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

Friday, April 25, 2014

Aliens and Other Silliness



The beginning of pride is Man’s stubbornness in withdrawing his heart from his Maker. For pride is a reservoir of sin, a source which runs over with vice. (Sirach 10:12-13)

Some of you may remember the story I’ve told of my traffic light experience in 1969. I was stopped at a red light on the corner of Mott Avenue and Beach Channel Drive in Far Rockaway, NY when this thought dropped into my mind: What if there is a God?

I considered the prospect for a few moments until I realized if God existed, I would have to change my lifestyle. But I was unwilling to give up my ‘sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll.’ So as the light turned green, I made a choice.

In the last year I’ve had several conversations with professed atheists, all of whom are intelligent men and women. During one conversation, one man told me he believes aliens planted DNA on earth millions of years ago, which then evolved to life as we now know it. (He might not have realized he was parroting the theory of renowned atheist, Richard Dawkins. You can read about Dawkins’ comment here: http://www.theoligarch.com/richard-dawkins-aliens.htm).

Of course there is not so much as a nanometer of evidence to support such a theory, but it is far more expedient to have faith in an idea that requires nothing from us regarding our lifestyle than to have faith in an omnipotent and eternal God who places some rather significant requirements on our lifestyle.

When I stopped at that traffic light and thought about those requirements, I made a choice – not an intellectual choice, but a moral choice. I rejected the idea that God exists.

In the 40-plus years since I finally called Jesus my Lord, I’ve spoken with dozens of self-professed atheists and agnostics like those I spoke with in the last 12 months. And in each case – each case – their arguments only thinly veiled the real reason for their rejection of God: they were moral reasons, not intellectual.

The Lord Jesus is not fooled by such self-deceptive and disingenuous arguments as aliens planting DNA on earth, and similar silliness. He pretty much said so in John 3: This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed” (verses 19-20).

“Men loved darkness rather than light.” Pretty succinct, don’t you think?

Or as Sirach said it: The beginning of pride is Man’s stubbornness, in withdrawing his heart from his Maker. For pride is a reservoir of sin, a source which runs over with vice.

There is a better way to live. Jesus showed it to us. And He yet says to every atheist, agnostic, and even to the churched: “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me . . . (Matthew 11:28-29).

Sunday, April 20, 2014

He's Alive!



If you haven't yet read my post from yesterday, please take a look at it. This post today will make better sense after reading yesterday's.
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He’s alive! I don’t know how . . .  it's a miracle. A glorious wondrous miracle. He’s alive. I saw him die. I buried him. But he’s alive! Alive!

I just talked with him. Even ate with him. At first we didn’t know it was him. But Oh! how our hearts burned when he spoke with us about the Scriptures.

He broke bread. And then . . . then he was gone. Vanished. Suddenly. Before our eyes. But Oh I remember His words, and I know what was finished when he shouted, “It is finished.”

Death, yes even death's power is finished. They killed the Prince of Life, but Jesus swallowed up death. And now, everyone -- everyone who believes and obeys him will live, even if he dies. And everyone who lives and obeys him will never die. Oh death where now is your victory? Grave, where now is your sting? We know the sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law, but Almighty God has given us the victory over death through Jesus our Lord.

God’s wrath against us for our sins is finished. We went astray. We turned, every one of us, to our own way. But God laid all of our iniquities on him. His wrath is finished because God reconciled us to himself through Jesus’ death by making him to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ. Now we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our sins according to the superabundant riches of God’s grace which he lavished on us.

He’s alive. He is the alpha and the omega. The beginning and the end. The first and the last. He holds the keys of death and of hell – and He’s alive. All authority in heaven and earth belongs to Him. It is finished. The battle is over between life and death, good and evil, hatred and love – it is finished. It’s the end of the conflict. It is finished.

And Jesus is lord.

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My note: I thought it appropriate to add this piece from Handel's Messiah. Happy Resurrection Sunday :)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

He's Dead


I posted this a couple of years ago. It seems good to repost it now.

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I don't know how to say it. Words choke in my throat. My stomach heaves. Grief grips my chest. We thought he would deliver us. That God would restore our kingdom, keep His promise to our Fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob.

But that won’t happen now.

He died last evening. Mocked. Spat on. Bloodied. Cold.

I watched him die.

His last words confused me. I am still confused. Without warning, he stiffened his legs and pushed his feet against the nails. At the same time he thrust out his chest, pulling mercilessly against his hands also nailed to the cross. He lifted his face toward heaven, as if seeing something unseen. But his expression. It seemed out of place. No hint of anger. No pain. Almost . . . almost . . . I think ‘satisfied’ best describes how he looked.

Then he cried out – so sudden, so loud even the soldiers stopped and looked at him.

“It is finished!”

His voice rang clear. Strong. Confident. Almost like a shout of triumph.

That’s what confuses me.

Triumph?

And he went limp. Like an old cloth. His arms, still held by the nails in his hands, pulled against his shoulders. From where I stood, it looked as if his arms had been pulled out of joint.

One of the soldiers picked up a spear and thrust it deep into Jesus’ chest. Blood and water gushed from the wound, but Jesus didn’t so much as flinch.

When the soldiers let us, we took Jesus from the cross and gathered around him. We cradled him in our arms. His skin felt cold. His eyes were gray. Dull. Still.

Joseph wrapped him in a burial cloth and we carried him to the tomb Joseph had given for Jesus’ burial. We rolled the stone over the entrance. And we walked away.

But what did he mean, “It is finished”?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Passover Lamb. The Soon-Coming Lion.

Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. (1 Corinthians 5:7)
 
Today is the first day of  Passover (and I wish a blessed Passover season to all of you reading this). Like Easter is the seminal event for Christians because of the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah, Passover is the seminal event for Jews because it marks the salvation of Israel from Egyptian bondage.

As most Christians know, there would be no Easter if there was no Passover, because Jesus –...
the Passover Lamb – was sacrificed during the Passover season, marking our salvation from the bondage of sin.

I hope during this season of Passover/Easter, all of us – Jews and Christians (and non-believers as well) – will take the time to read the Biblical accounts of the exodus and the crucifixion. You can find those accounts in the book of Exodus, chapters 1-14, and Matthew, chapters 26-28. They are relatively short chapters and can be read in one sitting, or in two or three. As you read, don’t just read, but contemplate the messages in each story – and their application to our lives today.

For example, what does the story of the exodus tell us about those who, like Pharaoh, tempt us to compromise our faith? What does the story teach us about the danger of hardening our hearts to God, and what He often does in response to our self-hardening? (Romans chapter 2 is a great follow-on, but I digress). What does the scene on Golgotha’s hill tell us about Jesus? What does it tell us about those around Him? Is there application to our lives today?

Passover and Easter are historical events that literally changed the world. If we let them, they can change our lives, as well.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Toying with Sin


"When you cross over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall . . . destroy all their figured stones, and destroy all their molten images and demolish all their high places. . . But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall come about that those whom you let remain of them will become as pricks in your eyes and as thorns in your sides, and they will trouble you in the land in which you live. And as I plan to do to them, so I will do to you." (Numbers 33:51-55).


Anyone who knows the history of ancient Israel also knows God’s people didn’t take His warning seriously. And it cost them more than any of them would have wanted to pay.


Almost as soon as they crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land, the Israelites intermarried with the Canaanites and adopted their behavior until no one could tell the two groups apart. The nation God had called to be separate ended up practicing the same evils as those other nations, including murder, child-sacrifice, and a host of sexual perversions.


God’s patience is not without limits. After ignoring repeated warnings by His prophets to repent, He brought grievous and bloody devastation to His chosen people and scattered them into Assyrian and Babylonian bondage.


There remains a significant danger in toying with sin, in letting remain in our new ‘land’ of faith things we should aggressively drive out. Bad habits. Friends who lead us astray. Philosophies and ideas unsupportable by Scripture and historic Church teaching.


When we think we can compromise a little here and a little there, when we believe we can ignore God’s continued call to a holy lifestyle and not pay the consequences, we open ourselves to serious – and possibly mortal – danger.


God is the same today as He was yesterday. And He will remain the same tomorrow.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Can We No Longer Use the G and W Words?

I published this to my blog in July 2009. Nearly five years ago. Five years. Nothing has changed.  Well, that is not true. Things have changed. Some would say for the worse.  I will invite you to also read the comments that were made to this essay when it was first posted, for they add substance to my original post.
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When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand. But if you on your part warn a wicked man to turn from his way and he does not turn from his way, he will die in his iniquity, but you have delivered your life. (Ezekiel 33:8-9)

Many years ago, St. Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, "For when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:1-2).

In discussing politically sensitive subjects like abortion and same-sex marriage, I hear Christians appeal less and less to eternal standards -- like, God says it is Wrong (the "G" and "W" words), and instead they appeal to more nebulous "touchy-feely" arguments like, it's not good for the family, or, it's not good for the children, or, it's not good for society, or it's not good for (fill in the blank).

St. Paul told young Timothy to preach Christ. (2 Timothy 4:1-4)

Period.

Why? Because the time would come when people would willfully turn their ears away from truth and seek people to tell them what they want to hear. (see 2 Timothy 4)

If there ever was such a time, it is 2009.

Lord Jesus help us! When will we recognize we need to leave off the arguments from sociology, philosophy and post-modern theology and stick to eternal truth? The current culture will scoff at the idea of eternal truth, but in proclaiming it, Christians will have done what the eternal God has called us to do.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Do You Have to Ask?


This imaginative scene grew in my mind a several years ago. I still revisit the imagery during my time in prayer. As you read this, I hope you will find yourself better comprehending the great love of Jesus for you.  This essay also appears in my third book, Learning to Lean.
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If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. (1 Peter 1:17-19)

Sometimes when I meditate on the crucifix suspended on the wall opposite my chair, my mind transports me to the place and time of my Lord's last hours.

It happened one morning as I fingered a Rosary bead and thought about what Catholics call a "Mystery of the Rosary" -- the flogging of Jesus.

As I let the image form in my mind of Christ standing at the whipping post, His hands tied above His head, I suddenly saw myself standing at that very post -- but now it was my hands tied above my head. My back was laid bare. My life was about to end.

I turned my head and saw the Roman soldier standing a few feet away -- although I knew somehow it was actually Satan in the form of the soldier. He held the whip -- strands of leather tied at the handle, each strand studded with chips of bone and rock. He readied himself to strike my back, to tear at me without mercy.

I turned away and winced in anticipation of the blow.

But it never came.

Instead, I sensed a presence move suddenly between me and the whip. The lash tore through the air. A visceral groan rose behind me. And Satan growled, "Get away from him. His sins make him my property. He belongs to me!"

The voice behind me answered quietly, but with palpable authority, "No, he doesn't. He belongs to me. I purchase him with my blood."

"Get away," Satan hissed. A moment later the lash fell again, striking with a fury that terrified me. But the presence moved closer -- so close I felt the warmth of his body. He wrapped his arms around me, protecting me from the whip that fell again and again.

And again.

I heard each lash fall. I felt his body shudder with each blow. His blood splattered across the back of my neck and dripped from his shoulder onto mine.

Still tied to the post, I turned to see who it was protecting me. And when I saw Him, when I knew who it was taking my place, I could do nothing else but ask, "Lord, why are you doing this for me?"

He looked into my eyes, deeply into my eyes, and whispered, "Do you have to ask?"