The Holy See

The Roman Catholic Church—it is so grand, so very awesome—the magnificent cathedrals; world-renowned artists, sculptures, and musicians; and charitable work all over the world. The splendid attire of the clergy with the big pointy hats, the pomp and ceremony, absolutely unrivaled. How could one fail but be inspired by it all.

Then for generation after generation families identify as Catholic: unthinkable to leave it, this Church above all churches, which emerged out of the Holy Roman Empire and before which kings, presidents, even whole nations trembled.

But then this:

Sex abuse: A report on sexual abuse inside the Catholic Church in Germany says 3,677 people were abused by clergy between 1946 and 2014, two leading German media outlets said Wednesday. Spiegel Online and Die Zeit said the report they obtained— commissioned by the German Bishops Conference and researched by three universities—concludes that more than half of the victims were 13 or younger and most were boys. Every sixth case involved rape and at least 1,670 clergy were involved, both weeklies reported. Die Zeit wrote that 969 abuse victims were alter boys. (San Francisco Chronicle, September 13, 2018, page 2)

What do we make of the article above? One priest I spoke with wanted me to be sure and know that this has nothing to do with homosexuality, but with pedophilia only. Okay, I guess that means homosexuals were not involved; some will go for this, protects them against being targeted by the pro-gay folks, but most of us are not going with this assessment. Yes, heterosexuals molest kids, too, this is a given. In any case, homo or hetero, this is all going on within the Roman Catholic Church, and worldwide.

Do we see this in other Christian branches and denominations? Yes, we do, including in Baptist churches, of which I am a part.

Bigger than we know about right now

 We have been hearing about the trouble in America with the Catholic clergy, some in England, now Germany, but where this looms largest is in Latin America and Africa. In these places, abuses rarely are mentioned, but when it all breaks lose, the Roman Church will be exposed like no one could believe.

Two days ago I happen to spend some time with a woman from Kenya and a man from Mexico. The Kenyan broke right in with what is going on in the Catholic Church. Yes she said her family is Catholic, and she was raised Catholic. After this introduction, she went on to say that due to wide spread abuse of the little boys (she said nothing about abuse of girls of any age) she, her sister, and son, left for America.

The Mexican then piped up and said the same thing happened in Mexico and now all his family are Baptists. (Note: at that point he did not know I am a Baptist pastor.)

The sexual abuse is however, not the major abuse being perpetrated by the Holy See.

The fundamental error

 We go back now into the third and fourth centuries when the Christians were being embattled by any number of heresies, among which was the Gnostic twisting of Christian doctrine. To deal with the theological issues, church leaders gathered to formulate doctrinal stances.[1] Over the course of time, the head of the church at Rome became dominant. Then when the Roman emperor Constantine became head of both church and state, everything changed.

The one major change, and this is a gross reduction of a complex history, individual salvation belonged to the Roman Church to grant. And this lasted for one thousand years. We speak of this period as the dark ages when the Roman church dominated most all of what was Christian. Then in Germany, through the stance of Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformation in the early sixteenth century. Now, for the first time in a long time, the Scripture was available to the common people, and lo and behold, it was discovered that salvation belonged to Christ alone and not a Church.

Then followed the inquisition when the threatened religious power structure fought back against those who realized the Roman church was in error. Indeed, one of my relatives, John Philpott, mid-sixteenth century, was burned at the stake for believing and preaching that it is in Jesus Christ and His dying for our sin, the shedding of His blood that covers our sin, that we have salvation at all. And the gift of eternal life comes to the individual through the powerful working of the Holy Spirit.

Now what had been Christianity was divided, from that time until today.

Why am I writing this?

My concern is that many will turn from the Catholic Church and from Christianity all together over this dramatic disclosure of abuse in that Church. And by the way, let me be careful to say that any and all institutions, Christian based or not, are faulty, impure, and should not be looked upon as holy. I am the pastor of a Baptist Church, and let me assure you we simply stumble along.

Not only dear Catholic people but also many others will disregard anything Christian as something to be avoided. I agree, there is much to be avoided, and my plea is, before chucking the whole lot, study Jesus and see what you find.

Here is my challenge: Get yourself a Bible and find the Gospel of John, or maybe the first New Testament book, Matthew, and start reading. See what happens. You have nothing to lose, except a few hours of your time.

Instead of tossing the whole thing out, make sure this is a personal decision and not simply a reaction to the current scandal.

Kent Philpott

October 2018

[1] There is no space here to outline the history of Christian thought and doctrine. Going to Amazon.com and typing into a search, the history of Christian doctrine, one will find numbers of books dealing with the issue. It will, upon examining this material, be plain how the church swerved from biblical principles and doctrines into what became the Roman Catholic Church of today. My favorite author here is Justo L. Gonzales.

Parable of the Two Debtors

The Parables of Jesus # 19

Parable of the Two Debtors

Luke 7:36-50

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer.
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. Jesus did not shun Pharisees thought they constantly opposed Him. He accepts an invitation from one of these, a man named Simon, which is a common Jewish name.
  7. Simon did not perform customary acts for a guest: cleaning of feet and anointing one’s hair with oil (olive). Dusty roads and body cleaning rather rare, but Jesus did not so receive.
  8. A woman of dubious reputation, likely a prostitute, boldly enters the dinner party. She approaches Jesus’ feet as He would be laying on His left side with head toward the low laying table in the center of the room. With tears, using her hair as a towel, she cleans the grime from Jesus’ feet then anoints His head, and at great expense, she performs what Simon did not.
  9. Jesus understood this to be a display of love and devotion for the forgiveness she had received. Simon is convinced now that Jesus is not (a) (the) prophet or He would have known what a sinner the woman was.
  10. Jesus, knowing what Simon was thinking, breaks into the situation with a parable.
  11. Two debtors, both owed a great deal, a sum they could not pay; one owed 20 months wages and the other two months.
  12. When questioned by Jesus which debtor loved the most, (The Greek word for “love” is agape.) Simon gets it right.
  13. Jesus then, based on the love displayed, says the woman’s sins are forgiven. Simon would instantly know only God forgives sin, thus a huge conflict must develop for him.

The act of the woman does not earn her forgiveness, but is an expression of the forgiveness she had received.

A Sadness Hidden in the Gospel Story

 

“Good News” is a way of defining “Gospel.” “Good” is the key word, and indeed, being completely cleansed of our sin through the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and being given the gift of eternal life is Good News!

Sadness? Where Is this Sadness?

My mother and brother died without Christ. They knew the story of salvation but rejected it. There is no indication at all that they repented and believed at the very last moment. Thus, according to the Word of God, they are in hell. And this saddens me.

There have been times when I came close to falling into a depression over the above fact. Usually I ignore thinking of this reality when I come across those passages in Scripture that make it perfectly clear that hell is real.

For Example

In the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:13–14, we are shocked to read:

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to live, and those who find it are few.”

Quickly we want to think of John 3:16 where Jesus says, “For God so loved the world…” What about that? Does John here trump Jesus?

Yes, I admit to thinking, or hoping, so. But it will not work. Yes, God loves His creation, and all of it, but the reality of sin changes things. Indeed, the wages of sin is death (Romans 3:23).

There Is More

In Matthew 10, Jesus informs His disciples that they will be persecuted. Maybe they thought they would be honored and adored by the populace, given the great power over Satan they had been given plus the gift of healing “every disease and affliction” (v. 1). That they not be too elated, Jesus proceeds to bring to their attention a sharp and unpleasant reality.

Jesus informs His followers that they are sent out as sheep among wolves. They will be flogged and treated harshly by governing officials, both religious and secular.

If that is not enough, He tells them, “Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake” (Matthew 10:21–22a).

There is more. Jesus explains, “A person’s enemies will be those of his own household” (Matthew 10:36).

Later in Matthew, Jesus says, “Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left” (Matthew 25:40–41).

Coming to Acceptance

Let me confess that I have softened the Gospel message by not fully disclosing the difficult passages like those cited above. I simply did not want to bring negative issues up lest I cause some to stumble or walk away from Christ.

In addition, I realize why for so long I refrained from preaching through books of the Bible verse by verse. I wanted to avoid having to deal with difficult passages. I am not likely to be the only one to do so.

Despite being a Christian since 1963 and being a preacher of the Gospel message for over fifty years, I still wrestle with the fact that members of my family, close friends, and other dear people I have known and loved will spend eternity in hell.

Will I reject the Word of God because of the sadness that occasionally overtakes me?

Will I devise another salvation scenario whereby all will eventually live in the presence of God forever?

Will I advocate for annihilationism, meaning all those outside of Christ’s salvation cease to exist? No hell, no life at all, just gone?

Or, will I leave the big picture to the Creator God? Indeed, I am merely creature. I yield to Isaiah 55:8–9:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

Neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

So are my ways higher than your ways

And my thoughts than your thoughts.

Still Sadness

Do I yet have moments of sadness creep over me? Yes, I do. For reasons I do not understand, the older I get the greater is my tendency to think of my mother and my brother. Who could not be saddened?

Kent Philpott

October 2018

In the Wake of the Child Abuse Scandals in the Catholic Church

The recent scandals committed by clergy in the Roman Catholic Church with the thousands of victims, and these victims young boys and girls, is the focus of this essay.

I am not a Catholic Christian, but I am a Christian, and all of us who openly identify with Jesus Christ are tarnished by the events that go deep into the Vatican itself. And this is not something new, either.

What follows is a reporting of a conversation I had this morning with members of the local clergy.

First, someone said the exposure of the abuse has nothing to do with homosexuality but everything to do with pedophilia. And to suggest it has to do with homosexual behavior is homophobic. I take issue with this.

I have been around too long to cringe at this slanderous statement. As a pastor for fifty plus years, I have seen plenty. Yes, not all the molestations are of a homosexual nature, but most are. The altar boys are just right there.

Second, I mentioned that there is a pro-gay contingent at the heart of the issue, which is rooted, and deeply, in the Vatican itself. And the issue is not about celibacy either, meaning clergy has to find some sort of sexual outlet since marriage is not permitted them.[1]

Third, there is nothing new about clergy engaging sexually with youth under their care and guidance. It has been going on for centuries.

Everything changes when the molester holds the power of salvation over the victim’s head. In the Roman Catholic Church, salvation is only attainable through the Church itself, with the rites of baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, and the other “sacraments.”

Sacraments are rites and rituals that confer salvation, and the Church’s clergy give out the sacraments. So what we are seeing now is none other than the abuse of power.

Fourth, power is always the corrupting element. For so long the molesters could get away with what they did because of the power they held over others, plus the ability to cover up the crimes in case there would be complaints.

We happen to live in a day when whistle blowers are honored and protected, and thus it should be. So a crisis is brewing in the sacred halls of clerical power.

Correspondingly, we live in an age when homosexual behavior is almost sacrosanct, and by this I mean, one dare not even suggest there is anything wrong with homosexual behavior. Even those who say they stand with the “Word of God” equivocate. But there are still those of us who will say, “No! homosexual behavior is wrong, it is sinful.”

Fifth, as a sinner myself it is no simple thing to point the finger at others. Quickly the story of the woman taken in adultery comes to mind. Jesus said to the woman’s accusers, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone at her” (John 8:7). Then the Apostle Paul referred to himself, and in the present tense, as the chief or foremost of sinners. (see 1 Timothy 1:15)

Sixth, a way out of this morass may be the recognition that no human being, no church, no group, gives the gift of eternal life. Jesus alone is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him. (see John 14:6)

This great truth frees people from being fearful of exposing clergy abuse. This alone must be the message of those who call themselves Christians.

Seventh, it is not homophobic, or hate speech, to call homosexual behavior sin. Yes, in a culture that is bent on appeasing and promoting homosexuality, there is a cost to pay. Indeed, many         will be cowed by the fear of being labeled homophobic. However, we who follow Jesus must be braver than this. We must make a decision. Will we strive to avoid criticism from those who want to fit into the massive trend to okay sinful behavior? Or will we desire to honor the One who created us male and female and gave us the gift of marriage?

Two final personal words: First, this is not a political statement. No one knows how I vote and I advocate for no one. But because I do not want this essay to be rejected out of hand by someone saying, “Well, what do you expect from a Trumpite!” I tell you right now I did not vote for President Trump. I advocate for Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Second, people in all Christian churches, denominations, and branches of Christianity are sinners, including the leaders. No one of us can cast the first stone. Then the other religions of the world, including Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and on and on, are lead and represented by sinful people as well. Then consider the politicians, and whatever “ism”, from the presidents, prime ministers, on down, cannot cast a first stone either. The corporate heads, of profits and non-profits alike, the great and mighty business tycoons, the stars of film, television, music, theater, etc., none can cast that stone.

Indeed, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 2:23).

Kent Philpott

October 2018

[1] There is nothing in the Bible stating that preachers, pastors, and other church leaders are not to marry. The history of celibacy is long and complex, but for it being a biblical mandate is absolutely false.

Who is Muhammad’s Gabriel?

    

 This essay will examine three questions. First: Who is Gabriel? The answer prompts a second question: Who is Allah? The answers to these provoke a third question: Who is Muhammad? All that is Islam hangs on the answers to these three questions.

GABRIEL OF THE BIBLE

The name Gabriel is found in four places in the Bible: Daniel 8:16 and 9:21, and Luke 1:19 and 1:26. The name Gabriel means, “God is mighty.”

First, the two passages from the Old Testament book of Daniel:

When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it. And behold, there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, and it called “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.” (Daniel 8:15-16)

While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the LORD my God for the holy hill of my God, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. (Daniel 9:20-21)

Gabriel is thus introduced in the Book of Daniel, and we see more of him in the New Testament.

Second, the two passages from the New Testament Gospel of Luke

 While the priest Zechariah was on duty at the Temple in Jerusalem, an angel of the Lord appeared to him. The angel announced to Zechariah that the prayers of him and his wife Elizabeth had been answered, to the effect that Elizabeth would bear a son and his name would be John. We pick up the story in Luke chapter 1:

And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel who stands in the presence of God and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.” (Luke 1:18-19)

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. (Luke 1:26-27)

Now we look at the words of Gabriel to Mary in verse 28: “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” Mary, greatly troubled at the greeting, tried to understand what the angel meant. Gabriel continued:

“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:30-33)

Is the angel in Matthew also Gabriel?

 Joseph, about to marry Mary with whom he was engaged, was troubled when he learned she was pregnant. Thinking to divorce her quietly, he had a visit from an angel while in a dream. The angel (no name given) said to him:

“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.”

Is the angel who spoke to Joseph the same one who spoke to Zechariah and Mary? We cannot be completely sure, but it seems as though it must be the case. However, the argument I am about to make does not depend on the answer to that question, as both angels in Luke and in Matthew are clearly angels of the Lord.

What have we learned so far?

The angelic appearances have to do with the birth of Jesus, the one who would save His people from sin. The birth was miraculous, accomplished by the Holy Spirit, and this is all the explanation for the pregnancy we have. The point is clear: no human being had sex with Mary. Neither God the Father nor God the Holy Spirit had sex with Mary. The birth was miraculous, and this fits perfectly with the word God revealed to Isaiah six hundred years earlier:

There the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

The passage is referred to as “The Sign of Immanuel,” meaning that the virgin’s child is God come to be with us in a miraculous, non-human manner—thus a sign. God actually became flesh, which the Creator of the universe could do. And He did.

The child born to Mary was not called Immanuel but Jesus. Immanuel, in traditional Jewish understanding, is what He, Immanuel, is, which is God become man. The name Jesus refers to what He would do. “Jesus” is a word derived from the Hebrew name for Joshua. It means, “God saves.” Joshua was the one who brought the Chosen People across the Jordan River into the Promised Land of Canaan. Moses would not be allowed to do this, and the concept is that the Law of Moses cannot in itself bring salvation. No, salvation is a gift of God and is not by works of the Law. In His dying for sin, Jesus became the Savior, and this is proven by His resurrection. Jesus is Immanuel, God with us.

One last word from Gabriel, the angel of the Lord

Gabriel said to Mary in reference to the child she would bear: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32). This virgin birth, not the result of sexual intercourse, would be miraculous. The child would be of the same nature as the Father.

Then Gabriel said, “he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:33). The meaning is obvious—the child will be the reigning King forever, just as Isaiah had announced: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Without question, the Prophet Isaiah states that the child born is God Himself.

This takes us into the mystery of the Trinity. We will never fully comprehend how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one and complete God all at once. Christian historians and theologians simply note what the evidence reveals.

The point is plain enough—the child born is God in the flesh. He is Jesus born of the virgin in Bethlehem, the one who would die in our place, taking our sin upon Himself, then on the third day be raised from the dead. He is alive now in heaven, one day to return to receive His own.

Nearly six hundred years later, however, there appeared another “Gabriel.”

GABRIEL OF ISLAM

 The majority of Muslims today hold that the Qur’an is eternal (eternal as Allah is eternal), was brought down to earth by an angel, and was then recited by the angel Gabriel to Muhammad. Allah spoke each and every verse to the angel who then recited them, piecemeal, over the course of about twenty-two years, to Muhammad. Muhammad, unable to write, memorized the recitations and spoke them to others, who then wrote them down. (Qur’an means recitation, or that which is recited.)

The angel that appeared to Muhammad at a cave on the slopes of Mount Hira near Mecca, about AD 610, also had the name Gabriel. It was the custom of many Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, and Gnostics to retire to secluded places in hopes of receiving spiritual dreams and visions and thereby experience a direct connection with deity. Muhammad was one of these.

Ascetics would fast, meditate, and stay awake for days in order to empty the mind and receive dreams and visions. Muhammad, after a time, achieved trance-like states during which the angel Gabriel, as the angel announced himself to Muhammad, spoke to him. We find a hint of this in the hadith of Abu Dawud, Book 12, No. 2247a, which reads, “When the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) came to himself (after the revelation ended)…”

Muhammad reported his visits by Gabriel to his wife Khadija, who supported the idea that it was indeed an angel speaking to her husband. Muhammad, however, was not sure of the nature of the vision he had, but eventually adopted his wife’s opinion.

At the very beginning of Muhammad’s encounter with Gabriel, he wondered if he was actually in contact with a jinn (demon) rather than an angel. This is stunningly apparent based on a hadith reported by Aisha (the mother of the faithful believers and favorite wife of Muhammad) as found in the most trusted of all hadiths, Sahih Al-Bukhari, Vol. 1, Book 1, No. 3:

The commencement of the Divine Inspiration to Allah’s Apostle was in the form of good dreams, which came true like bright day light, and then the love of seclusion was bestowed upon him. He used to go in seclusion in the cave of Hira where he used to worship (Allah alone) continuously for many days before his desire to see his family. He used to take with him the journey food for the stay and then come back to (his wife) Khadija to take his food like-wise again till suddenly the Truth descended upon him while he was in the cave of Hira. The angel came to him and asked him to read. The Prophet replied, “I do not know how to read.”

The Prophet added, “The angel caught me (forcefully) and pressed me so hard that I could not bear it any more. He then released me and again asked me to read and I replied, ‘I do not know how to read.’ Thereupon he caught me again and pressed me a second time till I could not bear it any more. He then released me and again asked me to read but again I replied, ‘I do not know how to read (or what shall I read)?’ Thereupon he caught me for a third time and pressed me, and then released me and said, ‘Read in the name of your Lord, who has created (all that exists) has created man from a clot. Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous.

Muhammad was so harshly treated by what he thought was the angel Gabriel that he doubted it was an angel from Allah at all. He became depressed and considered throwing himself off the mountain of Hira. It was only through the intervention and convincing of Khadija, his first wife, that Muhammad was prevented from doing so.

There is an interesting account referred to as “The Lap.” The story is that Muhammad continued to believe the being that appeared to him was a jinn, a demon. Khadija, in the midst of Muhammad’s fears and doubts, asked him to sit on her lap, first one side then the other. When he did she asked him if he saw the angel. He responded, yes. Then she asked him to sit on her lap and once again asked if he saw the angel. Again, yes. Then she disrobed and asked Muhammad to sit on her lap again. She asked if he saw the angel and Muhammad said, no. With that Khadija convinced Muhammad it was indeed the angel Gabriel by saying that only a good angel would not look upon a woman’s nakedness.

The above account is a paraphrase from the Sira the official biography of Muhammad. Below now is the account, called “The Lap” as reported by Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad’s biographer:

Ibn Ishaq recorded that when the spirit came to Muhammad another time, Khadija tested him:

Ishma’il b. Abu Hakim, a freedman of the family of al-Zubayr, told me on Khadija’s authority that she said to the apostle of Allah, ‘O son of my uncle, are you able to tell me about your visitant, when he comes to you?’ He replied that he could, and she asked him to tell her when he came.

So when Gabriel came to him, as he was wont, the apostle said to Khadija, ‘This is Gabriel who has just come to me.’ ‘Get up, O son of my uncle,’ she said, ‘and sit by my left thigh.’

The apostle did so, and she said, ‘Can you see him?’ ‘Yes,’ he said. She said, ‘Then turn around and sit on my right thigh.’ He did so, and she said, ‘Can you see him?’ When he said that he could she asked him to move and sit in her lap.

When he had done this she again asked if he could see him, and he said yes, she disclosed her form and cast aside her veil while the apostle was sitting in her lap. Then she said, ‘Can you see him?’ And he replied, ‘No.’ She said, ‘O son of my uncle, rejoice and be of good heart, by Allah he is an angel and not a satan.

(Ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, tr. Guillaume, 1967, p. 107)[1]

Gabriel in the Qur’an and hadith

Gabriel appears in only three verses in the Qur’an: Sura 2:97-98 and Sura 66:4.

Say, (O Muhammad, to mankind)[2]: Who is an enemy to Gabriel! For he it is who hath revealed (this Scripture) to thy heart by Allah’s leave, confirming that which was (revealed) before it and a guidance and glad tidings to believers. Sura 2:97

Who is an enemy to Allah, and His angels and His messengers, and Gabriel and Michael! Then, lo! Allah (Himself) is an enemy to the disbelievers. Sura 2:98

If ye twain turn unto Allah repentant, (ye have cause to do so) for your hearts desired (the ban); and if ye aid one another against him (Muhammad) the lo! Allah, even He, is his protecting Friend, and Gabriel and the righteous among the believers; and furthermore the angels are his helpers. Sura 66:4

THE GABRIELS: SAME OR DIFFERENT?

Of incredibly significant importance is the question: Is the Gabriel of the Bible and the Gabriel of Islam one and the same?

The reader, of course, will be aware that I am going to make the case that the two are different, in fact, very different. However, it is easy to be fooled. The apostle Paul warned the Church at Corinth that demons could disguise themselves as angels.

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

(2 Corinthians 11:13-15)

Let me be clear at once: both are angels. One is an angel of the Lord; the other is a fallen angel, a demon. My contention is that a fallen angel—a jinn or demon—appeared to Muhammad on Mount Hira. Muhammad was right in his first assessment.

The Ultimate Offense

To state that Islam’s Gabriel is a jinn is to state the ultimate offense for Muslims, since it utterly negates the big three: Allah, the Qur’an, and Muhammad. Allah because it is Allah who is relaying to Gabriel what is in the Qur’an. Then Gabriel is no angel but a demon. And Muhammad is merely passing along what a demon is reciting to him. Islam is then based upon absolute error and nothing more.

Such accusations, let alone suggestions, can earn one the death penalty in Muslim-majority societies. Religions or governments that forcefully, even ruthlessly, stifle dissent show their weakness. This is true of Islam, even in countries where the Muslim population is small. If a Muslim abandons Islam, which is called apostasy, he or she may be punished by death, though this is not clearly spelled out in the Qur’an.

The Christian’s obligation

 With the understanding of this enormous deception, what must a Christian do? Must we remain silent and not voice even the possibility that the whole of Islam is based on demonic deception? To refrain from speaking out is immoral and unethical.

Writers of Scripture were known for denouncing false religion and the behaviors they spawn. Many paid the ultimate price for standing with the truth. Many are dying today in Muslim dominated nations for speaking their hearts and minds.

In the face of terror and in light of the great commission given Christians by Jesus Himself (see Matthew 28:19-20, among others), it is necessary to stand up to the murderous lying of the chief demon, Satan. Jesus, while countering the attacks of religious opponents, was clear. Jesus said:

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)

It is not disrespectful to challenge error, especially when the difference is between heaven and hell, both of which are eternal.

ANOTHER ISLAMIC TEACHING ABOUT GABRIEL

 Some spokesmen for Islam identify Gabriel as the Holy Spirit in both the Bible and the Qur’an. From where in Islam’s authoritative texts do they get this? In Sura 2:87 and Sura 2:253, and without the word Gabriel appearing, we find, “We supported him with the Holy Spirit.” Islamic interpreters say this “We” is the angel Gabriel. But the plain text of the Qur’an does not state this.

Not only does the Qur’an not identify Gabriel with the Holy Spirit, neither does the hadith. Instead we find just the opposite, as illustrated by Sahih Muslim, in book 30: “Gabriel, the Apostle of Allah is among us, and the Holy Spirit who has no match.” Gabriel is not the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit in the Bible

             The Hebrew Bible

 Both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament show the nature and identity of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is deity, often referred to as the Spirit of God, in that the Holy Spirit is holy, and only God is holy. The Holy Spirit is omnipresent, is referred to as a “He” and thus is personal, and is omnipotent, meaning all powerful. And the Holy Spirit can only be God as are the Father and the Son.

The second verse of Genesis speaks of the Holy Spirit being involved at the moment of the creation of the universe. “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”

2 Samuel 23:2-3 identifies the God of Israel with the Spirit of the LORD.[3]

The Spirit of the LORD speaks by me; his word is on my tongue. The God of Israel has spoken; the Rock of Israel has said to me: When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God;…

Isaiah 40:13 reads, “Who has measured the Spirit of the LORD or what man shows him his counsel?” We notice “LORD” in the phrase “Spirit of the LORD” clearly identifying the Holy Spirit with God.

The New Testament

 There is much more, however, but now we turn to the New Testament, first to the third chapter of the Gospel of John.

A leader of the Jewish people named Nicodemus approached Jesus at night, presumably to speak with Him in private. He says he knows Jesus is from God because of the miracles Jesus performs. Jesus however redirects the conversation by saying, “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Of course, the elder statesman does not understand how a person can be reborn. Jesus replies, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” To be born of the flesh is one thing, but to be born of the Spirit is quite another. And we must be clear: Jesus is not talking about any angel much less one named Gabriel. Only God brings life, both physical and spiritual.

The Holy Spirit works the new birth or conversion. This is clear in the passage in John 3, and we find the same in Acts 8:14–20. Also in Acts 3:1–4, the Holy Spirit is directly referred to as God. The writer of Hebrews also declares that the Holy Spirit is eternal when in reference to the power of the shed blood of Jesus: “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to sere the living God” (Hebrews 9:14).

Looking back to the birth passages in Luke’s Gospel, we find an answer to Mary’s question to the angel Gabriel as to how she will have a baby when Gabriel says, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you” (Luke 1:35). It is obvious that the angel Gabriel separates himself from the Holy Spirit. Certainly, the Holy Spirit and Gabriel are not the same at all.

It is clear that neither the Qur’an nor the Bible anywhere identify Gabriel with the Holy Spirit.

Angel or Holy Spirit?

The goal of Islamic scholars who claim that Gabriel is the Holy Spirit is intended to contaminate the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Which is it then? Is Gabriel an angel or the Holy Spirit, or maybe both at once, at least from an Islamic point of view? Our arguments above show that Gabriel is actually a jinn or demon, thus further clouding an already murky subject.

WHO IS ALLAH?

The Name “Allah”

 “Allah” was the name used by Christians and Jews in the Arabian Peninsula for centuries before the Islamic era. Indeed, the word Allah was used by Jews in the Arabian Peninsula for the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob before the Christian era.

To put it another way: Neither Muhammad, Abu Bakr, Umar, nor Uthman invented the word Allah. They would have known the word Allah from childhood.

It is not the word that counts; it is the content or meaning of the word.

To the Jew of that period, Allah would be the creator, the lawgiver, and the one who led the family of the patriarchs out of Egypt and gave them the Promised Land, the land of Canaan.

To the Christian of that period, Allah would be the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ in addition to all that the Jewish people believed about God.

It would be only natural for Muhammad to also use the term Allah in reference to the creator God. Clearly, however, Muhammad gave new definition to who or what Allah is.

Islam’s Allah

 Islam claims that Allah spoke to Gabriel, who then spoke to Muhammad, who then recited the revelations that originated with Allah by way of Gabriel to other people, who at some point committed them to writing.

The narrative of the collecting of the Qur’an is fascinating. There were so many variations going about that Uthman, the third caliph after Muhammad, ordered all the renditions be gathered together in order to make a uniform document. All the other manuscripts were then burned. But the picture of Allah in the Qur’an is interesting.

Allah is distant, speaks through an angel, loves those who love him, and hates those who do not believe in him. Allah is called the greatest of deceivers and might lead astray even the best of Muslims. Though Allah repeatedly refers to himself as the most beneficent, the most merciful, the most forgiving, and so on, evidence of this is lacking or scant other than what he says of himself.

It is not unfair nor a misrepresentation to say that the God of the Qur’an is far different from the God spoken of in the Bible, both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.

Transcendence versus Immanence

One of the major differences between the Bible’s God and Islam’s Allah is whether he is present with his creation. From what we find in the Qur’an and hadith about Allah is that he is transcendent and not immanent.

In contrast, the God of the Hebrew Bible, is transcendent but is also immanent, in that He interacts personally with His people. He walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, otherwise known as Paradise. He did so until the Fall, the moment that his single law was broken, about which we read in Genesis chapter three. The terrible consequences of that event was that God’s human creation was sent east of Eden. But he never left them entirely alone; he did not abandon them completely.

God once again spoke with a human being out of a burning bush in the Arabian Desert, when God appeared to Moses and told him his name, Yahweh (YHWH, known as the Tetragrammaton). God commanded and directed Moses to supervise erection of a Tabernacle, which contained a special place within it, the Holy of Holies, where would God dwell.

This was a foreshadowing of what would come later. The prophets pointed to a time when God would arrive in person. This is what the word Immanuel means—God present. We can see this in the word itself, even if we are not Hebrew literate. The last two letters of Immanuel, “el” is the English transliteration of the Hebrew word for God, El. Then “imman” and we get our word immanent from it; immanent means present. Simply put, God with us.

This is who Jesus is.

Is Allah a fiction?

Again, my premise is that Gabriel is indeed an angel, but a fallen angel. Muhammad was correct when he thought the being that presented itself at the cave on Mt. Hira was a jinn, which is an Arabic word meaning demon. It was only his wife Khadija who convinced him otherwise.

The point then is: If Gabriel is a demon, and Gabriel is reciting to Muhammad what is supposedly spoken by Allah, then just who or what is Allah?

It is clear from the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament that Satan and his demons are surely angels but fallen angels who became the enemies of God. And Satan is a god, too.

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

(2 Corinthians 4:4)

“The god of this world” Paul says, and some chapters later in the same letter he writes of those who “veil” the gospel:

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

(2 Corinthians 11:13-15)

(Note: An apostle is a messenger, one sent with a message.)

Is Allah a fiction? No, there is an Allah but it is Satan in disguise who directed an underling demon to approach Muhammad while Muhammad was in a trance state and therefore open to demonic invasion.

Have I committed blasphemy and of the worst sort against the Islamic trinity? Yes, indeed I have but not out of meanness or an attempt to deceive.

To say that Allah is a demon (Shayton or Satan), that Gabriel is also a demon (jinn), and therefore that Muhammad was very cleverly deceived is the only possible conclusion given the evidence and arguments above. And this is what most Christians do believe, but it is a fearful endeavor to put these ideas out into the public purview, given what we have seen of Islam in these past few decades.

WHO IS MUHAMMAD?

Is Muhammad a true prophet of God?

Was he duped into thinking he was hearing words from Allah?

Did he make the whole thing up?

Was it all a dream?

Was it a scheme to acquire power and prestige?

Is Muhammad a prophet to be trusted?

Is he to be obeyed? Is he to be believed?

Is he a false prophet?

We cannot be afraid to ask these questions. Too much hinges on the answers, for Muslims especially. I am well aware that Muslim people are sincere seekers after God. Even the most radical among them are only following through on what has been communicated to them from the cradle. Muslim people, in my experience, are more “religious” than most Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, and so on.

Few desire to be with God in Paradise as much as Muslims. And many will do anything to assure themselves of being there. After all, no Muslim can be sure they will be in paradise after death since Allah is a great deceiver and will lead astray any he chooses. Unlike the Christian who will experience assurance of salvation, the Muslim can only hope and work hard to earn Allah’s favor.

Some commentators doubt Muhammad even existed. I am not one of these. As to whether there were those who embellished the story, especially in the latter part of the seventh and into the eighteenth century, is a possibility. We are aware Gnostics in the second and third centuries did that with Jesus, made Him into a super hero and magician.

It is well established that Muhammad was not certain in his own mind as to the nature of the entity he encountered on Mt. Hira. At first he thought the ‘angel’ was a jinn, a demon; his wife Khadija convinced him it was an angel of God.

What is the truth?

That which was revealed to Muhammad differs utterly from what we see of God in the Bible. Which account is the true one?

Islam, of course, says that the revelation to Muhammad supersedes or replaces what is found in the Bible. And in a number of significant ways. For instance, Jesus is not God come to be with us and die on a cross for our sin. Jesus is a prophet but not of the rank of Muhammad. Jesus plays a role in the last days, but dies and ends up being buried next to Muhammad. It is rather complex, but the Jesus of the Qur’an (Isa) is not close to the Jesus of Christian Scripture.

Then, God in the Qur’an is separated from humans and speaks through an angel. In the Bible, God becomes flesh and dwells among us. Also, being in Paradise/heaven in the Qur’an depends upon believing that Allah alone is God and that Muhammad is his messenger. But that is only the beginning. Mostly heaven is earned by doing good deeds, working for salvation. In the Bible forgiveness, salvation, and being assured of heaven depends upon God’s gift alone.

MY CLOSING STATEMENT

 Who is Allah? Allah is either a chief demon, perhaps Satan himself, or a fantasy figure invented by Muhammad. At minimum, Allah is not God.

Who is Gabriel? Gabriel is either a jinn, meaning a demon, or again is a fantasy figure invented by Muhammad. Gabriel is not an angel of the Lord God.

Who is Muhammad? He is a seventh century man living in Arabia who was either deceived by a demonic entity or who developed a fictional account of receiving communications from God. Muhammad is not a prophet of God; he is a false prophet.

 Another contradiction within Islam:

 There is a cascading danger for Islam in its claim that Gabriel is the Holy Spirit. Islam is supposed to be monotheistic, meaning that Allah has no partners. If Gabriel is the Holy Spirit, then Gabriel is deity as well—Allah has a partner. Add to that the doctrine held by the traditionalists in Islam who believe that the Qur’an is eternal in heaven. Another partner? Consider also the reverence shown to Muhammad. Is it so complete that he is actually lifted to the status of deity as well? One more partner for Allah?

Muhammad is not God and never claimed to be, despite how Muslims tend to view him, and neither is Gabriel. If Gabriel is the Holy Spirit, and the Quran is eternal alongside Allah, and if every Muslim must model his own life after the “perfect man” Muhammad, it is not a stretch to say that Islam has a fourfold divinity: Allah, Gabriel, the Qur’an, and Muhammad.

The list of inner contradictions emanating from Islam is long, and this essay only introduces some of them. For further details, please consult Islamic Studies: Equipping the Christian Witness to Muslims, published by Earthen Vessel Publishing at evpbooks.com.

[1] The Sira has for centuries been linked with the Qur’an and hadith as authoritative on the life of Muhammad. In more recent years the Sira has been largely neglected, as the accounts of what Muhammad said and did are rather fantastic, problematic, and embarrassing.

[2] Words in parentheses-( )-indicate explanatory notes made by editors of the Qur’an. Without them so very many passages of the Qur’an would be unintelligible.

[3] LORD, all capital letters shows that the Hebrew text has Yahweh, that name of God as revealed to Moses in the burning bush incident. See Exodus 3:14.

Don’t Blame Jesus for the Weird Things Christians Do

Don’t Blame Jesus for the Weird Things Christians Do

 Maybe it was that I never thought through things, but I watched high school friends who identified as Christian hoping to find fault. And I found fault. Therefore I concluded Christians were fakes and flakes.

While in the military I became a Christian myself, quite unexpectedly as I think about it now. An accident of sorts maybe, but I wound up attending a Baptist church in Fairfield, California and heard the pastor tell the incredible story of Jesus. Still a puzzle to me, in a twinkling of an eye I was converted, and almost against my will.

Guys I worked with as a medic with 2nd Casualty Staging Flight at Travis AFB found out about my becoming a Christian and watched me closely, hoping to spot a flaw. Of course, they had no trouble finding out what a hypocrite I was. Guess they thought I would be perfect just like I thought my high school friends had to be perfect. I mean, they did say they were Christians.

What was my problem?

What’s a Christian?

A Christian is a sinner who has been born anew by the Holy Spirit of God. He or she is still a sinner, but a forgiven sinner.

This Christian starts out a newborn, messy diapers, crying, sleeping, just out the chute. Then a rug rat, a toddler, little kid, pre-teen, teen, young adult, adult, mature adult, elder adult—each of us go through all the stages.

In my seventies now, I wonder if I have reached maturity yet. I don’t think so. To be honest I have been rather retarded in my growth. Not the fault of the Parent, but mine all together. I think I have been more rebellious than most, or maybe my hormones stronger than others, something, but my progress as a pilgrim has been really slow. This, however, does not mean I am not a Christian.

I have noticed that one mark of growing up into the fullness of Christ has been my desire not to sin. When I catch myself acting the “old man” I cringe and ask for forgiveness.

It is true, I have found, that it can be painful to grow up spiritually. If I had become aware of all my imperfections back then, I mean all at once, I would have been overwhelmed. Perhaps this is comparable to expecting a toddler to play college level baseball. Not going to happen.

Almost as payback, I have had non-Christians chastise me for my ‘little’ imperfections. Worse, I have had Christians do the same; after all I am a pastor of a church, and an author of Christian books. (I will sometimes say that a church can be like a minefield. One can be blown up.)

Judging others

How we love to blame and judge! It is the national pastime. Anything bad that happens, we want to know who to blame.

How do I know this is so? I find it in myself for one thing, and I am about that business constantly. And when I find cause, I stigmatize and sometimes heavily.

A little phrase I use with the high school kids I coach in baseball is, “I am here to criticize heavily.” Of course, after the first week of the season they know I do not mean it, and we all laugh when I say it. After decades of coaching I have learned that criticism, demeaning language, and putting down others, does not produce good results either with the players or members of the congregation.

I ignorantly judged my high school friends. I looked down on Vern and Don, surgery techs at Travis AFB, after I was told they were Christians, without even thinking about what I was doing. After I became a Christian, Vern and Don became fast friends and we loved to eat together at mid-night chow at the hospital as our duty hours were from 5pm to 8am.

What is weird?

Judging the weirdness, or what we consider to be weirdness, of Christians is a defensive mechanism. I was unconscious of what I was doing, and I think it was because I was beginning to feel convicted of my sin. I had to find a way to assure myself that they were wrong, probably crazy, but that I was sound of heart, soul, and mind.

When I talk with others who are not Christians and who know that I am, I will often find the same attitude toward me that I had back in my high school days. At least, when I see it I know not to react or take it personally. It is a case of “there but for the grace of God go I.”

Proof we are not perfect

John the apostle, the longest lived of those who were directly called by Jesus, wrote to a Christian audience:

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

This passage is 1 John 1:8-10. Quite clear: being a Christian does not mean we do not sin. Perhaps John saw there was a danger Christians might think they had to be perfect, and if so, such thinking would not be healthy. John uses sharp language to make sure we know we are not perfect.

The Christian then confess sin and the promise is that forgiveness follows.

Here we encounter one of the Bible’s paradoxes, which refer to two truths that run parallel with each other, like railroad tracts, but never intersect. Though all our sin is forgiven since all of it, past, present, and future, has been placed on Jesus as He died on the cross. He shed His blood for us, and His blood washes away our sin. Yet, we are to continue to confess our daily sin, the sin that has already been cleansed from us, in order that we do not have it on our conscience. This is one of the most profound of all the paradoxes in Scripture. (Why, after all, would we imagine that God and His ways are easily grasped by the sinner.)

Then John goes on:

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

This passage is 1 John 2:1, the verse immediately following the earlier verses.

John does not want his readers, those under his pastoral care, to sin, but if they do, and the Greek clause, a third class conditional structure, indicates they will in fact sin, their confession of sin will be heard and they will be forgiven. (This is one of the many reasons biblical Christianity is healthy.)

So then, when sin is discovered, Christians need not hide their sin nor be in fear. We have Jesus who is our righteousness.

Jars of clay

The Apostle Paul spoke of our having the “Light of the Gospel” in us. Yet this “treasure” is in jars of clay. This wonderful truth is found in 2 Corinthians 4:7:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

Clay, vessels of all sorts are made out of clay. The containers hold something and in this case it is the Holy Spirit. We speak of “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27)

Sinless perfection is not to be found on the planet. Not only do we deal with our own temptations but also there is an enemy who attempts to undo us like he did Adam and Eve in the garden. And what may be the result: Christians doing weird things. And I have to be the first to raise my hand.

Again, what did John say, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” This is how it is with us. Yes, we are straining to grow up into the fullness of Christ, but it is not yet. I will still do weird and strange things.

Who’s to blame?

 I am to blame. Blame me, not Jesus.

The danger in blaming me is that you will also reject not only my Christianity but my Jesus as well. And this is the real reason for this essay since the price you will pay is beyond imagination. If you had any inkling of this reality, you would be horrified.

“What a conclusion!” must be running through your mind right now. It would be wrong of me, a sin if you will, if I did not present full disclosure.

I have met the guy pictured above, and I think he, though weird like I am, is a terrific brother in Christ.

In the Wake of the Child Abuse Scandals in the Catholic Church

In the Wake of the Child Abuse Scandals in the Catholic Church

The recent scandals committed by clergy in the Roman Catholic Church with the thousands of victims, and these victims young boys and girls, is the focus of this essay.

I am not a Catholic Christian, but I am a Christian, and all of us who openly identify with Jesus Christ are tarnished by the events that go deep into the Vatican itself. And this is not something new, either.

What follows is a reporting of a conversation I had this morning with members of the local clergy.

First, someone said the exposure of the abuse has nothing to do with homosexuality but everything to do with pedophilia. And to suggest it has to do with homosexual behavior is homophobic. I take issue with this.

I have been around too long to cringe at this slanderous statement. As a pastor for fifty plus years, I have seen plenty. Yes, not all the molestations are of a homosexual nature, but most are. The altar boys are just right there.

Second, I mentioned that there is a pro-gay contingent at the heart of the issue, which is rooted, and deeply, in the Vatican itself. And the issue is not about celibacy either, meaning clergy has to find some sort of sexual outlet since marriage is not permitted them.[1]

Third, there is nothing new about clergy engaging sexually with youth under their care and guidance. It has been going on for centuries.

Everything changes when the molester holds the power of salvation over the victim’s head. In the Roman Catholic Church, salvation is only attainable through the Church itself, with the rites of baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, and the other “sacraments.”

Sacraments are rites and rituals that confer salvation, and the Church’s clergy give out the sacraments. So what we are seeing now is none other than the abuse of power.

Fourth, power is always the corrupting element. For so long the molesters could get away with what they did because of the power they held over others, plus the ability to cover up the crimes in case there would be complaints.

We happen to live in a day when whistle blowers are honored and protected, and thus it should be. So a crisis is brewing in the sacred halls of clerical power.

Correspondingly, we live in an age when homosexual behavior is almost sacrosanct, and by this I mean, one dare not even suggest there is anything wrong with homosexual behavior. Even those who say they stand with the “Word of God” equivocate. But there are still those of us who will say, “No! homosexual behavior is wrong, it is sinful.”

Fifth, as a sinner myself it is no simple thing to point the finger at others. Quickly the story of the woman taken in adultery comes to mind. Jesus said to the woman’s accusers, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone at her” (John 8:7). Then the Apostle Paul referred to himself, and in the present tense, as the chief or foremost of sinners. (see 1 Timothy 1:15)

Sixth, a way out of this morass may be the recognition that no human being, no church, no group, gives the gift of eternal life. Jesus alone is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him. (see John 14:6)

This great truth frees people from being fearful of exposing clergy abuse. This alone must be the message of those who call themselves Christians.

Seventh, it is not homophobic, or hate speech, to call homosexual behavior sin. Yes, in a culture that is bent on appeasing and promoting homosexuality, there is a cost to pay. Indeed, many         will be cowed by the fear of being labeled homophobic. However, we who follow Jesus must be braver than this. We must make a decision. Will we strive to avoid criticism from those who want to fit into the massive trend to okay sinful behavior? Or will we desire to honor the One who created us male and female and gave us the gift of marriage?

A final personal word: This is not a political statement. No one knows how I vote and I advocate for no one. But because I do not want this essay to be rejected out of hand by someone saying, “Well, what do you expect from a Trumpite!” I tell you right now I did not vote for President Trump. I advocate for Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Kent Philpott

September 2018

[1] There is nothing in the Bible stating that preachers, pastors, and other church leaders are not to marry. The history of celibacy is long and complex, but for it being a biblical mandate is absolutely false.

# 14 The Parable of the Talents Matthew 25:14-30

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 14

The Parable of the Talents

Matthew 25:14-30

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer.
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. This parable is remarkably similar to the Parable of the Ten

Minas of Luke 19:11-27.

  1. A talent, some commentators say is worth 20 years of labor.
  2. A very wealthy man before leaving on a long journey gives 5 talents to one servant, two to another, and one to still another.
  3. The servants with five and two talents put the money to work and each doubled their money as a result.
  4. The third, however, thinking the boss was an exacting and difficult person, hid his one talent in the ground.
  5. An accounting is given when the master comes back. He finds the one with five talents now has ten to give him. The master says he is “a good and faithful” servant. Likewise with the servant who had two talents, now has four, is also “a good and faithful” servant. And to both of these he says, “I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”
  6. The servant who hid the talent in the ground did not hear the master’s words of praise and reward.
  7. The Master scolds the “wicked and slothful” servant and tells him he should have at least gotten interest from the money with bankers.
  8. This servant now has his talent taken from him. And this procedure, the faithful servant is given more while, the unfaithful servant suffers loss and loss to the extreme.
  9. The unfaithful servant is now cast into the outer darkness, a place of pain and torment.
  10. The point of the parable: the faithful servant goes about his or her work using what the Master has given each one.

 

THE PARABLES OF JESUS # 13 The Parable of the Ten Virgins Matthew 25:1-13

THE PARABLES OF JESUS # 13

The Parable of the Ten Virgins

Matthew 25:1-13

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer.
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. The background to the parable is the wedding customs of the Jewish people in that era. The bridesmaids (known as virgins) would gather with the bride for the arrival of the bridegroom.
  8. The timing of the arrival was usually at night but the bridesmaids would not know exactly when. There is some indication that the wedding processional would be in the wee hours.
  9. Since the event would take place at night, it was necessary for the virgins to have their torches ready along with a supply of oil. A miscalculation might mean the virgins without enough oil for their lamps would be left out.
  10. Sure enough, five of the bridesmaids were caught without enough oil for their lamps as the bridegroom tarried. They would be then left out then, a truly sad event.
  11. It would seem that those with a supply of oil might share with those who needed more. But no, the “wise” virgins realized there would not be enough oil for all so they advised the other five to purchase some from oil dealers.
  12. As the “foolish” bridesmaids were off to buy more oil, the bridegroom and his companions arrived to usher the virgins off to the wedding.
  13. Not willing to give up, the five with a fresh supply of oil, nevertheless showed up at the wedding party.
  14. Shockingly, the “master” or bridegroom in this scenario, refused and even said, “I do not know you.”
  15. The single point of the parable is that Jesus’ followers are to be ready for His second coming. which was largely the subject of the previous chapter, Matthew 24.
  16. In Revelation 19:6-10 is the story of the marriage supper of the Lamb. The theme of a bride, the church, bridesmaids, individual members of the Church, and the bridegroom, Jesus Himself, paint both a beautiful and joyous picture, but a tragic one as well.

 

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 12 Parable of the Two Sons and the Wedding Feast Matthew 21:28-31 & Matthew 22:1-14

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 12

Parable of the Two Sons and the Wedding Feast

Matthew 21:28-31 & Matthew 22:1-14

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer.
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. The audience for the Two Sons parable are the religious leaders who rejected John the Baptist, who did not cater to their ideals. However, the worst of the worst, the tax collectors and prostitutes, did.
  8. So the parable of the Two Sons: one said he would not go to the work but did, the other said he would but did not. The ‘losers’ embraced John’s testimony about Jesus while the chief priests and elders did not. Jesus is not scolding as much as reaching out to these leaders.
  9. Then a king gave a wedding feast for his son. Is Jesus making a comparison with a king of that era and His being a Son of the King?
  10. The king sends his servants out to invite people to the feast but none of these would come. So the king sent others out who let it be known how wonderful the feast would be.Yet again, no one came to the feast. They even treated these servants badly, killing some of them. But the king did not give up.
  11. Now the king gives fresh orders to his servants. He has them go out broadly, not to the usual places, but to the roads and invited everyone, both good and bad. Soon the wedding hall was filled.
  12. The king came into the wedding hall to see the guests. Doing so he found one of these who did not have on a wedding garment. It was common for the host of the wedding, in this case the king, to supply wedding garments for the guests as these would be costly and few if any would have such.
  13. The king now asks the improperly dressed person how he got into the wedding feast in the first place. This person was “speechless.”
  14. The king’s servants were then ordered to cast the person out, and into the “outer darkness” where here would be “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” This two phrases meant the casting into hell and away from the presence of God to people of that era.
  15. Jesus concludes the parable with, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” Though the religious leaders were called, not all of them, few of them, were chosen, thus reflecting on their rejection of John.