Saturday, January 21, 2017

WHAT HATH GOD WROUGHT?

What hath God wrought? Numbers 23:23

It was God's will that Obama was our president for the last eight years, just as it is His will that we now have President Trump.
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Romans 13: 3- 7 

 

Congratulations to our new president and his beautiful wife and family. I pray this administration will bring back law and order. I pray this administration helps the poor. I especially pray, in fact I beg God, that this administration will stop the violence against the unborn. I pray this administration will protect the Judeo-Christian enculturation that has long civilized this nation. 



Conservatives tend to live peaceably, keep silent, and avoid confrontations. With a Trump victory, it will be tempting for Christians to relax, believing progressivism will now begin to be crushed and fade away. However, if one listens to President Trump's inaugural speech, we rather need to awaken and realize our President's vision may not be the same one Christians have. 

However, with the first part of Trump's inaugural address, below, I wholeheartedly agree:
The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation's capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.
I shouted in solidarity with the president. Indeed, the statement should be broadened to the United States' priests and pastors because most Christians see them with the same skepticism as politicians. America's clergy have enclosed themselves in the politically-correct bubble, insulating themselves from the hardships of the gospel. Many have gauged their spiritual victories by politics, rather than courageously speaking the hard truths for the individual who is struggling with sin. 

Time for our nation's clergy to gear their words towards the forgotten man who is enslaved in his addictions to pornography or drugs, his struggle to marry and then keep his marriage together and then to be faithful to his wife. 

Clergy: time to invest your resources in the humble family who is being torn apart by the Father of Lies. Your sermons should be to the deceived feminists who believe they will gain their dignity and respect through reproductive freedom and civil rights rather than casting their liberty and rights at the foot of the Cross. The time is now to protect our innocent young children's souls from the devastating and corrupting effects of the media. For this will be your true victory.




Let us look closely at President Trump's carefully crafted verbiage. It was a laudable and intrinsically good patriotic appeal, yet some ideas should be wisely processed through Biblical filters. 
Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves. These are the just and reasonable demands of a righteous public.
Notice the president's use of religious language.  
But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now. 
While Trump is correct about the nation's problems, he appeals to patriotic unity as the solution: 
We are one nation -- and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams; and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny....

I will fight for you with every breath in my body -- and I will never, ever let you down. America will start winning again, winning like never before. We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams....
Using religious overtones, Trump makes no reference to our nation's spiritual derailment--no appeals to morally right ourselves. Because we are a religiously diverse system, the president cannot contextualized the problems as spiritual. He must speak of our dreams and ambitions solely through capitalistic lenses.
At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.

Unity

When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice. The Bible tells us, "How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity." 
The solution is patriotism. Then, Trump invokes God, conflating patriotism with Christianity. 
We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity. When America is united, America is totally unstoppable. There should be no fear -- we are protected, and we will always be protected. We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement and, most importantly, we are protected by God.
God does not promise that He will protect America unless we repent, turn from our wicked ways and live in obedience to him. These are empty words meant to evoke emotion rather than truth. 

America's Greatness

Do not let anyone tell you it cannot be done. No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America. We will not fail. Our country will thrive and prosper again. We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the Earth from the miseries of disease, and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow.

A new national pride will stir our souls, lift our sights, and heal our divisions. It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American Flag.
 I believe Trump authentically believes what he is saying, but it is wrong to invoke God's protection when God specifically said that it is, "not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord Almighty." Zechariah 4:6 Our national pride cannot and will not heal our divisions. The shed blood of our soldiers cannot unite us. Only the blood of Christ will do that.
And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same Almighty Creator.
Yet being in the image of God, being infused by His breath makes little difference. We must live in obedience to God's spirit for our nation to heal of its divisions and poverty. 
So to all Americans, in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, and from ocean to ocean, hear these words:You will never be ignored again. Your voice, your hopes, and your dreams will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.
 I urge you not to misunderstand me, I am not criticizing President Trump; he spoke as the president must. I am writing rather to warn Christians that it is not our financial prosperity, nor even our freedom that will satisfy our hopes and dreams and give us courage and goodness and love. It is our humble repentance and turning from our sins that will make us great.

God has given us President Trump in order to challenge Christians that we may clearly see that we cannot have faith and loyalty to both money and Him. We must choose whom we will serve. We must choose which side of the spiritual battle we will be on.
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7.
 

President Trump finished: 
Together, We will make America strong again.
We will make America wealthy again.
We will make America proud again.
We will make America safe again.
And yes, together, we will make America great again. Thank you. God bless you. And God bless America.
That is my hope, too, Mr. President.

However, patriotic feelings, hopeful words, high ambitions, will not make America great again. We now need to fall on our knees and repent. We must pray harder than ever that our own eyes and ears to be opened to see where we can personally change. We need to pray for the courage to speak truth, and live in radical obedience to Christ Jesus. 


Our lives of holiness will make America great.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

_______ GREAT DEBATES 2017: COSTA VS. SUNGENIS___________





The Main Event: The Immaculate Conception of Mary

(Announcer, Howard Cosell) 

In the right side of the ring we have Catholic apologist, Dr. Robert Sungenis, the heavyweight champion and the man who made the earth stand still. And across the ring, we have his international challenger, Protestant (Reformed Baptist) apologist, Dr. Tony Costa, all the way from Canada, whose forte is fighting Muslims, but tonight will be attempting a knock-out punch of the Virgin Mother of God, Mary. 
Can Costa's Christian crusade against Our Blessed Mother be contained?  Will Sungenis succeed in sparing or will he only shoe shine? We shall see....

As they enter the ring, I take note of something. It seems no one else is seeing this--but Dr. Costa is not wearing his normal boxing garb. The change is subtle but Costa has donned the bowtie of the infamous Luis-Resto-of-Protestant-apologists, Dr. James White. Is this a portent of the haymaker's strategy? Will it be a flurry of fast-foot work and shadow boxing? Is Costa trying to make Sungenis look like a palooka?

                           🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸
What is the Immaculate Conception?
December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX, in the Constitutional, Ineffabilis Deus, declared ex-cathedra and  dogmatized the long-believed teaching that the Blessed Virgin Mary, from" the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin."
                                🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

The First Round:

With his guard dropped, Dr. Sungenis openhandedly moves from his corner to the center, searching out Costa. From the podium, he sets up the point at which Dr. Costa will spend the rest of the evening throwing punches. 

Dr. Sungenis explained why it is absolutely necessary for Mary to have been conceived without sin.

He uses science and logic, to which there is no knock-out Biblical counterpunch.

Fundamentalists wrongly assume that Catholics reject Biblical literalism. The problem is that Catholics are Biblical literalists on different passages than Protestants.


Catholics are dogmatically literal that the second person of the Godhead actually overshadowed the young maiden Mary and encountered her in a physical way. It was not spiritual hocus-pocus, it was not symbolic. There was an actual, material encounter of God with Mary. And many stories in scripture imply that a sinful human encounter with a holy God would kill the sin and the sinner. 


God gave Israel many ritual laws to make them righteous enough to have the Temple in their midst. God encountering Mary would have killed her if she had not been spotless and without stain. Then, carrying the holy, perfect, unborn Christ for nine months, again, could not have been possible in a sinful womb.


To take this scientifically a step further, Catholics teach that Christ literally received His human nature from His mother; 100% of His human DNA was from her. Therefore, if she had original sin literally, indelibly staining her chromosomes, sin would have been genetically passed on to Jesus. And we know from scripture, Christ was sinless. Therefore, logically, Mary had to be sinless.

Protestants have never addressed the literal, scientific problem of Jesus receiving human DNA from His mother. Many Protestants simply assume that, like a fairy-tale, God was magically birthed from a sinful woman without sin. Catholic theology takes a more literal, scientific stance.

Dr. Sungenis touches upon many other objections-- such as explaining that Mary was not sinless of her own doing, but it was a grace given to her in order that she may be the mother of our Lord. She is never to be worshipped or adored. She is fully human and was in need of a Savior, like all humans. But in this one instance, grace was given prophylactically as a preventative measure before Mary fell into sin rather than as a therapeutic measure that God ordained for the rest of us. Jesus' atonement was for Mary too, but she was saved from sin before she sinned, so that she could carry our Savior.

Going from specific to general, Sungenis brings in why the Catholic Church has the authority to make such a pronouncement, based on Church history and science, even if there is not an explicit Bible text stating that Mary was without sin.


Costa, believing Sungenis to be pawing, dances to the podium, ready with Bible-in-hand and quotes from various Church Fathers--with what he believes will be a knock-out punch to the immaculately-conceived Mother. 

He points to Protestant understanding of texts that make it seem that Jesus disrespected and belittled His mother. (Even though Jesus would never break the commandment of "Honor thy father and mother.") Costa quotes the early Ecclesiastic historian, Tertullian and Church Fathers such as Ireneaus, Origen, Basil, Augustine, Ambrose, Bernard and Aquinas, claiming they were unsure if Mary was sinless or argued that she became sinless sometime after conception. 

Costa argues that if there was any opposition to the sinlessness of Mary among the early Christians  then, de facto, it could not have been true. 

Sungenis later makes a counter jab by pointing out that many church dogmas were arrived at by debate rather than having a perfect consensus among the early church leaders, citing the Trinity doctrine, the two wills and two natures of Christ, etc. 

Costa throws a combination of claims that these great theologians and early church leaders who were uncertain of Mary's sinlessness would be heretics in today's world for their beliefs. Sungenis hits back by pointing out that no one can be considered a heretic before a dogma is pronounced. (In fact, on theological points where the contemporary church decided against these same men, the men acquiesced to the church. So in fact, they were first Catholic and then secondly had their own private opinions.) 

Costa thinks he had Sungenis against the ropes when he also points out that Marian apparitions disagreed--one claiming she was the Immaculate Conception, one saying she was not. (Which the Catholic Church historians have found no proof of the latter claim.)

Round Two: Rebuttals


 Then Dr. Sungenis dealt with the obvious text glaring down upon the debate, screaming to be addressed. (The audience expected someone to take a dive on this text):

There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless;there is no one who does good, not even one.Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.The poison of vipers is on their lips.Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. 
Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways,and the way of peace they do not know.There is no fear of God before their eyes.... There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:10-23

The Syllogism Clinch


Costa had earlier feinted a punch using the syllogism: 
All humans have sinned, Mary is a human; therefore Mary sinned. 

Sungenis now answers back that Costa's syllogism is a logical fallacy because we cannot place Christ, who was also 100% human, into that syllogism for Christ was a human who never sinned. Therefore St. Paul meant the statement as a general rule that could be broken. And it was broken for Jesus and Mary.

Costa wonders if that wasn't a cover-up.

Sungenis deflects Costa's blow with quoting Hebrews 9:27, "it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this is the judgement." 

So the Catholic heavyweight makes his own false syllogism, but as an orthodox hit: 
If all men must die, and Enoch and Elijah are men, therefore Enoch and Elijah must die. 

Which he shows is, of course, untrue. According to the infallible Word of God, they both were taken to heaven before death, showing that all general rules can have their Biblical exceptions. Therefore, if St. Paul made the exception for some in Hebrews, he also could have made exceptions for his letter to the Romans. Jesus, Mary and many unborn children who died sinless prove that St. Paul was not directing his message to every single soul, but making a general statement.

Costa, blow-by-blow, points out that Pope Pius claimed that the Immaculate Conception was always taught by the church, claiming that since the Bible is silent on the subject and the Church Fathers showed no consensus, that Pope Pius was in error to dogmatically pronounce Mary was immaculately conceived. 

This moves the debate from proving Mary was indeed sinless, to the legitimacy of how the dogma was developed. Costa implies that the teaching could be debunked based solely upon the length of time it took to be dogmatized. 

Sungenis did a Bob-and-weave showing that many dogmas took centuries to formulate including the Trinity (dogmatized in the fourth century) and specifically that the Bible itself was not developed until the fourth century and it's canon (individual books) not dogmatized until the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century. (Most Catholic teachings are not dogmatized until a heresy is widely spreading.) 


The Eight Count

In the end, I suspect the audience believed that the referee called the match for the fighter from their own religious preference. 

Costa (to the disappointment of the crowd uses some of Dr. James White's tired and faulty straw-man arguments, such as "theopneustos") did the absolute best that the Protestant fighter can do. Costa is a good man, an excellent apologist--no theological lightweight--and his punches seem hard and fast and accurate. 

But, Sungenis won, for he has something Costa doesn't. And that is the fullness of the truth found in the pillar and foundation of truth--that is the Church that Christ started--the Catholic Church. It is His Body and His Bride. 

And Mary is Jesus' mother. Anyone throwing a punch at her will not go away unscathed.

You see, I have watched and listened to many, many debates through the years and it always, without exception, comes down to the same premise: not what does God say in scripture, but who has God's authority to explain what He meant

Catholics believe Christ gave the Holy Spirit to the Church to teach what God meant in His Holy, God-breathed, infallible scripture. Protestants, in general, believe the Bible is so plain and self-interpreting that each individual Christian is guided by the Holy Spirit to understand God's meaning in scripture. 

Howard Cosell puts down his mic. 

Sungenis and Costa leave the ring, both knowing they will fight each other again someday, for the fighting seems to never cease. 







Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve, Adventism and My Aunt Caroline

This night (on Christmas day) my eldest son was born. (You can imagine the jokes when I was wheeled into the ER on Christmas Eve about to give birth and I was admitted to the hospital under my first name, Mary.)

Also--Christmas Eve, my Aunt Caroline was born.

What a privilege to be born on the night Christ was born.

So special.

I take a deep sigh of both sadness and joy as I ponder the miracle of becoming Catholic in a Seventh-day Adventist world. (My world was Seventh-day Adventist, anyway.) Yes, this will be connected with Christmas Eve.

On my Facebook, a cousin posted a picture of my late Aunt Caroline to remember her birthday today.

Happy Birthday Aunt Caroline.

I miss her. And I wish I could explain to her family what happened to me a while ago, but because they are SDA, I can't. They wouldn't believe it because SDAs believe in soul sleep and don't believe anyone goes directly to heaven but sleeps both spirit and body until the resurrection at the Second Coming. They would see my experience as something demonic.

That is the sad part. The happy part is... well I better back up a bit.

Things have been pretty rough for a while for me. And that's okay, not complaining. What a joy to endure suffering to prepare my soul to meet Him face to face one day! But a few months ago, God sent me a dream. Sometimes you just know.... you just know something isn't natural. I don't have dreams this vivid.

In the dream, my husband and I were walking through a huge

bright white-marbled department store. It was clean and glistening white--and it was not like a Belk's or JC Penny--this was more like a rich and glamorous 1950's Neiman Marcus or Sax Fifth Ave. (Since my Aunt Caroline sold furs, I evidently associate her with the big department stores of Dallas in the early 1960's.) 

As my husband and I walked past the shoe department and women's jewelry towards the exit, I glanced up at a woman who was standing at a table. It was kind of like a little restaurant in the old department stores that served elegant snacks and sandwiches. This particular restaurant was up on a few steps--not another floor but a different level on the same floor. I particularly noticed how well-dressed everyone was in the restaurant. Women wearing dresses and hose and high heels, with matching bags. Men were wearing hats and long wool, tailored coats.

The lady standing among the other people looked at me. Not accidentally, but with a sweet intensity. She smiled at me and I had to have a double take. She was radiant. Like--other worldly radiant. She was the most gorgeous creature I have ever seen.

It was my Aunt Caroline.

My husband had my hand and was walking so that my only choice was to turn my head and strain to look at her, now behind me. I swallowed. Oh my gosh. My Aunt Caroline was no longer with us. She had died and yet, there she was. Absolutely. No possibility of mistake. In my dream I realized what was going on. My Aunt
These pictures don't come close to as luxurious as the setting in my dream. 
Caroline was there to give me a smile of encouragement. God had sent my dearest aunt to reach out in love if for only a moment.

In the dream, I stopped Arthur, after we exited the department store and were standing in a multilevel parking garage, and told him I had just seen Aunt Caroline. He believe me and turned around to go back in and see if she were still there.

There she was! She was standing at the exit door looking at us. She had followed us! So she really had been smiling at me! She knew who I was. She was just so beautiful I couldn't stop staring. Young, gorgeous, healthy, happy. 


Arthur took off and met her at the door and for some reason I was having a hard time getting to her. Everything was in slow motion as I ran to her. Not in a bad way.... I wasn't upset, I was profoundly joyful at this mystery. She talked to Arthur but I woke up before I could speak to her. But that last look she gave me, before I awoke was one of the most precious things. Her eyes were full of loving encouragement. I knew that she was in heaven enjoying eternity with the Father. No one could look like that if they were not touched with His holiness.

I have often longed to tell Aunt Caroline's family of this dream, but it would not bring them comfort or happiness. It would be seen as a Catholic attempting to impose spiritualism and the occult on them. So I keep silent.

On this silent and holy night I think not just of the birth of Jesus and my son, but I also remember the wonderful gift I was given, to see another person who shares a birthday with God who has already gone to see her Savior. And soon.... He is coming again.