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

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Our Daily Bread

Give us this day our daily bread” – Matthew 6:11
This section of the Lord ’s Prayer is not simply a petition for food. Certainly, God knows what we need even before we ourselves know. But implicit in the request for daily bread is a recognition of how utterly dependent we are on God for all things important to life, things like food, shelter, safety, health, clothing, and so forth.
To gloss over that truth places us in spiritual danger. Notice this warning in Deuteronomy:
“When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you. “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today;"
"Otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God . . . [and] you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth . . ..” (Deuteronomy 8:10-18).
Did you catch that? “Beware,” the Lord warns, that when our lives flow easily and our saving accounts flourish that we not ascribe our life-successes to ‘lucky breaks.’
What a sad and thankless thought is that.
Who do we think it is who gives us our skills and intelligence, and who directs us to the right places at the right times? It has always been – and always will be – God working behind the scenes, directing and orchestrating events in and around our life for good, according to His purpose.
“Give us this day our daily bread” ought to always remind us as often as we pray those words, that God alone provides us all things we need.
He just would like us to remember to thank Him.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

White Noise

[Mary] turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" She thought it was the gardener . . . . (John 20:14-15)

I’m such a light sleeper, I need “white-noise” to get a good night’s rest. That’s why I’ve slept with a box fan at my side of the bed for years.

During prayer one morning, as I meditated on the words, ‘Jesus Christ’ – I wondered how often His Name becomes white-noise in our spiritual ears. We hear ‘Jesus Christ’ so often, our subconscious mind seems to sometimes reduce it to just another word in our vocabulary, like “the” or “and.”

Jesus. Christ.



The early Church recognized something extraordinary about that Name which many of us may have forgotten. Or perhaps never learned: There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved (Acts 4); prayers find their answer in that Name (John 14); the sick find healing through that Name (James 5); demons tremble at the sound of that Name (James 2); people are loosed from demon possession through that Name (Mark 3); at his Name every knee will bow and every tongue confess He is Lord (Philippians 2).


The New Testament uses dozens of synonyms to describe Him: Lamb of God, Son of God, Anointed One, Shepherd, Bread of Life, Alpha and Omega, King, Savior, Messiah, Prince of Peace . . .

And that Name has inspired men and women for two thousand years to live – and if necessary, die – for love of His Name.

So, why do people use the holy Name of Jesus as the punch line of a joke, or to voice surprise or anger, or to use as a swear word?

I have a theory. Satan understands there is eternal life in no other than Jesus. He knows forgiveness of sin is available through no other than Jesus. There is deliverance from his infernal grasp through no other than Jesus.

If Satan can deceive mankind into believing Jesus Christ is the stuff of jokes and swear words, few would believe He is Son of God, Lamb of God, Great Shepherd, and Light from Light.

When we say Jesus’ name in prayer and in reverential conversation, we join our hearts with all those in that great communion of saints in heaven and on earth. And we have the same privilege as they: to fall to our knees in homage to Him whose Name is above every name.

Holy Spirit, Help us recognize Jesus when He calls. Help us hear above the white noise the voice of Him who loves us so much that He took our sins to Calvary’s cross. Amen.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Being Sure


The Lord Jesus, addressing 70 of His disciples whom He sent to preach, said: “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20)

St. Paul, in his letter to the Christians in the church at Philippi, wrote: “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” (Philippians 4:2-3)

These two texts, and dozens like them, are not incidental in Scripture. They’re purposeful. They’re in God’s word so that anyone can know ‘today’ if his or her name is written in the Book of Life.

No one needs to wait until the afterlife to find out their eternal destiny.

Are you certain your name is in that Book?

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Boredom and Faith


It’s not unusual for boredom to dull our minds when we read the same things again and again – unless we think what we’re reading is important enough to remain focused. 

That’s why Paul wrote to the Christians at Philippi: “Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is not troublesome to me, and for you it is a safeguard.” (Philippians 3:1) 

He knew boredom always lurks like a lion to tear at the faithful. And boredom always tends toward forgetfulness. 

Some time ago a brother in Christ asked why I read the Scriptures every day – morning and evening at the minimum. I told him it’s because without frequent reminders of God’s promises, exhortations, and even rebukes, it’s easy for what I’ve known for a long time to recede into cloudy memories. 

I need reminders of things He has taught me over the last 46 years since I committed myself to Him. Those reminders serve as safeguards – as Paul wrote – safeguards against the subtle lies and devious innuendos of that lurking lion. 

Christian! Be alert. Be intentional about maturing in your knowledge of God. “Ignorance of Scripture,” wrote St. Jerome, “is ignorance of Christ.” 

If you are not yet regularly reading the Bible, today is a good day to start. Search the internet for key words such as: Bible Reading Plans. Dozens will pop up on your screen.  Or, take a look at mine at this link:

Life is too precious, and too short, to stay a babe in your understanding of God.

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Sh'ma and the Lord's Prayer


Many years ago, my wife and I regularly attended a local synagogue for Sabbath services. Although we were Christians, I enjoyed the Jewish liturgy and rhythm of the rituals because they reminded me of my Jewish upbringing.
 

During each Sabbath service, Jews sing the Sh’ma – an ancient declaration of Jewish faith taken directly from Deuteronomy chapter six: Sh’ma Yisrael, Adonai Elohenu, Adonai echod – Hear, oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. The Sh’ma is so important in Jewish religious history that persecuted Jews have died with those words on their lips in a final testament to their faith.
 

One Sabbath as we sang the text I noticed a middle-aged man a few pews to my left singing with the rest of us, but his attention was focused on his fingernails. I watched in dumbfounded disbelief as he cleaned his nails with a toothpick – yet all the while singing Israel’s most profound declaration of faith.
 

Like the Sh’ma, the Lord’s Prayer is a profound declaration of our relationship with God. The full meaning of that prayer has still not yet been plumbed, although volumes have been written about it over the millennia.



Christian, beware. Like the Sh’ma, the Lord’s prayer can lose its vibrancy in the dullness of rote recitation.



Don’t let that happen to you. The next time you recite the prayer – even if you have to stop reciting after the first sentence – let the congregation continue without you. But you, take time to think about what you are saying. And do the same each week. It will change the impact of the prayer for you.


Monday, October 8, 2018

God of the Old. God of the New


I wrote this four years ago. With recent revelations of a popular pastor in Atlanta, I thought it would be good to revisit it.

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God of the Old, God of the New


Is the God of the Old Testament different from the God of the New Testament? To hear some people, even in the Church, you would think He is.



God’s judgment of sin seems to overflow the pages of the Old Testament. You can open it almost at random, especially the prophets, or the historical books like Kings or Chronicles, and find unmistakable evidence of God’s wrath against rebellion and evil. But unless you land on the book of Revelation, or isolated passages in the gospels, Acts, or the epistles, the God pictured in the New Testament seems tame by comparison.



But God, as C.S. Lewis observed, is not a tame lion.

Because of what seems a difference in God’s character in both testaments, a heresy called Marcionism developed in the second-century church. Marcion, a church leader, believed the wrathful Old Testament God was different than the all-forgiving God of the New Testament. Marcion also rejected the Old Testament scriptures as unworthy to be included in the Christian bible.



The Church, however, rejected Marcion’s teaching as false and dangerous to the faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 123) says this about the Marcion heresy: Christians venerate the Old Testament as true Word of God. The Church has always vigorously opposed the idea of rejecting the Old Testament under the pretext that the New has rendered it void . . . . 



While a superficial reading of Scripture can suggest an inconsistency in God’s character between both testaments, the inconsistency evaporates on closer examination. God is the same God of mercy, love, judgment, and wrath in both eras. For example, Ananias’ and Sapphira’s deaths because they lied to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5) is not dissimilar from the deaths of Nadab and Abihu who ‘offered strange fire” on God’s altar (Leviticus 10). The reason for King Herod’s death (Acts 12) is not much different from the reason God killed the Judean King Ahab (1 Kings 22). God struck Elymas the magician with blindness (Acts 13), and did the same to the mob surrounding Lot’s house (Genesis 19). God brought judgment on Israel because of her sins (e.g. 2 Chronicles 36), and God warns His church against turning from Him (Revelation 2-3), and He will bring global destruction on a world of unrepentant sinners (Revelation 4-18).



The reason people confuse the pictures of God in both testaments is often rooted in the amount of material available to form an accurate understanding of God’s unchanging nature.



The New Testament covers the span of about 60 years, but the Old Testament encompasses a period of 1400 years. That difference alone allows the writers of Sacred Scripture much more time to demonstrate the fullness of God’s character. Further, the Old Testament is comprised of 73 books. The New Testament has only 27. The Old Testament has 1,074 chapters, the New Testament only 260. The Old Testament has more than 25,000 verses, the New Testament a little less than 8,000 verses. But the differences in the quantity of material in both testaments should not surprise us. The Old Testament is the story of a people. The New Testament is a story of a person.



The Holy Spirit tells us: In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways,  but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. (Hebrews 1:1-2) 



In his letter to the church at Corinth, St. Paul underscores the importance of familiarity with the Old Testament to help us understand the New Covenant: These things happened as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil things, as they did. And do not become idolaters, as some of them did . . . . Let us not indulge in immorality as some of them did . . . . Do not grumble as some of them did, and suffered death by the destroyer. These things happened to them as an example, and they have been written down as a warning to us, upon whom the end of the ages has come. (1 Corinthians 10:6-11)



Little wonder that St. Augustine commented: The New Testament lies hidden in the Old, and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.



God’s character has not changed, and neither has His modus operandi. The Holy Spirit tells us: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). And He tells us through the prophet Malachi: “For I, the Lord, do not change” (Malachi 3:6).



God’s love, mercy, and compassion extend from Genesis and into the 21st century. Equally important – and we ought not to minimize this eternal reality – God’s holiness, justice, and wrath toward sin also extend across the same period of time.

 

Friday, October 5, 2018

Yelling at the Radio

I don’t usually yell at the radio. But I couldn’t help myself this afternoon.
I’d tuned into some Catholic talk show. The guy was explaining the “Pastoral” reasons for supporting homosexual fellowships within local Catholic Churches. The rationale is – so the guy said – as long as the homosexual person remains ‘celibate’ , being part of a homosexual fellowship of like-minded ‘chaste’ homosexuals is good, so the person does not feel isolated.
Apart from the obvious Biblical injunction AGAINST such fellowships (well, obvious to those who read their Bible regularly for guidance and not for information), the absolute stupidity of encouraging gay men and women to hang out with others of like-mindedness makes a complete mockery of human nature – which is a SIN NATURE.
It’s like encouraging a recovering female prostitute to hang out with a men’s group. Or expecting a heterosexual couple who’ve slept together for a while to now live together without further sin.
Sheesh! How is what ought to be crystal clear danger to these poor men and women caught in this sin – how do ‘pastors’ not recognize they are aiding and abetting these souls to fall deeper into their sin?
Here is what God says about it all:
“Now FLEE from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22)
“Abstain from every APPEARANCE of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22)
“Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9ff)
“For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them.” (Ephesians 5:5ff)
I could go on and on – and so can many of you.
I wonder why some of our bishops and priests don’t think the sexual sin Paul wrote about in 1 Corinthians (and later in 2 Corinthians) – I wonder why some of our bishops and priests don’t believe that story holds guidance for 21st century pastoral care. You can read the incident in 1 Corinthians 5 and 2 Corinthians 2.
In his first letter, Paul held no punches when he addressed the disgraceful conduct of the man in their congregation who was committing incest with his father’s wife. In unambiguous terms, Paul commanded them to excommunicate the guy for the ongoing sin and scandal he had caused in the church.
From what we read in 2 Corinthians, the church did as Paul ordered, with the result (and this is critical) that the man repented, turned from his sin – and was restored to fellowship with the church AND with God.
THAT, my Christian brethren, THAT is the purpose of pastoral care – to correct the sinner to the right path.
As I said, I could go on and on, citing one Biblical text after the other that turns upside down the irresponsible, fatuous, and eternally dangerous practices put forth by some Catholic leaders who think what they are doing is pastoral.
It is NOT pastoral. It is doing nothing less than helping poor souls remain trapped in their sin and who ultimately will experience the wrath of God. Those are not MY words, those are words the apostle Paul, under the direct inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, wrote down for us to obey.
THAT’S why I yelled at the radio. Pastors and bishops and everyone in the pew needs to finally get off the touchy-feely “I’m okay-You’re Okay” damnable philosophies and do what God called godly shepherds to do: Speak the truth in love.
Speak the TRUTH!
Not YOUR truth. Not the culture’s truth.
God’s truth taught by the Church since the first century!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Sifting Trials

“You are those who have stood by Me in My trials.” (Luke 22:28) The context of that verse is the Lord’s last meal with His closest friends. He knew what was about to happen to Him in just a few short hours. I’m certain the Lord's voice was rich with the emotions of gratefulness, even of thanksgiving. But this time as I read the passage my mind shifted direction. I imagined Jesus looking at His 21st century disciples and saying with equal emotion: “You are those who have stood by Me in your trials.” Please reread that last clause. Don’t miss the subtle change. “You are those who have stood by me in YOUR trials.” Most of us know of Christians who’ve suffered terrible tragedy, even unspeakable personal and family catastrophes. Some have endured life-events that we could never want to imagine could happen to anyone. And it was too much for them. Their spirits shattered, their souls rent in ragged pieces, they threw away their faith, they turned their backs and walked away from their God. They would not stand with their Lord in – and because of – their trials.  Do you know people like that? Oh! I do. Please! Pray for them. The Shepherd still searches for His lost sheep, His desperate sheep, His shattered and scattered sheep. But there’s something else in this Last Supper conversation that we must not miss. After the Lord thanked them for staying with Him in His trials, He turned to Peter: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Christian: Never think the devil doesn’t want to sift you like wheat, to break your faith, to twist his arrows in your gut until you bleed out. But also never forget – your Savior prays for you just like He prayed for Peter. In your mourning, in every gut-wrenching sorrow, He prays for you. Moment by moment. And when you come through to the other side of the tragedy, He says to you what He said to Peter: Strengthen your brethren. Listen! God will never forsake you. He will never abandon you. He will never leave you. Please, trust Him. With all your heart, trust Him.  Don’t rely on your own perspective.* God’s ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. His purposes and plans are as far above ours as heaven is above earth.** The sifting that comes to us does not need to be fatal to our faith. God has irrevocably promised that He will never permit the devil to sift or test ANYONE beyond their strength. God will always provide the way out so that we may be able to get through it.*** Christian: Stand by Jesus in the midst of your trials and even your disasters. Stay close. And, (and this too is very important) if you’re one of those who’ve left His side, even long ago do what Peter eventually did. Return to your Savior. Return to the One who has never stopped loving you. He never closes His arms to anyone who wants to come home. * see Proverbs 3:5 ** see Isaiah 55:8-9 *** see 1 Corinthians 10:13