Billy Graham: Are You Ready for Heaven?

This is longer than most videos I post. But it’s well worth the watch.

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Advent: Come Lord Jesus

 

The Bible ends with a poignant verse.

Come Lord Jesus, cries in a voice that resounds in the heart of every Christian.

Two thousand years ago, the conquered children of Israel looked forward to Him, even though they didn’t fully understand Who He was, and they certainly misunderstood what He would do.

The prophecies of the Christ begin in Genesis when God tells the serpent He will set enmity between the serpent and the Woman, that she would crush his head, and he would strike at her heel. This was not, note, a prophecy of Eve’s life, but of Mary, the New Eve whose quiet birth, unmarked as it was by the larger world, was the door opening on our salvation.

With Mary’s Immaculate Conception, the primal hope of the garden before the fall reawakened in human existence. It was given back to us as a free and totally unmerited gift by God. It set the stage for the coming of His Son, the long hoped-for Messiah.

Prophecies of Jesus began at the beginning, in the Garden, and are woven throughout the many thousands of years of history that tell the tales of His family in the book we call the Old Testament. It is the story of God, raising up a people by first calling one man to leave his home and go out into the wilderness.

It began, as these things always do, with a family; in Abraham’s case, a troubled and often sinful family that nevertheless trusted God. Not everything Abraham did was right, but he believed the Lord’s promises, and Scripture tells us that God “reckoned that to him as righteousness.”

There is a message in this for all of us. That message is simply that we need to trust God and follow Him without placing the unreachable burden of perfection on ourselves. Righteousness is found in trying to do God’s will and trusting our lives and our salvation to His mercy. Whatever we lack in ourselves and our efforts, He will supply. All we need to do is trust Him and do our best.

But how does God supply the lacks? How does He reach across the unfathomable gulf between our finiteness and His infinite transcendence? He did it by doing the unthinkable, by taking on human flesh, being born of a young woman and living, suffering and dying as one of us. Jesus was foretold over and over again throughout the Old Testament, but, as Steve Jobs famously said, it’s impossible to connect the dots going forward; you can only connect them looking back.

In the case of the many prophecies of Jesus the Christ, the prophecies of His second coming are intertwined with those of His first coming. The triumphant Lord of all history is foretold alongside the Suffering Servant of Calvary. Connecting those dots going forward was as confounding to the people of that day as connecting the dots of the Second Coming are to us. Theories and theology abound, and all of them are, to a great extent, educated guesses.

People of Jesus’ day skipped over the Suffering Servant prophecies and misinterpreted the salvation prophecies to weave together an interpretation of a warrior king who would make the nation of Israel into the dominant world power. They tried to connect the dots going forward and came up with a political interpretation which, while it comforted them in their sufferings as a conquered people who occupied the bottom rung on a significant trade route for the Roman Empire — The trade route mattered to the Romans. The people who lived there, not so much. — was wildly inaccurate.

They took comfort in the promised messiah of their own interpreting who would place his foot on the back of the Roman neck and make the Israelites the rulers of the world. Although this inaccurate interpretation comforted them in their daily problems, it led them into the mistake of missing the real Messiah when He actually came to them.

Nothing in their grandiose imaginings came close to the lowly carpenter’s son, born of a virgin in a stable and then forced to flee into exile soon afterwards. They were unprepared for parables and stories urging them to love and care for one another and talking about a Kingdom that would grow like a tiny mustard seed or the leaven in bread into something they could not fathom.

The idea that the Messiah would be executed like a common criminal and then rise from the dead only to leave the whole enterprise of Kingdom building in the hands of 12 men chosen from ordinary fishermen and tax collectors made no sense according to the false interpretation they had believed for so long.

And so the cornerstone of the new Kingdom became the stumbling block for God’s chosen ones. They, the apple of God’s eye, the ones from whom salvation comes, turned aside from their own salvation while the prostitutes and sinners, the rabble and riff-raff of outsiders, walked right in.

Advent is the season we set aside to consider these things. We know about the first coming of Christ. The dots are in our past, where we can see the pathway they form with clarity. We have the Church to explain these things to us, and we have 2,000 years of Christian teaching to make them clear.

So long as we confine our Advent meditations to mulling over the First Coming of Christ and think about our personal piety and our need for repentance and conversion, we are on fairly solid ground. We know what is expected of us as His followers. We know the story of God made man for our salvation.

But we are not at the end of the story. We still await the fulfillment of the prophecies. We are somewhere along the long row of dots that connect the planting of the mustard seed and the final harvest. We are, all of us, awaiting the day when He comes again.

Perhaps more to the point, we are traveling along our own road of life, journeying from birth to grave. We know — know — that our end of time is always imminent. One day our souls will be required of us, and none of us knows the day or the hour that will happen. That will be our end of time, when we go to Him, even if He has not yet returned to us.

Advent is the prophetic pot, simmering. It is a few weeks set aside for us to contemplate the mystery and the majesty of Christ coming. We have the history of His First Coming and the probably seriously misunderstood promises of His Second Coming, all intertwined with the certainty of our departing and going to Him.

We can’t — any of us — connect the dots looking forward. But we don’t have to. All we have to do is follow in the footsteps of Abraham, or Mary or Stephen or Priscilla or Paul or the woman with the hemorrhage or the blind man who would not deny Him and was put out of the Temple for his fealty. All we have to do is just believe Him and follow Him and trust that, even if the dots don’t connect in meaningful ways for us looking forward, they will be form a pattern of salvation when we look back.

Advent is a good great time to consecrate however much of our lives we have left to His Mercy. Trust and obey the old hymn says. There is no other way to be happy in Jesus. 

Truer words were never spoken.

Spend a few minutes this advent contemplating the dots going forward into your eternity as well as those going back to the Immaculate Conception and to the stable. Are we living in the End Times? Perhaps. But in truth, it doesn’t much matter if we are.

Each and every one of us is living in his or her “end times” every single day. There is absolutely nothing to fear in this if you trust and obey. God’s mercy, which was poured out on all humanity from the wounded side of Jesus, is greater than our weakness, stronger than our failures, more loving than all our fears.

Just put your hand in His and let Him lead you Home. There is no other way.

To Heaven and Back: Dr Mary Neal’s Near Death Experience

I reviewed the book Dr Mary Neal wrote about her near death experience a few months ago.

She describes her experience in this video.

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2013 Favs: You Belong to Me

A few weeks ago, my pastor preached a homily based on what is a simple but absolute fact of all our lives.

We will die.

You are going to die.

I am going to die.

It may be in a car wreck this afternoon as you go to the store to buy milk. It may be years from now as you sleep in your bed at 85. But you and I will die.

My pastor told us that when we die, someone will say to us, You belong to me. The question is, who will be saying this to us? Will it be Jesus, welcoming us Home. Or will it be someone else?

We are the ones who decide who will tell us You belong to me on that day. We decide, not so much by the things we say, but by what we do. Who do you serve with your life? Whose teachings do you follow?

Do you follow the troubling teachings of the Gospels as elucidated to us by the Holy Father, Pope Francis? Or do you follow the serpent who whispers in all of our ears, Take. Eat. God is a liar. You will not die?

As with all really successful lies, this one was part truth. When the serpent whispered You will not die in Eve’s ear, it was true. All the serpent had to do was add one word to make it absolutely true. That word was today.

You will not die today. 

Take. Eat. And you will be like God, knowing right from wrong. And you will not die today. 

There are many serpents in our world today, and each one of them speaks to us in the peculiar language of our own hearts. They tell us that what we want to do is right and the Church which tells us otherwise is wrong, cruel, hard-hearted and mean to tell us it is not.

It doesn’t matter if it’s your sexuality, your politics, the way you treat your family or some secret sin you keep to yourself. You have your own serpent to whisper in your ear and tell you, God/the Pope/the Gospels are all liars. Do this and you will be free of those binding appeals to lying morality.

And, of course, you will not die. 

But it’s all a lie from the father of lies. The Gospel this Sunday talks about judgement day, when Jesus told us that one will be taken and another left behind. Many preachers concentrate their preaching about this on some final Judgement Day for all humankind that recedes in front of us like the horizon as we live our lives.

But I think that there are two judgement days and the one we need to concern ourselves with is our own personal Judgement Day that is coming at all of us faster than any of us wants to believe. On that day, someone will say to us You belong to me. 

One of the primary purposes of this blog is to encourage Christians to take a stand for Jesus in a post Christian world. Since I am myself a politician, I am calling you from the depths of my experience to cast off the false gods of political claptrap and follow the Gospels of Christ without compromise.

Do not follow false teachers who are the political serpents whispering in all our ears and who edit the Gospels of Christ to serve their political masters. Do not bow down before the elephant or the donkey. Do not do it.

When we die and someone says to us, You belong to me, we are the ones who will have determined which voice we hear saying it. We are choosing now as we choose who we serve, who we follow and who we believe.

Follow Christ.

Follow His Vicar who was chosen by the Holy Spirit and who cannot teach us that which is contrary to the Gospels of Christ.

Stop trying to lead, and follow. And stop quibbling about it.

I have learned from my own disastrous failures at doing it my way and I am telling you now from the bottom of my heart: There is no other Way.

 

Guess What? Heaven and Hell are BOTH in Oklahoma!

It seems that a number of the Catholic Patheosi are blogging about hell.

Since all I know of hell is what I’ve learned during the last week of session in the Oklahoma Legislature, I’ve decided to talk about that other place.

Enjoy.

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Elderly Woman to Mugger: If You Kill Me, I’ll Go to Heaven and You’ll Go to Hell

 

Ninety-two year-old-woman witnesses to a mugger and sends him home to pray.

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The Pope and “Judging” Gay Priests, Redux

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The National Catholic Register has an excellent article by Edward Pentin. The article analyzes the press reaction to Pope Francis’ comments concerning homosexuality.

The Holy Father made these comments during his flight back to Rome from World Youth Day. I wrote about them here, and gave you a video of them here.

The point the NCR article makes is that the Pope did not overturn 2,000 years of Catholic teaching on this issue. He simply gave an example by his actions as to how it is lived out in real people’s lives.

The media not only misinterpreted Pope Francis’ comments, but it has consistently, and with what seems to me to often be deliberate malice, misinterpreted Catholic teaching on this subject in its entirety. This is so widespread that I can’t just offhand think of a major media outlet that represents Church teaching accurately.

I know this is due to some extent to the limitations of space and time in which they work. There is also the problem of shoddy workmanship in which they settle for quoting one another rather than checking things out. Whatever the causes, the media has consistently portrayed Church teaching concerning homosexuality inaccurately and negatively.

I was impressed and proud of the way Public Catholic readers responded to this dust up over Pope Francis’ statements. The comments to these two posts concerning the Pope’s remarks were thoughtful, well-informed and intelligent.

You were not stampeded by the press. Bravo!

One thing that I think you already know, but that I want to make clear, is that the Catholic Church does not “hate gays” and it certainly is not homophobic. The only way it could be judged “homophobic” is by self-serving definitions of the word used by people who claim that any limit on homosexual behavior is, de facto, “homophobic.”

The Church offers the same gifts of the sacraments to homosexuals as she does to everyone else. There is no bright line in Church teaching that says that homosexual acts are worse than adultery or other, similar, sexual sins. The Church — and the Pope in his press conference — simply refuse to deny that these acts are, in fact, sinful.

If the Church bowed to the dictates of trendy morality and started going along with people’s demands that it tell them that their sins are not, in fact, sins, it would certainly not be doing them any favors. In fact, it would be endangering their immortal souls, and denying its own mission.

The Church cannot do this.

The Church is here to be a pathway to heaven. It shines a light on the narrow path that will take all of us who chose to follow it Home.

Do you want to go to heaven? Then do what the Catholic Church teaches.

It’s as simple and easy as that.

For those Protestants who don’t fully understand what I am saying, doing what the Church teaches will lead a person into a close, intimate and fruitful relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. They will be born again into the new life of truth and spirit. Doing what the Church teaches means accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. I know this is hard to see from the outside, but I’ve lived it, and I know it’s true.

The Church cannot tell people that their sins are not sins. That would be the worst possible lie. It would wreak damage on them of eternal dimensions.

Churches who are falling into the trendy mindset of re-writing the Gospels to suit the fancies and fashions of the day are misleading their followers. They are ignoring their responsibilities to the people who trust them, and to the God they claim to follow.

The Catholic Church, for all the failings of its people, will not do this. It is the Rock and it will not lie to you in ways that can get you sent to hell.

This is not homophobia. It is love.

From the National Catholic Register:

Daily News

Misinterpreting Francis (1944)

NEWS ANALYSIS: A Vatican official chided the mainstream media for its conflation of the Holy Father’s remarks on homosexuality.

– CNA/Alan Holdren

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis’ comments on homosexuality during a press conference on the papal plane back from World Youth Day in Rio were largely misreported by the mainstream press, according to a Vatican official and a Church expert.

During a surprise and wide-ranging in-flight press conference Sunday that lasted 80 minutes, Pope Francis reportedly said: “If someone is gay, and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge? We shouldn’t marginalize people for this. They must be integrated into society.”

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well,” the Holy Father went on. “It says one must not marginalize these persons; they must be integrated into society,” he said, and he reportedly made the distinction between homosexual acts, which are sinful, and tendencies, which are not.

“The problem isn’t this [homosexual] orientation — we must be like brothers and sisters. The problem is something else, the problem is lobbying, either for this orientation or a political lobby or a Masonic lobby,” he said. The Pope recently said a “gay lobby” exists in the Vatican, which protects some priests and threatens to blackmail others.

The Catechism states that the number of men and women who have “deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible.” The inclination is “objectively disordered,” it continues, and “constitutes for most of them a trial” (2358).

It adds, “They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition” (2358).

The Catechism teaches that homosexual persons “are called to chastity” and that “by the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection” (2359).

 

Not Changing Doctrine

But large media outlets, such as the BBC, often accused of promoting same-sex rights, were quick to report the story in accordance with their own biases. The BBC splashed this headline across its news site: “Pope Francis: Who am I to judge gay people?” Others followed suit, misleadingly implying that the Holy Father “doesn’t judge gay people.”

“[The Pope] is not saying homosexual acts are not a sin, and he obviously isn’t changing Church doctrine, but he is making a change of emphasis,” one Vatican official close to the Pope told the Register on condition of anonymity.

 

 

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/misinterpreting-francis?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2013-07-30%2012:53:01#ixzz2aXmze850

Jesus Goes to Prepare a Place for Us

In my Father’s house there are many mansions. I go now to prepare a place a place for you. I will come again to take you to myself, that where I am, you may be also. 

Why do you stand staring up into heaven. This Jesus you saw being taken up from you will come back …

 

Here’s hoping you have a happy and blessed Feast of the Ascension!

 

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Pope Francis: The Whole Journey of Life is a Journey of Preparation for Heaven

Many mansions I have a friend who told me once that her goal in life was to go to heaven.

I found this a little startling at the time. I had always thought of going to heaven as more of a by-product than a goal. My view was something like “you follow Jesus and trust Him and going to heaven is a by-product of that.”

I had never considered that heaven might be a goal that you aimed for all on its own. However, this particular friend is such a good Christian and so deeply wise in ways that I am still learning that I never questioned that there was a truth I didn’t understand in what she had said.

Time has passed and she and I are both older. As usual, I am slowly coming around to the spiritual truth that she saw all along. Heaven isn’t something you can earn with your good works. It certainly isn’t a territory that you can seize by force. It is the destination of a life lived in Christ.

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In a real sense, we are already citizens of heaven right now as we live out our time in this life. Following Jesus means walking the Way that leads straight through the Pearly Gates.

Pope Francis spoke of something similar to this in his morning homily yesterday. “The whole journey of life is a journey of preparation for heaven,” he said.

He was teaching about the Gospel passage which relates Jesus, telling the Disciples that He is going ahead of them to prepare a place for them in His Father’s house. Jesus was talking about his return to heaven and the Disciples ultimate destination of heaven.

Pope francis soft smile

Pope Francis applied what Jesus said to the disciples to the lives of every Christian. “Prepare a place means preparing our ability to enjoy the chance, our chance to see, to feel, to understand the beauty of what lies ahead, of that homeland towards which we walk,” he said.

I think what my friend was trying to tell me is something very like what Pope Francis said yesterday. If we live our lives properly, they are a preparation, a kind of getting in shape, for the life to come. 

I’ve always thought that is the real purpose of purgatory. I don’t see it as punishment, but as cleaning up, refitting us so that we can be happy in heaven. There is no way most of us are ready for heaven when we leave this earth. We need a way station of some sort to get our heads right for heaven.

But there are those, like my friend, who are close to being good to go right now. They’ve lived their lives pointing heaven-ward by following Jesus from the inside of their beings out to their smallest actions.

I’m the last person to be an expert on this, considering the way I’ve lived my life and the way I keep on messing up even now. I’m far from thinking heaven-ward. But I am slowly beginning to start.

It may be just that I’m getting older. It may be that the world in which I live is becoming increasingly hostile to Christians. But heaven is becoming more real to me.

I am beginning to realize that heaven is home. 

From CNA:

.- “The whole journey of life is a journey of preparation” for heaven, Pope Francis said during his homily at Friday morning Mass.

The Pope reflected on the Gospel passage from St. John for today in which Jesus tells the disciples not to be afraid or troubled because he goes to prepare a place in the Father’s house for them.

“Prepare a place means preparing our ability to enjoy the chance, our chance, to see, to feel, to understand the beauty of what lies ahead, of that homeland towards which we walk,” he remarked.

Members of the Vatican Typography office attended the Eucharistic celebration on April 26, alongside the Vatican Labor Office and Vatican State Police inside St. Martha’s House chapel.

The Pope noted that Jesus talks “like a friend, even with the attitude of a pastor.”

“Let not your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me,” says Jesus, according to today’s Gospel.

“In my Father’s house there are many rooms, if it were not so would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” Christ asked the disciples.

The Pope called these “really beautiful words” and asked the congregation what they thought that “place” was like. (Read the rest here.) 

The Year of Two Living Popes and One Unchanging Faith

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Popes Benedict XVI, John Paul II, and Francis

Does anybody remember that this is the Year of Faith?

It’s certainly been a historic year so far.

Our beloved Benedict, Pope Emeritus, handed the Church forward to his successor, Pope Francis. The Year of Faith has become the Year of Two Living Popes. 

It is one faith; one holy and apostolic Catholic faith. For those who will stop to think about it, that is a miracle in itself. Benjamin Disraeli, when asked what proof he could offer of God’s existence, replied, “The Jew, sir, the Jew.”  To that I would add that if anyone doubts the divinity of Jesus Christ, I would offer them the Catholic Church and its 2,000 year history of faithful teaching.

The Catholic Church has persisted through the fall and rise of more than one empire. It has survived the venality of some of its own popes. It has come through plagues, famines and times of great wealth. And it has, through all of it, kept the teachings of the Gospels intact and unblemished.

I don’t think there has been an day or an hour in all this great swath of history that the Church has not been under concerted and powerful pressure to re-write the Gospels to suit the passing moral fashions of the time. I think the reason for this is simple: The devil is real. There is a malicious personality out there who wants to destroy us through our own predilections to immorality.

We are not so much engaged in a war as we are the objects of a war. This malicious personality wars against us by aligning itself with our own fallen natures. It attempts to subvert us in our path to our ultimate calling as sons and daughters of the living God. We are the object of war making based in a hatred that is outside time.

But this evil, which seems so powerful and omnipresent to us who are in the soup of this life, is almost nothing in the halls of eternity. It is a vanquished foe whose only hold on us was broken at the cross. All we have to do is turn our faces away from the darkness and walk into the light.

The Catholic Church is the light, shining in the darkness of this world. Despite the undeniable fallenness of the people who govern it, the Church itself does not falter when it comes to providing the sacraments and teaching the teachings that show us the way to heaven.

This Year of Faith and two living popes — one reigning and one emeritus — is historic. But it is also part of the flow of the Church through history. Pope Benedict handed the Church forward and the Cardinals chose Pope Francis to take it up.

People who unwittingly are the mouthpieces for the devil yammer about how the Church must “change” its core teachings about life, love, sexuality and the common good or be found guilty of being “out of step with the world.”

Out of step with the world haters

Let’s think for a moment what they are demanding. What does it mean to be “in step” with the world?

“In step” with the world, as they define it, means that people are only human when those who have the power to do so define them to be human. It means that vast numbers of people may be killed at any time, for no reason at all.

Being “in step” with the world means that women and children are commodities to be bought and sold, raped and worked. It means that reducing women and children to objects and then using their rape, torture and murder as entertainment is a “right” that transcends any claims to their human dignity. Being “in step” with the world means that women’s bodies can be harvested for their eggs that are then sold online. It means that women’s wombs can be rented as surrogates.

Being “in step” with the world means “designing” babies that we will find good enough for our celestial selves to raise. It means discarding tens of other babies in this process to get the one perfect one we want.

Being “in step” with the world means destroying marriage, doing away with family as a unit that creates, nurtures and supports young human beings. It means that multinational corporations can pillage and destroy without restraint.

I could go on, but the point is that being “in step” with the world is being “in step” with decay, death and destruction. Being “in step” with the world is the exact opposite of what the Church is called to do.

The Catholic Church is not called to make the world comfortable in its sins. it is called to lead the world to redemption from its sins. 

The world may and does excoriate the Church for “being out of step” with its many killing machines. It may and does excoriate Catholics for following their Church. It may and does try to force us out of public life and silence our witness.

But the world will not prevail.

White crucifixion

Jesus said, “On this rock, I will build my Church. And the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” 

This is the Year of Faith. It is also the year of two living popes.

But this year is, as all years are, the year of the One and only Jesus, Who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Join the Discussions of the Year of Faith

Click here throughout the Year of Faith, as the Catholic Channel at Patheos.com invites Catholics of every age and stripe to share what they are gleaning and carrying away from this gift of timely focus.


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