For eight years I worked with Youth With A Mission. An international and interdenominational decentralized missions
organization. Started primarily as a way of getting young people who loved Jesus a chance to travel and get their feet wet in missions work, sharing the gospel and getting some discipleship along the way. Its a massive organization now with hundreds of secondary schools for training and development for Christian missions work of all kinds. There are as well many practical ministries associated with the movement.
All eight years I spent in the mission were with one of the secondary schools. I first took the course in 08-09 in Los Angeles. It was a bible course known as the School of Biblical Studies or SBS. Providence had it that I just so happened to sign up for the school in Los Angeles the same year that Cliff Davis had arrived in LA to start the Chronological SBS. Same school as before, but with the books arranged in the Chronological order that they were originally written to the best of their ability, (with some debate as to the exact date of a handful of the books). The one main exception was to place the book of Job in the same time period as the other primary books of the wisdom literature around the time of David and Solomon.
The Chronological version I truly believe was Gods providence for me. I had previously been exposed to the popular Reformed teachings of Calvin and Luther because I had been living near Holland Michigan were there is a large concentration of Reformed Churches and zealous proselytizers. For me it was primary the Calvinistic theology that was troubling me. Complete lack of free will, archaic predestination explanations, faith alone salvation, yet not a faith that you have any part in as God completely controls all things including the thoughts or lack of thoughts in ever human brain. Whether this was the exact belief of people pushing Calvinism on me or this was just the logical extent of the arguments that were driving me mad and further from God or any desire for God. Either way I was in desperate need of a better, more orthodox, healthy, yet still challenging theological formation.
Cliff Davis was an excellent teacher. Or at least he was exactly the kind of teacher and school leader I needed. His strengths were perfect for helping someone like me engage with scripture the way I had really needed to. I got a ton out of the school. After nine months I had an amazing overview of the redemptive work of God throughout biblical history, I understood Jesus in context of the whole biblical narrative, and I also felt like in nine short months I understood Paul in his historical and biblical context better then so many of the people who were just confusing me with theological categories and reformed dogmas detached from historical context. Most of all I was happy that when asked technical questions about doctrines on salvation I could just begin walking through stories or the redemptive work of God. I could do it in order using the language of covenants, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus. It was incredible. Without even having many verses or their locations memorized I could walk through the biblical narratives pointing out key moments of how God revealed himself.
I was also honored by Cliff to be invited to come staff with him. I committed to a year because at the time that seemed like such a long time. I ended up staying much longer, my fourth year in LA I was honored again with the opportunity to Co-Lead the school with Cliff. This was an amazing experience in leadership and by the end of the fourth year God was opening up doors for us to move to the YWAM base in Tijuana Mexico to start the first CSBS in Mexico.
This was a huge challenge. But our work in starting the school has continued to bear fruit. We worked there for four years before leaving YWAM. I miss working with the CSBS so much. But im just grateful for the opportunity we had. After transitioning back to career life working and buying a home here in Kentucky I realized last year I had made a mistake in not getting active in a church sooner. But as many of my readers know I’m on track now to do that.
I bring up my work in the CSBS because it was really one of the big stepping stones leading me to where I believe I am moving towards now. Studying the bible using the inductive method, and with a large emphasis on historical context is what opened my mind and soul to new revelations in the living word of God. I realized in the last few years in CSBS that I was moving more and more in the direction of the Catholic Theological Tradition. At first this just seemed like, well, ‘I’m just going to be an open minded protestant about doctrine and I will be a eclectic christian adopting the things I like from the various traditions. That might have worked for me in YWAM since it is an interdenominational missions organization. But now that I live and work in a more normal setting I have to have a church that I join and am able to get active with. To me the choice came down to either the Anglican, Orthodox, or the Catholic church. I’m still making the journey but I feel confident that I will soon be confirmed into the Catholic Faith. Which again, is strange and new, yet not strange or new at all. Its the direction I have been moving towards from the moment I accepted the concept of studying scripture with the inductive method. In order to do this I needed to set aside all previous notions of biblical theology or tradition, i did this to the best of my ability cause I was so deeply troubled by certain doctrines of the Reformed, as well as some of the more charismatic or even legalistic variety. This also meant setting aside previous theological prejudices I had from growing up protestant against Catholics. So not only did the inductive method assist me in this but also the pursuit of understanding each book in its biblical and historical context. So in other words not reading Genesis and Galatians as Luther or Calvin would have with 15th century Catholic European worldview. Instead the goal was to understand the book of Genesis as revelation to the people of Israel shortly after their exodus from Egypt. The God who rescued them wanted to make a new covenant with them. Or the church in Galatia as it was in first century Turkey. A church where early Gentile converts were being convinced by Jews who in following Jesus felt that in order to be good followers of the Rabbi Jesus the gentiles needed to go all in and make sure to observe kosher laws as well, to be circumcised, and observe Jewish feasts, etc. Paul of course corrected this behavior not by condemning Jews as legalistic for following the Law of Moses but for encouraging Gentiles to follow the externals of an old covenant that has been broken and rendered ineffective by the more perfect covenant being set up by Jesus the Messiah.
The next major outcome of going through the school year after year with new students was the natural progression into the early church, the writings of the early church fathers, the history of the 1500 years of church history largely ignored by protestants. A book by a very intellectual protestant Vishal Mangalwadi was instrumental in opening my mind and intellect to more of the positive effects of the church throughout history. The book is called “The Book that made your world: How the bible shaped the soul of western civilization”. That book then exposed me to the prolific work of Sociologist Rodney Stark who wrote with even more scholarly authority and less Catholic Prejudice covering even more of the positive history of the Catholic Faith and work in the development of civilization as we know it. I began to see more clearly how both modern critics of the Christianity and protestant critics of Catholics created an unholy alliance that has resulted in so much bad history and opinion about both Christianity and its specific Roman Catholicism. Even in my coming closer to the partaking in the sacraments of the Catholic Church I have set out to expose myself fully to the rot, the scandal, and the crisis that is taking place within the Catholic church. Im not coming into it with a blind fold towards the challenging issues. But this has not deterred me at all. In fact I have been even more encouraged because I believe the Catholic church alone possesses the fullness of the faith, and is the best embodiment of the oneness that Jesus prayed for his followers. I love the presence of the saints both visibly in the icons, statues, feast days, prayers, liturgy, and their invisible and spiritual presence as fellow participants in the pursuits of the churches mission.
Instrumental to me has thus far been the work of the local clergy, both Fr. Fischer and Deacon Bill Wakefield and his wife. Wonderful people who are enthusiastic about new converts. Aside from them I have tapped in to the work of Dr. Taylor Marshal (not schismatic, I am proof), Scott Hahn, Athanasius Schneider, Archbishop Vigano, FSSP resources, Fathers of Mercy here in Kentucky (their homilies on their youtube channel are powerful), Church Militant news, Cardinal Burke, Cardinal Sarah, Fr. Calloway, Fr. Altman, Ralph Martin, and others. Yes I am gravitating towards the more conservative or traditional but I also appreciate some of the others who are a bit more middle of the road. I’m not incapable of appreciating the gifts of people like Bishop Barron and others like him but in my short time growing familiar with the Catholic Church I believe it would be more effective if the church rooted out modernization almost completely. Some English liturgy seems reasonable but there seems to be so many changes instituted after Vatican II that are not necessarily even indicative of what is in the documents from the council. That’s all I’m going to say about that as I am sure in the future I will have whole posts devoted to such issues. IN the mean time I am happy to be moving in this new, yet familiar direction. I guess you could see it is home.
It all started with CSBS in YWAM. Inductive, historical and biblical context lead me to covenant theology and chronological redemptive salvation culmination in the inauguration of the King of Kings the enthroned in the Kingdom of God established by Peter and Apostles through the church in Rome and the birth of Christendom and the ongoing battle with familiar beasts, harlots, demons, fallen angels, and the masses of the deceived and the damned who wage war on the saints of God until the final judgement.
For the past few weeks I have been reengaging with the book of Revelation or the book of The Apocalypse of John. I am seeing this in a fresh new way having been attending mass weekly I feel this book is only cementing me further as a Catholic. Ive been a Catholic for years without coming into full fellowship. The imagery of the great apocalyptic events of the ending of one covenant and the unveiling of the new. It is the wedding of Christ to his church. Not just something predictive for far off future events but what would soon take place. No doubt there was a future event that the book alludes to in the closing of one covenant once and for all with the destruction of the old beautiful temple in Jerusalem. There is a new covenant, with a new temple, one where Christ is the high priest and the people of God from every nation will begin entering in to the marriage covenant. The marriage super of the Lamb. The basic activity of the church in the earliest days was a reenactment of the last supper and what the last supper itself proceeded. The sacrifice of the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. The Mass then is the daily reenactment of the Apocalypse of John. It is as the book describes a great spiritual battle. It is also a vitally practical reminder of Gods affirmation of daily life of the people of God living out his perfect plan for men and women. Covenantal love giving way to life and family, the coming together of people into a covenant with God by way of the special family of God. The church, though it is suffering under persecution by the state, (Babylon & Harlot) are not calling to directly engage with the state but to do battle against the beast that is behind those temporal powers. That by the faithfulness of the church to do what is prescribed, what has in reality already been accomplished in Christ it will be victorious. Christ will reign, he will judge, and he will in the end unveil his true bride. In its proper place the church will take as its inheritance, the dominion of all things with Christ the King. The kingdom of God is not “OF” this world but it is manifesting itself “IN” this world through the visible and mystical church.
Revelation is a great reminder to the church that it also will face the wrath of God if it does not repent of sin. Just as the book warns each of the seven churches to repent otherwise God will remove their “candles” from the alter, -so Jerusalem had been warned over and over about idolatry. For the sins of the church, the turning from the gospel, the immorality, lukewarmness, and the disobedience of the church is no different from the variety of unfaithful behavior by the people of God in the old covenants. The destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, or in reality the entire city. This stands as a crucial contextual compass for the resounding message of the book of Revelation. Historically speaking the seven churches of Revelation have all been destroyed through Islamic conquests. Is God done with the church? Of course not. Revelation stands as a warning. As does the actual history of the churches spoken to by their Bishop John (likely the beloved apostle). Churches come and go. We have seen this. We know how churches typically begin and in general they all end in a similar way. Either by dying, by tolerance of evil, by being influenced by the surrounding cultures, by complacency brought on by great wealth or political influence. There are more reasons but we have all seen churches begin with passion and zeal for God. We have seen them end for these variety of reasons. Sometimes they do end due to hostility and invasions of other demonic forces opposed to the things and people of God.
The message of Revelation is actually pretty easy then to grasp.
LOOK! SEE WHAT I HAVE DONE! SEE WHAT I AM DOING! I HAVE ALREADY OVERCOME THE WORLD! ABIDE IN MY LOVE! REPENT OF TRUSTING IN YOURSELF! REPENT OF FEARING POLITICAL LEADERS AND NOT FEARING ME! YOU ARE MY ROYAL BRIDE!
The prophetic nature of the book is not so much predictive of far of future events but in the more biblical version of prophecy which was intended to convey what God was doing now, and what then the people of God must also be doing now. Jesus in plane language is then perhaps saying, “Look you are my bride, we are starting a family, lets celebrate, lets consummate regularly and make life together now.” Yes, we are facing an enemy that wants to destroy this marriage, but Christ has already done most of the apocalyptic stuff. Satan’s already been defeated, his forces are no match for the Godhead, his Angeles, his Mother, her Offspring and the Saints, -those in heaven and on earth which comprise his unveiled Bride the church.
In the language of Familial Covenant God is establishing his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. By regular consummation in the daily life of the church. Primarily in the Eucharist and the Mass. Each time the people of the Covenant meat they celebrate the marriage supper of the lamb, and by way of the others sacraments of the church the covenant family grows.