On the street, 28th February 2015

DSCI0588Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?  But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.  Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. (Matthew 15:12-14)

Quite often people take offence at something we say when preaching. Even though we are not directing our comments towards them they perceive it as if we are directing our comment at them.  This happens when they are convicted and become angry because they reject the truth.  This is the reason why Stephen became the first follower of Jesus to be martyred, and is the reason why so many preachers have suffered abuse and even physical violence because, as Jesus put it:

….this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.  But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. (John 3: 19-21)

Today we were approached by a woman and her brother who were converts to Islam.  She had taken offence at something Miguel has said which she took personally.  She accused him of making racial comments about her because he had said that wearing the hijab will not save any Muslim woman.  There is no way that such a comment can be described as being “Racist”.  Islam is an ideology and not a race of people.  The followers of Islam come from many racial backgrounds, even this woman and her brother were both White British converts to Islam.  This is often the cry of Muslims of Pakistani or African origins, that our speaking out against Islam is a racial issue.

We speak out against every form of man’s religions whatever form they take.  It doesn’t matter what it is called; Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, Roman Catholicism, Protestantism etc; none of these can save anyone.  In fact, according to the Bible, there is only one form of religion that is acceptable to God:

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27)

In other words, to look after the destitute–the widows and the orphans– and to keep oneself free from the corruption that is in the world.  This religion has no name.  Anything beyond this is unacceptable before God.

We spoke courteously with her and we explained our standpoint based upon the Bible.  She was quite angry and the exchange began todraw attention.  Amélia reminded her that the last time they had spoken this lady had been aggressive towards her and swore at her, however she forgave this woman.  One of the people that had stopped to observe the conversation expressed his surprise that Amélia could (or even would) forgive a Muslim.  Amélia explained that unless we can forgive others we cannot expect God to forgive us.

The lady calmed down and explained that she often challenges the behaviour of Muslims towards others and that she is opposed to the violence perpetrated in the name of Islam towards others.  After our conversation, in which she did not (or would not) explain how that Miguel had made racial comments about her, her whole demeanour changed.  She stated that she had felt much better after talking with us and shook our hands and gave Amélia a hug just before she left.

The scripture teaches us:

If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. (Romans 12:18)

For this reason we shook hands with her and her brother, normally we do not shake hands with people unless we are in agreement.  Although there can be no agreement between the follower of Jesus Christ (the Son of God) and the Muslims (who deny that God even has a Son) for the sake of peace we will shake hands on this occasion.

As John was distributing the leaflets he offered one to a couple.  The man refused because he was a “Catholic”.  John retorted that being Catholic will not save them.  They stopped and the man asked John to explain chapter 6 of the Gospel according to John.  This is one of the chapters that the Roman Catholic Church uses to prop up it’s dogmas of the Mass and the Eucharist.  In the chapter Jesus tells His many followers that the only reason they were following Him was because they were present when he fed them from only 5 loaves and 2 fishes, but that unless they ate His flesh and drank His blood they had no part in Him.  Once John had got to that part the man interrupted and began to speak about how they had been to Mass that morning and had received the body of Christ.

John spoke to him about what the rest of the chapter said, by quoting Christ’s own words:

Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?  When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?  What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?  It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. (John 6:60-63)  By saying this He was explaining that to eat His flesh and drink His blood is to submit to His teaching, because His words are what give life and nourishment to the soul!

They accused John of interpreting the Bible his own way.  John stated that in the Bible it states, “There is no God!”  He then proceeded to show the man where it is written in Psalm 14.  The man immediately pointed out that John was reading it out of context, that he had not read what was being said before or after.  John pointed out that this is exactly what he had done by quoting Christ’s words about eating His flesh and drinking His blood without reading the rest of the chapter.

They question John as to whether he believed in the Eucharistic Miracles and cited some 8th century “miracle” where the Host (wafer) turned to flesh and this piece of flesh still exists in the Church of Saints Legontian and Domitian in Lanciano, Italy.  It is held in the monstrance and in the 1970’s was examined by scientists that confirmed that it was indeed flesh.  They believe that the scientists confirmed the “miracle”, however this only confirms that what is held in the monstrance is flesh and blood but NOT that it was ever a piece of bread.  Although scientists have not been able to explain the way that the flash and blood have remained so well preserved after 1200 years, there is no proof that it was ever anything other than flesh and blood to begin with.

They also spoke of Padre Pio’s alleged healing of a young blind girl called Gemma di Giorgi.  By all accounts she was born without pupils and her family had been encouraged to take her to San Giovanni di Rotondo to receive prayer from Padre Pio.  Whilst on the way there she began to see.

At San Giovanni Rotondo, Padre Pio called Gemma by name before the child was ever presented to him. He heard her confession, and even though she made no mention of her blindness, he touched her eyes with the wounded part of his hand, tracing the sign of the cross. At the end of the confession, as he blessed her, he said, “Sii buona e santa.” (Be good and saintly)

The grandmother was upset that Gemma had forgotten to ask Padre Pio for the grace of a healing while she was in the confessional and so she began to cry. Gemma became upset also and began to cry. The grandmother went to confession to Padre Pio and in her own words, “I asked the grace for Gemma and I told Padre Pio that Gemma was weeping because, in her confession with him she had forgotten to ask this grace. I will never forget his soft and tender voice as he answered me with these words, “Do you have faith, my daughter? The child must not weep and neither must you for the child sees, and you know she sees.” I understood then that Padre Pio was alluding to the sea and the ship Gemma had seen during the trip and that God had used Padre Pio to break through the darkness that covered Gemma’s eyes.” The same day, Padre Pio gave Gemma her first Holy Communion and again made the sign of the cross over each of her eyes.

When Gemma returned to Sicily her eyes were again examined by a specialist. The doctor, to test Gemma, held up various objects in front of her and she was able to see each one of them. She was able to count the doctor’s fingers at a distance of sixteen feet. Gemma, even though without pupils, had her eyesight; she could see. The doctor declared that Gemma’s eyes were in no condition to see. There was no medical explanation for it.

The fact that she had already begun to see before ever meeting Padre Pio casts doubt on the validity of Padre Pio’s intervention in her healing.

Gemma di Giorgi still lives without pupils and still sees, although she does use special glasses to protect her eyes from the glare of the sun.

DIGIORGI1-380x270Gemma di Giorgi

Whilst we do not doubt the miraculous power of God to heal, we do not believe that his miracles should be attributed to anyone other than Christ Himself.  Throughout his life Francesco Forgione (aka Padre Pio) was viewed with suspicion even within the Catholic Church.

Do any of these alleged “miracles” lead people to Christ, not at all.  Even though those who promote them would state that they do, it is to the so-called “Saint” that people offer their devotion, or to relics.  These are a distraction that lead people’s attention from Christ towards another.

To all our readers, John and Amélia will be travelling to South Africa to visit Salvador and his wife Dianne.  They will be sharing news of their exploits whilst out there.  Please pray for them, and please pray for Miguel who will be carrying on the work of evangelism whilst they are away.

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