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

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Quo Vadis?

The term is a Latin phrase meaning, "Where are you going?" It dates to an early Church tradition – a tradition every Christian and every pastor might do well to review once a year.

According to the tradition, St. Peter is fleeing government persecution in Rome – and his own likely execution – when he meets the Risen Jesus on the road outside the city.

Peter asked the Lord, “Quo Vadis?” (Where are you going?). To which Jesus responded, “To Rome to be crucified again.”

Suddenly face to face with his own fear -- and remorse, Peter turns and goes back into the city where he continues the work to which Christ has called all Christians: “Preach the gospel.”

St. Peter is eventually martyred and crucified upside down. But the point of the story is not Peter‘s martyrdom, but that he overcame his fear and returned to the city. The point of the story is that he would not be ashamed of Christ or of the gospel. He would continue to preach the truth. The point of the story is:

You and I must do likewise.

Peter’s colleague, St. Paul, wrote this warning and word of encouragement to young Timothy – a word of warning and encouragement the Holy Spirit applies to you and me in this 21st century:

“I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths."

The apostle continues: “But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”(2 Timothy 4)

Today, like only a few other times in Church history, governments and men and women – even within the Church – no longer wish to hear truth. Instead, they seek teachers who will tell them what they want to hear.

From the pulpit to the pew, from the highest seats of government to the highest chairs in universities – even those universities founded on Christian principles – men and women now bow the knee and kiss the feet of the idol called Tolerance, whose only two requirements are: Everyone do what is right in your own eyes; and everyone else must accept what you do as okay.

Christian, listen! At this very moment Jesus has turned to ask you: Quo Vadis?

What is your answer?

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Terrorist and the Cross

"Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God "(Romans 1:1).

As I prepared for this week’s Sunday message (you can search for me on YouTube), I paused at the first word of this verse and reminded myself about the author.
We might today call him a religious terrorist. That's not a point to gloss over. Here is his own testimony as he spoke before King Agrippa and the governor Festus: (Acts 26):
“So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities."
Why is it important that we know Paul’s history? Because God demonstrates through this man – as He has demonstrated to us again and again throughout history – no one is beyond the reach of God’s mercy.
No one.
Then this morning, as I read Paul’s comment to Timothy, I thought once more of God’s astounding, most gracious promise of forgiveness. Here is what Paul wrote to Timothy: “I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience . . . .” (2 Timothy 1:3)
Did you catch that? This former terrorist said he served God
“With a clear conscience"! How could that be, knowing what we know of his past?
The answer to that question is the same answer to anyone who has brought their sins – whatever the sins – to the foot of the Cross. “If we confess our sins,” another apostle wrote, “God is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Do you want a clear conscience? Then with your heart, confess whatever sin it is that keeps you from entering into full fellowship and full intimacy with God. He did not lie when He promised to forgive the penitent. He is not toying with us when He swore to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. He is being eternally honest and forthright when He tells us, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Finally, I Gave Him My Heart

My wife published this in the Signs of the Times magazine in 2006. She’d forgotten about it until a few days ago. As is true with all salvation testimonies, hers is a wonderful example of God’s grace and patience. She hopes, as do I, that God will speak to your own heart as your read her story:

I Finally Gave My Heart
By Nancy Maffeo

For some people, accepting Jesus comes easily. For others, it takes time. Sometimes a long time. 

The morning I tried to crucify my mother, I discovered my sinful nature. I was five when I positioned the pointed end of a bobby pin against her hand. I thought, If I nail Mommy to her bed, the baby will have to wait until I let Mommy go.

“Pound, pound,” I said as my fist tapped the pin.

My mother awoke with a scream, grabbed the bobby pin, and shouted, “What are you doing? That’s what people did to Jesus.” Hot guilt flooded over me. I love Jesus. I’d never do anything to hurt Him! I ran into my bedroom, jumped beneath my blanket, and sobbed to Him, “I’m sorry.”

By the time I was eight, I no longer hid in my bed when I felt guilt. I ignored it. I didn’t know denial of sin was the same as denial of Jesus.
Later that spring, an evangelist spoke at our church. He asked, “If Jesus came to your house, would you invite Him in?”
I was frightened by that thought. I knew I lied to my parents, sometimes hated my sister, and hid toys under the bed when they belonged in the toy box. I wouldn’t want Jesus to visit me. The next Sunday the evangelist offered us a way to welcome Jesus: We could sing, “Into my heart, come into my heart, Lord Jesus . . . .” 
I sang the song and meant it. But only for a while.
One evening during my second year in middle school, I devoured a large pepperoni pizza. By 2:00 A.M. my overly full stomach rumbled and ached. I prayed, “Jesus, I’ll follow You if You will just keep me from throwing up.” Minutes later I felt a peace flow over me and my roiling stomach quieted. Thankful, I tried—really tried—to keep my end of the bargain in the weeks that followed, but my heart had not changed, and I forgot my commitment once again.
What I lacked in constancy I made up for in service. I attended church every week. I taught Bible classes and helped the youth director during my summer breaks from college. But when it came to making a formal declaration of faith, I stalled. I knew that any decision I made must be one of total surrender; I had to be willing to change.
After college I found a job as a kindergarten teacher in southern California. I no longer attended church, preferring to fill my life with a boyfriend, long hours in my classroom, weekend visits with my family, or trips to the coast. During that time, I joined a painters’ guild and entered art shows, fulfilling a childhood dream of becoming an artist. Outwardly, I seemed to be prospering, but inwardly I was lonely, fearful, and insecure.
During my third year of teaching, a fellow teacher mentioned that her daughter planned to attend an evangelistic series in the next state. The event would be televised in our area. The term evangelistic meetings brought back long-forgotten memories of Vacation Bible School, church picnics, and sitting with my parents in the church pew.
I decided to tune in on a Friday evening. I set up my paints and turned on the television. The six-foot canvas titled “Homage to Hindu Thought” was almost complete. As I worked color glazes over the face of a Buddha, I listened to the music and the opening words of the evangelist’s address. The Holy Spirit caught my attention, and I laid down my brush.
I can’t remember what the preacher said that evening, but when he gave the invitation, an urgency charged me with purpose. “Choose now!” I recalled the many times I had refused to put my life, hopes, dreams, and future in the outstretched hands of Jesus. This might be my last chance.
I bowed my head, asked forgiveness for my sins, and acknowledged Jesus as the one and only Savior. I knew that this time I’d made a binding promise. With all my will I committed my life to a relationship with Christ.
I had no idea what wonderful plans God had for me. Nine months later I flew to Japan to teach in an elementary school on a navy base. There I met Rich, my future husband.
God has blessed our marriage with three children and impressed me to leave my teaching career and become a full-time mother and homemaker.
Writing for publication is another opportunity I would never have imagined. God helped me, a poor speller, to write clear sentences and to encourage others through my published articles.
I will be forever grateful Jesus kept calling me. I have never regretted the evening I gave Him my heart.

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Simple Answer

I bet it’s been dozens of times I’ve told someone, “The only way America can have peace is if we return to God.”
And dozens of times, the person I’m talking to fired back: “Who’s to say YOUR God is the true God?”
It was always downhill from there as I quickly found myself in a fruitless philosophical discussion, trying to ‘prove’ my position.
It always, always turned out to be a waste of time.
That’s why I concluded a long time ago there is a better way to answer the challenge. In fact, the apostle Paul’s monologue to the Athenians (Acts 17) even gives us a template for our response.
Here is what has now become my simple answer to what seems to some a complicated question:
“Who is the true God? He is the One who created heaven and earth, even everything visible and invisible. He is the One clearly revealed to us by nature and about whom the heavens and the earth shout His praise. He is the One who revealed Himself to humanity through the Judeo-Christian Bible, and who finally and definitively revealed Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ.
And, oh, by the way, it is only to this Creator, this true God, that we must repent for our sins. It is only this God whom we must obey.
How do I know all of what I just wrote is unerringly true?
That's really easy to answer. Here is how Paul did it for the skeptical Athenians: “God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
Look again at that last clause. It is the key to the question why I know everything I wrote here about God is true. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, nothing I’ve said about God – none of it is true.
None of it.
Will everyone to whom we speak suddenly see the proverbial light and fall on their knees in homage to the true God? Of course not. Most of those who listened that day to Paul sneered and walked away.
Ah, but some, we are told, believed.
When I talk to unbelievers who inevitably challenge the certainty of my faith, I try to avoid complicating the simple truth, which is this:
The God of the Judeo-Christian Bible is the only true God. It is He who created everything, visible and invisible. It is He who reveals Himself through nature, through the Scriptures, and through His resurrected Son.
The skeptic might remain skeptical. But God calls us only to plant, or to water.
It is He alone who causes the growth.