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

Friday, August 17, 2018

Just Do It


“In the LORD I take refuge . . . For, behold, the wicked bend the bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string to shoot in darkness at the upright in heart. If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” Psalm 11:1-3
It has been this way since the serpent slithered his way into human affairs with the seductive question about God’s word. You remember what he said to Eve: “Has God said . . . ?” (Genesis 3:1). 
And the devil has not changed his game plan all these millennia. Why would he? It works.  
So it’s no wonder Satan continues to confuse people about the authority and inerrancy of God’s word. It’s no wonder he continues to encourage so many people – even some clergy – to persuade others to not read the Scriptures. And so it is no wonder Satan’s arrows upon the string so often find their mark. 
But the Holy Spirit tells us what to do to protect ourselves from the devil’s arrows. Indeed, all of Scripture tells us what to do, like we find in Psalm 119 wherein all 176 verses talk about the importance of knowing God’s word. 
St. Paul tells us the same thing in his letter to Timothy: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15) And in the next chapter, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) 
Satan knows, if the foundations are destroyed – if he can deceive humanity into avoiding the personal study of God’s word – then the righteous will become like scattered sheep, wandering into great danger.
What Scriptures teach about salvation and holiness and obedience to God is simple enough for a child to understand. And what they teach is profound enough that an adult can spend 100 lifetimes plumbing its depths. 
You and I know what we need to do. God help us to just DO it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Preparing for the Funeral


Funerals are never fun subjects. But sometimes it’s necessary to talk about them. Like now.

I learned two important lessons with the recent death and funeral of my mother. Actually, I learned more than two lessons, but it is those two I think are important to address in this short note:

1. Fifteen years ago when mom (and dad) lived in Florida, they contracted for pre-paid funeral expenses. Those expenses covered the cost of the selected casket, the burial site, and a multitude of other funeral home services.

Although mom was living in Georgia when she died a few weeks ago, I made ONE phone call to the ‘after-hours’ funeral home number in Florida. That set in motion all of the steps necessary to have her expeditiously transferred from Georgia to Florida, and then for me to set the time and place of her burial a few days later in Florida.

One phone call.

My mom (and dad, who predeceased her by several years in Florida) took from me the overwhelming burden of the moment so I would not need to add those kinds of ‘last-minute’ details to the mix of my own grief.

2. Mom gave me Medical and General Power of Attorney over all of her affairs. As a consequence, I kept all of her important paperwork in my home. Stacks and stacks of paperwork.

A few months back – I don’t really know why I did this, except God must have urged me to do so – I placed all of her most important papers – funeral contract, insurance and investment documents, and the like – I placed them all into a large envelope that I marked on the outside: DO FIRST WHEN MOM DIES.

When I received word the evening of August 1, and a numbing daze fell over my brain, I’d completely forgotten about the envelope. But when I robotically went to where I kept her stacks of paperwork – there it was, the envelope I’d prepared months earlier. I didn’t have to think about what to do next or who to call. It was all there, ready for me.

When we lose someone we love, our body’s natural and norma self-protection reaction is to fall into a haze. I’m so grateful for Nancy (my wife) for helping me through those next several hours of the immediate tsunami. But it was also so very helpful that mom – and later, I – did what was done before we needed to have it done.

I hope my experience helps you think about the unthinkable, and what you will need to do, before you need to do it.

Funerals are never fun, but some preparation can mitigate the sting.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Immanuel


I wrote this Advent essay in December, 2015. As I sit here now, thinking about my mom’s death two weeks ago, and absently perusing some of my old posts, I found this essay. I originally titled it, “Immanuel.” 



As many of you know, the name first appears in Isaiah 7:14, written 700 years before Jesus was born: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and you shall call His name, Immanuel.”



Immanuel. The name means, “God With Us.” As soon as I reread the essay, I knew I needed to repost it today.



Immanuel. God with us. Always. Even as we weep over the loss of someone we loved so deeply.  I hope this essay will encourage all of you who read it. I updated it only a little:

 ------------------------

Immanuel

By Richard Maffeo



There are a few words in any language that have the power to change your life.  A spouse says “I want a divorce.” The physician says, “You have cancer.”  You answer the doorbell and the police officer tells you, “There’s been an accident.” 

Or, as in my case at 8:15 PM on August 1, 2018, the voice on the other end of the phone says, "You need to come here. Your mom has passed."



I was four when my mother sat me down on our black cushioned couch. It had flecks of silver threads throughout the fabric. She said to me, “Daddy told me he won’t be coming home anymore.”



You might not think those words would have a similar impact as those words in my first paragraph. But I remember them as clearly today as I did 61 years ago.



I didn’t know it at the time – how could I? – but God was with me when my mother spoke those words. I didn’t know He was with me because I couldn’t see Him. Or feel Him. But today, sixty-one years later, I know He was not in the shadows of our one-bedroom apartment. He was not sitting beside me on the couch. He was sitting with me in His lap, His arms tightly embracing me.



Through Isaiah, the Holy Spirit talked about the first Advent this way:  “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” 



Immanuel. The name means, “God with us.”



Whoever you are and whatever the words that have changed your life, you need to know “God with us” was with you then. And Immanuel is with you now.



Right this moment.



You don’t see Him. You don’t sense Him. But He is holding you in His lap. And His arms are embracing you.



You can trust that to be true because Jesus promised, “I will never leave you or forsake you. I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  And Jesus cannot lie.



Advent is a time when we make time to look back to the time God sent His son into our darkness and sorrow and emptiness and loss. Advent is a time we make time to look forward to the great day of the second Advent, when God returns for His own. And Advent is a time we make time to look at our present time with renewed confidence that “God with us” means whatever our life-situation, whatever the words that changed our life, God’s arms enfold us. Now.



This moment.



Always.




Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Laying the Foundation

“For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment . . ." (Romans 12:3) If you and I want to be fruitful for Christ – in big things or in small things – then it is essential that we understand this: Pride – the arrogant, self-promoting attitude that insinuates either consciously or unconsciously that it is our talents, our gifts, our resources, our intelligence that are the reasons for our successes – such pride will always disqualify us from bearing fruit for Christ.  In fact, that’s exactly what Jesus said 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.” You see, it’s all about Jesus. It always has been. It always will be. Anything we do without Jesus – without His humility (remember how He washed His disciples’ feet, including those of Judas?) – anything we do without complete reliance on Jesus has nestled within itself the seeds of abject failure regarding eternal things. Yes, it might appear that we are successful in whatever it is we have done or are doing – but such appearances are simply a fa├žade. That’s why the Holy Spirit tells us through St. Paul: "For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work." (1 Corinthians 3:11-13) In other words, the fruits of pride will inevitably result in little more than what are ashes left behind after a devastating housefire. Be careful. Make sure whatever you do, in word of deed, is always in complete reliance on and thankfulness to Jesus for your talents, gifts, resources, and intelligence.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

If only He Changed His Mind

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

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Elephant in the Room


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


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

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



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



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



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



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



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

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

Thursday, July 19, 2018

A Sad Verse

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

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

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

When Shall We Be Salt Again?

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

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

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

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

Paragraph 19 – Kinds of Atheism and Its Causes

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

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

Forever.

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

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Wolves and Sheep


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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Simple and Direct Approach

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


Thursday, July 12, 2018

Clenched Fists

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

Monday, July 9, 2018

Free!


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

Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Real Presence

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Mildred Was Right

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