Wednesday, May 7, 2008

WHAT!!!!! CHARISMATICS DON'T BECOME CATHOLICS!!!! (or do they?) PT4




So here I am, wading into uncharted waters and really I am the only one that is understanding what is going on in my head and I really can't let anyone else know where I am going and what what I am thinking. I had no real idea what the repercussions would be in my life and how my family and my church would respond. In regard to Laura, I had confidence in her love for me and her commitment to our marriage, so I wasn't afraid that this could end our relationship but I did know that it would cause some issues so I chose to hide my thoughts from her as long as possible. I still was in a "discovery mode" at this time and was trying to discern between being enamored with what I was seeing and what if any truth the Catholic Church contained, but I was committed to find out what was drawing me and why, but where was I to start......discreetly. I remembered my buddy Stewart who had brought me the Catechism said that he had gotten it from a little Catholic bookstore around the corner. I had no idea about any Catholic bookstore, but I was about to find it as quick as I could. I still remember taking that lunch break and driving down the road to find the bookstore, Our Lady's Jubilee. I had no idea where it was and what to expect when I got there, but I had a good idea that what I was going to find was going to be a good bit different than the Lifeway and Family bookstores to which I had become accustomed. Come to find out the bookstore was within a mile from the dealership, which made this easy because I could get there and back in under 10 minutes; this left the better part of an hour to walk around and find out what was going on. Now I have always had a pretty "tame" personality and the only way that I can compare my first visit to this bookstore would be to compare it to what I think it would feel like to enter some type of "adult establishment" if you catch my drift. There is no way I would want ANYBODY to know that I was visiting this bookstore and I was really wishing that I had a trench coat and sunglasses right about now, but I didn't and all the sudden I had that feeling like I had to go to the bathroom....really bad. "Deep breaths....it is OK...it is just a bookstore...nobody has to know yet." The lady greeted me with a smile and asked how she could help me, so I briefly informed her of my quandary, being that a Reformed Presbyterian in a Catholic bookstore was a little strange and uncomfortable. That is when I found a book that would literally change my life and solidify my move to the Roman Catholic Church. She explained to me in brief form about a book by
a gentleman by the name of Scott Hahn, who I had heard of before in my reading, but I really didn't put 2+2 together until now. Scott Hahn is very popular now within Catholic apologetic circles and is truly a part of a re-awakening that is taking place in re-catechising Catholics and explaining to Protestants in a concise and beautiful way what we as Catholics ACTUALLY believe. So I picked up the book knowing that I was on my way out of town in the next week or so.
Now remember, this all had gone on within a couple week period, from the death Pope John Paul II, so things for me were moving pretty quickly. At this time, Laura was planning to go out of town to Birmingham to see my family, which coinsided with a trip that I needed to make to Atlanta for a BMW training event so this was going to work out perfectly for me; I had planned it out in my head. I would leave Birmingham one morning early to go to my meeting, but I would stop off in Irondale at EWTN. That day was the morning that the conclave(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papal_conclave) was meeting to start the process of selecting a new Pope, so off I headed to Atlanta. Walking around I really didn't even know what I was looking at and there wasn't a whole lot there, but I spent most of my time in the bookstore, chapel and another meeting room that they had that had benches and Confessionals in it. I had already began reading the book and began to understand what was happening. After I left EWTN I decided to call my buddy Stewart (which by the way resulted in an enormous cell phone bill for that month) and inform him of where I was heading.
To summarize, Scott Hahn was a student at Gordon Conwell Theolgoical Seminary in the mid 8o's when he did a doctoral research paper on the faults and lackings of the Roman Catholic Church. During this period he found that the very opposite was true and one by one all the supports that upheld his protestant beliefs fell like dominos until he had no other option than to come Home. I did go to Bible College, but I wasn't a theological genius shown by the fact that prior to my move to the Presbyterian Church, I had never heard of Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide and now those were starting to fall rather quickly. The problem is that for my entire life that I can remember I had been taught these two principles, even though I didn't know the theological terminology :
1) Sola Scriptura which is defined by the Westminster Catechism as: "The Scriptures manifest themselves to be the Word of God, by their majesty and purity; by the consent of all the parts, and the scope of the whole, which is to give all glory to God; by their light and power to convince and convert sinners, to comfort and build up believers unto salvation: but the Spirit of God bearing witness by and with the Scriptures in the heart of man, is alone able fully to persuade it that they are the very Word of God."
2) Sola Fide is the Protestant doctrine that our Salvation is based on our faith alone.
The problem with both of these doctrines are two fold. First of all, neither of these doctrines are supported by Scripture and secondly without either of these doctrines, protestantism fails to exist. This is why my entire world was falling apart; the foundation of everything that I believed was shifting and I was very quickly becoming unable to focus on anything else except for getting answers.
After I got off the extensive phone call with Stewart, I knew that I was in desparate need of help and I wanted to know that I was going down a road that if followed to it's conclusion would change my life forever. Then I made a second call to my then pastor, Rob. At that point, I really think that Rob was taked off guard. He returned my call and I started drilling him with questions about Scott and the Catholic Church. At that point, I don't think he really understood how serious I was and that was a lack on my part. Rob assured me that we would get back together and chat once that I got back in town and I needed that greatly...I had to have questions answered fast.

Friday, May 2, 2008

WHAT!!!!! CHARISMATICS DON'T BECOME CATHOLICS!!!! (or do they?) PT3

So, just to give some perspective in this whole scenario, the time frame that all this happened was approximately March of 2005. That was after September of 2004. September of 2oo4 was the date that our home was severely damaged by the onset of Hurricane Ivan, which you see to the right. Our house is right under the tip of the green arrow. Being that we were on the right side of the storm, we took the brunt of the storm with a 20 ft. oak tree on the back of our house. Due to this, the entire back half of our house had to be remodeled, which included the Kitchen, dining area and the den area. So, not only did we have a 2 year old, we were living in half of our house with a microwave, heatplate and a minifridge in the laundry room. Now to pile on top of everything else, I was wrestling with a conversion to the Catholic Faith. So my eyes were glued to the news and the funeral for the Holy Father. I remember that one night I was flipping through the channels and I came across EWTN's coverage of the events and I was rivetted. ( for those of you who don't know, EWTN is the "Global Catholic Television Network") The only problem that I noticed quite quickly was that this was a "preview channel" that the cable company used to preview other channels that were available to subscribers. HOW COULD THEY TEASE ME LIKE THIS???? I didn't have the very station that I felt like I needed! Oh well....life will go on. I remember going out and purchasing any type of magazine and book that I could find on Pope John Paul's life and history because I really felt a sense of regret. I had come to a point that I finally was recognizing the importance that he had played in the world stange, and now he was gone. Some part of me felt like this was a sick cosmic joke because I knew that there is no way that I could go back and pick up the pieces. It was, however very evident to me that through the death of the Holy Father, he probably had more impact on my life that he could have other wise, he got my attention. I realized that what was going on now was something that
had been going on for centuries. The torch would now be passed. But honestly, I didn't know what that meant. At this point in my search, I was not aware or informed of "Apostolic Succession", all I knew was that there would be a new Pope in the near future. The one thing that stuck with me, and probably always will was something that I saw during the funeral. I believe that it was during the procession to St. Peter's basilica that the body was being carried. During that time the people were singing the Litany of the Saints http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3iu9bwEfl4 and I really had no idea what they were singing/chanting because it was all in Latin....and it haunted me for days. I finally found it on line and this is what I found: http://www.ewtn.com/Devotionals/Litanies/saints.htm

It was chilling for me. I really felt like I had just dove into the ocean with no life raft or any boat in sight. But when I read through this litany, I knew one thing that made sense. There was an entire body of believers, just like the writer of Hebrews talks about that we are surrounded by. This body of believers is no longer bound by space or time and we are a part of them and they are a part of us. When we cry, they hurt. When we rejoice, they rejoice with us and they are there with the Father interceeding for us. At this point I was beginning to delve into something that I had heard in the Presbyterian Church (in limited form) as the "Communion of the Saints". Of course over the next few months this belief would be expounded on and challenged, but I knew that they were there, all of them....Praying for us.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

WHAT!!!!! CHARISMATICS DON'T BECOME CATHOLICS!!!! (or do they?) PT2



So where do I go from here? I know that I can't go back to the Charismatic church and where I thought I was supposed to be was now validated to me as full of idolatry and sacrilege, from somebody that was of influence in my life and well respected in my community. It was then that I started the search. What denomination did I agree the MOST with. Baptist was out; they were to Pre-Millenial. Episcopal; nope--to liberal for my taste. Methodist; ditto. What was I to do. It was then that I remembered that I had some exposure in my younger days to the Presbyterian Church. In my childhood days when I lived in Jackson, I remember going to Twin Lakes retreat outside of Florence, MS. This was where a day camp was held that was run by First Presbyterian Church in Downtown Jackson. At that point I started my research. What I had found out is that there were two major Presbyterian denominations....there are many more, but I focused on the PCUSA (Presbyterian Church, USA) and the PCA (Presbyterian Church of America). I found out that the PCA was much more conservative in their beliefs and from what I knew much more orthodox in their teachings. I also knew that they had a Catechism. This was a very good thing, as this is what I was looking for in order for the children to have a solid understanding of their faith.




It was about this time that I came across a friend that I had known from working with the youth at Liberty. A gentleman by the name of Brent was a youth pastor from another Charismatic church and he and I had youth events together. I had heard through the grapevine that he was at a Presbyterian Church, so he and I decided to have breakfast one morning. That was another one that I will remember. That was probably the first time that I had vocalized to somebody outside of my wife my issues that I was dealing with. I just remember feeling so nervous actually saying these things. I felt like I was betraying something or somebody that was my closest friend, yet I knew I was doing the right thing. Amazingly, Brent and I were dealing with many of the same issues in regard to our background. He had already made a transition to the Presbyterian Church and he was so excited. He told me that we needed to visit. So....off we went to McIwain Presbyterian Church. It was awesome. I finally felt at home.....sort of. It did take some getting used to. It was much more reserved, but that is what I was looking for. Hymns.Reflection. It was about this time that I finally had a revelation. One that I hadn't had before. If you were to ask the majority of people why they go to church or why they go to a specific church, they probably will answer with one of the following: we like the music, we are getting fed, they have a good children's program, we like the pastor, they have a good women's ministry, the service doesn't last forever, they have a good Singles ministry, I feel accepted....the list could go on....and on....and on. What I realized though was that church was not for US. What I mean is that the reason that we go to church is not to go to some Spiritual pep-rally, or to come out feeling good, or to be entertained. If this is the reason you are going to church, (God bless you for being there), it is the wrong reason. We are going to church to lay ourselves at the feet of an Almighty God who is ever deserving of our worship and devotion. That was it! That was the missing key that I had been searching after for years. It was not about how much I got out of it, but how much God got out of me and how much I became part of Him.



It was during our "orientation" at McIlwain that I learned about parts of Theology that I had not entered into before. I started hearing terms like "Total Depravity of Man", "Sola Scriptura", "Sola Fide" and "Sola Gracia"......oh yeah.....the biggie was "Predestination". For those of you who are familiar with Reformed Theology, you will understand the imagery on the right. T.U.L.I.P. That is another long story for another blog. There were a few sticking points that I had with the Presbyterian Theology, but in general I was very happy and learned to overlook the little questions that I still had and that I always had. I figured it was going to always be that way. But I wasn't searching any further.
I wanted to get more involved with the church, but due to my job at the time along with other circumstances, it just never did work out. It was a little frustrating, but I just dealt with it. The people at McIlwain were great and Rob, the Sr. Pastor was awesome. Rob was about my age, maybe a little older, and we really hit it off well. We had him and Lisa over a couple times for dinner and really enjoyed them. I can say that it was the closest relationship that I had had with a pastor and his wife. They were real people who weren't on a pedestal somewhere and the best thing is that they were accessible. We didn't have to make an appointment with a secretary who had to contact his secretary. At that point in our lives that was something that we needed. While we were at McIlwain, we adopted Abigail (2003). That was the first time we had a baby baptized. It was quite an emotional time in our lives. We really didn't understand what that meant, but according to the Reformed Theology, it was an external sign; A commitment by us to her as a child, not a Sacrament that actually conferred grace.

About a year and a half later in March of 2005, was when we got a phone call to make a trip down to West Palm Beach to get Isabella. I was very excited about our daughter and I had never been to South Florida, so what I figured out that I could do while I was down there was to visit Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. I had watched Dr. Kennedy for years and really admired him and his message. I remember driving down to West Palm Beach with Laura, Alli (my sister in law) and Abigail. After almost 12 hours in the car, we dropped at the hotel, then I drove from West Palm to Ft. Lauderdale to the church. I remember thinking how awesome it was to be able to hear Dr. Kennedy speak in person, as a matter of fact, I was able to chat with him for a few moments after the service. He was a kind and loving man. I explained why I was down in West Palm Beach and he was very understanding to our position as he and his wife had also adopted children in their family.


As a side note, no matter what Theological differences the Reformed Church and the Catholic church has, Dr. D. James Kennedy and his ministry truly stood by the children and the Unborn. May God bless them.


It was shortly after this trip back that things began to go haywire. For those of you that know me, I am a NEWS HOUND...do you hear me? I continually keep up with the day's events and like to know what is going on. It was on March 31, 2oo5 that my head snapped around. I remember I was at work at BMW and there was a news flash that Pope John Paul II had been admitted to the Gemelli Hospital with high fever and a low blood pressure. I really didn't pay that much attention to the Pope during my life, but now I was. All I knew is that he was a fixture in our world. I had heard a lot of things about Catholics and the like, but I never really payed any of them any attention....I had no need to. But this was different. It was interesting........it was sad. To me at that point, it was just another sign that our world was changing. I had followed the death of former President Ronald Reagan, and Nixon, but this was something different. It was different because I knew this man was important to Faith. Little did I know , soon it would be my faith. Then, on April 2nd, 2005,

it finally happened. This great man left us. For the first time in my life that I can remember I started paying attention to details of the Catholic Church. All eyes were pointed to Rome, and rightfully so. My head started spinning with everything that was going on. I wanted to know why things were done. What does all this mean? I was starting to wade into the Tiber.....