A Question for a Roman Catholic Theologian

You know what’s absent from any book of the Bible outside of the Gospels? Mary.

If Mary is intended to be such a central part of the Christian life, if she intercedes for us and works for us and cares for us and we’re supposed to pray to her, why is her name not anywhere in the Epistles, anywhere in Apostles’ teaching in Acts, anywhere in John’s Revelation? Why are Barnabas and Timothy talked more about than she is? Why is Mary so conspicuously absent anywhere after the biographical portion of Jesus’ New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) if God intends her to be a vital part of the lives of His Christians?

Is it possible the Roman Catholic Church has ascribed to a Godly but normal Christian woman the power and the role of the Holy Spirit?

I see the Holy Spirit all over the New Testament interceding and working for believers and caring for them and empowering them.

But I don’t see Mary’s name after the book of John.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Romans 8:26-27

The Spirit helps us in our weakness. The Spirit intercedes for the saints.

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.

Acts 13:2-4

The Spirit spoke and sent the Apostles to the Gentiles.

The Spirit.

God’s Word does not proclaim Mary an intercessor or an agent of spiritual power down through the ages. It just simply doesn’t. It describes her as a Godly woman favored and chosen by God for a monumentally special purpose. Nothing more, and certainly nothing less.

As Godly as she was, I sincerely doubt Mary would want us treating her as we might treat the Holy Spirit of God.

My bet is that this woman who believed the Word of God once delivered to her by Gabriel would desire us to believe it, too.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15

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Palm Sunday Thought


God the Father condemned Jesus for my sins.  

Jesus died to have me.  

Despite the fact that I was a sexual deviant, disobedient to my loving parents, nasty to friends and acquaintances, and a drunken revolver, the God who is Father and Son and Spirit authored a plan to adopt me.  The Gospel, like slow spun gold, was worked out to rescue people like me.   
I am undeserving.  But I am redeemed.  I will not be condemned on the last day.  I am worse than you can know, but every cent of my debt has been paid.  And now joy and hope should be like breathing for me, just as natural and just as constant.  

I have been taken in.  I have been ransomed.  I was an orphan and I now have a Father.   

The Cross was wrath for Jesus and rescue for me.  

I am unimaginably loved. 

And grateful for the church reminding me of it.

But what does it say?  ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ —that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.  For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.’  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for ‘Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

Romans 10:8-13

He Doesn’t Control Some Things

  
That’s right.  He controls all things.  

Is a trumpet blown in a city,and the people are not afraid?  Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it? 

Amos 3:6

Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?  Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?  Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins? 

Lamentations 3:37-39

For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

Acts 4:27-28

And this is very, very Good News.  

The greatest comfort I can give a child of God, and I can only give it to a child of God (meaning someone who has been adopted by God through faith in Jesus Christ), is that God is in total, absolute control of your pain.   And the reason why that’s comforting for the Christian is that God promises to work all things together for the good of His elect.  

This is a God whose hand predestined the worst sin in history for His people’s rescue.  

He does no evil, but neither is He perplexed or surprised by any evil.  And He will work all things together for His good purposes.  

From the other side of Christ’s return, there will not be one moment of history, from Eden’s tree to Calvary’s Cross to Hitler’s Holocaust to Hell’s shut doors, where Satan will be able to say, “Well, at least He didn’t get to work that one out for His purposes.”  When all is said and done, God’s glory and beauty and His people’s good will be pulled from every page of history, even the bloody and awful and scary ones.  And the greatest proof of that is Christ’s bloody and awful Cross.  

Some of you who are born again and in chaos or agony need to internalize this.  

What is frustrating to the unbelieving heart is peace to believing one:  There is no sovereign but God.  

I am telling you to pray to the God who will roll up the sky like a blanket, who set the Milky Way spinning as though it were a top, who fashioned all our souls from His own creative heart.  This is not a God who will win at the last second on a Hail Mary.  I am here to tell you there is a King in the Heavens.  A King.  God is not a powerful figure with good intentions who can only do so much.  This is the King of all creation, and He is taking audiences with all who will call upon Him in faith.  

There is nothing that befalls us that is not ordained by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 

Keep all your gods, America.  I have met the only One who can save a man like me.  

This God is in control.

Love and Hate


A Christian should have many loves, because the God He sees and knows as beautiful is the God who made this world.  And, like everybody, all of his hatreds flow from his loves.  But with the healthy  Christian, this principle works out for the benefit of the wider world.

The Christian whose heart is in rhythm with God’s hates lies because they obscure truth. He hates death because it assaults life.  He hates suffering and injustice and idolatry because he loves men and God.  He has holy hatreds.  They are like a good knight defending a sacred castle, or a good husband defending his beloved.

A person who is still living in the flesh will have things, maybe many things, that look like deep loves, but when they’re fully unraveled will be shallower than they might’ve been, because they had something other than the Father and Son and Spirit for their center.  And so when those loves are assaulted, the hatred that defends them is anxious or bitter or self-righteous or joyless.  It’s hollower than the full-throated hatred for death and Hell and false gods that the saint who’s in the grip of the Holy Spirit has.  His are hatreds that say, “Come, join me in fleeing the wrath to come!  God is good, and He will wipe every last scar and tear away!  Come meet Him!”  The carnal man’s hatreds say, “Away from my beloved thing!  I will fight you tooth and nail to protect it!  Because I know, see, deep down, how frail a god it is…”

A Christian should love the sunset and summer and marriage and Gospel songs because the God who spoke light and love and song into being is His adopted Father.  He loves them because he loves Him.  

His loves are deeper, his hatreds are holier, and his heart is open and hopeful.

And so he has a good message to give his neighbor.

Augustine:  Better Hopes

  
I want to share one of the most beautiful descriptions of a conversion I’ve ever read, from Augustine’s Confessions.  It’s his brief account of 2 young men who were born again while reading as visiting guests in the house of a Christian.  

16 centuries between us and these 2 guys.  But there’s a common thread, stretching across that time.  The same Spirit who could breathe eternal life into their sinful souls offers to regenerate us.  

Here’s to better hopes.  

Happy Monday!

He spoke these words, and in anguish during this birth of a new life, he turned his eyes upon those pages.  He read on and was changed within himself, where Your eye could see.  His mind was stripped of this world, as soon became apparent.  For as he read, and turned about on the waves of his heart, he raged at himself for a while, but then discerned better things and determined upon them.  Already belonging to You, he said to his friend, ‘I have broken away from our former hopes, and I have determined to serve God, and from this very hour and in this very place I make my start.  If it is too much for you to imitate me, do not oppose me.’  The other answered that he would join him as a comrade for so great a reward and in so great a service.  Both of them, being now Yours, began to build a tower at that due cost of leaving all that they had and following You.


  

Poisonous Root

  

I have known people who have chronic physical pain, at least one with intense back and hip problems, who still smile and generally speak to neighbors and family with warmth. I know at least two people who have vicious relatives they have to interact with weekly and yet who still treat the offending family member with grace and relative cheer. They help to support and care for people who insult them and condescend them and gossip about them, and they, by and large, still live out their lives and help these family members with a measure of joy and optimism. I know a person who has been through almost constant financial hardships for at least the last fifteen years, and who still talks to strangers at the grocery store and his family at holiday meals about how his life is good and how he’s grateful to the Lord for getting him through some (often very long) difficult times. I knew happy kids at a Christian orphanage in Haiti, a place where no one had jobs or plumbing, and where none of the kids had parents or what we would think of as a home.  

I know other people who start to remove joy from a room after a few sentences of conversation. Who view life as unfair (chiefly as it relates to them), and view themselves as having been subjected to a particularly, uniquely tragic existence.  People who are offended very easily and who forgive with great difficulty.  They overlook almost no wrong that is done to them, but their eyes somehow miss their own poisonous tongues and violent, heart-held grudges.  

What’s the difference between these two groups of people?  Why does the first set remain pleasant and hopeful through pain and the other become bitter or despairing?

Generally speaking, the answer doesn’t lie in the circumstances around them, but the kind of heart and attitude within them.   

Now, I am often in that second group.  I’m repenting of it and seeking Jesus’ grace for change in it, but I still often am.  But I’m blessed in that two of the people closest to me are in the first group, and as I’ve watched them go through every bit the pain I have (and if I’m honest, more), I’ve been forced to acknowledge that the roots of my bitterness and anger are my own sinful motivations and idolatries and sense of entitlement. 

The good part is that healing and forgiveness and change can happen when turning from my sin and believing in Jesus’ grace for me have occurred.  Repentance and faith can lead to the Holy Spirit’s changing the darkest, angriest parts of my heart.  

If you think you might be in that second group, I’ll exhort you with the same words I need to hear:  Resist the temptation to blame your circumstances for your sin.  Their may be legitimately difficult circumstances around you, you may truly be being harmed by others, but the heart is where sin comes from.  

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 

1 John 1:9-10

There is no forgiveness without repentance, and almost as tragic is that there is no change, either.  To continue to lay the blame for your anger, grudge holding, or gossip on the doorstep of your circumstances is chain yourself to that way of life indefinitely.  

Bitterness, like all sin, kills.  Kills relationships, kills the heart, and can even kill the body.  And of course, in the end, after eating your earthly life from the inside out, kills your soul by sending you to Hell.

But praise be to God that Jesus gives life.  Full-throated, self-spending, unimaginable life.  

By grace through faith in Him alone, Jesus can work back the poison of the bitter person’s heart.  Purer blood has never been bled, and it’s offered free of charge to every sinner who asks in faith.  

Trade death for life.  

It hurts, having that poison spilled from your veins, but a lot less than dying.  

Plus the good part lasts forever.  

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.

Hebrews 12:15

For 3:  How I Want to Decide

  

One good thing about this election cycle is that it has forced me to do some soul searching about why I vote a certain way, and even about why I speak or engage issues and public debates the way I do.  This year I honestly had to examine what my motives really are, and from that came the follow-up question:  “How How do I know what the most Christ-exalting angle to come at this public matter is?”

Christians from Tertullian to Augustine to Luther to Spurgeon have had to wrestle with how their devotion to the King of Kings should influence their possible commitments to issues in the still-sin-shaped public square.  King Jesus isn’t back yet, so how do I vote?  How do I take a side, or decide whether this is a case where I should take a side?  How do I spend my time and dollars in the city, state, and/or nation I live in, where Satan still has a measure of (God-ordained) control and people who don’t truly know Jesus all jostle around each other, each with their own interests (some horrible, some neutral, some morally positive)?  

Well, here is a simple rubric I landed on that I think is a faithful outworking of Scripture.  

So thanks, crazy 2016!

When I vote or endorse something in the public square, I want the 3 criteria by which I judge my approach to be:

  1. What will glorify Jesus Christ?
  2. What will honor His church?
  3. What will bless my neighbor?

*Note: “For 3” is a new format, joining “_____ Seconds On…” as a semi-regular series on this blog.

Let me know what you think! Feedback is always appreciated.