What does real Christianity look like?  Who are the saints, and what do saints look like?

Even a casual reading of the New Testament tells us the founder of the Christian faith is Jesus Christ, the Son of God who died for the sins of the world, on the cross of Calvary.  There is no ambiguity in the New Testament. He alone can save us, and He offers the gift of eternal life freely to all who come to Him by faith.

Jesus looked and dressed like any other Jew of his day.  He would not have had long blond hair like the ridiculous pictures once shown in children’s Sunday-school material.  Nor would he have been wearing pure white robes to distinguish him from any of the other men who the walked dusty roads, just like him.

None of Jesus’ disciples had ostentatious titles, nor did any of the first christians.  Paul was called Paul.  James was called James.  Luke was called Luke, and so it was for all of these men, and women who faced lions, and beatings and hunger and exile and mockery and death, rather than deny the Lord of life. They were saints. Thankfully we don’t have to endure torture to be called “saints”.

It is Jesus, and Jesus alone who can save us from our sins and restore us to fellowship with God the Father.  What Jesus offers us freely, cost him his life, but all of the New Testament makes it crystal clear that salvation is free, and is found only in Jesus Christ the Redeemer.  You don’t need any human institution to confer sainthood on you.  Everyone who is born of the Holy Spirit is saved, redeemed, washed in the blood of the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.  Believers are liberally called ‘saints‘ throughout the New Testament.  No tortuous, long, costly process to decide who gets to be called a saint, and what mere mortal gets to decide that.  Jesus gave His life to confer it freely on poor, needy sinners.  No intermediary exists in the Bible.  No mother of Jesus, no ‘church fathers’, no popes or priests,……only Jesus changes sinners into saints.

For many years the Roman Catholic church discouraged personal Bible reading, which made it a lot easier to distort the message.  Things have changed a little, …. now meat can be eaten on Fridays, but sadly the habit of leaving the Bible to the authority of priests persists. Many of my Catholic friends, over the years, still rarely read the Scriptures for themselves.

It takes a lot of money to build and maintain ornate church buildings and keep the Vatican in cash. While Paul and Barnabas travelled pretty rough, getting ship-wrecked and beaten and imprisoned for preaching the gospel, the church of Rome sends its emissaries out with great fanfare and expense.  When the pope came to Abbotsford a convoy of helicopters flew the route he would take for a week, presumably to scope out any potential threats.  The early disciples were quite prepared to live, or die, for the glory of God.  The love of God compelled them, not the adulation of men.

In the world of Kirill and Francis, unbiblical bestowing of exalted titles to ‘christian’ leaders is routine. But that desire for prestige and praise also exists among Protestants, only they try to be a bit more subtle about it. St. Johns Shaughnessy in Vancouver had plaques up on the wall, (when I was last there over forty years ago) with names and titles of their leaders.  Even as a young Christian, I was struck by the contradiction of those pompous titles, having just read that Jesus explicitly told us not to do that.  The disciple is not above his master, yet in the Lord’s name church leaders seize all sorts of glory, riches and worldly honour.  They bedeck themselves in rich robes, take grand titles, even allow people to bow down before them.  At Lystra, Paul and Barnabas were horrified when the Greeks wanted to worship them, …”But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out among the multitude, crying, “Men, why are you doing this?  We also are men, of like nature with you, and bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.”

Roman Catholicism claims each pope is the direct successor to Peter, which got a little messy on occasion when multiple popes held court, at the same time:

A new pope was elected in Rome, Urban VI (1378-1389). Once elected, though, his personality and character changed. This caused division among the cardinals. Some of the cardinals gathered and elected a new pope, Clement VII (1378-1394). And where did this new pope live? Avignon. Now two men claimed to be pope.

Both sides continued to elect popes as their own popes died. In 1409 cardinals on both sides agreed to meet at a Council of Pisa. They deposed both popes and elected another pope, Alexander V (1409-1410). However, neither of the other popes agreed to step down: stalemate with three popes. Alexander died the next year, and John XXIII was elected (1410-1415). But he did not die while being pope. This is what happened.

Another Council was called, this time in Constance. John XXIII was deposed at the Council of Constance and placed in prison. The pope in Rome, Gregory XII, resigned. The pope in Avignon was also deposed. (He lived out his life believing he was the true pope.) The Council of Constance elected a new pope, Martin V, and the Catholic Church was back to one man who claimed to be pope.

Popes claim to hold the keys to the kingdom of Heaven, via Peter.  But they might note that right after the much disputed reference to “on this rock I will build my church,”  Jesus “turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.”

Peter was a man like any other man with all the foibles and failures of all us mere mortals.  What has been read into this Bible verse has given mere, fallen men opportunity to claim divine authority and power over others.  Obey those leaders or else, you’ll be in danger of losing your eternal soul.  That is a terrifying power to hold over others.  To augment such false claims, the church has added many trappings to convince people  that He can only be found via the authority of priests and popes and sacraments, oh, and giving money to the church also helps you move up the staircase to heaven.

When the church departs from God’s word, money becomes very important, and leaders can grow rich on the backs of the poor,  contrary to Jesus who taught,….. “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.  Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.  You received without pay, give without pay.”  In a church gone bad those ministrations can cost you a pretty penny now.

You CANNOT buy your salvation.  Your money will not open the gates of Heaven.  Jesus alone restores us to a right relationship with God.  He paid for all your sins and opened the door to eternal life for anyone who comes to Him by faith.  It is a FREE gift.  You do not need to pay a penny, and ten million dollars won’t get you a cracked-window view of the place.  “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  – Jesus

It isn’t just the Catholics that terrorize their adherents with demands for money.  When I was a child in Vineland, Ontario the elders of our Dutch Reformed Church only came to call on my Dad when it was the annual roundup for tithe commitments.

The news is full of awful accounts of sexual abuse of children, perpetrated by priests.  Church leaders make off with parish funds.  Instead of jail time, these criminals get quietly slithered off to some other unsuspecting parish where the ‘holy’ man can carry on with his profession.  Protestant clergy have also abused children, but I believe that has been on a far lesser scale due to the unnatural prohibition against marriage for Catholic priests.

Those sexual needs are too much, the call of the church too strong, and so men use weak children, who they can keep quiet, to satisfy their cravings.  This is an abnormal repression that does not work, rather results in terrible sin and suffering.  The Bible makes no such demand, on the contrary,….“now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, through the pretensions of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and enjoin abstinence from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.  For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving;  for then it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.”  – 1 Timothy

None of this is complicated.  There is only one God.   We are all lost sinners.  God sent His only Son to redeem lost humanity.  There is no other name given among men, whereby we must be saved, but Jesus Christ.  All human beings are capable of great holiness because we have been made in His image, but all human beings still sin and fail, ……and will…. until we leave this world.  We must not entrust our eternal souls to the machinations of other fallen human beings.  Read the Bible.  Those titles that Kirill and Francis give themselves are sinful and disobedience to the clear teaching of Scripture:

Jesus said, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.  They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. 

They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the market place, and being called rabbi by men.  But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren.  And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.  Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ.  He who is greatest among you shall be your servant, whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

We need to interpret every sermon and lecture and teaching in the light of the Bible. While the word of God lists only a few ‘anathemas’, the Roman Catholic church has compiled quite a list of them to keep people in line.  According to the Church of Rome, I would be anathema, because I don’t buy their contrived interpretation of Matthew 16.  Jesus here is telling the apostles they will have power and authority from him, as they go on the foundation that Peter understood when he said,  “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

From the Internet:  Anathema, as used in the New Testament, comes from the Greek ana’thema, meaning “a person or thing accursed or consigned to damnation or destruction.” Used only six times in the Bible, the word anathema is usually translated as “accursed,” “cursed,” or “eternally condemned” in the more modern translations. Young’s Literal Translation, the American Standard Version, and the King James Version transliterate it as “anathema.”

The NIV translates Romans 9:3 as “For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race.” Here, the meaning conveyed has to do more with one being consigned to eternal condemnation. It carries with it the idea of complete separation from Christ and His salvation.

Another example of the use of the word anathema is Galatians 1:8–9. The American Standard Version (1901) renders this passage as “But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema. As we have said before, so say I now again, if any man preacheth unto you any gospel other than that which ye received, let him be anathema.” In the NIV, the words “eternally condemned” replace “anathema.”

Another use of the word anathema has to do with placing an oath or a vow upon oneself. For example, in Acts 23:12 we read of certain Jews who had “banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul” (ASV). These Jews had determined that Paul was to be killed and believed it was their duty to put him away. As such, they “anathematized” themselves or, as the NIV renders it, “bound themselves with an oath” to fast until they had done the deed.  




End of the 1,000 – year schism? Russian Orthodox patriarch to meet pope in Cuba

Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press | February 6, 2016 – (Excerpts)

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, left, and Pope Francis will meet for two hours at Havana airport on Feb. 12. It will be the first meeting between heads of the two churches since the Great Schism of 1054.

AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev; Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty ImagesRussian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, left, and Pope Francis will meet for two hours at Havana airport on Feb. 12. It will be the first meeting between heads of the two churches since the Great Schism of 1054.

VATICAN CITY — In a historic step to heal the 1,000-year schism that split Christianity, Pope Francis and the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church will meet in Cuba next week in an attempt to begin bridging the church’s East-West divide.

The Feb. 12 meeting between Francis and Patriarch Kirill was announced Friday by both churches. It will be the first meeting between the leaders of the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church, which is the largest in Orthodoxy.

Francis is to travel to Mexico Feb. 12-18, stopping in Cuba on the way. He will meet with Kirill at the Havana airport, where they will speak privately for about two hours and then sign a joint declaration, the Vatican said.

“This event has extraordinary importance in the path of ecumenical relations and dialogue among Christian confessions,” said the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

The two churches split during the Great Schism of 1054 and have remained estranged over a host of issues, including the primacy of the pope and Russian Orthodox accusations that the Catholic Church is poaching converts in former Soviet lands.

Those tensions have prevented previous popes from ever meeting with the Russian patriarch, even though the Vatican has long insisted that it was merely ministering to tiny Catholic communities in the overwhelmingly Orthodox region.

‘In this tragic situation, we need to put aside internal disagreements and pool efforts to save Christianity’

Violence that threatens to extinguish the presence of Christians — Catholic and Orthodox — in the Middle East and Africa, however, has brought the churches closer together. Both the Vatican and the Orthodox Church have been outspoken in denouncing Islamic extremist attacks on Christians and the destruction of Christian monuments, particularly in Syria, where Russia has engaged in a bombing campaign in support of the Damascus government.

e dispute around the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church but said the issue of Catholic snatching of churches and flock in Russia is not as pressing as it was a decade ago.

Compared to his predecessor Alexei II, Kirill cuts a more militant figure, seeking a greater role for the church in Russia’s domestic affairs. His support for President Vladimir Putin and the government is also more pronounced than his predecessor who tried to keep a distance with the Kremlin.
The Associated Press

(Photo of St. Johns Shaughnessy, Vancouver)Unknown-15