Truth from Arkansas! Sunday Sermon Series, #70

It’s Two-fer-Tuesday, my friends, which means two new sermons from the brethren down in Arkansas.

First, we have Pastor Roger Copeland of Northern Hills Baptist Church in Texarkana, preaching from Luke 3:15-20 on “One Mightier Than I.”

Next, we have Pastor Cody Andrews of Holly Springs Missionary Baptist Church in Star City preaching from John 10:22-30 on “You Can Trust Jesus.”

Both of these sermons were delivered on Sunday, January 24th.

Pastor Roger Copeland – One Mightier Than I

Pastor Cody Andrews – You Can Trust Jesus -The sermon portion begins at the 36:36 mark.

Pandemic Denial and Political Conspiracy Mongering

The thoughts in the following post have been percolating in my head for several weeks.

We’ve lived through eleven months of the COVID-19 pandemic in this country and it’s been a very long haul. It’s estimated that 27 million Americans (8%) have caught the virus and 463 thousand have died to date.

Looking back, there were serious shortcomings in the effort to “fight” the pandemic. There wasn’t much leadership at the national level, as President Trump generally downplayed the virus in an effort to minimize disruptions to commerce. The lack of health safety protocols at White House gatherings and at Trump’s political rallies were noticeable and influenced many. Individual states were left to mandate their own public health policies and they varied widely, often according to political affiliation.

Clergy were understandably frustrated by their services being limited or locked down. Some even claimed that COVID-19 was a big hoax, an alleged diabolical scheme meant primarily to restrict religious freedom. Pandemic-denial and refusal to follow health safety protocols became a badge of “true faith” among the credulous. Some sheepishly went along with the denial nonsense due to social pressure despite their own, personal misgivings.

Added to this very challenging pandemic situation were the BLM protests (which included looting, destruction, and violence) and the political turmoil of the 2020 presidential election and the aftermath, with many claiming voter fraud and that the election was stolen from Trump. The anger and frustration culminated in the violent attack upon the U.S. Capitol Building by overzealous Trump supporters (not by bused-in, disguised, Antifa counter-MAGA-ers as some have suggested) on January 6th.

The internet is rife with “Christian” conspiracy-mongering provocateurs* who stoke hatred, fear, rebellion, and violence. I know of a few “Christian” bloggers here at WordPress who specialize in these types of posts. They’ll publish some Bible passages on Monday to cloak themselves in spiritual “legitimacy,” but on Wednesday they’ll publish ultra-nationalistic, conspiracy-touting, hateful, us-against-them, pandemic-denying posts. Their undiscerning readers readily eat up this garbage with a hearty “Amen!” and ask for second helpings.

The thing is, when I read the Acts of the Apostles and the epistles in the New Testament, I don’t read anything promoting hatred, fear, rebellion, or violence. There is nothing resembling conspiracy-mongering or deeply-rooted civic/national chauvinism/exceptionalism (i.e., “I’m from Ephesus and you’re not!”). The early Christians lived in circumstances within the Roman Empire MUCH MORE challenging than our own, initially facing hostility from unbelieving Jews and subsequently from the Roman authorities. But Paul and the other apostles taught the early church to focus on the spiritual rather than on the temporal circumstances.

Shame upon all of those so-called “Christ-followers” who stoke hatred, paranoia, sectarian pride, and violence, which are antithetical to the Gospel. They should all spend a week at their local hospital’s pulmonary ICU before writing their next pandemic-denying, anti-vaccine posts. Some rail that the C-19 vaccine/s is the “mark of the beast” of Revelation 13 while other provocateurs hedge their bets and label it the “precursor” to the mark of the beast. So I suppose the polio vaccine was a precursor to the precursor of the mark of the beast? This is all flat-earth-style quackery and brings ridicule upon the Gospel (see photo above). While Christians shouldn’t bury their heads in the sand, neither should we allow ourselves to be carried away by conspiracy-mongering provocateurs who are “overcome by evil” and delight in stoking fear, hatred, rebellion, and violence.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:14-21

Postscript: In contrast to today’s pandemic-denying, anti-vaxxers, the Bible has a lot to say about containing contagious diseases (e.g., Lev. 13-14). I imagine there were deniers back in those days as well. Be considerate of your neighbor and get vaccinated. If it seems like I’m disproportionately harsh with politically-conservative, Christian nationalists, the old adage, “You’re always hardest on the ones you love” comes to mind. I don’t share many values with pro-abortion, pro-LGBT political progressives, although they need the Gospel, too!

*RE: conspiracy-mongering provocateurs
Some people relish playing the role of the gnostic, “hidden knowledge,” conspiracy-trafficking insider, “educating” the rest of us poor, gullible lemmings as to what’s allegedly “really going on” behind the scenes.

Welcome to the Weekend Roundup! – News & Views – 2/6/21

This past week, journalists (Catholic and non-Catholic) once again focused on the brazen paradox of Joe Biden, i.e., can the President not only remain a member of the Roman Catholic church “in good standing” and even flaunt his “devout” Catholicity for political purposes, while at the same time enabling and defending the abortion genocide and the LGBT agenda? Conservative Catholics scream, “No!,” but they have an even greater dilemma with their doctrine-bending, progressive pope.

It’s interesting that once-ultra-Catholic Quebec has become largely secularized. This also reminds me of the rapid secularization of another Catholic region/country; Ireland. Secularists certainly don’t know the Lord, but neither do pseudo-Christian religionists, like the dwindling number of practicing Catholics in Quebec and Ireland.

Hyper-nationalism and American exceptionalism/covenantalism have been idols for Christians living in America for four hundred years. That said, I appreciate how Republican Representative, Adam Kinzinger, is taking a stand against the hatred, rebellion, violence, and conspiracy-mongering being propagated by some zealous Christian nationalists.

Francis keeps banging the drum for annulment reform, even after his 2015 Canon Law changes and the guileful lifting of the ban on sacraments for remarried divorcees in his 2016 Amoris Laetitia encyclical. Annulment, the Catholic-approved alternative to divorce, is a sham. Rich Catholics who gave generously to the church, like the Kennedys, could always count on receiving an annulment from their bishop.

There’s a growing schism within Catholicism, with conservatives and traditionalists desiring to return to the Latin mass and the militancy of the pre-conciliar church. The genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone can’t be found in either Catholic traditionalism or progressivism.

This article provides a good summary of how Mexican Catholic-pagan syncretism will not tolerate evangelicals’ stand upon God’s Word. I would suggest that Joe Biden represents a different kind of Catholic syncretism found here in the U.S.; the amalgamation of pro-abortion and pro-LGBT secularist progressivism with Catholic ritualism.

Thanks to the Babylon Bee for another biting satire.

Throwback Thursday: Worshiping Jesus’ heart?

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on April 30th, 2016 and has been revised.

capture30

Seeing the article far below about the popular “devotion” within Catholicism to Jesus’ “sacred heart” brought back memories. I grew up as a Roman Catholic in the 1960s and 1970s and back then there were a lot of sacramentals in our home and in the homes of our friends and extended family. Crucifixes, statues, rosaries, and palm fronds were frequently displayed. It was taught that sacramentals blessed by a priest brought good luck to a house and to those who dwelt 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 worshiping a body organ was going beyond reasonable religious piety.

The practice of worshiping 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 rubrics of the sacred heart devotion. The alleged Jesus apparition promised several special graces to those who worshiped 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 “Sacred Heart First Fridays” formula was a ticket to Heaven.

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

Worshiping one of Jesus’s body parts is idolatry. Nowhere in the Gospels or the epistles does it insinuate that we should worship Jesus’ heart or any other of His body parts. No one will go to Heaven by engaging in religious rituals for 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 sin 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.

Legalistic Rabbit Hole Question: If a Catholic observed six Sacred Heart First Fridays in a row, but came down with a bad case of the flu on week #7 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
http://aleteia.org/2016/04/29/5-things-catholics-should-know-about-first-fridays/

Postscript: Many, many Catholic churches across the country are named “Sacred Heart.”

These Truths?

These Truths: A History of the United States
Jill Lepore
W.W. Norton & Company, 2018, 933 pp.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – from The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

I’m a bit of a history buff and I’ve read a good number of history books over the decades. Histories of the United States tended toward heavily-varnished hagiography with men like Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, and Lincoln reverenced in almost-religious terms. Of course, those men were products of their times. Jefferson could write the above words with the widely-understood qualification that Native American “Indians,” Blacks, and women did not share in “these truths.” The hypocrisy and inconsistency are glaring from our vantage point today, but also consider that only eighty-years ago, millions of American G.I.s were sent to Europe to defend the world from Nazi tyranny and persecution at the same time that Black Americans in the South lived under the tyranny of Jim Crow.

Harvard professor, Jill Lepore, wrote “These Truths” partially from the perspective of the oppressed and disenfranchised and some might dismiss it as a “woke” version of U.S. history. However, the book is necessary because most hagiographical U.S. histories of the past neglected or skimmed over the stories of the oppressed, voiceless, marginalized groups. Lepore isn’t shrill and angry (as I recently encountered with Kristin Kobes Du Mez in her critique of American Christian Nationalism, “Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation,” see here), but presents the material in a “mostly” objective manner that’s worthy of consideration. Lepore’s last several chapters that examine the increasing polarization of American society along the Red vs. Blue divide are informative and very well done.

Because of its size, “These Truths” was a major effort to get through and it occupied much more of my reading time than I like to devote to a single book. It deserves a longer review, but my time is more limited these days. A couple of closing thoughts:

  • Washington, Jefferson, et al, were certainly fallible men and products of their times. I imagine that if Lepore had been brought up in the Antebellum South of the 1840s and 1850s there would have been an extremely good chance that she would have aligned with the societal mores of the region and times as well.
  • The conflation of faith and nationalism has been the predominant paradigm among Christians living in America since the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in 1620. Deconstructionist examinations of U.S. history are not well-received by many. But great wrongs were done and deserve examination. Christians know from God’s Word that all men are sinners and there’s abundant evidence of that in America’s unvarnished history. Deist Thomas Jefferson’s “truths” were laudable, although certainly not applied fairly. However, Christians know of the infinitely greater Truths of Jesus Christ and the Gospel that are not restricted by national boundaries, times, or societal mores. Jefferson is memorialized in a manner that approaches idolatry, but he was a spiritually lost soul who aligned himself with humanistic “enlightenment” (including some glaring inconsistencies as a slaveowner) rather than with Jesus Christ and the Gospel.

Truth from Arkansas! Sunday Sermon Series, #69

It’s Two-fer-Tuesday, my friends, which means two new sermons from the brethren down in Arkansas.

First, we have Pastor Roger Copeland of Northern Hills Baptist Church in Texarkana, preaching from Luke 3:1-6 on “John the Baptist: A Man Sent from God.”

Next, we have Pastor Cody Andrews of Holly Springs Missionary Baptist Church in Star City preaching from Matthew 4:17 on “Repent: For the Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand.” The sermon portion of the video begins at the 37:30 mark.

Both of these sermons were delivered on Sunday, January 17th.

Pastor Roger Copeland – John the Baptist: A Man Sent from God

Pastor Cody Andrews – Repent: For the Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand

“Future State: Legion of Super-Heroes #1″ (and some possible good news)

No, my friends, I’m NOT turning this blog into the Legion of Super-Heroes frivolity blog. Yes, I realize I reviewed LSH #12 only last week, but there’s a good reason for this latest installment. DC Comics just launched its three-month-long, “Future State” reconfiguration with this two-part LSH tie-in. It’s been rumored that several titles won’t emerge from Future State intact, including the Legion of Super-Heroes, which just completed a one-year, twelve-issue relaunch. With that in mind, let’s go ahead and see what DC and Bendis have in mind for what many (including myself) thought might be the Legion’s final tale.

Future State: Legion of Super-Heroes #1 [of 2]
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Pencils and Inks: Riley Rossmo, Colors: Ivan Plascencia
DC Comics, January 26th, 2021

Plot

At some indeterminate point in the 31st Century following the events described in LSH #12, former Legion leader, Ultra Boy, arrives on Planet Gotham to rendezvous with Shadow Lass, Saturn Girl, Brainiac 7, and Colossal Boy. We learn that the Legion had previously disbanded and that the United Planets are in almost total chaos. On Planet Daxam, the only remaining U.P. stronghold, Chameleon Boy is brought before a council comprised of former Legionnaires Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lass, Mon-El, Polar Boy (see postscript below), Princess Projectra, Shrinking Violet, Star Boy, Superboy, Sun Boy, and Timber Wolf in an effort to ascertain the whereabouts of Jan Arrah, the former Legionnaire, Element Lad, who is responsible for an “incident”/”event” that precipitated the current crisis. On Planet Winath, a group of newly-empowered beings (who refer to the previous cataclysm as the “elemental rapture”) bands together as a pseudo, rogue Legion to exploit the chaos and also oppose Arrah and the crippled U.P., but are thwarted by the former Triplicate Girl (one of her identities was killed in the crisis) who is searching for Element Lad. She is joined by Blok who is on a similar mission. Brainiac 7 invites the duo/trio to join the reconstituted Legion and capture Arrah and also recruits a reluctant Bouncing Boy. On one of Planet Trom’s moons, Arrah interrogates his prisoner, Lightning Lad, who had attempted to kill the traitorous ex-Legionnaire. The proceedings are suddenly interrupted by Lightning Lass along with a contingent of Legionnaires including Blok, Bouncing Boy, Brainiac 7, Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, Duo Damsel, Ferro Lad, (see postscript below), Monster Boy, Saturn Girl, Shadow Lass, Superboy, and Timber Wolf. Argh! We must wait one month for the results of this showdown!

Comments

Bendis doesn’t provide a lot of information about the cataclysmic attack upon the galaxy and the Legion orchestrated by the traitorous Jan Arrah. I’m expecting more details in “Future State: Legion of Super-Heroes #2 [of 2].” All of the Legionnaires are presented in different permutations including alternate uniforms and different physical characteristics, with a reconstituted Brainiac 5/7 being the most radical. Rossmo’s pencils are nowhere near the caliber of regular LSH artist, Ryan Sook. A redesigned Superboy stays noticeably in the background in this book. I counted a few Legionnaires in the mix who I could not identify. Silver Age Legion fans will note that the death of one of the triplicates hearkens back to similar grim circumstances in “Computo the Conquerer” in Adventure Comics #340 (January 1966). It was sad to read the first issue of this two-part Future State series knowing DC is probably going to pull the plug on the Legion following the second installment.

Postscript

After writing the above, I came across a very recent interview with LSH writer, Brian Michael Bendis, in which he reveals some of the unidentifiable characters in this issue as being members of the Legion of Substitute Heroes and that the black-suited character on the cover with a laser sword is Ferro Lad. Okay. I had thought the character on page 8 in silver and red was Ferro Lad when it’s actually Polar Boy of the Subs. The writer hints that Superboy will play more of a major role in issue #2. To my great surprise, Bendis also reveals that DC definitely plans on continuing the Legion at some point after Future State despite the title’s notable absence in the publisher’s April solicitations. See the interview here.