Captured – Part 2

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In last week’s post I discussed the Devil, who he is and why he has a problem with humans. As a reminder, this is based on Father John Riccardo’s book Rescued, which I highly recommend that you read or listen to for yourself. This week I am going to do my best to discuss the Devil’s game plan and what his tactics are that he uses pretty successfully.

We know that the Devil HATES us. His ultimate goal is to enslave and degrade us. He wants to DESTROY us. How does he do this? We know that the greatest thing in life is love, and most especially the love of God. To deprive us of love the Devil tells us that we’re not worth loving; that if we were lovable then bad things wouldn’t happen to us; that people who supposedly love us wouldn’t let us get hurt. He’s the one who whispers, “If there really is a loving God then why is there such suffering and tragedy in this world? Why would a loving God let that happen?” And we fall for these lies! There is such suffering and tragedy in the world because this is the Devil’s kingdom and he reigns supreme. Adam and Eve fell for his lies and we’ve inherited that trait from them. They didn’t have any reason to distrust God and yet Satan was able to get them to disobey God’s only rule in the garden.

Due to the fall of Adam and Eve, Death and Sin entered the world. These aren’t just things or states of being. Death and Sin have tremendous power over all of us. No matter what you do you are going to die. No matter how much money you make or how much time you spend volunteering, at some point you are going to die. There is nothing that will stop this from happening. We are doomed, right? So why bother going on. Why bother trying to resist? Because there is hope!

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believed in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

John 3:16-18 (NABRE)

Jesus came to earth to save us from the clutches of Death and Sin. Are we still going to die? Yes, BUT we will be raised with Christ! What does that mean? It means that when the day of judgement comes those who have believed will be welcomed into God’s presence with open arms while hearing, “Well done good and faithful servant!” That’s what we want to hear, right? We don’t want to hear Jesus tell us that we didn’t make it and we are banished to hell. Where does that leave us? That leaves us in the grip of the Devil to do with us as he pleases. Keep in mind that Newton’s third law says that for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. Who was the one who designed all laws of physics and science? God. So, Kerry’s First Law (that’s me… I’m claiming this as my own) states that for as much love as God has for us, the Devil has the opposite and equal hatred for us. Think about that for a minute. In the ‘Created’ section we discussed how each of us is God’s most precious and beloved creation above all else. That means that we are also the Devil’s most hated, most loathed and most despised creation. The worst tortures and sufferings that we humans have created have NOTHING on what the Devil can inflict upon us. That is what Death does to us… consigns us to the Devil’s power. Thus, we needed somebody to save us from this power.

“How can we who died in sin yet live in it? Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.

For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection. We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin. For a dead person has been absolved from sin. If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him. As to his death, he died to sin once and for all; as to his life, he lives for God. Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as [being] dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.”

Romans 6:2-11 (NABRE)

Sin. Paul makes it sound so simple that you either sin or you don’t. I wish it was that simple! It’s not like black licorice where it seems like you either like it or you don’t. There aren’t too many people who are indifferent to this candy; either you passionately love it or you hate it with every fiber of your being. If people could walk away from sin as easily as they can walk away from black licorice, this world would be a much better place. But it’s very difficult! Why? Because the Devil is right there whispering in our ears. First he tells us that we’re not worth anything better. He accuses… He accuses God because God didn’t stop the suffering when he so easily could have done so. Then he accuses us that it’s our fault that something bad happened. Think of the child who thinks it’s their fault when their parents fight. Then he accuses others, that they could have stopped the bad thing from happening. As he’s doing all of this, and it’s working, he is slowly encircling you with chains to enslave you and keep you under his power. He also divides, lies, flatters, tempts and discourages.

The best example I can think of when it comes to how the Devil works is by taking a look at the girls who often end up in the Adult Entertainment industry. What happens? First, Mr/Ms Smooth comes up and tells the girl how beautiful she is, that she would make a billion dollars as a model and they can help her get those kinds of jobs. (Flattery) They set up a “photo shoot” or fly her out to a big city where she can meet the people who are going to throw cash her way. (Lies/Divides) When she is separated from family or people who actually care about her, they show her the life that she wants to live (tempts). However they finally get her to perform whatever act they have in mind, they have usually spent enough time discouraging her and accusing her of being an embarassment to her family, that she feels she has no power and can’t leave these people who have ruined her life. Can you imagine that kind of life? You used to be happy and proud of yourself. Now you hate the very things you are doing, but you feel that you really are worthless and that your parents or friends would be so ashamed of you that they would never want you back in their lives. You are all alone and completely at the power of these dispicable people. You are degraded and enslaved. You are unloved, unwanted, and completely devoid of all hope.

I’m going to leave you with that thought. Spend some time thinking about being in that pit of despair, abused and controlled by people who don’t care about you. You are trapped without hope of rescue.

Captured – Part 1

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Today I am continuing to try to teach you what I’ve learned from Father John Riccardo’s book Rescued: The Unexpected and Extraordinary News of the Gospel. I highly recommend this book. If you get a chance, please read it!

In the first part we learned about why God created us and that we have a purpose. We learned about His incredible love for us. We know that we are more beloved to God than anything else that He has created. That’s all great, isn’t it? Then how come life is such a mess? If he’s such a loving God then why do terrible things happen to good people? Why is there poverty and hunger? Why do children die of cancer? Why do people suffer?

In order to figure this out we need to go back to before the beginning. The Bible doesn’t tell us EVERYTHING that God created, it only tells one part of it: our story. It doesn’t tell us everything that was in existence before God decided to start making our universe. We are given a hint, though, that God wasn’t alone. “Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26, NACBRE) Obviously there was somebody else with him. We already know that Jesus and the Holy Spirit were there (John 1:1-5). As you read through the Bible you realize that God just assumes that you know he has his Angel Corps working, too. In fact, after Adam and Eve are kicked out of Eden, God posts two sentries at the gate to protect the tree of life. “He expelled the man, stationing the cherubim and the fiery revolving sword east of the gard of Eden, to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:24, NABRE). You might wonder, like I did, why He didn’t come out and tell you about the angels at the beginning. After all, at least a couple of them have big parts in the Bible. Then I thought about all of the biographies I’ve read and they never tell you about stuff that isn’t very pertinent to the story. If I was writing a book about my life I wouldn’t have to tell you that I have grandparents because you would just assume that I did. God trusts that we don’t have to be given every little detail in order to understand what’s going on. As it becomes important we are given the information.

God created EVERYTHING, including angels. He gave them some pretty sweet powers and special jobs. There were the two angels that He sent to Sodom and Gomorrah and we can’t forget the angel Gabriel who appeared to Mary to tell her that she will be the mother of the Son of the Most High. Did we need to know what the angels names were who went to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah? Apparently not because they aren’t ever mentioned. So we can see that angels are very special beings who serve God and are with him all the time, even if we don’t know exactly how many there are or what each of them do.

In fact, we don’t even realize that we are introduced to one of the fallen angels at the very beginning of the Bible. We know that we’ve just been shown how we were expelled from the Garden and that Death entered the world, but we aren’t told that it was all due to a bitter and envious ex-angel, Lucifer, until much later.

“How you have fallen from the heavens, O Morning Star, son of the dawn! How you have been cut down to the earth, you who conquered nations! In your heart you said: ‘I will scal the heavens; Above the stars of God I will set up my throne; I will take my seat on the Mount of Assembly, on the heights of Zaphon. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will be like the Most High!'”

Isaiah 14:12-14 (NABRE)

A translation of ‘O Morning Star’ is ‘Lucifer.’

“You were a seal of perfection, full of wisdom, perfect in beauty.

In Eden, the garden of God, you lived; precious stones of every kind were your covering: Carnelain, topaz, and beryl, chrysolite, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, garnet, and emerald.

Their mounts and settings were wrought in gold, fashioned for you the day you were created.

With a cherub I placed you; I put you on the holy mountain of God, where you walked among fiery stones.

Blameless were you in your ways from the day you were created, Until evil was found in you.”

Ezekiel 28:12b-15 (NABRE)

Both Isaiah and Ezekiel tell us that Lucifer was part of God’s group of angels, but then out of his own free will, he became evil. God didn’t create him to be evil. Everything that God created was good. So how did Lucifer become evil?

“But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who are allied with him experience it.”

Wisdom 2:24 (NABRE)

Okay, I think I’m starting to see the picture. To be sure, though, let’s take a look at the definition of envy. “A feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, success, possessions, etc.” per Dictionary.com. What other words can be substituted for envy? Hatred, ill will, malice, prejudice, resentment, rivalry, coveting, maliciousness, spite…

Isaiah says that the Devil’s problem was he wanted to be more powerful than God. Then Ezekiel states that the Devil lived in Eden and was placed among the most precious things, and that he had been good until the day that he came down with a case of the Evil. Why? Due to Envy. What did the Devil envy? Here he is, hanging out in Eden, enjoying the beautiful weather and looking at everything God has created. There are plants, fish and creatures of every kind. Everything is great! But then…. God created humans. Humans weren’t created to serve as slaves for God (despite what some other ancient myths would have you believe), instead they were created to be equal with the angels. And God loved them so much!! Apparently He loved them even more than the angels because they seemed to have a special relationship. Knowing God and how things go in the grand scheme of things, Lucifer probably figured that the angels would have to serve these creatures who were not nearly as powerful or special as they were, and that these humans were destined to be as great, if not greater, than him! This is where the feeling of discontent regarding another’s advantages and success comes in. Why should a powerful being like him have to serve those gross humans?? So he came up with a plan and carried it out with great success, for the most part. Sure he was kicked out of the garden, but so were the humans and now they would also be subject to Death. Death is a power that we can’t control. No matter what you do, Death will eventually get you and everybody you love.

That’s why there is evil in the world. HATRED. RIVALRY. MALICE. RESENTMENT. The Devil HATES you. He doesn’t hate God. HE HATES YOU. He knows the kind of forgiving love that God has for all of us, so it’s the Devil’s job to make sure that you turn from that love. Not only does he want to separate you from the love of God, but he wants to degrade and enslave you. I guess in one way that also gives him more power than God; the power and control that he holds over drug addicts is often more powerful than any willpower or love of God. Think of any of the other sins: lust, greed, gluttony, sloth, wrath, envy, prejudice. If you have fallen under the spell of one of these, then you know the power and control that the Devil holds over you. It’s not easy to shake off, but God loves us and has given us the Devil’s playbook so that we can learn the strategies that are employed against us and how we can twart them. But that will have to wait until next time…

Created in Love

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Last week I wrote about how God created everything in the universe, plus He created us. Out of everything that He has ever created, or will ever create, we are his most beloved works of art. How do we know this? Because he made us in his own image and even blew air into our lungs. He is part of us. We weren’t made just to be loved, though. We were made TO Love. That’s part of us being a representative of God on earth; we are made to love one another as he loves us.

“When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them [a scholar of the law] tested him by asking, ‘Techer, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.'”

Matthew 22: 34-40 (NABRE)

When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment he didn’t say that it was to keep the Sabbath holy or that you shouldn’t eat meat on Fridays. No, he said that you will love each other as God loves you. Jesus even tells the parable about the Good Samaritan who saved a man who had been severly beaten and left for dead. Did the good Priest, a man of the cloth, stop to help the critically injured man? No, because if he had touched the man the Priest would have been considered “unclean” and wouldn’t be able to enter the Temple. Do you think God really cared if the Priest was “unclean?” No! He wanted the Priest to help his fellow man by loving him enough to stop and get him help.

Even when we mess up, God still loves us. Even when that Priest walked by the man in the ditch, God still loved him. He loves us so much that he gives us so many chances to ask forgiveness. None of us are beyond redemption. We may have to pay the consequences of our sins, but we can still be redeemed and know that God loves us. Have you ever heard somebody describe their child as an “oops”? How many people grew up being told that they weren’t planned and therefore they were an accident? I wish that parents wouldn’t tell their children such things because NONE of us were accidents! God knows us all by name and He even knew us before he knit us in our mother’s womb. God gave you life and put you on this earth at this point in time for a purpose. NOBODY was an accident! If that were the case, do you think he would have given his only son to die for our sins so that we might be reunited with Him? Absolutely not. None of us are really worthy of that kind of love, and yet God gives it to us every single second.

That’s the problem with addiction and listening to the negative voices. They convince us that we have no purpose and that we are worthless. That there isn’t a God and that nobody will ever love you or can ever love you. Don’t listen to the lies! I know it’s hard to drown out and sometimes it’s a battle just to keep from falling into the pits of despair, but always fall back on the fact that God loves you no matter what! Because you are redeemable. Because you are lovable. Because you are a child of God and he lovingly created you to be the person that you are right now at this time.

I want to ask you to please make sure you pick up a copy of Rescued; The Unexpected and Extraordinary News of the Gospel by Fr. John Riccardo. Read it and take it to heart. We need to be the Good Samaritans for those people who have been beaten up and left bloody by the negative voices. It is our job to pick them up and show them the healing Word of God, for the Truth will set you free!

Created

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Today’s post is going to be a little different than normal. Instead of going right to scripture I first wanted to introduce you to a book that I have found to be completely fascinating. I first listened to it as an audiobook that I borrowed from my local library. After listening to it three times I realized I needed to bring it to my small faith group, so I bought copies of it for all of us. Now I want to introduce you to it. If you can pick up a copy, or listen to the audiobook, I HIGHLY recommend it! It’s called Rescued: The Unexpected and Extraordinary News of the Gospel by Fr. John Riccardo.

I have heard the gospel many times at mass and I’ve read it on my own. Never before had I heard it told like Father John tells it in his book. It showed me another side of the gospel that I had never heard before and it gave me a completely different idea of exactly what Jesus did for all of us. Since this book has had such an impact on me I wanted to share a little of it with you. I’m not going to quote from it, and I’m going to do my best not to plagiarize, but you need to take a look at this, too. Hopefully I can do it in a way that makes sense without infringing on Father John’s work.

In a world where so many people have lost themselves and feel that there’s no hope we need to re-introduce them to Jesus who died so that they might have life. In order to do this, though, we need to start at the beginning.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

He was in the beginning with God.

All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.

What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race;

the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

John 1:1-5 (NABRE)

Is that too lofty? Does it sound confusing? Are you still trying to figure out what is being said? I always have to read that passage through at least three times before I feel like I’ve got my arms halfway around it. Let’s simplify it a little more. In the beginning there was only God, but he was the Triune God (three-in-one) so Jesus and the Holy Spirit were there, too. They were just hanging out when one day God said to Jesus, “Hold my beer,” and he created Earth. What? You don’t think God was drinking? How do you explain the platypus and giraffe? Or the belly button?

Okay, so maybe God wasn’t drinking, but he did create the heavens and the earth. And it was good. Then he created the waters and the sky. And it was good. After that came dry earth and sea. And it was good. God thought that the earth needed a little color so he created plants and trees and flowers. And it was good. Then he realized we would need something to tell time by and help the seas ebb and flow, so he created the sun, moon and the stars. And they were all good. At this point God realized that he had a giant aquarium and terrarium, so he filled the seas and skies with creatures. And they were good. (Although, the penguins probably felt like they got a raw deal since they weren’t able to fly nor were they in a warm land.) Then God decided that there needed to be weird creatures like opossums and adorable fuzzy little kittens, so he made creatures for the land. And they were good. Then God made man. Man and woman were created in his image to have dominion over the lands, seas, skies and all living creatures. And they were good. As my priest likes to say, “God doesn’t make junk.”

But man wasn’t just another creature that God made, otherwise we would have been lumped into the group in Genesis 1:24. Instead, not only did he make us apart from the other creatures, but he also blew life into us (Genesis 2:7). The author of Genesis didn’t write down every single step that God took to make everything else, which means that these two facts are very important to our story. God could just bring things into being. Yet, he lovingly formed us and breathed life into us. Why? Because God LOVES us. After he created Adam and Eve he spent time with them in the Garden of Eden. Now, maybe he also spent time out on the plains playing with the deer and antelope, but we are specifically told of the time he spent with humans.

Think about a very important day of your life. When you tell somebody about this day do you tell them what time you woke up, what shampoo you used, or what television program you watched that day? Only if it’s important to the story and the overall picture of what happened, right? You talk about what is important and what made the day special, or what really stuck out to you. This is why we know that God creating man and woman is SO important to him. He wants us to know just how much we mean to him and how important we are in his plan. The first part of Genesis doesn’t name the planets or stars that he made, but it does name Man and Woman. Don’t get me wrong, God is very proud of everything he has made, but his pride and joy are humans.

Think about something that you are really good at doing or making. Maybe you make the BEST pies or perhaps you build the most comfortable furniture. Whatever it is, think about it and how proud you are whenever somebody tells you how great it is. Now, if you’re a parent this is going to be easier, but think about when a person holds their first child in their arms and looks down at that gorgeous face and those tiny little fingers. Can you feel the overwhelming love just pouring out of them as they gaze upon their child? THAT is how God looks on every one of us. You. Me. Your neighbor. Even that really weird looking guy who works with you. He doesn’t look on ALL of creation like that. Is he proud? Sure, but God loves us all as if we were his first born child. It is the only time that a parent can honestly claim to love all of their children equally. God doesn’t play favorites.

I have more that I want to say about God and his creation, but I think I’ve gone on for long enough. Next time I’ll do a little more with Creation. In the meantime, pick up a copy of Father John Riccardo’s book. It is amazing.

Destiny of Glory

“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us. For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord

Image by RÜŞTÜ BOZKUŞ from Pixabay

but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.

In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weekness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.” ~ Romans 8:18-27 (NABRE)

I seem to be drawn to the passages of the Bible that mention hope in the face of darkness. I’m not sure if that’s a message meant for me or for somebody who may be reading this post. Either way, it’s not a bad message to ponder. So, let’s sit and ponder it for a moment.

This passage actually reminds me of what my mother-in-law is going through right now. Just when she thinks that she has managed to overcome an obstacle, another one pops up to smack her in the face. My husband is getting frustrated because he doesn’t understand why all of this is happening. To be fair, a lot of it is due to negligence on her late husband’s part. He let the house run down and now she’s having to fix things that she didn’t realize were bad. My husband is wondering where God is in all of this and why isn’t He giving her a little bit of a break before He tosses another obstacle in her way. I’ve been pondering this all week.

First off, I know that God is with her always and He wouldn’t give her anything that she can’t handle. Secondly, it may be that God is showing her that she’s way stronger than she ever thought possible. I know that’s not how she wants to learn it, but he’s guiding her down this path for a reason. I’m not sure what it is. Maybe it’s to put her to the test. Or maybe it’s to bring somebody else into her path who needs her in their life. We may never know. All we can do is continue to do our best and give praise for what He has already given to us.

That’s the thing that we need to keep in mind. No matter what our struggles are right now, they are nothing in comparison to the glory and love that awaits us. If you’ve ever had children (and I haven’t so I’m taking their word for it), many mothers will say that the pain and suffering through pregnancy and labor were well worth it for their child. In fact, many don’t let the pain and suffering from one baby stop them and they have multiple children. So all of this pain and suffering that we are going through here will be completely forgotten when we are in His presence.

We cannot see what awaits us, but that’s okay. “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for wat we do not see, we wait with endurance.” (Romans 8:24-25)

Hope. Endure. Love. It will all come out right in the end.

Faith in Despair

“How long, LORD? Will you utterly forget me? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I carry sorrow in my soul, grief in my heart day after day? How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Image by Marlon Sommer from Pixabay

Look upon me, answer me, LORD, my God! Give light to my eyes lest I sleep in death, Let my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed,’ let my foes rejoice at my downfall.

But I trust in your mercy, Grant my heart joy in your salvation, I will sing to the LORD, for he has dealt bountifully with me!” ~ Psalm 13: 2-6 (NABRE)

How often do you feel this way? Every time we look at the news there is yet something else going wrong in this world. Evil seems to surround us. How could God have abaondoned us to this fate? The darkness creeps over you and there doesn’t seem to be any relief. And then you see it… it’s a tiny itty-bitty pin-prick of light. Do you see it? Can you make it out? It’s there. It’s the Light of the World! He is with you. Just hold on a little longer.

That’s what the psalmist is telling us today. Even though everything looks bleak and dark, guess what? He still has faith. How do we know that? He wouldn’t be talking to God if he didn’t. Why would you talk to somebody whom you felt wasn’t there for you? If you had truly given up all hope, this psalm wouldn’t even exist. The book of psalms would have stopped right after #12.

So how do you keep that hope kindled even among all of the bad? Especially when bad news sells way better than good news. Open up any news website and count how many negative headlines there are as compared to positive. Watch the news. How many negative stories do they report on versus positive stories? This is why I no longer watch the news or pay attention to a lot of the media. They aren’t out there for our well being. They aren’t journalists. They are gossip mongers who are just trying to make the most cash. TURN IT OFF. Turn off social media. Turn off the news. Take a break from the negative.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1: 1-5 (NABRE)

When I am feeling down and I think that the world has gone to the devil without any hope of redemption, I think of John 1: 1-5. I repeat to myself that, “the light shines in the darkness.” Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean that it’s not there. Perhaps it’s hidden under a bushel basket. Perhaps a shade obscures it, but it’s STILL THERE. There are a bazillion stars in the sky and you can’t see every single one, but they are still there. Just as the sky and the number of stars are infinite, so is God’s love for you and He will NEVER desert you. Hold tight to that truth and one day you’ll look up and see that light shining bright; you’ll feel the darkness beginning to dispel and you will feel the warmth. Hold tight to the Truth. He loves you and is always with you.

God Will Take Care of Him

“Let us lie in wait for the righteous one, because he is annoying to us; he opposes our actions, Reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training. He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the Lord. To us he is the censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us,

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Because his life is not like that of others, and different are his ways. He judges us debased; he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure. He calls blest the destiny of the righteous and boasts that God is his Father. Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him in the end. For if the righteous one is the son of God, God will help him and deliver him from the hand of his foes. With violence and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.” ~Wisdom 2:12-20 (NABRE)

Even though this passage comes from the book of Wisdom, the story is very familiar to us. You would think that this was one of the Pharisees writing an internal memo to the rest of the group. These were the guys who should have known this story because they were the men of God. Yet, they acted it out as if they had been memorizing their lines and rehearsing for their moment.

Let’s pretend, though, that we don’t know this story. We don’t know about Jesus and the crucifixion. With this in mind, go back and re-read that passage. Now what do you see? I see a rough street gang who is angry at the world and doesn’t care who comes down the street next because they need a target. Is it due to envy? Jealousy? An incorrect sense of injustice? They see somebody who represents what they want, but don’t have, so they are going to take out their rage on him. Why? It doesn’t make sense to me.

When I was in sixth or seventh grade we had a new girl attending our school. I had no idea who she was, but she was in a few of my classes so I knew of her. For the most part I was too involved with my friends and my interests to really pay attention to random new people. Until one day after gym class we were in the locker room waiting for the bell to ring and release us to our next class. My best friend and I were sitting there chatting about something when we heard a commotion. I looked up and saw that almost all of the other girls had surrounded this new girl and had her pinned up against the wall. I don’t remember what they were saying to her, but it wasn’t nice and they were kicking at her. I told them to knock it off and tried to wade my way into the group, but they started to kick me. I ran to the gym teacher’s office and told her what was going on. She came out and let those girls have it! For the next several weeks I was NOT a favorite among the other girls, but that didn’t bother me because I really didn’t have much use for them. Well, that new girl looked on me and my friend as her heroes and she attached herself to us. After a few months she ended up transferring to another school, but every once in a while her cousin (who was also in our class) would tell us that she still talked about how great my friend and I were.

I don’t understand the mindset that says, “That person is different than me so I need to go beat them up or hurt them in some way!” As long as they aren’t bothering me, hurting others or infringing on my rights, I don’t care what they do. Let them live their life! If I’m infringing on their right, then I would like to hear about it in a mature and non-violent fashion. What does violence solve? In our modern world all it does is cause more violence and the losers end up harboring hurt feelings which then typically flare into more violence. It’s a horrible circle that doesn’t ever seem to end.

We all know that in order for us to be saved, Jesus had to die on that cross. So in this one case, violence and jealousy actually led to a very good end for everybody (except Jesus). Look back at that passage and read the last few sentences where they are planning to do evil. How can they feel that even if they aren’t about to test the son of God, that they should be following through with that kind of behavior? How can they feel justified? It’s because the whole thing is about THEM and how THEY FEEL. The feelings of others don’t matter. They are self-centered and selfish. They don’t want to be judged, but yet they are judging somebody else. They are offended that he considers them to be impure and yet they don’t see that they are being the hypocrites because they ARE impure and debased! How could they have changed this? They could have improved their behavior and shown that they weren’t any of the things he thought they were! If you know that you aren’t being impure, then what does it matter what the other person thinks? Just because he calls himself a child of the Lord doesn’t mean that you have to test him to see if it’s true. Because guess what, if it is true? You’re in big trouble!

Many Parts in One Body

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“For by the grace given to me I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than one ought to think, but to think soberly, each according to the measure of faith that God has apportioned. For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another. Since we have

gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them: if prophecy, in proportion to the faith; if ministry, in ministering; if one is a teacher, in teaching; if one exhorts, in exhortation; if one contributes, in generosity; if one is over others, with diligence; if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” ~Romans 12: 3c-8 (NABRE)

In school you often hear the term ‘student body’ to refer to the entire group of students. We were all one group, though that group was made up of many different people with different interests and different gifts. Collectively we referred to ourselves as “The <insert school’s mascot here>”. Yet, when you walked into the cafeteria at lunch time you would see many different groups that had formed. Did you sit with the athletes? Maybe you were part of the Popular group. Then there were the farm kids, the goths, the science nerds, the band geeks, and I could go on and on… The point is that even though you all identified as one Body, you were also MANY different parts.

I was thinking about this as I sat through a medical test my husband was undergoing. He had to have a cardiac stress test with an echocardiagram. As the tech placed the wand against my husband’s chest I could see the image of his heart beating on the screen in front of her. I watched the valves open and close with each beat. I could hear the sound of the blood pulsing through those valves as they did their jobs. Maybe it was just me, but not only was I fascinated by the fact that we have the technology to be able to do this, I also marvelled at the fact that SOMEBODY has to invent this machine and this process. I was never good in science because I can’t quite wrap my head around a lot of it. When it comes to calculating the distance between the Earth and the Moon you might as well be speaking a foreign language as you explain it to me because I will understand it just as much.

My husband and I were sitting through this test (well, technically at this time he was laying on his side) because he is going through the process to be evaluated as a living liver donor. Did you know that you can remove over half of your liver and it will regenerate itself in about 6-8 weeks? Due to this they can take a healthy part of a liver and give it to somebody who is in need of one, but not at the point of needing an ENTIRE liver (which can only be procured through donations when somebody has died). First off, whoever discovered this fact was either VERY twisted or a genius. However, I started thinking about how God made us in His image. Then how we are His design. The idea that He created us in such a way that we can donate blood, platelets, antibodies, and even organs to each other is amazing. How many things has God created us to do that we have yet to discover??

This brings me back to Romans 12. Not only are we all humans who can share literal pieces of ourselves with others, but all of the talents and gifts that God has entrusted to us have allowed us to discover these processes, technologies, and procedures. He gave somebody the talent and intelligence to create imaging machines so that we can look inside our bodies to see what’s going on without having to undergo exploratory surgery. Yet he also gave somebody the talent to be able to machine the tools needed to perform the surgery once the problem has been detected. You need a place to perform the surgery, so he gave some people the talent to be able to design structurally sound buildings in which the doctors can work. I could go on and on…

Next time you put yourself down for not being able to do something that another person is good at doing, take stock of what YOU are good at doing. In order to function as a body or a society you need a variety of skills and talents to make everything work smoothly. What part do you play in the functioning of the body? What are your talents and gifts?

Walk by Faith

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“For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven. For in this tent we groan, longing to be further clothed with our heavenly habitation if indeed, when we have taken it off, we shall not be found naked. For while we are in this tent we groan and are weighed down, because we

do not wish to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a first installment. So we are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yet we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord. Therefore, we aspire to please him, whether we are at home or away. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.” ~2 Corinthians 5: 1-10 (NABRE)

Many people like to go camping. They get excited about going out into the middle of the woods, pitching a tent, and living right next to a happy little creek for a few days. I am not one of those people. I have grown too used to the comforts of my life. I work very hard to keep the bugs out of my house; I am not going to pitch a tent and sleep next to them for a week. Most people, though, know that this experience is just temporary and then they get to return to their home with all of the modern conveniences they can desire.

This experience of going out camping, but being able to return home, is the image that I get in my head when I read Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Think about it, God knew us before we were born. Then we spend time down here, but in the end we get to return to Him. Here on earth, we’re just camping. This shelter is just temporary and is not meant to house us for all time. There will be an end to this camping trip and we’ll be able to go home and be with the Lord. That’s really where we want to be. There are many days when we’re sitting in our tent, the rain is pouring down, the ants have crawled all over our food, and you feel like you are wearing the forest floor on your body… and the only thing keeping us going is that this will end and we can go home where we can peel off all of our dirty clothing, take a nice long shower, and curl up in a soft, warm bed.

The only thing is that in the camping scenario we KNOW that we can go home and take a hot shower. In real life, if we don’t be moral and live a Christ-like life, then there’s no guarantee that we’ll be able to cross the threshold of our heavenly home. If we aren’t careful we could get done with our camping trip, arrive at the door of our house, and find out that we’ve been evicted. What must we do? Again, we must be moral, love one another, and lead a Christ-like life so that we can gain entry to the house of the Lord. Do we have to be perfect? No. God knows that we aren’t perfect, but that’s why he extends his love and mercy to all of us. Ask and it shall be given. Be truly contrite and humble, ask for forgiveness and He will forgive you.

That’s why we have to walk by faith. There is nothing that will prove to you 100% beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is a God and you will be with him after you’re done here on this earth. We can read, pray and believe, but it all boils down to faith. Do you have faith? This doesn’t mean that you don’t have questions. Ask God your questions. Have a conversation with Him. Only then will you be strong enough to truly walk by faith with your head held high no matter what anybody else says. And remember, no matter what, God loves you.

What’s In Your Heart?

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Now when the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed hands. (For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. And on coming from the

marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles [and beds].) So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?” He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts,’ You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.” He summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile. From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.” ~Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 (NABRE)

If you’ve read some of my previous blog posts you will realize that there seems to be one theme that I bring up a lot: the power you have over what you put out into the world. Perhaps that’s because it was a common theme with Jesus, too. He taught about love, charity, mercy and so many more ways to love one another. Growing up Jewish he knew that there were laws that the Pharisees held to be more powerful than the Word of God. If they were truly men of God then they would not only recognize that everything Jesus was teaching was filled with God, but also they wouldn’t have been so upset about what Jesus was doing. They really had a problem with this guy. I mean, who did he think he was?? God?? Only THEY could interpret and teach God’s law to others. They obviously weren’t listening very closely to what Jesus was saying.

You may wonder why I chose a picture of a kitten (unfortunately, not mine) to start this post. I think that if Jesus had led the Pharisees into a room full of kittens, they wouldn’t have been so grumpy about the disciples breaking their laws. Have you ever been in a room full of kittens? You can NOT walk out of there without a smile on your face. To have that little ball of fur purring and loving on you is one of the best feelings in the world. As you hold that kitten and it rubs its little face all over yours while it’s purring, your heart just about bursts with love. That’s how you defeat evil. There is no room in a kitten-filled heart for all of the nastiness that Jesus listed in today’s reading. Okay, so let’s say that you’re more of a dog person. I won’t be offended if you swap out a puppy for a kitten in this example. As long as your heart is bursting with love, that’s what I want you to think about.

The Pharisees are a good example of how people can start out with good intentions, and then before you know it they’ve veered off the path and are insisting that you follow them because they are the ones in charge. When Moses brought the 10 Commandments down from Mt Sinai I don’t recall any of them saying that you must wash your hands before eating, or wash anything else that might come into contact with your food before you eat it. From what I can recall from memory, most of it was about LOVE. Love God. Love your neighbor (don’t covet, steal, or murder). Love and honor your parents. There’s a lot of love in those ten laws. Unfortunately, at that time, the people had a hard time keeping just those ten! Then over a period of time the leaders started making up clauses and addendums to the laws that then also included these other behaviors that you couldn’t do. By the time Jesus comes along the Pharisees are more concerned over these imposed human-created laws than the original law of God. No longer is the faith about God, it’s about the constraints that have been imposed upon you.

That’s why Jesus was such a non-conformist. He worked on the Sabbath. He didn’t make his disciples wash their hands before eating. He even dared to heal people with all kinds of problems whenever he felt like it! What a rebel! He was breaking the law and thumbing his nose at the authorities. Except, what they didn’t understand, was that he was actually following the law of the ultimate Authority. The Author of all creation. That’s why it doesn’t matter what you ingest. If you have a clean heart and are spreading the love of God then you can eat with the dirtiest hands and God won’t strike you down. I mean, He really might think, “Geesh, your hands are nasty. A little water and soap wouldn’t hurt!” but he’s not going to condemn and judge you for it. As long as you are living a Jesus-centered and Christ-like life, you will be allowed into heaven with your dirty hands.