​Ash Wednes​day For Nazarenes: The Catholic Way​

Ashes to forehead
(NPH Endorsement of the Catholic way)

In 2009, Ashes to Fire was published and distributed by Nazarene Publishing House.  Now Ash Wednesday is ever increasing in popularity in the Church of the Nazarene. While General Superintendents ignore Bible-believing Nazarenes and their concerns, they are clearly on board with the Roman “Catholization” of the church.  Just a few readings over at Sacramental Nazarenes Facebook group shows how serious they are in going full steam ahead, including the use of ashes to the forehead Catholic style.  To what end?  This was not my father’s denomination when he was alive; he was rescued from Roman Catholicism, and now the leadership has no problem becoming more like the RCC.  Is it financial motivation?  Is it to get more members and show how diverse or welcoming the church is?  That would be ironic, since there seems to be very little room for Bible-believers now, unless the remain silent and mind their own business.  I wonder how many Nazarene churches across North America, and also around the world, practiced the Catholic rituals last night?  Did you, and if so, why?  The following by John Henderson is some food for thought.

By John Henderson:​
I have seen and heard of some responses to what is called Ash Wednesday. It appears that some Nazarenes now practice the Catholic version of it. There are at least three varieties of Nazarenes these days: Emergent Nazarenes, Sacramental Nazarenes, and Fundamental Nazarenes. I identify with the Fundamental Nazarenes. I respect the Catholics’ right to be Catholic and believe that Nazarenes historically have no practical or spiritual need to identify with Catholicism in fundamental doctrines and practices in a Nazarene setting and context. The practices associated with Ash Wednesday are among them.  I am aware of the many, many “reason” given by some Nazarenes to justify the practice, but none are supported by the Scriptures or evangelical tradition.  I share the following, written by a Catholic I assume, without further comment:

Ash Wednesday: of pagan origin?

“Ash Wednesday” is a day when Catholics receive a mark of ashes on their forehead, supposedly as a token of penitence.
Ash Wednesday was taken from Roman paganism, which took it from Vedic India. Ashes were called the seed of the fire god Agni, with power to forgive sins. Ashes were said to be a symbol for the purifying blood of Shiva, in which, one could bathe away sins. During Rome’s New Year Feast of Atonement in March, people wore sackcloth and bathed in ashes to atone for their sins. As the dying god of March, Mars took his worshippers sins with him into death. The carnival fell on dies martis, the Day of Mars. In English, this was Tuesday, because Mars was identified with the Saxon god Tiw. In French the carnival day was Mardi Gras, “Fat Tuesday,” the day of merrymaking before Ash Wednesday.(illuminati-news.com)

What do Catholics say about Ash Wednesday? According to americancatholic.org

Although Ash Wednesday is not a Catholic holy day of obligation, it is an important part of the season of Lent. The first clear evidence of Ash Wednesday is around 960, and in the 12th century people began using palm branches from the previous Palm Sunday for ashes.
the use of ashes in the Church left only a few records in the first millennium of Church history. Thomas Talley, an expert on the history of the liturgical year, says that the first clearly datable liturgy for Ash Wednesday that provides for sprinkling ashes is in the Romano-Germanic pontifical of 960. Before that time, ashes had been used as a sign of admission to the Order of Penitents. As early as the sixth century, the Spanish Mozarabic rite calls for signing the forehead with ashes when admitting a gravely ill person to the Order of Penitents. At the beginning of the 11th century, Abbot Aelfric notes that it was customary for all the faithful to take part in a ceremony on the Wednesday before Lent that included the imposition of ashes. Near the end of that century, Pope Urban II called for the general use of ashes on that day. Only later did this day come to be called Ash Wednesday.

At first, clerics and men had ashes sprinkled on their heads, while women had the sign of the cross made with ashes on their foreheads. Eventually, of course, the ritual used with women came to be used for men as well.

In the 12th century the rule developed that the ashes were to be created by burning palm branches from the previous Palm Sunday. Many parishes today invite parishioners to bring such palms to church before Lent begins and have a ritual burning of the palms after Mass. ( source:americancatholic.org)​
There is no mention of Ash Wednesday, the practice of it or even a semblance of it in the Bible. This is also true with Lent of which Ash Wednesday is supposed to be a preparation for.

So ask yourself this: if you’re a Christian, a true Christian, would you practice something not taught by Jesus Christ or his Apostles?  If so, why?

FOR FURTHER REFERENCE:​

​The practice of ashes to the forehead:​ http://reformednazarene.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/nph-endorses-catholic-practice-of-ashes-on-forehead/
​Ashes To Fire Book:​ http://reformednazarene.wordpress.com/2012/02/13/ashes-to-fire-baby-step-to-apostasy-and-spiritual-damage/

Roman Catholic Ritualism Corrupting Nazarene Schools and Churches

The Lenten season is upon us once again. As I have reported before, spiritual formation is one of the key avenues of the demonic influences coming into evangelical churches and universities.  Where spiritual formation is mentioned (another red flag is spiritual disciplines), it is more likely than not that it is an unhealthy emphasis on things other than what God has prescribed for our growth in spiritual maturity.  Christian spiritual formation would be that which is supported by Scripture and follows the model and examples given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ and the apostles.  The problem is that today’s spiritual formation strays far from God’s word and incorporates inventions of man that goes back as far as the Desert Fathers, who introduced unscriptural methods of “getting closer to God.”  This is being taught at every Nazarene university and seminary.

The following, which I received  last week from an alumnus of Point Loma Nazarene University, is a reflection of the sad decline of the Church of the Nazarene.  We are moving away from a biblically based tradition, to a mystical, ritualistic and experience-based tradition based on man’s inventions.

“So this evening at Point Loma Nazarene University and most likely in other so called Christian universities they will have a “Traditional Ash Wednesday” chapel service.

Today’s chapel service speaker said that “Lent was needed.  The practice of Lent and the ritual of Ash Wednesday is the invitation for God’s spirit to come to you.”

Where does it say that in scripture!?!  He then said that this was a practice to “undo unholiness” a “seasonal affection time”. Really!?!

God does not ask us for a season, but if I recall scripture says DAILY…

And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” 23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:22)

Yes! I’m going to say it! If you are at Point Loma , any university, or any church service that is offering you a “Traditional Ash Wednesday” service, DON’T GO! The Word of God does NOT require this ritual or practice of you! God keep us in His TRUTH!!!  END QUOTE

In listening to that chapel service (Wednesday Feb. 13) with speaker Jamie Smith, I could barely finish it without hearing in almost every other sentence a promotion of Lenten practices that I had never before seen in my dad’s ministry or in any other Nazarene pastor’s ministry, nor during my years at Eastern Nazarene College.  Although the speaker mentioned Psalm 51, he used it erroneously to justify the practices of “spiritual disciplines” during a prescribed Lenten season, as if they are biblically mandated and necessary for spiritual growth.  I can smell this stuff a mile away it seems, because these people consistently have the same goal: move away from clear doctrine in Scripture, and embrace a lifestyle of experientialism and ritualism.  The result is a rejection of clear instruction from God, and a welcoming of your own personal “experience” of God, and a formulaic, unbiblical way of “doing” things to get an outcome.

Consider more of what Jamie Smith said in light of Scripture:

“So the church… is a peculiar people who are sort of stretched… which is why we keep time differently.  One of the ways the church has tried to embrace this peculiarity, this difference, is by inhabiting different calendars, different rhythms and seasons, with feasts and fasts, which are all meant to regulate and circle us back to the life of Jesus Christ.

“And so, around the world today, Christians will observe what we know as Ash Wednesday, which is the beginning of the season of Lent.  It’s a season of disciplined denial and focused confession.”

“I want to encourage you to see the spiritual disciplines associated with Lent as the answer to the prayer of Psalm 51.  The spiritual disciplines of denial are the answers to prayer in Psalm 51.”

“So the Psalmist’s prayer “create in me a clean heart”… that prayer now is answered in the gifts that God gives us, of bodily tactile disciplines, the visceral ritual of Ash Wednesday, and the ascetic practices of denial that accompany Lent.”

“Friends, I encourage you to receive in a way the ritual of Ash Wednesday and the disciplines of Lent as yet another way that our gracious God meets us right where we are.”

“This is how the Spirit of God creates in us a clean heart,  by meeting us in the practices and disciplines that are invitations into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. God actually knows that the way to our hearts is through our bodies.”

“And there is something tangible and bodily and visceral about the practices of denial, and the rituals of Ash Wednesday that are a way of God marking His love on our hearts.”

“We tend to assume that we will think our way into holiness.  We assume that we will get some information that will finally trigger a way for us to follow Jesus in the way that we’re supposed to do.” 

“We don’t think our way into holiness…. But what primarily drives our behavior… our actions… what moves us in the world is not for the most part the outcome of some logical conscience deliberative choices we make, it’s in fact governed by the power of habits we’ve acquired.” 

“It’s a season in which the Holy Spirit wants to tap into your affections and order them to the Kingdom of God.”

“…to see these rhythms and rituals as the conduits of the Spirit’s power is because I really think we need a paradigm shift in the way we think about sanctification.”

Very little of this is Scripturally sound, if any.  But I was not surprised by any of this, considering that Jamie Smith wrote a book called Desiring The Kingdom.  In the book, he makes the premise that ritual, or liturgy, is that which comes first, before someone’s Christian worldview or theology is formed.  In other words, he believes that “doing things” first, will then formulate what you believe inwardly.  This I straight out of works based Roman Catholic theology.

There is nothing Scriptural about Ash Wednesday rituals, or ashes to the forehead, or giving up something for Lent.  There is nothing “traditional” about it, other than it being man’s tradition, not God’s.  Yet, the Nazarene denomination and its leaders are defying God’s word and are shamelessly going forward with another year of Ashes to Fire, Lent, and the various mysticism based practices we have been warning about.  I have warned many times that the Nazarene leadership seems to be complicit with efforts to mix Roman Catholicism and mystical practices into a denomination that claims to preach holiness.  Should not the leaders, whose duty it is to interpret church doctrine, either explain how these practices are Scriptural, or if not, speak out against them?

Some Nazarene churches last week had Ash Wednesday services complete with the ritual of ashes being placed on the forehead.  There is no doubt it is happening, the only question is, what is the motive?  And what of those Nazarenes sitting in the pews who felt a bit awkward as others got up to receive their ashes?   Did they feel less pious for not going up?  And did the recipients feel good about a practice which never existed before in a denomination that preaches “holiness unto the Lord?”  Is this a way of attracting those of the Roman Catholic faith, by saying, “look at us, see, we are just like you.”

A Church Now Focusing On Experience, Instead of Doctrine

All these things are part of the “experience” that comes with the contemplative mysticism being introduced, and even some charismatic based revival. It’s prayer stations, and prayer labyrinths, and lectio divina, etc, etc. Do this ritual, or do that ritual, follow these steps, and you will get closer to God. We are exchanging a real experience with God through knowing His word and through prayer, for activities that are not prescribed by the Lord. Instead, the focus is taken away from Jesus, and becomes a focus on ourselves, and what WE do, not what He has done for us.

As many Nazarenes now focus on that magical goal of 40 days of Lent, what then after that?  How is your life after this specified time period going to look like?  Is this like the Super Bowl experience, where the hype builds up over time until the big event, and then we go back to “normal” until the next time around?  Do you really think that this is a “special” time God has set aside for you to grow spiritually, or is not God’s desire that we grow spiritually every day, without any gimmicks?

The bottom line is that no ritual can make our hearts become right with God, and instead, we may end up being only filled with personal, sinful pride for thinking “look at me, I’m better because I did this, and you did not.”

In his article Spiritual Formation at Worship, Dr. Gary Gilley states:

 “Deliberate asceticism, harsh treatment of the body and abstinence from acceptable activities, actions and food, may have the appearance of spiritual activity but have no effect on our souls, nor do they enhance our spiritual development. Lent is a hold-over from ascetic practices of the past that have no direct spiritual value.”

The danger of participating in these practices is that the Nazarene church will also eventually tell you, as the RCC does now, that these “new” liturgical practices are required for our “spiritual formation,” thus resulting in the practices of man once again casting aside the teachings of Holy Scripture.

I close with a word from Colossians 2:20-23 which I believe speaks to these issues:

“If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.”

 

Recommended Resources:

 Spiritual Formation at Worship, by Dr. Gary Gilley of Southern View Chapel

The New Face Of The Church of the Nazarene

21I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. 22Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts.  23Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols.  24But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.  25Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel? 26But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves.   Amos 5:21-26

Ash Wednesday And Lent

Ash Wednesday is actually of pagan origin and was admitted into the church beliefs of the Catholic Church a few hundred years after Christ. This was the era when Constantine was attempting to weld pagans and Christians into a unit within the Roman kingdom.

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent.  Roman Catholic churches of the Latin Rite use this service to prepare themselves for the passion and resurrection of Christ through self-examination, repentance, prayer, fasting, and self-denial. Ashes from the burned palms of the preceding year’s Palm Sunday are blessed. With these ashes, the priest marks a cross on the foreheads of those who come forward and kneel, saying, “Remember, man, that dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.” (Genesis 3:19 KJV)

1. Putting ashes on the forehead is not hinted at in the Bible. Jesus and the apostles never thought of such a thing: it was adopted from paganism. African and Indian pagan rites have involved ashes on the forehead. This man made tradition of the Catholics makes the worship of God of no effect and adds to the commandments of Jesus Christ (Matt 15:7-9; 28:18-20).

2. God’s people sat in ashes or covered themselves with ashes to show deep grief and repentance before God. They did not make a little mark on their forehead to pretend grief and repentance. The marking of a cross on the forehead merely shows pagan superstition and man made tradition (Esther 4:1,3; Job 2:8; Is 58:5; Jer 6:26; Dan 9:3; Jonah 3:6; Luke 10:13).

3. Why is the forehead chosen for ashes? Why not the left elbow? Why not the right knee? Jesus condemned publicly disfiguring your face to indicate you were fasting (Matt 6:16-18). Catholics defy the teaching of Jesus Christ in their self-righteous show of religion. And their practices are as repulsive to God as were those of the Jews (Is 1:10-15; Matt 23:1-39).

4. Why is the forehead chosen for ashes? The only Bible reference to men marking their foreheads, other than Pharisee tradition with phylacteries, is the mark of the antichrist beast (Matt 23:5; Rev 13:6; 20:4). God-fearing persons would not want to follow Rome with a mark on their forehead!

5. Why is the forehead chosen for ashes? Because it has the third eye chakra of the Hindus. Surely you have seen Hindu women marked between their eyes. Tilaka is the mark of auspiciousness of Hindus, which may be done by marking the forehead with sacred ashes. Ash Wednesday did not come from the Bible, and it appears by similarity to have come from Hinduism.

Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face. That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.   Matt. 6:16-18

What About Lent?

Paul warned us to beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power. (Col. 2:8-10). Jesus never commanded his apostles to observe Lent, but to observe the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread.

Lent’s Ancient Roots

Coming from the Anglo-Saxon Lencten, meaning “spring,” Lent originated in the ancient Babylonian mystery religion. “The forty days’ abstinence of Lent was directly borrowed from the worshippers of the Babylonian goddess…Among the Pagans this Lent seems to have been an indispensable preliminary to the great annual festival in commemoration of the death and resurrection of Tammuz” (The Two Babylons).

Tammuz was the false Messiah of the Babylonians—a satanic counterfeit of Jesus Christ!

The Feast of Tammuz was usually celebrated in June (also called the “month of Tammuz”). Lent was held 40 days before the feast, “celebrated by alternate weeping and rejoicing.” This is why Lent means “spring”; it took place from spring to early summer.

The Bible records ancient Judah worshipping this false Messiah: “Then He brought me to the door of the gate of the Lord’s house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz” (Ezek 8:14-15). This was a great abomination in God’s eyes!

 

(Source: Unknown author, excerpted from Christine Willard’s website)