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

Sunday, November 30, 2014

I Believe -- Forty Meditations on the Nicene Creed -- the Third Meditation


This is the next of the forty meditations. You can find the book on Amazon. Follow this link here. (Also available on Kindle)

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Creed Statement: I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

Today’s Focus: One God 

 
"Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in on attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced  . . . more true than truth itself." Irenaeus Against Heresies 1.2

But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Timothy 3:15).
 
Less than two decades after the Lord Jesus ascended to heaven, heresy crept into the Church. The first theological challenge occurred when Pharisees who had become believers demanded of the Gentile converts that they be circumcised and “observe the Law of Moses.” (Acts 15:5)

This caused a great deal of dissension and confusion in the Church, and so, to settle the issue, the apostles convened a council in Jerusalem to discuss the matter. After considering both sides of the theological aisle, Peter, James, Paul, and the other apostles and elders came to a decision that they then promulgated throughout the Church.

The 15th chapter of the book of Acts lays the foundation for the next 2000 years of how God would guide His Church regarding faith and morals – and that guidance would come through Church leadership (see 1 Timothy 3:15).

Note what the apostles said in verses 24-27 of chapter 15 (NASB): “Since we have heard that some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have disturbed you with their words, unsettling your souls, it seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, . . . Judas and Silas, who themselves will also report” the doctrinal decision of the Church leadership in Jerusalem.

In other words, the apostles declared that those who required circumcision of the converts had no authority to do so. Further, they had no authority to teach doctrine since they had not been sent by the Church leadership.

This is a crucial point. 

The circumcision question was only the first of many heretical challenges to crop up during the next twenty centuries. Arianism raised its horns in the fourth century. Arius was a church presbyter who taught others Jesus was created by the Father, and therefore inferior to the Father. Such teaching caused dissension and confusion in the Body of Christ, and so to settle the question of Christ’s deity and the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, the Church convened a council in Nicea in 325 A.D. After considering both sides of the theological arguments, the Church determined Arius in error and promulgated the Nicene Creed, which became the official Church position regarding Christ’s deity.

Nearly sixty years later, the Second Ecumenical Council in 381 A.D. affirmed the deity of Jesus and, in response to yet another heresy (this one formulated by Macedonius, who denied the deity of the Holy Spirit), promulgated the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed which officially declared orthodox Christian faith regarding the Holy Spirit and the Trinity. 

So what does all this history have to do with the statement within the Creed, “I believe in one God”? 

In early 2014 my wife and I had lunch with a young man, a member of the Jehovah Witness faith group. Jehovah Witnesses believe Jesus was created by the Father and, therefore, inferior to the Father – just like Arius taught in the fourth century.

I asked him if he had ever heard of Arianism. He had not.

Then he told us something so disturbing, I do not think I will soon forget it. He said he used to be Catholic and was raised in a Catholic home – but it was a home in which his family was ignorant of Church history. It was also a home in which none of the adults thought it important or necessary to read and study the Scriptures.

When as a young person he met members of the Jehovah Witness group, he began to study the Bible with them. Soon, he joined their fellowship –not only he, but both of his parents, three siblings, several aunts, uncles and other members of his family. They had all been Catholics, but Catholics ignorant of the richness, the depth, and the history of the faith dating back to the Apostles.

And so, an entire family was lost to the Church. 

When we recite the Nicene Creed and proclaim, “I believe in one God . . .” we can be certain our belief in “One-God-Yet-Three-Persons” is absolute and unalterable truth because the Church, founded on the Apostles, and affirmed by successive Church councils through the millennia, has definitively and authoritatively proclaimed that truth. 

Unless we settle in our hearts the question about who God has chosen to authoritatively teach doctrinal truth, we will always be at risk of being swept up in the latest – or the oldest –heresies.

Prayer: Oh, God, You are truth itself. Guide our hearts and our minds by your Holy Spirit into greater understanding of, and confidence in, the truth You delivered to us through the Church. Protect us, Holy Spirit, from darkness masquerading as light. Amen.

 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Lesson 19 in 1 Peter now online


The desires of the flesh, of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life will be the undoing of any Christian, regardless of position or spiritual maturity. This is one of the things we look at in Lesson 19. You can view it here:  (click the word 'here')

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Hush. It Will Be Alright -- Revisited

They have Moses and the Prophets . . . (Luke 16:29)

The other day I wrote an essay while in the valley of disappointment with God. In that essay I said I often think, especially lately, how good it would be if God would take a seat in my living room and tell me, “Hush. It will be alright” You can read the essay here.
But even as I wrote the essay, The Holy Spirit asked me why I think I need the Father to come into my living room and take a chair. After all, He left me the Scriptures of the prophets and apostles. They tell me all I need to know about God’s feelings toward me. They tell me often enough – “ Hush. It will be alright.” Of the hundreds of God’s promises I remember from 40 years of reading the Scriptures, here are some that filtered into my mind even as I contemplated the essay:

Behold I have engraved you in the palms of my hands. Your walls are always before me. (Isaiah 49:16);

I know the plans that I have for you, plans for your good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11);

I have seen your affliction. I am aware of your suffering. (Exodus 3:7);

I have loved you with an everlasting love. (Jeremiah 31:3);

God causes all things to work together for good, to those who love God and who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28);

What He opens, none can shut. What He shuts, none can open. (Revelation 3:7)

But as despondency settled over me, I argued with the Holy Spirit, telling Him how nice it would be, nonetheless, if the Father would take a seat in my living room.
Two nights later I opened my Bible to the place I’d left off the night before. Luke 16. It starts off with the parable of the dishonest manager, moves into a brief interchange between Jesus and some Pharisees, and a quick verse about divorce. Then the Lord brings us the lesson of the Rich Man and Lazarus.

The Rich Man lived in sumptuous splendor within his mansion. Meanwhile, the beggar Lazarus sat outside the man’s gate, covered with sores and begging for crumbs. Neighborhood dogs roamed by to lick his weeping wounds.
In time, both died. Lazarus went to Abraham’s bosom (a picture of paradise) while the Rich Man was in torment in hell. Here is part of their conversation:

[The Rich Man] said, “Then, father [Abraham], I beg you to send [Lazarus] to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.” Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.” He said, “No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.”   He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”’
As soon as I read that last clause, ‘neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead,” the Holy Spirit changed a few words in my mind:

“Richard,” the Holy Spirit said to me, “you have Moses, the prophets, the apostles, and the words of Jesus. If you do not listen to them, neither will you be convinced even if the Father takes a seat in your living room.”
Ouch.

I closed the Bible and repented for pouting. And for finding fault with God. And for insisting on seeing a fulfillment of my dreams, and not His. My hopes, and not His.
Life’s circumstances often make it easy to succumb to doubt and to pouting. But the Holy Spirit always reminds us – if we will listen – we do not need to fret and worry and stew about any of those circumstances. Moses, the prophets, the apostles, and the words of Jesus assure us again and again – and again, God is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds. (Psalm 145:17)

And we can cast all our broken dreams and shattered hopes on Him, because He cares for us. (1 Peter 5:7)
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You can find my YouTube Bible study through 1 Peter if you click here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Hush. It Will be Alright



 For you I wait all the day (Psalm 25:5)
 
I heard her before I jogged around the corner. A long, slow, desolate cry.  Blonde pig-tails, blue jeans, a long sleeve pullover shirt. She couldn’t have been older than four. She sulked in her driveway as Dad unloaded groceries from the van. He called gently for her to come inside.

“I dontwannacomein. I wanna stay here.”  She said something else but her woeful sobs swallowed her words.  As I neared, she turned in my direction and started walking toward Dad. Maybe she felt embarrassed because I heard her crying. Or perhaps she was nervous to be around a strange man. 

I continued running along the sidewalk and soon turned another corner toward home. But my thoughts remained behind with that precious little girl. I let her image play again in my mind. Rosy face, tears rolling down her cheeks. She reminded me of my own children decades ago. And memories returned to me of the days when their tears fell down their cheeks. I used to kneel in front of them, pull them close and hold them tightly, wipe their tears and tell them, “Hush. It will be alright.”

Hush. 

It will be alright.

But now, after all these years, I wonder if it will be alright. It does little good to make believe my doubts don’t exist. God knows what I think before the words even cross my lips.

The days of pulling our children close to ourselves and wiping their tears and telling them it will be alright are gone for Nancy and me. They are no longer four-year-olds. They’re in their thirties. Two of the three live on the other side of the country.

And sometimes I wonder how my Father in heaven feels when He hears my cries.  How He feels when He sees my tears. I wonder if He wants to kneel in front of me, pull me close to Himself, hold me tight, wipe my tears and say, “Hush. It will be alright.”

I wonder those things because so many times, especially since some of my dreams and my deepest hopes have withered and died before my eyes, and I let loose mournful tears on my wife’s shoulder . . . . I wonder how He feels toward me when I don’t feel His presence with me. And all I have left is my belief in the God described by the Bible as One who does hear my prayers, who does hear my sobs, and who does hold me to Himself – even though I cannot sense it.

But oh, how I wish, sometimes so desperately wish, I did not have to walk so often by faith. Oh, how I wish I could once – just once -- catch a glimpse of His face. And hear Him say, “Hush. It will be alright.”

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

I Believe: Forty Meditations on the Nicene Creed -- Second Meditation



This is the next of the forty meditations. You can find the book on Amazon. Follow this link here. (Also available on Kindle)
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Creed Statement: I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

Today’s Focus: I BELIEVE

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, on your own intelligence rely not; In all your ways be mindful of Him, and He will make straight your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

            I had heard about the rappelling tower. Its reputation loomed larger than life weeks before my arrival in San Antonio for military training. I stood in line with two dozen others and stared soberly at the fifty-three foot rickety wooden structure. My palms start to sweat when I stand on a chair.

            "Pick up the rope in front of you." The sergeant’s bark broke into my thoughts.
 
            With a series of twists and jerks, he demonstrated how to wrap the rope around, under and behind our waists and thighs to form a saddle. Then he marched us to the ladder and we climbed toward the clouds. Clumps of dirt fell from the boots of those ahead of me.
 
            When the last straggler took her place on the platform, the sergeant asked, "Who's afraid of heights?"

            I raised my hand, hoping he’d send me back down the ladder. I was wrong.
 
            "You’re first," he said.
 
            With the proverbial patience of Job, the sergeant fastened a rope through the "D" ring and guided it around to my back. My stomach churned as I stepped toward the ledge. Like a robot, I obeyed the sergeant’s instructions and grabbed the line in front of me with my left hand and the line behind me with my right. The tail end fell what seemed five miles to the ground.
 
            Sweat dripped from my forehead as I leaned back into space. Resigned to my fate, I let out a few inches of rope. In a moment, I was perpendicular to the tower wall, fifty-three very long feet above the Texas soil.
 
            "Jump!" the sergeant commanded.
 
            I pushed away from the wall and plummeted toward earth until I gripped the rope and stopped my descent. Euphoria swelled in my chest when I realized I was still alive. I pushed again and fell another twenty feet. One more shove and I landed gently on the dirt.
 
            Sometimes my struggle with confidence in God’s power, presence, and love is a little like my struggle with that monstrous fifty-three foot tower. Biblical faith is more than intellectual assent to God’s existence. It is God-centered and births an active, risk-taking confidence that proclaims, “I will trust God no matter where He leads and no matter what He tells me to do.”

            Just as I needed to believe the rope would hold me, I need to believe God will not leave me hanging in space – or let me fall. And though I might wonder if the Father really knows how far it is to the bottom, I’ve also experienced what the Psalmist learned, "Those whose steps are guided by the Lord, whose way God approves, may stumble, but they will never fall, for the Lord holds their hand" (Psalm 37:23-24).
 
            That’s one of the things the Creed helps us remember – not only what we believe, but in Whom we believe. No wonder you and I can trust Him, even if He asks us to lean into His arms and dangle fifty-three feet above the ground.


Prayer: Lord, I believe in You. Increase my faith. I trust in You. Strengthen my trust. I love You. Let me love You more and more. (Pope Clement XI)