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The Cleansing Pope

“Then I heard one saint speaking to another saint, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spoke, ‘How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden underfoot?’ And he said to me, ‘Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.'”  – Daniel 8:13-14

“Moreover, when you shall divide by lot the land for inheritance, you shall offer an oblation to the Lord, a holy portion of the land… and it shall be the sanctuary and the most holy place.”    – Ezekiel 45: 1& 3

In recent months, I have been taking our radio audience through the Book of Zechariah.  Most recently, I have been dealing with the second section of Zechariah which is the ninth, tenth and eleventh chapters that cover the period from Alexander the Great through to Jesus Christ.  The parallel eighth chapter of the Book of Daniel is the vision of the Ram and the He-Goat, or the clash between ancient Persia (Iran) and Greece.  Bible scholars agree that Zechariah chapter nine starts with the path of Alexander the Great after the famous Battle of Issus in 333 BC.

I was sitting at my desk with my mind on other things, when suddenly a scripture in Daniel came to mind that 2300 prophetic days or 2300 literal years would lapse before the Temple of the Lord would be cleansed.  Now I have learned that often the Spirit will speak to you “out of the clear blue sky” rather than when you are searching scripture or seeking revelation.  I think it is because what you receive “spontaneously” is pure and untainted by your personal thinking.

The name translated “certain saint” in Daniel eight is Palomi, which means “The Wonderful Numberer” and should at least make us realize that the math isn’t going to be simple.  Biblical prophecy does not start or end on an exact, specific date.  There are multiple starting and ending dates; there are overlapping fulfillments.  But one date we can be sure about in this prophecy is 333 BC when Alexander defeated Persia and established the first international, multi-cultural empire.  Twenty three hundred prophetic “days” later we arrived at the initial starting date for the cleansing in 1967 AD, or the date of the Six Days War of Israel with Egypt, Jordan and Syria.  If this is coincidence, it’s beyond credulity.

Israel’s Yitshak Rabin named the war, not for Israel, but with reference to the six days of creation.  At the end of the war, Israel had taken the Gaza Strip, Sinai, West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.  Conquests to the south almost took Israel to the southern limits of the Land of Promise.  Much is said about the political and military significance of the war, but virtually nothing has been said about the Biblical and prophetic significance of the war.  Much of what Israel achieved was undone by United Nations Security Council Resolution 242.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was speaking from the viewpoint of international political accommodation when she said there must be a Palestinian State.  Others speak from an aeonian and eschatological prophecy viewpoint if they affirm there must be an oblation and cleansed sanctuary.  Obviously both “musts” are mutually exclusive.  One is based on the will of man, while the other on what Christians believe to be the Word of God.  Both have their opponents and supporters.

However, it is curious, as we approach a Jubilee of years from the first physical fulfillment of promise related to the land, that a simple man of faith named Francis is starting to cleanse part of the spiritual sanctuary beginning with the Curia.  It will be interesting to see what 2016-2017 brings forth.

By John G. Cathcart
http://www.wme.org

Doors Opening in Pakistan

In the United States, where there are often churches on every corner, we usually take church buildings for granted. Unless they are unusual in design or size, we often don’t really notice them. Of the scores of church buildings we see each week, few really make much of an impact. The only churches that seem to mean much to us are those we attended as children, the church where we were married, saved or baptized, or the church we attend now. Contrast this view to what a church means in a nation where Christians are the minority.

In places like Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, a church building draws a great deal of attention. It is a lightning rod that quietly shakes the foundation of a community. When filled with believers, it is also a beacon that throws light out into the neighborhood and causes people to stop and wonder what goes on in this structure. What are they doing? Who is this Jesus Christ? What do those who gather there believe that gives them the courage to stand apart as well as stand up for their faith in the face of great hostility and even persecution? In this kind of environment everyone notices a church building, and that is what makes WME’s church building program so very important.

In the past few months we have been presented with the opportunity to do something remarkable. We have the chance to help complete a church in the volatile Muslim nation of Pakistan. Yes, in the very nation where Osama bin Ladin hid, the same country where a young Christian girl was recently arrested, the place where even American envoys are always provided with great security by the U.S. Military, there is an open door via WME’s church building program. To fully understand the magnitude of this opportunity, let me tell you about the country.

Pakistan was carved out of India as an independent nation for Muslims. It is the sixth most populous country in the world, and its Muslim population is only surpassed by Indonesia. After Islam, which makes up 98% of the population, Hinduism and Christianity are the largest religions in Pakistan, each with about 2,800,000 followers. Forty percent of the country lives below the poverty line, which means these people lack the basic necessities of life such as clothing, shelter, food, education and medication. Pakistan has a 50% literacy rate. This nation of 160 million adds 3.2 million to its population each year.

Now that you have a grasp on the nation itself, let’s take a look at those 2.8 million Christians. Christians who live in rural villages do bonded labor for very low wages. Christian men who live in urban areas mostly work as sweepers and drainage cleaners. The women are usually employed in Muslim houses as house-cleaners, dishwashers and clothes-washers. They are paid almost nothing. Children of these Christians have no access to education. Thus, these Christians are generally treated as second-class citizens in their own country.

One minister in Pakistan has a program that is truly incredible. He has built a Christian ministry that focuses on integrated development of the entire person’s mind, body and spirit. He takes oppressed, exploited and marginalized people and gives them value by strengthening their faith. Even more remarkable is that this pastor, working in the depths of a Muslim nation, has heard of World Missionary Evangelism. Thus he contacted us asking if we could help build a beacon of light for a small group of Christians in Pakistan.

Their great need at present is the construction of a church at Narowal. This building can make a mighty statement for the Lord. Just having a Christian Church in this community will create a great witness among non-Christians and help the church in educating Christian children. This could also just be the beginning of what WME can do in this nation.

The old children’s song “This Little Light of Mine” says it best. We must shine for the Lord. We must bring light to the darkness. We must take that light into places it is rarely seen. This church in Pakistan will be noticed, it will make an impact, it will change lives and open doors and it could be the beginning of something big. Will you give a little today to make this church a reality in 2013?

By Ace Collins
WME Publications Editor

The Epiphany Pope

“These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day John sees Jesus coming to him, and said, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.'” – John 1:28 &29

“Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand, and went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized; and there he abode. And many resorted unto him and said, ‘John did no miracles: but all the things John spoke of this man were true.’ And many believed on him there.” – John 10:39-42

“Epiphany” means an appearance or a manifestation. Epiphany also refers to a sudden intuitive perception or insight into the reality or the essential meaning of something. In addition, Epiphany is the name for a Christian festival celebrated on January 6th that commemorates the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles in the persons of the Magi, or the Wise Men from the East. When pilgrims celebrate the Nativity or the birth of Christ in the Holy Land, they immediately rush from Bethlehem to the place of Christ’s water baptism by John without many really understanding why they are doing so, which makes it a tradition rather than an epiphany.

In Chapter 10 of John, we read about a confrontation Jesus had with the Jews over what they perceived as his blasphemy for “making thyself God.” Jesus referenced His miraculous works as evidence. The Jews tried to take Him, but He escaped. Then Jesus went back to where He had first encountered John and when the Holy Spirit had descended on Him: He returned to the place where He had experienced approval, witness and affirmation. There, in contrast to His critics, a different group of men saw the works of Jesus and believed.

Epiphanies are often, though not necessarily, associated with traumatic events; regardless, epiphanies are life altering. For the carefree, affluent, young Francis of Assisi, it happened while looking at a rather dilapidated church edifice. Suddenly, he heard the Lord say to him, “Build my church.” Francis realized the Lord was not talking to him about the physical edifice he was looking at, but rather the entire church, the Body of Christ. St. Francis of Assisi turned to a life of service and humble relationship. Statues of Francis usually depict him with animals, and particularly with birds, in his arms. (Based on that, it’s thought-provoking that a seagull sat on the diffuser of the smokestack on the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican until about the time the white smoke came out and the identity of the new Pope was announced.)

Francis Xavier was a great evangelist and one of four young men who founded the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits. The leading figure of the group was Ignatius Loyola, a man that had been seriously injured in battle by a French cannonball. It was during periods when he had to deal with excruciating operations and recuperation from that injury when he found his calling. Had there been no Ignatius Loyola, there probably would have been no Francis Xavier and no Jesuits.

The Franciscans founded by Francis of Assisi and the Jesuits founded by Ignatius Loyola represent the two distinct poles of Catholic holy orders. Jesuits are all fiery discipline, doctrine, and scholasticism. On the other side, a friend of mine who is a Franciscan priest in Rome says, “With Franciscans, anything goes.” In fact, Jesuits remind me of the other phenomenon that preceded the conclave – The lightning bolt that struck St. Peter’s at the time of Pope Benedict’s resignation.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio is a Jesuit with Franciscan humility and orientation towards service. He is the combination of extremes that is needed in and for the Vatican. Epiphanies happen to movements as well as to men. Pope Francis may well be the personification of an epiphany for the Catholic Church as well as the first Jesuit, the first South American, and the first Francis elected to the Pontificate.

The first Reformation came in a man of theology and a man of action – Erasmus and Luther. This time it appears that the Catholic church may have both kinds of men in one package. As Cardinal Dolan of New York recently said (as best I can quote him), “This time we got the Holy man and the gravy too.”

It is time for all Christians to pray for the whole Church, the entire body of Christ. As it so happens, St. Francis of Assisi has given us a great model:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.

The Precipitous Pope

“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove mankind of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment…” -John 16:7-8

“Who has put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart?” -Job 38:36

Shortly after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, Celtic evangelists brought Christianity to the West and established the Church in Ireland and Britain centuries before the priests of Rome arrived. Roman religious clerics to Britain, led by St. Augustine the Librarian, dismissed Abbess Hilda and dismantled the Celtic Church at the Council of Whitby in 664 AD. It was a case of plan over passion, intelligence over involvement, politics over principles, princes over people, males over females, organization over individualism, and cleverness over commitment.

But it was Celtic evangelists who established the Christian faith by leaving their native lands to live simply and humbly among the peoples they sought to convert. Above all they were examples of Christ in shoe leather. Celtic evangelists recognized two kinds of martyrs – red martyrs and white martyrs. Red martyrs were those who shed their life’s blood for the cause of Christ. White martyrs were those who exiled themselves for life to serve abroad where there was no Gospel light.

In the middle of the first millennium after Christ, the fire of Celtic commitment was put out and was not seen again until 2013 AD when German Pope Benedict XVI exiled himself in a sudden and unanticipated retirement precipitating both crisis and conclave. Who knows why it has taken two Germans to bring about Reformation in the Church; but Joseph Ratzinger, I see you as one who has sacrificed himself to precipitate action before the eyes of the whole world for the first time in history in order to give the Catholic Church the chance to right wrongs, make amends, redress grievances, face the future, and “get it right” as one of my Catholic friends has said.

When it comes to the election of a Pope, I see the Catholic Church as composed of three parts – the Curia, the Cardinals, and the Congregants. The “Curia” are a centuries old Italian bureaucracy of “kingmaker” professionals who run the Vatican and whose infighting, turf wars, and corruption were recently exposed by Benedict’s butler, who found and released private documents from Benedict’s nightstand. The butler was forgiven, but could there be a little collaboration here? Many of the Curia are lacking in meaningful qualifications for what they do but possess the overpowering recommendation of relationship. After all, the word “nepotism” was spawned by the Renaissance Vatican and came from the Italian word nepote meaning “nephew.”

The Cardinals are the Princes of the Church who lead the church around the world and are appointed by the Pope, while the congregants are all the faithful bishops, monsignors, priests, sisters, and obedient followers who try to serve, to do, and to ascribe to all that is expected of them.

The Curia would prefer to see a short elective session and get all these foreign cardinals back whence they came so the Curia can get back to business as usual. Meantime, the Cardinals are getting to know each other and review the Curia situation as well as the records of the sexual abuse of children that has scandalized the church worldwide. The longer they take, the more promising the result.

Success is defined as the moment when preparation meets opportunity. The scene is set for a second reformation of the Catholic Church without schism. May God give the Cardinals the grace to do their duty, to set aside lesser issues, and to lead one and a quarter billion followers into a new day and time of purity, honesty, spirituality, and openness. We all need it. We should all pray for it.

By John G. Cathcart
http://www.wme.org

A Kind of Pope

“The gods may throw the dice

Their minds as cold as ice,

And someone way down here

Loses someone dear.”


These lyrics are from an ABBA song entitled “The Winner Takes It All.” It’s a song of love lost featured in the musical and movie Mamma Mia. The song reflects the broken, bitter heart of the lead character. While women have said the words are hauntingly beautiful; men have said it makes them shudder. Regardless, it is effective – It strikes a chord in the human heart. Mamma Mia is set on a Greek Island in the Aegean Sea. Even though the songwriters were actually Swedish, the description and depiction of the “gods” in these lyrics is from classic Greek thought. These ancient Greek gods have been presented as existing in the skies somewhere above, laughing at the foolish mortals on earth.

The ‘God’ of the Hebrews and the godhead of the Christian New Testament is the diametric opposite of the Greek divinities. The Hebrew God is passionate and involved; He relates to Israel like a father to a son. Israel and Judah are the “wives” of YHVH (referred to as Yahweh); the church is the “bride” of Christ. Jesus loved the church and gave Himself for it; and having loved His own, He loved them to the end.

When I was much younger and growing up in a Pentecostal world, the Popes of that day always came across from photos and in speeches as remote, austere, aristocratic, haughty and superior foreigners from a strangely, foreign world – And they were all Italians for the most part. One could almost feel the “mantle” of Tomás de Torquemada and sense the potential for another Spanish Inquisition.

But in more modern times, the world has seen Popes who are much more human and approachable. Pope John Paul II was Polish and charismatic; there was an atmosphere about him. He seemed liberated and approachable and “with it.” He was a spiritual leader who didn’t make people feel threatened.

Cardinal Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI, was once nicknamed “God’s Rottweiler.” (Personally, I never felt comfortable around any Rottweilers that I met.) Before becoming the Pope, he acted as a kind of spiritual policemen making sure the faithful stayed on the straight and narrow of Catholic doctrine and culture. Interestingly enough, he became much more acceptable as Pope, seeming to be friendlier and less threatening. Now he has stepped away from a six or seven hundred year tradition and protocol by resigning from the position.

And while the world waits for the College of Cardinals to select his successor, there is much talk about what characteristics and attributes might be might be preferred in the next Pope. Many would like an American Pope. Others hope to see an African Pope. Younger American Catholics would like to see a progressive Pope, especially in the area of social mores. Needless to say, there is external, political pressure not to have another old, white European.

I watched a television interview with Archbishop Dolan of New York where these things were discussed and was struck by something that he said. Abp. Dolan pointed out that while administrative ability, diplomatic skills and organization expertise are admirable and desirable qualities, what is really needed is “someone like Jesus.” “In other words,” said the archbishop, “a holy man.” Abp. Dolan’s words are a sober warning: When we cease to want the pure and the holy and instead prefer the slick and the capable, we may facilitate the seating of someone Paul foresaw “who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God; so that he as God sits in the temple of God, showing himself to be God.”

More on the Last Pope

“…except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sits in the temple of God, showing himself to be God.” -II Thessalonians 2:3-4

In the previous devotional, we talked about a Catholic “saint” named St. Malachy of Armagh. This St. Malachy has recently caught the attention of many Catholics and Protestants because of his “prophecy” that the next Pope after Benedict will be Peter the Roman who will be the last pope before the destruction of Rome and the start of the Apocalypse. Curiously, two of the current potential candidates for the Papal Office are named “Peter”; and should one of them be elected, it could prove interesting.

Regardless, the official position of the Catholic Church is the Malachy prophecies are forgeries. It certainly will not take long to find out if there is any substance to all of this. However, it does serve to make us reflect on some basic teachings and instruction from Paul.

Firstly, Paul tells us there must be a great “falling away” before the great opponent of the Church and of Christ is revealed. There is no question that in recent decades, there has been a huge falling away from the Catholic faith, especially in South America. There has also been a large decrease in mainline Protestant denominations, many of which have turned from spiritual considerations towards emphasizing social and sexual matters. On the Catholic side, the decreases in numbers have led the Vatican to seek meetings with independent and Charismatic leaders in order to supplement their understanding of why their members are turning to Pentecostalism.

Secondly, Paul teaches that at some future date the antichrist will sit in the temple (naos) of God acting as if he were God. The possibility of this second concept seemed so impossible to Protestant students of prophecy from the last two centuries that, instead of accepting Paul’s statement that the antichrist would sit in the naos or “inner sanctum” or “throne” of the Christian faith, they segued into the position that the antichrist would sit in a physical temple in Jerusalem which he would need to build since there has been no Jewish temple in Jerusalem for centuries. Based on how things stand today, the chances of a Jewish temple being built on what is now a Moslem holy site could not occur without a bloody international religious war. However, an antichrist spirit dictating moral and religious standards for the Church is a very real possibility which we see getting more and more powerful right before our eyes and even in our own country.

The real issue that we should focus on is not St. Malachy and his “prophecies,” or some physical catastrophe in the capital city of Italy, or some future, far-fetched construction project in Jerusalem – The real issue is the erosion of morality and spirituality and the watering down of the Word of God that is rampant in our own country and in our time, and whose attitudes and dictums are ensconced in the highest seats in the land.

By John G. Cathcart
http://www.wme.org

The Last Pope

“…except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sits in the temple of God, showing himself to be God.” -II Thessalonians 2:3-4

When the Reformation took place, Protestants basically drew a line under fifteen hundred years of history and kissed it goodbye, and then they started from scratch with five founding principles: (1) Sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone); (2) Sola Fide (by faith alone); (3) Sola Gratia (by grace alone); (4) Solo Christo (through Christ alone); and (5) Soli Deo Gloria (glory to God alone). “Sola Scriptura” was a very significant principle, and with that, the Catholic fathers and their teachings and writings were trashed. It was not Martin Luther’s intention to destroy the Church, but rather to reform it. Nonetheless, the damage was done once the “genie was out of the bottle.”

So deeply did this position of rejecting everything that had gone before and smacked of the Papacy become entrenched and absolute, there are many sincere and devout Protestants today who flat-footedly believe that Roman Catholics are not Christians. No matter that the man who laid the theological ground-work for the Reformation was the Catholic priest and scholar Erasmus who never joined the Protestant cause. And no matter that we are indebted to Erasmus for the Textus Receptus on which the New Testament of the King James Bible is based, the text to which so many fundamentalists staunchly hold firm.

Of course, not all Catholics are Christians any more than all Protestants are true Christians. You do not become a Christian simply by attending the church of your choice on a regular basis; you become a true Christian by accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and Lord with the outward evidence of a life and soul changing experience accompanying that salvation. Many have accepted Him as Savior, but not as the Lord of their life. In fact, it has been said of the Catholic Church at the time of the Reformation that it did indeed have its saints, but none of them were in the Vatican.

Notwithstanding all of the above, there is a Catholic “saint” who has surfaced very recently in the general mind of believers because of events we are living though. A phenomenal thing has just taken place in the world of one billion Catholics around the world. A Pope has resigned from his office for the first time in six hundred years. Interestingly, in Bible numerology six is the number of man and one hundred is the number of witness squared, which could be coincidence or could be quite significant. And then there’s that brilliant bolt of lightning that came down almost vertically and struck the dome of St. Peter’s a few hours after that resignation, which was caught on camera and has caught the attention and somber consideration of many believers and non-believers around the world.

So who is the Catholic “saint” who has surfaced in the minds and thoughts of so many? It is the twelfth century St. Malachy of Armagh, Ireland, to whom are attributed prophecies about the Popes of the Catholic Church, including the prediction that the next Pope after Benedict will be the last Pope before the destruction of Rome and the start of the Apocalypse. Some think this prediction is true, some think it is trash; but all think it is interesting.

So, what are the relevant facts and information to be considered? For more on this issue, check this space again next week!