Teaching & Suggestions

Is God Like a GPS System?

by Steve Ray on February 24, 2017

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?

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Was Jesus Nice?

by Steve Ray on February 20, 2017

I’m OK, you’re OK. Be yourself! Gotcha covered buddy!

I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has said to me. “That was not very Christ-like.” This response usually comes after being honest to the point of making someone upset.  The implication is that Jesus was a cuddly little nice guy who was always smiling, always accepting with kind words – in short NICE.

In America we tend to be pretty nice, except maybe if you live in New York City. But in contrast to the rest of the world we tend to be very polite, genteel, gracious and nice. Tour guides in other countries say that Americans are the nicest people. We transpose our niceness onto Jesus and think he was a lot like us.

But does LOVE = NICE?

Of course Jesus was loving. He is God after all and God is love (1 John 4:8). We also know that love does not always equate to NICE. God allowed Paul to have a thorn in the flesh to keep him humble (2 Cor 12:7). Three times Paul prayed for it to be removed. God said NO.  God was not acting very American. He certainly wasn’t very nice about it.

Nice is defined primarily as “pleasant or commendable, kind or friendly” (Collins English Dictionary). It originally comes from the Latin meaning “simple, silly or ignorant.”

“He’s not a tame lion, afterall” Quote from Narnia series

There is such a thing as “tough love.” It is the kind of love that cares enough to be honest, to confront, to discipline, to cause temporary pain to bring about eternal glory.  On the surface “tough love” does not always appear to be nice. How often has a child, sent to the corner blurt out “You are not very nice!”

Was Jesus nice?

Like Aslan the Lion in C. S. Lewis’ Narnia series, Jesus is approachable and loving, but don’t ever consider him “tame” or too cuddly. Jesus is God as well as man. He expressed the wrath and anger of God as well as the mercy and love of God.

Imagine coming to the Temple in Jerusalem one day to pray. You hear a great commotion and run over to see an angry man throwing over tables, grabbing the money from the merchants and throwing the money on the ground.

Whipping the money changers and dumping over their tables

But worse, you see him make a scourge of cords – a whip – and striking people with it. You are shocked that anyone would be so rude and destructive, so inconsiderate and mean to lash people with a whip. People ran in fear! Everyone was upset. Jesus was red in the face and scowling.  It certainly wasn’t very “Christ-like.” How nice was that?

Jesus was always loving, but he was not always nice, as we Americans count niceness. Here is just one example. Jesus spoke very harshly to his fellow Jews.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. . . .  You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? (Matthew 23:27,  28, 33).

Ouch! Doesn’t sound very kind and courteous: not very thoughtful or nice!

So, maybe there is more to WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) than we’ve been led to believe. Maybe we shouldn’t worry so much about being nice, being liked, acting like  genteel Americans. Maybe we ought to be more honest and forthright about the things that really matter.  Maybe we should be more willing to hurt some feelings, step on some toes, show tough love to those in sin.

Maybe we should be more Christ-like.

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Salvation by Faith Alone?

by Steve Ray on February 15, 2017

Since the days of Martin Luther it has been popular to reduce salvation to a sound bite. Salvation is not by works but by “faith alone.”

However, the Bible seems to have another idea. In my book CROSSING THE TIBER I mention a few passages from Scripture to give a more biblical perspective.

Here is a section from page 100 in my book:

“One last comment, even though it will be discussed in more detail later: there is no attempt here to pit baptism against faith, or belief against baptism.  Things are rarely that simple.  Faith and baptism are two sides of the same coin.  Are we saved by faith or by baptism?  Are we saved by believing or by the Spirit?  These are false dichotomies that should have no place in our thinking.

screen-capture“How does one receive salvation, justification, new birth and eternal life?

By believing in Christ (Jn 3:16; Acts 16:31)?
By repentance (Acts 2:38; 2 Pet 3:9)?
By baptism (Jn 3:5; 1 Pet 3:21; Titus 3:5)?
By the work of the Spirit (Jn 3:5; 2 Cor 3:6)?
By declaring with our mouths (Lu 12:8; Rom 10:9)?
By coming to a knowledge of the Truth (1 Tim 2:4; Heb 10:26)?

By maintaining the faith (Col 1:22-23; Mt 24:13)?
By works (John 5:28-29; Rom 2:6, 7; James 2:24)?
By grace (Acts 15:11; Eph 2:8)?
By his blood (Rom 5:9; Heb 9:22)?
By His righteousness (Rom 5:17; 2 Pet 1:1)?
By His cross (Eph 2:16; Col 2:14)?

“Can we cut any one of these out of the list and proclaim it alone as the means of salvation?  Can we be saved without faith? without God?s grace? without repentance? without baptism? without the Spirit?  These are all involved and necessary; not one of them can be dismissed as a means of obtaining eternal life. 

Neither can one be emphasized to the exclusion of another.  They are all involved in salvation and entry into the Church.  The Catholic Church does not divide these various elements of salvation up, overemphasizing some while ignoring others; rather she holds them all in their fullness.”

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

December 26, 2016

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 […]

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Seven Dangers to Human Virtue and Civilization

December 2, 2016

Wealth without work Pleasure without conscience Knowledge without character Business without ethics Science without humanity Religion without sacrifice Politics without principle

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

November 23, 2016

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

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Mass with 2 Protestants and 1 Crucifix

November 10, 2016

A while ago we went to Mass with two Protestants.  As we walked in the door — there it was, as big as life — a CRUCIFIX with the Body of Our Lord hanging over the altar. I knew what the Protestants were thinking — I used to think the same — “CATHOLICS ARE WRONG, JESUS IS […]

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Jesus Was A Jew and Why You Can’t Understand the Bible without Knowing That

November 5, 2016

Jesus was a Jew. This fact may escape the casual reader of the New Testament, but it is crucial to understanding Jesus and the book written about him—the Bible. Unhappily, in 21st century America we are far removed from the land of Israel and the ancient culture of Jesus and his Jewish ancestors. Let me […]

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

November 4, 2016

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, […]

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Crap, Castration & Two Creations – Colorful New Testament Wording

November 2, 2016

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. […]

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Why Did God Allow Man to Sin? “O Happy Fault of Adam”

October 31, 2016

This is a question that has puzzled people from the beginning. If God is good and all powerful why didn’t he stop Adam and Eve from sinning? Fair question. Of course we all know that he took the risk of giving us free will so that we could choose to love him. I don’t want […]

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You Laity are Pretty Important and Should be Involved Reminding Priests and Bishops

October 29, 2016

We Catholics often think we should sit back and let the bishops and priests do everything. We should look to them to save our Church. But Archbishop Fulton Sheen has a word of exhortation for us: “Who is going to save our Church? Do not look to the priests. Do not look to the bishops. […]

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Stop being intimidated, say what you’re thinking! Are example at the airport…

October 25, 2016

We stepped into the Delta lounge to await our flight to Greece where we will meet our group of 95 excited pilgrims for a St. Paul cruise. A guy sat down next to me and said, “How you doing?” I said, “Great, we just voted for Trump and we are on our way to lead […]

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Wow!! What a Clear and Courageous Homily!! Watch this Before Voting!!! Share it!!

October 24, 2016
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Catholic Church: “Don’t Read the Bible!”

September 9, 2016

We often hear that the Catholic Church has forbidden the reading of the Bible! Have you heard this? Yeah, me too! But, this is another one of those big myths which has worked its way into the popular dialog but one that has not been proved from Church teaching and documents. There are two good […]

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Who Are the Poor I’m Supposed to Care For?

September 4, 2016

As we leave our rented apartment in Rome and walk towards St. Peter’s Square I notice a ragged, filthy woman sitting on a piece of cardboard with a baby laying lethargically in her arms. She looks up with mournful eyes and pathetically mumbles something as she reaches out hoping I’ll put coins in her hand. […]

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