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

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Arguing with God

No one would dispute that we all have sinned – and that some of those sins have hurt others, perhaps terribly. That’s why this essay is about forgiveness.  


And it is also about regret – not 
the ‘good’ regret that leads to repentance and a change of lifestyle, but the unhealthy regret many of us live with – a regret that permeates every fiber of our days and weeks and years.

 

God wants better for us. God’s provided a better way for us. Of the multiple examples He gives us in Scripture of how to accept His forgiveness, let’s look at only two.  

 

The first is Saul of Tarsus. Here is how Luke describes him: “Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. (Acts 9:1-2)

 

Saul – known now to us as Paul the apostle – described himself this way:

“ . . . [N]ot only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities.” (Acts 26:10-11)

 

But then Saul met Jesus on that road to Damascus – and we know the rest of that story. Convinced that God had forgiven him, Paul laid aside his self-condemnation and got busy doing the work God called him to do. Here is what he said of himself in his letter to Timothy – and this is a critically important lesson for each of us who struggle with self-recrimination:  

 

“It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.  Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. (1 Timothy 1)

 

I hope you caught those words: Sinner, mercy, and patience.  Paul left his past in the past where it belonged, covered by the atoning blood of Jesus. That’s one reason he could write to the Christians at Colossae:  

 

“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. . . . . having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions . . .” (Colossians 2:8-13) 

 

Paul would not let even the devil make him a prisoner of paralyzing regret. He’d repented of his sins, and he knew he could trust Almighty God to forgive him.  

 

Now let’s look at one other person who could have easily fallen prey to the devil’s temptation to despair. If anyone could have wallowed in self-condemnation and self-recrimination, it was Peter. Surely, he remembered the words of his Lord recorded in Mark’s gospel (8:38) “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

 

And there he stood, remembering his denial of His Lord – even swearing “I do not know the Man.” If it had ended there, we’d have heard nothing more about the man.

 

But it didn’t end there. 

 

The New Testament writers used two words for “love” – phileo and agape. Phileo (fil-EH-oh) carries the idea of a close fraternal affection. The special friendship of David and Jonathan is an example of phileo love. (1 Samuel 18:1-3)

 

Agape love is often used to describe God's unconditional, merciful, and enduring love for you and me. Some definitions of Agape are: “to prize the object of that love above all other things; to be unwilling to abandon the object of that love, or to do without the object of that love.”  

 

Now let’s look at those Greek words as used by both Jesus and Peter in John 21:15-17. When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love (agape) me more than these?” He said to him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love (phileo) you.” He said to him, "Feed my lambs.”

 

“He then said to him a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love (agape) me?” He said to him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love (phileo) you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep.”  

 

“He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love (phileo) me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, "Do you love (phileo) me?” and he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love (phileo) you.” (Jesus) said to him, "Feed my sheep.”

 

A modern version of the conversation might sound something like this:

 

“Peter, do you love me with all your heart?”
“Lord, I have great affection for you.” 
“Feed My lambs.”
“Peter, do you love me above all else?”
“Lord, I think you are wonderful.”
“Tend My sheep.”
“Peter, do you have great affection for me?”
“Lord, you know I do.”
“Feed My sheep.”

 

Two things catch my attention in this exchange between the Lord and Peter.  First, after each agape/phileo exchange, the Lord’s charge to Peter was essentially the same: “Feed My sheep.”

 

In other words, “Peter, I know you feel guilty, but your repentance restored our relationship. Your sorrow and guilt are unnecessary. Don’t let them keep you from the work I have called you to do."

 

How like the merciful Christ to call us out of our sorrow. How like Him to renew our relationship and set us about the work He’s given us to do.

 

Second, Peter felt miserable about his thrice denial of his best friend and Lord. Miserable, and self-condemned. But then I noticed how the Savior tried to help Peter move beyond his guilt. When Peter wouldn't say – couldn’t say – he loved (agape) Jesus, the Lord came down to his level: “Okay, my friend. Do you have affection for me?”

 

How like Christ to be so gentle to our wounded spirits.

 

I need that gentleness and mercy. And I imagine you can probably use a dose of it yourself. When we feel unable to tell Him, “I ‘agape’ You,” the Savior tells us it’s okay if we just like Him a lot. And when our sorrow overwhelms us, the Shepherd comes alongside, puts His arm across our shoulders and tells us, "I agape you."  “I love you very, very much. I prize you. I do not want to be without you.”

 

Wow.

 

Scripture is full of the stories of people who let God down, people who at first rejected God’s grace, but then after their repentance, went about doing God’s work.

 

But – and this is crucial – they first needed to accept his forgiveness. They needed to put aside their own remorse which only served to paralyze them and place them in the chains set for them by the devil. 

 

Listen! We cannot serve God while we indulge our wounded conscience. CS Lewis said it very well, I think that if God forgives us, we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him.”

 

Let me say it kindly, but also unmistakably: How dare we sit in the corner nursing our guilty conscience when God has said to the penitent: I forgive you?

 

Please. Please. If your self-recrimination and your self-condemnation holds you back from getting out there and doing God’s work – then now is the time to place your lingering guilt at the foot of the cross. He always forgives the penitent. Always.

 

And He always has work for the penitent to do.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

You Have a Voice

When religious leaders asked John the Baptist who he was, he answered in a way I believe far too many Christians today would NOT answer. Why? They’ve convinced themselves of their inadequacy to say as John said, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ John 1:23

Inadequacy? Says who?

Listen to what St. Paul wrote to the Christians at Corinth: [It is not that we consider ourselves “adequate in ourselves . . . but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant . . ..” (2 Corinthians 3:5,6).

Christian, listen. According to the WHOLE testimony of Scripture AND the entire history of the Christian Church through the ages, we do not need to have expert knowledge of God’s word to do what He has called us to do. We do not have to have perfect lives to be useful for the Master. Adequate’ is good enough.”

And why is that? Because God is God, and He is able to take our ‘adequate’ to a supernatural level of fruitfulness for His kingdom. All He asks of us is that we be willing for Him to use us. To say to Him, “Here I am Lord. Send me.”

What a comforting and hopeful promise that is, isn’t it? Whoever you are, whatever you’ve done – our supernatural God is able to take our adequate to a supernatural level.

He is able to take YOUR voice, a whisper that it might be, and filter it through His megaphone. Don’t we have His promise through the prophet:

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)

Don’t we have His promise through His apostle Peter: “[A]pplying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. . .

Now listen as he continues: For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-8)

You. Have. A. Voice. It doesn’t matter – it SHOULDN’T matter – if we can see the results. We walk by faith and not by sight.

Yes, it is true that the works some do for Christ are more noticeable, more evident, more visible than the work of others. But what was the name of the person who offered his home to Jesus and His disciples for the Last Supper? (Matthew 26). Who was the young lad who gave his lunch to Jesus on the day when He fed the five thousand? Tell me the name of the impoverished widow who contributed two pennies to the Temple Treasury.

We don’t know their names because God didn’t want us to know their names. Otherwise, He would have told us.  Perhaps He didn’t tell us their names to demonstrate to us that God uses EVERYONE who WANTS to be used in His work; Everyone of every age and every station in life.

It is nothing less than a sulphuric lie of the Father of Lies that gets God’s unnamed and unknown children like you and me to think that since we are not like those spiritual powerhouses, why even try? We think we couldn’t be as they were if we lived a dozen lifetimes. And so, it is easy to give up in disillusionment – and therefore the devil silences our voice.

Did that unnamed widow know the Lord Jesus was watching her?  Did she know what she did would be written down and passed on through 2000 years of Church history, even to this very moment as you listen to this message?  Of course not. She didn’t know any of it. But her devotion to God has encouraged Christians for 2000 years.

And so, don’t YOU ever let the lie delude you into thinking that YOUR story is not being written down in God’s ledger to be reviewed by angels and archangels and by every sinner saved by grace who will live eternally with the story of what YOU did – even though you might have had no clue of what it was you did.

Gospel singer and song-writer Ray Boltz penned these lyrics some time ago. For the sake of time, I quote only a portion of the song, titled, Thank You (for Giving to the Lord).

As you read the lyrics, I urge you to think of your own work of faith and labor of love and your steadfastness of hope in your service for Christ over the years:

I dreamed I went to heaven, and you were there with me . . . We heard the angels singing, then someone called your name. You turned and saw this young man [who said] . . . You used to teach my Sunday School when I was only eight. And every week you would say a prayer before the class would start, and one day when you said that prayer, I asked Jesus in[to] my heart.

Then another man stood before you and said, remember the time a missionary came to your church and his pictures made you cry?

You didn't have much money, but you gave it anyway. Jesus took the gift you gave and that's why I'm here today.

One by one they came, far as the eyes could see. Each life touched by your generosity. Little things that you had done, sacrifices you made,
unnoticed on the earth, [but] in heaven now proclaimed. . . . . And [as] you stood before the Lord, He said, my child look around you, for great is your reward.

Thank you for giving to the Lord. I am a life that was changed. Thank you for giving to the Lord. I am so glad you gave.

How many will say to you and to me on that day words like: I’m so glad you gave. I’m so glad you smiled. I’m so glad you hugged me . . . that you said a kind word. I’m so glad you told me you’ll pray for me . . .That you paid my restaurant bill, even though I was a stranger. I’m so glad you brought me food when I was sick . . . that you visited me after my husband died . . that you supported my child in the missionary school . . . that you wrote letters to me when I was disabled and living in a nursing home. I’m so glad you bought my child a gift when I couldn’t afford to.

Listen! We must stop giving place to the lie that God cannot use you, despite your age, or mobility, or health, or strength, or circumstances.

The prophet Isaiah wrote, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.” When you in obedience to Christ reach out to others, YOU have beautiful feet.

Read again from Isaiah (61), which the Lord Jesus quoted to his audience – and which the Holy Spirit applies to you and to me in 2021. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives . . .to set free those who are oppressed.” (Luke 4:18)

You routinely meet people who are brokenhearted, and wounded; People who are prisoners of the things they’ve done and said in the past that continue to haunt them years – decades later. People who think they are friendless – and who in fact may BE without a friend.

You don’t need to be a Billy Graham or a St. Mother Theresa to bind up their broken hearts or point them to the one who can release them from their imprisonment.

Please remember this passage about the Judgment found in Matthew 25:

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”

This is NOT about your abilities. Or mine. It’s about our willingness to be used, to live a life of kindness and compassion and holiness. Even if you can’t leave your home because of the COVID-19 virus, the supernatural God can still use you. St. Paul wrote nearly one third(!) of his epistles while he was imprisoned. What is impossible for God to do with those who want to be useful to His kingdom?

A while back I found this poem titled, At the Winter Feeder. It was written by John Leax, and was part of a Chuck Swindoll daily devotional. As I recite the poem, please think about how its message can apply to you and your voice for Christ:

His feather flame doused dull/by icy cold/the cardinal hunched/into the rough, green feeder/but ate no seed.

Through binoculars I saw/festered and useless/his beak, broken at the root.

Then two: one blazing, one gray/rode the swirling weather/into my vision and lighted at his side.

Unhurried, as if possessing/the patience of God/they cracked sunflowers and fed him/beak to wounded beak/choice meats.

Each morning and afternoon/the winter long/that odd triumvirate, that trinity of need/returned and ate/their sacrament /of broken seed.

 Listen, God is the God of the supernatural. And he is perfectly able in his divine sovereignty and providence to take your whisper and put it through his megaphone.

God’s word will not return to it to him void, but it will accomplish what He set it out to accomplish.

If you want to serve Christ with whatever gifts He has given you, then please be convinced, you have a beautiful and melodious voice for Christ. Please, no longer let the enemy of our souls silence it. 

Saturday, January 9, 2021

When Life Goes Sideways

When life goes sideways, when everything that once was called sin is now called normal, when bitter is proclaimed sweet, and darkness is promoted as light, I try to remember that nothing happens in all creation, and certainly nothing happens in this nation independent of the absolute sovereign control of the Creator whom I call Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


What that means on an uniquely and passionately personal level, is that God literally
formed my inward parts; [He] wove me in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139). Of the 250 MILLION sperm cells my father ejaculated into my mother on the day I was conceived, God PERSONALLY selected only one to fertilize the ova my mother ovulated during that particular month.”

Grasp that concept. One cell out of 250 million.

When things go sideways in my life, I try to remember that as God was so involved in my life at my conception, He is just as involved in my life today, down to the number of hairs on my head, or what happens in and around my life today, and tomorrow.

That’s all on the micro level – God’s intimate involvement and sovereignty in my life. But that is not the end of the matter. On a macro level, God tells us: Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales” (Isaiah 40); In the second Psalm He tells us: The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together
against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!”

 

Then notice the Creator’s response to what He views as laughably insignificant kings, presidents, and senators: “He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them.”

 

It is a terrifying thing to be the focus of the Creator’s scoffing.

 

In all this, God tries to show me He is manipulating everything that seems to be going sideways in the nation, manipulating it all according to His preordained purposes which He planned before He created the earth.

 

No, Richard, things are not falling apart. They are falling into place.

“Fear not,” He tells me and everyone else who loves Him, ‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Plain and Simple

How often have you heard people say, “That’s the way I am. I’m too old to change”?

On second thought, how often have YOU said it?

Listen, Christian – if we are not maturing in our walk with Christ, whatever our age, then we are tarnishing our testimony for Christ. If we are not daily striving to better reflect our Savior with our words and our conduct, then beware! We might be losing our first love.

What’s the remedy for a cooling fervor for holiness? It’s plain and simple: Repentance. And asking the Holy Spirit to reignite our passion for Jesus.

Yes, it’s plain and simple – and important to do.

 

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

What About You?

Like most Jews, I knew virtually nothing about the Bible, although I was 22 at the time. In fact, I don’t think I could have quoted for you a single verse from the Jewish Scriptures. But when I got up from my knees, after telling God I believe Jesus is the Messiah, Satan helped me remember what was likely the only verse I ever knew at the time: “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” Suddenly a little nervous, I went back to my knees and I said what remains etched in my memory: “God, if I’ve made a mistake, please show me.”

And He did. Right then. In a moment. Somehow, mysteriously, in a way I could not then describe it – nor can I even now adequately describe it – God flooded me with a sense of His pleasure with me.

And I knew what I needed to do next. I’d just promised to consecrate myself to my Creator, so I stood up again, walked to the closet, and pulled a baggie of marijuana from a drawer. I dumped it down the toilet. My porn magazines ended up in the trash dumpster behind my navy barracks.

Why did I do that? Because when I was on my knees, I determined to follow Jesus, and His way is the way of holiness. I didn’t know the term for what had happened to me, but with my confession of Jesus as Messiah, God made me a new creature in Christ.

I bought a Bible the next morning at the Navy Exchange and began devouring God’s word. It didn’t take the Holy Spirit long afterward to convince me that I’d truly not made a mistake. A few weeks later I followed the Lord’s commandment and was baptized.

So, reader, enough about me.

When did YOU know you’d not made a mistake to confess Jesus as your Lord? You might have been baptized as a baby, or you went forward to an altar as a child. But have you as an ADULT said to God, “I will follow Jesus in a holy lifestyle all the days of my life”?

If it’s been a while since you said that to God, I urge you to go to your knees right now – physically, if you can, or simply in your heart – and tell Him you are consecrating yourself to Jesus and will strive for a holy lifestyle all the rest of your days.

You will never make a mistake to do that.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Same Substance, Different Packages

I wanted raisins with my frosted mini wheats this morning, but when I searched the fridge, I couldn’t find the package. I settled for dried blueberries.

When Nancy came into the kitchen after I’d finished breakfast, I asked her if we are all out of raisins. She said, “There in the refrigerator.”

“Where? I asked, as I opened the doors again.

“Right in front of you.”

I looked up and down and still couldn’t see them.

“Where?” I asked again, a little louder, as if to tell her she was wrong.

“Right in front of you,” she said again. This time she pointed.

I followed her finger. And there they were. In a box. Just like she said. Right in front of me. They’d been invisible in plain sight.

My trouble was, I was looking for a large BAG of raisins, the kind we’ve been using for years. I couldn’t see the BOX of raisins because they were packaged differently. Same raisins, different package.

Nancy then said something to me that resonated in my spirit. “That’s like how so many Christians are invisible to each other because they’re packaged differently.”

As I thought about what she’d just said, I realized how true is her observation.

Many of us have been taught, in different ways and through various expressions, that Christians ought to believe as we believe. And then we meet someone who doesn’t meet our expectations of true Christian theology. They’re the same ‘raisins’ inside, but because they’re packaged differently, we don’t ‘see’ them.

We might all benefit – indeed, the CHURCH would benefit, if we took the Holy Spirit’s admonition through St. Paul to heart:

Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him.Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s . . . But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. . . . Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. (Romans 14:1-13)

What did the Lord Jesus say to Peter when the disciple pointed at John and asked, “Lord, what about him?” The Lord responded, saying in essence, “Peter, it’s none of your business what I do with John. As for you, “Follow Me.” (John 21:21)

“Oh! How pleasant it is,” the Psalmist cried aloud, “for brothers to dwell together in unity.” (Psalm 133)

No wonder St. Paul wrote to the Christians at Ephesus: “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3)

Listen, Christian! Jesus said a house divided cannot stand. And don’t think for a moment Satan doesn’t know that verse – and apply that truth to the entire Body of Christ as often as he can.

Oh, may God the Holy Spirit change us all in 2021, so that our brothers and sisters of different churches no longer remain invisible, even as they stand right before our eyes. May the Church, which is the Body of Christ (Colossians 1:24), walk together in unity.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Myths or Truth?

Many students of the Bible know there are multiple stories of creation which pre-date Moses, such as the Enumah Elish. Stories of a world-wide flood also abound, such as the Gilgamesh Epic. 

But this should not surprise the Christian. Spiritual darkness smothered humanity as soon as Adam and Eve sinned. Just look how long it took for the first murder to occur.

 

So, how should the Christian understand ancient myths in the light of holy Scripture?

 

Before the Exodus, Israel lived in Egypt for four hundred years. They knew the myths. Some had by that time been circulating for half a millennium. Generations of Israelites grew up knowing the myths and, perhaps, many told them to their children.

 

And then God spoke to Moses from the burning bush.

 

Moses did much more than bring God’s people out of the physical bondage of Egyptian slavery. He also brought them out of the spiritual darkness of ancient myths. Through Moses, God told His people Israel: “Listen! Pay attention! Here is the truth.”

 

Fast forward to 2021. Myths still abound, not only those that continue to mock the Biblical record of creation and the flood, but also those that now mock the Biblical record of the virgin birth of our Lord and His physical resurrection from the dead.

 

No wonder the ancient Hebrew prophet wrote: Who will believe our report? (Isaiah 53:1).

 

When Joshua stood before Israel in the Promised Land, he challenged them with these words: “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)

 

God gave ancient Israel a choice: Myths, or His truth. He gives us today the same choice: Myths, or His truth.

 

What will you do with Truth? As for me and my house, we known what we choose. 

Thursday, December 31, 2020

To His Last Breath

 When Nancy had her hemorrhagic stroke, we impatiently waited for the ambulance to arrive. While we waited, she said to me: “I love you.” 

She later told me she knew she was dying, and those were the last words she wanted me to hear from her. 

 

Today is the last day of 2020. During my time with the Lord this morning, I got to thinking of ‘last words,’ and my thoughts turned to Calvary. 


As the Lord Jesus hung bloodied, bruised, and dying on that cross, He uttered what theologians call His Seven Last Words, the last of which was this: “It is finished.” And John 3:16 became a palpable reality extending through the millennia, even to this last day of 2020. 


“It is finished.” 


I can’t explain what happened next, but as I focused on those last words, the Holy Spirit interpreted them for me through the language translator of heaven. And this is what the dying Jesus wanted me to hear with His last breath: “Richard, I love you.” 

 

It swept across my mind. It pulsated through my mind: “Richard, I love you.” 

 

And now, please, if you have read this far, please be assured on this last day of 2020, whatever is your name, the Lord Jesus also says to YOU with His last breath: “I love you.” 

 

He wants you to know, with His last breath, “I love you.” 


Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Child or Tool?

The longer I live, the more I experience, the more the truths God has shown me in the past come around again and again. This Christmas season, as I think about family and friends, I remember once more how we become either a child of God -- or a tool of God.  We have no other options available. None. We will be one or the other.

I have seen this happen countless times over the years. 
----------------------
Child or Tool?


I am God, and there is no one like Me . . . My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure (Isaiah 46:9-10).


I can't help but think about Joe and Charles when I read passages like this one from Isaiah.

Fifty years ago, Joe and I were best of friends. Although he was married, the father of two daughters, and six years my senior, we were almost inseparable. We worked the same shift at a local taxi company and shared the same interests: drugs, parties, and women. After working all day, Joe and I often spent hours cruising the bar districts while his wife and children waited for him to come home.

However, what I remember most about Joe is what I thought of him in my rare reflective moments. His life was a disaster waiting to happen -- and more to the point, I realized unless I changed direction, my life would mirror his.

That realization eventually led me to the navy recruiter’s office. I thought if I learned a job skill in the military, I would avoid the life Joe modeled for me. But during my tour overseas I found something much more valuable in the navy than a job skill.

I found Christ.


When I left Japan three and a half years later, I enrolled in a Bible college. It was there I met Charles, a former missionary and pastor. He taught several of my classes at the college and made the Scriptures come alive for me. But what I remember most about him is not his gift of teaching, but his humility. Nearly five decades later I can still see him in my memory weeping at a church altar, pleading with God for wisdom to serve Him more fruitfully.

Charles never knew it, but he modeled for me a heart passionate to serve Christ.

I do not know if God used me Joe’s life during those years of our friendship, but God surely used him in mine. As I watched him manipulate and abuse even those closest to him, God gave me a glimpse of my own future if I persisted on that same path.

Nor do I know if God used me in Charles’ life. But God surely used him in mine. If not for my former teacher, my understanding of what it means to truly seek after God might be quite different today. And I might not have learned this important lesson:

 

We have a choice how the almighty and omnipotent God will use each of us for His own purposes – as His tool or as His child, as a Joe or as a Charles.

I know how I want Him to use me.