Posted in Stumbling Blocks

Doubt Pt. 2: Insecurities and Fear Play on our Doubts

I actually wanted to write about the subtlety of doubt.  But once I started two things happened which brought different facets of doubt front and center.  The interesting thing was that though my doubts were the same or similar for both events they played out very differently due to stress factors. The first thing that happened was I had a dream about losing my job. Now, I don’t get excited about all dreams, but some dreams are from God and that needs to be taken into account.  The second thing that happened, and I don’t remember the context surrounding it, but God told me to start a magazine.   Those are the events, now let’s look at them more closely.

Doubt does not believe.  So anytime we doubt we can do something we don’t believe we can do that thing.  Or when we doubt something is going to happen we don’t believe it will happen. Before we will act we must either be forced into it, regardless of what we believe, or we need to overcome our doubts, so we will believe.  In the dream event there was doubt whether the dream was from God.  There are two ways to tell if a dream is from God: either it comes true or God sends a same or similar dream twice (think Joseph).     I didn’t receive the second and I didn’t think waiting for the first to occur was prudent, so there was no method for clearing up that doubt prior to acting.  In this case I was being forced to act.

To top everything off I have a huge fear of interviews.   This fear was tempting me to doubt it was from God.  If I didn’t believe then I wouldn’t have to go job hunting and I could avoid that fear.  However, with no certitude that it wasn’t going to happen, the fear of being without a job and losing my home pushed me towards acting, regardless my doubts.  In essence, those fears played tug-o-war on my doubts and were affecting my ability to decide what to do.

I was eventually able to overcome this doubt by deciding it was better to play it safe and act like the dream was true.  This would force me to look for another job.    In addition to all of that, I did have certain limitations which would make it harder for me to find a job.  These limitations were causing doubts that were, literally, assailing me. Once again, the predicament being unemployed would cause forced me to come up with a plan to either overcome my limitations (where I could) or to narrow my job search to take them into account.  I also prayed a lot.

So two types of doubt: one doubting my source of information was accurate.  This caused me to vacilitate for awhile until I finally decided to go with the worst case scenario.  That way I would be somewhat prepared.  The second type of doubt was simply my insecurities being let loose because of a stressful situation.  In essence, I was throwing up tons of roadblocks to prevent me from doing what I needed to do because of my fear of doing it.  I was like a deer caught in the headlights.  You’re looking at this thing that is about to hit you and it is so frightening that you know you need to move.  I don’t know why deer just stand there, but for myself, I was temporarily paralyzed because I was afraid to go bounding off in the direction that I know I needed to go.  The paralysis was caused by fear.  But I had to move forward as the alternative was too ugly.  I had to sit down and face my doubts.  The ones that I could fix I made a plan for fixing. For those I couldn’t do anything about I had to adjust my job search accordingly. My fear didn’t go away, but my insecurities no longer assailed me with doubts.  I still have this one big cloud of doubt hanging over me that I can’t really identify and my gut still clenches at the thought of interviews, but I did do a cursory look at different jobs that fit my parameters and would put me in a better position than I am now, if I can land them (perhaps, that’s the source of the big cloud of doubt: the unknown).

The instruction from God was both the same and different. The difference was I didn’t doubt it was from God, God actually reinforced this one, and there was no impending doom looming on the horizon.  Since there was no impending doom there was no fear to heighten my awareness of my failings and to reinforce my doubts relating to myself.  However, once again my doubts in myself did reinforce the doubt in God.  Though I didn’t doubt it was from God I did doubt that this was really something He was asking of me. This occurred because, on first glance, I didn’t believe I was suitable for this endeavor. However, these doubts simply became misgivings as I had nothing to lose even though I am less suited for this task than I am for finding another job. In finding another job I could draw on my experiences, which are saleable, while I have no experience of magazine publishing. On the other hand I had to find a job that would support me, so success was a big factor in the first event.  In this one while I would like to be successful, and I believe God will help me since He told me to do it, if I fall flat on my face I’ll have very little to lose.

So what’s my take away from these experiences?  First, doubts about our abilities increase our doubts in God.  This, in turn, can keep us from doing God’s will.    I listen to enough religious podcasts and people  to know self-doubt is one of things that hold people back.  This is sad because there are many instances in the Bible of God providing the needed talents/skills when He asks someone to do something for Him or God may even see something in you which you don’t.  Second, there are times when we are only willing to do God’s will when we have nothing to lose or we are forced into it.  Again, this is sad. He’s a good God and I should have more faith in Him.    And it’s sad because so many of us want a better life, country, etc., but we let our doubts get in the way of following God’s cue.  If we could overcome our doubts, just think how the world would change. Three, a little reasoning and planning goes a long way in dealing with those doubts.  There may still be fear, but fear seems easier to handle than doubt.   Four, if ever anyone is in a panic with a situation, please understand that the stress may be heightening their doubts.  If possible, kindly sit down and reason with them in hopes of helping them overcome the doubts that may be assailing them.

May we all overcome our doubts with faith and reason!

Post photo generously supplied by Jan Erik Waider @Unsplash

Posted in Stumbling Blocks

DOUBT AND THE FALL OF MAN PART ONE

The Church teaches that Adam and Eve were not only without sin prior to the fall, but had everything they needed to make the right choices.  In other words, God did not make them defective in some way, so that sin would naturally follow from those defects.  It would seem God made them with everything they needed so that they would be able to avoid sin.   So my conundrum was what good could God have given us to protect us that could be used against us?

Free Will

Many a people will say free will.  I’ve even said it, but the problem with free will is that it doesn’t suffice as a reason to sin.  Just because I have free will it doesn’t necessarily follow that I will sin.  Free will simply gives me the ability to sin, not a reason to; at least not the main reason.  It definitely plays its part and I, for one, am thankful for free will.  Who wants to be a robot?  But I think something has to precede the use of free will: something has to happen, which kicks free will into action.  That’s the puzzle.

Lack of or Weak Faith

I’m going to discount lack of or weak faith also, as that would mean that God did not supply them with enough faith to get them past the temptation of the serpent.  Now after they believed the serpent, then I would say that they had less or a weaker faith in God than before the fall, but at the time of the fall their faith was sufficient.

Pride

I know many people blame pride as the source of much evil and don’t discount that as being true.  However, for it to be the initial cause for sin would, in my mind, mean that they were created to fail.  As I noted earlier, I don’t believe that is true.

Doubt

Doubt is the solution that popped into my head while I was puzzling over this question.  It does qualify as a characteristic that a person could use to help them guard against sin.  For instance, if God told you that if you ate of a certain tree, then you would die and later some serpent came and told you the complete opposite; doubt would be a good defense in that situation.  Adam and Eve could just as easily have clung to the truth and doubted the serpent rather than doubting God.  It didn’t turn out that way, but it definitely satisfies the criteria that I’ve set down of something meant for our good, but can be used against us.  There are other aspects of doubt that makes it a good qualifier.

Doubt acts somewhat like a serpent in that it worms itself in to your thoughts, whether you want it to or not.  Once bitten by it, it is very hard to get rid of.  That is assuming one wants to get rid of it, but what if someone gives in to or let’s themselves be ruled by doubt?  What happens then?

Entertained doubt changes one’s outlook on any subject and opens up possibilities that didn’t exist before.  It does this by changing the conclusion of any argument.  In the case of Adam and Eve the conclusion went from “you will die” to “you will not die.”  You can now see all of the possibilities, if you perform the deed, which you couldn’t see before because before you could not see beyond death.  What was once anathema because death would occur now becomes a “delight” and to be “desired.”  It is these fancies that beguile or mesmerize us.  I call them fancies because if one ignores the truth regarding the resulting consequences, then it is fanciful thinking rather than sound thinking.

And lastly, doubt is subtle.  The subtlety of doubt and why we should be aware of doubt is what I will discuss in part two.

May we all cling to the truth!  God bless!

#Doubt

The lovely apple photo was provided by Roberta Sorge @Unsplash.  She composes such lovely photos.  I just love her work.

 

Posted in Christian Life, Stumbling Blocks

Consider your Source Before Deciding Not to Attend Church

Whether we realize it or not, those of us coming from the secular world have been formed by those beliefs.  When we become Christians we carry over many of those beliefs and they continue to inform our decisions.  That is why I would like to stop and talk about the Church for a moment.  If you are like I was and hold that organized religion is a crock, then I think you should reconsider.  The first item I would like you to consider is your source.  On what information are your beliefs about church based? Is it the secular world or disgruntled Christians? Both of which, if I had been thinking at the time and/or had a better understanding of the dissension between the world and God , I wouldn’t have considered them reliable sources of information regarding the Christian faith and/or the Catholic Church.

The Secular World

If you’ve read part two of my conversion story, then you can see that the different teachings of the secular world are in direct opposition to God: what defines a marriage, sex outside of marriage, and respect for life; to name a few.  And being opposed to someone does not lead to viewing their beliefs in the most charitable light.  In fact, it often leads to just the opposite: viewing them in the worst light possible.  This is why, if you compare the teachings of the Bible, Church or Pope to what is reported to being taught/said, you will find they are rarely similar.

“The world . . . hates me because I testify against it that its works are evil.” John 7:7

“For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; And the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.” Psalm 69:9

Since the secular world is against God, then it follows that they will also be against those who hold to the instructions of God, namely, the Church.  Here’s what it comes down to: out of the love of God and faith in His goodness we follow His teachings, while the world follows teachings of prominent people or their own desires.  This puts us at odds with the world and the world with us.  If we never said one word against anything the world does we would still be at odds because we would make different choices and work towards different goals.   The world would still consider that a personal affront because it is a rejection of what they believe.

Now I, personally, know of no one smarter or anyone who has our best interests at heart than God, so when it comes down to a choice of believing the world or believing God I choose to believe God.     If you, like me, were formed by the world, then my advice to you is to take some time and look at what the Catholic Church truly teaches. If you haven’t done that yet, then, like me, you’re not making an informed choice.  It’s sad because the Catholic Church and those churches in communion with it, are the only ones that I know of whose teaching truly conforms to Jesus Christ.  And I truly believe if God hadn’t led me directly to the Catholic Church and without a serious investigation to what the Church truly teaches I would have kept on the path I was treading, (and it wouldn’t have been Christ I was following then, but others), and been much the poorer for it.

Doctrinal Disputes

As to those Christians who despise doctrine I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that they only say this because don’t like one or more of those doctrines or they don’t understand that love and salvation are the basis for those doctrines.  Look at all the different sects in Protestantism.  The main reasons there are so many sects is either because 1) there was a dispute over doctrine, or 2) someone decided that they could start their own sect.  But let’s take a quick look at doctrinal disputes or to put it in simpler turns: the dispute over what to believe.

“For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, . . . ” 2 Timothy 4:3

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”  John 14:15

” . . . to show complete and perfect fidelity, so that in everything they may be an ornament to the doctrine of God our Savior.”  Titus 2:10

As you can see, God does give us doctrine, but it must be sound.  Sin is faithlessness to or ignorance of the true doctrines of God and either hate of or disregard for one’s neighbor.  John 14:15 says love of God is at the basis of fidelity to His commandments, so faithlessness–that not done in ignorance–can also show a lack of love for God.  Love is the basis for God sacrificing His Son, who is our salvation, and the doctrines of God.  If we are not following these, then we are not loving God and neighbor.  In other words we are ignoring both of the greatest commandments.

Reply to the accusation that Christians are hypocrites

Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”  Matthew 9:13

As to the hypocrites in church, you probably realize by now that you’ve joined with other sinner’s in accepting God’s mercy, so, in effect, churches are filled with redeemed sinners aka hypocrites.  Now I have seen how powerfully Lord Jesus acts when He converts us.  Paul’s conversion experience on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-20) is a dramatic example of this.  Not only does He change our purpose and direction, but He also changes us.

Saul before conversion:

“Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.”  Acts 9:1-2

The change in Saul that Lord Jesus will effect:

“But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.'” Acts 9:15-16

Saul after conversion:

“For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.'” Acts 9:19-20

“But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy; and blaspheming, they contradicted what was spoken by Paul. Then both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you reject it and judge yourselves to be unworthy of eternal life, we are now turning to the Gentiles.” Acts 13:45-46

It was the same, if not so dramatic, with the other apostles.  Matthew just got up and left his tax collector job (Matthew 9:9), Peter and Andrew “left their nets” (Mark 1:17-18), and James and John “left their father” (Matthew 4:21-22): all of them to answer Christ’s call.  As it was with the apostles, so it is with us.  It’s an amazing thing to see and boggles the mind when contemplated.  Externally nothing has changed: you look the same, you have the same job, you live in the same neighborhood, and you have the same couch.  Internally, a great many things have changed.  There has been a reordering so proper order could be restored: what was foolish now becomes wise and what was inconsequential now becomes important; all in the blink of an eye.  In light of this, we can see why our lives, along with the apostles, would change so drastically.  Because of this internal reordering we do immediately leave off some things in our lives and take up others in our new lives.  But for all of that, some things haven’t changed.  That’s why I say it’s a reordering rather than a renewal.  He takes what we have and puts it in proper perspective.  So Saul, being trained as a rabbi, has a theological background which when reordered can advance much quicker and have a much better understanding than those of us not playing with a full theological deck.  We’re going to have a lot farther to go after our encounter with Christ just like the rest of the apostles.  Their encounter with Christ truly altered their lives, but they were not perfected.  That took discipleship, prayer, and the Holy Spirit.  These twelve were the Church at that time and they were all redeemed sinners, who could have been considered hypocrites when it came to certain areas.  As it was with the apostles, so it is with us.

What can make it easier on us is realizing, when coming from a secular background, that we may not have been informed with the truth.  Since Lord Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, then it becomes very important that we investigate the beliefs we do hold, so that don’t hinder us in our new life in Christ.

May we all come to know and love the way, the truth, and the life! God bless!

#Christian #Catholic

Image courtesy of Karl Fredrickson @Unsplash

Posted in Contemplation, Stumbling Blocks

Coming to Terms with God’s Glory: Grace and Mercy

A rosary draped on a piece of carved wood with the crucifix in the forefront.This is the first of what I hope becomes a series on stumbling blocks I’ve encountered since becoming a Christian.  I write these to encourage and help those who’ve encountered these same stumbling blocks.

One of my first stumbling blocks as a Christian was the mercy of God.  Here I had just confessed myself a sinner when I prayed the Sinner’s Prayer and yet I didn’t truly believe I was a sinner.  I was honest and didn’t steal, hardworking, paid my bills and took care of my family.   What I didn’t realize, because of my secular upbringing, is that I was guilty of divorce, adultery, fornication, and advocating taking the life of innocent unborn children, which boils down to advocating murder.  I didn’t see that at the time.  In the secular world I was a good person.  So, in my own eyes I was righteous and because of this I had a horrible time coming to grips with the depth of God’s mercy.

I don’t remember when I grasped the extent of His mercy, but one day I realized that God’s mercy was extended to even the likes of Hitler, Stalin and, yes, the CEO of Planned Parenthood.  Instead of praising God for that mercy I thought He was unjust.  What was He thinking?  These people had committed horrendous atrocities in their lives and God was willing to forgive them.  Sin caused so much heartache and suffering in the world how could He just wipe that slate clean?  These people get a free pass, while their victims have to live with the mess these sins made of their lives?  How could this be?

 “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” Matthew 7:6-7

So I began searching for answers to these questions.  As I have heard other Christians express theses same sentiments I share the answers that the Holy Spirit led me to in hopes that they too can get past this stumbling block.

The Precious Blood of Christ

“The Precious Blood belongs in an especial manner to men. Much more, therefore, does God invite them to come to its heavenly baths, and receive therein, not only the cleansing of their souls, but the power of a new and amazing life.” -Father Faber, The Precious Blood

The Holy Spirit brought me to the understanding of how truly precious Christ’s blood must be to the Father.  That blood price paid for every sin, no matter how large or how small, ever committed since the beginning of time or will be committed until the end of time.  There is only so much blood in a human body.  For that small amount of blood to cover such a great multitude of sins the blood of Christ must be very precious indeed.

Marian offering of the Precious Blood:

IMMACULATE Heart of Mary, do thou offer to the Eternal Father the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for the conversion of sinners, especially [Name].

God’s chosen method of glorification

Moses said, “Show me your glory, I pray.”  And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The Lord’ and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. Exodus 33:18-19

Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name. John 12:27

He [God] destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. Eph 1:5-8

So Moses asks to see God’s glory and God tells Moses His glory is grace and mercy.  God is both omniscient and omnipresence, among other things.  That right there is plenty to impress anyone, but it isn’t what God considers His glory.  No, His glory is His grace and mercy.  It’s incredibly telling.  This awesome, powerful God wants to be known and loved not for his power, but for his graciousness and mercy.  He probably wants this, so that sinners would know him to be so and not be afraid to approach Him.

Any parent can tell you how scared a child becomes when confronted with something he has done wrong and the fear of the punishment to come.   It makes them afraid to admit what they’ve done.  If you can assure them of your mercy, then they’re much more likely to confess.  Once that happens, then you can you work with them and explain to them why it was wrong and, hopefully, set them on a better path; one where they won’t cause havoc, hurt others, and ruin their lives.  It seems to me that God works in a similar way.  First comes mercy, so there is no fear in confessing our sins and, next, comes the Catholic Church and Holy Spirit to lead us through discipleship where we learn a better way.  So, it appears that God’s salvation is less of a justice issue, than it is of a Father trying to get His children on a better path and from hurting those around them.

God works for our good

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

When I was looking at the seeming injustice of wiping the slate clean for the sinner, I was only looking at one side of the scale.  All I could see was the suffering and hardship endured by those who have been hurt by sin.  The Holy Spirit showed me what I wasn’t taking into account: it’s what God can and does do for these people.  I have heard of people going through some horrible things who, with the grace of God, come out the other side almost grateful that it happened because they have seen how much good God has made come from it.

Now, don’t take me wrong.  I’m not saying that since God does this, then it’s okay to sin.  What I’m saying if you are stumbling at the idea of God being merciful to sinners because it seems like they are getting off scot-free while others are left to suffer, then to be fair to God, you should realize that God works with those who have been hurt.  It’s not a one-sided affair.

No sense beating a dead horse

God performs miraculous internal changes for those who come to Him through Jesus Christ.  So miraculous that they are truly not the same people they used to be.  If that old person has died, then what use is it to keep clinging to their past and beating them over the head with those transgressions?  God is offering them a second chance at life.  Who are we to try and take that away from them; especially, knowing that it is God’s chosen method of glorifying both Himself and His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.  God gets glorified through these people because they truly realize how much God has done for them.  Thus they become powerful witnesses.

This is especially true to others like them. The redeemed sinner receives legitimacy in the eyes of the sinner because he has been through what they are now going through. This means that they are more likely to listen to them and the redeemed sinner can relate to them on a level that others, well-meaning as they are, cannot. God truly can accomplish great things through these people.

Love your neighbor as you would love yourself

This is the commandment that I have found the most helpful.  For one, I think it most epitomizes God’s gracious mercy.  If you’re hard on yourself, then it’s okay to be hard on another, even when it’s not merited.  If you’re easy on yourself, then it’s okay to be easy on another, even when it’s not merited.  It’s okay because you are meting out equal measures.  The problem comes in when we mete out unequal measures.  How many of us have laughed off one of our mistakes and misdoings then turned around and got mad at someone else for doing the exact same thing?  I’ve seen this over and over again.  As I’m sure I’ve done it over and over again.

I apply this here because when I think of hard core sinners (my figurative neighbors) as my father, mother, son, daughter, sister or brother I find out I would much rather they be treated by God as the prodigal son rather than being cursed and left to live a life of sin and damned to hell.  What I try to do, (when I remember), is imagine myself as the neighbor, so this person becomes my parent, child, or sibling.  I usually pick the person I love the most, which is my son. From that perspective I can then say, “This is someone I love.”    Now, loving them (rather than hating them), what would I do if I saw them doing these things or living that lifestyle?”  What I found is while I’d look down on an abortion doctor I don’t know, I would worry and pray for one that I loved.  I’d reason or plead with them instead of disparaging them or putting them down.  I would also pray for them much differently.  This method helps me overcome that and see a person that needs to be saved.   I can now pray more heartfelt prayers for abortion doctors and hardened criminals who desperately need our prayers where before it was just lip service, if I could stomach praying for them at all.

Lastly, in a very real sense we are praying for our children because the more sinners converted means less predators in the world to prey upon them.

Final words for now

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

In a nutshell, when sins are large, habitual, or directed at ourselves it becomes very hard to understand how God could forgive the unredeemed or even to remember that God does want to forgive them.  As hard as it can be there are considerations that can make it easier.  Hopefully, these considerations will help us into greater conformity with Christ.  And if you think I missed something, then please fill me in.

Don’t fight against what you hate.  Fight for what you love.

May we all come to realize the great mercy of God! God bless!

#mercy #grace

The photo was generously provided by Alan Alfaro under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.