Divine Mercy Novena, Praying for Those in Purgatory, Where We are Made Fit for a King

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Keoni Cabral https://www.flickr.com/photos/keoni101/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Keoni Cabral https://www.flickr.com/photos/keoni101/

I pray a Rosary every Sunday for people in Purgatory. It takes quite a while, since I name every single person I know who has died, and I mean died, ever. I include great-great-grandparents I never met and friends of friends.

It’s the least I can do for them. I only hope that when I die, someone will take the time to pray for me.

I don’t know a great deal about Purgatory. But I do have a few surmises. These surmises are based on an experience of my own. I believe that God gave me part of my Purgatory now, in this life. What I will describe here are the ideas about Purgatory I gained from that experience.

What that means to you, dear reader, is that nothing I am about to write is official Church teaching. It comes from a personal experience and my private interpretation of that experience. If reading it edifies you, good. If it doesn’t, no matter. These are just my thoughts.

 It is a terrible thing to experience the other side of the evil you’ve done to the people around you. I believe that is what happens to us in Purgatory. Everything we do, every small act of kindness, every cutting word, every hurt we’ve inflicted on others, every joy we’ve brought to them, matters.

We are forgiven for our sins, but we aren’t always healed of what committing them has done to us. Heaven wouldn’t be very heavenly if we took our petty malice, gossip and grudge-holding with us when we went there. Even the best of us is unfit for heaven when we die. I believe that Purgatory is the transformation process that fits us for heaven. Part of that cleansing has to be facing up to who we really are.

Purgatory is bearable because it’s temporary and because it heals us ultimately and completely. Our salvation is assured when we turn to Christ for forgiveness. He washes the stain of sin from our souls in that instant. But we are still fallen people, living in a fallen world. Conversion on this side of heaven consists largely of failing down and getting back up again. The outward sign of conversion is a changed life. The interior mark of conversion is not perfection, it is trust.

As St Paul said, “I know whom I have believed, and I am confident that He is able to keep that which I have entrusted to Him against that day.”

Purgatory does not limit or grant eternal salvation. We already have eternal salvation when we enter Purgatory. What Purgatory accomplishes is the final clearing away of the detritus of our fallenness. It strips off the old torn and spotted garments of our finite existence and clothes us in our eternal garment. It transforms us into heavenly beings, fit for a King.

There are many theories about Purgatory, all of them far more authoritative than mine. But my belief is that in Purgatory we face what we have done from the viewpoint of those we did it to. If, say, you hit someone, in Purgatory you would experience the blow you gave in this life. If you gossiped about someone, in Purgatory you will feel the humiliation and hurt your words inflicted.

It would be terrible enough to experience this in this life. But in Purgatory, I think our souls will be so tender and so pure that the pain will be even more exquisite.

The souls in Purgatory are not being tortured. They are being educated about their real selves. They are seeing themselves as they are, and this insight hurts. It is the deepest grief imaginable to confront the full reality of your own sins. But from this grief comes conversion of a thorough and unalterable kind.

That is true, even here in this fallen world while we struggle with the many weaknesses of our flesh. In Purgatory, when we are naked spirits, it will be absolute. The best way to describe my understanding of Purgatory is that Purgatory is where our conversion to Christ that we began in this world is completed and made perfect.

Today Jesus tells us to bring to Me the Souls who are in the prison of Purgatory and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy … All these souls are greatly loved by Me … It is in your power to bring them relief.

It is yet another miracle of grace that we can, while we are still here in this Earthly existence, reach across the divide to aid those in Purgatory.

Please pray the Divine Mercy Novena with us today. Bring your loved ones who have died and are now in Purgatory to Jesus and immerse them in His Mercy.

Eighth Day
Today bring to Me the Souls who are in the prison of Purgatory,

and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. Let the torrents of My Blood cool down their scorching flames. All these souls are greatly loved by Me. They are making retribution to My justice. It is in your power to bring them relief. Draw all the indulgences from the treasury of My Church and offer them on their behalf. Oh, if you only knew the torments they suffer, you would continually offer for them the alms of the spirit and pay off their debt to My justice.”   

Most Merciful Jesus, You Yourself have said that You desire mercy; so I bring into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls in Purgatory, souls who are very dear to You, and yet, who must make retribution to Your justice. May the streams of Blood and Water which gushed forth from Your Heart put out the flames of Purgatory, that there, too, the power of Your mercy may be celebrated.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls suffering in Purgatory, who are enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. I beg You, by the sorrowful Passion of Jesus Your Son, and by all the bitterness with which His most sacred Soul was flooded: Manifest Your mercy to the souls who are under Your just scrutiny. Look upon them in no other way but only through the Wounds of Jesus, Your dearly beloved Son; for we firmly believe that there is no limit to Your goodness and compassion. Amen.

 

Praying the Divine Mercy in an Age of Exploitation and Murder of Innocents

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Alyssa L Miller https://www.flickr.com/photos/alyssafilmmaker/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Alyssa L Miller https://www.flickr.com/photos/alyssafilmmaker/

If you do not become be converted and become as a little child, you shall not enter the Kingdom of heaven … And whoever receives a little child in my name receives me. But it would be better for those who harm one of these little ones if a millstone was hung around their neck and they were cast in to the sea. Jesus Christ

Today we pray for the little children and souls of those who are meek and humble. In other words, we pray for the innocents and the good people of this world.

Humbleness of heart is the opposite of narcissism and self-deification. Humble-hearted people do not seek to re-write the teachings of the Gospels to say their sins are not sins; they simply do their best to obey those teachings.

Children trust with a profound trust. They believe and build themselves on that belief.

These things truly do mirror Jesus’ own heart. The human Jesus did not rely on human understanding when the devil tempted Him in the wilderness. Instead, He quoted Scripture in reply to satan’s taunts and relied entirely on God.

He could have walked away at Gethsemane. He didn’t need 2,000 angels to battle for Him. All He had to do was get up and run; leave Jerusalem and take His ministry elsewhere.

But He did the stupid thing and stayed. In obedience.

He was God, and yet He obeyed God. That is the confounding truth of God made human. It is why His sacrifice purchased our redemption. He Who was sinless, paid the price for our sins, and He did it in obedience, the obedience of a humble human soul.

There are those in our society who do not view innocence as a call to offer their protection. They view it as an opportunity. They view the trusting innocence of children as an opportunity to change our culture with pernicious programs in our schools. They see innocent people as rubes to be misinformed by propaganda posing as news, laws written for the powerful that steal from them, and a plethora of other abuses.

They look on innocence in the womb and deny that what they are seeing is a fellow human being whose life by every understanding of human rights should be protected. They consider the new innocence of our elderly and infirm and see a burden and an expense that could easily be eliminated with euthanasia.

Innocence is not a protection in our society because the wolves are in charge. In this world, innocence is an opportunity to abuse, exploit and kill.

The humble of heart and the innocent thus seem like the world’s victims. And yet, Jesus tells us that if we want to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, we must become converted and be innocent ourselves. If we want to be forgiven, we must bring “a humble and contrite heart” to Him, because Scripture tells us He will never refuse such a heart.

The key to eternity is in the hands of the innocents that we use, abuse and kill; in the hearts of the humble we scorn.

In the world that is coming, these are the ones who will be lifted high. While those of us who prance about and posture in the many conceits of our possessions, power and accomplishments will be blessed by God’s Mercy if we get in at all.

Today Jesus asks us to bring to Me the meek and humble souls and the souls of little children … (they) most closely resemble my own heart.

Today, as we pray, we should bring to Him the unborn, the babies, the little children, the elderly wandering in their fog of dementia, the humble woman next door whose horizon is her family for whom she gives her life, the sweet man down the street who goes to work and comes home and is always ready to help you out.

Bring to Him the simple souls, the salt of the earth on which all stability and kindness in human society is built. Bring to Him the good people without whom this world would be a living hell. They, and not the glitzy power brokers and difference makers are what make life livable. They are the only goodness humanity has to offer.

Pray the Divine Mercy Novena today. Bring the good people to Him and immerse them in His mercy. While you’re at it, ask Him to make you more like them yourself.

Sixth Day
Today bring to Me the Meek and Humble Souls and the Souls of  Little Children,

and immerse them in My mercy. These souls most closely resemble My Heart. They strengthened Me during My bitter agony. I saw them as earthly Angels, who will keep vigil at My altars. I pour out upon them whole torrents of grace. I favor humble souls with My confidence.    

Most Merciful Jesus, You yourself have said, “Learn from Me for I am meek and humble of heart.” Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart all meek and humble souls and the souls of little children. These souls send all heaven into ecstasy and they are the heavenly Father’s favorites. They are a sweet-smelling bouquet before the throne of God; God Himself takes delight in their fragrance. These souls have a permanent abode in Your Most Compassionate Heart, O Jesus, and they unceasingly sing out a hymn of love and mercy.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon meek souls, upon humble souls, and upon little children who are enfolded in the abode which is the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. These souls bear the closest resemblance to Your Son. Their fragrance rises from the earth and reaches Your very throne. Father of mercy and of all goodness, I beg You by the love You bear these souls and by the delight You take in them: Bless the whole world, that all souls together may sing out the praises of Your mercy for endless ages. Amen.

Bring to Me the Souls of Those Who Have Separated from My Church

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Waiting for the Word https://www.flickr.com/photos/waitingfortheword/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Waiting for the Word https://www.flickr.com/photos/waitingfortheword/

We live in an apostate world, and that apostasy is itself divided into groups.

The direct and honest apostate leaves the Church. He or she walks out and shuts the door.

What I call “the apostate in place” continues, for whatever bizarre reasons they might have, to attend mass, sing hymns, and pretend to be what they are not. They then metamorphose into a practical unbeliever when they step through the church doors and walk out. Since I’ve spent so many years in politics, I am well and truly acquainted with apostates in place.

Apostates in place leave the Church in their hearts, but due to a fundamental lack of honesty, continue to use their church affiliation for whatever it is they think they can get out of it. These phony baloneys are among the meanest and most spiteful people I know. They are also, odd to say, among the most self-righteous.

When I was in political office, I had the opportunity to see them in both places. I observed them at Church mixing with people who actually believed and tried to lived the Gospels. And I observed them with the Christian-bashing crowd where they liked to hang their political hats. It was a disturbing visage, watching them make fun of the same Church that had so kindly offered them a spiritual home, telling sarcastic and demeaning stories about the people who sat next to them in the pews.

Then, later, I’d see them back at Church again, quietly passing as what they were not.

I have to admit it: I detest these people. They irk me. I do not respect them. And I do my best to avoid their company.

The honest unbeliever who is acting without malice is a person I can respect. I can trust them, and in situations where our interests coincide, I happily work with them.

I understand how a person can get so crossways with a church or a parish or a priest that they just get up and walk out the door. I did something quite similar once upon a long time ago. That walkaway of mine launched me into what I call my anti-religion period; 17 years of denying Christ.

I understand the honest walkaways. But I can’t fathom those who hide in place. How can they stand the life they live?

If it was up to me, I’d wash my hands of them until and unless they got their minds right and started speaking truth. If I was God, I’d pass these phony baloney apostate-in-place Christians by and not give them a glance.

But I am not God. And we should all be glad of that. The real God does not take such a short and harsh-minded view of human weakness, including the phony baloneys who are doing their best to rip Him off.

Jesus tells us “bring to me the Souls of those who have separated themselves from My Church and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy.”

I think that He means those who have separated themselves in spirit from the Church, even while they are sitting in the pews as well as those who have walked out and slammed the door shut behind them. I have no doubt the those who are lying about their faith will be more difficult to convert that those who live in honest unbelief.

I also have no doubt that Jesus loves each one of them just as much as He loves me or you. He told St Faustina that while He was suffering and dying, these apostate souls tore at His heart. They added to His pain then, and they continue to inflict suffering on Him now.

Today’s prayer of the Divine Mercy Novena is for those who have, by their own volition, turned their backs on Christ and His Church. The time was that many people who walked away from the Church had reasons why they did it. A good number of them had been wounded by the Church in ways they could not bear.

That has changed now that Christian bashing and anti-Christian bigotry is the new fashion. Now most of those of leave the Church do it for superficial reasons of going along with the gang and adopting a popular pose.

Group hate-offs have become a kind of new community formation tool in our society. The fact that the communities that form around hatred in this way are a bunch of sick fools does not change this reality. In today’s climate the one group it is safe to hate without reservation is Christians. Just look at the Christian-bashing blogs on the internet and see what I mean.

You will see people trying to outdo one another in insulting Christianity and Christians. What you will not see is anyone calling them to task for being bigots and haters.

Today, when we pray the Divine Mercy Novena, Jesus has asked us to bring to Him the souls of those who have left His Church. He tells us that thinking of them added to the agonies of His passion.

But He does not ask us to discipline them or admonish them. He does not call down vengeance on them.

Jesus directs us to pray for them, to bring them and their sin-sickness to the ocean of His mercy and immerse them in the cleansing waters of eternal love.

Jesus’ Mercy is His final offering to us before the end times. It makes no difference whether the end of all time is imminent or far away. Our end time is always just around the next bend. In that moment when we step from life to death, in that last instance; even then, we can cry out to Him for mercy and receive it.

One of the people I talked about earlier in this post, a person who played Catholic at church and then made fun of Catholics and Catholicism when he was with his political cronies, died last week. He died without warning, in his sleep.

I have no idea what became of him at his passing. I only know that Christ’s mercy is so great that no sin we can commit can separate us from it. The only thing that can keep us from the Divine Mercy is us. We have to say no to avoid it.

Please pray the Divine Mercy Novena today. Pray for all the apostates you know. Pray that God will keep calling them until they turn back to Him. Then trust that He will do that.

Jesus asked us to bring to him the souls who have separated themselves from His Church.

I, for one, need to remember that the next time I get exasperated and want to walk on by these people and leave them to their dissolution. I have something I can do for them. I can bring them to Jesus and immerse them in the ocean of His Mercy.

In this way, I can heal myself, as well as them.

Fifth Day
Today bring to Me the Souls of those who have separated themselves from My Church*,

and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. During My bitter Passion they tore at My Body and Heart, that is, My Church. As they return to unity with the Church My wounds heal and in this way they alleviate My Passion.”  

Most Merciful Jesus, Goodness Itself, You do not refuse light to those who seek it of You. Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who have separated themselves from Your Church. Draw them by Your light into the unity of the Church, and do not let them escape from the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart; but bring it about that they, too, come to glorify the generosity of Your mercy.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls of those who have separated themselves from Your Son’s Church, who have squandered Your blessings and misused Your graces by obstinately persisting in their errors. Do not look upon their errors, but upon the love of Your own Son and upon His bitter Passion, which He underwent for their sake, since they, too, are enclosed in His Most Compassionate Heart. Bring it about that they also may glorify Your great mercy for endless ages. Amen.

*Our Lord’s original words here were “heretics and schismatics,” since He spoke to Saint Faustina within the context of her times. As of the Second Vatican Council, Church authorities have seen fit not to use those designations in accordance with the explanation given in the Council’s Decree on Ecumenism (n.3). Every pope since the Council has reaffirmed that usage. Saint Faustina herself, her heart always in harmony with the mind of the Church, most certainly would have agreed. When at one time, because of the decisions of her superiors and father confessor, she was not able to execute Our Lord’s inspirations and orders, she declared: “I will follow Your will insofar as You will permit me to do so through Your representative. O my Jesus ” I give priority to the voice of the Church over the voice with which You speak to me” (497). The Lord confirmed her action and praised her for it.

Divine Mercy Novena: Praying for Unbelievers

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by brett jordan https://www.flickr.com/photos/x1brett/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by brett jordan https://www.flickr.com/photos/x1brett/

Jesus told us that when a lost soul repents, there is abounding joy in heaven.

I experienced this joy when I found Christ. I was driving to Enid Oklahoma to make a speech. I felt — actually felt — an Other. I felt ecstatic love and joy rushing into me. I’ve tried to describe this joy and love, but I can’t do it.  Our language does not have the words.

Human language is inadequate to describe true encounters with God. The reason for this is simple and obvious, and yet we forget what it means.

God is not us. God is the I Am. The standards by which we measure reality do not apply to Him because He made what we call reality. Without Him, there is nothing. Not a vacuum, not non-existence, not oblivion: Without Him, there is nothing.

The concept of nothing in this eternal and absolute sense defies both our understanding and our imaging. We can not describe it any more than we can describe Him.

God is not an idea or an intellectual construct that we can manipulate and bring down to our understanding. God is a Being, a Personality, with a will and emotions of His own.

I did not convert to an idea. I was not embraced by a concept. I met another Being and this Other, even though He is transcendent, reached into my finiteness and loved me from death to life. The Way by which He did this is Jesus Christ.

Unlike those who lived before Christ, we can see the face of God and live. All we have to do is look at Jesus. He, and He alone, is the Way that leads to eternal life.

The idea that all faiths are equal is nonsense. There is only one empty tomb, only one Way out of the abyss of our sins. No one will ever approach the throne of God and live unless he or she is marked by the shed blood of the Lamb of God.

The Church teaches that it is possible for those of other faiths and those who have not heard His name to be welcomed to heaven, but they must come by way of their works and their sinlessness. They have to earn heaven.

Even then, the only entry, the only Way, is through Jesus. His grace and His mercy are the only hope that any one, anywhere, has. Without Him, we are damned, every one of us, by our own sinful and rebellious natures.

Jesus told St Faustina that unbelievers and those who had never heard His name were in His thoughts as He suffered and died two thousand years ago. He didn’t die only for you and me. He died for everyone, everywhere, for all time. He ransomed lost humanity with His blood — all of humanity.

All anyone has to do is choose Him over the world. Just as He did with the Israelites, God places before us Life and Death and lets us choose between them. Eternal hell is not a punishment. It is a choice that we make as free human beings clothed in radical freedom.

We are called to do more than glory in our salvation. We are called to be the Light in a dark world.

God has set us free, and now we must free others. The universal Christian vocation is the conversion of the world. We must offer Him to those who are perishing right in front of us, even if they rebuff us and shriek with the agony of devils touched by grace when we do it.

We Christians of the laity are conduits of the informal graces of life and love to the larger world. Our lives are the testimony and witness to our faith. We are the ones who go out from the churches, who step away from the altar and enter the fray of bashing and bloodletting that is modern society.

We go into the hospitals, schools, legislative chambers, court houses, construction sites, grocery stores, gyms and on-line com boxes. We go into all the places where ordinary life is lived and we enter them without the confining otherness of the collar. We are part of this larger world and we move inside it with the intimacy of fellow travelers.

Our priesthood is the priesthood of the laity. It is the priesthood that will either convert the world, or leave the world to die in its sins.

We are the People of God. We are the Easter people. We serve a Risen Lord. Our home is in heaven. We are, all of us, wayfaring strangers in this world of woe.

Even though you die, you will live. Jesus told us. Where I go, you will follow, he said.

We are going to die. I don’t write that to upset you, but to free you and comfort you. I want you to understand that there is nothing in this world for a follower of Christ to fear. You and I are just passing through this life. We are going to die. But when we die, we will live. Because of His Mercy.

So what should we do about those unbelievers who attack Christians? What should we do for those who have never heard His name?

Jesus says bring to Me those who do not believe in God and those who do not know Me.

He tells us that He was thinking about them when He suffered and died. His love for them is the unfathomable longing of God Who is love.

I don’t know which ones they are, but I believe that future evangelists for Christ are hiding among today’s Christian-bashing unbelievers. One day, they will say “yes” to Him, and He will fill them with the same love and joy that He poured into my soul and into yours. He will lift them up to testify to Him with all the fervor of someone who understands what it means to be rescued from eternal death.

I also know that among those who have not been told about Him there are people who will one day carry the news of His love to others who have not heard of him. Jesus is the Way, and that way is open to everyone.

But on this Easter Monday, they are still lost. They wander in the acrid bitterness of their unbelief, the noisy silence of their lack of knowledge. They are lost.

Christ’s mercy is the living water that enlivens our souls. Christ’s mercy is beyond our understanding, greater than our ability to reckon. It, like Him, is infinite. His mercy transcends time and place. It is available to everyone.

Please pray the Divine Mercy Novena today. Bring the lost souls of the world to Him and His mercy. He can change hearts that you and I think are beyond reaching.

I know.

I was once such a person myself.

Fourth Day

Today bring to Me those who do not believe in God and those who do not know Me, 

I was thinking also of them during My bitter Passion, and their future zeal comforted My Heart. Immerse them in the ocean of My mercy.”  

Most compassionate Jesus, You are the Light of the whole world. Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who do not believe in God and of those who as yet do not know You. Let the rays of Your grace enlighten them that they, too, together with us, may extol Your wonderful mercy; and do not let them escape from the abode which is Your Most Compassionate Heart.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls of those who do not believe in You, and of those who as yet do not know You, but who are enclosed in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. Draw them to the light of the Gospel. These souls do not know what great happiness it is to love You. Grant that they, too, may extol the generosity of Your mercy for endless ages. Amen.

*Our Lord’s original words here were “the pagans.” Since the pontificate of Pope John XXIII, the Church has seen fit to replace this term with clearer and more appropriate terminology.

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From Hitler to the BTK Killer, How Do You Forgive a Monster?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Tony Webster https://www.flickr.com/photos/diversey/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Tony Webster https://www.flickr.com/photos/diversey/

When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer. Corrie Ten Boom

Corrie Ten Boom’s story was pivotal in my growth as a Christian.

My conversion to Christ happened when I was alone, driving my car. No other person, no church or clergy, participated in it. It was literally Jesus, reaching out to me and filing me with His love.

I knew that what I had experienced was real. I knew that I had encountered Another, and that this Being bore no resemblance to the poisoned descriptions of Him that had been used as a club against me so many times in my life.

This was a Being of ecstatic love and joy.

I was changed by the experience, changed further by the on-going relationship with this Being, who I later came to understand was the Holy Spirit. However, even though this direct encounter and relationship with the Divine gave me an understanding of His nature, I had no parallel understanding of Christianity itself.

I did not hate Christianity with the frothing at the mouth propagandized carry-on of today’s Christian bashers. But I had experienced cruelty and dishonesty at the hands of Christians. I had also drunk deeply at the cultural well of Christianity deconstruction. I honestly believed many of the lies I had been told about Christian history.

One of my first encounters with positive Christian witness was when I picked up a book called “The Hiding Place” at a used book sale. I don’t know why I paid the fifteen cents to buy that book. I only know that it was the first time I’d read or heard anything about Christians who had stood against the evils of the Nazis based on their faith in Christ.

Every bit of information on the subject of Christianity and the Nazis that I had seen, read or heard up until that time had been a version of the many Christian bashing tropes that are circulated today. Nobody told me that Christians had worked against the Nazis to their great personal peril and had been themselves been persecuted and murdered for their defiance of the evils of that time.

Corrie Ten Boom was a saint of World War II and the years after. She was an unmarried watchmaker’s daughter and a highly skilled watchmaker herself when the Nazis invaded Holland. She was a woman in her fifties who lived a quiet life with her family, in the home where she had grown up.

She was also a devoted follower of Jesus Christ in a family of devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

Corrie Ten Boom’s family hid many Jews from the Nazis. They were betrayed by a man they had helped and sent to the concentration camps themselves. Corrie’s father, brother and beloved sister died at the hands of the Nazis.

Her sister Betsy was Corey Ten Boom’s best friend, companion and solace in the nightmare of the camps. After the war, Corey encountered the guard who beat Betsy and whose cruelty probably contributed to her death.

This past week has given me the opportunity to reflect on Corrie’s life. I originally intended to pray for the grace of forgiveness during Lent. But other things got in the way. Then last week I got clipped by some sort of flu-like illness. This bug has forced solitude on me. It has freed me to do what I should have been doing all along.

I have prayed deeply about issues of forgiveness in my own life. I’ve also watched more television this past week than I have in the entire year before it. Among other things, I watched a documentary about a man whose family was murdered by the BTK killer in Wichita Kansas. I also watched a documentary about Corrie Ten Boom.

The difference in how these two people responded to the horrific things that had been done to them was stark. I understand the man’s reaction. I’m not in any way condemning or criticizing him. I see a lot of myself in him.

He was a young person with a casual faith. He did not have the underpinning of years of walking with the Lord that Corrie had when tragedy overtook her. He was unable to look at the savage murder of the people he loved from an eternal perspective.

He did not have the sustaining relationship with God that upheld and sustained her even when she was, as she put it, in the pit. He was much like I was when bad things happened to me early in my life.

His life was savaged by the murder of his family. Hers was magnified. Corrie Ten Boom survived the camps and went on to become a great international speaker and evangelist for Christ.

She wrote books and traveled the globe, speaking to people everywhere about the power of forgiveness. “There is no pit so deep that His love is not deeper still,” she told people, and they believed her because she had been in the deepest pit of human devising.

The young man whose family was murdered spent time in prison. He fathered a son he did not raise and has spent his days trying to paste the shattered pieces of himself back together again.

The difference between these two people is faith and the grace of God. It is also the grace of forgiveness.

God used Corrie Ten Boom, but He did not give her an easy life. Not only did she endure personal suffering in the concentration camps, she lost the people she loved there. As if that wasn’t enough, God sent the man who had beaten her sister to her to ask for forgiveness.

This forgiveness was the decisive cleansing of Corrie Ten Boom. It was the surrender she had to make in order to be useful to Him and His purposes. If you pray to become a saint, pray carefully. God asks all of you.

This video is Corrie’s account of her post war encounter with the concentration camp guard who had tortured her sister. It describes the healing power of the Cross, which gives peace that passes all understanding.

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Our Beautiful Pastoral Pope Preaches and Teaches the Gospel in Naples

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons. http://www.presidencia.gov.ar/

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons. http://www.presidencia.gov.ar/

I love Pope Francis. Nuff said.

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Go Look in the Mirror. That is the Only God You’ll Ever See.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by EvelynGiggles https://www.flickr.com/photos/evelynishere/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by EvelynGiggles https://www.flickr.com/photos/evelynishere/

Decades ago, not long after my conversion, I had a discussion with an atheist friend of mine.

This friend was from the time when just about all of my friends — including me — evinced a militant disregard for things Christian.

I didn’t know it at first, but that conversion to Christ was going to change everything in my life, including my relationship with people who had been as close to me as family. One by one and despite everything I could do to avoid it, I would lose them all. Worse, the same friends that I loved, truly loved, would become my worst enemies. They would do everything they could to destroy me.

This particular friend didn’t do that. But the friendship, the easy, warm trust between us, was gone almost as soon as I began to follow Christ. I tried my best to keep my new faith low key. I did everything I could to continue to blend in with my old crowd.

But … you’ve changed, this friend said one day.

It was an accusation, and I cringed inside, not understanding this “change” that he saw, even when I was doing my best to hide it. I did not realize in that moment that he had just unwittingly given me the greatest compliment he could.

He saw Christ in me. Despite everything I could do to pretend that nothing had happened and hang onto all my old friendships, I was changed. And this man saw it.

That comment began the slow unraveling of my old life as an unbeliever. I do not mean that it began my conversion. That had already happened. It was the start of the end of previous relationships with people who lived in the world of unbelief.

I fought it. I wanted to keep these people as friends. I wanted to hold onto the good times we’d shared.

But … you’ve changed, he said. And it was true.

This change began to resound in all these relationships with my old crowd. I never preached to them. I didn’t even talk about Christ to them. But I had changed on a fundamental level, and they were like ring wraiths sniffing me out.

This particular friend was the only one to address the change directly and then to lay into me at the root of that change. He knew, without my telling him, that I was now a Christian. And he began a program of reconversion.

Once, in one of our many arguments, he spat out a couple of sentences that I will never forget.

Go look in the mirror, he said. That is the only God you will ever see.

That comment was the apex of his arguing, and the end of our togetherness as people. It wasn’t the comment itself  that did it. It was the unbridgeable gap between us.

We never formally stopped being friends, but we did stop spending time with one another. It was too fraught, too uncomfortable. We had the memory of a friendship, nothing more.

He died of a heart attack a few years later. There were jokes about his vehement unbelief in the many eulogies at his memorial service. This was a man who understood friendship. The memorial service was a crowded event, the building filled to overflowing.

I walked out, gripping my husband’s hand, hoping that in those last extremities my old friend had finally turned to God.

Did he go to hell? 

I said it aloud when we got back to the car. Was he dead, really, eternally dead and gone to hell? My passionate, crazy friend — had he doomed himself to eternal death?

My husband was silent for a moment. Then, he reached out and squeezed my hand.

Probably, he said.

I changed again after that. My friend’s death shook me out of my somnambulance. I realized that being quiet about Jesus was the cruelest thing I could do to the people around me. I called quite a number of my old friends and told them directly that I did not want them to go to hell. I pleaded with them to change.

One of them changed, began following Christ and follows Him to this day. Otherwise, those calls had no effect.

You just don’t worry about me, one of them said, summing up the reaction from all of the rest.

A few years later, someone I knew and had crossed swords with was dying of cancer. This person and I barely spoke and when we did, it was barbed.

I picked up the phone and called him. Are you right with God? I asked him.

My friend’s death has taught me that there is never a wrong time to try to tell someone about Jesus, and there is never a right time to let another person slide into eternal death while you stand politely by and say nothing.

I read a headline before I began writing this post saying that 7.5 million Americans have abandoned their faith in Christ in the last year. I didn’t read the story, but I would assume that it was based on statistics from a survey of some sort.

There are a lot of reasons for the rising apostasy, but I think that the heresy of salvation through politics is one of the primary factors.

Many Christians have become besotted with a political Christianity where voting right and joining the correct political party has replaced following Christ. They have removed Jesus from Lordship of their lives and replaced him with an angry and unthinking devotion to their political party.

The Holy Spirit will not honor this kind of fallen Christianity. This Christless Christianity without a cross will not produce the fruit of the Kingdom because it is not of the Kingdom.

Go look in the mirror. That is the only God you will ever see. 

Seven point five million Americans evidently decided to turn their backs on eternal life and plunge themselves into eternal death while we were barking at one another over whether or not the priest wears a stole when he hears confessions and is the Church too “feminized” and which political party is the right one for Christians.

Let me tell you something. If Jesus Christ is truly the Lord of your life, it does not matter which political party you are in or whether or not the mass or church service you attend is sufficiently to your liking.

It does not matter because wherever you are, you will do His will. If people aren’t looking at you accusingly and saying You’ve changed, then something is wrong with your relationship with Christ.

If you fit comfortably in this world, then you are not going to fit comfortably in heaven. If you sit idly by and watch people trot themselves off to eternal hell and do nothing, say nothing to stop them, then you are the most cruel of people.

Let me turn my friend’s comment around. When you look in the mirror, do you see your God?

Sin is one thing. We all sin. This is why we have confession. But if you are one of those many people who are trying to cut your faith to fit your politics, if you are trying to shear the teachings of Christ down to slip them nicely into the folder where you keep your political handouts, then you are, no matter how often you go to Church or how much you proclaim yourself a Christian, in rebellion against God.

If you do not accept the Lordship of Christ in all matters, then you are not following Christ. If you do accept the Lordship of Christ, then it does not matter where you are or what people you associate with, you will be His witness in that place.

Bearing witness to the Gospel with our lives is the universal Christian vocation.

But it doesn’t end there.

We are also called to bear witness to Christ with our words.

Ask yourself this: Have people abandoned the Church because of you? Have you driven them away with your peculiar and particular insistence on a vengeful reliance on your version of what a Christian should be? Has your unbending self-righteousness made them feel that the Church is the last place on earth they would go for love and forgiveness?

Or …

Have people come to Christ because of you? Have they felt safe to tell you of their failings, to share their doubts, to trust you with their darkest secrets? Have they experienced the love of Christ in you and begun to follow Him because you allowed yourself to be a conduit of His grace in their lives?

What fruit have you born with your followership of Christ?

When you stand before God, will lost souls point at you in accusation and say He or she never told me about Jesus.

Or worse, will they say, He or she was so angry and so self-righteous that I thought their Jesus was the devil?

How many souls will point to you and say He or she was the spark that led me to Christ?

The answer to those questions begins with another one. When you look in the mirror, do you see a beloved child of God who can trust His love to forgive their sins? Do you see a sinner who does not need to be afraid before God; someone who is forgiven and who is grateful for that forgiveness?

Or …

Do you look in the mirror and see the true lord of your life and the only god you will ever know?

 

 

Conversion on the Beach: One Man’s Conversion to Christ Before ISIS Execution

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Harrison Staab https://www.flickr.com/photos/harrystaab/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Harrison Staab https://www.flickr.com/photos/harrystaab/

ISIS march 21 men onto a beach in Libya. Twenty of these men were Christians. One, a Chadian Citizen, was not.

He watched the Coptic Christians die for Christ. When the terrorist murderer demanded that he reject Jesus Christ as his God, he replied, “their God is my God.” He was then beheaded with his Christian brothers.

The joy in this story is that 21 martyrs to Christ entered heaven that day. They are praying for us now.

From the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church of the Diocese of Bombay:

ISIS announced the execution of 21 Copts but only 20 names were confirmed, most of them were from the province of Minya(Upper Egypt). There was an inaccuracy in the number of Egyptian Hostages; there were only 20 Egyptians(Copts). Then who was this remaining one non-Coptic victim?

Ahram-Canadian News was able to gather information about this man. He was a Chadian Citizen (Darker skin shown in picture) who accepted Christianity after seeing the immense faith of his fellow Coptic Christians to die for Christ. When Terrorist forced him to reject Jesus Christ as God, looking at his Christian friends he replied, “their God is my God“ so the terrorist beheaded him also.

All I Need is You

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Art4TheGlryOfGod by Sharon https://www.flickr.com/photos/4thglryofgod/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Art4TheGlryOfGod by Sharon https://www.flickr.com/photos/4thglryofgod/

 

JimmyZ brings the truth: Following Jesus means putting aside everything else and making Him Lord of your life for real.

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Rebecca Hamilton … A Tale of Two Citizens

Today is the 6th Annual Tulsa March for Life, sponsored by 35 groups including Lutherans for Life, The Uprising, Anglicans for Life, Victory Christian, Tulsa Bible Church, Claremore  Nazarene, Holy Apostles Orthodox, Tulsa University Newman Center, Saint Gregory’s University, the Diocese of Tulsa, St Michael Episcopal, Oral Roberts University, Catholic Charities, Go Life Mobile, Mend Pregnancy Center and many others. 

Be there, or be square. 

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Charles Dickens would have loved Rebecca Hamilton. “A Tale of Two Citizens…

“It was the worst of times, it was the best of times.” Thus might a pro-life observer describe Rebecca’s two separate stints in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

For you see, when Representative Hamilton served for six years in the legislature in the 1980’s. Before that, she had been the state director for the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL). She used her considerable legislative skills on both the House floor and the House Public Health Committee, which she chaired, to make it as difficult as possible to pass pro-life bills. Indeed, she was a master of parliamentary sleight-of-hand in the pursuit of her “pro-choice” objectives.

Representative Hamilton and I were on opposite sides of the abortion issue continually during those six years during the ’80′s, and when she retired from the House at that time, she said to me: “Tony, you go your way and I’ll go my way, because abortion is an issue about which we are NEVER going to agree.”

But then, some years later, an amazing thing happened — something almost akin to what happened to Saul on the road to Damascus. Rebecca Hamilton wasn’t on horseback at the time, as was the future Saint Paul. She was driving her car one day, and she was reflecting on a confluence of recent events, and suddenly the right to life issue was brought into a very sharp, and very different, focus for her; she had become a mother, and she had experienced a religious conversion. And suddenly she knew, as she sat behind the wheel that day, that she had been — through all those earlier years — on the wrong side of the abortion issue…

It took great courage to do what she did next, but Rebecca decided to return to public life — to come back to the Oklahoma House of Representatives after a 15 year absence, this time as a PRO-LIFE legislator, a pro-life Democrat, in a party that has been less than friendly toward pro-life candidates. Rebecca persevered, and was elected six straight times, until term limits brought her service to an end this past November.

She had come back, as she so simply and humbly says, “To make amends.” To try to right the wrongs, repair the damage, make up for whatever bad example she might have given through her earlier support for abortion… 

And she succeeded in rectifying those earlier mistakes to a degree she could never have imagined. On the strength of her own determination, she won pro-life legislative battles against all odds. Through her powers of persuasion, she transformed her party’s pro-abortion caucus into a largely pro-life caucus. By virtue of her unyielding commitment to making the pro-life issue a transcendent, bipartisan concern in the House, she has helped mightily to make the right to life the Oklahoma legislature’s #1 priority. 

Rebecca Hamilton has been a tremendous force for good, and she will be acutely missed at the state Capitol. In part because of her background and history, she has been a uniquely effective and powerful voice for the unborn child. And through her principled, selfless, and courageous service, she has earned the deepest respect of those all across the political spectrum for her tireless and unwavering commitment to the sanctity of human life.

Tony Lauinger,
Vice President,
National Right to Life
State Chairman,
Oklahomans For Life


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