Revealing the “mysteries” of the parables

Parables: The Mysteries of God’s Kingdom Revealed Through The Stories Jesus ToldJMAC

By John MacArthur

Nelson Books, 2015, 202 pages

Many people read Jesus’ parables in the Gospels and say, “Huh?” In his latest book, Pastor J Mac examines several of Jesus’ parables:

  • A sower went out to sow his seed – Luke 8:5-8
  • Finding hidden treasure – Matthew 13:44, 45-46
  • Hiring laborers for the vineyard – Matthew 20:1-15
  • The good Samaritan – Luke 10:30-35
  • Two men at the Temple; the Pharisee and the tax collector – Luke 18:9-14
  • The faithful servant and the evil servant, the ten bridesmaids, the talents  – Matthew 24:45-51, 25:1-13, 14-30
  • The unjust steward – Luke 16:1-15
  • The rich man and Lazarus – Luke 16:19-31
  • The persistent widow – Luke 18:1-8

J Mac breaks it down and offers some valuable insights. It’s all about salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ and then serving the Lord.

How is a person justified? By faith or by works? Everyone who names the name of Christ needs to read chapter 6 of this book: A Lesson About Justification by Faith (Two men at the Temple; the Pharisee and the tax collector – Luke 18:9-14)




Idols: We’ve all got ’em.

Idols. We’ve all got ’em, don’t we? Anything that we allow to come between God and us isIDOL an idol.

When we read about the Israelites in Exodus 32 we get pretty judgmental and wonder how they could have been so ridiculously stupid to demand an idol from Aaron when God had just led them out of captivity. Then we read about the righteous kings of Judah who sought to bring the nation back to God but for some reason left the pagan high places of sacrifice. “What are you thinking? Get rid of them!,” we cry out to these men from twenty-five hundred years ago.

“Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him. The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.” – 2 Kings 12:2-3.

The undisturbed high places became a snare to Judah and a temptation to forsake God and return to idolatry. But God’s Word is like a mirror isn’t it? It’s tough to judge the Israelites when the Holy Spirit uses God’s Word to expose the idolatry in our own lives.

Looking back, I can think of more than a few things I have given greater priority than my relationship with the Lord:

  • Sports – Oh, I loved my teams! I would scream at that TV like it was a matter of life and death.
  • My retirement account – I was building a nice nest egg and it was on my mind all the time. My 401K became my security.
  • Entertainment – Books and quirky independent films were my passion. I carefully watched for new CDs from my favorite bands and singer-songwriters only to listen to them a few times and then eagerly anticipate the next releases. I was forever chasing after the next “feel-good.”
  • My ethnic heritage – Boy, did I devote A LOT of time to this one and I even became somewhat of an amateur expert.

“I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” – Ecclesiastes 1:14

Now there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having some hobbies and interests. My problem was they became more important to me than my relationship with my Lord. I was putting “things” ahead of God. I was trying to find my joy and fulfillment in “things” rather than in the Lord. My identity was based on my collections, knowledge, and experiences rather than in being in Christ. Worldly things definitely appeal more to the flesh than the spiritual things of God.

For many people religion is their idol. They’ve put their trust in institutional religion where the mantra is “just be good and try your best” rather than seeing themselves as sinners without a plea, as the Lord sees us, and accepting His only path to salvation, Jesus Christ the Savior.

“Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath,
even those who seem secure. Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom; in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth
without knowing whose it will finally be. But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.” – Psalm 39:4-7

Thank you , Lord, for Your patience and mercy. Help me to follow You more closely and not allow anything to take Your place. Help me to tear down all the high places in my life.

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.” – Phillipians 3:7-9

Postscript: In our post-modern society where inclusivism and plurality are the buzzwords most would say, “Oh, just leave those high places alone. Everyone worships god in their own way. Don’t be so doctrinaire.”

Roman Catholicism: What You Need to Know

Roman Catholicism: What You Need to KnowRCW

By James G. McCarthy

Harvest House Publishers, 1995

Harvest House Publishers came out with a series of “What You Need to Know” Quick Reference Guide pamphlets on a variety of interesting subjects. In this pamphlet, Evangelical minister and former Catholic, James G. McCarthy, succinctly compares Roman Catholicism with God’s Word. Outlined topics include salvation, the mass, Mary, authority, and justification.

This is a valuable primer for anyone interested in the basics of Roman Catholicism and is available at McCarthy has written several books on Catholicism including The Gospel According to Rome (Harvest House, 1995, 408 pages).

Additional titles in the “What You Need to Know” series include:

Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, The Masonic Lodge, Five Views on the Rapture, Christian Views of War, Is America in Bible Prophecy?, Creation vs. Evolution, Bible Translations, Intelligent Design, Archaelogy and the Bible, Homosexuality, Bible Prophecy, Islam, Angels, and Believing in Jesus.

To purchase materials on Catholicism directly from Harvest House click here.


“Spotlight” on priestly abuse


Directed by Tom McCarthy and starring Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, and Stanley Tucci

Open Road Films, 2015, 129 minutes

Like most people I had off today (yeah!) so after cleaning out half of the garage I took my wife to see “Spotlight.”

This film depicts the Boston Globe’s 2001 investigation of the sexual abuse of children by pedophile priests in the Archdiocese of Boston and the cover-up by Cardinal Bernard Law and his underlings.

This is a very disturbing story that needs to be seen. Catholics are completely dependent on their priests and bishops for their spiritual welfare. Their faith is in an institution and its leadership rather than in Jesus Christ. The Catholic church concedes there were over 100,000 victims of pedophile priests in the U.S. alone. As if that was not bad enough, the powerful hierarchy manipulated the press and the justice system and just transferred the pedophile predators from one parish to the next.

What do we take away from this film? That all people, even the religious leaders that are put on pedestals by their followers, are depraved sinners without one single plea of their own. As God’s Word says, there is NONE righteous, no not one!!! – Romans 3:10

The wages of our sin is death and eternal judgment BUT God so loved us that He sent His Son to take our punishment. Whoever accepts Him, puts their faith in Him, will have all their sins washed away and have eternal life ONLY because of the perfect righteousness of their Savior. – John 3:16

The cast of this movie does a very nice job. The message is riveting and should be a flashing yellow light for all those who place their faith in institutions and sinful men.

For more information on salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone see here.



Catholic bishop ponders what PRECISELY is the Gospel?

Yesterday, millions of American families sat around the dinner table thanking God for


His blessings. But most people don’t acknowledge God’s greatest gift; the gift of His Son. The Gospel, the GOOD NEWS, is that God the Son, Jesus Christ, came to this earth to pay the penalty for our sins.

In 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 the apostle Paul summarizes the Gospel:

“Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”

So Jesus, God the Son, the Messiah, died for our sins and was buried. But He rose from the grave, conquering sin and death. Catholics and Evangelicals can agree on those elements of the Gospel. But the question then becomes how does a person receive God’s gift of salvation made possible by Jesus’ atoning sacrifice?

Evangelicals believe that, by God’s grace, a person receives the gift of salvation when they acknowledge before a Holy God they are a depraved sinner deserving eternal judgment and they repent of their sin and accept Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith.

 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” – John 1:12

In the article far below, Catholic bishop, Robert Barron, ponders what precisely is the Gospel. Barron agrees that the Evangelical Gospel is a good starting point but states the Catholic version places those initial truths in a “wider and more clarifying context.”

Barron says the gospel actually means becoming a member of the Catholic church and then “cooperating with grace” by participating in the church’s sacramental system thereby increasing one’s justification and sanctification.  For Catholics, salvation is a process initiated by God but which requires their lifelong obedience to the Ten Commandments and church law in the pursuit of becoming holier so as to merit Heaven. As Barron illustrates, the Catholic gospel is anything but “precise.”

Catholics are like the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14, thinking they’re doing a pretty good job of obeying God’s commandments while Evangelicals see themselves as the tax collector in the parable, sinners without a single plea other than the perfect righteousness of their Savior.

“For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” – Galatians 3:10-11

For the tax collector and the thief on the cross the Gospel wasn’t a complicated process involving a long legal laundry list of religious do’s and don’ts administered by an autocratic clerical class. The Gospel is genuinely accepting Jesus as Savior; so simple that even a child can understand it yet so few get it.

For more information on accepting Christ by faith see here.


What Precisely is the Gospel?

By Bishop Robert Barron

The National Catholic Register



New organization, the Reformanda Initiative, seeks to educate Evangelicals about Roman Catholicism

I guess you could say I’m a bit of a Christian “Rumpelstiltskon.” I walked away from theri_logo Lord back in 1991 because I was fed up with “churchianity” but finally returned to my patient and wonderfully merciful Lord (who never left me) in 2014.

Well, from my perspective many of the changes to the church in 23 years are quite dramatic. There aren’t too many people calling themselves “fundamentalists” these days. Moody Monthly magazine is only a distant memory. Hymn singing before the preaching as been replaced by rock music with Christian lyrics on the overheads. Pastors now wear sneakers, flannel shirts, and blue jeans on Sunday mornings. Churches have shed denominational names for “more welcoming” monikers.

Okay. I’m not complaining. No doubt the differences seem so radical to me because I’ve been away for so long. But there is one noticeable change that’s very troubling and that’s the change in the church’s attitude towards works-righteousness Roman Catholicism.

Back in 1991 you could definitely see signs of cooperation, accommodation, and compromise with RCism but in 2015 the deception is going full bore. A recent survey revealed 58% of Evangelical pastors believe the pope is a born-again Christian. I shake my head in disbelief!

The thinking back in the 80s among people like Falwell, Robertson, and Dobson was, “Sure, we disagree with Catholics on some doctrines but we need them in our fight to “reclaim America for Christ.” How did that work out?

Predictably, cooperation led to accommodation and compromise and by the mid-90s, people like Colson, Bright, and Packer were calling for the church to recognize salvation-by-works Catholics as Christians. Anyone who objected was identified as an “old-school” doctrinalist.

But there’s no need to despair. There’s still a large group of believers who are defending the Gospel of grace. This past year I was happy to see new books on Catholicism from Richard Bennett, Chris Castaldo, Gregg Allison, and Leonardo De Chirico.

Here’s some more good news. Yesterday I was reading De Chirico’s blog and I see he has partnered with Allison, Michael Reeves, and Greg Pritchard in creating the Reformanda Initiative, an effort to “identify, unite, equip, and resource evangelical leaders to understand Roman Catholic theology and practice, to educate the evangelical Church and to communicate the Gospel.” Take just five minutes and check out the many resources available on the web site.

Let’s support and pray for the Reformanda Initiative. Get the buzz going. Send the link below to your pastor and to any others the Lord directs. Evangelical pastors and their flocks desperately need to be educated about Roman Catholicism.


What defines an Evangelical vs. what defines a Catholic?

The National Association of Evangelicals (hardly a beacon of uncompromising orthodoxy)ACC and Lifeway Research (affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention) recently teamed up to develop a “standard definition for what it means to be an Evangelical.” See the article here. With input gathered from a diverse group of theologians, Evangelical leaders, and sociologists (?), and tested via scientific survey, the NAE and Lifeway assembled a list of four core beliefs they say define an Evangelical. They are:

  1. The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe.
  2. It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.
  3. Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.
  4. Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.

Well, I must say that’s a pretty good list! I strongly believe in all four statements. But how does Catholic belief square with these four beliefs? I’ll be happy to answer for Catholics because I was one for 27 years.

1. The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe.
Like Evangelicals, Catholics also believe the Bible is God’s Word. But for Catholics, their church’s teaching office, the magisterium, which includes the pope and bishops, is the highest authority. Catholic are obliged to believe the church’s extra-biblical dogma and to accept the church’s interpretation of Scripture. Catholics aren’t generally encouraged to read the Bible and most don’t.

2. It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.
Catholics believe in salvation by sacramental grace and obedience to the Ten Commandments and church law. Catholics believe God gives them the graces, administered by the church through the sacraments, by which they can be saved, but they must also “cooperate with grace” and perfectly obey the commandments and church rules to merit their salvation. So Catholics don’t encourage non-Catholics to just “trust Jesus as their Savior.” What they might do is encourage interested non-Catholics to enroll in their year-long RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) program, be baptized by a priest, and systematically participate in their works-righteousness sacramental system. But since Catholics are now taught that everyone, even atheists, can merit Heaven as long as they “follow the light they have been given” and are “good,” the conversion of non-Catholics no longer has the priority it once had.

3. Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.
Catholics believe they must strive to keep their souls completely free from all sin. They believe this is actually possible! They believe the sacrifice of the mass provides the grace to help them avoid “mortal” sin and cleanse “venial” sin. The mass is repeated thousands of times daily throughout the world. Catholics insist they don’t repeat Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary. They engage in sophistry and call it a “re-presentation.” Catholics call Jesus their “Savior” but they essentially believe they must save themselves by perfectly obeying the Ten Commandments and church law. If they ever do happen to commit a “mortal” sin, Catholics believe the sacrament of reconciliation removes some of the penalty of sin but not all of it. They believe any remaining temporal punishment will be meted out in purgatory.

4. Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.
Catholics will say they believe eternal salvation is “a gift” but then will insist they must merit the “gift” by perfectly obeying the Ten Commandments and church laws. They believe people of all religions and even atheists are also able to merit heaven as long as they “follow the light they have been given” and are “good.”

So if Catholic beliefs differ soooooooooo much from Evangelical beliefs, especially in regards to justification, how is it that many in the NAE are able to embrace Catholics as fellow Christians?