Top 25 Posts

Tomorrow marks the 6th anniversary of this blog, and as is our nerdy custom, below are the thirteen top-viewed posts of the past twelve months that were published prior to July 17, 2020, aka older posts, as well as the twelve top-viewed posts of the past twelve months that were published after July 17, 2020, aka newer posts. Click on the hyper-linked titles to read the respective posts. Much thanks to all of my friends and readers here at WordPress for your support and encouragement over the past 6 years!

Thirteen top-viewed older posts

“If I take off my scapular prior to surgery and die on the operating table, will I still go to Heaven?” – January 17, 2017 – 3564 views

The improbable “return” of Jimmy Swaggart – August 14, 2018 – 3473 views

Heluva Good New England Clam Dip Recipe – July 10, 2017 – 2400 views

Just how painful is “Purgatory” supposed to be? – August 19, 2016 – 1367 views

What’s with all of those little candles at Catholic churches? – April 5, 2018 – 1218 views

Did Jesus or the apostles ever quote the Apocrypha? – May 22, 2017 – 1135 views

Rules about “holy water.” Who knew?!?! – June 16, 2016 – 826 views

Beating the chest and other Catholic formalities – November 13, 2018 – 539 views

Question: When George Harrison was singing, “My Sweet Lord,” who was he singing to? – August 31, 2017 – 435 views

The Battle of the Ages: Cheese Nips vs. Cheez-It – February 9, 2020 – 385 views

Catholicism’s “three-legged stool” – Broken for all the world to see! – December 8, 2017 – 363 views

John MacArthur’s Blog Series – Exposing the Heresies of the Roman Catholic Church – March 4, 2020 – 330 views

Dreamcatchers – May 6, 2016 – 308 views

Twelve top-viewed newer posts

Go Padres! NL Wild Card Series begins tonight – September 30, 2020 – 412 views

Alistair Begg: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. – November 16, 2020 – 266 views

Billy Graham, the disappointing enigma – June 7, 2021 – 223 views

Padres advance, face Dodger$ – October 5, 2020 – 164 views

Ave Maria, a planned Catholic community near Naples, Florida? – July 29, 2020 – 163 views

Pandemic Denial and Political Conspiracy Mongering – February 8, 2021 – 154 views

Papa Al’s Hot Sauce – It’s back!!! – December 9, 2020 – 135 views

Ecumenists Ravi Zacharias & J.I. Packer – August 26, 2020 – 132 views

Catholic nun, Mother Miriam, attempts to differentiate between venial and mortal sins – January 27, 2021 – 124 views

Answering the Rebuttals of a Catholic Apologist – Complete Index – December 4, 2020 – 103 views

Ravi Zacharias and Lee Strobel: Dancing with the Devil and selective outrage – March 8, 2021 – 102 views

Welcome to the Weekend Roundup! – News & Views – 3/13/21 – March 13, 2021 – 101 views

The LGBTQ rainbow now even on my iPhone screen

We’re in the midst of “National Pride Month” and the ubiquitous LGBTQ rainbow is now even on my iPhone screen, compliments of the WordPress app.

I thought it was ironic that the LGBTQ rainbow-hued WP app is right next to my ESV Bible app. This brought to mind the Old Testament passage in which the Philistines captured the ark of the covenant and set it up next to their statue of Dagon. You know the rest. Truth is not contradictory. God’s truth will stand forever and all opposing social crusades will someday fall.

“When the Philistines captured the ark of God, they brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. 2 Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and set it up beside Dagon. 3 And when the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the Lord. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place. 4 But when they rose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the Lord, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold. Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. 5 This is why the priests of Dagon and all who enter the house of Dagon do not tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day.” – 1 Samuel 5:1-5

UPDATE: Observations from an old guy: Androgynous names and gender confusion

UPDATE: Sometimes timing can be strange. Last week, I wrote the post below bemoaning the fact that the decades-old and very popular practice of naming babies with gender-neutral names has been contributing to the rising tide of gender confusion. This past Monday, I learned that my lesbian niece (who was herself given a gender-neutral name at birth four decades ago) delivered a baby girl and that she and her lesbian partner gave the baby girl the masculine name of D*****s. Wikipedia reveals that the name was surprisingly used as both a boy’s AND a girl’s name in 17th and 18th-century Northern England, but has been used exclusively as a masculine name since then. Absolutely NO ONE thinks of a girl when they hear the name D*****s. The parents are using the child as a pawn in their ideological crusade.

Note: I did not provide specific details in this post because I do not wish to start a family feud. Click on the unnamed name for details.

Observations from an old guy: Androgynous names and gender confusion

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:27

We’re all dismayed by the rise of transgenderism, the belief that gender is not decided by biology, but is self-determined. How did this madness start? Well, you may have actually contributed to the current “confusion.” How so?

People hate it when a soap box soliloquy begins with “Back when I was a kid…,” but back when I was a kid in the 1950s and 1960s, boys were given traditional boys’ names like William/Bill and Michael/Mike and girls were given girls’ names like Karen and Ellen. Of the 60+ children in my split grammar school class, all had gender traditional names. At some point, parents began naming their newborns using androgynous, gender-neutral, unisex, gender-fluid, non-binary names like Madison, Dylan, Morgan, Taylor, Logan, Mackenzie, Parker, Skyler, Carter, etc., etc. A quirky exception gradually caught on and became a VERY popular trend. Christian parents weren’t immune and they also jumped on the gender-defying bandwagon when it came to naming their children. It’s now reached a point where children with traditional masculine and feminine names are in the minority. It occurs to me that when today’s schoolteachers review the list of their students’ names at the start of each new school year, many/most will have little clue which kids are female and which are male. Some parents of newborn girls aren’t content with just “gender-neutral” names, but will defy “norms” even farther by naming their daughter with a traditional masculine name, intending that she grows up to be as assertive as any male. Defiance of the norm has now become the new norm.

Does having an androgynous name contribute to gender confusion in the mind of a child while growing up, if only a little bit? Their non-visual encounters with others will always begin with the question, “Is this person a male or female?,” and that will continue throughout their lifetime. And women with masculine names will have even more yarn to constantly unravel.

Yup, many Christian parents have unwittingly contributed to this current gender “confusion” and gender “fluidity.” Okay, okay. I’m NOT suggesting that naming your baby “Mackenzie” is akin to bank robbery, but these unisex names have helped advance this growing gender-confusion malaise.

Meet the new car, same as the old car 🎼

Many people love their cars and spend A LOT of time comparing models and prices before choosing the next one. Not me. I have a funny relationship with cars. I see them “primarily” (i.e., strictly) as a necessity to get me to work and back. For me, car shopping is a real drudgery. I’ve leased Volkswagen Jettas the last two cars. The Jetta is a basic, relatively inexpensive compact car that gets the job done. I had zero service issues with my two Jettas. Granted, they’re not the ideal car to drive in Rochester snow, but I’ve had worse.

The three-year lease on my 2017 Volkswagen Jetta (photo left) expired back in October, but I was unemployed at the time and you can’t get financing when you’re unemployed. However, I was able to extend my lease with Volkswagen Credit for another six months. Phew! In the interim, I finally did get a job. Early last month, with my lease extension set to expire in just a couple of weeks, I called my VW sales guy and set up an appointment. The following week, I drove the convenient 1.7 miles to the VW dealership, walked into the showroom, and sat down with the salesman. I got right down to business and immediately asked Nick, “What are your cheapest Jettas on the lot?” There was a 2020 model on the showroom floor (photo right) and a 2021 on the lot. The showroom model had a sunroof and was a little snazzier overall so I opted for that one. Badda bing, badda boom. In less than one hour, my car shopping drudgery was over with. I must be Nick’s easiest customer.

I don’t know why I’m so blasé about cars. My Dad loved cars and enjoyed maintaining them, although he was more of a wanna-be mechanic than a bona fide one. He would make me help him (hold the flashlight, tighten the bolt, etc.) as he worked on his cars on Saturday mornings. I had no interest and hated it. My Dad would inevitably become angry about a difficult repair and take his frustration out on me. “Hold it (the flashlight) steady!,” he would regularly yell. I eventually developed a strategy of sneaking out the back door early Saturday mornings and staying away from the house all day.

My wife loves cars and could easily make choosing the next car a month-long project. With my wife on long-term disability, we’re now down to only one car and she had a vested interest in choosing the next one. She desired that our next car be an SUV, which is what “everybody” is driving these days. I argued that an SUV is not practical for us. We certainly don’t need the extra room or the higher monthly payment. My wife accompanied me to the VW dealership with the notion that it was going to be only the first of several stops in the car selection process, but she liked the 2020 Jetta showroom model and conceded that we didn’t need to spend additional money each month for a bigger, fancier car.

Nope, there aren’t any deep spiritual lessons to be culled from this post other than I’m grateful to the Lord for the needed transportation!

Observation: Interracial couples on television ads

I’m not a social scientist, so I’m going out on a limb with my own anecdotal, subjective observations in this post.

The Black Lives Matter demonstrations were big news last year. Even some of the BLM protests here in Rochester made the national news shows. Amidst all of the racial tensions last year, I noticed something that defied those tensions. Maybe you did, too.

I’m not a huge television watcher – mostly news and sports when I do watch – but I have noticed the growing trend of television commercials featuring interracial couples, specifically White and Black characters.* This is noticeable to me because I grew up in an era – the 1960s – when such commercials would have been unthinkable. So what’s with these companies that are using interracial couples in their marketing campaigns? Are they part of some sort of cooperative social engineering effort by American “elites” to promote harmony and ease racial tensions? Hardly. An article I found on the topic quoted a marketing professor who said the ads, “attract the broad base of customers whose values align with those portrayed through these ads—inclusion and diversity.” Got it. Viewers who value “inclusion and diversity” and who see a commercial featuring an interracial couple are – consciously or subconsciously – apt to have a favorable view of the product and company, according to the marketing strategy.

In the 1960s, just seeing a Black person on a television sitcom was a novelty. Bigotry was still very blatant and accepted at that time. As another example, Governor George Wallace of Alabama, an unabashed segregationist, campaigned for President in 1964 and again in 1968 and received a surprising amount of support. Interracial dating and marriage were definitely not socially acceptable in the 60s and 70s. I can vividly remember riding in the car with my step-father-in-law around 1975 and passing a Black-White couple walking down the sidewalk. My step-father-in-law had an absolute hissy fit. Many conservative evangelical and fundamental Baptist churches (especially in the South) preached against interracial dating and marriage in those days. Yes they did. Pastors presented Scripture verses purported to show that God disapproved of the mixing of races. As one extreme example, Bob Jones University did not lift its ban on interracial dating until 2017.

While the New Testament doesn’t directly address interracial dating or marriage one way or the other, I can’t imagine Jesus Christ approving of segregationist policies/traditions/customs and forbidding interracial marriages. BTW, today’s DNA test kits are showing that we have a lot more ethnic and racial variety than our grandparents would have been comfortable acknowledging.

“Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” – Colossians 3:11

It’s regrettable that we still have to deal with race issues. Prejudice still exists. And there are also those who stoke racial tensions for their own benefit. At the foot of the cross we are all sinners in need of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Above: In this 1956 booklet, John R. Rice, a former leader of of the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement, recommended the perpetuation of racial segregation.

*I’ve noticed (my subjective observation) that in the majority of these commercials featuring interracial couples, the male is Caucasian and the female is Black. Perhaps that is the marketers’ pragmatic concession to lingering objections to a Caucasian woman being in a relationship with a Black man?

Does God frown upon interracial marriages?
https://www.ligonier.org/learn/qas/does-god-frown-upon-interracial-marriages/

1328 followers? Hardly.

I’ve been blogging for 5.5 years and WordPress shows that I currently have 1328 followers. Huh? 1328 followers? Really? The reality is that only a very small number of those “followers” actually interact with me and my blog on any kind of regular basis. Out of curiosity, I recently scanned through the long list of followers and noted those below who drop by, from every-now-and-then to daily:

Beth at Born Again

Bruce at Reasoned Cases for Christ

Cathy at Peacemakers

Craig at Poetic Perspectives

Chris at Wings of the Wind

Crissy at Walking by Faith

David at EttingerWriting.com

Jimmy at The Domain for Truth

Joseph at Complicated Politics

Kent at Gersom Clark

Lauren at Tulips & Honey

Lisa Beth at theburninglampdotcom

Mandy at Blue Collar Theologian

Marlagro at God Stories for Me, Yippee!

Marques at Overcoming The Times

Did I miss anyone? I’m grateful for the above 15 bloggers for their fellowship, support, and encouragement and for their witness for Jesus Christ and the Gospel. Thank you! I was introduced to half of the above folks in just the past twelve months. I’m very grateful for the handful of “old friends.” But what about the other 1313?

Many bloggers, expecting reciprocation, “follow” people in an attempt to gain followers for themselves, but shut off any and all automatic notifications. A blogging maxim is that you’ll get what you give. A blogger will attract followers by following other bloggers and by “liking” and commenting on their posts. But I try to actually read the posts of the bloggers I follow and there’s only so many hours in the day.

I noticed there are several who remain on my followers list who have stopped blogging over the years. I’m certain there are also a number of followers who disconnected because they were offended with one or more of my “controversial” posts or who were just not interested in Gospel outreach to Roman Catholics or in the dangers of ecumenism, my two major topics. I myself have disconnected from Christian bloggers who never bothered to reciprocate or who post views that I cannot support.

Although in our flesh we would like for other bloggers to like us and the posts that we write, that should not be our motivation. Our aim should be to please the Lord.

Postscript 1: Wally at Truth in Palmyra had to stop blogging in October 2019 because he went back to school, but he gets an honorable mention. In addition, Sbreaker95 regularly contributes comments to my apologetics posts, but doesn’t maintain a blog.

Postscript 2: Credit goes to David at EttingerWriting.com who wrote a similar post back in August in which he also questioned his inflated number of “followers.” See ‘Followers’: Fake News.

For 100 Bible Verses on Friendship, see here.

Huh? Back to work?

Some of you are aware that I was unemployed for a very long stretch. Today, I have a good news update!

After working at Eastman Kodak and one of it’s offshoots, Kodak Alaris, for a total of 43 years, I was laid-off in September 2019. I had just turned sixty-three and was not in a position to retire outright. See my post about that event, here. Around the same time, my wife was forced to leave her job for medical reasons and go on short-term disability.

Kodak Alaris provided a three-month severance package, including three months of free “career transition” training, which I took advantage of. I learned how to search and apply for jobs using all of the latest tools and resources and began seeking employment in earnest. The economic picture here in Western New York is bleak, to say the least, but I applied to many jobs (eventually 130 total) and had several phone and in-person interviews, but no offers. There’s no doubt that my age was a huge liability. When the severance ran out, I applied for unemployment benefits. Then COVID-19 hit in March 2020 and millions joined me in the virtual unemployment line. New job postings slowed down significantly because of the pandemic. I kept applying, but began to resign myself to the fact that I probably wouldn’t work again. Thankfully, unemployment benefits were extended several times because of C-19 and my wife was also eventually granted long-term disability. We were able to pay our bills without dipping into our retirement savings.

Then, in early-December 2020, a recruiter from Company H reached out to me via email asking if I would be interested in a particular position. I had previously interviewed with Company H for a similar position, but I was rejected and I did not wish to go through their wringer again, so I ignored the email. Yes I did! But the recruiter, bless her, was persistent. She subsequently called me on the phone and I relented and went through another series of interviews with multiple H managers.

Incredibly, Company H offered me the job in mid-December! I accepted and was then kept busy going through the pre-employment hoops and finally reported to work for the first time this past Saturday. My schedule is Friday thru Sunday, 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. That’s certainly not an “ideal” schedule, but I’m so grateful to have a job. H is a very good company, probably the best of the two or three top-tier manufacturers remaining in Rochester. Thank you, God!

Much thanks to all my friends here at WordPress who prayed for me during my unemployment. I’m very conscious that millions upon millions of workers have lost their jobs as a result of C-19 and are facing serious financial challenges (not to mention the 374,000 C-19 related deaths in the U.S. alone).

One of the blessings of unemployment was being able to devote time to blogging. With my new job, I definitely won’t have as much time, especially Friday thru Sunday, so I anticipate posting a bit less frequently.

Thank you, again!

Is America the “city set on a hill”?

1You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 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. 16 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 5:14-16

Yesterday evening, after the U.S. Capitol Building was secured following the violent assault by protesters, the legislators reconvened to complete the Electoral College certification process in connection with the recent presidential election.

I watched the proceedings for a short time and heard several legislators plead for national unity following the unprecedented turmoil. A few mentioned that the world was watching and that the United States must go forward as the “city set on a hill,” a beacon of democracy to the rest of the world.

Ever since the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in 1620, politically-minded colonists and Americans have misappropriated Bible passages for their temporal ends. Faith and politics have been conflated for so long that many/most can’t distinguish between the two.

In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus Christ DID NOT have in mind the United States as the “city set on a hill.” It’s quite clear from the context that He was referring to His followers. Believers are the city set on a hill. The church, the body of believers scattered throughout the unbelieving world, is the city set on a hill. Our message is NOT political, it is rather the GOOD NEWS! of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. This Good News! of salvation in Christ Jesus knows no national boundaries or political affiliations.

“Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.’” – John 18:36

Addendum: Ronald Reagan famously referred to America as “The Shining City Upon a Hill” in his same-titled speech delivered in 1974 (see here) and in several speeches thereafter. But the notion didn’t originate with him. Preacher John Winthrop had claimed that designation for the Massachusetts Bay Colony 344 years earlier in 1630 (see here). The notion that America was in an anointed, covenant relationship with God has been preached from American pulpits ever since.

Cemetery tales, #2: Our future home? Nope!

My wife and I take a daily walk with our dog at a nearby cemetery where my wife’s mother, father, and step-father are buried. We actually have two side-by-side cemetery plots located there that are reserved for us. Walking at the cemetery every day got me thinking about death and sparked a couple of posts, the first one was published last Wednesday and can be read here. The second and last post is below:

capture30

Shortly after my wife and I married in 1974, my mother-in-law married her boyfriend. Don was a big, burly guy who had risen through the ranks at a local manufacturing company, from a machinist on the production floor to plant superintendent, through sheer hard work and steely determination.

Don was a man of enormous appetites. He was a heavy smoker and also enjoyed multiple highballs every evening. He was also a gregarious conversationalist and loved to impress his listeners with unusual facts and trivia that he had picked up. Don was raised as a nominal “Baptist” (i.e., liberal American Baptist), but didn’t put much if any stock in religion. In contrast, his membership in the Masons meant quite a lot to him. Although he never attended church, he wrote out a monthly check to a local mainline American Baptist church, “just in case there’s something to it,” as he liked to joke.

My mother-in-law, Dorothy, was a nominal Catholic and when her health began to sharply decline in 1983 due to her emphysema, Don contacted the local Catholic parish and a priest made several visits and administered the last rites. Just previous to that, my wife and I had trusted in Jesus Christ as our Savior. We both witnessed to Mom on many occasions and also presented her with a Bible. She did eventually profess her faith in Christ. However, Don did not appreciate our talks with Mom. He felt we were confusing her at a vulnerable time with our “religion” from the “renegade”/”wildcat” independent fundamental Baptist church that we were attending at that time. There was definitely spiritual warfare going on. For a man who didn’t personally care about “religion,” Don was vehemently opposed to our “interference.” Our relations with Don remained tense right up to the day that Dorothy died in January 1984. After several months had passed, we had a few get-togethers with Don, but there was an icy undercurrent and we eventually lost touch. Don came down with cancer and ended his life in 1996 with an overdose of prescription pills.

Many years previous, when my mother-in-law was still relatively healthy, Don had presented us with the unusual “gift” of two cemetery plots. He and his siblings and their spouses had purchased multiple, co-adjoining plots at White Haven Cemetery, but somehow ended up with two too many. So now, when my wife and I take our daily walks in the cemetery, we often walk by our plots. It’s a strange sight, but we know we will be with our Lord when we die, not “resting” beneath the cold ground.

Postscript 1: After I wrote the above, I remembered one of the most important parts of the story. In the final weeks of her life, Dorothy was in great physical distress and begged the Lord to take her home. My wife and I also prayed to the Lord that He would take her. It was Christmas time and Dorothy asked me to get her a fresh-cut Christmas tree. Don was adamantly opposed to the idea, but finally relented, cautioning me to get only a very small tree. I defiantly picked out the tallest and fattest tree available and put it up in their living room. Don fumed while Dorothy was delighted. After Dorothy died, her physician, a pulmonary specialist, pulled my wife and myself aside and matter-of-factly informed us that the spores from the Christmas tree had accumulated in her lungs and clogged up any remaining breathing capacity and had killed her. Ah, that’s my God. Thank you, Lord!

Postscript 2: Dorothy’s grave is in one section of the cemetery, alongside her second husband, my wife’s father (see my post about Gordon here), while Don’s grave is in another section alongside his first wife.

Above: That’s Don (left) proudly giving my brother-in-law, Jimmy (middle), and myself (right) a tour of the production floor at a Gleason Works open house, October 13, 1979.