly!” But if I only knew of Artist A, I would appreciate his work on a different level. “I wonder what he was thinking as he was carefully and deliberately painting those strokes. What life experience was he drawing upon to create such a beautiful painting? What was he feeling, and what was he trying to communicate?” There would be a deeper level of appreciation and glory for Artist A, I believe, all other things equal. Maybe it’s something like that with God as well.

Maybe during those 150 days of water receding, God was putting into place a new system of condensation and rain cycles. Remember, it didn’t rain the way we know it today before the flood. Water was largely in the ground up until that point, not suspended in the sky. He was changing the entire ecosystem and inventing a new precipitation method. Plus, it naturally takes time for water to soak into the ground, evaporate into the air, etc. There was a lot going on. Noah and his family were perhaps left in the ark to praise and worship God without any earthly distractions. No fields to tend to, no work to be done…just waiting and focusing on God.

Maybe God created the world in six days then rested on the seventh to model a full week for us. In fact, this isn’t really a “maybe” (Genesis 2:3 makes it pretty obvious). By the way, God didn’t rest because He was “tired”…I’ve heard that one jokingly said before by atheists. Think about it. He rested not only to model behavior for us, but because He was DONE. There was nothing left to do. And when you’re done working, you rest whether you’re tired or not. (Good grief.)

In other cases, it seems people need to go through a lengthy development process where their character will be more in line with God’s purposes for them. Or in Israel’s case, they needed time to repent and to be punished for their wayward tendencies. People are stubborn, but especially the Jews in the Bible. You’ll notice (e.g., in Judges) that there was an endless cycle of the Jews messing up, God forgiving them, and restoring their blessing…but each time this would happen, God would delay the restoration more and more. Eventually, I guess it took 1,900 years for the Jews to take back their homeland (1948), and it really only could happen after great suffering first (Holocaust, which ended in 1945). Satan might whisper, “Why didn’t God snap His fingers and move the hearts of the nations to give the Jews back their land? Maybe God is just cruel, or doesn’t exist at all!”

But God never works that way. Reading the Bible should make that obvious, and we have a ton of precedent to inform us. God puts events in history into motion to produce the desired outcome. His plans supersede all of Satan’s (and therefore the rest of the world’s) hate for the Jews. There are a myriad of other details that we cannot possibly see or comprehend.

As for Jesus rising on the third day, I’ve heard a number of theories. I think the main reason is timing…falling on a certain day of the week, or even lining up with the traditional Jewish feasts (which is very significant in prophecy). I’ve also heard that it would take that amount of time to confirm with certainty that he was actually dead—or if he wasn’t, being trapped in that tomb with no food, water, or medical treatment after being severely tortured would finish the job. The point is, we don’t always know the “why” reasons. God does things according to His own schedule and methods. His greatness and power are not subject to our expectations or imaginations.

Satan loves to stretch the meaning of “God’s love.”

You’ll hear it over and over again in many modern churches. “God is love, God is love”…”God wants the best for everybody’s life!”

Is this not true? Of course it is, but not in the way they’re thinking. Because of God’s love, His greatest desire is for everyone to come into a closer relationship with Him. Why? Because He knows that’s best for us, whether we agree or can see it or not. Anything else we seek in this life will only end in dissatisfaction or even spiritual (and eternal) ruin.

What this does NOT mean, however, is that God wants everyone to be “happy,” rich, or comfortable in this world. God does care about our temporary earthly happiness somewhat, but it’s a very distant #2 (or #200) to our eternal position.

Also, His “love” does not equate to full acceptance of everything we do and are. His love sometimes necessitates punishment to get us on the right path. His justice and righteousness sometimes mandate destruction.

A parent who truly loves his child would punish her if she were to lie or steal. A parent who leaves the child alone to her errant ways is only setting her up for future failure and misery. How is that love?

In the same way, God’s love means that He cannot accept our sinful ways and leave us alone. I was reading some of the comments for an article about Washington (the state) legalizing same-sex marriages, and I was disturbed (but not all that surprised) to see a number of “Christians” chiming in to chastise the church for opposing homosexuality. They would say things like, “Jesus is love, but sadly, the church seems to think that discriminating and hating is the right way. They are distorting Jesus’ message.”

No, misinformed Christian, you are distorting Jesus’ message by implying that He would be “accepting” of homosexuality to begin with. How could anyone who claims to know the Bible think that this is some sort of gray area? God hates homosexuality, period. It was often the last (and worst) thing God would tolerate before He destroyed entire cities and populations. That doesn’t sound like warm and fuzzy acceptance to me. In fact, I wish the whole Disney-movie expectations of God would be done away with once and for all…love is not about butterflies and roses. The Bible is far from being “G”-rated.

The truth is, God loves people and therefore desires that all turn away from this sin. If they do not, then He is left with no choice but to severely punish with His wrath (people love to forget about His justice and law). Is it “loving” to say to a person, “It’s OK to keep on lying and stealing. I love you!”? Or, “I love you my son, and therefore I don’t care if you go out and live recklessly, impregnating women and destroying yourself with drugs”? Of course not. Then why do we think God is up there saying, “It’s OK to live a homosexual life. It’s just who you are!”

If who I am is wrong, then I need to fix myself, simple as that. If a man naturally wants to lust after every attractive woman he meets, he needs to keep that in check rather than saying, “But that’s who I am!” Since when is what we want (or even “need”) to do some kind of reliable gauge for right behavior?

You get the point.

This is getting a bit long and I’m running out of time, so I will have to continue at a later point. I hope this has given you enough to chew on for now. =)

Songs of the lukewarm church

October 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Thought this was kind of funny, but at the same time one of those “sad but true” things.

http://wayofthemaster.com/songofthelukewarm.shtml

This video is a parody of one of those TV CD offers…very well done:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AoDi157qdGw

These are the anthems of the lukewarm. May we all continue to make an effort to NOT let these songs be true in our lives!

Perry Noble’s blog

October 4, 2011 1 comment

To be honest, I don’t know much about this pastor, but I do know that he seems to be a straight-shooter who doesn’t beat around the bush on difficult topics. If you’re interested, here are his top 10 posts where he discusses issues openly and honestly:

#10 – Eight Reasons Some Churches Do Not Grow

#9 – What A Wife Should NEVER DO

#8 – “This Sh_t Is Awesome!”

#7 – 10 Reasons I Should Not Be Dating Him/Her

#6 – Nice Christian Boys And Girls Make Me Sick

#5 – 15 Signs That A Church Is In Trouble

#4 – My Thoughts On Hell & Rob Bell

#3 – Masturbation

#2 – The Pastors Pain (Great post for pastors who are frustrated b/c it seems no one understands what they are going through.)

#1 – Attention Pastors, Keep Your Penis In Your Pants!

Remember that it’s just one pastor’s opinion—it’s not God’s word. But it’s eye-opening and thought-provoking at the very least.

Sermon: God is in charge

August 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Yesterday, we heard a sermon from a guest speaker at MBC, and I was very blessed by his words. It was like he was saying everything I wanted to say. The main point of the message? God is in charge. Who are we—the clay to the almighty potter—to question Him and to think ourselves to be wiser? It sounds ridiculous to say we know better than God, but in real life, doesn’t it seem like we have that attitude sometimes?

http://mcleanbible.org/media_player.asp?type=large&messageID=100589

It’s not a popular message, especially to us Americans with our sense of entitlement and our snobbery, but it’s the truth.

In Isaiah 55:8-9, God reminds us:

8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, 
   neither are your ways my ways,” 
            declares the LORD. 
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, 
   so are my ways higher than your ways 
   and my thoughts than your thoughts.” 

What’s the difference between martyrs of early Christianity and other religions?

July 7, 2011 2 comments

Sometimes, I’m a bit surprised that people don’t see the difference between early Christian martyrs and, say, Muslim martyrs. It’s really quite clear once you think about it.

A typical conversation might go something like this:

Christian: “The disciples’ willingness to die proves that Christianity is true!”

Skeptic: “Well, other religions have had plenty of martyrs throughout their history. According to you, their religion is false, so it seems people are willing to die for things that aren’t true.”

Christian: “…”

Here’s the simple but important difference: martyrs of other religions are willing to die for their beliefs. Early Christian apostles and martyrs died for something they knew to be true—something they had seen with their own eyes.

I’m willing to give Islam the benefit of the doubt and say that Muhammad probably wasn’t intentionally deceiving people. He doubted the veracity of his own dreams and visions, even wondering if they were demonic (possibly). But his wife convinced him that he was hearing the word of God.

Now, many people throughout history have mistakenly believed to have heard or felt God, instructing them to do something or leading them in a direction. If they are wrong but delude themselves, then yes, they may be willing to die for that belief. Unless someone has actually had God speak to them for real, they probably wouldn’t know the difference between a true vision and one conjured up by their own imaginations (or demonic deception). Relying on a second-hand analysis, such as by one’s spouse, is even more unreliable. In the past, our understanding of dreams was also very poor, so this kind of misinformed conviction is to be expected.

But with Jesus’ disciples, this kind of delusion is not really a possibility. If they were making up the story of the gospel, or if they had stolen the body of Jesus, they would have ridden the wave of Christianity for as long as it benefited them…then given it up once their lives were on the line. Instead, we see all of the disciples except one (John, who miraculously survived and died years later) courageously and willingly going to their deaths.

They didn’t die for a belief or convictions from a vision. They died after having seen the risen Christ in person with their own eyes—together in groups, no less. This wasn’t a story they made up or something they heard from others. They died for first-hand knowledge of the most tangible kind.

That’s the difference.