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

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

It's Okay to be Human

I awoke at two in the morning last evening, thinking again (as I too often do) about the events surrounding Nancy’s stroke on January 19th of this year. I tried pushing that memory from my consciousness. I don’t like reminding myself of my spiritual failures during those interminable weeks in the ICU. Everything I’d ever taught or preached about trusting God in the midst of utter fears and doubts – everything I’d taught dissipated like a match flame in a hurricane. Last night, though, God let me see those events from a different angle. A different perspective. Perhaps He awakened me because of the Bible study I plan to bring later this week to the men and women living in a nearby memory center. Each of the twenty or so who attend the study are in varying stages of memory loss. The youngest is in his mid-sixties. The oldest, in her seventies. Sometimes their spouses join my study. As I prepared that afternoon for our discussion of the ‘Heroes of Faith’ in Hebrews 11, a recurring thought troubled me. How could I speak to what surely must be their own angers and confusions and doubts about God’s love for them. Surely, they wonder why He has not answered their desperate prayers for healing of their minds and a return to what used to be a normal life with their spouse and families. I have no answers to why God heals some and not others. I have no answers to why God remains silent, sometimes for a lifetime, to our prayers. And God spoke to me. His word was not audible, but my mind heard Him as clearly as my ears would have: “Richard” He said. “It’s okay to be human.” I stopped tossing and turning and replayed His comment. “It’s okay to be human.” “What does that mean, Lord?” Scripture drifted across my thoughts: “O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar . . . and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it all.” (Psalm 139:1-4). And then this text: “He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.” (Psalm 103:14)  God not only knows we’re human, full of frailties and failures, but He also says it’s okay to be human. It’s okay because that’s who God created us to be. He knows precisely who and what we are. And He is okay with that – even though we are fraught with failures and so forth. “We are only human.” That’s how I have always counseled others living with their own Peter-esque embarrassment about their spiritual failures. And now, at two in the morning, I needed yet again the same counsel: It’s okay to be human, to be angry at God, to be frustrated, frightened, confused, and disillusioned. It’s okay to wonder if any of our prayers are getting God’s attention. It’s okay to have all those tumultuous emotions. But what do we DO with those emotions after we’ve vented our wounded hearts? That’s the question the residents at the memory center and their families – and you and I – must answer. And our answer must include this decision: “Be careful to not let a root of bitterness creep in and set down roots.” (see Hebrews 12:15) To the surprise of some who read for the first time of the giants of faith cited in Hebrews 11, many of those heroes “died in faith, without receiving the promises.” (Verse 13). Scripture calls them heroes because they did not allow that root of bitterness to despoil them. Instead, they did with God’s help what you and I can and must do with God’s help after venting and crying and mourning: See His promises with eyes of trusting faith, welcome them from a distance, and confess to God that we are strangers and exiles on earth. (Verse 13) It’s okay to be human. It’s how God created us. And though we don’t like to fail, especially when we fail God, He knows failure is part of our humanity – even as Peter's humanity caused him to miserably fail.
But then it’s time to do as Peter did after meeting the risen Lord: Get up and get on with the work God has called each of us to do: Trust Him, even when our natural mind screams out against such trust. I go back to Calvary. Always to Calvary. Since God loves us that much, can we reasonably not trust Him to always do what is right and good in our every circumstance – even if we die in faith, never having received in this life the answers to our prayers?

Sunday, August 25, 2019

I Am Not Ashamed - Part Two

You can find part one at THIS LINK
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Unlike world religions such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and even Old Covenant Judaism, only the New Covenant Judaism – also known as Christianity – only Christianity holds the answer to the otherwise irreconcilable problem of sin, God’s holiness, and forgiveness. No other faith addresses sin and judgment as Biblical Christianity addresses it. Other faiths tell their adherents if they pray often enough and in the right way, or if they do enough good deeds to outweigh their bad deeds, they might get into heaven. 

Christian faith is uniquely different because in our Scriptures God tells us the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth. God’s word tells us salvation is a gift not based at all on our works or our heritage. Salvation is granted to us solely by God’s grace. And because salvation is His unmerited gift, no one can boast and say, “I deserve eternal life.” (see Ephesians 2:8-10) 

Here is what the former Pharisee, St. Paul, wrote to a disciple named Titus: “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7) 

When the same former Pharisee wrote, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the [Gentile] – he was writing to a people steeped in religious pluralism. Rome, and the nation of Greece before Rome, were known for the multiplicity of gods. But God sent Paul to Rome – and throughout Greek speaking Europe and Asia Minor – to tell them the truth about salvation. 

God sent Paul, just as He sends us, to a religiously pluralistic world. It’s the Great Commission Jesus Himself commanded of us: Go ye into all the world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Holy Trinity – in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28) 

The Christian faith is also distinct from other faiths in that Jesus the Messiah was not simply a man who suffered and died for our sins. God Himself became flesh and blood. Jesus was not a created Being. He is co-eternal and co-existent with the Father and the Holy Spirit. God became Man who suffered and died for our sins. This truth should not surprise those who remember what the Jewish prophets said of the promised Messiah. 

For example, in Isaiah’s seventh chapter we read the prophecy of the virgin who will bear a son and call Him ‘Immanuel,’ the Hebrew word which translates into English as ‘God-With-Us.’ In Isaiah 9:6 we read these words: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulders, and His name shall be called, Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” 

The Jewish scholars in the first century understood exactly what Jesus meant when He said, “I and the Father are one” – meaning one essence, inseparable. That’s why they picked up rocks to stone Him for blasphemy. Some in the 21st century, 2000 years from the event, are confused as to what Jesus meant when He said what He said about His relationship with the Father. But those LIVING at the time suffered no confusion. They knew perfectly well that Jesus claimed to be God Almighty in the flesh. 

Why do you think the Lord Jesus again warned the uber-religious Pharisees, “Unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins”? (John 9) Why do you think He later told His disciples, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me”? (John 14) And why else would His apostles – at the risk of their own stoning – teach the exclusive message: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” ? (Acts 4:12) 

Here is how writer and theologian CS Lewis put it: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

You and I must ever remind ourselves of God’s truth in this anti-Christ culture which denies the deity of Jesus and His sacrificial atonement for our sins. Think of your children and your grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Think of your sons and your daughters, your beloved nieces and grand nieces and nephews who are in mortal danger of being molded into the popular religious pluralism out there, where they are assured, all roads lead to heaven. 

Who will tell them that is a damnable lie if you aren’t sure of it yourself? 

If there are multiple ways to get to heaven, then why did God send His Son to die a torturous, bloody, agonizing death? If we could gain heaven by any other means, God would have selected those means and spared His Son.

But there is no other way for righteousness to be imputed to us outside of the substitutionary death of Jesus, whose blood alone covers the sins of the penitent.
Declaring Jesus as the only way for men and women to gain eternal life will not win many friends among those who want to live and let live, who insist on being open to other ideas about God and eternal life. In our pluralistic culture where it is unpopular to believe in absolute truth, the message of the gospel is a lightning rod for those who disagree with Christ’s exclusive message. 
Well, so be it. As St. Paul wrote to the Christians at Galatia, “If I were trying to please men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” 
Many people think the phrase, ‘Quo Vadis’ refers to the 1951 movie, based on the book by the same name. But the origin of the Latin phrase dates back into Christian antiquity. Quo Vadis means, "Where are you going?" and is rooted in an ancient Christian apocryphal story – a story every Christian might do well to review once a year. 
According to the tradition, while St. Peter was fleeing Nero’s persecution of Christians, he met the Risen Jesus on the road outside the city. Peter asked Him, “Quo Vadis? Where are you going?” To which Jesus replied, “To Rome to be crucified again.” 
Peter, face to face with his own fear and remorse in turning away from the Great Commission, returned to the city where he continued the work to which Christ has called all Christians: “Preach the Truth.” 
In real life, St. Peter was eventually martyred and crucified upside down. But the point of the Quo Vadis story is not his martyrdom. The point of the story is that Peter would not be ashamed of Christ or the gospel. 
And the point of the story for us is: We must do likewise.
As disciples and followers of Jesus, we must decide every day, will we compromise with those who believe all roads lead to heaven? Or will we stand unashamed with Christ, and the history of all the martyrs who died for God’s eternal truth? 
God became Man. He lived a sinless life. He died as a substitutionary sacrifice for your sins and mine. Only through Christ can anyone be reconciled with the Father. There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

I Am Not Ashamed - Part One

This is part one of the message I preached at the 55+ community where I minister each week. My text focused on the first chapter of St. Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome. It’s an important text for us especially in our religiously pluralistic American culture: 

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, (the apostle wrote,) “for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the [Gentile].” (Romans 1:16)

One definition of ‘ashamed’ is to be reluctant or unwilling to do something because of embarrassment. Paul’s text here in Romans 1 cuts to the heart of a growing problem facing many of today’s Christians in America because the media, the educational system, the courts, the marketplace, Hollywood, and even many churches have been slowly squeezing Christians into the mold called ‘religious pluralism.’ That ought to frighten us because that mold has the effect of reducing Jesus the Christ to just one of many religious teachers and prophets. 

Religious pluralism is the belief that different religious worldviews are equally valid, equally true, and equally acceptable to God. Therefore, all religious roads lead to God. 

If anyone thought that through, that philosophy doesn’t make sense on any level. There can only be one truth, not a half-dozen. For example, the doctrines of Judeo-Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism are not only diverse in their understanding of sin, righteousness, and judgment, but they are each diverse in their understanding of the nature of God. 

Tragically – and I use that word purposely – a growing number of Christians in our modern pluralistic era – even those who have been in the Church for decades – are becoming increasingly reluctant to draw a proverbial line in the sand and boldly and unapologetically declare what the Bible declares to be the ONLY truth – that which is found in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures about sin, righteousness, judgment – and specifically what Scripture tells us of the Person and role of Jesus in our eternal destiny. 

That's a hard truth for many today to swallow in our age of religious pluralism – but God has never been one to mince words. He has never been one to equivocate or be ambiguous. And neither should we His servants when people ask us the reason for our hope of eternal life.

Only Biblically-based Christianity holds the definitive answer to the question about sin, forgiveness of sins, eternal judgment, and eternal life. 

Let me repeat that for emphasis. There are not multiple truths about sin and forgiveness of sins, eternal judgment and eternal life. There is only ONE truth. And that truth is God’s love for humanity is evidenced in His sacrificial offering of His Son Jesus as payment for our sins. Only that gospel message holds the key to eternal life because its specific revelation is rooted in humanity’s nature AND in the nature of God. Humanity’s nature is utterly sick with sin. God’s nature is utterly and ineffably holy. The bad news is, without God's intervention, our utter sinfulness and God’s incomprehensible holiness cannot ever be reconciled. But the good news is, God DID intervene in humanity’s otherwise hopeless situation. 

That divine intervention separates Christianity from all other religions past or present. 

I wonder if those who sit in the pews each Sunday have heard the apostle Paul’s warning so often that it no longer carries the weight it should: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) He adds later in the same letter to the church at Rome: “The wages of sin is death. But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) 

That preposition, ‘in’ Christ Jesus our Lord is critical. It is only those who are IN Christ Jesus who receive the free gift of God. No one else. Not Muslims. Not Hindus. No one. Not even Jews who reject Messiah Jesus’ sacrificial atonement for their sins. Only Biblically-based Christianity has the answer to the question: What can wash away my sins? What can make me whole again? The answer is: Nothing can make us whole again except the blood of Jesus. 

What do we mean when we talk of Jesus’ sacrificial atonement for our sins? God’s utter holiness requires divine justice concerning sin. There is no wiggle room in God’s righteousness to overlook even what we might call minor sins. On the other hand, God’s love calls for mercy and compassion toward the sinner. 

The tension between God’s justice and love found reconciliation in the sacrificial system He established through Moses. The last half of Exodus, and the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy especially focus attention on the animal sacrifices which functioned as a substitutionary atonement for the sinner. When the Jewish priests laid their hands on the head of the sacrificial animal, the sins of the penitent were transferred to the animal who then was slain. 

According to the New Testament, the Mosaic sacrificial system pointed to what God intended to do centuries later on Calvary’s hill. 

Among the many prophetic promises in the Jewish Scriptures of that reconciliation, God told us through Isaiah: He [the Messiah] was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.” (Isaiah 53:3-6, NLT) 

Jesus, the perfect and spotless Lamb of God, took away our sins with His own blood when He died on that cross. His bloody death became a substitutionary atonement for all who call on Jesus for forgiveness of their sins. As the apostle Paul reminds us: [God] made Christ, who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Humankind bristles at the idea that we are sinners who justly deserve eternal punishment. Many of us think of ourselves as not-so-bad, especially when we compare ourselves with REAL sinners – like rapists and murderers. 

But when we compare ourselves with others, we demonstrate our ignorance of the infinite holiness of God. The sun itself, in all its noonday brilliance, is as dark as night when placed next to God’s holiness. And God demands our holiness be as HIS holiness. Jesus was not speaking in hyperbole when He commanded us, “Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48). 

Unlike world religions such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and even Old Covenant Judaism, only the New Covenant Judaism – also known as Christianity – only Christianity holds the answer to the otherwise irreconcilable problem of sin, God’s holiness, and forgiveness. No other faith addresses sin and judgment as Biblical Christianity addresses it. Other faiths tell their adherents if they pray often enough and in the right way, or if they do enough good deeds to outweigh their bad deeds, they might get into heaven.  

Christian faith is uniquely different because in our Scriptures God tells us the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth. God’s word tells us salvation is a gift not based at all on our works or our heritage. Salvation is granted to us solely by God’s grace. And because salvation is His unmerited gift, no one can boast and say, “I deserve eternal life.” (see Ephesians 2:8-10) 


Click THIS LINK for part two

Thursday, August 22, 2019

His god wants Him to be Happy


I wrote this a couple of years ago. Nothing has changed – except perhaps to have grown worse.

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I talked with a woman the other day who’s been married 27 years. She told me her husband wants a divorce so he can marry the woman with whom he’s been sleeping for the past several months. As his excuse, he said to her, “My god wants me to be happy.”



I tried not to look too stunned, but I doubt I was successful. A moment later I responded, “I believe it is true that his god wants him to be happy. But,” I continued, “his god is clearly not the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”



Later that afternoon while driving home, the Holy Spirit reminded me of a breakfast meeting I’d had the day before with some local church leaders. As we ate our pancakes and bacon, I overheard two ministers from a nearby church talk among themselves about their same-sex ‘partners.’



And so the bold ‘in-your-face’ mockery of God's demand for our holiness and sanctification goes on and on and on. Yet even though I've encountered multiple dozens of such self-deceived church-goers in the past decade, I still do not cease to be amazed that such people can be so shamelessly cavalier with Him of whom the Holy Spirit warned:



“If we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries . . . . It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:26-31)



The true and eternal God who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ will not be mocked; especially by those who call themselves Christians.



It really will be a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Oh, Holy Spirit PLEASE -- help us all to not “think lightly of the riches of [Your] kindness and tolerance and patience.” Indeed, as the Scripture tells us, Your kindness should lead us to repentance. (Romans 2:4)




Sunday, August 18, 2019

When We Don't Like God's Answer - part two


It took nearly 40 minutes to preach this message at the 55+ community where I share God’s word each week. For the ease of reading, I divided it into two parts. You can find part one at this link

What will we do when God says “No” to our prayers? Let me help you find a far better answer than Harris and Sampson gave. When disappointment or disillusionment creeps into our thoughts, ask yourself the following three questions: 

The first is this: Is God good and compassionate all the time and in all circumstances? His Scriptures says He is. For example, Psalm 145:17 “The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds.”  Again, Psalm 103:13-14 “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.

God says He is good and compassionate all the time and in all circumstances. Will you decide to believe Him, even when your heart is breaking? 

The second question is this: Can I trust God to do what is right and good all the time and in all circumstances? His word says He is trustworthy. For example, Romans 8:28-31 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose . . . What then shall we say to these things [that happened to us and around us]? If God is for us, who is against us?” 

Will you decide to trust Him, even when your heart is breaking?

Here is the third question: Do I also believe God loves me as much as He loves Jesus? Jesus says God does. In His so-called High Priestly prayer (John 17:20-23) Jesus prayed, “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word . . . I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.

Will you believe the Father loves you as much as He loves Jesus, even when your heart is breaking?

Let me cite only two examples of people, common, everyday people like you and I whose circumstances forced them to ask and to answer those three questions. 

The first example is Horatio Spafford. I’ve referred to him before. In 1871, Spafford’s 4-year-old son died of Scarlet fever. Two years later, business demands kept Spafford from joining his wife and four daughters on a family vacation in England where their friend Dwight L. Moody would be preaching. While enroute on November 22, 1873, their steamship collided with another, and sank within minutes to the bottom of the ocean, killing 226 people. Among the dead were all four of Spafford's daughters. His wife, Anna, survived the tragedy. When she finally arrived in England, she sent a telegram to Spafford. It read "Saved alone. What shall I do?" 

Spafford immediately followed on the next ship sailing for England. As his ship crossed the spot where his four daughters drowned, Spafford wrote these words: 

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.  Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, let this blest assurance control, that Christ hath regarded my helpless estate, and hath shed His own blood for my soul. . . .  And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll; The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, even so, it is well with my soul. 

How could Spafford write such words? I’ll tell you how. Because he had lived a life of faith and trust and love toward His Savior. 

The second person I want to introduce to you is George Muller (d. 1898). Muller and his first wife opened orphanages across Bristol, England to care for homeless, and destitute children. By the end of his life, Muller and his wives had housed, fed, and clothed more than ten thousand orphans and opened nearly 120 schools which offered Christian education to more than 120,000 children.  

After nearly 40 years of marriage to his first wife, Mary, death took her from his arms. His second wife, Susannah, died after 23 years of marriage. Muller also buried his four children, the oldest at age 68, another at 15 months, and two still-born infants. Nevertheless, shortly before his own death in 1898 (he was 92), and undaunted by his own life-tragedies, Muller preached a message from Lamentations 3:21-22. This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. 

Muller told his congregation: “While everything changes here on earth, Jesus our friend is the same. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. As he was millions of years ago, he is now. What he was when he walked in Galilee and Judea and Samaria. He is now. His heart full of beauty and tenderness and compassion.” 

Muller continued: “I say to you all, you may be the oldest, the greatest, the hardest of sinners. But if you turn to Christ, He will forgive you. There is power in the blood of Christ to take away the worst of sins.” 

“Knowledge cannot make you happy. Christ alone brings you happiness again and again. I know seven languages, but I will still go to hell if I did not know Christ.” And now read the final words of his message in the context with the deaths of his two wives, and four children: “I cannot describe the joy and the peace which comes from knowing the Lord Jesus. I am a happy old man. Yes, I am a happy old man. I walk around my room knowing I am not alone because you are here with me. I have buried my wives and my children, but still you are with me. I do not feel alone or forsaken because I have you and your smile. And that is better than life itself.” 

What shall you and I do when we don’t like God’s answers to our prayers? Shall we turn away as Joshua Harris and Marty Sampson did? Or shall we live as Spafford and Muller, and the rest of that great cloud of witnesses we read of in Hebrews eleven – trusting God, and striving to love Him so much that nothing, not even the deepest soul-wrenching heartache and sorrow and pain – no, not even hearing Him say ‘No” to our prayers – nothing shall move us from our faithful relationship with Him and Him alone. 

Oh, Holy Spirit, please help us.


When We Don't Like God's Answer - part one

It took nearly 40 minutes to preach this message at the 55+ community where I share God’s word each week. For the ease of reading, I divided it into two parts. Part two will follow tomorrow. 
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As I prepared this message, I thought of two stories in recent weeks about two high-profile Christians who turned their backs on Jesus. You might remember I posted my comments about them several days ago. Their fall from grace still troubles me. 

Joshua Harris, who was a megachurch pastor and author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, proudly proclaimed his freedom from Christianity. He then promptly divorced his wife and shortly thereafter marched in a Gay Pride parade. 

A week or so later I read of another big name ‘Christian,’ Marty Sampson. Sampson was a Hillsong megachurch worship leader and songwriter until he also boasted of having escaped from Christ. 

It’s nothing short of tragic for them, their families, and for those who looked up to them that Satan can now do a victory dance at their fall. 

December of this year will mark 47 years that I have walked with Jesus. And in those nearly five decades I have watched many, many men and women fall away from Christ. To my knowledge, none have ever returned. 

Let me first say this. I am certain neither Joshua Harris nor Marty Sampson woke up one morning and suddenly decided they no longer believed what they said they had once believed about the Savior. Their turning from Christ started slowly and continued incrementally until they made their break from the One whom they once called their Lord and Savior. 

In the nearly 50 years I have followed Jesus, I have seen too many followers of Christ turn away from their faith. And while their reasons for turning back to the world might be varied, I think there is most often only of two fundamental reasons a person leaves Christ: Either they tire of doing what Jesus wants them to do, or they grow angry, or annoyed, or disillusioned when Jesus doesn’t do what they want Him to do. 

In either case, they bristle – perhaps unconsciously at first – they bristle at the idea the He is God – and they are not. They stumble at the realization that God is not a cosmic Santa Claus or Tooth Fairy. 

What do we do when we don’t like God’s answer to our prayers? 

Don’t think Harris’ and Sampson’s apostasy could not become your own story. The Holy Spirit warns us through St. Paul’s pen: “[L]et him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12) A few chapters later, Paul warns: Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) 

St. Peter also tells us a truth we dare not gloss over: Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” (1 Peter 5:8-9) 

The shorter the time grows before the Lord Jesus’ return, the more urgent the devil grows in his seduction of humanity – and especially of churchgoers. 

Why especially churchgoers? Because if he can seduce them away from Christ, they don’t usually go alone. They bring with them those who looked up to them, those who trusted them, those who thought they had the answers to questions like “How can I live a godly life like you do?” 

The scandal Satan causes when those who call themselves Christians fall back into sin is incalculable. That’s why we spent several weeks examining the armor of God that St. Paul wrote of in Ephesians chapter six. We are each in a battle for the eternal destiny of our souls – and for the souls of others. That’s why the Holy Spirit through Paul urges us, Put on the full armor of God so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:10) 

I hope you will often read that passage about that armor. Read it often and live by it. Stay alert in your armor. You don’t want your end to be as Harris and Sampson, high-profile deserters who are to be pitied – and prayed for

“What do you do when you don’t like God’s answers?” That is not an insignificant question. It’s one that you and I will repeatedly face throughout our life journey toward the Kingdom. 

Those who preach from pulpits and write books telling God’s people that He wants us happy, healthy, wealthy – and that He will always answer our prayers according to our desires – that message is a lie, totally unsupportable by God’s word. 

Let me give you only three examples of high-profile people who heard God say ‘No’ to their requests.  The first is Moses. Israel was about the cross into the Promised Land after their 40-year trek through the wilderness. Earlier during that journey, God told Moses he would not enter the Promised land because he had openly disobeyed God and struck the rock to get water for the people instead of only speaking to it (Numbers 20:10-12). 

And now, as they were about to cross the Jordan River, Moses once more asked God to let him enter with the people. Here is how the Scripture describes that melancholy scene: 

Let me, I pray, cross over and see the fair land that is beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon.’ But the Lord was angry with me on your account and would not listen to me; and the Lord said to me, ‘Enough! Speak to Me no more of this matter. Go up to the top of [Mount] Pisgah and lift up your eyes to the west and north and south and east, and see it with your eyes, for you shall not cross over this Jordan. (Deuteronomy 3:25-27) 

Our second high-profile person to whom God said, “No” is the apostle Paul. In his second letter to the Christians at Corinth, Paul implored God to remove his ‘thorn in the flesh.’  Scripture doesn’t tell us anything about that thorn, but we can easily surmise it was a great affliction for him. 

Here is how the man who wrote nearly one half of the New Testament books records it: Concerning this [thorn] I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:8) 

In other words, God told Paul, “No. I will not remove that thorn.”

The third high-profile person to hear God answer “No” to His prayers is none other than the Lord Jesus Himself. Luke records the scene this way: “And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.” (Luke 22:44). You remember what He asked the Father: “If You are willing, remove this cup from Me.” But the Father said, in other words, “No, Son. I will not remove the cup.” 

How could Moses accept God’s ‘No’ to his prayer? Because he had spent the better part of 40 years walking every day with God. After all that time, Moses grew to know God, to trust Him, to love Him. And so, though surely disappointed, he remained submissive to God’s decision. 

Paul could accept God’s ‘No’ for the same reason. In the more than three decades the apostle walked with Christ, he tells us: “Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. (2 Corinthians 11:24-27) 

Yet through it all, during his 30+year journey toward the Kingdom, Paul learned to know God, to trust God, to love God. So, when God said, “No” Paul could say: “Thy will be done.” 

And how could Jesus – who was not only 100% God, but He was also 100% human just like you and me – how could the Man Jesus, freely submit Himself to the will of the Father, even though He knew it meant His torturous death? 

How? The same way Moses and Paul could accept the Father’s will. Jesus knew the Father. He trusted the Father. He loved the Father. 

What will we do when we don’t like God’s answers to our prayers?  I’ll tell you what Joshua Harris and Marty Sampson had not done during the years they preached God’s word or led congregations in music worship: They had not learned to trust God to always, and in every circumstance, do right. They had never learned God loves them – He still does, even though they have turned away from Him. 

What will we do when God says “No” to our prayers? Let me help you find a far better answer than Harris and Sampson gave. When disappointment or disillusionment creeps into our thoughts, ask yourself the following three questions. I offer those questions in part two. Follow the link here:

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Perhaps Today

I posted this a couple of times on this blog. I thought today would be a good time to re-post it.
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[God] will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord God will wipe tears away from all [our] faces . . . . And it will be said in that day, "Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation" (Isaiah 25:8-9).

So I’m reading through the 25th chapter of Isaiah and came across verses 8 & 9. Then my thoughts drifted to Jesus’ words in the 14th chapter of St. John’s gospel:

In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be (John 14:2-3).

And I contemplated the Second Advent.
And I remembered . . .

There’s coming a day,

perhaps even tomorrow,

when he wipes the tears,

kisses the wounds, and

binds the broken. (1)

There’s coming a day,

perhaps even tomorrow,

when the Lord descends

from heaven with a
shout;



A day when the trumpet of God

resounds,

and those who died in Christ

burst from their graves;



A day when we too,
who live in Christ,

will be caught up with them,

to meet the Lord in the air,

and be forever with Him. (2)

There’s coming a day,

perhaps even tomorrow,

when we no longer walk by faith,

but by sight; (3)



When we no longer grieve,

or moan,

or utter so much
as a whimper;



When the lion lies with the lamb,

and the child plays on a viper’s den

and is not be hurt. (4)


There’s coming a day,

perhaps even tomorrow,

when the last nail is hammered

into the last board

of the last room

of the house promised us by Christ;

And we hear Him call:

“It's time!” (5)


There’s coming a day,

perhaps even tomorrow –

or perhaps even . . .

today.


Oh, Lord Jesus
and so we plead,

come quickly.

1. Isaiah 25:8-9
2. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; 1 Corinthians 15:50-52
3. 2 Corinthians 5:6-8
4. Isaiah 11:8-9; Isaiah 65:25
5. John 14:2-3