Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Is "True Life in God" of God or of the devil?

Yesterday, I started a series of articles to come on the book "True Life in God", messages to Vassula Ryden mainly from Jesus, but also from His Mother, St. Michael and others.

I received a comment from "Father Terry" pointing me to two particular among several articles critical of the book.  That one was largely outdated, and the other erroneous is not surprising, since with the internet there are praises and criticisms of everything you can imagine.
What is important is discernment, particularly in matters of faith. Here is what Jesus says in the book to Vassula on January 22, 1989 "pray for the Spirit of discernment and of truth to come upon you always".
Either something is of God or it is not.  If it is not of God, then it is of one of two things.  It is either of the devil, or of one's own imaginings.
Vassula Ryden, whose hand has written the messages found in 'True Life in God", was born in a Greek Orthodox home, though she knew next to nothing about the Orthodox faith.  She was married, divorced, and remarried, and had little interest in matters of God.  If you read the progression of the messages in "True Life in God"  what is evident on one level, is that the Vassula grows into a deep faith in and love of Jesus Christ.  What is also evident from her background is that what is written could not be written by her without some kind of serious intervention. 
Simply put, how could a woman of her background imagine what is contained in the book?  This is not J. K. Rowling kind of writing, where her imagination runs free and comes up with fantastic stories.  This is a book about faith in Jesus Christ, where the reader is led back to the Bible, and where Jesus explains the meaning of matters of faith to Vassula.
So, if the book is not a product of Vassula Ryden's imaginings, then maybe it is of the devil.  On January 13, 1989 Jesus and Vassula have this conversation:
Jesus? One priest now has said that Your works You are giving me are spiritism, because of the writings. Please help me.  
Vassula, I will help you; Glory be to God for delivering you from evil; let all those who doubt and accuse you of all sorts of calumnies, remember My words in Scriptures: a good tree produces good fruit; peace, My Vassula; rejoice when people abuse you and persecute you, for your reward will be great in Heaven;  
beloved, those that assert that these Works are not from Me, the Lord, but are through spiritism or occultism, I ask them this question: can Satan divide himself against himself? if he is divided against himself, how can his kingdom then stand? – My grace is upon you, My child; but they have not understood.
You may remember from the Bible where when Jesus was told he was a demon, he said this same sort of thing.  In 1989, Vassula was still very much of a blank canvas, like us if we are fortunate, and so had no real knowledge of what "spiritism" was, and so no way to respond to it.   Jesus, being very patient with her gives her the answer.

In the book, Jesus invites Vassula and all of us to pray the prayers that are found to the left of this page under the heading "Daily Prayers Requested by Jesus".  They consist of the prayer to Saint Michael, in which we ask Saint Michael to be "our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil."  I may not know the mind of the devil, but I am pretty sure that the devil would not be urging us to pray the Prayer to Saint Michael.  The Memorare prayer to the Blessed Virgin is also not likely to be on the devil's list of things he wants us to do, and the "Novena of confidence to the Sacred heart of Jesus" is definitely not on his to do list.  Oh, and throughout the book Jesus and Mary urge Christians to pray the Rosary.

So, really, do you think the devil is writing this?

So, if the book is not a product of Vassula Ryden's imaginings, and not of the devil, then that kind of leaves us with only one option.  It must be of God.

Well, aside from things like I just pointed out, which are found on every page of the book, the urgings of God for us to get our heads out of the way and turn our hearts to him dominate.

Most important is the fruit.

When people read this book, and stick with it for a while it bears fruit.  It takes about 100 pages or so for us to drop our guard and let it sink into the depths of our hearts.  At least, it did for me, and friends of mine who have read it as well.

The result in me and in them has been a desire to pray more slowly and carefully, realising to whom we are praying.  In those I know who have read it or heard the messages, or even watched videos on the True Life in God web site, growth in abandonment to God has occurred, sinful compulsions slowly wane, and hearts grow in love of God, love of neighbour and love of self as a Child of God.

"True Life in God" is not about Vassula Ryden.  Though it is her story to an extent, it is my story and your story, and above that, it is the story of a God who loves us so much as to pursue us by any means we will allow him to.

Do not judge a book by its cover, but by the fruit that it brings about in you.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

True Life in God - What Would You Do If God Wrote You Love Messages?

If You Are Anything Like Me - Probably Nothing For a Long Time

Many years ago, I heard about a woman by the name of Vassula Ryden.  She was alleged to have received messages from God, mainly in the Person and Presence of Jesus Christ, love messages.  At the time, it was becoming available piece by piece in books that were apparently written by Vassula's hand but in Jesus handwriting.

Somewhere along the line, one friend or another gave us one of the books or another and I could not get in to them.  Then a couple of years ago, Father Sam Johnston gave MDW one of them to read.  However, it was Volume number 12 of what was now a 13 volume series.  She was unable to get in to it, and nor could I, but if Father Sam was high on it, there was something there.  50 years as a priest, in love with Jesus, must have taught him something.

Last Fall, Patrick Duffy, a precious brother in the Lord, joined Deacon George Sebok and me in our morning prayer, and he mentioned the book True Life in God, which was the total compilation of all the messages to us, MORE THAN ONCE.

Now, there are lots of great Christian reading materials out there.  I have read my fair share, and so I was not over the moon, but Patrick highly recommended getting a bound copy of the entire message set, and both George and I did.

Then, MDW and I left for Tucson for the winter, and I took my book along.  In bound format it is about 1,100 pages.  (In PDF format which is available here for free, it is about 1,550 pages, though the words are identical.)

I read some of it while in Tucson, and it slowly started to grow on me.  On one level, it is the story of the conversion of Vassula, under the tutelage of Jesus Christ personally.  Watching how she grows in faith in Jesus day by day, while slowly growing out of her doubts about Him and Him and her, is significant enough to warrant reading the book.  But, it is much more than that.  On a deeper level, if I follow what Jesus says to do with the book early on, and replace Vassula's name with my own, it is a story of my own continuing conversion to Him and to His Life in me.  And something is happening to me.  Some of the habitual sin in my life is falling away.  My desire to pray to Him and to serve Him is growing, and my prayer for those I love is deepening, and if a book can touch my stubborn heart, it must be quite a book.

Though I have the bound copy, I downloaded the PDF file to my iPad in iBooks, and there I have it with me regularly so I can read a few pages.  It is not like a novel that you cannot put down, and it is not like a text book, that you must not put down for fear of failing the test.  Rather it is a book about Jesus' love for you and me, and it must be absorbed, bit by bit.

It does not replace the Bible in its importance.  Rather, Jesus explains so many things in the Bible and brings them to life for readers. It does not replace the continuity of inerrant Church teaching, but in fact, explains so much of it.

So, I am recommending to all who read these pages to download a copy of True Life in God for your iPad or laptop, or purchase a copy of it in hard bound.  You can find out how to get a hard bound copy here at True Life in God.

Should you feel called to read this work, give yourself the first 100 pages or so to let it transform your thinking about a book.  Do not give up easily, but persevere for a while.  Once it makes its way into your heart, then He will have a bigger place in your heart.

By the fruit of something we know what it is.  The fruit of this book has been ongoing conversion for those who have read it with faith.

God Bless You All.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

How Much?

This Much

Though this is a story enclosed in a homily, it is a very good parable about the love of God for you and for me. Jesus used parables often to explain His Love for us, and so it is a very effective method for helping us to visualize that love that we cannot easily understand or convey.
There once was a man named George Thomas, a pastor in a small New England town. One Easter Sunday morning he came to the Church carrying a rusty, bent, old bird cage, and set it by the pulpit. Several eyebrows were raised and, as if in response, Pastor Thomas began to speak.

"I was walking through town yesterday when I saw a young boy coming toward me, swinging this bird cage. On the bottom of the cage were three little wild birds, shivering with cold and fright. I stopped the lad and asked, "What you got there son?"

"Just some old birds," came the reply.

"What are you gonna do with them?" I asked.

"Take 'em home and have fun with 'em. I'm gonna tease 'em and pull out their feathers to make 'em fight. I'm gonna have a real good time."

"But you'll get tired of those birds sooner or later. What will you do then?"

"Oh, I got some cats. They like birds. I'll take 'em to them."

The pastor was silent for a moment. "How much do you want for those birds, son?"

"Huh??!!! Why, you don't want them birds, mister. They're just plain old field birds. They don't sing - they ain't even pretty!"

"How much?"

The boy sized up the pastor as if he were crazy and said, "$10?"

The pastor reached in his pocket and took out a ten dollar bill. He placed it in the boy's hand. In a flash, the boy was gone.

The pastor picked up the cage and gently carried it to the end of the alley where there was a tree and a grassy spot. Setting the cage down, he opened the door, and by softly tapping the bars persuaded the birds out, setting them free.

Well, that explained the empty bird cage on the pulpit, and then the pastor began to tell this story.

One day Satan and Jesus were having a conversation. Satan had just come from the Garden of Eden, and he was gloating and boasting.

"Yes, sir, I just caught the world full of people down there. Set me a trap, used bait I knew they couldn't resist. Got 'em all!"

"What are you going to do with them?" Jesus asked.

"Oh, I'm gonna have fun! I'm gonna teach them how to marry and divorce each other. How to hate and abuse each other. How to drink and smoke and curse. How to invent guns and bombs and kill each other. I'm really gonna have fun!"

"And what will you do when you get done with them?", Jesus asked.

"Oh, I'll kill 'em."

"How much do you want for them?"

"Oh, you don't want those people. They ain't no good. Why, you take them and they'll just hate you. They'll spit on you, curse you and kill you!! You don't want those people!!"

"How much?"

Satan looked at Jesus and sneered, "All your tears, and all your blood." Jesus paid the price!

The pastor picked up the cage, he opened the door, and he walked from the pulpit.

This story came from God Vine, and you can subscribe to received daily videos of interest to Christians and a daily reflection.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Finding Fault With Ourselves

Too Busy Being Right To Want to Hear the Truth

I have pondered often these last few years my own inclinations to not want to be criticized, and to not want to say to others anything that might OFFEND them.  In that sense, I have ignored the truth for that which is politically correct.  I have searched the Bible for evidence that political correctness is a biblical concept, in vain.  I also have tried to find reference to the word "nice".  Again, to no avail.

There was a time not all that many years ago, when I was in serious sin.  Not one of my Christian friends, many of whom knew what I was up to, spoke up and told me that I was wrong.  Now, of course, I knew that I was wrong, and my conscience bothered me for some time.  But, I wonder if the silence of my brothers in Christ was sinful on their part, not to diminish my own sin, but on its own merits.

This morning in the Office of Readings of the Liturgy of the Hour,s was an excerpt from the writings and teachings of Saint Dorotheus.  Dorotheus was a monk, and abbot who lived in the 500s AD.  Here is what he wrote about our deafness to unpleasantness.
Let us examine, my brothers, how it happens that many times a person hears something unpleasant and goes away untroubled, as if he had not heard it; and yet on some occasions he is disturbed and troubled as soon as he hears such words. What is the cause of this inconsistency? Is there one reason for it or many? I recognize a number of them, and one in particular is the source of all the others. As someone has put it: Occasionally this results from the condition in which a person happens to be.
If a person is engaged in prayer or contemplation, he can easily take a rebuke from his brother and be unmoved by it. On other occasions affection toward a brother is a strong reason; love bears all things with the utmost patience. Another reason may be contempt: if a person despises the one who is trying to trouble him, and acts as if he is the vilest of all creatures and considers it beneath his dignity even to look at him, or to answer him, or to mention the affront or insults to anyone else, he will not be moved by his words.
The result of this is, as I have said, that no one is disturbed or troubled if he scorns and disregards what is said. But on the other hand, it is also possible that a person will be disturbed and troubled by his brother’s words, either because he is not in a good frame of mind, or because he hates his brother. There are a great number of other reasons as well. Yet the reason for all disturbance, if we look to its roots, is that no one finds fault with himself.
This is the source of all annoyance and distress.This is why we sometimes have no rest. We must not be surprised when we are rebuked by holy men. We have no other path to peace but this.
We have seen that this is true in many cases, and, in our laziness and desire for rest, we hope or believe that we have entered upon a straight path when we are impatient with everyone, and yet cannot bear to blame ourselves.
This is the way we are. It does not matter how many virtues a man may have, even if they are beyond number and limit. If he has turned from the path of self-accusation he will never find peace. He will always be troubled himself, or else he will be a source of trouble for others and all his labors will be wasted.
In this world in which we live, we have become our own judge and jury.  We are, in fact, like the Pharisees of old, and this applies not just to non Christians, but is even more pernicious when it occurs among those who profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.

Are we so frail in our own egos that we believe that someone telling us we are out of line is crushing our spirit, rather than offering us an opportunity for correction? 

On the other hand, are we so afraid that someone would take offence at us for chastising something that they have done or said, which is harmful to their own person, or to others that they encounter or have encountered that we would stay silent rather than risk the distress speaking out the truth could cause?

I cannot count the number of times that I have failed to accept correction, nor to give it in love to someone in need of it.  I have been afraid to speak what I have observed if I thought it would create angst for me or for the person I have observed.

And you know what?  I am very likely to do it again, and soon.  And do you know what else?  It is going to bug me now each time I do it, because I know that I am wrong.

In failing to invite constructive criticism, to accept constructive criticism, and to offer constructive criticism, I am a LIAR.  And you know what God will do to liars?  Liars are basically lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, neither fish nor fowl.  Lying in this context is a way of straddling the fences of life.

Jesus said he will spit the lukewarm out of His mouth.  That is a disdainful image, and one that we liars deserve.

Forgive me Lord Jesus.  Help me to be a truth seeker, a truth teller, and a truth hearer.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

True Worship or False Worship

Would you be Prepared to Die for What You Believe?

Friday past was the Memorial of Saint Justin Martyr. The following reading from the Acts of Martyrdom of St. Justin and companions appeared in the Office of Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours for that day. It tells of a man unwilling to compromise the truth he knows for what he believes to be falsehood, even to his own death. We know that Islamists are prepared to die for their beliefs, or more so that they will send men or women out to die for their beliefs, and take others with them in a suicide mission.

Saint Justin did not commit suicide, nor did he cause the death of others by his own death. No, he and six companions refused to worship a false god over the God of all creation. For that they were beheaded.
The saints were seized and brought before the prefect of Rome, whose name was Rusticus. As they stood before the judgement seat, Rusticus the prefect said to Justin: “Above all, have faith in the gods and obey the emperors”. Justin said: “We cannot be accused or condemned for obeying the commands of our Savior, Jesus Christ”.  
Rusticus said: “What system of teaching do you profess?” Justin said: “I have tried to learn about every system, but I have accepted the true doctrines of the Christians, though these are not approved by those who are held fast by error”.  
The prefect Rusticus said: “Are those doctrines approved by you, wretch that you are?” Justin said: “Yes, for I follow them with their correct teaching”.  
The prefect Rusticus said: “What sort of teaching is that?” Justin said: “Worship the God of the Christians. We hold him to be from the beginning the one creator and maker of the whole creation, of things seen and things unseen. We worship also the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He was foretold by the prophets as the future herald of salvation for the human race and the teacher of distinguished disciples. For myself, since I am a human being, I consider that what I say is insignificant in comparison with his infinite godhead. I acknowledge the existence of a prophetic power, for the one I have just spoken of as the Son of God was the subject of prophecy. I know that the prophets were inspired from above when they spoke of his coming among men”.  
Rusticus said: “You are a Christian, then?” Justin said: “Yes, I am a Christian”.  
The prefect said to Justin: “You are called a learned man and think that you know what is true teaching. Listen: if you were scourged and beheaded, are you convinced that you would go up to heaven?” Justin said: “I hope that I shall enter God’s house if I suffer that way. For I know that God’s favor is stored up until the end of the whole world for all who have lived good lives”.  
The prefect Rusticus said: “Do you have an idea that you will go up to heaven to receive some suitable rewards?” Justin said: “It is not an idea that I have; it is something I know well and hold to be most certain”.  
The prefect Rusticus said: “Now let us come to the point at issue, which is necessary and urgent. Gather round then and with one accord offer sacrifice to the gods”. Justin said: “No one who is right thinking stoops from true worship to false worship”.  
The prefect Rusticus said: “If you do not do as you are commanded you will be tortured without mercy”. Justin said: “We hope to suffer torment for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so be saved. For this will bring us salvation and confidence as we stand before the more terrible and universal judgement-seat of our Lord and Savior”.  
In the same way the other martyrs also said: “Do what you will. We are Christians; we do not offer sacrifice to idols”.  
The prefect Rusticus pronounced sentence, saying: “Let those who have refused to sacrifice to the gods and to obey the command of the emperor be scourged and led away to suffer capital punishment according to the ruling of the laws”. Glorifying God, the holy martyrs went out to the accustomed place. They were beheaded, and so fulfilled their witness of martyrdom in confessing their faith in their Savior.
Are you prepared to be tortured and killed for any belief that you hold dear or that holds you captive? If you are having sexual relations with someone to whom you are not married, and by this I mean a valid marriage between a man and a woman, are you prepared to be brought a government official and be beheaded if you will not renounce the belief that what you are doing is the truth?

We here call this ability to have sex with whosoever we choose a human right, and do whatever we choose with any child created by our sex acts, so therefor it is a truth to which we hold, or so we believe, but are we prepared to die for it? Of course not! Faced with death, we would all become prudent heterosexuals in a heartbeat.

What, if anything are you prepared to die for?