Only Four Words

Someone recently challenged others on one of the social media sites I follow: “Tell me a sad story, using only four words.”

Some responses were quite humorous, like, “I’m out of chocolate,” and “We have no bacon.” And I agree. Those are very sad stories, especially the one about being out of chocolate. But one four-word story immediately resonated with me because of its sober truth:

“They Died Without Jesus.”

And I suddenly knew what I would preach about on the following Sunday. You can read the entire text here:

Or you can listen to this message here:

I love looking at the crucifix in our church during Mass. It always reminds me of what Jesus did for me – for each of us.

In every Catholic Church my wife and I have ever attended, the crucifix is always high and lift it up. As if should be.

I thought of the crucifix this morning as I read what Jesus said to His disciples in John 12:32 – “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”

I know everyone reading this knows what I am about to say to be true, but from time to time I find myself needing a reminder. Perhaps some of you at times also need a reminder: The Lord did not say if we lift up His church, He will draw all men to myself. He did not say if we lift up any person who has ever lived, He will draw all to Himself.

He said if we lift HIM up, He will draw all to Himself.

No wonder Saint Paul wrote to the Christians at Corinth: “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2)

My brothers and sisters who love Jesus, please let us remember to always lift up Jesus, not the church. Jesus and none other. Jesus and Him alone.

And He will draw all people to Himself.

If you have seen S2E5 of The Chosen where the writers have Mary Magdalene backslide, and the scene upsets you because you think it could never have happened to her, please watch this response by Dallas:

Feel free to share with those who might need to read it:
It was Augustine who wisely wrote, “God has made us for Himself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Him.”

If you have no desire to know God, and your heart is not restless, then you have good reason to worry. You might have said, ‘No” to God so often that your heart is become so hard until it cannot feel restless, just as a rock cannot feel rest or unrest.

But there IS a remedy. Be honest with God. Humble yourself and cry out to Him for mercy to open your eyes, to soften your heart . . .

Before it is too late to do so.

When God Seems Silent
The focus of my message today is the question many Christians ask from time to time, “Why does God sometimes seem so silent when we are so desperately in need?”

No Christian hearing my voice or reading these words has not at one time or another tried to wrap their minds around God’s apparent silence in the face of bone-shattering tragedy.

There’s no end to the horrible things that CAN go wrong and DO go wrong in life. And like Job, who in one fell-swoop, lost his ten children, his wealth, and his health, we melt into a pile of mournful depression, wondering why God is treating us so.

You can read the full text
Or you can listen to it here:

Part two of two
"You spoke from Exodus 3:14 and we thought you said God is eternally existent AND His creation is eternally existent – like atoms in molecules. We thought you also said that because creation is eternal, that means that creation is part of God. That idea seems odd to us, so we hope you can clarify what you said to help us understand your point. Thank you. We are sorry to bother you. We know you are very busy.”
A short time later, he responded evasively: “Hi Richard, Thanks for your question. I suggest that you take what helps your faith. What don’t [sic] help just ignore and don’t dwell on it. My reflection on the readings is to make you meditate and pray. What is not helpful, please don’t pay attention.”

I then replied by email: “But Father, what you said sounds like Hinduism— that all creation is part of God(?)(!)”

He did not respond. I do not expect him to respond. His theological heresy ought to be apparent to every Catholic who searches the Scriptures. Surely, he does not need reminder that the gospels never say creation is part of God. The epistles never say creation is part of God. The Nicene Creed and the whole of Church teaching clearly tell the faithful that creation was CREATED by God. It is NOT part of God. Every molecule of creation was created by God and put together by God and is held together by God. (e.g. Genesis 1:1; Colossians 1:15-17).

“I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, MAKER OF heaven and earth, of ALL things visible and invisible.” A few sentences later the Creed continues about Jesus, “Through Him ALL THINGS WERE MADE.” (Part of the Nicene Creed)

“All things” includes the universe. It includes all matter and all energy. It includes atoms and protons and neutrons and electrons. Creation is NOT co-eternal with God! Creation is NOT PART of God. God CREATED it all.

What is happening to my church? And Oh, God! Save us from liars and Judases and Balaams who are growing increasingly bold in their false teaching.

Part one of two parts:
What is HAPPENING to my Church? I am increasingly heartbroken as I watch with my own eyes its disintegration into apostasy.

I won’t even bring up Pope Francis’ welcoming the Mother Earth idol into the Vatican last year. Nor will I mention how the God-honoring priest, Fr. James Altman of Wisconsin ran afoul of his Catholic hierarchy for daring to proclaim politically incorrect truth to his congregation.

But Nancy and I have in the last few months, personally experienced such egregious heresy from the pulpit that I find myself fighting a growing depression.

A few months ago, while Nancy and I watched Mass on our television, a priest from a Catholic Church in Cumming, GA told his congregation, “God doesn’t care if you’re gay or straight.”

Really? Is he serious?

When I sent him an email asking for clarification, I received a response from the office inviting us to meet with the priest if we have any concerns.

Concerns? Was he simply unwilling to put into writing what he meant by his abominable statement?

And then recently, my wife and I attended a weekday Mass at our former church in Johns Creek, GA. As we listened the priest’s homily, we heard him say several times -- as if to emphasize the point -- that God is eternally existent, AND that Creation is also eternally existent. We understood him to also say that EVERYTHING in creation is PART OF the eternally existent God.

Uhhh, excuse me. How do you spell Pantheism? Or Hinduism?

Not able to believe our ears, I sent him this email (below), begging for clarification. I tried to be tactful and respectful and to give him the benefit of the doubt. Surely, we must have misunderstood him:
“Good morning, Father. Nancy and I are confused about something we thought you said during your homily yesterday (Thursday).
-- Continued to part two

The song, “I Did it My Way” has got to be among the most spiritually deadening songs ever performed. Its lyrics form the basis of my message today, titled, “My way, or God’s way?” Such is the question that ancient Israel faced. Such is the question you and I face today.

You can listen to my message here:

Or you can read it here:

Do you have a working knowledge of Scripture? And do you have a desire to share that knowledge with others – especially the elderly in nursing homes and 55+ communities?

Just think how YOU would feel if you were living in such a place and unable to attend your church. Think how much you would appreciate someone who loves Jesus coming to your facility each week to share the Scriptures with them.

I have been teaching in those environments for many years and I have reasonably robust outlines for each of those studies on my hard drive.

I will gladly and freely provide you those outlines. You can adapt them to your own situations. I have done much of the work for you already. All you would need to do is read through the outline and the accompanying Bible texts, and then add or remove anything you feel necessary for your situation.

Let me know if you are interested.

Part two of two

Christian, God has considered you worthy to be ENTRUSTED with a message infinitely greater than the greatest treasure of silver and gold. And while it is true that He does not expect every Christian to be an apostle Paul, He does expect us to invest in His work whatever time, talents and treasures He has given us – whether little or much.

Look around! Night is fast approaching when no one will be able to easily work for Him. That’s why today – the very day you read this – today is the day to keep doing what God calls every Christian to do. And what is that? Telling all who want to hear God’s truth about forgiveness of sins, of eternal life in Christ alone, and of the final judgment. And we do so, not seeking to please people, but only God who examines our heart.

Part one of two:

As I read through 1 Thessalonians this morning, I came across this text: “But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.” (1 Thessalonians 2:4)

I understand St. Paul was referring here to himself and his compatriots who joined him in spreading the good news of Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection to everyone who had ears to hear.

But I think it does no injustice to the text to change the first-person plural ‘we’ to the first-person singular ‘I’. Therefore, this verse could just as well read: “But just as I have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so I speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines my heart.”

Reading Paul’s text in that way is not at all unlike the message of the Talents in Matthew 25:

“For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.” (25:14-18)

If you remember the story, you know it went well for those who wisely used whatever their master gave them – whether little or much. But it went very badly for the lazy slave who simply buried what his master had given him.

The point?

continued to part two

It ought to anger every Christian of EVERY church -- Catholic and Protestant and whatever else they call themselves -- it ought to make our blood boil when we witness so many 'religious' people in the pews and pulpits waste their lives and talents trying to PROVE everyone else is wrong who goes to a different church.

I do not doubt we will all have to answer to God about why we did not use our precious few moments of life and our quickly waning energies to encourage each other to fight the REAL enemy who no longer surrounds us, but has broken through the doors of our house and is now inside, ravaging our families and our communities.

I have such a hard time biting my tongue (as they say) to keep from screaming at 'religious' people in pews and pulpits who have become unwitting pawns in Satan's growing army.

"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!" (Psalm 133:1)

"Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all." (Ephesians 4:1-6)

I want to focus on a crucial truth found in Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

I love the phrase in this verse: ‘God Causes.’ It should always remind us that the Almighty Sovereign Creator of all things visible and invisible – the One who by His own authority and power physically holds all things in place and together – this is the One who causes all things to work out for GOOD.

How does He do that, even with evil? I have no idea. No one does. But we know He does and WILL cause even evil to work for good because – well, because He is God, and because He said He would.

You can read the entire message here:

Or listen to it here:

Part two of two parts:

To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God (2:7)

He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death (2:11)

He who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna . . . . (2:17)

He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations (2:26)

He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life . . . (3:5)

He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore . . .. (3:12)

He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. (3:21)

If these exhortations to the Christians in these churches should teach me anything, they should teach me to never be presumptuous about my ability to drink whatever cup the Lord deems necessary to give me.

Know it or not, like it or not, we are in a deadly spiritual battle against a supernatural and terribly lethal enemy. We only come to Christ, stand with Christ, and OVERCOME for Christ by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Any other way – any other way – is doomed to failure in much the same way as James and John failed in the Garden of Gethsemane when they fled in fear for their lives.

And it will do us all well to heed the message of these lyrics rooted in Scripture:

“A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; our helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing. For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe; his craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal.”

“Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing, were not the Right Man on our side, the Man of God's own choosing. Dost ask who That may be? Christ Jesus, it is He; Lord Sabaoth, His name, from age to age the same, and He must win the battle.”

Part one of two parts:

I paused this morning after I reads this text in Matthew’s gospel:

“Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him. And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She *said to Him, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to Him, “We are able.” He said to them, “My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.” (Matthew 20:22-23)

The two brothers thought they’d be able to drink the same cup as the Lord would drink. They didn’t know how bitter His cup was. How could they? Indeed, how can any of us know the kind of cup we might have to drink in our future?

Perhaps that’s a reason the Lord Jesus warned the Christians in the churches of Revelation about ‘overcoming:’

continued to part two

Do you ever get to thinking you’re NEVER gonna be able to make it to heaven because you’re just not able to keep on that straight and narrow road?

Well, I have some good news and some bad news for you. First, the bad news: You’re right. You’ll never make it to heaven on your own religious efforts. Never. Ever. In fact, God made it impossible to do so (e.g. Ephesians 2:8-9).

So, you may as well give up trying to pull yourself up by your own proverbial bootstraps. Doing so will continue to be nothing more than a frustrating waste of time.

That was the bad news.

Now the good news: What we can never do, God Himself will do. For example, here is His promise through St. Jude:

“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 24-25)

Listen! It’s all about God’s work in those who WANT God to work in their lives. And He WILL complete His work in them until the day He brings them home (see Philippians 2:13 and 1:6).

Yes, every penitent man and woman has His promise that He will not only keep them from stumbling who WANT to keep from stumbling, but He will also make them stand BLAMELESS in His presence at the Judgment.

I don’t think there is any better news than that!

Part two of two:

(St. Augustine): “While he is in the flesh, man cannot help but have at least some light sins. But do not despise these sins which we call "light": if you take them for light when you weigh them, tremble when you count them. A number of light objects makes a great mass; a number of drops fills a river; a number of grains makes a heap.”

Hear also St. Teresa of Avila: “. . . [H]ave such a fixed determination not to offend the Lord that you would rather lose a thousand lives, and be persecuted by the whole world, than commit one venial sin.”

And St Francis of Assisi: “Had I committed but one little sin I would have ample reason to repent of it for the rest of my life.”

The mature Christian, the one who sincerely desires to live a holy lifestyle before a holy God, will daily seek the Holy Spirit’s light to shine on his or her sins so those sins can be confessed and turned from.

No one wants to be woefully surprised at the Judgment. It will not have mattered on that final day how often we attended Mass, or how often received holy Communion, or how much money we have given to the Church and to her work.

What will matter to God is how we sought to live a holy life and lifestyle. Routine confession and repentance of sin – the big ones and the little ones – will help ensure we are not cast away from His holy Presence.

Part one of two:

Here is a warning by the Lord Jesus that no one should gloss over:

“And He was passing through from one city and village to another, teaching, and proceeding on His way to Jerusalem. 23 And someone said to Him, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” And He said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets’; 27 and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; depart from Me, all you evildoers.’ 28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out.” (Luke 13:22-28)

Hardly a time goes by when I read this text that I don’t wonder how it can be that some who faithfully attend Mass or worship services, and who even routinely receive Holy Communion, how they can be so surprised at the Judgment when they are cast away from the Lord.

But the more I reflect on that text and on my question, the more unlikely I think it will be for anyone to be surprised at the judgment IF – IF they have purposely sought the Holy Spirit to open their eyes to their sins.

Certainly, we want to know about our ‘big’ sins, but we should never gloss over the ones WE consider ‘little. And to simply make a general confession to God along the lines of, “I have sinned in what I have done and what I have failed to do” – and not actually NAME those sins – is to risk sliding into a nonchalance about those sins.

Listen to St Augustine on the subject . . . (Continued to part two)

The concept of linear ‘time’ is a construct created by the One who is not subject to what He created. He exists outside of time where there is no past, or future. Eternity is always the eternal present.

As impossible as it is for us who are trapped in time to comprehend the timelessness of eternity, the apostle Paul nevertheless seemed to have had every expectation to be with Jesus immediately upon his death. Here is what he tells the Christians at Corinth:

“For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked . . . Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight— we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. ” 2 Corinthians 5:1-8

He repeats himself to the Christians at Philippi: For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Philippians 1:21-24

And to Timothy: “As for me . . .the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8, NRVCE)

So, my point? The apostle expected to be immediately in God‘s presence when he died.

What about you? What do you expect about yourself when you die – and why?

The spirit of Judas has been spreading like a deadly cancer through the Catholic Church for some time now. So what these 'bishops' have done is no surprise to me. What IS a surprise to me is why faithful Catholics in the pew still support these Judases with their God-given finances.

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