Power of the Person

It seems to me in most of my interaction online, and with other mediums of interaction, that we all are at great risk of failing to discern the wonder and beauty of the gift we have been give to communicate with others like ourselves. The person we know most in our lives quite obviously is ourselves. Yet, often we fail to look into our own hearts and seek to understand our motives and desires. Therefore, we fail to comprehend our action and often think, “Why did I do that?” We also often feel the causes of the actions, which we desire to distance ourselves from, are that we did not think. We think to ourselves,”Well, I just didn’t think before I acted.” I do not believe this is the case. I believe we most truly had thought and contemplated on things before the actions and that that contemplation is to a great extent the roots of those actions.

This gets me back to my post title “Power of the Person.” I see that our actions are the fruit of our thoughts. Christ said.”A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth that which is good: and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth that which is evil. For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”[Luke 6] The fact that we lack charity of action toward those whom we interact with is the fruit of our view of that person or interaction. I believe we more readily lose the clarity of it truly being persons like ourselves whom we interact with through mediums of exchange, such as blogs, texts, even phone conversations.

I thought this would be a good idea to start with on this new blog, because even though at times I am certain I may fail to up hold the value of the person “made in God’s image,” which God gives to those persons, with whom I and we may interact with here. I pray we may continually increase our contemplation of the truth that each of us are to see others as we see ourselves, and Christ made Himself like us that we make grow in the recognition of seeing our treatment of others as how we treat Him. Basically, God became man that we may be able to look at our actions toward others to see how much we love Him. This is the standard by which we ought to seek to hold high in our lives and I hope we can carry it high and give God thanks for each other as persons made in His image here.Image

Blessing,

MichaelTX

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My Testimony – “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of the testimony, and they loved not their lives unto death.”

Out here in the blog world I go by MichaelTX. I’ve put this story of my faith walk with Christ together at the request of Carson Weber. I heartily recommend his free 30 part bible study Understanding the Scriptures Podcast. It is a very helpful resource using the help of Scott Hahn’s book “Understanding the Scriptures.” Through it you get a full overview of the history of salvation, and gain a richer understanding for God’s amazing work revealed in the scriptures. Carson has done a great service for God’s people. May he, by the grace of God, continue that work throughout his whole life, for the glory of our God and Savior the Lord Jesus Christ.  Let us all serve each other as Christ has served us. Jesus says, “Freely you have received freely give.”

God’s mercy and grace has been shown to me in uncountable ways throughout my life. I was born into a great family, with wonderful loving parents both having a knowledge of God’s love and mercy. I came to a knowledge of Christ early in life, and by His grace committed my life to Him and was baptized at around age ten in a small Baptist church in Texas. As most Texans, I am abundantly grateful for being born and raised in Texas. Texas has an abundance of warm tradition which gives the heart of family and community a good home. As with most things good, true and beautiful in our world we will have our share of trouble to go through until we are able to see the good, true and beautiful in them clearly. I went through the lost youth which has become so regrettably common in our culture; the downward spiral of a youth which had lost any real purpose, direction or foundation. It is so easy to drop our gaze from the Lord who loves us so much. Our Lord never lost me while I seemed to have lost Him. I never disowned Christ, yet I didn’t live for Him either. I always believed in God and would talk about it if somebody wanted to, but Christ was not my “Life.” At around twenty, a turn began in my life as I met and continued to grow closer to a woman I worked with. She was an atheist and it apparently struck her as odd that “someone as intelligent as me” believed there was a God. By God’s grace, before we were married she was baptized in the same little Baptist church I was baptized in, ten years before. We went through the early struggles of marriage. Dealing with me was my biggest problem, though that isn’t what I thought at the time. My years of purposelessness took God years to recalibrate. I am a guitarist and at that time was in bands moving strongly in the secular music scene, which usually means you’re in bars most weekends. God continued to help both me and my wife to be patient with each other. We continued to grow in our relationship with Christ. We both wanted children and it took many prayers, many years, a new town and a new Baptist community praying with us, before we had any children. God blessed us with our first son about five years into our marriage. We now have three sons along with a little girl. I guess God decided to give us some work in this world. We grew very close to that new church community; our kids grew up in the kids groups, my wife helped in the nursery and provided interpretation for the deaf. I taught in youth bible study classes and filled in as leader for the men’s bible study when needed, and also put together and taught high school seniors a course covering the fundamentals of the faith. As you can imagine, God had done lots of work in my life.

While growing up and while an adult we usually found our home in a Baptist church, which I’m sure some could fault me for, yet I was always “just” a Christian, a follower of Christ and a seeker of truth. For my old school Reform folks who may be reading, I wasn’t an Arminian or a Pelagian of any type. I have always known God, in His mercy, leads us from where we are to where He is. Good exhortation and encouragement was what we wanted from the pulpit along with a loving community. I thank God for the faith communities and the preachers and teachers He has used to help shape our life in following Him.

God had continued to shape me into being a better husband and father for my family; mostly in prayer and studying the Bible and listening for his voice in radio and preaching, which takes a lot of filtering to find good teachers. I had also become an avid reader, which for someone who had read very little through high school and college was a great feat for God by itself. Through struggling with my own weaknesses and selfishness God brought me to a place of utter openness to Him for my strength and security. This place of God being near drawing me to Him for all my security continued for some time. I remember right where I was when in prayer I had the clearest impression to “Check out the Catholic Church.” I knew of all the things that roll around in my mind that idea was not from me. There is nothing in my background that pushed me into studying the Catholic Church. I never thought it was worth the time. I had just a simple thought that it was wrong and that was all there was to it. I had most of the common ideas about Catholic Christianity that can be thought of from a Protestant background.  I couldn’t understand why God would want me to check out the Catholic Church. I was secure in knowing that if it was false God could clear it up without any problems as I continued to trust in His Word and ask for His for direction.

Just for some background, less than six months before this a friend of mine nearly died and had come to talk with me about it. Our conversation brought him to recognize his need for Christ and being he was from a Catholic background I gave him a bible, wrote down some passages and books to read through and I made sure to recommend he find a solid bible believing church. He was moving, therefore I would not be there to help. I also pointed out to him that it was a waste of time praying to anyone other than God through Christ, especially Mary.

With that, let’s get back to the story. Confused as why I should, I did begin to seek an understanding of the teachings and mind of Catholic Christianity. To be fair, I did not want to learn what Catholics believe from people who were against the teachings of the Church; I was in that position.  I began by seeking to find how faithful Catholic Christians understand their faith and how they try to explain it to people. I gave the Catholic position a chance to be true, so that if it was true it could at least present its own case before I began to dismantle it. If it was a false understanding of the Christian faith I had no doubt that God would lead me away from error into His pure light and I would be better equipped with truth because of it.  I do understand that when someone believes and understands what they believe presents their ideas it is usually in the form of what some might call “propaganda.” This can be very dangerous if you live immersed in false ideas presented without counter arguments. Although, in a cloud of false understanding is where we will remain if we do not believe that a better understanding is possible. Which is possible, but the only way to know that is to find out. That will always take faith in God. As Paul says to the Christians in Rome, “If God is for us, who is against us?” nothing “…in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” So, the only reason to be an ostrich with our head in the sand is if we are positive putting our head in the sand is the best place for it. I love that we live in a county and an age that we can seek to understand things with such ease. We are incessantly surrounded by opposing ideas, yet if someone wishes to pause and look for answers through the cloud of ideas truth can be found. We are, as people, thinkers and we ought to think and look for greater understanding. If we understand more we can do more good in our world. Jesus said “you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” He also said He is the Truth. I believe Jesus is who He said He is, so I began to dig for more understanding.

I have full assurance of Christ’s loving hand on my life, because he says to us that He “will be with (us) always, even to the end of the age.” Christ spoke to that small band of men He taught and who He sent out to “make disciples of all nations.” I believe the truth those men proclaimed because they died for what they taught, as did Christ. I believe those men, as history shows, lived the rest of their lives doing just what Jesus said to do and telling the world what they had “seen and heard.” In that small plot of land over in the Middle East, the eternal Maker of all things came to live among us.

Believing these things, I began by trying to understand why Catholics do the things that Catholics do and how they understand them. It can be very hard to set aside the way we understand things long enough to let someone else explain what they believe and why, yet it is the only way to hear people properly. I went through many different resources and teachers of the Catholic faith to see if the understandings were basically universal and if those understandings actually match the official teachings of the Church. I looked into teachers of the past and present. Surprisingly, the more I understood the beliefs and practices, as actually taught and understood by Catholics, the more my adversity disappeared. My previous adverse ideas of Catholic teaching seemed like a dense fog dissipating before the rising sun. My objections all looked very solid while I looked at them in the dark, but the more I looked to see if the Son’s light was shining in Catholic belief and practice the more I saw the light of the Son revealed.

I naturally started this journey with no desire to be Catholic, so as that prospect arose fear struck me. How is this going to work with my family? What goes into being a Catholic?  How is my wife going to react? What if she disagrees with me? What if everybody comes to hate me? I have no Catholics in my circle of immediate family or friends. It would mean leaving the community of Christians we loved. I am only a man and I fight fear and lack courage. God help us all. We need courage to follow our relentlessly loving God in our world so averse to Him. He is Truth and we need Him as the guide for our hearts and society as a whole. I did not want the Catholic Church to be true.

So, naturally I began to seek and punch holes in the Church. What about this? What about that? How can that be? Of course now I began looking at teachers against the Church’s teaching for advice. I’m no great and profound teacher but God is and He was patient with my doubts and fears, so I will let Him do that with any who read this and want to seek to understand why anybody would become Catholic. This story would turn into a book if I tried to explain some of what I’ve worked through. There are plenty of great teachers of the Faith in history and in the Church today, though we could always use more. No doubt, I am happy to interact with anyone who wishes to inquire about the faith, hope and love which I have been graced in acquiring. Pretty simply, I came to discover I have been Catholic since I was called by God’s grace, illumined by the Spirit and by faith received the one and only universal savior, or the catholicus savior {Latin}; katholikos sōtēr {Greek trans. lit.} of all man kind.

Jesus’s high priestly prayer

“I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.”  – John 17:20-23

My wife, I and our three children were fully and publicly united to the Catholic Church in the 2012 Easter season, by God’s amazing grace. I hope and pray that all come to the peace of resting in the hands of God which grip us perfectly in the Catholic Church. The main fears I have never went away on my journey into union with the Church. One thing I can say about moving forward in spite of these fears is that Christ has been with me through this journey, He has not left me. Christians are one family gathered around their one loving Father feeding on His life giving Word, the Word made flesh.

“This is My body give up for you.”

– Jesus on Holy Thursday before His arrest

“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

– Gospel of St.  John

“Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”

– The Holy Mass/The Divine Liturgy

For all who have given my story their time, I give you thanks. May God’s work in me bless you, because I have been extremely blessed. My search into the Catholic Church has been surprising, shocking, amazing, tiring, fearful, and full of joys along with heart wrenching sorrows, but it has been most rewarding. I have found in exploring the Catholic Church I see the reflection of my beloved Lord working through his mystical body in our world, leading us to all Truth. She, the Church, is in union with Jesus, the friend I’ve grown so close to. Sometimes men make Him hard to identify with the disfiguring marks of our sin which we put on His mystical body the Church, but He will never leave us. He will always “turn the other cheek” to our selfish blows on His face, and He will not change. He is full of grace and truth. He is Emmanuel (God with us). May we love as He loves, and love not our lives unto the death of our selfishness for the love of others.

Father in heaven may we all be made more like Your beloved Son our Lord Jesus Christ, the suffering servant. Amen

May our Father in Heaven grant blessings, peace and joy to all through Jesus Christ our Lord.

MichaelTX