So. I was reading a Catholic website, where Catholics were speaking to each other. Then I was reading a Conservative website, where just conservatives were speaking to each other. And lastly, I was reading a Secular website, where secularists, liberals & conservatives were speaking to each other. And they all had something in common.
It was this: judgment, criticism, ridicule.
And I remembered St. Michael. In Jude 9, St. Jude talks about the time that St. Michael fought with Satan over Moses’ body. Now St. Michael is, well - a Saint, AND an Archangel - in fact the LEADER of GOD'S armies. He is a pretty spotless, perfect guy. And Satan is, well - a demon. He is pretty much the epitome of all evil. In fact, he is the SOURCE of all evil.
It seems that what we are all overlooking here is this:
“Yet the archangel Michael, when he argued with the devil in a dispute over the body of Moses, did not venture to pronounce a reviling judgment upon him but said, “May the Lord rebuke you!”” Jude 1:9
So I ask you: If SAINT Michael, the ARCHANGEL, did not feel qualified enough to judge, criticize and condemn SATAN (!!) - then why in the world do WE feel qualified enough to do so to another human being - who is made in the image and likeness of God?
Again, as Catholics we have a prayer that the Holy Spirit gave to Pope Leo XIII in 1884:
St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly hosts,
by the power of God, thrust into Hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Again. We don’t ask St. Michael to rebuke the devil - we leave that to GOD. And this is concerning a creature that is PURE evil. There’s zero question about that. There are no other ‘extenuating circumstances’. It’s not a situation where God can ‘read his heart’ to see what might have ‘caused’ his actions and/or beliefs. He is just plain evil.
And yet St. Michael - goodness exemplified - still is not asked to trash-talk Satan. We ask that that be left to God.
So, what exactly qualifies US to do the same to others?
This is especially important if you don't want to bring judgment upon yourself. As Francis Frangipane notes:
"...the instinct to judge and criticize is a curse... and it brings death upon us as individuals. A curse? Death? Yes, every time we judge we are simultaneously judged by God, and each time we condemn another we ourselves are condemned. (Matt. 7:1-2; Luke 6:37.)
When we judge and criticize, we position ourselves under judgment. You see, we are constantly sowing and harvesting life according to our own attitudes.
When I say "fast from judgment," I do not mean we should abandon discernment. No. But judging people is not discernment. When we see something wrong, instead of only turning critical, we must learn to pray for mercy for that situation. We may still see what is wrong, but now we are harnessing our energies and seeking to redeem what is wrong by the power of Christ's love.... The key to a life blessed by God's mercy is to give mercy to those around us (Matt. 18:21-35)."
Spiritual Discernment and The Mind of Christ
I grew up in a world where I remember elders saying things like: “I’m sure that that is none of our business”, “Well, I’M not the judge of that” and “I suggest you pray about it”.
If we want to have any chance at salvaging this rapidly hell-like culture we are growing in our world today - I suggest that we begin to do the same.
Pray, don’t judge. And THEN we will see things change - perhaps beginning with each of us.
Listen, and I will tell you a secret. It was whispered to me in class yesterday - and once I heard it; everything changed.
The secret is this:
There is no Resurrection without Death.
We were watching a video about Divine Mercy; and of course, it told the history of Poland. Little Poland, from whom so much Mercy has come, was completely wiped off the map of Europe over 100 years ago. Poland was dead; they all thought.
That is, until she rose again - and went on to play a leading role in saving the world.
NO Resurrection Without DEATH!
When I heard this whisper from a new, dear friend; she went on to point out that God tends to repeat the same pattern throughout all of history. David versus Goliath, the weak overcoming the strong, the dead rising again to new life.
In other words: the unexpected, incongruent and miraculous pattern of His Son.
And suddenly, I had perfect clarity of what is going on in our nation - and the world.
The statistics are grim, my friends. The demographics alone show all of Europe extinct (nationally speaking) by 2050 - since native French, Germans, Italians, etc. stopped having children several years ago. It has already crossed the tipping point. To retain their ethnic heritage, each Frenchman, German, Italian, etc. would have to have something like 20 children NOW. Hence, Europe will be run by immigrants; and most possibly completely Muslim, by 2050.
Not only that, but in case you’ve missed it - things ain’t looking too great everywhere else either…
Today perversion is militantly portrayed as normal; disagree and watch your lives and livelihoods taken away. Abuse of all form grows - most is praised: we see a nation celebrate both infanticide, and death of the elderly, sick and ‘imperfect’. We see drag queens applauded while they romp with and fondle youth - in public libraries - in front of approving parents. Leading public figures, of all kinds, incite hatred and violence. Roving bands of teens, and others, attack innocent bystanders - with their actions uploaded to internet for entertainment.
Cruelty laughed at, and purity mocked.
And this is just one day’s headlines. Need I go on? I’m sure you can add your own observations to the list - it appears endless these days.
Have you read Revelations lately? Give it a go, you might find it eerily familiar. In the 16th chapter, John sees the plagues that will come upon the earth when God has finally ‘had it’.
The commentary is instructive:
“As history advances, the signs are that sin is on the increase; sin is the ultimate cause of the new plagues which threaten the world. “It must be added that on the horizon of contemporary civilization - especially in the form that is most developed in the technical and scientific sense - the signs and symptoms of death have become particularly present and frequent. One has only to think of the arms race and of the inherent danger of nuclear self-destruction. Moreover, everyone has become more and more aware of the grave situation of vast areas of our planet, marked by death-dealing poverty and famine. It is a question of problems that are not only economic but also and above all ethical. But on the horizon of our era there are gathering ever darker ‘signs of death’: a custom has become widely established - in some places it threatens to become almost an institution - of taking the lives of human beings even before they are born or before they reach the natural point of death.””
(Pope John Paul II, Dom. Et Viv., 57)
The Navarre Bible New Testament, Compact Edition, Commentary on Revelation 15:5-16:21
Right about now would perhaps be a good time to repeat that whisper - in fact, to shout it from the rooftops.
“THERE IS NO RESURRECTION WITHOUT DEATH.”
We keep trying to wrap our little brains around ‘what’s happening’ and ‘how will it all turn out?’. But if you recall, Jesus was very different after the resurrection. For one thing, Mary Magdalene clung to him - and still didn’t recognize Jesus. Two of his followers walked several miles with him down the road - and had no clue who he was. And he fixed a delicious breakfast on the beach for his apostles - while they pondered who in the world was out that early in the morning. But they all eventually recognized him - either in his voice, his action, his words, his sacrifice, his wounds or his love.
So, I would guess that my trying to envision what this world will look like once it is finally ‘dead’ is a fairly fruitless endeavor.
But equally important is the fact that the continual despair and dread I feel at seeing it all beginning to implode is, well, unnecessary.
Is our world dying? Most probably.
Will that ultimately matter? Well, if history is any indication, then - No.
We are all staring right at a Resurrection coming straight at us with increasing speed each and every day. Now, isn’t that a good thing? As Paul says, this world has been groaning in travail since Adam - and we have been groaning right along with it.
(“We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now.” Romans 8:22)
Imagine the glory of actually BEING in the generation that watches this new birth come about! It’s not like Jesus didn’t already tell us:
“But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”
I think I like the contemporary version even better:
“When all of this starts to happen, up and on your feet. Stand tall with your heads high.
Help is ON THE WAY!”
Luke 21:28 The Message
So, is this not a time to actually be celebrating?
For “it will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed.”
1 Cor 15:52
Do you know how many generations have been waiting for this? What if it is in the blink of OUR eye? What if WE will be the generation transformed; who gets to watch God doing his thing once again?!
But we need not wait until then to finally realize that we have no fear of destruction, dying and death; because we follow Jesus.
And He knows His Way OUT of the tomb…
So, the next headline you read; repeat after me with excitement and joy:
“Maranatha Jesus, please come!”
Breakfast is over, 3 bellies full and all are happily playing in the playroom.
Grammy begins the kitchen cleanup, so she can get started on the dressing and the hair: ponytails and braids: maybe a bow, maybe not.
Suddenly, there’s crying from the baby in the playroom. Grammy walks in; 3 pairs of eyes turn to her; one has tears streaming – 11-month-old Alexei.
“Why is Alexei crying?”
So I ask again:
“Why is Alexei crying?”
From 3-year-old Lucy: “Cause Therese hit him.”
I turn to 2-year-old Therese.
“Did you hit him?”
“Why did you hit him?”
“Cuz I want to.”
As Grammy walks Therese to time-out, she tries to explain that “cuz I want to” is NOT an acceptable reason for hitting someone.
Therese does not acknowledge the lesson; she’s preparing to sulk in her room.
Grammy walks back to the kitchen. Baby Alexei has moved on to the fake fruit and is busily chomping on it; Lucy is back working her puzzle.
Grammy can finally get the dishes done before the next onslaught.
“Grammy!” comes the stricken cry from the bedroom. Grammy walks back and opens the door. There is Therese, clutching her undies.
With a look of horror, she says, “I peed!”
Thank God for the carpet cleaner – which is kept stocked and ready to go for its daily pee, juice, mud – whatever – clean up. A mother’s best friend.
Although, this time carpet cleanup will have to go to the bottom of the list – we’re still just trying to finish breakfast dishes before it is lunch time…
Screaming breaks out in the playroom – someone is pulling someone else’s hair. Seems there is a dispute over fake food, and who is in charge of pouring the ‘tea’.
Perhaps we’ll get the breakfast dishes done by dinnertime.
But there is still hope for getting them done before lunch – after all, it’s not yet even 8:00 am, and Mommy is due back home after her appointment some time before noon. And so hope springs eternal in Grammy's heart - kind of like sibling fighting in the playroom...
God bless the stay-at-home moms out there: living patience, and teaching life - day after day after day... No parades for them, no trophies, no paycheck, no accolades - just well loved children; and well tended homes.
We noted last week how the Early Christians valued the Unity of the Church under their ‘Fathers’, the Bishops. Yet there was another authority in the early Church, and it was the authority of the Martyrs. The early faithful cherished the words, witness and acts of those who died for the faith.
The word ‘Martyr’ means ‘Witness’ in Greek; so the Martyrs were nothing other than witnesses to the power of faith in Jesus. St. Justin, himself a martyr in the mid-second century, said: “Though beheaded, and crucified, and thrown to wild beasts, in chains and fire, and all other tortures; we do not give up our confession; but the more such things happen, the more others, in larger numbers, become believers.” Tertullian noted, “The more often you mow us down, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed.” And in fact, during the times of the worst persecution, the Church grew by a steady 40% per decade.
Christianity was different. The pagan religions made no exclusive claims to their worshippers, pagans were free to mix and match their gods at will; but the Christian God made a jealous and total claim on His children – a claim they embraced. Since they refused to worship other gods – or the emperor – they were often charged with atheism or treason, which were both capital crimes. Rarely did the Emperors attack the average citizens however; they went after the ones in charge – the Bishops. This failed because for every bishop there were thousands of believers whose faiths were personal, exclusive, and firm.
“Your cruelty is our glory,” wrote Tertullian to the Imperial rulers; and none were crueler than Rome. But it backfired. St. Irenaeus wrote of the shock of pagans who witnessed the willingness of Christians to endure lingering torture and “the games,” rather than renounce the cult of Jesus. Tertullian actually taunted the authorities in that their own philosophies gave them nothing comparable to die for. “The sword, the fire, the cross, the wild beasts, the torture – these surely are but trifling sufferings to obtain a celestial glory and a divine reward.”
One of the earliest accounts of Christian martyrdom comes from the pagan historian Tacitus, an aristocrat of Rome, who reported Nero’s execution of “vast numbers” in AD 64 (about 30 years after Christ’s death). “Ridicule accompanied their end, “ he wrote, “They were covered with wild beasts’ skins and torn to death by dogs, or they were fastened on crosses and, when daylight failed, were burned to serve as torches by night.”
But what the Romans failed to realize was that Christians looked upon martyrdom as the ultimate imitation of Christ: for they too were accepting a cruel and unjust death. Hence, there was no greater proof of one’s faith than death over apostasy. Some Fathers taught that the martyrs earned a sort of “priesthood” by their endurance, and entered heaven immediately upon death. Since a priest offers sacrifice, and the martyrs offered their lives in union with the sacrifice of Jesus, this was true in a sense. In fact, 2 of the most famous early martyrs, St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Polycarp of Smyrna, used Eucharistic images to speak of their dying. St. Ignatius wrote, “I am the wheat of God. Let me be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ.” And strapped to the wood of his execution, St. Polycarp gave an oration that read like a Eucharistic Prayer. The thousands of witnesses of his death reported that the smoke of the fire gave off an aroma exactly like that of baking bread – and not burning flesh.
And so.... did YOU know some details of the early Church Martyrs?…
(Information obtained from “The Fathers of the Church” by Mike Aquilina)
The Early Christians saw the Unity of the Church as a sign of the unity of Christ’s divine and human natures, along with the unity of the Trinity. This idea was noted in the Didache and St. Clement’s Letter to the Corinthians, and most famously in St. Cyprian’s On the Unity of the Church. St. Ignatius of Antioch noted: “As the Lord was united to the Father and did nothing without Him… so neither should you do anything without the bishop and priests… Let there be one prayer, one supplication, one mind, one hope, in love and in joy undefiled. There is one Jesus Christ, and nothing is more excellent than He. Come together, then, as into one temple of God, to one altar, to one Jesus Christ, who came forth from one Father, and is with one, and has gone to one.”
In the minds of all the Church Fathers, the Eucharist was the sacrament of Christian unity; both as a symbol and as something that creates unity. The ancient liturgy of the Didache mentions this: “As the broken bread was scattered upon the mountains, and gathered together became one, so may Your Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Your kingdom; for Yours is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever and ever.”
The Eucharist was a gathering of God’s family, presided over by the bishop and later by his priests whom the faithful called their ‘Fathers’. The Office of Bishop was established in the New Testament, and is spoken of as a type of Fatherhood. St. Ignatius would write: “Be obedient to your bishop and to one another, as Jesus Christ in His human nature was subject to the Father and as the Apostles were to Christ and the Father. In this way there will be union of body and spirit.” The bishop, as father, unified the Church.
The Church’s great Father on earth, however, was the bishop of Rome who from the early days was called Papa (today translated “Pope”) who was the successor to St. Peter, the Prince of the Apostles. All ancient traditions note that Peter was martyred in Rome; and nowhere else. One of the oldest surviving Christian texts, aside from the Bible, is St. Clement of Rome’s Letter to the Corinthians where obedience to the Pope’s decision is expected and commanded in a controversy in a Greek church far away.
The early Church Fathers all showed such deference to the Bishop of Rome: Papa. St. Ignatius of Antioch, on his way to martyrdom in Rome in the early 100s sent instructions to all the churches; except when he addressed the Church in Rome; where he showed deference. By the end of the 2nd century, St. Irenaeus, the bishop of Lyons, notes: “that tradition derived from the Apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul… which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority – that is, the faithful everywhere inasmuch as the apostolic tradition has been preserved continuously by faithful men everywhere.”
And although the early Popes were confident of their authority, they also knew that, like their Master, they were really servants. In fact most of the early Popes followed their Master in death as well as in life. Giving their lives as martyrs for their sheep, they were Good Shepherds to the end.
And so.... did YOU know importance of the Unity of the Church to the Fathers?
Next week we will begin meeting them…
(Information obtained from “The Fathers of the Church” by Mike Aquilina)
Among the early Fathers, we have seen that the oral tradition, and their unbroken connection back to the Apostles was essential. In addition, they were equally devoted to Scripture, and felt it absolutely essential to the transmission, and living, of the faith. St. Jerome wrote, “To be ignorant of Scripture is to be ignorant of Christ.”
With that in mind, how many Christians today can say that they are as familiar with Scripture as they are of the statistics and updates of their favorite sports team or TV show? Yet only one leads us to knowledge of Christ and our eternal destiny!
So how did Scripture come about anyway? The writings credibly attributed to the Apostles, today known as the New Testament, were widely circulated. However, many other writings were also circulated, claiming authorship by the Disciples. Therefore, the question of authenticity was essential, since many of these other writings were downright foolish and/or false. Within 100 years from Christ’s death, followers were already debating which books were authentic and should be part of the Church’s readings. Lists were drawn up which eventually came to be known as ‘canons’ – from the Greek word meaning “measuring stick”. Until the early 5th century, canons varied from region to region.
By the beginning of the 2nd century however, there was agreement on the 4 Gospels, and most of Paul’s letters. But practically everything else was under debate. The oldest surviving list of Christian books is the Muratorian Canon, from about 150. It includes all the books of the New Testament except Hebrews, James, 1 Peter and 2 Peter. It also included 2 books that were eventually excluded: the Apocalypse of Peter & The Shepherd by Hermas.
In 367, St. Athanasius, the bishop of Alexandria, became the 1st of the Fathers to declare the 27 books of the New Testament as a canon binding on the whole Church. Yet it was not settled until the North African synods of Hippos Regius (393) and Cathage (397, 419) whose conclusions were accepted by the universal Church.
Although the books were settled, as the Pontifical Biblical Commission noted in “The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church” in 1993, the Fathers believed that “there is nothing in (Scripture) which is to be set aside as out of date or completely lacking meaning. God is constantly speaking to His Christian people a message that is ever relevant for their time.”
The Fathers also looked at how to interpret Scripture; claiming there were at least 2 levels of meaning: the literal sense and the spiritual sense. Hence, each passage told a literal truth describing the historical event, person or precept; but, at the same time, the passage might also tell a moral truth about how Christians should live, an allegorical truth about Jesus and/or a revelation about the Christian’s heavenly destiny.
Lastly, the Fathers’ teachings all depend on the harmony between the Old and New Testaments; claiming that what lay hidden under the Old Testament was the mystery of Christ, and that it prefigured various truths concerning Him. So for example, Noah & the Flood prefigured Baptism; water from the rock prefigured the spiritual gifts of Christ; and manna in the desert prefigured the Eucharist – ‘the true bread from heaven’. (Catechism, n.1094). All the ‘prefigurements’ of Christ in the Old Testament could be a study itself!
And so.... did YOU know how the Bible came to be?
(Information obtained from “The Fathers of the Church” by Mike Aquilina)
Her distress was quickly apparent. Within just a few minutes of speaking, the tears were flowing. Her tale was especially sad – not because of the tragedy of it - but because of the sameness. It is a tragically sad tale that more and more women are now telling. It is a tale that can be laid at the feet of the ‘New Sheriff in Town’.
Because the ‘New Sheriff’ is an idiot.
This young woman began by recounting her ex-husband’s flaws. You know, the ones that caused her to divorce him 6 years ago. “He just was not sensitive to my needs,” she explained, expecting full concurrence from all listening. “He seemed more concerned with his own problems, and not mine. I just didn’t feel adequately loved by him, and so one day I just said, ‘THAT’S IT, I want a divorce!’”
So she divorced him. He wasn’t beating her. He wasn’t cheating on her. He wasn’t even disrespecting her. He just wasn’t ‘there’ for her.
Apparently, in the New Sheriff’s world, that is enough.
Yes, there’s a New Sheriff in town. The Old Sheriff told women and men that they needed to sacrifice their own needs for others. The old sheriff told women that they could find happiness in caring for a husband and child; and in giving out love to them both. The old sheriff noted that it is only in giving love that we get love; and so it was important to do that first. The relationship that grew up around that sacrifice would grow ever more caring, loving and compassionate.
But then a new sheriff came to town. This ‘sheriff’ singled out women and told them that they were – unbeknownst to them – suffering ‘discrimination’. She accused the old sheriff of ‘insensitivity’ to the ‘needs’ of women; and of just wanting to ‘keep them in servitude’.
REAL women should assert themselves, the new sheriff said, ‘REAL women should demand nothing less from their man, and if they didn’t get it – then just BE DONE WITH HIM – and find one that will put you first!”
Countless droves of young women followed this advice; in fact I think practically every young woman of today does. And then they end up in my office – broken, discouraged and oh so very confused.
They were, after all, just doing what they had been told would bring them happiness. And now – for some unknown reason – they are oh-so-very unhappy. What went wrong?
What went wrong is that the new sheriff is an idiot – and no one is telling them that. Except me, the Church, and those who know the secret of Christianity – that it truly IS better to give, than to receive.
This particular woman was in my office seeking healing because of what happened 6 months prior. She was out in town and ran across her ex-husband – the one that just wasn’t attentive enough to her needs. He was doing great. He had a great job, a wonderful relationship with another woman and a bright future. Turns out, after all, that he was suffering from depression – having just gotten out of the military – in those first months of their marriage. He has since determined the source of his problems, addressed them, and moved on.
That’s kind of what happens in marriages (and life); people struggle with things. And under the advice of the old sheriff, couples would work together to help, support and love each other through those hard times. Consequently, they would come out on the other end happy, whole and grateful. In fact, the old advice was something along the lines of “till death do us part” – but hey, that’s not as appealing, I suppose, as “till my unhappiness do us part”. Cause then it’s all about me, and nobody else.
‘And doesn’t insisting on my happiness lead to happiness?!!’
Um, well, no.
‘But the new sheriff told us young people that there should be no sacrifice forthcoming on our end. After all, don’t we deserve the best?’
Um, well, no.
We live in a world that only improves when we focus more on our responsibilities – then our ‘rights’. That is because we can control our responsibilities, and thereby improve our lives. We can only whine about our ‘rights’ – and that gets us nowhere. Well, nowhere good.
Needless to say, this woman had been consumed with her own version of depression since seeing how wonderful her ex-husband was now doing. She felt guilty that she had been so insensitive to his real needs, and angry that in her own selfishness - she had foregone what could have been a great life together. Now she was alone, and he was moving on.
All that talk about her ‘happiness’, and ‘needs’ turned out to lead to actual unhappiness, and neediness.
And so it goes. One by one, woman after woman, man after man – this young generation is learning the time tested truths the hard way. That’s how truths used to be learned before Christ came and turned ‘easy living’ into sacrificial living. It’s hard to imagine that sacrifice produces gain; giving leads to receiving, and death produces life. But the fact is; it’s true. Before the new sheriff, young people accepted the reality that perhaps priests, pastors, and their elders knew a thing or two about how the world really works. Perhaps it is time again for them to wake up and tell the new sheriff to take a hike. Only then will they have the chance to accept the reality that maybe ‘time-tested’ truths are that way for a reason – they work.
“You really need to pick a sport,” he said to me. “You’re the most noncompetitive person I know, and you need to fix that. Pick a sport and team to be passionate about and join everyone else!”
Almost immediately, a response came to me; yet it wasn’t the usual sarcasm I am accustomed to dishing out. It was something I hadn’t thought of until that moment, and suddenly I found myself saying:
“I DO have a sport! I am running THE RACE. And I am running The Race – to WIN!”
As it dawned on me, I explained further; “for over 30 years I have trained my mind, body and soul. I have spent countless hours reading Scripture and Holy books; I have attended unknown numbers of seminars, lectures, and classes. I have gotten up before dawn on thousands of days – to research and study better how to win The Race. I’ve been up late night after night following every last thought, statement and claim – what does the original Greek mean? What was the relevance of this statement in the world of Palestine 2,000 years ago? Who are the Players that have run This Race ever since – what did they do, how have they succeeded, how have they failed? These and other thoughts, I’ve examined, played with, and followed up on. I’ve consulted other experts in the Run; I’ve pondered the things that happen to me while running, and I’ve listened for my Trainer’s Voice - the one that I hear more clearly every day.
I am Running the Race – and I am Running TO WIN.
NFL Players do not compete hard at hopscotch. They do not spend hour upon hour studying it, contemplating it, and trying to figure out how to win. They do not keep stats on the players, its history, and its future. It is simply something that is not really all that important in the long run.
I too have decided that the sports of this world are not really all that important in the long run. Yes, I can watch them. I usually root for the underdog – no matter who it is. My heart breaks when the athlete fails, and I pray for their heart. Yet I also share the happiness when a team makes a great play, when they are victorious.
But I do not put my heart and my soul into it: into any sport, or team, in this world. Because they are not a part of MY Race. I am not invested in that sport. I have no family members on any teams, I do not make a profit if they win or lose. I’m happy for those who win, but also sad for those who lose. It’s not MY team, and so, beyond that; I could really care less. I am just not competitive in that area.
Yet I AM competitive in the Race that I am running. I refuse to let my Enemy gain the upper hand – in either my Race, or the Race of those I care about. I will fight, and train, and study, and learn – all that I can – to defeat Him and His Legions – and to WIN.
Most athletes quit their sport long before they die. They no longer train, they no longer compete. I cannot say the same. My Race will take every effort until I leave this world. That’s because the finish line in my Race is not UNTIL I leave this world.
And I Run to Win.
It’s a finish line that waits for all of us - though some seem not to know that they are running toward it every moment. I know; it seems pretty silly doesn’t it? I mean, what NFL player wouldn’t know that the goal post is where you’re trying to get? What baseball player would avoid Home Plate? What marathon runner would turn off on a side street to have a nice lunch? Pretty silly, we humans are…
Because THIS race, the one that I’M running, is really the only contest that lasts forever. If you win there – you win for all eternity. If you lose…. Well, there’s no other game that will be coming your way in order to try again.
Run to Win – But first make sure the Race you are running – is the one that really counts.
“Don't you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!” St. Paul’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians. 9:24
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” St. Paul’s final letter to Timothy (the man he trained to follow him) from prison – before execution. 2 Timothy 4:7.
He had finished the Race too.
There's been a lot of talk and anguish recently about the fact that a pagan business is not showing CHRISTmas images on its coffee cups.
Really. I'm not making this up.
I just wanted to stop the madness for a minute and ask - Why?
As in... Why is anyone surprised at this? Isn't it a good thing that pagans do not disguise themselves as Christians? I mean, how would we find them otherwise?
If you have spent any time walking through this world - and, at this point, I've spent a LOT - you'll begin to notice a couple things. One is that some people, as they get older, seem to get more loving, more kind, more joyful and more peaceful. They don't seem to be bothered by all the 'stuff' that gets you going more times than not. They seem unconcerned that life has not been 'all they've ever wanted'. This life is not the one they have banked on. Although they've received power for living, and joy throughout - this life is not the 'main deal' for them. They've got an even better one elsewhere.
Slowly you begin to realize that they 'have something'. And you want it.
Because the vast majority of people are nothing like this. Most people tend to get more fearful as they age. They spend more and more time trying to deny the reality of that fact. 'Anti-aging' is the catch word and the byword for those in this group. As the years tick away, fear comes alongside regret, then bitterness, disappointment and often anger. They feel that 'life' has let them down somehow. Regardless of who they were, how important they were, what they had and what they controlled - at some point, what's left? Nothing, but getting older and grayer; less needed and less considered. And then... extinction. Not a very uplifting tale is it?
These two very disparate groups are the way they are because they are residents (or rather children) of two different 'Kingdoms'. There's a kingdom of the children of God - those who don't need to worry about before, now, later or forever. They know where they came from, and where they're going. Most importantly, they have an intimate relationship with their Father - the Creator who assumed human flesh to pay a price they couldn't, and after ransoming them from horror and death - went back home to fluff up the pillows in their rooms at the mansion. They know that their Father has their back. Always has, always will. And since He's kind of a big deal - being the Creator of the universe and all - well, that tends to leave one with a whole lot of peace, and a lot less worry.
And then there's the other Kingdom. This is the pagan kingdom, which is made up of pagans. The definition of a pagan is "an irreligious or hedonistic person". Irreligious means "not religious; not practicing a religion and feeling no religious impulses or emotions", and a hedonist is "a person whose life is devoted to the pursuit of pleasure and self-gratification". Kind of sounds like the definition of an average American these days, eh? Or at least everyone within the pages of 'People' magazine, and all those who desperately try to emulate them.
Pagans often start out looking good, but as time goes on they begin to get this nagging feeling that something is just not right. That's because they have a different Father than Christians. Their father is known as 'The Father of Lies'. That's probably because, well, he lies.
This Father is the Enemy of the Christian Father, the Creator God. In fact, this is the enemy that has been lying to humans since he first tricked Adam and Eve, the first children of the Creator. Having lured them to his side; he's been at it ever since. His biggest lie is that no such 'Kingdoms' exist. There's just this life - and it's here for the taking!
And since the Enemy is so good at lying, his Kingdom always looks wonderful from the outside. There are no restraints, and that is a good thing right? We can say what we want, do what we want, dress like we want, copulate whenever we want (like the animals), and basically put ourselves first in everything we do.
Sounds great, doesn't it?!!!
But the downside occurs once you get into that Kingdom. For if everyone is loving themselves - then who is there to love you? If it is 'every man for himself' - then doesn't that kind of make every man ... your enemy? And when we hand over our bodies to sin, then sin begins to reign in them. And sin, by the way, never leaves goodness in its wake. We have disease, we have broken hearts, we have broken children, we have broken homes, we have ... broken everything ... but all dressed up with a lot of tinsel trying to look good.
Yep, that Pagan Kingdom sure looks fun and exciting from the outside - but inside it pretty much resembles, oh say, Hell?
And that's why I can't understand anyone wanting Pagans to go around acting like they are Christians. I mean, it's important for people to understand what side they are on. Only then can they examine the Father they are following, and decide whether to stick around - or make a run for it.
And that's when real Christians do what they do best - they help escaping pagans reach safety. In fact, they share a lot of similarities with the WW2 French Resistance, who also had to watch their countrymen slowly fall victim to lies - in their case, the lies of Hitler, who, by the way, was a very close disciple of the original Father of Lies. Same playbook. Ask the Germans who enthusiastically ELECTED Hitler to office based on his wonderful promises! His Nazi government also looked great from the outside. It was just the inside part that came back to bite ya.
Since real Christians usually know and care about people living in the Pagan kingdom; they see the destruction and pain awaiting pagans along their path - and the horrifying moment at the end when the Father they chose comes to claim them - and pagans realize who they have actually been serving all those years.
And so real Christians tend to continually launch quiet rescue attempts. But like the French people in WW2 - some pagans want to be rescued, while others don't. Being rescued is hard work. It takes accepting the fact that you are living in slavery. But many people have grown accustomed to their slavery; and fighting for freedom means telling yourself the Truth. And like Pilate before them - most people find the Truth a hard thing to swallow. It tends to lead to giving up all this 'me' focus; since, if we want to enter the Christian Kingdom, we need to acknowledge the TRUTH that God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is God; and we ... are not. And the even tougher TRUTH that God makes the rules; and we... do not. Not even when we, with our incredibly enormous and powerful human pea brain - disagree with the wisdom of the Creator of the planets, stars, galaxies and universe.
Hard to swallow; I know.
And because acknowledging the truth is so difficult when you have momentum in a lie, most people seem to avoid having to make that move from the pagan kingdom to Christ's kingdom until they are face down in the dirt: having lost everything, and given up all hope. Which is kind of where their father, the Pagan king, likes to see them.
Usually when pagans find themselves like this, they get pretty desperate and often try to escape. They seek out one of those people they met before - the ones who seemed so confident and joyful regardless of circumstances - the ones who talk about 'walking with Christ' and 'sharing his power'. But how can escaping pagans find a real Christian, when other pagans are disguising themselves as CHRISTians?
For when Pagans celebrate our Holy (hol-i-day) Days, speak our language, and mimic our lives - then we get what we have in America today - a nation that no longer knows the difference. An escaping pagan sees someone with a CHRISTmas tree set up in their living room or Easter baskets strewn about their home and simply assumes that person is a Christian. Yet that person doesn't seem to reflect the values or laws of Christ; and in fact, they look and act an awful lot like the enemy of the Christian Father - they resemble the lying Pagan Father. And if that pagan seeking escape runs to a 'Pagan disguised as Christian', then they will be told to go home and continue to celebrate all the 'freedoms' they have. They may even been forced to comply, since their desire to know the Truth can make pagans seeking the comfort of Lies - very uncomfortable.
And so instead of complaining about Pagans acting like pagans, I suggest that real Christians begin encouraging them to do just that. Encourage Pagans to STOP claiming to be a Christian when they neither act like Christ, nor follow His Laws. For after all, hanging out with, sharing the beliefs of, and copying Democrats will NOT make you a Republican. Eating donuts, sitting on your butt 24/7 and never moving will NOT make you an olympic athlete. And living in Spain, speaking Spanish and cheering the Spanish President will NOT make you a British citizen. So why is it so hard for us to understand that when you intentionally, deliberately and defiantly sin; when you deny Christ is God; when your actions loudly proclaim that you matter more than anything else - then you identify yourself as a child of that other god, the Pagan one who says such things are just fine - and definitely preferable to the views of that Kingdom he hates - the Christian one.
So let's begin to insist that our identities be true. Stop deceiving those who are seeking real Christian Resistance fighters to come and save them; and stop deceiving yourself. For after all, Pagan is - as Pagan does. And this is a good thing. Now we Christians know which ones need help.
Ashley and Susan
Two women asking the world to not just hope, but to Hope in Love.