Category Archives: Christianity

The Royal Wedding Reflects on The Song of Solomon

Did  you watch any of England’s royal wedding over the weekend? England’s Prince Harry of Wales married America’s Meghan Markle on May 19, 2018, but not at Westminster Cathedral, as I assumed. Because Harry is sixth in line to the throne, they were able to avoid inviting political figures (such as Barak Obama or Donald Trump) and instead had a smaller, more intimate ceremony at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. I hadn’t really followed this wonderful celebration while it was occurred, but I had several friends urge me to watch, particularly because Prince Harry’s aunt read the scripture lesson from the Song of Solomon, which was also the text for the message given by The Most Reverend Michael Curry.  If you have fourteen minutes to hear the message, it can be found here: http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/cwn/2018/may/read-the-powerful-sermon-on-love-bishop-michael-curry-preached-at-the-royal-wedding

Although British royalty don’t often speak of their faith, some of them have a clear and deep testimony to their faith in Christ, particularly the reigning Queen, Elizabeth II, who spoke of her beliefs in the forward to a book published by the Bible Society in time to celebrate the queen’s 90th birthday in 2016, entitled The Servant Queen and the King She Serves. One of the co-authors, Catherine Butcher, reported to Premier.org: “So to have a monarch who talks openly about Jesus in a very relaxed and natural way, we find that a huge encouragement and hope that Christians across the country will take a leaf out of The Queen’s book and learn to talk about Jesus in a natural way with friends, relatives and colleagues, so people can discover more about what it means to be a follower of Jesus.” Amen? Amen!!One of the best parts of the wedding (to me) was the singing of “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah,” which reportedly moistened Prince Harry’s eyes, perhaps because it was his mother’s favorite song and also sung at her funeral. May the words of this Christian anthem be true for England’s beautiful royal family, as well as for each of us!

Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
(— William Williams, 1745)

“Guide me, O thou great Redeemer,
Pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but thou art mighty;
Hold me with thy powerful hand:
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven
Feed me till I want no more.
Feed me till I want no more.

“Open thou the crystal fountain
Whence the healing stream shall flow;
Let the fiery, cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through:
Strong deliverer, strong deliverer
Be thou still my strength and shield.
Be thou still my strength and shield.

“When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of death, and hell’s destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan’s side:
Songs of praises, songs of praises
I will ever give to thee.
I will ever give to thee.”

For thou art my rock and my fortress;
therefore for thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me
” (Psalm 31:3).

Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory” (Psalm 73:24).

 

*First photo is one of the official wedding photos; the rest I found on CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network).

Are You a Follower or a Leader?

Are you a leader or follower by nature? Do you think one is better than the other? American culture puts a high premium on being a leader, but this isn’t what Jesus taught, as Joe Stowell reminds us in his book, Following Christ. God calls us first and foremost to be Christ-followers, not leaders! In truth, I don’t think any of us make good leaders until we’ve learned to become good followers.

Joe is the president of Cornerstone University, where six of our seven kids began their college training, and I think this book is spot on! Ever hear of “Wrong Way Reigels”? He was the University of California center who became infamous for scoring a touchdown. . .at the wrong end of the football field during the 1929 Rose Bowl! His team lost to Georgia Tech by one point, and Joe points out that Reigels’s problem was living by “instinct without direction,” which is an issue for each of us.

Perhaps the most crucial of all life’s questions is: Do we want to be the master of our own fate and the captain of our own soul, as the poet William Ernest Henley wrote, or would we rather follow the guidance of a higher being (God!) who is infinite in his knowledge and wisdom, capable of accomplishing his will, loves us more than we love ourselves, and has our good (and that of all people) and his glory as his game plan?

The only hitch is, we have to surrender to Christ, and most of us are either afraid to trust him because we’re not sure he’s really God, or we don’t believe He truly loves us and has our best interests at heart, or we don’t want to share our “glory” with God! By nature, most of us find it hard to believe that God really loves us more than we love ourselves. We are also proud and resent the idea of giving God the glory. We’d rather seize control of our own destiny and bring glory to ourselves, so at strategic crossroads, even Christ-followers often fail to obey, even though we know good and well what we ought to do. If we want to be true Christ-followers, then we need to commit to obeying Christ even when it seems impossibly hard (and probably is, apart from God’s grace and strength).   We’ve each been given one life to live. . .one challenging but glorious adventure. For those who do not believe in God, or have chosen to take a position of being agnostic, they must default either to being their own leader or following some earthly leader, but I would rather be a follower of Christ. Because, as Joe Stowell points out, having “the real, risen, transcendent, ever-present resident Christ to relate to me in the very depths of my being apart from the inherent trappings of visibility is an advantage with which no earthly relationship can compare.”

Amen! There is no Best Friend Forever who was with us at the day of our birth, can abide with us forever, and loves us with an everlasting love. God alone, in the person of Christ’s Holy Spirit, offers to indwell us and provide guidance, purpose, abundance of joy, and life eternal. Besides all this, there’s another wonderful promise attached to being a true Christ-follower: “If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make  you free” (John 8:31-32). Being a Christ follower offers us true freedom and can lead us out of the prisons we’ve made for ourselves.

One of my favorite books as a child was Follow My Leader, a story about a teenage boy who is accidentally blinded by a friend’s carelessness and has to find a way out of the hatred that poisons his soul as a result. If you find yourself feeling imprisoned by hatred or embroiled in sin, My Leader (Jesus) can help you find your way out! Don’t believe me? Well, it’s not about me, it’s about God, and He’s the one who made these promises: “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:3). Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).

Will you join me and the multitude of pilgrims who’ve become Christ-followers?

The Greatest Fact of All Time…

Do you ever wonder what Easter is really all about? The following was written by the father of one of my closest friends from college. Mr. Ward traveled widely with Gideons International and spent most of his retired life giving away Bibles and sharing Christ with everyone around him. He lived a full, vibrant life and died suddenly from a heart attack, but Marcy (his daughter) told me that she half expected him to sit up on the stretcher as they were carrying him out, just to share the gospel one last time! Through this tract, he is still sharing the good news about the greatest fact of all time. Do you know what it is?

The Greatest Fact of All Time…

 is found here:  www.greatestfact.com  Please check it out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s formatted much more clearly on the website above, but if you don’t want to have to click again, Mr. Ward’s daughter has also given me permission to share it here as well:

The Greatest Fact of All Time

…is that Jesus Christ is the Creator of all things.

Where do you learn this fact?

The Bible, in chapter 1 of John’s Gospel, says,

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

We learn here that the Word made all things—and that there was nothing the Word did not make.

But who is the “Word”?

John 1:14 says:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

So the Word had a body of flesh, and John says he saw Him. Again 1 John 1:1 speaks of Him:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life…

So, it’s clear that the Word is a man!

Then who is this man?

The Word is none other than Jesus Christ!

With this in mind, we can read John 1 and substitute the name Jesus Christ!

1 In the beginning was [Jesus Christ], and [Jesus Christ] was with God, and [Jesus Christ] was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Yes, the greatest fact of all time is this: Jesus Christ is the Creator of the entire universe.

But why did Jesus Christ become a man?

Jesus became a man because you and I have a problem. It is the same problem every person has—sin!

The third chapter of the apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans makes it very clear that we are all sinners.

10None is righteous, no, not one

23 for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.

Yes, we are all guilty sinners. Then Romans 6:23 warns:

For the wages of sin is death…

Since you and I have sinned, we have wages coming—death. This is both physical death and spiritual death. Spiritual death is eternal separation from God in hell.

About hell Jesus said in Mark 9:48,

…where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.

These wages must be collected!

Is there any hope?

Yes! There is hope! There is good news! Jesus received your wages. He died for your sin. He took your place. But He did something else very wonderful. When He died, He purchased a gift for you. The whole verse in Romans 6:23 reads:

For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Jesus Christ purchased a gift for you—eternal life!

How can I have this gift?

Consider 1 John 5:9–10

9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.

If you don’t believe this testimony, you are actually calling God a liar.

What is this “testimony” I must believe?

The testimony you must believe is found in 1 John 5:11.

And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

God has given you eternal life. It is a gift! He wants you to have it!

But do you have it? Not necessarily! A gift must be received, and God’s gift must be received!

Let’s illustrate it like this:

Suppose I offered you some money as a gift. If you don’t receive my gift, you won’t have it. You must receive it. In the same way you must receive God’s gift. If you do not receive His gift, you will never have it.

How can I receive God’s gift?

To illustrate, let’s suppose I put the money in a bank account. The money represents eternal life and the bank account represents Jesus Christ. If I transfer the bank account to you, you get the money. When you receive Jesus Christ, you receive eternal life, because eternal life is in Jesus Christ.

Let’s read 1 John 5:11 again:

And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

Eternal life is in Jesus Christ. Therefore, when you receive Jesus Christ, you have eternal life as stated in the next verse (1 John 5:12)

Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

How do I receive Jesus Christ?

A very clear answer is found in Romans 10:9-10.

9 …if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 for with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

What does it mean to confess the Lord Jesus with your mouth? Perhaps it could be like this: “I will take Jesus as my Savior and Lord! I will trust Him for my salvation from sin.”

Then believe with your heart (not just your head) that Jesus Christ lived and died for you, that He arose from the dead, and that He is alive forevermore. He is not in a grave, or even on a cross, but alive and with God the Father.

Then what?

You will be saved!

In other words, you will have the Jesus—you will have eternal life.

So why not do this:

  1. Repent and agree with God that you are a sinner.
  2. Confess Jesus Christ with your mouth as your Lord and Savior.
  3. Believe that He lives and that He was resurrected from the dead.

And you will be saved!

And here is the great offer!

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

—Romans 10:13

In other words, if Jesus Christ were here, He might say to you, “If you will ask Me, I will save you from your sins, and I will give you eternal life.”

Since Jesus Christ is God, He is here now!

How can I call on Him? How can I receive Him?

You can call on Him through prayer. You could talk to God like this:

O God, I come to You in Jesus’ name. I believe Your Word. I believe Jesus Christ lived and died for me, that He arose from the dead, that He is alive! And, Lord, I agree with You. I am a sinner; I am lost; I want to be saved. I call on you now with all my heart. Save me. For Jesus’ sake. Thank you, Lord, for saving me. In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

Now the greatest fact of all time for you is this:

  • You are a new creation of this wonderful Lord (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:10)
  • You are a child of God (John 1:11-12; 3:3)
  • You can know you have eternal life (1 John 5:13)
  • You can come to Jesus Christ for forgiveness when you sin (1 John 1:9)
  • He will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5b)

Read the Bible daily. Pray daily. Read the Gospel of John first.

If you have asked God to give you eternal life, then you understand the true meaning of Easter—”Resurrection Sunday!” If so, would you be willing to contact me either on this blog or at my email (kathrynwarmstrong@gmail.com) with any other comments so I can pray for you? God bless you!!

 

 

 

How Do You Feel About All the Infringements on Your Privacy?

I love the internet bringing the world to my doorstep, but I really don’t like it invading my bedroom, do you? Am I the only person who notices my computer coming on in the middle of the night or who finds it unsettling to have Siri interrupt my conversations? Do you, like me, get frustrated with all the breaches in security and privacy on the net? My Facebook account was hacked recently …or at least someone was able to set up a fake account using my photos and information to solicit for other connections (to hack as well). I’m beginning to feel a little like the King of Syria from the story in 2 Kings 6, where he thought some enemy was spying on him and reporting everything he whispered in his bedroom to the King of Israel.

In my case, if it’s just the American government spying on all of us, then I don’t actually feel like it’s an “enemy,” but whatever happened to the sanctity of home? I’ve been slowly trying to make the emotional adjustment to the realization that everything I ever say or write is recorded, and I try to imagine that I’m relatively safe since I’m trying my best to live a moral, law-abiding life. But, what if America’s government begins persecuting Christians? In at least 68 countries around the world, the governments restrict, persecute, or at least don’t protect the religious freedom of Christians. If America changes radically enough, then I will be in big trouble, because my faith in Christ and love for God are woven into the woof and warp of everything I say and write. The day may come when I will become a lawbreaker because I worship God!

While pondering this issue the other day and feeling a little distressed, I began meditating on Luke 12 (which I’ve written out below) and found myself greatly encouraged and comforted, so I wanted to share what I read with you. If you feel alarmed because everything you write and every call you make is being recorded somewhere here on earth, take heart! It’s always been recorded in heaven anyway, along with every thought!

Our job is to be pure and faithful followers of Christ. If the world sees what’s going on, so much the better! If we are persecuted for our faith, that shouldn’t surprise us. If lifting up the name of Jesus and testifying to the goodness of God gets us killed, then that’s a price worth paying, because some silent observer may be drawn to God through what we share. Be faithful! “Thou, God, seest me.”

He began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.

“And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.

Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God. And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven.

“And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.” (Luke 12:1-12).

Things You May Not Know About Billy Graham: What is the Greatest Need in the World Today?

If you’ve watched the popular series about Queen Elizabeth called The Crown, you may know that Billy Graham preached in her chapel,  but did you know that over the course of his life, Billy Graham preached in 185 different countries on all six inhabited continents to about 215 million people
                            (and approximately 2.2 billion across airways)?  Did you know that he appeared on Gallup’s List of Most Admired Men and Women 55 times…more than any other person on earth?! Since Billy Graham’s passing from this life to the next a couple of days ago, I’ve noticed an unbelievable number of (ungrounded) negative comments mixed in with the positives, which stirs me to point out a few of the undisputed positive aspects of his career.    #1. There was never a scandal related to his public or private life.  He  had a policy of never being alone in a room with any woman other than his wife, and even in his last years, he continued that policy.                          He was a faithful husband who did not abuse women!                  #2.There was never any question about his finances.  Despite his world fame and popularity, which could have made him fabulously wealthy, Billy Graham always drew a (relatively modest) salary and kept his financial records open to public.  #3. He never wavered from teaching the clear, simple gospel message from the Bible, which even Pope Paul II endorsed: Billy Graham practiced what he preached. He lived a life of integrity and faith because he was truly transformed by the power of the gospel. Without a doubt, Billy Graham has been one of the most influential men in history,       and he has introduced the Bible and the claims of Christ to more leaders          than any other person in the world during the twentieth century.    So, rather than writing him off as some disreputable religious fanatic, please consider how this man, by steadily living out the life of Christ within him, had the opportunity to implore an entire generation around the world to seek God, salvation, and good rather than lust and greed.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33…that’s all good things related to a life of spiritual abundance, which Jesus promised to those who believe).

If you’re looking for more information about Billy Graham, here are a few links:

Where to hear his basic message free on line: https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2014/02/19/my-hope-america-by-billy-graham/His advice on how to make the most of our “golden” retirement years: https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2016/03/23/reflections-on-nearing-home-by-billy-graham/Where to go if you’d like a quiet retreat to seek God: https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2017/05/09/ever-looking-for-a-quiet-place-for-a-retreat-consider-the-cove/

Dedicating Babies

Yesterday we had the privilege of participating in the dedication of our youngest grand daughter. I know many Christian traditions baptize infants, but we practice “believer’s” baptism instead, which means a person is baptized only after they make a personal commitment to Christ as their Lord and Savior. (The closest thing I can think of—although it’s actually different—is “confirmation” in churches that do practice infant baptism.) In many countries (not only through the centuries but still today), people are not considered true believers (or persecuted as such in hostile countries) until they are baptized, but that is not why we defer baptism. We believe that baptism (and communion) do not have saving value in themselves (“sacraments” which confer saving grace on a person). We believe people are saved by faith alone—their own faith, not their parents—and that baptism is an outward witness to an inner conversion experience that happened instantaneously when the person believed in Christ and accepted Him as their Lord and Savior.However, we do strongly believe in committing ourselves to bringing up our children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (teaching them about God and his ways), and to this much-prayed-and-hoped-for end—that our children will believe in God and choose Christ for themselves—we dedicate our children to the Lord, committing ourselves as a spiritual community to praying for and participating in the love and training of our children. So, yesterday several babies were dedicated, and among them, not only our grand daughter, but our daughter-in-law’s sister’s baby too! What a very special day of solemnities and joy! Brianna comes from such a big family that we ended up celebrating in two homes afterward, so Elanor got her own cake. Being just six months old, she’d never had cake before but was bound and determined she wanted to try it…and…why not? It met with complete approval, and I hope and pray that as she learns more about the ineffable mysteries and goodness of God, she will be even more delighted and pleased!

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him
(Psalm 34:8).

Thoughts on Cremation and Afterlife from Visiting Kathmandu’s Pashupatinath Temple

Have you ever experienced a cremation ceremony?The Pashupatinath Temple, where we watched people being cremated,   is on the Bagmati River, which flows into the Ganges River
and is considered the most sacred river in Nepal. The Pashupatinath Temple is really a complex that includes 518 temples
and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  The original temple (the oldest in Kathmandu) was built around 400 BC, although the beautiful present-day temple was erected in the 15th century
after the earlier temple was destroyed by termites. Pashupati is the name of one of their 330 million gods,  and if my understanding is correct, Hindus believe he is one of the manifestations of Lord Shiva, one of the three principle deities of Hinduism.  There are so many threads I’d like to follow from this experience, but perhaps the most profound impact came from watching people being cremated.  Wisely (given the intense heat and population density), it is traditional for a person to be cremated immediately, on the day of his death.  (One tradition that I wish Americans would adopt is this:
The entire family takes 13 days together to mourn after their loved one dies.)

There are several rituals that occur before the family arrives with their deceased loved one to the Bagmati River, like wrapping the corpse is in two representative colors: white (for purity, purified with cow urine) and orange (for holiness). The corpse is carried to the edge of the river on a bamboo ladder, where the feet are repeatedly washed or sprinkled with water from the river for the purpose of purifying and beautifying the body.           Friends and family members form a line to pay their last respects,         and most of them participate in pouring ghee (oil) into the person’s mouth.                  They also often leave gifts of paper money or flowers.     Next, an elaborate funeral pyre is constructed on one of the concrete slabs using sandalwood (if possible, because of its fragrance), and the body is laid on it.  If it is a man who dies, the oldest son is responsible as the kartā (person who cares for the dead relative) and lights the fire, which begins with the mouth.  If it is a woman, her youngest son takes on the responsibility and honor of kartā.  To make the fire hotter and ensure that the entire body is immolated, the body is covered with straw and often smeared with butter or sugar. Because of the (now illegal) Hindu practice of “Sati” (where the wife had to be burned too if her husband died as a way of honoring him), today all the women leave the area before the body is burned,  but the kartā and other men watch over the cremation, which can take 3+ hours.  After the body and wood are completely consumed, the kartā sweeps all the ashes into the river and washes down the platform so it’s ready for the next funeral.  Although beliefs and customs vary (as they do in every religion), my understanding (from our tour manager and other sources I studied) is that cremation is a way of returning the body to the earth.  Hindus believe that the world consists of 5 elements: Air, water, earth, sky, and fire, and the cremation process includes all five elements, returning the body to the earth from which it came.     However, Hindus believe that although the body will die, the soul does not.  If the person lives a life with good “karma” (intentions and actions) that will lead them either to a higher station in life when they are reincarnated or to “heaven,” and if the person leads a life of bad karma, they will be reincarnated into a lesser form of life (such as an animal or lower) or hell. At the temple, there were a number of sadhus and aghora (monks who desire to become holy by ascetic practices.)  They were more than happy to pose for photos (as long as we gave them money), but I think they are often shunned by many Hindus and seemed very strange to us as Westerners.  In contrast to Hindu beliefs, I would like to share the Christian perspective, which includes purification by the blood of Christ, not holy river water, and offers regeneration through faith in Christ rather than reincarnation. Also, the Bible holds out the hope of eternal life as a gift after this present life ends, not because we’re justified by our ability to live out such good karma that we no longer need to be reincarnated, but by grace, based on the righteousness of Jesus Christ on our behalf:Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men” (Titus 3:1-8, emphasis mine).