“Sometimes good people do bad things”?

This post reflects on some of the same themes I’ve written about recently, but that’s the fallen world we live in.

This morning, I stepped away from work and drove to an ATM to fatten up my painfully thin wallet. For some reason, they won’t accept my smile as payment at the workplace cafeteria. Anyway, as I was driving along, I flipped through radio channels and came across the National Public Radio (NPR) station. They were doing a report on the g-r-o-w-i-n-g list of prominent men who have recently been accused of sexual misconduct, including the widely admired Matt Lauer, co-host of NBC’s Today Show, who was fired just yesterday. In regards to another alleged abuser, U.S. Senator, Al Franken, the comment was made by one of the NPR hosts that “sometimes good people do bad things.” While I’ve already posted on this growing national “frenzy” (see here), this comment got me charged up once again.

There’s two ways of looking at this world and life in general; there’s the unbelieving worldview and the Christian worldview.

The unbelieving worldview incorporates all unbelievers, both secularist and religious. The unbelieving worldview holds that people are basically “good” and generally try to do the right thing according to some type of a secular or religious moral code. The majority consensus is that most people will be rewarded with some type of blissful afterlife following their death (or no afterlife at the worst). According to this viewpoint, there are definitely some people who are “bad,” but such a label is reserved only for those whose behaviors were/are blatantly evil such as Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Charles Manson, Idi Amin, and serial child molesters. Many religious organizations promote this “good people go to Heaven” philosophy including Roman Catholicism. While the Catholic church teaches that everyone is born with original sin that needs to be cleansed away with baptism, it also teaches that people are inherently good and can work their way to ever higher states of holiness on their lifelong quest to achieve salvation.

“God (created) humanity in His own image and likeness. This speaks to the nature of the human person as inherently good although damaged by original sin. In the end it is not the sin that wins, but rather the goodness of God with whom each person shares a likeness.” – from “Catholic School Leadership,” by Anthony Dosen and Barbara Riechkoff, 2015, p.69.

In contrast to this wide-is-the-way philosophy are God’s Word and the Christian worldview, which teach man’s total depravity. There is not one righteous person in the world, no, not one. See Romans 3:10-12, Psalm 14:1-3, Psalm 53:1-3. The Christian view is that we are all sinners; Al Franken, Matt Lauer, you, and me. If all of our secret acts and thoughts were revealed, everyone would see that none of us are “good people.” Roman Catholic apologists and others who support the “good people go to Heaven” view attribute the doctrine of total depravity to Reformer, John Calvin, but actually, the message of man’s complete depravity is front and center throughout the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. If you and I could merit our way to Heaven, Jesus would not have had to die on the cross for sin.

Because we have a sinful nature, we can’t possibly merit our way to Heaven. But God loved us so much He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to this world to pay the penalty for sin. We can’t appear before God with our righteousness when we die because we have none. Zero. Zip. Nada. But when we repent of our sins and accept Jesus Christ as our Savior by faith alone, He imputes His perfect righteousness to us.

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21

What a gift! Accept Christ by faith alone.

“Plan A or Plan B? Take your pick, no worries.” Catholicism’s wide-is-the-way.

Every time I write about the Roman Catholic church, I have to keep in mind that it wears two hats. On the one hand, it still teaches its old-school, religious legalism. It claims a person must be baptized and then must participate in the church’s sacraments in order to receive graces so that they can obey the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and remain in a “state of grace” so as to merit Heaven when they die. Phew! Sorry for the long-winded sentence.

But, on the other hand, the Catholic church magnanimously conceded at the Second Vatican Council that non-Catholic religionists might also be able to merit Heaven if they “follow the light they are given.” Pope Francis has subsequently said even atheists can merit Heaven if they follow their conscience.

“Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), paragraph 847

So, on one side of its mouth, Catholicism says its members must follow a formidable, exacting, legalistic process in order to possibly qualify for Heaven (with no assurance), while from the other side it says non-Catholics can get by with “following” their religion or their conscience just as long as they have a “sincere heart.”

If that’s the case, who would ever want to be Catholic? “Following one’s conscience” is a pretty fluid target. It can change like the wind. Why would people desire to constantly check off a burdensome religious to-do list if they can do what they think is right in their own eyes?

But exactly how earnest must a heart be for it to be considered “sincere”? In contrast, God’s Word says something about men’s hearts being desperately wicked:

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” – Jeremiah 17:9

Catholics argue that its members have a great advantage over everyone else because only they have the eucharist and the other bona fide sacraments to assist someone seeking Heaven, but if I’m a non-Catholic and all I have to do is vaguely “follow” my religion or my conscience “with a sincere heart,” whatever that means, then the non-Catholic surely has the advantage. The 80% of Catholics who don’t attend obligatory mass on Sunday must have figured that out as well.

None of the above is Christianity. We are all sinners and we all deserve eternal punishment. But God the Son came to Earth and paid the penalty for sin. He offers you the free gift of salvation. Repent of your sins and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone!

The fact that Catholicism proclaims a very broad road to salvation that includes other works-religions such as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc., and even atheism should give every ecumenical evangelical pause. This embracing of all religions under its interfaith umbrella is a black mark upon Roman Catholicism from the Lord for all believers to see.

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” – Colossians 2:8

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” – 1 Timothy 4:1-3

“Broadway Joe” Namath – An idol from my past

We all have our childhood memories, both good and bad. Who knows why we hang onto certain ones.

I have vivid memories of our family sitting around the dinner table and my father ranting about pro football quarterback, Joe Namath. He didn’t rant on just one occasion, but MANY times. Ugh! It was torturous. Namath had led the Crimson Tide of Alabama to a 29-4 record in three seasons and a national championship in 1964 and was highly prized by both the National Football League and the American Football League (the two leagues would eventually merge in 1970), not only for his athletic prowess but also for his Beaver Falls, PA charisma. Namath chose to sign with the New York Jets of the AFL for $142,000 per year. Such an amount is “chump change” in professional sports these days, but back in 1965 it was unheard of. I believe Namath may have been the first athlete to earn over $100K per year.

My Dad was absolutely incredulous! The average American salary was only around $5000 per year in 1965 and my Dad probably didn’t make much more than that. He wanted to know how some “dumb football player” could earn $142K per year when the President of the United States was paid a yearly salary of only $100K. We heard Dad’s rant over, and over, and over again for at least a couple of years. Unlike today, kids back  in those days were not allowed to say, “Yeah, Dad, you made your point. Time to move on.”

The reason I bring all this up is I came across a video of Joe Namath on You Tube yesterday waxing nostalgic over his career. We have our sports celebrities today, but Joe was a “cultural phenomenon” back in the late 60s and early 70s. Not only was he a good quarterback who led the Jets to victory in the 1969 Super Bowl, he also stoked his off-the-field persona as a high-living ladies’ man, the toast of Gotham City, “Broadway Joe.” Joe was a rebel with his long hair, Fu Manchu mustache, and [gasp!] white cleats. Joe was cool. Boys wanted to grow up and be the next Joe Willie Namath while men dreamed of being Joe for just one day. My best friend was a Jets fan with posters of Namath on his bedroom wall. As a San Diego Chargers fan, I couldn’t go that far, but I also thought Namath was very cool.

But the marketing image never reflects reality. Joe has struggled throughout his adult life with painful injuries from football. He worked hard to find his occupational niche after retiring from football in 1977, but nothing would come as easily to him as calling plays in the huddle. The country’s most famous bachelor finally married in 1984, but would divorce 16-years later. Joe also battled alcohol addiction for decades. We envy celebrities their lifestyle, but their headaches are often much bigger than the “average” person’s. Joe’s now 74-years-old. How much longer does he have to live?

We humans like to idolize celebrities. That’s our nature. We have a vacuum in our soul and we need to fill it with something or somebody. And consumer marketing exploits our penchant to idolize sports heroes and movie stars. The Jets were willing to pay Joe Namath $140K per year fifty years ago because they knew he could fill all the empty seats in their stadium and raise television ratings dramatically.

Who do you idolize? Who do you “worship” with your time and attention? Nobody is worthy of that kind of devotion. No one “has it all together.” It’s all a marketing façade. But there is one Person who is worth following. He walked the streets of Palestine 2000 years ago, but He and His message are as important now as back then. He had no failings. No skeletons in His closet. No false facades. And He offers you the gift of eternal salvation and fellowship with God.

You’re a sinner. He was not. God the Son came down from Heaven, put on flesh, lived a perfect life, and paid the penalty for sin on the cross of Calvary. But He beat sin and death when He rose from the grave. He’s reaching out to you now. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone. Follow Him. He is a firm foundation who will never fail you. He’s not a false idol. He’s absolutely worthy of all of our worship.

Why are there so many tragedies among celebrities?

My Mom was a proud Catholic but had no understanding of spiritual things

While growing up, my Catholic family wasn’t excessively religious. Sure, we went to mass every Sunday, and last year’s blessed Palm Sunday fronds were displayed in the living room, but that was about it. Our parents never prayed with us and I don’t recall a Bible ever being in the house. My five sisters (all now atheists or agnostics) and I were baptized as infants and then received the sacraments of first penance, first communion, and confirmation along with our parochial school classmates. Those rituals were required and they were something you just did without even thinking about or questioning. Any talk about “accepting Jesus Christ as Savior” or “having a relationship with Christ” would have been seen as radical and cultish. In other words, religion was somewhat important but not to be taken too seriously unless a baby needed to be baptized, a couple got married, or someone died.

One day, a couple of Mormon missionaries were canvasing the neighborhood and my mother answered the door. Among other things, they told her how the “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” cult had been “restored” by God in the early 19th-century. My Mom self-satisfyingly shot back that HER church had been established in the first century so she didn’t need to listen to them and shut the door. She retold this story several times with pride and great relish.

My Mom had no knowledge of church history or comparative theology. Like most Catholics, she could not explain her church’s complicated rituals and doctrines. She went to mass for one hour on Sunday and that was it. She never went to confession, which doomed her to hell according to her church’s dogma. But she was Catholic and proud of it. Her church was the one, true church, “by gravy” (one of her favorite expressions), and that was the end of any debate.

Most Catholics, just like my Mom, take great pride in their church and its claims to its historical pedigree. They boast about their church having been established in 33 A.D., like the bumper sticker above, but they have no knowledge of how the early church devolved from preaching the simple Gospel of salvation by God’s grace though faith in Jesus Christ alone into a worldly institution that became increasingly preoccupied with ritual, wealth, political power, and absolute control of its membership. To put it plainly, the church went off into the worldly-minded weeds and became Catholicism. And age doesn’t count for much. If age were the determining factor for authenticity then Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Confucianism would have the advantage over Christianity.

No, the genuine church is not an institution that was fashioned after the imperial Roman model of ancient times, but rather the church is the spiritual body of Christ that is made up of all those who have repented of their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone. This proud and worldly attitude that Catholics have, that they are members of the one, true church, and this affiliation places them in a favorable spiritual position by rights of their baptism, is sadly prevalent.

“And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.” – Matthew 3:9

What was the first / original church? Is the original / first church the true church?

Welcome to the Weekend Roundup! – News & Views – 11/25/17

Given the huge number of headlines over the past twenty years involving cases of priest pedophilia and subsequent cover-up by the hierarchy, it would have been reasonable to expect that warnings should have gone off like skyrockets when the plans for this controversial statue (photo above) installed at a Catholic school in Australia were first submitted. Spiritual forces are at work.

It’s initially encouraging to read about souls in China converting from Catholicism to “Protestantism,” however many of the new churches springing up in Latin America, Africa, and Asia are a part of the “name it and claim it,” prosperity false gospel movement with its “jackpot jesus.”

Conservative and traditionalist Catholics are looking forward to the end of Francis’ tenure and hope their next pope isn’t a heretic.

More trouble for the Duggars. The message is clear: If you’re not on board with the LGBTQ agenda, you’re a persona non grata.

A lot of jostling goes on behind-the-scenes in Catholicism’s complicated process of selecting people for sainthood. It usually takes a lot of money and effort for a group (religious order, diocese, devotees, etc.) to get their candidate considered and see him or her to the finish line. Catholics in the Michigan area and Casey’s Capuchin order will be celebrating with great pride when he is eventually canonized. John Paul I was a pope for only 33 days in August-September, 1978, so I imagine this formality of granting him “venerable” status will be as far as it goes. In contrast to all of this, Scripture says all those who accept Jesus Christ as their Savior are saints.

It’s telling that the Vatican has released a stamp commemorating two of the Reformers, Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon, and a stamp honoring notorious counter-Reformer, Francis de Sales, at the same time.

Catholics have written to this blog in the past objecting to my repeated assertion that relatively few of them read the Bible. Well, THEY read the Bible, they protest, so therefore my claim is incorrect. Argh. But what do they say when Dave Armstrong, one of Catholicism’s most sectarian apologists bemoans the exact same condition, which is regularly confirmed by independent surveys? I would love it if every Catholic bought a Bible and read it. Many would have a crisis of faith regarding their church as they confronted the stark differences between Catholic teaching and God’s Word.

Rarely does the Christian Post publish an article critical of Catholicism, so it was encouraging to see this one. The Catholic doctrine of purgatory and indulgences is a man-made house of cards that insults the power of Jesus Christ to save to the uttermost all those who place their trust in Him.

Holy water is a superstitious amulet of pagan origin. For more of my thoughts on the sheer ridiculousness of holy water, see here.

How to get to Heaven? Evangelicals and Catholics disagree. Both can’t be right.

Catholics and Evangelical Protestants both agree that Jesus Christ, God the Son, died on the cross to pay the penalty for sins, but they disagree on how a person receives the gift of salvation.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:8-10

Evangelical Protestants believe a person must repent of their sins and come to Jesus Christ in prayer and ask Him to save them, without one, single plea of their own. Salvation is completely by faith in Christ. After we accept Christ as Savior, then good works and charity are manifested in our lives as the fruit of our salvation.

Catholics, in contrast, believe salvation is a lifelong process.* They believe a person must firstly have all their sins washed away in baptism. Then they believe a person must participate in the other sacraments to receive graces so they can obey the Ten Commandments, avoid sin, and remain in a mortal-sinless “state of grace” so as to be able to merit Heaven at the moment of their death. Although they believe salvation is merited by obedience, Catholics can claim salvation is by “grace” and “faith” because they say it is through the graces administered through the sacraments that they are able to successfully obey the Ten Commandments (impossible!).

“We must understand that we are saved by grace through the instruments of faith and obedience. That obedience includes keeping the Ten Commandments, but the keeping of the commandments is an instrument—a necessary instrument—through which the grace of God flows and keeps us in Christ, the principle of reward for us. Thus, we have to keep the commandments to be saved, but we understand it is only through grace that we can do so.” – Tim Staples, Catholic apologist

God’s Word certainly speaks about obedience and charity. After we accept Christ we are to follow Him in obedience. But no one could ever possibly justify themselves by their imperfect attempts to follow the Law. The Law shows us that we are all sinners in need of the Savior. We could never obey our way into Heaven. I sin by thought, word, deed, or by omission every single day and so do you. The Lord, Jesus Christ, was the only person who ever successfully obeyed the Law.

“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 3:19-20

The only way to salvation is through accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone. If any part of your salvation depends upon how well you obey the Ten Commandments, you are lost.

Remember the repentant tax collector in Luke 18:9-14 who asked the Lord to save him, without one single plea of his own? That is how we come to Christ and His salvation.

*While Catholics prescribe their sacramental system as the proper way to salvation, they also grant that non-Catholic religionists (Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Protestants, etc.) may also merit Heaven “if they follow the light they are given.” Pope Francis has said even atheists can merit Heaven if they follow their conscience. None of this is Christianity.

Postscript: Just because a person attends an evangelical, Gospel-preaching church doesn’t mean they’re saved in Christ. Every person must individually repent of their sins and accept Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone. Also, not every church that calls itself “evangelical” these days preaches the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone.

Spiritual lessons from raking leaves???

After a very tumultuous period in our marriage, the Lord miraculously brought my wife and I back together in 2002. We then lived in an apartment for a couple of years and in 2004 we were looking for a new home. We were both in our late-forties at the time. Our two sons were adults and on their own and after having a house and a yard for twenty-two years, I was thinking in terms of a condominium. But my wife and her realtor sister went looking at houses “just for grins” and called me at work one day, saying to come quick and check out the “dream house” they had found. I pulled into the driveway and gulped hard. Argh! The house was on a heavily-wooded lot (13 mature oaks and 3 locust trees) with a long, double-wide driveway. All that meant A LOT of outdoors work ahead for myself at a point when I was contemplating a future living situation with no outside work. My wife was so enthusiastic about the house and property that I knew I was forever going to be the “big jerk” if I said no. But at 48, I reasoned that I still had many years of physical energy left in the tank to deal with the yardwork (and snowblowing) ahead.

My wife and I still joke about the day after we moved into the house. Everything was fine on our moving-in day, but when I woke up the next morning and looked out the window, I saw that the oak trees had released many of their leaves en masse overnight and the entire back yard was covered. Oy!  Welcoming (gulp) an opportunity for a little exercise, I got out my trusty rake and went to work. And work. And more work. If you’re familiar with oak trees you know the leaves are big and as sturdy as shoe leather. As I dripped with sweat from hours of raking, our next door neighbor shouted out with playful sarcasm, “Welcome to the neighborhood!” Argh!

I raked those leaves from the last week of October to the first week of December for the next 12 years. The raking was hard enough, but I also had to transfer the mounds of leaves I had collected onto a tarp and then drag the tarp to the front yard and deposit the leaves along the curb where our towns’ highway department collected them. With our oak trees plus the neighbors’ oaks that leaned over our property, I ended up collecting and hauling around 50 tarp-loads of leaves to the front every year. Condo anyone? Every year my wife suggested I buy a heavy-duty gas leaf blower, but I couldn’t justify spending $300 when I was getting all that good exercise! Plus, I was proud that I was able to handle all those leaves with only me and a rake in my hands. All of our pitiful neighbor menfolk either had blowers or a leaf removal service. Ha!!!

Well, it was hard to admit but age caught up with me last year and I finally broke down and bought a backpack leaf blower. My boss at work had already done all the research and pointed me in the right direction as far as a good model and dealer. We’ve had 3 of the oaks and all 3 of the locusts removed over the years because of their close proximity to the house, so between that and the leaf blower, I’m still able to contend with the leaves even at my ripe age.

“So what?,” you ask?

Maybe you’re thinking, ♫”You’ve got your troubles, I’ve got mi-ine”♫, as my old friend, Jimmy, used to say? Or how about, “Would you like some cheese and crackers with that whine?”

Well, I do thank the Lord for all those leaves over the years. They got me outside to enjoy the fresh air and provided plenty of exercise. When I finished the leaves every season, I had the satisfaction of completing a difficult job. Now I can praise the Lord for the leaf blower and the great assistance that it provides. By comparison, what used to take eight hours to rake now takes about one hour with the leafblower with minimal physical effort.

The heavy lawn work is full of spiritual lessons as well. We needn’t bear life’s circumstances and burdens alone. Christians have the indwelling Holy Spirit. We have God’s Word to guide us and the constant opportunity to commune with the Lord in prayer. We have the church and fellow believers. We also have good books and Bible resources written by faithful scholars and pastors.

There’s times when we’re plowing for the Lord and starting to feel fatigued (like after tarp # 43). But the Lord provides helpful “tools” to see us through. Are you too proud to seek the Lord’s help as you sojourn through this life?

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

“Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me! O Lord, be my helper!” – Psalm 30:10

25 Encouraging Bible Verses About Burdens

Postscript: Raking leaves for hours on end also brings to mind another spiritual lesson. Those leaves started as little buds back in the Spring, were full bloom in Summer to catch all the sunshine, and withered and died in the Fall. We were born into this world through corruptible seed, but through Christ we look forward to eternal life!

“Since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” – 1 Peter 1:23

“The 100 Most Influential Evangelicals in America”?

“Top 10” or “Top 100” lists are audience favorites, right? We like to scan through rankings of various categories published by the media just to see how they stack up against our own knowledge and preferences. But attempts to adapt these lists to the spiritual realm can be dangerous. Those who men praise may not be those who the Lord esteems.

As a case in point, the Newsmax website recently came out with its list of “The 100 Most Influential Evangelicals in America” (see below). I was familiar with about seventy names on the list, but for the rest I had to read their accompanying blurb. This listing is a very sad commentary on the state of the evangelical church today. I could not endorse the vast majority of the 100, either because of 1) their flaming unorthodoxy, 2) their strong commitment to ecumenism, or 3) their crusade for church-state symbiosis.

Here’s the first ten on the list:

  1. Billy Graham
  2. Franklin Graham
  3. Joel Osteen
  4. Mike Huckabee
  5. Pat Robertson
  6. Rick Warren
  7. Jerry Falwell Jr.
  8. Joyce Meyer
  9. Mike Pence
  10. Mark Burnett and Roma Downey

Any concerns with any of these folks? Argh! There’s no doubt these eleven people have been or are very influential, but definitely not in a good way according to the three criteria I listed above. Most have done tremendous damage to the Gospel witness in this country and around the world by preaching a false “name it and claim it” prosperity gospel and/or by linking arms with Roman Catholicism and its false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. In fact, Roma Downey as well as at least one other person on the list is Roman Catholic!

Three people on the list who I do admire are Charles Stanley #16, R.C. Sproul #34, and John MacArthur #39. I’m grateful for these men and their ministries, but of course we should put no one on a pedestal.

But let’s be honest, these kinds of lists are all about worldly pride and the flesh and have nothing to do with the Lord. All praise and honor to Almighty God! However, as I mentioned, a list such as this is useful as a revealing spotlight on the very sorry state of the church today in regards to who is admired and influential.

Newsmax’s 100 Most Influential Evangelicals in America

God, Donald Trump, and a Catholic mystic? Oy vey!

This past Saturday afternoon, as I was browsing the (c)hristianity section at our local Barnes and Noble bookstore, a new offering on the shelf caught my eye; “God and Donald Trump” by Stephen E. Strang (Frontline, 2017, 238 pages). Readers of this blog know I don’t like to comment on politics very much because I believe that while Christians are to be responsible citizens in the nations we happen to be sojourning in, we are, first and foremost, ambassadors of our Father in Heaven. It’s my opinion that Christians in America made a tremendous mistake by intertwining faith with national patriotism over the past 240 years.

Well, with a title like “God and Donald Trump” and a forward by Mike Huckabee, I assumed this book represented the views of the “America for Jesus,” politically-focused evangelical crowd and as I browsed through the book it was clear that was the case. I didn’t want to waste the time (or funds) it would take to read this book from cover to cover, so the comments below stem from a twenty-minute perusal while I stood in the store aisle with pen and paper. Argh! All the comfy seats in the store were occupied.

Author Strang presents Trump as God’s instrument to “return America back to Him,” as if the United States was in a covenant relationship with the Lord, just like ancient Israel had been. This a favorite pet paradigm of politically-focused American Christians although it has zero Scriptural support. Strang is CEO and founder of Charisma Media, which publishes Charisma Magazine, so the book has a decidedly Pentecostal/charismatic bent. Positive remarks regarding Trump are presented from such dubious characters as Paula White, Sid Roth, Pat Robertson, Mike Bickle, Rick Joyner, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, and Strang’s good friend, charlatan Jim Bakker. From my perspective, this is an unadmirable “name it and claim it” rogues’ gallery. Strang offers several “prophetic words” from various continuationists meant to affirm Trump’s divine endorsement. There are also quotes from non-Charisma types, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Jr., and Robert Jeffress. To be honest, I wouldn’t desire to read a book or hear a “sermon” from any of the above because of their heretical “prosperity gospel” theology and/or their strong desire for a church-state symbiosis. The author also includes several color photos of Trump visiting pope Francis at the Vatican in May 2017 as further evidence of the president’s divine approbation. Oy vey!

Strang saves his coup de gras for the very end of the book. It seems a mysterious Catholic “holy man,” Thomas Zimmer, had prophesied back in the 1980s that playboy and cutthroat casino builder, Donald Trump, would improbably “lead America back to God.” American expatriate Zimmer had lived in Rome, Italy for two decades before moving to Loreto, Italy, home of the famous Santa Casa (“holy house”), in the 1990s. Strang writes approvingly that Zimmer, the “hermit of Loreto,” was “very devout,” attended mass multiple times each day, and co-authored the popular (among Catholics) Pieta prayer book. Zimmer returned to America in 2008 and died in 2009. His prophecy regarding Trump was made known to Catholic priest, Giacomo Capoverdi, who publicized the startling prediction. Since when do “evangelicals” refer to Catholic mystics for validation? Oh, yeah, ALL THE TIME these days.

Yes, I know from Scripture that the Lord raises up political leaders and removes them.

“He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings.” – Daniel 2:21

I also know we are to pray for our political leaders so that we may live peaceful lives so that the Gospel may go out unhindered.

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” – 1 Timothy 2:1-4

But none of Strang’s claims convince me that the Lord has anointed Donald Trump, of all people, as the man who is going to “lead America back to Him.” For me, the claims had the exact opposite effect. Given their sources, all of these claims regarding Trump appear to me to be of a misguided or even of a diabolical nature.

For more information on the bogus “holy house” of Loreto, see the postscript below and my post from a couple of years ago, here.

For more on Catholic priest, Giacomo Capoverdi’s claims regarding the “hermit of Loreto’s” premonition regarding Donald Trump, see here.

Postscript: Catholic tradition states that angels carried the Santa Casa (“holy house”), alleged home of Joseph, Mary and Jesus, from Nazareth to Tersatto, Croatia, then to Recanati, Italy, and finally to Loreto. Modern Catholic revisionists understood the need for a more conventional explanation and concocted the story of a mysterious aristocratic family, the “Angelos,” sponsoring the relocation of the house from Palestine to Europe, which gradually gave rise to the popular myth of “angels” flying the house over the Mediterranean.

Welcome to the Weekend Roundup! – News & Views – 11/18/17

Conservative Catholics are convinced Francis is a heretic after he lifted the ban on communion for remarried divorcees. Are they waiting to see if the next pope continues 80-year-old Francis’ errors before they consider schism? How do they reconcile remaining in an institution run by a heretic who teaches heresy?

Duck Commander, Phil Robertson, appeared on EWTN (Catholic cable network) in an expression of ecumenical unity. Robertson belongs to the Church of Christ denomination, which is evidently trying to figure out if it still believes in baptismal regeneration as it once strongly proclaimed.

Last weekend, I posted a denial from the Vatican regarding any plans for an “ecumenical rite of mass.” But I had also surmised that Catholics and liberal Lutherans were busy behind the scenes working on the next steps to full reunification (i.e., Roman reabsorption). Here you go.

Hmm, another story about anti-Catholicism in early America, which again begs the question, “Were there any conditions in Europe that might have prompted early American Protestants to be fearful and mistrustful of the pope and Roman Catholicism?” Just askin’.

I’m not a fan or defender of Roy Moore, but it’s interesting how a wacky statement from one of Moore’s backers is claimed to represent the thinking of ALL “Southern Evangelicals.”

In opposition to the spread of socialism and communism in Europe during the 20th- century, the Catholic church allied itself with far-right fascist political groups in various countries (e.g., Spain, Portugal, Italy, Vichy France, Austria, Poland, Belgium, Slovakia, Croatia). I studied Polish history and culture extensively for about ten years (I’m half-Polish) and one of the more interesting aspects is how the Polish Catholic church became the repository of nationalism during the time of the partitions and during Soviet rule. Because of the nation’s history, the Catholic church in Poland still supports extremist political groups that tend to dabble in Jewish conspiracy theories to explain the country’s ills. The immigration of Muslims into Western Europe has raised many concerns and Poles want none of it.

I often close the Weekend Roundup with some satire from The Babylon Bee. This article on prosperity gospel shyster, Paula White, is close enough. Methinks White “led” Trump to the prosperity gospel’s “jackpot jesus,” not to the Jesus Christ of the Bible.

I wish a “Happy Thanksgiving” to all my readers! I hope you all have a wonderful time with family and friends this coming Thursday as you gather around the table to thank the Lord for His grace and provisions. I’m not a big fan of “holidays” and I know the vast majority of Americans are unbelievers who view Thanksgiving as a day off from work to enjoy turkey dinner and NFL football. We Christians can be thankful to our Lord and Savior every day from the moment we open our eyes in the morning. Thank you, Jesus! Praise God for all His blessings! I pray the Lord will use us this week to speak to lost acquaintances, friends, and family members of His great salvation!