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

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Blaming God


“As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” (John 9:1-2) 

Yup. God is punishing either the man’s parents, or the man himself, for their sins. That is why the guy was born blind. 

That’s what the disciples believed. 

Have you ever noticed how often we blame God for pain, for evil, for troubles, and never the devil who is behind it all? How often we forget Job and the conversation in heaven described for us in the first chapters of that Biblical book.

Of course, if the disciples had thought about their theology longer than a nanosecond, they’d have remembered Job – and they’d have also realized the blind man couldn’t possibly have sinned while in the womb! 

But as is true with most of us, when we don’t understand life’s tragic or troublesome turns, we look to blame someone for it all. 

And typically, even among Christ’s disciples today, God is at fault. 

But come back to Jesus’ response: “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. (John 9:1-3) 

Storms come to all of us. Sometimes so devastating, we can’t catch our breath. And each time – each time – the winds howl, and waves smash against our lives, we face two choices: Blame God, or trust Him in our suffering. 

Jesus’ answer to His disciples assures me that storms come to His children born through faith in the atonement of Christ – storms come for His honor and for the strengthening of our faith – if we let the storms have their perfect work. 

Isn’t that what James tells us? Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So, let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 1:2-4, NLT) 

Paul says the same thing: “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.(Romans 5:3-5, NLT)  

Christian, please hear this. Please believe this: God loves you. It is Satan who wants you to believe otherwise. But never forget what Jesus said of your enemy: “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44, NASB) 

What is your heartache and struggle and confusion and loneliness and pain today? 

Please, Oh God, help us to TRUST you to work within it all for your honor – and for our good. Amen.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Supernatural Battle - Part Two


You can find part one of this series at this link (click here).

Last week we looked at the supernatural evil that should be obvious from the evidence all around us. Now we turn our attention to supernatural protection, the supernatural armor and weapons given to us by the creator of things seen and unseen.



The Lord of Creation told His first century disciples something His 21st century disciples must forever embrace: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:18-20)



It is in God alone – whom we know as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit –where all supernatural authority and power reside. It is from God alone that His matchless love and mercy and grace emanate toward us.



Perhaps one of the best-known passages of the New Testament dealing with this subject of the supernatural is in the sixth chapter of Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. It is here where the Holy Spirit makes clearest to us what are the defensive gear and offensive weapons God supplies to us.



It is the wisest and the safest followers of Christ who not only know about the armor, but who also practices with them. 



Starting with verse 10 of chapter six, Paul writes: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth . . . .”



Look back at that first sentence: “Be strong in the Lord.”



Remember: We are not alone in our battle. Like the undetectable radio waves that surround us, we are also surrounded by undetectable supernatural and godly forces. Not only does the Holy Spirit live inside each follower of Christ, but unseen angels never leave our side.



Don’t gloss over that truth.



The psalmist tells us: “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him and rescues them (Psalm 34:7). Hebrews 1:14 assures us God’s angels are “ministering spirits sent out to render service to those who will inherit salvation” And again, Psalm 91:11  For He will give His angels orders concerning you, to protect you in all your ways.”



Angels surround you. Right now, as you read this essay. As you walk through your day. As you sleep through the night. God’s supernatural angels never leave your side, their swords unsheathed, their eyes watchful, their ears attentive, each sent by our Father and creator of all things visible and invisible to protect us.



You might remember the story of Elisha and his servant in Dothan. The Syrian king was at war with Israel, and Elisha – the protégé of Elijah – was at the top of his list of enemies. When the king learned Elisha was staying in Dothan, he sent his army to surround the city. We pick up the story in 2 Kings 6:15 --



“Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”



You are NOT ever alone. Despite your struggles and heartaches, God is in absolute control over your circumstances and mine. You never walk that so-called lonesome valley all by yourself.



So, trust Him. Carry your cross faithfully. Jesus suffered for you. Now He suffers with you in your trials.



Next, Paul tells us about the armor.



Just as no soldier approaches a field of battle in gym clothes, we dare not enter this battle thinking ANY of our own abilities and talents can ever prevail in this supernatural battle. Many of you will recognize these lyrics of Martin Luther’s hymn:



Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing, Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing: Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He; Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same, And He must win the battle.



Christian, never rely on your own skills and talents to protect you in the supernatural battle. They will always prove useless and fruitless. And so Paul continues: “Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth.”



The belt worn by the Roman soldier securely held in place his dagger and his breastplate – the leather or bronze cover that protected his vital organs. If he did not secure the belt close against his body, his weapon and the breastplate would fall away – leaving him defenseless against an aggressor.



That’s why Paul’s analogy of ‘girding our loins with truth’ is so instructive for us. Truth is the foundation of our faith. Truth – not philosophical truth. Not psychological truth. Not my truth. Not your truth.



God’s truth is the only foundation of our Christian faith. If we let truth slip away, if we compromise it, rationalize it, we open ourselves to deadly attack by our enemy.



I can’t tell you how many times during our lives together when I was under some sort of spiritual attack that Nancy helped me through the battle by quoting to me some relevant text of Scripture. Likewise, how often I helped her wend her way through her own spiritual battles by quoting to her God’s infallible and inerrant word.



Without the belt of truth that undergirds our faith we remain in mortal danger of the lurking evil. That’s why Paul wrote to the church 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. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form . . .



The Greek word Paul used here for captive has the idea of being carried off as a prisoner of war.  And that is what happens to anyone who is seduced by humanistic explanations of the supernatural. They become a prisoner of war and lose their ability to stay in the fight.



It has been wisely repeated many times over: The Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.  St. Jerome, translator of the Latin Vulgate, exhorted those with ears to hear: Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.  In other words, we can know Jesus only in so far as we know what the Scriptures and the historic teaching of the Church tell us about Jesus – and in so far as we humbly receive His truth.



The equation is so simple, a child can grasp it. The better you know the Scriptures, the better you know the truth. And that truth will set us free – free from fears and doubts and seductions – and yes, free from sin.



Don’t let anyone seduce you into thinking we can accurately know Jesus apart of His word. The heavens declare God’s glory, but only through His word can we ever accurately know the Word-Made-Flesh. That’s why the Holy Spirit, again speaking through the great apostle, tells us Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17). 



As I close this first of several essays about our supernatural armor, I hope you will remember at least these four important points:



First: God is in absolute control of the battle AND the battlefield. God reigns with absolute authority over every created thing, seen and unseen.



Second: We are never, ever alone in this battle. The Holy Spirit lives within each believer, and His angels surround us. We are never alone – regardless of how it seems when life’s storms pummel us. Trust God to be true to His promises.



Third: Never rely on your own natural strengths, abilities, talents, wealth, or anything else of this world. There is nothing of this creation that can be effective against the supernatural. Put on God’s supernatural armor every day and keep it on throughout the day.



Fourth: Don’t be seduced into thinking we can accurately know Jesus apart of His word. Purposefully, intentionally, seek truth about God. Learn to love truth about God. And set yourself to live what God says is truth.



Next time we will continue our examination of the other parts of the Christian’s supernatural armor.


Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Nothing More to Hide


I just found this in my old essay files. I wrote it nearly 20 years ago. The message, though, is timeless.

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So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Most times when I read this verse, I think about myself.

You wouldn’t know it by looking at me. In my dress shirt and pants I appear trim and athletic. But you’ll not catch me wearing a bathing suit. Age has taken its pound of flesh from my self-image and molded several around my midsection. Love handles, they’re called.
I hate them. 

But at 50 years old, I’ve learned to compensate. I never take my shirt off in public. 

Hiding behind clothes reminds me of my younger days when I didn’t need to conceal bulging flesh. I weighed 150 pounds of muscle and proudly strutted shirtless along the beach. But even while I exposed my physique, I hid a lot of other things behind a wardrobe of my own making. 

For a while I wore intellectualism and various self-centered philosophies like a suit of armor. My two favorite outfits were: “All religions lead to the same place,” and “as long as no one gets hurt, it doesn’t matter how we live.” 

Then for a time I clothed myself with atheism -- and for good reason. If God didn’t exist, then I had no one to whom I would ultimately answer. I could do what I pleased -- so long as I didn’t get caught. 

A few years later, when I accepted the likelihood of God’s existence, I wrapped myself in a robe of religion. I memorized the Ten Commandments (to show God I was serious) and performed good deeds as often as it was convenient to do so.

As I continued changing wardrobes, I never suspected how threadbare my clothes had become. Only when I discovered the gospel of Christ did I recognize my nakedness. To make things worse, God stood me in front of His mirror . . . the Scriptures.

I cringed at what I saw.

My reflection sagged under the weight of every fold and crease of my sins - thefts, immorality, pride, blasphemy, drunkenness, and my baby whom I killed by abortion.

I wanted to cover myself, to do anything to hide my hideous appearance. But there was nowhere to go. Nothing to wear. At the time I didn’t know the Biblical term, but I needed a conversion of heart, a rebirth (St. John 3:3; 1 Peter 1:3). I needed to become a new creation, (2 Corinthians 5:17), to exchange my filthy clothes for Christ’s robes of righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).

But . . . enough about myself.

Are you like me? If you're trying to hide something from God, I can tell you from experience, you may as well give up. He sees through every fabric and every layer of excuse you slip on to cover your sins. "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight," Scripture tells us. “Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).

So, since He sees it all anyway, why continue the charade? Why not just unload all that burdensome weight and let God embrace you in His incomprehensible and warmly intimate love? “If anyone is in Christ,” St. Paul wrote, “he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17). That means God offers us a new heart and a new life. And Isaiah urged, be clothed "with garments of salvation and arrayed . . . in a robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10). That means no one has to live with the old clothes, because God spread His arms on a cross to offer us spotless garments, an eternal and flawless remedy available only in Jesus Christ.

All we have to do is stop our cover-ups, make an honest and humble confession . . .


And then start obeying Him.



Sunday, July 7, 2019

The Supernatural Battle - Part One


In my last essay I told the story of my encounter with a spider’s web. I’d have walked right into it if at the last moment the sunlight had not glistened off its nearly invisible strands.  I then made application to the supernatural web Satan creates to trap each one of us. And because his web is supernatural, many people are easily caught in it when they insist what can be known is knowable only with our natural senses.


The following analogy is not perfect. I admit that. But I use it as an example of how we are surrounded by things we cannot discern with our natural senses, but we can infer their existence, often (but not always) by using instruments that bring the unseen and unfelt into the natural world of our five senses.


Most of you reading this own a cell phone. With it we can call anyone anywhere in the world by simply dialing the correct number. Our phones are unlike the old rotary phones with which we are all familiar. Our rotary phones were attached to a chord that was connected to wires in the wall. Those wires connected a pole not far from the house. Our voice was converted into electronic waves that electronically along wires to a central switchboard and from there to another phone across the city, across the country, even across the world.


But today, without wires or cables, we tap the correct numbers onto our phone’s screen and invisible and inaudible electronic waves transmit signals to a cell tower somewhere in the area, which then transmits those invisible waves to a satellite in stationary orbit above the country Ultimately, those invisible and inaudible electronic waves cause the phone on the other end to ring.



What’s my point? You and I live in a natural world surrounded by radio waves and solar rays. We’ve never SEEN those waves, but we infer their existence because of how those waves behave when we use the proper equipment.



Since that’s what happens in the natural world around us, then why is it so inconceivable, so fairy tale-ish to believe in the existence of an unseen and intangible supernatural world all around us – ESPECIALLY since we can infer it by the evidence of a supernatural evil all around us?



And this is important: Since there is a supernatural evil, then it logically follows that there is a supernatural evil ONE who orchestrates that evil.



The famous Chinese general and strategist, Sung Szu, wrote in his classic, The Art of War: Knowing the enemy enables you to take the offensive. Knowing yourself enables you to stand on the defensive.


Perhaps one of the best-known passages of the New Testament dealing with supernatural warfare is in the sixth chapter of Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus.

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”

“Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

“With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.”  (6:12ff)

Listen! People are not our enemy, although clearly, in the supernatural battle we’re in, Satan uses people to do what he by himself cannot do without human help. That’s why he seduces and manipulates people to murder, ravage, destroy, and ruin others. And we can expect such malevolent evil to grow steadily worse as we move toward the second coming of Christ.



Although unseen by the natural eye, the eye focused on the supernatural can see his activities nearly everywhere – including in many churches. So, what evidence is there by which we can infer his foul supernatural existence?



Consider the epic and gravely serious cultural changes anyone over the age of 60 has witnessed just in their lifetime – cultural changes that have resulted in the ruin of homes, families, nations, and individuals.



For example, in the 1950s it would have been unthinkable by virtually every American that in 2019 we would nonchalantly kill 3,000 babies every day in American abortion clinics. And not just kill them, but also sell their body parts for experimentation and research. 



Think of it!  None of us in the 1950s – just a few years from learning of the experiments the Nazis performed on men, women, and children in their concentration camps – none of us would have ever imagined Americans would do the same thing in our lifetime.



Did you know that since 1973 when the Supreme Court ruled that women have the right to kill their children in the womb (and now, in states like New York, even after they are born) we have killed more than 56 million pre-born children?



Let that number sink in a moment. 56 million.



That’s the combined populations of Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and New York! In your mind’s eye, wipe those states off the map. They no longer exist. We’ve slaughtered their populations in the womb.



Our deviant culture is now so upside-down that if you mistreat a dog, you can go to jail. But if you kill your baby in an abortion clinic, you can get invited to some television show to brag about it.



What else do we know of the supernatural carnage triggered by the devil in our lifetime? In 1950 who would have imagined the US Supreme Court would give same-sex marriages legal status in our country – and that a growing number of lower courts throughout the nation would call it ‘hate speech’ to argue against same-sex unions?



In the 1950s who would have believed that unmarried couples living and sleeping together would be the stuff of television sitcoms and Hollywood movies? Yet the supernatural enemy of the family unit has convinced most Americans that living together outside of marriage is as innocent a thing as strolling through the park on a Saturday afternoon.


And if we still need evidence of a supernatural unseen enemy, consider this. Only a few years after we defeated Nazism – NAZI, as some of you might know, is an acronym for the German phrase: National ‘Socialist’ German Workers Party – in 1950, just after we defeated Nazism and were about to be embroiled in a decades-long cold war with the Union of Soviet ‘Socialist’ Republics (USSR), would any of us over the age of 60 believed it possible that in our lifetime we would actually VOTE socialists into our congress and state houses?


I could go on and on with evidence of the supernatural blindness that has enveloped our nation, our churches, our neighbors, but the point should by now be clear. We are engaged in a fierce and lethal supernatural battle for our eternal souls.


We might not want to be engaged in it. We might rather pretend none of it is happening. But if anyone thinks we can avoid the conflict by pretending it’s not there then – listen!  Wake up! 

Jesus said to the Church at Sardis what He ALSO says it to the Church in 2019: “‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. So, remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore, if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.” (Revelation 3:1-3)


Don’t miss this point! Life, freedom, safety – and most important, our eternal destiny – is at stake here. Satan will continue deceiving as many as he can to do his will – and his evil will only increase as we draw closer to the second coming of Christ.


That is why it is absolutely crucial that you and I focus our attention on what the Holy Spirit tells us regarding how to protect ourselves and those we love – and also how to successfully stand against our supernatural enemy.


We look at those things next time.


Thursday, July 4, 2019

Independence Day and Luke's Gospel -- a quick Bible study

A quick Bible study on this day when Americans celebrate Independence Day, here are some related questions from Luke's gospel:
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Luke 22:33ff (Simon Peter said to Jesus) “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!” And He said, “I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.” . . . Having arrested [Jesus] they led Him away and brought Him to the house of the high priest; but Peter was following at a distance. After they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter was sitting among them. And a servant-girl, seeing him as he sat in the firelight and looking intently at him, said, “This man was with Him too.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.”

"A little later, another saw him and said, “You are one of them too!” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” After about an hour had passed, another man began to insist, saying, “Certainly this man also was with Him, for he is a Galilean too.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” Immediately, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed.

"The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.”

Questions to consider:

1. How do you think Jesus looked at Peter? With anger? Disappointment? Love? Forgiveness? Tenderness?

2. Why do you think Simon Peter left the area and wept bitterly?

3. Why do you think Jesus looked at His betrayer with love and forgiveness? Notice this portion of Psalm 103: "Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the Lord has compassion on those who fear (reverence, worship] Him. 14 For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust."

4. Today America celebrates Independence Day. But you can celebrate your OWN independence – independence from whatever it is that causes you to believe Jesus would never forgive whatever it is you have done in the past. This story of Simon Peter reminds us that no matter our past sins, even if we betrayed the Lord – Jesus looks at us with the same love and tenderness and forgiveness as He looked at Simon Peter.

5. Simon Peter repented of his sin against the Lord. And Jesus freely forgave Peter. Do you think Jesus would do the same for you too, if you repent?

6. How does that make you feel?