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

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Death is Dead

I read 2 Timothy earlier today. Verse 10 of chapter one has stayed with me. Here is the context, beginning at verse 9:

“[God] has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus . . . who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (2 Timothy 1:9-10)

It’s that last clause that caught my attention: “[Jesus] abolished death.”

Let the impact of that ineffable truth seep through your spirit for a while.

Jesus Christ abolished death. He put an end to it. He annulled it. Made it void.

Jesus. Killed. Death.

That’s why He told Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.”

Oh! Christian – Encourage one another with that glorious promise!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Not Too Late

Those familiar with Bible history know first century travelers wore open-toed sandals – if they wore shoes at all. It was the household slave’s responsibility to wash the family’s – and visitors’ – feet when they entered the home.

With this bit of historical trivia tucked away in my mind, I read again through the story of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. You’ll find the vignette early in John 13.

“Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.”

“During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, Jesus . . . laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.”

Now this is important: Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Jesus, was right there, in the room, among the Lord’s disciples. But more important, though the Lord knew Judas had already decided to betray Him, He nonetheless washed Judas’ feet.

Why? Verse one tells us: “He loved them to the end.”

Did you get that? Jesus loved the betrayer to the very end. And even in the garden of Gethsemane, as Judas led the soldiers to capture Him, Jesus called Judas, “Friend.” (Matthew 26:50)

Friend! Loved him to the end!

The Holy Spirit then connected the dots for me. Here is the picture it formed: “What do you think you’ve done that makes you think God is forever done with you? No turning back? No more chances?

Read that again. What do you think you’ve done that makes you think God is done with you?

Don’t believe the devil’s lie when he says you are now beyond God’s redemption, forgiveness and mercy. It is God Himself, speaking through His word, from cover to cover, God Himself promises us NO ONE who still breathes is beyond the reach of His love and willingness to forgive sin – your sin – whatever it is and however often you have done it.

No one. Even you.

What was it St. Paul wrote to those at Rome? “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

What does that mean? It means while you cursed Him – Christ loved you so much He died for you.  While you ran as far as you could from Him – Jesus loved you so much He died for you. And even if you have betrayed Him, He still calls you, ‘Friend.’

Judas, in his remorse, turned to the wrong people, and he killed himself. Peter, remorseful over his own form of betrayal, turned to Jesus, and he received forgiveness, and with it, eternal life (John 18 and 21).

Forgiveness and eternal life.

Please. It is not too late to turn to Jesus. His arms remain wide open to you. He’d wash your feet if He were standing in front of you.

And if you listen carefully, you will hear Him still call you, ‘Friend.’

Come.

Now.

Please.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Freedom!

I’m reading once again through John’s gospel. This morning I could hardly get through chapter nine’s discussion of the man who was born blind. If it’s been a while since you’ve read the chapter, I encourage you to do so sometime today when you have a quiet 15 or 20 minutes.
 
The immediate context around verse 14 caught my attention:

“Now it was a Sabbath on the day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also were asking him again how he received his sight. And he said to them, “He applied clay to my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” Therefore, some of the Pharisees were saying, “This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.”

How often did Jesus heal on the Sabbath? Lots of times. And each time, the religious leaders accused Jesus of sinning against God because He did not keep the Sabbath.

Theirs was a case of religion versus Jesus; Rules versus Jesus; The letter of the Law versus the spirit of the Law. They stood in defiant and stark contrast to God’s view of how we ought to live out our faith. That’s why the Holy Spirit spoke so often to this dichotomy of Law and Spirit.

“The letter kills,” Paul wrote to the church at Corinth (2 Corinthians 3), “but the Spirit gives life.”

To the Christians at Rome (Romans 8): "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

You might want to reread those last two clauses: “So that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

When we live by the Spirit of Christ, walk by the Spirit of Christ, we ‘fulfill the requirement of the Law.’

How freeing is that!

The New Testament gospels and epistles brim over with the contrast of Religion versus Jesus; Rules versus Jesus; The letter versus the Spirit.

That’s precisely why the crowds flocked to the Master. He lived the contrast between the letter of the Law and the spirit of the Law: Love God. Love each other.

To those two commandments He added: Repent, and sin no more.

That was it. And that's why the crowds loved Him.

Freedom.

St. Paul rejoiced in that New Covenant truth. That’s why he proclaimed to those at Galatia who had bound themselves with chains to the Law: “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

Christian! You and I are free from slavery to rules and the letter of the law. We have freedom to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Freedom to love our neighbor as ourselves. Freedom to repent of our sins and to go and sin no more.

Freedom! It’s why Christians have loved Jesus for 2100 years. Freedom! It’s the reason Christians have grown in their faith and love for Jesus.

Freedom. It is why I love Jesus.

And it is for your freedom that I very much hope you love Him, too.

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Juxtapositions

Ash Wednesday begins the 40-day period in the Christian calendar known as Lent. Many Christians use this time to prepare for Good Friday, and ultimately Resurrection Sunday (Easter).

This year, Ash Wednesday falls on February 14th – St. Valentine’s Day. Resurrection Sunday falls on April 1 – April Fools' Day.

I love the allegories nested in this juxtaposition of Ash Wednesday with Valentine’s Day, and Resurrection Sunday with April Fool’s Day.

In the first, I am reminded of the Biblical ‘love’ verse favored among many Christians: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

In other words, God loves us so much that He gave the best He could give, so we might live in His love eternally.

In the second allegory, this one juxtaposing Easter Sunday with April Fool’s Day, I am reminded of the Psalmist’s proclamation: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (Psalm 14:1) Then, to emphasize the point, he repeats himself in Psalm 53 –“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (verse 1)

In other words, the Resurrection of Jesus is God’s answer to the fool who mocks God’s existence, and who disdains the idea that God loves him, even as he mocks.

Christian, and you who are not-yet-a-Christian: It is no accident that you have read this far. Neither is it a coincidence that Lent and Easter fall this year on the days they fall.

Listen for His voice. God is still calling you to a deeper relationship with Himself through His son, Jesus.

Friday, January 5, 2018

His Sheer Goodness




As I prepare for next week’s Bible study in John’s gospel, I’m reviewing John 3:16-17. It’s a familiar text: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

Read it too quickly, and that message of hope and promise doesn’t have the impact it ought to have. At least, that’s what happens to me when I read it too quickly.

However, as I mulled the text in my mind, I suddenly associated it with the message of the Luke 15 parables. You remember them – The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, The Lost Son. I especially like verse 4 in the ‘lost sheep’ portion: “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?

Do you see the connection? God so loved us, that He sent – and He seeks, until He finds us.

Knowing that truth, my follow-on questions ought to be, “Why does He love us, and why does He seek us”?

The prologue to the Catechism of the Catholic Church has a pretty good answer:

“God, infinitely perfect and blessed in Himself, in a plan of sheer goodness, freely created man to make him share in His own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek Him, to know Him, to love Him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of His family, the Church.” 


“To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through Him, [God] invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, His adopted children and thus heirs of His blessed life.” 

I don’t think I’d ever heard it expressed so well.

But, as you know, the Lord Jesus did not stop at verses 16 and 17. Here is what He said next: This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” (John 3:19-20)

Have you ever pondered how the Father heartbreakingly grieves to watch so many of us turn our backs on Him who, in His ‘sheer goodness, freely created us to share forever in His own inexpressibly blessed life?’

I don’t think about that as often as I probably should.

Oh, Lord, please keep me close to Yourself. And I am so grateful to know that when I stray, you seek me until You find me.

Monday, January 1, 2018

The Conclusion -- revisited

I wrote this several years ago. Today, only a few hours after the conclusion of 2017 – and at the beginning of 2018 – I thought it a good idea to bring it forward again.

------------

It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart (Ecclesiastes 7:2) 
One morning over coffee, my friend Robert, a retired pastor in one of the Protestant denominations, told me he preferred to officiate at funerals rather than weddings. “Weddings,” he said, “are all about the bride – how pretty she looks, and now nice a couple she and her husband make.” At funerals, however, it’s all about the family left behind. At funerals, he had the pastoral privilege to put his arm around a father’s shoulder at the coffin of his child, or hold a widow’s hand, or sit quietly with mourners and simply ‘be there’ for them.
I understood the reason for his preference. I have attended joyous weddings, and I have sat in too many funeral homes and beside too many hospital deathbeds as family gathered to say their last goodbyes.
I know what it is like to be in the presence of death.
At sixty-seven, my thoughts turn far more frequently to death than they ever did when I was thirty. (Thirty. It seems like only three weeks ago I was thirty). Please do not misunderstand my comment. I do not think of my eventual death in a morbid, gloomy way, but rather with a ‘matter of fact’ acceptance. Death is, after all, the destiny awaiting each of us – some sooner, some later, whether rich or poor, popular or unknown, powerful or weak, intelligent or slow, handsome or unattractive . . . .
That is why toward the end of his life, Solomon said what he did about houses of feasting and houses of mourning.  He discovered – as most of us who are older discover – that when we are young we don’t think much of our own mortality or of the relentless and unyielding passage of years. There is too much living to do, too many parties to attend.
But when we find ourselves in a funeral home or at the deathbed of someone we love – then the realities of life offer us the chance to “take things to heart.” It is during those times that popularity and wealth, fame and position, and all the things so many of us strive for – it is there that those things often fall into proper perspective.
Perhaps one of the more well-known stories Jesus told is of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). If it has been a while since you’ve read it, I hope today you will take a few moments today to do so.
From the perspective of those who knew him, the Rich Man had everything a person could hope for. But from God’s perspective – he was poor and naked and miserable and blind. Truth be told, the Rich Man had nothing. Even less than nothing.
Like so many we meet every day, the rich guy missed a critically essential element of life’s meaning. Jesus warned about it when He said: For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?  (Matthew 16:26)
The Lord always asked good questions. What you and I need are the right answers – because a house of mourning is in the future for every one of us.
That is why Solomon closed his book of Ecclesiastes this way:  The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.  For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.
The year 2017 is over. Past. Gone.
But today -- whatever is the date on the calendar when you read this -- today, before it slips into tomorrow, today you have a new opportunity to tell God you want your life to count for something better. Tell Him you want to more obediently hold onto the hand of His Son, Jesus. And for the first time, or the hundredth time – invite the Holy Spirit to live out His life of holiness within you.
Don’t miss the critically essential element of life’s meaning in 2018.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Questions and Answer(s)


It’s not that I question God. I don’t.
Well, maybe I do.
Like just now as I’m reading through the Psalms (9):
“Arise, oh Lord, do not let the man prevail; Let the nations be judged before you. Put them in fear, oh Lord; Let the nations know that they are but men.”
And that psalm reminded me of a text in Isaiah chapter 64: “Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at Your presence.”
I mean, with all the demonic-inspired evil here in the States and overseas, I sure don’t understand His apparent silence. 
I like to think if God opened the earth like He did during Korah’s rebellion (Numbers 16) when the earth swallowed him, his family and all those who joined his rebellion against Moses .... if that happened today—we’d probably see some changes in our culture and our world. 
Or, would we?
If I remember correctly, it didn’t take 24 hours after the earth swallowed Korah and the others before Israel was grumbling and finding fault with God all over again.
Yes, sometimes, like tonight as I’m reading the psalms, I get to wondering why God does what He does — and, honestly, wishing He’d do things like He used to do. 
Then again, maybe His answer to me would be the same as He gave to His disciples who said to Him, “shall we call fire down from heaven and consume the Samaritans?”
If you remember the story, Jesus rebuked them and said, “The Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (Paraphrased from Luke 9:51-56)
Yes, I have lots of questions - and not many answers. But if nothing else, reading the Scriptures sure gives me opportunity to think about how life in the 21st-century is so similar to life in the first century. Same questions, but always the same answer: “God is in heaven and on His throne. Let all the earth be silent before Him.” (see Habakkuk 2:20)
And He reminds me again: He is God. I am not. 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

All My Hopes?


During my time with the Lord this morning, these lyrics floated through my mind.  Some of you many know the hymn:


"All to Jesus I surrender,
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.
I surrender all, I surrender all.
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all."


Intuitively, I knew the words and its message were in response to a question I asked myself a moment earlier – a question I've asked myself many, many times during the last decades:

“When my plans fall apart, when my hopes lie shattered, when my dreams never materialize, when my prayers remain unanswered – can I still say with my heart as well as my mouth – “I surrender all’?

All my plans. All my hopes. All my dreams. All my unanswered prayers.

Lord Jesus, help me in my reluctance to surrender them all into Your hands. And to leave them there.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

45 Years

I've posted this several times. Today is 45 years since my story began.
---------

Christmas Eve 1972. Forty-five years ago today. I remember the day as if it happened only a few weeks ago.

I still see myself kneeling at the side of my bunk in Barracks M, above the chow hall on the Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan. I’d recently finished Hal Lindsay’s, The Late Great Planet Earth. His references to Jesus the Messiah in my Jewish Bible amazed me. No, that is not the correct word. His references astounded me.

In all my life – I was 22 at the time – I never remembered opening a Bible, and certainly had never heard of the many prophecies in my Bible that referred to Jesus. Isaiah 7, Isaiah 53, Daniel 7, Zechariah 12, Psalm 22, Psalm 16, Jeremiah 31, Micah 5, Deuteronomy 18 are just a few that come immediately to mind. But there they were, pulsating on the pages as I read his book.

Still skeptical, I walked the two blocks to the base chapel and asked the Jewish chaplain if I could borrow a Bible. I took it back to my room to verify the texts Lindsay quoted were actually there, in my Jewish Bible.

They were.

I never thought forty-five years ago my life would take the twists and turns it has taken, each twist and each turn leading me ultimately to this place and time on December 24, 2017 as I post these words. But it all began as I knelt by my bunk in Barracks M. The Holy Spirit, having shown me through my Jewish Bible the truth about sin and judgment, but also about mercy and forgiveness, I stared at the clouds beyond my window and said to God, “I believe Jesus is the Messiah.”

Six words. But unspoken in those six words, yet resolute in my heart as I spoke them, was my promise to God of my commitment to Him. I didn’t know the prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola at the time:

"Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess You have given me: I surrender it all to You to be disposed of according to Your will. Give me only Your love and Your grace; with these I will be rich enough, and will desire nothing more. Amen . . ."

But I meant every syllable in the six words I spoke. And to this day, forty-five years later, I have tried my best to live according to the unspoken intent of those six words.

Have I failed Him in those years? Many times. Has God forgiven me, reconciled me, redirected me? Every time I confessed my failure. Every time.

Forty-five years. Over and over and again and again I have fallen to my knees and re-committed myself to my God and Savior.

The point of this story is not, however, about me. It is about you.

How long has it been since YOU said to God something similar to St. Ignatius’ prayer: "Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess You have given me: I surrender it all to You to be disposed of according to Your will. Give me only Your love and Your grace; with these I will be rich enough, and will desire nothing more. Amen"?

This is Christmas Eve. If you’ve never done it, why not do it now? If you’ve done it many times, why not do it again? What better gift this Christmas could you give to yourself, your family, your community . . .

And to God?

Saturday, December 23, 2017

What Kind of Faith?




I always find this vignette in Acts 19 instructive:

“But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.” (verses 13-16)

If our faith in Christ is not a personal faith, then it is nothing more than a bit of trivial knowledge. If our faith is rooted only in what we have heard of Him from others – and not in what He Himself has taught us as we’ve sat at His feet in prayer and study of Scripture, then we do nothing more than imitate Sceva’s seven sons.

They relied on their impersonal and 'hand-me-down' knowledge of Christ – and it resulted in complete failure.

Fast forward 2100 years. Nothing is different about Christ-centered faith today. Only a personal faith and relationship with Jesus grants us the authority to overcome the darkness in our own lives -- and through prayer, the darkness in the lives of others.

The Christmas season is a great time to reexamine ourselves. What kind of relationship do we have with Jesus?

And what must we do to make it better?

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Don't Look Back

I read Luke 17 this morning. The context is the second Advent when the Lord returns. I encourage you to read the entire chapter – and then focus on verse 32: “Remember Lot’s wife.”

You’ll remember what she did after the angels nearly dragged her, Lot, and their two daughters away from Sodom.

One reason I appreciate the lyrics of this song (below) is they encourage me to keep on keeping on. We always face the temptation to ‘look back’ with a desire to ‘go back’. Life is too often too complicated, too wearisome, too frustrating that it is often too easy to long for days and places that were once so familiar and comfortable.

Christian: Keep on keeping on, fixing our eyes and heart on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Don't Leave Home Without Him

I never knew I had an anterior cruciate ligament. But I received my lesson in human anatomy as I rounded third and sprinted toward the plate. A few yards down the third base line my right knee popped. It felt like an unseen hand ripped my leg in two. I toppled to the dirt, in too much pain to move.   


The surgeon said we should wait a few days for the swelling to subside before repairing my injury. He sent me home with crutches.



The anterior cruciate ligament -- also known as the ACL -- is a band of tissue located behind the knee. Its chief purpose is to stabilize the leg by fastening the top and bottom together. If the ACL tears, the knee easily shifts out of position during normal activities like walking or running.



I didn’t like using crutches. I felt uncoordinated as I hobbled down the sidewalk. Maneuvering from the living room to the kitchen was more trouble than I wanted to endure. Climbing stairs was out of the question. Within two hours of returning home, I put the crutches aside.



“I don’t need these things,” I groused before going to bed. “I can get by just fine without ‘em.”



The next morning, I crawled out from under the covers and stood carefully at the bedside, testing my knee. It felt sore, but nothing I couldn’t handle.  I showered, dressed and wolfed down my breakfast. I ignored the crutches as I walked out the door.



When I stepped off the sidewalk, my knee buckled. If the car hadn’t broken my fall, I’d have fallen to the ground. A few minutes later, I hobbled back into the house to retrieve my crutches.



Over the last forty-five years, as I’ve shared my faith in Christ with others, I’ve heard the refrain so often, “Religion is a crutch,” I wonder if it isn’t subliminally scripted into our subconscious.  What people most often mean is, “Believing in Almighty God is no different than being weak and dependent on something.” 



Coming from the lips of men and women whose spiritual injuries sometimes defy description, I shake my head in bewilderment.  In the face of overwhelming troubles and heartache, of illnesses, and loneliness, or the death of loved ones, and on and on it goes, some people still stubbornly cling to their pride and walk out the door without support. Others, hobbled by crippling disabilities like drunkenness, drug addiction, uncontrollable sexual lusts, and any number of spiritual injuries, still crow, “I don’t need crutches. I can get by fine without ‘em.”



I’ve learned (and still need a reminder now and then) it’s good to have Someone to lean on. The game changes too quickly. One moment I’m sprinting toward home, the next, I’m writhing in the dirt, eating my pride.



I am not ashamed to admit it. I need a crutch. I need Christ’s strong hand of support and soft words of comfort. I need a rock upon which to stand and a Savior to hold me fast.



I learned the truth a long time ago: Don’t leave home without Him. Or, more to the point: Don’t live your life without Him.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

A Supernatural Gift

I am a Pentecostal Christian. A charismatic Catholic. For more than four decades I've believed in the Biblical truth of the baptism of the Holy Spirit as manifested in what many call "speaking in tongues."

I routinely pray in tongues.

However, I don’t know why in those earlier years I DID NOT believe in another – and supremely important – gift of the Holy Spirit – the one promised by the Lord Jesus in the last half of John 6. I’m referring to the changing of bread into the very Body of Christ, and the wine into the very Blood of Christ.

Over the years I’ve found great peace and comfort and spiritual strength while exercising my supernatural prayer language. And I am so very sorry that I did not know in those early years that I could find additional peace and comfort and strength in receiving the Eucharist.

I missed a lot.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Potiphar, Joseph -- and Us

I’ve read Genesis dozens of times, but this time I noticed something for the first time in the story of Joseph and Potiphar. Not that it is of any great theological importance, but what I saw caught my attention for a few moments. You’ll find the vignette in chapters 39-41.

In 39:1, Potiphar is called “captain of [Pharaoh’s] bodyguard”  – a position similar to the Chief of the U.S. President’s Secret Service.

Potiphar had purchased Joseph as his slave, and eventually, Joseph rose to what we might call, “Head Butler” of Potiphar’s household. If you remember the story, in time, Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of attempted rape and Potiphar threw Joseph into prison (it is of interest that Potiphar did not have Joseph executed.

(It’s has been theorized that Potiphar did not believe his wife’s accusation, but could not take the word of a slave against his wife’s. But that is another discussion).

So, Joseph is now in prison where the jail’s warden soon put Joseph into a position of rank among the prisoners. You’d think that by this time Potiphar was done with the guy and had forgotten all about him. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

In 40:4, “the captain of [Pharaoh’s] bodyguard” (Potiphar) put Joseph in charge of two recently incarcerated special prisoners (Pharaoh’s personal chef and butler). Apparently, Potiphar was not only still keeping tabs on Joseph, but he considered him worthy of supervising those special prisoners.

Then in 41:12 – which occurs two full years later—Joseph is still called “a servant of the captain of the bodyguard” (i.e. Potiphar).

As I said, this likely has little theological value – at least, none that I can see – but I’d never noticed that Potiphar seemed to have a continued ‘trusting’ relationship with Joseph all those years, even after his wife’s false charges.

Maybe 39:21 holds a key. It occurs after Potiphar throws Joseph into prison. The text reads: “But the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer.”

Perhaps there is a theological point after all: Trust God. Always do the right thing. God will forever stand by your side.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Only Five Books


Everyone who regularly reads my posts knows that I strongly encourage reading the entire bible through year after year. But I got to thinking the other day that there are probably many who find that idea too daunting to even begin the journey.

So, perhaps I should simplify things – anything to inspire 100% of those who read my posts to set themselves to regularly read God’s word and, thereby, learn how to better walk with the Savior.

Here, then, is my simplified suggestion:

Set for yourself a goal for the next 12 months, until November 19, 2018 (or whatever date you read this blog post), to read only the following five books of the New Testament: The Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel of John, the book of Romans, the book of Galatians, and the book of Colossians.

That’s it. Five books of the 27 books in the New Testament.

Each day as you begin the day’s reading, ask the Holy Spirit what He wants you to know in that day’s reading.

Reading those five books should not be a sprint. Plan for it to take a year to read them. But in your reading, it will be important to reflect – even ruminate – on verses or paragraphs that arouse your interest. Listen as the Holy Spirit speaks to you.

It will be a year well spent.

(By the way, there are many, many One-Year Bible reading plans available on the internet. Search key words such as: One Year Bible Reading.  Also, if you are interested in reviewing the One-Year Bible Reading Plan I devised, here is the link: 

http://thecontemplativecatholicconvert.blogspot.com/2016/09/bible-reading-plan-revised-sept-2016.html

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Be Careful Little Eyes


 Many adults raised in church probably learned this song as children:
O be careful little eyes what you see
O be careful little eyes what you see
For the Father up above
Is looking down in love,
So, be careful little eyes what you see

O be careful little ears what you hear
O be careful little ears what you hear
For the Father up above
Is looking down in love,
So, be careful little ears what you hear

O be careful little feet where you go
O be careful little feet where you go
For the Father up above
Is looking down in love,
So, be careful little feet where you go

I was raised in a Jewish home, so I never heard the song until, as an adult, I met Messiah Jesus. Then, when I married Nancy a few years later, we volunteered to teach 2nd grade Sunday School classes. The simple song became part of our curriculum.
I thought of the lyrics the other day as I read through St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians:
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8)
In other words: “Be careful little eyes, and ears, and feet.”
The promise – and the warning – are usually lost on young and innocent minds. But the promise and warning in Paul’s letter is more apparent to the adult. If we sow to our fleshly lusts, we will reap poisonous fruit. If we sow to Christ’s Spirit within us, we will reap a life-giving harvest.
It’s a simple – and flawless – equation.
“Bad company corrupts good morals,” the Holy Spirit tells us through the apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 15:33). Later, to the same church, God warned: “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-15)
Christian, be careful. Do not let down your guard. The promise and the warning of that simple children’s song, and of the text in Galatians 6, is as absolute as the law of gravity.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Not Take it or Leave It

“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

I just read the vignette in Mark’s gospel about the woman who’d been bleeding for 12 years. It’s a story probably familiar to many of you. Here’s a portion of Mark 5, beginning at verse 27:

“After hearing about Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak. For she thought, “If I just touch His garments, I will get well.” Immediately the flow of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that the power proceeding from Him had gone forth, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My garments?” And His disciples said to Him, “You see the crowd pressing in on You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’”

"And He looked around to see the woman who had done this. But the woman fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction.”

This was not a halfhearted seeking. The woman did not exhibit a passive ‘take it or leave it’ attitude. No, not her. She meant business.

From one end of the Scriptures to the other, God's message is clear: He is pleased when we mean business in seeking Him. No tepid, lukewarm, take-it- or-leave-it searching.

Isn’t that what you want to do? Seek Him with all your heart?

It’s what I want to do.

Usually.

But not all the time.

Holy Spirit, please continue to change my heart. Grant by Your grace that I may seek Jesus as this woman sought Him, to press through the crowds, just to touch His cloak. Amen.

Monday, November 20, 2017

God is Pro-Choice

I posted this a couple of years ago. I thought it good to repost it:

-------
God is pro-choice.

That really shouldn't surprise anyone.

He didn't create us to render robotic obedience to Him. If we couldn't disobey, then our obedience would be meaningless. Which is why, because He desires humanity to willingly return His love, He made a strategic, yet risky decision at our creation.
He let us choose whom we will serve, whom we will love, and whom we will obey.

Choices, of course, carry consequences.

The consequence for a lifestyle of obedience to Him results in complete, through and through, forgiveness for the sins we bring Him in repentance. He permits us to intimately know Him in this life, and in the one which lasts forever.

The consequence for a lifestyle of disobedience results in inevitable and eternal judgment for the sins we have committed, and in painful and unending separation from Him in the life which lasts forever.

Which is why, by the way, He pleads with us:

Choose wisely.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Don't Throw it Away

I started reading again through 1 Peter this morning. I usually try to finish it in one sitting. It’s only five very short chapters. Barely six pages in my Bible.

But this morning I couldn’t hardly get beyond the first chapter in the time I allotted myself. I stopped for a while at verses 3-6 of chapter one.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Notice the verb tenses in that section. They’re important.

Verse 3: God’s great mercy ‘has caused us’ (past tense) to be born again to a living hope. That’s not a ‘maybe’ promise. It’s already been accomplished.

Now verse 4: We’ve been born again through His mercy to obtain in imperishable inheritance already reserved (past tense) in heaven for us. There’s another promise of a ‘done deal.’

And then verse 5: ‘We are protected’ (present tense) by God’s power through our faith in Him.

No wonder Peter continues in verse 6: “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials . . ."

Christian! You have great reason to rejoice in God’s many promises of your eternal destination. You and I can rest in the assurance that God has already ‘qualified’ us (past tense) to share in the heavenly inheritance. Why? Because “He rescued us (past tense) from the domain of darkness and transferred us (past tense) into the Kingdom of His beloved Son’ (see Colossians 1:12-14).

Child of God through faith in the atoning blood of Jesus! Keep walking with Him. Stay faithful and obedient to Him. “Do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised” (Hebrews 10:35-36).