Worshipping Jesus’s heart?

Seeing the recent article below about Jesus’s sacred heart brought back memories. I grew up as a Roman Catholic in the 1960s and 1970s and back then there were a lot ofAA3AA sacramentals in our home and in the homes of our friends and extended family. Crucifixes, statues, rosaries, and palms were frequently displayed. It was taught that sacramentals blessed by a priest brought graces to a house and to those who dwelled inside.

One popular statue that didn’t appeal to me at all was the statue of Jesus with his heart exposed. Why worship one of Jesus’s organs? Even to my young, credulous mind it seemed that worshipping a body organ was going beyond reasonable religious piety.

The practice of worshipping Jesus’s heart had some earlier advocates but gained great popularity in the late 17th-century when a French nun, Margaret Mary Alacoque, claimed Jesus appeared to her several times and instructed her on the rituals of the devotion. The Jesus apparition promised several special graces to those who worshipped his sacred heart. Most significantly, to those who went to mass and received communion on the first Friday of each month for nine consecutive months in honor of his sacred heart, the Jesus apparition promised “the grace of final perseverance; they shall not die in my disgrace, nor without receiving their sacraments. My divine heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.” In other words, following the First Fridays formula was a ticket to Heaven.

Catholicism has several other salvation formuals involving the wearing of scapulars and medals, saying the rosary, practicing the Five First Saturdays, etc.

Worshipping one of Jesus’s body parts is idolatry. Nowhere in the Gospels or the epistles does it insinuate that we should worship Jesus’s heart or any other of His body parts. No one will go to Heaven by engaging in religious rituals for five months or nine months or any other period of time. They’re all just man-made, anti-Biblical traditions. God’s Word says we must repent of our sins and accept Jesus Christ as our Savior by faith alone. Put religious rituals and formulas aside. Accept Jesus as your Savior by faith. Trust in Him alone.

Question: If a Catholic observed six First Fridays in a row but came down with a bad case of the flu on the seventh First Friday and couldn’t attend mass, would they have to start all over again or could they continue the streak intact the following month? Just asking.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16


5 Things Catholics Should Know About First Fridays: Learn about devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the graces that come from observing First Fridays
5 Things Catholics Should Know About First Fridays

Why did Jesus tell the apostles to buy a sword?

The Bible is an inexhaustible fountain of knowledge and wisdom. I need God’s Word every dayEar just like I need food, water, and oxygen. The Holy Spirit uses the Word to teach me, correct me, admonish me, encourage me, comfort me, and delight me. Praise the Lord for His wonderful and glorious Word!

The depths of Scripture can never be plumbed in this lifetime. I’ve read verses and passages many times without really understanding the full extent of their meaning. Then one day I’ll be reading a verse and, “Pow!,” the Holy Spirit illuminates it to me so that I really “get it” for the first time. I’m sure that’s happened to many of you as well.

I’m currently reading through Luke and yesterday I was reading chapter 22, verses 35-38:

“And He said to them, “When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?”

So they said, “Nothing.”

Then He said to them, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one. For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’ For the things concerning Me have an end.”

So they said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.”

And He said to them, “It is enough.””

I’ve read this passage many times before but it never “clicked” with me. Why did Jesus instruct His apostles to buy a sword (makhaira: generally a large knife or sword with a single cutting edge)? Didn’t Jesus rebuke Peter for violently wielding one of those swords in the Garden of Gethsemane just a few verses later? I asked the young pastor of the church we attended last year about this seeming contradiction and he confessed he didn’t know the answer. In the documentary, “Fight Church,” the macho son of the macho former pastor of the independent fundamental Baptist church we used to attend who is now the pastor uses these verses to justify Christians owning guns and kicking some butt whenever needed.

But as I read the verses yesterday, the Holy Spirit finally illuminated their meaning to me. Jesus told the apostles to buy a sword to fulfill prophetic Scripture:

“Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” – Isaiah 53:12.

Jesus was with Peter and the apostles in Gethsemane when Peter transgressed by using a sword to cut off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest. Jesus was counted among the violent “anomos” (lawbreakers). Oh, I get it now! It’s so simple. So easy. Why didn’t I understand it before? Jesus even states QUITE CLEARLY in the passage that the need for a sword was to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy that He would be numbered among the criminals:

“…and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one. For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’”

Why didn’t my previous pastor just out of seminary know this? Why does the IFB macho pastor not see this but instead twists the passage to support his own misguided, macho man viewpoint? Why didn’t John MacArthur, J. Vernon McGee, and other notable Bible commentators understand this clearly obvious reason for Jesus’ instruction to buy a sword? Because it’s the Holy Spirit who illuminates God’s Word to us. Understanding of God’s Word doesn’t come to us from our own human wisdom.

“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” – John 16:13

Jesus would also be numbered with the transgressors when He hung on the cross between the two criminals.

“With Him they also crucified two robbers, one on His right and the other on His left. So the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And He was numbered with the transgressors.” – Mark 15:27-28

Jesus interceded for Peter after his violent act and He interceded for the repentant criminal hanging beside Him (along with all the rest of us sinners), just as Isaiah had foretold.

Lord, thank You for Your Word and for illuminating Your Truths which we can’t possibly discern through our own human understanding.

What would you do if you found a wallet containing $1000 in cash?

There’s several verses in the Bible that state there is NOT ONE person on the planetLost wallet who is good and pure of heart. Even the things we do that we think are good, the Bible calls filthy rags in God’s sight. How could that be? Well, even our good deeds are tainted by less-than-pure motives and attitudes. An example of that came up this morning.

My wife and I were watching the news during breakfast and there was a story about a shopper who absentmindedly placed her wallet on the roof of her car as she loaded her purchases onto the back seat. As she drove off, her wallet containing $1000 in cash tumbled to the parking lot pavement. A stranger noticed the wallet on the ground and returned it back to its owner.

I asked my wife if she would have returned the wallet also, already knowing her answer. “Of course, I would have to return it,” she said. “I couldn’t face Jesus if I kept that money.” Most believers would answer the same way but my own response was a little more complex. I said I would certainly return the wallet but my expectation would be that the owner should then offer at least a portion of the $1000 to me for being so honest and for going to all that trouble. I probably wouldn’t accept any reward, but my expectation would be that a reward should at least be offered. And so, for most of the kind things we do, we’re expecting some sort of reciprocity. I’ll do this for you if you do that for me. What if I returned the wallet and the owner didn’t even say “thank you” let alone offer a reward? Oy! Then I’d really be indignant!

In our relationships with our beloved family members and friends we sometimes catch a glimpse of pure, unselfish love but let’s not kid ourselves. The current divorce rate and the number of people seeking counseling and prescription medications to help deal with the emotional fallout from their relationships, past and present, reveal just how far we are from God’s perfect and unselfish love.

Many years ago I worked with a guy named Jimmy and we became good friends. In the course of a work week, over-the-road drivers would make regular deliveries to our building’s dock and would often ask Jimmy to help them unload their trucks with the offer of some cash “under-the-table.” But while Jimmy was helping the drivers, I often had to pick up the slack from our regular work and I was never offered a dime. Sheesh! Such inconsideration! One day Jimmy asked if I had seen a $20 bill that had accidentally dropped from his pants pocket. When I later walked out to the receiving area, I spotted the crisp bill on the floor and quickly stooped down and slipped it into my pocket. Since Jimmy never offered me any of his supplemental cash, I could easily justify the “small” theft. Yes, I could rationalize stealing from a friend with very little inhibition. But that’s just one sin. I disobey God’s laws in thought, word, deed, or by omission every single day. Some people think they do a pretty good job obeying the Ten Commandments but the Holy Spirit reveals to me that I’m very far from God’s perfect standard.

Thank you, Jesus, for dying for me and freeing me from the bonds of sin even though I deserve hell and eternal judgement. Help me to mirror your unselfish love to others. If you haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, what are you waiting for?

“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” – Isaiah 64:6

“As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” – Romans 3:10-20

The “Coexist” bumper sticker

I was driving home from work today when I spotted a “Coexist” bumper sticker on theCE back of the car in front of me. You’re no doubt familiar with these stickers. In place of the letters C-o-e-x-i-s-t, the sticker substitutes symbols of various religious and humanistic belief systems. The original design was created by Polish graphic artist,  Piotr Mlodozeniec, in 2000 and has been revised by several others.

A few sources describe the symbols as follows:

  • The C with the star is the crescent moon, the symbol for Islam.
  • The O is the symbol for peace.
  • The E includes the symbols for male & female with some also saying the “e” is symbolic of science (i.e., E=mc2).
  • The X is the star of David, symbol for Judaism.
  • The I is dotted with a Wiccan pentagram.
  • The S is the symbol for the yin-yang, supposedly representing Eastern religions such as Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.
  • The T is the cross, the symbol for Christianity.

The symbols allegedly signify the capability or desire of humans to live together in peace.

Every genuine, born-again believer who sees that sticker knows better. There is only one way to ultimate peace and salvation and that’s through Jesus Christ. All other religions are idolatry. When I see a car brandishing a Coexist bumper sticker, I say to myself, that poor soul doesn’t know Jesus. We need to tell more people about the Savior. I surely try to love all people but I don’t respect their idolatrous religions.

But the leader of a 1.2 billion member “christian” denomination teaches something very similar to that bumper sticker. The Catholic pope declares that people of all religions can be saved “if they follow the light they’ve been given” and are “good.” He says EVEN atheists will be saved if they “follow their consciences” and are “good.” That message is straight from hell. Every born-again believer who embraces the Catholic church as Christian needs to turn off TBN and start reading their Bible again.

“There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4:12

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.” – Matthew 10:34-36

For more Bible verses that teach Jesus is the only way to God see below:

http://so4j.com/jesus-the-only-way

Catholic blogger bemoans declining church membership

Recent religious statistics reveal American Catholics are leaving their church inEC droves. One of three people who were raised in the church no longer identifies as Catholic. Over 1000 Catholic parishes have closed since 1995. Statistics show that about almost half of the people who have left the church have become religiously unaffiliated while an almost equal number have joined a Protestant church. We can praise the Lord for the many ex-Catholics who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and are currently being discipled in God’s Word at an evangelical fellowship!

In the recent article below, Catholic blogger, Albert Little, decries the current condition of the church. He seconds Catholic theologian Peter Kreeft’s challenge to the church to become “more Protestant.” He writes that evangelicals have some great “relationship-building, discipleship, and evangelization” programs and Catholics need to copy them or their membership is going to continue to decline.

Yes, evangelical churches have some outstanding discipleship and outreach efforts but the BEST thing about evangelical churches is they offer the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. In contrast, the Catholic church teaches a “gospel” of sacramental grace and merit. A “gospel” that proclaims that one must merit their way into Heaven by obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church rules is actually VERY bad news for anyone who tries to follow it.

Catholics aren’t dumb. They’ve heard their current pope state that even atheists will go to Heaven if they “follow their conscience” and are “good” so they wonder why they have to sit through even one more boring liturgical ceremony.

“So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.” – Luke 18:19

Little and Kreeft say Catholicism is the only church blessed with the “real presence” of Christ so the only thing it needs is to become more welcoming like the Protestants. It’s certainly true that Catholic churches are not welcoming. A large number of the Catholics who still bother to attend weekly mass anymore (only 24%) go because of mandated obligation and can barely wait for the final blessing before they’re scooting towards the exit. Why would they want to happily welcome anyone else to the salt mines? But even if the Catholic church were to institute a lot of “friendship and fellowship” programs, they still wouldn’t have the Gospel of grace. And it’s Jesus Christ the Savior and the “Good News” that lost souls are ultimately drawn to. The old saying goes, “You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.”

Jesus, the REAL Jesus, ain’t boring at all folks! He’s my life! He’s my strong tower! He’s my bedrock foundation. He’s my hope. He’s my stream of cool water in the scorching desert! His strong arm pulled me from the deep waters when I didn’t have another breath left. Church on Sunday is just a few hours in an entire week’s worth of worshipping and praising my Savior! Faith isn’t statistics, my friend. Saving faith in Jesus Christ is personal. It’s One-on-one. Jesus is knocking on your door. Will you accept Him? Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior today and ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church in your area that preaches the Gospel without compromise.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” – Revelation 3:20


The Catholic Church Must Become More Protestant

The Catholic Church Must Become More Protestant

My thoughts as the world mourns Prince

Famous avant garde rock star, Prince, died last Thursday and news sources have beenPR buzzing ever since. I don’t know much about Prince other than he was a VERY popular entertainer and that his gender-bender stage persona and suggestive song lyrics ran counter to the standards of sexuality and morality we find in God’s Word. I don’t mean to vilify Prince. He was without Christ just like all lost souls and searched for some kind of meaning to life through his iconoclastic “art.” The world literally idolized Prince and mourns him deeply but he was just a man who put his (very tight) pants on one leg at a time. Who or what do you idolize?

Prince grew up attending Seventh-Day Adventist and then Baptist church services but joined the Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2001. Most evangelical Christians are aware that the JWs are WAY out there when it comes to biblical doctrine. The JWs don’t believe in the Trinity, the deity of Jesus Christ, or the physical resurrection of Jesus. They believe in salvation by “faith” and works and that only obedient JWs will go to Heaven. The JWs have their own corrupted version of the Bible. Since the “church’s” founding in the 1870s, several of its leaders have made prophetic statements that have not come true. Evangelical pastors and para-church leaders widely agree the Jehovah’s Witnesses is not a Christian church. A person cannot be saved by following standard JW theology.

I was raised up in Roman Catholicism. Unlike the JWs, the Catholic church gets a number of doctrines right. I’m grateful that I was taught biblical truths regarding the Trinity, the deity of Jesus Christ, and the physical resurrection of Jesus. Where Catholicism fails miserably is HOW to appropriate the free gift of salvation that Jesus offers. The Catholic church teaches salvation is through its sacraments administered by its clergy and by obedience to the Ten Commandments and church rules. But the Good News! proclaimed by the apostles and God’s Word is that salvation is by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Sinners are saved by accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith. Obedience to the Lord comes after we accept Him as Savior.

Evangelicals were once united in their rebuke of Catholic ritualism and legalism but that’s gradually changed over the last 50 years with some evangelical leaders now jettisoning doctrine and embracing Catholicism. Will we soon see some evangelicals acknowledging Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons as Christians as well? It’s already happening. What’s your Gospel?

“I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” – Galatians 1:6-7

“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.” – Psalm 118:8-9

Some (very) simple ramblings on Calvinism vs. Arminianism

Preachers often say the Gospel is so simple even an 8-year-old child canCal Armi understand it and that’s very true once you’ve accepted Christ. But it’s the Holy Spirit Who opens hearts to the Truth of the Gospel through the Word of God. The Gospel is such a simple message but it’s also beyond our human comprehension. There are many theologians with multiple doctorate degrees who don’t understand that they’re sinners without one plea and on the way to judgement, but that Jesus Christ, God the Son, died for their sins, and they can have forgiveness and eternal salvation in Him if they will only repent of their sins and receive Him as Savior by faith.

Why are some people able to understand the simple Gospel and others cannot? A controversy has been raging in the church over that very question for centuries. There are some folks, called Calvinists (after French/Swiss Reformation leader, John Calvin), who believe God predestines only certain people for salvation and everyone else is predestined for hell. This doctrine sounds very uncharitable at first glance but there are many verses in the Bible which indicate that God irresistibly draws the “elect” to Him and that their faith is entirely a gift from Him. Calvinists believe a person who is drawn to Christ and consequently trusts Him as Savior can never lose their salvation. Some denominations that embrace Calvinism are the Presbyterians, Reformed Baptists, and the Congregationalists of a bygone era. Calvinists believe free will plays no part in God’s plan of salvation.

On the other side are the Arminians (after Dutch Reformed theologian, Jacobus Arminius) who believe God’s grace draws people to Christ but the individual is then free to accept or resist the Gospel. God, in His sovereignty, already knows who is going to accept Christ so He makes sure those people get to hear the Gospel. Some, but not all Arminians believe a person who accepts Christ can reject Him afterwards and lose their salvation. Those who follow Arminianism are the Methodists, Wesleyans, Freewill Baptists, Pentecostals, and Charismatics. Arminians can also cite many Bible verses that seem to support free will over predestination and maintain that free will is an integral part of God’s plan of salvation.

Taken to its extreme, Arminianism becomes a works-based, legalistic religion with similarities to Catholicism. Since Arminianists sin all day, every day, just like everyone else, they could potentially lose their salvation and have to re-accept Jesus as their Savior multiple times throughout each and every day. Arminianist leaders like Wesley and Finney tried to get around this difficulty by preaching that dedicated Christians could eventually achieve a state of sinless perfection as Catholicism also teaches.

Taken to its extreme, Calvinism minimizes obedience as the fruit of a genuine conversion to Christ. Hyper-Calvinists see no point in evangelism or missions because God is going to save exactly who He wants to.

I’m not a theologian and heavy debates over the Calvin-Arminius question hold only a limited appeal for me. My viewpoint? After accepting Christ I attended an independent Baptist church for eight years which believed strongly in free will but also taught a genuine Christian could not lose their salvation. I then attended a church for a year where the young pastor was Reformed Baptist and leaned toward Calvinism. The pastor of the non-denominational (with Baptist roots) church we’ve attended for the last six months is also a Calvinist but I’ve yet to hear him harp on about predestination. I guess right now I’m somewhere in the middle of this debate. I believe the Holy Spirit draws people to Christ and opens their hearts to the Gospel but I also believe free will plays a part in salvation. I believe some people understand the Gospel but reject Christ. That was me for about one year before I finally accepted Him. I don’t, however, believe a person who is truly reborn by the Holy Spirit and is in Christ can lose their salvation.

So are you a Calvinist, an Arminianist, or do you fall somewhere in between? You can’t say you don’t care (as much as you might like to) because your pastor does take a stand in this debate.

https://carm.org/calvinism-arminianism-grid