Monday, January 5, 2015

THYME Magazine: Epiphany Edition II

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IX, Issue Ib

Faith's Foundations in Christ's Unity
By Donna Lou Shickel - © 2013 Donna Lou Shickel Publishing Co. Distribute freely with permission

If you’ve been with us here at A Place of Grace recently, you’ve heard the series on the deliberate and systematic attacks against our nation’s Christian Judeo values and freedoms. You’ve heard about the horrific goals they’ve stated and accomplished because they believe the Christian/Judeo faith and traditional values hold back progress, not to mention their own rise to totalitarian power. You’ve heard here about the successful influence by socialist and communist sympathizers in our own country in the attack on human life, education, the modern feminist movement and against our free market system. So what could any of us as Christians possibly have in common with these haters of human dignity and freedom? Is it even possible that any believer could be in mutual agreement with them on anything? Well, there is, and you may be surprised.

Welcome to A Place of Grace, I’m your host, Donna Lou. Through all my research, I was most horrified to see that without exception, these leaders have first and foremost sought to destroy not a human institution, but a Divine one – the historic Church - the most powerful voice standing against socialist/communist now called progressive efforts. Look back at the tactics used to malign and subvert our American institutions, and the re-writing of our Christian-Judeo history and Founding Fathers. Think about the repeated magnification of our countries’ failures and all the stories of those who HAVE abused her benevolence. And with what purpose? To present the problem as freedom, and the solution as government control and oppression. And the same tactics continue to be used in an attempt to destroy the historic Church from her beginning; fueling fear-based divisions, inciting blame, vilifying all members for the failures of a few, basically re-writing history. And too often, enemies of the Church have been quite successful in turning people against the very idea of Christianity, and toward intimidating other churches to water-down or eradicate basic controversial teachings. And divided, we fall.

I mentioned before that thousands of communist sympathizers were recruited by individuals like Bella Dodd to infiltrate seminaries, to destroy the Church in the US and Europe. Not to say that the Church hasn’t always had her Judases helping the devil’s cause from the inside, from the time of Christ - Those who would use God, rather than allow Him to live through them. But don’t you wonder why an anti-Catholic view would be the one area some of us might be in agreement with the likes of Marx, Stalin, Darwin, Frederick Nietzche, Margaret Sanger, Hitler, Mao, John Dewey, not to mention Empererors Nero, Dometian, oh don’t forget Napoleon, and now the secular media, and many of our own countries progressive leaders in government and in other churches? I thought here at Advent, where we are to make straight our crooked ways, it would be good to set straight maybe the most controversial teaching of the Catholic Church – Who does the Bible say Mary is? And who Mary is and is not according to Catholic teaching. It’s hard to ignore Mary at Christmas (or Epiphany for that matter).

Many of you know I was raised Catholic, educated in Catholic grade school and high school, minus the middle school education during the cultural revolution of the late sixties, which was chaos, teachers taking us out of school to protest, passing marijuana around, during the “make love not war” era, a statement coined by known communist, Herbert Marcuse. A time when the Catholic Church was ridiculed as the lone voice against abortion and departure from virtue, but stood firm, despite many of her own members being swayed by science and media who convinced people that “it wasn’t a real baby” until months after conception and “you bishops are just oppressing natural behavior”. But the Church stood on the faith of the Apostles which carried forth precepts of the ancient Hebrew blood Covenant God entered into with Abraham which included Abraham’s seed, don’t mess with the seed. And because God became flesh in the Person of Jesus in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the fully Divine Son’s human life began at the moment of conception.

God sanctified human life and we therefore have no right to destroy or tamper with that life or it’s seed which God has created through the sacred union between a husband and wife. Contrary to popular teaching, the nuns were very clear in teaching us that Christ alone is our one, true Mediator, and that you worship Mary or ANY person other than God, family, friend, pastor, pets, if you don’t love God more than these, you do so at the expense of your own soul. I never saw them beat anybody, though I was deserving, but they sure beat that into us, and all other teachings the Catholic Catechisms actually teach. It never crossed my mind that anyone would even think we worshiped Mary until I moved to the peaceful, God-fearing Shenandoah Valley. I learned to stop telling people of my Catholic background, because instead of wanting to talk about Jesus, people seemed to be fixated on Mary and purgatory. I told my Dad once it was like going to a doctor’s convention, and the heart specialists demanding that the endocrinologists explain why they were focused on the thyroid gland. “Why do you worship the thyroid? It’s the heart that gives you life!” But I was never a good Catholic anyway.

I was taught to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and to become a fisher of men, but carnal me had other fish to fry. And when I came back to my senses in my early twenties, I came back to the faith only nominally, then married and moved here, to the Valley. And I did what I hate having done to me. I distanced myself from the Church because it was controversial. Even though I knew that MOST accusations were errant, I cared more about belonging and being accepted. And when you’re making friends with people who were raised to believe that the Catholic Church is the antichrist, but you both are just as passionate about the Word of God, and standing against Satan, well you just focus on what you have in common and hope for the best. Plus, I found precious few people who wanted to hear or bother to look up what the Catholic Church actually teaches, and to their credit, it’s the only Church who has set in stone what is believed, taught and why, citing all of Sacred Scripture, and refuses to change it.

The Catechism I was taught then is the exact same today, used in many non-denominational Christian schools to teach the faith, even here in the Valley, and most of it was complete in early Christianity. The Pope has no authority to change the teachings of Christ and the Apostles, that’s why they seem so rigid in our culture. They only reassert the Sacred Truths to a particular culture when needed for clarification and renewal. But I didn’t like being grilled and interrogated and even blamed for the Crusades, which if you check history, were only begun after 400 years of turning the other cheek to Muslim attacks against the Holy Lands and the Christians, Jews and other Muslims who were making their pilgrimages to the Holy Lands. The call to the Crusades included building monasteries along the routes for all religions to have safe shelter and food on their pilgrimages where they once were being killed or captured as slaves. You’d be surprised to learn that the common myths believed about the Crusades originated, again, by communists and others who hate Christianity. And to learn the only religion calling for forced conversions were the Muslims.

Let’s take a whole show for the Crusades one day, shall we? But back to my litany upon moving here: - “No, we don’t worship Mary and dead saints, we worship God alone, we venerate the saints in Heaven and on earth whom the Scriptures say pray and intercede for us, and there’s no such thing as dead saints, if you’re a saint, you never taste death.” “No, the Pope is not above the Scriptures, He’s a servant TO the Scriptures and to the flock. No, we don’t believe you can pray someone out of purgatory on their way to hell, when you die, you’ve chosen your own destination. No, we don’t believe you can work your way to Heaven, only the redeeming sacrifice of Christ unlocks eternal life for us. “But you wear crucifixes because you think Jesus never got off the cross!” “No, we got the memo on that one too.” I thought people should be relieved to hear this, or at least check out the facts themselves, but again, when you’re raised and taught to stay away from Catholics lest you too become deceived, well I was weak. And that bothered me, being someone who would otherwise get between bullies and victims and defend and take hits for people being maligned. But I would soon become engaged in Bible study with my many good Protestant and Evangelical friends who overlooked my Catholic background, and eventually accepted the invitation to enter my new Church’s three year license to ministry program. And it was by this time that I found it necessary to thoroughly investigate every debated teaching of the Catholic Church.

Now the original Protestant Reformers defended the teaching on Mary’s perpetual virginity, also not to elevate her, but based on what it says about God, Scriptures, AND about the glory Jesus shares with His beloved, John 17 and throughout the New Testament. It wasn’t until centuries later, with near complete detachment from the early Church customs rooted in Old Testament Judaism, that accusations of Catholics worshiping Mary began, at which time the Pope issued a decree to re-state what the Church and the Protestant reformers believed from the beginning. Yes, I yearn for unity, but not at all costs. I have no intentions of proselytizing or in defending any idolaters or wolves in sheep’s clothing, I just want us to honestly consider these things and encourage good Christians to do your own research. I’m sure you trust the authorities who taught you as they trusted theirs, but do your own research. I can attest that nothing will make you as popular as being a disgruntled, ex-Catholic poster child in a crowd of Protestants, but what a shallow honor! And nothing can lose you friends faster than defending or defining Catholic teaching if you’re a well-Catechized Catholic who’s consecrated your life to Christ. But the devil’s had his day. After having spent half of my life in each Church, all I can see is that we need each other, and we have to begin somewhere to dialogue.

In the meantime, we all need to get grounded in our own faith and leave it to others to profess theirs lest we bear false witness and destroy our own Covenant family with God. I understand the objections and the risk, but I also see the openly stated, hell-bent deliberate effort by Communists who hate us all and want to divide and destroy EVERY Church. Did you know that dehumanizing Jews and Catholics was the very tactic Stalin and Hitler used to slaughter millions? They spread mockery and lies that the existence of these people threatened the lives of their other citizens so that by the time the killing began they would support it or at least look the other way, like we’re doing with the ongoing massacre of thousands of Catholics today in the Middle East and elsewhere. The same thing happened in Rwanda two decades ago. The power-hungry government spread propaganda of fear and hatred, calling the Tutsi people “cockroaches”, that led Hutu neighbors to take up government issued machetes to kill nearly a million of their own brethren! And a few weeks ago, I think I heard the straw that broke this camel’s back.

On a Sunday morning radio show, someone was making vulgar jokes about nuns. Nuns! Women who consecrate their lives to Christ, some who are right now being imprisoned, stripped, raped and paraded through public streets in the Middle East, along with the priests who are being beheaded and their churches and thousands of parishioners bombed, butchered or shot! And when one bishop or priest is killed, another takes his place because they gave a sacred oath before God to shepherd Jesus’ flock with their very lives when all other missions have pulled out. Those nuns who taught me would get up to pray at three in the morning to pray for a wretch like me before spending the day giving us an excellent education. Not that I cared then, but when I heard these jokes, I said, “Enough. Open season on nuns and anyone else we’d like to dehumanize is over. This has to stop. What other group of people can you openly mock and slur in such a way but the Catholics, and still call yourself Christian? What race, creed, color – what religion can you do that to and get away with it in our society today? Yet we preach Grace and Mercy for all?

In Matthew chapter 10, Jesus promised His true disciples they would be accused of being the devil. And it wouldn’t be the atheists calling a group of believers the anti-christ, they don’t believe in Christ or the devil. No, it would be other members of the same religious community. Jesus said they will flog you from their synagogues, where the early Christians would assemble. Fellow believers will accuse you of being Beelzebub and drunkards from their very place of worship. Are other assemblies openly accusing your church what Jesus promised? What prophesy are we fulfilling here? So if Catholics are idolaters and actually worshiping Mary, why would you choose someone who said to God, “Be it done unto me according to your Word”? Why choose as your false idol someone whom God’s messenger said, “The Lord is with you” and “with God all things are possible”? A mother who points to her son, Jesus and says, “Do whatever He tells you?” Why a mother who endures mockery, is accused of being the mother of Beelzebub, but doesn’t distance herself from Him but rather stands and gives her ascent at the Cross for her own salvation and for the world’s, rather than saying no and demanding this brutal execution stop as Peter once did?

Because this humble woman, the first Christian, knew that this brutal execution was actually the willing Sacrifice that would save mankind from eternal death, and for cooperating in His Salvific Act, she would be set afire with the Holy Spirit anew at Pentecost. This is a curious idol, indeed, mostly because Jesus went through Mary to come to us. I could say, “I love Mary Magdelene, I love Rahab the prostitute, and you’d say, “Oh yea.” But “I love Mary?” Oh, that means I worship her. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, number 487, it states “What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ.” Likewise, it would say a lot about a God Who would impregnate a young girl and then distance himself from her out of fear others would worship her, and say more about the causes you and I might have given Him to treat us in the same manner. What does it say if Jesus treated Mary with any iota of disrespect, that’s not sinless by Mosaic law. And why would anyone defend the sanctity of human life when God only used Mary as an object?

Yes, what you believe about Mary directly impacts what you believe about our Lord. His Word states, when both women are filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth calls her “Mother of my Lord,” and in the Holy Spirit Mary states, “All generations will call me blessed,” but we don’t call her anything but “a willing vessel”, if that? Is that what you call your mother? So let’s look to what the Israelites would understand from Scripture about the Woman, beginning in Genesis 3 when God said to the serpent who deceived Adam and Eve, verse 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers. Enmity to the Jews meant complete separation, division, nothing in common, in fact enmity meant warfare. The mother of the seed who is Christ would by God’s own Word and redeeming Grace, have no connection whatsoever with the devil.

Revelation 12:13 says that when the devil was thrown from Heaven down to earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child. And when he couldn’t touch her, verse 17 says that he was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children. And really, how could the woman from whom the God-man, Jesus, would draw his flesh and blood from and in whose womb would have created a sinless human body, mind and soul, have in her own being the stain of sin? How could the flesh and blood that would redeem the world be drawn from a sinful woman? Mary was indeed saved by the same Grace that saves us all, as she praises God her Savior in the Magnificat in Luke chapter 2. The once for all sacrifice was applied to Mary by God’s design, otherwise Jesus would have carried the stain of original sin. Or, as some argue, that Jesus wasn’t fully human but was incubated within but separately from Mary’s being. That’s a problem, again, not because of what it says about Mary, but what it says about Christ.

First, if Jesus was not fully human, not truly born of a woman and as it says in Hebrews 4:15, like us in every way except for sin, then He’s not the true mediator for mankind and He’s not like us, not the first-born of God and of man, He’s simply God in a human-like shell and God didn’t really want to be that intimately connected with His Covenant people by becoming fully human through Christ with us after all! So therefore, you can’t really trust and relate to Jesus, you have to lean on created people or things. That’s the spirit of anti-christ. 1st John Chapter 4, 2 "By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. And this is the spirit of the antichrist!"

No one denied the historicity of Jesus’ existence, just His full-divinity or humanity, because without both, you don’t have one true mediator, and you don’t have to make a decision to give Him your whole life. You can just toss around His teachings in the Church of the Good People. But consider the parallels between the Tree of Life in Genesis, on Calvary, and in Revelation, and that in calling Mary “the woman”, Jesus was not being rude. Because when the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, he didn’t speak on his own behalf. These were God’s Words in Luke 1 verse 28 as God’s Messenger, and the original text is “Hail, Full of Grace.” God Himself gave a royal greeting to Mary. Hail as a greeting is only used in the Gospels or historically as a royal greeting, remember “Hail, King of the Jews.” And “Full of Grace”, the title Mary was literally greeted which is translated from complete with grace, is only used elsewhere in John one verse 14 which says of Jesus, He was full of Grace. Mary’s a creature, but Grace, as we know, is the life of God living inside of us.

All that Mary is is by God’s doing, and her leading in God’s Word gives us hope and a beautiful example, not an object of worship but a “great sign” as Revelation 12 says, that points to ALL THE MORE reason to worship God! But as we read in Luke chapter one beginning in verse 29But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. 31And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32He 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 ancestor David. 33He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Now, we might miss the significance that the throne of David would have for a devout Old Testament Jewish girl. But Mary wouldn’t have. According to Scriptural genealogy, historical manuscripts and archeological evidence, Mary was the late-life miracle child of Anna and Joachim, and according to Mosaic Law, was the child that opened the womb, referred to as “first born”, whether there were more children or not. God commanded in Exodus 13, the Festival of Unleavened Bread, don’t miss that, The LORD said to Moses: "Consecrate to me all the firstborn; whatever is the first to open the womb among the Israelites, of human beings and animals, is mine." Firstborn in the Bible doesn’t imply there are second born, just as the word “until” in Biblical language didn’t imply mean the cessation of an event would now commence. Psalm 110 quoted in Acts 2 says, The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.", - it doesn’t mean at which point, Jesus you can’t sit here anymore. And in Deuteronomy 34, it says no one knew the location of Moses’ grave “until this present day.” Earlier translations of Matthew 1:25 give a better sense of Mary’s case: "He had no relations with her at any time before she bore a son" or "He had not known her when she bore a son".

The Gospel writers intentionally call to mind Old Testament prefigurements and prophesies to show that Jesus is the Messiah. In 2nd Samuel, David’s wife Michal laughs at and despises David for bringing the Ark of Old into Jerusalem dressed not as a royal king, but in an ephod. 2 Samuel 6:23 says that because Michal despised David, and David rebukes Michal, there was enmity, that “Michal the daughter of Saul had no child until the day of her death. It was understood that because of this enmity, David had no relations with her and gave her no child “until the day of her death.” This is one of literally countless parallels throughout Scripture to validate it’s Divine origin. The ephod was the same garment as Adam, Aaron and other priests wore as did Jesus when He washes His disciples feet, renewing the Old Testament ordination rite with His Apostles. David wasn’t just humbly dressed, he was dressed as a priest of God, leaping and dancing for joy for six steps, sacrificing on every seventh step, and the parallels between David and the Ark of Old and Mary are numerous: David arose and made haste to the hill country of Judea, same written of Mary; David says of the Ark, "who am I that my Lord should come to me?"

Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit says of Mary, who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me, David leaped for joy, Elizabeth says the baby leaped in my womb for joy, the infant John the Baptist who was six months ahead of Jesus, David leaped for joy six steps ahead of the Ark, David offers a prayer, Mary echoes the same prayer in the Magnificat; David and the Ark remained for 3 months at the house of Obed Edom, Mary remained with Elizabeth three months. No Jewish reader would have missed these parallels OR the same patterns and prefigurements occurring where the Ark led the people and the seven trumpets in the Old Testament and the Old Ark seen with the new, THE woman, and the trumpets, and patterns of seven in Revelation. We can argue about linguistics, and translations, like the original Greek texts calling Jesus THE son of Mary, not A son of Mary as was in other cases as with James and John. But far more fundamental than translations of terms are the themes Jewish Christians understood from Sacred Scripture regarding Mary as the New Eve, the Ark of the New Covenant and the New Davidic Kingdom’s Queen Mother.

In the Old Davidic Kingdom, the Queen mother sat at her son’s right hand interceding for the people, no power on her own, but she took the people’s petitions and brought them to her son who highly revered her, Solomon even bowed before Bathsheba. So why wasn’t the king’s wife the queen? Because the Bride was so numerous. The King Jesus, having some as his bride who would also be his blood sisters or brothers and then be consummated to them in the Wedding Feast would be to the Jews, Catholics and reformers an absolute abomination of God’s Laws, beyond consideration. And what we might miss about virgins in Old Testament, or in the parable Jesus told of ten virgins, was that these were more than biological virgins. That went without saying for unmarried Jewish women, or they were stoned to death. So these would have been sort of like Jewish nuns, consecrated wholly to God for life, and when they came of child-bearing age, would either have permission to remain serving as handmaids of the Lord in His Temple, or to be married to an older, righteous man who was perhaps widowed if they had no other male in the family to provide for them.

When Mary asked the Angel Gabriel in Luke 1 verse 34‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?” it wasn’t because she hadn’t had the talk yet. Mary was asking, how could she bear a child since as a first-born, consecrated virgin, she would never know a man in the carnal sense. And if she is the prophesied woman of Genesis, with whom God placed complete enmity between the devil, she could have no such communion with a man born in sin. We have understandable confusion when the New Testament mentions Jesus’ brothers and sisters, but close relatives were brothers and sisters by Jewish terminology, and early Church scholars and historians make many mentions that Joseph was widowed with either his children, or his brothers. But more didn’t need to be stated about this because under Mosaic law, whomever impregnated a woman was to be her spouse until his death. Joseph was clearly told that the child in her womb was of the Holy Spirit, who of course could not die. A Jewish scholar once said that “For Mary to have relations with a mere man after supposedly carrying the Divine Son of God in her tabernacle would have been like using the Ark of the Old Covenant as a wine cooler after God left its presence.” And if “Blessed is the fruit of (Mary’s) womb” as the Word states, wouldn’t those accused of idolizing a creature like Mary also idolize the flesh and blood of anyone sharing the same flesh and blood of Jesus? Wouldn’t they know undisputedly the names of these brothers and sisters, and have shrines to them?

Does God have step-sons? And where are the bones and relics of Mary? The term that the Angel used to tell Mary how she would conceive, was only used one other place in Scripture. Luke 1:35, the Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will Overshadow" you, the word for overshadow was "episkiasei" – only used in Exodus 40:34 – 48, to describe the Ark of Old when Almighty God came upon it and dwelled, or tabernacled with His people! It’s the same term the early Christians used to describe what happens in the renewal of the New Covenant Sabbath Worship! And the term for Shakina glory was a feminine noun, which then made no sense. The Ark of Old led the way in its holiness in scattering enemies and leading God’s people through the Jordan River and to their promised land. It contained the priestly rod of Aaron, the Law on stone tablets, and the Manna which gave life to the Isralites.

Now the New Ark carries the Way and the Truth on a heart of flesh and the Bread of Life Who Himself enters the Jordan River opening the Heavens and the Way for His people to be One with The Father. Do you see the Glory of God we miss, along with the hope we share together, when we’re more inclined to separate and divide rather than give ourselves to our Lord and His prayer that we be One? Today’s program is sponsored by listeners from the Protestant, Evangelical, Pentecostal, Anabaptist and Catholic faith who agree, we want and need revival, and it can’t come until we see, we need each other and a return to common, mutual love and respect for each other. Will you stand with us? Get in touch with me here at A Place of Grace at, or by writing to Donna Lou, PO Box 400, Churchville, VA 24421.

I’ll do whatever I can to help. Let the world one day tell the story, that God brought revival to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, who led the restoration of the entire nation! Because they chose to love, and allowed God to turn their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Let it be said that God heard from Heaven, and healed our land, because in the Shenandoah Valley, where there was repentance, there was renewal and there was God so there was love that could not be stopped! Why not us, beloved? Why can’t it begin here? We’ve heard the problems, what else could be the solution? Who else is with us? Who will commit to a new beginning, in mutual love and respect? I’m sure you have other questions too, and I’ll do my best to answer them, Until then, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will” (Lk 2:14).

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