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

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Tonight is Halloween

Tonight is Halloween. Originally the Holy Day (yes, it used to be a Holy Day) was called All Hallows’ Eve – the night before All Saints Day, which occurs tomorrow on November 1.
All Saints' Day (also known as Hallowmas, the Feast of All Saints, or Solemnity of All Saints) is a Christian celebration to honor all the saints in Church history, known and unknown. It is celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, the Methodist Church, the Church of the Nazarene, the Lutheran Church, the Reformed Church, and other Protestant churches.
I searched the internet for information about the martyrs who’ve died for their faith.  Currently across the globe, more than 200 million Christians are threatened because of their faith. One report notes that there have been more Christian martyrs in the 20th and 21st centuries than in the preceding 19 centuries — going back to Jesus Christ’s time on earth.
One of my favorite stories of the martyrs to be commemorated tonight and on All Saints Day tomorrow is of the forty Roman soldiers, known as the Forty Brave Soldiers for Jesus. You can listen to their story in song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXgEzauXUdc&t=109s
Halloween was NEVER about ghouls and ghosts and witches and goblins – creatures which are the enemies of the Second Person of the Trinity. Halloween was originally about Christian devotion to Jesus Christ, and a commemoration of those giants of faith -- many of whom were martyred for their faith, on whose shoulders we stand today.
How I wish, oh, ESPECIALLY in this day of rapidly growing apostasy and a turning away from Scripture – how I wish every Christian, and every church in America that claims the title of Christian, would encourage their congregants to remember our forefathers in the faith in more honorable ways than many will do tonight.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

The Holy Spirit Today

"Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16) 

The Lord Jesus, before His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, told His disciples: “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper [Paraclete – comforter, advocate, Someone to always stand with you], that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17)

Many Christians often think of the Holy Spirit only in relationship to the Day of Pentecost when He filled the 120 disciples in that upper room, and they began glorifying God with other tongues. We find that event in Acts chapter two. But God the Holy Spirit is much more than we see in Acts 2. Here are only a few examples of His role on earth and in the life of the child of God:

The Holy Spirit participated in the creation days of Genesis chapters one and two. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. (Genesis 1:1-3).

Look back to the clause where Moses described the Holy Spirit as ‘hovering’ over the surface of the waters. The Hebrew word Moses used for hovering – ‘moving,’ in some translations – can also be translated as “brooding,” as an eagle broods over, protects, and cherishes her young in the nest.

Do you feel loved? Do you feel protected? Do you feel cherished by God? I hope so. But please also remember, we do not live by our feelings. We live by faith in what God says to us in His holy word – words such as these in Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” Or this beautiful text from Psalm 139: 

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand! I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence!

If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night— but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you. You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.

You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. (Psalm 139:1-16, NLT)

Please listen: When God tells us He cherishes us, that He loves us, that He is always protecting us, believe it because God cannot lie. Cannot. Lie. God has given to each of His children the inexpressibly wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit to be our comforter, Someone to always stand with us.

And don’t think for a nanosecond the Holy Spirit is not right now brooding over you, wherever you might be reading this. God the Holy Spirit hovers over us to protect, to nurture us, to love us, and to gather us under His wings.

Another role of the Holy Spirit is, in the words of Jesus, to “convince the world of its sin, and of the availability of God’s goodness, and of deliverance from judgment.” (John 16:7-8, TLB)

If you are a child of God through the blood of Jesus, you are His child because of the Holy Spirit’s work in your heart years and years ago to convince you of your sins – and at the same time to reveal to you God’s willingness to forgive every one of those sins – regardless of how egregious they were. It was the Holy Spirit who taught you how you could be completely and forever delivered from God’s wrathful judgment against us for those sins.

And the Holy Spirit also empowers us to co-labor with Him, to reach out to those who still live away from His nurturing and comfort. Jesus gives us the inexplicable privilege to go with Him in His Name into all the world and make disciples of all peoples, races, languages, cultures, and backgrounds. That’s the message of Isaiah 61: 

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and freedom to prisoners . . . To comfort all who mourn . . .
This passage of Scripture does not only apply to the Lord Jesus, or His apostles, or the pastors and shepherds and teachers. It applies to every Christian because every Christian is indwelt by the Holy Spirit who has commanded us – and has empowered us – to go into all the world.

The Holy Spirit gives you and me the authority to bring good news to sin-sickened souls, the good news that God loves them – regardless of their sins. We bring them the good news that He wants to forgive them and give them a new heart and a new spirit and a new soul. A clean slate. He wants to write their names in His book of life.

Think for a moment what that means. We can bind the wounds of the brokenhearted, give them good news that can free the prisoners from sin’s chains through the blood of Jesus. We can comfort those who mourn – those who mourn their losses – their lost years, lost opportunities, lost loved ones, lost chances.

And there is still more. The Holy Spirit leads us into truth. God’s truth. The only truth which can free us from the subtle and deadly chains of satanic deception vomited hourly from sources of news, entertainment, politics, and education. The Holy Spirit tells us of God’s inerrant and eternal truth.
You may remember Pilate’s question of Jesus as the Lord stood before him at the trial. Here is how John records it: “Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in Him” (John 18:37-38).

We’ve all heard the proverb, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.” Likewise, the Holy Spirit leads us to His eternal truth preserved for us in the Holy Scriptures, but we have a responsibility to receive AND obey that truth.

God help us to not do as Pilate did – ask God a question and not wait for His answer. God help us to not be as those of whom St. Paul wrote, “[W]anting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4.)

And finally, for today’s message, just as Death’s grip could not hold the Lord Jesus in the grave, Death will not hold you, either. It is the Holy Spirit who will resurrect from death all those who have, in this life, loved and served Jesus. Here is what God tells us through the apostle Paul: “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:11)

This song written by Jeremy Camp, speaks to that glorious truth. Here are some of the lyrics (The Same Power):
The same power that rose Jesus from the grave,
The same power that commands the dead to wake
Lives in us, lives in us.
The same power that moves mountains when He speaks,
The same power that can calm a raging sea,
Lives in us, lives in us.


Greater is He that is living in me
He's conquered our enemy
No power of darkness
No weapon prevails
We stand here in victory


Christian, listen: God the Holy Spirit is not done with us yet. He still has a mission for us to accomplish. Whatever our age, whatever our health, whatever our limitations – the Holy Spirit still specializes in meeting the needs of multitudes with a couple of fish and a few loaves of bread.

Let’s stay with Him in His holy work.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

An Old Lady's Poem


I teach nursing in a local BSN program. Yesterday I read to them this poem, written by an old woman before she died in a nursing home. Please read it now. I will make a comment or two afterward.


An Old Lady's Poem

What do you see, nurses, what do you see?
What are you thinking when you're looking at me?
A crabby old woman, not very wise,
Uncertain of habit, with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles her food and makes no reply
When you say in a loud voice, "I do wish you'd try!"
Who seems not to notice the things that you do,
And forever is losing a stocking or shoe.....
Who, resisting or not, lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding, the long day to fill....
Is that what you're thinking? Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse; you're not looking at me.

I'll tell you who I am as I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, as I eat at your will.
I'm a small child of ten ...with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters, who love one another.
A young girl of sixteen, with wings on her feet,
Dreaming that soon now a lover she'll meet.
A bride soon at twenty -- my heart gives a leap,
Remembering the vows that I promised to keep.



At twenty-five now, I have young of my own,
Who need me to guide and a secure happy home.
A woman of thirty, my young now grown fast,
Bound to each other with ties that should last.
At forty, my young sons have grown and are gone,
But my man's beside me to see I don't mourn.
At fifty once more, babies play round my knee,
Again we know children, my loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me, my husband is dead;
I look at the future, I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing young of their own,
And I think of the years and the love that I've known.

I'm now an old woman ...and nature is cruel;
'Tis jest to make old age look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles, grace and vigor depart,
There is now a stone where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass a young girl still dwells,
And now and again my battered heart swells.
I remember the joys, I remember the pain,
And I'm loving and living life over again.
I think of the years ....all too few, gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact that nothing can last.

So open your eyes, nurses, open and see,
Not a crabby old woman; look closer ...see ME!!


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I often ask my students – many of them in their 20s – how long will it be until they are 60. When I asked them yesterday, they told me 40 years. I told them they are wrong. It will be about four weeks. 


Those of you reading this, if you are already in your later years of 50s and 60s, you know ‘four weeks’ is about right.  You can think back so clearly to incidents that occurred in your life decades ago, many of which seem to have occurred only a few weeks ago.


When I spoke to them yesterday, I wrote on the whiteboard “Ecclesiastes” and told them they can find it in the Old Testament. It’s a short book. Only twelve very brief chapters. It won't take more than 15-20 minutes to read. But it’s something everyone – In their twenties, thirties, sixties, even to their nineties – everyone should read at least once a year. And they should not overlook the last chapter.


Please, you who are now reading this, hear me. One day, if we live to old age, every one of us will stare at the reflection in the mirror and wonder where the decades have gone.  So fast. So soon.


Please, before you get there, I hope you will pay very close attention to what Solomon wrote in chapter 12 of Ecclesiastes:


“Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no delight in them” . . . The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. 14 For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1, 13)

Monday, October 21, 2019

Something to Provoke Thought

I’m preparing one of my Bible studies for next week. As I was putting it together, I thought to post this section to provoke some thought.
"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” (John 14:27)
a. How is the principle of this text similar to the opening verses of this chapter (chapter 14): “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also”?
b. What is the source of the peace Jesus speaks of here?
c. Now see John 16:33 “I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.”
d. How does all this compare with St. Paul’s words to the Christians at Philippi? “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)
e. What daily practices can you employ to better sense the peace Scripture speaks of here?

Sunday, October 20, 2019

What are we Building?


For we are God’s coworkers. You are God’s field, God’s building. According to God’s grace that was given to me, I have laid a foundation as a skilled master builder, and another builds on it. But each one must be careful how he builds on it. For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on that foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, each one’s work will become obvious, for the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire; the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. (1 Corinthians 3:6-13, HCSB)
Last week we looked at how God uses us to plant and water His seed in others. (See this link). Today we ask ourselves what we are building into the lives of others, and into our own life. What are we doing with what He has entrusted to us? 
St. Paul wrote, “No one can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. And you’d think Christians would accurately teach the central doctrines of Christian theology when we work to build godliness into the lives of others. But even people with the best intentions can have their theological blind spots. And that’s why it’s essential that we not only be aware that WE might have some blind spots, but that our teachers may also have theirs.
In other words, we should trust our pastors and teachers – but we should also test what they tell us against the inerrant word of God and the historic teaching of the Church. 
There is good scriptural support for this kind of ‘trust but verify’ method. For example, when Paul and his Silas were run out of Thessalonica, they went to Berea to present them with the same message of truth, righteousness, judgment, and repentance. The Bereans listened – and then verified – what Paul and Silas were telling them. Here is how Luke records it: “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. (Acts 17:11) 
If the Bereans thought it prudent to search the Scriptures to verify St. Paul’s teaching, then who today – regardless of their titles, positions, or their educational training – has the right to take umbrage with anyone who wants to test what they teach with the Scriptures and the historic teaching of the Church? 
Here are two examples of (I am sure, innocent) theological blind spots that illustrate the importance of being like the Bereans: 
In the preface to the text of 1 Timothy, the editors of the New American Standard Bible (Harvest House, copyright 1995) stated this: “Paul wrote to his beloved son in the faith an epistle that would become a legacy for the church, and a pillar and support of the truth.” 
I’m not sure why the editorial board altered the actual words Paul used in this letter to Timothy, but here is what the apostle actually wrote in 1 Timothy 3:15 – I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.”
In other words, Paul said the CHURCH is the pillar and support of the truth – not his letter, which the editors claimed. Their theological blind spot caused them to get it wrong. But readers wouldn’t know that without researching the Scriptures.
Another example: When I was deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, I attended a communion service held by one of the Army chaplains. As he held aloft the communion bread, he told us, “Jesus said, this is a symbol of my Body.”
I thought I had misheard him. But I did not. Let me assure you, Jesus did not say, “This is a symbol of my Body.” What Jesus DID say during the Last Supper was, “This IS my body.” (Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24). But unless those of us sitting in that communion service had searched the Scriptures, we would not know the chaplain had (innocently, again I am sure) spoken from his theological blind spot.
God wants to build our lives around Jesus the Cornerstone and on the firm foundation of the Scriptures. The cornerstone is the first stone set in the construction of a brick building. All other bricks will be set in reference to that stone, thereby determining the position and the angles of the structure. 
Without a properly placed cornerstone, the entire structure will be unstable. If we hope to build godliness into the lives of others – and into our own life – we must stay within the framework given us by God – Jesus the Cornerstone, from which and around which we construct our spiritual life on the foundation of the Scriptures. 
Notice what the Lord Jesus said about foundations: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”  (Matthew 7:24-27).
Since Jesus is the Word of God made flesh, it is theologically sound to extrapolate from this text in Matthew to mean our life-stability rests squarely not only on His Sermon in chapters five through seven, but on the message of the entire Old and New testaments. Therein lay God’s truth. Pure, inerrant, salvific truth. Therein only are the building blocks of a godly life. 
The foundation upon which we must build a stable spiritual structure is pretty straightforward. The apostles repeatedly make that case that we must live obediently to Jesus who is almighty God in the flesh of a man; That He was born of the virgin, as prophesied by Isaiah; That He lived a perfectly sinless life, and then became our substitutionary sacrifice by which His bloody death satisfied God’s wrath toward us because of our sins. 
Scriptures teach us again and again that Jesus alone is the doorway to heaven. No one comes to the Father except through Him. No one can have his or her sins pardoned except with His blood. No one. 
It’s all about God’s unchangeable foundation of truth.
But for the past 2000 years, and right up to this very day, some have tried to corrupt the gospel message to build their own version of truth. 
For example, many people – even church-goers – believe and teach that Jesus is NOT the only door to heaven. Some, even pastors, will tell you all you need to be assured of heaven is to be good to others. I’ve heard some pastors teach that hell is not a place of fiery torment. It is simply eternal separation from God. Others say that God has thrown Israel aside and replaced it with the Church. Even a well-known Atlanta pastor teaches his congregation it is no longer necessary or even wise to use the Old Testament as a source for Christian faith. 
Do you see why it is important to not only have a good working knowledge of the Scriptures, but also the historical teaching of the church dating to the days of the apostles? The Lord Jesus said when blind guides lead the blind, both fall into a pit. (Luke 6:39). 
I started this message quoting Paul’s admonition to the Christians at Corinth: For we are God’s coworkers. You are God’s field, God’s building. According to God’s grace that was given to me, I have laid a foundation as a skilled master builder, and another builds on it. But each one must be careful how he builds on it. For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ.
What are you building in others, and in yourself? What materials are you using? Most everyone reading this knows from hard experience, life is far too short and far too fragile to build our lives on unstable foundations. 
May God help us to always build uncompromisingly around Jesus as the only cornerstone of true and salvific faith, and the Scriptures as our only foundation that will give us stability in the darkest storms.

Lifting up Jesus


So, I’m reading this morning in John’s gospel, and this verse stopped me: “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” (John 12:32).  Almost immediately, another verse injected itself from my memory: For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.  (1 Corinthians 2:2).



In other words, Richard, don’t lift up your church. Lift up Jesus. Don’t lift up your pastor. Lift up Jesus. Only in lifting up Jesus will He draw to Himself all who still hunger and thirst for righteousness.


Friday, October 18, 2019

Keyboards and Atheists


I published this several years ago. 
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A guy in one of my online communities boasts he is an atheist. I don’t ask him why he is an atheist. My discussions with such people in the past have always proven fruitless.

Anyway, so this guy types his arguments into a keyboard. I wonder if he has ever thought about the decades it took for mathematicians, physicists and other highly skilled men and women to design, develop, and program the current computer keyboard (not to even mention the computer itself).

But complex mechanical creations aside, I also wonder if he has ever considered the complexity of his well-designed body. Without giving it so much as a thought, the atheist sits at his desk tapping keys of a complex combination of metal and plastic and wire; Meanwhile, within his own body a bazillion multifaceted processes are occurring simultaneously that permit him to tap on that keyboard.

For example, his eighth cranial nerve continuously monitors his spatial position relative to the floor and the sides of the room. (Click here for a more detailed bit of information https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vestibulocochlear_nerve). Without that nerve he’d be gripping the carpet because he’d sense the entire room spinning out of control. That’s not all the eighth nerve does, but for now, I hope I made a point about special design.

The atheist also moves his fingers and wrists in a very controlled pattern. He could not do so without the precise design of specialized motor and sensory nerves exiting his cervical and upper thoracic spine. In fact, while he is typing, more than 200,000 (yes, two hundred thousand) neurons permit him to do what he is doing because they are specifically designed to permit him to move his fingers and wrists.  You can read more about that here: http://www.innerbody.com/anatomy/nervous/arm-hand#full-description

As the atheist watches the screen above his keyboard, his eyes move with finely tuned and coordinated movements to the left or right or up or down (specially designed cranial nerves 3, 4, and 6) depending on what he wants to see on the screen. His pupils (cranial nerve 3) dilate or constrict depending on the amount of light his intricately designed eye needs to focus a clear and sharp image onto the retina at the back of his eye. That image is then converted into electrical impulses and sent along the optic nerve (cranial nerve 2) to a location at the back of his brain designed specifically for that purpose. It is there those electrical impulses are organized to allow the cognitive portion of his brain to interpret what he sees.

I mentioned neurons a moment ago. I wonder if the atheist has ever considered the phenomenal complexity of those neurons that run every specially designed function of his marvelous and intricate body. For example, each neuron needs a precise and coordinated flow of specific electrolytes into and out of the cell membrane – potassium, sodium, calcium, chloride (to name few)  -- AND at the correct levels until they reach a specifically designed threshold to produce an electric current along the neuron.  If this does not happen, our atheist will not be able to move his fingers . . . or anything else.

I hate to belabor the point, but let me include one more bit of information about our extraordinarily designed body.

We all require an elaborate, perfectly sequenced set of hormones to function. For example, when we get angry, our adrenal glands release a hormone called adrenalin (epinephrine). Circulating along our ten bazillion miles of expertly designed blood vessels, adrenalin attaches itself to very specific cell receptor sites throughout our body. Once attached to those sites our heart rate increases, our blood vessels constrict, our liver converts glycogen into glucose, our pupils dilate . . .  I could go on, but you get the point. (By the way, what I just described is the well-studied and well-known ‘Fight or Flight’ syndrome – a protective measure built into our bodies for self-preservation).

We today know so much about the human body that I have for many years defied atheists to read through even a HIGH SCHOOL biology text book and then tell me our bodies are not clearly designed and programmed to an exponentially greater degree than the computer keyboard.

So, if the keyboard would not exist without a creator, why does any honest person think our body just happened to come into existence by accident and without the design of a Designer?

In 43 years of talking with atheists, I have never met one whose disbelief was rooted in ‘intellectual’ reasons. When I dug deeply enough, his disbelief was always rooted in moral reasons. The person had made a conscious choice to turn from God so he or she could live as they pleased.

The Creator of all that is seen and unseen is the same Person who designed our body – every part of it. Organs, blood, electrolytes, neurons, cells, hormones – every part of it.

But there is more. Much more. This Creator – many know Him as the Heavenly Father – knows our name, where we live, and what are our most secret needs. It is this same Creator who, because of His great love for us, designed and implemented a flawless plan to reconcile sinners with Himself and live with Him forever. 

He bundled that plan in the life, death, and resurrection of His Son. We call Him Jesus.

Oh, Lord God almighty -- truly how excellent is your Name in all the earth.


Sunday, October 13, 2019

What are you Planting?

I preached this message to the residents at a 55+ community. I hope it also encourages you.
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“I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. (1 Corinthians 3:6-8)
To this day, I only know his last name. Funk. First Class Radioman Funk. In recent years I’ve tried unsuccessfully to find him through several internet groups. He was one of my instructors in the Navy Radioman school I attended in San Diego at the beginning of my enlistment in 1972.
I was only 22, but I thought I was smarter than most people three times my age. Arrogant was my middle name.
In those days I swung like a pendulum between atheism and agnosticism – mostly atheism.  I thought I was too intelligent to believe such nonsense as the existence of God. And as for what I knew of Jesus, I was born and raised Jewish, so I knew virtually nothing about Him, except I was sure He was the Catholic God, and Jews didn’t need to know much about anything Catholic.
Radioman Funk was only a few years older than I, so we developed a sort of friendship. When we weren’t talking about the classes he was teaching, he often turned our discussion to religion. He was waiting for the end of his current enlistment so he could begin seminary training. He planned to be a Presbyterian minister.
Presbyterian. Catholic. They were all the same to me. But one day, he told me of a book he’d been reading. Much of the content covered the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah. It was titled, The Late Great Planet Earth, written by Hal Lindsey.
I filed the title into the back of my mind, and a few more weeks later I graduated and went on to my next duty station. I arrived at the Naval Communication Station in Yokosuka, Japan on December 7, 1972.
One evening, after I’d checked into the barracks and my new job, I met Jerry. His room was across the hall from mine. As we talked, I noticed a book on his shelf: The Late Great Planet Earth. I asked if I could borrow it.
What I read astounded me. Those of you who have heard my story know that as I read the first several chapters devoted to the Old Testament prophecies of the promised Jewish Messiah, I could hardly believe what I was reading. What little I knew of Jesus, I DID know the stories of His virgin birth, His crucifixion and His resurrection.
And there it was. All of it. In MY Jewish Bible.
A few days later I spoke to the Jewish chaplain on the naval base. He couldn’t answer my questions about the prophecies to my satisfaction. Then I met with Curt Brannan, the Protestant chaplain. He answered them all.
But what really intrigued me was his knowledge not only of the entire Bible – old and new testaments, but he also had a workable familiarity with famous philosophers of the past, such as Soren Kierkegaard, Georg Hegel and Immanuel Kant – names of men I’d only heard about in college – but this chaplain talked as if he knew them personally. I thought to myself, clearly, this guy is no fool. And so, when he spoke to me about Jesus, the Bible, and Bible prophecy – he held my attention. And, well, here I am nearly 50 years later.
Radioman First Class Funk planted the seed of faith in my heart. Hal Lindsey watered it. Chaplain Brannan added yet more water, followed by the nurturing of other great men of God whom the Holy Spirit brought across my life. Men like Chaplain Billy Dodson, Pastor Phil Wannemacher, Doctors of Theology Charles Harris and Stanley Horton, and dozens and dozens of others who watered and nurtured the germinated and maturing seed.
Eighteen years after Radioman Funk planted the first seed in my heart and God caused it to grow, I was in the deserts of Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm. I was deployed to that war zone with another 50 or so navy and marine corps personnel. It was there I became friends with a general surgeon, Doctor Phil Fitzpatrick. During the several months we were together, we talked a lot about faith, God, and Christ. Before too long, I led him to make a commitment of himself to Jesus as his Lord and Savior.
Afterward, he told me one of his good friends had been speaking to him about Jesus for years – but Phil was never interested in giving his friend much of an audience. But when he and I started talking in the middle of the Saudi Arabian desert, our conversations reminded him of the talks he and his friend used to have.
Phil’s friend planted the gospel seed. I came along and watered it. And God brought it to fruition.
And so, what are you planting? What am I planting?
One of my favorite passages in the gospels is of the poor widow who shuffled up to the Temple treasury to deposit what amounted to a few pennies. You probably remember the story yourself from Mark’s gospel: And He sat down opposite the treasury and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44)
That impoverished widow had absolutely no idea that God would use her simple act of sacrificial faith as an example for as long as this earth continues – He would use her act as an example of fruitfulness for the kingdom.
How was her act fruitful for the Kingdom? We’re still reading about it 2000 years later, aren’t we?  And doesn’t her gift give us a glimpse into the mind of God who is more interested in our heart than in our wallet?
And isn’t her story also a picture of what Peter tells us in his second epistle:
“[A]pplying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-8)?
In other words, as we mature in our love and knowledge of our Savior, God assures us that we cannot be anything else BUT fruitful for Him.
Charles Stanley, in his booklet, We Shall Be Like Him, writes this (page 20): Do you know what God has called you to do? There’s much emphasis today on accomplishing something great for the Lord, and that can lead some of us to think that our ordinary life doesn’t amount to much. However, no everyone is called to preach to thousands or serve in distant lands. Being a mother, a student, or a hard-working employee is a tremendous calling, if that’s the task God has given you.
I will add to that by saying being a kind, thoughtful, humble, respectful, Christ-like resident here at Ashwood is ALSO a tremendous calling – because HERE is where the Lord has brought you.
I will never forget Bill Santee. God used him to plant another seen in my life nine years ago when Nancy and I lived in Washington State. We’d met a few weeks earlier at a morning Bible study led by the pastor of one of the churches in the area. One day as he and I chatted over coffee, our discussion turned toward the Lord. As we finished our drinks and donuts and got up to leave, I mentioned how useless I sometimes felt because I thought what I was doing for Christ was only a small thing, compared to what others were doing.

When we stepped outside and headed for our cars, Bill stopped me. I’ll never forget what he said. He pointed his finger at my chest and said: “Don’t ever call what God has given you to do a small thing.”

I knew immediately that the Holy Spirit Himself had rebuked me. And I needed that rebuke.

If you and I want to be fruitful for Christ – in big things or in small things – then it is essential that we understand why the Lord told us of that poor widow. It is essential that we take to heart what Peter tells us in his epistle about maturing in our faith. And it is essential that we live what the Lord tells us in John 15: “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.”

Listen. It’s all about Jesus’ supernatural power to take what is natural and of the flesh and use whatever we give Him for His glory. I mean, we’re talking about God here. So, stop thinking such foolishness that God is done with you, that He has put you out to pasture, that He can no longer use you to plant seeds and water seeds. Even in your old age and in your infirmities and in your loneliness – keep giving yourself to God and He absolutely and most assuredly will use you for His Kingdom.

St. Teresa of Avila recognized this critical point: Christ has no body but yours; No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes with which He looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good. Yours are the hands, with which He blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are His body. Christ has no body now but yours.
The 25th chapter of Matthew’s gospel should help put to rest such foolish ideas about our so-called uselessness to God. “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ (Matthew 25:34-40)

Those standing before the Lord at the judgment will be surprised to learn they’d been fruitful for Christ. All they’d done was fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the sick, helped the helpless, spoken kindly to the depressed, cut the food of those who can’t cut it themselves, retrieved the wheelchair or walker for those who needed help getting up from the dining room table, read the scriptures to those who can no longer see well enough to read, prayed with and for those who feel all alone . . . simple things.
As St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta said: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
Do we really think God pays no attention to what we do for others?
I started this message quoting from 1 Corinthians chapter three as Paul writes: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.”
I will close it with another word of encouragement from the Holy Spirit through St. Paul. It’s a word about our labor for Christ, our planting and watering for Christ, our sacrificial giving and our moving forward toward ever-increasing maturity in Christ. It’s about being kind and thoughtful and prayerful and humble because you belong to Christ:
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
My brothers and sisters – be encouraged. God is still using you. He has not shuffled you off to some corner of His Kingdom. These lyrics by Josh Groban ring true to everyone who knows the supernatural God and wants to serve Him:

When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary
When troubles come and my heart burdened me
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence
Until you come and sit a while with me

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up, to more than I can be
 
You can listen to it here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oni0tO_HN30