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

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Be Careful Little Eyes


 Many adults raised in church probably learned this song as children:
O be careful little eyes what you see
O be careful little eyes what you see
For the Father up above
Is looking down in love,
So, be careful little eyes what you see

O be careful little ears what you hear
O be careful little ears what you hear
For the Father up above
Is looking down in love,
So, be careful little ears what you hear

O be careful little feet where you go
O be careful little feet where you go
For the Father up above
Is looking down in love,
So, be careful little feet where you go

I was raised in a Jewish home, so I never heard the song until, as an adult, I met Messiah Jesus. Then, when I married Nancy a few years later, we volunteered to teach 2nd grade Sunday School classes. The simple song became part of our curriculum.
I thought of the lyrics the other day as I read through St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians:
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8)
In other words: “Be careful little eyes, and ears, and feet.”
The promise – and the warning – are usually lost on young and innocent minds. But the promise and warning in Paul’s letter is more apparent to the adult. If we sow to our fleshly lusts, we will reap poisonous fruit. If we sow to Christ’s Spirit within us, we will reap a life-giving harvest.
It’s a simple – and flawless – equation.
“Bad company corrupts good morals,” the Holy Spirit tells us through the apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 15:33). Later, to the same church, God warned: “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-15)
Christian, be careful. Do not let down your guard. The promise and the warning of that simple children’s song, and of the text in Galatians 6, is as absolute as the law of gravity.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Not Take it or Leave It

“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

I just read the vignette in Mark’s gospel about the woman who’d been bleeding for 12 years. It’s a story probably familiar to many of you. Here’s a portion of Mark 5, beginning at verse 27:

“After hearing about Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak. For she thought, “If I just touch His garments, I will get well.” Immediately the flow of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that the power proceeding from Him had gone forth, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My garments?” And His disciples said to Him, “You see the crowd pressing in on You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’”

"And He looked around to see the woman who had done this. But the woman fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction.”

This was not a halfhearted seeking. The woman did not exhibit a passive ‘take it or leave it’ attitude. No, not her. She meant business.

From one end of the Scriptures to the other, God's message is clear: He is pleased when we mean business in seeking Him. No tepid, lukewarm, take-it- or-leave-it searching.

Isn’t that what you want to do? Seek Him with all your heart?

It’s what I want to do.

Usually.

But not all the time.

Holy Spirit, please continue to change my heart. Grant by Your grace that I may seek Jesus as this woman sought Him, to press through the crowds, just to touch His cloak. Amen.

Monday, November 20, 2017

God is Pro-Choice

I posted this a couple of years ago. I thought it good to repost it:

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God is pro-choice.

That really shouldn't surprise anyone.

He didn't create us to render robotic obedience to Him. If we couldn't disobey, then our obedience would be meaningless. Which is why, because He desires humanity to willingly return His love, He made a strategic, yet risky decision at our creation.
He let us choose whom we will serve, whom we will love, and whom we will obey.

Choices, of course, carry consequences.

The consequence for a lifestyle of obedience to Him results in complete, through and through, forgiveness for the sins we bring Him in repentance. He permits us to intimately know Him in this life, and in the one which lasts forever.

The consequence for a lifestyle of disobedience results in inevitable and eternal judgment for the sins we have committed, and in painful and unending separation from Him in the life which lasts forever.

Which is why, by the way, He pleads with us:

Choose wisely.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Don't Throw it Away

I started reading again through 1 Peter this morning. I usually try to finish it in one sitting. It’s only five very short chapters. Barely six pages in my Bible.

But this morning I couldn’t hardly get beyond the first chapter in the time I allotted myself. I stopped for a while at verses 3-6 of chapter one.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Notice the verb tenses in that section. They’re important.

Verse 3: God’s great mercy ‘has caused us’ (past tense) to be born again to a living hope. That’s not a ‘maybe’ promise. It’s already been accomplished.

Now verse 4: We’ve been born again through His mercy to obtain in imperishable inheritance already reserved (past tense) in heaven for us. There’s another promise of a ‘done deal.’

And then verse 5: ‘We are protected’ (present tense) by God’s power through our faith in Him.

No wonder Peter continues in verse 6: “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials . . ."

Christian! You have great reason to rejoice in God’s many promises of your eternal destination. You and I can rest in the assurance that God has already ‘qualified’ us (past tense) to share in the heavenly inheritance. Why? Because “He rescued us (past tense) from the domain of darkness and transferred us (past tense) into the Kingdom of His beloved Son’ (see Colossians 1:12-14).

Child of God through faith in the atoning blood of Jesus! Keep walking with Him. Stay faithful and obedient to Him. “Do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised” (Hebrews 10:35-36).

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Persevere

“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love.
O to grace how great a debtor, Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let they goodness, like a fetter, Bind my wandering heart to thee.

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love.
Here's my heart. O take and seal it; Seal it for thy courts above.”
(From the hymn, Come Thou Font)


I just finished Hebrews again. This time a verse in chapter 10 caught my eye. “Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.”

Have you ever noticed, as you read the Bible for yourself, how often the Holy Spirit encourages us toward endurance? The synonym ‘Perseverance’ is also often used throughout both testaments. If you do a word-search for the two words in any concordance, I think you might be as surprised as I to discover how often those words appear in context with our relationship with God.

And I thought, as I put the Bible down for a moment, there’s a reason God repeatedly urges us toward that character trait. It’s because we – you and I – are so easily tempted to quit doing what we know is right.

God knows us far better than any of us know ourselves. He knows of the frustrations that assail from time to time. He knows the powerful pull of worldly philosophies, the alluring seductions of a variety of temptations. He knows the anger that surges in our gut when we face situations we cannot control and which we rightly believe unjust. He knows our fears, our loneliness, our illnesses that impel us toward depression and melancholy.

No wonder, God tells us so often: “Call on Me. I haven’t left you. I haven’t forsaken you.”

No wonder He says it so often: "Persevere!"

But His exhortation does not, of course, stop there. God knows our frame. He is quite mindful that we are but dust.

And when we fall – no matter for how long, or how many times, the Father continues watching for His Prodigal Son or Daughter to repent. To return home. And start again.

Remember this: saints are simply sinners who, as often as they fall down – they get up.

Christian! You are not alone in your frustrations, your loneliness, your sadness, your temptations.

Persevere!

Our God – our ‘Emmanuel’ – is always with us.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

From Fire to Ashes


I wrote and posted this essay several years ago. I can still learn from the message.



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The fire on the altar is to be kept burning; it must not go out. Every morning the priest shall put firewood on it. On this he shall lay out the burnt offering and burn the fat of the peace offerings. The fire is to be kept burning continuously on the altar; it must not go out (Leviticus 6:5-6).


The smoke never stopped. Night and day, it rose toward heaven. From every corner of the camp the people could see it in the distance. It always reminded them Whose they were, and to Whom they belonged.

They couldn't escape the message -- but the message was always in danger of losing its power. And after a time, that’s what happened. The special became routine. Holy awe waned into indifference. The perpetual smoke became more a token of religion than an evidence of faith. Even before they crossed the Jordan, Israel fell into spiritual lethargy and everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Deuteronomy 12:8).

Israel was not alone in her tendency to drift from awe to boredom. Throughout ancient and modern history, humanity, like sheep, has more often than not wandered from the fires of faith to the ashes of religion.

Even we in the Church are at risk. Perhaps it is better to say, "We in the Church are especially at risk."

While the Lord Jesus continually offers intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25), we can lose our passion for Him. Our worship can tend toward religious ceremony rather than inspire the flames of faithful devotion, obedience, and evangelism.

Israel’s fire did not need to cool. And neither does ours. The remedy available to Israel is the same for God’s people today:
[Love] the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (Deuteronomy 6:5)



Love God. With all our heart and soul and might.



Fr. Pedro Arupe, SJ (died 1991) said it as well as I have ever seen or heard it:

 

Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love [with God]. Stay in love, and it will decide everything.




Oh, Holy Spirit. Help us fall ever deeper in love with our God. Please.



Amen.