Throwback Thursday: Searching for the Reformers; Hus and Zwingli

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

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There’s only a few days left on our 12-day trip to Martinshöhe, Germany to visit with family. It’s been very enjoyable, especially the time we’ve been able to spend with our grandson. We’re so grateful to the Lord to be able to be with him.

This was our third visit to Germany and each time my wife and I have taken a side-trip somewhere by ourselves to break things up. This time we visited Konstanz, Germany and Zürich, Switzerland. My wife’s grandfather was originally from Zürich and she had always wanted to visit there. I knew that the Swiss Reformer, Huldrych Zwingli, had been based in Zürich and that also sparked my personal interest. While researching our 5-hour trip to Zürich, I discovered the Bohemian/Czech pre-Reformer, Jan Hus, had been martyred in Konstanz, a city on our route. The house Hus had briefly lived in is now a museum, so we decided to visit there also.

We rented a car Tuesday morning and started off to Konstanz, a trip of 4 hours. When we arrived there we discovered parking was impossible, just like all European cities. We drove around looking for a hotel, but found nothing suitable; no big hotel chains in this small city. But we drove by the famous Konzil (Council) building where the Catholic church’s infamous Council of Constance (1414-1418) had convened. The Council found Jan Hus guilty of heresy and delivered him to the magistrates to be burned at the stake. The Council also elected a new pope because no one could figure out which of the three rival popes claiming the office at the time was the “legitimate” pontiff. The house where Hus lived prior to his trial was located in the pedestrians-only, old town section of the city and could not be seen from the road. With all the hassles of trying to find a hotel, we decided to push on to Zürich and stop again at Konstanz on our return.

We arrived in Zürich an hour later and relaxed for the rest of the evening. On Wednesday morning we were up bright and early and took a commuter train to the old town section. Our seven-hour walk took us through the winding, very narrow streets of the old town. The highlight for me was visiting the Grossmünster (“Great cathedral”) where Zwingli preached. While reading Erasmus’ New Testament translation, the Holy Spirit led Zwingli, like his more well-known contemporary, Martin Luther, to trust in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone and to pursue several reforms to return the church to the simple yet sublime Gospel of grace. We thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Grossmünster with its stark interior (Zwingli had removed and destroyed all of the idolatrous Catholic statuary). Not far from the church we saw Zwingli’s parsonage. After several more hours of strolling through Zürich’s old city section, we returned to the hotel happily exhausted.

Thursday morning, we began our trip back to Martinshöhe. We stopped at Konstanz once again, but decided the hassle of trying to find a parking spot and the long walk to the old town was not worth it for just a quick photo of the Hus house. I would have happily made the sacrifice had I been traveling alone, but, unfortunately, my wife does not share my enthusiasm for history.

I am so grateful to the Lord for raising up Reformers like Hus and Zwingli. Defying the Roman Catholic church usually meant certain death in those days. If you haven’t read about Hus and Zwingli, I would encourage you to do so. Succeeding Reformers would move the church even farther away from vestiges of Roman legalism and ritualism, but these brave men took the first very dangerous steps. Although Rome has not changed any of its major doctrines, some contemporary evangelical leaders are lining up to betray the Gospel and embrace Catholicism, as if the Reformation had never occurred. Many evangelicals would rather indulge in spiritual cotton candy rather than bother with any of the nitty gritty history of the Reformation.

Above: The Jan Hus House in Konstanz, Germany. Hus resided here for three weeks in November 1414 before he was imprisoned and his trial for heresy began.
Above: This monument in Konstanz commemorates the martyrdom of Jan Hus. It’s located midway between the Konzil Building where Hus was tried, and the Konzil Cathedral (Münster) where he was condemned to death.
Above: This monument stone in Konstanz marks the spot where Jan Hus was burnt alive at the stake.
Above: The Konzil Building (“Konzilgebäude”) in Konstanz, Germany built in 1388 where the Council of Constance (1414-1418) tried pre-Reformer Jan Hus as a heretic and also deposed the three rival claimants to the papal throne, John XXIII, Gregory XII, and Benedict XIII.

Postscript: In a speech delivered in Prague, Czech Republic on December 18, 1999, pope John Paul II expressed “deep sorrow” for the death of Jan Hus. How can a modern pope apologize for the ruling of a RC church council? What does that say about the RCC’s vaunted Magisterium?

Throwback Wednesday: See Jesus via web cam, 24/7?

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Huh? But it’s only Wednesday? Yup, I realize I’m a day early, but I had to do a little rearranging to accommodate tomorrow’s timely post. Today, we’re going to revisit an article that was originally published back on April 17, 2016 and has been revised.

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Did you know Roman Catholics believe they can see Jesus Christ 24/7 via web cam? First, a little background.

I’ve mentioned many times that evangelicals and Catholics view the Lord’s Supper VERY differently. Evangelicals partake of the symbolic elements of the Lord’s Supper with great humility and thanksgiving as we remember that our Lord gave His body and blood as a sacrifice for our sins so that we could have eternal life in Him.

Catholicism, on the other hand, teaches its priests change bread wafers and wine into the actual body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ at every mass. The priest then offers up Jesus the “host” (victim) to God the Father as a sacrifice for the “venial” (small, pardonable) sins* of those present, along with those of the pope, the local bishop, and anyone else mentioned (including souls suffering in purgatory). Many of the attendees then line up to receive a Jesus wafer (Jesus wine from a shared cup is optional). Communion recipients are taught that Jesus is physically present inside of them for 15 minutes as their body digests the wafer. The RC church teaches the venial sins of the participants can be forgiven at any point during the mass, but especially during the penitential rite portion and at Holy Communion. Catholics believe the consecrated Jesus wafer imparts graces to the recipients to help them obey the Ten Commandments (impossible!) in order to possibly merit Heaven at the moment of their death.

The sacrament of the “eucharist” (thanksgiving) is the central tenet of the Catholic belief system. Rather than receiving Jesus as Savior by faith spiritually, Catholicism sadly misinterprets John 6 and the Last Supper discourses in the gospels and insists that Jesus must be physically eaten in order to attain salvation. Catholics give lip service to “grace” and “faith,” but believe they must ultimately merit their salvation by obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and man-made church rules with help from the alleged Jesus wafer.

After every mass, any leftover Jesus wafers are stored in a locked box called the “tabernacle,” to be distributed later to the sick and housebound. On occasion, priests will set a large Jesus wafer in an ornate viewing container called a “monstrance.” Catholics are invited to come to church separately from the mass to worship and adore the Jesus wafer as “he” rests in the transparent container. In some churches, volunteers sign up for time slots so that the Jesus wafer will be worshiped around the clock in “perpetual adoration.”

I’m currently reading “Another Jesus: The Eucaristic Christ and the New Evangelization” by Roger Oakland and I wanted to pass along a bit of information that’s presented. There are a few Catholic religious orders that do nothing else but worship the Jesus wafer. The members of the order eat, sleep, and worship the wafer. In his book, Oakland mentions a web site (see link below)  maintained by the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters, which includes a live web cam of a Jesus wafer in a monstrance. That’s right! Catholics can view and worship the wafer Jesus any time they want within the privacy and comfort of their own homes.

http://www.savior.org/

Several such “Jesus cams” are available on the internet so that Catholics can worship and adore the virtual Jesus wafer 24/7.

Catholic friend, accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone. Jesus is not locked away in a gold box or in a monstrance as a bread wafer. He’s sitting at the right hand of the Father and He’s waiting for you to forsake your dependence on your church membership and your religious laundry list and to accept Him as your Savior by faith alone.

“At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time. So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.” – Matthew 24:23-28

“Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” – Hebrews 10:11-14

*Catholicism teaches that “mortal” (major) sins can only be forgiven by a priest in the confessional booth or while administering last rites.

Postscript: On occasions when Catholic churches have caught on fire, pious Catholics have been known to enter the burning building to “rescue” the Jesus wafers stored in the altar tabernacle. See my relevant post here.

Throwback Thursday: IFB Memories #1: Picking through egg rolls?

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on April 28, 2016 and has been revised.

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I’ve mentioned several times that shortly after my wife and I accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior back in 1983, we joined an independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) church in our area. I can best describe it as a church that emulated Jerry Falwell and his Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia; VERY heavy into politics and patriotism and also VERY heavy into waging culture battles. We grew in the Lord “somewhat” while we were there, but there were also A LOT of legalistic attitudes at that church, which eventually wore us down to the point that we stopped attending in 1991. I even walked away from the Lord for the next twenty-three years because I had become so exasperated with “churchianity.”

We have a lot of memories of that church, both good and bad, but some of the members did some outlandish things. I was driving home from work yesterday and recalled the following illustrative episode:

One day my wife and I went out to dinner with another couple from the church, Greg and Gail. We chose to eat at The Shanghai, a nearby Chinese restaurant, and just like at many Chinese restaurants, we were all served egg rolls as an appetizer. Both Greg and Gail immediately proceeded to cut open their egg rolls and pick out the tiny strands of pork that were embedded in the shredded cabbage with their forks. I asked them what they were doing and they answered the Bible forbids believers to eat pork. Hoo boy! I told them the Old Testament dietary laws were done away with by the New Testament covenant (see Mark 7:17-23 and Acts 10:9-15), but they were having none of it and continued to pick out the pork, but said for us to go ahead if we were fine with eating it. Yes, I know we’re told in Scripture not to offend those who still struggle with OT dietary laws (Romans 14:1-23), but those two were not Jewish and it was not 57 AD!!! Time to read the entire Bible, folks! Well, as you might suspect, I ate the entire contents of my egg rolls and savored every pork shred. I would not be a party to such un-Scriptural persnicketiness by also picking through my egg rolls. There were other, similar legalities that the people in that church engaged in. The general attitude fostered that kind of nitpicky scrupulosity and judgmentalism. These were my brothers and sisters in the Lord and I probably shouldn’t point out their foibles, but I use the experience as an example of how we should be on guard against scrupulous legalism.

Thank you, Jesus, for fulfilling the entire law and saving me by grace through faith in You alone. Help me to know Your entire Word. And thank you for pork chops and barbecue ribs – in moderation of course!

Throwback Thursday: The Jesus wafer?

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

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Another Jesus: The Eucharistic Jesus and the New Evangelization
By Roger Oakland with Jim Tetlow
Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2007, 185 pages

Roman Catholics are taught their priests supernaturally transform bread wafers and wine into the actual body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ at every mass. The priests then allegedly offer up the “host” (victim) as a sacrifice to God the Father for the sins of the attendees and those mentioned. Some of the participants, those allegedly with no stain of mortal sin on their soul, line up to receive a “consecrated” wafer into their mouths so that they can eat Jesus. During the fifteen minutes the wafer is acted upon by their stomach’s digestive acids, the recipients are told they receive graces enabling them to avoid committing mortal sins in the future.*

In this book, evangelical apologist, Roger Oakland, examines all aspects of the sacrament of the eucharist, the alleged “source and summit” of Catholic “spirituality.” Catholics pity their Protestant “separated brethren” because they alone claim to have the “real presence” of Jesus in their consecrated bread wafers. Evangelicals who think Catholicism is a genuine form of Christianity, albeit with a lot of quirky ritualism, would find this book on the nuts and bolts of Catholic wafer worship very illuminating.

Trying to merit your way into Heaven by perfectly obeying the Ten Commandments is impossible. We break God’s laws every single day. Those who claim they have no mortal sin on their soul might delude themselves, but they don’t deceive God who sees every sinful thought, motive, and action. But Jesus Christ, God the Son, came to this world and died on the cross for your sins. He rose from the grave, conquering sin and death, and offers eternal life and fellowship with God to all those who trust in Him as Savior by faith alone. Taking a bread wafer into your mouth won’t help you. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone.

“Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.” – Galatians 2:16

Chapters

  • Deception in His Name
  • A Missionary Vision
  • Understanding the Eucharist
  • The Eucharist: A Biblical Review
  • The Monstrance – A Container for Christ?
  • The New Evangelization
  • Adoring the Eucharist
  • Eucharistic Miracles
  • Eucharistic Conversions
  • The Mary Connection
  • The Eucharistic Reign of Christ
  • The Passion and the Eucharist
  • The Biblical Jesus and the Gospel
  • A Christian’s Commission

Order “Another Jesus: The Eucharistic Jesus and the New Evangelization” from Amazon.com or Lighthouse Trails.

*Note from March 2021: Roman Catholics have generally been restricted from receiving the “all-important” Jesus wafer the last twelve months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Has God been grading Catholics who died the past year on a curve because of the inaccessibility of the Jesus wafer? I’m being facetious. The pandemic exposes the untenability of Roman Catholicism’s sacrament-based salvation system.

Throwback Thursday: What would you do if you found a wallet containing $1000 in cash?

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on April 28, 2016 and has been revised.

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There’s several verses in the Bible that state there is NOT ONE person on the planet who is good and pure of heart. Even the things we do that we think are good, the Bible calls filthy rags in God’s sight. How could that be? Well, even our good deeds are tainted by less-than-pure motives and attitudes. An example of that came up this morning.

My wife and I were watching the television news during breakfast and there was a story about a shopper who absentmindedly placed her wallet on the roof of her car as she loaded her purchases onto the back seat. As she drove off, her wallet containing $1000 in cash tumbled to the parking lot pavement. A stranger noticed the wallet on the ground and returned it back to its owner.

I asked my wife if she would have returned the wallet also, already knowing her answer. “Of course, I would have to return it,” she said. “I couldn’t face Jesus if I kept that money.” Most believers would answer the same way, but my own response was a little more complex. I said I would certainly return the wallet, but my expectation would be that the owner offer at least a portion of the $1000 to me for being so honest and for going to all that trouble. I probably wouldn’t accept any reward, but my expectation would be that a reward should at least be offered. And so, for most of the kind things we do, we’re expecting some sort of reciprocity. I’ll do this for you if you do that for me. What if I returned the wallet and the owner didn’t even say “Thank you” let alone offer a reward? Oy! Then I’d really be indignant!

In our relationships with our beloved family members and friends we sometimes catch a glimpse of pure, unselfish love, but let’s not kid ourselves. The current divorce rate and the number of people seeking counseling and prescription medications to help deal with the emotional fallout from their relationships, past and present, reveal just how far we are from God’s perfect and unselfish love.

Thirty-years ago, I worked with a guy named Jimmy and we became good friends. In the course of a work week, over-the-road drivers would make regular deliveries to our building’s dock and would often ask Jimmy to help them unload their trucks with the offer of some “under-the-table” cash. But while Jimmy was helping the drivers, I often had to pick up the resulting slack involved with our regular work. However, Jimmy never offered me a dime. Humph! Such inconsideration! One day, Jimmy asked if I had seen a $20 bill from this extra work that had accidentally dropped from his pants pocket. When I later walked out to the receiving area, I spotted the crisp, folded bill on the floor and quickly stooped down and slipped it into my own pocket. Since Jimmy never offered me any of his supplemental cash, I could very easily justify the “small” theft. Yes, I could rationalize stealing from a friend with very little inhibition. But that’s just one sin. I disobey God’s laws in thought, word, deed, or by omission every single day. Some people think they do a pretty good job obeying the Ten Commandments, but the Holy Spirit reveals to me that I’m very far from God’s perfect standard.

Thank you, Jesus, for dying for me and freeing me from the bonds of sin even though I deserve hell and eternal judgement. Help me to mirror your unselfish love to others. If you haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone, what are you waiting for?

“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” – Isaiah 64:6

“As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” – Romans 3:10-20

Throwback Thursday: The “Coexist” bumper sticker

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on April 27th, 2016 and has been only slightly revised.

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I was driving home from work today when I spotted a “Coexist” bumper sticker on the back of the car in front of me. You’re no doubt familiar with these stickers. In place of the letters, C-o-e-x-i-s-t, the sticker substitutes symbols of various religious and humanistic belief systems. The original design was created by Polish graphic artist,  Piotr Mlodozeniec, in 2000 and has been revised by several others.

A few sources describe the symbols as follows:

  • The C with the star is the crescent moon, the symbol for Islam.
  • The O is the symbol for peace.
  • The E includes the symbols for male & female with some also saying the “e” is symbolic of science (i.e., E=mc2).
  • The X is the star of David, symbol for Judaism.
  • The I is dotted with a Wiccan pentagram.
  • The S is the symbol for the yin-yang, supposedly representing Eastern religions such as Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.
  • The T is the cross, the symbol for Christianity.

The combined symbols are meant to signify the supposed capacity of humans of different religious beliefs to live together in peace, harmony, and you-do-your-thing-and-I’ll-do-mine relativism.

Every genuine, born-again believer who sees that sticker knows better. There is only one way to ultimate peace and salvation and that’s through Jesus Christ. All other religions are idolatry. When I see a car brandishing a Coexist bumper sticker, I say to myself, that poor soul doesn’t know Jesus. We need to tell more people about the Savior. I surely try to love all people, but I don’t respect their idolatrous religions.

But the leader of a 1.2 billion member “christian” denomination teaches something very similar to that bumper sticker. The Catholic pope declares that people of all religions can be saved “if they follow the light they’ve been given” and are “good.” He says EVEN atheists will be saved if they “follow their conscience” and are “good.” That message is straight from hell. Every born-again believer who embraces the Catholic church as Christian needs to turn off TBN and start reading their Bible again.

“There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4:12

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.” – Matthew 10:34-36

For more Bible verses that teach Jesus is the only way to God see below:

JESUS THE ONLY WAY

Throwback Thursday: Is it OK to eat Chicken in a Biskit crackers on Fridays during Lent?

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the first day of the 40-day Lenten season for Roman Catholics. So for today’s Throwback Thursday installment, we’re rolling out this old chestnut that was originally published back on February 22, 2016 and has become an annual Lenten staple here at excatholic4christ. Enjoy!

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This morning, I was listening to the 10/30/15 podcast of the Calling All Catholics talk radio show on The Station of the Cross, 101.7 FM, out of Buffalo, New York. Catholic priest, Dave Baker, was taking questions, assisted by moderator, Mike Denz.

One of the listeners had a question regarding the church’s rule on mandatory abstinence from meat on Fridays during Lent, which I thought was quite timely because we’re currently in the Lenten season. Because the Catholic church absolutely forbids meat on Fridays during Lent, any Catholic who defiantly consumes meat allegedly commits a “mortal” sin and is doomed to hell for eternity unless they confess the sin to a priest.

But the rule’s not always as cut and dry as a juicy rib-eye steak or a succulent pork chop. The listener wanted to know if the ban on meat even included something like beef bouillon. Priest Baker irresolutely suggested that beef bouillon was “probably” permissible to consume, but encouraged the person to visit the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ web site to get the specific details.

Well, being the curious sinner-saved-by-grace that I am, I went to the USCCB website and found the following information:

Q. I understand that all the Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence from meat, but I’m not sure what is classified as meat. Does meat include chicken and dairy products?

A. Abstinence laws consider that meat comes only from animals such as chickens, cows, sheep or pigs — all of which live on land. Birds are also considered meat. Abstinence does not include meat juices and liquid foods made from meat. Thus, such foods as chicken broth, consomme, soups cooked or flavored with meat, meat gravies or sauces, as well as seasonings or condiments made from animal fat are technically not forbidden. However, moral theologians have traditionally taught that we should abstain from all animal-derived products (except foods such as gelatin, butter, cheese and eggs, which do not have any meat taste). Fish are a different category of animal. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, (cold-blooded animals) and shellfish are permitted.

http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/lent/questions-and-answers-about-lent.cfm

So while the bishops say it’s “technically OK” to consume meat-based broths, gravies, and seasonings, they add that Catholic moral theologians have traditionally taught that Catholics should abstain from all animal-derived products with the exception of products that don’t taste like meat.

Yikes! I’m still confused. This is getting more complicated than college calculus. Okay, let’s try to break it down using my favorite cracker, Chicken in a Biskit, as an example. One of the ingredients listed on the box of the cracker is “dehydrated cooked chicken.” So, is it a “mortal” sin for a Catholic to eat Chicken in a Biskit crackers on Friday during Lent? The U.S. bishops say meat-based seasonings are OK, but then turn around and say the church’s moral theologians forbid any meat derivative that tastes like meat. And, yes, Chicken in a Biskit crackers taste somewhat like chicken. So, which is it? I WANT TO KNOW! Is it OK to eat Chicken in a Biskit crackers or not? Will a Catholic go to hell for all eternity because they ate a Chicken in a Biskit cracker on Friday during Lent????

Ridiculous? Absolutely. The Bible doesn’t say anything about abstaining from meat on Fridays, but it does warn against religious leaders who forbid certain foods. All of these complicated abstinence rules remind me of the Pharisees who took the Mosaic Law that no one could obey absolutely anyway (except for Jesus Christ), and made it even more intricate and burdensome.

Praise the Lord for freeing me from the legalistic chains and man-made traditions of Roman Catholicism! We all sin every day by breaking God’s Biblical commandments. But God loved us so much He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for our sins on the cross. Then Jesus rose from the grave, conquering sin and death, and offers eternal life and fellowship with God to all those who repent (turn from their rebellion against God) and accept Him as Savior by faith alone. Accept Christ and seek out an evangelical church in your area that teaches God’s Word without compromise.

For more of my thoughts regarding Lent see here and here and here.

Throwback Thursday: Why did Jesus tell the apostles to buy a sword?

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on April 29, 2016 and has been revised.

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The Bible is an inexhaustible fountain of knowledge and wisdom. I need God’s Word every day just like I need food, water, and oxygen. The Holy Spirit uses the Word to teach me, correct me, admonish me, encourage me, comfort me, and delight me. Praise the Lord for His wonderful and glorious Word!

The depths of Scripture can never be plumbed in this lifetime. I’ve read verses and passages many times without really understanding the full extent of their meaning. Then one day I’ll be reading a verse and, “Pow!,” the Holy Spirit illuminates it to me so that I really “get it” for the first time. I’m sure that’s happened to many of you as well.

I’m currently reading through Luke and yesterday I was reading chapter 22, verses 35-38:

35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”

I’ve read this passage many times before but it never “clicked” with me. Why did Jesus instruct His apostles to buy a “sword” (Greek: makhaira: generally a large knife or sword with a single cutting edge) when He subsequently rebuked Peter for violently wielding one of those swords in the Garden of Gethsemane just a few verses later (v. 51), causing the reader to question if Jesus had contradicted Himself. I asked the young pastor of the church we attended last year about this seeming contradiction and he confessed he didn’t know the answer. In the documentary, “Fight Church,” the macho son of the macho former-pastor of the independent fundamental Baptist church we used to attend, who is now the pastor, uses these verses to justify Christians owning guns and violently kicking some butt whenever needed.

But as I read the verses yesterday, the Holy Spirit finally illuminated their meaning to me. Jesus told the apostles to buy a sword to fulfill prophetic Scripture:

“Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” – Isaiah 53:12.

Jesus was with Peter and the apostles in Gethsemane when Peter transgressed by using a sword to cut off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest. Jesus was counted among the violent anomos (lawbreakers). Oh, I get it now! It’s so simple. So easy. Why didn’t I understand it before? Jesus even states QUITE CLEARLY in the passage that the need for a sword was to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy that He would be numbered among the criminals:

“…and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one. For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’”

Why didn’t my previous pastor just out of seminary know this? Why does the IFB macho pastor not see this, but instead twists the passage to support his own misguided, macho man viewpoint? Why didn’t John MacArthur, J. Vernon McGee, and other notable Bible commentators understand this clearly obvious reason for Jesus’ instruction to buy a sword? Because it’s the Holy Spirit who illuminates God’s Word to us. Understanding of God’s Word doesn’t come to us from our own human wisdom.

“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” – John 16:13

Jesus would also be numbered with the transgressors when He hung on the cross between the two criminals.

“With Him they also crucified two robbers, one on His right and the other on His left. So the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And He was numbered with the transgressors.” – Mark 15:27-28

Jesus interceded for Peter after his violent act and He also interceded for the repentant criminal hanging beside Him (along with all the rest of us sinners who trust in Him by faith alone), just as Isaiah had foretold.

Lord, thank You for Your Word and for illuminating Your Truths which we can’t possibly discern through our own human understanding.

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Note from February 11, 2021: I’m a bit embarrassed by my bold certitude regarding the interpretation of this difficult “let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one” passage. I still hold to the above interpretation (which seems quite obvious to me), but in retrospect I would ratchet down my “triumphant” tone a few notches.

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.

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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.”

Throwback Thursday: What “gospel” does apologist Ravi Zacharias proclaim?

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on March 3, 2016 and has been revised. As an introduction, Ravi Zacharias was a very popular evangelical apologist who died on May 19, 2020. Disturbing reports of predatory sexual abuse involving Zacharias have come to light in recent months. Also disturbing was Zacharias’ long history of promoting ecumenism with Roman Catholicism.

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During my lunch break today, I took a quick trip to the post office and tuned into The Word, WZXV, 99.7 FM, Christian radio station here in Rochester, New York. Every day at 11:00 a.m., the station plays the daily message from popular evangelical apologist, Ravi Zacharias.

Zacharias is widely considered to be one of evangelicalism’s leading apologists. He’s an excellent speaker – the words flow out of his mouth like honey. But beware, Zacharias’ messages are sometimes dangerous.

Today, the station broadcast one of Zacharias’ messages from his “Memories of Muggeridge” series (see far below for the link). Malcolm Muggeridge (1903-1990) was a highly respected British author and journalist and a longtime agnostic and eventual convert to Roman Catholicism.

In the message, Zacharias spoke about Muggeridge’s growing disillusionment with politics, journalism, commerce, education, entertainment, and religion. He was allegedly searching for the ultimate truth. Muggeridge was subsequently baptized into the Roman Catholic church at the age of 79 in 1982. It was Muggeridge who first introduced the world to Mother Teresa and thrust her into the spotlight as THE standard of “Christian” charity.

As a Roman Catholic, Muggeridge believed in salvation by sacramental grace and merit. He believed, as do all Catholics faithful to their church’s teaching, that one must be in a sinless “state of grace” at the moment of death in order to merit Heaven. For Catholics, justification comes from obeying the Ten Commandments perfectly (impossible!). If they break the Law, Catholics must confess all of their “mortal” (deadly/major) sins and be absolved by a priest before death or they are taught they will go to hell.

So why would Zacharias, one of evangelicalism’s leading apologists, hold up Muggeridge and Mother Teresa, who both believed in salvation by works, as shining Christian examples? I also heard Zacharias praising St. Francis of Assisi in a different broadcast. Is it that Zacharias is just totally ignorant of Catholic doctrine?  Is it that he believes the differences in salvation theology between Gospel Christianity and Roman Catholicism are not important? What goes through the mind of Ravi Zacharias? Either the Gospel is salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone or it is salvation by sacramental grace and obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!) as Rome teaches. It is either one or it is the other. It cannot be both!

A number of evangelical leaders are dismissing right doctrine and embracing those who teach works-salvation as “brothers and sisters in Christ” in the cause of “Christian unity.” I would ask them, is the Gospel the Gospel or isn’t it? Make no mistake; there are absolutely no Catholic apologists on EWTN Catholic radio singing the praises of Wycliffe, Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Tyndale, Spurgeon, Moody, Lloyd-Jones, etc. like Zacharias fawns over Muggeridge, Mother Teresa, G.K. Chesterton, and St. Francis. So why are evangelicals like Zacharias so deferential? Why are evangelicals so blind?

By embracing error as truth, Zacharias betrays the Gospel and misleads those who admire him.

“For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” – Galatians 3:10-13


Memories of Muggeridge, Part 4 of 5
Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM)
Broadcast 3/3/2016

Note: In this Throwback Thursday installment, I removed the link to the broadcast/podcast referenced above because RZIM no longer provides free access to that particular episode (#4) of the “Memories of Muggeridge” series or to episodes 2, 3, or 5 either. However, part 1 of the series can be accessed here.

See my earlier post on Ravi Zacharias’ dalliance with Roman Catholicism here.