Category Archives: Inspirational

Sunday Devotional: A contrite, humbled heart

Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7

The LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground
and blew into his nostrils the breath of life,
and so man became a living being.

Then the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east,
and placed there the man whom he had formed.
Out of the ground the LORD God made various trees grow
that were delightful to look at and good for food,
with the tree of life in the middle of the garden
and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals
that the LORD God had made.
The serpent asked the woman,
“Did God really tell you not to eat
from any of the trees in the garden?”
The woman answered the serpent:
“We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden;
it is only about the fruit of the tree
in the middle of the garden that God said,
‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.'”
But the serpent said to the woman:
“You certainly will not die!
No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it
your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods
who know what is good and what is evil.”
The woman saw that the tree was good for food,
pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom.
So she took some of its fruit and ate it;
and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her,
and he ate it.
Then the eyes of both of them were opened,
and they realized that they were naked;
so they sewed fig leaves together
and made loincloths for themselves.

Michelangelo's Temptation and Fall

The Fall of Adam and Eve is a mystery wrapped in a conundrum.

Although they had everything in that bucolic first garden, including and especially the unimaginably sublime gift of seeing and conversing with the Creator (Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day” –Genesis 3:8), they still chose disobedience and betrayal.

All because of the sin of grandiose narcissism — of wanting to be “like gods,” who would determine for themselves “what is good and what is evil” although they already knew right from wrong. As the Book of Jeremiah 31:33 says, when God created humans, He’d embedded the knowledge of what is right and wrong within each of us:

“I will put my law within them
and write it on their hearts and minds.
I will be their God
and they will be my people.”

In wanting to be their own gods, that is, with their own conception of right and wrong, our first parents contravened the First Commandment (“You shall have no other gods before me.” –Exodus 20:3). Another way to say “wanting to be their own gods” is “Do as thou wilt” — the motto of satanist Aleister Crowley and the church of Satan, and the zeitgeist of our time.

That first sin by our first parents was so cataclysmic that it fundamentally changed the natural order of the world. Henceforth, God would no longer be theirs, and they would no longer be His people.

A door was opened to chaos, and a price must be paid for being human. Where once was joy and ease, there would be banishment, toil, pain, hardship, sickness, disease, and eventual death (“with painful labor you will give birth to children“; “by the sweat of your brow”; “for dust you are and to dust you will return”). Humankind’s relation with other creatures and the physical environment turned askew as “visible creation has become alien and hostile to man.”

So catastrophic was the breach that human nature itself became perverted. Henceforth, all of Adam’s progeny would be born with the stain of Original Sin — “tinder for sin” (fomes peccati) and inclined to evil. As St. Anselm lamented¹:

“I fell before my mother conceived me. Truly, in darkness I was conceived, and in the cover of darkness I was born. Truly, in him we all fell, in whom we all sinned. In him we all lost.”

¹St. Anselm: Basic Writings, translated by S. N. Deane (La Salle, Illinois: Open Court, 1961), p. 24.

So immense was our first parents’ fall that only God Himself, in the person of the Son, could make amends — by becoming incarnate, to be tortured and die on a cross.

Jesus loves us this much

And so we come to Lent.

Since Jesus prepared Himself for His public ministry in 40 days, Christians imitate Him with prayer and fasting during this time of Lent to prepare for Holy Week. In remembrance of how Christ our Lord willingly suffered and died for our sins, we are asked to pray, fast, and make a sacrifice during Lent by surrendering something that gives us pleasure, and/or by doing something good that we don’t ordinarily do.

Psalm 51:3-6, 12-14, 19

Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
For I acknowledge my offense,
and my sin is before me always:
“Against you only have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight.”
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and a willing spirit sustain in me.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a contrite, humbled heart….

May the love and peace of Jesus Christ our Lord be with you,

~Éowyn

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Where are Pharaoh and his army?

groveowl1

Our 21st century pharaohs meet every summer at Bohemian Grove for toasted marshmallows and campfire stories.

“The way of the LORD is a refuge for the blameless, but it is the ruin of those who do evil.” – Proverbs 10:29

The Lord had just led Moses and the Israelites through the Red Sea on dry ground with an unprecedented miracle. The water on either side of them stood like a wall. God had rescued them from a cruel and corrupt government.

Now it looked like God’s blessing was about to become a trap for the escapees, as Pharaoh rushed with his whole army across the very path created for Israel’s escape. Imagine the sense of terror among the people when the saw this.

But the miracle that saved God’s people became the destruction of their enemies. Moses, speaking by faith said, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.” – Exodus 14:13

Now let’s apply this lesson to America 2018

Donald Trump, the unexpected candidate, won the office of president against all odds.

He then proceeded to surprise the world by instituting one act of governmental righteousness after another. But in hot pursuit, his (and our) enemies, the elites who would be our masters, have led their legions out to crush our new hope.

At moments I have felt the terror of what they threaten to do to us.

But I “will have no fear of bad news; my heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. My heart is secure, I will have no fear; in the end I will look in triumph on my foes.” (– Psalm 112:7-80) If we personalize our faith in God this way, we will be able to stand still, and see the glory and salvation of the Lord.

“The waters covered their adversaries; Not one of them was left.” – Psalm 106:11

“Mommy, why doesn’t Mr. Pharaoh come around anymore?” 

“Honey, Mr. Pharaoh drowned.
He won’t be back.”  

Coral-encrusted object in Red Sea could be ancient Egyptian chariot wheels

 

 

Sunday Devotional: ‘If you wish, you can make me clean’

Mark 1:40-45

A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said,
“If you wish, you can make me clean.”
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand,
touched him, and said to him,
“I do will it. Be made clean.”
The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.
Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once.

He said to him, “See that you tell no one anything,
but go, show yourself to the priest
and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed;
that will be proof for them.”

The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter.
He spread the report abroad
so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.
He remained outside in deserted places,
and people kept coming to him from everywhere.

“If you wish, you can make me clean.”

And He did, with a simple touch of His hand, saying,

“I do will it. Be made clean.”

In our time of advances in medical science, leprosy, a bacterial infection, is curable with a multidrug regime of therapy, comprised of dapsone, rifampicin, clofazimine, and other antibiotics — over the course of 6 to 12 months.

But Jesus cured the man’s leprosy INSTANTLY, by simply willing it.

We Christians can be so habituated that our faith becomes routine and routinized.

We need to re-read the Gospel accounts of Christ, like the passage in Mark 1, with fresh eyes and minds, and be AMAZED . . . .

See also:

May the peace and love of Jesus Christ our Lord be with you,

~Eowyn

What should we bring to the Lord?

Micah 6:6-8 is brief, direct and comprehensive

It is easy to get caught up in our religious requirements and the demands on our time, and get off center from what really counts.

“With what shall I come before the Lord
and bow down before the exalted God?

Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?

Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?

Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?

To
act justly
and to
love mercy

and to
walk humbly
with your God.”

PEACE

Sunday Devotional: He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him

Mark 1:21-28

Then they came to Capernaum,
and on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught.
The people were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.
In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit;
he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
Jesus rebuked him and said,
“Quiet! Come out of him!”
The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.
All were amazed and asked one another,
“What is this?
A new teaching with authority.
He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”
His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

Jesus cast out demons

Only one of the following three can be true:

  1. The author of the Gospel of Mark was lying.
  2. Jesus was delusional in believing there are demons and that He has the ability to cast out demons.
  3. Mark was telling the truth — Jesus did drive out demons. That makes any priest or minister who refuses to address this subject a coward at best or, at worst, a liar by omission.

“The finest trick of the devil is to persuade you that he does not exist. (La plus belle des ruses du diable est de vous persuader qu’il n’existe pas.)” -Charles Baudelaire, Le Joueur généreux, 1864.

The pusillanimous avoidance of all mention of devil, demons, and Hell by too many priests and ministers may account for why Americans increasingly no longer believe in the Devil.

A 2013 Harris Poll found that although a majority (74%) of U.S. adults still said they believed in God, that’s down from the 82% in earlier years. Nearly one-fourth of Americans (23%) identified themselves as “not at all” religious, nearly double the 12% of six years ago in 2007. Belief in miracles, Heaven and other religious teachings also declined, including:

  • 68% believed that Jesus is God or the Son of God, down from 72%;
  • 65% believed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, down from 70%;
  • Only 58% (fewer than 6 out of every 10 Americans) believed in the devil and Hell, down from 62%.

How curious it is that while 68% believed that Jesus is God, only 58% believed in the devil, which would imply that those 10% think our Lord Jesus Christ was lying or hallucinating when He exorcised demons in Gospel passages like Mark 1:21-28. And these are Christians!

How can we armor ourselves against the Devil if we don’t even believe he exists? No wonder Americans increasingly are debauched and depraved. Increasingly, Satanism is a cool thing. See:

The real irony is, as recounted in Mark 1:21-28, the Devil and other demons most certainly believe in and fear Christ our Lord:

“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

In fact, we know from countless first-person testimonies that just invoking the name of Jesus Christ repels demons. And did you know that Richard Gallagher, M.D., a board-certified psychiatrist and a professor of clinical psychiatry at New York Medical College, says demonic possession is real?

What’s the best defense against the Devil and demonic possession?

Put on the armor of God; keep pure your body, mind, and soul; and be true to the First and Greatest Commandment of All (Mark 12:30):

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.

Jesus, I trust in You!

~Éowyn

Psalm 112 and Fearlessness

No theological doctoral thesis here, just a sharing of some wonderful promises. And the key is the fear of the Lord, which seems to be the condition required for receiving the psalm’s promised benefits.


Psalm 112

Praise the Lord.
Blessed are those who fear the Lord,
who find great delight in his commands.
Their children will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in their houses,
and their righteousness endures forever.
Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.
Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely,
who conduct their affairs with justice.
Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
they will be remembered forever.
They will have no fear of bad news;
their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;
in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.
They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor,
their righteousness endures forever;
their horn will be lifted high in honor.
The wicked will see and be vexed,
they will gnash their teeth and waste away;
the longings of the wicked will come to nothing.


I can’t resist a little humor here. Lately, whenever I come to the line about the wicked gnashing their teeth, just one photo comes to mind:

Luis Gutierrez gnashes his teeth, and will waste away.

Always begin with the fear of the Lord.

Sunday Devotional: Making fishers of men in a time of declining church attendance

Mark 1:14-20

After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

As he passed by the Sea of Galilee,
he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea;
they were fishermen.
Jesus said to them,
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Then they abandoned their nets and followed him.
He walked along a little farther
and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.
They too were in a boat mending their nets.
Then he called them.
So they left their father Zebedee in the boat
along with the hired men and followed him.

There are so many things left unsaid and unexplained in the Gospel accounts of Christ: Why are there no descriptions of what our Lord looked like? Why are the accounts of His childhood so sparse? The child Jesus’ life must have been fraught with danger, for surely King Herod did not stop trying to kill the remarkable infant who had inspired the three Magis to journey from afar with precious gifts for the baby born in a humble manger. And why was Jesus’ public ministry so brief, lasting but three years?

Knowing His time would be brief, Jesus began His public ministry by gathering a small group of followers — the Apostles — whom He deputized to be “fishers of men” who would continue His ministry and spread His word far and wide.

Though most of us are not priests, ministers and preachers, as believers we each had heeded His call and, as followers of Christ, are asked to spread the good word (which is what “gospel” means).

Our task is all the more urgent because the Light of Christ is dimming in America, one of the more religious countries in the world.

In a report for Breitbart, Jan. 3, 2018, Dr. Thomas D. Williams alerts us to a 2015 study by the Pew Research Center, which found that:

  • The United States has experienced an alarming dip in Christian religiosity over the last decade, whereas Islam, Hinduism, and “other religions” show no decline.
  • Mainline Christianity and Catholicism have fallen 3.4% and 3.1%, respectively.

While there are Christians who reject and dismiss organized Christianity, arguing that faith alone is suffice, without need of attending and belonging to a church, the plain fact is that we have decades of data that regular church attendance confers beneficial effects on both individuals and society. As John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, put it, the advantages of regular religious practice are so well documented that people would be foolish not to consider them.

Personal and societal benefits of regular church attendance include:

(1) A longer and healthier life: Religious people live longer than the non-religious by 2 to 3 years. One reason is that religion encourages a healthier lifestyle: Compared to non-churchgoers, regular churchgoers tend to drink, smoke and use recreational drugs less, and are also less likely to be sexually promiscuous.

(2) Psychological well being: Regular church attendance strengthens social ties and create communities where people take care of one another. A study of 15,738 Americans between the ages of 18 and 60 by the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture, found that:

  • People who attend religious services on a weekly basis are happier: They are nearly twice as likely (45%) to describe themselves as “very happy”  than people who never attend (28%).
  • Conversely, those who never worship are twice as likely to say they are “very unhappy” (4%) as those who attend services weekly (2%).
  • Higher levels of church attendance predict greater life satisfaction.
  • Not just church attendance, but self-reported “religiosity” and religious “affiliation” are also linked with happiness levels.

(3) Children who are high-achieving, social, and well adjusted. According to sociologist Robert Putnam in his book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis:

  • A child whose parents attend church regularly is 40% to 50% more likely to go on to college than a matched child of non-attenders.
  • Children involved in a religious organization take tougher courses, get higher grades and test scores, and are less likely to drop out of high school — which means they also have better employment prospects.
  • Religious youth have better relations with their parents and other adults, more friendships with high-performing peers, and are more involved in sports and other extracurricular activities.

(4) It goes without saying that America as a society reaps benefits from healthy, happy, high-achieving and social individuals. A recent study by Brian and Melissa Grim of Georgetown University and the Newseum Institute, even placed a dollar value on the benefits of regular church attendance. The study concluded that the “value of the services provided by religious organizations and the impact religion has on a number of important American businesses” totals $1.2 trillion.

One troubling aspect of regular church attendance is an increasing class gap or division:

  • Contrary to a commonly held belief that irreligiosity tends to rise with education and income, regular church attendance among college-educated families has remained more or less the same since the late 1970s, but has fallen by almost a third among families with a high school diploma or less. According to Putnam, this disparity has created “a substantial class gap” that did not exist 50 years ago.
  • Statistics from the Pew Center’s comprehensive 2015 report on religion in America confirmed that most religious “nones” tend to be:
    • Less educated: only a small portion have a college degree; 45% have a high school diploma or less.
    • Poorer: earn less than $30,000 a year,
    • White males.

And so, with Matthew 4:19’s injunction of making fishers of men in mind, how do we spread the good word in our time of declining faith and church attendance, in a culture of increasing hostility and enmity toward Christianity and Christians?

May the peace and love of Jesus Christ our Lord be with you,

~Eowyn