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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I Confess

What’s religious confession all about? I’m remotely familiar with Catholic confession – I grew up on the fringe of the Catholic Church. And this morning I spent ten minutes researching via Google. I should be an expert by now. By what I read on a CatholicsComeHome website, confession looks like a pretty cool thing.

You ask for forgiveness of your sins and express your regret. I’m not sure if this is the way it is today, but years ago Catholic confession also included accepting a small penalty, like reciting certain prayers.

There’s something about confession that I like. It’s a safe and confidential way to unload burdens. I think it can be emotionally healthy to confess our mistakes. It’s a good exercise in humility. Whether you confess mistakes to a priest or a friend, it can be a good thing to do.

So why do I feel uncomfortable with it?

I see a dark side to such things as Catholic confession. Asking forgiveness and paying a token penalty seems harmless. BUT, I think it dishonors Jesus, it disrespects Jesus, and maybe it disgraces Jesus. I see such forms of confession as completely ignoring the love and sacrifice of Jesus.

Look, we are already forgiven. God forgave us when His Son died on the cross. To ask for forgiveness is to ignore the fact that we’re already forgiven! Also, Jesus already paid the penalty for all sins. Taking on penalties of our own ignores His sacrifice!

I see confession as a distraction from Jesus. Its focus is on the church and on the person who’s confessing. It insulates people from the love and grace of God.

As I said in the beginning, I think confession is good and everyone who loves Jesus should confess their sins, but not to a priest. We should go directly to Jesus and God. Jesus said as much in teaching us the Lord’s Prayer. But when we go to him with such prayers, maybe instead of asking for forgiveness, we should tell Him how grateful we are. And we should remember the penalty He paid for our sins. And the gratitude that swells within us will feed our love for Jesus. And as our love for Jesus grows, so do we grow.

I think this should be the nature and outcome of confession. It’s all about gratitude, love, and Jesus. What do you think?


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Divorced? No Communion for You

Pope Francis

You may have read about it in a newspaper or a news website. If you’re Catholic and have gotten a divorce and then became remarried, the church will not allow you to receive communion. The Pope wants to remove this rule, and allow such people to share in the sacrament of communion, but conservative bishops have successfully resisted him. The rule stands.

In defense of their position, one of the leaders of those opposing the Pope, Cardinal George Pell, was quoted in one article as saying, “Christ’s teaching on adultery and second marriages is very clear.” Very true. But so is His teaching on forgiveness and second chances.

The Bible is full of second chances and forgiveness. And God’s forgiveness of our sins is obviously more complete than human forgiveness. For as God said, “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34). For those who believe, God forgets the sin of adultery that results from divorce and remarriage. Too bad the Catholic bishops cannot forget as well.

And look at what these bishops are trying to do. Communion is sharing the symbolic body and blood of Christ. Communion signifies the most intimate relationship God’s children can experience… Jesus within us and us within Him. This is what Jesus prayed for, as He said to His Father, “I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 17:26, emphasis added) It looks like the Catholic bishops are trying to deprive adulterers from having a personal relationship with Jesus.

Yet I feel sorry for those who oppose the Pope on this issue. They have surrounded themselves with so much manmade church doctrine and personal opinion that they cannot see Jesus themselves.

If I could contact the Pope, I would encourage him to respond to the bishops in the same way Peter responded to the stubborn religious leaders of his day, when he said, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.” (Acts 4:19)


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Catholicism and Christianity

I was watching the news last night and the commentator mentioned Catholicism and Christianity as if they are two different things. I found this odd, but I’ve heard people talk this way before. You’re either Catholic or you’re Christian. But Catholic’s are Christian, aren’t they?

What do you think?


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Catholic Catechism vs. the Bible

Catechism vs Bible

This morning I looked up to see the Catechism of the Catholic Church sitting on my book shelf. It came from my parents house, after my father and stepmother had passed away. It had been my stepmothers. The thicknesses are almost the same. But I believe the contents are different.


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Prisoner of Fallacy

prisoner of fallacy

I was twelve years old when my mom married my second stepfather. I still remember his mother telling him he was going to hell because he divorced his first wife. That was over 40 years ago and my stepfather, now in his 80’s, still carries around the guilt piled onto him by his devout Catholic mother. He is a prisoner of that guilt. He is a prisoner by holding onto falseness that he believes just might be true. Whether you call yourself Christian or not, you may be a prisoner of lies – for lies are like shackles on our hearts and minds, hindering us from truly experiencing life.

We are all prisoners of the lies we believe to be truth. The most dreadful prison is the one where you don’t realize you are a prisoner. Did you ever see the movie The Matrix? People were prisoners without knowing it. So it can be with us. We can only be free, free to make choices based on truth, when we know the truth.

As Paul warned, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)


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Are you a wounded Catholic?

Healing wounded

Sometimes I rant about the dealings of the Catholic Church. I truly apologize if I have offended anyone. But I have seen the effects of the shortcomings of the Catholic Church up close. I know many wounded Catholics, those who had belonged to the Catholic Church, maybe even since birth, yet left with bad experiences. My stepfather, stepbrother, and many close friends are among them.

Yet in the case of my stepfather, he didn’t leave by choice; he was kicked out because of the sin of his divorce from his first wife. It distresses me that though Jesus has forgiven my stepfather, the Catholic Church cannot.

My heart breaks for those wounded Catholics, like my stepfather, who are not able to find their way to another church. All his life my stepfather was told that the Catholic Church is the only one, true church. And when that church failed him, where can he go? He has gone nowhere, and remains lost.

If you are a “wounded” Catholic, having given up on the Catholic Church, please don’t give up on Jesus. He still loves you, and always will. God, as our ultimate and perfect Father, loves all His children, no matter what church they may go to.

 


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Catholic Rule #82

8-8-14 Catechism 82

“As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honoured with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.” (Catechism 82 of the Roman Catholic Church, emphasis added) The Catholic Church considers God’s word, as recorded in the Bible, and Catholic tradition, as equally valid and important.

Jesus might say in response, “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” (Mark 7:8)

Moses might say, “Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.” (Deuteronomy 4:2)

And the apostle Paul might add, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)

Catholic tradition verses the word of God – I’ll choose God.


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Non-Catholic denominations are not “true” churches. Really?

The Catholic Church is the one and only “true” church, or so some believe. According to a July 10, 2007 article I stumbled across (see it here), “Pope Benedict XVI has reasserted the universal primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, approving a document released Tuesday that says Orthodox churches were defective and that other Christian denominations were not true churches.”

The Vatican document said. “The other communities cannot be called ‘churches’ in the proper sense because they do not have apostolic succession — the ability to trace their bishops back to Christ’s original apostles.” Specifically, if a church cannot trace the succession of its leadership back to the apostle Peter, then it cannot be called a true church of Jesus Christ. Since the Catholics claim Peter as their first Pope, then that makes the Catholic Church the one and only “true” church.

You see, when Jesus stated that Peter was the rock on which He would build His church (Matthew 16:18), the Catholic Church took that to mean that Peter was the starting point, the true cornerstone of the foundation of Jesus’ church. Was Jesus’ intention to have Peter as the one foundation from which He would build His united church? What else does the bible say?

At one time, Jesus sent out His 12 apostles to, “preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” (Luke 9:1-9) Another time, He sent out 72 others to, “heal the sick and tell them the kingdom of God is near you.” (Luke 10:1-20) Does this sound like the act of someone who would place the responsibility for His church on the shoulders of just one man? It appears to me like Jesus intended to spread the responsibility around.

There was another time when the 12 apostles got rather ticked off when they discovered there was someone outside their inner circle who was doing their job. So they went to Jesus and blew the whistle on this guy… “‘Teacher,’ said John, ‘we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.’ ‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said. ‘No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.’ (Mark 9:38-40) Does this sound as if Jesus is trying to establish some kind of exclusive club? It sounds to me like Jesus doesn’t care who is doing the work, as long as they are doing it “in His name.”

And what about Paul, who was not one of the original apostles? The Catholic Church appears to ignore him. So the churches he started were “defective”, I suppose. I’m sure that would come as a surprise to Paul, especially since Jesus himself gave Paul the assignment. As evidenced by the calling of Paul, Jesus was not exclusive. Why would He be? Such an approach would limit the growth of “His” church. Why send the church off in one direction, with Peter as the lead runner, when you can start off in multiple directions?

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Yet, the Catholic Church originally had worthy intentions. For a time, the Catholic Church was indeed the one true church, assuring and enabling the unity that Jesus prayed for (John 17:20-23). Their motives were noble. Jesus wanted unity, and the Catholic Church provided a way. Then, in the early 1500’s, the reformation happened and the church split into pieces; no more unity.

However, maybe having all believers belonging to the same organization is not what Jesus had in mind when He prayed for unity. Maybe he meant united in beliefs, rather than united in affiliation. Maybe it wasn’t that He wanted us all to belong to the same religious establishment, with the same human leader, but that we all look to Him and Him alone as our leader.

Jesus wasn’t praying for all believers to be united by man-made things, such as religious bureaucracies, ceremonies, traditions, and “holy” relics. Jesus was talking about being united by spiritual things, such as love for God and faith in the saving power and love of His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus asked His Father God, “…that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:22). The unity that Jesus prayed for is modeled by His relationship with God.

Were God & Jesus unified by a common membership in some kind of organization? No, their unity was much higher than some human standard. The Catholic Church has set a human standard for unity; membership in their organization. But Jesus’ standard is a heavenly standard – a shared communion with the Holy Spirit of God. We are to be united as Jesus and God are united. How can a man-made religious establishment bring such a thing about?

I do not believe that Jesus intended for a man-made institution to bring about such spiritual unity, for I think that would be impossible. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, His presence in each of our lives, to manifest the spiritual unity of love and faith. By our mutual connection to the Holy Spirit, we are all connected to each other. We may all be one by our common bond to the Holy Spirit. We are all branches, and we are unified by our common bond to the vine, which is Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit (John 15:1-17).

By the way, Jesus never even mentioned a human-made and run organization as the foundation for our unity. In fact, setting the Catholic Church as the standard for unity is a distraction from our true foundation, our true cornerstone – Jesus Christ.

And another thing: Jesus was the origin of His church, not Peter. Jesus is the vine, not Peter. Jesus is the cornerstone, not Peter. Jesus is the one true church, not the Catholics.


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Distractions from the truth: more thoughts on the “Catholics Come Home” ad campaign

Yesterday I wrote about the newest Catholic advertising campaign, “Catholics Come Home” (find it here). Since writing that post, I keep wondering why the church has selected Madison Avenue as their ad agency, instead of Jesus Christ.

In pursuit of an answer, I want to look at what the Catholic Church thinks is the root problem. As mentioned in the newspaper article I referred to in yesterday’s post, one of the key people behind the ad campaign said, “There is no doubt that the glitter and glamour of pop culture has distracted people from God and his church and family.” Okay, so dwindling attendance is the fault of our culture. Interesting.

I know of a non-denominational church that is growing, even in the midst of the “glitter and glamour of pop culture.” I’ve visited them, and there is no pretense, no traditions, no catechism that is larger than the bible itself. There is only the untarnished truth of Jesus Christ. From one Sunday to the next, the pastor preaches the pure gospel of Jesus Christ. And the people keep coming, and the empty chairs seem to be fewer and fewer each week. So much for the effects of culture.

The article also described one of the TV commercials that has people watching scenes from their past with “examples of their own poor or embarrassing behavior.” This sounded odd to me, so I went to the “Catholics Come Home” web site (find it here), where I found the video (click on the “Movie” TV ad and see for yourself). I was sadly astonished at the nature of the ad; the focus is on the flaws of the individual. The church is trying to put the blame on those who have drifted away.

Another commercial, called “Testimonials,” has people apologizing for having drifted away from the church. Again, the fault is apparently with them, not the church.

So, the church is blaming society and those individuals who are no longer sitting in the pews. Blaming others, that’s easy. That must be why they are going with the TV ads. Yet, this is nothing but a distraction, though perhaps non-intentional.

As I mentioned in yesterdays post, the root cause of their attendance problem is inside the Catholic Church, not outside. The TV commercials put the focus on the outside, on those who have left the church. Yet in doing so, the church is hiding from the real problem. Why? Why not make internal changes that would address the real issues? Because doing so would be to admit fault, and egos have a difficult time admitting fault (I speak from personal experience here).

It’s beginning to look to me like the Catholic Church is more motivated by full pews, than the spiritual well-being of those sitting in the pews. Someone once said something like, “We have found the enemy, and they are us.” The Catholic Church needs to find the humility to admit their faults. Blessed are the humble.

So why am I so critical toward the Catholic Church? After all, who am I to judge? But I care. I care about those who have been deceived by the doctrine of the Catholic Church. I know too many “wounded” former Catholics, and several of these have totally lost their faith.

I know that nothing is impossible with God, but it’s still hard for me to envision real change in the Catholic Church. There’s just too much baggage and history and “rules taught by men.” So for now, my prayers are more focused on the people, rather than the organization. May God help them all.

“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)


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“Catholics Come Home” – another ill-advised ad campaign

The Catholic Church has joined the Methodists in their belief that you can bring people to God with Madison Avenue advertising techniques, with an ad campaign called “Catholics Come Home.” (to see my post about the Methodist ad campaign – click here). According to an LA Times article that was recently reprinted in my local newspaper: “Using a strategy straight from the secular playbook… the (church) is preparing to air several thousand prime-time TV commercials.” You can preview the commercials here: http://www.catholicscomehome.org/

The article opened with: “Catholic church leaders using TV ads in attempt to lure back lapsed followers.” The target audiences are those who call themselves “Catholic” yet do not attend church, and those who call themselves former Catholics.

According to the article, some of the reasons people are no longer attending the Catholic Church include:

  • Many Catholics don’t have “a sense of belonging,”
  • Many believe they can be “good members of their faith without attending Mass regularly,”
  • Many do not believe missing Mass is a sin, (Missing mass is a sin? Really?)
  • Others are too busy with family or work; “as analysts point out, (people) are more interested in material happiness than spiritual fulfillment.”
  • “About 1 in 4 former Catholics cited the church’s priest-abuse scandal as a factor.”
  • “People oftentimes lose sight of what is most important in their lives,” says a Sacramento Bishop.

I wonder how TV ads are going to address these issues. You typically cannot resolve circumstances like these with advertising, though maybe they can try to “guilt” people into going back to church by reminding them that missing mass is a sin.

My sincere concern is that the Catholic Church has been deluded into believing that advertising will fix the root cause of their attendance problems. How will advertising get people more interested in spiritual fulfillment rather than material happiness? How will advertising heal wounds caused by the priest-abuse scandal? How will advertising give people a clear vision of what should be most important in their lives (this sounds like a job for the pulpit, not the TV)?

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If advertising is not the fix, what is, and what is the root cause of the “lapsed followers?” I’ve watched some of the commercials, and they say nothing about what has contributed to runaway members. Based on what’s in the newspaper article, along with some of my own personal experiences, here are some guesses for why people leave the Catholic Church:

  • Lost trust: How can you trust a system that harbors abusive priests?
  • Lack of knowledge of the truth of Jesus Christ: Knowledge of the truth will help grow a hunger for spiritual fulfillment, rather than material happiness.
  • Lack of knowledge of the love of Jesus Christ: With a true understanding of the magnitude of the love of Jesus Christ, comes a hunger and thirst for more. This is what brings people to church, and keeps them coming back.
  • Lack of knowledge of what truly should be the most important thing in our lives, which is: a one-on-one, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I wonder; does the Catholic Church promote such a relationship between each member and Jesus?

Maybe I’m simple-minded, but the solution seems straightforward to me: instead of investing in TV commercials, the Catholic Church needs to get back to it’s roots, which is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Catholic Church seems like a branch that has broken off from the vine. As Jesus said,

“No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches.” (John 15:4-5)

I’m hesitant to be harsh, but it seems to me that the Catholic Church has replaced the reality of Jesus Christ with traditions, man-made Catechisms, man-made rules, and man-made advertising. My recommendation would be to drop the TV commercials and preach the truth of the gospel.

Instead of advertising, the Catholic Church needs to introduce people to the Holy Spirit of God. Instead of relying on Madison Avenue to spread the word, how about relying on word of mouth, carried forward by the Holy Spirit himself? It was good enough for Jesus. Remember how 3000 people joined the fledgling church in a single day (Acts 2:41)? Such is the power of the Holy Spirit.

“And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.” (1 John 3:23-24 NIV)

Evangelism via TV commercials, or as D.L. Moody once said, “There is no better evangelist in the world than the Holy Spirit.” I’ll put my faith in the Holy Spirit.

A final message for wounded Catholics:

Though I pray for the Catholic Church, my limited imagination is not able to truly believe that it can change. Yet I know that with God, all things are possible. Maybe one way for the church to change is for the people to change. Maybe if enough “wounded” Catholics follow their heart by leaving the Catholic Church and then finding true fulfillment and purpose in another church, maybe this will open the eyes of the Catholic Church. If you are a wounded Catholic, my prayer is for you. Please do not give up. My hope is for you, that you find another church that lives by the true gospel of Jesus Christ, the life-giving gospel; that you come to know Jesus and His Holy Spirit, and grow into an intimate relationship with them, so intimate that you are never apart. And that you come to feel more alive than ever before, by the grace and love of Jesus Christ. Amen.


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Christianity – Its Own Worst Enemy

Christians are driving people away from God, according to a recent survey. If you’ve visited my blog before, you might have picked up on the fact that I definitely believe that Christianity is its own worst enemy. Yesterday I discovered that other people feel the same way.

In the editorial section of yesterdays newspaper was an article by syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts. The title, “Religion is driving people away from God” immediately caught my attention. The article sites the results of the recent American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS), conducted by researchers at Trinity College (find it here).

The survey results show that Christianity, along with other religions, is on the decline in the United States. Mr. Pitts mentions that he believes the cause is simply that “religion has become an ugly thing.” I agree.

In the highlight section of the ARIS survey, the following claim is made: “The challenge to Christianity in the U.S. does not come from other religions but rather from a rejection of all forms of organized religion.” Organized religion is pushing people away from Christianity and away from God. Is that pathetic or what?

This “organized religion” is not the kind of Christianity that Jesus created. Jesus had something else in mind when he launched the apostles off on the mission to make disciples of all nations. But the bright side of this story is that there remain glimmers of hope and truth within Christianity. There are some churches that remain true to His word. And my hope and purpose for this blog site is that here too will be found the truth of Jesus Christ.


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Weird Catholic Rules

[Look, something brought you to this blog post. If it was a mistake—sorry. But if you’d like to see something that is probably more worth your time, please check out the blurb about my soon-to-be-published novel on my new website. It’s basically about seeing a different perspective of Jesus, through the eyes of some background characters in the Bible. New website: cjpenn.com]


 

A few years ago my father, who was never really a church-goer, decided to join the Catholic Church, the church of my step-mother. I was pleased my dad was showing signs of faith, but my pleasure turned to dismay after I got the call from my mom. As part of my fathers’ application process, or whatever you go through to join the Catholic Church, the church mailed a stack of forms to my mother for her to fill out and sign. What the forms boiled down to was the annulment of the marriage of my parents. Since this would have resulted in my sisters and me being effectively declared illegitimate, my mom respectfully declined and tossed the forms in the trash.

Fortunately for my dad (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view), the Catholic Church still allowed him to join, even without my moms signature – I guess my dads signature was enough to wipe from the record his divorce from my mom.

You see, that’s what the process was all about… the church had to first cleanse my father of his divorce record, before they would allow him to join. But the message goes beyond just divorce. The implication is that you cannot join the Catholic Church unless you have no visible sins attached to you. Since divorce is a sin, you have to void the divorce by voiding the marriage. I’m sure I’m over-generalizing, but you get my point.

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I have several concerns about this whole episode. First of all, maybe my parents’ marriage didn’t happen in the eyes of the Catholic Church (after all the forms were filled out), but God witnessed that first marriage; a marriage that began with oaths to Him, and produced three children. The Catholic Church may choose to ignore the truth, but God certainly will not. My real concern is this: does the Catholic Church believe that God will close His eyes, just because they choose to?

Second, divorce is clearly a sin – Jesus said so. We all sin – Jesus said so. But the story of our sins is not twisted in a way that makes it look like there was no sin (as the Catholic Church has twisted the story of my parents’ marriage). With Jesus, acceptance is far simpler than that. With Jesus we are accepted into His church not because of some manipulated image of sinlessness, but because of our faith – Jesus said so.

Third, so we are accepted into Jesus’ church not by being sinless, but by having faith and being repentant of the sins we do have. Yet the Catholic Church appears to have a higher standard.

The fourth thing that bothers me is this concept of the Catholic Church cleansing my father of past sins. There is no action by man that can clean someone of their sins, or hide their sins, or pretend their sins never happened. Jesus is the only one who can do this, and he’s already done it, by dying for our sins on the cross. Yet the Catholic Church appears to believe that they are the ones who must clean us of our sins before we can be presented to Jesus.

And finally, all of my concerns boil down to this: the Catholic Church appears not to believe in the grace of God. They appear not to believe in Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. They appear not to believe that we are forgiven because of our faith, not by anything we may do.


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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.”

12-13-08-vatican-picture1

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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The “Dump and Run” maneuver

A good friend of mine who is a Baptist pastor recently whined to me about the tendency of some people to dump their problems onto him. He explained that some in his congregation like to come to him for a type of confession (maybe these are ex-Catholics). The confession doesn’t bother my friend; what bothers him is the apparent lack of effect.

I agree with him; confessing our sins, either to God or a friend or a pastor, should show evidence of itself in a changed life. To confess yet go on sinning – that sounds rather hypocritical to me. Now I realize that some sins are very difficult to put completely in our past; I know from my own personal, anguished experience. But there should be some evidence we are at least making an effort. After all, that’s what repentance is; to acknowledge our sins and endeavor to sin no more. (emphasis on “endeavor”)

But the “dump and runners” are those who acknowledge their sins to someone else and then run off to sin again. Where’s the repentance in that?

The key question for the dump and runners is this: is there salvation in confession alone? Is confessing your sins enough? Is that all God expects of us?

The truth and the answer is this: we are not saved by confession, we are saved by faith. And not just any faith; we are saved by a faith that changes our lives.

Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (John 3:3) What does “born again” mean, if not to be changed?

And James, the brother of Jesus, stated, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if people claim to have faith but have no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:14-17)

Faith without change is dead. Faith without a changed life is not really faith. Look at it this way; if you REALLY believe in the love and teachings of God, you would probably love God back, with all your heart, soul and mind. And by the strength of your love for God, you would take action and change your life.


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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)


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Catholic Confession – A Manmade Obstacle

It just didn’t make sense to her. Why should Mary have to see a priest to confess her sins? As she explained it to me, this was a key reason Mary left the Catholic Church; she didn’t like the idea of a middleman. To Mary, the confession felt like an obstacle, hindering her from being close to God. Why couldn’t she just go directly go God?

Yet Jesus tells us to go directly to God. He told us to pray…

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)

I think it all boils down to relationship. What kind of relationship does Jesus want to have with those who love Him, with those He calls “friend?” Jesus wants a relationship that is far more intimate than any we are familiar with. “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” (John 15:4) If Jesus is in us, and we are in Him (ignoring for now what that means and how that might look); yet isn’t this clear that it describes an unusually close relationship?

“Come to me,” “follow me – these are the words Jesus frequently used. Throughout the gospels, Jesus clearly conveys that He wants our focus to be on Him. Praying to an intermediary is a distraction; it takes our focus off of Jesus. Does that sound right to you?

Think of it this way: if I wrong my best friend, how would they feel if I go to an intermediary to ask for forgiveness? “What? E.D. wouldn’t come directly to me? I thought we were better friends than that.” How do you think Jesus feels when those He suffered to save, avoid Him; when His loved ones go to an intermediary to ask His forgiveness? He DIED for our sins; shouldn’t we go directly to Him when wanting to repent of those sins?


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Need Help? Go to the Source

Why pray to Mary the mother of Jesus, when you can go directly to Jesus Himself? Someone recently explained to me something about the relationship Catholics have with Mary: “We pray to Mary and the saints to ask them to pray to our Lord for us. 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!”

Yet is Mary the ideal intercessor? I hold no disrespect for Mary; I just want to make sure my relationship with her is as her son intended. Should I trust Mary with my prayer requests? My Lord Jesus, please help me understand…

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” (John 14:1)

“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:13-14)

“I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” (John 16:23)

Jesus is indeed our intercessor when it comes to paying the price for our sins. He interceded and accepted the punishment for our crimes against God. Thank God. Does that mean He is always our only intercessor for prayers?

“In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf.” (John 16:26) We are called to ask God, directly, in Jesus’ name. Go directly to the Source.

“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)

Yet you may ask, “what harm is there in my praying to Mary or other saints?”

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (John 14:6) We come to God, we pray to God, through Jesus, in His name. Any other path will lead you off course.

The Catholic tradition of praying to Mary distracts people from where their focus should truly be – on Jesus. I have more to say on this concept of distraction, but that will wait for another time.


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ALL Sins are Forgiven!

Mary, being raised Catholic, was taught that there are different levels of sinning, and that some sins are not forgiven. Mary attended a small Bible study group I was part of, and she once made a statement that sounded like a mixture of assertion and question. It went something like this, “God doesn’t forgive all sins… right?” Mary had left the Catholic Church, and maybe she was inwardly hoping for an answer different from what she had been taught.

Now, I really don’t know much about the Catholic hierarchy of sins, but I do know what Jesus had to say on the subject…

“And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven, … Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man (aka, Jesus) will be forgiven.” (Matthew 12:31-32)

Jesus doesn’t seem to exclude much, when defining for us which sins are forgiven. I wonder; what part of “every” does the Catholic Church not understand?


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The Pope – Only a Man

Should the Pope be worshipped? Should the Pope be bowed down to and praised? During the recent papal visit to the US, I saw images on TV of people dropping to their knees before the Pope and kissing his ring. This is a very familiar image and another of many that we have grown accustomed to. But please think about it; in the eyes of God is this proper behavior?

The tendency to praise someone you are grateful for is certainly natural. The Roman Centurion was very grateful that Peter went out of his way to come see him. “As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence.” (Acts 10:25) Did Peter see this as proper behavior? After all, Peter was one of the pillars of the church. If any living person deserved such praise, it was Peter…

“But Peter made him get up. ‘Stand up,’ he said, ‘I am only a man myself.'” (v.26)

Okay, so maybe Peter was not worthy of having someone fall to their knees before him. But certainly angles, the spiritual agents of God are worthy. As the apostle John prepared to fall on his knees before the angle who had shown him so many things…

“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 22:9)

Is the Pope above Peter? Is the Pope above the angles? Are any of us? We may not have much in common with Peter, but like Peter we are all only men and women, and as the angle told John, only God is to be worshipped.

What might Jesus say to the Pope, or any of us who seek praise?

“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Take off the turban, remove the crown. It will not be as it was: The lowly will be exalted and the exalted will be brought low.” (Ezekiel 21:26)

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