Throwback Thursday: If you read only one book about the Reformation, this would be an excellent choice.

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment! Today, in honor of Reformation Day, we’re revisiting a post that was originally published back on August 26, 2016 and has been slightly revised.

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The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation
By Michael Reeves
B&H Publishing, 2010, 207 pages

After Christianity became legalized by the Roman Empire and subsequently adopted as the official state religion, the early Christian church gradually began adapting and incorporating many of the beliefs and practices of its pagan predecessors. By the 14th century, the Roman Catholic church had very little in common with the primitive, New Testament church. The Gospel message of salvation by God’s grace though a personal, saving faith in Jesus Christ had devolved into clerical imperialism, legalism, and ritualism. In addition to its hopelessly compromised theology, the Roman church had become an open cesspool of greed, corruption, political intrigue, and immorality.

But then something absolutely wonderful happened. Beginning in the 14th century (some would argue for an even earlier date), men and women began rising up to challenge the church’s autocratic position through the power of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit. The flame of reform reached a tipping point in the early 1500s when Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin broke from Rome completely in their endeavor to return the church to the Good News! of salvation via saving faith in Jesus Christ. With the translation of the Latin Bible into the vernacular and the invention of the printing press, the Roman church was unable to return the horses back into the barn despite the anathemas, inquisitions, and executions.

I’ve read several general histories of the Reformation and this easy-to-read primer is one of the best. Reeves writes with much wit while also delivering on the historical essentials. He doesn’t put the Reformers on a pedestal. Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and the rest were all flawed sinners saved by God’s grace. Some monarchs definitely exploited the movement for political and economic advantages and it took succeeding Reformers to move the church even farther from Roman error. But the Holy Spirit accomplished a great work through these early Reformers and we should be grateful for their courage and fidelity to the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. In addition to the three principals, Reeves devotes quite a bit of attention to the Reformation movement in England.

Those who attend today’s “seeker-friendly” evangelical mega-churches generally hear little or nothing about the Reformation. They are not aware of the irreconcilable differences between Roman Catholicism and Gospel Christianity. Roman Catholics talk about Jesus, “grace,” and “faith” and that’s good enough for many. Sadly, these days we even have popular evangelical pastors recommending books by committed Catholics to their unwary congregations and media audiences. But Catholicism hasn’t changed any of its important doctrines since 1517. It still teaches the same false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. Catholics can never say they are saved because they are taught they must continue to attempt to merit their salvation right up until the day of their death. Reeves confronts those evangelicals who declare the Reformation is over. In this era of ecumenical compromise and betrayal of the Gospel, the Reformation must continue. Roman Catholics (and unsaved “Protestants”) remain as a mission field.

Today, we mark the 502nd anniversary of the Reformation. I praise God for raising up Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and the other early Reformers to restore the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. If you should decide you would like to read a non-academic introduction to the Reformation, this well-written, short book would be an excellent choice. It’s readily available from Amazon here.

Dead man walking?

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Dead man walking?” The expression was made famous by Hollywood, but was based on fact. Evidently, a couple of generations ago, when a death row prisoner was led from his cell to the electric chair, the prison guards would call out, “Dead man walking,” to warn fellow prison staffers that a very dangerous man with nothing to lose was approaching. Perhaps there also may have been an element of malicious taunting in the warning?

A couple of weeks ago, I had my yearly checkup with my cardiologist, reminding me that I had a bit of a “dead man walking” experience myself.

I had walked away from the Lord in 1991 after some problems with our church. Not to go into great detail, but our marriage subsequently fell apart, we divorced, sold the house, and moved out on our own in 2001. I then fell in with a group of friends who were younger than my 45-year-old self. They were big into team sports and I tried to keep up. One particular Friday, we were slated to play a softball game. I had a very bad cold, but I wasn’t about to let my friends down. During the game I felt very strange, as if I was going to blackout. I took myself out of the game and sat on the bench, hoping the feeling would pass, but my heart felt like it was going beat right through my chest. I reluctantly asked a friend to take me to the ER. When I got to the hospital, I described my symptoms to the admitting nurse and she rushed me right in. They immediately hooked me up to a monitor and I could see my heart was beating wildly and rapidly, up to 300 beats per minute. One of the nurses grabbed the heart paddles (manual defibrillators) and stood there anxiously watching the monitor and me. It was a surreal moment. I was wide awake, fully conscious, and watching this nurse standing in front of me waiting for me to die. Meanwhile, I was injected with a drug that eventually slowed my heart down. I was later told that I had a bad case of Ventricular Tachycardia (VT), a heart arrhythmia that’s often fatal. My doctor later told me that extremely few people have a case of VT as bad as I did and live to tell about it.

I was prescribed a blood pressure medication to keep my heart from racing, and that worked for several years. Praise God, my wife and I remarried in 2003. However, in 2010 I started to feel palpitations and dizziness again. I then had a cardiac ablation operation in which a surgeon used a laser to destroy the heart tissue that was “misfiring” and causing the arrhythmia.

My heart’s been doing well since then, and no prescriptions, although I have yearly visits to the cardiologist including electrocardiograms just to make sure nothing’s changed. In this last visit, the doc was pleased to see I had lost 30 pounds and was walking 4-5 miles every day. But I’ll never forget that moment laying on an ER bed watching that nurse observe me very nervously with paddles in her hands. Yup, I was a dead man walking. Praise God for giving me more time to reunite with my wife and, FINALLY, to return back to Him in 2014.

The Bible says that everyone is spiritually dead and must be reborn in Jesus Christ. If you have not repented of your sin and trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone you are a “dead man walking.”

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” – Colossians 2:13-14

Truth from Arkansas! Sunday sermon series, #3

It’s Tuesday, which means two new sermons from the brethren down in Arkansas. First, we have have Pastor Roger Copeland at Northern Hills Baptist Church in Texarkana, preaching about our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ. And what a GREAT High Priest He is!

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” – Hebrews 4:15

Next is a sermon by Pastor Cody Andrews at Holly Springs Missionary Baptist Church in Star City that examines what it means to be a Christian.

Roger Copeland – Our Great High Priest

 

Cody Andrews – What does it mean to be a Christian?

Mac and tuna: Ah, culinary bliss!

The outside thermometer is starting to drop, so it’s time to start talking about piping hot “comfort foods.” Below is my recipe for one of my favorite cold-weather meals; macaroni and tuna fish. Allow me to set the stage:

I grew up in a Catholic family way back in the days when the church forbade eating meat on Fridays year-round under threat of mortal sin.* Occasionally on Fridays, my Dad would pick up some fried fish and fries at Karl’s Fish Market at 1314 Culver Road in Rochester, but that was an expensive proposition with six hungry kids at home. More often than not, our non-meat Friday dinner was “macaroni and tuna fish,” aka “mac and tuna.” My Mom was not one to put a lot of effort into her cooking; it was all pretty basic stuff. Whereas most people, like my wife’s mother, dolled up this humble dish by sprinkling bread crumbs on top, baking it in the oven, and calling it “tuna noodle casserole,” my Mom characteristically served it “no frills” straight out of the saucepan.

Boy, I loved me some macaroni and tuna fish when I was a kid! I even dreamed of someday opening my own restaurant and serving nothing but mac and tuna. I confidently presumed it would easily be the most popular restaurant in town!

I still enjoy a hot bowl of mac and tuna and have fine-tuned the recipe over the years. My wife is strangely not a fan, but I’ll occasionally make it for myself. Enjoy!

Tom’s Mac and Tuna

Ingredients

  • 10 oz. elbow macaroni (if you use the entire 16 oz box of macaroni, you’ll need to increase the following ingredients proportionately)
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • One 10.5 oz. can Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • One 5 oz. can albacore tuna fish, drained
  • One 4 oz. can sliced mushrooms, drained
  • 1/8 tsp. celery salt
  • a couple of generous shakes of black pepper

In 3QT saucepan, boil macaroni according to instructions. Drain and return to pan. Add milk, mushroom soup, tuna fish, mushrooms, celery salt, and pepper. Stir.

For variety, you can add peas, diced onion, or diced celery.

*In 1966, the Vatican allowed the bishops of each country to collectively decide whether to continue mandatory abstention of meat on non-Lenten Fridays. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops opted to discontinue the practice and issued a statement to that effect on November 18, 1966. Curious minds want to know what happened to American Catholics who had defiantly eaten meat on non-Lenten Fridays and died prior to November 18, 1996? Did the U.S. bishops issue them a “Get Out of Hell Free” card?

Welcome to the Weekend Roundup! – News & Views – 10/26/19

I somehow missed this news report from back in July about how LGBT radicals vandalized the Reformation Wall monument in Geneva, Switzerland with the requisite colors of the LGBT rainbow. LGBT activists will not rest until Gospel Christians deny/ignore the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality. As a side note, the men who are memorialized by the monument – John Calvin, William Farel, Theodore Bèze, and John Knox – would have strongly objected to being glorified in such a fashion.

Liberal Catholic prelates are using the current three-week-long Amazon synod at the Vatican to push their progressive reforms. The synod has featured some “interfaith” events promoting the syncretism of Catholicism and indigenous Amazon paganism that included pope Francis blessing statues of naked “Pachamama” Amazon fertility goddesses (see photo below). Some conservative Catholics, offended by the accommodations to the pagan idols, absconded with them and then unceremoniously dumped them into the Tiber River. Hmm, the Vatican is already home to thousands of idolatrous and blasphemous statues and paintings including many naked characters. What’s a few more? Can anyone imagine Jesus Christ or even the apostle Paul “blessing” pagan idols?

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Pope Francis “blessing” Pachamama fertility goddess idol

The U.S. Catholic bishops were counting on Hispanic Catholics to pick up the slack as non-Hispanic Catholics increasingly abandoned the church, but newly-released statistics show that Hispanics are also stepping off the legalistic religious treadmill.

The Vatican’s finances are once again under scrutiny. Expect this latest financial scandal to mushroom.

As pope Francis and his progressive allies pragmatically institute their liberal reforms in an effort to make the Catholic church more “relevant,” they bend Catholic doctrine to suit their agenda. Catholic conservatives, heretofore passionate defenders of the papacy, are caught in a dilemma from which they cannot extricate themselves.

Besides many other important doctrinal differences, Gospel Christians and Roman Catholics are irreconcilably opposed in regards to the doctrine of justification. Catholics claim souls are justified by sacramental grace and subjective sanctification, i.e., actually becoming intrinsically “good enough” to merit Heaven. Gospel Christians proclaim the Biblical teaching that souls are justified only by the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ, imputed to them at the moment they accept Christ as their Savior by faith alone. Despite the accommodations and compromises of modernist mainline “Protestant” denominations, the Reformation continues. Unfortunately, Christians who attend “seeker-friendly” McMega churches hear very little (or nothing at all) about the Reformation or comparative theology.

Secular society is elevating ludicrousness to new extremes.

Honking the horn: Being helpful or being rude?

Most people would describe me as a VERY laid-back, easygoing personality. But when I get behind the wheel of my, ahem, sporty, 2016 Volkswagen Jetta, I get a little crazy. For some reason, in the privacy of my car, I become less patient and more ornery with others. Well, for one thing, the stakes are much higher when you’re speeding along at 60 mph and the driver in front of you does something really stupid that endangers both of your lives. Still, I’m trying to be more patient and forgiving of others as we share the roads and expressways. I have not always been the perfect driver, either.

In contrast to me, my wife is a very bubbly personality who always tries to be effusively nice to people. Well, maybe not always.  🙂  Anyway, my wife and I have an ongoing dispute over one of my specific driving habits. Here’s the scenario: I’m cheerfully driving down the road with my wife in the passenger seat, but must slow down as I approach a red light at an intersection. There’s one car ahead of me also waiting at the red light. The traffic light finally turns green, but the car ahead of me is not moving. I give it a few quick seconds, but then beep the horn to alert the driver ahead of me to stop looking down at their smart phone and start driving. I don’t overdo the honking. Just one quick, respectful beep to catch the preoccupied driver’s attention

In the above scenario, my “happy” wife invariably becomes quite incensed with me because I was “rudely” honking at the other driver. She thinks it is much kinder and nicer to just sit there and wait patiently until the distracted driver has a chance to look up and see for themselves that the traffic light has turned green. I have explained to my wife countless times that, in the above scenario, I have an obligation to the cars waiting behind me to get the stopped driver moving. This is a situation where being too patient and too “kind” could lead to bad consequences. It would be rude to the drivers behind me not to help them rightfully advance through the intersection before the light turns red again. A frustrated driver in such a situation could easily become aggravated and take dangerous risks. Also, what about oncoming drivers who are desiring to make a left turn at the intersection, but are waiting for the distracted driver who remains stopped at the green light? Should they go ahead and turn and risk a collision? No explanation satisfies my wife. To her, honking at an inattentive driver is just plain rude and wrong and she will reflexively scold me every time I do it.

Yes, sometimes being married is work, no getting around it.

Certainly, the Lord commands us to be kind, patient, and forgiving. Road rage is sin, no two ways about it. But as Christians, we also have an obligation to our fellow drivers to “wake them up” and alert them to the circumstances if they’re not paying attention. Hmm, I see there’s also many spiritual applications that can be plumbed from this “gripe.”

“Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:15-16

Throwback Thursday: Angels carried Jesus’ house from Nazareth to Europe!?!?

Photo above: Pope Francis inside the alleged “Holy House of Loreto”

Welcome to this week’s edition of “Throwback Thursday.” For today’s installment, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on July 31st, 2015 and has been revised.

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As early-Christianity became increasingly institutionalized and began to adopt many of the elements of paganism, there was a frenzied race to acquire items mentioned in the Bible, including the alleged personal effects of Jesus and his family. Centuries before scientific authentication, churches vied against each other for the most spectacular “relics.” Making their appearance, sometimes at multiple sites, were pieces of the “true cross,” the crown of thorns, the water pots of Cana, the crib of Jesus, the baby clothes of Jesus, Jesus’s foreskin, Joseph’s carpenter tools, the cup used at the Last Supper, the empty purse of Judas, Pilate’s basin, nails from the cross, Mary’s breast milk, etc., etc. The focus of Catholicism has always been on the created rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25).

Perhaps the most audacious claim for a relic (besides Jesus’s “Holy Prepuce,” i.e., foreskin) is the alleged Holy House of Nazareth located inside the Basilica at Loreto, Italy. Catholic tradition claims Mary grew up in this small 13′ by 31′ stone house and that Jesus was raised in it, also. According to Catholic tradition, angels carried the house from Nazareth in Palestine to Tersatto, Croatia in 1291. Not content with that site, the angels moved the house to Recanti, Italy and finally to Loreto in 1295.

Lest anyone think the grizzled Catholic hierarchy just winks at this ridiculous myth, popes “saint” John XXIII, Benedict XVI and Francis (above photo) have visited the house, signifying their stamp of approval.

Catholic friends, accepting Jesus Christ as one’s personal Savior by faith alone is the thing, NOT collecting and venerating bogus religious relics!

Postscript 1: Modern Catholic revisionists understood the sheer ridiculousness of the Holy House of Loreto myth and have concocted a more plausible explanation, positing that a mysterious aristocratic family, the “Angelos,” sponsored the physical relocation of the house from Palestine to Europe, which gradually gave rise to the popular myth of “angels” flying the house over the Mediterranean.

Postscript 2: I noticed that our library recently acquired “The Miraculous Flying House of Loreto: Spreading Catholicism in the Early Modern World” (2019) by Karin Vélez. I put a hold on this book and will be reading it soon.

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Below is a six-minute video providing some of the faux history of the “Holy House.”

Militant Catholicism was no joke

Catholic Power Today
By Avro Manhattan
Lyle Stuart, 1967, 288 pp.

4 Stars

The first Gospel-preaching church my wife and I attended after we accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior had an information table in the lobby that was stocked with tracts, including tracts from Chick Publications. I was a naive baby Christian who didn’t know any better at the time, so I ordered many books and pamphlets from Chick. Much of the material from Chick that focused on Roman Catholicism dealt in half-truths and conspiracy theories. I wasted a lot of time and money on Chick’s “yellow journalism.”

Included in Chick’s offerings were several books on Catholicism by Avro Manhattan (né Teofilo Lucifero Gardini, 1914-1990). Manhattan was born in Milan, Italy but emigrated to England at the time of the Second World War. The author was a professional anti-Catholic gadfly, penning fifteen books between 1946 and 1988 that were critical of Catholicism. It was clear from his books that Manhattan was not a born-again Christian, but rather, his objections to Catholicism stemmed from his support of secular libertarianism. By publishing books from unbeliever, Manhattan, Chick was following the ancient maxim, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” In marked contrast to Chick, secularist Manhattan dealt in verifiable facts.

I stumbled across Manhattan’s “Catholic Power Today” (1967) in our library’s catalog and decided to give it a spin for old time’s sake. The first 192 pages describe many examples of the RCC’s political and cultural domination in nations where it was able legislate its advantages. In nations outside the sphere of Catholic hegemony, the church used various means to influence and intimidate officials and political leaders. Manhattan documents the RCC’s ability to block publications critical of Catholicism, even in “Protestant countries” such as the U.K. and the U.S.A.

“Catholic Power Today” becomes really interesting in the final 96 pages. Manhattan devotes the final three chapters to the Catholic hierarchy’s political interference in the British colony of Malta from the late-1950s into the early-1960s, in South Vietnam during the disastrous Diem dictatorship from 1955 until 1963, and in Croatia during the Second World War. Manhattan would later flesh out the last two cases in detail in subsequent books. Catholicism’s strong support of the murderous Ustaša in Croatia is shocking almost beyond description.*

This book was written fifty-two years ago and many of Manhattan’s warnings regarding the dangers of Catholic hegemony are no longer pertinent. At the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the RCC changed its official approach to Protestants and non-Catholic religions from militant confrontation to accommodation and collegiality, although it would take several decades for intolerance to cease in many countries. Even today, in some rural regions of Latin America, persecution of Protestants is still in evidence. However, the reality is that the RCC has lost much of its political influence in the West since this book was published. These days, beleaguered by scandal and threats of schism, the church is having great trouble convincing its members to attend obligatory mass on Sunday let alone strong-arming civic leaders and politicians. The danger today is Rome’s appeal to Protestants in the cause of ecumenical false unity. Sadly, many evangelical pastors and para-church leaders are ignoring irreconcilable doctrinal differences and embracing the Catholic church with it’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit as a Christian entity.

This book is valuable, though, for reminding us of the RCC’s historical penchant for authoritarian control and deadly intolerance.

*See Manhattan’s “The Vatican’s Holocaust” (Chick Publications, 1986) for a detailed account of the RCC’s support of the Croatian Ustaša’s genocidal crusade against Eastern Orthodox Serbs during World War II. Few people are aware of this neglected chapter of history (850,000 Serbian civilians were slaughtered by the Catholic-sanctioned, fascist Ustaša). See the Wiki article on the Ustaša here.

Truth from Arkansas! Sunday sermon series, #2

It’s Tuesday, which means we have a couple of sermons from the brethren down in Arkansas. In the first sermon, Pastor Roger Copeland at Northern Hills Baptist Church in Texarkana expounds on the sufferings of Job. In the second sermon, Pastor Cody Andrews at Holly Springs Missionary Baptist Church in Star City exhorts us to wake up and walk with Christ with intentionality. Thanks to brother Wally for uploading Cody’s sermons to YouTube!

Roger Copland – The Minister of Misery

 

Cody Andrews – Are You Spiritually Sleeping?

Rochester mob boss, Frank Valenti’s restaurant, The Quill Room @ 123 State Street

When I was growing up back in the 1960s, the Mafia was very much a “normal” part of society. In Rochester, everybody in town knew the name of Frank Valenti, the local Mafia kingpin. Most of the illegal gambling, extortion, loan sharking, insurance fraud, arson, narcotics, prostitution, and weapons trafficking in the city flowed through Frank and his “organization.” If anyone tried to circumvent the “system,” they could expect to be “contacted” by Frank’s men.

Stanley Valenti and his brother, Frank, rose to the top of the Rochester Mafia in the late 1950s, but both were arrested at the home of mobster, Joseph Barbara, during the infamous Apalachin Conference in 1957. Frank beat the rap, but cooled his jets in Pittsburgh. In the Valentis’ absence, Jake Russo took over the Rochester mob.

Stefano Magaddino in nearby Buffalo oversaw all of Western New York as part of the Bonanno family crime syndicate, and he believed Russo was holding back on profits from the gambling operations in Rochester. When he put the squeeze on Russo, the Rochester boss threatened to go over his head directly to the Bonanno family in New York City. That was a mistake. No one threatened Steve “The Undertaker” Magaddino and got away with it.

Meanwhile, Frank Valenti had returned to Rochester and opened a restaurant at 123 State Street named The Quill Room. On September 12, 1964, Russo left his house telling his wife he was going to the restaurant for a meeting with Valenti, but was never seen or heard from again. In an interview recorded forty-plus years later, former Rochester mob consigliere, Rene Piccarreto Sr., stated that Russo had been murdered by Valenti’s thugs in the basement of The Quill Room on the orders of Magaddino. The photo above shows Valenti entering The Quill Room sometime during the 1960s, adjoined by a photo I recently took of the same property.

With the death of Russo, Valenti was back on top as the mob kingpin in Rochester and continued in that role until 1972, when he was forced out after being accused of skimming too much off the top himself. The pro-Valenti and anti-Valenti factions subsequently battled it out in a series of bloody encounters throughout the 1970s while Valenti watched from the sidelines in the penitentiary and then as a retiree down in Arizona. Frank Valenti died in Sugarland, Texas in 2008 at the age of 97.

Many of these Italian-American Mafioso characters were dedicated Roman Catholics. They attended mass on Sunday and made sure their children were baptized, confirmed, and educated in Catholic schools. They were “able” to compartmentalize their “business” from their “personal” lives, not an unusual phenomenon within Catholic culture. Many Catholics were used to “living like the devil” on Saturday night and piously attending mass on Sunday morning. The mobsters’ parish priests knew what the men did for a living, their names appeared periodically in the Rochester papers, but their attitude, expressed by a New York City priest in regards to his mob boss parishioner, was, “He stays out of my business and I stay out of his.”

The history of the Roman Catholic church is filled with such worldly (and deadly) pragmatism. There was no genuine repentance. There was no Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Frank Valenti and his lieutenants were all baptized and taught the Roman Catholic religion. Some would say they “did the best they could” in the dog-eat-dog milieu they were raised in, but Jesus Christ was not a part of these men’s lives.

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Was Rochester mobster Jake Russo strangled in this restaurant basement?
https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2019/02/07/rochester-mafia-mystery-jake-russo-killed-pizza-stop-basement-frank-valenti-apalachin-meeting/2191800002/

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