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/

 

Share

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/

Share

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/

 

Share

THE APOSTLES CREED: BASTION OF TRUTH

By Virginia S. Saunders

EVERY DAY DURING MASSES around the world, Catholics declare a set of beliefs that have strengthened and preserved their faith throughout the centuries.

This set of beliefs is known as the Apostles Creed (the short form) or the Nicene Creed (the long form).  It is recited by Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Catholics during Mass, and by Anglicans, Protestants, and other Christian denominations during their services.  It is a list of beliefs that Catholics are required to memorize and declare over and over again during their lifetime.

The Apostles Creed/Nicene Creed goes like this:

“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages, God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father. Through Him all things were made for us men and for our salvation.  He came down from heaven, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.  For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate.  He suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.  He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.  He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end.

“I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.  With the Father and the Son He is worshiped and glorified.  He has spoken to the prophets.

“I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins, and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.”

I came to appreciate the power of these beliefs when I once asked a Buddhist what they believe in, or if they have a certain kind of creed which they declare when they worship.  She thought long and hard but could not proclaim the reason for her belief, other than the fact that she was born to that religion, and therefore she is.  The Moslems also have a set of declaration which they state during their Friday noon and early morning prayers, such as “There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his messenger.”  The Jews recite “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord” during their Saturday night prayers.

The beauty of the Apostles Creed or Nicene Creed is how much doctrine it encompasses, and how it has been declared since the third century as a public statement of faith.  It was not written by the apostles, but it summarized what the apostles taught.  It anchored Christians to their faith, preventing them from falling through the cracks or being swayed by other beliefs that flourished during pagan times.  All the belief verses in the Apostles Creed/Nicene Creed have doctrinal scriptural basis.

Like most doctrines, the Nicene Creed went through a series of debates, recriminations, as well as political and theological disputes before it was finally passed in Nicea in AD 325, and reviewed in Constantinopol in AD 381.  The last time it was finessed was in 2012.

One of the historical events that marked the Nicene  Creed was a move to thwart what was known then as the Arian Heresy, when Arius, a popular priest in Alexandria, Egypt, taught that there was one Creator who created the Logos, the Word or Wisdom of God, who in turn created everything else, and the Logos became Jesus Christ.

However he was contested by the Bishop of Alexandria who said that the Word, Jesus Christ, was eternal, not created.  The Roman Emperor Constantine stepped into the debate by calling for the Council of Nicea, where 300 bishops debated the theology of Christ.  The bishops could not accept the proposition that Jesus was created, underlining that the Bible stated Jesus was God.

Other points for debate was the Holy Spirit, with some bishops saying that the Holy Spirit was created, while Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria declared that the Holy Spirit was as divine as Jesus Christ is divine.  It was in the Council of Constantinopol in AD 381 that the bishops accepted the divinity of the Holy Spirit, and that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God in three persons.

Some research materials I read have erroneously declared that those bishops did not really explain why the Trinity is so, adding that they just felt the Scriptures compelled them to say so.  This is incorrect.  In my book ENTER THE HOLY SPIRIT, EXIT ME I wrote that the basis for their decision was from Matthew 3:13-17, Luke 3:21-22; and in John 1:29-34, all on the baptism of Jesus.

There were three entities present during the baptism of Jesus.  Jesus himself, the Holy Spirit who manifested as a dove, and the Father who spoke aloud, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”  John the Baptist also testified saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him.  I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, “On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.”  Now I have seen and testified that He is the Son of God.” (John 1:32-34)

In 2012 a minor addition was made to the Nicene Creed when the words “consubstantial with the Father” was included to replace “one in being with the Father.”

I was inspired to write about the Apostles Creed/Nicene Creed as I contemplated the latest wave of worldview that is being foisted upon us by non-believers whose godless lifestyles have deviated from what we traditionally define as conservative and traditional.  In their efforts to normalize their own liberal and progressive lifestyles, they have defined our lifestyles and beliefs as “alternative“, and redefined what is traditional and conservative as “being on the fringe”.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.  We have seen the degradation of religiosity in the United States by those who have turned away from the faith and have been seduced by the weird lifestyles presented by Hollywood and celluloid.  But the truth is, they are the fringe, and we are still the mainstream.  The Christian apologist, Ravi Zacharias, described it so well in his book “Why Jesus?”

“When there is no light held to our version of truth to all our bluff, we confuse what is with what we think ought to be, and infuse “the ought” with our own ideas to make it what we want it to be.  Truth is that foundational reality we often resist, but that ultimately we cannot escape.  Nothing is so destructive as running from the truth, even as we know it will always outdistance us.”

Our truth is represented by the words in the Apostles Creed/Nicene Creed.  These truths are steadfast.  It tells us and them what we are and what we believe in, and they are our bastions of strength when we are assaulted by weapons of mass destruction.  We have the truth on our side, truth that had been fought for over the centuries.  No fringe lifestyle from Hollywood or liberal media’s massaging of truth will take it away from us.

By Virginia S. Saunders

February 24, 2012

First posted in http://virginiasaunders.authorsxpress.com/2014/02/24/the-apostles-creed-bastion-of-truth/

 

Share

CATHOLIC CHURCH VERSUS U.N.: RIGHT AGAINST MIGHT

By Virginia S. Saunders

THE CATHOLIC CHURCH is not new to controversy.  Today it is being pitted against some pro-abortion forces in the United Nations who started using the pedophile priest issue as their ammunition to silence the Catholic Church which does not support UN views on abortion and contraception.  The United Nations called the Catholic defense as the “pot calling the kettle black”.

Under the guise of exposing the Church for its defense of pedophile priests, the UN committee on abortion (oddly misnamed Committee On the Rights Of The Child) wanted the Vatican to stop its “code of silence” and turn over to investigators any known suspect of sexual abuse and to open its archives on sexual allegations against priests.  The Vatican refused.

It has become a battle of ideologies.  Last week I was among the 50,000 who signed a petition sent to Kirsten Sandberg, chairman of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, calling on the United Nations to drop their pedophile priests indictments against the Catholic Church.

Because of the oblique way the pro-abortion group attacked the Church, I would like to present reasons why two moral and spiritual policies that were good in themselves have also weakened the Church’s defense in the secular world.

The first has to do with hope.  Banking on hope, it accepted men who were confused about their gender and who wanted to find solace in the seminary.  Perhaps by being in the seminary and by leading a prayerful religious life, they will be healed of their gender confusion, and eventually determine if they were called to a religious vocation.  But because they were human beings with tender and weak resolve, and placed in the company of similar sexes, hope alone did not serve them well.

The other is the Church’s teaching on forgiveness.  A person who has sinned or broken the law should not be considered a total loss, but will reform through forgiveness and absolution.  Those who were found guilty were transferred to another parish, far from the focus of their affection.  The problem is that sexual orientation is an interior moral and spiritual battle which had even pushed two Columbian priests to commit suicide two years ago.

The Catholic Church’s view on hope and forgiveness were noble, but the succeeding results indicated that sexual perversion is not easily curable.  It is a long process of behavioral modification.  The first one is from a misreading of the gift of hope.  The hope that men of the Third Gender were not born that way but were shaped by their association and environment, and are therefore curable.  That it happened inside the church was a big disappointment of a doctrinal view which says that men of the Third Gender can change their passion and sexual orientation through prayers and fasting, and by being focused on God despite absence of true religious calling.

The Catholic Church has even recognized the pain suffered by the Third Gender by its teaching stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “The psychological genesis of homosexuality remains largely unexplained”, it said in CCC# 2358:

“The number of men and women who have deep seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible.  They do not choose their homosexual conditions; for most of them it is a trial.  They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.  Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.  These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”

When the media tried to force a statement from Pope Francis on the Church’s defense of the Third Gender in the priesthood, he answered:  “If a man wants to serve God, who am I to judge?”

And the liberal  media malignantly entitled it “IT IS OK TO BE A PEDOPHILE PRIEST!”

The Church’s teaching on forgiveness also runs counter to the secular world’s view of punishing wrong doing.  The Church believes that a person forgiven will strive to reform, and find behavior modification within his vocation.  Instead of considering these actions as criminal, the Church held on to a belief of hope and forgiveness, compassionate to the Third Gender’s inner struggles. It worked for some, and not for others.

The result was multimillion dollar lawsuits and damages which the whole Church hierarchy and congregation have had to bear, as well as blaming the devil for successfully infiltrating the rank and file.

The congregation had suffered through this scandal for two decades now.  It took Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict to lay down the ground rules that pedophile priests should be defrocked, and background checks be enforced on every new priest’s sexual orientation. During Pope Benedict’s short tenure, some 400 priests were defrocked and removed.

The United Nations indictment chose not to reveal what the Catholic Church has done to eliminate the pedophiles and reform the Church.  Instead, it continued its attack on the Church by attacking her teachings on contraception, abortion and homosexuality, and mixing it with pedophilia charges.

“It is time to look closely at the real agenda at the United Nations”, wrote Anne Hendershott, professor of Sociology and Director of the Veritas Center at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio.

Miss Hendershott said that the UN’s new strategy is meant to bring the Catholic Church to its knees in retaliation for its successful defense of Pro-Life issues.  She submitted that the Catholic Church since 1994 had been successful in blocking any move by the UN’s international campaign for right to abortion.

“While the Church was unable to convince all countries, including the United States, of the evils of abortion, it continues to play an important role at the negotiating table in areas in which the Church has a stake to ensure the life and dignity of the person”, she wrote.

The Church blocked the efforts of Frances Kissling, then president of Catholics For Choice, a group that claims to speak for pro-abortion Catholics, yet has no actual membership, who began a campaign to remove the Vatican from the UN.  Kissling was supported by the abortion industry.  But Senators Rick Santorum (R-PA), Bob Smith (R-NH), and Representative Chris Smith (R-NH) successfully introduced a congressional resolution that ensured that not a single state signed on to support Catholics For Choice campaign in the UN.

Sandberg’s committee got the most publicity because it was the first to directly attack the Catholic Church using pedophilia and homosexuality issues as its ammunition.

The world is rocked by the issue of homosexuality and what to do about it.  I have friends who are homosexual, and I know they are hurting and are trying to live and find joy and fulfillment within the confines that the world has given them.  It is something that the Catholic Church has been handling with sensitivity and compassion, because it is dealing with human hearts and injured psyche.  Neither the United Nations nor the Catholic Church fully understand the genesis of this enigma.  But it is a human issue these institutions both consider very important.

Last year, I posted a blog entitled IF I WERE GOD: UNRAVELING THE GAY GENES, in which I submitted that the Third Gender was the result of thousands of centuries of intermarriage and close consanguinity relationships.  Please read it through this link:  http://virginiasaunders.authorsxpress.com/2013/02/18/if-i-were-god-unraveling-the-gay-genes/

Please, let us stop these recriminations and self-righteous indignation.  It was only through a roll of the dice that you were born straight.  What will you do if it was your own child?  Hang him like they do in the Middle East?

By Virginia S. Saunders

February 12, 2014

First posted at http://virginiasaunders.authorsxpress.com/2014/02/04/catholic-church-versus-un-right-against-might/

Share

THE FIERY TONGUE: LOOKING FOR VIM AND VINEGAR

By Virginia S. Saunders

WHERE ARE THE REVIVAL PREACHERS? Where are the priests who can energize an impoverished heart with their words?  We are living in such times when inarticulate priests and preachers can no longer transmit God’s words with conviction while nervously peeking at their notes.  Preachers today must battle for the congregation’s attention which have been hardened by the noise of the secular world and the radical shrieking voices of the sons and daughters of satan.

Today it has to be part Hollywood, part Holy Spirit.  With the power of the microphone, multi screen transmission, and background music, a Sunday in church is a day of sensory stimulation.  This is a tall order for unprepared preachers.   Preaching is both a gift from God and a skill that must be sharpened.  Not preparing and just hoping “the Holy Spirit will teach them what to say” is a scriptural  cop out which they can no longer use.  Some work at preaching for thirty years to get people converted to Jesus just by the power of their words and eloquence.  Others simply stumble at the pulpit, unprepared, letting people search out their own message from Isaiah.  No wonder people file out of church empty and without awe.

The Bible said faith comes from hearing and hearing the word of God.  Many churches, including the Catholic Church, are challenged by this commission, choosing instead to hide behind their rituals and ceremonies, rather than connecting and encouraging the believer with explanations and extrapolations of the word of God. Jesus said that people perish for lack of knowledge.  But where do you get knowledge when the people who were sent to explain can not explain the message to you?

In the early century, times of great revival in the church, people were being converted by the eloquence and knowledge of Billy Graham, Smith Wigglesworth, Spurgeon.  They were followed by a new army of preachers like Adrian Rogers, Haddon Robinson, William Jones, Katherine Kuhlman, Bishop Fulton Sheen.  Then recently came John Piper, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, Joseph Prince, Creflo Dollar, T.D. Jakes.

When I want to be uplifted and truly inspired by God’s words, I seek out preachers from non-Catholic denominations.  These preachers know how to preach and preach well.  When God distributed the gift of gab, he poured it on Protestant preachers, equipping them with the courage, zeal, fervor, and mental acuity to remember the scriptural verses, to explain, distribute, and broadcast the words of God like seeds scattered on parched grounds.

I have watched with inspiration and admiration the gift given to Pastor T.D.Jakes who can work a chapter in the Bible by parsing it verse by verse, word by word, opening avenues that would otherwise be close to the minds and hearts of the hearer. “Command the enemy!” he exhorted. “Tell him he can not have your house, your son, your daughter!”  By his words alone, TD Jakes can bring his congregation into the spiritual dimension of a warrior, able to cast devils with authority and a conviction that they were given the authority to do so by the Son of God.  “Very few people in any congregation has really had a worship experience”, he intoned.  But within an hour of preaching TD Jakes can bring his congregation into a deeper dimension where they are worshiping God with lifted hands, and saturating the arena with the glory and power of God whom they have invited through their pleas, intercession, and glorification.  “When you really start to worship God, you will be aware that you are not alone!” he said, as he called them to go deeper, deeper, deeper into worship.

Centuries of sterile worship has stifled Catholics’ sense of praising God or even exhorting the congregation to praise God.  Admiration and fear fill them when they witness how people can truly be stirred by other preachers to a point where they dance, clap, weep, and wail during worship.  Where does one draw the line between propriety and exuberance? But why fear?  Pope Francis said in his homily last week at Casa Santa Maria in Rome:

“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!  But today you can shout when your soccer team scores a goal, but you can’t even raise your voice to praise the Lord!”

In his piece “What’s Wrong With Catholic Preaching?” Father Charles E. Bouchard, O.P., Prior Provincial of the Dominican Province of St. Albert the Great Church, said “Too often Catholic preaching fails to inspire, uplift and console, and even fails to interpret or mention the Scripture.”

He added:  “I was shocked when a homiletics professor told me that the preacher should spend one hour of preparation for each minute of homily.  I have come to believe that this is true.”

Father Bouchard remarked, “Yet, who has the time?  It is no secret that our priests are stretched too thin.  Our congegant to clergy ratio is much higher.  A large Catholic parish might have two or three priests.  A large Protestant mega-church might have seven or nine full time pastors.  It is not hard to see why Protestant preaching is better.”

Catholics are often afraid to listen to preachers from other denominations, fearful that doing so would betray or confuse their faith.  It would help them if they listen to Pope Francis who quoted the declaration Nostra Aetate in the Second Vatican Council:

“The Catholic Church REJECTS NOTHING THAT IS TRUE AND HOLY in these religions and regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless reflect a ray of truth which enlightens us all.”

Said Father Kenneth Doyle of Catholic News Service:  “It can be beneficial to listen to preachers of other faith and take value from what they say.  Protestant pastors often devote more time each week in preparation for their Sunday sermon than Catholic priests.  This is due to the fact that the sermon is the center of many Protestant services, while the focus in the Catholic Church is always on celebrating the Eucharist, which was the particular way Jesus asked his followers to keep his memory alive.”

There are 1.2 billion Catholics around the world who are hungry for the word of God.  Over-worked priests depend on deacons to help them deliver the sermons when they are not able.  The crisis would be alleviated if the church would invite and develop parishioners who have a gift for preaching.  Doing so would inspire more parishioners to study the Bible and practice their skills at preaching the word of God.

This is the Year of Evangelization in the Catholic Church, when every Christian is exhorted to be a missionary to proclaim the word of God.  There is a painful need for charismatic public speakers who know their Bibles and can talk and think on their feet.  If you have these tools, there may be a job for you.  Ask the Lord.  The Holy Spirit Himself will lead you to this job.

By Virginia S. Saunders

February 4, 2014

First posted at http://virginiasaunders.authorsxpress.com/2014/02/04/the-fiery-tongue-looking-for-vim-and-vinegar/

Share

FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT: LIVING OUTSIDE THE LAW

By Virginia S. Saunders

THE CHRISTIAN LIFE is a Spirit-led life.  The Believer in Christ is invested with faith and conviction that within him lives the Holy Spirit, the supernatural manifestation of God’s Grace.  As the Third Person in the Trinity he was sent by Jesus Christ on the day of Pentecost.  Those who received Him on that day experienced the physical manifestations of His presence.  The Holy Spirit is our advocate, comforter, guide.  He is the paraclete that Jesus promised to send after His resurrection.  As the storehouse of the infinite wisdom of God, the Holy Spirit teaches us which way to go, even how to pray, because we do not know how to pray as we ought.  The Holy Spirit makes intercessions for us with groanings that cannot be uttered.

Every believer who has been baptized receives the Holy Spirit inside him.  As the child grows up he will exhibit the attributes of a true Christian, known biblically as “the fruits of the Holy Spirit”.

The Bible said there are nine fruits, 12 if you are Catholic, as stated in Galatians 5:22-23:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.”

Catholics added generosity, modesty, and chastity among the nine gifts.  The Douay Rheims translation listed them as charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, and chastity.

These fruits or attributes grow with the exercise of faith in Jesus Christ through parental teachings and exhortations, prayers and intercessions, and reading the Word of God.

Against such things there is no law.  This verse is difficult to understand for non-believers as well as Christians who are stuck in the Old Covenant, or are straddling the Old and New Covenants by adhering to the moral and ceremonial laws advocated by Moses.  Opposite to the fruits of the Holy Spirit are fruits of the flesh.  St. Paul pointed these out:

Galatians 5:19-21:

“The works of the flesh are obvious:  immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.”

All of the above are classified as transgressions under the Ten Commandments or the 623 laws in the Jewish traditions as listed in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.  By clinging to these laws and mixing it with the message of the Holy Spirit, Christians have been confused throughout the centuries.

In my book ENTER THE HOLY SPIRIT, EXIT ME, I wrote that one of the revelations that truly opened my eyes about the supremacy of the Holy Spirit was a verse in 2 Corinthians 3:7 that showed the ill effects of condemnation under the law.

“Now, if the ministry of death carved in letters on stone, was so glorious that the Israelites could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory that was going to fade, how much more will the ministry of the Spirit be glorious?”

The ministry of death is the Ten Commandments. It specializes in condemnation, and always reminding people of their sins and transgressions against God’s law.  Condemnation has never turned a person from bad to good.  In fact, condemnation, especially self condemnation, causes him to transgress even more.  Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:56 that “the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law”.  He also said in his letter to the Romans 4:14-15:

“For if those who adhere to the Law are the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void.  For the Law produces wrath, but where there is no law neither is there violation.”

Paul continued to underscore this with Romans 3:20:

“No human being will be justified in His sight by observing the law, for through the law comes consciousness of sin.”

Paul also said that where the Spirit is, there is freedom.  If we are led by the Spirit, we are not under the law and we produce goodness in our lives even without trying.  A man who is full of love and peace will not seek lust or adulterous relationships.  Why?  Because he is full of love and self control, fruits that come only from knowledge of the Holy Spirit.  A government official who has goodness, forbearance and self control will not engage in malfeasance, stealing public funds, deceitful words, or licentiousness.  Why? Because he is full of goodness, forbearance, and self control.  A woman who has faith, modesty and chastity will not engage in impurity, licentiousness or immorality.  Why? Because she has faith, modesty, chastity and self control.  All of these fruits are like protective weapons, against which there is no law.

What if we fail and fall?

The Bible said that even if we are dead in our transgressions, we are still righteous in the eyes of God because Jesus Christ’ death and resurrection gained for us the righteousness with God.  Paul said in Romans 8:10: “If Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is alive because of righteousness.”  We have the Grace of God to acknowledge our mistake, and the command of Jesus to “go and sin no more”.  Contrary to some misguided preachings, we will not fall into the fires of hell because of one sin. We have already earned righteousness because of our redemption.  This a promise specifically stated in Hebrews 8:7-13 on the difference between Old and New Covenants, that God will “forgive our evil doings and remember our sins no more.”

The only transgression that deserves eternal damnation is CONSTANT rebellion by living under the fruits of the flesh and refusal to believe in Jesus Christ.  The Holy Spirit does not like that the Son of God should be so mocked.  And that is why parents and believers must continue to pray and intercede through the Holy Spirit for the salvation of the misguided.

The Bible said that the Holy Spirit will guide us to ALL THINGS. Not just spiritual matters, but ALL THINGS.  Applying for a job, where to study, making decisions, parking, lending, buying, relationships.. To access the manifestation of the Holy Spirit, we must constantly acknowledge His presence in us.  We stir up the Holy Spirit whenever we pray.

I came upon a great analogy as I listened to a teaching by Pastor Joseph Prince of New Creation Church in Singapore.  He said that botanists have discovered that a plant taken out of the forest grew stunted, even with fertilizers.  Call it relocation shock. But  when they recorded the noises in the forest and played this near the plant, it was re-energized and grew robustly.  The scientists said that the stomata on the leaves of plants opened up to receive all the forest pulses.

This is the way the Holy Spirit grows in us.  He likes to hear us pray, praise, sing, worship and adore the Lord Almighty.  As the gift of Jesus Christ to us, the Holy Spirit is the Grace that we need in life.  He nourishes us at the same time we nourish Him through the sounds of our prayers.  Make life simple and enjoy the fruits of the Spirit.  With Him in us, we live freely outside of the Law.

By Virginia S. Saunders

January 24, 2014

First posted at http://virginiasaunders.authorsxpress.com/2014/01/24/fruits-of-the-spirit-living-outside-the-law/

Share

SATANIC MONUMENT: A GOAT THAT BLEATS TROUBLE

By Virginia S. Saunders

A SATANIC GROUP in Oklahoma plans to erect a statue of Satan at the Oklahoma Capitol, right beside an important Christian monument, The Ten Commandments.  Their motive, they said, is “to complement and contrast the Ten Commandments.”

The statue they plan to submit shows a two horned Baphomet sitting on a throne.  An inverted pentagram hangs over his head, while two children stand looking lovingly at him.  The Satanists said “children can sit on Satan’s lap for inspiration or contemplation.”

Baphomet is a goat.  It has its origins in the Goat of Mendes, a black goat in Egypt which was elevated three thousand years ago to a fertility god under the reign of King Raneb who was directly associated with Nimrod and his grandfather Ham.  The most widely known representation of Bhapomet was a drawing by a 19th century French magician, Eliphas Levi, who combined the images of the tarot devil card and the goat worshiped in the ancient city of Mendes, Egypt.

This is their god.  A goat.

This is not the first time that religions have used animals for direct veneration, no matter what it symbolizes. Oriental and eastern religions have venerated elephants, dragons, cows, lambs, peacocks, unicorns, phoenix, and snakes.  The lamb is the symbol of Jesus Christ; the dove is the symbol of the Holy Spirit; and the snake is a symbol of judgment and evil.  India’s Hindus continue to give spiritual credence to cows; and Indonesians venerate the mythical bird Garuda.  The Chinese mark their astrological calendars with animals.  The Greeks observe the animals in the zodiac.

But in our enlightened modern world, the return of the black goat as a symbol used by satanic cults can be both jarring and disconcerting, because we know it is related to Satan as the fallen archangel who defied God and was banished from the heavens, along with his cohorts, the devils.  They represent the evil forces of the spiritual realm and our fallen nature. It is good to stay away from it.  A return to the black goat is a reversal from enlightenment to darkness.  And we are seeing this reversal rapidly happening in the United States.

Much like the Westboro Baptist group who seem to have lost their way by waging a war against common sense and tested beliefs in righteousness, the satanic group is using the Constitution’s guaranteed freedoms of speech and religion to elevate their goat.  According to Satanists, Eliphas Levi’s goat  represented the power of the universe depicting both good and evil influences.  Maybe, just maybe, they can push forward in Oklahoma their twisted thoughts of a gehenna ruled by a two horned animal who loves children.

I am confused by Satanists’ depictions of their god.  They have couched their beliefs in eastern oriental spirituality with pseudo intellectual words like “kundalini energy” and “copulator of Anep”, and “inseminator of Mendes where women danced naked in rituals to get pregnant.”  No wonder the Catholic Church viewed these as occult rituals that could harm and confuse believers of a just and sovereign God.

Said the Joy of Satan Ministry:

“The city of Mendes reached its cultural peak when the Ram-God was worshiped.  The Greeks later equated this with Pan.  Pan was known as “Satyr”.  Satyrs had the horns, legs, hooves, and beards of goats.  Pan’s symbol was the phallus and he was invoked for the fertility of the flocks or an abundant hunt.  He tended flocks and danced through the woods, playing his panpipes, which he invented.  As the lusty leader of Satyrs, he chased the nymphs.”

I am so floored.  That a group would put their intellect, money, and whatever respect they still enjoy from Oklahomans in the belief of salvation from a two-horned goat, is the mark of a wasted life and college education.  They must have stepped into college since their statue includes quotations from Lord Byron and William Blake.  They also want to defend the Knights Templar, a small group of men who were funded by rich Europeans during the Crusades, and who dug for treasures beneath the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem.

“The statue will serve as a beacon calling for compassion and empathy among all living creatures,” CNN Wire quoted Lucien Greaves, a spokesman for the Satanic Temple.

In the open market of ideas there are buyers and sellers, and the Satanic group had buyers.  They have actually raised $15,000 to meet the $20,000 they need to produce the goat statue.  What is hampering their cause is the Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Committee who said that no application for proposed statues will be considered until the State government had settled the lawsuit against the 2012 installation of the Ten Commandments. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a suit against Oklahoma State for erecting the Ten Commandments, calling this “unconstitutional government endorsement of religion.”

This reversal to the goat is happening when other forces such as New Age Spirituality is taking over United States at the same time that Christianity is making inroads in India, Indonesia, China, and other parts of Asia.  Words that have fascinated the hippies in the sixties, like nirvana, chakra, tantra, yoga, vedas, and karma, have become common usage in United States.  In contrast, American evangelists work hard to take Hindus and Buddhists from their spiritual closet into the brightness brought by the Gospel.  For those who know Jesus, a return to the goat or any animal is not an evolution but a descent to the labyrinth.

The Church is encouraged that its efforts at evangelization outside of United States is producing results.  In my book ENTER THE HOLY SPIRIT, EXIT ME, I wrote that BBC reported there are now more church-going Christians in China on Sundays than the whole of Europe combined.  India needs more evangelists since there are only 35 million Christians among its population of 800 million.  In many  Moslem countries, we are encouraged that violence exhibited by radical Moslems are in fact turning Moslems against Islam and they are now embracing Christianity.  This is also the situation in African countries where Christianity is considered a religion of hope.

The Bible said that when Jesus returns, He will separate the sheep from the goat.

Matthew 25:31:33

“When the son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him.  And he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.”

The sheep the Bible refers to are those who have given food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, visited those in prison, welcomed strangers, and cared for the sick.  The goats are those who did not do such corporal works of mercy as Jesus proclaimed, and will be accursed, sent to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his fallen angels.

Is there a safe place for our children on the lap of the satanic goat?  Will they be protected from Dr. Gosnell and pedophiles?  There is no denying that most evils of this world committed against children were committed by adults.  But Satan does not send neophyte devils to fight his fight against God and believers.  Satan sends the wiliest, wildest, most corrupt and deceptive of devils to entrap our children.

Our children’s minds are not fully equipped to battle the enemy unless they are covered by our prayers.  We must teach them vigilantly about the Lord Jesus Christ.  Baphomet, the Goat, is not Ronald McDonald.  Be careful that we don’t let our children sit on his lap.

By Virginia S. Saunders

January 14, 2014

First posted at http://virginiasaunders.authorsxpress.com/2014/01/14/satanic-monument-a-goat-that-bleats-trouble/

 

 

Share

BLACK NAZARENE: ESSENCE OF POPULAR PIETY

By Virginia S. Saunders

GOD LOVES A PARTY.  Wherever He is worshiped and glorified, there He is in the midst of them.

He will enjoy the party thrown for Him on January 9 in Manila when ten million Filipinos gather cheek to jowl in an archdiocese to observe a tradition they have been doing for 400 years.  They will vie to pull a carriage on which stands the statue of the Black Nazarene, a blackened statue of Jesus Christ carrying His cross.  The ecstatic crowd, filled with spiritual fervor, is a sight to behold.  Imagine millions of barefooted men and women ululating through the streets and plazas while shouting “Viva Senor!”

Brought from Acapulco, Mexico during the Galleon Trade, the Black Nazarene image found its home in the Basilica in Quiapo, Manila on May 31, 1606.  Its long history revealed that the Nazarene, so named by Filipinos after Jesus of Nazareth, got its blackened color because of a fire in the galleon that charred its white skin.  It was approved for veneration as a sacramental by Pope Innocent X in 1650, and received Apostolic Blessings from Pope Pius VII in 1880.

It has survived major wars, earthquakes, typhoons, and changes in government and colonialists.  On regular days when the statue is not on procession during a festival, it sits on a high altar dominating the Holy of Holy.  Devotees are allowed to touch and kiss its hands.  They also pay homage to the Black Nazarene by clapping their hands at the end of Holy Mass.

But during three special days of the year – Black Friday, New Year’s Day, and its feast day on January 9, the image is brought down from the altar and is riveted to a carriage attached to a fifty meter long rope which is pulled by barefooted devotees dressed in maroon.  The Nazarene is attired in embroidered purple fabric with lace trimmings on the collar and cuffs.  His hair, made of braided abaca, has a golden crown of thorns.  A gold plated metal belt embossed with the image’s name encircles his waist from which hangs a chain ball symbolizing his flagellation.

The crowd keeps growing every year.  Last year half a million maroon-colored devotees walked barefoot through the path coursed for the procession.  It took them 22 hours to traverse it.  Millions more waited along the streets and in Quiapo Basilica itself.  All of them hungered to touch the statue, or even touch anyone who has touched the statue.  Accidents, deaths, and serious mishaps have occurred during these processions in spite of precautions to control the crowd.  It has become a Holy Grail for Manilenos and pilgrims.  Over the years this procession has even created its own special lexicon.

Why the fervor?

Filipino priests, religious scholars, and students of theology have studied and tried to understand the phenomenon of devotion to the Black Nazarene.  Was the spiritual fervor nourished by the numerous physical, emotional and spiritual healing that resulted from this devotion?  Are they fanatics? Does the practice engender superstition or idolatry?

Monsignor Jose Clemente Ignacio, parish priest of the Basilica Minore of the Black Nazarene, spoke on the subject of Popular Religiosity during a symposium at Loyola School of Theology, and St. Vincent School of Theology.  He said that he and his colleagues “are humbled in their priesthood the more they try to understand and encounter the faith of simple folks who are devoted to the Black Nazarene.”

“Perhaps our paradigms on spirituality are “too western”, too elitist, that we find it easy to judge their simplicity and yet find it difficult to evaluate their simple faith.  Perhaps we in the theological community do not fully understand the intensity, sincerity and spirituality of the Filipinos.”

When asked why devotees felt a need to touch the statue, and whether this is a form of idolatry, Monsignor Ignacio said, “Filipinos are a people “of the concrete”. Our expressions are expressed in “the concrete”.  This is an Asian trait.”

He referred to the crowds in the Bible who wanted to touch Jesus Christ.  This is mentioned in Mark 5:24-34; Matthew 9:20-22; Luke 8:43-48, and Luke 6:19.

Mark 5:24-29:

“A large crowd pressed upon him.  There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for 12 years.  She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak.  She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.”  Immediately her flow of blood dried up.  She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.”

Monsignor Ignacio said, “We all know we don’t worship statues.  We worship God.  But if these statues would “bridge us to God”, then we want to connect with God using these statues.  Kissing or holding on to the statues is not worshiping statutes, it is connecting to the divine, to touch and be touched by heaven itself.”

Once he scolded a child in the procession for squeezing through the crowd just to touch the statue. He warned, “That’s dangerous!”  The child simply answered, “If I touch the statue, I feel I have been blessed and the real Jesus has answered my prayers.”

Monsignor Ignacio’s perception and growing understanding of popular religiosity in the Philippines is echoed in Mexico, Latin America, Africa, Spain and Italy where processions and pilgrimages are expressions of getting in touch with the divine.  The processions during feast days of the Virgin of Guadalupe wherever Mexicans gather are filled with symbolism and touching the statue.  Pilgrims to the grottoes of Our Lady of Fatima or Our Lady of Lourdes would never call their pilgrimage complete if they had not touched the statue.  In United States during Black Thursday people in church line up to kiss the cross or the feet of Jesus Christ.

Many have described these expressions of faith as superstition, occult, or lacking understanding of “real spirituality”.  In my book ENTER THE HOLY SPIRIT, EXIT ME, I mentioned how Filipinos’ faith expressions differ from American ways.  There is a sterility of expression that I found difficult to adjust to when I first came to United States.  I longed for the “concrete” that Monsignor Ignacio was referring to.  I was encouraged by the way African Americans expressed their religiosity when they danced, jumped, lifted their hands, and shouted “Amen”!

“Whether some devotions are delusional or devotional, it is the heart, the interior of the person that will often decide if an expression is right or wrong”, he said.

Monsignor Ignacio referred to the Bible about the woman who kissed Jesus’ feet, washed it with her tears, then wiped His feet with her hair.

Luke 7:37-39:

“Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that He was at table in the house of the Pharisee.  Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind Him at His feet weeping and began to bathe His feet with her tears.  Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.”

Different strokes for different folks.  Granted the woman was having a personal encounter with the real Jesus.  But Monsignor Ignacio urged his audience to retain an appreciation for popular piety which is different in every culture, and yet remains very similar.  The human heart is ultimately one and the same.

“We don’t know if doctrinal understanding or catechism speak to their practices of piety during these “cathartic moments” of the procession.  How do we put reason in their faith without destroying the spontaneity of their faith expressions?” asked Monsignor Ignacio.

He cautioned that it would be wrong to “westernize” (read sterilize) them with a theology that is alien to the Filipino spirit.

“Certain popular piety always needs to be purified and refocused, yet it is worthy of our love because it truly makes us into the “People of God”.

By Virginia S. Saunders

First posted on January 7, 2014 at http://virginiasaunders.authorsxpress.com/2014/01/07/black-nazarene-essence-of-popular-piety/

 

Share

THE LAST MESSIAH: JESUS, AND NO OTHER

By Virginia S. Saunders

Merry Christmas!

BARBARA WALTERS rang the death knell for Barack Obama’s presidency when she said this in an interview last week:  “We thought he was going to be the next messiah.”

Walters was commenting on how the disappointments and scandals that accompanied his presidency poured buckets of cold water on misplaced dreams of anointing.  Gone were the hurrahs from the crowd of thousands who reveled at “a transformed America, a land of unity in diversity able to elect a black candidate.”  Gone were the hubris from an unearned Nobel Peace Prize that would make a deserving Gandhi or Mulalah or Martin Luther King cry.  Thorbjorn Jagland, chairman of Nobel Peace Prize Committee admitted their mistake and politely suggested that the prize be returned.

That forty seven percent of Americans would be swayed into thinking that Obama was the next messiah was a study in new spirituality gone wild.  Messiah?  That is a special title given only to an Anointed One.  In the Judeo-Greco-Christian faith, the last Messiah arrived two thousand years ago, and was crucified, died, and was buried, and as He promised, in three days rose again from the dead.  As the scriptures predicted in Isaiah, He will carry the government on His shoulders and His dominion will rule for thousands of years.  Jesus Christ is the last Messiah.  There will be no other.

What happened to American spirituality?  Why were Americans looking for a messiah when the Messiah has already come?  Don’t they recognize the True One?  Either Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit have lost their touch at conversion and spiritual transformation, that Americans would seek God not in temples of the heart but on Capitol Hill itself.  Theologian, philosopher and Presbyterian evangelical pastor Francis August Schaeffer (1912-1984) once said:  “The day is coming in the West when the name of Jesus would not be recognized by the average young person, and if it were recognized, not a single historical fact about Him would be known.”

They have forsaken the history of the real Messiah:  The son of a 15 year old virgin who received the announcement from the Holy Spirit that she will bear the Son of God.  Foster son of Joseph the carpenter.  King of kings, Lord of lords.  Maybe this is too surreal and fictional a tale to be true?  And America’s post modern spiritualists and agnostics thought it better to replace what they considered as Jesus’ fictional birth with another dubious messiah whose birth certificate prompted Donald Trump to offer $5 million of his own money just to ascertain if the certificate was for real.  Such humiliation the president had to go through just to prove his birth and lineage.

He was born all right, but he was not the Anointed One.  Somehow his charmed life as a Third Culture Kid (TCK)  pales in comparison to those of real prophets and messiahs.  Blood, violence, infanticide accompanied the birth and rise of biblical giants.  The great Moses was  placed in a basket and made to float in the crocodile-infested Nile when the pharaoh issued a decree that all Jewish babies born in Egypt had to be killed. Prophet Isaiah, whose lyrical oracles predicted the birth and death of Jesus Christ, hid inside a tree trunk to escape his captors.  The king ordered the tree cut down and Isaiah’s  body was cut in half like a sandwich.  John the Baptist, cousin of Jesus Christ, proclaimed “Prepare the way of the Lord!” in the Judean desert, eating honey and locust, dressed only in animal skin.  He was decapitated by King Herod at the request of Herodias and Salome, and his head was presented to them in a platter.  Any of them could have been anointed king, but maybe people were wiser then.  The anointed one was Jesus who grew at a time when King Herod, fearful about the rumor of a coming messiah to replace him, issued a decree that all Jewish babies up to two years old should be killed.  This forced Mary, Joseph and the child Jesus to escape to Egypt until King Herod died.

Jesus’ birth and messianic reign was foretold more than 300 times in the Old Testament and confirmed in the New Testament.  For any modern day leader, pray tell whether their presidency or premiership had ever been foretold by a psychic seer.  I doubt it.  But the Bible, a book of concentrated truth, said this in Isaiah 7:14:  “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign.  Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.”  This verse was repeated in Matthew 1 on the birth of Jesus:

“Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.  When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.  Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.  Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.  For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.  She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through  the prophet:

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel.”

“Which means “God is with us.”  When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.  He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.”

The beauty of Jesus’ birth was marred by the crisis situation at Jesus’ birth.  Predicted that the savior will come from Bethlehem, God Almighty made it happen that Jesus should be born when a census called by Emperor Cesar Agustus, required Mary and Joseph to go to Bethlehem.  There, in a stable, without room at the inn, Jesus was born in humble beginnings.  No doctors, no midwives, just Joseph and Mary among the sheep and cows.  This is not the beautiful scenery expected of the arrival of a messiah.  But that was how it happened.

Isaiah also predicted Jesus’ death to redeem us from our sins.  Isaiah 53:4-8 described the nature of Jesus’ suffering.  “He was wounded for our transgressions.  He was bruised for our iniquities.  For the intransigence of my people he was stricken.”  In verse 10, it said, “you shall make his soul an offering for sin.”

Religious scholars, doctors of the church, and noted theologians have studied the life and times of Jesus, and are all overwhelmed by the prophecies and documentary evidences supporting His kingship.  And yet, our Jesus has suffered from the works of those who wanted to remove Him from His exalted position.  We who believe in Jesus Christ and ought to know better, have been complacent and been too politically correct, allowing our Messiah to be kicked around.  I am reminded by what Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias said, “When a select or elect few control and sell salvation, the victim is always the common person.  One would think that the new spirituality has brought about a new Eden and that its rivers flow peacefully and calmly.  But that is not so.  In fact, it has never been so.  Few arenas lend themselves to abuse and loss as that of religion.”

The only thing inspiring about Barbara Walters’ statement was that she prefaced it with “This, being Christmas..”  It took five years for Americans to see that the emperor has no clothes on.  The house of the false messiah was built on shifting sands of disloyalty and falsehoods.  The real Messiah is like a rock.  He said that those who believe in Him will be placed on the cleft of the rock that He Himself has hewn.  And there we will be safe as we await the passing of doomsday.

By Virginia S. Saunders

First posted on December 24, 2014 at http://virginiasaunders.authorsxpress.com/2013/12/24/the-last-messiah-jesus-and-no-other/

 

Share