Teaching & Suggestions

Since we are in Philippi Greece today, I thought I would post this colorful blog :-)

We miss a lot when reading the English Bible. We’re at a great disadvantage. The early Christians read the writings of the apostles in the original language – they understood the words and expressions must better than we do. The original language of the Bible is full of rich imagery, stark reality, and colorful terminology.

Toilets.jpgFor example, Paul writes that he considers all things as refuse that he might gain Christ (Phil 4:8).  We lose the impact of his graphic language. Paul wrote in Greek and in Greek the word refuse means human waste or crap. In Paul’s day it might have been the equivalent of the “sh–” word forbidden in proper communication. Paul used crude language, and it was very graphic for the original readers. Our English translations are very “proper”.

(Picture: Steve sitting on old stone Roman toilets in Philippi, filming in “Paul, Contending for the Faith“)

As a Pharisee, Paul tried to earn his righteousness by his self-righteous efforts and pride. But now that he has learned of faith in Christ and salvation by grace along, he considers his old efforts and self-righteousness to be nothing but crap. English Bibles santize this wording for us :-)

Let’s look at another crude example.  In Galatians 5:12 Paul reacts to the Jewish converts who tried to make the Gentiles get circumcised.  They said the pagans must be circumcised and obey all the 613 laws of Moses to be saved (Acts 15:1).  The heretics made Paul so mad that he says he wished the false teachers would not just cut off the foreskin of the penis but slip and cut the whole thing off.  Ouch!

Flint Knife.jpgEverywhere else this Greek word is used in the New Testament, it is translated “cut it off” but in this passage most prim and proper English translations render the word as “mutilate themselves” though a few say “castrate themselves” or “go all the way and emasculate themselves.”  Paul didn’t mince his words, nor hide his anger and frustration.

(Picture: Ancient flint knife, the kind used for circumcisions in biblical times)

One of my favorite gold nuggets that I discovered in the New Testament is a Greek word used only twice in the whole New Testament. This word relates to God’s two creations.  By reading the English Bible you would never know these two different passages use the same Greek word. But you would never know it from reading the English. When you dig deep you find gold!

What are these two creations of God?  The first is obviously the physical world created “in the beginning.”  The second creation is the Church, into which we are ‘born again” through baptism, a new creation. Both creations were “born” out of water with the Spirit of God hovering over the water (Gen 1:2; Mk 1:9-110, John 3:1-5).

Ready? Well here are the two verses; I have italicized the English words that have the Greek word in common:

First, the physical creation: “Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made” (Romans 1:20).

Second, the spiritual creation: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

Was I right? Would you have known that the underlying Greek word in both verses is poiema? It is the Greek word from which we get our English word poem. In Romans 1:20, five English words are used to translate one Greek word: poiema which refers to the physical created universe.  The word workmanship is what you are, what the Church is. The poem of the Church includes you.

So, God has “written” two poems: the physical world and the Church.  God is a poet, He is an artist, and his two great works of art reveal much about Him as an artist. You can learn a lot from looking at the paintings of an artist or by reading the pages of a poet.  Just as any poet can be understood by reading his work, so God can be understood to some degree by reading his poetry.

Solar System.jpgGo out at night and look at the sky –  ponder the masterpiece of God’s creation. Look at the symmetry and beauty of a flower, the power and creatures of the oceans, the majesty of mountains and thunderstorms. Then look at the Church around the world as she redeems sinners. Think of the billions of people that have accepted her embrace and been born into a heavenly family, a culture of love and blessings. Two marvelous, breath-taking creations.

Any you? You are part of God’s two creations, you are written into his poetry and painted on his canvas.  He treasures you.  You are not a random mass of molecules that happened to appear on lonely planet earth spinning meaninglessly around the sun. No, you are part of God’s glorious poetry that angels admire and God cherishes. Be proud, be thankful!  Live worthy of your place in God’s heart.

So, the New Testament is rich in its vocabulary. It is richer than the English language reveals. Like Paul says, anyone that tries to please God by their meager human efforts has nothing but crap to show for it, unworthy of the kingdom of God. Anyone who says we must be circumcised to be a Christian opposes God’s plan of free grace. Paul wanted them to castrate themselves.

Actually the New Testament is rich in imagery and figures of speech.  You are blessed to be freely made part of God’s two creations. You are beautiful. The Word of God says so!

{ 15 comments }

My Thoughts While Waiting In Line for Confession

by Steve Ray on September 2, 2018

190771.image0My wife and I went to confession yesterday. The line was pretty long (which was good to see, though I hate lines :-)  As I sat and waited it struck me again that the Church is not just a loose association of like-minded followers of Jesus. It is not just “Jesus and me” as we believed when we were Evangelical Protestants.

We had a dinner scheduled afterward with an Evangelical who would hold confession with disdain. “All we need to do is confess to Jesus himself, not a priest.” Why would they think that way? Because of a fundamental difference in perspective on what the Church is. Is the Church an invisible association of lovers of Jesus or is it a familial organization with a government?

Jesus said, “I will build my Church (not churches)” and later says, “If your brother sins…take it to the Church.” (Matt 16:18; 18:15, 17). Jesus also gives the authority men to forgive or retain sins (Jn 20:23). If the words of Jesus mean anything, there must be an authority in the Church and it needs to be worldwide and we need to know where to find it. If a Baptist brother sins against a Methodist brother, where is the church with authority that can deal with the issue? There is no such mechanism among Protestants.

Pentecost-lgThere were 120 people in the Upper Room and that is significant because in Jewish society it was necessary to have 120 people to leave the larger community (city) to start their own community with courts, judges, binding and loosing. Even the Israeli Knesset today has 120 members. The Church IS that new community. The Greek word for “church” in the New Testament is ecclesia which means the “called out ones.”

Called out for what? To be a new society, a new city, a new community, a new kingdom. The Church is the new Israel, so we would expect it to be similar in structure and authority. This “Church” would necessarily have laws and rules, the authority to legislate and to adjudicate. In short, using the biblical terms, the authority to “bind and loose.”

Vatican-II-Inside-St-Peter-s-C-David-LeesThis government, this Church, this family was never promised perfect sinless leaders. That has been proven in spades throughout history and in vivid color this summer. But just because there are rogues who often infiltrate the leadership does not negate the truth of this one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church.

Even Jesus had a Judas in his small band. We don’t leave Jesus and Peter because of Judas. If it can last for 2,000 years with every conceivable onslaught having thrown at it–and it still exists around the world bringing us the grace and forgiveness of God, laws and courts, beauty and worship–it is obvious that it is not from man but from God.

Sitting in the line for confession I realized that by virtue of my being there, I was acknowledging that I am part of something bigger than just “me and Jesus.” I was part of the governmental entity that was started in the Upper Room and continues today. I am accountable to Jesus, yes. But he is building a Church and I am a member of this new visible kingdom. My going to confession is a clear statement of that fact and of my submission to and recognition of that kingdom’s authority.

{ 7 comments }

Is God Like a GPS System?

by Steve Ray on August 4, 2018

There are a million reasons why God is NOT like a GPS system but I am in Australia and I made a wrong turn and my GPS started reprimanding me and saying “Recalculating!”

GPS.jpgFor those who don’t know, GPS stands for Global Positioning System. It is a nifty little device that links up with positional satellites above the earth. The satellites pinpoint exactly where you are and the micro computer inside the GPS calculates the shortest or fastest route to get to your destination.

The GPS sits on the dashboard of your car and verbally and visually directs you to your location. Mine is a Garmin and it covers the whole of the USA, Canada and Mexico. I will soon be buying one that covers the Middle East and Europe.

I thought of three ways, at least, that the GPS is like God–relatively and figuratively speaking. First, it knows everything: every address, street, city and business in the USA. It knows every gas station, hotel, church, post office, restaurant, airport, school, grocery store, intersection, hospital, freeway, etc. God knows everything.

Second, you can turn it on or shut it off. Now of course you can’t shut God off, but you can practically say NO to him and shut him out of your life. If I shut off my GPS I am the loser since it knows “everything” and knows exactly where I am at any time and how to get to where I want to go. God knows exactly where I am eternally and how to get me to my location. I can turn him on if I want to get his advice and enjoy his knowledge.

Third, every time I screw up he can get me back on track. For example, the other day I made a wrong turn and the GPS politely said, “Recalculating! Make a u-turn.” After I failed to make a u-turn, making a left turn instead, the GPS said, “Recalculating, turn right at Main Street.”

USA.bmpIn other words, even though I ignore or disobey the GPS it does not condemn me. It just says, “OK, I had this planned the very best way for you get to your final destination, but you didn’t listen, so I will start over. From where you are now I can STILL get you there — but I have to recalculate first.”

God does the same. He forgives. We screw up and go on the wrong path (sin, disobedience, pride, etc.) and once we repent and confess our sins and decide to listen to God again, he starts over in our life and says “Recalculating! Now that you’ve made a wrong turn and are willing to correct it — don’t worry, I can still get you to heaven from here.” And then he gives us the new directions from our wrong location.

Oh, one other thing, the GPS is ready for me to listen any time day or night. It can get me places in daylight or in pitch darkness, when I know where I’m going and when I don’t — and can’t God do all of that too?

{ 8 comments }

Courageous Homily on Humanae Vitae and former Cardinal McCarrick – a must listen

July 30, 2018

It is sad when you have to send around a homily because it is so exceptional. This kind of truthful and powerful homily should be standard fare at every parish on every Sunday. Sadly it is not, so people like me have to get excited when they discover such a hard-hitting homily. And we send it […]

Read the full article →

Multiplication of Loaves a Miracle or Just a Lesson in Sharing?

July 29, 2018

When confronted with this at Mass a while ago I wrote a letter to the priest which became an article in Catholic Answers Magazine. Article HERE. The priest said there was no miracle when Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish. All he did was teach selfish people to share and they pulled extra loaves and fish from […]

Read the full article →

Vine, Branches & Fire: Where Will You End up?

July 2, 2018

I was out cutting vines out of the trees and thought of the words of Jesus.

Read the full article →

Dear Protestant: Where Did You Get Your Bible?

May 20, 2018

From Little Catholic Bubble website Leila@LittleCatholicBubble Dear Protestant: Where did you get your New Testament? At least a couple of times every week, Protestants use New Testament verses to show me where the Catholic Church is wrong about something. I always make them take the necessary step back by asking the following: “Where did you get your […]

Read the full article →

Quiz: Did Jesus Found a Church on Pentecost and If So, Where Is It?

May 19, 2018

I am sharing this from John Martignoni’s e-mail and website at www.BibleChristianSociety.com. Thanks for your good work John! 1) Did Jesus found a church?  A) Yes; Matt 16:18  2) How many churches did Jesus found?  A) One; the church is the Body of Christ and there is only one body of Christ – Rom 12:5, […]

Read the full article →

A Quick Reply to Question about Cremation and Scattering the Ashes

May 15, 2018

I was asked a question about Catholics, cremation and the scattering of ash. Here is my brief answer: The whole issue of cremation goes back to the Romans. They denied the bodily resurrection so they often burned the body and if they were rich they put the ashes in urns and put them in the […]

Read the full article →

Evangelism Antennas: A Fun Story of One Woman’s Day and the New Evangelism :-)

April 11, 2018

A while ago I gave a talk in Ann Arbor Michigan. It was about the New Evangelization. As part of my talk I explained how Janet and I have our “evangelism antennas” up first thing in the morning – alertly watching for open doors and ways to share our Catholic Faith throughout the day. And […]

Read the full article →

Joseph the Sissy or Joseph the Worker – Feast Day of the Worker

March 19, 2018

Today is the Feast day of St. Joseph the Worker! There are some pictures of Joseph I don’t appreciate so much. They present him almost as soft, effeminate like he just came out of a beauty parlor. It appears he never worked in the real world and has not a wrinkle on his clothes or […]

Read the full article →

Putting Us to Shame

February 9, 2018

My wife and I are on a plane home from Israel. We watch as a young man stands among the crowd of passengers. He is uttering muffled chants under his breath and bobbing up and down. His chin is wagging under his serious eyes and his black hat. His prayer shawl with the many knotted […]

Read the full article →

Evangelicals with Statues?

November 16, 2017

A while ago I took off running through a commercial area behind the hotel where I was staying while doing a parish mission. I discovered a nice jogging trail through the woods so I swung onto the trail and headed through the trees. Soon I came into the open to see a beautiful lake. A […]

Read the full article →

“Life is about the Journey, not the Destination!” Huh?!

November 10, 2017

“Life is all about the Journey, not the Destination!” (paraphrase of a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson.) I saw this sign at the airport recently. Imagine! In an airport of all places! What stupidity! Grab a passenger arriving at the airport to catch a flight and shout, “Hey, take any flight you want sir, it […]

Read the full article →

Russian Orthodox Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev has a warning for the West

October 26, 2017

By Elizabeth Scalia | Sep 25, 2017 “Before 1917 nobody ever proposed that the collapse of a centuries-old Christian empire would happen…” Participating in a London conference on the topic of “The Christian Future of Europe,” Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, head of the External Relations Departments of the Russian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate, spoke on September […]

Read the full article →

Was He Ready to Die?

October 19, 2017

It was just a normal morning — alarm clock, shower, espresso, dress and a saunter down the sidewalk to work. For Paul, it was another day with a whole lifetime ahead of him. But today was different. Someone else got up this morning too. They had their coffee dressed and jumped in the car. They […]

Read the full article →