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

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.
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:

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.