If you are looking for my blog titled, The Contemplative Catholic Convert, you are at the right spot.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Verifying St. Paul

Here is a factoid you might find interesting.

We find in Acts 17 the apostle Paul is run out of town after he preached to the folks there in Thessalonica. His next stop was a town called Berea. You’ll find the story in verse 1-11.

What happened in there caught my attention. When the Bereans heard Paul’s preaching, they opened their scrolls to verify what he told them was true.

Think about this a moment. Here was the great and saintly apostle – the same guy who ended up writing virtually half of the New Testament – yet the Bereans didn’t simply accept Paul’s words without first doing their homework. They checked out for themselves what Paul taught them, ‘examining the scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (verse 11).

Application time: If the Bereans – whom the author of Acts identified as “more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica” – if the Bereans felt it prudent to authenticate what the great St. Paul taught them, how ought we behave when we hear or read what others tell us – whoever it is who tells us – about Christ and the gospel message?

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Only an Allegory?

I’ve read and heard from many Christians that the Bible is full of stories and myths. Adam and Eve are only one example. And so I thought of that accusation in light of what the apostles clearly believed.

Only An Allegory?

See to it that no one captivate you with an empty, seductive philosophy according to human tradition, according to the elemental powers of the world and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells the whole fullness of the deity bodily (Colossians 2:8-9).

If Adam and Eve were not real people

rooted in history,

If they are simply a story to illustrate

humanity’s turn from God,

Then for whom did God kill the animal

to cover their sin with blood,

and their bodies with clothing*

which foreshadowed the Lamb of God,

whose blood on a cross

would cover our sins?

If Adam and Eve are only a fable,

Then from whom do we inherit original sin?

And what could St. Paul have meant when he wrote:

“For just as in Adam all die,

so too in Christ shall all be brought to life?**

If our first parents were simply an allegory,

Then what could the Apostle have meant when he wrote:

“Through one person sin entered the world,

and through sin death,”*** ?

If Adam and Eve are not historic individuals,

can we be certain Jesus’ resurrection is not also an allegory,  

a fable to illustrate life’s triumph over death?

Can we be sure the changing of bread and wine during Mass

into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ

is not also an allegory to illustrate God's presence with us?

Yet perhaps more germane than all these questions

is the question:

If Adam and Eve did not exist as

special and unique creations of God,

then perhaps He who is called “God”

is also not really historical –

 but only an allegory.

*Genesis 3:21

** 1 Corinthians 15:22

*** Romans 5:12

Saturday, October 3, 2015

In My Place

My wife, Nancy, created this work of religious art many years ago. It hangs in my office where I spend time each morning with Jesus. I often stare at it, musing on the crucifix and the blood; and how it reminds me, “I am redeemed.”

Redeemed. Purchased. Saved from eternity in hell, a hell I so richly deserve because of my many sins.

Nearly every time I meditate on that image, the Holy Spirit reminds me of what He said through St. Paul: [God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (Corinthians 5:21)

Or, through the prophet Isaiah: But he was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity. He bore the punishment that makes us whole, by his wounds we were healed. (Isaiah 53:5)

One of the hymns my wife and I used to sing was written my hymnist Gordon Jensen. Here’s the chorus of “I Should Have Been Crucified”:

I should have been crucified;
I should have suffered and died.
I should have hung on that cross in disgrace,
But Jesus God’s son took my place.

As I stared this morning at my wife’s bloodied art, those lyrics dropped into my thoughts. The blood trailing from the crucifix reminded me once again that, yes, it was I who deserved to be crucified. It was I who should have suffered and died. But God loved Richard Maffeo so much that He gave His only begotten Son to die in disgrace on that cross, to die in my place.

In my place.

In my place He was pierced for the sins I committed and commit again and again. The punishment I richly deserve fell instead on His hands, and feet, and forehead, and back, and side.

In my place He became sin – my sin – so that through God’s matchless grace, and my faith in Christ’s atonement for me, God declares me forgiven.

When I look at the art piece Nancy created, I see God’s love for me inscribed all over it. And if you look closely, you will see God’s love also inscribed for you.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Just Call Out His Name

I wrote this nearly two years ago. It is still true.


Decades ago Carole King penned these lyrics: 

When you're down and troubled, and you need a helping hand, and nothing, nothing is going right . . . . just call out my name, and you know wherever I am I'll come running to see you again. Winter, spring, summer or fall, all you have to do is call, and I'll be there . . . .

I doubt she was thinking about Jesus when she wrote those words, but her lyrics came to mind as I contemplated this passage from Isaiah: Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, even when you turn gray I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save you. (Isaiah 46:3-4).

The Holy Spirit was speaking to Israel in this text from Isaiah, but how easily applicable His encouragement is to the individual Christian today. “I will never leave you or forsake you,” Jesus promised. “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” He repeated elsewhere in the Gospels. One cannot contemplate the Bible’s message without coming away with a sense that God’s eye is always on the sparrow, and His eye is even more so on you and me.

My wife and I have been young. Now we are old. And during our more than forty years of marriage we have walked through floods and through fires. Life has bruised us, scratched us, and clawed us. It has taken away our breath, and sometimes kicked us while we were down. But through those decades of growing to know God through prayer and through His Scriptures, we could look behind us and point to each bruise, each flood, each fire, and see where God repeatedly bore us, lifted us, carried us, and saved us.

What the Holy Spirit said to Israel was not only and uniquely for their encouragement. He also speaks encouragement to us in the 21st century. When we who love Him are down and troubled, when we need a helping hand, when nothing, no nothing is going right, we can call on His name and know – because Scripture tells us it’s so – we can always call on His name and He has promised to carry us, to bear us, and to save us who cry out to Him for help.*

*see Jeremiah 33:3 and Romans 10:13.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Keyboards and Atheists

A guy in one of my online communities boasts he is an atheist. I don’t ask him why he is an atheist. My discussions with such people in the past have always proven fruitless.

Anyway, so this guy types his arguments into a keyboard. I wonder if he has ever thought about the decades it took for mathematicians, physicists and other highly skilled men and women to design, develop, and program the current computer keyboard (not to even mention the computer itself).

But complex mechanical creations aside, I also wonder if he has ever considered the complexity of his well-designed body. Without giving it so much as a thought, the atheist sits at his desk tapping keys of a complex combination of metal and plastic and wire; Meanwhile, within his own body a bazillion multifaceted processes are occurring simultaneously that permit him to tap on that keyboard.

For example, his eighth cranial nerve continuously monitors his spatial position relative to the floor and the sides of the room. (Click here for a more detailed bit of information https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vestibulocochlear_nerve). Without that nerve he’d be gripping the carpet because he’d sense the entire room spinning out of control. That’s not all the eighth nerve does, but for now, I hope I made a point about special design.

The atheist also moves his fingers and wrists in a very controlled pattern. He could not do so without the precise design of specialized motor and sensory nerves exiting his cervical and upper thoracic spine. In fact, while he is typing, more than 200,000 (yes, two hundred thousand) neurons permit him to do what he is doing because they are specifically designed to permit him to move his fingers and wrists.  You can read more about that here: http://www.innerbody.com/anatomy/nervous/arm-hand#full-description

As the atheist watches the screen above his keyboard, his eyes move with finely tuned and coordinated movements to the left or right or up or down (specially designed cranial nerves 3, 4, and 6) depending on what he wants to see on the screen. His pupils (specially designed cranial nerve 2) dilate or constrict depending on the amount of light his intricately designed eye needs to focus a clear and sharp image onto the retina at the back of his eye. That image is then converted into electrical impulses and sent along the optic nerve to a location at the back of his brain designed specifically for that purpose. It is there those electrical impulses are organized to allow the cognitive portion of his brain to interpret what he sees.

I mentioned neurons a moment ago. I wonder if the atheist has ever considered the phenomenal complexity of those neurons that run every specially designed function of his marvelous and intricate body. For example, each neuron needs a precise and coordinated flow of specific electrolytes into and out of the cell membrane – potassium, sodium, calcium, chloride (to name few)  -- AND at the correct levels until they reach a specifically designed threshold to produce an electric current along the neuron.  If this does not happen, our atheist will not be able to move his fingers . . . or anything else.

I hate to belabor the point, but let me include one more bit of information about our extraordinarily designed body.

We all require an elaborate, perfectly sequenced set of hormones to function. For example, when we get angry, our adrenal glands release a hormone called adrenalin (or, epinephrine). Circulating along our ten bazillion miles of expertly designed blood vessels, adrenalin attaches itself to very specific cell receptor sites throughout our body. Once attached to those sites our heart rate increases, our blood vessels constrict, our liver converts glycogen into glucose, our pupils dilate . . .  I could go on, but you get the point. (By the way, what I just described is the well-studied and well-known ‘Fight or Flight’ syndrome – a protective measure built into our bodies for self-preservation).

We today know so much about the human body that I have for many years defied atheists to read through even a high school biology text book and then tell me our bodies are not clearly designed and programmed to an exponentially greater degree than the computer keyboard.

So, if the keyboard would not exist without a creator, why does any honest person actually believe our body just happened to come into existence by accident and without the design of a Designer?

In 43 years of talking with atheists, I have never met one whose disbelief was rooted in ‘intellectual’ reasons. When I dug deeply enough, his disbelief was always rooted in moral reasons. The person had made a conscious choice to turn from God so he or she could live as they pleased.

The Creator of all I just mentioned about the human body is the same Person who designed it – every part of it. Organs, blood, electrolytes, neurons, cells, hormones – every part of it.

But there is more. Much more. This Creator – many know Him as the Heavenly Father – knows our name, where we live, and what are our most secret needs. It is this same Creator who, because of His great love for us, designed and implemented a flawless plan to reconcile sinners with Himself and live with Him forever. 

He bundled that plan in the life, death, and resurrection of His Son. We call Him Jesus.

Oh, Lord, our Lord, how excellent is your Name in all the earth.