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

Monday, June 19, 2017

Revising Expectations

“It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles:  Simon, whom He also named Peter . . . and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.” (Luke 6:12-16)

I think it important to understand, Judas did not start out a traitor to our Lord. Over the course of time, he ‘became’ a traitor.

Like so many I’ve known over the years, why do some who at one time followed Jesus end up not only leaving Christ, but turn angry and treasonous against Him -- and against those who still follow Him? Perhaps it’s because Jesus often failed to meet their expectations, and their disappointments grew into cold disillusionment.

Turning from God is a risk all Christians face when He repeatedly fails to measure up to our expectations.

A risk, yes. But that risk is wholly avoidable if, with the Holy Spirit’s help, we purposely revise our expectations of God to match what Scripture teaches about Him – and put away from our thoughts what we think God should be like.

However, such spiritual maturity is possible – even with the Holy Spirit’s help – such maturity is possible only when we become intimately familiar with God’s word. This link (and the link also embedded within it) will help you: http://bit.ly/2sKC5eG .

I urge you – become so familiar with the Scriptures that His thoughts become part of your very being. Doing so will change your life – and protect you from the risk of turning away from your Savior.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

All Things


For 40 days and nights the devil tested the mettle of our Lord Jesus. At one point the enemy “showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.  Therefore, if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.”
I read that section again this morning and for the first time realized the Lord’s response might have been a not-too-thinly-veiled reference to the portion of Isaiah in which we find this partial history of the devil (Isaiah 14:12-15):
“How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations! 13 “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north. 14 ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ 15 “Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit.
While I considered this new understanding of the text, the Holy Spirit reminded me of what He said through St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians (1:16-18):
For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
Look again at the last clause. From the beginning of creation, it has been – and always will be – the Father’s intent that Jesus have first place in everything we do and everything we are.
Jesus should have first place in all our life goals. Our daily plans should seek to honor Him first. Our employment or unemployment should be done in such a way that Jesus has first place in it.
You might remember when Simon Peter’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever (Luke 4:38-40). When the disciples asked the Lord to heal her, He rebuked the fever “and she IMMEDIATELY got up and served them.”
We ought not gloss over that point. When Jesus healed her, she got up from her sickbed and waited on Him.
Our position and titles are not given us to serve ourselves, but to serve Him. Our time, talents, and treasures were each given us by God to serve Jesus. When He heals us – as with Peter’s mother-in-law – it is to serve Him. When He does NOT heal us – as was true of the many faithful men and women in Hebrews 11:36-40 – it is so that in our illness and suffering we might serve Him.
God formed us in the womb for His purposes. No one can read scripture from cover to cover with an honest heart and not come away with the ever-growing realization that our very being is for and through Jesus – that our Creator intends that Jesus have first place in everything.
Oh, Holy Spirit, change my heart – give me a ‘sea-change’ of attitude that I might always remember my responsibility is to place Jesus above all things in my life. That He may always receive honor from my life. Amen

Monday, June 12, 2017

God is God -- my latest sermon

God is God, and I am not. The sooner that becomes part of my psyche, the better. I talk about it here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trWgxPLV9SI
 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Labels

The first thing he told me during our conversation about the political and social issues facing America was, “I’m a Methodist.”

To be fair, he is not the first person I’ve ever spoken with who made certain I knew his or her religious affiliation. And you’ve probably heard it, too; Maybe even said it: “I’m a Southern Baptist.” “I’m a Presbyterian.” “I’m a Catholic.” “I’m a Pentecostal.” “I’m a Lutheran.” “I’m a . . . . “

I sometimes get weary of the denominational labels. Why can’t Christians say simply, “I’m a Christian”? And if we really feel impelled to self-identify with a denominational label, why not, “I’m a Christian who happens to be a Methodist . . . or a Baptist . . . or a Lutheran . . . or a Catholic . . . or a . . . . .?

Unless Christ really is that divided.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Disappointed with God?



Disappointment with God can lead to disillusionment. Disillusionment, if unchecked, will lead to a departure from Him. There is a better way to deal with life's ebbs and flows.  I talk about it here: https://youtu.be/lP6Vn2fUdqI

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Why Catholics Memorize Scripture



I posted to an online community an encouragement to fellow Christians – Catholics and Protestants alike – to stir them to consider memorizing portions of God’s word. You can find it here:  http://bit.ly/2qmXIkE

It was not at all my intent to cause offense or to make anyone feel guilty about how they approach Scripture memory.

A short time later I received a reply from a fellow Catholic who wrote: “I don't see the point of memorization. In my life experience it's been more helpful for me to pray over bible passages and having Our Lord enlighten me.”

I thought perhaps she might have misunderstood my point. I do not negate the value of praying over Bible passages. In fact, in one of the books I wrote, “Prayer Strategies: A Series of Helps,” I devote an entire ‘prayer strategy’ to praying the scriptures.

But she did not misunderstand my point. In a follow-on comment she added: “Don't waste your time in trying to change my mind, because you won't. As a Roman Catholic I prefer our devotions and traditions and I'll go with praying scripture over memorizing scripture any day.”

I will not try to change her mind. But because she invoked her Roman Catholic faith as an excuse for not bothering to memorize Scripture, I thought that as a Roman Catholic myself, I ought to respond to her very un-Catholic view of Scripture. Indeed, it was the very Catholic St. Jerome who warned his fellow Catholics: Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.

My goal in this specific response is to provide some background regarding how Catholics in the past have treated the idea of Scripture memory. 

The Roman Catholic Church traces our origin to the apostles and the apostolic age. So, let’s first look at what those first century men and women said about Scripture – and by implication, memorization.

In her Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) the Blessed Virgin Mary from memory quoted or alluded to at least six Old Testament texts (1 Samuel 2:1-10, Psalm 34:2, Psalm 35:9, Psalm 98:1, Psalm 103:17, Psalm 107:9). (What Catholic does not want to follow our Mother’s love for Scripture and Scripture memory?).

In the Wilderness Temptation (Matthew 4 and Luke 4) Jesus responded to each of the devil’s lies with a quote from Old Testament Scripture. (And it is hardly necessary to remind ourselves that Jesus is our example ‘par excellence’ in whose steps we should follow (1 Peter 2:21).

Before his martyrdom, St. Stephen (Acts 7) extensively quoted and alluded to multiple Old Testament texts from memory. St. Paul wrote to the Christians at Colossae: 3:16 “Let the word of Christ richly DWELL WITHIN YOU (my emphasis), with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” And in which of the New Testament epistles did any of the apostles not quote from memory passages from the Old Testament?

As Roman Catholics, we are taught by the Church to revere Scripture. In his encyclical, Dei Verbum (The Word of God) Pope Paul VI wrote: “The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord . . . [T]he force and power in the word of God is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her sons, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life. . . .”

And from the Catechism of the Catholic Church: 104 “In Sacred Scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength, for she welcomes it not as a human word, "but as what it really is, the word of God". "In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them."

And again: 133 The Church "forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful. . . to learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ, by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures.” And surely one can imply from these three Roman Catholic documents, memorization is an acceptable form of learning ‘the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ.’

Regarding Old Testament Scriptures, the Catechism teaches: 121 “The Old Testament is an indispensable part of Sacred Scripture. Its books are divinely inspired and retain a permanent value, for the Old Covenant has never been revoked.”

What then does the Old Testament tell us of the importance of memorizing Scripture? For example, Proverbs 7: “My son, keep my words and treasure my commandments within you. Keep my commandments and live, and my teaching as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; Write them on the tablet of your heart.”

Psalm 119:11 “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” And while we are looking at Psalm 119, can anyone read those 176 verses and come away not sensing the value the Holy Spirit places on reading, meditating, obeying, and hiding His word in our hearts?

I can list hundreds of other examples of the Holy Spirit’s injunction to His faithful to know God’s word, but here is just one more: Deuteronomy 6:

4 “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

Is it of value for Catholics and other Christians to memorize and pray the scriptures? Of the life and work of St. Benedict we find this: “Benedict instructed his followers to practice sacred reading -- the study of the very Scriptures they would be praying in the Work of God. In this lectio divina, he and his monks memorized the Scripture, studied it, and contemplated it until it became part of their being. Four to six hours were set aside each day for this sacred reading. If monks had free time it "should be used by the brothers to practice psalms." Lessons from Scripture were to be spoken from memory, not read from a book.” (Citation available on request)

St. Dominic, founder of the Dominicans, was a great proponent of Scripture memory, as was St. Therese of Liseaux and many other Catholic saints of past centuries.

If an individual Christian chooses to not memorize Scripture, that is certainly his or her decision. But to claim avoidance of that opportunity on the basis of being a Roman Catholic – well, there is simply no justification for that attitude in the historic teaching of the Catholic Church.
 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Memorizing Scripture



I’ve read the book of Colossians more than 100 times. I know that to be true because I’ve kept a record since 1975 – when I started keeping records of my annual journey through the Bible.

Several weeks ago – April 30, actually – I decided to start memorizing large swaths of Scripture, as I used to do many years ago. I began at Colossians 1:1.

Memorizing large sections of Scripture is not as difficult as it might at first seem. In fact, I find it easier than memorizing verses in isolation. Larger sections of scripture tend to make better sense because the verses are each in context with the surrounding verses.

In the four weeks since I began my memory work in Colossians, I’ve also discovered a deeper understanding of the text – even though I’ve read the chapter more than 100 times.

I attribute that to the fact that as I commit the texts to memory, I have to rehearse them again and again and again for days and weeks at a time. I don’t believe it possible to place so much emphasis on hiding God’s word in your heart that the Holy Spirit will not open deeper understanding to His word.

So what am I trying to say?

Why not commit yourself to memorize not just a few verses in isolation, but what about an entire chapter of Scripture – or even an entire (short) book? It might seem a gargantuan task . . . but it really CAN be done if you determine to do so.

Set a goal for yourself. Mine is to complete Colossians before the end of the year -- certainly an obtainable goal. You can set something similar for yourself -- even if it is only a full chapter of some book before the end of the summer.

What do you think? Want to do this together?

Saturday, May 20, 2017

His god Wants Him Happy

I talked with a woman the other day who’s been married 27 years. She told me her husband wants a divorce so he can marry the woman with whom he’s been sleeping for the past several months. As his excuse, he said to her, “My god wants me to be happy.”

I tried not to look too stunned, but I doubt I was successful. A moment later I responded, “I believe it is true that his god wants him to be happy. But,” I continued, “his god is clearly not the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Later that afternoon while driving home, the Holy Spirit reminded me of a breakfast meeting I’d had the day before with some local church leaders. As we ate our pancakes and bacon, I overheard two ministers from a nearby church who talked among themselves about their same-sex ‘partners.’

And so the bold ‘in-your-face’ mockery of God's demand for our holiness and sanctification goes on and on and on. Yet even though I've encountered multiple dozens of such self-deceived church-goers in the past decade, I still do not cease to be amazed that such people can be so shamelessly cavalier with Him of whom the Holy Spirit warned:

“If we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries . . . . It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:26-31)

The true and eternal God who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ will not be mocked; especially by those who call themselves Christians.

It really will be a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Oh, Holy Spirit PLEASE -- help us all to not “think lightly of the riches of [Your] kindness and tolerance and patience.” Indeed, as the Scripture tells us, Your kindness should lead us to repentance. (Romans 2:4)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Too Hard? Really?



I hear it so often I get so weary of it. “The Bible is too hard to understand for the lay person. They need to have a good commentary in order to understand it.”

But when they say that they preclude the power of the Holy Spirit to guide us into truth – as Jesus said He would.
“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.” (John 16:13-14)

Of course, there are passages of Scripture for which the average reader can benefit from some guidance into the history and culture surrounding what was is written in Scripture. But in my reading of the Bible multiple times, there comes to my mind only a small snippets of God’s -- especially the New Testament -- for which we need additional guidance. I’d suggest easily 95% of the New Testament can be understood by a child.

But when we insist people need a commentary to understand the Scripture, we do nothing less than give many Christians an excuse to avoid reading the Bible. That is why the words of the prophet Amos come to  mymind: “Behold days are coming when I will send a famine on the land, not a salmon for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the Lord. People will stagger from sea to sea and from North even to the east, they will go to and fro to seek the word of the Lord but they will not find it. (Amos 8:11-13).

Has anyone else noticed the famine in our land for the word of God? Television, radio, books -- even from some of our pulpits, nothing less than pablum week after endless week. Lukewarm mush to tickle the ears of those in the pews. Banal drivel without either authority, or challenge, or exhortation to live holy lives.

There is good reason the Lord Jesus told us to pray, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest" (Matthew 9:37). 

And Oh, God!  I add, please give your children a passion to read your word for themselves, that we may know You, and the power of Your resurrection, and the fellowship of Your suffering, that our lives may be truly conformed to Yours.