Pope Francis: Following Jesus Requires Sacrifice


As we move into the post Christian world, we are going back to a time when the Way was indeed “narrow” and “few were chosen.”

The cheap grace of following the world in Jesus’ name is not grace at all. It is a lie we tell ourselves to keep from having to “chose this day whom” we “will serve.”

Sadly, it is also a delusion. Trendy jesus, pragmatic jesus and all the other false messiahs these theological snake-oil salesmen are selling having nothing to do with the real Jesus Christ Who was crucified on Calvary and calls each succeeding generation of Christians to “pick up your cross and follow Me.”

Following the real Jesus exacts a price. As the Light is smothered by the ever-encroaching darkness of humanity’s fealty to its own passions rather than the living God, the price for those who do not accede to the darkness goes up exponentially.

We may be willing to be friends with those who serve other gods, but they will not be friends with us. We may find our careers truncated, our friendships forfeit, our lives troubled in many ways when we follow Christ. He told us this would happen. If the world hates you, remember that it first hated me, He said.

The anger directed at us is just a side-blow, a glancing near miss of the object of the real hatred, which is satan’s hatred for the Savior of Humankind. Those who attack people for following Christ, even if they only do it with rudeness and exclusion, are the unwitting pawns of this evil.

Our task is always to be the witting servants of the good. God has no use and no desire for “unwitting pawns.” We can blunder into following satan, but we always chose to follow Christ.

Life in Christ is an intentional, moment by moment, living out of the faith. It can only be done through grace, and that grace does not come from us. There is no intelligence, courage or intuition we possess in and of ourselves that can equip us for following Jesus in a post Christian world.

The capacity to follow Him is a free gift of divine grace. He equips us to run the race that is before us if we ask Him daily and trust Him constantly. When we fail, all we have to do is reach out to Him and ask for forgiveness. That’s all there is to life in Christ: Just say “yes” to Him, and keep saying “yes” as each new challenge arises.

This is the Living Lord Who stood before Pilate, endured the blows and humiliations, hung from the cross and died. He understands everything He is asking of us because He has already endured all of it and far worse for us. He can help us on the Way as someone who has walked it Himself.

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Pray for Our Brothers and Sisters in Egypt

 

I apologize for talking about this now, on Sunday.

But the weight of grief and oppression I felt Friday — which is the day I usually write about our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ — has lifted, and I feel compelled to talk about it now.

According to Asia News, at least 58 Christian churches, schools, homes and shops have been attacked, looted and torched in Egypt in the last three days. The Christians of Egypt need our prayers today on this Lord’s Day.

Sunday is a time of rejoicing and feasting, our Sabbath of thankfulness for the Resurrection and its promise of eternal life. But on this Sunday, it is also a time for us to unite ourselves with Christ crucified all over the world.

Jesus suffers this minute in Egypt. His churches, convents, institutions and homes are burnt and destroyed. His people are subjected to terror and all forms of violence.

This is the face of Christ Crucified in our world today.

We can not ignore our Suffering Savior in these His people.

I hope that you will pray the Novena for the Persecuted Church that we began today. I hope also that you will pray and ask God to show you how you may help our persecuted brothers and sisters.

The list below is the names of the churches, convents and institutions that have been attacked that we know of. From Asia News:

Catholic churches and convents

  • 1. Franciscan church and school (road 23) – burned (Suez)
  • 2. Monastery of the Holy Shepherd and hospital – burned (Suez)
  • 3. Church of the Good Shepherd, Monastery of the Good Shepherd – burned in molotov attack (Asuit)
  • 4. Coptic Catholic Church of St. George – burned (Minya, Upper Egypt)
  • 5. Church of the Jesuits – burned (Minya, Upper Egypt)
  • 6. Fatima Basilica – attacked – Heliopolis
  • 7. Coptic Catholic Church of St. Mark – burned (Minya – Upper Egypt)
  • 8. Franciscan convent (Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary) – burned (Beni Suef, Upper Egypt)
  • 9. Church of St. Teresa – burned (Asuit, Upper Egypt)
  • 10. Franciscan Church and School – burned (Asuit, Upper Egypt)
  • 11. Convent of St Joseph and school – burned (Minya, Upper Egypt)
  • 12. Coptic Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart – torched (Minya, Upper Egypt)
  • 13 Convent of the Sisters of Saint Mary – attacked (Cairo)
  • 14. School of the Holy Shepherd – attacked (Minya, Upper Egypt)

  • Orthodox and Evangelical Churches
  • 1. Anglican Church of St. Saviour – burned (Suez)
  • 2. Evangelical Church of St Michael – surrounded and sacked (Asuit, Upper Egypt)
  • 3. Coptic Orthodox Church of St. George – Burned (Minya, Upper Egypt)
  • 4. Church of Al-Esla – burned (Asuit, Upper Egypt)
  •  5. Adventist Church – burned, the pastor and his wife abducted (Asuit, Upper Egypt)
  •  6. Church of the Apostles – burned (Asuit, Upper Egypt)
  •  7. Church of the Holy renewal – burned (Asuit, Upper Egypt)
  • 8. Diocesan Centre Coptic Orthodox Qusiya – burned (Asuit, Upper Egypt)
  • 9. Church of St. George – burned (Arish, North Egypt)
  • 10. Church of St. George in al-Wasta – burned (Beni Suef, Upper Egypt)
  • 11. Church of the Virgin Mary – attacked (Maadi, Cairo)
  • 12. Church of the Virgin Mary – attacked (Mostorod, Cairo)
  • 13. Coptic Orthodox Church of St. George – attacked (Helwan, Cairo)
  • 14. Church of St. Mary of El Naziah – burned (Fayoum, Upper Egypt)
  • 15. Church of Santa Damiana – sacked and burned (Fayoum, Upper Egypt)
  • 16. Church of St. Theodore – burned (Fayoum, Upper Egypt)
  • 17. Evangelical Church of al-Zorby – Sacked and destroyed (Fayoum, Upper Egypt)
  • 18. Church of St. Joseph – burned (Fayoum, Upper Egypt)
  • 19. Franciscan School – burned (Fayoum, Upper Egypt)
  • 20. Coptic Orthodox Diocesan Center of St. Paul – burned (Gharbiya, Delta)
  • 21. Coptic Orthodox Church of St. Anthony – burned (Giza)
  • 22. Coptic Church of St. George – burned (Atfeeh, Giza)
  • 23. Church of the Virgin Mary and father Abraham – burned (Delga, Deir Mawas, Minya, Upper Egypt)
  • 24. Church of St. Mina Abu Hilal Kebly – burned (Minya, Upper Egypt)
  • 25. Baptist Church in Beni Mazar – burned (Minya, Upper Egypt)
  • 26. Church of Amir Tawadros – burned (Minya, Upper Egypt)
  • 27. Evangelical Church – burned (Minya, Upper Egypt)
  • 28. Church of Anba Moussa al-Aswad- burned (Minya, Upper Egypt)
  • 29. Church of the Apostles – burned (Minya, Upper Egypt)
  • 30. Church of St Mary – arson attempt (Qena, Upper Egypt)
  • 31. Coptic Church of St. George – burned (Sohag, Upper Egypt)
  • 32. Church of Santa Damiana – Attacked and burned (Sohag, Upper Egypt)
  • 33. Church of the Virgin Mary – burned (Sohag, Upper Egypt)
  • 34. Church of St. Mark and community center – burned (Sohag, Upper Egypt)
  • 35. Church of Anba Abram – destroyed and burned (Sohag, Upper Egypt)

  • Christian institutions
  • 1. House of Fr. Angelos (pastor of the church of the Virgin Mary and Father Abraham) – burned (Minya, Upper Egypt)
  • 2. Properties and shops of Christians – Burnt (Arish, North Egypt)
  • 3. 17 Christian homes attacked and looted (Minya, Upper Egypt)
  • 4. Christian homes – Attach (Asuit, Upper Egypt)
  • 5. Offices of the Evangelical Foundation – burned (Minya, Upper Egypt)
  • 6. Stores, pharmacies, hotels owned by Christians – attacked and looted (Luxor, Upper Egypt)
  • 7. Library of the Bible Society – burned (Cairo)
  • 8. Bible Society – burned (Fayoum, Upper Egypt)
  • 9. Bible Society- burned (Asuit, North Egypt).

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Kids of Courage: Persecuted Christian Teens Around the World

 

This video shows us a glimpse of the magnificent faith of Christian young people around the world.

Can we do less that stand for Jesus here in America?

Note: The video says that in China it is illegal to give religious instruction to anyone under 18. This mirrors the Dawkins’-inspired secularist calls to stop parents from passing on their faith to their children here in the West. It is notable how often extreme secularists use the tactics of communists.

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Visions and Dreams of Jesus in Muslim Countries


We are in a war between the light and the darkness.

The persecution of Christians, wherever it happens, is a satan-driven assault in this war. But the true light is also moving; not with violent persecution and murder, but through dreams and reaching out to people directly.

Jesus is converting the world the way He always does: One human being at a time.

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Mary and Following Jesus: There are No Limits

 

I have been progressing through the 33 day preparation for Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary.

I am well over half way through it, and it has tested my faith every step of the way. I do not mean that it has made me question my belief in God. It has not put my belief in Jesus or the teachings of the Church to the test. Far from it.

What it has tested is the limits of my willingness to live my life based on that belief. Just how far will I go in following Jesus? A book I reviewed today, Fight, also tested those limits.

That seems to be the season I am in. On the one hand, the prayers and meditations of Total Consecration have pushed me to consider just what I will yield to another person, even the person of the Mother of God. How much can I trust anyone, even her? Specifically, how much of my relationship to God, to Jesus, will I yield to her rather than doing it all myself?

Fight challenged me with the question of how far I would follow Him, how completely would I do what He asks, even when I really don’t want to.

It’s really all one question and Jesus asked it best: Do you love me more than these?

His mother answered that question in the affirmative every time in every way. When the Archangel Gabriel asked her to assent to what was death-dealing anathema for girls of that era — unwed pregnancy — she said yes. When Simeon told her how it would end, she said yes. At the wedding at Cana, when she sent her child forward into His ministry which they both knew would culminate at Calvary, she said yes. When she prayed with the Apostles for the birth of the Church before Pentecost, she said yes.

Mary, like Jesus, had to be resurrected and taken into heaven as part of the divine plan. He gave her to us from the cross, and once again, she said yes.

She had to be lifted up because we need her there. The Immaculate Conception of Mary was the door opening on our salvation. She was then and she is now an outstretched arm, pointing to Him.

“Do whatever He tells you,” she instructed the wine stewards.

She says the same thing to us.

Because, as I am discovering and wrestling with, when she is your guide, there are no limits to following Him.

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Book Review: Deriving the Personality of God from His Actions in Scripture

FindingGodintheBible 1

To join the discussion about Finding God in the Bible, or to order a copy, go here

I gave this review a title that more or less describes what I see as the function of the book, Finding God in the Bible, by Darren Wilson.

Mr Wilson has an interesting story of his own. He was, by his own description, a ho-hum Christian, doing an ez-pz light-weight Christian walk through life when God butted in and called him to go make movies.

He doesn’t go into detail (which I would love to read, btw) about this call, but it sounds as if God did one is his, “stand over there” deals with no explanation and expected Darren Wilson to step out in faith and do as he was told. God has never hit me with something like “go make movies” with vague directions to head off to foreign lands with a camera and see what happened. But I’ve definitely gotten more than one of those “stand over there” type instructions.

I don’t know about Mr Wilson, but I felt like an idiot the first time I did it. I mean, the version of “stand over there” I got made absolutely no sense. In fact, it placed me where I didn’t particularly want to be and where I was also (to my understanding) wasting my time. It felt at the time as if God was putting me on the bench to sit out the game. Then, out of nowhere, He pitched me the metaphorical ball, which I could never have caught if I hadn’t been standing “over there” as He’d told me.

It is true that faith grows with these experiences. It never gets easy, but you do learn that God has a plan and you can at least trust that He knows what He’s doing, even if you don’t. I am confident that there are times when God tells us to do things and we do not see the reason until we get to heaven.

Mr Wilson covers a bit of this in his book when he talks about Abraham. God told Abraham to get up, take his wife and leave a nice cushy life in the most forward-looking metropolis of his time and head out into the wilderness. This was the ultimate “stand over there.” Years later, God promised Abraham a lot of things about the great nation of people who would come from him, but Abraham never saw any of this come to pass in his lifetime. He died in that wilderness and was laid to rest in the cave near Mamre with nothing but his trust in God that all these promises would be realized in time.

The Bible says that despite the fact that he would never see them in this life, Abraham believed God when God promised him these things and God reckoned that to him as righteousness.

So maybe following a “stand over there” command gives each of us a small bit of righteousness. It would be nice to think so.

Darren Wilson did what Abraham did and what so many people do not do. He got up and headed out the door and did this utterly impractical thing that God had asked him to do. The interesting thing is that every time you do that, God counters with a bigger request the next time. Before you know it, you’re living your life built around Him.

That’s the lesson of Abraham and Darren Wilson.

It’s a lesson that reverberates throughout the interpretive re-telling of Bible stories that this book contains. One after the other, God interrupts the lives of people in the Scriptures with requests that they do what they’re really rather not do. And one after the other, they  do it. Some of them do it gracelessly and after a good bit of whining and argument, but in the final analysis, they almost all follow through.

The one big exception in the stories Mr Wilson chose for this book is King Saul. Saul’s failed reign finds its failure precisely in his lack of faith. Saul didn’t wait on the Lord. Unfortunately for us type triple As, waiting on the Lord is as much a lesson of faith as doing for the Lord.

God always seems to make you wait. And then when you’ve decided nothing’s going to happen, here comes that metaphorical ball that He’s tossed you. At that moment, you understand a bit of what you were standing around waiting for in the first place.

Waiting is a lesson in faith. Just like “stand over there” is. Sadly for him, Saul failed this test.

I didn’t agree with every single nuance of every single interpretation of scripture that Darren Wilson wrote in this book. But there’s no reason why my understanding is any better than his. The point for me is the fact that he engaged me to the point that I wanted to sit down and talk to him about it.

I liked this book, and I also found myself liking its author. I plan to look up the movies he’s made and watch them.

I think, after reading Finding God in the Bible that I can see why God gave that particular assignment to this particular man in the first place.

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Muslim War On Christians: It’s Women and Girls First

What kind of “men” kidnap young girls as a means of waging a “holy” war?

The video below is difficult to watch, but then the reality of what is happening to Christians in Egypt and elsewhere is far more difficult.

The practice of kidnapping Christian girls, raping them and forcing them to “convert” to Islam appears to be widespread throughout the Middle East. There’s not much to say about men who do cowardly things like this to women and young girls except that their “manhood” isn’t all that manly.

One of the more disgusting things about this is the silence from feminists. Where is the outrage about this outrage?

On a side note, I repeat Ravi Zacharias’ reaction when he heard Dr. Richard Dawkins’ incitement of his followers concerning people of faith to “mock them; ridicule them; in public; with contempt.” Dr Dawkins and his crowd should book flights to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc, and try this there.

They could also do similar experiments with the Hindus of India. I’ve got videos of what can happen.  Or, they might try ridiculing the faux religion of statism that is practiced in the various atheist paradises.

In truth and in fact, the only societies in the world where they have the freedom to behave like this are those that are informed by Christian values. You know: The terrible, horrible Christian morality that says that all human beings matter, no matter their stage of life or level of health, and that every person has certain inherent rights that come from God.

God help us all if the Christian bashers of the world succeed in wiping that morality out of public discourse and civil society.

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Mother Teresa: How to Love God

 

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Can a Christian Be a Democrat?

Every so often I do something that gets press coverage beyond the Oklahoma border.

If this coverage includes the fact that I am (a) a Democrat, and (b) pro life, I know that several commenters on whatever news story or blog my name appears are going to chime in with the opinion that no one can be both (a) a Democrat and, (b) pro life, and that I must be phony, bogus, a Judas goat and a liar. These verbal brickbats come from both sides of the political divide.

It seems that my dual citizenship in both the Democrat and pro life political kingdoms makes me something of a universal hate object.

When it was just the abortion issue, this seemed a bit over the top. After all, the Republican party is not exactly true to the Gospels, either. Religious leaders and their followers in both the Democratic and Republican camps torture the Gospels to make the teachings of Christ conform to their political party. I see it all the time.

However, it’s not just abortion any longer. It seems some days as if the National (as opposed to the local) Democratic Party has declared total, all-out war, not just on certain aspects of basic Christian morality, but on the First Amendment and Christianity itself.

I stopped attending Democratic Party functions in Oklahoma a number of years back simply because it was such an unpleasant experience. I mean, who wants to go spend an evening with people who lie about you and slander you and call you names that you can’t even repeat in polite company? Why would I want to be around folks who attack my faith and tell me repeatedly in every way they can, that they want me to go away?

The question arises, if I’m not a phony about my religious beliefs and my positions on issues concerning the sanctity of human life and the family, then, why am I Democrat? Is it stubbornness, or is it stupidity?

In truth, I am stubborn.

Very.

And I can be stupid.

Very.

But in this instance of party affiliation it’s more complicated — or maybe more simple — than that.

The things I described above broke my heart and made me so miserable that I did consider changing political parties. I wanted to get away from the political party that treated me like dirt. I just plain wanted out.

I have a habit of asking God what I should do before I act on a decision this big. Sometimes I get an answer, other times, I don’t. This time I got an answer, and a strong one. I asked if I should change parties, and the answer was …

No.

I waited a few weeks then asked again. This time, the answer was …

NO.

A few months later, I asked one last time, and the answer was no, with an explanation that I won’t share here.

After that, I decided to stop badgering God and accept His will. I didn’t understand it. But I knew that I could not change parties.

And I continued to get kicked around by my fellow Democrats. And it continued to hurt me. And I wondered why God would want me to keep on taking this garbage.

And God used me in the next few years to do things for issues such as pro life that I could not have done if I hadn’t been a Democrat.

That D after my name was like a key in a lock that turns it over, click, and opens the door. There was one time in particular where I was like a chess piece that He had moved into place and then left there until He needed me. We passed one monumental pro life bill that stopped horrible carnage only because I was a Democrat. If I had been sitting on the other side of the chamber, that bill would have died. There was a reason why I couldn’t change parties, and, in time, I saw it played out.

The short answer to the question Can a Christian be a Democrat is, yes. In fact, I would say that He needs more Christians to be Democrats, and He needs them now more than ever before.

We are now in a post Christian era in which Christians and Christian values are under attack from almost every quarter, including the political. This is, to paraphrase that great agnostic Thomas Paine, not the time for summer soldiers and sunshine patriots. These really are the times that try men’s souls.

Christians need to retreat to a life of prayer, scripture and the sacraments to build their spiritual strength. We need to find our deepest friendships with one another, where we can be accepted and loved for our faith. Then, we need to join the battle by engaging the world in a constructive, consistent and unwavering manner.

There is no place where we should not go with our faith, including, absolutely, the Democratic Party.

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Lord, You are My God


This song by Caedmon’s Call, puts us all in our place: At the foot of the cross.

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