Hi. My name is Chip and I teach Bible study here at St Charles. Here’s a “little” about me and my background.
About myself: Early Years (0-14 yrs)
I was christened Lutheran as an infant, but never went to a Lutheran church as a child or adult. What’s truly interesting about my background growing up is that I can remember attending Sunday School as a child at various nondenominational churches, but neither of my parents ever practiced any faith themselves. It was in Sunday School that I learned about the Bible stories from the Old and New Testaments. It was there that I memorized the books of the Bible, various Bible verses, and learned many traditional Christian hymns like “Amazing Grace”, “How Great Thou Art”, and “Because He Lives”. I really enjoyed learning the stories from the Bible and believed in Jesus as my Savior during those years.
High School Years (15-18 yrs)
During my Jr High years, I stopped attending church. My mother passed away when I was 15 and my home life was turned upside-down by my father’s quick remarriage. This caused me to go back to church and reconnect with my faith I had as a child. I began attending an Evangelical Church called Grace Brethren in Long Beach. It was there I had a conversion experience and dedicated my life to Jesus. I became very involved in the church’s youth group and even started a Bible Study club on my high school campus to encourage other teens to pray, read the Scriptures and evangelize. Because of my involvement at my church and school, I saw myself more and more enjoying the teaching and leadership aspects of serving in the church. It was then I decided I wanted to be a pastor when I grew up.
College Years (early 20s)
After high school, I decided to attend Biola University in La Mirada, CA to pursue my desire to become a pastor. My major was Christian Education, with a minor in Biblical Studies and an emphasis in pastoral counseling. It was during these years (my early 20s) that I had a second experience—the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I got involved with a Charismatic-Christian church called the Vineyard in Anaheim, the ‘mother-church’ of the whole Vineyard movement. I knew and met pastor John Wimber, its founder, and found him to be a most sincere and insightful man of God. I took various classes at the Vineyard on prayer, worship, signs & wonders, evangelism, healing, and Scripture in addition to all my undergrad studies at Biola. I was a part of the prayer team ministry at church. I got involved in a small Bible study group weekly and was quickly recognized for my Bible knowledge and understanding of Scripture. In fact, people would come to me with their Bible questions and I got the nickname, “The Bible Answer Man”.
While I was at Biola, I was also active in both prayer ministry and evangelization. I was one to walk through the neighborhood around Biola, knocking on doors and asking, “do you know Jesus?” I encountered Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, atheists and New Agers. Occasionally, I would run into Catholic people. During these years, I didn’t know much about Catholicism. What I did know was primarily from the people I spoke to during my evangelism days. I thought that, in general, they were more wrapped up in Mary to know who Jesus was. I also thought they didn’t know anything about the Bible. I felt they were lost and it was my duty as Bible-believing Christian to lead them out of this dead religion and into a living relationship with Jesus Christ. That would all change one night.
My Catholic Conversion (late 20s)
In the spring of 1990, a friend of mine and I wanted to go out and do something “different”. We decided to go to a bar. For two Evangelical Christian young men who didn’t drink, that was different. We didn’t even know where one was but decided to drive around and see what turned up. On the way there, we discovered a church carnival and decided to stop there instead. It was a church festival at St Boniface’s in Anaheim. While my friend and I were enjoying the rides, I got to speaking with a middle-aged woman there. My friend knew how I “rolled” and was expecting to see me evangelize her. She was quite a chatty-Cathy and went on and on about her devotion to the Blessed Mother and the rosary. I thought, at the time, “This poor dear soul. So hung up on Mary that she doesn’t know Jesus.” I found a break in the conversation to ask her, “what do you get most out of your church?” Thinking she was going to say, the rosary or Mary or the pope or something like that was when I was going to “tell her about Jesus”. However, she paused briefly and said, “probably the Eucharist.” That threw me off my game. I knew vaguely she meant communion, but I was puzzled that she would mention that. After all, for Evangelical Protestants, a communion service is nothing more than crackers and grape juice. Why should that be so important especially after she waxed on about how much she loved Mary?
In any event, my friend and I left and as we were walking back to the car I remarked to him, “I didn’t quite have the answers for her. I am going to have to research this issue some more.” That was the beginning of the end. I began by finding Roman Catholic resources about the Eucharist (I thought I’d start there since she said that was so important to her). I set out to find Roman Catholic resources vs using Protestant ones about Catholicism. Why? Because I knew Protestants would be biased against Catholic beliefs and I was also one to ‘hear it from the horse’s mouth’ versus from secondary sources.
The first thing that amazed me in my studies was that the Catholic Church believed that the bread and wine, after consecration, was no longer bread and wine, but the actual body and blood (real body, real blood) of Jesus Christ himself. I was also astounded to find that Catholics used the Bible to support this belief. I saw in the books I was reading Scripture quotes. Of course, I didn’t believe their Bible, so I got out mine and saw for myself. I read passages like John 6:53, “So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” He goes on and says, “For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” (John 6:55-56). I also read how St Paul understood this ‘real flesh and blood’ idea. In I Cor 11:27 he wrote, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” It was as if I never read these passages before. I remember thinking, if communion is just a symbol (crackers and grape juice), how can we, as Christians, be guilty of ‘profaning the body and blood of Jesus’? I read how these books also quoted the early church Fathers on the matter. Since Biola had a full theological library, I remember going to the library to look up the quotes myself, convinced these Roman Catholics were taking the Fathers out of context. To my amazement, they weren’t and even more amazing to me, the more and more I read about the early church and their services, the more and more it looked Catholic, not Protestant.
It took me two full years of reading and research until I decided to talk to a priest about all I was learning. I slowly saw how all those Roman Catholics beliefs about the Bible, the pope, Mary, the saints, indulgences, purgatory were all Biblically sound and historically part of the church. I remember thinking at one point: what am I going to do? I cannot continue being an Evangelical if I believe Jesus is really present in the Eucharist. I want to be where Jesus is.
A Couple of Stumbling Blocks
In my journey into the fullness of Christ’s Church, one of the biggest theological issues I had that I just couldn’t overcome in all my research was the idea of the communion of the saints. Mary wasn’t so much a stumbling block to me as the idea of the saints interceding for us in heaven was. After all, if Mary and the saints can’t hear me, it doesn’t matter what the church believes about Mary. My thoughts were this: how do the saints hear us? Do they hear our prayers? And why pray to the saints when we can go to Jesus directly?
I remember the priest I was talking to about my journey into the Church. His name was Fr. John Provenza. He was a new priest at St. Gregory the Great in Whittier, CA. He helped get me more resources to read and he suggested I enroll in RCIA. I did. I was also involved in St. Gregory’s Bible Study. It was run by an elderly couple we were a part of the Charismatic Renewal. The second major stumbling block that I ran into was at this Bible Study. They were studying the book of Exodus and I remember getting one of their study books to follow along. Inside it stated that Moses didn’t write the book of Exodus or any books of the Old Testament. I remember this kind of theology from my classes at Biola. It was a part of 19th century liberal Protestant critical scholarship that attempted to “demythologize” the Bible and bring it into modern sensibilities. So miracles such as the plagues on Egypt were natural phenomena and the Israelites didn’t cross the Red Sea (like Charlton Heston did in the Ten Commandments), but merely sloshed about in the “Sea of Reeds”. I remember questioning these ideas to this couple only to be told that “this is Catholic doctrine”. I even heard priests talk about the miracle of the loaves was Jesus touching the hearts of the people and getting them to share. I couldn’t accept this. I believed and defended the Scriptures as the inerrant word of God and couldn’t accept this but I didn’t know of any faithful Catholic resources to support my beliefs.
I dropped from RCIA and told Fr. Provenza I needed to do some more research before I could come into the Church. During that time a new Scripture commentary was being published by Scepter Press called the Navarre Bible Commentary series. They started out with the New Testament and later did the Old. I was in a Catholic bookstore when I saw it and thought, “O no, not another bunch of heresies about the Bible…” but I picked it up and perused its introductory comments. I was pleasantly surprised to read that St. Paul did write the books in the NT that bear his name and that they were written in 50s and 60s AD and not in the 80-90s by unknown authors. I felt my faith in the Church had been renewed.
I rejoined RCIA and came into the Church on Easter Vigil—April 18, 1993—and I have never looked back! The irony was that same year I graduated from Biola University.
A lot transpired from my reception into the Church until now, but that’s another story for another time.
I have been privileged to share my Bible knowledge and journey into the faith teaching Bible Study here at St Charles for 10 years. It began with just a quick 5-week walk through the Bible in 2007 with about half a dozen faithful attendees. That introduction lead into a study in the book of Hebrews with more attendees. After Hebrews, I tackled the book of Daniel which lasted about another 3 years and started the gospel of Luke. I took a year to walk through the entire Bible, next I tackled the book of Revelation. I have just recently finished a study in the Song of Solomon.
During the past year, I also decided to further my education by enrolling in the Master of Arts in Theology program at John Paul the Great Catholic University in Escondido, CA. They offer an on-line Masters that is faithful to the magisterium. I have learned so much about our wonderful Catholic faith and my hopes are, as you come to Bible study or hear them on-line, that you too will fall in love with Our Lord in the Eucharist more. That you will love Him more in the Scriptures. That you will love His Church more. That you will love others as He has loved you more.
God bless you! See you at Bible Study! ccent