We continue with our message series God’s Not Dead. In this series, we are looking at some evidential proofs for the existence of God. This series is purely educational and informative, because I strongly believe that all of us Catholics have no iota of doubt about the existence of God. So this is not even a topic of discussion for us Christians because we are a people of faith and wisdom. As Psalm 14:1 says, “Fools say in their hearts, there is no God.” We are not fools, so we believe there is God. But when we encounter people who don’t believe in God, with our knowledge and faith in God, we can talk to them about God.
Not too long ago, atheists were haunted by regret. Even as they denied God’s existence, they recognized that a world with God would be better than one without God. For example, Pascal Blaise (1623-1662) was a French philosopher, mathematician, and physicist, who proposed an argument for the existence of God known as “Pascal’s Wager.” This argument posits that humans bet with their lives that God either exists or does not exist. Pascal argues that, “A rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God. If God does not actually exist, such a person will have only a finite loss (some pleasure, luxury, etc.), whereas he or she stands to receive infinite gains as represented by (eternity in heaven and avoid infinite losses eternity in hell).”
St Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), a Dominican friar, a philosopher, theologian and a Catholic Priest, outlined five ways to prove the existence of God. He claims that these “ways” prove that a God must exist for the universe and nature to have come into being. The five ways are:
God is a supernatural Being who alone exists of himself, and we believe in his existence.
—Fr. Celestine Tyowua, Parochial Vicar
In this fourth week of our current message series, God’s Not Dead, we want to look at the reality of Hell. Atheists argue that a loving God cannot create Hell. Because there is no Hell, there is no God. But more and more “religious people” also are rejecting the biblical doctrine of Hell. They contend that a God of love and mercy could not create such a place as Hell and confine man, who is created in his own image, to such a horrible place for eternity.
If there is an eternal Hell, you are entitled to know about it to be warned thereby. If the notion of a Hell of torment is a doctrine of men, you are certainly entitled to know that too. It would be morally wrong to teach the idea of a burning Hell just to scare people into doing certain things.
The fact of sin’s existence proves that there is a Hell. From the Bible, we learn sin is a “transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). But if there were no penalty imposed for breaking the law, the law would be worthless. Take, for example, the laws that govern speed on our highways. We know that if we disobey these laws, we will be charged. So, if there were no laws to regulate speed, men could drive at any speed they desired and not be guilty of any crime. But in order to make the laws effective, there are penalties for their violations and people are charged with enforcing them.
In the same way, the law of God would be meaningless if there were no penalty for its transgression. The fact of a penalty for the violation of God’s law is an incentive for people to obey him rather than transgress his laws. Sin, the violation of God’s law, is an unquestionable reality; therefore Hell, the penalty for sin also must be a reality.
The Bible ascribes many characteristics to God. He is described as love but is also described as a God of justice. Neither of these characteristics should be exaggerated as to exclude the other. Some have supposed that, since God is a God of great love, he could not possibly bring suffering to anyone for any reason. But since he is also a God of justice and holiness, he must punish sin.
The book of Hebrews makes this very same argument about the necessary punishment for sin. “Therefore, we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. For if the message declared through the angels was valid, and every transgression or disobedience received a just penalty, how can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? It was declared at first through the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him” (Hebrews 2:1-3).
God must punish those who break his law. Since his law is the highest and holiest of all laws. Hell exists because God is a God of Love and is a God of Justice.
—Fr. Celestine Tyowua, Parochial Vicar
In our current message series, God’s Not Dead, we’re looking at the scientific and philosophical evidence for the existence of God. We want to grow in our faith by understanding the reasoned basis for what we believe.
One of the most common arguments for atheism is the imperfect universe. How could an omniscient, omnipotent, perfect God create a universe with so many inherent design defects? Any earthly manufacturer who had sent a product to market with the same kind of built-in flaws would surely have been sued many times over for products liability and ultimately forced into bankruptcy. Consequently, the universe could not have been created by an intelligent mind. Or so the argument goes.
As a result, many skeptics and non-believers turn to naturalistic explanations for the origin of life on Earth and the development of humankind, Darwin’s theory of evolution being the most common. Indeed, evolution is an attractive alternative to the theory of intelligent design because apparent imperfections in the natural order can be easily be explained by a process that does not involve God and does not have humans in mind. In this view, design defects are not attributable to an intelligent mind that should have known better.
But this misunderstands who God is and how he works, which is something that religious people in the course of the centuries frequently have misunderstood. In the gospel reading this week, for instance, the Pharisees condemn Jesus for eating with so-called “sinners” because they are seeking a perfect order. In response, Jesus sets them straight with three parables about seeking the lost. With God, there are no rejects and the imperfect are never really lost.
Today there are many of us who are still seeking a perfect Church. All are not welcome in their eyes. But our vision is to welcome the unchurched and to create an irresistible environment for those people who don’t like or feel uncomfortable in church and may not know all the words to every prayer. We don’t have a dress code. We don’t enforce silence. We just try to love and accept everyone who comes through those doors, which is what Saint Paul means in the second reading when he says Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. He loved the unchurched and so should we.
With a tremendous flash of light and energy, a perfect universe came into being billions of years ago. It was created in perfect harmony. Whatever “defects” our limited minds can accurately identify in the created order are the result of human folly and disobedience. Yet, God is not a God of the perfect, and it is God’s magnificent intelligent design that brings the imperfect to perfection through the love of his Son, Jesus Christ.
—Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Everything we do is built on our mission “to help each other find our way in Christ,” our vision “to spark curiosity in spiritual growth,” and our overarching church goals to:
Over the summer months, we’ve answered questions about the Catholic faith in our message series called FAQ. We also considered the wisdom of the Book of Proverbs in a series called Fool Proof, and we tried to correct some common misinterpretations of the Bible in our most recent series, Bible Oddities.
Today, we begin another adventure with a brand new theme for the year that we’re calling, Grow 2 Go! Focusing on the fourth of our five church goals, we’ll spend the year reflecting on how to GROW spiritually, so that next year we’ll be even more ready 2 GO and love others.
We kick off our regular preaching season this weekend with an intriguing new message series that we’re calling, God’s Not Dead. Based on Rice Broocks’ book and the subsequent 2014 movie by the same name, we’ll take a close look at the overwhelming evidence for the existence of God from science itself. During the series, we plan to debunk the myth that science and religion are mortal enemies and demonstrate that our faith actually is deeply rooted in reason, as well as the rational observation of our universe.
Our next series, The Case for Christ, beginning in mid-October likewise will examine the historical evidence for belief in Christ. Following the same pattern, our Advent series, Expect Miracles, will look at how and why God sometimes chooses to intervene and break through history in a dramatic and unusual way. Our series in the new year will help us to grow by learning what Christ believed and following how he lived. Our final series for the year during the Easter season will help us identify our unique, God-given purpose in life and answer the question, What On Earth Am I Here For?
Even those who are already convinced of God’s existence, the divine nature of Christ, the reality of supernatural miracles, and the benefits of following the teachings and lifestyle of Jesus will find this year to be valuable in equipping them to live out their purpose and speak more openly and confidently about their own spiritual development.
Join us each Sunday in church or online for a powerful experience in spiritual growth.
—Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
The Bible is full of truth that unpacking it often involves peeling away layers before we understand what God is really saying. We have tried to correctly interpret some of the passages that are commonly misinterpreted.
In the first week we looked at Matthew 6:25-33, on “Priorities and Selflessness”. The wrong context has been “God helps those who help themselves” this saying is quoted regularly but cannot be found anywhere in the Bible. What the Bible does say is found in Psalm 121:2 “my help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” and Exodus 14:14 “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” this means that God will help us when we seek first his kingdom.”
Week two, we delved into the letter of St Paul to the Philippians 4:13, on “Trust and Prosperity” “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” this passage illustrates how God can help us overcome any challenge we have when we trust in Him.
In the third week we looked at another commonly misinterpreted passage on “Accountability and Judgment”. Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge and you will not be judge” this is not to be treated as a statement banning all forms of judgment but rather, it encourages rational judgments and corrections.
In the fourth week our reflection was on “Strength and weakness”, we looked at another common saying that is very often times misquoted and misinterpreted but not found in the Bible. “God won’t give you more than you can handle”. But the ideal interpretation of 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 is that God will never give you more than He can handle. This is why all throughout 2 Corinthians, Paul makes a boast in his weakness and his need to rely on God for strength.
We shall conclude this series by taking a look at another very common misinterpreted passage in Luke 18:24-25. “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a Camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
Many people use this passage to make the wealthy feel guilty for their financial success. I guess that means we should all aim to be poor, right? But did you know that majority of Americans earn an annual salary that puts them in the 1% of the world’s wealth? According to that misinterpretation, nobody in America earning more than $34,000 a year will enter the kingdom of God.
This passage doesn’t condemn wealth at all. The reality is that Jesus is calling out a major stumbling block for anyone who thinks they can get to heaven by their own works or wealth. Jesus is letting us know that none of can get to heaven by our own efforts even if you have all the money or not. Money not shared but used selfishly is no money. Jesus encourages generosity and dependence on Him Jesus. This is the interpretation of Luke 18:24-25.
--Fr. Celestine Tyowua, Parochial Vicar
When I was very young, my father’s pride and joy was his 1960s Sylvania AM/FM stereo record player with built-in speakers fully encased in a burnished walnut cabinet. Apparently, mid-century homes enjoyed some sense of style. His favorite activity on Saturday mornings after breakfast was to open all the windows, turn on the stereo system, and blast opera music. I think he felt it was his sacred duty to make sure the neighbors also were enjoying this beautiful art form.
Apparently, the stylus on the head-shell of the record player’s arm was extremely sensitive and fragile, which is why my father constantly reminded my older brother and I never to touch his stereo system. “Never!” But I do remember having a very good idea one afternoon. I decided I would get out the spooky Halloween record we had and play it before he got home. Why not? What could go wrong? After all, my mother was busy with other things.
Suffice it to say that I somehow broke the stylus, or at least thought I did. Petrified, I ran to my room to await my father’s return and the inevitable punishment I would receive. Anticipating the worst, I collected every pillow in the house, turned out the lights in my room, crawled into my bed, and covered myself with a giant stack of them as a protective layer to reduce the pain of the spanking I was sure to receive.
I waited for what seemed like hours. My stomach turned as I heard my father’s car pull into the driveway. I waited and waited and waited. Nothing happened. No spanking, no punishment, not even a stern talking-to. Apparently, I hadn’t broken the stylus at all. I was totally in the clear!
In the second reading today, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews writes that we should “not disdain the discipline of the Lord. . . . For what ‘son’ is there whom his father does not discipline?” Yet, the author does not characterize this discipline as punishment, but rather as formative and educational that “later brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.”
Like typical children, we may seek to avoid this kind of discipline at all costs, but the bad things that can happen to us serve to form our characters in virtue. In this fourth week of our Sunday message series called, Bible Oddities, we’re taking a look at another common scriptural misinterpretation. “God won’t give you more than you can handle” is a common phrase but appears nowhere in the Bible. The truth is that God will not give you more than He can handle.
Join us this Sunday or online to learn more about how suffering and hard times can forge us into better, more loving people.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
The Bible is the most hotly debated and influential book of all time. Christians vehemently disagree with one another about what the Bible says or doesn’t say, which Biblical laws are eternally proscriptive and which are eternally defeasible, and what the Bible actually means and who gets to decide.
But even apart from these debates, there are a lot of blank spaces in the Bible, places where lack of knowledge has led readers and interpreters to supply extraneous and erroneous information.
This week, we continue our Sunday message series that we are calling, Bible Oddities. In this series, we are looking at some common misinterpretations in the Bible. Last week, we examined the proper meaning of Paul’s statement in his Letter to the Philippians, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (4:13). As we discovered, Paul was not suggesting that he or other Christians receive supernatural protection from hardships and difficulties, but rather that, even in danger, he will rely on God for strength.
Today, we dive into another popular, but often misused and misquoted, verse in the New Testament. In Matthew 7:1, Jesus instructs his followers to avoid judgment. “Do not judge,” he says, “and you will not be judged.” But this statement is not meant to be treated as a blanket statement against all forms of judgment, as if we are to mind our own business and never get involved in the lives of those around us. Instead, Jesus is warning us against hypocrisy. Do not judge others as if you have the authority of someone who is perfect.
The basic meaning of the Greek word, to judge, is krino, which means “to set apart so as to distinguish or separate.” So the command, “Do not judge,” cannot prohibit all critical judgments. What Jesus is referring to is the kind of judgmental attitude that springs up among people in a community or in some families, where some members are very picky and no one is quite good enough to please them. These people act as if they have the spiritual gift of criticism.
If you look more carefully at the verse, you will see that we are not prohibited from discerning sin or problems in our brothers and sisters, or even seeking to correct them. But we must examine ourselves first to make sure nothing in us prevents us from seeing the situation clearly. Then, and only then, can we see clearly enough to remove the speck from our brother’s or sister’s eye.
Therefore, we should not close our eyes and pretend not to notice evil out of fear of being perceived as judgmental. While Jesus condemns hypocritical judgments, he nevertheless encourages rational ones. God formed the Church for community, accountability and honesty. We must be able to help one another when we make good and corrective judgments.
--Fr. Celestine Tyowua, Parochial Vicar
All the books of the Bible were inspired and authored by the Holy Spirit using human authors. Christianity believes that the scriptures in their original manuscripts are without errors and faults with respect to matters of salvation. The Bible is not merely a collection of quotes or one-liners but literally the Word of God. When scripture speaks, God himself is speaking, which is why we must approach the Bible with extreme care and intentionality. How it is read, memorized, and quoted is of the utmost importance.
However, many Christians misquote, misuse, or misunderstand some verses in the Bible. To help correct some of these misinterpretations, we’re offering this six-week Sunday message series called Bible Oddities. Last week, we looked at a misunderstanding about scripture’s stance on self-sufficiency. This week, we take a look at Philippians 4:13, where Paul declares, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
If Bible verses were movie characters, this one would be Rocky, triumphantly reaching the top of the steps with arms and fists pumping. This verse has been plastered on almost everything from T-shirts, mugs, and posters, to football players’ faces. But is it really telling us that the Lord will give us some superhuman strength to accomplish any feat?
The answer is no. What Paul is saying is that, no matter what his circumstance is, God has given him the strength and ability to endure and be satisfied, even when he must do without, even when he must go hungry. Paul illustrates in his own life that, when you trust and rely on God, you will find satisfaction and prosperity with whatever outcome life hands you.
There are some Christians who believe that faith in God automatically brings financial and other blessings. But what Paul means in the passage is nearly the opposite of this idea. Of course, God always blesses us. But with Christ as our strength, we are able to handle every circumstance, including suffering, failures, and difficulties. Moreover, Paul elsewhere encourages us to work hard, because there is no food for a lazy person.
Much of the prosperity gospel preached today is meant to give hope to those who come to Christ, when in reality, it can cause unnecessary doubt. If the Apostle Paul was not strong in his faith, he would have felt shame for the hard times he experienced. Being able to do all things in Christ is the ability to work hard to get what you want and endure any difficulty while trusting completely in God.
Jesus told his disciples in the gospel today not to be afraid. Instead, they should sell their possessions and give alms, while believing that God is the provider of all true prosperity. As Jesus said to Peter, we need to be about the works of God, so that we are not caught unprepared.
--Fr. Celestine Tyowua, Parochial Vicar
Every summer we bring you a message series that specifically deals with a theme from the Bible. And so we begin our new message series for the last part of the summer that we’re calling Bible Oddities: Common Misinterpretations of the Bible.
This series takes a look at some of the most often misinterpreted passages in the Bible. The order of passages we shall be treating will in no way reflect any sort of ranking, but will be entirely arbitrary, relating only to the order which we will be discussing them over the next four weeks.
Unfortunately, there are many erroneous beliefs about God and Christianity that have snuck their way into modern Church culture. These popular phrases or ways of thinking are in direct conflict with what scripture actually teaches. In fact, there are various and wrong interpretations of the Bible in most cases.
This week, we take a look at the first very common misinterpretation: “God helps those who help themselves.” This phrase appears nowhere in Scripture. In fact, the message of the Gospel is in stark contrast to this idea. In Matthew 6:33, for example, Jesus advises his disciples to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” Jesus therefore calls us to seek after the kingdom of God first, not ourselves and promises that, if we do, everything else in life will fall in place.
Our modern culture idolizes self-sufficiency. Look out for yourself first. Focus on your needs before anyone else’s need. If you’re in an airplane, you are advised to wear your oxygen mask first before helping another person in case of loss of pressure. In that case, it is right. But God’s plan for our lives is the exact opposite. Focus on the kingdom of God first, and God will take care of your necessities. After all, following Jesus is about living a selfless life.
The man in the gospel today was a selfish and proud man, he thought only of himself and so God demanded his life because he was a fool. His priority was himself and not about God or his neighbor. But if we focus on seeking God, there will be nothing in life we need to worry about. Therefore, our relationship with God needs to be our top priority.
Success magazine once published an article on the three mistakes most people make when setting priorities: (1) They don’t think about it; (2) They make it too complicated; and (3) They don’t live their priorities. Seeking first the kingdom of God is a pretty simple priority, but it is difficult to live this priority out.
Nevertheless, Jesus is inviting you to overcome pride and selfishness and stop helping yourself first, but make him the first priority in your life. If you do, he will grant you your heart’s desires.
--Fr. Celestine Tyowua, Parochial Vicar
When I was a kid, I used to make funny faces. I would cross my eyes or lift one of my eyebrows like Steve Austin on the Six Million Dollar Man. My mother would use the standard parent line, “If you keep making that face, it’ll get stuck that way!”
She was right. It’s easy to get stuck and caught in ruts. We can get stuck in our faith, like when we get annoyed at Mass because some people overdo the Sign of Peace, or grow impatient if someone speaks after Mass, or obsess about how many verses are in a hymn, or fixate on how long Father Roger is preaching instead of the quality of the message.
It’s also easy to get stuck in other ways, like in our jobs, finances, relationships, and even our attitudes and opinions. Getting stuck can keep us from living more fulfilling, open, and joyous lives. Indeed, we sometimes can feel like we’re in one big traffic jam, and the green light allowing us to move ahead never seems to come.
But the Bible is filled with stories of characters who once felt stuck yet later were suddenly liberated in God’s timing and according to his plan. Here are a few examples:
If you’re feeling frustrated because you’re stuck, listen to this week’s message live in church on Sunday or online by visiting our website to learn what you can do to turn the divine light green in your life.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Father Roger Gustafson