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

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

More Than Astonished

After the Lord’s Sermon in chapters 5 through 7 of Matthew’s gospel, the writer concludes: "When Jesus finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes." (Matthew 7:28-29)

No one knows what became of the crowd who listened to Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. We do know, however, it’s never enough to simply be “astonished” by a sermon. It’s never enough to be astonished by His presence – even in the Eucharist. What matters is a changed life, a “doing” His commandments instead of just “hearing.” Isn’t that what Jesus said to his audience a few verses earlier in that last chapter?

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”

I remember a time I wasn’t at all astonished by Christ’s teaching. I rejected it. In those days I prided myself on being an atheist, always ready to challenge Christians with unanswerable questions like, “Can you prove God exists?” or “Why does He permit cancer? Or war? Why do drunk drivers kill entire families?”

But when I was stopped at a traffic light in 1970, the thought caught me by surprise: "What if there is a God?"

Intrigued by the thought – but only for a moment – I let myself follow the question to its logical conclusion. Though I knew nothing about God’s word, intuitively I knew if He existed, He didn’t at all approved of my lifestyle of cavalier sexual encounters, drug abuse, drunkenness, thefts, and general rebellion against any of God’s laws I thought inconvenient.

I would have to change.

But I didn’t want to change. I liked living as I did. So, when the light turned green, I pushed the question from my mind.

I am grateful for God’s mercy because He did not ignore me nearly fifty years ago at that traffic light when I ignored Him. And I must also be quick to say His mercy is not limited to me. It extends to everyone – even to you reading this. Regardless of the times you may have disobeyed Him, or even rejected and denied Him, His absolute and utter forgiveness remains only a prayer away – a prayer such as this:

"Lord Jesus, your mercy should do more than astonish me. Please, change me. Please forgive the many times I’ve turned from you. I know I am not worthy to come to you, yet only say the word, and I shall be healed – and I shall follow you the rest of my life."

Sunday, April 23, 2017

When We Are Not In Control



When we discover we are not at all in control of our life events and circumstances, too often we alternate between frustration, anger, or bitterness. There is another way. A better way. I talk about it here:

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

I Will Not Believe

I’ve met people like Thomas. He’s the one, you might remember, who said to the other disciples, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25)

I will not believe.

That’s what my friend has told me again and again over the years -- along the lines of: “Unless God demonstrates to my satisfaction His existence, unless He explains His actions and inactions to my approval, I will not believe.”

I am amazed at the arrogance of some people.

Thomas had a choice: Believe what others whom he trusted told him about the Savior, or disbelieve.

He chose wrongly.

Jesus, as we learn in this passage, did in fact demonstrate to Thomas’ satisfaction that He was alive. But no one should expect the Lord of creation to do likewise for everyone or anyone. That’s why John wrote a few verses later: Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

You and I have the Book – the inerrant record of Jesus’ life, His death, and His resurrection. And it is through that Book that God tells us why Jesus had to die, and what you and I must do to receive eternal life.

The warning in Luke 16 about the Rich Man and Lazarus suddenly comes to my mind because it speaks directly to those who demand of God that He answer them to their satisfaction. You might not know the story, so I hope you will read it in its entirety at this link. The verses specific to my point follow:

27 And [the Rich Man] said [to Abraham], ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

29 But Abraham *said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”

God does not usually reveal Himself to us as He did to Thomas. Nonetheless, God gives you and me a choice – to choose to believe what He tells us of Himself in His Book, or to choose to disbelieve unless He meets our demands.

Be humble, and choose wisely.

http://bit.ly/2nYIAsp


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Please! Develop the Habit



This note is specifically for my fellow Catholics, but if you’re a Protestant, I offer it to you as well.

The psalmist, in writing about those who desire to walk closely with God, writes this in Psalm 1: “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.”  Later, in Psalm 119, the psalmist adds: “Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

If we have access to a Bible, there is simply no other way to grow in our understanding of God than to consistently and reflectively read His word. That’s the way He designed it. If we have access to it, and ignore it, we should not expect Him to change the rules for us.

Some time ago I posted my recommended Bible Reading Plan. The plan can be started any time during the year.  http://bit.ly/2cv5cee 

Please!  Develop a habit of reading His book every day.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Miracle of the Donkey


Days before His trial and crucifixion, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a very young donkey. It was the first time – the first time – anyone had ridden the colt. As they traveled together along the dirt road, the tumultuous crowd on either side waved large palm branches across their path and shouted, “Hosanna!  Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” 

Each Palm Sunday I think of the miracle of the donkey.

The colt never bucked in resistance to someone on its back for the first time in its life. It didn’t flinch and swerve with fear at the branches waved in front of its eyes. It never brayed in agitation at the shrill shouts and commotion. Its four-hoof cadence remained calm, purposeful, and peaceful as they made their way through the clamoring crowd toward the city.

During many seasons of my life I’ve been intimate with confusion. And heartache. And fear. There have been times when all three disrupted my life-cadence to near paralysis.

Which is why in the future I should think more often of the miracle of the donkey.

I’ve wondered from time to time why the colt was so calm. And too often I found my musings become too ‘spiritual’ for my own good: Perhaps the beast felt the calming weight of Christ’s glory. Perhaps it intuitively recognized Christ’s authority and power. But the longer I thought about the scene in light of the entire Bible, I rejected those fanciful ideas for something simpler – and far more likely.

The donkey trusted its creator and master.

I always settle on that reason because it is Biblically sound. Not very often does the child of God ‘feel’ God’s presence in the midst of confusion, exhaustion, heartbreak, illness, loneliness, or fear. That is why the Holy Spirit repeatedly tells us to walk by faith, not by sight. Or ‘feelings.’

Here are only a few examples: “When I am afraid I will put my trust in You.” (Psalm 56:3); “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.” (Isaiah 41:10); “Say to those with anxious heart, “Take courage, fear not.” (Isaiah 35:4); “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33); “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20).

The miracle of the donkey is not so much a miracle as it is an illustration for us of how trust in our master brings calm in the midst of life’s seeming continuous clamor.

I’m not there yet. I do not yet have the simple trust of a beast of burden. But I know how to pray – and I pray it often:

”Lord, I believe. Help me in my unbelief.”  

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Quiet Ones

During a recent discussion a woman I know said something so profound, so insightful about the Lord Jesus that I’ve been feeding off it now for several days. When I later told her how her words had stayed with me, she seemed genuinely surprised.

“No one ever listens to me,” she said.

That, too, gave me reason to pause.

No one listens to her. I can’t understand how that can be true, but she said it, and so it must be.

This is not the first time the Lord Jesus taught me the same lesson that He again taught me when she said no one listens to her. And in my more reflective moments I realize how much better my life with Christ would probably be if I paid less attention to ‘Type A’ personalities – at church, in the classroom, or at the office – and much closer attention to the quiet ones God places all around me.

Especially at home.

What was it the Holy Spirit tells us though St. Paul? “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are . . .” (1 Corinthians 1:26-28)

No, this woman’s name does not matter. You already know her. And you already know him. You see them every day. They’re the quiet ones, the invisible ones, the ones to whom few pay attention. Oh, if only the Lord would quiet our hearts and open our ears to what He would teach us through them.

And if only we would listen.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Who Will You Believe?

You’ve probably heard the song by George Jones: The Lonesome Valley. Perhaps you’ve sung it in church. Here are some of the lyrics:

You gotta walk that lonesome valley, you gotta walk it by yourself; Nobody else can walk it for you, You gotta walk it by yourself.

You must go and stand your trials, you have to stand it by yourself, Nobody else can stand it for you, you have to stand it by yourself.

Oh, you gotta walk that lonesome valley, Oh, you gotta walk it by yourself; Nobody else is gonna walk it for you, You gotta walk, walk it by yourself.

Some think the song has a soft, melancholy melody, but the words of this song are nothing short of dangerous to the Christian’s spiritual health. Unlike these lyrics, Scripture from Genesis through Revelation assures us the man and woman of God NEVER walks a valley alone. God’s child NEVER journeys through trials alone.

Of the hundreds of promises in Scripture that contradict the song, here, for example, is what the Holy Spirit tells us through the Psalmist:

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there . . . If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me (Psalm 139:7-10).

And through the prophet Isaiah: When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. (Isaiah 43:2).

And again through Isaiah: Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me. (Isaiah 43:15-16)

And from the lips of the Lord Jesus: I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)

Christian, be careful. Who are you going to believe? The Holy Spirit, or lyrics that contradict God's promises? We do not walk a lonesome valley by ourselves. Alone. Forgotten.

To believe that is to believe – and live – a terrible lie.