The Most Powerful Ministry Experience of My Life

Five and a half years ago, June 13th, 2014, Tony Brandt and I got into his truck and I said, “That was the most powerful experience of youth ministry in my life.”

With exhaustion Tony said, “I agree.”

What was that experience???

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Coming Out of the Tomb of Lazarus

Today on our annual Casting Nets Pilgrimage to the Holy Land we visited Bethany.

Bethany could be considered a suburb of Jerusalem. The Gospels share with us that Jesus stayed here often with some friends. So we visited the house of Mary & Martha, as well as the Tomb of Lazarus.

Can you imagine the witness that Lazarus was for Jesus being the promised Messiah, the Son of God?

He was a walking, talking, BREATHING testimony to who Jesus was.

In fact, Lazarus was such a powerful sign for Jesus that the Gospel of John shares this, "So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus also to death, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus" (Jn 12:10,11).

That means that Lazarus was one effective missionary disciple...

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Are You a Pilgrim?

This week we leave for Israel to lead our annual Casting Nets Ministries Pilgrimage to the Holy Land!

Please pray for the 47 PILGRIMS, our travels, and that the Holy Spirit will work powerfully in the Holy Land. You can be assured or our prayers for you.

Preparing and packing got me thinking, “What does it mean to be a pilgrim?” 

St. Peter speaks of Christians as being in “exile” which means they are not in their homeland (cf. 1 Pet 1:1, 17). St. Paul tells us that our citizenship is in heaven (cf. Phil 3:20). And in the Book of Hebrews, Christians are described as “having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland” (11:13,14).

Are you a Pilgrim?
 

10 Things to do in 2019 to Bring a Loved One Back to the Church [PART 2]

We all have family members, loved ones and friends who have left the Church. The ache of the broken heart is all too real for so many of us when we think of their absence. But what can we do?
 
Here are the 2nd 5 of my top 10 things we can (and must) do to help bring them back to the Church:
 
Give – offer up your time, talent and treasure for your loved ones, in other words live as a steward for them. As the Archangel Raphael declared, “Almsgiving delivers from death, and it will purge away every sin” (Tob 12:9) or using the analogy of water putting out fire so does giving do for sins (cf. Sir 3:30). Let me be clear before I say anything here, no one can buy their way into heaven; the Church has clearly spoken on that issue. We fall into these extremes because we do not understand that almsgiving is not simply a “donation” or “tax write-off” but instead it is a prayer. Almsgiving is an act of worship, “an excellent offering in the presence of the Most High” (Tob 4:11). Next time you are writing your tithe check put someone’s name in the memo or envelope, offer them up with your “prayer”, your “worship”, your “sacrificial gift.”
 
Pray – obviously you have been doing this, but this year I want you to pray with a new energy characterized by confidence. When God’s Chosen People betrayed Him by worshiping a cow made of a precious medal Moses prayed to the Lord. The Lord listened to Moses’ prayer of intercession, His anger was abated and mercy was granted (cf. Deut 9:18-20). Have confidence that what you desire (salvation for the lost) is exactly what our Heavenly Father desires (cf. 1 Tim 2:4). Since that is true “this is the confidence which we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him” (1 Jn 5:14,15).

Mass – offer up every Holy Mass that you can for your loved ones. Mass is the greatest prayer we have because it a re-presentation of the very act that granted every grace and mercy to humanity. When you are at Mass imagine placing your loved ones on the altar with the bread and wine. Just as the Holy Spirit turns bread and wine into something completely new, ask the Spirit to transform your loved ones. In our Catholic Faith we have a tradition of having priests offer Masses for the deceased. This is a highly encouraged devotion, but we can also have Masses said for the living. In fact, the saints have told us that Masses said for us while we are alive are worth even more.

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10 Things to do in 2019 to Bring a Loved One Back to the Church [PART 1]

We all have family members, loved ones and friends who have left the Church. The ache of the broken heart is all too real for so many of us when we think of their absence. But what can we do?
 
Here are my top 10 things we can (and must) do to help bring them back to the Church:
 
Discern – ask for the Wisdom of the Holy Spirit to know what we can and should do. It may be that we need to speak up…or the Spirit may need us to be silent. To be honest, both of those options can be difficult depending upon the situation or person (so also ask for Fortitude from the Spirit as well). Moses wanted to end the oppression of God’s people, but his first attempt at it did not go very well (cf. Ex 2:11-15). Peter knew one of his duties was to protect Christ and the Church, but his first “swing” at it was not the right move (cf. Jn 18:10). While we know the Lord desires our loved ones to make it to Heaven, we need to be sure we are correctly working with and in His plans.
 
Invite – have we actually invited them back, told them that we want them back? Or what are we trying to invite them back to? Some might not be ready for Mass or Confession…but would they join you for prayer in a Blessed Sacrament chapel? Even that could be too much for some…maybe invite them to read a book, listen to a podcast, or watch a video…maybe it is just inviting them to a parish fish fry. Keep in mind that discernment is a major component of invitation, because if the Lord wants you to be silent then you may need to wait on the inviting.

Saints – get the Saints involved. Are they named after a saint? Or do you know their Confirmation Saint? Maybe there is a saint whose story is like their life or is patron of their profession. Pray and maybe a saint will come to your mind…just pick one! Begin to develop a relationship with this Saint asking them to partner with you to bring you loved one back into the Church.

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