“Step back, Satan”

The other day I was listening to the May 5, 2016 podcast of the “Calling All Catholics” talkSB radio show on The Station of the Cross, 101.7 FM out of Buffalo, New York with Catholic priest, Dave Baker, and moderator, Mike Denz, taking questions from listeners. During the show, the topic of conversation turned toward demonic possession and exorcism. Dave suggested that Catholics could protect themselves from demonic activity by wearing a Saint Benedict medal. I was a member of the Catholic church until around 1980 but I wasn’t familiar with the Saint Benedict medal, although its history goes back 1000 years.

The medal has the image of Saint Benedict of Nursia (480-543 or 547) on one side and the Latin inscription, Vade retro satana (“Step back, Satan”) on the reverse side. Tradition has it that Benedict was an Italian monk who lived in a mountain cave as a hermit. One day Satan visited Benedict and put lustful thoughts in his mind. Benedict stripped off his clothes and rolled in a nearby thorn-bush, completely lacerating his body and thereby purging all sinful thoughts. Another time, fellow clerics attempted to poison his food but Benedict allegedly escaped harm through miraculous intervention. Benedict is most famous for having created the rules and rituals of monastic life.

Catholics use a large variety of sacramentals blessed by priests to ward off evil and bring good favor including holy water, scapulars, medals, palm fronds, rosaries, statues, candles, crucifixes, etc. Catholicism is a religion of the concrete (physical) and action. God’s grace is received through the priest’s administration of the sacraments. A Catholic must always “do” to attempt to maintain their good-standing: go to church, receive communion, visit a shrine, display sacramentals in the home, etc. One must say the rosary so many times, go to mass on the first Fridays of the month so many times, say a novena so many times, etc. There’s a ritual for every occasion. It’s a religious treadmill. Somewhere buried deep under the rituals and religious striving is Jesus Christ. He’s the One you need.

Catholic friend, wearing a medal or any other religious object won’t protect you. You won’t find any reference to wearing blessed objects for protection in the Bible. We must come to God by faith, by accepting God the Son, Jesus Christ, as Savior by faith. Religious routines won’t make us holy. Pious rituals won’t make us acceptable before a Holy God. You could wear 100 Saint Benedict medals and it wouldn’t do any good. Protection from demons? Satan’s biggest lie is that people can earn their way to Heaven by being religious and “good.” But only God is good. Accept Christ. Rest in His righteousness, not your own. We don’t have any. After you’ve accepted Christ, then follow Him as Lord. Ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church in your area that preaches God’s Word without compromise. You’re no doubt a little nervous even contemplating leaving your religion. Follow Christ. Everything else is worthless in comparsion.

“For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” – Romans 10:2-4

Be wary of “bunker mentality” churches and Christians

 

After accepting Jesus Christ as my Savior, I’ve been a member of three Gospel-preaching churches. In hindsight, I can say the first two churches had some big problems but this last one has been a real blessing. Rare is the Christian who finds the “perfect” church, one that matches their beliefs and preferences 100%, but the Lord commands us to be in fellowship with other believers – we need each other – but we also need to use some discernment before affiliating with a particular church.

In the old days, all you had were the yellow pages to guide you in your search for a church. Churches were listed by denomination so if you were a nerdy type you already knew what core beliefs each church held to. Today, there’s a lot of non-denominational churches with trendy but mystifying names like Redesign Church, Movement Church, etc. You’ll have to check out their websites and peruse through their belief statements to find a church that matches up with your beliefs. There are plenty of good churches out there, so why worship at one whose teachings you can’t embrace wholeheartedly?

Visit several churches. Be wary of settling on the first church you visit. Different things are important to different people but some of the most important questions I ask about a church are:

  • Does the pastor preach the Gospel and the entire Word of God? Some of today’s preachers preach the world (prosperity) instead of the Word.
  • Is reaching the lost with the Gospel the priority?
  • Does the church participate in ecumenical activities with “churches” that teach a different gospel? Run, don’t walk, away.
  • Are members challenged to live the Word and to deepen their relationship with Christ and to serve, and are there opportunities for growth and service?
  • Is some accountability in place or is the pastor a mini alpha and omega? If the church seems like it’s all about the pastor and elders instead of all about Jesus, keep looking.
  • Is there joy in Lord when members gather together to worship and serve? Is love for Christ Jesus and the brethren and sistren palpable?

Put your trust in the Lord to lead you to a faithful and nourishing fellowship.

Maybe you’re thinking, why’s he bringing all this up? Well, I recently ran across a news item about a group of Christians who were picketing outside of Joel Osteen’s church. I’m not a fan of Osteen or his prosperity gospel so I was curious about the protesters. They turned out to be members of the Church of Wells down in Wells, Texas. I read the information below and this is some dangerous stuff, folks. Read and study the Word for yourself. Be discerning. Don’t become subservient to some controlling pastor who seeks his glory rather than the Lord’s. Be cautious. This church thrives on rancor. They have a “bunker” mentality rather than a “reaching the world for Christ” mentality. The mandatory ankle-length dresses and long hair for women is a flashing red light. Paul Washer has some good advice regarding churches like the Church of Wells in the video above.

“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” – Acts 17:11

Men Arrested for Heckling Joel Osteen at Lakewood Church Found Not Guilty

Church of Wells – Wikipedia article

Church of Wells – Website

Grace or Truth? Or both?

My Roman Catholic friends often say Protestant churches can’t be of the Lord becauseGT there are literally thousands of denominations, all with their differing secondary beliefs and modes of church polity. They say such “confusion” and “disunity” can’t be of the Lord. I would respond that the Lord has done His greatest work amidst this disorganized evangelical patchwork, where He is acknowledged as the Head of the church. The world admires monolithic institutions with authoritarian hierarchies but history has shown that has not been the best channel for the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Protestantism covers a very wide spectrum. At one end are churches that have drifted into liberal modernism and no longer preach the Gospel. At the other end are very conservative, fundamentalist churches where the Gospel of grace sometimes comes in second to a list of rules. There’s always a tension between grace and doctrinal truth. But God’s Word says Jesus was full of grace and truth and we must also strive to find the balance between love and freedom in the Lord and right doctrine.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14

Readers of this blog know how much I admire churches and pastors who uphold sound biblical doctrine. Way too many evangelical churches are downplaying doctrine these days in favor of undiscerning ecumenism and shared emotional experiences. But on the other hand are those churches and people who emphasize doctrine so much that they lose all their appeal. Their arrogance and lack of humility becomes offensive to everyone: to the unsaved and the brethren. They become harsh. They’re so busy erecting walls to defend and preserve the truth as they understand it that they forget about reaching out to the lost and the brethren. Jesus had a perfect way about Him of not compromising His Truth but also of reaching out to sinners in a loving way. He’s our example.

There have been times when writing for this blog when my zeal for the truth was lacking charity and grace. Lord, help me to lean into your grace more. Help me to keep striving for that balance that You show us in your Gospels.

I began writing this post prior to worship service this morning and I had no idea what the sermon was going to be about. As the Lord would have it, the pastor’s message was on the tension between grace and truth for a believer. It’s still amazing to me how the Lord reaches directly into our lives like that.

This was our pastor’s last message. He’ll be moving on to a different ministry about 1000 miles away. My wife and I will miss him a lot. We were a bit disillusioned after leaving our last church a year ago. My wife would have been happy to never attend church again. But I put my trust in the Lord and asked Him to find us a new church home and He came through BIG TIME. My wife and I look forward to the great blessings we receive at every service, every week. We pray the Lord gives us a new pastor with a similar heart for Him.

Weekly Roundup – News and Commentary

Following are some news stories that caught my attention during the week, along withwrr some gentle commentary of course!

Disapproval of pope Francis among conservative Catholics began as a whisper and has snowballed into outraged dissent. Catholics like to present their church as a unified, spirit-led monolith but the reality is something entirely different.

Relics of two 16th- century English Catholic saints are currently making the rounds in America. A bone from St. Thomas More and a ring worn by St. John Fisher will tour Catholic churches in Miami, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Denver, Phoenix, and Los Angeles before ending in Washington, D.C. Fisher and More are being touted as champions of religious freedom but the Catholic church persecuted evangelical Christians in countries where it held the political majority well into the 20th-century. Why do Catholics trot around the bones of long-dead people? Catholics are taught they will receive blessings by venerating the body parts or personal belongings of canonized saints.

This Catholic article doesn’t mention it, but in the past pope Francis has recognized the Catholic charismatic movement as an important bridgehead in the church’s ecumenical efforts with evangelicals, starting with Pentecostals and charismatics.

This article, first published in 2012, sheds some light on why some American evangelical pastors are so enamored with C. S. Lewis and other less-than-orthodox British intellectuals. The Anglican author traces the appeal to the evangelicals’ struggle “to overcome an intellectual inferiority complex.” I actually think that’s about right.

My wife and I joined a Southern Baptist church in May 2014. Joining that church was one of my first steps in returning to the Lord after a prolonged absence. We had been members of an independent fundamental Baptist church in the 1980s but I definitely didn’t want to return to that type of legalism again. We thought the SBC would be a much better option but it turned out to be way too ecumenical for us. We left in June 2015. Watch for the SBC to continue down this ecumenical path.

I know that many evangelicals (and most fundamentalists) don’t want to accept it, but the United States was never a Christian nation. People can become Christians, not countries. America is not the New Israel. God never entered into a covenant with America. This mixing of faith with nationalism has no precedent in the New Testament. When believers get to Heaven, the Lord won’t care if the town they lived in was 100 yards north or south of the U.S.-Canadian border.

This Northern Ireland pastor encouraged his congregants to vote for Britain to leave the EU. He states the EU has some “Romanist” leanings. He makes a few good points but most readers would see his comments as far too heavy-handed. There’s no telling what Britain’s decision to leave the EU could lead to. The world is an unstable place. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior.

 

I thought I’d seen Someone, Who seemed at last, to know the Truth. I wasn’t mistaken.

 

In a couple of previous posts I mentioned that I’d been a huge fan of the rock bands, The Byrds and Crosby, Stills, and Nash way back when I was a teenager. David Crosby was a member of both groups and I liked his music quite a bit. Crosby was an excellent singer and wrote some outstanding tunes. But he was also an atheist and occasionally preached his godless worldview via his songs.

Yesterday, I had Pandora playing in the background as I was washing a few dishes and Crosby’s song, “Laughing,” from his 1971 solo album, “If I Could Only Remember My Name,” started playing. I remember I used to love that song. It seemed so full of wisdom at the time. Crosby actually wrote the song in response to ex-Beatle, George Harrison, and his deep involvement with Hindu guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and later, with the Hare Krishna sect.

Check out the song’s lyrics below. Crosby was/is a man searching for truth while denying the truth.


“Laughing”

I thought I met a man,
Who said he knew a man,
Who knew what was going on.
I was mistaken,
Only another stranger that I knew.

And I thought that I found a light,
To guide me through my night,
And all this darkness.
I was mistaken,
Only reflections of a shadow that I saw.

And I thought I’d seen someone,
Who seemed at last,
To know the truth.
I was mistaken,
Only a child laughing in the sun.
Ah! In the sun.

Well, David, I finally did meet the Man who not only knows the Truth but Who is the Truth! His name is Jesus Christ and He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Praise the Lord, I accepted Jesus Christ a decade after filling my head with “Laughing” and similarly-themed philosophies from the high priests of rock and roll.

“Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” – John 6:68-69

“Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” John 18:37-38

“This is the way, walk in it.”

Last night, my wife and I attended our oldest grandchild’s high school graduation. WeHSG were, of course, very happy to be there and help her celebrate this important milestone. She’ll be heading off to college in two months to begin the next chapter in her life.

Without going into great personal detail, our granddaughter has weathered a very unsettled upbringing. Her parents separated when she was two-years-old and, in shuttling between the two, she’s experienced a dizzying array of ever-changing home addresses and schools along with having to deal with both parents’ assortment of live-in partners. I could write more but I’ll leave it at that. Despite the very challenging circumstances, our granddaughter’s grown up to be a very sweet, optimistic young woman. We’ve had no relationship with our daughter-in-law after the separation, but she has accepted Christ as her Savior and has given our granddaughter some godly spiritual training. We’re very grateful for that.

As I looked out over the thousands of people in the large arena last night, I wondered how many knew Christ? All the speakers challenged the graduates to make a contribution to the world in whatever field or endeavor they chose. We know the world honors those who achieve great fame, wealth, and power. But what is a life without Christ? When the dirt hits the casket, what does the fame, wealth, and power amount to?

Lovely granddaughter, do well. Learn much in college. Have an enjoyable career. Have a family (Lord willing) you can love and who loves you back. But most importantly, walk with the Lord constantly. Read His Word daily. Talk to Him in prayer throughout each day. Get to know Him intimately. Follow Him. He is the only firm foundation. Everything else is sinking sand. The distractions, temptations, and disappointments in life will be many but don’t go down to Egypt (the world) seeking sanctuary and fulfillment. Its promises are hollow. Walk with Christ. Walk with Christ. Walk with Christ.

“And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.” – Isaiah 30:21

“Holy doors” guaranteed to make your head spin

Yesterday I was listening to the April 21, 2016 podcast of the “Calling All Catholics”HD talk radio show on The Station of the Cross, 101.7 FM out of Buffalo, New York with Catholic priest, Rick Poblocki, and moderator, Steve Quebral, taking questions from listeners.

During the show, Kim from Rochester, New York called in with a question regarding the Catholic church’s “Holy Doors.” Before I get to Kim’s question, I need to give my evangelical friends some background on the holy doors. This gets a little complicated so please fasten your seat belts and stay with me.

Generally speaking, the Catholic church has designated specific doors in eight churches – four of the churches are in Rome – as “Holy Doors.” During “jubilee” years, which normally occur every 25 or 50 years, Catholics may walk through the specially blessed holy doors and receive a “plenary indulgence” for their sins. What is a plenary indulgence you ask? Catholics confess their mortal and venial sins to a priest in the sacrament of reconciliation, but what many Catholics don’t even realize is that while the priest may forgive all of the sins in the confessional, not all of the punishment for the sins is remitted. Any remaining (temporal) punishment for sins will be meted out in purgatory after death. How long someone must suffer in purgatory is sketchy business but Catholic writers in the past spoke about the duration extending to even hundreds of years. But the church grants indulgences – remission of temporal punishment – if the Catholic performs certain acts. Partial indulgences remove some of the punishment while “plenary” (full) indulgences remove all of it. The church is able to issue indulgences from its “treasury of merit” consisting of the superabundant spiritual merit of Jesus, Mary, and the saints. By making a pilgrimage and walking through one of the eight holy doors, a Catholic is granted a full, plenary indulgence.

Please note that the vast majority of Catholics would have no idea what you were talking about if you asked them about “partial and plenary indulgences” for “temporal punishment.”

Pope Francis declared November 2015 to December 2016 to be an Extraordinary Year of Mercy for the faithful. As part of this special jubilee year, church doors in dioceses around the world were designated and blessed as holy doors. Pilgrims don’t have to make the distant trip to Rome or to one of the other four locations this year, they can receive their full indulgence by walking through holy doors in their own diocese. Pictured are some faithful Catholics walking through designated holy doors to receive their indulgence.

Is everyone still with me? Good, now let’s get back to Kim’s question. Regarding the holy doors, Kim asked Rick, “Are you only supposed to walk through the doors once to receive the indulgences?” Evidently, this holy door business is too complicated even for pious Catholics. Rick laughed off the question, commenting that of course you only need to walk through the holy doors once to receive the plenary indulgence. But, he added, a person could make pilgrimages to holy door sites several times throughout the year and thereby keep up with any additional temporal punishment that had accumulated in their spiritual in-basket.

Catholic friend, if the above seems outrageously complicated you would be right. God didn’t make salvation into this kind of religious calculus to be administered by ecclesiastical “experts.” Saving faith is trusting in Jesus with a child-like faith.

“And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 18:2-4

Purgatory, indulgences, temporal punishment, and holy doors are all man-made religious traditions. Walking through doors someone calls “holy” won’t do a silly thing. Jesus Christ made salvation as simple as the thief on the cross. God is holy and we are sinners. We deserve eternal punishment for our sins. But God loved us so much He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for our sins on the cross. But Jesus rose from the grave and offers the gift of salvation to all who repent of their sins and accept Him as their Savior by faith. Accept Jesus today. Religious rituals and traditions don’t save. You can’t merit your way to Heaven. No one is good enough to merit Heaven, that is why Jesus died for us. After you’ve accepted Christ, ask Him to lead you to an evangelical church in your area that teaches the Word of God without compromise.

http://www.gotquestions.org/sinners-prayer.html

Evangelical friend, when Catholics talk about Jesus and “faith,” we might get a warm fuzzy thinking we’re all on the same page, but when a Catholic talks about their “faith,” they’re talking about something entirely different from the Gospel we know. When a Catholic talks about faith they’re referring to their religious system which requires participation in church sacraments, obeying the Ten Commandments and church rules perfectly, along with a lot of extremely complicated ritualism such as this holy door process. That is not the Gospel. A faithful Catholic won’t say they’re saved because – lip service to grace aside – they believe their salvation depends on how well THEY “cooperate with grace” and merit their own salvation right up until the moment of their death. That is not the Gospel.


See below for an example of a brochure handed out to pilgrims to one diocese’s holy doors.
http://www.stmatthewscathedral.org/docs/pilgrimage_to_the_holy_door_at_the_cathedral_2015.pdf