Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Abortion and Seventh-day Adventists

If you follow me here at this blog, you will know that I converted to Catholicism after leaving the Adventist church. 

I grew up in a wonderful Seventh-day Adventist family. (My testimony can be seen here.) Once I was married and pregnant with my first child, I realized that my beloved church was pro-choice. For twenty years I tried so hard to stir up the Adventist people, who by-in-large are pro-life, to stand up to the General Conference and change the church's stand from pro-choice to pro-life. I was completely unsuccessful and the abortion question was one of the reasons I awoke and started studying other SDA doctrine. Which led to my departure. 

Adventists claim to be the sole remnant of Revelation 14:12 because they alone among the denominations still keep the entire Ten Commandments. Which means to an Adventist that they alone still keep the true Sabbath and everyone else worships on Sunday.  

And yet, I had to finally admit, Adventists do not keep all ten. In fact, the church is pro-choice and some of their hospitals do abortion-on-demand. So Adventists actually teach only that we have to keep nine of the ten. (Ignoring the "thou shalt not kill.") Exactly what they say boots other denominations out of the remnant-hood. So the SDA church is in reality no different than any other church--just keeping nine of the ten, making us all even, right? Their pro-choice stance undermines all authority and all possibility that they are the remnant. 

That is the background of why I am posting this video on a Catholic blog. Because I know many Adventists read this and Catholics need to realize what is going on within the SDA church.

I applaud this young Adventist for his passionate love for the SDA church and his prophetic voice to them. I hope every Adventist will watch this and fight to reverse the SDA church's stand on abortion and once again protect human life. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Equality, Tobit, and the Creation of the Canon


From Gutenberg's 1611 King James Bible




The page after the book of Nehemiah is where things get exciting for me now that I am a Catholic. Whereas, I have read all the Old Testament Protestant books dozens of time, now I open a new page on a relatively new book for me. Where the book of Esther used to be, now I get to read Tobit. The Catholic and Protestant Bibles re-converge again at Esther, we just take a little side trip into Tobit and Judith. And it is an amazing story—with angels, miracles, romance and a happy ending,  not to mention quite an insight into the Jewish mind while in captivity in Ninevah.

Tobit is weird, yes, but not any weirder than books and passages in the Torah/Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible.) And these deuterocanonical books are now favorites among my family. My
husband, Arthur, is nuts about the heroes and war scenes in the Maccabees, my daughter loves the story of the heroine, Judith.

But me, I love the story of the making of the canon. How did they choose what books will be in scripture? Why did the Protestants take out seven books of the Bible? I went all over Europe and the East Coast hunting down early manuscripts of the Bible just to verify for myself—see with my own eyes that the earliest Bibles included some or all of these books. So, here are some insights I discovered—that almost everyone else in history both Jew and Christian have known—but I got to rediscover with my own eyes. 

(Now all you have to do is go online to these ancient manuscripts and see them for yourself. Here's one of the earliest known Bibles, the Codex Sinaiticus from the fourth century. The link is to the direct page of The Book of Tobit.)

Book of Tobit from AD 1240 Manuscript

ALL BOOKS ARE CREATED EQUAL?


With our American "equality" perspective on everything, we don't realize that the Jews had, and still have, a hierarchy for Biblical books. Not all books were considered equally holy, equally important or equally inspired by God. The Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) were considered virtually the holiest scriptures. They were the Holy of Holies in the Bible in that after a priest touched their scrolls, he had to wash his hands because they had been "defiled" by the physical holiness of the pages. (Defiled was a term that had no derogatory understanding to the priests. The holiness of these texts was not symbolic, but they felt the pages radiated sacredness in a way that came off onto your hands like actual radiation.)


Next in importance were the books written by the prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel. This is what was meant by the phrase, "the law and the prophets." (Jesus would often call scriptures, "the law, the prophets and the psalms.")

Finally the Psalms and other genres of books such as the wisdom (Ecclesiastes, Proverbs) or apocalyptic such as Daniel. 


However, again, the holiest books were in the Torah (law) and next—the prophets. The other books such as the Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Lamentations, were not the main scriptures for Israel and had a lesser status.

For Israel, there was no such thing as a Bible bound all together. They had individual scrolls that either contained one or more (if short) books they considered holy. Only after the time of Christ did the Jews decide exactly what books should be in their canon (the list of "official" holy books to the Jews.) Until then their were some differences, not just in the translation, but of the books themselves. The Samaritan of Northern Israel had a different set of scrolls they considered sacred than those who lived in Jerusalem. The Israelites living in Ethiopia and in Babylon had a different set of scriptures. 


Also, when Jesus was on earth, there were differing translations of the scriptures (just as there are now.)

Note: It is interesting that we can know which translation Jesus used when he quoted scriptures because there were several. Just like today we can know someone is using the King James Version (with the thees and thous) rather than the Message Bible because of the wording. 


Rembrandt's Tobit's eyes being healed

SEPTUAGINT

Which brings me to the Greek set of Old Testament scriptures.

In the third century, before Christ was born as a babe to save us from our sins, there was a very large group of Jews living in Egypt and Greek king Ptolemy II wanted the Hebrew Bible included in his library in Alexandria, so he sponsored seventy-two Hebrew scholars to translate the Torah into
From Book of Tobit Manuscript
Greek. Over the next couple centuries, the other Hebrew holy books were translated including Tobit, Judith, Baruch, Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom, I and II Maccabees. So, this became the Greek canon of scripture. 

In first century there were at least five different Hebrew canons (differing books) in different areas in the world. Because in Jerusalem Israel spoke Aramaic, the Greek Septuagint was the main translation used by the common people. 

During Christ's ministry, it was easy to distinguish which one of these scriptures Jesus was quoting from in the same way we would be able to identify if someone was reading from the King James Version (with its thees and thous) and The Message Bible. Protestant, Orthodox, Coptic and Catholic scholars are in agreement and certain that out of Jesus 350 quotes from the Old Testament, 300 were from the Greek Septuagint version. So Christ used the Greek canon that included these seven books which 1600 years later the Protestants would remove.

But I digress, my point is that the reason there were so many differing canons of Hebrew scripture at the time of Christ is that there was a hierarchy of inspiration. The Torah was the essential. The Torah were the scrolls most
protected and copied for use in the synagogues. The prophets, both major and minor were of secondary importance. Each Israelite settlement and late Jewish area might only be able to procure a few scrolls and therefore their particular "canon" didn't include what others did. Yet, not matter what they would spare no expense to have a copy of the Torah. For the synagogue was build around the study of the Torah--although they would study other sacred scrolls if they could procure them.

Historically, Christians made the same distinction with the New Testament scriptures as the Hebrews did for the Old Testament. The four gospels were equivalent in Christian minds to the Hebrew Torah. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were considered the primary and most inspired texts in the Christian canon. It was not until the fourth century after Christ that the four gospels joined the writings of the Apostles and their scribes to form the New Testament. (And that was the same time the Old and New Testaments came together in a book called The Bible. Three hundred years after Christ died!)

Tobit in Renaissance painting
Many Protestants, who are not aware of the distinction in inspiration of scriptures, tend to misunderstand these Deuterocanonical books (Protestants call them Apocrypha.) Catholics readily admit that these seven books do not have the same holiness and inspiration as does the gospels, just as Israel readily admits that different books of the Old Testament do not equal in inspiration. We read all the books of the Bible differently. Some are praise (Psalms), some are poetic (Song of Solomon) and some are prophetic (Revelation).

I think if Protestants understood how Israel and Christians have historically understood the canon of scripture, there would be less anxiety about these differences in our canon.

These books have been holy scripture to the vast majority of God's people throughout history. They are just as much a part of the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God as any other book. But... they are not as high on the hierarchy. Tobit is not equal to any of the gospels. 

Tobit having his blindness healed








 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

MISSION VATICAN--my new book is published!


For the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation

After almost a decade of research and writing that took me on a pilgrimage across Europe for six months, the first book of my Mission trilogy, Mission Vatican has finally been published! 

Please take a moment to watch the book trailers below and share them! Then go to Amazon.com at MISSION VATICAN and purchase the exciting book! It is also available on Kindle. 

Thank you!
Teresa Beem



For a little fun: 



Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Then Ten Commandments of Marriage




THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF MARRIAGE

By Arthur and Teresa Beem

We have a large family by today's standards. With our own children, plus many nephews and nieces that have recently married and more who will become married in the next few years, I thought I would hand off some advice to them and their potential spouses. After all, my husband, Arthur and I began dating in 1979 and married in 1984 and so we have learned some things about how to be happily married.

WHAT IS MARRIAGE?

As crazy as it may seem to ask that question; in today's world, it is time to go back to the basics and review what marriage actually is and what God established it for. Marriage isn't just nature working itself out. It is so much more. In fact, God told us that marriage is a profound and great mystery. God infused marriage and the family with deep symbolism that foreshadow and prophesy of who God is. The triune man, woman and child express the relationship between God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Marriage reflects the Trinity. God wanted us to learn of Him through His crowning creation of the family.

But the layers of meaning in marriage go much deeper. Marriage is a symbol of Christ and His Church. The man represents God and the woman represents His Church. Just as Christ and His Church are one flesh, the church being His Body on earth, so a man is to be one flesh with his wife. She is his body. Whole books have been written on just this very topic and the mystery of marriage is profound.

Marriage is a sacrament. That is, God instituted marriage in order to help man grow in perfection. When two Christians are joined together by God in Holy Matrimony, there is special grace given to them; marriage infuses divine graces that actually propel those people into righteousness. The selfless, sacrificial demands of marriage take us out of our narcissistic self-centeredness and through love we are to give ourselves fully to another person. Holy Matrimony is God's gift to His people draw us into and lead us to the perfection. And each spouse's first duty is to see that, through loving sacrifice and daily encouragement, their spouse makes it to heaven. That is one of the purposes of this eternal, monogamous institution. Marriage is supposed to be a saint-maker. But that vital truth has been lost in our culture of pursuing personal happiness.

Man is told to make a kingdom on earth to reflect the Kingdom of Heaven.
Into marriage, this amazing reflection of God's unity and love, something miraculous happens. Within the marital embrace, we become most like Him. From this holy union, immortal life springs! If we have the wealth to build civilizations; if we build monuments that will stand for thousands of years to honor us, there is nothing a human can achieve on earth that comes close to the divine miracle of creating a human not only in our own likeness, but in the likeness of God! Our Christian children—those precious souls who will never die, who are destined to rule heaven as kings and queens—that God privileges us to be born from our own bodies, are brought into the world through the us to form a little trinity. Life! The ultimate joy and design of marriage shows us in a very real sense who God is and His love for us.

Satan's final attack on humans will be to utterly destroy the family—man, woman and child—for it most represents the Trinity in heaven.

Create your Kingdom and bring the Kingdom of God to earth.

PREPARING FOR MARRIAGE

Statistically, almost everyone gets married, so everyone needs to be preparing for this way before they are old enough to date. Historically, all known cultures and civilizations used to prepare their children for marriage and families, but today we just assume it happens naturally. Tragically, parents focus their time and resources on preparing our children to make money instead of preparing them for something vastly more important.  

Parents: No matter how wild and irresponsible you were before marriage, you need to step up and start expecting more from your own children. No need to just assume that your child's behavior will inevitably be like yours. You are to have the courage, as parents, to be the giant shoulders your children will stand on. Don't curse your children to make the same mistakes you did. Teach your children to be faithful to the spouse they will eventually meet. Explain to them that one day they will stand before someone they love with all their hearts. They will at one point find someone they will make the vow to be faithful to them until "death do us part." 

Single people: There is no joy on earth like giving yourself to your spouse fully, without regret of having slept with anyone else. The greatest gift you could ever give your husband or wife is to have been faithful to them sexually before you ever met them. In our Sodom and Gomorrah culture of lasciviousness and wanton self-gratification, we do not see the vital need of keeping oneself for one's spouse. But if you are young, I urge you to pray and think about this important topic carefully. Be courageous. Be a hero to the one you will one day love.

NOTE FOR DISILLUSIONED NEWLY WEDS

One last note before we begin the Ten Commandments of marriage. I have often heard people make the grievous statement, "I think I married the wrong person." If you both are Christians, that is utterly impossible. God would never join in a holy commitment of marriage two people who He would not give the grace to be the perfect mate. Never even allow that thought to come into your head. You did not marry the wrong person. You have come up to a situation in which marriage has greatly wounded you or you feel betrayed or disillusioned. Grab your beloved and pray. Rededicate your hearts and souls and minds to God and start anew, no matter how painful or hopeless the situation. Do not despair. God has given our us marriage to heal our wounded and sinful souls. Now is the time to grasp God's promise that nothing is impossible for Him. Time for the battle of prayer to release yourself and your spouse from the grip of sin.


TEN COMMANDMENTS OF MARRIAGE

10) THOU SHALT SLOW DOWN AND THINK

The bad news: marriage doesn't happen naturally and is hard work. The good news: the hard work can be fun and rewarding like climbing a mountain or getting to the Olympics or writing a novel or going on vacation. It is so worth the time, effort and sacrifice.


Take time everyday to think—not just about your marriage—about important things. Think about how to be a better person, how to be a better Christian, how your home can work better and how to be a better spouse.

Caution: Often in this step of thinking, newly-married people focus on how their spouse can change to make their lives happier. As you mature in Christ, you will focus less on how others can make you happy and begin to realize that you will only find lasting joy through giving joy to your spouse. Jimmy Durante had a song that helped remind me of this, "Make Someone Happy."
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_AQMaqDLtg)

Also, when you sit down to think, try and discover how your husband or wife sees a situation. Try to see things through their perspective. And ask God to give you wisdom so that you can see better how to make your marriage glorify Him and be a blessing not only to the two of you and your children, but be a witness to the world of the relationship of Christ and His Church.

We live in a world that is glutted with entertainment and noise. Take time daily to meditate and think where it is quiet. It will make your marriage better.

9) THOU SHALT KEEP THE FESTIVALS

Just as the church has liturgical seasons, such as Easter, where we are commanded by God to rejoice and celebrate, marriage needs these too! Find out what you both enjoy doing and do it often. It doesn't have to be expensive: cook together, watch sports, read to each other, walk or ride bikes, dance, sing.


It is normal for couples go to counseling and make time to deal with their problems, but they often forget that couples need to nurture the greatness of marriage. Life can be stressful—with student debts, misunderstandings, car troubles, taxes, health issues…. we become enslaved by our culture of money. So, having marriage holy days is vital. Keep them even when you are furious with each other.  Make a commitment that during this time frame, there will be no fights, no criticisms. It is the "safe-space" for your marriage and the rule is that you must set aside everything to just enjoy that person during this time. And, it is best to end the night with a more intimate romance. That will inspire most husbands to keep the date!

Everyone's marriage is in need of holy days (holidays) just like your career. Create marriage festivals and celebration. A time to enjoy each other.

8) THOU SHALT NOT QUIT

Erase the word "divorce" from your vocabulary. It is the most dangerous word than any spoken by humankind. It is marital blasphemy.  There is no end to the ills and ruination of our society when we, as Christians, believe that it is the right thing to do to divorce. (Don't let your marriage get to the point that there is so much abuse you think divorce is the only way out. Do something to prevent it. Separation. Jail time if it is that bad.) Remember as a Catholic if God fused you as one flesh in a valid, sacramental marriage—only He can rend you asunder and believe me, He won't. He will heal your marriage, never tell you to divorce.

God made marriage. He created marriage to work. And women—know this—though both of you must be fully committed to marriage, men are designed for commitment. It deteriorates the souls and fabric of men to be only kind of committed. They must fully commit. There is no such thing as a partial launching of an attack in war. Men should be launching their hearts and commit 100% to marriage and if not your marriage will be totally overrun.


Thou shalt not quit listening. Listening is a grace and a habit that one must develop. Listen to your spouse with patience and gentleness. This is especially difficult for some men because they are made to fix a problem. So it is a sacrifice for them to slow down and use their listening skill not just to improve their careers, but their marriage.
Men need to realize women are brilliant but they think differently. Don't pander. 


Women need to spend more time listening and less time thinking about how they are going to respond to their husbands. Listening is done quietly, without interruption.

The Hard Stuff About Not Quitting: Marriage is going to hurt and sometimes hurt very badly for many years. Prepare yourself for that. You will survive it and be rewarded. However, your sufferings to stay married can be lifted up to God and miracles can occur. Do not pray for God to permanently separate you (for at times and for a short season, in serious cases, you may have to separate); rather, pray for a miracle of healing. For to make gemstones, rough rocks are placed in a tumbler and they bang against each other to bring out each other's beauty. Marriage is a saint-maker, that its point. There is no trouble, no situation, no beyond God's healing power.

7) THOU SHALT MAKE YOUR HOME A LITTLE HEAVEN

The world is a rough place. A place where you might be mocked, teased, put down, cursed, laughed at, fired, misunderstood and abandoned. Home should be a place where you do not need to keep up your emotional defenses. Home should not be a place of war or even a hostile peace.

Make your own home a place where your spouse loves to go most. It is their favorite place of peace and encouragement. We often make the grave mistake of giving our best to our friends and co-workers. Do not give your best to others. Give your best at home


Speak words that uplift and not tear down. Be careful with demeaning teasing, snarkiness and sarcasm. Sarcasm often is a way of spitting out pent up rage. It may seem cute and fun for a season, but eventually it will begin to wear away at your joy. Rather than allow rage to develop, talk it out rather than allow it to boil over in sarcasm. Sometimes sarcasm doesn't have any hidden anger, but is just a person showing off how clever they are. Even that can get old after a while in a marriage.

Never, ever, ever publicly humiliate your spouse.

Don't be irritable. Decide that you won't let little things irritate you. Learn to not take yourself seriously and laugh.

Cultivate a treasure of words that uplift each other. Let your home be full of Godly encouragement. The world will oppress us. Let home be a place of warmth and grace. It is hard to live like this—it takes commitment and discipline. And to live like this is possible, but only if you stay connected to the One who gives these graces freely.

6) THOU SHALT ALLOW THY SPOUSE TO BECOME A SAINT

Often inside a marriage we take on roles. He is the immature one. She is the nag. I have seen many people take on the victim role, the martyrdom role, the self-righteous one, the stubborn one; there are many of these we fall into out of habit. It is very difficult to break out of a role and your spouse should help and not hinder that.


No matter how bad you were yesterday, that does not mean you cannot be a saint today. The whole point of the sacrament of marriage is that each day married people walk together they are to be more heroic.

Do not force your spouse into a role you have imagined. Sometimes women and men want to make their spouse out in the image they have in their head. God's image of who each of us should be far, far exceeds what we think we want.

Allow men to be men and women to be women. The differences are supposed to work together.

5) THOU SHALT KEEP THE MARRIAGE BED UNDEFILED

The marriage bed is holy. This means more than being faithful and not committing adultery. In our desperately wicked culture (i.e. Fifty Shades of Gray), even married people are encouraged to do sinful things, promising intense sexual gratification. Never do anything, watch anything that will cause you to regret. Always remember that God created the pleasures of sex. Do not demean it with porn. Do not demean it with sin. Stay faithful, stay trustworthy. Never do anything together that you would be ashamed (not embarrassed, but ashamed) to go public or for your children to find out. NO PORN period. Period. No matter what.

(Note: Women put away your romance movies, novels and soap operas, they will make you unhappy with real life and with your real husband. They can become women's porn! To be happy with your husband—quit filling your brain with novelists' and writers' impossible fantasies. These actually make you unsatisfied.)

4) THOU SHALT COMMUNICATE

First and foremost, no secrets in marriage. (Surprises for birthdays, anniversaries etc, of course, I am not speaking of.) In fact, in the Catholic Church, if you enter marriage with serious secrets, you invalidate your marriage. Secrets are the home of sin; they often lead to lies (and worse) and will destroy trust between you. If men or women wish to be respected, wish to be a person of character, do not keep secrets from your spouse. In fact, I tell my family and friends that I cannot hear secrets (within reason, of course) that I cannot tell my husband. If a family member tells me something trivial that would embarrass them if my husband knew and it doesn't in anyway concern my husband, then that is different. But if my husband would want to know or should know? Then I can't keep it from him.

Communication is a learned skill and takes enormous practice. People and genders communicate differently. Sometimes the same conversation must be said over and over for full understanding as you grow and mature in life and your marriage. Do not get discouraged if it takes many times to explain something.

After twenty years—twenty years of frustrating miscommunications, my husband and I decided to start defining our words. We get in our heads that words are defined in the same way for others as they are for us. Not true. Some words may even mean the same thing but have emotional contexts attached.

For instance, my mother would always say "please" when she was at the end of her rope! (She had six kids—so I don't blame her.) So I grew up with an emotional attachment of irritated exasperation attached to the word. Others thought I was being rude by refraining to use "please" even if I was generous with my "thank yous." I was not being impolite, I simply didn't want anyone to think I was upset with them. 

Marriage should be a safe space where you can be less than perfect with your spouse. You should be able to feel your spouse loves you and will not judge you harshly as you walk together towards sanctification. No one should be abandoned or shunned because they are less than perfect. Two Christians who are sold out in being obedient to God should know that marriage is the place to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling."

Some people do not communicate because they don't want anyone to know how dumb or selfish they are. In fact, some do not want to reveal that they are stubbornly clinging to a beloved sin. (By the way, that's why God set up confession!) However, it will actually help you overcome your temptations, your worries, your weaknesses if you discuss them with your spouse. Often just saying them aloud will help you see these worries or temptations have less power than you gave them.


Ask many questions and as you grow old together, you will begin to know the right questions to ask so you will know the very soul of your spouse. 

3) THOU SHALT SACRIFICE

This is one of the toughest ones. And it can only be done with much prayer and pain. (Wince. Sorry!) However, this is where Christian talk hits the road of realville. Take a deep breath and swallow hard and sacrifice your wants, your needs, your plans and even your most precious rights for your spouse. Don't expect sacrifice to be equal. Don't assume you know that your spouse is not doing his share of sacrificing, because one day you may awaken and find your spouse has been enormously patient and sacrificial for you and you didn't even notice. It takes a lot of maturity to see what others are doing for us. We all have an enormous blind spot that with the help of our spouse will slowly diminish. And believe me, you will be humbled—sometimes humiliatingly, embarrassedly humbled as your blind spot shrinks and you see how stupid you have been in some ways.

However, there may be times you will be the only one sacrificing. And that's okay. Imagine yourself to be Sponge Bob and absorb the inequalities you are experiencing. Sometimes deep wounds in your spouse can cause them to behave selfishly out of self-preservation and with prayer and self-sacrificially absorbing the hits, will show them the love they never felt they deserved.

This part will take wisdom: Never sacrifice for spouse or children to enable them to behave badly. Spouses and children should not be spoiled or encouraged to be self-centered by your suffering and sacrificing for them. You do not martyr yourself so that your spouse can buy a car you can't afford, or watch a television show that is full of moral filth. Sacrifice should always bring out the best in others. And it will be required of everyone who is married at sometime. My advice, be the first to sacrifice, because if you both learn this early—it will save you enormous pain in learning to do it later. 

Remember, Christ did not show the universe love by giving humans an example of buying everyone a car and cellphone. He didn't come to show us love through taking the whole world to Disney World. He showed the highest love when He was hanging on the Cross. Love takes up the Beloved's sufferings, not that they may continue to do wrong, but that they may do what is right.

2) THOU SHALT FORGIVE

Yes, as we near the top of the list of the marriage commandments, they become more serious and difficult. But I can assure you, that a marriage is worth it. It is worth all the sorrow and sacrifice and battles and drama. And the more you are genuinely following the rules, the less pain and drama there will be—guaranteed!

Forgiveness is one of the hardest things to do when your spouse had destroyed your trust. And your spouse may not deserve forgiveness. But forgive them anyway. It is the first step in healing the wounds for yourself and your marriage. Forgiveness is never carte blanche for someone to continue to wrong you or themselves.

Forgiveness is not a point in time, it is a process. If your spouse had abused you, betrayed you, lied to you, ruined your credit—something of great evil—you enter a cycle of forgiveness in your heart and mind that will take re-forgiving them over and over. Forgive because you don't want to become bitter and full of rage. You will no longer enjoy life and pleasure will cease if you don't forgive. Your marriage will seem like a bit of heaven when the healing of forgiveness really happens.

And don't for one moment think that when you sin against your spouse that forgiveness is easy, nor cheap. Don't ever put your marriage in that dangerous position of needing serious forgiveness. Wake up, grow up, don't do stupid things. Don't act selfishly. Both of you should learn to live so you don't have to forgive!

1) THOU SHALT PUT THE KINGDOM OF GOD FIRST

I bet you all knew I would write that as number one for a happy, healthy marriage. Well, it is true. For all the ten through two commandments cannot be done successfully if God isn't right there giving you the grace to think, persevere, sacrifice, etc.

Every single day, make it a habit to have devotions together (or go to mass)—read the Bible and pray. Individually, have them too if you wish, but never neglect family devotions. Even scientific, sociological studies have proven that miraculously! families that pray together, stay together! (Hmmm, wonder why?)

It is so easy to let this slide, but every time you let is slide, restart it!

God gives us a promise put the kingdom of God first and all other things will be added unto it. God first. Before entertainment, before sports, before job, before relaxation, before everything and anything…. before even spouse and children; for He is the source of love and energy and life that will give to make the family work. Nothing will work without His grace.

And if you feel overwhelmed by this list, that's normal. The list is impossible, absolutely impossible and that is not a joke or hyperbole. For us, it is impossible, but with God… all things are possible. And I can assure with with all my heart and soul, with all my love and assurance that a good marriage is worth all of it. A good marriage is the beginning of eternity in the Kingdom of Heaven. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Christian Worldview and Victimhood

by Teresa Beem

We are in a time when the most obvious observation is despised because it goes against this idea of being nice. Being nice and even good have become about not saying anything that corresponds with reality. And that is because reality makes people angry. So, nice people don't mention it.

Well, I am going to mention it because I think reality is important. Reality itself isn't nice. Blame reality and not me! I figure Christians should be able to understand what I am about to write, but today, I am not so sure anymore.

A World of Victims

Everyone is a victim. Everyone feels victimized: men, women, racial minorities, old people, young people, transgendered people, Jews, Muslims, Christians, fat people, ugly people, short people, stupid people, poor people even rich people.

Oh poor, poor me! Oh poor, poor us!

And they are RIGHT! If you are feeling victimized, you are feeling reality correctly. Life isn't fair and life is filled to the brim with injustices. Everyone ought to feel exploited and used and abused because this corresponds with reality.


Whose to Blame?

Everyone clearly understands that injustices need to be righted, so they demand government to deal with it.
Men need to think above the waist.
The rich need to give more to the poor.
There are conspiracies against the regular Joe.
Enforce laws.
Make new laws.
More jails.
More education.
More tolerance.
Why can't we just all get along?

If every possible injustice had a law against it, that would not eradicate injustice. Laws cannot stop the problem, even if they can punish it.

Unfortunately we live in a society of such monumental irrational pride, so bent on self-destruction, we would rather tear each other apart with blame than actually admit the cause of injustice is right there in front of us and pretty much most civilizations in the last four thousand years knew or at least suspected it.

We are oppressed because we are guilty of disobedience to God.

Yeah, I know nobody wants to read that. I know some readers are saying, "You always want to blame everything on sin." Yes, that is true, because that is what God did. Sin makes us sinners who hurt each other.

God didn't die that we may have the best government system or to show us the correct political affiliation. Christ didn't suffer on the Cross that we could be wealthy and comfortable. He is not the Savior from being offended. His life and death were not to help us feel good about ourselves. He didn't die so we would be free to sin. He came to conquer the sin that brings about our death and misery and injustice and oppression and enslavement.

But I get it.
If we admit that moral crime is causing suffering and injustice, that would make us all victims! And no one could feel much superiority in their oppression-hood. Wrongdoing, of course, is not equally distributed, so we are not equally abused, but make no mistake, sin brutalizes everyone.

No one wants to think about evil because they want the bad guy to be someone else—someone they can fight against. We all want to be the good guy! Of course, that is how we were created! It is wonderful to want to be the good guy and beat up the bad guy. It's just that because of disobedience to God, no matter how sincerely or ignorantly done, we have to re-learn how to be the good guy. It is not easy or as natural to us as we wish it to be.

I Don't Believe in Evil

Many of us who call ourselves Christian don't really believe in wickedness. That makes us feel uncomfortable and judgmental.

Why? Why do we all freak out (even Christians) when someone states the obvious?

Because no one wants to get rid of iniquity! Sin not only makes us the prey of evil, it makes us predators too. Transgressing God's law, being the source of injustice, means we sinners become not only the victims, but the bad guys who create the injustices.

We all believe and feel ourselves to be the good guys and it is a shock to our system—a shock to our reality—if we place the blame on injustice on ourselves. That means there is no guy in the black hat we can all corporately get rid of and injustice will vanish. We can't protest or strike against or boycott sin—unless we do it in our own life.

The Empowerment of Righteousness

There is nothing we can do to stop the victimization of evil unless we personally stop doing evil things. If we wish true freedom so that nothing can victimize us anymore—we need to stop that which is enslaving us. And… that is sin. This power is right there for us no matter your gender, age, race, etc. God's mercy and grace is the ultimate heaven for those who wish to live in a non-biased, color-blind and just society.

Few can handle this truth—that most of the guilt of society comes from our personal decisions! While it is evident that the world suffers from others' transgressions, our deepest persecution is our own fault and derives from our own choices.

The Christian worldview of evil and oppression really is the nicest and most personally empowering because God promised that He would pull us from the depths of this horrible victimization and take our transgressions from us! Through His grace, Christ provided a way out of this enslavement. That is the good news! That is the gospel.

But no one today seems to want to hear that gospel because it means they would have to admit there was a problem with not just the world—but themselves—and admit the problem is wickedness and submit to the Great Shepherd for healing.

And for every holy man and woman, for each example of the saints who defy the law of sin through Christ's miraculous grace, a thousand injustices we can't control are defeated. Personal holiness effects much more than your own personal enslavement to sin, it shines the light so that others too may leave the prison of persecution.

And evil doesn't want that. It wants us humans to love our own oppression and blame others. Sin keeps us blind to our own faults but shines the light constantly on others. Evil is the master deflector, the master blamer, the master at dulling us to guilt, the master at tempting us to feel the enslavement it has us in, but to love our own choice to remain as a victim in our jail cell while screaming injustice at other prisoners from within it.

Christ opened the door for us. He gave us the solution to injustice. And the solution begins with each of us falling on our knees daily in repentance, having faith that His mercy is great. He wants to shower grace upon us so that we can no longer be victims, but walk as kings and queens in His eternal kingdom.

He wants us to rise from the deepest filth of victimhood and will freely give us the love, courage and strength to go and sin no more. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

What is the Catholic Mass


The other day, I mentioned to an Evangelical  that I was going to mass. Protestants often wonder why Catholics don't just say, "I am going to church." So this person asked me, "What is the difference is between church and mass?"

Ah, what a question. And now I get to pour out my love in an answer I hope and pray will be understandable. And an answer of love, often requires many words! 

______________________________


Creation


Before the babbling gurgle of babies, before the laughter of children and the words of men, there was a deep and dark silent mystery.

Then suddenly, from the heart of God, burst forth a cosmos. Galaxies were thrown forth in an everlasting expanding spin, light exploded and in the wake of God's voice, trillions of stars were left against a black sky to mesmerize us each time we would look up to find God.  His love song radiated a divine offering of life. The universe echoed back His song as a beautiful symphony of love. And the oceans teamed with the first generation of babies. The sky grew heavy with thousands of species' first baby birds! The lion and lioness lay down with their cubs, and the cattle filled a thousand hills.

That is what love is! Love does not simply inspire creativity. Love's form is creation. As the sun does not simply produce radiation, it is radiation, as perfume does not create a sent, it is the scent. As flowers do not create beauty, they are beauty, so love does not simply create life, it islife. That's the nature and essence that God formed and called love. You cannot separate the life producing from love or it ceases to be love.

All acts of love create. The bliss of total self-gifting love is reproductive, in that it reproduces itself.


Destruction

Then the perfect symphony went silent. Adam sinned.
Sin stole from us the blessedness of life-giving sacrifice. Sin's nature is the very opposite of love. It is destruction. Satan's ultimate goal is to rip life from love, leaving it sterile and selfish. 

Sin began a war.

Man chose to battle God. When Adam took the forbidden fruit, he placed himself at war with God. No matter his heart. No matter that he was deceived in the ultimate outcome. No matter how sincerely he repented and was sorry. Satan trapped man into a life of utter enslavement to self.  


Recreation

Two thousand years ago, the definitive battle of this still ongoing war was won by a Savior who totally surrendered His life for love. The Cross showed the raving madness of wickedness. Sin is hate so powerfully deceptive that given reign convinced the creation to murder its own Creator. But so much more, the Cross showed us the extent of Christ's love in a pure life-giving sacrifice. Christ offered us freedom from sin and death and He did it through the creative and jubilant sacrifice of love.
As excruciatingly painful as it was, it was a joyous gift offered that those who accepted it would be restored to their rightful position as His Sons and Daughters. And for those who choose to obey the King, they will reign forever with Christ.

Because we live in a world crowded and confused with sin, our understanding is clouded and we cannot clearly comprehend the Cross of Christ. For most humans, Calvary is indistinct, remote, and unreachable. 

So Christ gave the world His Church to bring back His love song and the music of life. He commissioned His people to bring the meaning of His sacrifice clearly focused into reality. We are to show the Cross through our actions to a dulled and desperate world. 

Catholics go to church for this purpose of re-creation. The word "mass" contains the entirety of the meaning of the Cross packed into it. The wording bursts forth with that life-giving memory of Calvary.

The mass is where we go to received the grace of Christ's Crucifixion that we may leave and be "little Christs" to the world. For that is how we got our name. The Roman pagans living in Antioch called us Christians, because they saw our living sacrifice and it reminded them of that criminal who died a cruel death because He believed in bringing us the love of His Father.

As true Sons and Daughters, we still should be doing that today. Bringing the living symphony of His creative life to the world! We pour ourselves out as He pours Himself in to us in mass. We become the living cup that overflows with His pure living water to satisfy the world's thirst. We become His broken bread to feed the hungry.

Not through just spoken or written words but through yielding up our freedoms and rights in the daily little things, often unnoticed by others.

By our gift of self-control when we are insulted or offended and desire to spit vengeful words and instead speak words of encouragement, we bring the Cross near.

When we have made plans to do something relaxing on our time off, and we see someone in need, we lovingly gift
 our much needed rest and act unselfishly to help—we bring the Cross near. 

When we have a right, a liberty we fought hard for, but for the sake of others, give that right up—we bring the Cross near.

When we give supernatural forgiveness to someone who has despicably wronged us—we bring the Cross near. 


The mass gives us the grace to do the heroic even in the most mundane and irritating moments. His grace awakens in us the needs of those around us and urges us to give even when it is against our very fiber.

Dozens of moments during the day, we are faced with tiny choices of self-preservation or a painful sacrifices of what we want or need and we choose to take the hit out of love—we become Christ and bring the Cross more clearly to a confused and defeated world. Surrendering to God these precious tiny moments build and build until they form a tsunami of grace that floods the world.

And as we grow like Him as the decades go by, Christ is bringing us to His ultimate goal: that self-sacrifice becomes a exuberance and we are more able to pour out our life for others in an unending song. 

The Church is the building.
 

The mass is God's gift of His love that brings forth life in us, so we may then pour out our soul in charity, bringing the Cross near to everyone we encounter. The mass is His life. His love is creative through us

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Seeing that the Law of God is Good


At the consecration of the newly built temple in Jerusalem, King Solomon pled to God for His people, Israel, that they would live according to Yahweh's commands. Then Solomon thought of foreign visitors, who evidently must have been many to merit mentioning in his prayer:
As for the foreigner who does not belong to Your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of Your great name and Your mighty hand and Your outstretched arm—when they come and pray toward this temple, then hear from heaven, Your dwelling place. Do whatever the foreigner asks of You, so that all the peoples of the earth may know Your name and fear you, as do Your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears Your Name. 2 Chronicles 6: 32-33

 Historically, Jews have not evangelized. Israel's neighbors and those who heard of them from distant lands, were not impressed with Israel's charities, or community outreach outside of their own people. The foreigner didn't think, "Wow! Those Israelites are nice, warm, friendly people." 

In fact, it was quite the opposite. I am not saying they were mean-spirited, not at all. Few foreigners could get to know an Israelite in an intimate way because God's laws restricted interaction with non-Hebrew people. Israel could not live among the gentiles, for they would become unclean and unable to perform God's ritual laws. So they stayed separate, even when living in a diaspora city. 

The Talmud records how the Jews would measure off their section of town so they would be a certain distance from Gentile homes, and orient their windows, preventing interaction with non-Jews on Sabbaths and holy days.

In a general sense, if the non-Israelite was kept from being friends with the Israelite, how could they hear the people of God's heart-felt testimonies? Why would foreigners come from a long distance to worship Yahweh at His temple? 

Because in the Old Testament, God set up Israel's system of laws to announce the coming gospel. And rather than saying, "Look at the nice, friendly people of Israel!" the foreigner thought, "Look at the good laws of Israel!" 

The Torah itself spoke of the goodness of God. God was seen as a light unto the world through His commandments. The Old Covenant system itself proclaimed the character of God. Israel was a living example of the fruits of God's laws. In a sense they were performing, as if on a world stage, the Torah. 

The commandments cried out the glory of God as the humble people of Israel acted faithfully.  


The New Covenant 


Before Christ ascended into heaven, He gave the New Covenant and told His disciples to go out into the world and announce the good news. This was radically different than the way the gospel was proclaimed by Israel before Christ. Now, the followers of God were expected to go out and live among the gentiles and verbally tell the story of Christ while continuing to magnify the laws of God through acting with righteousness.

If you look at the modern evangelical strategies, you would think that the Great Commission was merely the spoken word. Our bishops, priests, Protestant pastors and laymen express faith as only what one says rather than what one does. The idea has disappeared that Christian obedience to God's New Covenant laws proclaim His glory equally with that of what we say. They go hand in hand. 

I fear it is because so many of our bishops and priests are embarrassed by the law of God. Rather than loudly live the glory of God through His just and merciful commandments, Christians uncomfortably demur and apologize that God has set such a high standard. We have hobbled our witness because we have defaulted into only telling the story of Christ. 
______________________________________
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Mahatma Gandhi
_______________________________________________________________________ 

Are we truly, deep down, convicted that God's call to holy living and sanctification is too difficult? Too harsh? Unreachable? Or even that His laws are mean-spirited? Is God judgmental and intolerant?

Is it possible that we are not convinced that God's commands to us are loving? 


What a tragedy! 
Christ's commandments are life! They are the way and the truth. Our living them is just as glorious a witness of the gospel. Christian morals and standards are the very foundation upon which our gospel stands. If we take the commandments out of the picture because we are embarrassed by them, we give the listener an experience whereby they may joyfully understand God's love for them and then rob them of the very netting that will catch them when they fall back into sin. 

His ways, His New Testament laws are good, very good. And as we live them, the foreigner will be drawn to the glory of God even if we kept silence! Because God made man to love His law. His laws will bring us the joy and peace we so long for. We do the unbeliever a great disservice when we recoil from presenting the joy of the obedience of faith. 

God commanded that we go and tell of Him. And that is wonderful. But let us never withhold the fullness of the Gospel. Let us never shirk to proclaim the goodness of God's morals both through our voices and through our lives. 

And we can only do that if we find His laws good and joyful! 




Labels