Category Archives: Salvation

Biblical teaching on how to become a Christian

What About Dead Parking Meters and No Outlets? Is There No Hope?

Have you ever gone up to put money in a parking meter only to discover that it’s dEAd? Today is my son Daniel’s thirty-second birthday, and when I asked him what he wanted for a gift, he said a little wistfully, “You know, I think time is about the most precious gift.” I wasn’t exactly sure how to buy him time, but after reflecting on it a little, it did occur to me that I could offer him a little of my time to babysit their two little ones so he could take his wife out on a date!

It also occurred to me that their toddler, Samuel, likes donuts, so I decided to stop at Van’s Pastry (which has some of the best donuts in town) and pick up some donuts to make his day a bit brighter.  Can you believe this parking meter? In all my years, I’ve never seen this before, but it did make me think about what it means to be “dEAd.” On the way to their home, I also pass a cemetery, and I’m always taken with this sign: “NO OUTLET.”                                Once you’re dEAd, is there really “no outlet?” Over the weekend, Alan and I watched two movies, both based on true events that dealt with life and death issues. In one movie (A Tale of Love and Darkness, based on the youth of Amos Oz, who lived through the terrible years of Israel going from a British Mandate to an independent state), one of the main characters became terminally depressed and looks at Death (personified) as a comforting protector. The other story, The Unmiracle, is  about two brothers (one an ex-marine) trying to cope with the tragedies of life, although in their situation, they began to see a glimmer of hope even in the midst of all the darkness. Quite a few years ago, I bought three cups and let my two sons (who were living with us at the time) each choose which cup they wanted. They chose “Love” and “Faith,” leaving me with “Hope.” At the time, I don’t think I completely appreciated the value of “hope.” I knew that God is love (1 John 4:16), and that to love God above all else and our neighbor as I love myself is God’s highest command (Mark 12:29-31). I also knew that without faith it’s impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6) and through faith we’re justified and have peace with God (Romans 5:1-2). But, I didn’t appreciate the role of hope in life. Hope is what gives us joy and makes us happy (Psalm 146:5). It’s what gives us the courage to go on. I read about a study on what helped people survive during World War 2. It wasn’t physical strength and health (although I’m sure that gave people more of a possibility of surviving). The strongest factor was the will to live, and that was usually based on the person having a sense of hope.

Are you lacking hope today? Do you feel dEAd and like there’s no outlet? Please, please, please turn to Jesus and cry out to him for help and hope. Trust him. Call on him. Let him help you! Truly, He will!

*Here are a few readings from the Bible to get you started if you’re wanting more hope:

And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these Mark 11:29-31.

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2).

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:1 6).

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31).

Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12).

Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God” (Psalm 146:5).

Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord (Psalm 31:24).

That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments: And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not steadfast with God” (Psalm 78:6-8).

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).

Happy Halloween…and Even Better—Happy Reformation Day!

I was going to try to keep on task and write about Hindu cremations today,  but it’s snowing really hard and heavy—first snow of our winter—,
and that just changes everything, doesn’t it?  I can’t quite concentrate on 102° heat and the acrid scent of burning flesh   when I see swirling snowflakes out my window
and know there are jack-o-lanterns are sitting on our front porch.   Besides, we’re going to our kids’ (Dan and Brianna’s) annual Halloween Party tonight, and I can’t help but think about how much fun it’s going to be!  Last year we missed, because we were in South Africa touring Table Mountain and watching hippos duke it out on the Umfolozi River.  I thought about dressing like a hippo,
but I wasn’t sure how to bring along a river…Two years ago Sammy was dressed up like Super Man,  and now, it’s little Elanor who’s just learning how to sit! I’m not sure how the kids are going to be dressed tonight, but you can be sure Alan and I are superman-excited to see them!

However, there’s something way more wonderful that’s being celebrated today, and that’s the 500th anniversary of Reformation Day! Three of our kids and their families have converged in Germany and are in Wittenberg right now, joining in the wonderful celebration there. It may take a few days before I get any photos, but I just want to say how thankful I am for the work and insight of Martin Luther, who understood the supreme importance of translating the Bible into the common language so that we (all people) could read God’s words for themselves and understand His message about how to be reconciled to God and go to heaven! It’s not by being good (because none of us will ever be perfectly good), but by trusting in the One who is good and died in our place, Jesus Christ. Have you read the Bible? Do you believe in the One who will save us by His precious blood, “by faith alone”?

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10). (We are created by God for good works, but we are saved by faith in the good works of Jesus, so we never have to fear being rejected by God on the basis of our falling short of His perfect standard.)

P.S.—Just like snow changes everything, so does Jesus!
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7).

Birthday Bliss (or Not)

Alan has taken me somewhere very special and unusual for my birthday (out of town sans cell phone), so I won’t be home to soak up all the kindness of friends and relatives, chat on the phone, or even hit the “like” button on Face Book! Still, I wanted to let you know that you’re ever in my heart and prayers, and so I decided to prepare a few jokes so we could share some smiles today anyway!

YES!!This is in honor of all my friends who—like me—struggle with weight!This is especially for my daughter, four daughter-in-laws, nieces, and all young friends who are bravely rearing babies today! This one is a direct hit for me. Don’t know how the rest of you feel!  Here’s one for my hubby and all you health-care professionals! This one’s not so funny with all the hurricanes disrupting America’s millions of alligators. May you meet no crocodiles or alligators either later or in a while. 😦(This in honor of my son Stephen, who just passed his PhD comprehensive exams in musicology. Way to go, Stephen!)This is especially for my son Joel, who works as an editor, my daughter,  my writers’ group buddies and all fellow writers, lovers of good books and movies! Never thought of this one, but doesn’t it make you laugh?! …In honor of all my fellow Baby Boomers
who are developing gold-fish brains like Alan’s and mine. Anybody singing in a choir these days?  🙂 Here’s another one for the birthday girl (me).And, for all you fans of super hero movies…and Jesus!

 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:16-18)

Wildfires: Lord, Teach Us to Pray!

While hurricanes are flooding America’s southeastern seaboard, over 100 wildfires are devastating America’s northwest, and it’s now one of the worst years in U.S. history for acreage burned! I was praying yesterday with three women from California and Washington state, where smoke and heat are making it hard to be outside in some areas. My brother, who lives just east of California’s Bay area, said his thermometer read 114° a few days ago and was over 100° for several days, although it’s now “cooled” down to the 90°s. Yikes! Don’t you wish we could somehow take some of the drenching rains from the east coast and deposit them as showers of blessing on the west coast to stop the fires? There are so many horrible situations around the world where we cannot change what’s going on, but I know the God who can. What? Is God that powerful? Yes! “Ah Lord God! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee” (Jeremiah 32:17). But…could it be possible that the fires and hurricanes are actually fulfilling God’s word? Yes again. Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps: Fire, and hail; snow, and vapours; stormy wind fulfilling his word…” (Psalm 148:7-8).

I know from the book of Job that righteous people can (and do) suffer, but I also know the Bible is full of admonitions for people to return to him after they have forsaken his word and his way, which is what we, as Americans, have been guilty of doing. Unprecedented epidemics of pornography, drugs, alcohol, and other addictions are running as rampant as forest fires, destroying our homes and families. We’re being flooded with hurricane-force winds of ungodly cultural changes, where our morality has turned black into white, exalting as good what God’s word condemns as evil.

God’s word is clear to us: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:1-2). America is on fire and is being flooded morally and spiritually. Could it be that God is using the fires and floods we see physically as a merciful reminder to us to turn from our sins and repent?

I’ve been listening to a wonderful series by Jim Berg, called Quieting a Noisy Soul, and one of the things Jim teaches is that God is merciful!  However, true mercy is “rescuing us from our miserable condition,” not giving us whatever we want! Anyone who is living apart from God’s love and laws is in the most miserable condition of all, because they are separated from God and without his eternal life.

God’s word calls us to repent and come to him: “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7). There is a way to recover from addictions…and it starts by turning to God for help: “Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death” (Psalm 68:20 NIV).  “And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart” (Jeremiah 24:7).

Are you in need of a Savior? “I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour” (Isaiah 43:11). God can do what no one else can do for us! He can send showers of blessings on the West Coast and turn away the hurricane from the East Coast. Even better, He is also able to cure us of our addictions and teach us the truth so that we won’t be “carried about with divers and strange doctrines” (Hebrews 13:9). There is no one else who can, which is why I say with King David, “In him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence” (2 Samuel 22:3).

If you’re in need of spiritual counseling, you can contact me at my email address as a last resort (my name written out as one word—kathryn w armstrong—via gmail), although I would also like to encourage you to find a trustworthy, godly pastor or Christian counselor who lives in your area and with whom you could have better contact.

If you’re interested in joining with me in prayer for ourselves and our nation, please feel free to join our weekly on-line prayer group, which meets every Thursday at noon (EST). You can access it here:  https://aqueductproject.org/prayer-center/

(then, after you’ve opened the above link, click on the link within it that says:  To enter the Prayer Center and to join a live video conference call, please click here.) Here is more information on the next one:

Thursday, September 14, 2017, at 9:00–9:30am, (UTC-08:00), Pacific Standard Time
To determine the time of this service in your local time zone, click here.
Prayer Leader: Mary DePuy

If you’re interested in learning more about how to pray, please join us in a weekly seminar on prayer, which is occurring at noon (EST) every Monday for the next 9 weeks. Information and how to access it can be found here:

https://aqueductproject.org/prayer-seminar/

Here is more information on the next prayer seminar:

Monday, September 11, 2017:
Prayer in the New Testament
Lecturers: Matthew Dereck and Jonathan Armstrong

In this first official class period, we will introduce the spiritual discipline of prayer as the proper beginning point for theological study. “Theology” means “God-speech,” and we must learn to talk with God before we can learn to speak properly about God. This session looks into Jesus’ prayer life and his seven prayers recorded in the Gospels.

(Let me know if you have any trouble accessing these resources, and I can try to help you figure it out. It’s pretty easy, but I had trouble the first time, too, so I know it helps to have someone “walk you through it.”)

Recapping The Unreformed Martin Luther

Written by an analytical German with the head of a theologian and the wit of a radio journalist, Andreas Malessa’s The Unreformed Martin Luther delves into the myths and materialities of one of the world’s most monumental men: Martin Luther. Malessa cleverly wrote this book in part to celebrate the 500th anniversary of this “Man of the Second Millennium” who ended the Middle Ages by posting ninety-five theses on the palace church door in Wittenberg. Wait—that was a myth!  In not one of Martin’s 121 volumes of collected publications, letters, table talks, sermons, and songs does he ever mention nailing his theses on the door. The fact of the matter was, when a professor (such as Dr. Luther) wanted to engage in public debate, he submitted his paper to the dean of the university. From there, history reveals that Luther’s handiwork ended up on the desk of the pope, who was not pleased.Do you know much about the life of Martin Luther? If you want a fascinating look into sixteenth century culture and church, I highly recommend reading The Unreformed Luther. I found myself shocked (many times) and touched (at many—but other—times) with the life and times of this mountain of a man. For instance, when Martin’s sister died suddenly (likely from SIDS), Martin’s mother believed it was the fault of a neighbor lady whom she had summarily beaten to death. What? How could that happen?? (Martin did write later: “There is nothing more powerful in the world as superstition, but before God it’s an abomination.”)I knew Luther opposed selling indulgences (and that is not a myth), but I had no clue how evil this practice actually was. We’re not talking about hoping for pardon from venial sins (like failing to feed the cat on time), but Markus Menner was absolved from perpetrated homicide! Tetzel himself was an adulterer who even trafficked indulgences for sins yet to be committed. No need to fear God’s judgment or look to him for mercy, for a (high) price, no sin was so egregious but that you could be assured the freedom to commit it without fear of retribution from God or man. This undermined the entire foundation of our faith and the gospel of salvation through Christ. I’m glad Luther had the guts to stand up against this ghastly blasphemy!However, Pope Leo X (who was in the midst of building St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome) and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, did not appreciate Luther’s objecting to their financial and moral management styles, and so the hunt began. Luther was “kidnapped” by friends, who hid him in Wartburg Castle, where he spent his time feverishly translating the New Testament into German. Was it the first German translation? No, Malessa points out that there were already seventy-two partial translations, but Luther’s was the first complete translation. Oh, and did he really throw an inkwell at the devil’s head? No. Another myth. (If you don’t believe me, read the book!)Why did Luther go to all the trouble to write a Bible in German? Because he disbelieved the myth that salvation can be earned through indulgences or even good deeds, and he believed that if the people could have a copy of the Bible in their own language, they could read the truth for themselves. Salvation is a free gift of God’s grace to be received by faith in Jesus Christ as our redeemer from sin. This is clearly taught in the Bible (which even the Roman Catholic Church has recognized since the turn of this century through the writings of Pope John Paul II).Did Luther really say, “Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise!”? What is recorded as his response to being asked to recant is this: “…I am overcome in my conscience by the passages of Scripture and trapped in the Word of God. Therefore, I cannot and will not recant because it is neither safe nor healthy to act against the conscience. God help me. Amen.”  Fact or fiction? “Katharina von Bora, the nun who became his wife, was spirited away from her convent inside a herring barrel.” Fiction, but the facts surrounding their marriage totally charmed me, and one of the delights for me in reading The Unreformed Martin Luther was in learning that he was a devoted husband and father…the kind who changed diapers and washed them out! If you like touching romances, you’ll find one in this book!  🙂 In the course of demythifying Martin’s life, Malessa addresses over two dozen commonly held (and cherished) traditions surrounding the life of Luther, everything from “Did he eat while he preached?” to “Was he a boozer and a warmonger?” If you want to know, get the book! In fact, if you enjoy history and want a deeper look into the man behind the Reformation, this is an excellent resource! Martin Luther died on February 18, 1546, and 427 years later to the day, Alan and I were married after I waltzed down the aisle with “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” as my bridal processional. As Martin Luther’s great hymn has always been a favorite of ours, I would like to end this review with the words of his most glorious anthem.

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
(~Martin Luther, inspired by Psalm 46, sometime between 1527-1529)

A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing.
Our helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe.
His craft and power are great,
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing,
Were not the right man on our side,
The man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He.
Lord Sabaoth, his name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him.
His rage we can endure,
For lo, his doom is sure.
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers
Not thanks to them, abideth.
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also.
The body they may kill,
God’s truth abideth still.
His kingdom is forever…

(All photos from Wikipedia, except the first, which is—of course—a photo of the book!)