Throwback Thursday: Life’s Most Important Question?

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on May 10, 2016 and has been revised.

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If you asked a crowd of people what was Life’s Most Important Question, you’d get many answers, but with the absolute certainty of death ahead of them and their standing with God uncertain, some people would answer that Life’s Most Important Question is:

“What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30)

The Roman Catholic church claims to have the answer to that question. It says for a person to be saved they must do the following:

  • Attend RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) classes for a year.
  • Get baptized.
  • Attend mass every Sunday and every holy day of obligation.
  • Receive the eucharist at least once a year.
  • Obey the Ten Commandments (impossible).
  • Confess all “mortal” sins to a priest – participate in the sacrament of reconciliation at least once a year.
  • Use sacramentals liberally and frequently ask Mary and the saints for their help.
  • Receive the sacrament of last rites before you die.

If you do all of the above, according to the Catholic church, you may PERHAPS merit Heaven, provided you don’t have ANY mortal sin on your soul at the moment of your death.

In contrast to Roman Catholicism’s long religious legal laundry list, God’s Word gives us the simple answer to the question in Acts 16:30 in the very next verse:

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31).

“Believe” is translated from the Greek word, pisteuo, which means “to put one’s faith in, to trust, with the implication that actions based on that trust will follow.”

Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone. That is the ONLY way to be saved.

Throwback Thursday: IFB Memories #2: “Amy Grant is more dangerous than Adolf Hitler!” Huh?

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on May 9, 2016 and has been revised.

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My wife and I accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior in 1983 and we began attending an independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) church in our town shortly afterwards. The church somewhat followed the Jerry Falwell/Thomas Road Baptist Church and John R. Rice/Sword of the Lord models of Baptist fundamentalism for those of you who can remember back that far. In other words, the church wasn’t as extreme as those in the Bob Jones III or Peter Ruckman fundamentalist camps, but it was nowhere near as liberal as the compromising “New Evangelical” churches that were also sprouting up. If none of those names mean anything to you then you definitely missed Christian fundamentalism in the 1980s.

We grew in the Lord to a degree at that IFB church, but there were also many things that were preached from the pulpit that didn’t seem to me to be in accordance with God’s Word. The messages were often VERY heavy into legalism, politics, and supporting the culture battles to “reclaim America for Jesus.” After eight years of becoming increasingly agitated and uncomfortable, we decided we could no longer sit under the pastor’s preaching. I was so distraught about the church and Christianity in general that I walked away from the Lord for 23 years, just like the dumb prodigal son. But the Lord didn’t forsake me and I returned to Him in 2014.

When I returned to the Lord, I purposely wanted to avoid the fundamentalist church scene. We attended an SBC church for one year and we’ve been attending a non-denominational church for the last six months. But I’ve noticed a lot has changed in the church while I was away. It appears fundamentalism has been pretty much relegated to the fringes while the dreaded “New Evangelicalism” is in the driver’s seat. In fact, things seem to have become so loosey-goosey that what passes for evangelical Christianity these days often makes those old “New Evangelicals” look like Bob Jones-style fundamentalists.

Don’t get me wrong. Those IFB churches had some very good teaching, but they also got very tangled up in Pharisaism. Every once in a while I’d like to take a walk down memory lane with you and reminisce about some of our experiences at that IFB church in the 1980s. I recently shared a memory about a couple at the church who objected to pork meat shreds in their egg rolls. See here. Let’s continue this intermittent series by examining how our IFB church viewed rock music and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM).

When we first joined the IFB church, one of the frequent messages from the pulpit was that all rock and roll music was of the devil. The incessant, hypnotic drum beat of rock and roll was linked to the frenzied, pagan rituals of African jungle tribes (sorry, but that was how it was described) and opened up the listener to demonic influences. And those lyrics! Talk about demonic! Rock music promoted the use of drugs, promiscuous sex, and even atheism. Before I accepted Jesus, I had accumulated around 300 rock and roll LPs. Yes, 300! But I couldn’t argue with the pastor. I knew very well that the lyrics of the songs on some of the albums promoted drug use and promiscuity. At the very least, I knew the worldview that was advocated on many of those records didn’t agree with the Bible. I dumped all of those albums in a large, commercial dumpster. All 300. Ach! That was hard! I loved my rock music.

In the early 80s, singer, Amy Grant, was becoming very popular with Christians in general and with a few of our church members in particular. Grant and other pioneering CCM artists were taking rock music and adding Christian-themed lyrics. Sure, the lyrics might have mentioned Jesus and God, but the hypnotic beat was said to be of the devil and opened up the listener to all kinds of dark forces. Well, our pastor caught wind that some of the membership was listening to Amy Grant and he didn’t go for that at all. The pastor saw the spread of rock music into the church as an insidious plot hatched in the very depths of hell. Amy Grant was evil incarnate or at least the pawn of Satan. The pastor proclaimed from the pulpit that Amy Grant was more evil and more dangerous than Adolf Hitler.

[Pause for effect.]

Yes, you read that correctly. The pastor actually proclaimed from the pulpit, with quite a bit of angry passion as I vividly recall, that Amy Grant was more evil and more dangerous than Adolf Hitler! I had liked one popular Amy Grant song at the time, “El Shaddai,” which I heard on a compilation cassette tape that another church member had put together for me, but I hadn’t bought any of her “demonic” albums. But was Amy Grant really more evil than Hitler? That kind of heavy-handed fundamentalist rhetoric from the pulpit really gnawed at me. Why couldn’t Christian artists use contemporary music to proclaim a Gospel message? Were songs with drums really Satanic? It was obvious some of the opposition to CCM music was because of generational and church-culture opposition to any kind of “rock” music.

Flash forward to 2016. Contemporary songs with drums and electric guitars are widely featured in the worship music of evangelical churches throughout America. Music with a rock beat is no longer viewed as innately evil by most Christians. Sure, there’s a lot of bad and even heretical CCM music out there, but there were also some bad and doctrinally questionable hymns in the old hymn books. Most Christians these days would react with a hearty guffaw if they heard a pastor compare Amy Grant to Hitler. Young Christians aren’t aware of the great drama that took place in churches over this music issue.

As in all things, Christians must be discerning. Yes, there’s a lot of secular music out there that is unabashedly anti-God and should be avoided by Christians. But some of it is simply innocuous. Labeling ALL music that uses drums, electric guitars, and contemporary melodies as Satanic would be viewed by most Christians today as a ridiculously anachronistic attitude, and rightly so, although I know there are some IFB churches that still teach exactly that.

Note of tragic irony from 2021: The pastor referred to above pleaded guilty to child sexual abuse in Pittsford Town Court on June 2, 2021. See here.

Throwback Thursday: Standing up for the Gospel when others push for false “unity” and compromise

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on May 12, 2016 and has been slightly revised.

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Evangelicals, Catholics, and Unity
By Michael S. Horton
White Horse Inn Publishers, 2012, 60 pages

4 Stars

The “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” (ECT) declaration issued in 1994 was an ecumenical effort by several evangelicals, led by Charles Colson, J.I. Packer, and Richard Land, and several Roman Catholics, which sought to minimize doctrinal differences and spur unity between the two groups as co-belligerents in the defense of social “morality.” The declaration inferred that Roman Catholicism was a Christian entity that “basically” preached the same Gospel as evangelical Christianity.

Many evangelicals expressed righteous indignation at the attempt to unite with Rome. The Catholic church has changed none of its doctrines since the Reformation and still teaches a false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. “Evangelicals, Catholics, and Unity” by Reformed theologian, Michael S. Horton, was first published in 1999 in response to ECT. Horton argues that the two main issues that fueled the Reformation, 1) Sola Scriptura , the authority of Scripture alone versus the Catholic church’s combination of Scripture, sacred tradition, and its magisterium, and 2) salvation by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone versus salvation by sacramental grace plus works, remain as irreconcilable differences. There is no salvation through obedience to the Law as Catholicism teaches. Horton cites additional differences very briefly.

This is a very short book (60 pages) that you’ll finish in one sitting, but it serves as a valuable introduction to the differences between the Gospel of grace and the false gospel of Roman Catholicism. Order from Amazon here.

Interested readers may wish to follow up with a more thorough response to ECT and evangelical compromise with one of the books below. All are available from Amazon.com:

  • “The Gospel According to Rome: Comparing Catholic Tradition and the Word of God” (1995) by James G. McCarthy
  • “Romanism: The Relentless Roman Catholic Assault on the Gospel of Jesus Christ!” (1995) by Rob Zins
  • “The Roman Catholic Controversy” (1996) by James R. White
  • “Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification” (1999) by R. C. Sproul.
  • “Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism” (2012),  by R. C. Sproul.
  • “Reckless Faith: When the Church Loses Its Will To Discern” (1994) by John MacArthur

See my Books tab here for a list of over 360 books that compare Roman Catholicism to God’s Word.

Postscript: Michael Horton would later cause a stir with his fawning endorsement of “former-evangelical,” Roman Catholic apologist, Scott Hahn’s book, “Covenant and Communion: The Biblical Theology of Pope Benedict XVI” (2009). Would the apostle Paul have endorsed such a book? The answer is clearly no. Evangelical theologians, pastors, and para-church leaders do some amazingly bizarre and stupid things in regards to Roman Catholicism and its false gospel.

Throwback Thursday: It’s amazing what the Lord can use!

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on May 16, 2016 and has been revised.

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Following their excellent fifth album, “The Notorious Byrd Brothers” (January 1968), the Byrds were at a crossroads. Members David Crosby (rhythm guitar) and Michael Clarke (drums) had been fired during the “Notorious” recording sessions, leaving Roger McGuinn (lead guitar) and Chris Hillman (bass) to complete the project. Gram Parsons was subsequently hired to fill Crosby’s spot. McGuinn had wanted the next Byrds LP to be a double-album of songs representing the entire history of the American music catalog, from Appalachian jug tunes to electronic synthesizer progressive rock, but country music fans, Parsons and Hillman, had other ideas.

The band traveled to Nashville in the Spring of 1968 to record what would become their next album, “Sweetheart of the Rodeo.” The 11 songs were straight-ahead country with hardly a trace of rock n’ roll. When the band returned to LA, the record execs decided newcomer Parsons had too large of a presence on the studio tapes. A few of his lead vocals were replaced with McGuinn’s. One of the songs, “The Christian Life” (listen below), had first been released by the Louvin Brothers in 1959. McGuinn attempted an imitation of Parson’s Southern drawl on the song, which bordered on the criminal.

After its release in August, 1968, “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” only reached #77 on the Billboard charts. At the time, the pioneering album was way too red-neck for the Byrds’ hippie fans while no self-respecting country fan was going to buy anything from a hippie band like the Byrds. It took a few years, but rock n’ roll audiences eventually embraced country-rock.

I became a Byrds fan shortly after the band stopped recording in 1971 and began buying up their 11-album catalog. When I listened to “Sweetheart” for the first time, I was like, “Yech! What’s with this country hillbilly stuff?” And I wasn’t at all pleased with “The Christian Life” or Hillman’s cover of  “I Am a Pilgrim.” I was a Roman Catholic and like any self-respecting cultural Catholic, I didn’t go for all that Jesus stuff.

Parsons, McGuinn, and Hillman sang those Christian songs tongue-in-cheek, as a lark, but former-Catholic, Roger McGuinn, ended up accepting Jesus Christ as his Savior in 1977. I know the Holy Spirit used those two songs in my own journey to Christ.


The Christian Life

My buddies tell me that I should’ve waited
They say I’m missing a whole world of fun
But I still love them and I sing with pride
I like the Christian life

I won’t lose a friend by heeding God’s call
For what is a friend who’d want you to fall
Others find pleasure in things I despise
I like the Christian life

My buddies shun me since I turned to Jesus
They say I’m missing a whole world of fun
I live without them and walk in the light
I like the Christian life

I won’t lose a friend by heeding God’s call
For what is a friend who’d want you to fall
Others find pleasure in things I despise

I like the Christian life
I like the Christian life

I Am A Pilgrim

I am a pilgrim and a stranger
Traveling through this wearisome land
I’ve got a home in that yonder city, good Lord
And it’s not, not made by hand

I’ve got a mother, sister and a brother
Who have gone this way before
I am determined to go and see them, good Lord
For they’re on that other shore

I’m goin’ down to the river of Jordan
Just to bathe my wearisome soul
If I can just touch the hem of his garment, good Lord
Then I know he’d take me home

I am a pilgrim and a stranger
Traveling through this wearisome land
I’ve got a home in that yonder city, good Lord
And it’s not, not made by hand

Additional Gospel songs later recorded by the Byrds would include “Oil In My Lamp” and “Jesus Is Just Alright” from Ballad of Easy Rider (1969), “Glory, Glory” from Byrdmaniax (1971), and “Farther Along” from Farther Along (1971).

See my 1400-word review of “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” written in 2018 here.

Throwback Thursday: KJV 1611-Only?

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on May 19, 2016 and has been revised. I don’t usually dwell on disagreements over secondary issues, but sometimes they can’t be avoided, especially when proponents of a particular view insist it’s a salvation issue.

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The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust Modern Translations?
By James R. White
Bethany House, 2009, 364 pages

5 Stars

I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior way back in 1983. There were many people and circumstances that pointed me to the Savior along the way, including a couple of guys at work. Jose and Ray knew I was interested in God and spiritual matters and would eagerly stop me in the hallway to strike up a conversation. I must admit, sometimes when I saw them coming from a distance, I turned and walked the other way. Can anyone else relate? But the Lord had been drawing me to Him for quite awhile, and I eventually accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior.

Jose and Ray were thrilled that I had accepted Christ, but they cautioned me that I needed to immediately plug into a good, Bible-believing church that only used the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. They advised me that all of the modern Bible versions were corrupt. Although I had just received Christ, I was no stranger to Christianity. I had done much reading and was already aware of the claims of the KJV 1611-only advocates.

Jose and Ray invited me to their church, First Bible Baptist* in Rochester, NY, and I visited a couple of times, but the church’s strong stance on the KJV bothered me. I asked Ray, “If the KJV is the only legitimate translation, then what about all the other people in the world who can’t read English? What do they do?” Ray answered that if modern translators used the KJV as their source-text for non-English Bibles then everything would be fine. Well, no translator is going to translate a translation when the ancient manuscripts are available. I also knew enough about translating to know that no two individuals would translate the KJV’s 17th-century English into another language using the EXACT same wording. Who then would judge which of the translations would be the “authorized” one? If the KJV 1611-only view was correct, then it appeared that God preferred English-speaking people over non-English-speakers. We Americans often have a parochial, myopic view when it comes to the rest of the world and I saw the KJV 1611-only mindset as another example of that.

Not wanting to attend a KJV 1611-only church, I looked through the yellow pages and chose another independent Baptist church close to our home. The pastor there used the King James Version, but he wasn’t dogmatic about it. Not once in the 8 years that we attended did he preach about the sole legitimacy of the KJV. I used the KJV at church like most everyone else in the congregation, but I read from my New American Standard Bible (NASB) at home. The archaic 17th-century English of the KJV seemed to me to be unnecessary baggage to have to deal with while reading the Bible.

I observed the KJV 1611-only controversy from a distance. Peter Ruckman spoke at week-long services at First Bible Baptist a couple of times. Anyone else remember him? Pastor Ruckman was based down in Florida and was one of the standard bearers of the KJV 1611-only movement. Ruckman’s weekly church services were televised in our area and his sermons always seemed to bring up the inerrancy of the KJV and the corruption of the modern translations. His messages usually included ad hominem attacks on anyone who didn’t agree with his KJV 1611-only viewpoint. Ruckman even went so far as to claim that if a particular text was found in the KJV, but not in the early manuscripts (and there are examples), then the additions to the KJV were divinely inspired!

So, I’ve been aware of the KJV 1611-only controversy for quite some time, but never gave it too much attention. After having walked away from the Lord for a very long “season,” I returned to Him two years ago. I continue to use the NASB in my daily Bible reading,** but also have a New International Version (NIV) since that is the translation used by our pastor. I began this blog last July and I’ve noticed from reading other blogs that there are still very strong advocates of the KJV 1611-only viewpoint. To educate myself a bit better, I recently read “The King James Only Controversy” by apologist, James R. White. I was already familiar with White because of his outstanding work defending the Gospel against the errors of Roman Catholicism.

I enjoyed “The King James Only Controversy” and found it to be very informative. I sincerely doubt those who hold to the KJV 1611-only viewpoint would consider it, but the reader who is curious about the controversy might find White’s book as helpful as I did.

Some thoughts from the book:

  • The English language Bible has a long history. The KJV translators relied heavily on the previous work of earlier translators such as Erasmus, Stephanus, and Beza. The KJV translators never considered their work to be inerrant and inspired, but only the best possible translation at the time. Early KJV Bibles referenced textual variations in the margins.
  • KJV 1611-only advocates are actually using a revision first published in 1769.
  • Several passages in the KJV are shown to be errors or extremely poor translations.
  • Variations in the ancient manuscripts can and should be examined objectively.
  • Modern translations (NASB, NIV, ESV, NKJV) are dependable. There are good reasons for the differences between the KJV and modern translations, but no translation is perfect, including the KJV.

Emotions run high on this issue. This post will surely offend some. Because KJV 1611-only advocates see the KJV as the inerrant, inspired translation of the Bible, they see any disagreement with their view as a direct attack on God’s Word and an attack on God Himself. There are actually many in the KJV 1611-only camp who go so far as to claim that anyone who does not use the KJV exclusively is not a genuine Christian. I’m not a Bible manuscript scholar, far from it, but I offer White’s book as a thoughtful rebuttal to the KJV 1611-only argument. This post is NOT an attack on God and His Word, although, if you’re a KJV 1611-only advocate, I’m sure you’ll see it that way.***

I’m not claiming that all translations are equal. Christians need to be discerning and must do a little homework. I would never recommend that anyone use a paraphrase Bible as their primary Bible, but I occasionally check a paraphrase Bible (NLT) as a resource.

The Pilgrims and Puritan Protestants came to America with the Geneva Bible, not the KJV. The translators of the KJV were high-church Anglicans and the Puritans viewed the KJV with great suspicion. The article below gives an interesting history of the English Bible for those who don’t want to go to all the trouble of buying and reading White’s book.


http://www.greatsite.com/timeline-english-bible-history/

* The pastor of First Bible Baptist church at the time was James Modlish, a key figure in the KJV 1611-only movement.

**Note from 2021: I’ve been using the ESV the last several years.

***Another note from 2021: KJV 1611-Onlyism is still a popular paradigm within what remains of independent Baptist fundamentalism. Because of this book, KJV 1611-Onlyists view James R. White as a pawn of Satan.

Throwback Thursday: Okay! Okay! Alright already!

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on May 23, 2016 and has been slightly revised.

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When I read/watch a media interview of an older person, there’s often a question at the end asking if the individual has any regrets in their life. I have more than a few things in my own life that I’m regretful about.

Our pastor is currently doing a series on Sundays on proper parenting in the Lord. Ouch! That’s a very tough topic for me. My wife and I married very young and began having children right away. We were basically kids raising kids. My model for fathering was my own Dad. He didn’t have to spank too often because he was pretty strict right from the get-go. We didn’t have much of a relationship. My Dad was a VERY formal and private person and found it difficult to get down to a child’s level. I found out many years later that his own father had been very strict and tough on him.

When I accepted the Lord I was 26 and our boys were 8 and 5. I was joyful and enthusiastic about my relationship with the Lord , but for some reason I didn’t do a good job of communicating that joy and knowledge to our boys. We all packed into our minivan and went to church on Sunday mornings and Sunday nights and on Wednesday evenings. I thought that was more than enough. We didn’t read the Bible together as a family. We didn’t pray together. When I counseled them about anything, mention of the Lord rarely entered into it. I guess I was thinking that they were getting enough about God at church and that I didn’t need to bring Him up at home, too. Ach! What a dummy!

I was also very firm with my boys just as my Dad had been with me. The older they got, the more rebellious they became, and the more of a tyrant I became. I was trying to control their behaviors, but I had done very little sowing and working in their hearts along the way. My boys and I had a lot of fun together playing outside, watching sports, etc., things my father couldn’t do, but I could also turn into a disapproving and critical drill sergeant on a dime.

I had become exasperated with our independent fundamental Baptist church and we stopped attending when my boys were 16 and 13. I didn’t mention the Lord at all after that. After some VERY difficult teenage years, both our boys went into the Air Force. My wife and I actually divorced after our youngest son went into the service as our circumstances were changing so quickly and the Lord was not our foundation.

Praise the Lord, my wife and I got back together the following year, and we remarried! The Lord kept working on my heart and I finally returned to Him in 2014. Our sons are now 46 and 42 and they’ve done “okay” as the world might define it, but neither one knows the Lord and they both have very messy domestic situations. I’ve apologized to both of them for being such an inept father and they’ve both been more gracious than I deserve.

So hearing about the proper way to raise children every Sunday is very hard for me, especially when my wife turns to me occasionally during the sermons with that “look” on her face. Thanks, Dear. The Lord wants us to realize our sins and mistakes and to learn from them, but He doesn’t want us to dwell on them either. Great is His mercy and forgiveness! If the apostle Paul had dwelt on his earlier persecutions of the church, he would have been no use to the Lord whatsoever.

So if you’ve wronged someone; children, spouse, family, friends, acquaintances, seek the Lord’s forgiveness, seek their forgiveness, and then move forward with the Lord in your heart. Satan wants to keep you defeated. The Lord wants to use you for His glory! We have children and grandchildren we need to reach for the Lord! Young parents, make Christ the center of your household and everything you do with your children.

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” – Ephesians 6:4

“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.” – Psalm 37:23-24

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” – Psalm 147:3

“Thoroughly wash me, inside and out, of all my crooked deeds. Cleanse me from my sins. For I am fully aware of all I have done wrong, and my guilt is there, staring me in the face. It was against You, only You, that I sinned, for I have done what You say is wrong, right before Your eyes. So when You speak, You are in the right. When You judge, Your judgments are pure and true.” – Psalm 51:2-4

“Whoever tries to hide his sins will not succeed, but the one who confesses his sins and leaves them behind will find mercy. Happy is the one who always fears the Lord, but the person who hardens his heart to God falls into misfortune.” – Proverbs 28:13-14

Throwback Thursday: Catholic religious calculus: No double-dipping!

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on May 24, 2016 and has been revised.

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Today, I was listening to the 2/11/16 podcast of the “Calling All Catholics” talk radio show on The Station of the Cross (101.7 FM in Buffalo, N.Y.) featuring Catholic priest, Rick Poblocki, taking questions from callers. Rick began the show by humbly correcting some advice he had previously given.

A couple of days before, a Catholic woman had called into the show and asked Rick if it was okay to pray the Stations of the Cross at her church at the same time she was at the church for eucharistic adoration. Catholics are granted “indulgences” in order to mitigate future sufferings in purgatory by practicing either activity, and the woman wanted to know if she could essentially get two for the price of one. Let’s briefly look at the two practices.

The Stations of the Cross

For my evangelical friends, Catholic churches have 14 plaques stationed around the sanctuary, which depict various events in the trial, suffering, and crucifixion of Jesus. Five of the 14 events; Jesus meeting His mother Mary (IV), Jesus having His face wiped by “saint” Veronica (VI), and Jesus falling three times (III, VII, IX) as He pressed on to Calvary are apocryphal and are not mentioned in the Gospels. Pope John Paul II came up with a different series of 14 events – the Biblically-accurate “Scriptural Form” – which some parishes have adopted.

Catholics walk from station to station and pray the assigned rote prayers. This practice is especially popular during Lent. Praying the Stations of the Cross is classified officially as a “devotion.” Catholics are taught a “plenary” (full) indulgence can be earned by following the Stations of the Cross.  This means that all of the temporal punishment for confessed sins not yet fully expiated up to that point in a person’s life are “remitted” (canceled). Catholics believe they could spend hundreds and even thousands of years in purgatory receiving the temporal punishment that remains after they die, so receiving a plenary indulgence is a big deal, although probably 90% of today’s Catholics would have no clue what a “plenary indulgence” was if you asked them. The vast majority of Catholics these days can’t even be bothered with attending obligatory mass on Sundays let alone coming to church during the week and praying the Stations of the Cross.

Question from an ex-Catholic evangelical: If someone begins the Stations of the Cross, but has to stop after Station XIII because of a family emergency, do they still earn a plenary indulgence or is the indulgence benefit pro rated?

Eucharistic Adoration

As for eucharistic adoration, Catholics believe their priests change bread wafers into the actual body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ during the mass. Sometimes a large eucharist wafer is placed inside an ornate gold display piece called a “monstrance.” The monstrance has a glass window so the wafer is visible. Catholics come to church at designated times to worship and adore the eucharist wafer, which they believe to be Jesus Christ. Catholics are taught they receive a partial indulgence (of indeterminate time) if they visit with the eucharistic Jesus wafer for less than thirty minutes and receive a plenary indulgence if they visit for more than thirty minutes. Anybody got a stopwatch? Who decided on thirty minutes? Why not twenty-five? Why not thirty-five? Can 29:30 minutes be rounded-up or is 30:00 minutes a precise non-negotiable? Eucharistic adoration is officially classified as a “benediction.”

http://www.catholic.org/prayers/indulgw.php

Catholicism’s dizzying religious calculus vs. the simple Gospel

So, back to our caller’s question. Initially, it was clear from the tone of his voice that Rick wasn’t thrilled about the caller’s proposition of praying the stations AND adoring the eucharist Jesus wafer at the same time, but he concluded by saying it was “probably” okay. However, when Rick came back on the air on February 11 he had some egg on his face, saying he had checked the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops web site (see below) and discovered that Catholics cannot double-dip. A “devotion” like the Stations of the Cross and a “benediction” like the eucharistic adoration cannot be mixed. It’s either one or the other. Catholics aren’t allowed to do both at the same time.

http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/prayers-and-devotions/adoration/devotions-and-eucharistic-adoration.cfm

So, is it a mortal sin if a Catholic tries to double dip by participating in both activities at the same time or is it only a venial sin? Or is it that they just don’t get ANY indulgences?

Are you all still with me? I wouldn’t be surprised if many readers dropped away several paragraphs ago. The Roman Catholic church’s rituals and rubrics are so complicated that even a veteran priest like Rick can’t keep them all straight. But the Good News! of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone is so simple even a child can understand it. Accept Jesus as your Savior. Religious ritual doesn’t save. Only Jesus saves. Accept Christ as your Savior by faith alone and ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church in your area that preaches God’s Word without compromise.

“Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” – Mark 7:13

“They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.” – Matthew 23:4

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

Throwback Thursday: “Rescuing the Gospel” aka The Reformation – 101

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on May 25, 2016 and has been revised.

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Rescuing the Gospel: The Story and Significance of the Reformation
By Erwin W. Lutzer
Baker Books, 2016, hardcover, 224 pages

5 Stars

With the 500th anniversary of the Reformation coming up in the Fall of 2017, we can expect the publication of many books on the subject. Every evangelical should, at the least, be “somewhat” familiar with the struggles of the men and women of the 16th-century, who, led by God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, sought to return the church from Roman Catholic ritualism and legalism to the New Testament Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Sadly, many of today’s seeker-friendly mega-church pastors never reference the Reformation.

“Rescuing the Gospel” is an excellent introduction to the Reformation for those who want to get just an essential understanding. It’s basically a “Reformation 101” in an easy-to-read style and a very attractive format with many small, color illustrations. It’s abundantly evident that this book was a labor of love for author, Erwin Lutzer, retired pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

The book begins by examining the absolute corruption of the Roman Catholic church in the Middle Ages. The early church had gradually devolved from preaching simple, saving faith in Jesus Christ into ritualism, legalism, ceremonialism, and superstition, all tightly controlled by the increasingly despotic clergy. The popes, cardinals, and bishops had adopted flagrantly wicked lifestyles. Early reformers like John Wycliffe in England and Jan Hus in Bohemia defiantly challenged Rome’s teachings and practices. The bulk of the book focuses on Martin Luther’s rebellion against church authority beginning with the nailing of his 95 theses to the cathedral door in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517. Luther was a complex man with his share of faults, but he was used mightily by the Lord to return the church back to the Gospel. Lutzer then turns to the important contributions of Huldrych Zwingli in Zurich and John Calvin in Geneva, as well as a few others. The Reformers had several failings and missteps (e.g., Luther’s liturgicalism and anti-Semitism, Zwingli’s alliance with civil government), which the author readily acknowledges. It would be up to succeeding Reformers to chip away at remaining vestiges of Roman error.

Perhaps the best part of this book is the final chapter: “Is the Reformation Over?” Today, some evangelicals clamor for unity with Rome despite the remaining irreconcilable differences in doctrine. Most importantly, the Roman Catholic church continues to teach salvation by sacramental grace and merit in contrast to the Good News! of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Some undiscerning evangelicals hear “grace” and “faith” mentioned by Catholic representatives and proclaim, “Close enough!,” while purposely ignoring the fine print. Lutzer calls for evangelicals to continue to rescue the Gospel of grace from the Catholic church and all other groups and individuals who believe “that it is up to them to contribute to their salvation and that they must make themselves worthy to receive it “ (p.200). Lutzer suggests that our task to uphold the Gospel may be even more difficult than in Luther’s day because of the compromise with error WITHIN evangelicalism. It’s our unending job to rescue and defend the genuine Gospel of grace and to proclaim it! The Reformation continues.

If you’re interested in reading a basic examination of the Reformation without the challenges and obstacles of a lengthy academic tome, THIS is your book. It would also make a wonderful gift for anyone who loves the Gospel. I’m not one to collect books on a dusty bookshelf anymore, but this one’s a keeper! Order from Amazon here.

Throwback Thursday: Five reasons why I cannot pray to the Virgin Mary

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on May 26th, 2016.

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Why I do not pray to Mary: Five reasons why I cannot pray to the Virgin Mary
By Will Graham
Evangelical Focus
2/20/16

Mary. What a wonderful woman of God. Her faith, her obedience and her wholehearted submission to the will of God never cease to amaze me.

Down and throughout the ages few saints have been as sorely tried and tested as she was; and yet through it all, she remained faithful to the God of Israel and to the Son she so problematically bore. No Bible loving person can fail to be moved by Mary’s God-centered love; but at the same time, no Bible reader could ever fall into the trap of turning Jesus’ mother into a quasi-Savior-like figure to whom we must pray and intercede earnestly (and through whom we have access to the Father). Such thinking is a blatant distortion of New Testament faith. So do I pray to Mary? No, I don’t. Why don’t I pray to her? Let me offer you a bouquet of reasons.

1.- Mary isn’t God
One, I don’t pray to Mary because Mary isn’t God. The Bible makes it crystal clear that prayer is to be directed to God and God alone. The Bible strictly prohibits the deification of any creature in the stead of God. I can’t help thinking how horrified mild Mary would have been had she realized that so many billions of biblically ignorant ‘believers’ would use her name to usurp the authority of the Almighty.

See the rest of the article via the link below:
http://evangelicalfocus.com/magazine/1379/Why_I_do_not_pray_to_Mary

Throwback Thursday: Where are the Lloyd-Jonses and Spurgeons of today?

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on May 26, 2016 and has been slightly revised.

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These days, messages about correct doctrine generally won’t be received by evangelicals with any measure of enthusiasm. That applies not only to WordPress blogs but also to evangelical pulpits. Sermons at seeker-sensitive mega-churches are largely written with the goal of not offending anyone. Doing so would negatively impact the numbers. What we now have in evangelicalism is a watered-down brand of Christianity that’s long on feel-good emotionalism, but short on theological content. “We all ‘believe’ in Jesus and that’s good enough,” is the message people want to hear. More often than not, that’s what they get. I understand there are many secondary differences among evangelicals that won’t be resolved this side of glory, but the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone should never be compromised. Religious error that opposes or confuses the Gospel of grace should never be accommodated or cooperated with. It should, in fact, be exposed. But that message doesn’t play in Peoria.

The article below examines the similarities between Charles Spurgeon and Martyn Lloyd-Jones, two men of God from the past who weren’t afraid to point at heresy (like Roman Catholicism’s salvation system) and call it heresy. Where are the Spurgeons and Lloyd-Joneses of today?

Lord, raise up pastors and Christian leaders who are faithful to You and Your Word rather than crowd pleasers.


10 similarities between Charles Spurgeon and Martyn Lloyd-Jones: What do Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Charles Spurgeon have in common?
By Will Graham
Evangelical Focus
January 23, 2016

Against all odds, two deceased British preachers are coming back into fashion in our days, and not just in the English-speaking world. Thanks to a great resurgence in the Protestant faith throughout the Hispanic world, the nineteenth-century “Prince of Preachers” Charles Spurgeon and the twentieth-century “Prince of Expositors” Martyn Lloyd-Jones are selling hundreds of thousands of books every year. Due to the renewed interest in these two defenders of the Gospel, this article will draw out ten similarities between Spurgeon and Lloyd-Jones so that we may know them better and follow their example of faithfulness to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…

To read the rest of the article click on the link below:

https://evangelicalfocus.com/fresh-breeze/1307/10-similarities-between-charles-spurgeon-and-martyn-lloyd-jones


For Spurgeon’s and Lloyd-Jones’ views on Roman Catholicism, see my relevant posts here and here.