Friday, February 27, 2015

Lenten Series: The Second Word of Jesus

The last seven words (statements, actually) of Jesus as He hung on Golgotha's cross are among the most encouraging of all Scripture. Here is the second of the seven:  (I expand on this in my YouTube here:  What did the good thief do to merit Paradise? He repented. Repentance does amazing things in and for our soul. It lifts us to where Jesus hangs on the cross, face to face with His nailed and bloodied body – brutalized because of our sins.  We look at this in my YouTube about the second word of Jesus on the cross. You can find it here: http://youtu.be/GKQmfEngQJo What did the good thief do to merit Paradise? He repented. Repentance does amazing things in and for our soul. It lifts us to where Jesus hangs on the cross, face to face with His nailed and bloodied body – brutalized because of our sins.  We look at this in my YouTube about the second word of Jesus on the cross. You can find it here: http://youtu.be/GKQmfEngQJohttp://youtu.be/GKQmfEngQJo

Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.
(Luke 23:43)

Two men, hanging between heaven and earth, nailed to crosses on either side of the One in the middle. Two men, thieves, struggling against death, knowing it was only a matter of time before death finally sunk its talons into their souls.
And they watched the Stranger in the middle.

One thief knew he deserved to die. He’d broken the law, and now was paying the penalty. The other, even in the midst of dying, joined the mob at the foot of the cross in mocking, cursing, and blaspheming the Stranger in the middle.

But the broken thief would have none of it. What are you doing? he rebuked. “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” And then he did what everyone must do at some time in their life. No. Rather he did what everyone must do repeatedly in their life. He turned to the One in the middle and pleaded, Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.” (Luke 23:40-42)

Repentance does amazing things in and for our soul. It lifts us to where Jesus hangs on the cross, face to face with His nailed and bloodied body – brutalized because of our sins. As the Hebrew prophet Isaiah foretold centuries earlier, He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5-6).

Repentance frees us from ourselves, from our arrogance that binds us to eternal death. It teaches us humility and unveils for us our fleeting mortality and our desperate need for an eternal savior. Repentance brings us into an intimate relationship with the King of Glory reserved only for the penitent.

“Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.” The penitent thief spoke less than a dozen words. Short prayers from the heart are as efficacious as long soliloquies.

Jesus, remember me.

Oh, how the King loves to hear our plea born in a penitent heart so He, in return, can promise, as He promised the dying thief, Truly I say to you . . . you shall be with Me in Paradise.

Thanks be to God for His matchless and enduring grace.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The First of His Last Seven Words

Last year I published essays surrounding all seven of Jesus' last words on the cross. This year I am not only going to post them again, but will also record these essays on YouTube beginning February 22.
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The Lord Jesus uttered seven statements as He struggled for life on Golgotha’s cross. His first was, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
The more I think about that statement, the more I am intrigued. And encouraged.
Forgive them.
Just a few hours earlier, in the Gethsemane Garden, soldiers led by the Jewish priests surrounded Jesus and the disciples. Peter drew His sword and came within a hair of cutting the skull of the high priest’s servant. He sliced off His ear, instead.
But Jesus would have none of the fight. “Put back your sword, Peter,” Jesus commanded. “Don’t you know I could call just now to my Father and He would put at my disposal 12 legions of angels to defend me?”
A Roman legion consisted of 6,000 soldiers. In other words, the Lord could have called for 72,000 angelic warriors, swords unsheathed and glistening in the firelight, and the ground would have been drenched with the blood of those who’d come to drag Jesus away.
But He didn’t call for them. Instead, God-in-the-flesh-of-a-man, God their Creator, the Almighty God permitted His creatures to spit at him, pull His beard, punch him in the face, and haul him off to court.
And now, hanging bloodied and bruised on an old rugged cross, crowds of priests, soldiers and rabble mocking Him, cursing Him . . . .
I wonder sometimes if the thought crossed His mind even for a nanosecond to glance toward His Father and ask for those angels. If it did, He put it from His mind and said instead – Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.
Forgiveness. It is why we can come anew to Jesus, perhaps especially as we approach the Lenten season in our continuing journey toward the Kingdom. There is no sin so grievous, so dark, so vile that the grace of God and the mercy of God cannot – and will not – cleanse with Christ’s blood.  What is it St. John wrote in His first epistle? If we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7). And St. Paul’s encouragement to the church at Ephesus: In [Christ] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:7).
Forgiveness. It is why we can stay with Him today, wherever we are in life and whatever we've done wrong. If we confess our sins, St. John tells us, again in his first epistle, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9). When the penitent walks out of the confessional he or she has God’s absolute and inviolable assurance of forgiveness. As the Holy Spirit promises through the psalmist: For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Just as a father has compassion on His children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust  (Psalm 103:11-14).
Forgiveness. It is the reason we can journey with Him wherever He leads us. As St. Paul wrote to the church at Rome: If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.(Romans 8:31-39)
Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.
When we sin, when we slash the whip once again across His back, when we drive another nail into His bleeding hands, how much do we really understand what we are doing? How much do we know how it grieves Him? How it breaks His heart? If we had the remotest clue, I don’t think we’d be so cavalier to do some of the things we do.
Father, forgive them.
But if the Scriptures teach us anything, it is that there is forgiveness with God, complete, unhesitating, and unqualified forgiveness to the penitent. And that is precisely why you and I can come to Christ, stay with Christ, and journey with Him wherever He leads us.
Thanks be to God.
 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Someone Must Speak

But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand. (Ezekiel 33:6)

 
The ancient Babylonians (and their Assyrian counterparts) were an incredibly fierce, merciless, and barbaric peoples. Yet God brought them against His own precious possession – Israel – to  conquer and enslave them. God had repeatedly, over and over, warned His Chosen Ones through prophets and natural disasters that His judgment would sweep them away because of their flaunted national and personal sins.

The Old Testament book of Habakkuk was written by one of those prophets. It’s only three short chapters, but is an important message to read in its entirety for context and application to 2015. Here is part of Habakkuk wrote as he awaited the Babylonian army’s sweep through Israel – though by this time the warning was too late: 

I heard and my inward parts trembled,
At the sound my lips quivered.
Decay enters my bones,
And in my place I tremble.
Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress,
For the people to arise who will invade us. (Habakkuk 3:16)

I confess to be stunned, frustrated, and not a little angry, at the deafening silence I hear from many (thankfully, not all) of today’s church leaders.  I don’t expect non-Christian talk show hosts and politicians to invoke prophetic warnings, but I DO expect Christian pastors, and bishops, and deacons, and teachers to perform their God-appointed duty as Watchmen on the walls (see what another Old Testament prophet said about warning others of impending judgment in Ezekiel chapters 3 and 33).

America (I won’t even mention Europe) kills more than 1,000,000 babies in the womb each year – without so much as a whimper from the Church or civil governments. And in the last decade we have flaunted our sexual sins with increasingly depraved perversity to increasingly greater applause from the highest levels of government to the smallest of churches – yes, even churches.

Why does anyone who names Christ as Lord think it so unthinkable that what we witness every day in the media about the descendants of the Babylonians and Assyrians (e.g. ISIS and groups like it) – why is it considered beyond the scope of possibility that such barbarism is yet another of God’s repeated warnings – maybe His final warning – before Christians in the pew, and especially church leaders, cry aloud too late:

I heard and my inward parts trembled,
At the sound my lips quivered.
Decay enters my bones,
And in my place I tremble.
Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress,
For the people to arise who will invade us.

Christian! If Church leaders shirk their God-ordained responsibility, we must not follow their example. Someone – someone must be a Watchman.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

50 Shades of Hades


Do not be deceived . . .  Galatians 6:8
 
I remember a story – fictitious I’m sure – of a grandmother who baked brownies for her 8-year-old grandson. The mouth-watering aroma of chocolate filled the entire house.

“Those smell delicious,” her grandson said, eyes wide and sparkling. “What’s in them?”

Grandma smiled, “Chocolate, some sugar, flour, a little salt, eggs, and just a speck of dog poop. Not more than a half a teaspoon.”

“Ewwwwww!” Her grandson backed away from the pan. “UUghhh!”

“Do you not want any?”

“No way!” he said, vigorously shaking his head.

“But you’ll never taste the dog poop. It’s just a little bit mixed in with all this good tasting chocolate and sugar and flour.”

I have been reading lately on the social networks and some of the online news outlets about a movie based on a book by the same name. I suspect you’ve heard of it too, “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

I understand why some who do not know the beauty of Christ would pay to see what I hear is pornography on steroids, but what absolutely confuses me is why those who call themselves Christians would even toy with the idea of seeing the movie or reading the book.

Package filth in the sweetest of chocolates, and it remains filth.

“Do not be deceived,” the Holy Spirit solemnly warns, “God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:8)

We will always reap what we sow: corruption or beauty, heartache or hope, emptiness or joy, death or life. This law of the spirit is as absolute as the law of gravity. Mock either one, and we lose.

Every time.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Fragrance Remains

I posted this a couple of times now. You might not have seen it before. Even if you have, I hope you find it useful.
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You will see me . . . .” (John 14:19).

 

My mind couldn’t rid itself of the memory. Yeshi hurt so badly. And I could do nothing to help him. Nothing.

I stared at my food. Yohanan told me to eat something. I needed my strength. He would return for me, help me take what I wished to his home where I would stay with him and his family. Then he left to meet the others.

“Woman, behold your son,” Yeshi said. And to Yohanan, “Behold, your mother.”

What will I take to their house? What will I leave behind? So many things. So many memories. This table and chair. As solid as when Yeshi built it, how many years ago? Five? Seven? And the dishes. My dear Joseph bought them for me when we wed so many decades ago. I miss him so.

My clothing. The parchments. The walking stick. . . .

But Yeshi. My Yeshi.

“Momma.”

Deep in thought, forcing back my tears, I thought I heard a whisper behind me.

What was it the old man said to me, “A sword will piece your soul”? I never understood what he meant.

I do now.

“Mother.” A little louder.


The voice startled me. And the fragrance. Suddenly the room smelled of, of . . . flowers. Like – yes, like roses. Roses of Sharon.


“Mother.” A command.


I knew that voice. I turned. Color drained from my face. The room spun. If he had not caught me in his arms, I would have fallen.


Still swooning, I let him hold me. The fragrance of roses rose from his robe. He cupped my chin in his hand and lifted my face to look at him.


“Yeshi!” “Yeshi!  . . . But how?”


He smiled. The same smile he always smiled when he spoke with me. “How? I have authority to lay down my life,” he said. “I have authority to take it up again. And now, he who believes in me will live, even if he dies. And everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”


I reached for his face, caressed the scars in his forehead. My tears would not stop. “You’re alive! My son. My son. You were dead, but you’re alive.”


“Mother, I must go.” He grasped my arms and held me away from him.


“But . . . .”


“Magdalena and the others are at the tomb. I must meet them.”


“Yeshi! You can’t go. Not now. Not like this . . . .”


“I must. But you will see me again.” He let go of my arms, and his eyes locked with mine. “Momma, I love you.”


Then he was gone. In the time it took for me to blink, he was gone.


But the fragrance . . . oh! the fragrance remains. 



Sunday, February 8, 2015

Insufficient Sacrifice


As far as the east is from the west . . . (Psalm 103:13)

The blood of Jesus is not sufficient to cover my sins. God requires more than the death of His Son for my forgiveness.

Isn’t that what we are saying to Him when we say after our confession, "I don’t feel forgiven for these my deepest and darkest sins"? Isn’t that what we say to Him when we set our feelings as a higher court than His promise?

Really, is that what we want to say to Him?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Let's Try Something New


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)

 

Nothing you will read here is different from what I’ve written or said dozens of times over the past decade. Neither do I believe what I write now once again will make any more difference than it has in time past.

But the thought is once again heavy on my heart, and so – here goes:

As a charismatic Protestant I wondered why all Christians, regardless of their label, didn’t come to what Pentecostals call the “Full Gospel.” Why would they not want to enjoy and participate in the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit?

But in time I realized that what some called the Full Gospel, others called heresy. What some called experiencing the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit, others called working with demons.

Our differences went even deeper. What some called Biblical truths, others called heresy. What some believed to be the correct method of worship, others called stuffy and ritualistic.

When I committed myself to Jesus in 1972 I was in near total ignorance of the cavernous differences that exist among Christian groups. Because I was raised in a Jewish family in a Jewish neighborhood, my acquaintance with non-Jews was minimal.  Then, when I met Christ on a military base in Japan, my only exposure to Christian worship was in the military base chapel where Christians of every Protestant denomination met together and where all Christians got along as brothers and sisters in Christ – regardless of our label. (I was only marginally aware that Catholics had their own services at a different time in the same chapel).

When I discharged from the navy, my wife and I moved to Springfield, Missouri where I was to attend an Assemblies of God (Pentecostal) college. In the same town was another bible college – Baptist Bible College, a member of a Baptist denomination called, Baptist Bible Fellowship.

At first, I did not know each group eyed the other with suspicion about their purity of doctrines – until I went to a pharmacy to fill a prescription.  When, for insurance purposes, the pharmacist asked where I attended school, I told him. But a few minutes later, as he handed me my medication, I noticed he’d written on my receipt the name of the Baptist school.  When I corrected him, his face blushed, and just about fell over himself apologizing for his mistake.

When I asked him why he was so apologetic, he told me what I would learn in the following months – Baptists and Pentecostals in that city accused each other of heretical teaching.

It is now nearly forty years later, and nothing has changed.  Indeed, since becoming a Catholic Christian in 2005, I have also learned of the great disunity that exists not only among virtually all Protestant groups, but that also exists between Catholics and Protestants. We continue to eye each other with suspicion and, in some cases, outright animosity.

Sometimes I wonder if anyone remembers Jesus’ warning to His disciples, “An hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me. (John 16:2-3)

And Saint Paul added in his letter to the church at Galatia: (5:14-16)  For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think Christians have spent enough time biting and devouring one another. Meanwhile, Satan continues his malicious strut throughout the earth, devouring hundreds of millions of souls – unimpeded by the only force in the universe that can stop him – the Church.

Again, and maybe it’s just me, but maybe we should try something new. Instead of biting and devouring, maybe we should start loving our brothers and sisters bought with the blood of Jesus. Maybe we should focus on areas of doctrine about which we agree – about which ALL Christians agree – doctrines for example synthesized 1500 years ago in what Christians call the Nicene Creed.

As Saint Paul wrote (Romans 14:4-10)  Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. . . .  For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s . . . .  But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.

 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

How Long?


So I’m reading the psalms – psalm 13 in particular. And the Holy Spirit drew my attention to David’s question. Not once, or twice, but four times in two verses he asks it . . . . How long . . . How long . . . How long . . . .How long?

Then I noticed the third stanza: I trust in You. I rejoice in You. I sing of You. 

In the midst of his utter confusion, his fear, and bewilderment, David takes his soul by the scruff of the neck, lifts his voice to God and declares – I will not be moved from trusting you.

No wonder God calls David a man after His own heart. 

1 "How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?"


3 "Consider and answer me, O LORD my God;
Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
4 And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken."


5 "But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
6 I will sing to the LORD,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me."

 

Last Lesson in 1 Peter now on YouTube

When a person knows Jesus, loves Him and continues to grow in Him, what we can say about Him becomes near inexhaustible. We look at this point in our last study lesson in 1 Peter. I hope you find if of value: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4iB-SubMVg

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I Believe: Forty Meditations on the Nicene Creed -- The Fifth Meditation


Creed Statement: I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

Today’s focus: Almighty


A throne was there in heaven, and on the throne sat one whose appearance sparkled like jasper and carnelian . . . From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder. Seven flaming torches burned in front of the throne . . . (and) four living creatures . . . do not stop exclaiming: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come (Revelation 4:2-8).

            For seven fear-filled years, the Midianites spread terror across Israel. Bands of marauders ravaged villages, slaughtered men, women, and children, and stole their possessions. Israelites lived like hunted animals, hiding in caves and along cliffs. Gideon was one of those Israelites. Then one day, as he threshed his meager wheat harvest, an angel called to him, “The Lord is with you, O champion” (Judges 6:12).

            But Gideon answered, “If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?” A moment later he added, “And where are the miracles we’ve heard about all our lives?”

            It’s easy for me to point a finger at Gideon and marvel that anyone could think the days of God’s miracles were over. Yet, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought, “God answered my prayers in the past, but how can I be sure He will do it again? God took care of us before, but will He do it now?”
 
            Like Gideon, I believe in the almighty God of the past, but I’m not so convinced He’s the same God of the now – or the future.
 
            What nonsense. If you remember the text in Judges, Gideon, along with three hundred men armed with nothing more than clay pots, torches and their faith, won a miraculous victory for Israel. (See Judges 6 and 7).


            What are our Midianites? Chronic Illness? Unemployment? Divorce? Terrible loneliness? If faith teaches us anything, it’s this: God is never limited by time or resources. What He opens, none can close. What He shuts, none can open. God is our Almighty Father. Compassionate. Involved. He knows the number of hairs on our heads, the thoughts in our hearts, and our words before they cross our lips. A sparrow won’t fall to the ground without His knowledge – and you and I are of much greater value to God than a sparrow (Matthew 10:29-31). And even if our prayers go unanswered, sometimes for decades, the truth remains: God is good. All the time, and in all circumstances. He will never leave us alone, but will walk beside us even through our storms.

            It’s easy to recite Creeds and believe in past answers to prayer. But when the doctor’s report takes our breath away, when floods engulf our homes, when fires consume our livelihood – the words of the Creed, “I believe in . . . the Father almighty,” can be an unyielding rock and a declaration of victory for those who trust Him – even to the jaws of death.
 
            Gideon believed the days of God’s mighty works were over. Let’s not make the same mistake. Our God and Father is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Prayer: Lord, I need You. Be my shield and companion, my strength and tireless resource. Be my comfort and guide. I lose focus when life’s storms shake my faith, when windstorms uproot my confidence in Your might and mercy. Send Your Holy Spirit into my heart and nurture my trust in Your everlasting power and love. Amen.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Latest YouTube study in 1 Peter -- lesson 25

There is a reason the Holy Spirit warns us against complacency. Against spiritual sleepiness. Because our infernal enemy never sleeps. He always probes our weaknesses, tests our defenses, distracts our attention from the spiritual war around us. We look at this war in lesson 25. You can find it here: http://youtu.be/9DVwtW9JJGA

Friday, January 9, 2015

Lesson 24 in 1 Peter uploaded to YouTube

Sometimes one of the hardest things to believe is that God cares for us. That He 'really' cares for us. We look at that question in lesson 24 in my YouTube through 1 Peter: http://youtu.be/XOZknkD7Sgw



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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

I Believe -- Forty Meditations on the Nicene Creed -- the Fourth Meditation


 This is the next of the forty meditations. You can find the book on Amazon. Follow this link here. (Also available on Kindle)
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Creed Statement: I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

Today’s Focus: The Father


[Jesus] came to what was His own, but His own people did not accept Him. But to those who did accept Him He gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man's decision but of God (John 1:11-13).



            Sixty years. That's how long it's been since my father abandoned me. The day is tattooed into my memory. I remember where I sat and what I was doing when Mom told me Daddy would never be coming home.

            My father was never there when I had problems with school, or friends, or when I started dating. He never attended my school plays or high school football games. He never showed up at my Boy Scout award ceremonies, never saw me graduate high school or college, get married, and raise children. When I searched for him years later, he wrote back a scathing reply and ordered me to leave him alone.

            As my four-year-old mind tried to absorb Mom’s words that somber day in 1954, I didn't know my heavenly Father was there, sitting on the couch with me. I didn’t know He embraced me as I walked to Dad's closet, took his wallet, and hid it, hoping to force him to stay with us. I didn’t know God stood beside me during my teen years when I got snared in a revolving door of drugs, sexual sins, brawls and thefts. I didn’t know He wept with me as I sobbed on my sister’s shoulder, "I never had a father. I never had a father."


            “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty.”


            There are times no other words speak more powerfully to my emotions than “God, the Father.” Sometimes I sense Him so near I can feel His warmth. When I meet Him in prayer, I can feel Him draw me into His arms. If I listen carefully, I hear Him whisper, “I will never leave you. I will never forsake you.”

            What do you think about when you think about God as your Father? Perhaps your relationship mirrors mine. Maybe it was better, or much worse. Whatever the memory, of one thing we can be certain: Golgotha’s hill proves for all time and into eternity, “Even if my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me in” (Psalm 27:10).  Through Isaiah God promised, “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you. See, upon the palms of My hands I have written your name; your walls are ever before Me” (Isaiah 49:15-16).

            As we recite those simple words of the Creed – The Father – we remind ourselves the God of the universe is our Father.

            Why do we sometimes doubt that?


Prayer: (From Psalm 103): Lord, You are compassionate and abounding in love. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is Your love for those who fear You. For the sake of Christ’s sacrifice, You remove our transgressions from us as far as east is from west. As a father has compassion on his children, so You have compassion on those who call to You for mercy. Have mercy on us, Father. We are Your people, born by faith in the atoning blood of Your Son, Jesus. Amen.


 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Lesson 23 in 1 Peter now uploaded to YouTube

St. Peter has much to say about servant leadership. We look at it in lesson 23 of our study. You can view it here: http://youtu.be/8wJXTpc4h4g
 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

God of the Old, God of the New


I am the Lord, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:6}
Is the God of the Old Testament different from the God of the New Testament? To hear some people, even in the Church, you would think He is.

God’s judgment of sin seems to overflow the pages of the Old Testament. You can open it almost at random, especially the prophets, or the historical books like Kings or Chronicles, and find unmistakable evidence of God’s wrath against rebellion and evil. But unless you land on the book of Revelation, or isolated passages in the gospels, Acts, or the epistles, the God pictured in the New Testament seems tame by comparison.

But God, as C.S. Lewis observed, is not a tame lion.

Because of what seems a difference in God’s character in both testaments, a heresy called Marcionism developed in the second-century church. Marcion, a church leader, believed the wrathful Old Testament God was different than the all-forgiving God of the New Testament. Marcion also rejected the Old Testament scriptures as unworthy to be included in the Christian bible.

The Church, however, rejected Marcion’s teaching as false and dangerous to the faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 123) says this about the Marcion heresy: Christians venerate the Old Testament as true Word of God. The Church has always vigorously opposed the idea of rejecting the Old Testament under the pretext that the New has rendered it void . . . . 

While a superficial reading of Scripture can suggest an inconsistency in God’s character between both testaments, the inconsistency evaporates on closer examination. God is the same God of mercy, love, judgment, and wrath in both eras. For example, Ananias’ and Sapphira’s deaths because they lied to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5) is not dissimilar from the deaths of Nadab and Abihu who ‘offered strange fire” on God’s altar (Leviticus 10). The reason for King Herod’s death (Acts 12) is not much different from the reason God killed the Judean King Ahab (1 Kings 22). God struck Elymas the magician with blindness (Acts 13), and did the same to the mob surrounding Lot’s house (Genesis 19). God brought judgment on Israel because of her sins (e.g. 2 Chronicles 36), and God warns His church against turning from Him (Revelation 2-3), and He will bring global destruction on a world of unrepentant sinners (Revelation 4-18).

The reason people confuse the pictures of God in both testaments is often rooted in the amount of material available to form an accurate understanding of God’s unchanging nature.

The New Testament covers the span of about 60 years, but the Old Testament encompasses a period of 1400 years. That difference alone allows the writers of Sacred Scripture much more time to demonstrate the fullness of God’s character. Further, the Old Testament is comprised of 73 books. The New Testament has only 27. The Old Testament has 1,074 chapters, the New Testament only 260. The Old Testament has more than 25,000 verses, the New Testament a little less than 8,000 verses. But the differences in the quantity of material in both testaments should not surprise us. The Old Testament is the story of a people. The New Testament is a story of a person.

The Holy Spirit tells us: In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways,  but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. (Hebrews 1:1-2)  In his letter to the church at Corinth, St. Paul underscores the importance of familiarity with the Old Testament to help us understand the New Covenant: These things happened as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil things, as they did. And do not become idolaters, as some of them did . . . . Let us not indulge in immorality as some of them did . . . . Do not grumble as some of them did, and suffered death by the destroyer. These things happened to them as an example, and they have been written down as a warning to us, upon whom the end of the ages has come. (1 Corinthians 10:6-11)

Little wonder that St. Augustine commented: The New Testament lies hidden in the Old, and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.

God’s character has not changed, and neither has His modus operandi. The Holy Spirit tells us: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). And He tells us through the prophet Malachi: “For I, the Lord, do not change(Malachi 3:6).

God’s love, mercy, and compassion extend from Genesis and into the 21st century. Equally important – and we ought not to minimize this eternal reality – God’s holiness, justice, and wrath toward sin also extend across the same period of time.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Seven Words

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
--John Newton

 
On this day 42 years ago I said seven words that changed my life. “God, I believe Jesus is the Messiah.”

Christmas Eve. 1972. I was 22 years old.

Back then I knew nothing about theology. I knew nothing about the Sacraments. I knew nothing even about the Scriptures. What I did know, after reading Hal Lindsay’s book of Bible Prophecy, The Late Great Planet Earth, was Jesus is the Messiah God promised to Israel and to the world.

Jesus. The lamb of God who would take away our sins. Even my sins. Even the worst and the darkest of my many sins.

Seven words. “God, I believe Jesus is the Messiah.”

No mouthing words about sin, or a promise of repentance, or a plea for mercy, or a hope for forgiveness. Just, “I believe.”

But what I did not say with my mouth, God heard in my heart – which said to Him, “From this moment I’m going to live for you. With your help, I'm going to walk a holy life. With your help I'm going to serve you for the rest of my life.”

Without even thinking to punctuate my words with action, I got up off my knees, walked to my chest of drawers, grabbed the plastic bag of marijuana and emptied it into the toilet. Then I went to my footlocker, grabbed the porn magazines, and threw them into the dumpster behind my barracks.

On Christmas Eve in 1972 God gave me the most wonderful Christmas gift I could have ever received. He gave me His gift of eternal salvation. He made me a new child in Christ. Old things passed away. Everything became new.

And on Christmas Eve in 1972, I gave God the best gift I could ever have given Him. I gave him my life.

Forty-two years later, it still ranks as the best thing I have ever done in my life.

Happy Birthday, Jesus.