Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Follow-on Question

Perhaps you remember the challenge the religious leaders  brought to Jesus.  You can find it in Luke 20. They said to Him: “By what authority do you do what you do? Tell us.”

Unruffled, Jesus turned the tables on them and said, “I will also ask you a question:  Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?”

The elders suddenly realized their precarious predicament. If they said John’s baptism and teaching were from God, then Jesus would ask the reasonable follow-on question, “Then why didn’t you believe him?”  But if they said John’s teaching was his own, or the teaching of others, the people would stone them because they held John to be God’s prophet.

I thought of that exchange when I read this morning St. Paul’s comment in the first chapter of his letter to the Galatians: "For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.  For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ."

From time to time over the decades I’ve heard some pontificate about the great apostle, whether he got his religious philosophy from himself, or whether he was a little ‘touched’ in the head. Maybe schizophrenic. Or bipolar.

I think we ought to expect Jesus to ask all of us today the same question about Paul as He asked those in His day about John.. 

And we should be careful how we answer, because He will ask the same follow-on question.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Boldly Into His Throne Room

So I’m reading in Hebrews this verse in chapter 4:

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (15-16). 

The word ‘confidence’ in Greek can also be translated, ‘boldly.’  Thus, another translation of verse 16 can read: Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

And speaking of High Priest, according to Moses, the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies within the Tabernacle only once a year to make atonement for the nation (Hebrews 9:7, Leviticus chapters 16 and 17). But now, the Holy Spirit tells us we can “have boldness to enter” that holiest of places by the blood of Jesus. Whenever we want. As often as we want.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Who’d ever think up a story of a God, the supreme ruler of the galaxies, the final and decisive arbiter of life and death, who would think this Being would permit – no, that He would welcome – His creatures to boldly enter His very Holy of Holies? No religion aside from Judeo-Christian faith – none hold their god so near. So personal. So gracious. So compassionate. So loving.

But our God, whom we know as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, from the time of Adam to this very moment as you read this, our God welcomes us to enter confidently, boldly, into His very throne room.

Whenever we want. As often as we want.

Do you have a problem? Have a need? Just want to talk? You can enter His Holy of Holies now. Confidently. Tell Him what’s on your heart.

He is always ready to listen.

You can find my YouTube Bible study through 1 Peter if you click this link.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Encouraged to Reconcile

Here is another Scripture text that encourages me. I hope it will also encourage you.

 “. . . . God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them . . . Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:19-21)

From conversations I’ve had over the years, I think many people have a distorted view of God – and for good reason. Sometimes the sermons we hear, or the books we read, or the conversations we have – even with some clergy – can lead us to think of God only as a Supreme “no-nonsense” taskmaster. We create a picture in our minds of Him standing impatiently at the edge of heaven, whip in His right hand, an unblinking and piercing gaze scouring the earth, just waiting for us to screw up. And when we do, He zealously fires off lightning bolts of judgment to smite us with illness, accident, or some other dreaded punishment for our sin.

Scripture, however, presents a totally different view of God. Certainly judgment awaits the hardened, persistent, and arrogant rebel who refuses to bow the knee to the Creator. St. Paul warned his readers a few verses earlier in this same chapter of 2 Corinthians: For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for ]his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men . . . . (verses 10-11).

Yes, each of us will stand – one by one – before God’s judgment seat. That image alone should create a reasonable measure of fear within everyone. But for the penitent – and this is important – for the penitent, even for the one who stumbles into and out of sin time and again, for the truly penitent, God reserves only mercy.

Here again is what the Holy Spirit tells us through St. Paul: “We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

Did you see that word, ‘appeal'? The Greek word Paul used, epikaleĊ, carries with it the idea of pleading, beseeching, or exhorting.

Yes, God stands at the edge of heaven, but not impatiently waiting for us to blow it. Rather, He stands with His arms open, pleading with us, beseeching us, exhorting us, “Come, let’s reason together. Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.*

“Come,” He invites again and again . . . and then again, “Repent. Be reconciled with Me and turn from the things you know are wrong. They will only hurt you and those you love in the end.”

And so, knowing of God’s great mercy, why does anyone still choose to not be reconciled with Him who loves each of us so much that He offered His son to die in our place?

*Isaiah 1:18

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Bible Study in 1 Peter, lesson 4, now on YouTube

It is easy to read scripture texts that speak of serious, blood-curdling trials. The words fall across the tongue as if we are reading about the local weather report. 

But for some of us, even today, these words strike deep into our spirit, our souls, our lives. The testing of our faith is not an easy journey. It brims over with great sadness, grief, mourning, anger, even bitterness. This is one of the things I talk about in this week’s study through chapter one of Peter’s first epistle. 
You can view the 23 minute study here:

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Running Father

Want to be encouraged?  This Scripture in Luke is written just for us.

Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons . . . . (Luke 15:11).

During one of his live performances, singer/songwriter Steve Angrisano talked about the Prodigal Son. “It is not only about the Prodigal”, he said, “but it’s also about the Running Father.”

You can find the well-known story of the Prodigal in Luke 15. The young man had asked his father to divide the inheritance he and his brother were to receive. He wanted his share now. He was tired of living under his father’s rules and authority. He wanted to get away, to live on his own, do as he wanted, when he wanted, with whomever he wanted, for as long as he wanted. In a few days, he packed his bags and left with a bag full of money, and soon surrounded himself with drunkards and prostitutes. Until a famine fell across the land, and it wasn’t long before the young man found himself broke, hungry, homeless, alone, and despondent.

We don’t know how long it took, but eventually he came to his senses. “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger!” he said to himself. “I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands”’ (verses 17-19).

And so he set himself on the road home. I can imagine him, in my mind’s eye. Shoulders slumped, filled with remorse for having left home in the first place, offending his father, wasting his inheritance on sin and rebellion, wondering now if his father would even speak to him. Dread and apprehension smothered his spirit. He would not even lift his eyes from the dirt road as he shuffled along. Dust swirled at his ankles. Sweat beaded on his forehead. He wiped it away with his ragged cloak.

Onward he walked. For hours. Perhaps days. Edging closer to his father’s home.

Had he been confident about his father’s love, the prodigal would not have been looking at his feet as he drew close to the place of his birth. Instead, he would have seen his father in the distance, standing at the perimeter of their property, scanning the horizon, hoping his son would one day return.

But the prodigal didn’t look up, and so did not see his father running toward him –almost at a sprint – arms open, face beaming, cloak flapping behind him as he raced toward his son. Not until he heard his father’s sandals slapping the dirt, did he look up and see.

What did the young man think when he beheld his father’s radiant smile and dancing eyes? What did he think as his father embraced him, as he held him close in a long, so very long, lingering embrace?

“Father,” the prodigal began, “I am so sorry. I was wrong. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Please, make me as one of our slaves” (see verse 21).

But his father seemed to not even hear him. “My son! My son! You were lost, Oh, but now you’re found. You were dead, but you’re now alive. Oh, thank God, you’re alive. Come into the house. Oh, my son, you’re home!”

He was dead, and is now alive. He was lost, and is now found.

What about you?  Have you made a mess of your life? Not wanting to live under your heavenly Father’s rules and authority, you left Him to do what you wanted to do, when you wanted to do it, how you wanted to do it, for as long as you wanted to do it?

And now you see your great error?

Jesus told the story of the Prodigal Son to make an important point for you and for me about the Father’s love – about His great, overabundant love – for us. An important point perhaps especially for those of us who wonder if we have been gone so long and drifted so far that He won't now even talk to us.

The prodigal “came to his senses” and made his way home. Why not do the same?  And as you take your first step, look up and you will see your heavenly Father scanning the horizon from the edge of heaven. Keep looking, and you will see Him running toward you, His arms outstretched, face radiant, as He embraces you. “Look!” He will shout at the angels. “My child was lost, and now is found!  My child was dead, and is now alive!”

Don’t you want to go home?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Can We Call Him, "Daddy"?

It saddens me -- it really does -- when people (even with post-graduate degrees in theology) say Christians haven't the right to call the heavenly Father, 'Daddy."

I cannot imagine not knowing the embrace of God in such a way as one who knows Him as 'Daddy" can know His embrace. 

I do not at all mean it is appropriate in the least to be flippant with Him. He is G-O- D. Creator. Judge, as well as redeemer and savior. I remember an event that occurred in 1973, shortly after I committed my life to Him. I was walking beside a warehouse on the Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan, chatting with God.  I don't remember our conversation, but I do remember looking toward heaven and telling Him, "Lord, do Your thing."

The last syllable hardly left my lips when an enormous and ominous weight fell over me. His Presence was so heavy I leaned against the side of the warehouse to prevent myself from falling.

And a 'voice' filled my thoughts. 'Filled' is not quite the correct word. Overwhelmed?  Overpowered? Took control? He said to me in the clearest of 'voiced': "I'm not your friend."

I knew what He meant. My mother used to say the same words to me when I got a bit too sassy for my own good.

God taught me very early in my Christian life He is not one to 'mess' with. He is not one with whom we can 'pal around' and horseplay. He is God. Holy. Holy. And holy once again.

But that does not mean He is not our Daddy. Nor does it mean He objects to our calling Him that when we call Him that out of love and intimacy.

I published this (below) about a year ago to my Contemplative blog. After recently reading comments stating it is wrong to call the Father, Daddy, I thought I would publish it to my Encouragement of Scripture blog because, well, I hope you will be encouraged by Scripture.  

If you know Jesus as your savior through His atoning sacrificial blood, if you know Him as your God, King, and Lord, be assured, Scripture encourages you to draw close to your Father in heaven -- and if you wish, to call Him, Daddy.

Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! [Aramaic word for Daddy] Father! (Galatians 4:6)
Sing to God, sing praises to His name; Lift up a song for Him  . . . whose name is the Lord, and exult before Him. A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows is God in His holy habitation. God makes a home for the lonely . . . .  (Psalm 68:4-6)
I call Him Lord so often I sometimes forget He’s my heavenly Daddy. I’m sorry when that happens. ‘Lord’ conjures for me a more distant relationship than the intimate bond ‘Daddy’ invokes.

In prayer last week, that intimacy stirred thoughts once again of my earthly father. Those who’ve followed my blogs for a while know Albert left me and my sister in 1954.  I was four, Andrea was not yet two. He wouldn’t keep out of other women’s beds, so Mom finally told him to pack his valise.

Andrea and I rarely saw him afterward. Three, maybe four times over the next decade and a half. Then, in 1968, when I was eighteen, I asked Mom to set a meeting with him at my paternal grandparents’ apartment. I wanted to know his side of the story. I wanted to know why he left me and Andrea.

My mind’s eye still sees him as he sat in the wing-backed chair in front of the living room window. I sat cross-legged on the carpet a few feet from him. Andrea and Mom sat on the sofa to my left, my grandmother on the flowered upholstered chair to the right of the couch. My grandfather softly drummed his fingers on the dining room table to my right.

“Why did you leave?”

Albert hardly hesitated. He looked me in the eyes and said, 

“Because I wanted to.”

That was 45 years ago. His words remain as chilling as if he spoke them last month.

I don’t know why that memory recently resurfaced while I was in prayer. I forgave Albert in November 2011 for what he’d done to me. The Lord had interrupted my prayer time and asked if I would forgive Albert. His question caught me by surprise, and I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. Would I forgive Al for casting me aside like a piece of trash? More to the point, could I forgive him?

“I’d like to,” I finally answered.

What happened next still warms me to think of it. The memory of Albert saying what he did remained – and yet remains – chiseled in my mind, but the memory then took a sudden and extraordinary turn. I was no longer sitting on the carpet. Instead, my heavenly Daddy was sitting on the carpet and I was sitting in His lap. His arms encircled me and I snuggled deep into His embrace. His warmth surrounded me. I could hear His heart beat, feel His breath on my hair. A great sense of quiet washed over me. I knew I was at home, at home in His arms.

Home. Oh, the security, serenity, the love and hope that word arouses within me.

Albert’s words, “Because I wanted to” no longer stung as they had in 1968 because now, in 2011, I could snuggle deeper into Daddy’s embrace. Albert’s cruelty dissipated like a mist burned away by the sun as my Daddy held me yet closer – because He understood how those words ripped a hole in me. I remember as I write this how – as this scene unfolded in my memory – I broke into a grin, looked him in the eyes and said without hesitation: “I forgive you.” 

Why shouldn’t I forgive the man? How could I not forgive the man? I was sitting in my real Daddy’s lap. Albert was never my father. He only impregnated my mother. He was no more my father than if he had raped her and she conceived. But my Daddy in heaven – oh, my Daddy has never left me, no matter how many reasons I gave Him in my life to do so. And even when I didn’t know it He was there, all the time, His arm around my shoulder, whispering encouragement to a young boy, who became a teenager, and then became a young man who would one day become the man at 64 who joyfully lifts his hands in worship of his Daddy in heaven.

Sitting in my heavenly Father’s arms, how could Albert’s cavalier rejection hurt me? I could feel only sympathy for the man who missed a lifetime of opportunities to be my earthly daddy.

Is it any wonder why I am so in love with my Daddy who art in heaven?

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Love Him, or Like Him -- There's Work to be Done

Every time I read the last chapter of John's gospel I slow down at the exchange between Jesus and St. Peter. If you have a Bible that translates in the margin the Greek words used for 'love' in that passage, you will find the dialogue come alive for you. I published this essay in my book, Lessons Along the Journey. I modified it for this blog because of its encouragement.-----------------------------

I’ve grappled with forgiveness, commitment, holiness, and a dozen other spiritual markers along my journey with Christ. Even as I write this, the grappling continues.

Yet, as I reflect over the decades, I can clearly see one predominant thread woven through each lesson learned. It is this: God loves me. His love was there when my father left me. I was five. His love was there during my teen years when I got lost in unspeakable sin. It was there when I raised my fist and accused Him of not caring about me. It was there when . . . when . . . .

Truth is, it’s always been there. 

Several years ago, as I read the exchange between Jesus and St. Peter in the last chapter of John's gospel, the Holy Spirit opened my heart to a lesson that summarizes the essence of Jesus' relationship with those who call Him lord and savior.

The New Testament writers used two words for “love” – phileo and agape. Phileo (fil-EH-oh) carries the idea of tender affection. Agape (ah-GAH-pay) is often used to describe God's unconditional, merciful, and enduring love – the kind of love He commands us to have for Him and for others.

One morning, as I read the twenty-first chapter of St. John’s gospel, I paused at verses 15-17. The margin of my Bible includes the Greek words used for “love” in this passage. I include the words in parentheses below:

"When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love (agape) me more than these?” He said to him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love (phileo) you.” He said to him, "Feed my lambs.”

"He then said to him a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love (agape) me?” He said to him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love (phileo) you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep.”

{Now note the change in the verb Jesus uses}

"He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love (phileo) me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, "Do you love (phileo) me?” and he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love (phileo) you.” (Jesus) said to him, "Feed my sheep.”

As I meditated on the passage, I wondered why Peter responded to Christ’s agape with phileo. A modern version of the conversation might sound something like this:

“Peter, do you love me with all your heart?”
“Lord, I have great affection for you.”
“Feed My lambs.”
 “Peter, do you really love me?”
 “Lord, I think you are wonderful.”
 “Tend My sheep.”
 “Peter, do you have great affection for me?”
 “Lord, you know I do.”
 “Feed My sheep.”

Two things caught my attention in this exchange between the Lord and Peter. First, Peter must have felt miserable about his thrice denial of his best friend and Lord. But then I noticed how the Savior tried to help Peter move beyond his guilt. When Peter wouldn't say – couldn’t say – he loved (agape) Jesus, the Lord came down to his level: “Okay, my friend. Do you have affection (phileo) for me?”

How like Christ to be so gentle to our wounded spirits.

And second – and this is equally important – after each agape/phileo exchange the Lord’s charge to Peter was essentially the same: “Feed My sheep.”

In other words, “Peter, I know you feel guilty, but your repentance restored our relationship. Your sorrow and continued guilt are unnecessary. Don’t let them keep you from your task to tend My flock."

How like the merciful Christ to call us out of our sorrow. How like Him to renew our relationship – vessels of clay that we are – and set us about the work He’s given us to do.

I need that gentleness and mercy. And I imagine you can probably use a dose of it yourself.

When we feel unable to tell Him, “I agape You,” the Savior tells us it’s okay if we just phileo Him. And when our sorrow overwhelms us, the Shepherd comes alongside, puts His arm across our shoulders and tells us, as He always tells us, "I agape you."

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” (Romans 11:33). The penitent's sins are forgiven. All of them, forgotten. All of them, washed in the Blood of the Lamb.

Now, let's get about doing His work.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Commentaries -- Be Cautious

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15)

I use several English translations of the Scriptures during my routine study through the Bible. Doing so helps tease out important nuances – nuances that can be missed when translating from one language into another. I typically have used the Catholic Revised Standard Bible and the Ignatius Study Bible (my recommended Bible for Catholics), along with several Protestant translations such as the New International, the New King James, and the New American Standard Bible (my recommendation for Protestants). 

For decades I have cautiously used Bibles with commentaries printed alongside the biblical texts. I know the text itself is fully inspired by God, but the commentaries are simply the opinions of editors and theologians. And while their comments can help increase our understanding of various passages, those same comments can misguide us because, unlike the biblical writers who wrote under the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit, commentaries by editors and theologians are just that: Commentaries. Opinions. 

Moses, Isaiah, Hosea, Luke, Paul, and the others cannot be wrong. Editors and theologians can be.

Several weeks ago I retired my worn New American Standard Bible and replaced it with a New American Inductive Study Bible (NAISB). I purchased the NAISB because it has what has become a unique feature in modern Bibles: It has 1.5 inch margins that permit me to jot down my thoughts as I read. 

The other day, as I turned to St. Paul’s first epistle to Timothy, I perused the editor’s introductory comments. This is part of that commentary:

“Paul also was concerned about the church at Ephesus. Timothy, his faithful co-laborer, was pastoring that strategically important church. Possibly concerned that he might be delayed and that Timothy might need instructions to set before others as an ever-present reminder, 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 . . . .” (underline is my emphasis). 

This editorial comment perfectly illustrates the danger inherent in an uncritical reading of any Bible commentary – whether in a Catholic Bible or a Protestant one. In this case, unless we are familiar with First Timothy, we would miss the theological error nestled in that last phrase about the “pillar and support of the truth.” The editorial comment can lead us to believe Paul’s epistle was the pillar and support of the truth.  But that is not at all what the biblical text says. Here is what St. Paul wrote: . . . 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” (1 Timothy 3:15).

The Holy Spirit, writing through St. Paul, wants us to know it is the Church – not the letter Paul had written to Timothy – but it is the Church that is the “pillar and support of the truth.”

Based on the plain sense of this text (there are others, of course), and on the context of this text, Catholics believe Scripture undergirds the Catholic view of apostolic succession and the authority given by Christ to the Church to support and infallibly teach truth regarding faith and morals. One would never come to that conclusion by only reading the editorial commentary.

"All Scripture,” the Holy Spirit reminds us through St. Paul, “is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;  so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). 

It is important for Christians to make a habit of reading the Scriptures – to read them often, and prayerfully. It is also important for us to remember that while commentaries can be useful tools of Bible study – commentaries can be wrong.


Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Invitation

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” (Revelation 22:17)

When God says something once, we do well to pay attention. But when He repeats what He says – I think that means He really, really wants to make a point. 

That’s what I thought when I recently read again His invitation to me – and, of course, to anyone who cares to hear it: The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty, Come. Let the one who wishes to take the water of life without cost [Come] (Revelation 22:17).

As I laid the Bible on my lap, I remembered what God said several hundred years earlier, through the prophet Isaiah: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? (Isaiah 55:1-2a).

Then another text came to mind, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30).

At that point my memory went into overdrive as scores of similar invitations across the length and breadth of Scripture floated through my thoughts. And I wondered why some think there is a better offer waiting for us from elsewhere. 

I can tell you from four decades of experience, there is no better offer. We can live a hundred lives over, even ten thousand lives over, and we will never receive a better or more genuine appeal.

On December 24, 1972 I responded to God’s RSVP with a simple, “Yes, Lord, I come. With all my dark past, with all my hunger, and with all my thirst – Oh, Lord, I come to You. Quench the longing of my soul.”

Indeed, since that day in 1972 I have repeatedly, perhaps hundreds of times, reminded myself of my RSVP. Our Father’s invitation is too gracious, too abundant, too life-giving – and too important – that I do not want to forget how badly I need Him day by day.

What about you?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

God Delights in . . . .You

[Jesus said to his disciples]: I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when He comes, the Spirit of truth, He will guide you to all truth (John 16:12-13a).

[The Holy Spirit says of Himself] . . . then was I beside Him as his craftsman, and I was His delight day by day, playing before Him all the while, playing on the surface of His earth; and I found delight in the human race (Proverbs 8:30-31).

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ . . . because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us (Romans 5:1-5).

The Scripture readings played in my mind for days after I heard them during the Mass. The more they played, the more I contemplated their interconnectedness. And the more I contemplated their connectedness, the more relaxed my spirit grew.

Jesus tells us through the gospel reading that the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth. That was not new information to me. I’ve known the Holy Spirit’s guidance through Scripture for more than forty years. But as I mused over the readings I learned something new. Actually, I learned it again:

God delights in us. More to the point, the Holy Spirit reminded me through the Proverbs text that while God delights in us, He also takes delight in me.

He considers me of great value. Even while I was shaking my fist in His face during my younger years, God loved me nonetheless. He loved me so much that He gave His Son to die for me (Romans 5:8).

And He gave His Son to die for you, too. Why? Because He delights in you.

And because He takes delight in us, St. Paul could write the words of our second reading: All who have placed their faith in Christ stand before God justified (from a Greek word meaning “to be declared without guilt”).

Think of it for a moment. Those who approach God in humble faith through the sacrifice of Christ are justified – declared by God to be without guilt. 

Without guilt! Cleansed of our sin. Free from the eternal consequences of our sin.

Hey! God’s not mad at us. He’s not looking to get even with us, to whip us into conformity. To teach us who’s boss. To throw us into hell.

The Holy Spirit took the time that weekend to remind me through those texts that He really, really, really delights in me. He loves me. Without condition. Without permutation. He delights in me. He loves me – even as much as He loves Jesus (John 17:23).

And He feels the same way about you, too.

Oh, if only I – if only we – can mature in our faith to the point where His promise takes root – and blossoms – only then can we finally experience the confidence in our heart that the Word of God offers us.

Oh, Holy Spirit. Please make it so.

Monday, May 5, 2014

You Can Tell It

Those who had seen it reported to them how the man who was demon-possessed had been made well. And . . . the man from whom the demons had gone out was begging [Jesus] that he might accompany Him; but He sent him away, saying,  “Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.  (Luke 8:36-39)

I think one of the more miserable lies Satan tells Christians is along the lines of: You don’t know enough about the Bible to tell others of God’s love and the forgiveness through Jesus Christ that is free to anyone who asks.

But to believe Satan’s lie is to make God an impotent creation of our own imagination. If our God is who the Scripture says He is – who created all things both visible and invisible by simply saying, “Let there be . . .”, then surely He is able to do something so simple as to use you and me – even in our temporary ignorance of God’s word – to bring others to faith.

We do not need a theological degree – or even Church ordination – to tell our own story of how Jesus changed our life. But oh, what God can do for others through our story – a story we can then post to Facebook, Google-plus, Linked-in, or any other social network site to which we belong.

So, how can you tell your story? Here is a rough template you might use to tell others about your Jesus:

1. What was your life like before you met Jesus? 
2. How has Jesus changed you?
3. When did you realize you needed to follow Him and be forgiven of your sins?
4. If you were baptized into the Church as an infant, then tell about the time you realized your faith needed to be an ‘adult’ faith, a ‘confirmed’ faith.

5. How has He changed your life circumstances?  Or, if He has not changed your circumstances, how has He helped you cope with those circumstances now?
6. If you could tell others only one thing about your Jesus, what would you wish to tell them?

Pope Francis recently tweeted: God’s love is not generic. He loves every man and women, and He calls them by name.

Christian, God can use your story to help someone else learn of His deep and very personal love for them, whom He knows by name. Will you tell them what great things God has done for you?