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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!

In March of 1998, I flew to Nashville in order to spend my birthday with Josh and Sarah Holthusen.  Sarah and I share a birthday, March 14th, so we figured it would be fun to celebrate together.

We went to dinner and then afterwards to a local bar called Douglas Corner where they were holding a writers night.  Four songwriters sat behind microphones in the middle of the bar trading songs all night.  It was fantastic.  Finally, the last song of the night was played and everybody clapped, folks were ready to head home, in fact about a third of the people already did.

But one of the songwriters, a young lady, asked if anybody in the crowd would like to hear another song.  We clapped.

Then she said “with that in mind, I would live to invite Mr. Jon Bon Jovi down from the bar and see if he would be willing to sing a song for us?”

Sarah, Josh and I looked at each other and then at the bar.

Sure enough, sitting at the bar, nursing a beer with a friend was none other than Jon Bon freaking Jovi.  He looked at his buddy and then stepped down from the bar and walked to the center of the bar, sat down and grabbed somebody’s acoustic guitar.

He fiddled around with it for a moment and then spoke into the microphone and said something like the following.

“When you are in the music business as long as I am, you can get pretty jaded…but hanging around Nashville has helped me…its been fun watching people who just love to play music.”

With that, he played Dead Or Alive and Living On A Prayer about ten feet from our table.

It was one helluva birthday present.

So today, I say Happy Birthday to Sarah on now our 37th birthday.

And to Jon Bon Jovi, if you ever need me to make an appearance on your birthday, just let me know.

 

P.S.  Sarah and Josh make beautiful children and beautiful music.  To visit their five fabulous boys, you need to go to Wichita, Kansas these days.  To visit their beautiful music you just have to go to their website.  http://www.sarahandjoshmusic.com/

 

Gestures – Sex and the Cross.

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!

Men vs Women

You’ve probably seen this picture all over the web so apologies to whoever posted it first, but its so good that I wanted to use it to.  Its a visual image of the difference between men and women.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or, as I heard a guy say it one time.  You know those movies where the safe cracker has the stethescope on his ears and he is listening to the internal workings of the safe while he tries to crack it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes they will show the internal tumblers inside the lock while he tries to find the combination.  And only when all of the different tumblers of the lock line up, only then will the safe open.  This guy used this image to explain how difficult it is to make women happy.

I laugh at both the picture above and the mental image offered by my friend because both are TRUE!

Women are complicated creatures.  Brain research seems to indicate that many different parts of the typical female brain are activity at the same time all the time.  This contrasts with the typical male brain which usually fires white hot in one area of the brain while many other areas are off.

And women have hormonal profiles which shift almost daily depending on where they are at in their cycles.  Men are pretty much always the same.

What does this mean?  Apparently that what makes women the incredible and fascinating creatures that they are also makes them a little…er….frustrating…for men, that is.

And so, things could be going well for a women in 9 different areas.  But if something is wrong in that 10th area, then she could well be affected by it.  Men on the other hand are overwhelmed that a human being can even think about ten different areas at the same time.  The thought is exhausting.

So what does it mean?

That trying to make a woman happy by figuring out how to make her happy in all ten areas at the same time is probably a losing proposition.  Men, give up that fight right now.  Because when pushed to really explain what a woman wants out of a man, most will probably not give you a listing of the ten things they want done at all times.  Instead, a woman will probably say something like “I just want a good man who is good and kind to me and helps me raise our children well.”  And so men, go focus on that.  Just be a good man.  Do your best in the other areas but know this, that some days, she just is thinking about so much and has so much on her plate that she isn’t going to be super duper happy exactly when you want her to be.  Instead, just be good to her and over time, that will make all the difference.

And women, here is the good news.  Its kind of like you are a professional basketball player and you’ve been invited to play in the little leagues on the eight foot rims.  Because making men happy?  Its EASY.  All you have to do is ONE thing.

I know what your thinking and I’m not going there.  Yes, somedays, for your man, it may be THAT ONE THING.  But certainly not always.  But at almost any time, its only one thing.  Just figure out what that is.  Then do that.  He’ll be Happy.  Guaranteed.

Simple, right?

So….don’t complicate it.

 

How Women Should Act

Ha!  Wouldn’t it be great to write a blog post all about how women need to act?  Wanted to grab your attention.  This post will be way less courageous than that, and hopefully a bit more nuanced.

My starting point for this post is the following.  That you are a woman who first and foremost desires  a life focused on Christ.   That second, you desire a husband who is primarily focused on a relationship with Christ and who can be a great leader for your marriage and your family.

And so the question is, what can you do to help your husband be the man that God is calling him to be?

You love your husband.  You want whats best for him, that’s what great lovers do.  They will the best for their beloved.  But you also believe that the more your husband is focused on Christ and doing God’s work in the world, the better marriage you will have and the better family you will have.  And so although you first and foremost want your husband in relationship with Christ for the good and joy of your husband, you know that the effect on you, your marriage, and your family will be profound.

And again, your question is, what can I do to help my husband?  What can I do to support him?  Or lets be more plain about it.  You think that right now, you are doing a pretty fair job of making God the center of your life…but your husband?  Not so much.  And you really want to know what you can do to change that situation.  Right?

Let’s imagine for a second that what your husband wanted more than anything in the world was the love and affection of his wife.  He dreams about having a wife who thinks the sun rises and sets with him.  You would point out that this is disordered.  That his ultimate goal shouldn’t be what may or may not please him.  Rather, the main goal of his life should be what may or may not please God.  And…you would be right.

However.

I think many women completely underestimate how incredibly inspiring and motivating the love and affection of a good woman can be….to a man.

I love the old Dr. Phil cliche.  “Do you want to be right? Or do you want to be effective?”  I’ll assume for a moment, that you Mrs. Woman, want to be effective.  And so for a moment I want you to put aside the following.   “he should know better”.  “he should want to do that all on his own”.  “if he is just going to Church/praying the rosary/spending time at Adoration etc… to get rewards from me, then he is doing it for the wrong reasons”

Let me suggest to you, that the only way you don’t want your husband to do these things is with bitterness and resentment.  And even then, I would argue that the transforming love and power of Christ can do its work.  I do think you  as the incredible woman you are can be effective at motivating your husband to do any or all of the above and do it in a spirit of love and appreciation.  And I would argue this, if your husband starts to pray, attend daily mass, spend time at adoration (and he does all of this from a starting point of thankfulness, eagenerness, and joy)…then watch out.  Christ will take hold of that man, wrestle him down to the ground, and re-name him for himself.  Your husband’s life will change forever.

Your husband will eventually begin to seek Christ out no longer for you…but for Christ.

So please don’t assume that your husband needs to start out wanting Christ in order to eventually want and desire Christ.

What would be so wrong with your husband starting out by doing these things to please you, to gain your love and admiration?

And so my proposal is the following.

Find out your husband’s love language.  There is a way that your husband desires to be loved by you that he has expressed to you many times throughout the course of your marriage.  What is it?  I don’t know…but if you don’t know by now, then you haven’t been paying attention.

Does your husband want a wife who throws her arms around him and tells him how awesome he is and how much she loves you?  Does doing that make you want to puke?  Well, get over it.  If that’s what he wants, then do it.  And especially do it in such a way that rewards or encourages him to pray, to center his life on Christ.  I don’t need to spell it out for you, you are smart so figure it out.

Or, maybe your husband loves when you keep a clean house (I couldn’t care less about this but maybe some guy in the world cares).  Or maybe your husband loves when you arrange to have time alone just you and him.  Or maybe your husband loves when you compliment him.  Or maybe your husband loves when you fix him awesome meals.  Or maybe your husband loves it when you (fill in the blank).

I don’t care what it is…but it…is something.  Figure it out.

Men might frustrate you.  And if that’s the case, I have no sympathy for you.  You women, are, compared to us men, brilliant.  Brain studies consistently show that women have all sorts of areas of their brain firing all the time while men in comparison look like pre-historic animals.  And what amazes me is how an entire group of people (women) who are so darn smart find it so difficult to understand the simplest creatures on earth (men).

All you have to do with men is find that one thing.  That one way in which they would love to be loved by you.  And then?  Go do it.  Do it with joy.  Do it with the knowledge that you are encouraging and rewarding your husband towards Christ.

Once Christ consistently gets his hooks into your husband, then…well, forget about it.

God Bless You

P.S.    Men are searching for God in much of what they do. Athletics, achievement, money etc… All of it, is in some way an aspiring towards something great that will give them some sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. At different stages of life, the above may provide some fulfillment. But ultimately, all of it…every last ounce of it…is shallow compared to God. 

Only in God, will Men find their true home and contentment. So guess what?  You as wives need to do a better job of encouraging the right kinds of behaviors.  Don’t encourage the race for monPey, for possessions, for power, for achievement.  Neither you nor your husband will be able to take any of that to Heaven with you.  And some of it can derail you from the path to Heaven.  Instead, carefully and thoughtfully encourage and reward your husband’s good behavior.  Reward and encourage him to be a great husband, a great father, a great follower of Christ.

 

 

 

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.