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

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sermon from Galatians 4_4

Those who believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God know there is a time for everything in God’s individual and specific plan for each of us. I talk about it in my latest message through Galatians. https://youtu.be/Er14bI6-_yc

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Best -- or the Only?

You were dead in your transgressions and sins . . . But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved) . . . (Ephesians 2:1-5).

It felt like the hottest day in mid-August. As I jogged around the neighborhood, my sweat-soaked shirt clung like a second skin. Waves of heat rippled above the asphalt. The humidity was so high, I thought I was breathing water. 

That suffocating combination of heat and humidity is probably why I smelled the cat before I saw it. I rounded the corner and spotted its decaying body in weeds by the curb. Its lifeless lips tightened into a grotesque grin, and sun-bleached ribs peeked through putrefying flesh. I held my breath and picked up the pace to move past the odor.

Over the years, I’ve passed dozens of dead animals during my exercise routine, and I always ignored them. But this time – probably to keep my mind off the heat – my thoughts wandered back to the cat.

“What if someone dressed the dead cat in a silk suit and tie?” The question dropped into my mind and, for a moment, the image startled me.

“What if someone draped a gold chain around its neck and splashed expensive cologne on its face?”

I smirked at the ludicrous image. A gallon of cologne couldn’t mask the odor of death, nor could the most expensive clothes hide its appearance. Nothing short of God’s supernatural intervention could breathe the fragrance of life into that corpse.

Then the spiritual parallel swept into my mind.

Scripture repeats the message so often, it’s a wonder anyone misses it. Without Christ, we are all spiritually dead in our sins. That’s the point St. Paul tried to impress on his readers in Ephesus: “You were dead in your transgressions and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). The Greek word the apostle used to emphasize their condition before God made them alive in Christ (v. 4) is nekros. It’s the same word from which English speakers get necrotic.

In other words, before God’s intervention, they were necrotic. And without His intervention through Christ, so are we. It doesn’t matter who we are, or what we have – academic degrees, religious titles or affiliation, hefty bank accounts, political power, or praise from others. Without Christ, we stink (Isaiah 64:6; 2 Corinthians 2:15,16), and God can smell us on the other side of the universe. Nothing short of His supernatural power exercised through His Son gives us life.

The Bible calls it being, “born anew” (John 3:1-7, 1 Peter 1:3). And the Catechism of the Catholic Church proclaims: One becomes a member of this people not by a physical birth, but by being “born anew," a birth "of water and the Spirit," that is, by faith in Christ, and Baptism” (Para 782).

Being compared to a dead animal was not a proud moment for me. But the dead cat image captured my attention and gave me a glimpse of God’s ineffable mercy, because regardless of the depth, breadth, and frequency of our sins, God’s grace can cleanse us. By our faith in Christ – and in no other -- God clothes us in glistening robes at our baptism and, through our ongoing confession and repentance, breathes life into our necrotic corpse (Isaiah 61:10).

No one smells so badly that Jesus’ blood cannot transform the odor of decay into the sweet fragrance of eternal life.

We have Scripture’s promise about it. But we also have Scripture’s warning:

Jesus is not the best way to heaven. He is the only way.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Social Media and Evangelism

Jesus said, “We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.”(John 9:4)

Who knows how much longer Christians will be able to work in the fields that are “white to harvest”? For those who are paying attention, darkness may very well be settling not only over America, but over the whole world.

Social media has provided the devil and his children an unprecedented means of evangelizing the world for his relentless evil. But social media ALSO provides God’s children an equally unprecedented means of evangelizing the world for Jesus Christ.

Not everyone believes he or she is sufficiently articulate to write and post meaningful essays on social media about Jesus. But we DO NOT have to be articulate to effectively and fruitfully evangelize for Christ on social media.

Here is one suggestion: When you read your Bible and God speaks to you through a particular paragraph or verse, type that text into social media and share a sentence or two about what the text means to you.

Or, here is an even easier suggestion: When you read a text of Scripture that speaks to you, copy the text onto social media without comment. God’s word – by itself – is able to speak to the hearts of those who will read the Scripture.

Night is coming when no one can work for Christ – certainly not as easily as we can work for Him today. Let us then use every tool available while it is still day.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Sunday Sermon Galatians 2_20 part 2

Each time we don’t receive from God what we ask, each time we get knocked to the ground, we face two choices: throw Christ over the cliff, or look to the One we call Father and trust Him to work in our circumstances from a heart of deep and abiding love – regardless how things look or feel.  I talk about it here: https://youtu.be/NMB5Tvp9FA8

Friday, September 30, 2016

Confusion and Certainty

The priest confused me. I was a new Catholic – though certainly not new to Christian faith or to the scriptures. But after our conversation about God’s nature, I felt myself floating between doubt and uncertainty. I’d lost confidence in what I’d learned over the past 30 years from reading of Scripture and of the instructions of godly pastors and teachers whose words impacted my Christian life for the good.

The priest told me God does not have emotions like we do. He is love itself. He does not have jealousy, or anger, or wrath. He does not punish His children. Ever. And when I showed him the many passages of Scripture that teach otherwise, he told me I am misinterpreting them.

If he had been anyone else, I would have simply dismissed his opinion as nothing less than liberal heresy. But – he was a priest. Ordained by God to shepherd His flock – to shepherd me. Priests should know the truth.

Yet what he said contradicted Scripture.

But he was a priest.

But his words didn’t line up with Scripture.

But he was a priest.

As I said, I was a new Catholic. I didn’t know at the time that priests or even bishops can err in their understanding of Scripture, that any clergy can deviate from the historic teaching of the Church and from God’s word.

So around and around I wrestled between what the priest told me and with what I believed for more than 30 years Scripture taught me of God’s nature.

The next morning I walked into my study for my daily time with the Lord. I opened the Scriptures to the place I’d left off the day before. I began at chapter three of St. Paul’s second letter to Timothy and my eyes stopped at verse 14. They then moved slowly through verse 17. My entire spirit sensed God speaking directly to my heart:

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.”

God’s direction could not have been clearer. What I’d learned about God’s nature during the first three decades of my Christian walk was true. And that truth must always be the focus of my faith -- not the opinions of any who deviate from the whole of Scripture and the historic teaching of the Church, regardless of their title.

 “The grass withers,” God spoke through the prophet Isaiah (40:8) “the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.”

That morning after my conversation with a priest about God’s nature, the Holy Spirit reestablished my feet on the solid rock of God’s word. I’ve never since stepped away from that rock.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

Monday, September 26, 2016

My Most Recent Sermon Through Galatians

Since it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me, how then ought we live? We will never answer a more critically important question.  https://youtu.be/chKcmpISKfI

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Bible Reading Plan (revised Sept 2016)

A Bible Reading Plan
(Revised September 2016)
 Start Anytime During the Year
From time to time I am asked to suggest a pattern for daily Bible reading. I read at least two chapters each morning from the Old Testament (OT) and two each evening from the New Testament (NT). Each sitting takes about 15 minutes, or 30 minutes/day. That pattern gets me through the OT once a year (maybe 13 months if I am slow), and the NT three times in a year. I place a check mark in my Bible’s table of contents to help me keep track of what I’ve read and what I need to read.

For new readers, I recommend only partial readings of books such as Exodus, Numbers, and 1 Chronicles because the chapters that I don't list (below) contain pages of laws and family genealogies, etc, that can become tedious to read – and possibly discourage continuation. I deleted Leviticus from the list for the same reason. (There are many other similarly ‘tedious lists’ scattered throughout the OT that I did not list below. You can decide when you come to them whether to peruse those sections or examine them).

I am NOT suggesting those chapters/books are not valuable. I have read those entire books many, many times. But for a first-read, I think it more important to first get the “big picture.” On your second and subsequent readings year by year through the Bible, you ought to read the chapters you omitted here.

My Old Testament and New Testament pattern follows below. I suggest you read the books in the order I have listed them. Doing so will help coalesce your understanding of important events and people according to their (loosely grouped) historical context. You might also find it helpful to print the following list and keep it with your Bible.

(Note to Protestants: You will notice extra Old Testament books in the below list. Catholic Bibles include those books and I wrote this plan specifically for my Catholic brethren. However, this plan works equally as well for Protestants. Just omit those extra books from the list if you wish. The basic historical chronology of the remaining books is unchanged.)

(See below for the plan)

The Jewish priest, Ezra, "Set himself to study the law of the Lord, and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel" (Ezra 7).

May God help us do likewise.

 Old Testament

Exodus (chapters 1-24, 32-34)

Leviticus (to be read on second and later times through the OT)
Numbers (chapters 11-25, 31-36)
1 & 2 Samuel
Psalms 1-72
Psalms (73-150)
2 Kings
Song of Songs
Proverbs 1-15
Ezekiel 1-40
Proverbs 16-31
1 Chronicles 10-21, 28-29
2 Chronicles
1&2 Maccabees

New Testament

1 & 2 Corinthians
1 & 2 Peter
1&2 Thessalonians
1&2 Timothy
1-3 John