Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Who's Birthday Is It?


May the word of the Lord be on our minds, on our lips, and in our hearts, amen.

Well, prayers for guidance got answered quickly, as it did not take long for me to feel the urge to post on a topic. This urge was reinforced and further inspired by watching an old episode of Mother Angelica Live on EWTN last night discussing the same topic.

So, when your birthday comes around, assuming you celebrate it and other people remember it, what would you think if everyone else around you received gifts on that day but not you? That wouldn't seem fair, or even make sense, would it? You're feelings would likely also be hurt.

Jesus' birthday is coming up on Sunday, in case you hadn't heard, and so I ask: What did you get Him for his birthday? When He was born, the three wise men brought Him gifts. There was no exchange of gifts among anyone else, only Jesus received them. So, what are you getting Him this year?

If you do not have an answer for the above question, or the answer is "nothing," then I'll ask if you bought gifts for anyone else. I'm willing to bet most of you did, and the crowds at the stores will back that up. 

So here we are, celebrating Jesus' birthday, and everyone buys gifts for everybody else, and forget to give Him anything. Does that seem fair? Does that even make any logical sense? 

Yes, I am aware that a large part of the tradition of gift giving on Christmas was inspired by the gift giving generosity of the real St. Nicholas (hence Santa Claus being called St. Nick, even though that's not even his first name!)  who's feast day is December 6. But let's not forget who received the gifts first: the birthday boy Himself, Jesus Christ.

Now, since Jesus has obviously ascended into Heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father, you're probably asking how in the world can we give Him any gifts? He certainly doesn't need any gold or Frankincense now, right?  And I doubt he'd be too interested in a new video game system, anyways.

The reality is, Jesus is all around us. Remember Jesus' words in Matthew 25:45: Whatever you do for the least among you, you also do for me." What does this mean for us?

It means that this Christmas, you can find Jesus at homeless shelters, food pantries, nursing homes, run down housing, halfway houses, all alone in their homes with nobody to celebrate with, in jails, in cardboard boxes on the street, in orphanages, maybe even next door or down the street from you.. He is literally everywhere, because He is all of these people!  

And that means, my dear friends, that you can give Jesus gifts for His birthday by giving to the least among us! The needy, the poor, the suffering, the sick, the lonely, every time you give to them, either a material item or simply your time, you are giving Jesus a birthday gift. 

Maybe, as part of your "wish list" every year, you could give up some of your gifts and ask people to donate to a charity in your name, instead. 

After all, who's birthday is it?

Godspeed and Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Merry Christmas!!!

Greetings, once again! 

I know I haven't posted as much lately, but I wanted to take a moment to wish everybody a very merry Christmas, and I hope your Advent season has been blessed. We're about to celebrate the miraculous birth of the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who came to save us from hell. Never forget the real reason for Christmas.

I will be posting on a couple new topics soon, including "Who Was Q?" Obviously, as time goes on, there are less and less topics to cover, so if there is any topic you'd like to be talk about, just drop me a note or leave a comment. And, of course, pray that I am guided to talk about what God wants me to talk about on here

Next month will be the one year anniversary of this blog, which was the result of a New Year's resolution, and something I had been wanting to do for quite some time, and felt called to do it. In the past year, this blog has had nearly 2,000 hits from nearly a dozen countries around the world. Praise and thanks be to God for the blog growing as fast as it has, especially without as many posts in recent months. I have really enjoyed writing it the past year, as well as interacting with you, the reader. 

Thank you, as well, for visiting and reading Scripture Demystified. God willing, we'll have another year of scripture discussion ahead of us.

God bless, Godspeed, and merry Christmas, and a happy and blessed New Year to one and all!!!!!

In Christ's Love,


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Evil of Moral Relativism


May the Word of the Lord always be on our mind, on our lips, and in our hearts.

Come Holy Spirit...

Greetings and God bless one and all!

Moral relativism is the belief that there is no right or wrong. There is no "good" or "bad." This is often justified by people by saying that our rules, morals, etc. are "old fashioned" or "out of date." Apparently in modern times, right and wrong no longer apply in more and more people's minds. In other words, morality is relative. 

But is this true? Is the Bible and church teaching out of date, old fashioned, or no longer relevant? If so, what is this belief based on? 

The simply answer to that last question is, it is based on nothing. There is zero reason to believe that morality is suddenly relative and that the line between right and wrong has been erased. This is a lie that Satan has come up with to pull God's people away from Him and His teaching. 

Is there evidence that God's laws are as still relevant in the year 2011 as they were in the years 1911, 1511, 1011, or even 111? Yes! There certainly is! 

Malachi 3:6-7

I the Lord do not change. (Italics mine.) So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.

Even before Christ was born, God dealt with people ignoring His laws (decrees.) And what is His response? That He does not change! Ever. God is the same in 2011 as he was thousands of years ago. He is perfect, He does not need to change. And since the Lord does not change, then neither do His laws.  

God also said, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." --Revelations 22:13.

Of course He is, because only He started everything and He can end everything as we know it. And along the way, He does not change, he has already said.

So the argument that God or His church's moral teachings are no longer relevant in this day and age does not hold up at all. He does not change. Not yesterday, not today, not tomorrow. God and His laws remain forever. God is not "old fashioned." He is the beginning and the end. Society's tolerance for immorality does not affect God in any way. We are still called to follow Him, not the world.

God gave Moses the Ten Commandments for a reason. Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount for a reason. God gave His church the Bible for a reason. These were not temporary rules or mere suggestions that He thought might be nice for us to peruse at our leisure and follow if we feel like it, or when the world tells us it's OK. These are eternal rules to live by.  From the beginning until the end. From the Lord who does not change comes moral rules that do not change. There is no relativism. Right and wrong are still clear as day. Just because society tolerates something does not mean God does. This is why Jesus tells us to not be of this world. We are not to follow the world's rules, but God's alone. The world's rules may change, but God's do not. He said He does not change, and He doesn't lie.

Jesus called Satan "the father of all lies." And the theory of moral relativism is one of Satan's biggest, and most dangerous, lies. It causes us to rebel against the Lord. It causes us to live in ways that are not in accordance with God's laws for us. 

How far back has Satan been tempting us to question whether or not what God said actually applies to us? From the very beginning!

Genesis 3: 1-4

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman.

We all know how that ended. Right from the start, Satan was telling us that God didn't really mean what He said, so go ahead and do what we want to do. And that became the first sin.

Moral relativism is still a sin. It is still evil. Because it is a lie and leads to rebellion against the Lord, which is exactly what Satan did himself, and exactly what he wants us to do, as well. But it is still a lie.

"I, the Lord, do not change." And neither do His rules about right and wrong, no matter what generation we live in. Reject Satan's lies, and instead embrace God's Truth.

And remember, God loves you.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Are You A Member of The Fellowship of the Unashamed?

The Fellowship of the Unashamed

I am a part of the fellowship of the Unashamed.
I have the Holy Spirit Power. The die has been cast.
I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made.
I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.
I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.
My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure.
I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams,
tame visions, mundane talking, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity.
I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded.
I now live by presence, learn by faith, love by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by power.

My pace is set, my gait is fast, my goal is Heaven, my road is narrow,
my way is rough, my companions few, my Guide is reliable, my mission is clear.
I cannot be bought, compromised, deterred, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed.
I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity,
negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity,
or meander in the maze of mediocrity.
I won’t give up, back up, let up, or shut up until I’ve preached up,
prayed up, paid up, stored up, and stayed up for the cause of Christ.
I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.
I must go until He returns, give until I drop,
preach until all know, and work until He comes.
And when He comes to get His own, He will have no problem recognizing me.
My colors will be clear for “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes..” (Romans 1:16)

The Author of this work is in dispute, however Dr. Bob Moorehead is considered the likely author.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Does Hell Exist?


May the Word of the Lord be on our minds, on our lips, and in our hearts.

Come Holy Spirit.....

Greetings, everyone! Sorry for the lack of updates, but my job plus summer has kept me busy, plus I am trying to start a local charity (prayers appreciated!) so I haven't been able to properly relax and update as much as I have wanted to.  

I have felt called to discuss whether or not Hell really exists, as lately, I have been hearing far too many people, including clergy, say that it does not, and that many people are starting to actually believe this.

The Bible references Hell in some way so many times it is hard to even count them. But the descriptions are consistent: fire, torment, etc. But people are starting to say that the Bible was merely metaphorical in its descriptions, and that it can't be as bad as it sounds, and that maybe it isn't even a real place! 

While much of the Bible is allegorical and Jesus spoke in many parables, as I said above, the descriptions of Hell are quite consistent. There is not a lot of room for interpretations. 

Let's take a look at the most famous scripture reference to Hell, where the physical setup of the afterlife is actually described by Jesus:

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame. But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’—Luke 16:19-26

The words "anguish" and "flame" are once again used, as they are repeatedly throughout the Bible. It also tells us that Hell is not under the earth, as we imagine it, but within view of heaven. While some say that the knowledge of being separated from God and His Love is the real Hell, which likely has some truth to it, Jesus still describes the flames in these verses. 

Lets take a look at some other Bible verses on Hell:

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.—Revelation 20:9-15

"You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way."-Matthew 7:13 

"For God did not spare even the angels who sinned. He threw them into hell,
in gloomy pits of darkness, where they are being held until the day of judgment." -2 Peter 2:4 
"And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. - Matthew 13:42 

As you can see, Jesus did not ever mince words when teaching about Hell. His descriptions are clear and consistent throughout Scripture.  Hell is painful and sad, there is fire and torment. Describing Hell as anything else is calling Jesus a liar. 

So, where does this notion of no Hell, or even no Satan, coming from? From the one Jesus called "the father of all lies," Satan himself!  By taking away the fear of Hell, Satan's job of tempting us to rebel against the Lord is even easier. So, he starts to plant these lies in our heads and hearts that we would never truly be punished for rejecting the Lord by sinning or outright denial of God's existence. Satan is making his job as easy as possible by convincing us that Jesus lied, or at least really exaggerated what Hell is like. Jesus is perfection, and Satan is the father of all lies, so we know that in reality, Jesus teaches the truth only, and the truth always scares Satan. (Jesus is "the truth, the way, and the life," remember.)

The number one argument people use against the reality of Hell is that "a loving God could never send us to such a horrible place." To this, I say you are 100% correct. God does not send any of us to such a place. We send ourselves there by the choices that we make. 

In fact, God is every bit as loving as the people who argue against Hell say He is. So loving in fact, that He gave us a way to avoid Hell:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.-John 3:16-17

God sacrificed His only Son so that we may be saved from the fires of Hell. Think about that for a minute. How much love does it take to sacrifice your only child so that others might be saved? And how bad must that other place be to cause someone to sacrifice their child so that people can avoid going there? If there is no Hell, there is no reason for Christ. God loved us so much, that He became flesh and died a horrible death, so that we can avoid the torment of Hell by simply believing in Him and serving Him as He asks us to. 

Why were Jesus' final hours so brutal? Because that was the heavy price of our sins. Because He had to suffer as the people who would go to Hell would suffer. The beatings that He took, that horrible walk to Golgatha, the being nailed to a tree alive and left to hang there for hours until dead, were all necessary because that suffering is the price of our sins. He took that suffering upon Himself so that we can avoid that same suffering in Hell, if we choose to follow Him. If Hell did not exist, or if it was not as bad as Jesus described it, then His suffering and death would not have been necessary. To deny Hell is to deny Christ because of this. You cannot have one without the other.

God wants us to avoid Hell so badly, he offered up His son as a sacrifice in our place. So yes, He is a very loving God who does not want to send us into the fires of Hell. However, that does not mean such a place does not exist. You can blame Satan's existence for that necessity. And God will not stop us from choosing to reject Him or His teachings if that is the path that we choose (see Matthew 7:13 above.) And, needless to say, God's judgement of us is always just. He knows our hearts better than even we do, you simply cannot hide anything from Him.

As I said in the beginning, God does not send us to Hell, we send ourselves to Hell by rejecting the Lord and His teachings. God gave us a way out. We must be willing to accept His offer of salvation if we wish to avoid Hell. God did not have to do it, but He loved us too much, despite our sinful natures, to not offer His son in our place. And Jesus loved us enough to accept His horrible fate. Whether we appreciate that and love the Lord in return with all of our hearts and minds is totally up to us. 

No amount of denial can make the reality of Hell go away. It exists, whether we want to believe it or not. And rest assured, if we go there after we die, we truly deserved it, and we only have ourselves to blame.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Few Positive Changes To The Blog

Greetings and Godspeed!

I wanted to let you know of a few addition to the blog. If you scroll all the way to the bottom of this page, you will see that you can subscribe to Scripture Demystified with your e-mail, so you will always know when the blog is updated with a new entry. I do not collect these e-mails, and will never sell them to any 3rd party. 

Also, you'll see where you can search the blog for subjects or topics, which will make it easier for you to find something, especially as the blog get larger and larger. 

And you can also see how many page views we've received, as well, for those curious about how fast we have grown, by the Grace of God! 

Keep an eye open for more additions as time goes on, and as always, thank you for reading Scripture Demystified!!!! 

God bless!

Founder of Scripture Demystified

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard


May the Word of the Lord be in our minds, on our lips, and in our hearts.

Come Holy Spirit....

I've wanted to speak on this parable ever since it was part of our bible reading during adult Sunday School in my old church many, many years ago, and the debate ended up way off course. Here is the parable:


Matthew 20:1-16

Contemporary English Version (CEV)

Workers in a Vineyard
 1As Jesus was telling what the kingdom of heaven would be like, he said:
   Early one morning a man went out to hire some workers for his vineyard. 2After he had agreed to pay them the usual amount for a day's work, he sent them off to his vineyard.
    3About nine that morning, the man saw some other people standing in the market with nothing to do. 4He said he would pay them what was fair, if they would work in his vineyard. 5So they went.
   At noon and again about three in the afternoon he returned to the market. And each time he made the same agreement with others who were loafing around with nothing to do.
    6Finally, about five in the afternoon the man went back and found some others standing there. He asked them, "Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?"
    7"Because no one has hired us," they answered. Then he told them to go work in his vineyard.
    8That evening the owner of the vineyard told the man in charge of the workers to call them in and give them their money. He also told the man to begin with the ones who were hired last. 9When the workers arrived, the ones who had been hired at five in the afternoon were given a full day's pay.
    10The workers who had been hired first thought they would be given more than the others. But when they were given the same, 11they began complaining to the owner of the vineyard. 12They said, "The ones who were hired last worked for only one hour. But you paid them the same that you did us. And we worked in the hot sun all day long!"
    13The owner answered one of them, "Friend, I didn't cheat you. I paid you exactly what we agreed on. 14Take your money now and go! What business is it of yours if I want to pay them the same that I paid you? 15Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Why should you be jealous, if I want to be generous?"
    16Jesus then said, "So it is. Everyone who is now first will be last, and everyone who is last will be first." 

What the members of my adult Sunday School class all those years ago started debating, was whether or not it was fair to pay their employees the same regardless of how long they worked. They did not think that was fair at all (thereby unintentionally mimicking the reaction of the workers in the Parable.) Basically, they took the parable literally (and parables, but their own design, cannot be taken literally if you are to understand the meaning of them) and thought it was a teaching on labor laws. However, this is not the case.

The workers in the parable represent those who come to believe in Christ and serve Him. They are His laborers. Some people will serve the Lord their entire lives, some will come to Him somewhere in the middle, and some will only come to believe and serve Him in their final years. 

The point of the parable, is that no matter when you start serving the Lord, your reward will be the same, eternal salvation. Why? Because his salvation and mercy is His to give as He sees fit, and He is saying, what does it concern us if He is merciful and generous? Why should we be jealous of that fact? 

The fact that our sins are forgiven at all should cause us joy, for non of us our worthy. But alas, some will be jealous when they find out that the "late comers" receive the same eternal rewards as those who have served the Lord for many years. Is this fair?

Well, first, as God says, that is not our concern, and we received the reward that was promised us, anyways. Second,  God is a merciful God, fortunately for us, as I said above. The fact that God would equally reward  those who came to serve Him late in life magnifies His grace and His mercy. His grace is shown more clearly than ever when He shows mercy on all who come to believe in Him, regardless of what they have done before that moment (so long as they repent of their sins and serve Him, of course.) 

Now, in response to this parable I have heard some people say: "Well I might as well wait until I am old to serve the Lord and just do what I want in the meantime! Why bother now if the reward is the same?"

There are two problems with this thinking:

One, God knows what your plan is and He is not one to be taken advantage of. Do you really think you can somehow find a loophole and trick Him?

Second, do you know when you are going to die? Were you promised you would live to be a ripe, old age? Were you guaranteed a deathbed to make last minute conversions and repentances on? Of course not! You could die while reading this. Or later today. Or tomorrow. And it could be instant. 

We are not here to do the bare minimum to get ourselves into heaven. That is hardly following the #1 Commandment to "Love and Serve the Lord with all our hearts." God's mercy is sufficient for all of us, praise Him for that. And that very mercy and love means that "last minute" servants can receive their heavenly reward just as equally as those of us who have served the Lord for longer periods of time. That mercy is God's to give as He pleases. 

Instead of being jealous of others at the end of our lives, let's spend our time serving the Lord in His vineyard, the world, so that we may receive our reward, and then rejoice when we see anyone come to serve the Lord, no matter how late they arrive. They are one of us, then, aren't they?


Monday, May 23, 2011

The Judas Question


May the word of the Lord be on our minds, on our lips, and in our hearts.

Come Holy Spirit....

Well, now that we've survived the alleged "Rapture" that was supposed to happen on May 21, I guess I can continue writing this blog, hehe! Obviously I will have to write an entry about the dangers of false teachers soon, as this "pastor" was a good example of that.

But the topic I felt called to discuss is what I refer to as, "The Judas Question."

This refers to the question that a lot of people have asked over the centuries, and that is, since Jesus had to be betrayed as part of His passion that lead to the Crucifixion, does that make Judas guilt-free? In other words, was Judas committing a grave sin, or was he just doing what he was supposed to do? And did he go to heaven or hell?

Well, I cannot say whether he went to heaven or hell, only the Lord knows that (well, and Judas, of course.) Mystics such as Anne Catherine Emmerich have had visions of Judas in hell, but scripture does not make that clear (don't confuse mystic with psychic, there are not the same thing.)

So, the question is, was Judas guilty or just doing what had to be done?

Christ's words to Judas (that you can find easily throughout the Passion narratives of the Gospels) show that Jesus felt Judas was very much guilty of the choice he made. But if it had to be done, how can that be?

Since Jesus clearly had God's omnipotence, and He hand picked all of His apostles, Jesus knowingly hand picked His betrayer. Keep in mind that in the days and hours leading up to His passion, Jesus foretold that one of twelve would betray Him and even indicated it was Judas, without saying his name, so He proves that He knew ahead of time what Judas' role was, and there is no reason to believe He did not know that when He chose Judas to be an Apostle. So, He chose Judas not because He felt he would be a good apostle, but because He knew Judas was the kind of person that would willingly betray Him for some silver. So He kept Judas around, knowing from day one that when the time came, he would betray Him for 30 pieces of silver and turn Him over to the authorities.

So how did Jesus even interest Judas in joining Him and staying so long? He put Judas in charge of the money the Apostles collected to give to widows and the needy, allowing the greedy Judas an opportunity to skim off of the top for his own personal gain. 

So what does this mean? It means that Judas made his decision in and of his own accord. He was not "led" to do it by any external force, he betrayed Jesus by his own free will. He was chosen as an Apostle because Jesus knew he would do the job willingly when it came time to betray Him. And, of course, that's exactly what Judas did. And that's why Jesus was so harsh to him, because He knew Judas chose to do this willingly. Needless to say, Jesus could read people's hearts, and He knew how dark Judas' soul was.

So yes, the betrayal did have to happen, and Jesus chose as His Apostle the man who He knew would willingly do this evil job when the time came, thereby fulfilling the prophecy, and making Judas fully responsible for his actions.

Godspeed, everyone!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Another Praise Report

I have to take a moment and once again give praise to the Lord for helping me spread the word about this blog and having so many people respond to it!

As of this writing, according to the statistics that Blogger provides me with, since this blog was started in January of this year, it has been viewed 905 times and in countries all around the world, including the Philippines, South America, Canada, the United States, Colombia, India, Nigeria, Germany, the U.K., Sweden, Australia, Russia, and, most surprisingly, China, where religious freedom is very, very limited!

Thank you, Lord, for blessing this blog, and thank all of YOU who read it and spread the word about it to others!

God bless!

Creator and Writer of "Scripture Demystified"

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Funny Thing Happened At Church on Easter....


May the word of the Lord be in our minds, on our lips, and in our hearts.

Come Holy Spirit.....

I hope everybody has had a happy and blessed Easter and Easter Week! I received the brand new New American Bible-Revised Edition on Holy Thursday, perfect timing as only the Lord can do, and have enjoyed reading it, so far. I highly recommend it for the added notations alone, it would make a terrific study bible.

So, as I was sitting in the pews during the "sunrise" service on Easter morning, I noticed something. I was seeing people that I hadn't seen in church in 4 months. And when I say 4 months, I mean exactly 4 months! You see, Easter fell on April 24, 2011, exactly 4 months after Christmas Eve, 2010. I am going to wager a guess that I won't see some of them, again, for another 8 months (it's exactly 8 months between Easter and Christmas Eve, 2011.)

We all know of "holiday Christians," or as a friend of mine calls them, "Submarine Christians," because they only pop up every once in awhile. They only attend church on Christmas and Easter (or the evenings before in churches that have Masses or services then.) I guess they figure they should at least show up on the holy days of the year. It's the bare minimum, certainly.

Now, some will say that is better than never attending at all.  On the surface, that is true. However, the book of Revelation gives us a warning:

Revelation 3:14-16 (New American Standard Bible)

Message to Laodicea:
 14"To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this:  15 'I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot.
 16'So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.

The Lord, here, is warning the members of the church in Laodicea that their lukewarm faith is not pleasing to Him, and as a result, the Lord will spit them from His mouth. In other words, He will not accept them. 

Part of the reason these church members are so lukewarm, is that they feel they don't really need the Lord. They think they are doing just fine as it is, so why bother with all that religious stuff? Most likely, they only went to the Lord when they needed something. Here is what the Lord says in verse 17-18:

17'Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked,  18I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.

God does not literally expect them to purchase gold or garments from Him. These are metaphors for what the Lord offers through His church and by following His commandments, but to "buy" these things, you must have a fervent and lively faith. Obviously the members of this church were doing the bare minimum of their faith, and the Lord warns them of the eternal consequences of this.

The Good Friday and Easter messages should be evidence enough of why the Lord deserves nothing less than a fiery and fervent faith, full of life and action and love for Him (remember the first commandment.) God, and His Son, Jesus Christ, sacrificed everything out of love for us. The torture, the death on the cross, and the miracle of the resurrection, were all for us! They did not endure this for Themselves, it was due to our sins, and it was God's love for us that He sacrificed His only Son so that we may be saved. They gave us everything that They had, how can we live with ourselves when we only give Them the bare minimum in return?

We should be emptying ourselves totally for the Lord, just as the Lord did for us, and that should manifest itself in our faith, and the subsequent actions of that faith. There is nothing that the Lord asks of us that is unreasonable, given what They have given up out of love for us for our salvation.

What if your son sacrificed himself and died a horrible death to save another person? You would never forget it, I am guessing, and would do many things to keep their memory alive forever. And their sacrifice would never leave your heart. And you would want people to remember their sacrifice forever. And yet, some of you dare to have a lukewarm faith, and only give the Lord the bare minimum, when He did that very thing for you? And not to save just one person, but the whole world, generation after generation!  He deserves our very best! Not our very least!

God sacrificed His only Son for you, and that Son willingly suffered a horrible death for you, and the best you can do is attend church twice a year? Or maybe you go more often, but you arrive late and leave early every time. Do you have something more important to do? Or you only attend when it fits into your schedule. When you die and face the Lord, do you really think He will say, "well done good and faithful servant! You squeezed Me in between tee times on the golf course every so often, good job!" No! He will spit you out of His mouth, which is exactly what you deserve for having such a lukewarm faith, such a lukewarm love for the Lord!

We can either be on fire for the Lord, or we can be on fire in hell with the others who did not follow the first commandment and "love the Lord with all our heart."

God is merciful well beyond what any of us deserve, but the warning in Revelation was for our benefit, and we'd do well to heed that warning.

Godspeed to one and all.

PS: I can already hear some of you saying, "I don't need to go to church to worship God." You couldn't be more wrong about the importance of attending church, and I'll explain why in the near future on this blog.

I love you all and wish you a blessed day!

Friday, April 22, 2011

“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”


May the word of the Lord be on our minds, on our lips, and in our hearts, amen.

Come holy spirit....

I wish all of you a very blessed Good Friday of the Lord's Passion today, and a happy Easter weekend.

The following is part of the Gospel of Matthew's account of the passion and death of our Lord, Jesus Christ:

Matthew 27: 45

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

This is why 12-3pm on Good Friday are considered the Holy Hours, as they are the hours that Jesus hung on the cross before he died.

Can you conceive being nailed to wood and then hanging there for three hours? In the movies is lasts mere minutes. In reality, it was far more torturous.

I have heard many theories and speculations on Jesus suddenly asking God why He has forsaken Him. It is a part of His passion that seems somehow out of place to many people.  After all, why would the Son of God, who willingly submitted to this horrible death, lash out at His Father so suddenly?

Before we look into that, let's take a look back to a scene a bit earlier in Matthew's account of Christ's passion:

Matthew 26

39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

The above passages are from Jesus' time in the Garden of Gethsemane. It shows that Jesus is having His reservations about the suffering that was to come, yet also showing His obedience to His Father, and His love for humanity. 

So, when we fast forward to Jesus on the cross, in a moment of anguish, not too many moments before Jesus finally expired, Jesus also cries out in frustration and pain.

What do these passages show, then? They show Jesus' humanity! He was both human and divine at the same time. There have been various heresies in Church history where people have tried to claim that there was no humanity in Christ, that he was purely divine. 

This is not possible, however. A 100% divine being, such as God or the angels, cannot bleed, cannot feel pain, cannot sweat, cannot cry, cannot feel fatigue, and cannot die. Jesus, however, did all of these things.  Yet, at the same time, He performed miracles and did numerous other supernatural things during His ministry. He was both human and divine, at the same time.

So, when Jesus cried out: "My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?" it was his humanity that was screaming out. All of the pain, all of the abuse, all of the torture, all of the mocking that He endured finally got to be so much, that He lashed out for a brief moment. Remember the night before, Jesus asked that if the cup of suffering could be removed from Him by His Father, that it please be removed. God's Will was that this must come to pass, and under the crushing weight of the cross, the human side of Jesus felt forsaken for a brief moment. You can imagine the anguished thoughts that must have passed through Jesus' mind. Shortly before He expired, He even said, "I thirst," another very human feeling. 

A caller to a religious television show this past week, asked the host if God has pulled away from them because they are handicapped, and did God possibly stop caring about them? The answer, of course, is no. His handicap was his own cross to bear, and he felt like perhaps God has forsaken him, but as with Christ, God does not forsake us just because we have a cross to bear. But that feeling of being forsaken while carrying our cross is one with can all identify with. 

All of this is important for another reason. Quite often I hear people say, "Well I am not Jesus. Jesus was the son of God when He carried His cross, I am not Him." Christ's very human reaction to His suffering tells us that, in fact. Jesus knows exactly how we feel! His humanity allowed Him to feel every ounce of that pain, both physical and psychological. His humanity allows Jesus to know exactly how we feel when we are asked to carry our own crosses. His divinity did not spare Him from feeling the human side of that suffering, because our Lord was not only paying our prices for our sins, but can now say that He has gone through it before we did. 

And God did not punish Jesus in response to Christ's cry to Him. In fact, it is only a couple of verses later in the Gospel that Jesus finally gives up the spirit and dies, ending the suffering. And His suffering ended before the two criminals, as they were still alive when Christ died. God heard Jesus' cry of "My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?" and ended the torture shortly thereafter. 

We can also cry out to God, and to Jesus, when we feel alone, abandoned, afraid, or in the midst of any suffering. Tell God how you really feel. Cry out to Jesus to save you, for He has suffered, and felt that suffering fully, and knows what you are feeling. And God would not have sacrificed His son, and Jesus would not have agreed to endure that suffering, if they did not love you and feel you were worth it. It's well known that sometimes God pulls away to test, and thereby strengthen, our faith, but that does not equate abandonment. He is simply....around the corner, so to speak. Watching you to see how you are doing, and whether or not you are still faithful to Him even when you may not sense His presence. But you are not forsaken. Neither was Jesus, even though He briefly felt that way, just like we sometimes do. 

On this Good Friday, remember to smile, because God and Jesus love you. Remember to love Them back.

Godspeed, everyone.


Jesus Christ,
Son of God made Man,
crowned with thorns,
bearing a scepter of a reed,
wearing a royal cloak purpled
with Your Precious Blood,
I venerate You as the Man of Sorrows
and acknowledge You as my Lord and King!

Jesus crucified,
I firmly renounce the devil
and detest all sin
that has torn me from Your loving friendship.
I pledge my loyalty to You,
my Savior,
and beg You to make me Your own in sincerest love.
I promise to be faithful in service to You,
and to strive to become more pleasing to you
by avoiding every sin and its occasions,
by carrying out my duties
perfectly as a good Catholic,
and by practicing virtue.

Jesus crucified,
accept the homage I wish to render You
during this novena,
as a token of my sincerest appreciation
for the sorrows and sufferings
You have willingly borne to atone for my many sins
and to prove how much You love me.

I adore You as my very God,
Who willed to become Man
in order to save me from eternal death.

I thank You as my best Friend,
Who laid down Your life
as proof of the greatest love possible.

I ask pardon for having so little thought of You,
Jesus crucified,
and for having caused Your sorrows
and sufferings by the many sins I have committed.

I pray to You,
dearest Jesus,
for all the graces I need to know You,
to love You and serve You faithfully unto death,
and to save my soul.
Give me a tender and fervent devotion
to Your Sacred Passion by which I was redeemed,
venerating You especially in Holy Mass.
Teach me how to unite sorrows and sufferings
of my life with Your own.

Finally, through all Your sorrows and pains,
through Your Sacred Heart
glowing with love for me,
broken because of my want of love for You,
through the sorrows of Mary,
your Sorrowful Mother,
I ask for this special favor:

[Mention your request here...]

With childlike trust
I abandon myself to Your holy Will
concerning my request.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Faith VS. Works: The Debate is Not What You Think It Is


May the Word of the Lord be on our minds, on our lips, and in our hearts, amen.

Come Holy Spirit....

Welcome back to Scripture Demystified, I hope everybody has had a blessed and holy Lenten season, so far. 

I apologize for the delay in updates, but this topic has taken a lot of time to contemplate and research, with lots of prayers for guidance, because it is one of those "hot-button" issues that has become rather controversial over the centuries. The reason for this is a misunderstanding of the topics involved, and that is what the blog is here for.

Actually, it is fair to say that it was this topic that inspired me to start this blog, as once I was allowed to understand it, I knew it needed to be discussed publicly along with the other topics. And the start of Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday tomorrow, seems the perfect time to finally tackle this subject once and for all. The hard part is trying to put internal understanding into words. But now is the time. This is the place. But for the Grace of God, there go I.....

First of all, we can all agree that we can only be forgiven of our sins by faith in Jesus Christ. He is the One who washed them away with His blood. Without Him, our sins cannot be forgiven. However, does that truly mean that scripture is telling us that nothing else matters? That it is truly faith alone? Not exactly. The "works" that scripture tells us are no longer necessary, are not the works that most people think of. And, in fact. Jesus outright mandates certain works in order to be in heaven. Confusing? That's why this is such a controversial, and hotly debated, subject. Let me explain.

How can we say that faith in Christ alone is enough to have forgiveness of sins, yet say that He mandates certain works for our salvation, and what of all those scripture passages saying we don't need works to get into heaven? 

Read closely the following set of scripture passages telling us about the works that we no longer need for salvation:
Romans 3:20-22 (New International Version, ©2011)

20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. 21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile.

Romans 11:5-7 (New International Version, ©2011)

5 So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. 6 And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
 7 What then? What the people of Israel sought so earnestly they did not obtain. The elect among them did, but the others were hardened,

Romans 3:27-29 (New International Version, ©2011)

 27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too,

Galatians 2:15-17 (King James Version)

 15We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,
 16Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. 
Romans 9:31-33 (New International Version, ©2011)

31 but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. 32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone.

Ephesians 2:7-9 (New International Version, ©2011)

7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 

Galatians 3:23-25 (New King James Version)

23 But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.

Do you see the common denominator in all of those verses? Each one speaks of the works of the law. What law? The Law of Moses, the law of the Jews. Remember, Christ and all the Apostles, including Paul, who actually persecuted Christians, were all practicing Jews. 

Up until Jesus, everybody who wanted to go to heaven had to follow the works of the Laws of Moses to get there. They had to follow the Works of the Law to be forgiven of their sins. As a result, this made many of the Jewish leaders in that day very arrogant and boastful. They could say to others, "look how holy and righteous I am! I do this and this and this!" 

The number of works required of God's people at that time were in the hundreds! You had to sacrifice animals, you had to remain ritually clean, you had to do many, many things to remain righteous. And at the time, these things were pleasing to God, so there was nothing inherently wrong with those things at that time.

The point of the scriptures quoted above is that, now that Jesus has arrived, was crucified, and rose from the dead, those works of the law were no longer required for the forgiveness of sins. No one could boast anymore about how righteous they were based on how many of the Jewish practices they followed. Forgiveness of sins came through belief in Jesus Christ alone, not through the numerous works of Jewish law. This put the glory back on God alone, not on practices that, in some cases, had nothing to do with righteousness:

Acts 10:9-19 (New International Version, ©2011)

 9 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”  14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
 15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

Many of the earlier laws that God gave to His people was more for their own protection than righteousness. The ancients did not exactly have good food preparation at their disposal, so not eating scavengers or eating meat with blood in it was for their health more than anything. As time went on, this became unimportant, as Peter found out. 

So, if the works that we are told are not important are only the Works of the Law of Moses, then what works do we actually need to do to be considered worthy of heaven?

The answer: Good works. 

This is perhaps the most compelling scripture on the subject, and most famous:

James 2: 14-26

 14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no works? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have works.”
   Show me your faith without works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
 20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without works is useless[? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,”[e] and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
 25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead. 

James makes a very direct, and accurate, point about the correlation between faith and action (works.) But remember when I said good works were also required to enter heaven?

Matthew 25:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’
44 “Then they also will answer Him,[d] saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

I bolded the last parts because I wanted everyone to see that Jesus Himself left no ambiguity on this subject whatsoever! Zero. Those who do good and charitable works receive everlasting life, those who do not, receive everlasting punishment, instead. And these people even call Jesus "Lord" as you read, so they do believe in Him, but that is not enough, Jesus says to them.  Jesus left it very cut and dried. And it does not matter which translation you read, the same message is there. This is one of the most stark warning that Jesus makes when it comes out our judgment, and it relates to doing good works to those who need it the most. And why not? What is the second most important commandment? Love others as you love yourself (see my earlier blog on that subject.) If you love others, without exception, you will take care of them when they need it. If you don't, you are breaking that important commandment. 

Earlier in the book of Matthew, during the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is very blunt regarding our judgment if we are not doing the will of the Father, which obviously includes loving others by taking care of them since that is the second commandment. For even if we say "Lord, Lord" just as those in Matthew 25 say "Lord" and even if we do miraculous things in His name, if we then ignore the needy, the lonely, the sick, the imprisoned, the naked, the hungry, the thirsty, Jesus said Himself, that we will be condemned to eternal punishment.  These things would all be considered good works.  

In summary, there are two different kids of works spoken of in the New Testament. The Works of the Law of the Jews (The Law of Moses) and good works towards others. Jesus abolished the requirements of the Law of Moses, but he required that we engage in good works towards others, especially the neediest among us.

The confusion, and debate, comes from not understanding the two different works that are being spoken of. 

You have read the scripture that focused on the end of the old Law, and you have read the scripture that required the good works towards each other. You can see there is a difference between the two works. One has become obsolete, the other has not. We must understand the difference if we are to live fully in Christ and receive our eternal reward. Jesus said as much. We are thankfully no longer bound by the old laws and mandates of the Jews. We can be as ritually clean and all of those things and they will not get us to heaven. Jesus gets us to heaven. And if we love Him, we will do good works to the least of those among us, because in them, we see Jesus Himself. 

Godspeed to one and all, and have a very blessed Holy Week. Make the most of this week spiritually, and don't forget those who may be lonely or hungry this Easter, for serving them serves Christ.  Thank you, Jesus, for dying for me and my sins. I was never worthy of that sacrifice, but you did it, anyway. I love you Lord. Amen.