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Archive for the ‘Defending The Faith’ Category

Disclaimer.  You will get no spiritual enrichment from this post.  If anything, the time you spend reading this will amount to time that was wasted from your life.  And with that….

You know trash talk, that way of insulting each other on the playground, on the court, or on the field that professional athletes seem to have mastered with Reggie Miller and Kevin Garnet being the patrons of this group.

I think I know where it started.

The Book of Kings.

I’ve got two examples as evidence.

First example comes from 1 Kings 20.  The context, Ahab is King of Israel/Samaria , which since 922 B.C. has been the collection of the northern 10 tribes of Israel that split off from Judah and Benjamin in the South.  And Ahab is a seriously bad dude.  He married Jezebel, who is a crazy Baal worshipper and he essentially has no backbone when it comes to her as she walks all over Ahab, taking him away from Yahweh worship and towards the worhsip of Baal.

But apparently Ahab has a little backbone when it comes to Ben-hadad, the King of Aram.

At the moment, Assyria is the big boy on the block in the Middle East so Ben-hadad decides to pick a fight with someone he thinks he can actually beat, Ahab and Israel.  So, Ben-hadad sends a message to Ahab telling him that all his gold and silver belongs to Aram.  Ahab initially agrees.  But when Ben-hadad demands even more, Ahab finally refuses.  And Ben-hadad gets angry and sends the following message to Ahab.

May the gods do thus and so to me if there is enough dust in Samaria to make handfuls for all my followers.  Translation?  I’m gonna kick your butt and run all over your sorry excuse for a kingdom.

But Ahab responds with the only thing redeamable about this otherwise bad and pathetic man.

Ahab gives us a good line.  A good trash talking line.  Here it is, from 1 Kings 20:11

“The King of Israel replied, “Tell him, ‘it is not for the man who is buckling his armor to boast as though he were taking if off.”

Bad job Ahab for being a petty murderous tyrant.  Good job for giving us a good line.  Its not quite “That’s bold talk for a one eyed fat man” Ned Pepper to Rooster Cogburn good, but its still pretty good, right?

It may not sound super current for 2012, but that’s what will make it so awesome when you use this line next time the opportunity arises.   Like lets say the next time you happen to be in the middle of a bar room brawl.  Some guy is talking about how much tougher he is than you as he breaks a beer bottle open so he can shank you.  (Happens all the time right?)  Then you just look this coward right in the eye  “it is not for the man who is buckling his armor to boast as though he were taking it off.”  You’ll not only diffuse the situation with this brilliant line, the guy will probably buy you a drink when your done.

Okay, ready for the next example?

Bueller.  Bueller.

It comes from 2 Kings 1.  The context is this.  That scumbag of a king Ahab has died and his equally crappy son Ahaziah has taken the throne of Israel.  He does evil just like mom and dad and is a committed Baal Worshipper.  Anyways, after he takes the throne, Moab sees an opportunity to rebel against the new king…so Ahaziah is already tense.  And then one night, he falls through the roof of his terrace in Samaria and injures himself.

He is in bad shape and looks to the gods for some help.  And no, he doesn’t go to Yahweh for help, I mean why ask the God of the Universe for help.  Instead he asks his messenger to “Go and inquire of Baalzebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this injury.”

This time, the trash talking is happening from the writer of the story.

The joke is that Ahaziah would have never called the god Baal by the term Baalzebub, rather he would have called him by the name Baalzebul.   Baalzebul was a term of honor and respect, it meant “Prince Baal” kind of like our Lord God appellation.

BUT.  When you make a little change and turn Baalzebul into Baalzebub…it no longer means “Prince Baal” it means “Baal of flies”.

While Ahaziah is trying to get advice from the god Baal, the author of the story keeps referring to this god Baal as “Baal of the flies”.

HA!  HA HA!  HA!

In the ancient world, the contest was always about who or what god was the toughest, the baddest, the strongest.  Part of that came from what was your god the god of.

Israel made the awesome claim that their God, Yahweh, was the God of EVERYTHING.

And Ahaziah, this unfaithful Baal worshipping King of Israel, he kept crawling to his god Baal for his needs and desires.

And what was Baal the god of?

According to 2 Kings 1, Ahaziah’s god was only…..”god of the flies”.

Who you gonna choose?   God of everything…….or…….god of the flies?

 

Again, I apologize for the last several minutes and no you will never get it back but I do have a little, teeny, god of the flies puny, sort of a point.

And its this.

There are all sorts of reasons to read the Bible.  Most of them are really spiritual and good and important.

But what’s wrong with occasionally picking up the Bible for another reason?  Because its full of great stories, interesting characters, and good cheesy lines?

God, Yahweh, Holy Trinity,  the God of Everything, is strong enough and smart enough and cool enough that He can bring you in your door and take you out through His.

God Bless and Good Reading!

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God made three promises to Abraham.

1) Many Descendants (Abraham’s name would be great!)

2) Land (Abraham’s people would constitute a great nation)

3) Universal Blessing (that the whole world would find blessing through Abraham and his descendants.

God gave Abraham the land and finally gave Abraham and Sara a son, named Isaac.  But when Isaac was a young boy, God asked Abraham to do something unthinkable.

God asked Abraham to give this Son Isaac back to God as a sacrifice.

So Abraham and Isaac went to the land of Moriah, an area right next to the ancient town of Salem (where the priest king Melchizedek had come from).

Abraham took the wood kindling that he would use to burn the sacrifice and placed it on Isaac’s shoulders.  Then the two began walking up Mount Moriah.  At some point Isaac knew something was amiss and asked his father where they would find a lamb or ram for the sacrifice.  And Abraham, I am sure with a heavy heart, told his son, his only son, that God would provide.

And so they made it to the top of Mount Moriah, and Abraham strapped his son Isaac, down and raised a knife.  But then God stopped him.  God told him that God now really knew that Abraham’s  love and faith were true.  That God would not require such a sacrifice from Abraham.

Abraham and Isaac turned and saw a ram caught in a thicket and they used that ram for the sacrifice that day.  God really did provide and so Abraham named that place, Jireh, or “God Will Provide/God provides”.

Eight hundred years later, King David wanted to build a special house for God and his Ark.  David was tired of seeing the Ark travel in a tent/tabernacle all of these years and wanted the Lord to have a proper House.  But God told David that no, it would be up to David’s son to build God a proper home (The Temple) but to David, God would make a promise.  That a descendant of David, a Son of David, would always be on the throne of  Judah and that God would make David’s House firm forever.

But something seemed incredibly wrong with this promise when in 587 B.C Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians destroyed the Temple and much of Jerusalem and exiled the King and most important Jews to Babylon and other lands.  The Line of David had ended and there was no longer a Son of David on the throne.

This led people to rethink what God had meant by his promise.  And even though Jews returned later that century to rebuild Judah, Jerusalem and their Temple, as a people, they would be ruled by the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans until the time of Jesus.  And so what had God meant by his promise to David?

Maybe, some thought, God had meant that at some point, God would send to the people a Special Son of David.  Since all Kings of Judah were Messiahs (or annointed ones), maybe God would send the people a special Messiah, a special annointed one.  Maybe God never intended the reign of the House of David to be unninterrupted…maybe God intended to one day send this special Messiah…and that Messiah would vanquish Israel’s enemies and bring  a permanent and everlasting peace?

And so many in the people of Israel waited for this Special Messiah.

Around 27 A.D., a man named Jesus of Nazareth heard that his friend and cousin, a John the Baptist, had been arrested.  Jesus knew it was time to begin his public ministry.

He went out into the county and declared.  “The Time is Fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the Good News.”

The time is fulfilled can mean several things.  But I would ask you to go back and look to God’s three promises to Abraham.  God gave Israel the land and its descendants but what about the third promise, what of a Universal Blessing?

Blesssings were so important to Fathers and Sons.  A Father would give his son his Blessing and along with it, usually a gift, or the son’s share in his inheritance.  And what could possibly be the most precious gift that God could give to his people, his children, his sons?

The Gift of Eternal Life, of course.

But what had gotten in the way of humans receiving the gift of eternal life?  Simple.  God, a perfect God, demands by virtue of his Nature, perfect love in response.  And absence Perfect Love, when a human dies, they are separated from God eternally.

And so this man Jesus came.  He really was a man, really was a Human.  And he proceeded through his life and his ministry to do something that WE could NEVER do.  He Loved God PERFECTLY.

Then one day, Jesus was about to enter Jerusalem.  He noticed the people were waving palm branches at him and shouting Hosanna (SAVE US).  And he saw what they were expecting.  The people were awaiting the Special Messiah, the Son of David, the one they thought would come and Vanquish the Romans and establish a permanent Israel of Peace.

And he knew that he was there to give them a different kind of Messiah.  He jumped on a donkey and road into town.  They expected a Big Stallion riding, sword bearing, looks like King David, Warrior Messiah.  Instead, he gave them something completely different.  He gave them a Donkey Riding Messiah.

The night before he was to Die, Jesus ate a meal with his followers and he gave them a gift.  He gave them the bread and the wine, which he said were now his body and his blood.  He said to Do this in Memory of Me.  In other words, every time they would do this Meal, they would get to have the gift of Jesus again.

And the next day?

A large hunk of wood was placed upon his soldiers.  It was the wood of his sacrifice.  And he started to walk…up a hill.  Where?

In Jerusalem.

1800 years earlier, Isaac had walked up a hill that his father Abraham would name Jireh.  And as that place Jireh had grown together with the neighboring town of Salem, the entire area became known as…..

Jireh – Salem

or

Jerusalem.

And so, Jesus took the same walk that Isaac had taken so many years before.

You see, God was not going to require that Abraham sacrifice his son, his only son that day many years before…because God knew that he would reserve that for himself.  That God, many years later would be the one “to provide” the lamb for the sacrifice.  And that the lamb would be God’s only Son.  The Special Descendant of David who would be sent by God in order to bring the Universal Blessing that God had promised to Abraham so many years before.

God was giving the people the greatest gift he had to offer.  He was giving them the gift of his Son Jesus to the people.  And through Jesus, the people would gain Eternal Life.

You see, Jesus Loved God perfectly, even until death, even until death on the Cross.

And so now, in order for people to gain Eternal Life, all they have to do is follow Jesus, a real person, one that you can be in relationship with without being perfect.

So, you don’t have to Love Jesus perfectly (That is Very Good News if you are a sinner like Me), but you do have to Repent.

Repent, never stop repenting.  Fall down, yes, but always get back up.  Like Jesus did, when the wood of his sacrifice kept bearing down on him on his way up that hill in the Land of Moriah, Jireh-Salem.

So, Jesus, by Loving God perfectly and then inviting us to Follow Him…has Really Saved us, by offering the Father’s Blessing to all of us, the Gift of Eternal Life.

But he did so in way that also shows us something.  He shows us how much he Loves us.  His death on the Cross, was the death of a Real Man.  Who was brutalized and felt agonizing pain.  To the people who might be tempted to cry, “Well of course Jesus could love God perfectly…for He Was God”…to those people, God invites us to look to the Wood of the Cross.

Just like Abraham, God had an only Son, and I am sure it agonized Him to watch his Son Jesus go through that.  You see, Jesus was a Real Man, and he carried the wood of his Cross and was sacrificed on the Wood of the Cross as a Real Man.  We look at the Cross, and see His Loving Sacrifice and realize just how much He did love us.

So go….pick up the wood of your cross.  When you fall down…get up.

Repent and Believe In the Good News!

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My wife Teresa and I get the opportunity to go out and talk to different folks about Marriage and particularly about NFP and Contraception.

Over the years, we have figured out something.  If you believe that the Magisterial Church (Pope, Bishops, Clergy) are generally there to help you achieve true freedom and joy in this life and the next, then you are liable to believe what the Church has to say about something like Contraception.

If however, you don’t trust the Magisterial Church.  If you think that the Church is a bunch of men who are trying to constrict your freedom, to hold you back and punish and scare you, then you are not likely to believe in the Church’s teaching on Contraception.

There will be exceptions to the above rules, but I think they probably hold.

And so here is the Church’s official teaching as written on Catholic Answers website at http://www.catholic.com.

This was reiterated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “[E]very action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible is intrinsically evil” (CCC 2370). “Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means . . . for example, direct sterilization or contraception” (CCC 2399). 

The Church also has affirmed that the illicitness of contraception is an infallible doctrine: “The Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception, that is, of every marital act intentionally rendered unfruitful. This teaching is to be held as definitive and irreformable. Contraception is gravely opposed to marital chastity, it is contrary to the good of the transmission of life (the procreative.aspect of matrimony), and to the reciprocal self-giving of the spouses (the unitive.aspect of matrimony); it harms true love and denies the sovereign role of God in the transmission of human life” (Vademecum for Confessors 2:4, Feb. 12, 1997). 

This is for many people, not an easy teaching.  Not easy to live out and not easy to understand.  For many people, they hear that in every sexual act, the married couple need to be open to the unitive and the procreative aspects of the sexual act.  And for some reason or another, that just doesn’t convince lots of folks who already approach the issue out of skepticism towards the Church.

Or put another way.  I hit John and John Bleeds.  Hitting John is Bad.  Don’t Hit John.  This is a very easy teaching for folks to understand.  It just feels right.  But the church’s teaching on why Contraception is wrong and what must be present during every act of Marital Intercourse, is different.  Its more challenging to understand.

But after years of talking to people about this issue, many of whom are resistant to accept the Church’s teaching, Teresa and I have decided to talk about this issue in slightly different way.

Human sexual intercourse is different than all other creaturely reproduction in the following matter.  In all creaturely intercourse, there is the possibility that an actual life may be brought into existence.  But only in Human intercourse is there the possibility that a very different kind of life may be brought into existence.  A life that is meant to live forever.

When Human reproduction is successful and an egg unites with a sperm at that very moment, God reaches down from Heaven and creates an eternal soul which God then miraculously unites with the newly formed Human Being.

God joins Human Beings in the creation of new life, and it is life that is eternal.

In all of the Universe, there is only one area where God reaches into the reproduction of His creatures, and then joins them in their Creative work.

And so, in a fundamentally and utterly unique way, God makes Human Sexual Reproduction His Own Work.  The Work of God.

When Abram was truly altered by His Faith in God and had truly become a different Human Being, God renamed him Abraham.  Meaning?  He was now God’s.

When Jacob came to the end of his long conversion process to face his brother Esau whom he had wronged so many years before, he spent the night wrestling an Angel.  By the morning, it was clear that Jacob was no longer the same person.  He was changed.  He was now God’s.  And so the angel renamed him Israel.

And when Saul of Taursas was blinded by the experience of the Resurrected Jesus on the Road to Damsascus, he was forever changed.  He was now God’s and so he was renamed, he was named Paul.

God reaches down into the dirt and muck of the world and decides to join in an activity that is about as nitty and gritty as they come.  Human Sexual Reproduction.  And God absolutely transforms sex.  God makes Human Sex His.  In all the Universe, there is creaturely sex and then…there is Human Sex.  Its different.  Human sex is the work of God.

And simply put, we are called to have profound respect for this Mighty Work of God.  By respecting that in every act of Human Sex, we respect both the Unitive and Procreative aspects of the Act.

You have profound respect for your Grandmother, don’t you?  You act a certain way around her don’t you.  How about God?  How about the work of God?  Human Sex is God’s very special work.  Human Sex demands your Respect.

NFP respects this Great Work of God and works cooperatively with it.  The Way God designed sex, there are some times when it is less likely to get pregnant than others.  If you are trying to avoid a pregnancy and choose to use one of these time periods to have sex when you are less likely to get pregnant, that still respects the great work of God.

But, when you, through artificial means, seek to prohibit any chance of the Sexual act ending in a child, then you disrespect this great work of God.

Ultimately, Human Sex is a mighty Gift from God to us.  In fact, its such an awesome gift, that I would be totally okay if my wife wanted to enjoy this gift way, way more often. (But I’m not pressing my luck on this)

Instead of doing what our culture does, which is to bring Sex down, to make sex more casual and make it no big deal and make it less….God intended Human Sex to be Super Awesome (fancy theological term).  An image of his own divine love and a participation with God in the mighty work of creating an eternal being out of nothing but love.

So go out and treat Human Sex with the great Respect it Deserves.

Remember, it Belongs To God.

P.S.  Knowing and even Believing the Truth is Different than Living it Out.  I have committed my fair share of sins.  I think we all have.  This isn’t about condemnation.  Its about starting from where we are at, right now, and getting better with the Grace of God.  Jesus may talk about perfection once or twice, but he talks about forgiveness a lot more.  Thank God for That!

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My wife and I don’t think that Catholic schools should share the most intimate details of sexual activity with primary grade school children.  We believe that should be left to parents.  Parents know their children best and are in the best position to figure out at what age and in what way this most sensitive material should be shared with children.

I believe strongly that children have an innocence.  And its an innocence that should be protected as long as is possible and parents, not school authorities are in the best position to make that judgement for individual children.

Now, my wife  and I may be wrong. 

However, when we looked to Church documents for guidance on the matter, our gut feeling on the matter seemed to be confirmed.  The documents we looked at certainly suggest that Church and Church schools have a role in properly forming children in the virtues concerning the arena of sex but the documents also consistently point out that parents are the first and primary teachers of children and that the most sensitive information regarding sex should be reserved for parents to teach to their children at the time and in the manner that they parents think is best.

I think that overall the whole culture, both secular and religious, has too easily believed the argument that as much information delivered as early as possible is automatically a good thing for young people, especially in the area of sex.  I disagree.  Completely. 

Anyways, some parents were telling us about a school a few years ago where sex education was taught to fifth graders.  Some parents had complained about the program but the program persisted.  Anyways, a young priest came by at some point to talk to the children.  And somewhere along the line, the priest brought up the fact that there was no such thing as Santa Claus.  That at one time the children probably believed in such a thing but in point of fact there was no such thing as Santa.  (I don’t know why exactly he made this point only that he did).

The backlash against the school and the priest was apparently fierce.  Apparently, some of the fifth grade children still believed in Santa Claus and there were several parents who were outraged that the school would have the nerve to decided that these particular children needed to hear the truth about Santa Claus.  These parents apparently thought that it should be up to the parents to decide at what age and in what way they would tell their children the truth about Santa Claus.  The school assured these parents that this unfortunate incident with Santa Claus would not happen again.

Oh, did I mention that this priest told them about Santa Claus within the sex education class?

And the parents were outraged that the school had the nerve to tell their children the truth about a jolly, bearded fellow who slides down chimneys and rides flying deer around the world in one night.

I think this counts as Ironic.

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The following link takes you to a talk I recently have on the First Creation Story from Genesis Chapter 1.

The First Creation Story – Genesis Chapter 1

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The following link takes you to a talk that I recently gave on the Second Story of Creation from Genesis Chapter 2.

Second Creation Story

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  • 1800-1600 B.C.E  :  Abraham, Isaac, Jacob
  • 1280 :  Moses and the Exodus
  • 1250-1200 :  Entrance into the Land
  • 1200 – 1020 :  The Judges
  • 1020 – 1000: King Saul
  • 1000 – 961 : King David
  • 961 – 922:  King Solomon (First Temple is Built)
  • 922 : Israel Splits and Northern Kingdom of Israel is established under King Jeroboam
  • 722 : Kingdom of Israel falls to Assyrian Empire
  • 715-687:  Hezekiah (good)
  • 687-642: Manasseh (bad)
  • 640-609:  Josiah (good – finds book of the Law)
  • 605: Babylonia takes over Israel
  • 597: Prominent citizens exiled to Babylon
  • 587: Jerusalem and the Temple are destroyed
  • 582: Another deportation of citizens
  • 539: Persian King Cyrus conquers Babylonians and allows exiles to return to their homeland
  • 520-515: Second Temple Built
  • 445: Nehemiah comes to Judah as governor
  • 458,428, or 398: Ezra comes to Judah with Torah
  • 333:  Alexander the Great’s first important victory over the Persians
  • After Alexander’s death, empire split between Ptolemies and Seleucids
  • 300-200:  Ptolemaic control of Judah
  • 200:  Seleucids take Judah from Ptolemies
  • 175:  Antiochus IV ascends Seleucid throne and Hellenistic reform begins in Jerusalem (Antiochus Ephiphanes)
  • 167: Antiouchus Epiphanes begins persecution of Jews – Maccabean Revolt begins
  • 164: Antiochus dies and Maccabees take Jersualemt and the temple and rededicate it
  • 165-161: Judah Maccabee
  • 134-104: John Hyrcanus I (conquers the Idumeans south of Judah, has the men forcibly circumcised)
  • 63-40:  Hyrcanus II (high priest but not King)
  • 63: Roman general Pompey takes over Judah (One of Pompey’s soldiers is an Idumean named Antipater)
  • 40:  Antipater’s son, Herod, becomes King of Israel
  • 6 – 4 B.C.E – Jesus is born
  • 4 B.C.E – Herod the Great dies (kingdom divided among sons Archelaus, Herod Antipas, and Phillip
  • 6 C.E – Archelaus thrown out; Romans replace him with a full time Governor
  • 27 C.E – Jesus Dies
  • 70 C.E. – Second Temple destroyed by Rome, Jerusalem burned

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