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

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

If only He Changed His Mind

I was just now thinking of – well, I’ll call him Bob. He was somewhere around 80 when he died a few months ago. He’d been a member of a large denominational church much of his life. Years ago, that denomination was a bastion of faithful Christian doctrine. But over the years, Satan’s children infiltrated the denominational seminaries and pulpits. And now, well – if God calls something evil, they have another opinion. Bob boasted his denomination was full of ‘intellectuals’. He said they have learned to adjust with the times. God is a God of love, he often told me. So he certainly understands when a woman needs to have a choice to kill her baby in the womb. And God approves of the sexual needs of practicing homosexual men and women. After all, Bob said, God created them that way. Over the months before he died, Bob engaged me in discussions about what his church has come to teach about sin. I know he was trying to help me see the errors of my old fashioned intolerance. He was adamantly unimpressed when I opened my Bible and showed him what God said about sin, righteousness, and about judgment. I don’t know why I was thinking of him this evening. But a Scripture from Matthew 7 came to mind as I remembered our last conversation together: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” I hope Bob changed his mind before he breathed his last. I hope he repented of his sins and decided, even at the last moment, to reject what his church still teaches – and about what God demands. Because if he did not change his mind, he has by now heard the Lord Jesus speak those chilling words to him: “I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practiced lawlessness.” And hearing those words surely would have been the worst day of his life – and the very sad and tragic beginning of his eternity. If only – oh, if only he had decided to follow the Jesus of the Bible.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Elephant in the Room


Isaiah chapter 53: 
The Elephant in the Room 
that many Jews and non-Jews don’t know is there.
What would happen if they did?


Written 700 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Israel, Isaiah wrote these words (copied from the Jewish Publication Society translation of the Hebrew into English):

“Who would have believed our report? And to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 For he shot up right forth as a sapling, and as a root out of a dry ground; he had no form nor comeliness, that we should look upon him, nor beauty that we should delight in him. 3 He was despised, and forsaken of men, a man of pains, and acquainted with disease, and as one from whom men hide their face: he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4“Surely our diseases he did bear, and our pains he carried; whereas we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.”



5 “But he was wounded because of our transgressions, he was crushed because of our iniquities: the chastisement of our welfare was upon him, and with his stripes we were healed.”



6 “All we like sheep did go astray, we turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath made to light on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, though he humbled himself and opened not his mouth; as a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep that before her shearers is dumb; yea, he opened not his mouth.”



8 “By oppression and judgment he was taken away, and with his generation who did reason? For he was cut off out of the land of the living, for the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due.”



9 “And they made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich his tomb; although he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.' 10 Yet it pleased the Lord to crush him by disease; to see if his soul would offer itself in restitution, that he might see his seed, prolong his days, and that the purpose of the Lord might prosper by his hand:”



11 “Of the travail of his soul he shall see to the full, even My servant, who by his knowledge did justify the Righteous One to the many, and their iniquities he did bear. 12 Therefore will I divide him a portion among the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the mighty; because he bared his soul unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
--------

Yes, what would happen if both Jews and Gentiles knew?

Thursday, July 19, 2018

A Sad Verse

This has to be one of the saddest verses in the New Testament: “Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue.” (John 12:42)

That happened 2000 years ago. Yet, how many people have you come across in your experience who would not come to Jesus, would not live for Jesus, chose not to commit to Jesus because if they did, others would ostracize them from their ‘group’ – whatever that group might be.

Oh! May it never be that you or I should EVER succumb to that idolatry. Oh, God! Hear our prayer.

When Shall We Be Salt Again?

For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you . . . “ (Romans 2:24). 

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless . . . it is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men (Matthew 5:13).

With the moral decay sweeping America nearly at sonic speed, and the stunning silence of Christian leaders in general, and of Catholic leaders in particular, this Vatican document should raise a critical question in our hearts: Specifically, don’t we realize our silence – even (God forbid!) our tacit approval in the face of such moral depravity – is a great scandal? And our failure to stand for righteousness a stench in the nostrils of God?

Here is a portion of that Church document titled, Gaudium et Spes,  Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Second Vatican Council, 1965

Paragraph 19 – Kinds of Atheism and Its Causes

19 .  . . .  Without doubt those who willfully try to drive God from their heart and to avoid all questions about religion, not following the dictates of their conscience, are not free from blame. But believers themselves often share some responsibility for this situation. For, in general, atheism is not present in people's minds from the beginning. It springs from various causes, among which must be included a critical reaction against religions and, in some places, against the Christian religion in particular. Believers can thus have more than a little to do with the rise of atheism. To the extent that they are careless about their instruction in the faith, or present its teaching falsely, or even fail in their religious, moral, or social life, they must be said to conceal rather than to reveal the true nature of God and of religion.  (Underline is my emphasis)

While we spend our time debating philosophy and social justice issues, our world is putrefying around us. And multiple millions of souls are being lost.

Forever.

Isn’t it time for laity and leaders to stand for Christ, become salt of the earth, and stop the madness? For if we do not, the second part of Christ’s warning will be the sure result.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Wolves and Sheep


It is not the white collar that makes a man a man of God. It is not the title, or the education, it is not the size of the congregation, or the praise given him by others that makes a man a man of God.

It is a lifestyle lived in obedience to the word of God that makes a man a man of God.

St. Paul’s warning about Satan’s workers in the pew and in church leadership is applicable to 2018: For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.”

Please! For your sake, and for the sake of your family, develop a working knowledge of God’s word so you may accurately practice Biblical discernment.

Do not trust those who, regardless of title or position, do not seek daily to imitate Jesus in word, in thought, and in action. 

The wolves still dress remarkably well in sheep’s clothing. You will know them by their fruit – and by their words.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Simple and Direct Approach

It had been years since I had prayed to God. Been that many years since I even chose to admit He existed. I wanted to do what I wanted to do far more than I wanted to admit I was doing wrong. 
But then came that day in September 1972. It was Yom Kippur,  the Day of Atonement. The highest of the holy days in my Jewish faith. And the weight of my compounding sins pressed heavily on me. 
I could not – I would not on this day play games any longer with God. But I didn’t know what to say to the One from whom I had run for so many years. So I chose the simple and direct approach: 
“God, forgive me for my past sins, and look with tolerance on my future sins.”
I knew I was trapped in sin. I knew intuitively I’d never be free of it. I could only plead with God for His mercy.
And in His mercy, three months later, He showed me Jesus.
Only those who’ve despaired, who’ve grieved over their sin can understand the freedom, the joy, the wonder, the grace, the glory, the relief inherent in that last clause.
I hope you are such a one.


Thursday, July 12, 2018

Clenched Fists

I wrote this a long time ago. Twenty years, if memory serves me well: ----------- His muscles quivered with tension. His tail flicked left, right – and left again. Anticipation oozed from every pore of his mixed Pug/Chihuahua body. How could I say no to those coal-black eyes? "You want a chewy?" Before the last syllable left my lips, Odie leapt and twirled in circles around my legs. His ear-piercing yelps sent goose bumps down the back of my neck. You'd think I'd offered him a 32-ounce charbroiled steak.
I pushed open the pantry door and reached for the dog treats. That was a mistake. As soon as he saw me pull the box from the shelf, he ratcheted up his frenzy another few decibels. Odie's only a foot and a half tall when standing on his hind legs, but can fly three feet off the floor at the thought of getting a goodie. "Sit," I ordered. "Roll over. Good dog." Satisfied he knew who was boss, I tossed the treat at his feet. Before it bounced twice, he snatched it between his teeth and trotted to his rug in the kitchen. He circled himself into a cozy spot and, for the next few moments, I watched him nuzzle and lick his chewy with the affection I thought he reserved only for me. He seemed oblivious to my existence . . . until I took a step toward him. As I did, he scrambled to his feet and snatched the treasure between his jaws. I smiled when I realized what Odie was thinking. I stepped back and he carefully laid it again on the floor – never taking his eyes off me. Each time I moved toward him, he grabbed the chewy as if to challenge: "Mine! You can't have it." I played the game a few more times until I tired of it and walked past him into the living room. From the recliner, I watched him still watching me and I wondered, didn't he realize I'm the one who feeds him, takes him for walks in the rain, snow, heat, and hail? Didn't he remember I sacrificed my favorite belt so we could play tug-of-war? I thought we were buddies. So why does he jealously guard a treat I gave him? While Odie nuzzled his treasure and warily eyed me, a troublesome question interrupted my thoughts: How often do I act like Odie? Just as every good thing my dog gets, he gets from me, so every good thing I get "is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow" (James 1:17, NASB). From the goodness of my heart, I give Odie chewies. From the goodness of God's heart, I receive treasures such as money, talents, and time. So why, when He asks me to return some of my treasure to His work, do I jealously guard each coin, each minute, each talent in tightly clenched fists, as if to challenge the Giver: "It's mine! You can't have it"? After these many years of walking with Christ I still struggle with that question. Odie acts like a beast because he is a beast. But, I am a child of God. I wish I'd act more often like one. What are you holding in clenched fists?

Monday, July 9, 2018

Free!


I am 68 years old. 
Wow. Sixty-eight.  
Sometimes I get to wondering how many years I have left – if my lifespan is still measured in years. It might be months. Or days.
That’s why when I read this verse again in John 8, I felt encouraged: "So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (Verse 31)
The truth will make you free. 
Free from what? I asked myself. And the answer came quickly to mind. 
Were it not for my love for Jesus, I would fear death. Were it not for my trust in Jesus’ promise of eternal life for those who obey Him, the afterlife would terrify me. Were it not for my love-guided relationship with Jesus, death would be a nightmare from which I could never awaken. 
But oh! “Death, where now is your victory? Death, where now is your sting? For the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law. But, Oh! Oh! Thanks be to God who gives us the victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ!”  (See 1 Corinthians 15:55-57)
Were it not for Jesus, no child of God could sing out to one another: “Therefore, be steadfast. Immovable. Always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that our labor is never in vain in the Lord.” (See 1 Corinthians 15:58)
Oh God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, please compel us to always seek Truth. It is only Truth that frees us from the fear of death. It is only Truth that frees us to work fruitfully in Your vineyard.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Real Presence

The ‘Real Presence of Christ’ is a theological term referring to the doctrine that Jesus is literally – not merely symbolically or metaphorically – but literally present in the Eucharist used in Holy Communion. Not only literally is Jesus present in the consecrated bread and wine, but He is present entirely – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. 
Because the doctrine of the Real Presence is rooted in the supernatural work of God as expressed in Scripture, it is as true – yet as inexplicable – as the doctrine of the Trinity. Because it is grounded in the supernatural work of God expressed in Scripture, the Real Presence is as true – and as inexplicable – as the reality that Jesus is 100% human and 100% God. Because the Real Presence rests squarely on the supernatural work of God taught by Scripture, it is as true – yet as inexplicable – as the doctrine that we can be born again and become a new creation in Christ. 
We ought not to insist our natural and finite minds grasp the supernatural and infinite work of God. 
Here is what God-in-the-flesh taught His disciples early in His ministry (John 6:48ff): I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.. . . 51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh . . . “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.” 
Then, just before His crucifixion, at the end of His earthly ministry, the Lord gathered His disciples for the Last Supper. Matthew records it this way: 
“While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” 27 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.”  (Matthew 26:26ff) 
Years later, the apostle Paul addressed the subject in 1 Corinthians 10:16 –  Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a ‘sharing’ in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a ‘sharing’ in the body of Christ?” 
It is also worth noting that Christian theologians of the early centuries – even before the Roman Catholic Church gained religious ascendancy in the West – early Doctors of the Church would have thoroughly rejected the idea that the Lord’s words in John 6 and later at the Last Supper were merely symbolic. 

For example: 
St. Ignatius of Antioch (c. 110 A.D.) “I desire the Bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire his blood, which is love incorruptible.” (Letter to the Romans 7:3) 
St. Justin the Martyr (c. 100 - 165 A.D.) “For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by Him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nourished, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus.” (First Apology, 66)
And there are many other theologians who are well-respected in Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox circles today, who also believed in the Real Presence. For example:

Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 140 - 202 A.D.) 
Tertullian (c. 155 - 250 A.D.)
Origen (c. 185 - 254 A.D.) 
Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 - 216 A.D.) 
Cyprian of Carthage (c. 200 - 258 A.D.) 
Athanasius (c. 295 - 373 A.D.) 
Basil the Great (c. 330 - 379 A.D.) 
Gregory of Nazianz (c. 330 - 389 A.D.)
John Chrysostom (c. 344 - 407 A.D.)
Ambrose of Milan (c. 333 - 397 A.D.)
Jerome (c. 347 - 420 A.D.)
Augustine (c. 354 - 430 A.D.)
And, finally (if there could be a final comment about the Real Presence), Martin Luther, the leader of the Protestant Reformation, also believed in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. 
So, what’s the point?  When the Lord Jesus spoke of His Body and Blood in John 6, and to His disciples at the Last Supper, did He intend His words to be taken symbolically or metaphorically? 

Or did He expect us to take His words as literally as when He said: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even if he dies. And everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die”? (John 11:25-26)

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Mildred Was Right

I sat with a small group of seven or eight men and women in various stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. We meet each Thursday morning for about 40 minutes to talk about Jesus, listen to a hymn or two, and talk about their prayer life. After we read the account of Jesus’ crucifixion, I asked the group what they thought about Jesus’ death. A woman on my left, Mildred, startled me with her answer. She said, “It was useless.” When l asked what she meant by it being useless, her answer was simple and direct, yet profound.  She said, “What they tried to do didn’t work.” As her meaning blossomed in my mind, I sat in stunned silence. I’d never heard the events of Good Friday expressed so simply; And oh, how wonderful it was to watch her clouded memory pull from her Baptist past a truth so many, with far clearer memories, fail to understand. The religious and political leaders of Jesus’ day wanted Him dead. They’d heard enough of His teaching to recognize the threat He posed to their positions of power and religious authority. So they stirred the mob to cry out, “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him” – although He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth. As Mildred recognized, their plan was useless. Yes, they killed Him. As surely as if they themselves had hammered the nails into His hands, they – along with the Roman government – they killed Him. But three days later they discovered death could not hold the Prince of Life. If you haven't noticed, nothing has changed in 2000 years. Today’s rich and politically savvy power-hungry leaders know very well that Jesus’ teachings fatally undermine every one of their schemes to retain power and authority. And although most of them will go to their graves still refusing to accept it, their plots to destroy what Jesus is doing in people like you and me will still prove to be absolutely useless. Writing of Jesus several centuries before He walked those dusty roads of Israel, the Psalmist said it this way -- and his words echo into 2018: “Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!” He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them." "Then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury, saying, “But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain.” “I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You. ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession. ‘You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.’” "Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; Take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the LORD with reverence and rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!” (Psalm 2). Yes, it is always true, because God ensures it will always be true: How blessed are all who take refuge in the Prince of Life. Amen.


The Absolute Center


“They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” (John 1:21-23)

John the Baptist is not the only person God called to be a voice crying out in the wilderness. Such is the enormous privilege and responsibility is given to everyone who calls Jesus Lord. For example:

“Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

And 1 Peter 2:9  But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

Our Savior has entrusted us with the gospel – the good news of God’s love and His offer to forgive even our most egregious sins.

But, we cannot be fruitful with what He has entrusted us if we cubbyhole our faith to one day a week. If our devotion to Christ does not direct our affairs Sunday through Sunday, if our faith is not the cornerstone of what we say and how we act in the home, the workplace, the classroom, the supermarket, the ball field – then perhaps what we have is not faith in Christ at all.

Perhaps it is better described as a hobby.

There is only one way to fix that serious flaw: Prayer, followed by confession and a decision to, with God’s help, make Jesus the absolute center of our life.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Little Foxes


As I prepared for my upcoming Bible study in the Song of Solomon, a verse in chapter two caught my attention: “Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that are ruining the vineyards, while our vineyards are in blossom” (verse 15). 

‘Little foxes’ that destroy the vineyard are like the ‘little sins’ that destroy our fruitfulness for God. This picture is not unlike what Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 10: “Dead flies make a perfumer’s oil stink.” (The word for oil is also used for the fragrant anointing oil the Old Testament priests used for anointing the altar of God. Similarly, the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet used a fragrant oil). 

What sins do we consider ‘little’? An unwillingness to forgive? Gossip? Pride? A volatile temper? The list for some of us would fill this page. But St. Augustine said it well when he noted: “While he is in the flesh, man cannot help but have at least some light sins. But do not despise these sins which we call "light": if you take them for light when you weigh them, tremble when you count them. A number of light objects makes a great mass; a number of drops fills a river; a number of grains makes a heap. What then is our hope? Above all, confession.” 

Be careful about those ‘little sins.’  They tirelessly work to destroy our fruitfulness for Christ. Like so many dead flies, they each create a stench in our life for Christ. 

What is our hope? Confession, and a determination to seek God for help in turning away from those little sins and dead flies.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Romans 8:1

One of my favorite verses in the New Testament is Romans 8:1 – “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” There are at least six important elements in these thirteen words. I’d like to share them with you for further reflection on your own. 1. “Therefore”: This word ties directly back to what the apostle talked about in the last several verses of chapter seven. Essentially: “I do what I don’t want to do. I don’t do what I want to do. What a wretched person I am! Who will deliver me?” He answers that question in this first verse of chapter eight. 2.  “There is Now”: This word focuses us on the present. It is not something that will happen in the future. It is already accomplished. Now. As you read this. Paul tells us, “There is now . . .” 3. ‘. . . . No Condemnation”: Now we are now safe! Now we are now free. Now we are rescued from the eternal wages of sin the apostle wrote about in chapter six and verse twenty-three. God will not now condemn us for our past sins. There is now no condemnation . . . . 4. “. . . . For those”:  Paul begins to bring this message of promise to its climax – a promise only for a very specific group of people. This is a critical point. The promise is only for a specific group of people . . . 5. “. . . Who are in”: The assurance of “no condemnation” applies only to those who are ‘in’ (Someone). The assurance is only for those who have an intimate, obedient and personal relationship with the subject of this verse, who is . . . 6. “Christ Jesus”: No one escapes condemnation except in Jesus. No one comes to the Father except in Jesus. No one finds forgiveness except in Jesus. He alone is the way to heaven. He alone is truth. He alone is life. There you have it. Six elements in this one verse, each directly related to our eternal life in and through Christ. Perhaps, as we reflect further on these points, we will find deeper understanding of what Jesus has done for us.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

What's He Going to Call You?


I hear it so often, I don’t know why I’m still surprised when people ascribe their life-successes to their intellect and talents – even to ‘good luck.’ Yet they hardly – if ever – give God more than a cursory nod for their achievements.  

Really? Are they serious? 

Who else but God, who lovingly orchestrates events and people and circumstances – who else but God drops thoughts into our minds to go here or there, to do this or that, so as to place us at the right time and place that ultimately leads to those achievements?  And He does all that even while He knows so many of us will remain thankless.
Such sad hubris is not a new thing. Here’s what Moses wrote some 3500 years ago:
Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God . . . otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply . . . then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God . . . [and] you may say in your heart, 'My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.' But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth . . . (Deuteronomy 8:11-18).
There is, of course, a more honorable way to live. It’s called humility. It’s called gratitude – gratitude to the One without whose grace we could not even take our next breath. 
On July 4th, Americans take time to remember when our forefathers declared their independence from tyranny. But July 4th is also a good day to declare our independence from another tyranny – the tyranny of the deceptive illusion of self-importance. And it’s a time to declare our utter dependence on our Creator for our life, liberty, and our freedom to pursue happiness. 
Two millennia ago, the Lord Jesus reminded everyone who had ears to hear of the essential element of real success – success that transcends centuries and cultures and creeds:
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:1-5)
In 21st century vernacular, God tells those who choose to live independent from His influence and direction, “You’re a failure.” But He tells those who choose to live dependent on Him, “You are a success.”
What’s God going to call you?