Monday, January 26, 2015

Exposing False Teachers and Naming Them

In today's Christianity, due to Bible illiteracy, many Christians think that it is wrong to judge others, taking Matthew 7:1 out of context especially if 'judging others' would involve men of God such as pastors or preachers. But what if these pastors consciously lead their flocks onto dangerous grounds and teaching things that are contrary to sound doctrine? Would you not warn others about them? Would you just keep quiet because, well, after all the Bible says, "judge not, that you be not judged"? 

The Bible warns us many times about deceivers in these last days that would incessantly try to deceive many, even the elect, if possible, and that's the reason why we are being admonished to be sober and vigilant at all times. And because of the love we have for others, we should be in our earnest to warn them of the ravenous wolves in sheeps' clothings. But sadly, when some discerning brothers would try to warn  their brethren about such wolves, ironically they are the ones labeled as wolves themselves.

Exposing teachers, and workers who stray from the truth and naming them is nothing new in the New Testament, in fact the apostle Paul and even John himself named a few of them in their epistles. 
  • Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme. ~ 1 Timothy 1:20
  • This you know, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me, of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes. ~ 2 Timothy 1:15
  • And their word will eat as does a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus, who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some. ~ 2 Timothy 2: 17-18
  • Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. ~ 2 Timothy 2: 3:8
  • For Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed to Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. ~ 2 Timothy 4:10
  • Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works: of whom be you ware also; for he has greatly withstood our words. ~ 2 Timothy 4:14-15
  • I wrote to the church: but Diotrephes, who love to have the preeminence among them, receive us not. Why, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he does, prating us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither he himself receive the brothers, and forbids them that would, and cast them out of the church. ~ 3 John 1:9-10
  • Woe to them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. ~ Jude 1:11
We need to know our enemies and should call them by their names. By exposing and naming false teachers, you are helping others to be aware of their lies, and by doing so you are putting to rest all the confusions that arise within the congregation. Paul says in Romans 16:17, Now I beseech you, brothers, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which you have learned; and avoid them. In Ephesians 5: 11, Paul says, And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

Take heed therefore to yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost has made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He has purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departing, shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. And also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. ~ Acts 20: 28-31

Sunday, January 25, 2015

For the Love of Money

"But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive..." (2 Timothy 3: 1-5)

As the ninth child in a brood of ten, being a product of an over- populated home had never been easy. First things first: food. Though it was not much of a dire issue, it never came by easily. Vivid memories of my parents running from pillar to post so that there was food on the table, still linger in me. Sending us to school let alone finish high school was already deemed a bounty.

In 4th grade, I envy my classmate Garry for his daily "baon" of Ovaltine powder that was neatly wrapped in green cellophane. I thought they were rich for being able to afford it. He would sniff at it and teasingly parade on our faces as he stuffs his mouth. I would look at my classmates' glossy notebooks while mine were a tailor-made salvaged from some unused pages from the  previous year. Those were fine memories that bring  smiles to me nonetheless.

A lot of people have gone through so much in their lives - poverty, poor health, oppression, getting marginalized and the list goes on. I have seen on TV people who have won lotteries and became instant millionaires. They tell stories of wastefulness as soon as they get rich, - how they satisfied themselves with all the things they lacked and even going the extremes till they see themselves going down the drain with no hope.

There was also this one episode sometime ago in a GMA public affairs program of an old woman in Leyte in her early seventies who was left to care for her three little grandchildren whose mother ventured to work in Manila and not to be heard again after a few years. Their decrepit house had no lights save for the generous night sky that lights up their house when it's full moon. Needless to say, they would prefer it doesn't rain a lot. She gathers firewood and sells them for a meal but not enough to get by. Understandably, she would forgo her share so that her grandchildren don't go to bed hungry from a scant meal. I can feel every tear she shed, and the sight of calluses in her bare feet stalked by the camera added up to the pity every viewer felt for her frail and bony frame. How much more  pain should she endure daily?

Sometimes when we're not confronted with this kind of reality, we seem to have lost touch with what is happening around us especially when we are literally swimming in the comforts of our achievements. Then very basic questions in life come to mind. With so much poverty around us, still a lot of rich people have that insatiable cravings for more riches even to the point of robbing others, even a whole nation. Look at some politicians in the Philippines and you will see greed personified. And it doesn't stop there. Truth is, these things don't bother us a bit as long as we too are unhindered in our own quest to store up more wealth for ourselves.

The internet and social media in particular has long been abuzz with the corruption issues involving some senators who colluded with Janet Napoles to plunder the nation in a level not seen in history. Of late, a sitting vice president including his entire family has been embroiled in a massive graft and corruption allegations so blatant that you suddenly decide greedy humans can't be fixed no matter what. And we are talking here of billions stolen from the Filipino people by the privileged few. It's not for me to talk about details but the flaunting of wealth by the daughter of the Napoles matriarch is vomit-inducing you wouldn't believe all the while there already existed an heir to the so-called the greediest woman in history. 

Though most people got the shock of their lives for such a brazen display of extravagance at the expense of people's money, I'm not a bit surprised. I'm not talking in a perspective of a citizen who helps keep the local economy afloat but as a mortal being who believes everything in this world has an end. Even the world's richest men know that at some point they will let go of their riches upon death. However, it is only the belief that they can pay their way to heaven that keeps them greedy even more. It has been foretold in the Bible (2 Timothy 3) that in the last days people will be  lovers of themselves and lovers of money - such is a terrible time that we are witnessing right now. And this is where it gets even more scary.

Justice Is On The Way

The Bible says in Mark 8:36, "For what profit is it for a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul?" In this world where everyone is busy storing up riches for himself even at the expense of another human being, kindness and generosity toward those in need sometimes get obsoleted when the love for oneself supersedes everything else. I am a firm believer though that God is coming swiftly with His justice and righteousness for the nations. Not that we should gloat at a bunch of robbers and bandits for their imminent destiny but we still hope that they change their ways no matter how sinful they think they have been because they can still be forgiven if they repudiate their sinful ways and turn back to God in repentance.

The Good News

God loves His creations. He loves us, yes, even though it's too good to be true that a righteous and just God can forgive even the worst sinners among us. Jesus laid His life for all of us sinners: robbers, murderers, idolaters, liars, homosexuals, adulterers, fornicators, everyone of us, even those plunderers. If we  repent of our sins and truly sorry for all the sins that we have done, then Jesus will forgive us of our sins and remember them no more. And He will most importantly give us eternal life. But who can escape God's wrath if we reject such a great salvation?

And The Bad News

It's just the opposite of the Good News. If we don't repent of our sins the wrath of God will follow us and He will come swiftly with His judgment that not even our gold and silver will be able to hide us and save us from His justice. That is the saddest news when people do not repent of their sins and refuse to acknowledge Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Jesus is the only way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6) We might be struggling to find another way or some other ways imaginable, like donating to our church or giving alms to the poor or doing some good works just like what Oprah insists on her show because obviously she cannot accept that there is only One way. It's up to us people. We have been warned and lovingly told of the Gospel at some point in our lives. It is for us whether we accept or reject such a great gift of salvation. Sadly, many of us choose the path that we take. I hope it's not too late. We are happy to be alive today, but what about tomorrow? Do we know what tomorrow will bring forth?

Monday, January 19, 2015

An Open Letter To Brother Eddie Villanueva

Dear Brother Eddie,

I hope and pray that this letter reaches you and take to heart the sentiments every true born-again believer of Christ wants to convey to you in light of the interview you had with an English daily in relation to the visit of Pope Francis. I write as a brother in Christ, not as a critic wanting to put you on edge for your theology gone wayward, but as a fellow Christian trying to remind you that encouraging your flock to celebrate the pope's visit citing it as not only a Catholic event, is wrong in every way as per biblical principle.

Without a doubt and I have always said this that I am one of those millions who have been blessed by your ministry and that the Lord has evidently touched and changed so many lives through your ministry. With that being said, I am also one of those many people who were completely astounded when in the interview you proudly announced that  JIL members are free to celebrate the visit of the pope and join in the celebration. Though I can understand you only wanted to emphasize that your flocks are not being subjected to restrictions and that they enjoy 'freedom of worship' under your leadership, it is however uncalled for and bordering on leading the flock astray from the truth by encouraging them to indirectly partake of the sins of idolatry and false worship.

I can also perfectly understand that you mean no harm with your intents, and that your heart only desires for what is noble, good and honorable. The pope's message of mercy and compassion is easily identifiable with us Christians because this very same thing is the very heartbeat of God. I do believe that you genuinely do care about people and want them to find wholeness in the Lord and ultimately want to bring them to the knowledge of truth. But have you forgotten that the truth may not always be popular but it shall always remain the truth?  Jesus is the only truth, and you do not find the truth in the midst of idol worship!

You said that "others who value genuine world peace, freedom of worship and interfaith dialogue should also welcome this historic event". I appreciate the fact that you clamor for "genuine world peace" just like everybody else; and who does not? The world is saddled with wars, rumors of wars - and given the advent of ISIS, Boko Haram, and the perpetual religious and cultural wars within societies, are these not too much to bear for any peace-loving individual? So I can understand where's that sentiment coming from.  But if you read your Bible when you get time, the Lord Jesus Christ comforts His disciples that He leaves them  peace, not as the world gives (John 14:27). And these words came from the "prince of peace" himself. Did I just lose my faith in 'world peace' for saying this? Not at all! Anything is possible with God. But as true born-again believers of Christ, living in the last days I believe, and awaiting that Blessed Hope, there is an assurance that in Him we find the peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4: 7).

Your sudden association with the Catholic faith saddens me terribly  because I am purely concerned of your flock, who once in their lifetimes were held under the bondage of religiosity and idolatry in the Catholic faith. Whether we admit it or not, many from among your flock have answered your call to celebrate with the pope because as their leader, they believe it is their Christian duty to participate in the cause that you believe in, which is the very same message of hope, unity, and world peace that the pope espouses. 

If in case you have no idea until now whom you are associating with, allow me to cite in details why Pope Francis is probably the most well-loved figure on the planet which rightfully earned him the moniker, "the people's pope":

His stand on Atheism
Pope Francis makes no secret of his agenda of inclusiveness, openness, and welcoming other religions and atheists alike into the Catholic fold. While it sounded noble and honorable, he dared tread the path where no other man has gone before: announcing to the world that even atheists can still go to heaven as long as they do good deeds and they follow their conscience. He would emphasize that believing in God is no longer a prerequisite to enter heaven. So, whatever happened to John 14: 6, Ephesians 2: 8-9, John 3: 16-18, among others?

On Homosexuality
Jesus commanded us to "love your neighbor as yourself". And that's basically a command to love every human being, that's why God sent Jesus to die for the sins of the world - and that's including me, yourself and everyone else. We ought to love others, so much so that we have been called to warn others of the wrath of God if we do not turn away from our sins. But the pope in his effort to welcome everyone to the Catholic church, refuses to condemn the sins of homosexuality by pontificating that "as long as they have goodwill and are seeking God, who am I to judge?"

On Islam
In a series of shocking developments from the Vatican since Pope Francis ascended to the papacy, the one that really made a mark is his recent invitation for an inter-faith dialogue wherein for the first time in the history of Catholicism, an Islamic prayer and Quranic verses reverberated inside the halls of the Vatican. An unedited prayer by the imam calls to their god Allah "to give them victory over the infidels" - and that presumably includes me, yourself and all others not belonging to the Islamic faith. 

The pope further stressed that it is wrong to equate violence with Islam. But their book tells of an entirely different story where Muslims are commanded not to make friends with Jews and Christians (Surah 5:51), to instill terror in the hearts of the infidels and to strike their neck down to their fingertips (Surah 8:12, in case we wonder why there's so much beheading), and slay the infidels wherever they may be found (Surah 9:5). So can we blame the ISIS for slaughtering thousands of Christians and the minority Yazidis in Syria and Iraq? The Boko Haram for butchering three thousand Christians in Nigeria a fortnight ago? And yet the pope condemns those who condemn violence and terror committed in the name of Islam!

On inter-faith dialogue as a way forward
We know and you know, this  leads to Ecumenism that would usher to the one-world religion spoken of by the prophet Daniel and greatly detailed in the Book of Revelation. Harmless and noble as it may seem to appear, we should not forget that the Lord Jesus Christ himself had warned his disciples of the impending trouble that we are about to suffer because of Him. Nowadays, political correctness is being used as leverage for every other religion but Christianity. The atheists and the Islamists always get offended by almost anything Christians do: be it prayer in school, students praying before meals in a public school canteen, and even a small cross planted on a front yard of a private home. Anything with a mention of Jesus and God is offensive to them. Christians are habitually taken to court  because of their faith, and most often than not the accusers come away smiling. 

But are we not supposed to be glad that we Christians partake in the sufferings of Christ just as Paul and Silas rejoiced after they were beaten and jailed? No matter how hard we squeeze ourselves into a gathering of inter-faith leaders to 'achieve peace', the truth that the world will still hate our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ remains. Jesus said, "you will be hated by everyone because of me" (Matthew 10:22). And, "if the world hated you it's because it hated me first" (John 15:8). Some people would willingly die to defend their religion, or their idols or prophets, but Jesus our Lord and Savior was the one who died for us.

In view of the above, let me remind you lest you forget;

That there is only one mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus. That Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father but by Him. But the pope, the leader of the largest idolatrous religion in the world whom you are all praises for, never said of these things about Jesus - and instead he encourages all his flocks to worship and pray to Mary so that she in turn would intercede for them - and they call her as the queen of heavens. Is this not a blasphemy of the highest order against our sovereign God? God hates idol worship and He punishes them that worship idols up to the fourth generation; lest you forget.

That all these talks of achieving "genuine world peace" and "so-called unity" is a waste of time without Christ at the center of it. Peace without Jesus is false peace and unity without Jesus is false unity. If there's one person who knows it better, it is you Brother Eddie. All these so-called peace and unity efforts can deliver is but temporary peace - and the one that can give it is the anti-Christ; lest you forget.

That the pope's "message of hope" which you yourself affirmed is not what our hopeless generation needs; anyone can proclaim the same message even those who do not necessarily believe in Jesus. But what people do need to hear is the gospel of peace that only Jesus gives: it is how people can be saved from their sins and obtain forgiveness -  and that is by repentance and believing in Jesus as the Son of God - this is the message - and not by celebrating the sins of idolatry and encouraging your flock to celebrate with them; lest you forget. 

That if your belt of truth is not properly buckled up then there goes your breastplate of righteousness. That no matter how people strive their hardest to attain their desired purpose with all their purest intents if it is not founded in the truth of Jesus but of deception, there can only be an expected end. Without God's truth, all of man's effort for peace and unity are bound to crumble because they are not planted on a solid foundation. For when there is no truth, there is no righteousness; lest you forget.

Brother Eddie, I have no doubt in my mind that you are an anointed man of God who loves the Lord Jesus Christ as much as you love His truth. Your passion for the lost is beyond question as much as your desire to obey God. However, your declaration that "the pope's visit will serve as a breakthrough to effect unity among different religions" is beyond me. How "two can walk together except they be agreed"? (Amos 3:3) In Paul's letter to the Corinthians he admonished them "not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness, and what communion has light with darkness."? (2 Corinthians 6:14) Just to make it clear; lest you forget.

As for your son Joel, himself a man of God just like you, it is inconceivable that he would seek blessings from the pope and ask for his prayers for the nation. He would even call Pope Francis, "the pope of hope". What has happened to our Blessed Hope, and the song of David when he "looked for the Lord for his hope is in Him" (Psalms 39:7)?  Maybe that needs revision? Or you both figure it out. I just hope that the pope would oblige and intercede for our nation (to Mary perhaps?) just as what your son Joel sought from him.   I pray that your son Joel does not believe in his heart that the pope is indeed the "Vicar of Christ on Earth" lest he deprives the Holy Spirit of His job. And by essentially believing that the pope can come more boldly to the throne of grace more than he could, then I think there must be something terribly wrong with the doctrine that your son was brought up into.

Brother Eddie, God has given you unarguably one of the largest platforms for the gospel in Philippine history and beyond. Can you say before Him that you have proclaimed His uncompromising truth, cared for His flock and protected them from the devourer? Have you ever studied extensively the prophetic words of Jesus in the gospel, learning it, feeding on it and sharing it with your flock so that they get properly nurtured? Have you ever worked your way through the epistles of Paul? If not, why not?

Have you ever wondered about how your association with Catholicism plays out among true born-again believers of the Lord Jesus Christ, some of them members of your own flock who have once endured the curse of idolatry and religiosity but have found freedom in Jesus? Have you ever thought about what your message of encouragement to have fellowship with darkness sounds like to those who have found light in Jesus? Have you ever figured out what spiritual adultery can bring about to the bride of Christ? And if that 'monumental speech' you did at a Quiboloy event is anything to go by, all of  Filipino Christian community be better ready to kneel down before God for you.

When a person is called by God to shepherd His flock and ceases to lead them in good pasture and still waters, he cannot be a good shepherd anymore. But I believe, your heart and soul constantly seek for what is good for the flock. Jesus has showed us the example of a good shepherd: one who's willing to lay down his life for the flock. This is good shepherding 101, as basic as it gets, yet you encouraged your flock to join in agreement with the pope who only brings idol worship and false hope to a deceived nation. As Christians we are called to win them to Jesus and not us getting into agreement with them.

Bro. Eddie, I know that these words have been strong, yet they are written in love and concern. And since I have no direct access to you and do not know in any way how to reach you, after prayer and reflection, I felt that this was the best way to go, addressing  public statements publicly, by blog, with a fervent hope that this message reaches you. Without a doubt, there are many lives you have touched; by not clinging to the basic truth you have also offended more than you realize; lest you forget. I pray that you will take this to heart. Praying for you.

From a fellow Christian,

Nelson of The Discerning Sheep Ministry

Friday, January 16, 2015

Are We Really All God's Children?

Pope Francis is currently on a five-day visit in the Philippines, and months before this anticipated event, the government and the Catholic church have been preparing non-stop for the pope's coming. Last year, the Catholic church had chosen a song that will be the official theme song for this much-awaited event entitled "We Are All God's Children" - written and sung by a famous Filipino singer named Jamie Rivera who played the role of 'Kim' in the successful West End musical 'Miss Saigon' in London. She is also known as the 'Inspirational Diva' in the Philippines because she mostly sings songs that carry inspiring messages, and this is the reason why religious organizations especially Catholics have fondness for her.

(READ: Why we don't consider Catholics to be Christians - by Pulpit & Pen)

The question now is, are we really all God's children just as the song says? Most unbelievers and Bible illiterate Christians alike would say that this declaration is actually true: we are all God's children. We all know that everything around us, including all of humanity was created by God, and if He is our Father, then there is no doubt in our mind that we are all His children, right? But what does the Bible really say about this?

In the Bible, unbelievers were never referred to as children of God. In fact, before we were saved, we "were by nature the children of wrath", says in Ephesians 2:1-3, And you has he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience:Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. 

Before we were saved, we were a friend of the world, therefore an enemy of God, in James 4:4 we read, You adulterers and adulteresses, know you not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Even Jesus addressed those who do not believe in him as the sons of the devil in John 8:42-47, You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and stayed not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

We only become God's children when we are saved through our relationship with Jesus Christ, and are adopted into God's family, Romans 8:14-17, For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God. In Galatians 3:26 we read, For you are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. John 1:12 would further confirm that, "for as many as received him (Jesus), to them he gave the power to become the children of God."

It is indeed gratifying to know that we are all children of God as what we hear from songs - even from a famous gay comedian in the Philippines who would announce on national tv that (practicing) homosexuals and all sinners are children of God too because He created us all and only wanted the best for us - to the thunderous applause of the audience. Music to one's ears but the Bible says otherwise.

Sadly, that's the real state of man when he has no Christ in his life. That's why God gave His only begotten Son Jesus as a sacrifice for a sinful world so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16) - that's the good news. But whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he does not believe in God's one and only Son (John 3:18) - and that's the bad news.

You would say, "I also believe in Jesus", but ain't  the devil also believes and trembles (James 2:19)? Believing by Bible definition, constitutes surrendering one's life to the lordship of Jesus Christ and turning back from your sins, and striving to live in holiness by the help of the Holy Spirit - that makes one a child of God. Do not be deceived! Remember that neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortionists, shall inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9).

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Christian Perspective : The Folly Of Idol Worship (Manila's Feast of the Black Nazarene)

"Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves any gods of cast metal: I am the Lord your God." ~ Leviticus 19: 4

Imagine the miles-long queue of devotees that formed past midnight way into the next day and beyond till the day of the actual procession of a life-sized image of the Black Nazarene - and you see people young and old from all walks of life in their miserable state - mostly coming from remote places - just to get near the statue, kiss its feet - and go home in ecstasy believing answers to their prayers are on the way. Such is the incomparable devotion and religious fervor you can see from devotees and fanatics alike of the ebony statue during the early stages of its feast in Manila. But that's only a prelude to the actual procession day with which devotees are expected to turn up in millions.

Today the 9th of January, is the actual procession day and crowd estimates according to authorities range from 5 million to 9 million. Latest report says, a 44-year old male devotee has died while participating in the carriage of the Black Nazarene probably due to tiredness and suffocation that led to his having a heart attack.

Actual scenario

The culmination of what they call 'Traslacion' or the actual procession of the Black Nazarene normally draws devotees numbering to over 5 millions. And each one of them tries to at least touch the image while it is being carried. While it is impossible for the old and sickly to venture near the carriage, they can still get someone as proxy - probably a strong and fit relative to bulldoze their way onto the carriage -  and touch the image with a special cloth which they believe can bring healing to their sickness. Of course when you battle it out with another five million people who are equally as determined to get close to the image and touch it, the odds of you emerging unscathed from such an ordeal is zero. On previous occasions, records show that the event has produced deaths and limbs lost - that instead of people getting healed from their sickness, they just topple on the scene - not because they experience epiphany right where they stand, but simply because these devotees get suffocated and crushed.

The folly of idol worship

I'd been there half of my lifetime. When I turned seven, my mother took me to a Catholic church four towns away - where the patron saint is San Isidro Labrador (the one who pulls up his garb showing his thigh dripping in blood from a dog bite while the dog stands calmly beside him). Even as a child, I was not impressed to be on a long queue watching impatient mothers dragging their children and let them watch scolding one another for not following first-come first-serve rule while waiting for their children's turn to kiss the image. (I remember certain amount was then required of us after completing the process which everyone in line should dutifully oblige - a church employee sometimes runs out of loose change that causes chaos and stalled traffic at the exit.)

Idol worship has been a way of life for most Filipinos dating back centuries ago from the Spanish colonization. It has been the most successful commodity the Roman Catholic empire has exported around the globe for more than a millennium. Hardcore Catholics would vow to die defending their religion - and their idols. They believe they are doing God a favor if they put themselves in harm's way as their way of participating in Christ's sufferings. But does the Scriptures approve of such practices? 

The Scriptures below is a testament to God's hatred for idols that like a kindergarten teacher He would show us the perfect example of the embarrassment man has brought upon himself for his idolatry and His disdain for people who do such a practice:

"All who make idols are nothing,
and the things they treasure are worthless.
Those who would speak up for them are blind;
they are ignorant, to their own shame.
Who shapes a god and casts an idol,
which can profit nothing?
People who do that will be put to shame;
such craftsmen are only human beings.
Let them all come together and take their stand;
they will be brought down to terror and shame.
The blacksmith takes a tool
and works with it in the coals;
he shapes an idol with hammers,
he forges it with the might of his arm.
He gets hungry and loses his strength;
he drinks no water and grows faint.
The carpenter measures with a line
and makes an outline with a marker;
he roughs it out with chisels
and marks it with compasses.
He shapes it in human form,
human form in all its glory,
that it may dwell in a shrine.
He cut down cedars,
or perhaps took a cypress or oak.
He let it grow among the trees of the forest,
or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow.
It is used as fuel for burning;
some of it he takes and warms himself,
he kindles a fire and bakes bread.
But he also fashions a god and worships it;
he makes an idol and bows down to it.
Half of the wood he burns in the fire;
over it he prepares his meal,
he roasts his meat and eats his fill.
He also warms himself and says,
“Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.”
From the rest he makes a god, his idol;
he bows down to it and worships.
He prays to it and says,
“Save me! You are my god!”
They know nothing, they understand nothing;
their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see,
and their minds closed so they cannot understand.
No one stops to think,
no one has the knowledge or understanding to say,
“Half of it I used for fuel;
I even baked bread over its coals,
I roasted meat and I ate.
Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left?
Shall I bow down to a block of wood?”
Such a person feeds on ashes; a deluded heart misleads him;
he cannot save himself, or say,
“Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?” ~ Isaiah 44:9-20

It is very clear that the God of heavens, the Creator of the universe shows His contempt for idols. He hates idol worship and shames idol worshipers for their foolishness. Why would a man bow down to the work of his hand? Did he not go to the forest and cut down a tree and a portion of it he carved and shaped into a man and then worshiped it; and some portions he used to make fire and warmed himself and baked bread from it? In the scriptures above, God was taunting his created man for not using his sense of reason and He feels sorry for him that he cannot be saved from his foolishness.

During His earthly ministry, Jesus taught His disciples that God is a spirit and that He seeks a worshiper who will worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). The Bible is God's truth and nowhere in the Bible that says God commands His creatures to make images resembling Him for no one has seen God and still live. The Ten Commandments written by God and given to Moses has been passed on from the time the Jewish people fled Egypt up to the present generation but only to be changed by the Roman Catholic church because they believe their authority stands above the Word of God. Let's find out the the glaring dissimilarities:

The Second Commandment from the Bible:
"You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my Commandments. ~ Exodus 20: 4-6

The Catholic Second Commandment:
"Thou shalt not take the name of thy LORD thy God in vain" ~ (This is actually the Third Commandment out of ten in the Bible. There is idolatry in the Papal system so the Second Commandment has been deleted or sometimes it has been absorbed into the first. All remaining Commandments are therefore shifted along one count.)

Why is Idolatry a Sin and an Abomination to the Lord?

1.  It is a clear transgression or disobedience of the following commandments of God.
"You shall not make for yourself a carved image - any likeness of anything that is in heaven above,or that is in the earth beneath, or that is the water under the earth.: ~ Deuteronomy 5:8

"You shall not make idols for yourselves; neither a carved image nor a sacred pillar you rear up for yourselves; nor shall you set up an engraved stone in your land, to bow down to it: for I am the LORD your God." ~ Leviticus 26:1

"Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry." ~ 1 Corinthians 10:14

2.  It is a work of the flesh rather that of the spirit.

"Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, IDOLATRY, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies." ~ Galatians 5: 19-21

3.  God is a spirit, and we must worship him in spirit and in truth.

"God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship Him in spirit and in truth." ~ John 4: 24

4.  We must not worship God in earthly things which are lowly in forms, wears and tears, and perishes in time. Isn't representing God (who is spirit, Holy, Almighty and everlasting), with a wood, metal or stone, a dishonor to Him?

"Cursed is the one who makes a carved or molded image, an abomination to the LORD, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and sets it up in secret. And all the people shall answer and say, 'Amen'." ~ Deuteronomy 27: 15

"Those who make an image, all of them are useless, and their precious things shall not profit; they are their own witnesses; they neither see nor know, that they may be ashamed." ~ Isaiah 44: 9

5.  We must not also think that God is like an image formed by human's art and invention.

"Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man's devising." ~Acts 17: 29

6.  God does not dwell in man-made temples or buildings.

"God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands." ~ Acts 17: 24

7.  The last but not the least, God does not give His honor or praise to carved images.

"I am the LORD, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to carved images." ~ Isaiah 42: 8

Final Thoughts

I do not in any way gloat at the millions perhaps billions who have been deceived by the Devil into worshiping idols thinking that they are just a representation of God on earth. I pray that they will come to the knowledge of truth - that they be set free from the bondage of idolatry and religiosity. God did not appoint anyone on earth to be His official representative as what the pope he claims himself to be - nor He commissioned craftsmen to carve an image to be paraded supposedly representing Him and command multitudes to flock around it and get crushed and die, and voila they already did God a favor by dying for His cause.

People need to be saved from their sins and idolatry is one of them. No idolater will ever enter the kingdom of God - that is what the Bible assures us. But God has given us His Son Jesus to die for our sins - the Jesus who is alive today, the omnipresent One who is not confined inside the Quiapo church and emerging only once a year to give people false hope. - the Jesus who is neither black nor white for He is a spirit and in His glorified body - the Jesus who is the God of all mankind who did not stay a baby all His life just what the Sinulog portrays Him to be. This same Almighty Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords knocking at the door of your heart, pleading that you hear Him  - that if you invite Him to come in He shall be with you, save you from your sin and give you eternal life.

Friday, January 9, 2015

A Christian Perspective: The Charlie Hebdo Massacre

The deadly attack at the office of the satirical tabloid 'Charlie Hebdo' in Paris that left 12 people dead, including 2 police officers was beyond appalling. This reminds me of the cafe siege in Sydney last month and the gruesome massacre of Jewish worshippers in a synagogue in Jerusalem last November in which Muslim men were also the perpetrators. It was said that the Charlie Hebdo attack was due to the magazine's continued publication of blasphemous cartoons depicting their prophet and their religion. 

Just like any freedom-loving individual, I believe in the freedom of speech. But too much unbridled exercise of it may not at all times advantageous. Sometimes others go the extra length but fail to anticipate repercussions that more often than not, do not end up well. It is common knowledge that Charlie Hebdo didn't only target Islam and their prophet, for Christianity also has its fair share of blasphemous cartoon depictions from the tabloid. When I was searching on the web for some photos that I was gonna use for this blog post, it hurt me so much to see all these blasphemous cartoons that Charlie Hebdo did on Jesus -  most of which will make you cry - not because Jesus is being perennially portrayed in such a despicable manner - but because of their hatred for my Lord and Savior. I'm against it, I think it's horrible - and I will most likely not going to patronize their tabloid (if I were a French and Christian that is), but I will never hurt anyone - let alone stain my hands with the blood of the 'enemy' in order to avenge my Jesus who Himself taught me to love my enemy. I will never do it, not just because it's against the law of the land (to murder), but as a Christian, simply to hate a brethren, is equated by Jesus to murder (1 John 3:15).

But I say to you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which spitefully use you. And to him that smites you on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that takes away your cloak forbid not to take your coat also. Give to every man that asks of you; and of him that takes away your goods ask them not again. - Matthew 6:27-31

My God is Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, the Alpha and the Omega, the King of kings and Lord of lords - there's nothing that He cannot do and He can very well defend Himself, and smite those who hate Him if He pleases. As His follower, He doesn't require me to kill His enemies in His behalf, let alone murder innocent people. What He requires of me is to be at peace with everyone, to have clean hands and a pure heart - free from hatred and all kinds of filthiness, because my God sees my heart and He judges by it. My God is also a loving, kind, compassionate and patient God who wants all to come to repentance so that everyone will be saved.  And that's why He gave His only begotten Son Jesus Christ, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

What happened in Paris was not an issue of freedom of speech that crossed a line, hence the deadly repercussion as many would like to believe. With so many unimaginable evil things that are taking place today, there's only one certainty in this: that the demonic powers are into a rampage seeking to wreak havoc in the lives of as many people as possible - and it's gonna become worse by the day. Hatred for fellow human beings will abound, selfish ambitions will thrive, people will be lovers of money, and will lack compassion for one another - and this is what the world has set to be the norms. But despite all these, there is one good news: in Isaiah 54:17 says that those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ will have protection from the works of the enemy for it is being promised to them that;"No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord."

That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart man believes to righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made to salvation. For the scripture said, Whoever believes on him shall not be ashamed. ~ Romans 10: 9-11

Friday, January 2, 2015

Pope Francis' Visit To Idolatrous Philippines: Impetus for God's Wrath

The excitement alone by millions - plus the unprecedented hype - and include the panic the Catholic clergy in the Philippines have to endure to see to it that the visit of "Christ's official representative on earth" goes well as planned - are tell tale signs that the country is up for a herculean task of hosting arguably its most important guest in decades. The guest who will arrive on the 15th of January is by no means of lesser stature than any known individual past and present. If Obama is called by many as the most powerful man on the planet, Pope Francis on the other hand officially carries a variety of titles ranging from "the most holy father", "Christ's representative on earth", "the head of state of the Vatican" among others, and is being addressed as "his holiness".  

Worldwide media coverage will certainly bring the Philippines once more onto the world stage.  So basically we can see why all the hysteria left, right and center. It's like the  heavens will essentially come down to the Philippines - and heavenly stairways will be lowered down for all devout Catholics who could only wish the Pope stays forever.

A bit of trivia: The Philippines is home to over 80% Catholics and is widely considered to be the "only predominantly Christian nation in Asia" - at least according to what we read in our public school books. 

As for the title "the most holy father" the Pope officially carries, let's see if the Bible approves of such title - only for the sake of biblical truth:

"After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name." ~ Matthew 6:9

"And do not call anyone on earth 'father', for you have one Father, and he is in heaven." ~ Matthew 23: 9

"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come." ~ Revelation 4:8

From the Bible verses above, it is clear that only God is holy because God does not sin - and He tells us not to call anyone father on earth (well, i think with the exception of our biological father), because He is our 'only' Father which is in heaven.

The pope: a symbol of 'unity'

The oncoming 5-day papal visit to the Philippines is unprecedented in history - given the massive support and positive reactions even from other denominations and the gay community in general. His popularity among non-Catholics is such that he is being portrayed as a unifying figure to a fragmented world at large. And who would forget his popular "who am I to judge" banner that has sealed his 'hero status' among gay communities? Needless to say, it catapulted him to a world phenom status whose message of peace, acceptance and tolerance has been put forth as antidote to an ailing world. In his less than two years of tenure to the papacy, Pope Francis has shown tremendous resolve to unite all religions by propagating acceptance of one another and encouraging them into a "meaningful dialogue".

It is no surprise that the pope has gained tremendous popularity worldwide and his incomparable charisma has drawn people to him because of his no-nonsense approach to issues that are of great significance to all. From overhauling some of centuries-old Catholic-held tradition in the name of acceptance and inclusiveness to reaching out to homosexuals and atheists as though heaven is easily accessible to all without preconditions - all in the name of false peace and unity. Here is why:

On atheists:

Pope Francis got the best applause yet from atheists when he famously proclaimed in September 2013 that atheists do not necessarily have to believe in God to go to heaven - as long as they follow their own conscience. (And there goes John 3:16!) He made it clear that atheists do not have to be confused as to who reigns supreme over whom, and or if these so-called gods do really exist - as long as he keeps his ability to follow his own conscience. So if atheists are really pissed off seeing a cross planted aloft certain private lands and that their conscience tells them it is highly offensive, then by all means he can sue the city council and demand to take it down - and still go to heaven. I think that's the message that does really endear him to atheists who have penchant for suing almost everything that offends them especially Christians.

And what the Bible says about those who do not believe in God, let alone in Jesus the Son of God:

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" ~ John 3:16

"He that believes on Him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." ~ John 3:18

"He that has the Son has life; and he that has not the Son of God has not life." ~ 1 John 5:12

"Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me" ~ John 14:6

The Bible is crystal clear - it speaks in plain language that even a child who has the Spirit of God is able to understand. But the Pope who might be having difficulty understanding let alone believing the Word of God is not having it at all. 

Jesus said: "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You shall know them by their fruits..." ~ Matthew 7: 15,16

"Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in you name cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works? And then will profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity." ~ Matthew 7: 21-23

The Pope's view on Islam:

In his unsurprisingly shocking pronouncement yet, Pope Francis emphatically warned that equating Islam with violence is wrong, and that he has so much respect for Islam as being peaceful and will do all efforts to make peace through dialogues with Muslims. Okay, that is his impression or conviction, whatever you call it, if only for the sake of publicity or political correctness so that he wins the applause of the entire world. But what does the Quran "the book of peace" advocate for all Muslims?

"Fight and slay the pagans (Christians) wherever ye find them and seize them, confine them, and lie in wait for them in every place of ambush" - Surah 9:5

"O believers, take not Jews and Christians as friends; they are friends of each other. Those of you who make them his friends is one of them. God does not guide an unjust people" - Surah 5:54

"Make war on them until idolatry is no more and Allah's religion reigns supreme." - Surah 8:39

"Slay them wherever ye find them and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter." - Surah 2:191

"Fighting is obligatory for you, much as you dislike it." - Surah 2:216

And the stark contradiction is that, the Bible is replete with commands to "love your neighbor,  love and pray for your enemy" -  promises of abounding grace, love that endures forever, unmerited favor, God's forgiveness for a repentant soul, new life in Christ, and I could go on and on.

Having quoted all of the above, I doubt whether  the Pope actually reads the Bible. But fret not for we have the answer:

 "The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit." ~ 1 Corinthians 2:14

"Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees him not, neither knows him: but you know him; for he dwells with you, and shall be in you." ~ John 14:17

On Homosexuality and same-sex-marriage:

While he remains pro-conventional marriage and anti-abortion, Pope Francis reserves the right to welcome the LGBT community to the Catholic fold but refuses to condemn the practice of homosexuality. He is sending a wrong message that practicing homosexuals are welcome to the church if they seek the Lord and have goodwill but stays short of rebuking them of their practice. So to him it is okay as long as they come to the church and intently seeking the Lord. But here's the irony of it all: how can one seek the Lord intently without him repudiating his works of iniquity? What kind of relationship does a sinful unrepentant man with a holy and righteous God? I think he didn't see any problem with that - after all "who am I to judge"? So, it's not surprising that he is well-loved by all.

"Who am I to judge" is a very soothing, feel-good message and lullaby to their ears - but isn't it we love them enough that we are called to warn them? If time and again they expostulate with Christians that Jesus in his lifetime never condemned the homosexual practice - in contrary this is what the Bible says:

"Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable." ~ Leviticus 18:22

"Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error." ~ Romans 1: 26, 27

"Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves
 nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." ~ 1 Corinthians 6: 9,10

Ecumenism as the way forward

Paramount to the pope's visit apart from visiting the typhoon-ravaged province of Leyte will be a an inter-faith dialogue scheduled to be held at the University of Sto. Tomas in Manila. Those expected to attend are selected invitees consisting of leaders of major religions in the Philippines - even members of the LGBT community are expected to be in attendance - this is all in the name of inclusiveness and tolerance advocated by the pope. But let's wait and see if there are Evangelicals or Pentecostals who will be in attendance. In the meantime, let's see how this partnerships fare in the light of the Word of God:

But "can two walk together, except they be agreed"? ~ Amos 3:3

"Be you not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: fro what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion has light with darkness?" ~ 2 Corinthians 6:14

Since ascending the throne, the pope has been a champion for initiating dialogue with other faiths. His goal is to extend his wrapping arms toward other religions, invite them to the Vatican and even started the unthinkable: the reading of the quran and a call to prayer by an imam inside the halls of the Vatican. He says he has profound respect for other religions and have no problem dining with other religious leaders who do not acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God. His charisma and popularity is such that he even got some  false prophets and teachers from the Evangelical Christianity to dine and high-five with him at the Vatican. If no one has briefed him that Muslims are being commanded not to make friends with Christians and Jews, and that they believe that the sin-less and holy Jesus is more inferior and lesser degree of a prophet than the warrior Mohammad who had married a six-year old girl and had sex with her when she hit nine - is already irrelevant when what motivates him is his thirst for world approval at the expense of God's truth.

What does the Pope's visit to the Philippines mean to Filipino Catholics?

Filipino Catholics are some of the most deeply religious people in the world. They would gladly self-flagellate on Holy Week - some go the extra mile by having themselves crucified so as to "share Christ's sufferings". The least devout may settle for kneel-walking from church's entrance to the altar; the fit and athletic ones may climb mountains on foot as their own brand of'sacrifice'. (I am so clueless how did all these 'penance' come about). Even famous personalities do their share of 'sacrifices' albeit on national television. A former vice-president and famous broadcast journalist has his tv company document live on air his death-defying exploits every time he battles with a sea of people to get a grip of the icon of the Black Nazarene when paraded every January in Manila. And the list goes on.

Tell it  lovingly to their face that it is a form of idolatry and that God hates idolatry and punishes idolatrous people - if not you will be running for your life the next. So how would these devout Catholics handle a situation wherein the "official representative of Christ on earth" will be appearing (as though a theophany) in their land and will be rubbing elbow with the 'downtrodden'? Even at this moment, replicas of the pope are being manufactured en masse, and million units of T-shirts are being printed for sale in order to accommodate the demand from those who love and worship the beast pope. 

While not every poor individual will get the chance to shake hand or touch the hemline of his garment - expect the rich and powerful, and the 'pious' to be seated close to him and get to converse, kiss his hands, and if he obliges which he usually does - do selfie with him. To most Catholics, this is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the pope in the flesh - and to them it's just like seeing God in the flesh. A high-ranking priest even called on every Catholic via national tv to bring in a Sto. Nino replica with them for a 'mass blessings' - so that if five million would come out to see the 'god in the flesh' - that would mean a hysterical round-the-clock mass production of the 'forever-baby Jesus' to the delight of those businesses specializing in manufacturing gods or idols.

Whether they heed or not, we still love our Catholic brothers and sisters so much so that we do not want them to continue treading this path while there is time. God in His word had cursed His own people up to the fourth generations after them because of idolatry. He will never give His glory to anyone. All that worship idols He will surely put to shame. Surely every Catholic at some point in their life has already heard the truth of God's word. But it is still up to that individual whether to heed the truth or not. Religion surely cannot save us - everyone believes that - but to many, religious tradition is just hard to let go and the simplicity and clarity of God's truth is just as equally as difficult to embrace. 

As for those belonging to the Body of Christ, we have been adequately warned:

"And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that you be not partakers of her sins, and that you receive not of her plagues." ~ Revelations 18:4

"He that has ears to hear, let him hear" ~ Matthew 11:15

"He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit said to the churches." ~ Revelations 3:22

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