Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palm Sunday

Today is Palm Sunday and one week before Easter.  Readings can be found here.  The entry of Jesus is included, as is His death on the Cross.  It is a difficult service because frequently the congregants read the parts of the Gospel that the crowd would have been saying.

I attended the Mass today celebrated by Bishop Johnston.  His homily was very good and discussed the fact that reading those parts aloud is very uncomfortable.  It reminds us it is us that put Him there, that we aren't removed from the event or the sin or the need.

There is yet again an excellent post at the Sacred Page regarding the readings and the Passion - Why Must the Messiah Die?  They reference Psalm 22 and why Jesus references it.  It is below.

1My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?

2O my God, I cry in the day time, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.

3But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.

4Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.

5They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.

6But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.

7All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,

8He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.

9But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts.

10I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother's belly.

11Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.

12Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.

13They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.

14I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.

15My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.

16For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.

17I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.

18They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.

19But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me.

20Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.

21Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.

22I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.

23Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel.

24For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.

25My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him.

26The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever.

27All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.

28For the kingdom is the LORD's: and he is the governor among the nations.

29All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul.

30A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.

31They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The end of B90 and the start of Romans

Well I am wrapping up the Bible in 90 Days.  What a great experience!  Due to some things that popped up in life, I was unable to continue participation in the small group.  But I continued the reading, and will finish on time.  I've had people ask me what could one possibly get from reading it so fast, and the answer is A LOT!

Typically I've always read it a verse to a chapter at a time.  Some of the Bible plans to read it in a year have readings each day from all over.  Every day you can see part of the picture, but it is hard to keep that higher view the entire year.  Reading it this quickly kept me away from all the details we normally focus in on and really allowed me to see the whole picture, all at once.  I even did catch details I had previously missed!

It also allowed me to more easily place each piece into the context of the rest of the Bible.  I was better able to track which Prophets were associate with which portion of the history of Israel and Judah, for instance.  The whole history just flowed better.  Reading the Gospels back to back also allowed me to find a few details that were in one but not the other.  I knew that happened, but it is kind of fun to find for oneself when somebody includes something different.  I would go so far as to say it helped with my image of Jesus even.

My next adventure is reading through Romans with a friend and doing the study questions at the end of the The Letter of St. Paul to the Romans: Revised Standard Version/2nd Catholic Edition (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible).  We'll do this over breakfast once a week.  I'm really looking forward to it!  Ignatius has the study questions posted here, if you're interested.

This week is Romans Chapter 1.  I'm already starting to read up about the book in general.  Authored by Paul, it was written in the late 50's, probably from Corinth on his way towards Jerusalem with his relief offering from around the region.  He had not previously visited Rome, so this letter served as an introduction, among other purposes.  There was already a Christian church there, so he wasn't writing to a completely cold audience. 

N.T. Wright writes of Romans:
...neither a systematic theology nor a summary of Paul's lifework, but it is by common consent his masterpiece. It dwarfs most of his other writings, an Alpine peak towering over hills and villages. Not all onlookers have viewed it in the same light or from the same angle, and their snapshots and paintings of it are sometimes remarkably unalike. Not all climbers have taken the same route up its sheer sides, and there is frequent disagreement on the best approach. What nobody doubts is that we are here dealing with a work of massive substance, presenting a formidable intellectual challenge while offering a breathtaking theological and spiritual vision.
Romans is also a place where Catholics and Protestants can disagree about a lot of meanings.  I was pointed to this book when looking at the idea of "faith alone."  My friend who I am reading it with is not Catholic, but does not believe in faith alone.  There should be some good conversation. If anyone is curious, Catholics don't believe in works alone!  Important to note that.  Without faith, whatever we do is meaningless.  Without God's grace, we wouldn't stand a chance.

But hopefully we can get far more out of this than another argument.  People have been arguing that particular point for a few hundred years now with no resolution in site, so I think it is safe to say we should not get stuck there if at all possible.  There are many other things in Romans that are of use to us today.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


I found great consolation this morning with a friend over breakfast and the Bible.  She reminded me we can't change the world, but we can change our corner of it.

Do you ever find it odd Jesus entrusted so much to Peter?  Peter, who denied Him so fully?  Sure, everyone else ran away, except John.  John was there for the whole thing, and he gets Jesus' mom.  But Peter gets a bigger job.  So then there's this fisherman and his friends after Pentecost changing their corner of the world.  2000 years later, I'm a part of a worldwide church with over a billion members claiming Peter as their first Pope and over two billion total Christians.  That little corner didn't stay small for long with God's power behind it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The small problem of evil

I'm sitting here, looking forward to Holy Week, and trying to think of something to blog about.  My Bible software has a nice feature that puts together all the Gospel readings in order from Jesus' life.  That's a nice thing.

I have links that I could share.  I might yet.

But I've been rather overwhelmed lately by the problem of evil, and I am... Something.  I can't even find a word for it.

Objectively we know we live in a disordered world full of sin and evil.  We can even state that we are sinners.  And then something truly evil happens and we're left wondering why and how.  It really takes my breath away.

I guess an upside is it really puts everything else into perspective.  Upset about the broken door?  Probably ought to get over that one.  Computer broken?  So what.  There are many more important things in this world.  It also reminds me why we're to share the Gospel - clearly a lot of people need it more than we probably even realize, or want to realize.

Strange Jesus would entrust such a mission to such weak followers.  We need to pray more and work harder.

Monday, April 11, 2011

more thinking

Following my recent post on thinking, I got to, uh, thinking that perhaps some might think I am anti science or anti evidence or against any modern thought.  As an engineer, I of course love science and math.  My friends joke there is a flowchart in my head that I use to make decisions.

Science is a wonderful thing, really.  My dog isn't going to get rabies, people with cancer can receive treatments that may save their lives, I have this strange contraption in front of me on which to type at you, and of course we put people into space.  If you add in Baked Lays (sour cream and onion of course), envelopes that seal when you lick them, and the camera that projects an image of what is behind my SUV when I'm in reverse, we can see that science and physics and math are truly wonderful things.

However, science cannot claim to be infallible.  My dog is not immune to everything.  People still die from cancer.  Computers crash.  Space shuttles do too, unfortunately.  Baked Lays are almost perfect, but crumble in the bag.  Envelopes will unstick in the right conditions.  Eventually, that camera on my SUV will fail.  Further, it can't make me pay attention to it.  We know these things and accept them.  It doesn't make science or the technology behind them evil.  It just makes them fallible. 

Compare this to the God who created the universe and you will see why, given a choice between God's wisdom and modern science or technology, I will pick God.  If the two do not match, then one can reasonably assume the fallible is wrong and the infallible is correct.  All my modern schooling has taught me that much.

God gave us reason.  He gave us a universe to explore.  He gave us minds to use, and we should use them.  But we must always remember that science isn't always right.  Why do we trust scientists then exclusively?  How often have people been wrong?  Just think, every year for the past few thousand years, someone has been incredibly confident they proved something.  And then they are wrong.  Why would we pick people over the wisdom of God?  That's disordered reason.  That's not from God.  It doesn't even make sense according to worldly standards.

I read an article on CNN telling me that Christians were partly to blame for the Civil War.  We have this annoying habit of finding things to be either right or wrong, and we're unwilling to compromise when it comes to certain absolutes.  This creates conflict, thereby leading to things such as war.  Let's follow this logic back for a moment to see the problem.  This argument assumes there are no absolute rights or wrongs.  It is moral relativism, a nice modern philosophy.  It makes people happy, so it must be okay, right?  Here is an example of humans making a bad call, spreading it, and people listening to it.  That wasn't even taught when I was in school.  Have the causes of the Civil War changed since then?  I think not.

We must use our brains in conformance to God's will.  This isn't popular and it isn't easy, but really, it is the only thing that makes sense.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Fifth Sunday of Lent (2)

Today Mass was wonderful.  It is, of course, always wonderful in the objective sense.  But we all know subjectively we tend to enjoy some more than others and today's fell into the more enjoyable category.  One week until Palm Sunday!

The homily focused on the humanity and divinity of Jesus in the Gospel reading.  Jesus, fully human, experienced great grief at the death of his friend and the sorrow of Mary and Martha.  Jesus, also fully divine, was able to raise Lazarus from death.  It is kind of mind boggling when you think about those two aspects in one person together.

The Sacred Page has another post (from one of the other authors) up today about the readings, and it is just as educational as the one I linked to yesterday.  I really recommend reading those as they have a lot of back story and details that we just don't usually get elsewhere.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Tomorrow is the Fifth Sunday of Lent. Next weekend is Palm Sunday, and the weekend after that is Easter.  What a wonderful time on the church calendar!

The Sacred Page once again has some nice material about this week's readings.  Check it out here
Another theme, however, which flows out of our reading above is this: God is faithful to his promise and can reconcile us no matter how far we have wondered away from him. The Israelites had been scattered--carried off to the far corners of the world in captivity. The Old Testament makes it clear why this happened: sin.

There's a good piece on where to find God at the National Catholic Register.
My daughter, who is five, asked me, “God is everywhere, right? So, he’s under the table? And in the fish tank? And in my ear?” Like every child I’ve ever met, she imagined that God had run himself through a duplicating machine, churning out thousand and millions of identical copies of himself. And thus he is everywhere, filling up the empty spaces of the world like numberless divine packing peanuts.
I recently had someone ask why we fasted on Fridays during Lent and told me the reason was because the fish would go bad over the weekend so they made up a rule to get people to eat it all on Friday.  I would actually assume fish would go bad after any day you did not eat, as they had no method of cooling, but that's neither here nor there.  Apparently there is an actual reason why we abstain from meat on Fridays.  Read more here.

Ezekiel 16

I think I’ve talked about the image of Israel as an unfaithful woman before.  Chapter 16 of Ezekiel is very graphic in this regard.

Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations,  And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto Jerusalem; Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite.  And as for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee; thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all. None eye pitied thee, to do any of these unto thee, to have compassion upon thee; but thou wast cast out in the open field, to the lothing of thy person, in the day that thou wast born.

And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live.  I have caused thee to multiply as the bud of the field, and thou hast increased and waxen great, and thou art come to excellent ornaments: thy breasts are fashioned, and thine hair is grown, whereas thou wast naked and bare.

Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord GOD, and thou becamest mine.

Then washed I thee with water; yea, I throughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil.   I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badgers' skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk.  I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck.  And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head.  Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom.   And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord GOD.

But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown, and pouredst out thy fornications on every one that passed by; his it was.  And of thy garments thou didst take, and deckedst thy high places with divers colours, and playedst the harlot thereupon: the like things shall not come, neither shall it be so.  Thou hast also taken thy fair jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given thee, and madest to thyself images of men, and didst commit whoredom with them, And tookest thy broidered garments, and coveredst them: and thou hast set mine oil and mine incense before them.  My meat also which I gave thee, fine flour, and oil, and honey, wherewith I fed thee, thou hast even set it before them for a sweet savour: and thus it was, saith the Lord GOD.

Moreover thou hast taken thy sons and thy daughters, whom thou hast borne unto me, and these hast thou sacrificed unto them to be devoured. Is this of thy whoredoms a small matter,  That thou hast slain my children, and delivered them to cause them to pass through the fire for them?  And in all thine abominations and thy whoredoms thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, when thou wast naked and bare, and wast polluted in thy blood.

And it came to pass after all thy wickedness, (woe, woe unto thee! saith the Lord GOD;)  That thou hast also built unto thee an eminent place, and hast made thee an high place in every street.  Thou hast built thy high place at every head of the way, and hast made thy beauty to be abhorred, and hast opened thy feet to every one that passed by, and multiplied thy whoredoms.   Thou hast also committed fornication with the Egyptians thy neighbours, great of flesh; and hast increased thy whoredoms, to provoke me to anger.   Behold, therefore I have stretched out my hand over thee, and have diminished thine ordinary food, and delivered thee unto the will of them that hate thee, the daughters of the Philistines, which are ashamed of thy lewd way.   Thou hast played the whore also with the Assyrians, because thou wast unsatiable; yea, thou hast played the harlot with them, and yet couldest not be satisfied.   Thou hast moreover multiplied thy fornication in the land of Canaan unto Chaldea; and yet thou wast not satisfied herewith.

How weak is thine heart, saith the Lord GOD, seeing thou doest all these things, the work of an imperious whorish woman;  In that thou buildest thine eminent place in the head of every way, and makest thine high place in every street; and hast not been as an harlot, in that thou scornest hire;

But as a wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead of her husband! They give gifts to all whores: but thou givest thy gifts to all thy lovers, and hirest them, that they may come unto thee on every side for thy whoredom.  And the contrary is in thee from other women in thy whoredoms, whereas none followeth thee to commit whoredoms: and in that thou givest a reward, and no reward is given unto thee, therefore thou art contrary.

Wherefore, O harlot, hear the word of the LORD: Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thy filthiness was poured out, and thy nakedness discovered through thy whoredoms with thy lovers, and with all the idols of thy abominations, and by the blood of thy children, which thou didst give unto them;  Behold, therefore I will gather all thy lovers, with whom thou hast taken pleasure, and all them that thou hast loved, with all them that thou hast hated; I will even gather them round about against thee, and will discover thy nakedness unto them, that they may see all thy nakedness.  And I will judge thee, as women that break wedlock and shed blood are judged; and I will give thee blood in fury and jealousy.  And I will also give thee into their hand, and they shall throw down thine eminent place, and shall break down thy high places: they shall strip thee also of thy clothes, and shall take thy fair jewels, and leave thee naked and bare.  They shall also bring up a company against thee, and they shall stone thee with stones, and thrust thee through with their swords.  And they shall burn thine houses with fire, and execute judgments upon thee in the sight of many women: and I will cause thee to cease from playing the harlot, and thou also shalt give no hire any more.  So will I make my fury toward thee to rest, and my jealousy shall depart from thee, and I will be quiet, and will be no more angry.

Because thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, but hast fretted me in all these things; behold, therefore I also will recompense thy way upon thine head, saith the Lord GOD: and thou shalt not commit this lewdness above all thine abominations.

Behold, every one that useth proverbs shall use this proverb against thee, saying, As is the mother, so is her daughter.  Thou art thy mother's daughter, that lotheth her husband and her children; and thou art the sister of thy sisters, which lothed their husbands and their children: your mother was an Hittite, and your father an Amorite.   And thine elder sister is Samaria, she and her daughters that dwell at thy left hand: and thy younger sister, that dwelleth at thy right hand, is Sodom and her daughters.   Yet hast thou not walked after their ways, nor done after their abominations: but, as if that were a very little thing, thou wast corrupted more than they in all thy ways.  As I live, saith the Lord GOD, Sodom thy sister hath not done, she nor her daughters, as thou hast done, thou and thy daughters.

Eze 16:49  Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.   And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.  Neither hath Samaria committed half of thy sins; but thou hast multiplied thine abominations more than they, and hast justified thy sisters in all thine abominations which thou hast done.   Thou also, which hast judged thy sisters, bear thine own shame for thy sins that thou hast committed more abominable than they: they are more righteous than thou: yea, be thou confounded also, and bear thy shame, in that thou hast justified thy sisters.

When I shall bring again their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, and the captivity of Samaria and her daughters, then will I bring again the captivity of thy captives in the midst of them:  That thou mayest bear thine own shame, and mayest be confounded in all that thou hast done, in that thou art a comfort unto them.  When thy sisters, Sodom and her daughters, shall return to their former estate, and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former estate, then thou and thy daughters shall return to your former estate.   For thy sister Sodom was not mentioned by thy mouth in the day of thy pride,   Before thy wickedness was discovered, as at the time of thy reproach of the daughters of Syria, and all that are round about her, the daughters of the Philistines, which despise thee round about.   Thou hast borne thy lewdness and thine abominations, saith the LORD.

For thus saith the Lord GOD; I will even deal with thee as thou hast done, which hast despised the oath in breaking the covenant.  Nevertheless I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant.  Then thou shalt remember thy ways, and be ashamed, when thou shalt receive thy sisters, thine elder and thy younger: and I will give them unto thee for daughters, but not by thy covenant.   And I will establish my covenant with thee; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD:  That thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord GOD.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Let's think about thinking

Let’s talk about logical decision making.  Our decisions are based on other information like past events or already held beliefs or assumptions.  If I think that 2 + 2 = 4 and 4 + 4 = 8, then I will be able to conclude that 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 = 8.  If you think 2 + 2 = 5, then we will not come to the same conclusion.  It won’t matter how much I hop up and down regarding my answer and it won’t matter how much you hop and down on your answer, we are unlikely to agree on the final answer without first addressing the earlier step in our process.

My Facebook has been in a flurry lately with several posts regarding certain beliefs.  These arguments can get quite emotional with people thinking all sorts of horrible things about the other side.  Rarely does either side fully understand the first steps in the decision process of the other group.

If we look at the pro-life movement, we can hopefully see this more clearly.  If one believes there is a God and believes that He is responsible for all life, that He gives someone their soul upon conception, and that He has known about them and cared about them for all eternity before they were born, then the natural outcome of these beliefs is that God would not approve of abortion.  God’s gift is not to be taken away by us as we have no authority in comparison (authority is assumed if one believes God created everything).

There are of course other arguments regarding abortion that do not require a belief in God to work, such as not knowing when life begins exactly.  And certainly all parties can discuss these types of arguments and understand them and perhaps even make headway in compromise.  But without addressing the first issue, there is no solution.  People who believe this because they believe in God will not (and should not) be swayed by any argument not founded on God.  Someone in favor of a woman’s right to choose abortion can hop up and down all they want and throw out every argument and even get angry and insult the pro life person, but it doesn’t change their primary set of beliefs and is therefore a waste of time.

On the other hand, people who don’t believe in God will never accept a God based argument as a valid reason to do or not do something.  A Christian can hop up and down all they want and throw out every argument and even get angry and insult the other person, but that does not change their primary set of beliefs and is therefore a waste of time.

One of these groups will rely on the logic of the world while the other relies on the wisdom of God.  The wisdom of God goes so far as to say the logic of the world is just flat out wrong and will lead us astray, so it is no wonder Christians do not trust this “logic.”  The worldview should be entirely different.  The basis for all beliefs, arguments, and behaviors should be different.  We should not expect to see the same answer regarding questions such as abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, etc from a Christian and a non Christian.  We should not be surprised when this happens or wonder why. 

Rom 1:20  For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
Rom 1:21  Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Rom 1:22  Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
Rom 1:23  And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

Lenten Links

I have made it to the New Testament in my B90 plan, but won't be discussing Matthew today. 

As we rapidly approach Easter, I found two great posts on the last two Sundays' readings at The Sacred Page.  Loads of details I didn't know about the context of each one.

For last Sunday (with the mud and the blind man).

Two Sundays ago (the woman at the well, which is one of my favorites)

But the woman’s personal history is an icon of the history of her people.  She is a woman of Samaria, after all.  The Samaritans were mixed descendants of the poor people of Northern Israel (left behind by the Assyrians in 722BC) and five foreign nations brought in by their conquerors, with whom the Israelites intermarried! This intermarriage was not merely physical, but also spiritual, as they worshiped the foreign pagan gods. (See 2 Kings 17, esp. vv. 24-34.  Keep in mind that the author of 2 Kings downplays the role of the Israelites left in the land, whose presence we know about from other sources).

Then, after Judeans returned to Jerusalem in the late 500s BC, the northern Samaritans bit by bit gave up the worship of other deities and returned to worshiping YHWH God of Israel, but they did not do it according to the covenant with David, whereby Jerusalem was the place of worship (see Psalm 132).  They built their own temple in Gerizim (mentioned in John 4), and tried to be in relationship with God without following the proper form of the covenant.  What do we call it today when people live together, but are not in proper covenant relationship?  See the connection with John 4:18?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


One interesting thing I read in The Essential Bible Companion was about the prophets:

While early prophets dealt primarily with the king, in the eighth century BC the prophets turn much of their attention to the people and begin to call them to a renewed faithfulness to the covenant.
Prior books had the prophets speaking to the kings.  These books are to the people, and the prophets are trying to get their attention and point them towards God.  The relationship is in jeopardy since they are being unfaithful.  The prophets are in the end unsuccessful, and both Israel and Judah fall to foreign powers allowed by God to conquer them.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Be Different

1Pe 3:8-11  Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:  Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:  Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.

Again we see the Word of God proposing something abhorrent to the modern idea of standing up for oneself and putting someone else “in their place.”  We’re to seek peace, and not return evil for evil.  My flesh desires to disobey this command practically every day.  This world gives so many opportunities to tell others off or to be the one in the right.  And that means it provides so many opportunities to share Christ through what we don’t do, when we do the unexpected.

1Pe 3:15-17  But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.  For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.

We may be mocked and looked down upon, but imagine what incredible witness we can provide.  They know they are doing wrong when they do that, and when we don’t respond in kind, they don’t have any excuse.  We have the power to do this through Jesus.

2Co 4:8-11  We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;  Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.  For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Beautiful words from Isaiah

Isa 55:1-56:8
Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.  Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.   Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.  Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people.  Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the LORD thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee.

Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:  Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.   For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.   For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:  So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.   For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.  Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

Thus saith the LORD, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed.  Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil.

Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree.  For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;  Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.  Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant;  Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people. The Lord GOD which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD
.  What a good reminder.  God does not think like we do.  He is not trapped by the same limitations in thinking, IQ, and knowledge that we have.  God has perfect wisdom and so His thoughts are not like ours and His ways are not like our ways.  That’s why we don’t understand what He’s doing all the time.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Got Jesus?

Someone might ask why we need Jesus.  What did Jesus do?  I’d always heard that Jesus had opened the Gates of Heaven.  That was never satisfying.  He’s Jesus.  God.  Shouldn’t He have a universal remote that could just open those doors from His throne?  Why come here?

I’d heard He came to show us how to live.  He did set a good example, that’s for sure.  But He really could have done that without the brutal torture and death at the end, and showing us how to live doesn’t do much to explain the Resurrection.

I’d also heard He came and died to show us He loved us.  Which He does, obviously, but if that was the primary reason a Hallmark card might have taken less time and effort and blood.  Usually getting oneself crucified does not serve as a healthy Valentine’s Day gift.

God is all powerful and created the Universe.  God is love.  He created everything and everyone to love.  And we fail, over and over and over and over again, as evidenced in the Old Testament repeatedly.  We do not deserve to spend eternity with the all holy and all pure and all loving God in our present state.  We’re not worthy.  I’m not saying that because I have some sort of self confidence crisis going on – it is just an accurate assessment of the sludge at the bottom of a stagnant lake we must look like compared to God’s complete and total moral perfection.

It is a good thing He is love too, because He doesn’t need us.  God’s glory and power is not somehow decreased if I choose to hate Him or ignore Him.  He does not need my prayers.  He does not need our churches.  He does not need this planet.  He does not need the Universe.  He doesn’t need any of it, but we still have it because He loves us.

His perfect love and mercy go along with His perfect justice, which is why He doesn’t just wave His hand and invite us pond scum into Heaven with Him in our present state.  Actions have consequences and perfect justice demands punishment for sin.  We deserve to die and be separated from God when we sin.  That’s what happened to Adam and Eve, and why they got booted from the garden.

God was always working though to satisfy His perfect mercy and perfect justice at the same time.  In the Old Testament we see animal sacrifices as a way to cover sin.  And it was just a shadow of what was to come, just like everything else in the Old Testament.  Eventually, God sent His own Son to take our place and die for our sins.

God’s perfect justice is satisfied with a perfect sacrifice. Then He rises from the dead, defeating death and sin totally, in our form, showing we will do the same thing when it is time.  Physical death has no power over us anymore.  It is just a pit stop on the journey to Heaven, to be with God, who has opened the doors, shown us how to live, and demonstrated His perfect love for us.

Joh 3:16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  

Of course we must believe in Jesus.  God’s sacrifices, even in the Old Testament, were not faithless expressions of compliance.  Our obedience to God’s commands, starting with the one to believe in His Son, is completely necessary, just as obedience was necessary in the Old Testament.  Pagans offering their sacrifices on God’s altar did not automatically gain entrance.  Jesus died so that anyone could be saved, but not all will.

If you have not read the Bible, I recommend it.  Read it like your life depended on it, because it kinda does (not the words in it, but the message).  It isn’t any longer than Lord of the Rings.  Get another book to help show how all the books in the Bible fit together.  You can find basic ones that don’t get into the denominational issues a specific church’s book might.  Read about how sin destroys the world and how Jesus saves it.  This isn’t some ancient religion – this is truth yesterday, today, and tomorrow.