If you are looking for my blog titled, The Contemplative Catholic Convert, you are at the right spot.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

It Could Have Been Different

I just finished reading Lamentations again. It’s one of the saddest books of the Bible . . . the saddest because it all could’ve been different. If only the people and their priests and their elders had not continually thumbed their collective nose at Almighty God. If only they had listened to their prophets who begged them again and again to turn from their sins. But they’d have none of it. Long before Sinatra sang the lyrics, they and their religious leaders lived their lives their way — and not God’s. It could have been different, but it was not. Fast forward 2500 years. We, our priests, and pastors, and deacons, and bishops – we could all learn valuable lessons from an annual, prayerful, and humble reading of this book.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Arise!

Tabitha fell sick and died. Her friends, most of whom were widows, heard Peter was staying nearby, so they sent word begging him to come to them. When Peter arrived, he “sent them all out and knelt down and prayed, and turning to the body, he said, ‘Tabitha, arise.’ And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up.” (Acts 9:40) As I read this scenario I suddenly realized – oh, how glorious it will be – that on the day when you and I who love Jesus – when you and I die, Jesus will say to us: “Richard, arise.” “Shawn, arise.” “Enrique, arise.” “Kathleen, arise.” “Nancy, arise.” “(Add your name here), arise.” And then it will happen! We will open our eyes, and when we see Jesus, we will sit up – not here on earth, but there in our new and heavenly home. Oh! Hallelujah! “Death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 15)

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Not Really a Conundrum

Oh, this excites me. Every time I think of it I nearly shout, "Hallelujah." This is part of what I will share with those I preach to each Sunday:
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What I am about to ask you might seem rudimentary, but I have a good reason for asking it: Do you believe God loves you?

If ever there was a doubt about that, then all we need to do is look to Calvary’s hill. God demonstrated His unconditional love for you and me when He sent His beloved Son to die as payment for the penalty God requires of 'us' for our sins.

That penalty is death.

God’s holy justice must be satisfied – His immutable justice that requires the death of the sinner. For example, Ezekiel 18:4 – “The soul that sins shall die.” And also Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

But God is also merciful. So how can we justly juxtapose His justice and His mercy so that both His justice and His mercy are satisfied? That’s not such a conundrum. God sent His Son to die in our place. That’s why Jesus’ death is called a substitutionary atonement, a propitiary sacrifice. That’s what the Greek word translated into the English ‘propitiation’ means: A substitutionary sacrifice to appease the wrath of God. You will find that powerful truth in Romans 3:25, Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2 and 4:10.

Remember: God so loved YOU that He gave His only begotten Son, that if you believe in Christ, you would not perish, but have everlasting life.

Oh, think of it! While you and I were still sinning, Jesus died for us, to take our punishment (Romans 5:8). Why does ANYONE turn their back of such a merciful offer from the Almighty God?


Saturday, November 9, 2019

Governments, Governors, and the Governed

Those who regularly read what I write know of my growing disappointment, sorrow, fear, and anger over the repugnant direction of our culture, and of a large swath of those sitting in Protestant and Catholic churches. And from time to time I am quiet enough to listen to the Lord tell me He really, really ‘is’ in control of governments, of those who govern, and of those who are governed. Of course, I quickly forget His counsel. It has always, for my nearly 50 years of walking with the Lord, it has always been too easy for me to take my eyes off the Lord and focus on the waves – and then nearly drown under the water. A few nights ago, the Lord spoke once again to me about this same subject. He reminded me of Pharaoh and his army. The pompous leader of Egypt and his army were the most feared and powerful people in the then-known world. But St Paul, quoting God’s words to Moses in Exodus 9:17-18, tells us: “For the Scripture tells Pharaoh: I raised you up for this reason so that I may display My power in you and that My name may be proclaimed in all the earth. So then, He shows mercy to those He wants to, and He hardens those He wants to harden.” In other words, God elevated Pharaoh and his army ‘specifically’ to make known God’s absolute power and authority throughout not only the then-known world, but through the ages themselves – even to this very moment as you read this. Yes, God often has to remind me things are not falling apart; they are falling into place. God is still on His throne. He still orchestrates events – perhaps ‘choreographs’ is the better word – God is still choreographing governments, and those who govern, and those who are governed, to do what He decreed ages ago must and will happen, so that His name and His glory will be trumpeted throughout all time, space, and creation itself. He reminded me – and I hope to remind you – trust Him. He is the almighty and transcendent Creator who works all things after the counsel of His own will. All things. Everything. Nothing and no one – regardless of their name, their title, position, wealth, popularity, or any other temporal thing – nothing and no one is outside of God's control. Yes, every knee will bow, and every tongue will ultimately confess – Jesus Christ is Lord. All glory to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

If They Could, We Can


Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:12-13)

The word used most often in the New Testament and translated as ‘Temptation’ generally has the idea of a testing or a trial permitted or sent by God to demonstrate and to mature one's character, faith, and holiness.

For example, Romans 5:3-5 – “[W]e exult (revel, rejoice) in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Now James 1:2-4: “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” 

Contrary to what many false teachers feed their congregations, God does not promise His children born through the blood of Jesus a proverbial Rose Garden. He did not promise us a carefree, trouble-free walk through life. In fact, He promised just the opposite: “All those who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3).” “It has been granted to us in Christ Jesus to not only believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake (Philippians 1), Do not be surprised at the fiery trial which is to try you . . .” (1 Peter 4).

But in it all and through it all, Jesus promised to walk WITH us. He promised He would not permit us to be tried or tested above what He knows each of us are able to endure – and would provide us the means to escape so that we will be able to endure it.  But – and this is important –sometimes the means of escape is His empowerment to cheerfully and obediently carry our cross even to our own Calvary Hill.

Speaking of Calvary, the prayer of our Lord in the Gethsemane garden is among the best known and most oft quoted passages in the New Testament. And that’s why it’s so very possible to gloss over the utter anguish that frames this scene.

The Lord Jesus told His closest friends, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death.”  A moment later He looked toward heaven and used the most intimate form of address for ‘Father.’ He said ‘Abba.’  

We would say, ‘Daddy.’ 

“Please remove this cup from me. But I choose your will over mine. Do with me what you wish. I place myself into your hands.”

Listen! Jesus was scared. ‘Terrified’ is probably more accurate. 

We’re told in another place His sweat became like drops of blood (Luke 22:44). Medical science calls it ‘hematidrosis’ – an uncommon, yet not unknown physiological response to extreme physical or emotional stress. 

Jesus is our example of how to live, and even how to die. We know it intellectually. We hear it from pulpits and read it in literature. Most of us have no difficulty understanding that concept. 

But have tears ever crushed you to your knees? Has gut-wrenching fear or loss ever shaken you to your core? If so, you can better understand the profound level of trust Jesus had in His Abba – His ‘Daddy.’

Yes, Jesus is our example of how to live, and how to die. But only through the supernatural aid of God can that intellectual concept become a living reality in our life. 

That is why, on this weekend of All Saints Day, I want to remind us of some of the giants of faith on whose shoulders we stand – many of whom endured terrible trials – but through them all, God walked with them and strengthened them to see their trials through to the end.

The first I want to mention are the 40 Roman soldiers who died a slow and torturous death for their faith. In the winter of 320 AD in Armenia, the 40 had given their hearts to Jesus. Shortly thereafter the Roman governor demanded of all his troops to make an offering to Roman gods. When he learned of the 40, he threatened them with execution unless they recanted their faith in Jesus.

When the men still refused to bow to false gods, the governor – probably to save face before his own superiors, futilely offered them money and imperial honors. Finally, he threatened them with torments and torture, but the 40 responded:

You offer us money that remains behind and glory that fades away. You seek to make us friends of the Emperor but alienate us from the true King. We desire one gift, the crown of righteousness. We are anxious for one glory, the glory of the heavenly kingdom. We love honors, those of heaven. You threaten fearful torments and call our godliness a crime, but you will not find us fainthearted or attached to this life or easily stricken with terror. For the love of God, we are prepared to endure any kind of torture.”

The enraged governor had the men stripped naked and herded to the middle of a frozen lake. He set soldiers around the perimeter to prevent any from escaping. Hoping to weaken their resolve, he placed baths of hot water at the shore and told them they could come into the hot baths when they were ready to deny their faith. In the end, one of the forty weakened, came off the ice, and got into a warm bath.

But the climax to this story occurred when one of the guards on shore saw the soldier desert. He threw off his clothes and ran to join the naked ones on the ice, shouting aloud, “I am a Christian!”

The second faithful Christian we must know about is Father Ragheed Ganni. In 2007, after celebrating Mass in a small town in Iraq, several armed men demanded he close the church. Ganni replied, "How can I close the house of God?" The gunmen then demanded he and the three deacons with him convert to Islam. When they refused, they were immediately gunned down.

The third martyr we need to know about died in 1999 during the Columbine High School massacre. Two young male students rampaged through the school, randomly murdering everyone they saw. Seventeen-year-old Rachel Scott knew both young men hated Christians. One found her hiding under a table in the cafeteria and pointed his weapon at her face. He asked if she was a Christian. Rachel knew her confession of faith in Christ would be the last words she ever spoke. But she confessed Christ anyway. He killed her on the spot. 

Not every saint of God dies a martyr’s death, or suffers through decades of trials. Most Christians live quietly and virtually unknown by those around them. They are like the impoverished widow who put her two pennies into the offering plate at the temple. They are like Naomi in the story of Ruth – Naomi, who lost her husband and two sons, but still placed her life into the hands of the God of heaven. They are like Job, the man who in one day lost his fortune, his children, and his health – and yet proclaimed through his anguish, “It is still my consolation, and I rejoice in unsparing pain, that I have not denied the words of the Holy One” (Job 6:10).
God promises to not give us anything that will destroy us. Yes, circumstances of life may take our health, our family, our finances, even our life – but none of those things mean God has left us alone. Quite the opposite. The mean God is purifying us, molding us more closely into the image of Jesus.

If the forty Roman soldiers could stand for Jesus in the face of death, if Fr. Ganni and the three deacons with him could stand for Jesus in the face of death, if Rachel Scott could stand for Jesus in the face of death – then WE can stand for Jesus, by the same Holy Spirit who empowered them to stare death in the face.

Trust Him. God will always empower you and me to do whatever is necessary to bring honor and glory to His Name. Yes, trust Him. He is always faithful to His word.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Don't Fear Confession


I recently heard an encouraging homily. The deacon proclaimed God’s truth with kindness and hope and reassurance. His theme was our need for confession, to see our sins wiped clean from our conscience. 

The homilist suggested it is usually our fear of God that keeps us from the confessional. And that confused me.

Why would anyone be afraid of confession? It’s not like God doesn’t know where we’ve been and what we’ve done and how often we’ve done whatever it is we did. But that’s precisely why God gave us the gift of confession so we might be reconciled again to Him. That we might be forgiven. A spotless slate. Not a molecule of any confessed sin remaining to stain our soul. 

Forgiveness is why Jesus died in our place – so we could forever trust God’s vow to forgive the penitent sinner: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) 

Forgiveness is why the Holy Spirit moved the apostle John to write: “Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. (1 John 2:28) 

Are you abiding in Christ to the best of your human ability? Then you have nothing to shrink from, nothing to fear by coming to Him in honest confession. Do you sometimes fall back into bad habits, or stumble in your walk with Jesus? 

God’s promise of forgiveness is inviolable. No one has anything to fear by coming to Him in honest confession.

Our Father in heaven loves you. He demonstrated that love toward you in that while you were still sinning, Christ died for you (see Romans 5:8 below). And He continues to demonstrate His love toward you because when you come to Him in honest confession, He removes your confessed sin as far as east is from west (see Psalm 103, below). 

Please don’t be afraid of confession. By faith, simply receive God’s gift to us to be once again reconciled to Himself and enter into the joy of our salvation.

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Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.



Psalm 103:8-12 “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.
As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us."

Saturday, November 2, 2019

I Did Not Change Religions

Many times in the past 47 years – and as recently as yesterday – I’ve been introduced to others as someone who used to be Jewish but is now a Christian. And each time – as recently as yesterday – I quickly corrected the misconception. I did not change religions in December 1972 when God showed me in my Jewish Bible that Jesus is the Messiah. I did not change religions. I simply dove deeper into the faith into which I’d been born and educated. Actually, and unknown to most Gentiles who are Christians, when they originally confessed their sins to Christ and followed Him in baptism, they BECAME part of God’s Israel. They became, as it were, “Jews.” Rabbi Paul of Tarsus talks about that in his letter to the Christians at Galatia (Galatians 6). He speaks of it again in Romans 9 and Ephesians 2. And Messiah Jesus speaks of it in John 10. If you are a Jewish follower of Messiah Jesus, keep walking toward the New Jerusalem. If you are a Gentile follower of Jesus the Messiah – keep walking toward the New Jerusalem. According to the prophets Isaiah (chapter 25) and Ezekiel (chapter 47) – to name only a few – a great Jewish feast awaits us all. Oh, Lord Jesus, come quickly. We hunger to sit and dine with You.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Guest Post




Les is a fellow servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. Unlike me (a Catholic), Les is a Lutheran. He just posted this and gave me permission to share it. I am including my comment to him in reply:
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I'm not sure you can find a denomination where Satan has not made inroads to one degree or another -- even in the Catholic Church, as I have mentioned several times in the past couple of years, and especially recently at the Vatican.

St. Paul spoke of such things in 2 Cor 11:13-15 "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds."

Stay faithful, my brother. Follow Jesus even if it means to the cross. He is in the process of separating the sheep from the goats, and clerical garb is not necessarily synonymous with holiness.

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Les writes:

The Lutheran Church has lost its mind. It has lost its moral compass. It has no right to call it a church of Christ. Its most famous pastor promotes sexual immorality.

I recently received an email from Kevin Strickland, the bishop of region 9 for the ELCA. In the email, it said the Lutheran Church passed a social statement titled, “Faith, Sexism, and Justice: a call to Action” The aim of the resolution and the regional 9 bishops’ call for a “Bishops’ Relational Agreement for Boundaries” is to level the playing field for women in the church. It advocates equal pay as well as respect and dignity for women in the ministry. It also goes on to state that patriarchy is a sin. That in itself is humorous as God instituted patriarchy in the Old Testament and Paul confirmed it, but let’s not let the bible interfere with the ELCA social statement or my post.

What absurd hypocrisy! The most famous Evangelical Lutheran pastor in America is Nadia Bolz-Weber. She has been interviewed by the press world-wide, has had numerous appearances on CNN, and was even was highlighted at a Ted Talk. She has a best-selling book called, “Shameless.” In the book she advocates a sexual revolution in the ELCA. She advocates consuming hard-core porn. It you are offended by hard-core porn, she says there is an ethical porn alternative.

This woman advocates watching woman being reduced to sex toys without a brain. The only lines they have to remember is a groan or moan. Porn teaches young men and boys that girls will take their clothes off the minute a man walks into the room. 60 minutes did a segment on how porn influence the attitudes of young men when they enter college. The men’s only exposure to women has been through porn so many of them assumed that during the first date, the girl would jump in the back seat and say, “I am ready for sex.” Is it any wonder the Lutheran Church has a problem with sexism? Porn dehumanizes women. It makes them look like idiots. It makes them look like slaves to men.

Porn also promotes drug use. Women in porn find it easier to perform while on drugs. They moan better and don’t suffer the immediate moments of regret after a scene.

Pastor Weber found out about a movement encouraging chastity called the Chastity Movement. A young girl will make a promise to God to not have sex until she marries. She then will wear a chastity ring. Weber was outraged. She encouraged the young women to break their promise to God and mail in their rings. When she had enough rings, she melted them down and poured it into a mold of a vagina; I guess it is the modern day golden calf. She then gave the vagina to Gloria Steinem at a women’s liberation awards banquet. She has been quoted as saying that it is okay to have sex with anyone, any time, at any place, as long as it is not with a dog or a child.

How can an organization that promotes gender equality and respect at the same time promote the debasement of women? How does that work? Outside of keeping a woman tied up in the basement, porn has to be the worst thing to happen to them. They look like half-wits/morons with curvy bodies. If the church was serious about getting respect for women, it would encourage women to not appear in porn. It would launch a movement to eliminate porn but for obvious reasons, that won’t happen. As a side note, a majority of porn is now produced by women so the argument that men trick women into acting in porn is mute.

The ELCA is in desperate need of a Martin Luther!