From a guest contributor.

Will you recognize the face of Christ when you meet him?

Like many of you, I have been on a discernment journey working to improve my faith, deepen my spirituality and listen to the Lord so that I might become a better husband, father, friend, uncle, cousin…   and most importantly, an Apostle and someone who serves the Lord and his people.

I am “one of those cradle Catholics,” which as you know means – I know everything there is to know about our faith by virtue of my birth! As some of us have discussed recently, cradle Catholic is a term used to describe who we are. I wonder if it is a term we throw out in those conversations when asked why we are Catholic and we are not able to explain it as well as we would like or more often, we feel uncomfortable with the knowledge of our own faith. That is a discussion for another day.

As a lifelong Catholic, I was educated and raised in Catholic Schools from grade school through college. I go to Mass, I am a Knight of Columbus, lector, Eucharistic minister and serve in many other related church activities. In participating in these groups and activities, I surely thought I was walking the right path and following what the Lord wanted of me.

A good friend of mine once told me that life is a puzzle and that sometimes we don’t see the full picture of where we are going until there are enough pieces to give us perspective. Put another way, we finally awaken and listen to what the Lord is telling us and give our will over to Him. My Journey through the years has had many bends in the road and sometimes driving into ditches. For example: two job losses and four years of unemployment or under-employment. At first I saw these as just being part of life’s journey, but I can now see these are part of God’s will and my journey as he forms me out of the chaos of life. I can now say that he is tearing me down to build me back up to serve him, not as I envision it, rather as he wants me to while ensuring I do so with humility. It is now obvious to me that God has other plans and I need to get on board! If you had said to me when I arrived here that I would be where I am today openly walking in the Lord’s will and giving this talk, I would not have given you the doughnuts and coffee we enjoy here each week. I was just not one of those guys – religion and spirituality was an interior and private practice.

Clarity began to come to me one day sitting in a St. Vincent dePaul meeting. We reviewed that day’s reading of James chapter 2. While I encourage you to read and hear the words spoken to us, I will just paraphrase it here for brevity:

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?

So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Indeed someone might say, “You have faith and I have works. Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.”

See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

I went home in tears because for the first time I got it! I apologized to my wife and told her I was sorry for it taking me so long. It became clear to me at that moment, that the Catholic life I thought I was living was not the one I was called to – a life of compassion.

What is compassion? Compassion comes from the Latin words pati and cum, which together mean “to suffer with.” Recently I was reading Compassion by Henri Nouwen which alighted my journey bringing a new light and perspective for me on what compassion truly is.

As individuals, we often assume compassion is a natural response to human suffering. Who would not feel compassion for someone who is hungry, out of work, poor or living on the streets? I am willing to bet that we all see ourselves as being compassionate as part of who we are, or is it our view of what compassion is? If being compassionate is part of who we all are, why is there so much indifference and “it’s not my problem” attitude in the world today?

Perhaps our definition of compassion could use some examination. Henri Nouwen says “compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into places of pain to share in brokenness, fear, confusion and anguish. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, venerable with the vulnerable and powerless with the powerless.”

Compassion is not a core function to who we are nor is not primary thought in our lives. We have to learn it. As a general rule, I believe like many people that I developed methods which allowed me to stay a safe distance from any pain. The perspective we need to have should be based on the words of Jesus in Luke 6:36 “be merciful, just as your Father is merciful”. I offer this an example of a deeply held belief that through compassion, the richness of our humanity will be reached. Compassion as many scholars have articulated though the years goes against our grain and requires a total transformation of heart and mind: that God’s compassion for us should be the basis for our own compassion, that only by entering into discipleship can we understand the call to compassion as our loving God show us.

By making the effort to listen, offering consolation, visiting someone who is unemployed, in need or gravely ill – you will draw close to those people as you would do with your own family. You demonstrate solidarity with those individual’s in the same manner as God shows solidarity with us through his willingness to enter with us into and take up our problems, concerns and pain.

My compassion journey began to come to life watching a documentary film on the refugee camps and all of the people who are pushed to the fridges and ignored by society. What struck me at the time of the film and I later reflected on was “how they are us and we are them.” By this I mean: any one of us could be them without any effort through any number of circumstances – loss of job, birth place or parents. You were left with the pain of your heart which ached with every muscle in your body on where you start. What I have come to understand is to try not to be overwhelmed and simply do nothing, but rather start with one person at a time. While feeling this stirring of your heart and call to service, you at the same time feel like you might be in a place that was uncomfortable from where you had been previously. Yet, strangely enough, I found myself feeling comfort and warmth like this is where I was supposed to be at this time.

For some time now the theme of compassion kept coming back to me and somehow every week there seemed to be an interaction that involved some level of compassion whether at work or in a social setting that reinforced the feelings that began to swell within me. I have no doubt even several years ago I would have turned the other way when these types of circumstances arose. But now I have peace. I am to be in those moments when they occur. I feel God’s grace and love. Any fear or uncertainty I have seems to begin to melt away.

Such was the case the other day when a young man entered the church seeking assistance. He wasn’t quite sure of what assistance he was seeking but he knew having been a practicing Catholic once that he wanted to look for his way home. It became clear that he just needed someone to listen and help him walk through his issues and organize an approach. What he wanted was someone who would help him feel empowered to solve his own problems and not have someone hand him all the solutions. So he talked and I listened. Early in our conversation, I clearly received God’s grace with an almost innate sense that while I was a little uncomfortable from not handling this type of circumstance before, there was still a sense that I was supposed to be there for and helping him. What struck me the entire time that I was interacting with him was that he was there so I could be there. It was the question I posed earlier: will we know Christ when we meet him?

That we are called to compassion and works of charity in Christ’s name, and that in order to do so, we need to go to where people’s pain is to serve them. I felt for this young man and wanted nothing more than to help him. Helping then was just one of many experiences in a long line of experiences yet to come in being a servant. I also appreciate this journey and what it means to my spiritual growth and look forward to what I do not know. That while this involved uncertainty and fear of not doing it all right, at the same time this was where I was supposed to be helping that young man. I would not have been able to interact with him without God’s love and grace and the changes he is effecting in me and forming me in his will. A few years ago I would have found any excuse to walk away and now I feel like I need to walk towards those who are in need.

My prayer for all of us is that we see the face of Jesus in each other and that the Christ in us greets the Christ in them compassionately.

This piece was written by a friend at my parish in the Atlanta area. It was originally presented at our Friday Morning Men’s Fellowship (a/k/a “Men’s Group”) meeting.

The Narrow Gate

Guest contributor:   Ed Trego

“Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

Narrow Gate

As I look at the world today, it’s easy to understand Jesus’ warning above. So many want to believe, and would have others believe, that they are the chosen ones, the spiritual ones, God’s elect. However, many of them do not follow the path that Jesus has laid out before us. They refuse to accept the hardship and difficulty of finding the narrow gate. Even if they should stumble upon it, they lack the spiritual strength to enter through it.

Making it to church on Sunday and living the rest of the week for themselves is not the answer, yet many follow that pattern. They trot out their “Sunday Best,” not only in clothes, but also in spirituality, and then put their Christianity back in the closet with their suits and finery until the next Sunday. Some don’t even wait until Mass has ended to slip out the doors and get back to their own lives. If they can’t even devout one hour to God on Sunday, why should they expect that God will be welcoming them with open arms? What other relationship could grow and flourish if ignored the way many ignore their relationship with God? Imagine trying to sustain a marriage by devoting an hour a week to it and living the rest of the week selfishly and without concern for your spouse. Your marriage would fall apart very quickly. So will your relationship with God if you aren’t willing to devote the time necessary to make it grow and flourish.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:31-39)

Once again we are told that there will be difficulties to overcome if we are to follow Jesus. If we will only look around, we see that Jesus’ words are very true in many lives today. How many of us have relatives who refuse Christianity and live their lives in sin? How many of us have the courage to confront them? That’s what Jesus was telling us He came to do; to turn us against our own family if necessary in order to serve and follow Him. A very hard teaching that few put into practice. There used to be shame in our society. When someone chose to ignore morality and live in sin, there was a price to pay. Even their own families would shame them and, in some cases, refuse to consider them a part of their family as long as they continued to live in sin. That shame is practically non-existent in society today.

Jesus tells us that we must love Him more than our earthly family. Members of our family may turn from God. Our son or our daughter may live a sinful life. Our brother or sister may be living in a sinful relationship. If we truly love Jesus and wish to follow Him, we must be willing to confront those persons and, with great love and tenderness, gently point out their sinfulness.

Our family should also extend to those people with whom we associate and, in a larger sense, to society at large. Sadly, our society has reached a level of decadence that threatens all of us in its sinfulness. Acts that would have brought shame and the reproach of others are ignored, while those who truly practice their Christianity are under attack from every corner. Not a day goes by that we don’t hear or read of the death of an innocent at the hands of someone who simply has no regard for human life. Kids enter schools and kill other kids; children shoot total strangers out of boredom. Girls and women are drugged and raped and it’s passed off as “date rape” and almost snickered at rather than condemned. We have failed miserably to instill respect for others in our younger generation. If fact we’ve taught them that life isn’t sacred if it’s inconvenient. Through abortion and assisted suicide we’ve taught our children that an innocent in the womb or an elderly in a nursing home is of no value. They can be discarded along with the with the trash if they are an inconvenience. We offer no choice to the unborn; how long will it be until we no longer give the choice to the elderly or the infirm. Are we to decide whose life is of value and whose isn’t? We do not give life, God does. We have no right to take innocent life. It is our responsibility as Christians to combat the sinfulness and lack of morality so common in our society today. Jesus expects that of us if we are to be His followers. He also expects that we will experience some difficulty and even rejection by those we love when we confront these issues in a Christian way. The narrow gate is not for those who refuse to live their spirituality rather than just proclaim it.

“And behold, one came up to him, saying, ‘Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?’ And he said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.’ He said to him, ‘Which?’ And Jesus said, ‘You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The young man said to him, ‘All these I have observed; what do I do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure I heaven; and come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.

“And Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:16-24)

The gospel doesn’t tell us if the young man took Jesus’ advice and sold his possessions and came back to follow Him. However, this teaching again reminds us that following Jesus will have some difficulty and discomfort to overcome. What we hold most precious on earth can rob us of the true treasure of eternal life with God. We must be willing to sacrifice those blessings God has provided without thought to their earthly worth. If we refuse to be good stewards of the gifts of God, we risk losing salvation and eternal life as well.

Thankfully, Jesus also gave us the path to salvation, “When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished, saying, ‘Who then can be saved?’ But Jesus looked at them and said to them, ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 16:25-26). With the help of Jesus we can turn from our earthly wants and desires and seek those things that will bring us eternal life. But He is also telling us it is not possible without God. We can’t do it alone, we must have the grace, mercy and help of God.

The path, then, requires God’s intervention. If we consider our sinfulness and weakness as Christians, we must know that our salvation isn’t the result of our efforts, but of the mercy of God. Yes, we must do those things that our Christian beliefs would require; prayer, forgiveness; loving others; sharing the blessings we have received. But if we are to enter the kingdom of God, he must invite us through His loving mercy and forgiveness. We don’t have the cost of the ticket, Jesus had to pay that price for us. Only by the intervention of God can a camel “go through the eye of a needle.”

As we have seen, Jesus gave warning to all that the way to paradise is not going to be easy. It will be hard and difficult. Many will think they are headed in the right direction, but find out too late that they have gone through the wide gate that leads to destruction. Many will start down the right path, but turn away when the going gets hard. Still others will try their best to remain on the path to the narrow gate but won’t understand that they don’t have the strength to get through the gate. Without God, it isn’t possible. But with God all things are possible. Even though we are sinful humans, incapable of obtaining salvation on our own, that promise is offered if only we turn to God for his help.

Throughout Christian history many have said, and many today, continue to say they are following the path, but few truly are. “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.” (Matthew 7:21-23)

Jesus told us that those who find the narrow gate are few. Even those who work miracles in His name aren’t assured of heaven if they haven’t entered through the narrow gate. How can we know which gate we are approaching? Especially in the world today, the narrow gate is not only difficult to enter, it’s hard to even find. It’s hidden among the sinfulness and secularism prevalent in today’s society. Some might think it beyond the hope of anyone to find that gate and enter the kingdom through it.

Yet, in His teaching, His parables and the guidance given to His apostles Jesus leads the way to the narrow gate. He repeatedly points out the error of those who believe they are righteous, admonishing them to change their ways before it is too late. Some did, but many ignored the warnings and will spend eternity in hell rather than heaven. Today, also, some heed His word, believe what He said, and produce good fruit. Many would have the world believe they are the faithful, righteous followers of Christ, but they ignore His word in many ways and produce no fruit. These are the ones who will be cast aside on that judgment day.

Don’t think that you aren’t capable of finding the narrow gate. Don’t let anyone convince you that you can’t enter through it. Is it difficult? If we believe Jesus, the answer is yes. Is it impossible? Again, if we believe Jesus, no, it’s not impossible. We must strive to do our best while realizing that we will fail from time to time. We must recognize that we can’t earn our way into heaven, but must have the help of God to get there. He waits for us to ask; He waits to forgive us; He waits to welcome us into His kingdom.

“Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

The above meditation is a chapter from Ed’s new eBook “The Narrow Gate”. Available now for only $1.99 at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Smashwords.

The Narrow Gate: Introduction

The Narrow Gate

Guest contributor:   Ed Trego

We live in a society that is dependent on rapid transportation. Automobiles, trains, and airplanes carry us all over the world. If given the opportunity, we will almost always chose the fastest and easiest route to our destination.

Unfortunately we also tend to look for the path to heaven in the same manner. We want the high-speed eight lane interstate highway, not the two lane dirt road. However, if we believe what Jesus tells us, the highway may be the way to ruin and damnation. The dirt road, though more difficult to travel, may very well be the most direct route to heaven.

In Matthew, chapter seven, Jesus told his disciples that they would have to enter via the narrow gate. The wide, easily entered gate is the way to destruction. He also admonished them that the way that leads to life is hard and those who find it are few. That admonition is as applicable to us today as it was to the people of Jesus’ time. The way to God may not be easy, but it is well worth the journey.

My earlier book, Thoughts of God, focused primarily on the spiritual. This time I’ve tried to look more at the practical. Our society is on a road to destruction and we need to be aware of that fact in order to change our direction. God and faith have been pushed aside and are continuing to be removed from the public square. We must not allow our Christianity and our faith to be limited to our Churches and homes. Jesus told his apostles to “make disciples of all nations”. We too have that mission. It can’t be accomplished from behind closed doors.

Find the narrow gate and prayer for the courage and strength to enter through it. Share your faith with others that they too may find their way to heaven. May God bless you, protect you from evil, and lead you to eternal life.

Scriptural references in this book are taken from the Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition of the Holy Bible.

The above text is the Introduction from Ed Trego’s new eBook The Narrow Gate:

  1. The Narrow Gate
  2. Children of God
  3. Childlike Faith
  4. A Well Formed Conscience
  5. The Spirit Within
  6. The Potter and the Vase
  7. Seeking God’s Help
  8. Make Disciples of All Nations
  9. Believing Christ
  10. Christian Strength
  11. A Spiritual Relationship
  12. Against Evil
  13. Trust In God
  14. The Garden of Gethsemane
  15. Simplicity of Faith

This book will appear exclusively here on Convert Journal over the next 18 months, at a rate of 1 chapter (more or less) per month.

Why wait? Show Ed your support and enjoy the convenience of the eBook format. The Narrow Gate is available NOW for only $1.99 on Amazon and Smashwords. It will also be available soon from many additional fine publishers.

Our Father

Our Father

Guest contributor:   Bruce Margine

As I attended Stations of the Cross during Lent – and as I listened and watched Father walk from Station to Station in the Church – I was recalling a few years ago walking the actual way of the Cross in Jerusalem. I’ve tried, probably like never before to enter into a closer relationship with my God, my Lord and my Savior. I’d like to continue this journey and invite you to come along.

Throughout recorded Biblical History, God was called by many names. In the Hebrew Scripture, there are 7 major names given for God and many others. Names like: Elohim, Yhwh, and Adonai.

  • Elohim – in Hebrew it is plural proper noun, not singular and this name for God appeared first in the Book of Genesis, in the Creation Story, and by this name for God, Elohim, we are also presented with a glimpse of what later would be understood as the Trinity, yet to be revealed.
  • YHWH – translated, I AM WHO I AM. To the Ancient Jewish People and the most religious of the Jewish people today, it is the most sacred of God’s name, not to be uttered aloud. Instead they would say – HaShem, which means The Name. It is mysterious as God is mysterious and well beyond our human understanding. God revealed this name to Moses and one Jesus referenced to Himself during his earthly ministry, the Self Existent one.
  • ADONAI – In Hebrew it means Lord or Master.

The others are Jehovah Jireh – yir-eh’ (The Lord will Provide); Jehovah Shalom (The Lord is Peace); Jehovah Rohi – r oh h ee (The Lord is my Shephard) and El ShaddiaEl shah-DIE – (The Almighty God).

All these names define attributes of God. God’s power, God’s majesty. However, it was Jesus, who gave God a new name thereby presenting God in a totally different light, and with very different attributes in addition to those revealed in the Hebrew Scriptures. Jesus taught us to call God – Father. Throughout all of history, no god, lower case g or God, upper case G – is God ever referred to as Father until Jesus revealed this to us.

Across the Kindron Valley from the Old City of Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives lies a cave. Tradition has it that this cave area is where Jesus often taught his disciples and it has come to be known as the place where Jesus, as revealed by two of four Evangelists, Matthew and Luke, share with us Jesus’ teaching of how we should pray to God, the Lord’s Prayer, a prayer to Our Father. Since the 300 AD, various Churches have been erected and destroyed over this site. And, today, over this site of the cave sits a Church, Pater Nostra and inscribed on the walls inside and out, and in the outdoor garden is the Lord’s Prayer in over 60 different languages.

When I stood there and look to the West you look across the Kidron Valley back to Jerusalem and see Temple Mount within the ancient walls of the city prominent today with the Gold Dome of the Rock, one of the holiest sites in Islam. But in the time of Jesus and His disciples they would have clearly seen the Temple, the bellowing smoke from the continual burnt offerings of animals and birds by the Priests. While we don’t know for sure exactly where Jesus taught His disciples the Lord’s Prayer, standing there, I got a sense of, a strong feeling of the interconnection between Heaven and Earth, an eschatological bridge, if you will. My soul, my body, my life, my death, my judgment and the end time…

So, let me recommend that you please sit back, close your eyes, if you are comfortable doing that, and together let us reflect on the prayer and move beyond the words we just said together that Jesus taught us…

Our Father,

O Lord, You are our Father. You belong to all, even though there are times when I feel you are mine alone. We all feel that way, I suppose, it is the way a child feels toward his earthly father.

You have made us, and we belong to You – the Father, the Creator, the awesome Power of the universe. When we suffer, we cry to You to soothe our pain. When we know great joy, we turn to You in praise. When we seek advice, we share with You our secrets. And so, You are always the beginning of our prayer.

Who art in heaven,

Where is heaven, Lord? Is it above? When we were young, we were taught to look up when praying to You. Should we look elsewhere, Lord? Should we look around us to find heaven? Should we look within”

Heaven is where the saints and angels are, O, Lord, ready for You to send them to help us. We see the things You have made and therefore know where You have been and what You have touched. Heaven is with You, O Lord. I pray that I will always be close to You, until one day, by Your mercy, I join You – because I cannot imagine life without You.

Hallowed be Your Name,

“Praise the Name of the Lord, for it is good.” The psalmist has said it best. Your name is sacred, Lord, and should be uttered only with awe and reverence. When we consider something sacred, we hold it tenderly and dearly, close to our hearts. It becomes for us the most precious thing in the world… So is Your Name, Lord – most beautiful, most sacred, most sublime.

Your kingdom come,

Lord, one day this world with all its problems and difficulties will pass away, and all those who have lived will live again forever. A never ending day will dawn when there will be no sickness – or death – when evil will end forever.

On that day we will see things plainly and be in Your presence eternally. We cannot know when that day may be, Lord. Give us the grace to be ready when it comes.

Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,

Why is it so difficult to remember that You are in charge, Lord? You always have been and always will be. Why do we act as if we are in charge? What do we control that is of real significance? Do we control the elements? Can we make a blade of grass grow? Can we make the birds sing? Can we give life to an embryo, or take the soul into our hands when death beckons”

God, help me to put my life back into Your most capable hands. And when I pray, help me not to tell You what to do. Can I tell You how to run the universe? You know what is best. You know our needs even before we ask. Please forgive us when we forget this, O Lord.

Give us this day our daily bread.

Give us only what we need today, Lord. You, better than anyone else, know what we need at any given time. One day it may be bread itself, another day it might be the bread of spiritual nourishment satisfying our hungry soul like manna in the desert. One day we may need guidance, one day, compassion, but always we need Your love.

My daily bread is nothing without Your love, O Lord, for it is Your love that truly gives me life.

And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

How can we ask for Your forgiveness, Lord, if we cannot forgive others? Yet we do it all the time! We say, “Lord, please forgive the wrong I have done, I didn’t mean it, I will never do it again.” At the same time, however, we carry a grudge against someone who caused us pain. If You can forgive us, Lord, when we have caused You pain, why can we not forgive another”

You have told us that we must become like You – in every respect. There can be no room in heaven for those who cannot forgive. If we do not love, we are not Your disciples. Help us to learn, Lord, that forgiving is easier than hating and not forgiving. And Lord, as we forgive others, help us to forgive ourselves as well.

And lead is not into temptation,

It is all around us Lord – so much to turn us astray, so much to distract us, so much to lead us away from You. We know better than to follow these temptations, but sometimes we find it difficult to obey You. When temptations present themselves, we often wander off Your path. We are great justifies, finding excuses for our sins. We need strength, Lord, to keep to Your path. Shield me, I pray, from every temptation, that I may walk according to Your will and not my own.

But Deliver us from the evil one.

Evil does exist, Lord, I know, for I have seen its ugliness. I have seen how it can twist truth and deceive. I have witnessed how it destroys. Deliver me, O Lord, from the snares of such a horrific spirit. Enter my soul, Lord, for You alone are invited to dwell within me. I am Yours, Lord, and on bended knee I ask You to remain with me. Guard my soul as Your Angel guarded the entrance to the Garden of Eden. Stand at the end of the road so that I may see Your Light and not fear the darkness that surrounds me. Evil can flourish only when we fail to listen to You, when we hear the evil one instead. But deliver me from him, O Lord, now and always – and especially when I leave this world, that I may be delivered straight to You, O Loving and Holy and All-forgiving Father.

For Yours is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory

The only true kingdom is Your Kingdom. You are the Power, the Energy, the Life Force. It is because of You all Creation lives and breathes. We humbly kneel before You, our God, for all the glory we could possibly ever offer is Yours. “The heavens declare Your glory,” and so do we, dear God.

Now and forever…

“Forever” is a concept impossible for us to comprehend, Lord. We can grasp only the finite. For us, all things must end, but not for You. You were, are and always will be. How awesome as thought! You are eternal and give each of us the opportunity to spend eternity with You. Help me to remember that the steps to eternity begin now. And guide my footsteps, O, Lord, that day by day I may follow the path that leads to You.

And now, my brothers and sisters, we end our prayer with our affirmation, our declaration, our solemn ratification by praying together – Amen



Guest contributor:   Ed Trego

One of the most well-known parables of Jesus is the parable of the prodigal son. It is a remarkable story of forgiveness and acceptance that we all should better understand. God’s love for us knows no limits and his forgiveness is always available and will be readily given when properly asked for. To help appreciate the grace God offers us through forgiveness, let’s look at this parable in some detail. The parable can be found in Luke, chapter 15, verses 11 through 15. It’s not very long but the depth and beauty of this story and its meaning for us today is vital for our understanding of God’s love for us and his desire to keep us a part of his family.

“There was a man who had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.’ And he divided his living between them”.

By asking for his inheritance this young man was in essence saying “I wish you were dead”. Under normal circumstances, the father’s death would be the only way the son would receive his inheritance. But the father agreed and divided his wealth, giving the son his share.

Don’t we turn our back on God in our lives as well? While we might not wish him dead, we certainly wish he would get out of our lives at times. The way we live our lives sometimes says thank you for your blessings but I’ll use them as I see fit for my own enjoyment. When we turn from God and commit serious sin, we are “killing” our relationship with God. At that point we have willingly told God to leave our presence.

“Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living.”

We too take the gifts of the father and use them foolishly and wastefully, just as this young man did with his inheritance.

In our society today, those who try to live their lives in recognition of God and the many blessings he has given are looked upon as odd or as a religious fanatic. We are taught by our television, movies, books and examples of supposed heroes that we should “just do it”. Marriage and the covenantal relationship between a man and a woman are one of God’s greatest gifts, but when was the last time you saw a new television series that exemplified a stable family relationship? In far too many cases the relationships that are depicted are adulterous and promiscuous with absolutely no evidence of marriage or fidelity. In fact, in the few cases where a character is recognized as have a moral attitude toward promiscuity and pre-marital sex that person is derided and ridiculed as old-fashioned or just plain stupid.

The same applies in the sports world. There are those who are blessed with athletic abilities far beyond most of us. However, it seems they have no understanding that their abilities are gifts from God. Those who are successful are routinely found to have had numerous affairs while married. In many cases they have violent interactions in their relationships and seem to think they are above the rules simply because they have the talents given by God that have enabled them to be extremely successful. Again, in the few cases where one tries to recognize and thank God for his many gifts, they are seen as out of the mainstream. In many cases they are laughed at and made fun of not only by other players but also the media that covers sports and all the depravity endemic to that profession.

“And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything.”

It always seems friends are easy to come by when one has plenty of money and is willing to share it. There are numerous accounts of people who were quite wealthy and readily shared their wealth. They buy cars, homes, and all the newest “toys”, not only for themselves but for all of their supposed friends.Eventually, the money will run out in a lifestyle such as that. When this occurs the friends also run out. You see stories of these people living on food stamps, or homeless, or working in menial jobs such as the one the son in the parable found. Even some of the greatest of professional athletes spend their final years in such a state. They spent their gifts and the money those gifts provided foolishly and wastefully. Once it was gone, all those who supposedly cared for them left them alone and in crisis.

It’s worth noting that the young man was sent to feed the swine. As an Israelite this would have been virtually the worst possible experience. He was continuously unclean because of his proximity to pigs, which were an unclean animal that was not to be touched by the Israelites. Not only was he starving he was completely separated from his own people and his religion.

“But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; treat me as one of your hired hands.'”

How far we fall when we fail to recognize our relationship with God and the tremendous debt we owe him. The young man finally realized his errors and decided to try to change his life. He recognized that he did not deserve the love or benevolence of his father but was willing to be a servant to him. We too have sinned against heaven and before God. We too are unworthy to be called a son by our Father in heaven. We too have lived our lives in such a way as to estrange ourselves from God. Yet God waits with open arms to receive us back into his family, regardless of our sins. We, like the young man, must recognize our faults and sins and truly repent of them. Once we realize how broken our relationship with God is, we can mend it and again become part of God’s family.

“And he arose and came home to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you: I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’

It is noteworthy that the father saw the son returning while he was still far away. He had been watching for him, hoping that he would return. And he was ready to forgive him and accept him as his son once more. If fact, he was eager to reclaim his son and welcome him back into his family.

By the grace of God and the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus, we also have the opportunity to experience a home-coming such as this. God is waiting for us with arms open wide, ready to welcome us home. All we need do is acknowledge our sins, and reject them in earnest sorrow and repentance.

“Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:7). The choice is ours. God is there, waiting for us to return home. He too will celebrate our return just as the father in the parable celebrated his son’s return.

The above meditation is a chapter from Ed’s new eBook “Thoughts of God”. Only $1.99 on Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, Sony and other fine publishers.