Friday, April 21, 2017

Victimhood and the Christian Worldview by Teresa Beem



We are in a time when the most obvious observation is despised because it goes against this idea of being nice. Being nice and even good have become about not saying anything that corresponds with reality. And that is because reality makes people angry. So, nice people don't mention it. 

Well, I am going to mention it because I think reality is important. Reality itself isn't nice. Blame reality and not me! I figure Christians should be able to understand what I am about to write, but today, I am not so sure anymore.

A World of Victims

Everyone is a victim. Everyone feels victimized: men, women, racial minorities, old people, young people, transgendered people, Jews, Muslims, Christians, fat people, ugly people, short people, stupid people, poor people even rich people.

Oh poor, poor me! Oh poor, poor us!

And they are RIGHT! If you are feeling victimized, you are feeling reality correctly. Life isn't fair and life is filled to the brim with injustices. Everyone ought to feel exploited and used and abused because this corresponds with reality.


Whose to Blame?

Everyone clearly understands that injustices need to be righted, so they demand government to deal with it.
Men need to think above the waist.
The rich need to give more to the poor.
There are conspiracies against the regular Joe.
Enforce laws.
Make new laws.
More jails.
More education.
More tolerance.
Why can't we just all get along?

If every possible injustice had a law against it, that would not eradicate injustice. Laws cannot stop the problem, even if they can punish it.

Unfortunately we live in a society of such monumental irrational pride, so bent on self-destruction, we would rather tear each other apart with blame than actually admit the cause of injustice is right there in front of us and pretty much most civilizations in the last four thousand years knew or at least suspected it.

We are oppressed because we are guilty of disobedience to God.

Yeah, I know nobody wants to read that. I know some readers are saying, "You always want to blame everything on sin." Yes, that is true, because that is what God did. Sin makes us sinners who hurt each other.

God didn't die that we may have the best government system or to show us the correct political affiliation. Christ didn't suffer on the Cross that we could be wealthy and comfortable. He is not the Savior from being offended. His life and death were not to help us feel good about ourselves. He didn't die so we would be free to sin. He came to conquer the sin that brings about our death and misery and injustice and oppression and enslavement.

But I get it. 
If we admit that moral crime is causing suffering and injustice, that would make us all victims! And no one could feel much superiority in their oppression-hood. Wrongdoing, of course, is not equally distributed, so we are not equally abused, but make no mistake, sin brutalizes everyone.

No one wants to think about evil because they want the bad guy to be someone else—someone they can fight against. We all want to be the good guy! Of course, that is how we were created! It is wonderful to want to be the good guy and beat up the bad guy. It's just that because of disobedience to God, no matter how sincerely or ignorantly done, we have to re-learn how to be the good guy. It is not easy or as natural to us as we wish it to be.

I Don't Believe in Evil

Many of us who call ourselves Christian don't really believe in wickedness. That makes us feel uncomfortable and judgmental.

Why? Why do we all freak out (even Christians) when someone states the obvious?

Because no one wants to get rid of iniquity! Sin not only makes us the prey of evil, it makes us predators too. Transgressing God's law, being the source of injustice, means we sinners become not only the victims, but the bad guys who create the injustices.

We all believe and feel ourselves to be the good guys and it is a shock to our system—a shock to our reality—if we place the blame on injustice on ourselves. That means there is no guy in the black hat we can all corporately get rid of and injustice will vanish. We can't protest or strike against or boycott sin—unless we do it in our own life. 

The Empowerment of Righteousness

There is nothing we can do to stop the victimization of evil unless we personally stop doing evil things. If we wish true freedom so that nothing can victimize us anymore—we need to stop that which is enslaving us. And… that is sin. This power is right there for us no matter your gender, age, race, etc. God's mercy and grace is the ultimate heaven for those who wish to live in a non-biased, color-blind and just society.

Few can handle this truth—that most of the guilt of society comes from our personal decisions! While it is evident that the world suffers from others' transgressions, our deepest persecution is our own fault and derives from our own choices.

The Christian worldview of evil and oppression really is the nicest and most personally empowering because God promised that He would pull us from the depths of this horrible victimization and take our transgressions from us! Through His grace, Christ provided a way out of this enslavement. That is the good newsThat is the gospel.But no one today seems to want to hear that gospel because it means they would have to admit there was a problem with not just the world—but themselves—and admit the problem is wickedness and submit to the Great Shepherd for healing.

And for every holy man and woman, for each example of the saints who defy the law of sin through Christ's miraculous grace, a thousand injustices we can't control are defeated. Personal holiness effects much more than your own personal enslavement to sin, it shines the light so that others too may leave the prison of persecution.

And evil doesn't want that. It wants us humans to love our own oppression and blame others. Sin keeps us blind to our own faults but shines the light constantly on others. Evil is the master deflector, the master blamer, the master at dulling us to guilt, the master at tempting us to feel the enslavement it has us in, but to love our own choice to remain as a victim in our jail cell while screaming injustice at other prisoners from within it.

Christ opened the door for us. He gave us the solution to injustice. And the solution begins with each of us falling on our knees daily in repentance, having faith that His mercy is great. He wants to shower grace upon us so that we can no longer be victims, but walk as kings and queens in His eternal kingdom.

He wants us to rise from the deepest filth of victimhood and will freely give us the love, courage and strength to go and sin no more. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

What is the Catholic Mass

The other day, I mentioned to an Evangelical  that I was going to mass. Protestants often wonder why Catholics don't just say, "I am going to church." So this person asked me, "What is the difference is between church and mass?"

Ah, what a question. And now I get to pour out my love in an answer I hope and pray will be understandable. And an answer of love, often requires many words!
______________________________


Creation
Before the babbling gurgle of babies, before the laughter of children and the words of men, there was a deep and dark silent mystery.

Then suddenly, from the heart of God, burst forth a cosmos. Galaxies were thrown forth in an everlasting expanding spin, light exploded and in the wake of God's voice, trillions of stars were left against a black sky to mesmerize us each time we would look up to find God.  His love song radiated a divine offering of life. The universe echoed back His song as a beautiful symphony of love. And the oceans teamed with the first generation of babies. The sky grew heavy with thousands of species' first baby birds! The lion and lioness lay down with their cubs, and the cattle filled a thousand hills.

That is what love is! Love does not simply inspire creativity. Love's form is creation. As the sun does not simply produce radiation, it is radiation, as perfume does not create a scent, it is the scent. As flowers do not create beauty, they are beauty, so love does not simply create life, it is life. That's the nature and essence that God formed and called love. You cannot separate the life producing from love or it ceases to be love.

All acts of love create. The bliss of total self-gifting love is reproductive, in that it reproduces itself.


Destruction
Then the perfect symphony went silent. Adam sinned.
Sin stole from us the blessedness of life-giving sacrifice. Sin's nature is the very opposite of love. It is destruction. Satan's ultimate goal is to rip life from love, leaving it sterile and selfish.


Sin began a war.

Man chose to battle God. When Adam took the forbidden fruit, he placed himself at war with God. No matter his heart. No matter that he was deceived in the ultimate outcome. No matter how sincerely he repented and was sorry. Satan trapped man into a life of utter enslavement to self. 

Recreation
Two thousand years ago, the definitive battle of this still ongoing war was won by a Savior who totally surrendered His life for love. The Cross showed the raving madness of wickedness. Sin is hate so powerfully deceptive that given reign convinced the creation to murder its own Creator. But so much more, the Cross showed us the extent of Christ's love in a pure life-giving sacrifice. Christ offered us freedom from sin and death and He did it through the creative and jubilant sacrifice of love.


As excruciatingly painful as it was, it was a joyous gift offered that those who accepted it would be restored to their rightful position as His Sons and Daughters. And for those who choose to obey the King, they will reign forever with Christ.

Because we live in a world crowded and confused with sin, our understanding is clouded and we cannot clearly comprehend the Cross of Christ. For most humans, Calvary is indistinct, remote, and unreachable. 


So Christ gave the world His Church to bring back His love song and the music of life. He commissioned His people to bring the meaning of His sacrifice clearly focused into reality. We are to show the Cross through our actions to a dulled and desperate world. 

Catholics go to church for this purpose of re-creation. The word "mass" contains the entirety of the meaning of the Cross packed into it. The wording bursts forth with that life-giving memory of Calvary.

The mass is where we go to received the grace of Christ's Crucifixion that we may leave and be "little Christs" to the world. For that is how we got our name. The Roman pagans living in Antioch called us Christians, because they saw our living sacrifice and it reminded them of that criminal who died a cruel death because He believed in bringing us the love of His Father.

As true Sons and Daughters, we still should be doing that today. Bringing the living symphony of His creative life to the world! We pour ourselves out as He pours Himself in to us in mass. We become the living cup that overflows with His pure living water to satisfy the world's thirst. We become His broken bread to feed the hungry.

Not through just spoken or written words but through yielding up our freedoms and rights in the daily little things, often unnoticed by others.

By our gift of self-control when we are insulted or offended and desire to spit vengeful words and instead speak words of encouragement, we bring the Cross near.

When we have made plans to do something relaxing on our time off, and we see someone in need, we lovingly gift
 our much needed rest and act unselfishly to help—we bring the Cross near. 


When we have a right, a liberty we fought hard for, but for the sake of others, give that right up—we bring the Cross near.

When we give supernatural forgiveness to someone who has despicably wronged us—we bring the Cross near.


The mass gives us the grace to do the heroic even in the most mundane and irritating moments. His grace awakens in us the needs of those around us and urges us to give even when it is against our very fiber.

Dozens of moments during the day, we are faced with tiny choices of self-preservation or a painful sacrifices of what we want or need and we choose to take the hit out of love—we become Christ and bring the Cross more clearly to a confused and defeated world. Surrendering to God these precious tiny moments build and build until they form a tsunami of grace that floods the world.

And as we grow like Him as the decades go by, Christ is bringing us to His ultimate goal: that self-sacrifice becomes a exuberance and we are more able to pour out our life for others in an unending song. 


The Church is the building.
 

The mass is God's gift of His love that brings forth life in us, so we may then pour out our soul in charity, bringing the Cross near to everyone we encounter. The mass is His life. His love is creative through us.



Monday, April 3, 2017

Church Hunting (JohnCristVideos)


This IS SO true! Exactly what I hear from so many Christians today and actually... for the first decade of 2000, this WAS US except for we were doing theological church shopping-- grilling the denomination to see if their perception and interpretation of the Bible matched ours! And believe me, it takes a little longer--in fact, in several cases a few years of checking it out---and interviewing pastors (we really did that!!). So funny!

It would be boring to list all the churches we were checking out during our personal church hunt.... from the most charismatic Pentecostal to the most dry Presbyterian an everything in between--the liberal Baptists the conservative Baptists the wacko Baptists.... Lutherans, Church of God, Disciples of Christ, Methodist.... really. And I was open to any type of service from dancing in the aisles to silent snoring in the hard pews. What we were looking for was correct theology. Wow we were just like these guys in the video with the exception we were looking for truth according to OUR personal interpretation of scripture:









Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Love Trumps.... Everything

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain
nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.... And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13

So if I don't have love, it doesn't matter if I have a testimony of Christ and can preach like an angel. It doesn't matter if I can tell the future, or read a person's heart. I can move mountains with my
faith but none.... not even faith...not even sola fide matters if I don't have love. Love is the greatest... even greater that faith. 

So, what keeps us from loving? 

Fear. 
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. I John 4: 18

Pride. 
God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.... Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4: 6, 10

🙏

The moment is seared into my soul like few others. The New Bern, NC Catholic Church had assigned to me a RCIA sponsor because I didn't know any Catholics locally. In fact, I didn't personally know any Catholics, only the ones I had met online. 


My husband and I had been encouraged by online Catholic apologists to join the local Rite of
Christian Initiation classes in order to understand Catholicism. And we were not there to convert, just to learn about what Catholics believed. 

Eventually, each person who intending to actually join the Catholic Church was asked to find a sponsor. It used to be a "godmother" or "godfather" but for adults, the name was changed to sponsor. They gave me Sister Katherine, a very petite elderly nun who sat beside me each class with her head down and eyes closed. 

Once I asked her if she were sleeping and the nun answered back gently, "No, I am praying for you because you are full of pride." 
That wiped the smile off my face and I stuttered back some incoherent words. After class I fled with indignation and anger. "What a judgmental jerk! What? Can she read my heart and know I am full of pride? Why--if she were wanting me to become Catholic--would she say such a rude, condescending horribly hurtful thing to me?" I cried and screamed and threw a major old-fashioned southern-belle hissy-fit! All the way home and once there I continued to yell in my mind at the imaginary crowd of Catholics that I was certainly not prideful! I was a nice person. I was a kind person. What was the nun talking about?

Then all of a sudden my brain went quiet. And the Holy Spirit spoke as gently as the nun. "Are you full of pride?" Then as I looked deeper, scanning not my actions but much deeper down into very motivations for why I was kind...Oops... then, uh-oh... I knew I was full of pride. The nun was right. I knelt down horrified by the brutal self-realization that beneath all the niceness I was indeed a prideful person. Ouch. I prayed for forgiveness. 

And that is just the beginning. Daily, I need to pray that same prayer asking God to forgive my pride and grant me the grace to be humble so that I can more fully love Him and others. It's all about love! That is why I want to be humble.

Christ is now teaching me how to love and it is not an easy lesson. You can't learn to truly love with fear and pride in one's heart. 

We learn to love, not by working up a feeling of compassion and sympathy for others. We don't love by shedding tears of empathy. 

We learn to love through prayer and humble obedience to God. He gives us His love through His grace. We can't work it up on our own. It is His unmerited gift. 

We learn to love when we turn from our own pride and selfishness and sacrificially give to others. Love often it is in the harsh words of a little nun who smacks you with your own reflection in the mirror. 

Love Trumps Hate, yes. But love also trumps rights and self and fear and pride and faith and hope. 




Wednesday, January 25, 2017

My Thoughts on Fearless Christian Living



One of the things I don't want to do is to die with regrets. From the time I was a child I have been thinking about this. I don't want to be lying on my deathbed looking back at my life regretting all the people I have hurt and all the things I did to hurt myself. I don't want to be ashamed of my life. But even more, I want to have lived.

Life is so precious. It is such a gift that I spend a lot of time contemplating it. And I wonder why so many of us blindly live without ever even noticing our own existence? Is it that we have been raised in a mental white noise that doesn't' allow us to think? Very few people contemplate the meaning of existence. 

Why? Because it is hard.

Thinking about human existence and watching the lives around us, it seems like everyone is in misery, or living a futile life of seeking comfort and pleasure—even Christians! It looks as if no one really has a direction or plan for their life
except to work hard for the fun we can eke out on the weekends, live for sports and entertainment-- keep plodding along until the yearly vacations and soon enough we will retire and move to Florida and play golf. 

Voila! Then we will sit alone in our little apartment wondering what happened to our lives, pet our dog and hope there is a God so we can have a do-over in the next life.  

How horrible to think back on life and realized we had wasted such a precious gift of life on television, cable, movies…. entertainment--that we have spent our whole lives living through someone else's fictional life.

That is not living! I want to be the heroine of my own story. 

How pathetic if, instead of even reflecting upon life, that at our lives' end we just go from this life watching television never even having known we lived! We had become an automaton being consumed by Hollywood's moving pictures. We ended up being nothing but a pair of eyes. 

For Christians, we know the meaning is to live eternally with God. However, if we aren't learning to understand the meaning of this existence we have now, as Christians, if we are not doing anything meaningful or special now, why would we want a never-ending meaningless existence?

No! This life was meant to have incredible meaning. Our lives are to be heroic and epic.  

Whatever you are doing today, stop and think about this for a few minutes. Do you live every moment as if it has meaning or do you just drone along filling your time with entertainment and thinking about the next fun thing you are doing? 

If your life seems enslaved with the mundane, if you do not have a meaning and purpose for your day besides making going to work to money and texting on your iPhone what you are going to watch or do that evening for fun, you need to really rethink your life.

So what keeps people from living? Really living. I am not talking about having that extra ice
cream cone or living dangerously by going sky diving or being crazy and getting another tattoo.
My husband is a nurse and over the years has been with many dozens of elderly people as they take their last breath and I assure you they are not thinking of the money they didn't have, nor the food they didn't taste or the rain they should have danced in. They are thinking about what their life meant and the people they loved--no matter what the meme's say.

Real living is not doing the things that make one feel exhilarated. That is just more empty days at adult Disneyland. I am referring to living life with meaning--with a purpose so clear and so heroic that you are willing to put everything you have—your heart, your mind, your soul, your strength, your time, your money into it…. sold out—all out living.

(And for a Christian that meaning should never be based in money.)

As Christians, with an informed proper Christian worldview, there would only be two things that keep us from really living our God-given epic life. And that is that we don't know our purpose and we have a fear of suffering. 

************

I would like to give my opinion on the second half of that—the suffering. I think it is far more that Christians fear suffering than they don't know what they are supposed to be doing to make their lives meaningful. The Bible spells it out that we are to quit sinning and take care of others. That is what gives life meaning

However, most of us Christians would rather make a bunch of money and throw money at the poor, the weird, the uncool, the suffering than actually be a part of their lives. That is how we envision doing our part in the gospel mission. Because doing anything else would be hard... or uncomfortable.

The number one thing I think Christians need to get past is the fear of suffering. I am not criticizing anyone with that. I know everyone is calling everyone a snowflake and telling them to buck up and deal with life. That is not what I am writing. I am promising you that the moment you give your fear of suffering to God and follow Him, that your life will begin to be epic--epic in pain, epic in love, epic in hope, epic in meaning. And to live such a life of fullness, greatness that will end in joy, you have to give up this need to protect yourself from embarrassment and pain. 

Our early Christian leaders all told us that it is okay; do not fear suffering:
Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. II Tim. 2:3

Most of today's suffering is in direct consequences of our stupid, wrongful actions and God brings upon us shame and suffering in order to bring us to repentance. (Rev. 22:2) But that is not the kind of suffering Christians are called to.

When I was a kid, I most sincerely promised the Lord I would be so incredibly good that He would never have to make me suffer to learn a lesson. I have lived that. God alone knows how hard I have tried to be perfect so that I don't have to be punished for my sins and suffer.

And even with that, I have had great suffering in my life. I  have spent over twenty years in physical pain as a consequence of other people's sins. (A young man on meth plowed into my car stopped at a red light one evening in 1997 and messed up my back and jaw.) God brought great joy to my life because of that, even with the pain.


We need to realize that suffering happens and as a Christian we must stop fearing pain. No matter how righteous your life is, you are going to suffer. While you may avoid the deep regret of knowing you have caused others to suffer for your stupidity and selfishness, all Christians who follow the command of Christ to daily take up their Cross and follow Him, will inevitably find themselves doubled over in pain because of something. 

Life hurts. And once we no longer fear suffering, we will find that a freedom that Americans with all their claims to freedom have no concept of. Christian redemptive suffering sets you free. That, of course, is not contradicting Christ, who said the truth will make you free, because I am telling you the truth! 

Suffering doesn't mean God has abandon you. If you look at your life and you sincerely know that you have done nothing, no choice your made any time in your life has the consequences that you are experiencing; if you find yourself randomly in pain for something, do not feel ashamed or afraid. 

Lift it up to the Lord.

Why are we in need of suffering? The Apostles give us some thoughts on this: 

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; Rom. 5: 3

Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. Col. 1: 24

You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. I Thess. 1: 6

All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. 2. Thess. 1: 5

So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. 

That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. 2 Tim. 1:8, 12

[F]or which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. 2 Tim. 2: 9

Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. James 5: 10

For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. I Peter 2: 19

John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. Rev. 1: 9


We are going to suffer and it will be our joy, because as Christians our suffering is to produce fruits that will help fill the kingdom of God with other souls. Our suffering has great meaning.

And I have discovered that suffering destroys pride and pride is another great impediment to a life of freedom. Humility is the very context of true freedom. 


I know, not something you really wanted to read this morning. But I can tell you that if you want true freedom, if you want your life to have meaning and a joy that you could never reach any other way.... pray that God will not let your fear of suffering keep you from living a life a great meaning. 

God is calling you to be great--to have an epic life. To live with your eyes and ears open and your
days full. Pray for that kind of courage. And it will happen. And when your days on this earth are ended, you will die with a smile on your lips. 

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?

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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.