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

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Co-Laborers


So I'm reading 3 John this morning and I come across this passage again: "Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially when they are strangers; and they have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles."

It is verse 8 that caught my attention: "Therefore we ought to support such men so that we may be fellow workers with the truth."

Isn't it a great encouragement to know that we can be co-laborers with others in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ?

Most of us are unable to go on missionary journeys, whether out of the country or within the country. But God gives each of us the privilege to share in the work of the gospel as we support with our tithes and offerings others who can go.

And so, knowing this to be true, when we hear the voice of God as did Isaiah, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" We are able to also answer the question with the same words as Isaiah, "Here am I. Send me."

Thanks be to God for permitting us to work in His fields that are white into harvest.


Persuasive Arguments

A long time ago – 2000 years ago, to be more precise – a pretty smart guy wrote to the Christians at Collosae: “I say this so that no one will delude you [away from your faith in Christ] with persuasive argument. (2:4) He continued a few verses later: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. 9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10 and in Him you have been made complete . . . .” (verses 8-10).

One of the many arguments in the 21st century used by atheists and others antagonistic to and hateful of Christian faith is the alleged mythological character of our faith. You’ve probably heard the accusations most often parroted by people who have never themselves investigated our faith, but are nonetheless content to simply echo to others their baseless opinions. Their favorite words are superstition, fairy tales, fantasy, and similar pejoratives.

To that argument, I like to recommend those who disparage Christianity as fit only for young children and senile adults to do a simple internet search with the key words such as: Famous Christian scientists, or Famous Christian biologists – or something similar. And then I ask them if they are really willing to declare those many Nobel Laureates and other scientific greats to be superstitious fools?

Or perhaps they know something about the universe – indeed, even our own body’s astounding intricacies – that led them to their conclusion of faith in God?

Here is only one link: http://bit.ly/2vT14uL

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Why Do We Say It?

I wrote this a few years ago. I think it's good to ask myself the same question from time to time:
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Therefore Pilate . . . summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?” (John 18:33-34)


Why do we believe Jesus is King?
And Lord?

Because our parents told us it’s so?
Our teachers? Pastors?
Books we’ve read?
Homilies we’ve heard?

Or do we believe Jesus is King,
and Lord,
because we’ve met Him.
Because we know Him.
Because we speak with Him.

Believing ‘in’ Jesus is not the same as
believing Jesus.

Trusting ‘in’ Jesus is not the same as
trusting Jesus.

Which is why what the Lord asked of Pilate
He asks also of you and me:

“Do you call Me King,
and Lord,
on your own initiative?

Or because of what others have told you of Me?”


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A Guest Post -- Battle for the Heart




A REASON TO BELIEVE
The Case For Christ –
The Head vs. the Heart
by Craig Johnston



Every so often I like to share something written by another. Today’s post is written by Craig Johnston. Craig and I attend the same men’s fellowship at our church. He spoke to the fifty or so men a few weeks ago about his experience having been selected so sit on a Grand Jury in our county – and then made application to the spiritual warfare in which we are all engaged. 

What he told us was important enough that I asked his permission to share his words with others. For the sake of space and clarity, here is an edited version of what he granted me permission to post. 

Here is what he said:

On a typical day we’d hear 50-90 cases. I was shocked and a bit alarmed by the level and nature of crime in our community and those surrounding us. There is a proliferation of gang activity, family violence, drugs, prostitution, and so many cases a complete lack of regard for fellow human beings.

The level of crime and general lack of civility reflects a world engaged in spiritual warfare. There is no doubt we suffer from the effects of a  growing segment of secular society that wants nothing to do with God or religion.  God and religion are often portrayed as a source of our problems. God and religion, people believe, create an atmosphere of conflict and judgment, not of peace and understanding.

Many of the so-called intellectuals say the God of Christianity is a myth.  They teach and proclaim across the media, the public square, and in our educational institutions and even our courts that logic, reason, and science preclude the need for our man-made “god”.

In their ongoing attempts to discredit Christian faith, they lump all faiths together, likening the violence done in the name of one religion to discredit all – as though all religions are equal or the actions of one individual represent the teaching of a faith.

And in denigrating faith in the God of the Bible, atheists and other anti-Christ evangelists achieve their goal of establishing a world where everything is a matter of personal perspective, a place in which morality is relative.

Law enforcement and the justice system do their best to provide a safe and civil society – but the history of the world dating back millennia demonstrate that the cure to the ills of our times will be accomplished not by putting one’s faith in people, but in putting one’s faith in God.

True faith results from not just knowing who God is, but a desire to knowing His nature and will for our lives.  For most of us, I believe the journey of faith start with the head and then moves to the heart. There are times even now when the Doubting Thomas in my head pulls me away from the direction my heart is leading. I’d like to share some words of encouragement that have helped me over the years that help my head get back in line with my heart.

Simon Greenleaf (d. 1853) helped put the Harvard Law School on the proverbial legal map. He wrote the three-volume legal masterpiece, A Treatise on the Law of Evidence, which is still regarded as “the greatest single authority in the entire literature of legal procedure.” The U.S. judicial system today operates on rules of evidence established by Greenleaf.

While teaching law at Harvard, Greenleaf stated to his class that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was simply a legend; as an atheist, he thought miracles to be impossible. In a rebuttal, three of his law students challenged him to apply his acclaimed rules of evidence to the resurrection account.

Greenleaf accepted his students’ challenge and began an investigation into the evidence. Focusing his legal mind on the facts of history, Greenleaf attempted to prove the resurrection account was false. Yet the more Greenleaf investigated the record of history, the more stunned he was at the powerful evidence supporting the claim that Jesus had indeed risen from the tomb. Greenleaf’s skepticism was being challenged by an event that had changed the course of human history.
Among other conundrums, Greenleaf was unable to explain several dramatic changes that took place shortly after Jesus died, the most baffling being the behavior of the disciples. It wasn’t just one or two disciples who insisted Jesus had risen; it was all of them. Applying his own rules of evidence to the facts, Greenleaf arrived at his verdict.
In a surprising reversal of his position, Greenleaf accepted Jesus’ resurrection as the best explanation for the events that took place immediately after his crucifixion. It would have been impossible, he determined, for the disciples to persist with their conviction that Jesus had risen if they hadn’t actually seen the risen Christ.
Greenleaf was so persuaded by the evidence that he became a committed Christian. He – and many former atheists and agnostics who committed themselves to disprove the New Testament account of Jesus – Greenleaf concluded that any unbiased person who honestly examines the evidence will conclude what he did—that Jesus the Christ has truly risen.
As if the resurrection of Christ isn’t enough to convince the honest skeptic, the sheer number of Old Testament messianic prophecies provide additional reason to believe the veracity of the New Testament claims about Jesus.
There are no prophecies foretelling of Muhammad, Joseph Smith, Buddha, or any of the other founders of their religions. Yet of Jesus, there are literally hundreds.
For example, God told us through the prophets that a Virgin would conceive the Messiah, who would be born in Bethlehem but in some way would come out of Egypt, and be called a Nazarene. He would enter Jerusalem on a colt, be betrayed by a friend for 30 pieces of silver, die a sacrificial death for us – and then rise from the dead. We even knew what His last words from the cross would be, how he would suffer the scorn of the crowd, and how soldiers would cast lots for his garments.
The mathematical odds of one person fulfilling the more than three hundred prophecies are impossible for us to grasp. For example, for the fulfillment of only eight prophecies is one out of 10¹⁷. That’s 1 followed by 17 zeros.  It looks like this: 100,000,000,000,000,000. 
For one person to fulfill 48 prophecies is 1 followed by 157 zeros.
Yet, Jesus fulfilled more than 300 prophecies! I’ve not worked it out, but the odds of that happening have to be somewhere in the realm of absolutely impossible -- without the divine intervention of an omnipotent and omniscient God to whom nothing is impossible.
The battle for the heart begins with the mind. And victory in that battle begins and ends only with the God of History, the God of Reason, and the God of science and mathematics.
Christians know Him as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Noted Catholic author and priest, Fr Thomas Dubay came to this conclusion: “From the natural point of view we can come to know God from the vestiges of Himself that he has left in the splendors of the visible universe: the blazing red sunset, the snow-covered mountain peaks, the graceful flight of a bird, the breathtaking magnificent complexity of a single living cell. On a still more exalted level we know Him in the loveliness of the saints- but remains a knowledge of the infinite through the finite”
In a round-about way, Fr. Dubay was paraphrasing the 19th Psalm written 3,000 years ago: “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world.
May God give those who truly seek Him eyes to see and ears to hear.

Monday, July 3, 2017

An Open Letter to Young Christians Leaving Home


So, you’ve graduated high school and you’re headed away from home for the first time. Whether your destination is college, the military, marriage – or anywhere else far from the familiar of family, church, and friends – you must read this. Your spiritual health will be tested many times, and how you handle those tests will determine the memories you will deal with thirty, forty years (and longer) from today.
I know what I am talking about. In the forty-five years I have been walking with Jesus, I have seen it happen over and over to young men and women who left home after high school. For a short while, it even happened to me.
I wish I had known then what I know now about the danger. And I wish someone had given me strategies that could have helped me avoid the moral failures I committed. So here are some time-tested suggestions to help you avoid the many hidden – and not-so-hidden – traps you will encounter.
1. Don’t succumb to pride which whispers in your ear, “It won’t happen to me.” You are subject to the same enticements of sin to which everyone else is subject – regardless how long you have been a Christian. Solomon warned, “Pride goes before disaster, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).  St. Paul picked up that same theme in his letter to the Corinthians, “So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall(1 Corinthians 10:12).
2. Make up your mind ahead of time to avoid situations and places where you can be tempted to sin. Be doubly vigilant to avoid being alone in a house or dorm room with someone of the opposite sex – even if he or she is a Christian. Such a situation is a recipe for bad decisions.  Remember what St. Paul said to Timothy: “So shun youthful passions and aim at righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call upon the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). Memorize this maxim: Sin will take you farther than you want to go. It will keep you longer than you want to stay. And it will cost you more than you want to pay.
3. Avoid hanging with people who do not share your faith in Jesus. King Solomon warned: “Make no friends with those given to anger, and do not associate with hotheads, or you may learn their ways and entangle yourself in a snare” (Proverbs 22:24-25). One can easily substitute “drunkard,” or “an immoral person,” or “liar,” or “cheat,” or any other ungodly characteristic into this text, and the principle remains constant. As the apostle Paul wrote: Bad company ruins good morals (1 Corinthians 15:33).
4. Alcohol, and any other ‘recreational’ drug, will cloud your judgment and make you much more willing to do things for which you will be very sorry afterward. The evidence for this is indisputable. And if your friends poke fun at you because of your abstinence, find other friends. 
5. Pray each morning for God’s protection. Each evening, review your day and thank God for specific situations in which you made the right decisions. However, if you did fall into sin, be quick to confess, repent – and determine with God’s help to avoid doing the same thing again. The Holy Spirit’s promise through St. John has always proven a comfort for me when I sin: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).
6. Establish a habit of daily prayer and reading Scripture. Be consistent with this. It is no surprise the psalmist wrote: How can young people keep their way pure? By guarding it according to Your word . . . . I treasure your word in my heart, so that I may not sin against you. (Psalm 119:9, 11).
Do you remember Jesus’ experience in the wilderness during Satan’s three-fold temptation? At each test, Jesus responded with Scripture (Matthew 4:1-11). For decades I have practiced what I call the 2+2 = 1+3 Scripture Reading Method. If you read two chapters of the Old Testament every morning and two of the New Testament every evening (or vice versa), by the end of the year you will have read the Old Testament once and the New Testament three times (2+2=1+3). On average it takes less than 10 minutes to read two chapters of Scripture. In five years you will have read the Old Testament five times and the New Testament fifteen times. In ten years – well, you can do the math. With so much of God’s word sown year after year in your heart, think how the Holy Spirit will mature you more quickly into the image of Christ.
7. Establish a habit of weekly attendance at a church where the Bible is believed and taught without apology or political correctness. If you are Catholic, establish a habit of weekly attendance at Mass and frequent reception of the Sacraments of the Eucharist and of Reconciliation. 
Prayer, the Scriptures, and the Sacraments are supernatural gifts the Holy Spirit gives to empower believers on their faith journey. Fighting spiritual battles without those spiritual “weapons” is nothing less than a guarantee for failure.  

You will meet many who are actively antagonistic toward your Christ-centered faith. But your situation will be no different than what faithful Christians have faced for millennia. The ancient worship of Baal is a type of 21st century compromise with the anti-Christ philosophies permeating our society. Yet what the Holy Spirit said to Israel through Elijah, He says to us today: ‘How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him’ (1 Kings 18:21).

In other words, decide today – and every day hereafter – that you will follow Jesus and obey Him.. And it is a choice you must every day ask God to help you maintain.
These strategies have proven effective for me over the last several decades of my walk with Christ. And they will also help you avoid many of the spiritual traps that lay ahead of you. Satan is a cruel and merciless liar, thief, and murderer. We must not be ignorant of his schemes (see John 8:44 and 2 Corinthians 2:11).

As you prepare to leave home for the first time I hope you will apply these strategies to your life. You will not be sorry you did so – even forty-five years from now.