His Truth Will Set You Free

Listen to what Jesus says; “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)


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Catholic Church – still holding to militant past?

The article in this morning’s newspaper, titled “Vatican issues bioethics statement”, included a picture of the Vatican officials at a news conference. The caption under the picture read, “From left… (the names of the five men in the picture)… attend a news conference on bioethics at the Vatican on Friday. At top is the Vatican’s coat of arms.”

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I put down my cup of coffee and was on my way to the computer before I even started reading the article. It was the caption under the picture that stirred me to action. I never knew the Vatican had a “coat of arms.”

It didn’t surprise me, with the militant history of the Catholic Church. But it was the incongruity of having a symbol of military might, contrasted with the topic of the sanctity of life that caught my attention. The two just don’t go together.

But what bothers me the most is that there still exists a Vatican coat of arms. Why can’t the Vatican let go of their militant past and do away with the coat of arms?

It is just another way in which the Catholic Church is contrary to the ways of Jesus Christ. Would Jesus condone a coat of arms for His church?


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Misguided Worship; the Catholic Elevation of Mary

One of my past posts solicited the following comment: “Since Mary is the immaculate mother of Jesus and he was unable to deny her wishes on Earth (see wedding feast of Cana) she is the ideal intercessor!” I don’t know if this one comment represents the view of the entire Catholic Church, but it sparks some issues I would like to talk about.

First I would like to discuss this idea of Jesus taking direction from His mother, supposedly being “unable to deny her wishes.” Then I will try to compare the Catholic view of Mary with the biblical view (they are not one and the same). My intention is not to demean Mary in any way, but I do plan to focus on the truth; not according to the Catholic Church, but according to God.

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Was Jesus truly unable to deny the wishes of his mother? What does the following tell you about Jesus’ relationship with Mary?

“While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:46-50)

Jesus puts all who obey on the same level as His mother. He himself does not elevate her above anyone else. So why does the Catholic Church?

However, do Jesus’ words in the bible indicate that He was inclined to follow the direction of His mother, or did His guidance come from elsewhere? Please consider His own words…

“I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” (John 8:28-29)

“For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” (John 12:49-50)

“The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.” (John 14:10)

“These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” (John 14:24)

“…the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.” (John 14:31)

Jesus follows His Father, not His mother.

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Regarding the Catholic view of Mary, one of her attributes is that she is an object of Catholic prayer. One of the most familiar Catholic prayers is directed toward her; “Hail Mary, full of grace…”

Does Jesus call us to pray to His mother? No. Jesus tells us to go directly to God…

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:9-12)

And…

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)

In addition to being an object of prayer, Mary appears to be an object of worship. For me, it’s difficult if not impossible to separate worship from prayer. After all, prayer is an expression of worship. Praying to Mary is worshiping her.

What does God have to say about our worshipping other than Him? From the 10 Commandments:

“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them.” (Exodus 20:4-5a)

From this point in Exodus to the end of Revelation, we are told to worship only God…

“I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!” (Revelation 22:8-9)

Even an angel is not to be worshipped, and neither is Mary. Worship God!

I do not write this in order to criticize the Catholic Church. I write this out of concern for the souls of all who follow the ways of the Catholic Church. Jesus is concerned too…

“You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” (Matthew 15:7-9)


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Prosperity Gospel – getting rich through Jesus

Have you heard? Jesus wants you to be rich. Or so it seems, according to the promoters of a different kind of “Christian” message, that critics call the “prosperity gospel.” If you have not heard of the prosperity gospel, perhaps I can enlighten you with some selected quotes from a recent newspaper article I read.

“The idea that God rewards moral people with financial prosperity – dubbed the ‘prosperity gospel’ by critics – has increasingly drawn large crowds to churches across the United States.”

“I don’t talk about money,” Joel Osteen (a “prosperity gospel” pastor who was interviewed) explained. “God wants you to be blessed. And being blessed means having good relationships, having money to be able to send your kids to college, being healthy in your body. That’s what we talk about. I believe God wants you to live a blessed life… I don’t go around talking about God will make you rich.”

“The prosperity gospel, Butler (another pastor) said, means that “God rewards right behavior not just in heaven, but on Earth.” True enough, but don’t count on God rewarding you with money. After all, money is one of the least effective tools for advancing the true gospel.

Yet Jesus didn’t promise us health, money for the college fund, or even good relationships. But before I talk about what Jesus has promised us, let’s look at what He has to say about money…

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19) Seems clear: do not pursue treasure.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) Think about it. Does Jesus want our heart to be focused on Him, or on our bank account?

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. (Matthew 6:24) I think these prosperity gospel pastors are fooling themselves. They apparently think they can serve both God and money.

What else might Jesus have to say to these prosperity pastors?

“Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’” Matthew 19:21

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’” (Matthew 19:23-24)

Why did Jesus tell his disciples such a thing? Perhaps because He knows that those with wealth tend to rely on their money to help them through life’s problems, more than they rely on God. After all, why depend on God when I can buy my way out of my troubles. Have you ever witnessed the faith of someone who has nothing, and compared it with that of someone who has plenty? The faith of the poor, who have no one to rely on but God, is filled with the power of God; it’s downright inspirational.

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What kind of people are the “prosperity gospel” pastors? What motivates them to preach this different kind of gospel?

“Gilbert (another pastor who was interviewed)… said that people who live morally deserve to be compensated for it.” I’ve never seen that in the bible.

“You know why I live in a $6 million house?” Gilbert said during a recent sermon. “Because I’m concerned about what other folk live in.” (I’m still struggling to understand that quote)

Another pastor lives in a mansion in Michigan and flies around in a jet, speaking at churches across the US. And pastor Osteen spent $80 million building a sanctuary.

It almost sounds to me like these guys have come up with a new form of gospel in order to justify their own personal greed. And it pays. It’s naturally so popular that it brings in plenty of money to satisfy their material desires. But is that money going to the right place? Does Jesus want churches to spend the collection basket on $6 million houses or $80 million sanctuaries?

Osteen’s church could have fed a lot of poor people with that $80 million. They could have helped a lot of widows and orphans. I wonder what Jesus thinks about Osteen’s $80 million sanctuary. Does Jesus feel more honored by being worshipped in such a grand place? All Jesus needed was a hillside; not some $80 million mega-temple.

And check the hypocrisy in this statement:

“There is just a lot of idol worship in the United States.” Gilbert said.

It sounds like he’s the idol worshipper, putting too much faith in money. Would he still be so upbeat if his $6 million house went into foreclosure and he was kicked out by the bank?

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The current economic crisis must be amplifying the attractiveness of this new gospel. It’s an age-old evangelism technique; give the people what they want, tell them what they want to hear (with little regard for the truth), make them feel good in the midst of their daily lives. But will it last? What if going to a prosperity gospel church doesn’t pay out? What if my income doesn’t increase? “Well forget this Christianity crap. It just doesn’t pay like those preachers say it will. I’m outta here.” And there goes another lost soul.

The success of the prosperity gospel depends on man-made things. It depends on the economy, money, income, and greed. After all, it’s basic greed that draws many people to the prosperity gospel. So let me ask you this; does it sound like this prosperity gospel has the power to change people’s lives, to set them on a path that leads to holiness, to take them all the way to heaven?

There is only one gospel that can take people all the way to heaven. It’s a long journey and there’s only one guide who can take you the entire distance. Money doesn’t have the legs to make the trip. Only Jesus does. Only the Holy Spirit can take you all the way from the pit of sin, where our journey always begins, to the eternal home He has built for us.

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Yes, Jesus said we would be blessed, but perhaps His blessings go far beyond the material or physical kind. In this way, I think these prosperity gospel folks are selling God short. He promises blessings that are far more valuable than health, money and friends. Though Jesus didn’t promise an easy or bountiful life, He promises so much more. Here is what He promises to you:

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)

“The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” (John 6:63)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:8)

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

The only true gospel of Jesus Christ will provide you with a peace that cannot be attained by anything material, a peace that money cannot buy.

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Finally, to all who believe in this “prosperity gospel” I say, as Paul said to the Galatians:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:6-10)


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Is Democracy Dead in California?

…YES, if the California “democratic” legislature has its way. According to a recent article in the local newspaper, California Democratic legislatures have submitted a brief to the state Supreme Court, requesting that Proposition 8 be “tossed out.”

The people voted, and the majority said they are in favor of Proposition 8. But apparently our elected officials do not want to pay attention to the majority. The majority votes, but the minority rules? Is that what democracy is all about? It may be mundane, but I decided to check the dictionary…

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines “democracy” as:

“a: government by the people ; especially : rule of the majority b: a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections”

In California the election may be free, but the outcome is not. And this proposal to overturn Proposition 8 is not the first time California elected officials have ignored the democratic process and overruled the will of the majority. And it won’t be the last, I suspect.

Where is this headed? If elected officials can get away with ignoring the will of the majority, what is the point in voting? What’s happening to our civil rights?

Democracy is the foundation of our constitution. Many in the California legislature are in direct violation of our constitutional rights. In an effort to stir up some comments, try this on for size: to those in the California senate and congress who signed the brief requesting that the state Supreme Court overturn democracy, I say; you should be charged with treason!

On this blog, I normally try to stay away from politics, unless it’s a topic that is also directly related to Christianity in some way. But when I see democracy being threatened, I just cannot stay quiet. I hope you also feel the need to speak up. Our freedom is in jeopardy.


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Voting against God

“The Episcopal bishops of Los Angeles and the Bay Area are opposing a November ballot initiative to overturn the California Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage in the state.” In fewer words, these Episcopal bishops are for same-sex marriage, (according to the article in yesterday’s newspaper, where I found this quote).

The same old story, but it got me thinking about this issue in a different way. Yet I’m not talking about the same-sex marriage issue; I’m talking about the issue of being for something that God is against. Because my purpose in today’s post is not to discuss God’s opinion of same-sex marriage, I would just like to say that I believe God is against such marriages, because Jesus said …

“Haven’t you read, that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6) Marriage is defined as being between a man and woman.

Yet if you wish to discuss your beliefs about same-sex marriage, please comment.

In the mean time, I will get to my point: I try not to be “against” anyone, including same-sex couples. I rather try to be against things, such as same-sex marriage. But in the end, I endeavor to be “for” obedience to God, and adherence to His word, the Bible. I find being “for” something feels more positive that being “against” anything, (call me silly if you will, but it’s how I like to look at things, though I’m not always successful).

Anyway, we are faced with decisions all day long; to be either for or against the issues that come our way. Some of these decisions are formalized, like in the California ballot initiative mentioned at the beginning of this post. In all cases, we have the responsibility to choose how we will vote; are we for, or against. And it is naturally implied that to be “for” an issue, means that you’re “against” the opposing side of the issue.

I submit to you now that those who are “for” legalization of same-sex marriage, are therefore “against” God. Yes, I consider the Episcopal bishops as being “against” God. As Jesus said…

“Whoever is not with me is against me.” (Matthew 12:30)

It’s rather severe of me, wouldn’t you say, to proclaim supposed representatives of God as being against God. But they’re not alone. After all, they’re only human, and we all do it. We all take sides, every day, and for most issues that confront us, one side will be against the decisions of God.

Fortunately we are offered forgiveness. I can only hope that in being for things that put us against God, that we all will realize the true meaning of our actions and beliefs. If you believe in God, who created the universe and all things in it; do you really want to be against Him, in any way?


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Ego – The Nasty Equalizer

Ego lowers people to the same level. Strange premise, you say? Please bear with me on this one.

What does a sizeable ego do to people? Well for one thing, it makes them think they are right and the other person is wrong, always. But mainly ego makes people blind to both sides of any issue. With ego, all a person can see is their side. Let me give a fictional example of what results from this…

Fred is a Christian who frequently demeans homosexuals. He believes all homosexuals will go to hell, and he doesn’t hesitate to express this opinion. Gail reads Fred’s blog and leaves a comment stating that all Christians are homophobic, insensitive, narrow-minded bigots.

Ironically, Gail has lowered herself to Fred’s level, by making her own narrow-minded, bigoted remark. Now I realize my example is not perfect, since Gail was provoked. But I hope you get my point, which is: Ego causes us to loose perspective and enter any situation seeing only part of the issue. And that gives those with bigger egos a huge disadvantage in that they are missing so much of the truth that resides in any issue. And I believe that without truth, there will be failure.

What does Jesus have to say about egos?

“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12)

Humility is incredibly underrated in our society. And most, if not all, of the worlds problems are because of egos. Do you want to help solve social problems? Then look for the ego in the problem, and humbly keep your ego out of it.


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Tripping over Hypocrisy

“The (Catholic) church does not feel authorized to change the will of its founder Jesus Christ.” So stated a Vatican spokesman in a recent Associated Press article I previously wrote about.

Oops! This from a church that harbors abundant examples of deviating from the will of Jesus Christ, many of which I’ve written about:

Do not call anyone on earth “father”

Are you good enough for communion?

ALL Sins are Forgiven!

Need Help? Go to the Source

Catholic Confession – A Manmade Obstacle

How easy it is to trip over the stone of hypocrisy. We should all be careful of what we say, and more careful of what we do. If we profess to embrace the words of Christ, we should be more mindful about living by them.

“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.” (Matthew 23:2-3)