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

Monday, September 30, 2019

The Nicene Creed

The Nicene Creed is the most widely used statements of the Christian faith. Recitation of the creed is common to many liturgical congregations, such as Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, and in some churches with Calvinist history. In churches where the creed is not recited, the congregants usually agree with the doctrines embedded in the Creed.

Further, in the original Creed statement, "I believe in one, holy catholic and apostolic church . . ." please note the word 'catholic' is not capitalized. That is because the word means 'universal' -- not, as some might believe, Roman Catholic. 

The entire Body of Christ, comprised of men and women from all Christian congregation who adhere to the fundamental beliefs inherent in the Nicene Creed are part of the universal (catholic) Church.

You will find minor wording differences from one denomination to another, but essentially the Nicene Creed reads as follows:

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible;  I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages, God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial [of one substance] with the Father;  Through whom all things were made; 

For us men and for our salvation He came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and was made man;  He was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried;  and rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father; 

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead; His kingdom shall have no end. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, and Giver of Live, who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified; who has spoken through the Prophets. 

I believe one holy catholic [i.e. universal] and Apostolic Church;  I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins;  and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Did Moses write the Pentateuch?

A friend is attending a bible study at our church. They are studying the time line of Scripture, and was told Moses did not write the five books attributed to him. You might have heard the same liberal tripe yourself. What he was told bothered me all night, and so the next morning I sent this to him:
What is being alluded to (consciously or unconsciously) by those who teach that sort of thing is called the Graf-Wellhausen JEPD theory. You can find information about it here -- or you can do your own internet search: http://helpmewithbiblestudy.org/5system_moses/notes/dh6.aspx

Essentially, the theory was formulated by an uber-liberal Protestant scholar who taught that the Pentateuch is not of Mosaic origin. In so doing, the theory brings a shadow of doubt over the inerrancy and the infallibility of the Biblical record of Genesis through Deuteronomy.

Liberal scholars do the same thing with other OT and NT books, such as Isaiah, Daniel, Acts, and so forth. You can find all kinds of information -- pro and con -- through an easy internet search. But for starters, I refer you to the words of Jesus Himself, who clearly believed in the Mosaic origin of the Pentateuch. For example:

MT 19:7, quoting from DT 24:1-4
MT 22:24 quoting from DT 25:5
Mark 1:44 citing Leviticus 14:1-32
Mark 7: 9-11 citing Exodus 20:12 and Leviticus 20:9
Luke 24:44 citing the Pentateuch in general as the books of Moses

You can word search 'Moses' on Biblegateway.com for other references (when you click on any particular bible reference, click on the setting button upper right and check the box for cross references to make the search easier). You can also do a search for arguments against the Wellhausen school of biblical criticism. For example: http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/moses.html

Since Jesus accepted the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, I will do the same.  I hope this information will give some balance to what the class is being taught.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

The Lesson of the Rotten Cabbage

I wrote this several years ago. I hope it encourages you.

While he is in the flesh, man cannot help but have at least some light sins. But do not despise these sins which we call "light": if you take them for light when you weigh them, tremble when you count them. A number of light objects makes a great mass; a number of drops fills a river; a number of grains makes a heap. What then is our hope? Above all, confession.  – St. Augustine

. . . let us also lay aside . . . .the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus . . . (Hebrews 12:1-2).

As soon as I opened the refrigerator door I knew something was wrong.  Rotten, actually. But I was already late for work, so I grabbed my lunch and darted out the front door. My wife was out of town visiting family, so I planned to take care of the rotted whatever-it-was when I returned later that night.

That was my first mistake.

My inbox at work grew inches with each passing hour. I didn’t leave the office until after dark and the thought of starting dinner when I arrived home left me weak-kneed. I decided to grab dinner at a nearby restaurant.

By the time I arrived home, cleaning the refrigerator was the last thing on my mind. I plopped in front of the television and started to unwind from the day. An hour later I headed for the shower and the bed. I’d take care of the fridge in the morning.

Another mistake.

The next morning when I opened the refrigerator door, the pungent stench of rotted cabbage filled every corner of the house. I slammed the door shut and glanced at my watch. I’d be late for work if I didn’t leave soon. I grabbed an apple and rushed out of the house. The fridge would have to wait.

When I returned from work ten hours later, the odor from the fridge had settled over the house. It left me no choice. I tossed the cabbage . . . and the lettuce, tomatoes, and celery laying nearby. Then I scrubbed the fruit and vegetable bin with bleach.

Like slowly rotting cabbage, sin – perhaps especially our so-called venial sins – is never a private matter. If left alone, its stench will seep into and ruin every corner of our life, our families, communities, and our nation. And there is not one person reading this who does not know that to be true. They know it at a visceral level learned from experience – often from repeated experience.

We make a serious mistake to be casual about rooting sin from our lives. We make a serious – deadly – mistake when we tacitly ignore the commandment of God to be holy according to His standards, and not according to the standards of the culture.

Like the law of gravity, the law of sowing and reaping is inescapable: Whatever we sow, we reap. If we sow to the flesh, we reap corruption. If we sow to the spirit, we reap eternal life (Galatians 6:7-8).

It doesn’t get any simpler. Or clearer.

Or more difficult.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Something to encourage you

I'm bringing this study to the men and women at the local memory center this week. As I was typing it, I asked myself the same questions as I will ask them. I thought you might be encouraged if you ask yourself the same questions:
“To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you.” (1 Thessalonians 1:1-4)

Questions about this text:

1. The word ‘church’ means those who have been called out of their culture and into the culture of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul wrote to the church in the city of Thessalonica (northern Greece). Why can we read this letter as if Paul had written it to the church at The Memory Center?

2. Some of us here did not have a kind and gentle father in your home. Paul talks in this letter of God as their Father. If you have asked Jesus to be your Lord and Savior, then God is also YOUR Father. How does it make you feel to know that God is your loving and gentle and compassionate Father?

3. The Bible here talks about the ‘work of faith.’ How is faith a work – even sometimes a hard work? How is love sometimes a labor, an effort? Why does ‘hope’ sometimes require a steadfastness (perseverance)?

4. According to this text, on what does our work of faith, labor of love, and steadfastness of hope focus? How does that focus help us to do all of those things?

5. Paul concludes this text by telling them God chose them. Did God ALSO choose you? How do you know He chose you?

Sunday, September 22, 2019

The Power of the Cross

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God . . . (1 Corinthians 1:18)

I want to talk this afternoon about the cross. To some, it represents the power and the mercy of God. To those whose spiritual eyes have been opened know the cross is powerful because its message has completely changed the direction they were headed.

But to others, the cross represents nothing more than superstitious nonsense, foolish myths fit more for children and old women than for sophisticated, intelligent and cosmopolitan adults.

Why does the cross cause such division? Why do some proclaim with the apostle Paul, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16, NIV), while others unwittingly throw in their lot with those of whom the psalmist writes: “The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, “Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles”? (Psalm 2:2-3)

Why is the word of the cross foolishness to those who are perishing, some of whom have walked 50, 70, 80 years on that broad road toward hell? It’s an important question because if we know WHY many think that way then we can better understand how to speak with them in such a way as to draw them out of their self-delusion and into the light of God’s truth.

Speaking of self-delusion, as I prepared for this message, I thought of former Beatle John Lennon – a philosopher in his own right. Lennon wrote the song, Imagine. Let me remind you of some of the lyrics:

“Imagine there's no heaven. It's easy if you try. No hell below us. Above us only sky. Imagine all the people living for today. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will be as one.”

Those who are well-grounded in the Scriptures recognize Lennon’s philosophy reflects Biblical prophesies regarding the End Times and the anti-Christ’s establishment of a One World government and a World religion. The Bible talks about it in several places, such as Daniel’s prophecy chapters two and seven, along with Revelation chapter 13.

The late Professor Stephen Hawking, the eminent Cambridge scientist and cosmologist, had a similar view of heaven, of hell, and of the supernatural power of the cross. The well-known atheist called heaven, “A fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

In response to Hawking’s thinly veiled mockery of people of faith, John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics at Oxford, responded: "Atheism is a fairy story for people afraid of the light"

What settles the debate for me between both views is what Jesus said in St. John’s gospel: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” (John 3:19-21, NIV)

Not that Jesus needs anyone to confirm His words, but I can attest to the truth of what He said in that text. In my late teens and early twenties, God revealed Himself to me at least twice. Let me share briefly those revelations:

In 1969, as I waited at a red light, this thought dropped into my mind: What if there is a God? I considered the prospect for a few moments until I realized if God exists, I would have to change my lifestyle. But I was unwilling to give up my ‘sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll,’ so, when the light turned green, I made a choice: God doesn’t exist.

Several months later, while walking toward my apartment, I noticed an ant hill along the sidewalk. Hundreds of the little creatures scrambled back and forth into and out of the hill’s opening. And I suddenly remembered from my high school science class that ants are vital to the earth’s ecosystem. Without their irrigation of the soil, much of the earth's plant life would not be possible. That meant those tiny creatures were part of a precise ecological structure. Structure implied someone who did the structuring. But I knew where that thought was headed, and I didn't want to go there.

When I rejected God’s question at the traffic light, and when I walked away from that ant hill, I made choices – not intellectual choices, but moral choices. I rejected God’s existence because I was not afraid of the darkness. I preferred the darkness. I wanted nothing to do with the light – and what would then become a compelling reason to change how I lived.

John Lennon, Stephen Hawking and people like them say that only simpletons and children believe the Bible to be God’s infallible and inerrant word. But their argument is rooted in ignorance at best. It is purposely deceptive at worst.

The authors of the work titled 100 Years of Nobel Prize reported that between 1901 and the year 2000 more than 65% of Nobel Prize Laureates identified themselves as Christians. Overall, Christians won a total of 78% of the Nobel Prizes in Peace, 73% in Chemistry, 65% in Physics, 62% in Medicine, 54% in Economics and 50% of all Literature awards.

Here are a few other great scientists of centuries past who were all also great men of faith in God, the Bible, and in Jesus the Savior. I’m sure you recognize some of their names:

Johann Kepler (d. 1630) discovered the laws of planetary motion and worked out a method to map the movement of stars across the galaxy.

Blase Pascal (d. 1662) is the father of the science of hydrostatics (the study of the pressure that fluids exert on other objects). Pascal contributed to the development of calculus and the theory of probability. Pascal also created the barometer.

Sir Isaac Newton (d. 1727) is credited with discovering the Law of Gravity, and the three laws of universal motion.

Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) was instrumental in developing the germ theory of disease. His research helped develop vaccines against many of those diseases.

So, to say that only simple-minded people believe in God is not only a specious argument, but it willfully ignores the facts of history. The claim intelligent people reject the existence of God and the reliability of the Bible simply proves the apostle Paul’s words from today’s text: “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

The psalmist wrote it twice – probably so we would pay attention: “The fool has said in his heart there is no God” (Psalm 14, Psalm 53).  So, let’s turn our attention away from fools and their foolish reasonings, and look now at the power of the cross.

When John the Baptist sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He was, indeed, the Messiah, Luke tells us: “At that very time He cured many people of diseases and afflictions and evil spirits; and He gave sight to many who were blind. And He answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them.” (Luke 7:21-22)

I’d read that text dozens and dozens of times before I recognized a powerful truth I’d not seen in earlier reads. Jesus recited for John’s disciples the miraculous works He’d performed – healing the blind, the lepers, the deaf – even raising the dead.  And Jesus He added – “And the poor have the gospel preached to them.”

I’m don’t think the Lord was talking only about those who are financially poor – although there can be no doubt they were also in His mind. The poor often live without hope and are often shoved to the periphery of society. But there is also another kind of ‘poor’ to which the Lord may have been referring. You will please remember what Jesus also said during His Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)

Poor in spirit – Those who approach the Lord with humility – as the publican who would not lift up his eyes toward heaven, but beat his breast and said, “Lord, be merciful to me, the sinner” (Luke 18:13).

Poor in spirit -- Those who recognize their own spiritual bankruptcy; who because of their sins know they have nothing to offer God for their salvation – nothing but the blood of Jesus because of whose mercy died that they might become rich in faith and in service to their king.

Poor in spirit versus spiritual arrogance. As the Lord said to His Father, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.” (Matthew 11:25-26)

The preaching of the good news of salvation, of forgiveness of sins, of the promise of eternal life, of being adopted into the very bosom of God’s family – THAT news, when it results in a new life, is as much a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit as any physical miracles – even if it is hidden from the arrogant and self-righteous who think they’re too smart to believe what they consider as nonsense the gospel message.

The Hebrew prophet Isaiah wrote of the coming Messiah: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners.” (Isaiah 61:1-2)

“It was for FREEDOM’” St. Paul wrote to the believers in Galatia, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free” (5:1). He tells us that Jesus, “gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.” (Galatians 1:4)

Have You been rescued from the philosophies and the empty deceptions vomited from Hollywood, the news media, educators, politicians, even from some church pulpits? Have you been changed by the gospel?  Did the good news of Jesus Christ’s birth, life, sacrificial death for your sins change your life direction?

If you belong to Jesus, of course it did. The supernatural power of God through the word of His cross could do nothing ELSE than change your direction. Indeed, if the gospel does NOT change a person’s life – then that person never believed the power of the cross.  It really is as simple as that.

When the apostle Paul told the folks in the Ephesian church that they once were dead in their trespasses and sins, he was not speaking metaphorically. He was speaking sober truth. They were dead; Spiritually dead. They had no relationship with God. Here is what he writes, starting with verse one of chapter two:

“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins . . . and were by nature children of wrath . . ..  But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ. Paul goes on to tell them in this section that before God brought them to Himself, they were “separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”  (Ephesians 2:1-12)

But by the power inherent in the word of the cross, God made them alive – just as His power made you and me alive when we accepted God’s gift of forgiveness of sins made possible through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus.

No, Paul was not speaking metaphorically when he told the Ephesian Christians that they were at one time dead in their sins. It was the word of the cross that set them free from Satan’s captivity to unwittingly do his devilish will (cf. 2 Timothy 2:26). It was for those captives in Ephesus, and everywhere else that “[Christ] gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age.” (Galatians 1:4-5)

The word of the cross is and always will be foolishness to those who are perishing – the John Lennons and the Stephen Hawkings of this world. But yet that same word of the cross is the power of God to everyone who is poor in spirit, who is humble before almighty God and our Savior, Jesus the Messiah. It is God’s power to all who determine to live obediently to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

At the end of my message to the congregation at the 55+ community, I played this song. I offer it to you as well in closing.

The Power of the Cross, by Keith and Kristyn Getty  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BAPvqeFnjE

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Fellowship and Divison - part two

In part one of this two-part essay, we looked at the cost of koinonia (fellowship) with Jesus that Paul wrote of in 1 Corinthians 1:9. In part two we turn our attention to what he says about the sin of division in the family of God. You can find part one here:

“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)

Let me illustrate, from my own experience, Paul’s point about division in the Christian family.

In 1976 I’d been a Christian for four years – but I’d spent those years overseas in Japan where I was stationed with the Navy. So, my only exposure to Christians of different theological persuasions was at the interdenominational base chapel and at an interdenominational mission center a few blocks from the naval base. I had no idea that Christ’s body was so divided – until my discharge from the navy and our arrival in Springfield, Missouri where I attended Central Bible College – known in town as CBC. It was an Assemblies of God Bible college, Pentecostal in theology. In the same town was another Bible college, this one called Baptist Bible College, known as BBC. 

A few days after arriving in town, I needed an antibiotic prescription filled at a local pharmacy. I gave the druggist my name, address, and the school I attended – CBC – as my insurance provider. I returned later that day to pick up my prescription. The pharmacist confirmed my name, address, and insurance coverage by BBC.

When I told him I attended CBC, he blushed, and stuttered his apology. “I’m so sorry. I thought you’d told me you are a student at BBC.”

I shrugged my shoulders and told him it wasn’t a problem. I paid for my prescription and left the store wondering why he was so apologetic over a simple mistake. It was not until a few weeks later that I learned many students from each school had nothing good to say about each other.

The perplexing thing about that division in Springfield is this: Both groups believe God is eternal, that He is not a created Being, but has always existed as the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent Creator God. Both groups believe Jesus is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. They believe Jesus was not a created being, but He is co-eternal and co-existent with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Both groups believe Jesus was born of the virgin Mary, He lived a sinless life, He suffered and died a torturous and substitutionary death on the cross to pay for our sins. They believe He rose again on the third day from death, and that He is will return for His Church, which is His Body.

BOTH groups believe the essential truths leading to eternal life. Where Pentecostals and Baptists disagree, they disagree regarding things NOT essential to believe for salvation, such as “Is ‘speaking in tongues’ a gift of the Holy Spirit for today?” Or can a Christian lose his or her salvation? Believing or rejecting either of those doctrines has no effect whatever on the eternal destiny of the person. None.

Someone wisely said this about doctrines: “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.” Oh, that we in the church at Ashwood Meadows would take to heart the truth.

The Christians of Springfield, Missouri had such a sad reputation of mutual distrust for each that their non-Christlike attitude was well known in the town. What do you think the Lord Jesus Christ thought of their reputation? And what do you think He thinks of our reputation here, of our infighting, our backbiting? 

Let me tell you why I say that. God has given me the privilege these last four years to bring His word to every person at this 55+ community who will listen.

But I am so very sorry to say that I have heard from time to time that some Protestants in this community won't attend my studies or sermons because I am a Catholic. But on the other hand, there are Catholics in this community who do not attend because I sound too much like a Protestant.

But it’s worse even than that. I’ve also been told that some residents have actually persuaded others who USED TO attend Bible studies and sermons to stop attending because I do not teach what they consider true Christian theology.

Oh, how sad is that? God has sent me here to encourage the sorrowful, to bring hope to those losing hope, and to exhort everyone toward holiness without which, as the writer to the Hebrews warned, without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14). Yet because I do not belong to what some consider the correct church, they keep themselves away from the Word of God each week – and they persuade others to stay away as well.

How must the Lord Jesus feel because of our divisions?

Here is what Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17:20-21 - “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

And what Paul wrote to the church at Galatia, he would have also written to the churches in Springfield, Missouri – AND to our little community as well: “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:14-17)

The Lord Jesus warned us in Matthew 12: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Matthew 12:25) Don’t you think Satan also knows that Scripture? And he has deftly used that principle of division since the first century.

The Holy Spirit wants to feed our spirits with His truth. But we cut off His voice when we spend our time biting and devouring one another, when we spend our time finding fault with one another, when we waste our time dismissing one another because they don’t believe as we believe.

Please, let’s focus our attention – whatever is our church label – let’s focus on winning the lost for Jesus Christ. And put into practice: In essentials – unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.

Time is too short to play church. If Jesus is not Lord of everything in our life, then He is not Lord at all. 

There are no half-way disciples.