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

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Being Sure


The Lord Jesus, addressing 70 of His disciples whom He sent to preach, said: “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20)

St. Paul, in his letter to the Christians in the church at Philippi, wrote: “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” (Philippians 4:2-3)

These two texts, and dozens like them, are not incidental in Scripture. They’re purposeful. They’re in God’s word so that anyone can know ‘today’ if his or her name is written in the Book of Life.

No one needs to wait until the afterlife to find out their eternal destiny.

Are you certain your name is in that Book?

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Boredom and Faith


Boredom and Faith

By Richard Maffeo



It’s not unusual for boredom to dull our minds when we read the same things again and again – unless we think what we’re reading is important enough to remain focused.



That’s why Paul wrote to the Christians at Philippi: “Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is not troublesome to me, and for you it is a safeguard.” (Philippians 3:1)



He knew boredom always lurks like a lion to tear at the faithful. And boredom always tends toward forgetfulness.



Some time ago a brother in Christ asked why I read the Scriptures every day – morning and evening at the minimum. I told him it’s because without frequent reminders of God’s promises, exhortations, and even rebukes, it’s easy for what I’ve known for a long time to recede into cloudy memories.



I need reminders of things He has taught me over the last 46 years since I committed myself to Him. Those reminders serve as safeguards – as Paul wrote – safeguards against the subtle lies and devious innuendos of that lurking lion.



Christian! Be alert. Be intentional about maturing in your knowledge of God. “Ignorance of Scripture,” wrote St. Jerome, “is ignorance of Christ.”



If you are not yet regularly reading the Bible, today is a good day to start. Search the internet for key words such as: Bible Reading Plans. Dozens will pop up on your screen.  Or, take a look at mine at this link:




Life is too precious, and too short, to stay a babe in your understanding of God.




Friday, October 12, 2018

The Sh'ma and the Lord's Prayer


Many years ago, my wife and I regularly attended a local synagogue for Sabbath services. Although we were Christians, I enjoyed the Jewish liturgy and rhythm of the rituals because they reminded me of my Jewish upbringing.
 

During each Sabbath service, Jews sing the Sh’ma – an ancient declaration of Jewish faith taken directly from Deuteronomy chapter six: Sh’ma Yisrael, Adonai Elohenu, Adonai echod – Hear, oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. The Sh’ma is so important in Jewish religious history that persecuted Jews have died with those words on their lips in a final testament to their faith.
 

One Sabbath as we sang the text I noticed a middle-aged man a few pews to my left singing with the rest of us, but his attention was focused on his fingernails. I watched in dumbfounded disbelief as he cleaned his nails with a toothpick – yet all the while singing Israel’s most profound declaration of faith.
 

Like the Sh’ma, the Lord’s Prayer is a profound declaration of our relationship with God. The full meaning of that prayer has still not yet been plumbed, although volumes have been written about it over the millennia.



Christian, beware. Like the Sh’ma, the Lord’s prayer can lose its vibrancy in the dullness of rote recitation.



Don’t let that happen to you. The next time you recite the prayer – even if you have to stop reciting after the first sentence – let the congregation continue without you. But you, take time to think about what you are saying. And do the same each week. It will change the impact of the prayer for you.


Monday, October 8, 2018

God of the Old. God of the New


I wrote this four years ago. With recent revelations of a popular pastor in Atlanta, I thought it would be good to revisit it.

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God of the Old, God of the New


Is the God of the Old Testament different from the God of the New Testament? To hear some people, even in the Church, you would think He is.



God’s judgment of sin seems to overflow the pages of the Old Testament. You can open it almost at random, especially the prophets, or the historical books like Kings or Chronicles, and find unmistakable evidence of God’s wrath against rebellion and evil. But unless you land on the book of Revelation, or isolated passages in the gospels, Acts, or the epistles, the God pictured in the New Testament seems tame by comparison.



But God, as C.S. Lewis observed, is not a tame lion.

Because of what seems a difference in God’s character in both testaments, a heresy called Marcionism developed in the second-century church. Marcion, a church leader, believed the wrathful Old Testament God was different than the all-forgiving God of the New Testament. Marcion also rejected the Old Testament scriptures as unworthy to be included in the Christian bible.



The Church, however, rejected Marcion’s teaching as false and dangerous to the faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 123) says this about the Marcion heresy: Christians venerate the Old Testament as true Word of God. The Church has always vigorously opposed the idea of rejecting the Old Testament under the pretext that the New has rendered it void . . . . 



While a superficial reading of Scripture can suggest an inconsistency in God’s character between both testaments, the inconsistency evaporates on closer examination. God is the same God of mercy, love, judgment, and wrath in both eras. For example, Ananias’ and Sapphira’s deaths because they lied to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5) is not dissimilar from the deaths of Nadab and Abihu who ‘offered strange fire” on God’s altar (Leviticus 10). The reason for King Herod’s death (Acts 12) is not much different from the reason God killed the Judean King Ahab (1 Kings 22). God struck Elymas the magician with blindness (Acts 13), and did the same to the mob surrounding Lot’s house (Genesis 19). God brought judgment on Israel because of her sins (e.g. 2 Chronicles 36), and God warns His church against turning from Him (Revelation 2-3), and He will bring global destruction on a world of unrepentant sinners (Revelation 4-18).



The reason people confuse the pictures of God in both testaments is often rooted in the amount of material available to form an accurate understanding of God’s unchanging nature.



The New Testament covers the span of about 60 years, but the Old Testament encompasses a period of 1400 years. That difference alone allows the writers of Sacred Scripture much more time to demonstrate the fullness of God’s character. Further, the Old Testament is comprised of 73 books. The New Testament has only 27. The Old Testament has 1,074 chapters, the New Testament only 260. The Old Testament has more than 25,000 verses, the New Testament a little less than 8,000 verses. But the differences in the quantity of material in both testaments should not surprise us. The Old Testament is the story of a people. The New Testament is a story of a person.



The Holy Spirit tells us: In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways,  but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. (Hebrews 1:1-2) 



In his letter to the church at Corinth, St. Paul underscores the importance of familiarity with the Old Testament to help us understand the New Covenant: These things happened as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil things, as they did. And do not become idolaters, as some of them did . . . . Let us not indulge in immorality as some of them did . . . . Do not grumble as some of them did, and suffered death by the destroyer. These things happened to them as an example, and they have been written down as a warning to us, upon whom the end of the ages has come. (1 Corinthians 10:6-11)



Little wonder that St. Augustine commented: The New Testament lies hidden in the Old, and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.



God’s character has not changed, and neither has His modus operandi. The Holy Spirit tells us: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). And He tells us through the prophet Malachi: “For I, the Lord, do not change” (Malachi 3:6).



God’s love, mercy, and compassion extend from Genesis and into the 21st century. Equally important – and we ought not to minimize this eternal reality – God’s holiness, justice, and wrath toward sin also extend across the same period of time.

 

Friday, October 5, 2018

Yelling at the Radio

I don’t usually yell at the radio. But I couldn’t help myself this afternoon.
I’d tuned into some Catholic talk show. The guy was explaining the “Pastoral” reasons for supporting homosexual fellowships within local Catholic Churches. The rationale is – so the guy said – as long as the homosexual person remains ‘celibate’ , being part of a homosexual fellowship of like-minded ‘chaste’ homosexuals is good, so the person does not feel isolated.
Apart from the obvious Biblical injunction AGAINST such fellowships (well, obvious to those who read their Bible regularly for guidance and not for information), the absolute stupidity of encouraging gay men and women to hang out with others of like-mindedness makes a complete mockery of human nature – which is a SIN NATURE.
It’s like encouraging a recovering female prostitute to hang out with a men’s group. Or expecting a heterosexual couple who’ve slept together for a while to now live together without further sin.
Sheesh! How is what ought to be crystal clear danger to these poor men and women caught in this sin – how do ‘pastors’ not recognize they are aiding and abetting these souls to fall deeper into their sin?
Here is what God says about it all:
“Now FLEE from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22)
“Abstain from every APPEARANCE of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22)
“Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9ff)
“For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them.” (Ephesians 5:5ff)
I could go on and on – and so can many of you.
I wonder why some of our bishops and priests don’t think the sexual sin Paul wrote about in 1 Corinthians (and later in 2 Corinthians) – I wonder why some of our bishops and priests don’t believe that story holds guidance for 21st century pastoral care. You can read the incident in 1 Corinthians 5 and 2 Corinthians 2.
In his first letter, Paul held no punches when he addressed the disgraceful conduct of the man in their congregation who was committing incest with his father’s wife. In unambiguous terms, Paul commanded them to excommunicate the guy for the ongoing sin and scandal he had caused in the church.
From what we read in 2 Corinthians, the church did as Paul ordered, with the result (and this is critical) that the man repented, turned from his sin – and was restored to fellowship with the church AND with God.
THAT, my Christian brethren, THAT is the purpose of pastoral care – to correct the sinner to the right path.
As I said, I could go on and on, citing one Biblical text after the other that turns upside down the irresponsible, fatuous, and eternally dangerous practices put forth by some Catholic leaders who think what they are doing is pastoral.
It is NOT pastoral. It is doing nothing less than helping poor souls remain trapped in their sin and who ultimately will experience the wrath of God. Those are not MY words, those are words the apostle Paul, under the direct inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, wrote down for us to obey.
THAT’S why I yelled at the radio. Pastors and bishops and everyone in the pew needs to finally get off the touchy-feely “I’m okay-You’re Okay” damnable philosophies and do what God called godly shepherds to do: Speak the truth in love.
Speak the TRUTH!
Not YOUR truth. Not the culture’s truth.
God’s truth taught by the Church since the first century!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Sifting Trials

“You are those who have stood by Me in My trials.” (Luke 22:28) The context of that verse is the Lord’s last meal with His closest friends. He knew what was about to happen to Him in just a few short hours. I’m certain the Lord's voice was rich with the emotions of gratefulness, even of thanksgiving. But this time as I read the passage my mind shifted direction. I imagined Jesus looking at His 21st century disciples and saying with equal emotion: “You are those who have stood by Me in your trials.” Please reread that last clause. Don’t miss the subtle change. “You are those who have stood by me in YOUR trials.” Most of us know of Christians who’ve suffered terrible tragedy, even unspeakable personal and family catastrophes. Some have endured life-events that we could never want to imagine could happen to anyone. And it was too much for them. Their spirits shattered, their souls rent in ragged pieces, they threw away their faith, they turned their backs and walked away from their God. They would not stand with their Lord in – and because of – their trials.  Do you know people like that? Oh! I do. Please! Pray for them. The Shepherd still searches for His lost sheep, His desperate sheep, His shattered and scattered sheep. But there’s something else in this Last Supper conversation that we must not miss. After the Lord thanked them for staying with Him in His trials, He turned to Peter: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Christian: Never think the devil doesn’t want to sift you like wheat, to break your faith, to twist his arrows in your gut until you bleed out. But also never forget – your Savior prays for you just like He prayed for Peter. In your mourning, in every gut-wrenching sorrow, He prays for you. Moment by moment. And when you come through to the other side of the tragedy, He says to you what He said to Peter: Strengthen your brethren. Listen! God will never forsake you. He will never abandon you. He will never leave you. Please, trust Him. With all your heart, trust Him.  Don’t rely on your own perspective.* God’s ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. His purposes and plans are as far above ours as heaven is above earth.** The sifting that comes to us does not need to be fatal to our faith. God has irrevocably promised that He will never permit the devil to sift or test ANYONE beyond their strength. God will always provide the way out so that we may be able to get through it.*** Christian: Stand by Jesus in the midst of your trials and even your disasters. Stay close. And, (and this too is very important) if you’re one of those who’ve left His side, even long ago do what Peter eventually did. Return to your Savior. Return to the One who has never stopped loving you. He never closes His arms to anyone who wants to come home. * see Proverbs 3:5 ** see Isaiah 55:8-9 *** see 1 Corinthians 10:13

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Another Proof of God

I thought of another proof of God’s existence. It came to me as Nancy and I talked about the astonishing moral blindness that has so clearly fallen across America.

When has it ever happened in our history that publicly avowed socialists (who are really fascists by another name) so boldly declared their plan to dismantle everything that has made America the greatest nation EVER to exist on planet earth? I’m not sure if Hitler’s Mein Kampf was as forthright in his demonic plan for Europe and the rest of the world.

In their crosshairs are not only our religious freedoms, the right to speak our mind without fear of violence, and to be held innocent until PROVEN guilty – but they have marked out for destruction the very fabric of the Constitution of the United States.

And this is the astounding thing: They do it with the joyful approval of a growing number of Americans.

If you don’t know what I am talking about then either you’re not paying attention, or you’re among the blind.

And therein is the proof of the supernatural.

Such blindness reminds me of several texts in both the Old and New Testaments. Here are only two in particular. The first is from 1 Kings. You can read the entire chapter for context (follow this link), but this small slice of the incident that makes my point:

[The Hebrew prophet] “Micaiah said, “Therefore, hear the word of the Lord. I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left. 20 The Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said this while another said that. 21 Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him.’ 22 The Lord said to him, ‘How?’ And he said, ‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ Then He said, ‘You are to entice him and also prevail. Go and do so.’ 23 Now therefore, behold, the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; and the Lord has proclaimed disaster against you.” (1 Kings 22:19-23)

Did you catch that?  God sent a deceiving spirit into the mouths of the false prophets in order to drag Ahab to his death in battle.

And then there’s this text in the New Testament. You can read the chapter for context, but here is the section specific to my point:

Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11 For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, 12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.  (2 Thessalonians 2:8-12)

Once again, God sends a deluding influence. They resisted truth, so now their spiritual blindness makes them unable to see truth.

Which brings us to 2018.

There is no other logical explanation for the evil we see paraded before us each time we scan the newscasts  – evil that is applauded by so many Americans.

And so again to the ‘proof’: If there is a supernatural blindness, a spiritual covering over their eyes, then there must be a super-natural and spiritual source.

Christians call that source, ‘God.’ 

And He will not be mocked by those who refuse to see and to hear – and to repent.

We should not be surprised if the blindness gets worse.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Crazy Man, Crazy Talk

The ‘Real Presence of Christ’ is a Christian theological phrase used to communicate the doctrine that Jesus is “really and literally” present in the bread and wine of Holy Communion. His presence is not merely symbolic or figurative. You will find the basis for the doctrine in the literal interpretation of John 6:47-69.

I’m copying the text from the New American Standard Bible. Every other translation of the Bible says the same thing. I know the quote is kind of long, but it’s necessary for context.
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(Verses 47ff) “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”

“Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.”

“These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum. Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”

“As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”
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Verse 66(above) tells us, “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.” 

And why was that? They thought Jesus was a crazy man, talking crazy talk.

But was He crazy, and was it crazy talk?

The 12 disciples didn’t think so. They took Jesus literally. And so did many of the early Church Fathers – all of whom are all well-respected among Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic theologians today. For the sake of space and time, I quote only two:

St. Ignatius of Antioch (c. 110 A.D.) “I desire the Bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire his blood, which is love incorruptible.”

St. Justin the Martyr (c. 100 - 165 A.D.) “For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by Him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nourished, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus.”

Others of the Fathers who believed in the “Real and Literal Presence” of Jesus in the bread and wine include (but not limited to):

Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 140 - 202 A.D.)
Tertullian (c. 155 - 250 A.D.)
Origen (c. 185 - 254 A.D.)
Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 - 216 A.D.)
Cyprian of Carthage (c. 200 - 258 A.D.)
Athanasius (c. 295 - 373 A.D.)
Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 350 A.D.)
Basil the Great (c. 330 - 379 A.D.)
Gregory of Nazianzus (c. 330 - 389 A.D.)
John Chrysostom (c. 344 - 407 A.D.)
Ambrose of Milan (c. 333 - 397 A.D.)
Jerome (c. 347 - 420 A.D.)
Augustine (c. 354 - 430 A.D.)


And, finally (if there could be a final comment about the Eucharist and the Real Presence), Martin Luther also believed in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharistic Celebration.

So what is my point? Simply this: Jesus was not a crazy man talking crazy stuff. He was speaking words of serious truth and supernatural reality.

And neither are those crazy today who take Jesus’ words literally. They believe nothing more than what apostles and the great theologians of the early Church believed: When they receive Holy Communion, they are really and literally receiving the very Body and Blood of the Savior.

And I thank God for His indescribable gift.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Soul-Cleansing Blood

I opened my Bible to 2 Timothy this morning – and didn’t get beyond verse three before the Lord stopped me:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus, to Timothy, my beloved son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience . . .”

Now here is an amazing thing – amazing and, at the same time, what ought to be instructive and encouraging.

There was a time – not too long before Paul penned these words to Timothy – there was a time when Paul was a monstrous anti-Christian terrorist. He tells us that himself. For example:

So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities. (Acts 26:9-11)

And yet, in his letter to his young protégé, he writes, “I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience.”

How could he write such a thing?

That’s easy. It’s because he knew God had completely, totally, irrevocably forgiven him. He knew, when he confessed his multiple and egregious sins to God, when he repented and mourned for his evil, Paul received God’s merciful and most generous gift of forgiveness.

And although to the day of his death he never forgot what he had done, he ALSO never lost confidence in God’s promise of complete and absolute forgiveness – merciful forgiveness even of his most vicious and unspeakable sins.

It was THAT confidence that enabled him to fully devote himself to the service of Christ, and to do so with a “clear conscience.”

And that, my fellow Christian, is God’s word of encouragement to you and to me.

Do your past sins – the ones you’ve confessed to God and are now covered under the blood of Jesus – do those memories and what is now the unnecessary guilt still haunt you? Do they prevent you from entering fully, and with a ‘clear conscience’, into service for Jesus?

Your guilt is unnecessary because God has already cast those sins into the deepest part of the ocean. He has irreversibly cleansed you soul of every one of your confessed sins.

Every single sin. Washed forever in the blood of Jesus.

CS Lewis said it better than I can: “I think that if God forgives us, we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it is almost like setting up ourselves as higher tribunal than Him.”

The devil will always seek to deceive you, to confuse you about God’s precious promises.

Oh, Christian! May today be your day to finally tell your enemy, “Get behind me, Satan. You are lying about my beloved Heavenly Father.”

May today be the day that you begin serving Christ with a clear conscience, knowing with utter confidence that all your sins have been washed in the soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb.

Amen.





Sunday, September 16, 2018

No Hope - Unless . . .


The Bible has very little to say to us by way of hope, or encouragement, or comfort unless we believe the Scriptures are the actual words of God to us. Unless we believe every chapter, every verse, every line is without error, what confidence can anyone have that God speaks to us through its pages?

Certainly some parts of Scripture are confusing. Some are hard to understand. But always, upon in depth scrutiny, God’s word has always, and will always, prove to be what God says it is.

The reasonableness of the idea of inerrancy should surprise no one who believes God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. He would not be God if He were not all of those things in total. So why should it seem unreasonable that God was able to ensure His communiqué to us – the Scriptures – has been kept from error?

What the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians at Thessalonica is exquisitely applicable to us: “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.(1 Thessalonians 2:13)

Only when they believed what Paul said to them to be “the word of God” – only then was it able to perform its work in them.

The timeless principle remains with us in the 21st century. Only when we receive the words of Scripture to be “the word of God” – only then will it be able to perform its work in us – for hope, for encouragement, for comfort, for direction, for chastisement, for spiritual nourishment.

Let God be God. And let Him speak to you through your well-studied, well-informed knowledge of His inerrant Word.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Yom Kippur -- and You

At sunset this month on September 18, many Jews will observe the most holy day in Jewish faith. 

Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement – dates back to the days of Moses when God instituted the observance so that, through repentance and blood sacrifice, the sins of the people could be forgiven. You’ll find reference to Yom Kippur in Leviticus, chapters 16, 17, and 23. 
 
As part of the ritual, God instructed the High Priest to sprinkle the blood of a sacrificial animal on the Mercy Seat which covered the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark was a wood box overlaid with gold, atop which were two gold-cast angels called cherubim. Inside the Ark were the tablets of the Law God gave Moses on Mt. Sinai. It was that Law which Israel broke not long after God gave it to Moses.



When the High Priest sprinkled the sacrificial blood on the Mercy Seat to atone for the sins of the people, God chose to not see the broken Law, but rather the sacrificial blood. It was that blood that reconciled God again with His people.



Yom Kippur, then, provides us a picture – a figure – of what Israel’s Messiah would do, not in figure but in reality, 1500 years later. As the Holy Spirit told Israel through the prophet Isaiah:



But He (Messiah) was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. (Isaiah I53:5-6)



Again, the Holy Spirit tells us in the New Testament book of Hebrews: But when [Messiah] appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle . . . not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained [for us] eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:11-12)



And yet again, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, John the Baptist said of Jesus before baptizing Him in the Jordan, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)



The Jewish nation no longer has a sacrificial system of atonement – principally because they longer have a Temple or a priesthood to make sacrifice. But everyone today – Jew and non-Jew alike – has welcomed and free access to the atonement God has provided to wipe away our sins.



That access has a name. We call Him, Jesus the Messiah. Many know Him as Jesus the Christ. It is Him alone whom God designated as our atonement. He alone is our High Priest whose own blood sprinkled on our hearts covers our sins. He is our sacrificial atonement that reconciles us with God.



Have you ever asked Jesus to cover your ‘ark’ with His blood? Have you ever asked Him to make atonement for your life stained with the guilt of breaking God’s laws? You don’t need to wait for September 18 to receive full and complete reconciliation with God. 



St. Peter urged those gathered in Jerusalem for another Jewish holy day – Pentecost, and if he were standing before you now, he’d say the same thing:



"Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”  (Acts 2:38-39)