Children of God

Guest contributor:   Ed Trego

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:14-17)

“But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)

“See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3:1)

As Christians, we should find great comfort and joy in these scriptures. I find it unimaginable that I, a sinful man, am a son of God. But if I believe the bible, that is exactly what I am. What wondrous love God has for us. Man has rejected Him throughout history. We rejected and killed His prophets, His kings, His judges, and even His son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. And yet He still desires to adopt us into His family and call us His children.

This is perhaps one of the hardest things for those seeking God to understand. We are conditioned to believe that we are rejected when we do not do those things others request of us. If we are rude, we are not liked. If we turn our back on someone who needs our help, we don’t expect them to help us when we need it. When we lie to others, we are quite certain that they will lie to us as well. This is the way we live in our fallen humanity. What goes around comes around. You reap what you sow. Choose whatever cliché you wish, we don’t expect love and kindness from those we refuse to be loving and kind toward.

God, however, doesn’t return hate for hate, rejection for rejection. He continually gives love and forgiveness. He will certainly admonish us, or punish us. He will try us as gold is tried in fire. But His intent is never to turn us away, only to bring us closer to Him. We are the ones who can, and sometimes do, reject God, not the other way around. If we are condemned to eternal damnation it is of our free choice, not God’s punishment. He desires us to be part of His family, but if we refuse, He won’t force us.

Imagine the hurt and sorrow that is caused by the rejection of a child. I’m sure most of us who are parents have had some experience with that occurrence. Hopefully it was short lived and the child returned to our open, loving arms. But there are those children who never return. Whose rejection is permanent. As much as we want them to come home, they will not. As much as we want to forgive them, take them in our arms and love them, they remain distant. This is an incredible hurt, a hurt that never heals. But in the end, it is the child who must return. We can’t, as parents, force their love or demand their company. We can only hope and pray that they will someday realize the love they are rejecting.

,If we, as parents’ can feel this hurt and understand it, how much more does God know of this pain, this rejection? He has, throughout history, given us blessings, love and friendship. And we, as His children, have rejected His love and caring. We have moved away and refused to be part of His family, just as our children have sometimes done.

Our God is an incredibly forgiving God who loves us entirely and will throughout eternity. Even as we are broken and saddened by the rejection of our children, so God is when we reject Him. Yet He is always there, with His arms open. He would love nothing better than to take us in His arms and hold us in His love forever.

As a family member, we have an obligation to participate in family functions. Whether that be a Thanksgiving dinner, a birthday, wedding, or other special occasion, we are expected to be there. The expectation isn’t one of a requirement, but of a desire. A desire to fully participate in the life of the family. In our world today, our families are sometimes spread all over the country and may not always be able to participate in family events. But the phone calls, the surprise appearance, the regrets for being unable to attend, are evidence that we recognize the importance of the occasion and our desire to be a part of it.

We must also recognize that being a member of God’s family also entails some family responsibilities. Just as being a good family member in our human family, we must also be a good member of God’s family. We must participate in those things that are pleasing to God. This includes attending church as a privilege, not a chore. We are very blessed to have the opportunity to worship God publicly without fear of retribution. In many areas of the world this isn’t possible. We should always be mindful and protective of this blessing.

We need to love one another. Jesus tells us in numerous places throughout the gospels of the importance of this command. The Sadducees asked Jesus, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law.” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all you soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40) Without this kind of love, we can’t claim to be a member of God’s family.

We must strive to please God in all that we do. We will fail, and fail again, but we must continue to try. God knows that we are weak and will fail in our efforts to please Him. But I believe that God truly is pleased by our efforts to please Him, even when we fail. He is always there to pick us up from our failures and help us get back on the right track even though He knows that we will fail again. If we were to ask for God’s help before we fail, He would provide us with the strength to not fail. But we, as humans, have a very hard time admitting that we can’t do it ourselves.

As our parents forgave our mistakes in childhood, so will God forgive our mistakes in adulthood. That’s part of the definition of family; the willingness to forgive the errors, or sins, of our brethren. Even though human parents sometimes fail at this responsibility to forgive, God never will. Regardless of our sins, He is waiting to forgive them and welcome us back into His family with open arms.

When I confess my sins and seek forgiveness I say an “Act of Contrition”. It is a prayer of remorse for having sinned against God and recognizing that fault. It is also a statement of willingness to try my best to change my life in order to not offend God with my sins. It is quite simple, but very moving. I consider this prayer to be instrumental in my salvation and continued membership in the family of God. I firmly believe that failing to be sincere in my remorse and commitment to try to do better means that I have not honestly sought forgiveness for my sins.

“Oh my God I am heartily sorry for having offended you and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all because they offend you, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life.”

For me the most meaningful part of this prayer is that I detest my sins because they offend God. Of course I don’t want to suffer the pains of hell, but more importantly, I don’t want to offend and disappoint my loving father in heaven. As a human, full of weakness and failings, I know full well that I will need to say this prayer many times in this life. We all fail in our efforts to avoid sin. We are blessed that we have a God who wants to forgive; who wants us as part of His family.

If you ever doubt the forgiveness of God and His willingness to accept us back into His family I suggest you read the parable of the prodigal son. (see Luke 15:11-32). As a member of a family this son did virtually everything wrong that could be done wrong. He essentially wished his father dead by asking for his inheritance. He then took his inheritance and wasted it on a wanton, wild lifestyle, eventually becoming destitute and starving. When he finally recognized the wrong he had done, he went home to his father offering to serve him not as a son but as a servant. He felt he didn’t deserve to be considered a son after all that he had done. The love of his father, however, was so great that he immediately took the boy back in as a son and celebrated his return.

This is the love God has for us. We can do nothing that God will not forgive if we only ask it of Him. He will accept us back into His family and forget the wrong we have done without question. If only we could live in our earthly families with this kind of love, perhaps we could better understand the incredible gift God has given us by counting us among his children.

“But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying. ‘Abba! Father!’ So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir. (Galatians 4:4-7)


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

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The devil made me do it

No he didn’t.

Comedian Flip Wilson did a famous piece – The Devil Made Me Buy This Dress!. It was hilarious. Some people think the devil makes them do things too.

The devil is real. He prowls through the world like a roaring lion looking to devour, seeking the ruination of souls. He is very powerful and smart, but he is NOT in any way equal to God’s might.

The devil can only tempt us. To sin, we must accept his proposal and be a willing participant. We have the power to say no (unless we are actually possessed, which is rare and itself required our cooperation). Sin is disordered, cooperating with evil (thus separation from God) and VOLUNTARY. We can not be forced to sin (although we could conceivably be forced to do sinful things against our will). Similarly, we can not sin accidentially.

A related, but flawed, theory many people have is that all temptation is from the devil. He certainly creates his share — particularly the most clever temptations custom tailored for our particular personal weaknesses. He is not however, responsible for all temptation.

There are two other sources of temptation: the world and the flesh. The world seems to be a hotbed these days, with immodesty and pornography everywhere, secular “values” and relativistic thinking. It is easy for the careless to follow the heard through the wide gate.

The flesh means us. No blaming the devil or the world on this one. It is our disordered attraction to sin (concupiscence) passed on to us through original sin.

You were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you once lived following the age of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the desires of our flesh, following the wishes of the flesh and the impulses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest.

To summarize, there are three things which tempt us (tria autem sunt quae nos tentant). These enemies of the soul are:

  1. the world (mundus)
  2. the flesh (caro)
  3. the devil (et diabolus)

Finally, no discussion of temptation would be complete without mentioning the Our Father. “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” I am aware of no better explanation for this important intention than that found in the Catechism:

2846 This petition goes to the root of the preceding one, for our sins result from our consenting to temptation; we therefore ask our Father not to “lead” us into temptation. It is difficult to translate the Greek verb used by a single English word: the Greek means both “do not allow us to enter into temptation” and “do not let us yield to temptation.” “God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one”; on the contrary, he wants to set us free from evil. We ask him not to allow us to take the way that leads to sin. We are engaged in the battle “between flesh and spirit”; this petition implores the Spirit of discernment and strength.

2847 The Holy Spirit makes us discern between trials, which are necessary for the growth of the inner man, and temptation, which leads to sin and death. We must also discern between being tempted and consenting to temptation. Finally, discernment unmasks the lie of temptation, whose object appears to be good, a “delight to the eyes” and desirable, when in reality its fruit is death.

God does not want to impose the good, but wants free beings….   There is a certain usefulness to temptation. No one but God knows what our soul has received from him, not even we ourselves. But temptation reveals it in order to teach us to know ourselves, and in this way we discover our evil inclinations and are obliged to give thanks for the goods that temptation has revealed to us.

2848 “Lead us not into temptation” implies a decision of the heart: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also….   No one can serve two masters.” “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” In this assent to the Holy Spirit the Father gives us strength. “No testing has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, so that you may be able to endure it.”

2849 Such a battle and such a victory become possible only through prayer. It is by his prayer that Jesus vanquishes the tempter, both at the outset of his public mission and in the ultimate struggle of his agony. In this petition to our heavenly Father, Christ unites us to his battle and his agony. He urges us to vigilance of the heart in communion with his own. Vigilance is “custody of the heart,” and Jesus prayed for us to the Father: “Keep them in your name.” The Holy Spirit constantly seeks to awaken us to keep watch. Finally, this petition takes on all its dramatic meaning in relation to the last temptation of our earthly battle; it asks for final perseverance. “Lo, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is he who is awake.”

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7 Quick Takes Friday (set #149)

This week: The latest issue of New Evangelists Monthly is ready and calling you. A young boy responds to his mother’s big news. Any day, any minute, could be our last – a video example. Deep thoughts from Nick Offerman. One approach to getting your kids to do simple, responsible tasks. A contraption that allows you to “sit” anywhere, anytime. A quick test of our “secure” borders.

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New Evangelists Monthly

Issue #21, September 2014, of New Evangelists Monthly is ready for your enjoyment! Scores of faithful Catholic bloggers have contributed their very best pieces from August. Contributing authors this month include: Ellen Kolb, Kathleen Laplante, Michael Seagriff, Christian LeBlanc, Heidi Knofczynski, Arleen Spenceley, Tami Schuelke, David Wong, Matthew P, Steve Smith, Kevin Shaw, Stephen Korsman, Kathryn Cooper, Timothy McCormick, Ellen Gable Hrkach, Birgit Jones, Maolsheachlann O’Ceallaigh, Adam Crawford, Rich Maffeo, Nancy Ward, Tony Agnesi, Blythe Kaufman, Margaret Felice, Chris Capolino, Nancy Shuman, Connie Rossini, Rick Becker, Claire McGrath, Jamie Jo, Melanie Jean Juneau, Barbara Szyszkiewicz, Denise Hunnell, Lara Patangan, Ruth Curcuru, Cindy Hurla, George Sipe, Gregory Watson, Lora Goulet, Allison Salerno, Lisa , Joey Prever, Billie Jo Stoltz, John Donaghy, Thomas and Deborah Richard, David Gray, Dn. Scott Dodge, Liana Eisenman-Wolford, Laura Christine, Theresa Doyle-Nelson, Brantly Millegan, Sr. Margaret Obrovac, Kimberly Lynch, Lawrence and Susan Fox, Fr. Chori Jonathin Seraiah, Rita Buettner, Zoe Jumonville, Fr. John Corrigan, Lisa Laverty, Sr. Maresa Lilley, Fr. Errol Fernandes, Fr. Adrian Danker, John Schroeder, Jacqui Paraguya, Sallie Thayer, Leslie Klinger, Roxane Salonen, Christina Sawchuk, Kim Padan, Rebecca Royse, De Maria , Laura Pearl, Fr. David Berger, Mallory Hoffman, Cyndi Marlow, Philip Kosloski, Jeff Walker, Brian Gill, Shannon Vandaveer, Annie Jeffries, Matt Warner, Rose O’Donnell, Jennifer Hansen, Karee Santos, Emily Hartung, Paul Smith, Tara Baker, Fr. Gilles Surprenant, Jim Curley, Amy Parris and Bartimaeus Timeo.

This monthly “meta-magazine” showcases faithful Catholicism from theology to family life and “everything in between.” Enjoy it now at NewEvangelists.org.

Read Now

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“I’m pregnant!!!” Imagine the joy and excitement of siblings upon hearing those words. Or maybe not…

Spotted by Matthew Archbold

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For the most part, we live every day as if there will be many more following it. Plenty of time (see my piece January 2010 piece: No rush, take your time). That is not always true. Any day, any minute, could be our last.

Spotted by Fr. Z

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These are deep thoughts from Nick Offerman. They are non-political musings about the world and everyone in it.

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What parent does not identify with this problem: getting your kids to responsibly perform simple, obvious chores. It is an intractable struggle. Words often fail to get through. How about putting instructional videos on their social media?

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Imagine being able to sit when and where you usually can not. This could be useful for a lot of folks:

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Our borders are secure! …or so says the administration. There are many videos similar to this:


Some random thoughts or bits of information are worthy of sharing but don’t warrant their own full post. This idea was started by Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary to address this blogging need. So, some Fridays I too participate when I have accumulated 7 worthy items. Thank you Jen for hosting this project!

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New Evangelists Monthly – September 2014, Issue #21

This is the September 2014 issue of New Evangelists Monthly. With this announcement, participating Catholic bloggers link their best stories from last month right here at NewEvangelists.org. Revisit anytime to see up-to-the-minute posts in this dynamic format!

Contributor links are accepted beginning at noon (ET). Most contributions are received in a day or two. To see this new issue of New Evangelists Monthly, click below:

Preview Now

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Compassion

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, […]

Baltimore Catechism: on our 3rd to 6th obligations

Lesson 36 397Q. What is meant by the command of confessing at least once a year? A. By the command of confessing at least once a year is meant that we are obliged, under pain of mortal sin, to go to confession within the year. “Within the year” – that is, the time between your […]

7 Quick Takes Friday (set #148)

A wonderful video on why women a veil at Mass. The Giver is a new movie about the perfect utopia we are striving to reach. Native Americans speak-out about the Washington NFL team’s use of the “Redskins” name. How do we work with radical Islam to achieve peace and harmony – a realistic analysis. A […]

Elsewhere: Christianity and secular values

Secularism (typically liberalism) has molded many non-Catholic ecclesial communities. They have “progressed” away from Christ into updated, modern, non-Christian values. Traditional, orthodox (true) values are viewed as outdated. A “poster-child” for this are the Episcopalians, but most other mainline groups have been affected as well. Some have historically had orthodox/liberal internal splits. Part of the […]

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