ISHMAEL AND ISAAC: THE ETERNAL FAMILY FEUD

By Virginia S. Saunders

THIS WEEK’S DECAPITATION of a woman in Oklahoma by an Islamic jihadist has highlighted once again the eternal enmity among Moslems, Jews and Christians.  It did not start with Mohammed.  It has its roots based on the menage a trois among Abraham, Sarai and Hagar, some 1800 centuries before Jesus Christ.  This period was called Patriarch Years, when Abram and his tribe of shepherds led a nomadic life in Mesopotamia at the edge of the desert, cultivating lands in the Syro-Palestine area.

Abram’s wife, Sarai, was barren, a major embarrassment for women of that time who looked to the Creator as the giver of seeds.  She was way past child bearing age, in her seventies.  When will she ever get pregnant?  After all, God told Abram in a dream that he will be the father of many nations.

Unable to wait any longer, Sarai told Abram to sleep with her handmaid, Hagar.  And he did, successfully impregnating her but creating in Sarai a resentment and distaste for her Egyptian slave.  Abram was 86 years old when he fathered the child.  When Hagar’s child was born, they named him Ishmael.

Sarai became pregnant only after Abram was visited by three men who prophesied Sarai would have a child “this time next year”.  In Genesis 17:15, God changed the name of Sarai to Sarah (princess), and Abram to Abraham (Father of Multitudes).  Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 90 when their baby Isaac was born.

But Sarah was a seething volcano inside. Depending on which Old Testament version one is reading, Genesis 21:8 said that when Isaac was two years old, Sarah saw Ishmael mocking Isaac.  Unable to contain her contempt, Sarah pushed Abraham to “cast out the bond woman!”.  In compliance not typical of strong men of that time, Abraham acquiesced to his wife, and told Hagar and Ishmael, now 13, to leave the camp.

Here, the Christian, Jewish, and Moslem versions on which child was the sacrificial child of the Old Testament immediately diverge.  The Moslem version says that Ishmael and Hagar left “long before Isaac was born”, and that the sacrifice of the child was made before Isaac was born, placing Ishmael as the chosen contender for the sacrificial child.

Moslems believe that the Old Testament was corrupted by both Jews and Christians by substituting Ishmael with Isaac, based on how old Ishmael was when Abraham cast out Hagar.  One verse said Ishmael was 12, another said 13, and some readers conjectured 16.  Ishmael and Abraham, now 99 years old, were circumcised together.  Genesis 17:25 said Ishmael was 13.  He could not have left the tribe before the circumcision.

While Hagar and Ishmael wandered in the desert after being cast away, the allegory said that God showed compassion to Hagar and told her that she too will become “father of many nations”.  Moslems said that Hagar and Ishmael settled in Makkah, called Paran in the Bible, which is now Mecca in Saudi Arabia.  One Islamic ritual in Makkah is Zamzam, which commemorate Hagar running seven times between two hills, Safa and Marwa, looking for water.  They also believe that Abraham and Ishmael built the venerated Ka’abah in Makkah. There is also Maqam Ibrahaim, the Station of Abraham, which Moslems believe marks the spot where Abraham prayed and sacrificed Ishmael.

Moslems believe that after Sarah died, Abraham married Hagar, renamed Keturah. Since Abraham was from Chaldea, Moslems believe that he was more Arab than Jew, and was therefore the more likely root of the Moslem tribe who were begat from Kedar, the son of Ishmael.  Moslems also believe that Mohammed, who received his visions and prophecies 500 years after Jesus died, came from the stock of Kedar.

All of the debates on Ishmael as the sacrificial child appear to be a parsing of what is considered an “allegory” by Christians.  Muhammad H. Haykal, in his biography “The Life of Muhammad“, wrote that “the Qu’ran did not mention the name of the sacrificial son, and hence Moslem historians disagree in this regard.“  A respected Islamic historian, Al-Tabari, said this:

“The earliest sages of our Prophet’s nation disagree about which of Abraham’s two sons it was that he was commanded to sacrifice. Some say it was Isaac, while others say it was Ishmael.  Both views are supported by statements related on the authority of the Messenger of God.  If both groups of statements were equally sound, then – since they both came from the Prophet Mohammad, only the Quran could serve as proof that the account naming Isaac is clearly the more truthful of the two.”

Not mentioned in some research materials I have read on this subject is the Bible description of Ishmael.  It said in Genesis 16:12, “He shall be a wild ass of a man, his hand against everyone, and everyone’s hands against him.  In opposition to all kin shall he encamp.”  Ishmael was the ancestor of 12 tribes, and from Isaac would come the 12 tribes of the Jewish nation.

Christians do not have a bone to pick with Moslems or Jews when it comes to  Abraham, Hagar, and Ishmael.  Christian version of this family feud is more philosophical than genealogical.  Was it Ishmael or Isaac?  It matters not.  What matters to Christians is the symbolism of Hagar and Sarah.  Paul in Galatians 4:21-31 defined Hagar and Sarah as allegorical references to LAW and GRACE.  Hagar is Law, and Sarah is Grace.  Abraham died 400 years before the Ten Commandments were given to Moses, and yet Christians, Moslems and Jews hark back to the Patriarch Years of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar on the Levitical and Deuteronomic sources of the law which dominated life in Jewish, Gentile, and Moslem communities.

The Christian version refers to the New Covenant of Grace established by Jesus Christ which has superseded the Old Covenant of laws established by Moses.  These laws include not only the Ten Commandments written in stone, but all the 613 traditional and ceremonial laws written in Leviticus and Deuteronomy which are observed to the letter by the Hebrews of Abraham and Moses’ time.  Thus, when referencing Sarah’s statement “Cast out the bond woman“, Christians are really saying, “Cast out the law!”  The law has been superceded by Grace.

In my book ENTER THE HOLY SPIRIT, EXIT ME, I wrote about the pillar of the New Covenant as embodied in Hebrews 8:7-13.  In this, the Bible said that “If the first covenant had been faultless, no place would have been sought for a second one.”

But as written in Jeremiah 31:31-34, God found fault with the Old Covenant, and promised to conclude a New Covenant “unlike the covenant I made with their fathers the day I took them by the hand to lead them forth from the land of Egypt; for they did not stand by my covenant and I ignored them, says the Lord.”

The Scripture added a very important tenet in the Christian faith: God said, “I will put my laws in their minds and I will write them upon their hearts.  I will forgive their evil doing and remember their sins no more.”  This forgiveness of sins was dependent on the covenant God cut with Jesus Christ whose purpose in coming to the world was to absorb all the punishment and judgment for humanity’s sins, past , present, and future, in order for them to be redeemed and gain the righteousness, right standing, with God.

Jesus said “I did not come to abolish the law, I have come to fulfill it“. And by His death, He did.  But the departure by Christians from the Abrahamic and Mosaic laws were misunderstood and considered an affront by those who followed Mohammed, who subscribed to the Old Testament laws, especially in matters of food, veils for women, animal sacrifices, no graven images, and worshipping only the Creator.  Christians were thus considered infidels = unfaithful to the law.

The three religions which came out of the Middle East followed one Creator but had different interpretations of the law.  Christians also claim their inheritance to the patriarch through Romans 9:7 in which Paul said that “it is through Isaac that descendants will bear Abraham’s name as his heirs.”

How do Christians know that they are on the right track?  It is through Acts 2:1-12 which describes the arrival of the Holy Spirit during Pentecost Sunday.  Jesus said that He will not leave us orphans, and told his disciples to wait for the arrival of the Promised One, the Holy Spirit, before they go out to the world to proclaim the Good News of Salvation.  When the Holy Spirit came and revived the spiritual fervor among the frightened apostles and disciples, they went about proclaiming the word of Jesus.

The Holy Spirit is the source of wisdom and truth.  Christians know that they are speaking the truth and understanding the truth, because to them was revealed the presence of the Holy Spirit, a gift from Jesus Christ.  As the bringer of light and truth, the Holy Spirit indwells believers of Christ.  For that, may God be praised!

By Virginia S. Saunders

September 27, 2014

First posted in http://virginiasaunders.authorsxpress.com/2014/09/27/ishmael-and-isaac-the-eternal-family-feud/

 

 

 

 

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DEMONIC ATTACKS: BROUGHT TO YOU BY LETTER D

By Virginia S. Saunders

DIABOLICAL ATTACKS by evil spirits usually begin with the Letter D:  Depression, despondence, despair, deceit, discord, dissension, distress, distortion, deviance, desperation, distance, disagreement. The list goes on, not to mention the fact that those causing it are demons and devils which start with Letter D.

Knowing the D’s is an advantage for us because we can pinpoint immediately who is responsible for the debacles.  The Bibles said in Ephesians 6:12 that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.”

Our enemies have hierarchies and they work in concert.  They are more adept at human destruction than we humans are creative in our salvation.  When they see an opening on a person who was struck by, say, disappointment, they will work in concert to stir that basic human feeling towards another level of negativity such as deviance or distress.  They like to surround the broken, and enjoy pulling him down through deceit by feeding his mind with the lie that all is lost.

I was reading an account by Father Gabrielle Amorth, a Catholic priest and chief exorcist at the Vatican, who when asked how many demons there are, gave the answer a demon spoke through a demoniac: “We are so many that, if we were visible, we would darken the sun.” In the account of Jesus healing the Gerasene demoniac, Luke 8:26-39 and Mark 5:1-20, Jesus asked a demon who entered a man what his name was.  The demon answered “Legion!”, because so many demons entered this man. When Jesus cast out the demons, they entered a herd of pigs which rushed down a steep bank into the lake and drowned.  Mark 5:13 said that the herd numbered 2,000 pigs.  In Roman times, a legion unit consisted of 3,000 to 6,000 infantry and 100 to 200 cavalry.

The terrible events we are witnessing in the Middle East, rampaging hordes known as ISIS, Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollahs, and Talibans, has prompted me to calculate the number of demonic enemies we face.  If one demoniac is filled by 2,000 demons, think how many demons among ISIS members are at work.  Last June, ISIS was reported to have 10,000 members before they ransacked a bank in Mosul and ran off with $450 million.  Now they are a force of 50,000 members.  Al Qaeda, convinced by ISIS’ determination to turn the Middle East into a caliphate, has begun to ally with them.

Are you beginning to understand the extent of our enemy?

What drove me to classify them as in league with the devil?  Are they not doing their destruction of the Middle East for a common good?  Why did we allow them to flourish?  A Marine who came back from Iraq in 2008 wrote in the American Center for Law and Justice website, about why US liberals and those opposed to a justified war are not understanding the pure evil of Islamic jihad.

He said that US liberals’ moral relativism emerges when evaluating other cultures “where even dark deeds are excused by “culture” or “colonialism”, and regions in the grips of the worst kinds of pathologies are hailed for their rich and glorious traditions.”  Gangbanging a goat is a glorious tradition?  So many pictures of ISIS and Al Qaeda members engaged in this despicable act are uploaded daily on Twitter.  The US Intelligence released last week a video taken by a hovering drone of four Al Qaeda men doing this bestial perversion on a goat.

Another root, he said, is deception, which starts with a letter D.  “Jihadists are so savage, so brutal, that no one can truly justify their actions.  In response, the US liberals deny reality or bury their heads in the sand.”  This is the same Denial that afflicted the world when Adolph Hitler and his merry band of butchers started to annihilate the Jews.  They were so savage in their destruction that people would not even believe the stories and pictures that came out of the war.  It seems to me that this is exactly what screen personalities like Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz are doing, justifying the brutal acts of Hamas.

Every day I see on Twitter and other alternative news outlets the pictures of Christians or Jews who have been beheaded by ISIS, Hamas, Hezbollahs, and Al Qaeda.  I have seen pictures and videos which they themselves have uploaded of how they crucify or decapitate Christians, even children, and gleefully display the severed heads on sticks.  Twitter followers are shocked daily with pictures of moslem jihadists grasping several severed heads, or even kicking them around like a football.  We have seen how the Israeli Defense Forces have been exercising enormous amount of restraint by not firing at buildings where Gazan children were kept as human shields along with mortars and rockets.

I started this piece with the words in Ephesians 6:12, “Our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.”

We are dealing with legions of demons, and our little Sunday trip to church, or exclamations of “Jesus, I trust in you”, or even “God bless” are not enough. These are inutile attempts, almost insulting attempts,  and we Christians should really kneel down and plead God for help. We are dealing with demonic principalities who are using moslem jihadists to destroy our resolve for a peaceful earth.

Don Dickerman, an ordained Southern Baptist minister who has received an anointing to minister on deliverance and healing in US prisons since 1974, wrote this: “Unfortunately, many Christians have bought into the troubling doctrine taught today that we have some kind of authority in the heavenlies. It is not true, it doesn’t work, and it is very dangerous and foolish to attempt it.  Pick a fight with a principality? Please!”

He said that “principalities and powers of Satan are in similar structure of power and authority as the holy angels who did not rebel against God.” As Christians, we know in Genesis that a third of the angels led by Lucifer rebelled against God and were cast away from heaven.

“Principalities are the chief rulers of the kingdom of darkness,” Dickerman said, pointing out that principalities have been mentioned six times in the Bible.  These demonic creatures wield power in unseen realms to oppose anything that is of God.  That is why, among moslem jihadists, there is no such thing as a noble war, respect and dignity for the enemy, or even respect for the Geneva Convention on rules of engagement in war.  What we see are their deprave nature and macabre delight in torturing the enemy.

What do we do with these jihadists now that we know a little about demons and devils?  First of all, let us not believe the deceit that all is lost.  If the enemy attacks in concert, we must also attack him in concert – on our knees.  We must increase our prayers for the persecuted Christians in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and United States.  We are at war now, and we must do more than what we are comfortably doing.

We are protected by the blood of Jesus Christ.  We are led by the Holy Spirit. In my book ENTER THE HOLY SPIRIT, EXIT ME, I wrote that the Holy Spirit lifts up our petitions to God. Romans 8:26 said “The Spirit too comes in the aid of our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts know what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.”

Dickerman underlined: “Before there were demons, there were angels. Before there were angels, there was God.” We are in league with a just God. And our powerful God is not the same god revered by moslem jihadists.

By Virginia S. Saunders

August 11, 2014

First posted on August 11, 2014 at http://virginiasaunders.authorsxpress.com/2014/08/11/demonic-attacks-brought-to-you-by-letter-d/

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GAMING THE SYSTEM: ILLEGALS, JESUS, COYOTES

By Virginia S. Saunders

IN 2012 BARACK OBAMA signed an ominous bill, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act, that grants temporary legal status to young illegal immigrants entering the USA accompanied by their parents, an Act that would end the threat of deportation of these minors for at least two years.  This Act was part of the “Dream Act” that Obama has been pushing through Congress as part of his contentious immigration reform proposals that basically assures citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants already in the country.

Two years later the southern borders of Texas, California, and Arizona, are flooded with thousands of unaccompanied minors, teenagers, adults without documentation, who were trucked into the borders by human traffickers from Mexico and Central America.  These human traffickers are called “coyotes“, in reference to desert animals, small wolf like predators native to west North America, and known for their natural traits of deceit, cheating, and trickery.  Reports said that these coyotes were paid $700 per child to truck them to the border.  At the southern border of Mexico and US, the illegals merely submit themselves to border security guards and they automatically become wards of the US government.

It is a neat trick, though the entire trip from Central America can be fraught with dangers such as rape or death from dehydration.

Illegals said they were told that they will be given “permiso” to stay permanently in United States as long as they get through the borders by June 2014.  Human traffickers have been advertising in newspapers in Central America that Obama’s Deferred Action will guarantee permanent residency for young immigrants.  Thus, we witness entry of toddlers unaccompanied by parents, one wonders “how can their parents do this?”  Traffickers distributed question and answer cheat sheets on what to say when apprehended by border security guards. Among the questions were “why are you here?”, and the ready answer is “to flee from gang violence” in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, or Mexico.

There are now 70,000 of these illegals who are housed in military bases while the Department of Homeland Security, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Department of Justice all figure out what to do.  Some 100,000 are expected before the end of the year.  In the midst of these tsunamis of illegal aliens, are Democrat politicians schooled in the art of disingenuous publicity who ride to the border and display compassion for these “poor refugees”.  We have Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, who went to the camps, and in front of photographers and television sycophants said she saw “dazzling divinity” among the children.  Then we have Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-MO) who distributed candies to the children, then packed up after the photo opportunity.

It is so sick, it could make one cry.

The border guards have been turned into nannies and diaper changers, ordering supplies of diapers and underwears, blankets, pillows, water, and tacos.  Mexican illegals complained that the tortillas they were given were below par, made with rice flour and not corn flour to which they were accustomed.

As housing for  these illegals became dire, the Department of Homeland Security were ordered to bus and distribute them into many towns in United States.  Several of these towns fought back, such as Lawrenceville in Virginia, whose citizens protested and barred the DHS buses from unloading their human cargo.  “Not in my neighborhood” has become the latest cry.  The DHS several times tried to unload illegals from Texas to Murrieta, California, but were met by 300,000 protesters, armed with sticks, guns and placards.  It became so inflamed that DHS had to back track and find another town.  Mayors are complaining that they have not been told that illegals are being dumped in their neighborhoods.

Then came the pro-amnesty crowd who displayed placards saying “Jesus was a refugee!”, putting a guilt trip on anti-amnesty protesters who won’t allow illegals to be  dumped in their community.  Christian churches, particularly Catholic churches, were told to accept these illegals.  Catholic priests told their congregation to house these illegals but cautioned them not to talk about it.  A nun appeared on television saying her church accepted 25 illegals, then clapped her hands.  Why not take the whole 75,000?  Jesus would approve, surely.

Meanwhile, the border, if there was any, has become a free highway for illegals.  Not only Mexicans and Central Americans were coming in. It has become an entry point for terrorists from the Middle East who fly into Mexico to get to the US.. Many are now in United States.  Reports yesterday said that even Chinese illegals are coming in through the southern border.  Last year, as the number of illegal entrants mounted from a trickle to a deluge, border guards were ordered not to use fire power, but to hide under cover when immigrants throw rocks at them for being turned away.  It was an order that has confused the border guards, wondering what they are being paid to secure.

Mixed among these illegal immigrants are tattooed unsavory characters from the Zeta gang and the Mexican cartel, Mara Salvatrucha, who move in and out of the US with impunity.  They are also involved in bringing illegals by operating a jet ski service across the Rio Grande, shuttling illegals between Mexico and the southern US border.  It costs from $500 to $1000 to take the jet ski across the Rio Grande.

The illegal immigration crisis has now been called The Obama Invasion, and Congress pinpoint to the time Obama took his executive pen and signed the Dream Act, now disparaged as “The Nightmare Act“.  It was signed before the 2012 election to drum up support from the Latino groups.  By allowing hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants who came before they turned 16 to remain the United States, it assured Obama’s reelection. Seventy one percent of Latinos voted for him.

It was also the same Act that spurred human traffickers to advertise in Central America the open door policy of the administration.  Obama blamed the Republican Congress for the crisis, saying “pass the darn bill” and embrace comprehensive immigration reform.  Republicans countered that immigration reform does not mean total amnesty to 11 million illegals, but should require securing the southern border first, and require illegals to go through full documentation, and learn English as a national language.

Obama asked for $3.5 billion to solve the invasion dilemma, a huge outlay that includes $50 million to hire judges to rule on deportation or amnesty.  This could mean an outlay of $70,000 per illegal immigrant to house and feed them for a year, and the $3.5 billion does not even include allocation for securing the border.  Former congressman Ernest Istook (R-Oklahoma) suggested that there is a better cheaper plan: Repatriate them.  He said it will only cost the government $667 per illegal for an airline ticket from Texas to Guatemala City.

Mr. Istook underscored the legality of this proposal as it is embedded in a Federal law:

“The Secretary of Homeland Security, in conjunction with the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Human Services, shall develop policies and procedures to ensure that unaccompanied alien children in the United States are safely repatriated to their country of nationality or last habitual residence.”

Border patrol officials said that only three percent of those apprehended from countries other than Mexico are being sent back.  The IJReview said that data from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement showed that illegals under 18 who were deported or turned away at ports has fallen from 8,143 in 2008 during the last year of the Bush administration, down to 1,669 in 2013 after Obama signed the Nightmare Act.

Americans call themselves “compassionate” and a “compassionate country”.  It is also oftentimes a “dumb country“  when it allows others to game the system for their own purpose.  Illegals are just riding the crisis with a smile, knowing they have successfully placed the monkey on the backs of Americans.  Right now Americans are suffering from this man-inflicted abuse, so totally devoid of wisdom and justice, and it is tearing the whole country apart.

By Virginia S. Saunders

July 11, 2014

First posted on July 11, 2014 at http://virginiasaunders.authorsxpress.com/2014/07/11/gaming-the-system-illegals-jesus-coyotes/

 

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THE PERSECUTED CHURCH: WAITING FOR A SAVIOR

By Virginia S. Saunders

ON THE FEAST OF St. Peter and St. Paul, we were reminded yesterday that the persecution of Christians since 2000 years ago, remain unabated even today.  Evil is running rampant among radical Moslems in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.  Christians are abused, killed, crucified for their faith in Christ, and our faith is tested daily by the lack of outrage from governments and moderate Moslems who are supposed to contain these persecutions.  In fact, we see our own government contributing to the persecution.

What is it about the Christian faith that elicits from non-believers this most heinous of emotions?  We follow teachings from the Son of God who taught us to turn the other cheek when confronted by bullies, to show mercy, to pardon and forgive our oppressors, to forsake vengeance and letting God do his brand of justice.  And for this, Christians are hacked with machetes, their heads decapitated not with sharp swords that would at least display mercy by its swiftness, but with dull knives which killers gleefully saw to and fro to elicit the most pain and brutality.  Where is mercy when you need it?

Last year Moslem jihadists decapitated the head of Syrian Catholic priest, Father Francois Murad in Gassanieh, Syria, then posted online the video of his execution.  With his hands bound, his executor rendered his death with a kitchen knife, while around them, Syrians armed with cameras to record the killing, were shouting “Allahu Akbar!” (God is Great!). It was like a village entertainment on a slow Friday afternoon.

The monastery where he took refuge in Gassanieh, the Franciscan Friars of the Custody of the Holy Land, said that he was there to start the construction of a monastery dedicated to St. Simon Stylites.  This church was also destroyed  by Islamist militants.  Among those attacked were Syrian villagers who were among the most ancient of Christians, their faith dating back to St. Paul’s evangelization.

Then we hear about pregnant Meriam Ibrahim, a Sudanese Christian mother of two who was accused of marrying a Christian, and who refused to renounce her faith.  She was sentenced to death as soon as her baby was born.  Only after an international outcry from fellow Christians was she freed and reunited with her American husband.

Last week, a Sudanese government force destroyed a Christian church, prompting one Sudanese believer to remark: “The church is now contaminated with terror.  You don’t feel safe in prayer.”

And we still have not heard about the condition of Pastor Saeed, imprisoned for being a Christian. Then there is Nigeria’s Boko Haram who kidnapped 200 schoolgirls and forced Christian girls to convert to Islam or die.  They purposely showed these girls wearing the “hijab”, the Moslem head cover, and basically taunted the Nigerian and US governments to come and get them.

Everywhere, from China to Indonesia, to Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, everywhere the apostles and disciples proclaimed Jesus’ message of love, Christian believers are being persecuted.  Christian churches are being burned down in Indonesia and China, countries where millions are making Jesus the center of their lives.

I cannot believe that this is just a cultural and political issue, when radical Moslems refer to believers as “infidels” who must be exterminated.  There is a great moat that divides Christians and Moslems.  Christians consider murder and destruction as works of the devil, while Moslem jihadists consider extermination of Christian believers as “giving glory to God”.

The Bible said in Ephesians 6:12-13 that “our struggle are not with flesh and blood, but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.”

Did Jesus Christ foresee this happening 500-2000 years after His death?  The reason He sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was to help us Christians to receive the supernatural gifts that would help us tame our raging passions.  In my book ENTER THE HOLY SPIRIT, EXIT ME, I wrote about the fruits of the Spirit given to those who accept Jesus Christ as their savior.  Galatians 5:22 said that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

These fruits are opposed to the desires of the flesh.  Galatians 5:17-21 said that “the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.  These are opposed to each other so that you may not do what you want.  The works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.”

If you don’t believe in Jesus Christ, you don’t get the supernatural gifts.  Those who yield to the Holy Spirit seem to have more control over their brutal nature, more forgiving, and do not rise in anger and rage as non-believers do.  Just see the difference already on display on the world stage.  Who is killing whom?  Who are acting more humane and in control of their emotions, and who are more barbaric and totally without self-control?

I started this piece as saying that persecuted Christians are waiting for a savior.  I am not referring to the second coming of Jesus Christ.

It is not President Obama, despite his camp’s attempt to elevate him as a messiah during his campaign in 2008, a disturbing paint job that millions of Americans bought.  Mr. Obama, a dubious Christian, said on page 261 of his book, “Audacity of Hope”, “I will stand with the Moslems should the political winds shift in an ugly direction.”

That is already happening, and that alone eliminates him as a potential savior of Christians.

Incredibly, the savior for persecuted Christians could be coming from Russia through its president, Vladimir Putin, a born again Christian who was baptized in the Russian Orthodox Church.  Yes, call him a KGB thug who wants to bring Latvia, Estonia,or Ukraine back into Russian sovereignty, but he has been working behind the scenes to relieve persecuted Christians.

In the past two years, Putin has been vocal about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, calling on governments to pay attention to this issue.  He has also allied with Pope Francis for any strategy that would contain this horrible persecution.  He has met on this matter with Patriarch Kirrill of Moscow, the Arch Bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church.  Most of all, he has vocally declared zero tolerance for Moslem extremism, aggression, and terrorism.  Among the laws he signed was forcing relatives of Moslem terrorists to pay for moral and physical damages caused by their attacks, and 20 years in prison for any terrorist taking part in training, organizing terrorist networks, or launching or financing terrorist groups.

Putin has denigrated USA’s diminishing influence to help persecuted Christians, citing US political correctness, hedonism, growing atheism, immorality, weak leadership, and describing President Obama as the leader of Sodom and Gomorrah.

If you are a Christian reading this, know where the wind is blowing.  Some fresh winds are blowing into Russia, and may even extend to places in the Middle East where Christians are being persecuted.  We are in need of this fresh air.  As a politically conservative Christian, I am praying that the USA will also experience the fresh winds of the Holy Spirit, especially during this troubled time in its history.

By Virginia S. Saunders

July 1, 2014

First posted at http://virginiasaunders.authorsxpress.com/2014/07/01/the-persecuted-church-waiting-for-a-savior/

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INSPECTORS OF GRACE VERSUS CURRENTS OF GRACE

By Virginia S. Saunders

POPE FRANCIS used the Charismatic Renewal’s National Convocation of “Renewal In The Spirit” in Rome to remind the faithful and the clergy to stop being “inspectors of grace”.  Speaking last weekend to 53,000 Charismatics who gathered in Rome’s
Olympic Stadium for an outpouring of praise and worship led by the Holy Spirit, the Pope warned that sometimes “leaders become inspectors of grace”, deciding who can and who cannot receive grace”.

“If you are doing this, I beg you to stop doing so! You are stewards of God’s grace, not inspectors.  Do not carry out a “customs control” of the Holy Spirit”, urged the Pope.

The Pope may have verbalized what is ailing many pastoral leaders in the successful execution of their mission, one that has separated many Catholic Christians from following the faith and describing church ceremonies and laws as sterile, rigid religion, as oppose to unadulterated and free worship of Jesus Christ.

“You have in your documents the guide and safe route to avoid mistakes: theological and pastoral orientation, ecumenism, service to man.  This is a path; evangelization, ecumenism, care of the poor and welcome of the marginalized.”

The Pope said that all of these paths are based on worship of God as the foundation.  He added, “I have been asked to tell the Renewal what the Pope expects of you:  the first thing is the conversion to the love of Jesus that changes lives and makes the Christian a witness of God’s love.”

“Seek unity in the Renewal because it was born of the Spirit and the unity of the Trinity.  Remember that the Renewal is, by its very nature, ecumenical.  The Catholic Renewal rejoices at what the Spirit realizes in other churches.  Be close to the poor, the needy, touch in their flesh the wounded flesh of Jesus.  Be close to them, please.”

The Pope had the perfect audience for this homily.  He was speaking to people who have been touched by the Holy Spirit, and who have allowed unencumbered joy and praising of Jesus to rule their prayer life.  Such manner of praising had produced fruits and spiritual fervor among Charismatics, as well as supernatural gifts of prayer tongues, healing hands, prophecies and visions.  These gifts were first given to the apostles and disciples during Pentecost Sunday, 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Much to the unbelief of many Christians, these gifts are still operating today 2000 years after Christ died, and are useful in the spread of Christianity and evangelization of this faith.

Charismatics are known for their free expression of their faith.  Many are influenced by their culture.  Charismatics from Latin America, for instance, tend to dance and rejoice while in worship.  African American Charismatics display rocking, jumping, and other body language when in prayer.  Asian Charismatics have been described as “happy-clappy” for breaking out in applause at the mention of the  Holy Spirit.  Praying in tongue, a very effective and powerful tool in praising or healing in which the recipient of the gift works with the Holy Spirit during petitions, intercessions, praise and worship, are regular ways of worship for Charismatics.  The basis of all Charismatic worship is praising God aloud.

Early this year at a homily in Casa Santa Marta in Rome, Pope Francis reflected on spontaneous praising by quoting the second book of Samuel, when David danced with joy at the return of the Ark of the Covenant.

“David’s prayer of praise brought him to leave all forms of composure and to dance in front of the Lord with all his strength.  This is the prayer of praise!”

Pope Francis said that the prayer of praise is not only for Charismatics, but “a Christian prayer for all of us.”  If we close ourselves to formality, our prayer becomes cold and sterile!”

The Bible said that David was reproached by Michal, the daughter of King Saul, for dancing the way he did at the return of the Ark of the Covenant.  Pope Francis reflected:  “I ask myself how many times we reject good people in our heart, good people who praise the Lord as it comes to them, spontaneously, because they are not cultured, they don’t follow formal attitudes?  But to reject!  And the Bible says that Michal remained sterile for the rest of her life because of this!  What does the Word of God want to say here?  That joy, the prayer of praise, makes us fertile!”

Pope Francis has become the darling of the Charismatic Renewal Movement because of his encouragement to the flock to make their prayers more fruitful by allowing the Holy Spirit to lead them, and giving importance to spontaneous praising of Jesus Christ.  Coming from a man who in Buenos Aires once denigrated Charismatics in worship as “they seem like a samba school”, his transformation, new respect, and defense of Charismatic worship could soon change the way the faithful of the Catholic Church would worship in the future.

“At first I did not agree with their way of praying.  After I got to know them and I began to understand the good that Renewal does for the Church, I was appointed by the Conference of Bishops as chaplain of the Renewal in Argentina.”  During the Convocation in Rome, 53,000 people lifted their hands and prayed over Pope Francis, through singing and prayer tongues.

In my book ENTER THE HOLY SPIRIT, EXIT ME, I quoted Reverend Vincent Walsh of Philadelphia who wrote that the common objections of priests to the Charismatic Renewal Movement are 1) it attracts unstable people and is a haven for those who are emotionally dependent; 2) it is too emotional, placing too much accent on feelings; 3) it goes against reason or sound theology; 4) is naive in believing God intervenes directly, such as through healing or prophecy.”

Said Reverend Walsh in his book “Key To Charismatic Renewal In The Catholic Church”, “More priests are not involved because they have never had a real opportunity to experience a Charismatic prayer group.  Also, they saw only partial aspects of the movement, not realizing its importance for every phase of their life and ministry.”

Saint John Paul II, and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI have both supported spiritual movements in the Catholic Church.  But with Pope Francis at the helm, a new current of evangelization is moving through the corridors and sanctum sanctorum of the Catholic Church, making the staid, sterile and infertile more fruitful.  The Holy Spirit is turning things around.

Said the Pope:  “You, Charismatic Renewal, have received a great gift from the Lord; you have been born from a desire of the Holy Spirit as a current of grace in the Church, for the Church.  This is your definition:  A Current Of Grace.

By VIRGINIA S. SAUNDERS

First posted on June 3, 2014 at http://virginiasaunders.authorsxpress.com/2014/06/03/inspectors-of-grace-versus-currents-of-grace/

 

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HARVARD’S SATANIC GROUP: SONS OF NEPHILIM

By Virginia S. Saunders

WE THOUGHT ATHEISTS were the only ones who scraped bottom, but the recent failed move by a satanic group to hold a “Black Mass” in Harvard on May 12 could rank down there among the wicked plots of perverted Nephilims.  You know  who they are. Biblical deviants who were the offshoot of copulations between fallen angels and daughters of men which was detailed in Genesis 6.  Maybe the Harvard community backlash was God’s way of turning the tables and showing how pathetically reprehensible these groups can be.  God will not be mocked.

Like the group that raised $20,000 to put a satanic monument right beside the Ten Commandments in the Oklahoma Capitol in the guise of freedom of expression, the Harvard-based satanic group couched their event as “to reaffirm respect for the satanic faith and to demonstrate that the most powerful response to offensive speech is to shame those who marginalize others by letting their own words and actions speak for themselves.” This is PC gobbledegook!

Shame the Catholic Church and Christians who have made the Body of Christ the center of their faith? Shame them by desecrating the Holy Eucharists, the transubstantiated body of Christ?  Shame them for worshiping the Son of God who gave His life to redeem mankind from eternal damnation?  Shame  them for praying for the broken?  Why?

It is detestable that this was even conceived within one of the nation’s prime seat of higher learning.  Using deceitful language, the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club told the Catholic News Agency that “Satanists have a ritual that they perform for their own affirmative reasons.  These reasons have absolutely nothing to do with Catholicism beyond the symbols themselves.”  If this is the case, why are they using the Holy Eucharists, symbolic of the Catholic Church?

The group described the Catholic Church as “paranoid, intolerant, and ignorant to think that satanic rituals are meant to degrade the Catholic Church.”  It said that their holding the Black Mass is “an educational event that is part of a larger series exploring various cultural practices.”

Lucien Greaves, speaking for the New York based Satanic Temple who was co-sponsoring the event, wrote in Campus Reform that they are more concerned with engaging in socio-political dialogue.  “The “host” they will use is not consecrated.  Consecrated or not, it means nothing to us.”

Why did the satanists chose to parody the Holy Mass and the Eucharists, and not some other  religions – like Islam?  After all there is much in Islam that can be parodied.  Knowing that the Holy Mass is directly connected to celebrating Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and not some messenger like Mohammed, maybe the satanists really wanted to demean the God who will strike at their head.  Like fly-swatting the Savior of the World.

Continuing to couch their plot in more palatable terms, the club organizers said “There is a flawed assumption that because Satan is the representation of evil incarnate for some faiths, that satanists are part of a hate group and their practice devoted toward denigrating Catholicism.  The point of this event is to challenge the stigmatization of marginalized groups.”

The Catholic Church provides teachings on the dangers of satanic worship.  “This activity separates people from God and the human community.  It is contrary to charity and goodness, and it places the participants dangerously close to destructive works of evil”, said officials of the Archdiocese of Boston.

Satanists deal with the occult, a doorway to a relationship with fallen angels.  The only protection from this is prayer, fasting, and receiving the Sacraments.  Satanists find it hard to understand that once they join Satan’s camp, then it will be like going downhill on a wheelbarrow, and they will always be stigmatized as anti-God.  Jesus did say, “Either you are for me or against me.”

A short trip down the history of damnation could give us an insight into why these people are separated.

It all started in Genesis 3:15, when God told the serpent, Satan, that He will put enmity between him and the woman, presaging the arrival of Jesus Christ who would destroy Satan.  “He will strike at your head while you strike at his heel.”  Since this warning, Satan went out to destroy anyone who he thought would cause his crushed head.  Beginning with Cain and Abel, Satan became the instigator who caused Cain to kill Abel, thinking that Abel was the one chosen to strike at his head.

Not being omniscient, Satan continued his search for his destroyer throughout the pages of the Pentateuch and beyond.  Thus, we have horrible stories of infanticide from which Biblical figures such as Moses, Joseph, or Jesus emerged.  In Genesis 6, we were taught that the sons of heaven, the legions of fallen angels loyal to Lucifer, took the bodies of humans and had relations with the daughters of men. They produced the Nephilims and Anakims, grotesque beings whose very nature is wrapped in wickedness and perversion. For example, Goliath.

A footnote in the New American Bible said that this is apparently “a fragment of an old legend that had borrowed much from ancient mythology.  The sacred author incorporates it here, not only in order to account for the prehistoric giants of Palestine, whom the Israelites called the Nephilims, but also to introduce the story of the flood with a moral orientation.”

In the succeeding years, as Adam and his family continued to populate the earth, the Nephilim and Anakim descendants became more wicked and corrupt.  Their very existence spiked the wrath of God who then wanted to destroy the earth and its people.  The only ones who still had the original authentic human genes that can be traced back to Adam and Eve were Noah and his family.  Thus, Noah and his family of seven were preserved.

Perhaps the flood did not completely destroy the mythological Nephilims and Anakims, for the Bible is replete with stories of wicked men and women even after the Flood.  Myth or not, they still exist now as human beings, even in Harvard, looking to destroy those allied with God before the Nephilims and Anakims  themselves are completely exterminated.

By Virginia S. Saunders

First posted on May 16, 2014 at http://virginiasaunders.authorsxpress.com/2014/05/16/harvards-satanic-group-sons-of-nephilim/

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FORGIVENESS: UNSHACKLING A CORRODING HEART

By Virginia S. Saunders

AMAZING FEATS of forgiveness were demonstrated to us by an Amish community in 2007 when they chose to forgive the gunman who killed their children inside their schoolroom in Nickel Mines, Philadelphia.  Before the blood stains were even wiped clean, the parents of these children converged in the house of the gunman and hugged and comforted his broken mother.  The school house, site of the gory massacre, was torn down, and the Amish community built a new one, to start a fresh new chapter.

We saw something similar happen in South Africa in 1994 when Nelson Mandela encouraged Africans, torn by bloody apartheid, to forgive face to face those criminals who killed, abused, raped and devastated their families and community.  Through this country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, perpetrators of some of the most gruesome crimes ever committed by man were given amnesty in exchange for full disclosure of their offenses.  Instead of revenge and retribution, South Africans chose the difficult paths of confession, forgiveness and reconciliation.

We saw this happen when Pope John Paul  chose to forgive his assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca, when he visited him in prison two years after Agca shot him in the stomach in May 1981.  Agca, now released after 25 years in prison, is back in Turkey, perhaps still savoring the misplaced political righteousness of his act, but forgiven nonetheless.

I described these acts as “amazing feats” because forgiveness is not a human-powered act.  It is a Grace-filled Spirit-directed act.  It takes wisdom and mercy of the Holy Spirit inside us to act in an expansive way.  But we have to ask for this help.  As Christians we need the help of the Holy Spirit to transition from a bitter and resentful victim into a person empowered to forgive wrongdoing.  It takes prayer to do this.

In Romans 8:26, it said: “The Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts know what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy one according to God’s will.”

Forgiveness is a difficult decision,  it is the only way we can be free from the burden of hate, resentment, and bitterness from harm done to us or from any perceived reproach and pain inflicted upon us.  We have seen how unforgiveness devastates families, even in our own families, breaking marriages and bonds of flesh and blood that would have been quickly restored through the grace of forgiveness from the one who felt offended.  In a similar way many of the discord happening in our society would have been resolved through forgiveness.

Unforgiveness can linger for months and years, hardening the heart of the unforgiver, exacting the toll of a righteous or unrighteous indignation.  This toll can translate into the unforgiver symptoms of extreme medical and physical malfunctions in the body such as depression, stroke, heart diseases, tumors, high blood pressure, skin diseases, and stomach ailments.  It is a heavy burden to carry.

A paper by Mayo Clinic asked why it is so easy to hold a grudge.  It said:  “When you dwell on hurtful events or situations, grudges filled with resentment, vengeance and hostility can take root.  If you allow negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed by your own bitterness or sense of injustice.  If you are unforgiving, you might pay the price repeatedly by bringing anger and bitterness into every relationship and new experience.  Your life might become wrapped up in the wrong that you can’t even enjoy the present.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize, and chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said in his speech in University of Toronto: “Our country did not go the way of Nuremberg, to bring perpetrators of crimes to trial.  And our country rejected the other extreme, that of blanket amnesty, which victimized victims a second time by trying to let bygones be bygones, when in fact they never become bygones.”

Instead, by hearing and watching victims forgive the perpetrators face to face, something happened in South Africa as a country.  Said Archbishop Tutu: “We discovered that people experienced healing through telling their stories.  The process opened wounds that were festering.  We cleansed them, we poured ointment on them, we knew they would heal.  We were exhilarated as we heard people who had suffered grievously, who by right should have been baying for the blood of their tormentors, utter words of forgiveness, reveal an extraordinary willingness to work for reconciliation, demonstrating magnanimity and nobility of spirit.  Who could have imagined that South Africa would be an example of anything but the most awful ghastliness?”

That nobility of spirit is a gift.  Forgiveness brings peace.  It is possible to forgive a person without excusing the act, which is what Pope John Paul did.  Forgiveness is possible even if reconciliation is not, particularly if communication is impossible.  The Spirit will find a way.  Deep inside us is the capacity to forgive even if it is clouded by our indignation.

In my book ENTER THE HOLY SPIRIT, EXIT ME, I wrote about how the Lord taught me how to forgive.  He fed this into my mind:  “Usually, when you are angry with someone, it is not because of what that person had done to you, but how you felt that consumes you.”  Then He showed me something like a rolodex photo file of people who I needed to forgive.  As the photo card flipped, He encouraged me to say aloud, “I forgive you with all my heart.”  Then another card and photo would flip, and I would again say aloud, “I forgive you with all my heart.”

This went on for some time, with me forgiving many people who had hurt me in the past, or said something that hurt me.  I was amazed at how many hurtful instances I had forgotten in my life, not knowing that these instances had left scars in my heart.  It reminded me of a Sesame Street movie which my children loved, that of Big Bird stumbling into the Museum of Metropolitan Art, and watching an Egyptian boy’s heart being weighed on a scale, to see if his heart was as light as a feather.

A heavy heart is a burden to carry.  It clouds everything and destroys one’s joy and outlook in life.  Wrapped up in this theme on forgiveness is the message of discipleship in John 20:22-23 when Jesus breathed on His disciples and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

We are all called to become disciples of Christ and proclaim His good news to the world. This is what makes Christianity different from other religions.  It is not vengeance we seek.  We seek lightness of heart.  We cannot do our commission with a heavy heart caused by unforgiveness.  Somehow unforgiveness will corrode our hearts.  And yet, the way out of darkness is residing right inside us through the Holy Spirit.  It is good to ask for His help, state the problem to Him, and ask Him to help us pray our way out of unforgiveness because we really do not know how we ought to pray about it.

It is amazing how light hearted we become after we stop being victims of our own unforgiveness by releasing its control over our psyche and our hearts.  The heart and the spirit are renewed.  We become a new creation.  It is Grace at work.

By Virginia S. Saunders

First posted on April 27, 2014 at http://virginiasaunders.authorsxpress.com/2014/04/27/forgiveness-unshackling-a-corroding-heart/

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BLAMING GOD: THE DANGERS OF FALSE TEACHINGS

By Virginia S. Saunders

THE EARTH IS GROANING.  Earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons.  In the first three months of 2014, we witnessed and survived the magnitude 5.1 earthquake in Los Angeles, California; 8.2 magnitude earthquake in Chile; followed three days later by another magnitude 7.8 quake.  The quakes in Japan in 2011 caused a major tsunami which disabled the Fukushima nuclear power plant and killed 16,000 people.  The tsunami in Aceh, Indonesia in 2004 killed more than 100,000 people.  The typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines last October 2013, caused the ocean to surge which killed 5,000 and demolished houses and industrial and electrical installations in several islands.

Many of these earthquakes and the incoming tsunamis and ocean surges are happening in areas called the “ring of fire” in the Pacific where tectonic plates are consistently shifting.  Within the Pacific plate, quakes have occurred in Christchurch, New Zealand; Mount Saint Helens in Washington, USA; Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines; Mount Fuji in Japan; the Paricutan Volcano in Mexico; the Santiago Earthquake in Chile; and the Sendai Earthquake in Japan.  Scientists are warning that there is a very dangerous build-up of magma underneath many of Japan’s volcanoes.

Say that these are all acts of God to punish sinners, and I can say flat out that such religion is false and destructive, arrogantly condemning all the people living within the ring of fire.  Those who perpetuate this lie create the bipolar minds that many Christians suffer from.

During times of devastation and natural calamities, liberal television channels immediately call on priests and pastors asking “Is this God’s will?”  “How can a good God allow so many people to die and suffer?”  And priests and pastors try their best to explain once again  that natural laws should not be confused with the physical, spiritual, and moral aspects of pain and suffering.

To describe people as sinful and deserving the tragedy that befell them because of their sinfulness is putting the blame on God of the Old Testament.  Those who do not understand His true nature and have not understood the verses in the Old Testament, have described this god as “manic-depressive”.  Worse, they have applied the rules and laws of the Old Covenant over the New Covenant, straddling these two covenants as if Jesus Christ never happened.  Many people have lost their faith in a good God when they were told that God is responsible for the death and calamities because they have wrongly applied the scriptural verse “many have sinned and fell short of the glory of God”.  Throughout the centuries of false teaching, this has put fear on people who have yet to know the saving grace claimed for us by Jesus Christ.

In his very informative book Sharper Than A Two-Edged Sword, Pastor Andrew Wommack said, “Sadly, some people are teaching that God controls everything in this world, and that no one can get sick or dead unless God wills it.  This is absolutely wrong! If you believe that God willed you to get sick, then you shouldn’t fight against it by going to the doctor and try to get better.”

“Religion mentions that God loves us, but then goes on to say that God makes babies sick, or gives people cancer because He loves them and want to teach them something. That is not love.  Religion is trying to say that God causes tragedy because He loves you.  This is a lie that has been perpetrated so often, and people have started believing it.”

Satan is on a war path against God, and he is enjoying the blame being heaped against God, his mortal enemy.  He is supported by the insurance industry which has maligned God’s reputation by calling every natural calamity as “acts of God”.  It considers everything benevolent as works of “Mother Earth”, while every malignant typhoon or tsunami are “acts of God”.

Remarked author and Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias in his book Beyond Opinion: “Following the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, nobody questioned Mother Earth or asked where she was in all these.  After all, the earth shook.  Strange is it not that those who believe in Mother Earth blame Father God when Mother Earth misbehaves?”

If both righteous and unrighteous people are not being saved from these typhoons and natural disasters, what are we actually being saved from by a loving God?

To understand this line of questioning, we must first correctly understand, correctly believe, and correctly proclaim this truth: God loved us so much that he sent his only son Jesus who paid for all our sins, past, present, and future sins, by his death and resurrection.  In Romans 8:1, Paul said, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed us from the law of sin and death.”

God’s trustworthiness and covenant with us is embedded in Hebrews 8:7-13. God said:

“I will conclude a new covenant with the house of Israel and Judah,.  It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers the day I took them by the hand to lead them forth from the land of Egypt, for they did not stand by my covenant and I ignored them.” Hebrews 8:8-10

“I will put my laws in their minds and I will write them upon their hearts, and I will be their God and they shall be my people.” Hebrews 8:10

“For I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sins no more.” When he speaks of a new covenant he declares the first one obsolete.  Ad what has become obsolete and has grown old is close to disappearing.” Hebrews 8:12-13

This New Covenant is a gift.  It cannot be earned.  Said Ravi Zacharias: “The reason I believe many people think they are Christians and feel that God has failed them is that they think they have upheld their end of the bargain.  They have tried to obey the law, so surely they should now be rewarded by God for all their effort.  However, everything in the Christian faith is a gift.  You cannot earn it.  Once you realize that you do not deserve anything, but in Christ you have now been given everything, then you are able to experience joy.”

“Some people are throwing you into confusion and trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. The false gospel, said Paul to Galatians, teaches that by obeying the laws through human effort, you can earn favor with God.  Then He will smile on you and everything will go well,” said Zacharias.

It was Paul himself who explained the invalidity of the human effort.  He said in Galatians 3:10 that not only is this view actually no gospel at all, but that all those who try to live that way will bring a curse on themselves.  Those who rely on works of the law are under a curse.

This is the lie perpetrated through the ages:  By following to the letter  the Old Testament laws, one will be protected from natural laws and calamities.  That all those who died in the tsunamis in Indonesia, Philippines or Japan, or the quakes in Chile, were all sinful and merited God’s wrath and punishment.

Said Wommack: “The destructive power of The Lie is that it renders you unable to reconcile the love of God with the use of sickness and death as teaching tools.  Deep down in your heart, whether you understand it or not, it is going to affect your relationship with God and your understanding of how much he loves you.

“You can’t blame God for causing tragedy in life and trust him wholeheartedly at the same time!”

By Virginia S. Saunders

April 8, 2014

First posted at http://virginiasaunders.authorsxpress.com/2014/04/08/blaming-god-the-dangers-of-false-teachings/

 

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MARY: THE ENIGMA THAT BAFFLES NON-CATHOLICS

By Virginia S. Saunders

MARY, THE MOTHER OF GOD.  That term grates in the ears of some Christians who are perplexed by Catholics’ devotion to her.  They believe that Mary was just a vessel used for Christ’s birth, then faded in obscurity after Christ’s death.  I have heard disparaging remarks by many, including Pastor John Hagee who told his congregation, “Catholics treat her as if she is God. Last time I looked at the Bible, there was only one God, and it was not she.”

The fact is Catholics do not regard her as God but as the Mother of God, if you consider Jesus Christ as God.  The fact is Mary had more to do with the spread of Christianity around the world than non-Catholics would care to believe.  Catholics do not worship her, but honor her as one would honor one’s own mother.  Catholics honor those whom God chooses to honor.

Mary is the first Charismatic, the first recipient of the gift of the Holy Spirit.  She was chosen to be the mother of God when the Holy Spirit came upon her and Jesus was conceived in her womb.  Luke 1:26-38 reveals how the Archangel Gabriel told her that she will conceive a baby who will “be great and will be called Son of the Most High”.  All Christians celebrate this birth every year.

Mary is considered by Catholics as the “Ark of the New Covenant”.  Jesus is the New Covenant, and Mary’s womb became the ark for the New Covenant, the exalted place where the Son of God became flesh, nourished and grew for nine months until his humble birth in a manger in Bethlehem.  Luke wrote of her subservience to the Lord when he penned the Canticle of Mary, also known as The Magnificat , in Luke 1:46-56, in which she says “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”

In the history of mankind’s salvation, God chose a woman from the house of David.  Catholics believe that this woman was set apart in her purity and virtue “so as not to make the incarnation of the Son of God a sacrilege”.  For this reason, the Church has proclaimed her own conception as “immaculate”, free from the original sin we all inherited from Adam.  Catholics believe that she was set apart in a holy state of purity and perpetual virginity.

Why do Catholics course their prayers through her?  Why not just pray directly to Jesus Christ?  Why do you ask your friends to pray for you?  Mary has top connections.  She is categorized under Catholic parlance as being “hyper dulia”, the highest human respect towards creatures having special affinity to God.  Every aspect of the Catholics’ devotion to her has biblical origins.  Her exalted position has encouraged believers to ask her intercession for major causes and concerns.  Catholics love to quote the Wedding in Cana, of her role when she approached Jesus to tell him that the hosts have run out of wine.  We all know how Jesus responded.

Many of the teachings about Mary and her eminent role in the formation and propagation of the Church which her son established were defined as dogmas in progression, as the Holy Spirit expanded the Church’s understanding of the revelation of Christ in Christian doctrine and theology.  This is not difficult to understand, since the descent of the Holy Spirit at the First Pentecost also transmitted to the apostles and disciples not only the gift of praying tongues and spiritual fervor, but also major revelations, visions and prophecies.  These gifts are consistent with the manifestations of the Holy Spirit even during these day and age.  In previous centuries, the Church merely officially established these revelations on her role as dogmas or truths.

There are four dogmas of the Virgin Mary which the Catholic Church has proclaimed.  First is the perpetual virginity of Mary.  This is expressed in three parts:  in her virginal conception of Christ; in giving birth to Christ, and her continuing virginity after His birth. This first dogma was established in AD 354-430 by Saint Augustine, Saint Peter Chrysologus in AD 400-450, and then in AD 440-461 by Pope Leo The Great.

The second dogma is that Mary is the Mother of God.  This was defined as a dogma during the Council of Ephesus in AD 431.  You can’t argue with this because the Bible says it so.

The third dogma is the Immaculate Conception of Mary, defined as dogma by Pope Pius IX in 1854.  This teaching is explicitly stated in the writings of Saints Ambrose, Augustine, Andrew of Crete, Germain of Constantinople, and other Fathers of the Church.  A feast commemorating the Immaculate Conception of Mary was celebrated in the seventh century in the East and was formally approved and given standardized liturgy in the West by Pope Sixtus IV in 1475.  It was also extended as a feast by Saint Pius V in 1568.

The dogma on her Immaculate Conception is consistent with the Bible.  It is mentioned in Genesis 3:15, when God told the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman”, and in Luke 1:26-31 when Angel Gabriel addressed her, “Hail Mary, full of grace, blessed are you among women”.  The church has interpreted this verse on “full of grace” as Mary’s exemption from original sin.  There are pastors of course who want to disagree, including Pastor Joseph Prince of New Creation Church. (He said “among women”, not “above women”, leaving out the words “full of grace”.)

The fourth was the Assumption of Mary into heaven, defined as a dogma by Pope Pius XII in 1950.  The Assumption of Mary into heaven was already a canonical  feast since the fifth century.  There is nothing in the Bible about Mary’s death.  However, St. John Damascene who died in AD 749, recorded a story shared at the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451, that Mary had died in the presence of apostles, but when her tomb was opened, they found it empty.  “Wherefrom the Apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven”, said St. John Damascene..”

As non-Catholics minimize Mary’s role in the Church and in the Scripture, many have questioned Mary’s continuing virginity after Jesus’ birth by pointing to scriptural references to Jesus having brothers.  The Catholic Church offers the following arguments:

1.  If you were Joseph, her husband, and were told that your wife was the mother of the Son of God, would it occur to you to violate her purity instead of being awed, reverential and respectful of that God-proclaimed purity?

2.  The second argument was:  At the Cross, where were His supposed brothers?  And why did Jesus Christ make Apostle John responsible for His mother with these words:  “Son, behold your mother, Mother behold your son.”  A normal family relationship would have Jesus transfer this responsibility to His own brothers if any were present.

Many Catholics can be faulted for carrying to extreme their reverence of the Virgin Mary, in action, not in thought.  These are fans of the Virgin Mary who ascribe to her the source of ALL GRACES, in complete disregard of the Holy Spirit.  The move to give her the title “Co-Redemptrix” was wisely opposed at the Second Vatican Council, as it could be carried to extremes.  The Council said it is only okay if they meant “in cooperation with”, not “equal to”.

For Christians baffled by the respect given to Mary, rest your weary heart.  God is a Spirit.  And Mary is a human being.  We pray to God who is a Spirit.  We honor Mary, a human being who has special affinity to God because she was chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus Christ.  Hyper dulia, remember that word.

By Virginia S. Saunders

March 21, 2014

First posted in http://virginiasaunders.authorsxpress.com/2014/03/21/mary-the-enigma-that-baffles-non-catholics/

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THE PRAYER TONGUE: RIVERS OF LIVING WATER

By Virginia S. Saunders

THE PRAYER TONGUE is a gift from the Holy Spirit.  First given to the apostles and disciples at the birth of the church on Pentecost Sunday 2000 years ago, it was revealed in Acts 2:1-47.  It is a significant gift that increased fervor among the early fathers of the church, a physical manifestation of the presence of the Promised One, a fulfillment of Jesus’ promise that He will not leave us orphans.  It gave meat and bones to the concept of a God who cares for us.  Prior to the distribution of this gift, we were just grasping onto a notion of a god that created the universe.  Did this god really speak to the prophets? How do we know?

On Pentecost Sunday, God’s manifestation was physically given in the form of praying tongues.  It was a phenomenon then, and it is still a phenomenon now.  Even recipients of this gift are staggered by the personal connection to a spiritual realm that can be bridged and established just by the use of the tongue.

“They will cast out devils, they shall speak with new tongues,” said Mark 16:17.  Acts 2:4 said “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”  The Greek translation referred to this new tongue as “unprecedented”, meaning it has not been uttered, experienced or revealed ever.  Thus, those disciples who have never been to Cappadocia or Libya or even uttered languages from those places, spoke in those languages.  Imagine the marvel it created.  While the tongues vary in each recipient, even today that would have blown the average mind.

The prayer tongue is also referred in the Bible as “rivers of living water”.  It was revealed in John 7:37-39 which said, “On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and exclaimed, “Let anyone who thirst come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture says, “rivers of living water will flow from within him.”  He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive.  There was, of course, no Spirit yet, because Jesus had not yet been glorified.”  Earlier translations said “out of their belly shall flow rivers of living water”.

There is so much imagery in John’s verse.  And yet it is real.  I have the gift of prayer tongue and have experienced how the prayer tongue flow like rivers of living water whenever I use this gift.  While praying for Ukraine, Russia, and Venezuela two nights ago, I started with the familiar prayer words given to me in 1993.  Repeating those words and syllables over and over, my ears just listened to what my lips were uttering.  What was I saying? What did these words mean?  The mind is never engaged in the formulation of the words.

All of a sudden the words and syllables changed and the tongue moved up and down faster and faster, creating sounds that were not mine, and yet coming from within me. It was like a wall of water which rushed in torrents as my tongue went tak-tak-tak-tak.  When I first experienced this in 1993, I was truly frightened and perplexed that a phenomenon was happening within me.  It took mental focus on the image of Jesus Christ while my tongue went alive on its own.  Many years of praying and reading the Scriptures have told me that Acts 2:1-47 was being repeated in me.  Mine is not an isolated experience.  Many others who have been given the gift of praying tongues also pray this way.  I have matured since that first encounter, and nowadays I look forward to this physical manifestation of the Holy Spirit whenever I use this gift.

But no gift has been more ridiculed, disdained, corrupted, refused and dismissed vehemently than the gift of prayer tongue.  Satan must be very proud of his success.  Over the past two thousand years it has caused grief to the Holy Spirit that His gift would be so rejected.  What a waste.

There are cesationists, those who claim that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were only for first century Christians and would cease, wrongly applying what the Bible said about charity in 1 Corinthians 13:8:  “Without charity, prophecies will fail, tongues shall cease, knowledge shall vanish away.” There are non-believers who gave the gift a “scientific” name by calling it “glossolalia”, as if the new word would adequately describe a supernatural gift from above.  There were Christians who labeled those with these gifts as “witches” and burned them at stake.  And until the word “anointing” succumbed all fears of supernatural encounters, those who spoke and prayed in tongues were described as “misguided”.

Christians against gifted Christians.  The church was fragmented.  In my book ENTER THE HOLY SPIRIT, EXIT ME, I wrote that those who had the gift were torn between edifying themselves or discarding the gift altogether.  There were those who were given the gift but became bored with it because the mind is never engaged when prayer tongue is used.  Subscribing to Paul’s words, “in the church I would rather speak five words with my mind, so as to instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue,”  they forget that Paul prefaced his statement with “I give thanks to God that I speak in tongues more than any of you.”  He told the Corinthians to contain themselves and stop the abuse and word-fights that made the church in Corinth appear riotous.

In the first century, the gift of the Holy Spirit spread throughout like rivers of living waters, and nowhere was the gift more strong than in Corinth.  There, believers, unaware of the dynamics of the gift, used it for purposes other than speaking to God.  They had word-fights, using the gift to throw curses or impress others with their religiosity or spiritual superiority.  Disturbed by the unmitigated  misuse of the gift, Paul told them that it will cease if not used with charity (love).

Timothy was very specific.  He said, “Now the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils.” 1 Timothy 4:1.  As churches split through the Great Schism, the prayer tongue was abandoned by others.  In comparison, Believers and churches who held on to the gift saw their prayer lives strengthened and their prayers granted.

These rivers of living water are still within us more than ever.  The Holy Spirit has not withdrawn the gift.  It is a very powerful gift because when we use it, we cooperate with the Holy Spirit in bringing intercessions, petitions, concerns, and our own praises to the Lord.  1 Corinthians 14:2 said, “One who speaks in tongues does not speak to human beings but to God, for no one listens; he utters mysteries in spirit.”

God would not distribute this gift if it was not important.  Be encouraged, be inspired, and seek this gift.  We are being called to proclaim His kingdom, bring solace to the broken and hurting, and as we reject the prejudices and fears that have strangled us, out of our belly shall flow rivers of living waters.

By Virginia S. Saunders

March 4, 2014

First posted at http://virginiasaunders.authorsxpress.com/2014/03/04/the-prayer-tongue-rivers-of-living-water/

 

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