Tuesday, February 21, 2017

What do you believe and why?

What are some of your most deeply held beliefs or convictions? Why do you believe them? For most of us, our parents played a key role in shaping our beliefs.  Many of our beliefs have been shaped by personal experiences, teachers, peers, society, ministers and traditions.  They are not our original beliefs, but someone else’s.

What we believe matters.   What we believe can lead us down a path that leads to good or bad, success or failure, safety or danger, happiness or sadness, humility or pride and even love or hate.   One set of convictions or beliefs shapes those  that belong to the Ku Klux Klan or The Black Panthers or ISIS and another set of beliefs shapes those that belong to charitable organizations, support groups, community service that benefits all, etc.  What we believe really does matter.

From the earliest times Christians made attempts to summarize their essential beliefs the Apostle’s Creed is an example of that.  I know of no church organization that does not have a statement of beliefs and I know of no fraternal organization that does not have a statement of beliefs.  Beliefs matter!  They define our values, morals and relationships.  They shape our goals, ambitions, hopes, and dreams.  It is important we know what we believe in and be able to defends those beliefs.

Unfortunately we can be so rigid in our beliefs and convictions that we cannot listen to those with different beliefs or convictions.  This is especially true in the religious world.  Regardless of what we believe about God, humanity or our world, we will lack certainty and that lack of certainty should lead us to humility in our convictions and in our interactions with those who disagree with us.  How can anyone prove beyond a shadow of doubt  what they believe is absolute truth and that there is no other way?

I learned long ago that what I believed was sometimes flawed and not only hurt me it hurt others.  This is not going to set well with many, but there was a time that I believed if you did not accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior you COULD NOT go to heaven.   Pastor Joel Olsten is criticized by many in the religious community because he will not state point blank that your destiny is hell if you do not accept Jesus Christ.  I am not God and God has inspired men in scripture to write, “My ways or not your ways”, I am not to judge, but leave that to Him, that He can do anything He pleases and does not need our permission. 

I once believe that abortion was an unforgivable sin.  I once believed people that divorced and remarried without jumping through the church's legal loops to get an annulment could not partake of the sacraments.  I once believed if you were not baptized you could not go to heaven and that babies who died before being baptized were in LIMBO.  I once believed in purgatory.  I once believed priest had a special power to represent God when it came to forgiving yours sins.  I once believed we needed to sacrifice Christ over and over again at every mass as if the one sacrifice on the cross was not enough.  I now do not believe any of those things.  Not only did I sincerely believe those things I taught them to others.  I believed them because that is what my parents believed and my church believed.  I did not know any different and did not think I had the right to question them.

What we believe has a significant impact on our lives.  Our beliefs influence who we marry , the career we choose, the way we see right and wrong, how we see our parent and our children, what we do with our time and money, and how we face adversity.  Those beliefs lead us to say no to many things we may have said yes to and yes to things we might otherwise have said no to.

“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.”  I believe Christians must believe there is a God, a Supreme Being, that created the universe.  How God created it may be open for debate, but it is essential that a Christian believe that God did create all things.  I believe Christians must perceive God not simply as a force of nature, but as an entity, a Being, that is both intelligent and powerful.

Men like Isaac Newton, Blaise Pascal, and Galileo, who, despite the church’s blunder in criticizing their conclusions, continued to maintain their faith in God.  I do think science and faith are compatible.  I also believe these men were far more intelligent than me.  There are some scientist that do not believe in God, but there is just as many that do.

 Jesus Christ is our defining story.  Jesus demonstrates who God is, what God is like, and what God’s will is for our lives. His life and ministry, His death and resurrection shape how we see ourselves and how we see the world.  Jesus Christ provides us with a different perspective on life.  Christians believe we were born with purpose, our lives have meaning and when our mortal body is finished, we’ve only just begun to live. 

Richard Dawkins (who I believe to be evil) once wrote, “We are survival machines—robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes.” But faith in Jesus says that we were made for more than this.  In fact, the pain and brokenness in our world are largely the result of our living as “robot vehicles” blindly focused on serving the self.  Jesus calls us to be authentically human, to love, give, serve, and rise above our selfish genes.  As we do so we not only make the world a more just and compassionate place; we find joy in the process.  I pity Richard Dawkins and I am willing to show him mercy because of his broken body that may influence his beliefs.  Regardless of what Richard Dawkins says about Jesus Christ or what anyone else may say I know Jesus of Nazareth has been the dominant figure in the history of Western culture for over 2000 years and I doubt that Richard Dawkins will be.   

When God sought to communicate His love for us, he sent Jesus. It was in His Son that God’s message came to us and became our defining story. Through Jesus, God was saying: You matter to me and I love you.  In Jesus, God showed that He cares about those who are lost and those who are made to feel unimportant.  He showed us compassion for the sick.  He showed us how to love, to forgive, to give, to serve.  In Jesus’ death on the cross God showed us the depth of His love and the price of grace. And in Jesus’ resurrection, God defeated our evil, hate, sin, and death! 

My church has put so much emphasis on Mother Mary that our people know little about the Holy Spirit.  Many Christians in our church haven’t been taught about the Spirit, nor encouraged to seek the Spirit’s work in their lives. As a result, their spiritual lives are a bit anemic and they are trying to live the Christian life on their own power and wisdom.  That is impossible!

What are the voices you listen to, and what are the powers that shape your life?  I find there are voices in my own life that would lead me to give in to hate, indifference, desire, pride, infidelity, selfishness, or greed. But when we listen to the voice of the Spirit and open ourselves to the Spirit’s active work in our lives, we find that we are led to a very different place and to become very different people.

The Spirit convicts us and quickens our conscience when we’re doing wrong. The Spirit, through persistent nudges, urges us to act selflessly in our care for others. The Spirit makes us long to be more than we are at the present and to become more like the people God intended us to be.  in Galatians 5:22-23: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”  The Holy Spirit gives us these gifts and no where in the Bible does it say Mother Mary does. 

How different is this fruit than the fruit of our own hearts, and the culture around us.

The “Holy” and catholic (universal/unity) church.”  When many people view the church today, it looks neither holy nor catholic. It seems filled with hypocrites and judgmental people; in fact, this is one reason why many have turned away from “organized religion” and why so many young adults today say that they are “spiritual but not religious.”  Interestingly, these same young people have great admiration for Jesus, but far less admiration for His people, the church. They see neither holiness nor catholicity (unity) when they look at the most vocal Christians and the most outspoken churches today. 

The word holy in the biblical context means belonging to God, or “sacred to” God or “set apart for” God. You’ve likely heard it said that the church is not a country club for perfect people, but instead a hospital for broken and sinful people who are slowly being made well. We need to make sure the non-churched understand that we know that and stop pretending we are bunch of perfect people.  The church does not belong to us it belongs to God.  The next time you try and tell someone they are sitting in your seat at church remember that. The church is holy when we love Christ and seeks to be faithful to Him.  The church is holy when we are not attacking one another for interpreting a scripture differently. 

Christ tried to forestall the divisions among His followers by telling His disciples not to judge one another, and to love one another and forgive one another. Nevertheless, the church divided and continues to divide to this day.   Our belief in the holy, catholic church (universal/unity) is an ecumenical belief that all who call upon the name of Christ and seek to follow Him as Savior and Lord are, despite their denominational or nondenominational names, part of one universal church.  The Roman Catholic Church is a part of that one universal church, and so is the Eastern Orthodox Church, as well as the Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Baptists, Pentecostals, Methodists, nondenominational churches, and all the rest.  What right do you have to say Catholics are not CHRISTIANS?  Does it make you feel more important than Catholics, more loved by God?  PRIDE!

I still believe in the importance of the church, but unfortunately at the moment I find that I cannot attend and that certainly has affected my life in a negative way.  I pray one day before I die I will be able to find a church that I can return to and feel at home.  I have not stopped looking.  People need to be able to express differences of opinion within the church and be respected and loved.  I knew that once in a church in Galveston, Texas and I will never forget it. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Democrats/Liberals it is not the end of the world!

One of my good friends, a lifelong Democrat has texted me several times since the election asking if I still thought it was going to be alright.  I think he expresses the fears of many in our country after a stunning upset victory by Donald Trump, a victory that surprised even many of his own supporters.  I was and still am a supporter of President Donald Trump, although I did tell my friend a few days prior to the election that I really did not think he had a chance to win.

Forty-eight percent of voters are happy with the results of the election.  Many felt disenfranchised, fearful or frustrated over the last eight years.  Many, like me, felt we have been headed in the wrong direction as a nation for a long time.  To us this election brings the hope that Donald Trump can in fact, “make America great again.”

The other half of our country are still confused, disappointed, angry or hurt.   I realize many women are disappointed.  I am all for a woman to become President, but I want the right woman and I definitely do not believe Hillary Clinton was the right woman. 

There were many, like my friend, who saw the last eight years as a time of positive change and of course they are disappointed.  This is where the divide came between conservatives and liberals. Regardless of the number of times Hannity on Fox News reported all the negatives of the Obama Administration the Liberals did not and will not ever get it. The celebrities will continue to ridicule our elected President instead of getting behind him in an attempt to improve our country.  They are full of criticism and offer no solutions and I understand why.  The Democratic Party has always solicited the support of celebrities and put them on a pedestal while in office.  It has always seem to me that Republicans in general are more willing to live in the real world than a fantasy world.  That is why I left the Democrat Party during the Nixon campaign.

The pundits and politicians will continue to analyze the election results and the Trump Administration, seeking to tell us what they mean in the hours, days and years ahead.  But the questions for me are, Where do we go from here?  How does our nation come together?  And, to my friend’s point, Will it be okay?  It will be okay only if the media returns to journalism and presenting facts instead of personal opinions and the celebrities go back to being overpaid entertainers and stop attempting to be pseudo politicians.

I think it will be okay.  I liked Donald Trump’s acceptance speech and the spirit it conveyed; a lofty vision, a humility, a willingness to work together and a desire to represent all Americans.  I also appreciated Hillary Clinton’s concession speech, which was moving and which reflected, despite the disappointment and pain of loss, a hopefulness and confidence in America’s future.

I am willing to give President Trump a chance and unlike my friend I am not expressing disappointment that he has not performed miracles in less than a month.  Those opposing President Trump were willing to give Obama four more years to correct all his mistakes, but are not willing to give President Trump even his first one hundred days before condemning him.

It will be okay because we live in a democracy whose founding fathers wisely created a system of checks and balances in government that are meant to spread power across the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. Presidents do not rule by decree, although some like Obama try, the majority seek to lead and influence, and if they are ineffective, they and their party are voted out.  It’s a good system that has served us well for more than two centuries.

It will be okay because, despite his shortcomings and unsettling rhetoric, Donald Trump has strengths that he brings to the presidency.  Strengths that to my knowledge NO president has ever brought to that office in our past.  We need to always remember no candidates are as bad as their opponents paint them, nor as good as they believe themselves to be.  I do believe President Trumps strengths in negotiating deals will serve him well in Washington and perhaps help find win-win solutions to challenging issues we face.

I believe it will be okay because my hope and faith has never been primarily in politicians and political parties, but in Jesus Christ.  You may think that is naïve, but I think it is far more naïve to listen and put faith in the bias media and the celebrities.

I personally am praying today for Donald Trump and his team. I pray that God will enable them, and prepare them and guide them as they prepare to lead our country.  Finally, I’m praying that we as Christians can be instrumental in bringing healing to the divisions in our country today, rather than making the divisions even wider.  We have a mandate to forgive, to love, and also to “speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves” and “to do justice, and practice loving kindness and walk humbly with God.”  This is a personal opinion I will give all for FREE - many including Christians have become to judgemental of others and have come to believe they have all the answers.

There are challenges and opportunities ahead of us.  But, the sooner we come together as Americans to face the challenges, to seize upon the opportunities and together, find a way to help our country live up to its potential the better it will be for us all. 

I honestly believe by 2018 we will experience the worse recession we have ever had since the Great Depression.  I pray not, but the wrong path has been traveled too long for any correction to be made to prevent it in just one year.  It is more important now than ever that we work together as one people and one nation seeking God’s guidance. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Deception in the Church

 A growing number of pastors, teachers, and evangelists within the Charismatic/Pentecostal/Evangelical/Prosperity circles of the Christian church are advancing what has come to be known as the "Word Faith" movement. Its major leaders include Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Frederick K. C. Price, Jesse Duplantis, Sid Roth, Joyce Meyers and David (Paul) Yongii Cho, who pastors one of the largest churches in the world in Seoul, Korea.  Other well-known Word Faith personalities include Gloria Copeland, Robert Tilton, John Avanzini, John Osteen, T. L. Osborne, Charles Capps, Marilyn Hickey, Jerry Savelle, J.D. Jake,  Morris Cerullo, Casey Treat, Dwight Thompson, Hinn, John Hagee, Rodney Brown, Creflo Dollar and Richard Roberts. The Christian Broadcasting Networks that endorse and support these people are Daystar and Trinity Broadcasting Network.

I want to make it clear I do not believe that every word these ministers/teachers say is deception.  I listen to Joyce Meyers and Joel Osteen regularly, but they do freely stray from the Gospel when it fits their needs.  That is why it is so important for everyone to study and know scripture for themselves so they can discern truth from deception.  Christians are told to compare any teachings, and the gospel they bring, to the Word of God and to cast off any that contradict Scripture (Acts 17:11; Galatians 1:6-9; 1 Thessalonians 5:21).

Trinity Broadcasting Network’s worldwide platform has mainstreamed Word Faith theology to the lives of millions of Christians who would not otherwise have encountered Word Faith theology.  Christianity in the western world has been so heavily influenced in many quarters by this movement that now many consider it the main thrust of the charismatic movement. 

In Europe these doctrines are brought in through visiting USA speakers and their materials, and by influential local pastors and leaders (all looking to get rich) - and also through the "GOD Christian Channel" which concentrates on many of these teachers/evangelist/pastors via Satellite and Cable TV. Recently England refused to allow Hinn to enter their country because they did not want their citizens exposed or conned by him anymore.  The Word Faith movement took hold in Africa rapidly because local ministers were influenced by the wealth of the evangelist from the United States.

The leaders of this movement are quick to attack anyone who questions their teachings.  They claim those that question are "sowing division in the body" or lack faith or lack belief in God’s ability to heal, or they may even claim they are demon possessed. No man on earth today has the power to instantly heal one after another.  Why is there never any medical proof of these healings?  

A classic example of this can be seen in a quote from Word-Faith teacher Kenneth Hagin: "When the Lord was dealing with me concerning the prophet's (HIS) ministry, GOD said that if a church doesn't accept my ministry then I should go my own way, shake the dust off my feet against them (CURSE THEM) so to speak; but GOD would remove their candlestick (THEIR POWER).  GOD said that judgment must begin in the house of God, and If a church won't accept  MY ministry, then they wouldn't accept His Word if it came from His own mouth and even GOD can't help them."

If a person reads into the sacred text something that does not belong there and is not consistent with sound exegesis and hermeneutics, then Christians have a right an should challenge and expose error and point out who these mistaken teachers are (Acts 20:28-31 & 2 Timothy 2:16-18).  It does not mean that these teachers are not true Christians, although they may not be.  It does not mean that we should love them any less.  It simply means that an error has been found and exposed and should be dealt with in love for the truth, and compassion for those that could be damaged by the deception.

The spiritual mentor of today's Word-Faith teachers is Essek W. Kenyon, a man who was greatly influenced by the metaphysical mind science cults such as Christian Science, Unity School of Christianity, and Church of Religious Science and who received his theological training from the Emerson School of Oratory in Boston, Mass.  The founder of that institution, Charles Wesley Emerson, is on record as being a member of the Mother Church of Christian Science from 1903 to 1908.

After leaving the school - it is not clear from records whether or not he graduated - Kenyon settled in Seattle, Wash., where he was pastor of the New Covenant Baptist Church and broadcast a radio program, "Church of the Air," until his death in 1948.  Kenyon's Gospel Publishing Society published materials from his writings and broadcasts.  It is from these publications that most of the presumptions of the Word-Faith teachings are drawn, but most believe they originated from Kenneth E. "Dad" Hagin. The truth is that Hagin got most of his doctrines from Kenyon and his daughter, Ruth Kenyon Houseworth.

The bedrock of Word-Faith doctrine is what Kenyon calls "new creation realities." For the rest of the Word-Faith assertions to work, man first must be exalted to a high position.  Word-Faith teaching puts man on the same level as Jesus Christ.  This is done by assembling Scripture passages to purportedly prove that once a man is in Christ, then the "new creature" spoken of in 2 Corinthians 5:17 has the same spirit as God.   Kenyon writes: "You see, man is a spirit being.  He is in the same class with God.  He was created in the image and likeness of God.  He had to be in order to become a partaker of the Divine Nature.  Creflo Dollar today says “We are little “gods” all of us that accept Christ become “little gods”.   Creflo Dollar says the only thing human about us is our physical bodies all else is the a same as God.

Kenneth Copeland writes in “Now We Are In Christ Jesus, p. 5”. that Hagin says, "The believer is as much an Incarnation as Jesus Christ.”  Kenneth Copeland says, "Jesus is no longer the only begotten son of God" (Now We Are In Christ Jesus, p. 24). "We are the Word made flesh, just as Jesus was."  So, in the Word-Faith teaching, Jesus loses his uniqueness.  The believer is elevated to the position of being a God-man the same way Jesus was a God-man.  They claim that the only difference is Jesus obtained his position by birth and the rest obtain it by a re-creation of the spirit.  Read  Isaiah 44:8: "Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any" ( Isaiah 43:10; John 1:18;  John 5:44; John 17:3; James 2:19; 1 Timothy 2:5; Colossians 1:14-17; Hebrews 1:2-3).  Joyce Meyers teaches the same thing we are all Sons of God just as Jesus Christ is.  Christ is no longer the only begotten Son of God.

Kenneth and Gloria Copeland and Fredrick Price say the blood of Christ did not pay for ours sins.  Christ suffering and blood on the cross was not enough to pay our sin debt.  That Jesus lost all his spirituality and God the Father forsake Christ and sent Him to suffer in hell for three days.  Christ paid our sin debt in hell not on the cross.  Gloria Copeland even added if the cross had been enough the two thieves that hung on crosses by Jesus could have paid our sin debt.  Read Hebrews 12:2: "Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross [not torture in hell], despising the shame.”  "In whom [Jesus] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" (Ephesians 1:7).( Psalm 139:7-8; John 5:26; 10:17-18; 19:30;  Colossians 1:19-20;  2:13-15; Revelation 1:5). 

the Word-Faith plan of redemption says:  Man was created as the "same order of being as God."  A spirit temporarily housed in a body.  He was given dominion over the Earth.  When he committed "high treason" by following Satan instead of God, man then gave up the divine nature and took on the nature of Satan.  Satan then became the god of this world and man thereafter was born with the satanic nature.  "Suddenly, God was on the outside the earth looking in", (Kenneth Copeland, Our Covenant With God, p. 8).  They say Satan rules the earth and God is ruling heaven and God has no power on earth until Jesus Christ comes again.

On the cross, the plan of redemption merely began.  It was there that Jesus took on the nature of Satan, lost His divinity, became a mortal man, and went to hell.  There He suffered torture at the hand of Satan until God said "enough." Having kept the Law of God perfectly, the man Jesus was declared to be "illegally" in hell.  At that point, Jesus' spirit was re-created.  He again had the divine nature - Jesus was then born again!   Just as we are born again or recreated when we accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah.  Re-created men "now have the nature of God... the ability of God" (E.W. Kenyon, What Happened from the Cross to the Throne, p. 82).  There are no verses in Scripture to support this blasphemous theology - read Exodus 8:10: "There is none like unto the Lord our God"  Exodus 9:13-14; Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; 2 Samuel 7:22; Isaiah 46:9; Jeremiah 10:6; Hosea 11:9).

Word Faith ministers use different interpretations of words that are not the correct Greek or Hebrew.  They make the words fit their needs for example I was amused when Charles Capps said Concerning the statement in Job 1:21, "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away," Word-Faith teacher Charles Capps says, "Job did say it, but it is not a true statement.  It is a lie. ... Job was not under the anointing when he made that statement" (The Tongue - A Creative Force, pp. 8-9).  A few weeks prior the same teacher said EVERY WORD IN THE BIBLE IS TRUE!!

When this kind of fanciful Bible interpretation is used, the Scriptures can be made to say anything you want them to say.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Excuse me, but FAITH and CHURCH are not the same thing!

It is obvious some people don’t realize that faith and church are not the same thing.  I say this from the comments I have received.  It might surprise you, but some of the greatest accomplishments in the church have come from people who had the courage to question the church. 

Each of Christ’s apostles did not doubt the church they doubted that Christ would be resurrected. It was incomprehensible to them… even after having witnessed a man walk on water and raise the dead. All of the original apostles had doubts. And, some of you want to stone me because I doubt the actions of some of the hierarchy in the church and yet you are willing to follow men that even had some doubts about Christ.  GET REAL!

Each of them, one by one, sat there witnessing the mighty miracles that came from this Nazarene. They had questions and problems with much of what Christ had taught, but their minds were open not like some of you. 

The problem exists when a person thinks that they are beyond FAITH. That they are too logical for miracles. That their intellect exceeds the need for faith. I have never said any of those things. People who are honest enough to admit their doubts and then face them head on without becoming antagonistic, making hardline rash decisions, or ruling out the need for faith are some of the greatest contributors to this kingdom. 

If you want to follow men blindly that is fine with me - go ahead!  I am not that naive. You may trust the words of men. I trust the Holy Spirit.  I can reason right from wrong by comparing what man says and what scriptures says. I am not going to rely on tradition and rituals to support the words of man when they are contrary to the words of the Bible. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The church failed me I did not fail the church.

We speak often of the young people straying from God and I do not and never have believed young people are straying from God.  They are straying from organized religion – the church. They are fleeing a religion that has become more about prosperity than love, more about condemning than forgiveness, more about ministers living extravagant lifestyles than helping the poor, more about ministers being the focus of the ministry in order to become celebrities rather than making God the focus of their message.  The young people are not straying they are running to get away from the hypocrisy in the Christian Church which has becoming nothing more than a business to make a few rich beyond their dreams.

Bishop Jake of Potter’s House in Dallas, Texas was not satisfied with the fame and fortune he had accumulated and had to have more.  He is the new “Doctor Phil” on television.  Joyce Meyer’s realizing she is getting older and may want to step aside as the head minister of Joyce Meyer’s Ministries and enjoy all her toys made sure her book royalties no longer go to the ministry, but come directly to her.  Joel Osteen has turned a “self-help” ministry into personal assets worth far more than forty million dollars in a few years.  The Copelands fly around in a twenty million dollar jet while foolish people send them prayer request which the Copeland’s never see or pray over, but make sure the millions sent in with the prayer request are accounted for.   Jesse Duplantis is a onetime used car salesman that should be on a Comedy Hour Show and not in a ministry.  I admit he is entertaining.  Then we have Murdock, Hinn, Creflo Dollar, Eddie Long, Paula White, Ed Young, Jr., Ed Young, Sr.,  John Hagee, Charles Blake, Franklin Graham, Rick Warren and the Catholic Bishops and Cardinals that do not have to make fools of themselves on television to live like royalty.

I think a lot of senior citizens, like me, are also fed up with Christian Organized Religion.  I as a retired priest can no longer force myself to go to Mass.  You see I know too much about the hierarchy of my church.  The cover-up of child abuse in my church was the straw that broke the camel’s back, once it became public the hierarchy continued to deny it and blame the messengers. I reported a case to my bishop over forty years ago and was told as many priest were told, “I will take care of it, but say nothing about this to anyone we have to protect the Church.”  It took a long time for me to realize that God did not need us to cover up a crime in order to protect the Church. In reality in most cases the Bishops and Cardinals were protecting their own secrets.  The laity of the church allowed this to happen and many in the church pews today want to sweep it under the rug.   Those that speak out are said to want to destroy the church.  It never crosses their naïve minds that some of us want to help the church be what God called it to be.    

I am closer to God today than I have ever been in my life – no thanks to the church hierarchy.  I will confess I do not understand why God allows the hierarchy of the church and religious organizations to continue to make a mockery of Him.  I try to rationalize that perhaps the few and seldom truths they spew in pulpits and on television help some.  I believe that one day God will seek revenge as He did with Jimmy Swagger of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

I do not fault the poor naïve people that these religious leaders take advantage of because all people are looking for love. God makes that plain in this verse in Proverbs. What a person desires is unfailing love; better to be poor than a liar (Proverbs 19:22).  True love comes from God.  There is a part of us that can only be satisfied by a relationship with God. The love of a man or woman simply cannot take that spot. Just because our experience with church – organized religion has proved unfulfilling, abandoning God for something physical will only leave us emptier inside.  These charlatans prey on the need people have for unconditional love.  

You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
Psalm 63:1-3

Hypocrisy is a real problem in the church today. Hypocrisy exists in church because there is hypocrisy not only in the religious leaders, but also among the laity. That’s a truth that most of us know and some will not admit. Let’s face our own hypocrisy so we can root it out.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?… You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Luke 6:41,43)

Today, men and women must struggle to find his or her own identity in an oppressive culture of church.  God isn’t the problem. Neither is the kind of church we learn about from the Bible. Loveless religion changes when we live lives that make God attractive, build relationships that feel like family, and do good in our own communities. Now that’s real church.  That is what the younger generation is looking for and not getting in the church today.  Instead of real love they are getting empty words and even I nearing eighty am sick of it.

As long as those running organized religion continue to blame the Internet, liberal thinking, lack of religious upbringing, gays/lesbians, same sex marriage, etc. and continue to blame non-believers, politics, worldly distractions, etc., instead of looking within people young and old will continue to leave the church/organized religion.  The solution is simple stop putting the emphasis on religion and the organizations and start putting it on a personal  relationship with God.

In our current cultural moment, unprecedented millions are sick to death of what religion has become today. There are more people who do not want to be associated with any organized religion in the United States than there are Catholics and nearly as many Protestants.  

I am a Bible believing Christian. I believe in God. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I believe that the Bible is reliable and is the basis for truth. I believe that God wants to have a relationship with everyone on earth and to see them come to salvation. I have a hard time believing in religion. I am seldom religious any more ... God created us for relationship. He wants to walk with us, talk with us, help us to learn and grow. We are spiritual beings, created to know God. One of the problems I see with the church/organized religion is that it takes its focus off of the relationship and puts it onto the “lifestyle” of Christians.

There is a Christian lifestyle defined by man — common dos and don’ts, ways of talking and behaving, an expected political view — and unfortunately, a common critical eye towards those who believe differently and act differently. I find the biggest fault with Christianity/organized religion is  the focus on sin, both personal sin and the sin of others rather than grace and forgiveness. Jesus Christ did not come and die on the cross to get us to stop sinning. He knew that was impossible. He came to set us free from sin. He came, not to put our focus on sin, but to take our focus off of it ... God wants our focus to be on Him, not on the rules.  I have found through the years the more you try not to sin the more you sin – trust God!

I don’t lay down the law against my best friend. We have a relationship; we love each other, and learn and grow together. Rules don’t make that relationship work, love does. God wants the same thing to be true with the relationship He has with us.

Now after saying what I have I think the church community is important (critical) to a believers life.  It is sad that trying to find a church today that allows you to discuss, agree and disagree with one another, to question freely what you do not understand or believe and not be judged is hard to find.  It is difficult to learn in a vacuum or alone.  To truly learn one must be able to express their ideas freely and be able to share and receive knowledge from one another.  It is far better in my opinion to be spiritual and religious, but finding a place to do that is like I said nearly impossible. I think Jesus called us to transcend petty religion.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me. Watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew 11:28-30). 

Jesus backed up this invitation with his life. He overturned Temple tables, healed on the Sabbath (and taught others to do the same), called religious leaders “broods of vipers” and “whitewashed tombs,” cursed fig trees symbolizing fruit-less religionists. This kind of confrontation was not uncommon: So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”  He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions” (Mark 7:5-9)!

Jesus’ overall appraisal of the religionists of His day is “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.” Jesus seemed to be about creating a new kind of community, one where the values of repressive religion and empire would be absent.  We have forgotten the lessons of Jesus pertaining to His followers and have reverted back to the ways of the Pharisees. (Matthew 20:25-27).  Paul advocated for a Spirit-led rather than rules-led community.

2017 is as good a time as any to bring life back to the church and organized religion and we will not do that with stage shows and entertainment.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Do you believe in the Virgin Birth of Christ?

Most Christians believe and most Christian denominations teach – “Can a person reject the Virgin Birth and still be a Christian? The answer is no. The Virgin Birth was never meant to stand alone. It is not a random truth plucked from thin air. God never says, "Pick and choose what you want to believe." The story of Jesus is a seamless garment woven by the Holy Spirit. Take out his miraculous birth and you have ripped the whole garment to shreds. (I guess that means if Jesus Christ was not born of a virgin then Jesus Christ cannot have divinity and to me that limits the power of God the Father.}

Christianity is not just a collection of random truths, any one of which could be dropped with little harm. It is true, and truth is a whole. Consequently, a diminution at any point inevitably affects the rest, given enough time. When we begin to drop this doctrine or that doctrine, even though we cannot see at the time how it will affect the rest, it nevertheless does affect the rest.

History teaches us that when men begin to doubt the Virgin Birth, they do not stop there. One doubt leads to another until the Jesus they believe in is not the Jesus of the Bible. In truth, the Virgin Birth is no more miraculous than the Resurrection. They stand or fall together. (I think God expects us to question, Thomas did!)

Do I understand it? No.
Do I believe it? Yes.
Why? Because the Bible teaches it and because it makes perfect sense. (Does it really make perfect sense if so then why do we Christians claim there are many things that we will not truly understand on earth?}

Can we still believe in the Virgin Birth? We can and we must.”

Joseph doubted Mary’s story about the birth of Christ. It is true that the Bible says he believed Mary after an angel appeared to him in a dream, but initially he doubted. Does doubt alone about the Virgin Birth make it impossible for you to be a Christian? I am sorry, but I do not think so!

Do I think it is enough to doubt the Virgin Birth because We have no eyewitness accounts, no doctor confirmations, no DNA samples. This may sound ridiculous, but many use this as an argument to not believe in the Virgin Birth.

The fact that Paul, the earliest New Testament author, never mentions the Virgin Birth gives credence to some for not believing. We do rely on Paul rely for much of Christian theology, it is a bit strange he did not mention it. Paul refers to Jesus’ birth twice (Rom 1:3; Gal 4:4) and never says he was born of a virgin or of different means than anyone else. You would think that would be important. Did Paul think that Jesus birth was natural and conventional?

Between 49 and 55 CE, Paul recorded the first known written reference to Jesus' birth. In Galatians 4:4, he writes: "But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law." If he knew that Jesus had been conceived by a virgin, the information would have been of importance. Paul would have undoubtedly replaced "woman" with "virgin", or made some other change to show that the birth was miraculous. This passage was written some 45 years before the gospels of Matthew and Luke were written, and 55 to 62 years after Jesus' birth.  Can you blame some Christians for having doubts about the Virgin Birth?

Again, In about 57 CE, Paul wrote his only other reference to Jesus' birth. In Romans 1:1-3 he writes: "I Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle and separated onto the gospel of God...concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh."

The phrase "of the seed of David" strongly indicates that Paul believed Jesus to be the son of Joseph, because Matthew traces Jesus' genealogy from David to Joseph. The phrase "according to the flesh" seems to imply a natural, normal conception and birth.

Paul does not write anything about Jesus' family in any of his Epistles except for a single reference in Galatians 1 to James, the head of the Jewish Christian church in Jerusalem. Paul called James "the Lord's brother" -- an individual with whom he had many disagreements.  I know conservative scholars claim Christians called everyone brother/sisters then.

The virgin birth is also not in Mark, the earliest gospel, or in John, the only other gospel not based on Mark. Why is such an important story left out of all the early sources? This certainly causes some to doubt the Virgin Birth.

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)
Some scholars say “virgin” was a mistranslation in the Septuagint (the Greek translation the gospel writers used), and should have been translated “young woman.” That means the story might have been based on a mistranslation! Again a cause for some to question the Virgin Birth.

Was the Virgin Birth story an honest mistake: Most liberal theologians and biblical historians believe that the authors of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke copied the belief in a virgin conception from a Greek mistranslation in Isaiah 7:14 The Hebrew word "almah" (young woman) was translated in error to the Greek word for virgin? This is perhaps the most commonly accepted explanation among skeptics, secularists, and religious liberals.

It is true there were others that claim to be born of a virgin with divine fathers before Jesus. Jesus was not the first said to be born of a virgin. Mut-em-ua, the virgin Queen of Egypt, supposedly gave birth to Pharaoh Amenkept III through a god holding a cross to her mouth.

Ra, the Egyptian sun god, was said to be born of a virgin. So was Perseus, Romulus, Mithras, Genghis Khan, Krishna, Horus, Melanippe, Auge and Antiope.

In the ancient world, great men were born of divine fathers and human mothers. Alexander the Great and the Roman emperor Augustus were great men and said to have divine fathers. Jesus was also a great man, so he too must have a divine father.

The virgin birth may have been copied from a Roman fable: Livy, a famous Roman historian, had written a very popular book on the history of Rome that was widely circulated in the first decades of the 1st century CE.  In it, he explained that Mars, the Roman God of war, fathered twins Romulus and Remus, the original mythical founders of the city of Rome. Their mother was Silvia, a Vestal Virgin. Some Christian groups may have slightly modified this fable and adopted it as their own, in an attempt to show that Jesus was a person of very great importance -- an individual at least as important as the founders of Rome.

These stories may cause those that know history and legends to doubt the Virgin Birth.

The report of a Virgin Birth didn’t appear until over 50 years after it supposedly happened. Why? If ancient history is recorded by word of mouth and there was recorded history before the Virgin Birth appeared why did he take so long to record it?  How do you answer that to remove ones doubt about the Virgin Birth without adding your own personal opinion? There are no facts to stand on.

Would we believe a similar story if it happened in 2016?  Most of the people today would never, ever, believe it.

Imagine if a teenage girl in your neighborhood claimed that her pregnancy was due to God impregnating her and that she was still a virgin. Would you believe her? Or would you think she was lying or mentally ill?

Why then are some Christians so judgmental, bias and claim without any doubt that if you do not believe in the Virgin Birth you cannot be a Christian and you are destine for Hell?

Most liberal theologians do not believe in the doctrine of the virgin birth.  Skepticism about the virgin birth is not a recent development, as evidenced by a 1823 quote by Thomas Jefferson: "The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus by the Supreme Being as his father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter." the membership of mainline and liberal denominations like the United Church of Christ, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church, USA, etc. tend to be significantly more conservative than their ministers and theologians. Belief in the virgin birth is much higher among the laity than the clergy in these denominations.  

The Virgin Birth may have been copied from another religion.  History records that various religions claimed virgin births: Buddha was born of the virgin Maya after the Holy Ghost descended upon her. The Egyptian God Horus was born of the virgin Isis; as an infant, he was visited by three kings. In Phrygia, Attis was born of the virgin Nama. A Roman savior Quirrnus was born of a virgin. In Tibet, Indra was born of a virgin. He ascended into heaven after his death. Greek deity Adonis was born of the virgin Myrrha, many centuries before the birth of Jesus. He was born "at Bethlehem, in the same sacred cave that Christians later claimed as the birthplace of Jesus." In Persia, the god Mithra was born of a virgin on DEC-25. An alternative myth is that he emerged from a rock. Also in Persia, Zoroaster was born of a virgin. In India, there are two main stories of the birth of Krishna, one of the incarnations of Vishnu, and the second person within the Hindu Trinity. In one story, Krishna was said to have been born to his mother Devaki while she was still a virgin. In the other, he had a normal conception and birth. Is it really fair for Christians to judge non-believers of the Virgin Birth as lunatics.

Why was the Virgin Birth story delayed in being told.  Some say no respectable Jew would have ever condescended to buy into a Greek/Babylonian mythological base for an account dealing with the birth of the Messiah." This may explain why the story of the virgin birth first appeared in the Gospel of Matthew. It was written circa 80 CE at a time when most Christians were converts from Paganism who had been taught about virgin births in their former religions.

The Virgin Birth story was inspired by the Hebrew Scriptures: Throughout the Old Testament, we hear of the very unusual births of Ishmael, Isaac, Samson and Samuel. Usually prior to the birth, an angel appears to the parent-to-be; the latter is afraid; the message of an upcoming birth is given; objections are raised; and a sign is given. Matthew and Luke could have replicated the essence of these stories, and added a Virgin Birth as proof that Jesus' birth was beyond simply unusual; it was a miracle. This would establish Jesus at a much higher status than the four famous figures from the Hebrew Scriptures. Without a miraculous birth, Jesus might have been considered to be only equal in stature to those heroes.

Only the Gospels of Matthew and Luke contain references to the Virgin Birth.  In John 1:45 they refer to Jesus specifically as "the son of Joseph" and in 6:42 the townspeople ask, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?" If the author(s) of John believed in the miracle of the Virgin Birth, why would it not have been mentioned somewhere in the gospel of John, and why was Joseph allowed to stand as Jesus' father on two occasions and no attempt to clarify the statement was made.

Do I believe the Virgin Birth was possible – YES!  Do I believe you must believe it in order to be a Christian – NO!  Until I am shown in the Bible that you must believe in the Virgin Birth in order to have your sins forgiven, receive salvation or spend eternity with God I will continue to believe it is not necessary to believe in the Virgin Birth.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Expats - Immigration Laws - Senior Citizens

I wonder how many U.S. citizens would become expat's if they could use some form of government medical care abroad?  All the talk about Obama Care and cost of maintaining our senior citizen population and that the system is going bankrupt has any of our intelligent politicians ask this question?

First off the senior protection programs are going broke because our intelligent politicians stole from the fund to finance projects that would get them reelected. They not only mismanaged the fund they ROBBED the fund.

They are robbing the younger generation by borrowing money to finance projects in hopes it will guarantee them a lifetime job in government. Sadly some have even found a way to enrich themselves while service in government - they are corrupt!

I have spend more than a decade in the Philippines and have cost the United States Government NOTHING!  I also have paid on average $2500 a quarter Income Tax in the United States  for NOTHING!

I am now in bad health and not able to return to the United States. I am home-bound and need a caregiver. Thus far, I have been able to manage on my extra income from investments that will end shortly and my only income will be Social Security. What happens after the extra income ceases is a mystery to me.

What would it have cost the United States Government if I would have remained in the United States?  My medicine in a Third World country cost over $900 a month which I pay for.  What would that cost have been to the Social Security System in the United States $10,000 a month or more?  What about the cost of about two hospitalizations a year that run about $1000 each time.  The hospital expenses would be ten thousand plus yearly in the United States.  Again it cost the United States Government NOTHING.

Now I am in a situation since I am not married to a Philippine citizens I must leave the country every three years for twenty-four hours and then return. I am unable to meet those requirements.  I am in the process of trying to get some type of exception and praying it goes through or in two months I face a real problem.

You mean the United States Government could not establish some countries as places where Medicare or OBAMACARE could be used. In the Philippines there could be limited private hospitals and doctors allowed to except United States Government elderly insurance in Cebu, Manila and Davao. It would only take limited personnel in the Embassy to monitor these programs and prevent corruption.  The money saved the United States Government could probably be a billion dollars a year if done around the world.


I do not know why countries like the Philippines have actively not pursued these benefits for it would help their government and the United States Government and those that chose to be expat's.

Most American's consider expat's as some kind of traitor or deserve what they get for living abroad without thinking that most chose to live abroad because they can no longer maintain their lifestyle in the United States because of politicians and the laws they pass without considering the repercussions.

Quite frankly, I do not desire to receive handouts from food ministries because I cannot afford medical care, utilities, food, clothing, etc. in the United States. EXPAT'S DO THE UNITED STATES CITIZENS LIVING AT HOME A FAVOR - WE LEAVE MORE HANDOUTS FOR THEM THAT ARE NOT WILLING TO TAKE THE CHANCE ABROAD.

President Duterte says President Elect Trump is his friend.  If that is so why doesn't he approach President Elect Trump with this idea. I bet he would be speaking to the DEAF!

One thing President Duterte could do would be influence the Philippine politicians to change Immigration Laws immediately and not demand people to leave the country as long as they meet all other requirement for Immigration.  NOT EVEN THE UNITED STATES DOES THAT.  President Duterte talks abut fairness in Immigration Laws in the United States then why doesn't he make Philippine Immigration Laws fair to SENIOR CITIZEN EXPAT'S who can no longer travel and do not want to marry a Philippine citizens because they are already married or like me took vows of celibacy. Mr. President Duterte your predecessors and you plus your men and women in Congress and Senate have talked about attracting Medical Tourism and Senior Expats then why don't you do something to really attract them to the Philippines!

For those that believe this is a matter for my Church please keep in mind that I am RETIRED from my Church and do not want them dictating my life any longer nor do I want their hand outs. I have always paid my way and have taken care of myself and I want to continue to do so until I die.