Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christ is the reason for the season...

Jesus Christ: born in the city of Bethlehem, which is Hebrew for "House of Bread"; the bread of life given to all so that we may never hunger:

"Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst...'" - John 6:35 (NAB)

Thank you, Lord, for giving us your son, Jesus Christ, given to us so that we may have eternal life.

May your children remember you, Lord, during this season in which we give thanks to you, and may they show good will towards each other in the spirit and manner your son instructed us to live.

May peace reign on earth, and may the broken hearted and the lost come to truly know our saviour and redeemer.

Place your blessings upon the Church and her faithful, that it may continue to be a refuge for sinners and a haven for saints, that all may come to know your son who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Charles Taze Russell came calling...

I've had some experience in dealing with Jehovah's Witnesses, and thankfully some of the JWs I've come to know in recent years have been very warm, friendly and approachable individuals, so I'm pleased to say that I've had no negative encounters with anyone of this religion. This morning, however, as my wife and I were getting ready to head out to take part in the Emmanuel Community encounter/retreat day at the Little Sisters of the Poor convent, a pair of JWs (a gentleman and his wife) turned up at our front door (at approximately 8:15am... it's a good thing we're no longer accustomed to sleeping in on weekends or they really would have been in for it!) and they began with the usual introductions, "Can you spare a minute to hear an important message?" and "We're visiting households in the area this morning to tell families about the goodness of God's kingdom", and the preaching begins.

In the last few months I've befriended a couple of ex-Jehovah's Witnesses, and in conversation, they've provided me with some insights into their beliefs and I've really been pining for the opportunity to ask other JWs about some of their core beliefs, namely their "doctrine" of the 144,000 (according to them, only this amount of people will be allowed to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven and apparently JWs get first dibs). Learning about some of the beliefs of JWs has allowed me valuable opportunities to get back to the books and look at what mainstream Christianity teaches on issues such as these so that I can contrast it with what the JWs believe.

So here's how we address the issue of the "144,000". As alluded to earlier, JWs believe that the literal figure of 144,000 - found in the Book of Revelation - will be going to Heaven. JWs use Luke 12:32 to justify this:

"'Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." (RSV)

The "little flock" reference in Luke 12:32 is used to support the notion of an "elect" being the only ones granted entry into Heaven at the time of judgement (this is also a belief held by Calvinists; see this blog entry for a bit more information) since 144,000 compared to the rest of humanity and all that have ever lived, in relative terms, does seem like a "little flock". The JWs that don't make it to Heaven (those not part of the 144,000) will remain on earth to guide others remaining on a path of righteousness.

What puzzles me about this belief and the JWs desire to "evangelise" is that firmness on the 144,000. The question I immediately asked of the pair of JWs that come to my door that morning was this:

"I understand your ambition is to bring others to the Jehovah's Witness faith, and that includes me at this very moment, but wouldn't my conversion to the JWs lower your chances of being one of the 144,000?"

I was met with blank stares directly after that question, but that didn't last long as the gentleman began to thumb through his Bible (the New World Translation, a specifically JW translation of the Bible) and that's where he himself read out Luke 12:32 and began to explain a bit more about the 144,000. I couldn't believe my luck! But rather than me giving you a blow-by-blow account of what was said and how it was said, I'm going to sum-up the arguments that I submitted to the pair; the same that I gave an ex-JW friend of mine when he himself encountered questions on the same topic from people close to him.

Let's take a look at John 3:16-17...

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that WHOEVER believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save THE WORLD through him."

Now, obviously "whoever" and "the world" does not imply a particular number or an elect group, but EVERYONE. No, not everyone accepts the grace of salvation, but it is offered to all, and all MAY freely accept.

We're told similar in 1 Timothy 2:6...

"For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom FOR ALL, to be testified in due time."

"For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died FOR ALL, and therefore all died. And he died FOR ALL, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." - 2 Corinthians 5:14-15


"For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of ALL MEN, specially of those that believe." - 1 Timothy 4:10

It's a matter of mathematics. Does all = 144,000? No, therefore this number is NOT to be taken literally (don't forget that John's Revelation contains prophetic symbology and imagery). If Salvation is offered TO ALL, and if more than 144,000 ACCEPT the grace offered to us, then this shows quite clearly that it's God's intention that no SPECIFIC number be welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven; there is no limit to God's love; there is no limit to the saving graces of Christ "WHOEVER believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).

The 144,000 mentioned in Revelation 7 and 14 are from the tribes of Israel. If we were to take this number literally, then we'd also have to take the fact that they're from the 12 tribes of Israel literally too. Are JWs Israelis? Can they show lineage to the tribes of Israel back to the time of the Old Testament? Ask them for family trees.

The 144,000 are all apparently male virgins too:

"And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads..." - Revelation 14:1

"These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb." - Revelation 14:4

If we are to take the 144,000 literally, then we must also take the 144,000 being male virgins literally too. Is it only then 144,000 male virgins that will be taken into Heaven? What about our wives, daughters, sisters and mothers, etc.?

Jesus said himself that he came to heal the sick. If "the sick" are sinners (the Jews believed that sickness was the inheritant result of sin and generational curses), and if Romans 3:23 tells us that "ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God", then therefore Christ came to save all.

When reading Luke 12:32, it's important to read what's written before that very verse.

In that instance, Jesus is speaking to his disciples and quite possibly a small group of people as somewhat indicated in verse 13. Why would Jesus say "large flock" if he was only speaking to a small group of people at the time?

The use of the term "little flock" is interesting, because there's an underlying binary opposite, i.e. if there's a "little" flock, then there must also be a "large" flock or other flocks varying in size. Else why didn't Jesus just use the term "flock" when saying, "Do not be afraid, flock" (verse 32).

JWs use this verse incorrectly to support their "elect"/144,000 doctrine; they take Luke 12:32 way out of context. And let's be logical for a moment here as well: does 144,000 sound like a "little flock" or a small group of people?

If we were to take Luke 12:32's "little flock" literally, and more notably how the JWs read it, would it then mean that only the people Jesus was speaking to were going to be saved and the rest damned? If JWs are willing to take the "little flock" discourse literally, then they must also concede that that particular message was only intended for that small group of people present at the time, which we know is ridiculous to suggest!

Consider what Jesus meant when he said this before speaking in Matthew 11:

"He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." - Matthew 11:15

Don't we all have "ears to hear"? Therefore Christ's invitation to salvation is to ALL. What Jesus emphasises here is the difference between hearing and listening:

ALL may HEAR Christ's word, but will everyone listen? Christ was ALL to listen, and again we're taken back to John 3:16...

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that WHOEVER believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

It's like when you send out invitations to a birthday party: you may send out a hundred invitations, but does that mean a hundred people are going to turn up? Every hope within you may want/desire the hundred to turn up, but we know that only those that respond to the invitation accordingly will come to the party. If you didn't want a hundred people at the party, you wouldn't have sent out a hundred invitations! Ergo, if God didn't want all to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, he wouldn't have sent His Son for everyone, i.e. "whoever believes in him", and if this was the case, verses like John 3:16 would read dramatically differently. For example:

"For God so loved a portion of the world, he gave his one and only Son, that this portion would believe in him will not perish and have eternal life".

That doesn't sound like an almighty God to me if he can only save an "elect"!

Also consider Christ's instructions to his disciples in Matthew 28:19...

"Therefore go and make disciples of ALL NATIONS, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit..."

It doesn't say "... go and make disciples of 144,000..." or "... go and make disciples of a particular number of nations..." does it?

At that point they were hinting at making a move to head off to the other houses in the street, but I did make sure that I invited them back another Saturday morning if they wanted to talk more about how our beliefs contrast. We exchanged goodbyes and I moved inside to find my wife with her arms crossed over each as she was giving me a look... the look (that "I'm getting rather impatient"/icy look). It was time to get in the car!

* * * * *

As I mentioned earlier: I've got nothing against JWs, but since they came to my house, the home of a devout Catholic, they were going to pay a toll, and that toll was to listen to what I had to say, and to their credit they did so without any protest... even if they didn't like what I had to say!

It's very imporant that when you're defending the Catholic faith or making attempt to point out the grey areas in another person's own faith, that you do so with great gentleness and respect. But if in doubt, adhere to the following steps:

1. Refer to scripture;
2. Refer to history (context); and
3. Use common sense!

I don't expect that that pair of JWs will return to my abode any time soon as others that have said they would return have not, but I felt that after my discussion with them that Saturday morning, common sense of all things prevailed!

Further reading:

... and viewing:

Peace be with you.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My heart's desire is to teach, and not just in the classroom!

I can remember as far back from when I was 18 or 19 years old, wanting to preach and teach others about the goodness of God and the beauty of the Catholic Church. I can remember wanting so desperately to jump up in front of an audience of strangers and start sharing with them everything I knew about Christ and the Catholic Church. Now looking back I can say quite confidently that if I had done so, I would not have been up in front of that audience for long. I mean, I could have told them so much about how much God loves us and what Christ's mission was, but my knowledge about the Catholic Church, even though I was raised in a very good Catholic household, went through the Catholic education system here in Perth (Western Australia), and attended Sunday school and so forth, my overall knowledge of theology was a bucket with a single drop within.

10 years on I have learned so much, and most of my learning has stemmed from a desire to learn more since I started teaching Religious Education in Catholic high schools almost six years ago now. While I'm not "full bottle" on all topics, I know enough to get me by in a discussion with your average cynic of the Catholic Church.

There's a student from the school that I work at that, over the last couple of months, has been coming to me asking questions on certain matters pertaining to the faith or the Church itself. At my last meeting with this student, he was asking about "tenable" excuses to miss Mass. By the end of the discussion this student realised that Mass can only be missed under some pretty severe circumstances and that he himself should begin attending Mass on a more regular basis. Before I left this student so I could go and prepare for my next class, he commented on how I seem to have "an answer for everything" and he described as, and these were his own words, a "Jesus on stand-by". Now, he wasn't suggesting I was some sort of Messiah figure or a Jesus replacement, but I believe he was making a statement on the wisdom and knowledge that I had and my ability to give good answers, maybe not in the same way that Jesus did when cynics and others asked questions of him, but enough to make this young man feel convicted.

It was the "I get it!" moment this student had that made and makes all that time reading, researching, studying, and investigating worthwhile, and I feel greatly upon my heart to share what I know with strangers so that they themselves may also hopefully have "I get it!" moments. I just hope the Lord blesses me with numerous opportunities for me to do so just like my apologetics heroes do (in no particular order):

Tim Staples
Patrick Madrid
Steve Ray
Dave Armstrong
Paul Kelly
Robert Haddad
Vic Scaravilli
Fr. Mitch Pacwa
Fr. Tim Deeter
Sr. Rosalind Moss (for her warmth and compassion)

... and others that teach so confidently and with great patience.

I will never know as much as these people or be as gifted as them, but their zeal for what they do inspires me to want to do more; to reach further out! This is a light I cannot keep hidden under the bed; may the Lord bless me with opportunities to teach others about my Catholic faith!

Addressing Student Questions Part II of II...

A while ago I posted a series of answers to some questions a student of mine had posted on this blog, and due to the intricacy of some of the questions I had decided to divide the Q&A into two parts. You can refresh your memory by visiting Part I of the questions here. Today, I'll be taking care of Part II of the questions. Hopefully there'll be something in there for you that you've always been curious about.


1.) Did the Mary the Mother of God remain a virgin right up to her assumption?
It is believed that Mary remained a virgin for the remainder of her earthly life. Many non-Catholic Christian denominations reject this notion, however, based on what is written in scripture, the Holy Bible. These non-Catholic Christians will maintain that Mary did not remain a virgin and indeed had other children as there are apparent references to the "brothers of Christ" or siblings of Jesus.

A couple of questions any sensible Christian would need to answer then, if they maintain that Mary did not remain a virgin and had other children, are these:

a.) If Mary had other children, then where were they or why weren't they mentioned when Jesus was lost for three days in Jerusalem at the temple during Passover (Luke 2:39-52)?

b.) When Jesus hung on the crucifix with Mary, his mother, and the "disciple whom he loved" (commonly accepted as John the apostle) and charged this disciple with the responsibility of taking Mary into his own home (John 19:26), if Mary had other children, then why wasn't this responsibility issued with them? If such children existed, then this would have been a grave offense as it was customary for Jewish parents to be taken into the homes of their own children.

c.) Why is Jesus referred to as "the son of Mary" and not "a son of Mary" in Mark 6:3?

Yes, "brothers" of Jesus are also mentioned in this passage (James, and Joseph, and Jude, and Simon; and sisters), but it may have also been the case that as Joseph was considerably older than Mary, he very well may have had children from a previous marriage; he may very well have been widowed. So any siblings of Jesus were likely to be step-brothers or step-sisters. They very well may as well have been cousins, but since there was no word in Hebrew or Aramic for "step-brother/sister" or "cousin", "kin" or "kinsfolk" would have been the word used to describe the relationship Jesus had with these others, and the use of the word "brothers/sisters" has been used errnigly.

2.) What does it mean to be Baptised, receive Communion, or to be Confirmed?
Let's start with the basics. The Oxford dictionary defines each of the above as:

Baptism: "the Christian rite of sprinkling a person with water or immersing them in it, symbolizing purification and admission to the Christian Church".

Baptism remits the baptised of Original Sin.

Communion (Holy Communion): "service of Christian worship at which bread and wine are consecrated and shared; the Eucharist".

Confirmation: "the rite at which a baptised person affirms their belief and is admitted as a full member of the Christian [Catholic] Church."

In the Catholic rite of Confirmation, the candidate receives the Holy Spirit in the same way the apostles and other followers of Christ did in the upper room on the feast of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). The gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to the candidate at Confirmation.

So in short, to be baptised means to be received in to the community of Church and to be remitted of Original Sin; to receive Communion is to share in the Eucharistic celebration; and to be Confirmed is for one to affirm their faith in the Catholic faith and receive the Holy Spirit.

Further information:

3.) What parts of the Bible talk about the gifts of the Holy Spirit?
1 Corinthians 12:1-14 (The Holy Spirit/charismatic gifts); Romans 12:6-8 (operative gifts); and Ephesians 4:11 (administrative gifts).

4.) What parts of the Bible talks about the love of God?
This is a very broad question and very difficult to answer with specificity; it is revealed to us in scripture that God loves us abundantly, and this is demonstrated from the beginning of the Old Testament to the end of the New Testament.

As you are aware, God desires that all His children be with Him and that all come to full repentance (2 Peter 3:9), but if I was to pick one verse from scripture that makes commentary on the breadth and depth of God's love for us all, it would be this:

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life." - John 3:16 (NAB)

There are other verses in the Bible I could point to but in fear of using up all the bandwidth available on the Internet telling you about how much God loves us, it might be easier to suggest that looking to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John would be the best place to start making attempt to comprehend of how much God truly loves every single one of us.

5.) How do our prayers effect/influence God's plan?
Great question!

God definitely has a plan for each and every single one of us, and He, ultimately, wants us to take the path that will lead us to Him, but here's the thing: we have free will and sometimes we don't do as God desires and we may stray from that path. The good thing to know is that we can always get back on that path by centring ourselves on God and using prayer as a means to discover His will for us.

Can prayer change God's plan for us? In short, no it can't, as God knows what's best for us and He alone knows our heart's truest desires (1 Chronicles 28:9). In the end, what we think, do, or say in life determines how God's plan works in our lives; it all comes back to free will.

I've certainly experienced times in my own life where I've heard the voice of God stirring within me and being lead to do something. At times I've ignored it and rejected it quite violently. Now looking back I wish I hadn't because much hurt and pain came from that rejection of that stirring from within ("...Oh, that today you would hear his voice: Do not harden your hearts..." - Psalm 5:7-8).

The best thing we can do is to pray so that we may know God's plan. God answers all of our prayers, but we have to accept that the answer may be "no" on certain things and this is not necessarily a bad thing.

God knows best and by the grace of God we may grow to accept how His will works in our lives.

6.) How is Love, Hope and Faith defined in the Bible?
Can I suggest you read the following as a starting point?

Love: 1 Corinthians 13; Matthew 25:34-40; John 13:14-15; John 13:34-35; John 14:15; John 15:9; John 16:27; Hebrews 13:1-3.

Hope: 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Peter 1:13; 1 Peter 3:14-15; Galatians 5:5; Romans 15:13; Jeremiah 29:11-13.

Faith: Romans 4:3; Romans 5:1; 1 Corinthians 2:5; Ephesians 6:16; 2 Timothy 4:7; James 2:14-26; 1 Peter 1:9; John 14:1; Romans 10:4; 2 Timothy 1:13; Revelation 3:20.

* * * * *

I hope these responses have been sufficient.

God bless. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"I was never told that about Catholicism..."

The most important part in apologetics is not what we know or how much we know, but how we use what we know. I mean, it's good to know a lot and to be fully armoured, so to speak, but all that knowledge is good for nothing if you don't know how to defend the faith in a respectful manner.

Yesterday afternoon I sent out an email to my colleagues to join me in prayer every morning for the next nine working days to pray a novena to St. Jude (patron saint of desperate causes) for other colleagues of ours whose infant child has a brain tumour that even after two attempts to remove fully, remains and things are looking rather grim. We've done a few small things to help support our colleagues during this difficult time (e.g. prepared a gift hamper and so forth), so I thought the very least we can do as a school community is offer our prayers.

Anyway, I received an email from another colleague this morning, and, well, here's what they had to say (I've omitted their name to protect identities):

It's important to note that this colleague of mine comes from a non-Catholic Christian background.

Here's how I responded to them:

... And how my colleague responded to this. I have to admit I was expecting the worst:


Fulton J. Sheen once said, "There are not more than 100 people in the world who truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they perceive to be the Catholic Church."

There's perception, and then there's reality.

* * * * *
In the end I was glad I was able to help clarify the matter for this workmate of mine, and I fully understood what they meant when they said that people can get defensive about their faith. I believe people get defensive about their faith when they're asked questions about it because it may be that they do not fully understand their own faith and therefore do not know how to defend it.

Peter tells us in his first epistle:

“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” – 1 Peter 3:15

The most important part of that verse if scripture to me personally, is not the “be prepared” part, but Peter’s instruction to do so “with gentleness and respect”.

We don’t soften hearts by hardening our own.

Friday, November 13, 2009

"Total Depravity of Man"?

Total Depravity, short for "Total Depravity of Man" is the 'T' in John Calvin's (i.e. Calvinism) "TULIP" doctrine of faith and living. In brief and as I understand it, the doctrine of Total Depravity dictates than all men (sic.) born into the world are enslaved to sin and are unable to choose or follow God (i.e. Jesus Christ) to accept salvation as it is freely offered. How does a person become "saved" then if they are unable to accept salvation (twhich is offered freely) and choose to follow in the footsteps of Christ? What ever happened to free will?

What you'll read in this blog entry is a discussion I had on an online forum with a notable Youtube "personality", a Calvinist. For the sake of his own privacy, let's call him "Saul". What I present to Saul in this discussion is a simple scenario outlining how the doctrine of Total Depravity is flawed and is simply unworkable. Before you read on, refamiliarise yourself with the definition of Total Depravity provided in the opening paragraph of this entry; knowledge of what the Calvinists believe is key to pointing out the flaws in their doctrine when lined up with what Catholics and other mainstream Christians believe about salvation and free will.

And now, the discussion...

Saul: Before salvation, he/she is dead in his/her trespasses and sins and is incapable of doing any good or choosing anything outside the realm of sin.

Me: Let's apply that logic to the following scenario: A sinner comes to Christ. By coming to accept Christ they are "saved", but how can they do this while "being dead in their trespasses" and "incapable of doing any good or choosing anything outside beyond the realm of sin"? Coming to Christ is "good fruit" (a WORK requiring FAITH), but by your logic this is impossible because the person is "dead in their trespasses" and incapable of good. You've actually made it impossible for a sinner to be saved.

If before salvation a man/woman is "incapable of doing any good or choosing anything outside beyond the realm of sin", then by this logic they are in a state of PERPETUAL sin, unable to break the chain! Sin is an offense against God; sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus which achieves our salvation. Accepting Christ as Lord lies within complete and utter obedience to Jesus and God. How does one "incapable of doing anything beyond the realm of sin" then become saved?

Saul: I've made it impossible for the sinner to "come to Christ" on his own or "with Christ." Christ must completely resurrect the sinner from the dead; give him a new heart so He we freely love God in return because He first loved him.

Me: Yes, but this requires complete obedience and submission to Christ, which, by the explanation you provided earlier, is impossible due to the nature and pure definition of what sin is. You've either explained it poorly or you're wrong, so please just answer this question for me: How does one "incapable of doing anything beyond the realm of sin" then saved if coming to Christ means rendering yourself in obedience and submission to Him (i.e. repenting FROM sin)?

Saul: Obedience and submission to Christ is only what a believer does, obviously. I see no problem with what I presented earlier dealing with man's inability to do anything beyond the realm of sin. What is key to understanding all this is the heart. Does the heart desire God or His ways. No, unless God has performed a miracle or regeneration upon his heart. Only from this point and on will the regenerated sinner progressively obey and submit to Christ with his new heart of flesh.

Me: But even a sinner can believe, and this is what faith allows us to do: to come to Christ and repent for our sins because we BELIEVE that He can deliver us from our sin. You said "[before salvation] one is incapable of doing anything beyond the realm of sin". Sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus. Coming (submission) to Christ is NOT diametrically opposed to the obedience of Him. The explanation you offered earlier does not permit this to occur.

Saul: Yes, a sinner can believe... only a regenerated sinner. A sinner is not just a reprobate. Don't get confused with that. God saves.

Me: A sinner can believe BEFORE they are "regenerated" by Christ, else how do they come to Him in the first place? They MUST believe in order to be saved; they must have faith, even as a sinner. But the explanation you offered earlier did not allow this: it made ALL sinners "reprobates" with no ability or capacity whatsoever to come to Christ in an ACT of faith. This begs the question: If Jesus came to save all/the lost (e.g. Luke 19:10), is there really such thing as a person beyond the hope of salvation?

Saul: There is no scripture support for the natural man believing in the true and living God 'before' he or she is regenerated by Christ. God grants faith (Phil. 1:29). God grants repentance (2 Tim. 2:24-26). So, it is God who works all these things for His glory to those He has adopted as sons in Christ since before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1-11). A reprobate, which is how we all start out (no one is born a Christian), does not bring himself to life.

Me: You haven't answered the question: If Jesus came to save all/the lost (Luke 19:10), is there really such thing as a person beyond the hope of salvation? Consider the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32): the son made a DECISION to leave his father's house and squander his inheritance. After realising what he had done, he decided to go back but was fearful his father would reject him (v21). His father waited for his return (v20). His father welcomed him back lovingly ("he was lost and is found").

Saul: Sorry I missed your final question at the end of your last response. I was busy clearing up the misconceptions that led to that question. Steve, an unelect will 'never' desire to "come back to God" or "seek the true and living God." It never happens. There are elect, who are not saved yet, who reject God over and over and over until God works a miracle of regeneration in their heart. God did not die for all humans. He died for all elect. Bible says He died for many (Matt. 26:28;Isaiah 53:12).

Me: Jesus died for an "elect"? Are you sure about that? Have you considered the following: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." - John 3:16

It doesn't say that "the few" or "the many" or "the elect" will have everlasting life, but "whosoever believeth" which means "ANYONE who believes". And then there 2 Corinthians 5:15, "And He [Christ] died for all...".

You actually did a poor job in clearing things up (or you actually didn't) because all you did was respond with double negatives. And you've done a pretty good job at dodging THIS question which you still have not answered:

If Jesus came to save all/the lost (Luke 19:10), is there really such thing as a person beyond the hope of salvation?

All the question requires is a 'yes' or 'no' response, and if you like you can justify that response.

P.S. Read:
1 Timothy 2:1-4
2 Peter 3:9
Ezekiel 33:11

Saul: I'm sorry if i wasn't clear or if i dodged your question. i'm not trying to dodge your questions. The reason i responded with a "limited" verse was to help you notice that your assumption of Jesus dieing for everyone who ever lived needs re-thinking. If one verses says that Jesus died for "many," then what does the "all" mean in Luke (among other verses)?

Me: My friend, I make no "assumption". Perhaps you need to be paying attention to Matthew 7:5 as well. ;-)

Saul: Whether you're trying to make an assumption or not, you beg the question assuming that "all" means everyone on planet Earth without exception.

Me: Nope, the only exception ("condition" if you will) is that they must accept Christ; render submission to Him, and anyone may do so as John 3:16 implies. So Saul, I'm still waiting for your answer:

If Jesus came to save all/the lost (Luke 19:10), is there really such thing as a person beyond the hope of salvation?

All the question requires is a 'yes' or 'no' response, and if you like you can justify that response.

Saul: You don't seem to understand that your question assumes something to not be true. Jesus did not die for "all of planet Earth." Jesus died for "all the elect." There is two assumptions there. Only one can be right. We determine which assumption is right by examining the whole of scripture.

John 3:16 is limited as well -- "those who believeth" are the "world" John 3:16 is referring to. No problem there at all.
Me: But ALL can exercise their free will TO believe (and vice versa): "whosoever believeth in Him...".

And please stop avoiding the question; a 'yes' or 'no' response will suffice:

If Jesus came to save all/the lost (Luke 19:10), is there really such thing as a person beyond the hope of salvation?

Saul: Not everyone believes in Him. So, your John 3:16 interpretation doesn't work. The "world" is only "those who believeth." It's limited. Also, you're avoided my correcting you on your question. "All" does not always mean "everyone on planet Earth." So, your question is a fallacy.

Me: Dodged that one Matrix-style!

No, not everyone believes in Him, but that can change now, can't it? I guess that's why there are people like us in the world to help bring the message of Christ to "the lost". It reminds me of what happened to Paul on the way to Damascus.

My question is a "fallacy" because you either cannot or will not answer it, which is a shame because I've heard so much about you, yet you disappoint me. Thus, I'm going to give you one final chance. You know what the question is; I've repeated it often enough now.
* * * * *
Blogger's note: It's at this point I no longer hear back (i.e. get a response from "Saul"), but in one final attempt to entice a response, I put something else forward to him.
* * * * *
Me: Have a read of what one verse AFTER John 3:16 says:

"For God sent not his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world may be saved by him." - John 3:17

Interesting choice of words there: "the world".

Hmmm, "the world" = all? No, that would be too obvious. ;-)

... And I'm still waiting for your answer. ;-)

* * * * *
This discussion took place three months ago; I'm still waiting to hear back from "Saul".
* * * * *

What I learned from this discussion with this Calvinist, especially where apologetics is concerned, is that it's not about how much knowledge of scripture you have or how many scripture verses you know by heart, but rather it's about using what you already know effectively even if you don't know a great deal. When I had this discussion with "Saul", I didn't know much about the Calvinist "Total Depravity" doctrine or their doctrine of the "elect". What I did know, however, is that Christ Our Lord did was not sent to die for a clique or niche group of people, but for everyone so that we may be saved, and that all have the ability to give their heart, mind and soul to Him even if we are the worst of sinners.

It was while listening to a Catholic Answers Live podcast during the week that I heard the Catholic Church described in the most beautiful way, which so eloquently sums up the church that the Lord Jesus Christ established here on earth:

"The Catholic Church is a haven for saints and a refuge for sinners".

Christ has given us a place in which we may make our home in Him, so that we may strive and continue to live in holiness (Ephesians 2:10) and so that we may meet God wherever it is we are in life at that point in our lives, be we on the path to holiness already or far removed from it but willing to turn our lives around.

"The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." - 2 Peter 3:9 (NIV)

God could not be almighty, all loving and all forgiving if He sent his Son to save an "elect" only or if sinners are unable to do any work beyond the realm of sin. If this was the case, then you could argue that God intentionally set another "elect" up for failure and created flawed beings, i.e. could a perfect creator still be a "perfect creator" if what he creates is imperfect? Wouldn't this creator then be an imperfect creator?

God created us in His image and likeness so that we may freely choose to live as He desired us to live. Sin entered the world and corrupted our perfection, and it is sin that pushes us away from God.

"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." - 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)

That "way out" is Jesus Christ, and anyone may believe in Him if they so desire; no "ifs" no "buts".

"All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved." - Mark 13:13 (NIV)


Thursday, November 05, 2009

Yet another quick thought: The Catholic Church = "legalistic"?!?

One of my online acquaintances, a self-proclaimed "non-denominational Christian", recently confided in me and told me he could never ever be a Catholic because he thinks it (the Catholic Church) is too "legalistic".

Now, let me be honest: I thought it was a pretty weak excuse to use, but this, unfortunately, is one of the initial confronting barriers a non-Catholic will come across when even entertaining the idea of becoming a Catholic: all those rules; things you can and cannot do; abiding by "law". But the more I thought about this, wasn't Jesus himself "legalistic"? That is, if we define "legalistic" as the exhortation of others to obey and live by a set of rules or a rule of law, then anyone, especially Jesus could be seen as a "legalist". But this is not necessarily a bad thing. We know that laws are established to create boundaries and help guide our moral compasses, therefore serving our best interests and protecting our dignities. God gives us His law (natural and divine) so that we may be set straight and be best directed/guided to love and live in Him.

In Matthew 19:16-21 when Jesus said to the rich man, "If you want to enter life, obey the commandments" and "Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and 'love your neighbor as yourself" don't you think he was being "legalistic" here? He was of course instructing the man to obey the law of God. Now, you could argue that Jesus here was making an example of a person to "clinged" to his earthly possessions and this is what makes it hard for a "rich man" to merit eternal life, but Christ, of course, gives the man new instructions (laws) in order to merit eternal life:

"Jesus answered, 'If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'" - Matthew 19:21 (NIV)

Here are a few other instances where Christ instructs other to obey God's law; where he is also being "legalistic":

John 15:9-12; Matthew 22:35-40; Matthew 5:29-30; Matthew 5:38-39; Matthew 5:40-42; Matthew 6:1; Matthew 6:33; etc.

But what's the point here? If we didn't have "legalism", there wouldn't be an order of things; there would be a sacramental, spiritual, formative, and doctrinal anarchy. God is a god of order, not chaos, and we're instructed throughout scripture to conduct ourselves in a matter of order:

"But let all things be done decently, and according to order." - 1 Corinthians 14:40 (D-R)

If you're going to argue that the Church is "legalistic", then you also accuse Christ of being "legalistic", and yet you follow his law without complaint? Are Christ's instructions not also "law" (Matthew 5:17)?

Order brings unity, and this is precisely what Christ wanted for all:

"Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no schisms among you; but that you be perfect in the same mind, and in the same judgment." - 1 Corinthians 1:10 (D-R)

"That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." - John 17:21 (D-R)

Lawlessness separates; order unifies.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Is it "life"?

Definition '1' of the Oxford dictionary defines "life" as:

"the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth and functional activity." []

In order for life to be created, existing organic elements must be present and of course must be compatible in order to produce an offspring. A new creation will not manifest unless the conditions for creation are met. In the case of creation, a single male sperm must penetrate the outer-most membrane of the ovum in order for fertilisation to occur. The sperm and the ovum are organic living matter, and thus newly created organic matter is the product of this fusion: the zygote.

Cellular divisions begin almost immediately after conception has taken place; life, in its simplest definition, has begun and continues during the nine-month gestation period and will continue until natural death. There is no denying that even in womb in the very earlier stages of human development, there is life, thus artificial termination of the unborn inside the womb, by definition, is the termination of life.

But is it "human"?

Philosophers have argued endlessly on when the growing child inside the womb in considered to be "human". After all, what we consider to be human is two arms, two legs, two eyes, hair, eyebrows, fingers, finger-nails, etc., i.e. something that "resembles" a human being. We are not, however, conceived this way, that is when conception takes place, distinguishing human features are not present, at least not yet.

Even pro-choicers and pro-abortionists agree that in order for human conception to take place, one human male sperm and one human female ovum is required for fertilisation where, as afore-mentioned, life begins and the life is in its very early stages of human development. The zygote is a human zygote; the embryo is a human embryo; the fetus is a human fetus. There is no denying that the abortion of a child at ANY stage of its development inside the womb is the destruction of human life.

The law (the courts) will say that the human zygote, embryo and fetus (any stage of human development) is not legally human, at least not until birth, but let's keep in mind that legally and by law slavery was [in the past] acceptable; that in some parts of the world polygamy is acceptable; in some parts of the world it is illegal to sleep naked; in some parts of the world bestiality is legal; and right here in Australia children, while they are not allowed to purchase cigarettes, they can smoke them. What's the point? Well sometimes, actually, MOST of the time, the law does not make sense, or at least it is driven by someone's or a party's agenda, i.e.the law may be designed to discriminate or benefit.

So what makes it okay to take human life while it is still developing inside the womb or even weeks away from natural birth? What's the excuse? Is it now the concept of "personhood"? Definition '1' of the Oxford dictionary defines "Person" as:

"a human being regarded as an individual." []

Is it a human "being"? Yes it is! The zygote, embryo and fetus are all states of being human, i.e. stage of human development. By merely existing, a child inside the womb is demonstrating the human state at any given time. In other words, this is what a human looks like inside the womb in the first week, first month, first trimester, second trimester, 30th week, etc. It is certainly a human being, no matter what stage of development it's in. Being human is more than just having two arms, two legs, two eyes, two ears, etc. Don't forget that science can determine species by examining any part of its tissue or bodily fluids. If a chimpanzee and a human being were victims in an obliterating explosion, scientists could determine species by examining tissue or fluid samples and distinguish one from the other because of basic genetic differences.

When does a human become a person? Is it when the human can express individuality in a given manner? While a zygote, embryo or fetus cannot express individuality, tangibly, for example like uttering its name, where it lives, what it does for a living, or showing what colour eyes it has, hair it has, like we all can do, scientifically it is already an individual. Already, biologically, the newly created life is unlike any other conceived before or after it, even in the case of identical (monozygotic) twins, although differences between monozygotic twins manifest depending on when egg division takes place (more intricate DNA studies can determine very subtle differences in DNA and genome structure - A couple of distinguishing differences in monozygotic twins is their finger prints which begin to form roughly eight weeks in to gestation, and the pattern in which their taste buds take form (no taste bud "arrangement" between people is alike).

In conclusion:

Yes, it is life;
Yes, it is human;
Yes, by definition it is a person in that individuality has already manifested, even at conception - it is a unique and distinguishable creation;
Yes, abortion is the destruction of an innocent life.

We can only hope, as alluded to earlier, that the courts and legislative councils world-wide will come to their senses and recognise that humanhood begins at conception, and that just as killing a child outside the womb is considered murder, as is terminating the life during gestation. Making abortions "lawful" does not make it right.

It's time to provide life-giving alternatives to abortion, and the first step is education! Everyone needs to be aware of the miracle and scientific wonder that takes place at conception and that should end at natural death.

* * * * *
For information on what the Catholic Church teaches on the issue of abortion, then please visit the following sites (recommended reading): - Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraphs 2270 to 2275). - Scriptural and doctrinal pro-life arguments. - Information on fetal development. - The principle of Double Effect.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The significance of the "Keys to the Kingdom" (Matthew 16:19)

The verse of scripture that will shock the nerve of the anti-Catholic's brain, no doubt, is the use of Matthew 16:18-19 when used in defence of the establishment of the Catholic Church and the primacy of St. Peter, the first pope. This is what Matthew 16:18-19 says:

"And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven."

It's verse 19 that I want to pay particular attention to in this blog entry, however, namely because there is a significance behind the handing on of the "keys to the kingdom", and for Peter the responsibility being the key bearer entails. Let's explore the significance in layman's terms first.

When someone is given the "keys to the city" (traditionally an American custom) in contemporary times, it is because they have done something to earn them, i.e. they are awarded the keys to the city in recognition of some sort of achievement or accomplishment. It's not uncommon today for olympic athletes, humanitarians, civil servants, etc., to receive the keys to the city. In medieval times when when walled cities were guarded during the day and locked at night, key bearers could enter and leave the city as they pleased as trusted friends of city residents.

In more simpler terms, let's say I go away for a while and I need someone to look after my house while I'm gone, I'm going to give my house keys to someone I trust without reservation, right? My house holds my treasures and while I'm not physically present, I would the "best person for the job" to be my key bearer. I might even trust the person enough to have a house key cut for them so that they may enter my home any time if they so desire. A person entrusted with a key to another person's home, obviously, must be responsible and must not abuse this priveledge, much like in the case of the key bearer in medieval times.

The key bearer's role was authoritative as the honour of being the key bearer brought with it culpability.

And now, the scriptural significance of the "keys to the kingdom".

In Isaiah chapter 22, the prophet (Isaiah) laments the devastation of Judah. He foretells the deprivation of Sobna ("Shebna" in other translations), and the substitution of Eliacim ("Eliakim" in other translations) as steward of the kingdom:

"And I will drive thee out From thy station, and depose thee from thy ministry. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliacim the son of Helcias, And I will clothe him with thy robe, and will strengthen him with thy girdle, and will give thy power into his hand: and he shall be as a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Juda. And I will lay the key of the house of David upon his shoulder: and he shall open, and none shall shut: and he shall shut, and none shall open." - Isaiah 22:19-22 (D-R)

Broken down, verse by verse (; John Salza, 2001-2007):

Isaiah 22:19 - Shebna is described as having an "office" and a "station." An office, in order for it to be an office, has successors. In order for an earthly kingdom to last, a succession of representatives is required. This was the case in the Old Covenant kingdom, and it is the case in the New Covenant kingdom which fulfills the Old Covenant. Jesus our King is in heaven, but He has appointed a chief steward over His household with a plan for a succession of representatives.

Isaiah 22:20 - In the old Davidic kingdom, Eliakim succeeds Shebna as the chief steward of the household of God. The kingdom employs a mechanism of dynastic succession. King David was dead for centuries, but his kingdom is preserved through a succession of representatives.

Isaiah 22:21 - Eliakim is called “father” or “papa” of God's people. The word Pope used by Catholics to describe the chief steward of the earthly kingdom simply means papa or father in Italian. This is why Catholics call the leader of the Church "Pope." The Pope is the father of God's people, the chief steward of the earthly kingdom and Christ's representative on earth.

Isaiah 22:22 - we see that the keys of the kingdom pass from Shebna to Eliakim. Thus, the keys are used not only as a symbol of authority, but also to facilitate succession. The keys of Christ's kingdom have passed from Peter to Linus all the way to our current Pope with an unbroken lineage for almost 2,000 years.

St. Peter, in Matthew 16:18-19 was named, under the authority of Christ the Lord himself, steward of the seat of the earthly kingdom of heaven, what would be the visible sign to the world that Christ dwells with us still and that his message is to be heard by and disciples made of all nations and that all may be baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).

Many anti-Catholics will argue that St. Peter is not the foundation of the church, but Christ is. This is an argument of semantics: Christ is the foundation of Christendom; Christianity. St. Peter, however, as it tells us quite clearly in Matthew 16:18, is the foundation, the rock, on which Christ builds his church!

Think of it this way: Jesus is the project manager, and St. Peter is the contractor. Jesus gives St. Peter the authority to build ("And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven", Matthew 16:19) and St. Peter and the disciples are given instructions (Matthew 28:19-20) and guidance (John 14:23-29) to expand their developments throughout the world ("...called 'Catholic' because it extends over all the world, from one end of the earth to the other" - Cyril of Jerusalem, 315-386AD).


The key symbolises trust and authority, ergo, the keys to the kingdom of heaven are given to one that is most trusted, a "first among firsts", a most loyal and stable character, and this character is given binding authority.

There is no authority greater than that given by the Lord Jesus Christ, and for almost 2000 years the key has been passed on from one pope to the other, starting with St. Peter and now sitting with Pope Benedict XVI. This is why the Vatican's own flag has a set of keys on its canvas:

The Church on which the successor of St. Peter sits, to this day carries out the instructions given by Christ and will do so until the day of Christ's return. The Church remains a light to the world (Matthew 5:14), giving witness to the good news that Christ and the heavenly Father desires for all men (sic.) to hear and allowing his Holy Spirit to work in each of us, so that the heavenly kingdom may be filled with souls filled with love for God, made possible with the price His Son paid for us and our salvation.

"That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." - John 17:21

Sunday, October 18, 2009

From Daniel to Matthew: Prophecy fulfilled and ever fulfilling!

I'm still a complete and utter newbie when it comes to Biblical prochecy and attaining a full understanding of how the Old Testament contrasts to the New Testament, but a friend of mine asked me a question about the prophecies in Daniel (namely in contrast to John's Revelation), and not knowing a great deal about them I began to read through the book and I came across this particular verse:

"But in the days of those kingdoms the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, and his kingdom shall not be delivered up to another people, and it shall break in pieces, and shall consume all these kingdoms, and itself shall stand for ever." - Daniel 2:44 (D-R)

Now, I know the New Testament a lot better than the Old Testament (yes, this is something I'm hoping to change; I'd like to know both testaments as well as I do just one), and it made me think, "Where have I seen this before?" because I had definitely read something similar in the New Testament. That's when I turned to Matthew:

"And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven." - Matthew 16:18-19 (D-R)


"... a kingdom that shall never be destroyed... and itself shall stand for ever." - Daniel 2:44

"... and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." - Matthew 16:18

Could I be reading too much into it? Possibly! But I've tried to read it with other sets of eyes (figuratively speaking) and played devil's advocate with it, and I can't seem to untie the connection here. But then again it may not be for me to untie! Could another parallel be drawn like this one? Could another even be convoluted?

In my next blog entry I'll be writing on the significance of Peter being handed the "keys of the kingdom" by Christ, but this Daniel to Matthew parallel blew my mind!

Until then,

Pax vobiscum
(Peace be with you).

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Another Quick Thought: Catholics, the Communion of Saints, and "Necromancy"...

Stoning of St. Stephen (

This is an extract of a private message I sent to a fellow Youtube user, an "ex"-Catholic, that claimed that prayers to the saints (e.g. St. Anthony, St. Jerome, St. Joseph, St. Anne, etc.), apart from being idolatry (that topic I covered a couple of blog entries ago), was necromancy, the "conjuration of the spirits of the dead for purposes of magically revealing the future or influencing the course of events" ( and thus in breach of the Commandments. This Youtube user referred me to a part of the Old Testament where this takes place and why it is forbidden. I went on to explain why praying to (i.e praying through the saints) is acceptable.

In the Old Testament; NECROMANCY is forbidden, i.e. conjuring the dead to commune or attempt dialogue with the deceased. The Lord, in 1 Samuel 28:3-25, abandons King Saul (in disguise) because he has consulted the witch of Endor to commune with the prophet Samuel. God was angry at at King Saul because he failed to wait upon the Lord as God told him to. Now, when Catholics pray to the saints, we're not actually attempting dialogue with them or expecting them to speak back; we're simply asking them to pray for us because they are close to God; they intercede for us; all supplications are put to God.

In light of that: in Mark 15:34-36, as Jesus is hanging on the crucifix, he cries out to God, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which is translated to, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" but the bystanders mishear what Jesus uttered and believed he was crying out to Elijah:

"One of them ran, soaked a sponge with wine, put it on a reed, and gave it to him to drink, saying, 'Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to take him down.'" (v36)

Don't you think it's strange, based on what they [mistakenly] heard, that instead of condemning Jesus for attempting to "commune with the dead" by calling out to Elijah, they waited to see if Elijah would actually come and take him down from the cross? Yes, Jesus calls out to his Father, but the bystanders don't hear it that way. Why didn't the bystanders rebuke Jesus for the sin of necromancy if he was calling out to a "dead guy"?

The Youtube user then attempted to make his case with 1 Timothy 2:5, which says this:

"For there is one God, and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus..."

This is all well and good, but Jesus is the "one mediator of God and men" for our Salvation (redemption), and let's not forget what is said in 1 Timothy 2:1-4 right before this brief discourse on Christ as our mediator for Salvation:

"I desire therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men: For kings, and for all that are in high station: that we may lead a quiet and a peaceable life in all piety and chastity. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth."

Paul, in his letter to Timothy, is actually instructing us to pray for one another so that we may be led to God who wants all men to be saved and "come to knowledge of the truth".

Now, you could argue that Paul is exhorting the living to pray for each other, but as the saints in Heaven are no longer bound by the weight of sin as men are on earth (Romans 3:23, 1 John 1:8), and if the heavenly are aware of the affairs of men (sic.) on earth (Luke 15:10), wouldn't it actually be better for us to ask the saints to intercede for us rather than asking the earthly, those that are in as much need of Salvation as we are?

Ultimately, all prayers are directed to and are answered by God, but this does not mean we cannot have others praying (interceding) for us. If I were to ask you right now to pray for me, would you then be interfering or standing in between myself and God? Don't you then become a mediator? No, certainly not, because I wouldn't come to you to be "saved" (to seek Salvation), but I could come to you to ask you to pray for me as James 5:16 instructs:

"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."

Asking the righteous to pray for us is actually supported in the Old Testament as well:

"The LORD detests the sacrifice of the wicked,

but the prayer of the upright pleases him." - Proverbs 15:8

"The LORD is far from the wicked
but he hears the prayer of the righteous." - Provers 15:29

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For more information about saints and why they are important to Catholics, then I recommend visiting the following websites to learn more:

God bless.