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

Monday, November 26, 2018

Christ the King, Part Two

In many liturgical churches, Sunday November 25, 2018 was known as the ‘Solemnity of Christ the King.’  I shared a message around that theme with the 55+ community I visit each week. Because of its length, I divided it into a three-part essay. Here is part two:

The Solemnity of Christ the King:
Why Came the King
Part Two

“Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered him, “Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world . . ..” John 18:33-37
The first point of my message was this: Jesus is King. It doesn’t matter if we believe that reality or not. The truth is unchangeable. Now to the second point:

What kind of King is Jesus?

I recently read a social media post in which the writer said he would never bow to a God who demanded we worship Him – or else it’d be off to hell with rebels. I’ve turned his comment over and over in my mind for two reasons.
First, it was not the only time I’d ever heard or read such a tragically distorted view of my God. The longer I walk with Christ – going on 46 years now – the better I know that guy’s concept of God is not only distorted, but is completely foreign to the nature of God as described in the Bible.
God is not a despotic dictator, a malicious and malevolent King. That’s a description of the devil, whom Jesus called the father of lies. The Lord Jesus – who is God Almighty in the flesh of a Man – Jesus said Satan comes only to kill, steal, and destroy. (John 10:10).
But of Himself Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life, and that more abundantly.” (John 10:10)
The Lord Jesus does not demand our worship for His own ego. He demands our worship for our good. He knows – because He created us – He knows we become like those we worship. Here is what the Holy Spirit tells us through the psalmist: (115)
But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of man’s hands. They have mouths, but they cannot speak; They have eyes, but they cannot see; They have ears, but they cannot hear; They have noses, but they cannot smell; They have hands, but they cannot feel; They have feet, but they cannot walk; They cannot make a sound with their throat . . . .

And here is the critical verse in this psalm: “Those who make them will become like them, everyone who trusts in them.”

That’s why the psalmist continued: You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord; He is their help and their shield.

God offers us the unplumbed privilege of becoming like Jesus when we worship Him. Jesus – who is love itself. And compassion. And mercy. And kindness. And forgiveness. And tenderness.

How our lives would be different if we were just like Jesus! How our families be different if we were like Jesus. How our world would be different if every Christian was like Jesus.

What kind of King is Jesus? A King focused on our well-being. And He commands us to worship Him so WE might live a joyous life, rich with peace and hope and love. And that can only happen as we devote ourselves to Him in worshipful adoration.

The second reason the guy’s social media post has stayed with me is his fatally flawed idea that God sends anyone to hell.  I will address that error in part three of this essay.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Inevitable Question

(Especially for 20 and 30-somethings) -------------- It happens to everyone. Everyone. It typically creeps into our thoughts in our sixties. For some, it’s a little sooner. For others, it happens in our early seventies. But it always happens. We look back at our lives and ask the inevitable question: “What was my life worth?” That’s what Jeff said to me. He’s my age – late 60s. Financially secure, lives in a nice home in a New York suburb, has practiced medicine, and now works part time as an educator at a local university. To look at him, even to talk briefly with him, he seems to have it all together. We spoke on the phone last night. I caught him in one of his now frequent self-reflective moments. His voice broke as he asked – more of himself than of me – “What’s my life been worth?” I’ve often asked my students how long it is between the age of 35 and 65. They’d hesitate a moment, wondering if it was a trick question, and then answer, ‘Thirty years.” In a way, it was a trick question. The answer is not thirty years. The answer is “Three weeks.” Virtually everyone older than forty can think back twenty or thirty years to some significant event in their past – and when you ask them how long ago that seems to be, most will tell you . . . . Yes. “Only a few weeks.” What’s my point? Shakespear’s Macbeth tells us: “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Scripture says it even better: “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14) Listen! In just a few weeks, you will be asking yourself, “What has my life been worth?” I want to share with you an impeccable truth, an ageless truth, a trans-cultural truth: Only to the extent that you have served Jesus will you have a comforting answer to that inevitable question. Please. Pay attention. Your next forty years will pass like a snap of the fingers.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Christ the King, Part One



In many liturgical churches, this Sunday is known as the ‘Solemnity of Christ the King.’  It will be my privilege to share a message around that theme tomorrow at the 55+ community I visit each week. Because of its length, I divide it here into three parts. Here is the first:

The Solemnity of Christ the King:
Why Came the King
Part One

I beheld therefore in the vision of the night, and lo, one like the son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and he came even to the Ancient of days: and they presented him before him. And he gave him power, and glory, and a kingdom: and all peoples, tribes and tongues shall serve him: his power is an everlasting power that shall not be taken away: and his kingdom that shall not be destroyed.” Daniel 7:13-14


“[A]nd from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:5-8 

“Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered him, “Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” John 18:33-37

The first of three points I want to share with anyone who cares to read this post – the first point is this: Scripture declares it from one end of the Book to the other that Jesus is King.

That’s just the way it is.

It’s like saying the earth revolves around the sun once every 365 days. And the calendar doesn’t stop dropping its pages every month just because we don’t like getting older. That’s just the way it is.

The earth inexorably pulls us toward itself. It’s called gravity. Don’t go jumping off a building, because the Law of Gravity will not suspend itself for you or me, even if we don’t like that law. That’s just the way it is.

And Jesus is King. He is more than king. He is the King of kings. He is absolute and final ruler of time, space, and eternity. And there is coming a time, more certain than gravity or the turning of the earth around the sun – there is coming a time when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that yes, Jesus is Lord and King.

That’s just the way it is.

Speaking of Jesus’ Kingship, Bob Dylan, certainly not a lettered theologian, says it as simply yet as profoundly as I’ve ever heard it. Here are some of the lyrics to his song, “Gotta Serve Somebody.” 

“You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls.”

“But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
It may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.”

“You may be a state trooper, you might be an young turk
You may be the head of some big TV network
You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame
You may be living in another country under another name.”

“But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.”

“You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride
You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side
You may be working in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair
You may be somebody's mistress, may be somebody's heir.”

“But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.”

“Might like to wear cotton, might like to wear silk
Might like to drink whiskey, might like to drink milk
You might like to eat caviar, you might like to eat bread
You may be sleeping on the floor, sleeping in a king-sized bed.”

“But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
It may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.”

So, the first point of this three-part essay: Jesus is King. But the more important question, the one that will determine our eternal destiny, is this: What will we do about it?

Monday, November 19, 2018

Getting It


A week or so ago I stopped by my friend Dave’s house. When he brought me into the living room, I noticed an open bible on the kitchen island. He’d been reading one of the gospels and had highlighted a few verses in yellow.  I love to see a well-marked up Bible, and I told him so. 
Several days later, he and I had lunch at a local sandwich place. After a while our conversation turned to spiritual things. When I shared with him what the Lord had said to me that morning during my quiet time with the Scriptures, Dave told me he doesn’t have that kind of ‘connection’ with God. He said he’s never heard God talk to him. 
I looked at him a moment and then asked: “Don’t you mark up your Bible with highlighter?  He said, “Sure.” 
“Why do you mark it up?” 
He said because certain texts speak to him as he reads them. 
I smiled and asked, “So who do you think is actually ‘speaking’ to you as you read? Is the source of the insight you get from reading the Bible from your own thoughts – or are they of the Holy Spirit speaking to you through His word?” 
I watched the proverbial lightbulb click into the ‘on’ position. 
He got it. God does talk to him. He just didn’t recognize it. 
I suspect from now on, he will.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Search and Rescue

O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off . . .  (Psalm 139:1)

David opens his psalm with a truth most people – even those in church pews – just don’t get. David knew without a shred of doubt that his loving God was focused on him. 

And because the Scriptures transcend time and culture, it is completely accurate to say God lovingly focuses on you. That truth of God’s focus on each individual is demonstrated throughout the Bible. The parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son in Luke 15 are only a few of the hundreds of examples. Let’s look at the lost sheep in verses 4-7:  

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.”

It is the Shepherd’s joy to search for and rescue the lost sheep. “I am the good shepherd,” Jesus tells us. “The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. (John 10:11-15)

Are you SURE the Good Shepherd is interested enough in you to search for you? Or do you think He’s given you up for lost? 

Those are important questions because your answer tells you a lot about your relationship with Jesus. If you are not sure Jesus is still – right now – interested in you, if you think He has given you up for lost – then you do not know the Jesus of the Bible very well. 

Look back at that parable of the lost sheep. “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?

Whoever you are, whatever you’ve done, and no matter how often you’ve done it – the Good Shepherd is searching for you. He is interested in you because He loves you. 

He really, really loves you. 

And if you’ve read this far, it’s because something inside of you is stirring you to believe that.

The stirring you feel is the Holy Spirit’s gentle voice. And you can believe Him when He says to you: “I’ve found you. Come on home.”

Thursday, November 8, 2018

When Someone You Love Forsakes You, Part Five

This is part five of a five part essay. You can find parts one through four at www.inhimalone.com 
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God gives us out His own experiences with His creation several examples of how we can cope when someone we love forsakes us.  He shows us how to cry, how to love from afar, and how to pray. Here is one more thing we can do: We should prepare our heart ahead of time for reconciliation. 
Now let’s be realistic – reconciliation might never happen. We all know of families who have never reconciled. God has gifted humanity with free will. He will never force us to do what we choose not to do. Free will is His precious gift, and He gave it to us, knowing all the while even He Himself would suffer heartache when those He loves exercise that gift to turn away from Him. 
But, if it should happen, and the one you have loved from afar, the one for whom you have prayed perhaps for decades, wants to reconcile – receive them with open arms. Don’t ever hold their earlier decision against them: 
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not . . . .take into account a wrong suffered . . . [Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
Think back again to the Prodigal Son story. When the younger son returned home, the father ran toward him, embraced him, and threw a party to celebrate. “For this son of mine,” the father rejoiced to his servants, “this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; He was lost and has been found." 
Life’s disappointments, its sorrows, its unanswerable questions cut deeply into the human heart. And as I said at the beginning of this essay, perhaps especially grievous is the wound caused when someone you love forsakes you.
God knows from His personal experience your grief. He grieves with you. But perhaps more to the point, God has also given us His example how to cope with our hurting heart.
Cry. Love. Pray. Be ready to reconcile. In doing these things, we will be following the godly path He has given us in His word. 
It was the psalmist who said – and may the Holy Spirit sweeten those words to our wounded souls: “Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.”  (Psalm 30:5).

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

When Someone You Love Forsakes You, part 4


(This is part four of a multi-part article that looks at how you can cope when someone you love forsakes you. I will post each part separately to my blog at  www.inhimalone.com ). 
As we’ve seen, when someone we love forsakes us, God gives us examples from His own experiences how to cope with our grief. In parts one through three we’ve seen it’s good to weep when someone we love forsakes us. We can continue to love them, even if we must love them from afar. And we can also pray. 
Don’t ever stop praying for the person who has hurt you. How often do we find in the gospels that Jesus went apart from His disciples to pray alone? And don’t you think His lost sheep were often the focus of His prayers? Don’t you think He prayed also for their families? 
The Lord Jesus knew better than anyone else how we are all locked in a deadly and desperate spiritual battle. Since the Garden of Eden, Satan has sought to destroy the family unit because he also knows a house divided cannot stand. It is Satan who has blinded your loved one’s spiritual eyes, dulled their spiritual ears and hardened their spiritual hearts – all for the ultimate destruction of their souls.  
Pray! Only weapons of spiritual warfare are effective in this kind of battle for their soul – and for your soul. 
But what can you do for a person who has forsaken you and has already died?
Pray
Pray that God had mercy on them before they died – and hold on to your confidence that God did, in His mercy, give them one last chance to repent – even as they lay on their death bed, or before they took their last breath in an accident.  
As I prepared this message, I again thought of the Good Thief who died on the cross next to Jesus. It’s unlikely that any of that man’s relatives – including his parents – were on Golgotha’s hill, watching him die. They’d have feared to be associated with him, or the Romans might take them into custody and later crucify them as well. 
But while it is unlikely that any of his family heard his conversation with Jesus and the other criminal crucified with them, you and I know of the conversation. Luke records it here: 
One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43) 
Never lose heart. God’s mercy extends to everyone, regardless of their crime or how often they rejected Him. God’s mercy extends to every man and woman to their last breath. That’s why you can pray that God had mercy on the one who died without reconciling with you. You can pray that God offered him or her that one last chance to seek forgiveness from the Lord of love. Here is what the Scripture tells us of His mercy: 
“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”  (2 Peter 3:9). And from Ezekiel 8:32: (Speaking to a faithless Israel, God said): “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord God. Therefore, repent and live.” 
So, pray. Pray that God will have mercy on the one who still lives apart from you. And pray that God had mercy on the one who has already died, that He gave him or her that one last chance for forgiveness and eternal life. 
God gives us several examples from His own dealings with His creation of how we can cope when someone we love forsakes us.  He shows us how to cry, how to love from a distance, and how to pray. But there is at least one more thing we can do. We’ll look at that next time in part five.