From my newfound faith, I was told that Catholicism was not true Christianity. Yes, there were some Catholics who were Christian, but the Church definitely was not. I learned that the Pope thought of himself as Christ. Catholics worshipped Mary and idols, they prayed to the dead. They believed in all sorts of things outside of the Bible. The Baptist Church and many Bible-believing churches like it were filled with “recovering” Catholics who had “seen the Light” and escaped from Catholicism — too many rules, too many restrictions. How dare anyone tell them how to be a Christian?
With great angst I had to face the issue of my wife and kids being part of a pagan belief system (even if they were among the few practicing Catholics who were actually Christian). I figured the best thing to do was invite them to go to church with me. If they could see what I had found, I figured their eyes would be opened to authentic Christianity.
Coming Homeby Samuel Hopper
Two and a half years after the 9-11 attacks, I was still working police-overtime assignments in uniform at a woefully understaffed airport in Southern California. By late winter of 2003, the newly created Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was in place at airports across the United States.
One evening I was posted at a passenger checkpoint. If something happened, I was the last line of defense. Otherwise my only responsibility was to be observant. It amounted to a lot of sitting and getting well paid while the much lower paid airport police and TSA agents were busy working.
At 6:00 p.m., my relief came. Sgt. Thomas (not his real name) jokingly commented, “Cheated death for another hour, huh?”
“Somehow,” I answered sarcastically. “And if anything does happen,” I continued, “as long as I see Jesus when I open my eyes, I’ll know everything’s alright.”
Sgt. Thomas and I laughed as I gave up my seat and started to walk to my next post.
Before I got five steps away, a TSA supervisor at the checkpoint (who I’ll call Mr. Pharis) stopped me and asked, “Do you expect to see Jesus when you die?”
That was probably the last question I expected to hear that night and I never expected it from someone else in a law enforcement uniform — especially from a stranger. Caught off guard, my defenses went up while I processed the question. What should have been a non-threatening question sounded very threatening to me. After a long pause, I answered simply, “I certainly hope so.”
Without missing a beat, Mr. Pharis asked, “If you died this instant, what would you say to Jesus that would convince Him to let you into heaven?”
I did not have an answer and it was obvious. Mr. Pharis then asked if I would be coming back to this checkpoint later in the evening. I told him I would be rotating back to it at 9:00 p.m. He then instructed me to tell him what I would say to Jesus at the gates of heaven that would convince Him to let me in.
When I returned to the checkpoint, I was ready to make my case for heaven. As I began to describe my works-laden justification, Mr. Pharis told me bluntly, “You’re not getting into heaven.”
Although Mr. Pharis came from a fundamentalist community church with a very narrow view of Christianity that believed only what could be gleaned from the Bible, (hard core sola scriptura folks), he got my attention. I was convinced I was not saved!
I was baptized and raised in the Methodist Church. There was never a time in my life that I didn’t believe in God. I went to Sunday school and knew many Bible stories including the basic Gospel account of the life of Jesus from His birth in the manger, His Crucifixion where He died for the sins of mankind, to His Resurrection. I never questioned anything and accepted it all as the truth. By most definitions of what is a Christian, you could probably say I was at best a cultural Christian, but not really a believing Christian.
When I was about five, a Sunday school teacher told us about heaven. I cannot remember anything specific about what she said but I knew I wanted to go there. I was disappointed when I realized I would have to die first. From that Sunday morning, though, I always assumed I’d be in heaven some day.
Growing up, I was not a big fan of church. I did not like going because it stole time from my weekend — my break from school. I was glad, however, that I wasn’t Catholic, because my Catholic buddies had to go to Catechism class on Saturdays and church on Sundays. I couldn’t wait until I was old enough not to go to church!
Going to college afforded me the opportunity to choose whether or not I would go to church — Christmas and Easter was enough for me!
Four years later, done with college, but not following a direct path in life, I was moved to go to church one morning. I went back to the church of my youth. The pastor gave a sermon based on the story of the Road to Emmaus. Again, I do not remember anything specific, but it was as if Pastor Black was preaching directly to me. His sermon had such a great impact on me that I began attending church regularly.
Three years later, I became a police officer and working on Sundays became very common.
Rome begins its call
In the spring of 1982, I met my future wife, Paula. We hit it off right away and enjoyed a whirlwind romance. For several weeks during our courtship, I was off on Sunday mornings. Paula invited me to go to church with her. It was then I learned she was a Catholic. By this time, I knew Catholics were Christians because they believed in God, taught about Jesus, and celebrated Christmas and Easter... Continue reading here...