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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Your Life As A House


I was thinking this morning during a conversation with my wife.  That happens a lot on Saturday mornings, because we both drink coffee and the kids quiet down as we drive around our side of town and sight see.  The thoughts were about people we know who claim to be Christians, and think they are going to Heaven, but who I doubt very much ever talk about, think about, pray to, delight in, or want to obey Jesus.  

I don’t know if such people have ever been taught what Christianity really is.   

Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.  Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.  For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?  Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build and was not able to finish.  Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?  And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.  So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.’

Luke 14:25-33

Christianity must, by definition, change and even govern a man’s life.  

Let’s try a mental exercise.  

Picture your life as a house.  

Doesn’t matter what kind of a house.  Bungalow, cape cod, ranch, I don’t care.  Throw a swimming pool in the back if you want.  But picture your life, all of it, as a house right now for me.  

Got it in your mind?  Okay.  

Now, ask yourself, if you are a Christian:  What is your Christianity in that house?  

And be honest.  I can’t hear your answer.  And just as good for me is the fact that you can’t hear mine.  

Is it a trophy on a shelf, sitting there decorating the place and making it slightly more presentable?  

Or is it a lovely picture on the living room wall, commemorating a happy time, but a silent picture, not having any voice at the dinner table or any sway in the discussions of the household budget?  

Is your Christianity the front porch, laced with Christmas lights so that passersby admire and point and even envy what your house must be like on the inside?  

Or is it a bookshelf, filled with knowledge and ideas, kind of the brain center of your house, but not exactly the place you go to when you’re desperate and scared or to celebrate a happy occasion?   

Or maybe it’s the security system, set up around your house to keep you safe from what scary, unknown things might be out there in the world.  But definitely not something you really have to think about daily or interact with or, you know, enjoy.  

Maybe it’s a whole room in your house, a room with a sign over the door that says “My Christian Faith,” and you go in that room every day.  I mean every day.  The hinges on the door need to be replaced because of the sum total of times you go in and out of there to be a Christian for a few minutes or even a few hours.   

What is Christianity in this house that is your life (tucked away in the cul-de-sac at the end of Metaphor Avenue)?

Christianity, true Christianity, demands to be the house itself and the souls inside of it.  It permeates everything that takes place inside that home.  It is not just the same color paint that’s on every room’s walls, it is the foundation and the walls themselves and the plot of land, it is everything that encompasses the living going on inside that address.  It never stops being the very atmosphere in which all the decisions are made, the loving is done, the fights are had, the sins are committed and repented of, the joys are laughed over, the deaths are mourned, the television shows are watched, the lessons are learned, and the prayers are prayed.  Christianity is not a part of a man’s life.  It is his life.  Everything else occurs within it.  

Tonight I will watch some TV with my wife. We’ll take the kids to the grocery store.  We’ll worship as a family.  I’ll sin in anger or fear at some point.  Each of the kids will sin at some point.  I’ll read some Bible.  I’ll pray.  I’ll sin again.  

All of these things are done within my being a disciple of Jesus.  This whole life He’s purchased for me is under His Lordship, His providence, and His love.  I feed my soul healthy food when I think of my life as being totally enveloped by Christ, because that is the beautiful truth.  

That is what being a Christian is.  It is to have a new life, one different from the old, one that He built, then bought, and then paid for.   

It is His.  All of it.  

This life I live has no mortgage.  But it’s His name on the deed.  

30 Seconds On the Kingdom


And he said to them, ‘Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.’ And he said to them, ‘Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.’ And he said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.’ And he said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.’ With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything

Mark 4:21-34

Let the Word examine your heart, here, and bring you to repentance if you need be.  And show you what to repent of.  What’s your attitude about the Kingdom?  When you see lost people doing what lost people do, how does your heart respond?  When you see the church, with all her imperfections and all her beauties, what is your first reaction?  Does your heart beat in time with Jesus’?  Do you want to see the Kingdom grow out and grow up?  Do you love the lost enough to suffer for them and enough to serve her?

Pray for laborers, He said.  “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

May I be on both ends of that prayer:  The one who asks and the answer to it.  

To the Lost and Abused


You are not forgotten. 

You are not irrelevant.  

This world of sin and sinners is often a place where young girls are sexually abused.  Where little boys are ignored by their fathers or beaten by their fists.  Where the small or disadvantaged are trampled by the anger or selfishness of warped men with warped hearts.  

Creation groans under sin.  

And Satan delights in it.  

He hates truth, hates Jesus, and loves pain.  

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.  He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?

Genesis 3:5

And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years.  She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself.  When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, ‘Woman, you are freed from your disability.’  And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.  But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, ‘There are six days in which work ought to be done.  Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.’  Then the Lord answered him, ‘You hypocrites!  Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it?  And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?’  As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him. 

Like 13:11-17

This is a world where Satan often whispers a violent and treasonous song over the most helpless of people, and then dances to their fear and their pain and their bewilderment.  And it is a world where others join his twisted song.  

But it is not his world.  

Hear me.  

Let Hell and death and sin clamor for your soul.  Let them.  But their loudest ragings will not prevail if you will despair of all other hopes and instead call out to Jesus, like a lost and helpless child.  

Let your anxieties and all your most jagged memories creep up on you like old ghosts with sharp teeth.  They will not get to claim you if you are ransomed by the King of Kings.  

Let pain be pain and fear be fear.  Neither will have the last word if you will believe in Jesus.  

I know you have been wounded to the bone.  

You don’t trust people.  You don’t trust God. And you don’t trust “the world,” by which you probably mean people and God.  

You have heard that God is different from the one who abused you, but you don’t believe it.  

Believe.  

The one who violated you?  I know he used you.  But this is a God who was obliterated to bless people just like you.  

He lied to you.  But this is a God who speaks only truth; He can do no other.  

He promised to change, to be better, only to hurt you time and time and time and time again.  But this is a God who endured Hell and shame and death and agony to keep His promises. 

This God is different from the one who hated and harmed you.  Unimaginably different.  This Jesus will never leave, never forsake, never forget you.  He would rather die than lose those He claims, and the Cross stands as a vertical proof of it.  This is a Lord with a heart for the lowly and the bruised, and who breaks all the violent who refuse to repent. 

You have suffered.  

So has He.  

And at the place your suffering and His meet, namely your faith, a new song starts.  One that sin and death and Satan hate to the core.  

And one that is no whisper, no lie, and that never, ever ends.  

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 

1 Peter 5:8-9

A Father Story


A man had a son, whom he loved and raised. Everything a dad should be to a boy, this man was. He taught him right from wrong, he provided for his needs, and he always had the boy’s best interests at heart. But through no fault of this father’s, as the boy became a teenager the outworkings of his heart became worse and worse. He spoke insults to his father, was constantly violent at school, and lied to and stole from friends, neighbors, and family.

The boy didn’t care about the long, long hours his father worked to provide for him. It meant nothing to him that his dad treasured him and thought about him often during the day and wanted only good things for him. He was thoroughly self-absorbed, and he wanted nothing but an easy life of pleasure for himself.

At about the age of 18, the boy was able to put together a scheme to steal all the money from his father’s savings account. He was a lech, but he was cunning. So he cleaned the account of his dad’s life’s savings, several hundred thousand dollars the good old man had planned to leave to the boy and his extended family and the church someday. The son laughed with a buddy as he bought a new car he planned to drive to the coast, never looking back.

The father was shattered when he discovered what his son had done, not because of the money he’d lost, but the boy. He was forced to sell his house and buy a much smaller condo, but he continued to work and be the man he’d always been, though always while looking for his son. Hours spent on calling known friends, searching his name on the internet, and sending pleading messages to the boy’s e-mail. There was never any answer, never any response, until 5 years later, when the father got a letter.

It was a message from one of his son’s friends. The boy had pulled off another online theft, stealing $100,000 from a financial group in the town where he’d settled. The group was suing him, and the boy was facing a felony and decades in jail since he couldn’t make restitution. His friend felt obliged to let the father know, but sadly he told the old man that the son had not changed and that he showed no remorse.

It was three weeks later when this father came into a court appearance, his son shocked when he saw his face. The old man offered the judge and the plaintiffs $100,000 in full, and asked if the charges might be dismissed and the boy released to him. The parties agreed, but the judge asked him where the money had come from, and when the man explained that he had sold his condo and then come as quickly as he could, the judge, knowing what kind of young man this was, asked why.

The father was unashamed in his answer: “Because I’m his Dad. And he’s my son. I know he doesn’t deserve it. I know it better than anybody. I’m not paying because he does. I’m paying because he is mine, and I love him.”

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:1-9

Praise be to God for not sparing the Son in saving wretches and thieves like me.

4 Thoughts On God and Race

The Holy Spirit spoke through His Word at Velocity Church in the Cincinnati neighborhood of Price Hill today.  Pastor Steve Staton expounded Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 to a gathered group of people who were probably 50/50 black/white.  

And I wrote down a few thoughts.

  • The Gospel of forgiveness for terrible  people through the bloody Cross of Jesus Christ has something to say to every uncomfortable and sin-stained conflict our culture could bubble up.  And in the race-based conflicts that have sprung up in 2016, it does particularly in (at least) this way:  The Gospel produces empathy.    If you do not care about someone else’s pain, whether you end up determining it is wholly justified, partially justified, or unjustified, you are not fully grasping what Jesus did when He forsook His throne to rescue you from your self-inflicted pain and spiritual suicide.  
  • The people of Jesus should lead the way in racial reconciliation, because they have a key ingredient the people of the world lack:  Peace with God.  And true peace with your fellow man flows from peace with your Maker. 
  • Satan loves hate and hates love.  He would have you start by loving your friends and hating your enemies and deteriorate into hating your friends, your enemies, and your God. But in Luke 10, where he was successful in sowing discord between two ethnic Jews and another ethnic Jew, he ran into a brick wall with the heart of an ethnic Samaritan.  This God-changed man of faith spent his cash and his time rescuing a busted and bloody stranger of a different race, having no idea of how the man got to the side of road unconscious.  But of course he knew full well what God has done for him, and so he knew (from the heart) what he was compelled to do for others.  
  • It is a testament to the glory of the beautiful triune God that Heaven’s songs will be sung by every tribe, tongue, and nation.  

45 Seconds On Belief

  
Everyone is living out some system of belief.  The question simply comes down to which one.  Are you living out the belief system that this world and what it has to offer are the best or only prize?  Or do your steps, which always speak better than words about what a person really believes, prove you think God will owe you for your good deeds?  Or is your life a working out of your belief that you are a failure, a mistake, or a reject?

Is your fundamental faith in the worthiness of worldly pleasure, in merit, in your own inadequacies?

Or is it in the mercy of Jesus?

Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

Luke 18:10-14

The Christian has been given the gift of trusting God’s disposition of kindness towards Him.  He can know he is owed nothing and will inherit everything.  He humbly pleads only the mercy of God, and he expects it, but only on faith.  

He believes that he is a sinner and that the God of Jesus Christ is merciful.  And with those two weapons he is armed against pride and fear.  

We are all treading out the path of some belief system.  It’s just a matter of what it is.  

One that ends in truth and life, or one that ends in deceit and despair.