Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ignatian & Sulpician Methods of Meditation

Now, I dare any of you interested in meditations to chew on this little treatise by the great Adolphe Tanquerey. This is an excerpt from one of his books that will wrap you around the mental axle for quite a while. I love good tough readings and this one is one of those. I like to work and wrestle with an author to squeeze out as much as I can in order to understand these great minds. There is much to learn and much more from where this came from. Enjoy the Ignatian & Sulpician Methods of Meditation.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Shifting Tides

Once in a while I hear a message that is one of those that carries a great deal of significance.
If you are an evangelical, you NEED to listen and watch to this message. We had an unusual service last Sunday when our pastor John Ortberg shared the pulpit with one of the most influencial men of our generation, Gary Hamel. Gary is a member of our church and recently spoke at Willow Creek for a major conference on church leadership. In a time when the Christian church faces unparalleled challenges this message is a must. Whether you agree with Gary or not, you have to admit we are facing the greatest crisis in since, perhaps, the reformation. I've mentioned often how the evangelical church has lost it's identity. Gary backs that up. So enjoy this message "Shifting Tides". Click the link and sit back for a rough ride.
If you are one of my Catholic friends, come along and listen over my shoulder at something that you are facing as well. Masses of Catholics have left your church to join the Protestant church. I know many Protestants are moving in direction of the Catholic church as well for its richness of tradition. But the numbers of those joining the Catholic church can't compare with those leaving your church simply due to the enormous size of the mother church. You are in crisis too. Your parishes are suffering for the lack of priests. We all face this together.
So let's all listen to Gary's message and then probe our hearts to see what the Spirit is telling us.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


I made a correction on today's post regarding the author of Did Hitler Win the War? The correct author is Alice Von Hildebrand, not Adrienne Von Speyr, another great philosopher of the last century. Ms. Hildebrand was the wife of the late great Dietrich von Hildebrand, the great Catholic theologian and philosopher of the last century.

Think Out Of Your Box

One of the reasons I blog is to get people to think out of their own personal little box. All of us are shaped by what we read, think, listen to and watch. People shape us, events shape us, and our thoughts shape us. For many of us there comes a point, either sooner or later, when we get locked into a way of thinking and our learning stops. Oh, we keep reading, listening, watching and living, but, for Christians in particular, we stagnate. I know personally people who have stopped growing theologically and spiritually and are locked in their traditions.

We accuse Catholics of being bound to traditions which blind them to "what the Scriptures really teach." Or we accuse them of never growing spiritually because they can't do anything without checking with "Mother Church." And so many Protestants consider Catholics spiritual babies...always having to be told what to do.

Well, folks, it "ain't" just Catholics. We who call ourselves Protestants are just as married to our personal traditions as any Catholic is to theirs. We just don't call them traditions. We give them names. I'm Presbyterian, or I'm Baptist, or I'm Lutheran, or I'm Pentecostal, or, how about this one, I'm Non-denominational. God help us if a Calvinist Presbyterian is confronts an Armenian Assembly of God member. Whew...feathers fly. Both will say, "well, the Bible doesn't support your premise..etc...etc...etc.

And it gets worse. Many of us, without any former Biblical training, get locked into a tradition of someone who has impressed us most. Listen to them and you'll hear something Chuck Swindoll said, or John Ortberg, or T.D. Jakes or the latest cult hero, Joel Osteen. Their whole theology is based on what they've heard or read from these men (and women, Joyce Meyer). People get locked into these teachings and, folks, they quit thinking.

I discovered this in myself many years ago when my life fell apart. I saw I was locked into one way of thinking. My little theological world was so tight, I couldn't imagine that there was anyone else out there who had a better theology than mine. But when my world crashed, so did my belief system. Fortunately, one thing held me together and that was the Scriptures and a few friends, some special people who surrounded me during my pain. Singing with them wasn't easy. Often I clouded my feelings with other activities with them and alone just to ease the pain.

But then, I met some friends outside my circle. Later I was introduced to the woman who literally shook my world. Through her love, I discovered a whole new world. I began to challenge my beliefs. And I haven't stopped. Over the years since those days of turmoil, I have held loosely my belief system. Oh, there's one thing I have held on tightly to my chest and that is a rock solid belief in Jesus Christ and a profound appreciation for the Scriptures. But, I keep challenging my theology. For I know that no theology born in the heart of man is perfect.

Then I discovered the great Catholic mystics and I became hooked. I had been taught nearly all my life that the Catholic Church was the great whore of Babylon. But what I began reading sure didn't look like the writings of a whore. I was aware of all the mistakes in the history of the Catholic Church, but I soon became aware of a lot of our own sins in the Protestant world too. My soul became fed from Catholic writers. Nothing I'd ever read in all my formal and non-formal Protestant training ever came a light year close to some of the rich red meat I got from Catholic writers. And so my prejudices began to erode.

Today, I don't agree with the Catholics any a number of issues. I haven't become Catholic for many other reasons, which I'll not venture into here. But, my spiritual life has been enriched by their writings, obscure as many of them are. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Catholics can't teach their way out of a paper bag but if you work at it, you'll find great truths hidden in their odd way of saying things.

So, having said all that, I encourage you to think out of your little box or tradition. Read some good Catholic stuff. Last week I wrote about magazines I've enjoyed. This week I want to highlight one and challenge you to learn something that may cause you to think a bit. I've picked some great articles in This Rock magazine that you may find different, yet helpful to you. Read them and think. The first is "Did St. Paul Invent Christianity?". This is a major argument between many liberal and conservative scholars today. This article delves into the issue and presents some powerful statements that a good evangelical can buy into. Enjoy.

The second article from This Rock is written by my favorite currant Catholic philosopher, Alice Von Hildebrand, entitled "Did Hitler Win The War."

I'm going to stop there and will continue later. (Time marches on and I've got to get ready for a contractor)
See you at another time.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Great Magazines

Greetings again. I'm back from a delightful and restful week at Lake Tahoe. My wife and I spent most of the time visiting a few of the tourist shops on the North Shore and then the rest of the time was spent doing absolutely nothing. I had lots of opportunity to get some reading which for me is a vacation in itself. We had a great time visiting the beach where all we did was read and relax. Is there anything better?

Well, I'm not going to share what I read on vacation, but I do want to share some good reading. But this time it isn't books. I want to recommend some great magazines that are well worth your time. The first I want to mention is the leading evangelical magazine, Christianity Today. This is the first Christian magazine I subscribed to when I was in college. There is no better magazine for reading on what is happening in the Christian community. It is well written and covers a broad range of subjects. It is the magazine to go to when you want to know the latest in theological thought, church growth and evangelism. If you are a Catholic, they are largely Catholic friendly, at least many of the authors reach out a warm welcome to Catholics, although you will find it is largely critical of Catholicism. Christianity Today is evangelical as opposed to fundamentalist although there are writers who one can call fundamentalists.

The next magazine I highly recommend is a little known journal called Credenda Agenda. This is a very intelligent magazine, highly intellectual with a distinct classic Protestant understanding of the faith which is mainly Reformed thought. It is a publication with authors primarily from the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches. So it's theology is very much filled with reformation theology. It is tough stuff to read, but well worth your time. It is a good source for all those interested in good solid reformed theology.

The next magazine is a Catholic theological and philosophical journal called First Things. This superb periodical was founded by the late great, Fr. John Neuhaus and is the premier Catholic voice addressing the theological and philosophical issues of our day. It is very much for the serious student of religion and is a very accurate and fair journal. It is the Christianity Today of the Catholic world, only more theologically oriented. Protestants and Catholics alike read this journal for it is Protestant friendly. Fr. Neuhaus and Chuck Colson worked tirelessly together for many years to provide a bridge between Catholics and Protestants. It may be hard to find on the newsstand. I've have seen it at Borders and Barnes and Noble. This really should be on your coffee table.

Another magazine I read is one published by the giant Catholic Apologists out of San Diego, Catholic Answers. The magazine is called This Rock. It is perhaps the foremost magazine on Catholic apologetics and evangelism in the nation, if not the world. Folks, these guys are good and do their research. This rock covers a multitude of topics from a Catholic perspective. It will absolutely destroy many Protestant myths regarding Catholicism. Protestants would do well to read this magazine as we have many incorrect ideas of what Catholics believe.
You'll find their faith thoroughly biblical and sound. I'd include any of the authors who write as profoundly Christian, born again believers. You may disagree with them on the finer points of doctrine, which I do from time to time. They post all back issues after a few months delay. Visit all the years and enjoy. Karl Keating is the founder and has surrounded himself with the best of the Catholic Authors of our day.

I haven't mentioned any of the Charismatic journals, primarily because there is so much error taught in those circles. Almost any of the early church heresies that forced the formation of the early church councils can be found in the modern charismatic community. I realize there are many good sound people in that world and I will highlight some of them from time to time. But for far too long we have tolerated teachings that rip apart the soul of the gospel in this movement. In particular, the health and wealth gospel commonly taught in some major churches of our day. I choose not to give them a spotlight, at least not in this blog today.

Well, there you have it. I've tried to be fair and quote some obscure news network...
Catholics need to learn that not all of us Protestants are antagonistic toward them and we Protestants need to learn that much of what we believe and the Bible we read came directly as the result of the hard fought battles and bloody sacrifices of the Catholic church. I hope you read some of these magazines. You will be richly rewarded.

Until next in unity amidst our diversity.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Getting Into My Books

Book, books, books, so many books, so little time. I'm ratcheting back on pontifications this week due to time constraints and the fact my creative juices need some rejuvenating. So I'll share some good reads.

I'm presently reading a most interesting book by Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange who was one of the greatest Thomist theologians of the Twentieth Century. Fr. Garrigou taught at the Angelicum in Rome from 1909 to 1960. The Angelicum is the Pontifical University in Rome. The book I'm reading is The Three Ages of the Interior Life: Prelude of Eternal Life. This is a massive and difficult read.

In an age of "Bobby Sox" theologians who think they are experts in the area of Meditation and Contemplation this is a must read for them. Many evangelicals today are discovering meditation and contemplation and are diving in without discernment. Much of what I see are practices mixed with Buddhist and other Eastern religious practices and claiming they are following in the traditions of the church fathers. Fr. Garrigou and other notable experts on church history and contemplative practices like Fr. Thomas Dubay, author of many books including the classic, Fire Within would argue otherwise.

Fr. Garrigou's book is one of those books that takes work to read. Many who can't read a sentence beyond five words or words with only one or two syllables will not tolerate this book. I keep a dictionary handy when I read this book. It is deep, hard and highly rewarding. It's one of those "red meat" books. I know some of my Protestant friends may believe I read too many "Catholic" books, but the reason I do so is that our faith has its roots in the Catholic church, whether we like it or not. And in my desire for truth, I must read their books.

I encourage you, if you have interests in meditation and contemplation, take a few lessons from the masters like Fr. Garrigou and Fr. Dubay. You may find that your current practices are not based on the church fathers as you thought, but are more in line with eastern religious thought.

The second book I'm reading is a completely different kind of book. I don't read current event books as often as I should, but they are worth reading and this one promises to be a good read. It was loaned to me by my boss and it looked interesting to me. The title is Golden Bones, An Extraordinary Journey From Hell in Cambodia to a New Life In America. The author is Sichan Siv, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. It is the story of his harrowing journey from the death camps of Pol Pot to freedom. I'm anxious to get into it this week. I'll let you know how I enjoy it. It looks to be a good relaxing kind of read. Relaxing not in subject because it is a heavy subject, but, for me, it is a nice break from difficult reading.

A couple of other books you may enjoy. The Dangerous Act of Worship by Mark Labberton. This book is an excellent and easy read on the subject of God's living call to Justice. This is an area the evangelical church has largely ignored.

I also recommend I Am Not, but I Know Who I Am by Louie Giglio. It is an easy, sometimes too cutesy but relevant read on how God is actively involved in our daily lives. I liked it other than over use of cliches and catchy phrases that really don't add to the book. But it will appeal to the younger element and is an excellent resource for those new in the faith who want to know what God is all about.

Finally, I want to repeat a book that can really help us all. All too often we want to know what is right vs. what is wrong. In the book, The Best Question Ever, Andy Stanley presents a great argument that wrong vs. right are the wrong questions. It is a book on wisdom and should be read by everyone, in my opinion. It is a very easy read. I read it aloud to my wife for several nights as a part of our evening devotional time that we regularly practice. If you are looking for what God's will is in your life, the wisdom questions Andy highlights are profound and could end a lot of the "worship wars" we see in our churches.

Well, I got long winded again didn't I? And all I did was highlight some books. I hope you try some of these and then share back here on this blog, some of your ideas.

Until next week...yep...I'm not blogging for a week again. I think it will take retirement to bore you on a daily basis.

Ta ta.....

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Box Store Addendum

This is my fourth attempt to wind up this discussion. I've scrapped all the other attempts as they became too involved in theology and doctrines. It has been a struggle. So here's my final try.

"Liturgy which becomes ritual is dead religion." Have you ever heard that or similar statements? I have because I've said it. My past four blogs have attempted to build a case for a return to the core of our worship and for our churches to reflect that core. What is that core. Liturgy of the word and bread. Scripture and Communion or Eucharist if you please. I'm going to use the word Eucharist for purposes of this blog. Primarily because it is a good word and it fits with my overall study of Todah. Eucharist means thanksgiving, which is the focus of the Todah.

Now, I know the main objections. We can all give examples of liturgical churches filled with people who listen to the word Sunday after Sunday and partake in the communion/Eucharist on a regular basis and still are as sin ridden as anyone else. There is no passion for Christ or his church. It's just what they do to fill out a duty. There is a reason why 75 percent of Catholics don't go to mass on Sundays or weekday mass. There is something missing. All their talk about having "the fullness of faith" is empty talk when you look at the results.

But I can point to thousands of Protestants, evangelical or otherwise, who forget the sermon of the day the moment they walk out the front door of their churches. Their Bibles will often get as dusty as a Catholic's Bible during the week. We Protestants are notorious for pounding the Bible on the truths of the need to be born again, but are woefully ignorant of peace and justice issues, which, by the way, Jesus harped on more than anything else. And the Catholics are champions on peace and justice issues which put us to shame.

I just erased half of my fourth try and am now going on my fifth. Let's go back to scripture. What makes the Eucharist come alive for us? What gives life to the Liturgy of the Word? How come you can walk into one liturgical assembly and experience deadness and walk into another and sense a holy presence? I think the answer goes back to Scripture. Go to Acts Chapter 2. Stop right now and go to that link or open your own Bible and read the scripture there. Read it and re-read it until it really sinks in. Put yourself in the middle of that upper room with the disciples. Oh by the way, I'd include Mary in that picture as well as a few women. I highly suspect she was there too. And when you get to the end of the chapter read again vss. 42 and following. Go ahead...I'll wait while you read. I'll sit and decide if I need to start all over again. READ and MEDITATE on it.

There is the difference. Here were these Jewish men and women meeting daily for prayer and wondering what in the world was going to happen to them. In case you are wondering where I got the idea that Mary and the women were there, just go back to Chapter 1. And then...AND THEN...a wind, a MIGHTY RUSHING WIND and TONGUES OF FIRE. Jesus fulfilled his promise and the Holy Spirit came. And at that moment, the disciples went from head knowledge to heart knowledge. They knew that they knew that they knew. Their eyes were opened and understanding came and love and power poured forth.

Folks, the difference between dead liturgy (ritual) and liturgy alive is the Holy Spirit. The power does not come with knowledge or correctness. The power of the liturgy is from the Holy Spirit. And so down through the centuries, we've had the liturgy of the word which is pre-imminent, in my view, and the sacrament of the Eucharist displayed in our churches and practices. Where it failed was when the practice became a form of religion without the power of the Holy Spirit. And so we have eras when liturgy was practiced but the hearts of the people were dead. But where the heart was made alive by the power of the Holy Spirit, the liturgy became a window to heaven. But don't forget, the liturgy of the word always stayed. And I think that is a God thing. He didn't want us to forget.

I haven't mentioned Baptism because that is not the focus of this long article. But it also is important. I'll leave that for another discussion some time.

Let's see what happens in a Holy Spirit Liturgy. When the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples, a profound change occurred. Did they stop their liturgical services? No, of course not. Scripture has abundant evidence that they met for... watch it... the reading, teaching and singing of the word. I believe that is important. It's the scriptures that gave them understanding of what Christ did. He fulfilled the Old Testament scriptures they used. And the Holy Spirit gave power to the word they read and taught and thousands came to Christ.

And they broke the bread. They took the traditions they were familiar with and coupled that with what Christ told them to do in order to remember him. They broke the bread and drank the wine in remembrance of Him. And they loved.
Loved! For you see, in the teaching of the word and the breaking of the bread, we show love. And because the Holy Spirit was now present, love became a verb. became a verb? Yep...Andy Stanley opened my eyes on this one in a sermon I heard recently on a totally different subject. The Trinity is a fellowship of love. God is love. That love is a noun. God is a noun. God is love. Jesus is the expression of that noun, that love. He is the spoken (Word) of the Love of God. When he came to us he came as a verb. His life on earth was love in action. God went from noun to verb. Jesus left his glory behind, he left the noun behind and became a verb. He is love in action.
And when he sent the Holy Spirit, that action, that verb came to us so that we might be verbs to the world. We are to remember what Jesus did on the cross because it was the path for us to become his instruments of action, his verb of love to a needy world. The Eucharist is a reminder of thanksgiving but also a commission to love. So when we celebrate the ministry of the word, which is foremost, and take the bread and cup (todah) of thanksgiving we feed on the body of Christ by his Spirit and become instruments of love. There is no other calling that defines our mission in life as much as the word and sacrament.

And when we go to church, that is what we should be reminded of as soon as we walk in the doors. Why do we call our meeting places a sanctuary? It is a place set apart so that in the spirit of Passover, the general call of the congregation to give thanks for the deliverance from sin by our Lord as well as the individual call of the Todah to give thanks as an individual for our personal deliverance through the sacrifice of Christ. And the word is love to teach us our call is only effective when we are filled with the Holy Spirit resulting in a love of action, a living verb of love to a needy world. The teaching of scripture gives us the reason, the sacrament gives us Christ and the Holy Spirit ties the knot giving us the love to share.

So whether we sing hymns, psalms or spiritual songs, (hymns, gospel songs, and choruses) we do it in a spirit of love knowing that to love is to love God, one another and the world.

So I ask, what does your sanctuary express? Is it designed to entertain you or draw you into God through his word and presence in order to send you out as instruments of love to a broken world. Your answer could end worship wars.