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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

SHMILY

I published in one of my books. I thought it might be helpful to post it here today.
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For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life (St. John 3:16).

It’s easy to find the story of SHMILY. Laura Jeanne Allen published the anecdote of her grandparents’ mysterious word in a 1999 Chicken Soup for the Couple’s Soul. Since then, SHMILY – an acronym for “See How Much I Love You” – has raced across the world through the power of the internet.

During their 50 years of marriage, Andrew and Alice McAndrew’s love for each other found expression in hundreds of ways. They stole gentle kisses in the kitchen, held hands at every opportunity, and spoke their devotion to each other with their eyes. They knelt each day in church to meet with God, whom they knew to be the source of their love. They bowed their heads before each meal, acknowledging Him as the source of their sustenance.

Like many couples who have lived together for many years, they could end each other’s sentences, sense one another’s moods, and meet each other’s needs before those needs were even spoken.

For the greater part of their half-century marriage, Andrew and Alice passed See-How-Much-I-Love-You messages to each other like a sacred game of tag. They left notes scrawled with SHMILY on dashboards and car seats, under pillows and traced in the fireplace ashes. They wrote the word in the steam left on the mirror after a hot shower, and carved it into bars of soap. One time, Alice unrolled an entire roll of toilet paper and wrote the word on the last sheet.

During their last years together, breast cancer hung above their heads like a dark and ominous cloud. But the disease couldn’t cast a shadow on their love for each other. She held onto her husband’s steady hand as they continued their morning walks to church. She often whispered to her grandchildren how good-looking her husband was, and that she “knew how to pick ‘em.”

When her strength waned and forced her to remain indoors, Andrew painted their room yellow so she could feel surrounded by sunshine. When the cancer finally took her life, the family gathered for the funeral where, to no one’s surprise, they saw Grandpa’s final love note written on the pink ribbons of the funeral bouquet: SHMILY.

One of my favorite Scripture passages is from the book of Isaiah: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands . . .” (Isaiah 49:15-16).

Most people who have seen a crucifix know of the placard placed by Pontius Pilate above our Lord’s head (John 19:19-22). It holds the acronym INRI – the first letters of the Latin phrase, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”

When I heard about SHMILY, my imagination framed for me two lovers who had grown old together, who deeply cherished each other, and now Andrew suffered the loss of his life mate. Then, a moment later, my mind’s eye turned in another direction. It was there that I saw our Savior. I saw His hands nailed to the cross beams, His feet to the wood, the crown of thorns pressed into his forehead. And above His head, I saw the inscription on the placard:

It read, SHMILY.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Bloody Faith


“If his holocaust offering is from the flock that is, a sheep or a goat, [the priest] must bring a male without blemish. This he shall slaughter before the Lord at the north side of the altar. Then Aaron’s sons, the priest, shall splash its blood on the sides of the altar” (Leviticus 1:10-11).



Some believe the Old Testament religion was a bloody one.

They are right. The blood of bulls and goats flowed from the Hebrew altar day after day
after day to atone for sins.


Some think the New Testament religion is less bloody.

They are wrong. The blood bath of animals was only a shadow of the substance to unfold two thousand years later, on Calvary. There the blood of our God dripped from His face, His arms, His side, to cleanse our sins.


And within the seamless folds of eternity that blood still flows each time we reject
Him.


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

In Him Alone

I wrote this a little more than two years ago. It seems more poignant today:
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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 . . . . stand firm. (Ephesians 6:12-13)

No one old enough to read is unaware of the evil ravaging across our nation like a tsunami, leaving in its wake destruction, mayhem, and death. I do not need to itemize the things happening around us today.

Every day.

Day after day.

I also know how easy it is to start seeing life through the prism of fear, apprehension, and yes, even dread about tomorrow. I know how easy it is to do that because I found myself moving in that direction once again, this time after reading the latest reports of Satan unleashed in the South Carolina church massacre.

That evening as I prepared for sleep, I opened my Bible to John’s gospel and read what Jesus said to His own: “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Life and peace and fear and dread are deeply rooted in this equation: If we are living ‘in the world’, we have good reason to live with fear. But if we are living ‘in Christ’ we have good reason to even stare death in the face and spit in its eye.

“And they overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.” (Revelation 12:11)

If you've read this far, here is my plea. If you are a Christian, stay in Christ! If you are not yet a Christian, please don't delay any longer.

In this world we have nothing but tribulation. Please! Pray for each other that we stay in Christ. It is in Him alone – in Him alone – will we receive supernatural peace . . .

Even in the midst of the tsunami.


Monday, September 25, 2017

Jesus is God?


The apostle Paul during his defense before the Roman and Jewish leaders said:

"And now I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers; the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve God night and day. And for this hope, O King, I am being accused by Jews. Why is it considered incredible among you people if God does raise the dead?" (Acts 26:6-8)

It was a great question: Why is it considered incredible that the Almighty God could raise the dead?

I thought of Paul’s comment the other day when someone asked how Jesus can be God, when God is in heaven.

Aside from the impossibility for our finite minds to understand the infinite mind of God, and apart from the plentiful clues throughout Scripture regarding the deity of Jesus, I focused my response on one point. It was this:

Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

I am unable to wrap my human mind around the concept that before the beginning, nothing existed. Nothing. Existed.
Not an atom, or an electron spinning around a nucleus. Nothing existed until the Almighty created it.

Space – if we can even call it ‘space’ was a complete and absolute void before God created it all.

So, why is it considered incredible that this Almighty God, who did all that He did in the beginning – why is it incredible that He “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant and [was] made in the likeness of men”? Why also would it be implausible that Almighty God, “being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”? (see Philippians 2:5-11).

Genesis 1 reaches far beyond our human capacity to understand the work of Almighty God. And that should not surprise us, because if we were able to understand God, He would not be God.

The concept of Jesus' deity also stretches beyond our human reasoning. But neither should that surprise us. If we could understand God, He would not be God.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Especially to those in their 20s and 30s

I posted this three years ago. Three. It is so much more timely today.
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An appeal to all Christians, but especially 20 and 30-somethings.

Perhaps it’s my age. Or perhaps it is the times in which we live; But, I’ve never before witnessed such pervasive darkness in the world. And along with that darkness, never before have I witnessed such wide-spread theological error -- error that seems to encourage the darkness.

Some of the error, I hope, is simply innocent ignorance. But some, I am convinced, is purposeful deceit. Such error pervades the media, politics, the culture, even in some cases the pulpit. It is sometimes subtle, sometimes not-so-subtle. But none of it – or certainly very little of it – would get passed the average person in the pew if that person had a working knowledge of the Scriptures.

I would expect ignorance among those who couldn't care less about God. But I am astonished at the ignorance of God’s word among those I’ve heard, or read, who claim it to be their sword, their road map, their food, and drink.

And so, my appeal to everyone who calls Christ lord – but ESPECIALLY to you in your 20s and 30s. You eat food each day for strength, and you shower each day for cleansing, so I beg you – I beg you – set yourself to read the Bible every day to feed your spirit and cleanse your soul. It is never too early to start. And for those older than the 30s, it is never too late. The point is: Please. Start today.

Why? In 20, 30, 40 years – years, when they have passed, will seem like a watch in the night – decades from now you will joyfully discover yourself readily conversant with God’s Book. You will have insight and knowledge that will raise proverbial flags and alarms when you hear or read something subtle, or not-so-subtle, something that ‘just doesn’t seem right.’ You will know the truth of St. Jerome’s exhortation: "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." And you will find joy in the psalmist’s word, "Oh, how I love thy law. It is my meditation day and night."

Please. Start today.

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.