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

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Anonymous and the Kingdom


"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey." (Zechariah 9:9)

My wife and I are reading through Mark’s gospel each evening. The other night we came to the vignette in chapter 11 where Jesus sent two of His disciples to a nearby village for the colt He would ride into Jerusalem. Most people know what happened next. It’s the stuff of children’s Bible stories. (Mark 11:1-4).

But what no one knows are the names of the two disciples who helped Jesus fulfill that prophecy of Zechariah.

As Nancy and I pondered the passage in Mark, I wondered aloud if their names are anonymous because the Holy Spirit decided we don’t need to know their names. Rather, what we DO need to know is that they simply did as their Lord asked.

And as a result of their obedience, prophecy was fulfilled.

The message remains the same in 2017. Our names are not really important for others to know. Rather, what IS important is that we simply do what Jesus tells us to do.

And as a result, God's kingdom prospers.



Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Enemy of My Enemy



“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
The ancient proverb, dating from the 4th century BC, counsels that two opposing groups ought to work together against a common enemy. I thought of that proverb as I read this morning through Luke 9. The vignette begins as verse 49:
“John answered and said, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name; and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow along with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you.”
It continues in the next verse:
“When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But He turned and rebuked them . . . .”
I stopped reading as the Holy Spirit made what is for me a clear connection:
Protestant! – Satan is our enemy, not your Catholic brother and sister.
Catholic! – Satan is our enemy, not your Protestant brother and sister.
Do we really think it matters to Jesus whether we are traveling toward Rome or not, so long as we are walking toward Jesus? Can He not take care of His own? And do we really think it’s okay with Jesus that one group calls fire down to consume the other? Or is St. John wrong when he wrote: If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. (1 John 4:20)
Is ANY Christian among us listening or watching the nightly newscasts?!
As the enemy of all Christians stokes the fires of anti-Christ hatred in this country and across the globe, the level of animosity between Christian groups is nothing less than demonic inspired and fueled.
Protestants and Catholics, Listen up! Don't miss this point. Satan hates each of you EQUALLY.
Before it’s too late, and the conflagration engulfs towns and communities not yet touched by Satan’s hatred for all Christians – regardless of label -- remember: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
Look back for a moment at that text in Luke’s gospel. How did our mutual Lord respond to St. John’s comment? “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name; and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow along with us.”
“Jesus said to him, “Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you.”

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Real Man

I posted this a little more than a year ago. I thought to post it again:
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I had two fathers as I grew up. Albert contributed to my DNA, and nothing else after he left Mom. He divorced her because he wouldn’t stay out of other women’s beds. I was four.


Mom married Tommy when I was twelve. In the six years he lived with us, he never hugged me, rarely spent time with me beyond the time it took to eat dinner together. I don’t remember him even speaking a kind or encouraging word to me. Mostly I remember him for his explosive temper.

Despite how they treated me, I know I would have followed their examples of what I thought was manhood because their example was all I knew. But then I met people who taught me what true manliness looks like.

It looks like Jesus the Christ. Here is some of what that means to me:

Jesus is a man of 'C'ompassion. We cannot read the gospels without noticing how often Jesus set aside His own need for food or rest so He could bring a child to His lap, or touch an adult who needed His mercy, kindness, encouragement, or relief from their suffering.

We cannot be a real man without having compassion for others.

Jesus is a man of 'H'umility. Here’s how the Holy Spirit defines humility: Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be [asserted], but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and . . . . humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:3-8)

We cannot be a real man without placing the genuine and honorable needs of others before our own.

Jesus is a man of 'R'econciliation. Forgiveness and a willingness to be reconciled with those who offend us is the bedrock of manliness. We need look no further for an illustration of forgiveness than the cross on which Jesus hung bruised, bleeding, and dying. What was it He said of those who nailed Him there, who spit in His face? “Father, forgive them.”

We cannot be a real man without forgiving those who have hurt us, offended us, or broken our hearts.

Jesus is a man of 'I'ntegrity.  When I think of Christ’s integrity, I think of His wilderness temptation (Matthew 4 and Luke 4). Cold, tired, hungry – and Satan offered Him a way out of His trial. “You don’t need to wait on God,” the devil wooed. “Take charge. Turn these stones into bread. Toss yourself off this cliff and if you are God’s son, He will protect you. Stop serving God who placed you alone in this wilderness and serve me. I will treat you well.”

You remember how the story ended. Jesus responded to each test with God’s word on His lips – and real men learn His secret of adhering to the moral standard set by the Father. The psalmist asked, “How can a young man (or, an old one) keep his way pure?” Then he answered: “By keeping it according to [God’s] word.” (Psalm 119:9).

We cannot be a real man without living according to God’s word.

Jesus is a man of 'S'acrifice. Who can ever hope to wrap his mind around what were the riches, the magnificence, the glory, the splendor Jesus knew before He “humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death? (Philippians 2)? We cannot begin to understand the word ‘sacrifice’ until we seek to understand His sacrifice.

“Greater love has no one than this,” Jesus said, “that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)  He could just as easily have said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one sacrifice himself, his time, desires, expectations, dreams – all for the sake of his wife, or children, or friends.”

We cannot be a real man without a willingness to sacrifice ourselves for our family.

Jesus is a man of 'T'ruth. Jesus never knelt in homage to the political correctness of His day. He didn’t kneel to it because only the truth found in God’s word sets us free from slavery to sin – and free from the consequences of sin, which is ultimately death.

Real men know what God thinks of those who define ‘truth,’ ‘tolerance’, ‘love’ and ‘compassion’ according to the culture’s sense of morality. Jesus called such teachers, ‘hypocrites,’ ‘brood of vipers’ and ‘sons of the devil’ (Matthew 23, John 8).

We cannot be a real man without obedience to God, despite the consequences we face from those who hate God’s truth.

Albert and Tommy taught me a lot about what they believed it meant to be a man. And I was on my way to become like them. But then I met the One whom God calls a Real Man, and authentic Man, a man for all seasons of life, a man for all time and for all eternity. He showed me a Man after whom I could pattern my life.

Men – who is your role model? After whom do you pattern your life? If it’s Jesus, you could never have made a better choice.


Saturday, September 2, 2017

September 23 -- What About It?


You may or may not be aware of the increasing chatter among Christians about an impending astronomical event that will occur on September 23, 2017. You can easily find information about this event on the internet and YouTube.

Reports have it that for the first time in recorded history – at least in the last several thousand years, two constellations will align themselves with four planets in a unique pattern. Virgo (Latin for Virgin) will appear below the constellation Leo (Latin for Lion). Leo has nine stars that form its pattern. But on September 23, three planets (Mercury, Venus, and Mars) will also appear within that constellation, forming what will appear to be twelve stars.

Also within that constellation alignment, the sun and moon will appear at the feet of Virgo.

Meanwhile, the planet Jupiter (the chief deity of the Roman Empire) has already moved into position within the center (womb?) of Virgo. That happened nine months ago. On September 23, Jupiter will have moved out of Virgo’s womb.

All this, it is said, is in fulfillment of a 2000-year-old prophecy related to the Second Coming of Christ, found in Revelation 12: “A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; and she was with child; and she *cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth . . . . And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne.”

The remainder of the chapter is also of interest to me, but I will leave that reading to those who are curious to read further.

I have not researched this historical accuracy of the claim that this alignment has never occurred before in recorded history. Nor, frankly, do I intend to research that claim. I’ll tell you why a few paragraphs later. But if the claim is true, then one of two things will happen on September 23:

1. Nothing will happen. Like the astronomical events such as the Blood Moon of 2016, and the total Eclipse of last week, the alignment of the two constellations and four planets will simply be an interesting event in the sky. Life on earth will be unchanged.

2. Something cataclysmic will occur. Some call it the ‘rapture’ of Christians – when Jesus comes for His believers and takes them all to heaven with Him. Or, it could be some other catastrophe – man made, or of a natural origin, such as world-wide earthquakes. Whatever it would be, life as we know it would be changed.

So, let me tell you why I will not personally fixate on the September 23 event. It’s the same reason that I’ve told my Bible study group (coincidentally, we started studying the book of Revelation two weeks ago – not because of September 23, but because I thought it would be a fun book to study. But I digress).

I told my Bible study group – and I am telling all who have read my comments this far – it is of little difference if Jesus returns to earth in three weeks, or in three thousand years. Why? Because Jesus could call any one of us to our judgment and reward in the next five minutes.

Please read that again. Jesus could call any one of us to our judgment and reward in the next five minutes.

As I sit here typing this, I am reminded of the Gospel reading for this weekend. It’s from Matthew 16, and the lesson is quite apropos to this question of what (if anything) will happen on September 23:

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 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? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds.

Whether Jesus sounds the Trumpet call for His believers on September 23, 2017, or He calls me home through death today on September 2 – either is of little consequence to me. I know in Whom I have placed my life, my trust, my faith, my obedience, my love. And I know I will hear from His lips, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.”

I very much hope you have the same confidence.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Juxtaposed



You’ll find the two juxtaposed in the 14th chapter of Mark’s gospel.

The first is the unnamed woman who anointed Jesus’ head with a vial of perfume worth a lot of money.

When some angrily criticized her, Jesus rebuked them: “Leave her alone,” He said. “Why do you bother her? She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for the burial.” (14:3-8).  Then He added, “Wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”

The second is Judas. Immediately after the Lord’s comment, Judas went off to the chief priests – and got a lot of money to betray Him to them.

Two people, side by side in the text. Wherever the gospel story is read or told – we learn about each one.

And if we’re listening, we’ll hear the Holy Spirit ask us, “Which of the two do you want to imitate?” 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Word About Death


Have you lost someone to death? Here is a word of encouragement straight from the mouth of God – encouragement to all those who have lost loves ones in Christ:

1 Thessalonians 4:13 “We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 Indeed, we tell you this, on the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep.”

16 “For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore, console one another with these words.”


Yes, yes, yes. As God is always faithful to His promises, we can surely BE comforted – and we can comfort one another – about the eternal destiny of those we love and who have died in Christ.

We need never, ever grieve like those who do not have the right to such a confidence in God’s promise.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Not So Hard to Understand

At times, I wonder if the book of Revelation is difficult for some to understand because they choose to reject the idea that God is not only “Love,” but also of judgment and wrath. It is as if they cling unknowingly to the Marcion heresy.

But for those who acknowledge judgment and wrath as also part of God's character, the Book of Revelation, despite its symbolism, is not difficult to decipher – certainly not its central message.

Indeed, if the central message of Revelation was hard to understand then Jesus’ warning in 1:3 makes no sense: "Blessed is the one who reads aloud and blessed are those who listen to this prophetic message and heed what is written in it, for the appointed time is near.” Neither does His warning in 22:7: “Behold, I am coming soon.” Blessed is the one who keeps the prophetic message of this book.”

God would not command us to heed or keep something we cannot understand.

However, when we acknowledge that God’s patience has its limits, and that He will indeed judge His creation at a final and eternally definitive judgment, then the central message of Revelation takes on a very weighty exhortation:

Everyone on planet earth must meet Jesus as either the Lamb of God who takes away their sin, or they will meet him as He warns in chapter 19 of the book:

11 "Then I saw the heavens opened, and there was a white horse; its rider was called “Faithful and True.” He judges and wages war in righteousness. 12 His eyes were like a fiery flame, and on his head were many diadems. He had a name inscribed that no one knows except himself. 13 He wore a cloak that had been dipped in blood, and his name was called the Word of God. . . . "

15 "Out of his mouth came a sharp sword to strike the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod, and he himself will tread out in the wine press the wine of the fury and wrath of God the almighty. 16 He has a name written on his cloak and on his thigh, “King of kings and Lord of lords.”

17 "Then I saw an angel standing on the sun. He cried out in a loud voice to all the birds flying high overhead, “Come here. Gather for God’s great feast, 18 to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of military officers, and the flesh of warriors, the flesh of horses and of their riders, and the flesh of all, free and slave, small and great.”

Symbolism aside, the message is not shrouded in mystery.

Please do not ignore God’s requirement to repentance and conversion, and to a life of obedience toward God who would rather be your gentle Savior than your wrathful Judge.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Co-Laborers


So I'm reading 3 John this morning and I come across this passage again: "Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially when they are strangers; and they have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles."

It is verse 8 that caught my attention: "Therefore we ought to support such men so that we may be fellow workers with the truth."

Isn't it a great encouragement to know that we can be co-laborers with others in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ?

Most of us are unable to go on missionary journeys, whether out of the country or within the country. But God gives each of us the privilege to share in the work of the gospel as we support with our tithes and offerings others who can go.

And so, knowing this to be true, when we hear the voice of God as did Isaiah, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" We are able to also answer the question with the same words as Isaiah, "Here am I. Send me."

Thanks be to God for permitting us to work in His fields that are white into harvest.


Persuasive Arguments

A long time ago – 2000 years ago, to be more precise – a pretty smart guy wrote to the Christians at Collosae: “I say this so that no one will delude you [away from your faith in Christ] with persuasive argument. (2:4) He continued a few verses later: “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. 9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10 and in Him you have been made complete . . . .” (verses 8-10).

One of the many arguments in the 21st century used by atheists and others antagonistic to and hateful of Christian faith is the alleged mythological character of our faith. You’ve probably heard the accusations most often parroted by people who have never themselves investigated our faith, but are nonetheless content to simply echo to others their baseless opinions. Their favorite words are superstition, fairy tales, fantasy, and similar pejoratives.

To that argument, I like to recommend those who disparage Christianity as fit only for young children and senile adults to do a simple internet search with the key words such as: Famous Christian scientists, or Famous Christian biologists – or something similar. And then I ask them if they are really willing to declare those many Nobel Laureates and other scientific greats to be superstitious fools?

Or perhaps they know something about the universe – indeed, even our own body’s astounding intricacies – that led them to their conclusion of faith in God?

Here is only one link: http://bit.ly/2vT14uL

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Why Do We Say It?

I wrote this a few years ago. I think it's good to ask myself the same question from time to time:
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Therefore Pilate . . . summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?” (John 18:33-34)


Why do we believe Jesus is King?
And Lord?

Because our parents told us it’s so?
Our teachers? Pastors?
Books we’ve read?
Homilies we’ve heard?

Or do we believe Jesus is King,
and Lord,
because we’ve met Him.
Because we know Him.
Because we speak with Him.

Believing ‘in’ Jesus is not the same as
believing Jesus.

Trusting ‘in’ Jesus is not the same as
trusting Jesus.

Which is why what the Lord asked of Pilate
He asks also of you and me:

“Do you call Me King,
and Lord,
on your own initiative?

Or because of what others have told you of Me?”


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A Guest Post -- Battle for the Heart




A REASON TO BELIEVE
The Case For Christ –
The Head vs. the Heart
by Craig Johnston



Every so often I like to share something written by another. Today’s post is written by Craig Johnston. Craig and I attend the same men’s fellowship at our church. He spoke to the fifty or so men a few weeks ago about his experience having been selected so sit on a Grand Jury in our county – and then made application to the spiritual warfare in which we are all engaged. 

What he told us was important enough that I asked his permission to share his words with others. For the sake of space and clarity, here is an edited version of what he granted me permission to post. 

Here is what he said:

On a typical day we’d hear 50-90 cases. I was shocked and a bit alarmed by the level and nature of crime in our community and those surrounding us. There is a proliferation of gang activity, family violence, drugs, prostitution, and so many cases a complete lack of regard for fellow human beings.

The level of crime and general lack of civility reflects a world engaged in spiritual warfare. There is no doubt we suffer from the effects of a  growing segment of secular society that wants nothing to do with God or religion.  God and religion are often portrayed as a source of our problems. God and religion, people believe, create an atmosphere of conflict and judgment, not of peace and understanding.

Many of the so-called intellectuals say the God of Christianity is a myth.  They teach and proclaim across the media, the public square, and in our educational institutions and even our courts that logic, reason, and science preclude the need for our man-made “god”.

In their ongoing attempts to discredit Christian faith, they lump all faiths together, likening the violence done in the name of one religion to discredit all – as though all religions are equal or the actions of one individual represent the teaching of a faith.

And in denigrating faith in the God of the Bible, atheists and other anti-Christ evangelists achieve their goal of establishing a world where everything is a matter of personal perspective, a place in which morality is relative.

Law enforcement and the justice system do their best to provide a safe and civil society – but the history of the world dating back millennia demonstrate that the cure to the ills of our times will be accomplished not by putting one’s faith in people, but in putting one’s faith in God.

True faith results from not just knowing who God is, but a desire to knowing His nature and will for our lives.  For most of us, I believe the journey of faith start with the head and then moves to the heart. There are times even now when the Doubting Thomas in my head pulls me away from the direction my heart is leading. I’d like to share some words of encouragement that have helped me over the years that help my head get back in line with my heart.

Simon Greenleaf (d. 1853) helped put the Harvard Law School on the proverbial legal map. He wrote the three-volume legal masterpiece, A Treatise on the Law of Evidence, which is still regarded as “the greatest single authority in the entire literature of legal procedure.” The U.S. judicial system today operates on rules of evidence established by Greenleaf.

While teaching law at Harvard, Greenleaf stated to his class that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was simply a legend; as an atheist, he thought miracles to be impossible. In a rebuttal, three of his law students challenged him to apply his acclaimed rules of evidence to the resurrection account.

Greenleaf accepted his students’ challenge and began an investigation into the evidence. Focusing his legal mind on the facts of history, Greenleaf attempted to prove the resurrection account was false. Yet the more Greenleaf investigated the record of history, the more stunned he was at the powerful evidence supporting the claim that Jesus had indeed risen from the tomb. Greenleaf’s skepticism was being challenged by an event that had changed the course of human history.
Among other conundrums, Greenleaf was unable to explain several dramatic changes that took place shortly after Jesus died, the most baffling being the behavior of the disciples. It wasn’t just one or two disciples who insisted Jesus had risen; it was all of them. Applying his own rules of evidence to the facts, Greenleaf arrived at his verdict.
In a surprising reversal of his position, Greenleaf accepted Jesus’ resurrection as the best explanation for the events that took place immediately after his crucifixion. It would have been impossible, he determined, for the disciples to persist with their conviction that Jesus had risen if they hadn’t actually seen the risen Christ.
Greenleaf was so persuaded by the evidence that he became a committed Christian. He – and many former atheists and agnostics who committed themselves to disprove the New Testament account of Jesus – Greenleaf concluded that any unbiased person who honestly examines the evidence will conclude what he did—that Jesus the Christ has truly risen.
As if the resurrection of Christ isn’t enough to convince the honest skeptic, the sheer number of Old Testament messianic prophecies provide additional reason to believe the veracity of the New Testament claims about Jesus.
There are no prophecies foretelling of Muhammad, Joseph Smith, Buddha, or any of the other founders of their religions. Yet of Jesus, there are literally hundreds.
For example, God told us through the prophets that a Virgin would conceive the Messiah, who would be born in Bethlehem but in some way would come out of Egypt, and be called a Nazarene. He would enter Jerusalem on a colt, be betrayed by a friend for 30 pieces of silver, die a sacrificial death for us – and then rise from the dead. We even knew what His last words from the cross would be, how he would suffer the scorn of the crowd, and how soldiers would cast lots for his garments.
The mathematical odds of one person fulfilling the more than three hundred prophecies are impossible for us to grasp. For example, for the fulfillment of only eight prophecies is one out of 10¹⁷. That’s 1 followed by 17 zeros.  It looks like this: 100,000,000,000,000,000. 
For one person to fulfill 48 prophecies is 1 followed by 157 zeros.
Yet, Jesus fulfilled more than 300 prophecies! I’ve not worked it out, but the odds of that happening have to be somewhere in the realm of absolutely impossible -- without the divine intervention of an omnipotent and omniscient God to whom nothing is impossible.
The battle for the heart begins with the mind. And victory in that battle begins and ends only with the God of History, the God of Reason, and the God of science and mathematics.
Christians know Him as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Noted Catholic author and priest, Fr Thomas Dubay came to this conclusion: “From the natural point of view we can come to know God from the vestiges of Himself that he has left in the splendors of the visible universe: the blazing red sunset, the snow-covered mountain peaks, the graceful flight of a bird, the breathtaking magnificent complexity of a single living cell. On a still more exalted level we know Him in the loveliness of the saints- but remains a knowledge of the infinite through the finite”
In a round-about way, Fr. Dubay was paraphrasing the 19th Psalm written 3,000 years ago: “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world.
May God give those who truly seek Him eyes to see and ears to hear.

Monday, July 3, 2017

An Open Letter to Young Christians Leaving Home


So, you’ve graduated high school and you’re headed away from home for the first time. Whether your destination is college, the military, marriage – or anywhere else far from the familiar of family, church, and friends – you must read this. Your spiritual health will be tested many times, and how you handle those tests will determine the memories you will deal with thirty, forty years (and longer) from today.
I know what I am talking about. In the forty-five years I have been walking with Jesus, I have seen it happen over and over to young men and women who left home after high school. For a short while, it even happened to me.
I wish I had known then what I know now about the danger. And I wish someone had given me strategies that could have helped me avoid the moral failures I committed. So here are some time-tested suggestions to help you avoid the many hidden – and not-so-hidden – traps you will encounter.
1. Don’t succumb to pride which whispers in your ear, “It won’t happen to me.” You are subject to the same enticements of sin to which everyone else is subject – regardless how long you have been a Christian. Solomon warned, “Pride goes before disaster, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).  St. Paul picked up that same theme in his letter to the Corinthians, “So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall(1 Corinthians 10:12).
2. Make up your mind ahead of time to avoid situations and places where you can be tempted to sin. Be doubly vigilant to avoid being alone in a house or dorm room with someone of the opposite sex – even if he or she is a Christian. Such a situation is a recipe for bad decisions.  Remember what St. Paul said to Timothy: “So shun youthful passions and aim at righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call upon the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). Memorize this maxim: Sin will take you farther than you want to go. It will keep you longer than you want to stay. And it will cost you more than you want to pay.
3. Avoid hanging with people who do not share your faith in Jesus. King Solomon warned: “Make no friends with those given to anger, and do not associate with hotheads, or you may learn their ways and entangle yourself in a snare” (Proverbs 22:24-25). One can easily substitute “drunkard,” or “an immoral person,” or “liar,” or “cheat,” or any other ungodly characteristic into this text, and the principle remains constant. As the apostle Paul wrote: Bad company ruins good morals (1 Corinthians 15:33).
4. Alcohol, and any other ‘recreational’ drug, will cloud your judgment and make you much more willing to do things for which you will be very sorry afterward. The evidence for this is indisputable. And if your friends poke fun at you because of your abstinence, find other friends. 
5. Pray each morning for God’s protection. Each evening, review your day and thank God for specific situations in which you made the right decisions. However, if you did fall into sin, be quick to confess, repent – and determine with God’s help to avoid doing the same thing again. The Holy Spirit’s promise through St. John has always proven a comfort for me when I sin: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).
6. Establish a habit of daily prayer and reading Scripture. Be consistent with this. It is no surprise the psalmist wrote: How can young people keep their way pure? By guarding it according to Your word . . . . I treasure your word in my heart, so that I may not sin against you. (Psalm 119:9, 11).
Do you remember Jesus’ experience in the wilderness during Satan’s three-fold temptation? At each test, Jesus responded with Scripture (Matthew 4:1-11). For decades I have practiced what I call the 2+2 = 1+3 Scripture Reading Method. If you read two chapters of the Old Testament every morning and two of the New Testament every evening (or vice versa), by the end of the year you will have read the Old Testament once and the New Testament three times (2+2=1+3). On average it takes less than 10 minutes to read two chapters of Scripture. In five years you will have read the Old Testament five times and the New Testament fifteen times. In ten years – well, you can do the math. With so much of God’s word sown year after year in your heart, think how the Holy Spirit will mature you more quickly into the image of Christ.
7. Establish a habit of weekly attendance at a church where the Bible is believed and taught without apology or political correctness. If you are Catholic, establish a habit of weekly attendance at Mass and frequent reception of the Sacraments of the Eucharist and of Reconciliation. 
Prayer, the Scriptures, and the Sacraments are supernatural gifts the Holy Spirit gives to empower believers on their faith journey. Fighting spiritual battles without those spiritual “weapons” is nothing less than a guarantee for failure.  

You will meet many who are actively antagonistic toward your Christ-centered faith. But your situation will be no different than what faithful Christians have faced for millennia. The ancient worship of Baal is a type of 21st century compromise with the anti-Christ philosophies permeating our society. Yet what the Holy Spirit said to Israel through Elijah, He says to us today: ‘How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him’ (1 Kings 18:21).

In other words, decide today – and every day hereafter – that you will follow Jesus and obey Him.. And it is a choice you must every day ask God to help you maintain.
These strategies have proven effective for me over the last several decades of my walk with Christ. And they will also help you avoid many of the spiritual traps that lay ahead of you. Satan is a cruel and merciless liar, thief, and murderer. We must not be ignorant of his schemes (see John 8:44 and 2 Corinthians 2:11).

As you prepare to leave home for the first time I hope you will apply these strategies to your life. You will not be sorry you did so – even forty-five years from now.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Revising Expectations

“It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles:  Simon, whom He also named Peter . . . and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.” (Luke 6:12-16)

I think it important to understand, Judas did not start out a traitor to our Lord. Over the course of time, he ‘became’ a traitor.

Like so many I’ve known over the years, why do some who at one time followed Jesus end up not only leaving Christ, but turn angry and treasonous against Him -- and against those who still follow Him? Perhaps it’s because Jesus often failed to meet their expectations, and their disappointments grew into cold disillusionment.

Turning from God is a risk all Christians face when He repeatedly fails to measure up to our expectations.

A risk, yes. But that risk is wholly avoidable if, with the Holy Spirit’s help, we purposely revise our expectations of God to match what Scripture teaches about Him – and put away from our thoughts what we think God should be like.

However, such spiritual maturity is possible – even with the Holy Spirit’s help – such maturity is possible only when we become intimately familiar with God’s word. This link (and the link also embedded within it) will help you: http://bit.ly/2sKC5eG .

I urge you – become so familiar with the Scriptures that His thoughts become part of your very being. Doing so will change your life – and protect you from the risk of turning away from your Savior.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

All Things


For 40 days and nights the devil tested the mettle of our Lord Jesus. At one point the enemy “showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.  Therefore, if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.”
I read that section again this morning and for the first time realized the Lord’s response might have been a not-too-thinly-veiled reference to the portion of Isaiah in which we find this partial history of the devil (Isaiah 14:12-15):
“How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations! 13 “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north. 14 ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ 15 “Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit.
While I considered this new understanding of the text, the Holy Spirit reminded me of what He said through St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians (1:16-18):
For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
Look again at the last clause. From the beginning of creation, it has been – and always will be – the Father’s intent that Jesus have first place in everything we do and everything we are.
Jesus should have first place in all our life goals. Our daily plans should seek to honor Him first. Our employment or unemployment should be done in such a way that Jesus has first place in it.
You might remember when Simon Peter’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever (Luke 4:38-40). When the disciples asked the Lord to heal her, He rebuked the fever “and she IMMEDIATELY got up and served them.”
We ought not gloss over that point. When Jesus healed her, she got up from her sickbed and waited on Him.
Our position and titles are not given us to serve ourselves, but to serve Him. Our time, talents, and treasures were each given us by God to serve Jesus. When He heals us – as with Peter’s mother-in-law – it is to serve Him. When He does NOT heal us – as was true of the many faithful men and women in Hebrews 11:36-40 – it is so that in our illness and suffering we might serve Him.
God formed us in the womb for His purposes. No one can read scripture from cover to cover with an honest heart and not come away with the ever-growing realization that our very being is for and through Jesus – that our Creator intends that Jesus have first place in everything.
Oh, Holy Spirit, change my heart – give me a ‘sea-change’ of attitude that I might always remember my responsibility is to place Jesus above all things in my life. That He may always receive honor from my life. Amen

Monday, June 12, 2017

God is God -- my latest sermon

God is God, and I am not. The sooner that becomes part of my psyche, the better. I talk about it here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trWgxPLV9SI