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

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

Friday, September 23, 2016

Scandal and the November Election

 But when Cephas [Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. (Galatians 2)
One plus one equals two. That simple equation is the foundation of  virtually everything that makes our lives easier. Tailors could not create clothing without the ability to measure material, architects could not design homes without the use of consistent numbers, engineers could not design cars if one plus one did not equal two.

Not only has God provided us with consistent mathematical truths, He has also provided us with consistent moral truths, and He has made them available in the Scriptures for anyone with an open heart to understand.

There are multiple issues that divide the two major parties and their nominees this November. However, abortion and same-sex marriage most clearly illustrate the difference between the godly and the ungodly moral truths promoted by each party.

One party wants us to believe one plus one equals three. The other insists one plus one always equals two.

Jesus said to His disciples, “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble. (Luke 17:1-2)

Americans have killed more than 56 million babies since 1973 when the US Supreme Court ruled that a woman has the right to kill her baby in the womb.  Mathematically, 56 million equates to approximately 1.3 million abortions in America each year. That number equates to 3500 killed each day Monday through Sunday in our nation.

Today 3500 babies will die. Tomorrow, 3500 more will die. The next day another 3500. And so on. 24,500 by the end of seven days. More than 100,000 by the end of this month. And so on. And on. And on.

Stop for a moment and picture in your mind the map of the United States. That number of killed babies since 1973 equals the COMBINED populations of Missouri, Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia.

Not only does this election have to do with that kind of slaughter, but it also has to do with protecting the largest provider of abortions to continue selling baby parts to alleged researchers.  

Let’s now turn our attention to another issue that should be of critical importance to the Christian: Same-Sex Marriage.

One of the political parties asking Americans to put them into power in November has stuck their collective thumbs in the eyes of 10,000 years of human history when they recently enshrined into the law of the land the rape of the sanctity of marriage. They boast that one plus one now equals three, and that the God-ordained sanctity of marriage established by God in the Garden is good only for the manure pile.

Many of you who know me respect me as a man of God who does his best to follow the fundamental truths of the gospel. If I told you I will vote for the party that insists one plus one equals three – I guarantee I would cause  great scandal and confusion among the faithful Christians who know me. And they would have every right to wonder – if I would vote for such people, then perhaps one plus one sometimes DOES equal three, and the issues of abortion and same sex marriage are not as serious as other Christians say they are to God.

And yet, I know of many who attend church every week, and those who wear a clerical collar, and those who teach Bible classes, and who sing in choirs – who call themselves Christians and yet will vote for the candidate and the party that spits in God’s face every day.

Think of the scandal this is causing among our weaker brothers and sisters in Christ. What happens to their faith and ability to live a holy lifestyle?

No wonder Jesus said, and I will quote it again for emphasis: Luke 17:1f “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come!  It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble.
The Psalmist tells us in the 11th psalm: For, behold, the wicked bend the bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string to shoot in darkness at the upright in heart. If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

Satan has an army of disciples who have not only bent their bows and readied their arrows, but they have now let them loose. They have let them fly against God’s faithful to destroy the bedrock of our faith and culture – which was built on obedience to God’s word.

And if that foundation is destroyed, what can the righteous do?  If one plus one is no longer two, then everything we have known and hold dear is in grave danger of disappearing. Just as one plus one always equals two, voting for those who promote abortion and same-sex marriage is always wrong.

Christian, what will you do in November?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Prayer Strategy Number Five - Music

Prayer Strategies: A Series of Helps
Strategy Five -- Music

This is the fifth of my twelve prayer strategies found in my book, ‘Prayer Strategies – A Series of Helps.’ These tools help keep me focused when my mind starts to drift, and energized when boredom begins to settle in. These strategies can help energize the prayer life of anyone who seeks to grow closer to the Master.  The book can be found on Amazon at this link: http://tinyurl.com/hvc7skx  

My purpose in posting this series of strategies is to help readers win the battle that is often set against our attempts at consistent prayer. About the battle, the Catechism of the Catholic Church gives us valuable guidance. You can read some of what it teaches in paragraphs 2725 to 2745. I cited 2725 in an earlier post. Here is one more:

The habitual difficulty in prayer is distraction. . . . . To set about hunting down distractions would be to fall into their trap, when all that is necessary is to turn back to our heart: for a distraction reveals to us what we are attached to, and this humble awareness before the Lord should awaken our preferential love for him and lead us resolutely to offer him our heart to be purified. Therein lies the battle, the choice of which master to serve.

I rarely use only one method of prayer during my time with the Lord. While “lists” form the foundation, I often build on that foundation with music. On that subject, the Catechism quotes St. Augustine: How I wept, deeply moved by your hymns, songs, and the voices that echoed through your Church! What emotion I experienced in them! Those sounds flowed into my ears distilling the truth in my heart. A feeling of devotion surged within me, and tears streamed down my face - tears that did me good. And, Augustine added: He who sings prays twice. (CCC 1156, 1157)

As I begin my time of prayer, I listen to two or three worship songs through headphones, preferring lyrics in the second person rather than the third (e.g. ‘You’ instead of ‘He’). While I listen I pray the words back to God. Here are a few songs, along with portions of their lyrics, I use in my prayers (I included in this post the links to YouTube videos only because I am unable to embed the songs alone. I do not watch videos during my prayer time because they would be a distraction).

O Sacred Head, Now Wounded (click here)

O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down. Now scornfully surrounded with thorns Thine only crown: how pale thou art with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn! How does that visage languish which once was bright as morn!

What thou, my Lord, has suffered was all for sinners' gain; mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain. Lo, here I fall, my Savior! 'Tis I deserve thy place; look on me with thy favor, vouchsafe to me thy grace.

Here is another: Worthy is the Lamb, by Hillsong (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMsihDoX3uM)
Thank you for the cross, Lord. Thank you for the price You paid.
Bearing all my sin and shame, In love You came, and gave amazing grace.

Thank you for this love, Lord. Thank you for the nail pierced hands.
Washed me in Your cleansing flow, now all I know, Your forgiveness and embrace.

Worthy is the Lamb, seated on the throne. Crown You now with many crowns,
You reign victorious. High and lifted up, Jesus Son of God, the Darling of Heaven crucified, worthy is the Lamb. Worthy is the Lamb.

Here is another by Hillsong: At The Cross (click here)

Oh Lord, You've searched me, You know my way. Even when I fail You, I know You love me. Your holy presence, surrounding me. In every season, I know You love me. I know You love me.

At the cross I bow my knee where Your blood was shed for me, there's no greater love than this. You have overcome the grave, Your glory fills the highest place, what can separate me now?

You go before me. You shield my way. Your hand upholds me. I know You love me. And when the Earth fades, falls from my eyes, and You stand before me, I know You love me. I know You love me

Here are the lines from one by Donna Cori Gibson
Jesus, You are Mercy  (click here)
You are love, you are life
Your are truth, abiding light
But your mercy is greater than them all
Only hope in despair
Rest for hearts, peace in fear
And the remedy for the children of the fall.
Jesus, you are mercy
Embracing all the works of your hands.
Jesus, Divine Mercy
Still the same since the world began
Incomprehensible, inexhaustible
The only hope for all sinful man.

Gushing fount that justifies
Endowing us with immortal life,
From the heart of the Father and found in you.
With us at the hour of death,
Source of joy better than the heavens
I trust in you. Jesus, I trust in you

Divine Mercy,
Which flows from you open side
Divine Mercy
With us every moment of life
Divine Mercy
Unfathomed in the Sacred Host
Delight and ecstasy of holy souls

And one by Michael W. Smith: This is My Desire (click here)

This is my desire to honor you, Lord with all my heart
I worship you. All I have within me, I give you praise.
All that I adore is in you

Lord I give you my heart, I give you my soul, I live for you alone.
Every breath that I take, every moment I’m awake,
Lord have your way in me.

It has only been within the last several years that I discovered how wonderful prayer can be when prayed through music. And I have begun to understand a little of what St. Augustine meant when he wrote: Those sounds flowed into my ears distilling the truth in my heart. A feeling of devotion surged within me, and tears streamed down my face - tears that did me good.

Yes, it is good to give God thanks and praise. Music – for me – enhances that joy