Are You Catholic or Christian?

The recent papal visit of Pope Francis was headline news for days.  I’m sure his visit caused many to reflect on their own spiritual condition, and that’s a good thing. A young woman even asked me, “Are you Catholic or Christian?

I said, “I am a Christian. But Catholics consider themselves Christians as well.”

She said, “No, I’m Catholic. I’m not a Christian. It’s different.”

I said, “Yes, there are differences, but both Catholics and Christians agree with the five most important truths about Jesus Christ and Christianity.”

[BTW I remember years ago when church-goers were either Catholic or Protestant. It seems many young people these days are unfamiliar with the word Protestant.]

So I explained to this young person what the five most important truths are:

  1. The Virgin Birth – Jesus was born of a virgin.
  2. The Blood Atonement – Jesus’ death on the cross was full payment for our sins.
  3. The Resurrection – Jesus rose bodily from the dead on the third day.
  4. The Trinity – The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three Persons in one God.
  5. The Deity of Christ – Jesus is not only the Son of God, He is God the Son.

With these five most important truths, both Catholics and Christians (or Protestants) agree.

So what’s the difference?   In a nutshell:

  • Christians believe the Bible is the only foundation for their faith.
  • Roman Catholics have a three-fold foundation for their faith: (according to the official Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1995 edition, page 34).
    1.  The Sacred Scriptures (Bible)
    2.  The Sacred Traditions
    3.  The Magisterium of the Church (authority of the Pope and Bishops)

                                                         *       *       *

  •  Some Scriptures showing the deity of Christ:  John 1, Colossians 1, Hebrews 1 and Revelation 1.
  • It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.   Ephesians 2:8-9
  •  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.    2 Timothy 3:16
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First Kiss on Wedding Day?

I sometimes ask the incarcerated minors in my Bible study, “Is it easy to allow Jesus Christ to be Number One in your life? Is it easy to make Him your Lord?”

They’ll typically answer, “Yeah, it’s easy.”

Then I tell them this true story:

Andrew was 28-years-old when he met the Lord Jesus Christ. He wanted to give his life to Jesus but he had an unsavory lifestyle. His desire for women and his addiction to porn were pulling at him. He recognized that porn had made him mean and cruel. He knew he needed help, so he made the decision to surrender his life to Jesus. He claims it was the best decision of his life!

He began attending a Bible study and church. That’s where he met “Mary,” a godly young woman with a past—a former prostitute! She met Jesus Christ and exchanged her lifestyle for clean living, church and Bible study. Andrew and Mary dated for two years before they married.

“During those two years he said he did not touch her. He did not hold her hand or put his arm around her. Their first kiss was on their wedding day. Why?

“She had had men. He had had women. They both knew where touch would lead. They wanted to honor God with their lives. The ‘no touch rule’ made it easier to obey God.

“They have now been married eight years, have two small children and are serving God. They claim they are more in love now than when they first married.”

Back to the teens at the juvenile facility:

“You have heard the story. Let me ask you again: Is it easy to make Jesus Christ Lord of your life?”

This time their response was, “No.”

“You’re right. It is not easy. But is the reward worth it? Yes! God always blesses us when we are obedient.”

  • Those who honor me I will honor…     I Samuel 2:30.
  • Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!    Deuteronomy 5:29
  • See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse— the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God…     Deuteronomy 11:26-28
  • SONG: INTO THE LIGHT by Kathleen


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Don’t Say “I Love You” for Six Months?

When our young friends Susan and Mark were dating, they read a book together.  It suggested that couples not discuss marriage for six months.

“Nor should one say, ‘I love you’ for six months.  In fact, you should not say, ‘I love you’ until you can say, ‘Will you marry me?’ in the next breath.”

Six months after their first date Mark asked Susan’s father for her hand in marriage, before he had proposed to Susan.

Shortly after their engagement Susan mentioned that she and Mark could no longer kiss.
“But why? You’re getting married.”
“We can’t handle it!  So from now until the wedding, it’ll just be a peck on the cheek and a hug.”

How rare is this! Yet I know four young couples who so desired to maintain a God-honoring courtship, that they refused any sexual contact until after marriage. Moreover, all four couples reserved their first kiss for their wedding day.

Today it is not unusual for some couples to engage in sexual activity on the first date!  Yet I also know there are many young people choosing to obey God and do the right thing.  Is it easy?  Not at all!

God blesses us when we obey Him.  After all, if we really love God, we will obey Him.

  • Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.     Romans 12:1-2
  • If you love me, keep my commands.     John 14:15
  • I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you.     Jeremiah 7:23


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Would You Read to Me from the Bible?

One day Alberto, the former restaurant cook who’d been fired for drinking, called me. He said when he was a child he wanted to know about God and the Bible. “I always wanted someone to read me a Bible story, but there was no one to do that.” Then he said, “Kathleen, would you read to me from the Bible?”

I read aloud one chapter. After a few verses I’d stop and we’d talk about it. He’d ask questions and then he’d say, “Go on, tell me what it says next.”

Later he said that he’d read a book about a boy who had gone to a Bible school. “I think that’s something I’d like to do. Is there a Bible school around here?”

I told him that as long as he has a drinking problem, he won’t last long in any school. The first thing he needs to do is to surrender his life to Jesus. Not only will all his sins be forgiven, but God will then give him the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would give him the power he needs to overcome his bad habits. Only then can he think about getting off alcohol. Only then will he be able to succeed in Bible school.

He said, “Cigarettes and alcohol make a man tough! Ya gotta me tough!”

I gave him a Bible one day and he was thrilled. Then I talked to him about going to Teen Challenge.  He was the right age at 23 — most are in their 20’s.  I told him he would learn a great deal about the Bible there. He would spend the first three months at an induction center where he would get off alcohol and learn some life skills and character training. The next ten months would be at another location. It’s a residential program, there’s no cost involved, and it’s the most successful drug rehabilitation program in the country.

He could hardly believe it would be free. He did not say he would go, but when I last heard from him he was seriously thinking about it. I’m sorry to say that during all our phone conversations he was never “ready” to give his life to Jesus.

Lord God, You know Alberto’s heart. You know he yearns to know You.  Please place Your hand of protection on him. Guide and direct him to follow You all the days of his life. I pray in the precious name of Jesus, Amen.”

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I Read a Whole Book!

Remember my young friend, Annie?  She was working as a waitress before leaving for the university. She was also sharing the Lord with her co-workers.

One Sunday she invited five waiters to church! All came but Alberto.   Alberto was the cook, 23-years-old and had come from Central America. At first Annie felt he was a lost cause. He had a drinking problem, had been in a gang, used offensive language and she avoided him.

One day he said, “Annie, what are you always talking to those guys about? What are those books you’ve got?”

“It’s about God, Alberto. You wouldn’t be interested.”

“I AM interested! Tell me. Tell me!”

So Annie began sharing with Alberto about God.

He’d listen and say, “God is for wimps, man! You think I’m gonna believe that? Get outa here!”

The next day he’d say, “Annie, you think there’s a heaven and a hell?”

She’d say, “The Bible tells us there is.”

He’d start cursing and saying, “I don’t believe that! That’s for wimps! Get outa here!”

This went on for days and then he said, “Annie, I need to talk to you. Everyday I ask you about God and when you tell me I get mad and yell at you. That’s wrong and I shouldn’t do that. I’m sorry.”

Alberto told Annie he’d never read a book in his life. All the guys at work had read a book Annie had brought called, Bruchko. It’s the story of Bruce Olson, a missionary living among a primitive Indian tribe in South America. Annie decided to offer it to Alberto.

“No, I can’t read a whole book! No!”

She said, “Go ahead. Read one chapter and we’ll talk about it. I’ll help you if you have questions.”

Two days later he had finished the book and was telling everyone in the restaurant, “I read this book! I read this book! Ask me anything, Annie! I’ll prove to you that I read the whole thing. Give me another one—I want to learn! Do you have any books on history?”

She said, “Civil War or World War II?”

He said, “Both! He ended up reading The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe and Twice Pardoned by Harold Morris.

Meanwhile, Annie left for the university and one of the waiters continued to come by my home to pick up a load of books for the waiters to read. When they’d finish, the waiter would return them and pick up another load.

I had never met Alberto, but one day he called me to say he’d been fired for drinking on the job. He wanted to return the books and thank me. He said, “I didn’t read them because I was interested in them, I read them because someone cared about me—and that meant a lot. By the way, I read 15 books. That’s impressive, Huh!”

  •  He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”            Mark 16:15
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Three Words

“Jesus loves you,” she said to the young mother with the sick child.                                     “Jesus loves you,” she told the troubled wife.                                                                              “Jesus loves you,” she called to the woman in the church narthex.                                       “Jesus loves you!” heard the young new pastor from the woman with the happy smile.

We’ve heard these three words countless times. But do we think to encourage others with them?  My friend Carole seems to have these words on the tip of her tongue, no matter where she is.  In all seriousness, she means it every time, and it shows.  Too many people have never been told that God loves them.   Many people don’t believe God could love them. They need to be told. They need to be reminded. Yes, even other Christians.

Years ago I was the woman mentioned in the above illustrations. How did Carole know I needed to hear those words when she spoke them?  Her timing—no, rather God’s timing—was perfect.

Carole’s simple ministry, and it is a ministry, has encouraged me so much that I find myself wanting to encourage others in the same way.

While traveling I encountered a lonely young woman in a public restroom. She was crying and feeling sad because she was far from her homeland of Ireland. She had also been drinking but seemed lucid. “…I’m so sorry to act like this,” she said.

“Really, it’s all right,” I assured her. “I’ve been homesick myself.”

“I had a couple of drinks but instead of feeling happy, I feel miserable and alone.”

With my family waiting outside, I didn’t have much time. “Lord, guide me,” I silently prayed. I asked, “Do you know Jesus?”

“Yes,” she replied.

Suddenly I thought of Carole.  “Then you do know that Jesus loves you,” I said.

“Yes,” she said slowly. “He does. I know He does.”

“Well, even though you FEEL  alone, you are NOT alone—ever. He’s always with you and He’ll always love you. Would you mind if I said a prayer for you?”

“I’d like that.”

It was a short prayer, but she was comforted. As I hurried out, I noticed a change in her countenance. She was smiling.

As followers of Jesus, we know God loves us; but we also need to be reminded from time to time. Sometimes we need another Christian to simply tell us… “Jesus loves you. He really loves you.” Isn’t that what it’s all about, anyway?

  • I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.    Romans 8:38-39
  • SONG: AT THE FEET  – Lyrics by Liana Wendy Howarth, Music by Kathleen




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My Grandmother’s Childhood

As a 9th grader, our son’s English assignment was to interview an older relative and then write his/her story.  He chose to interview his grandmother, my mom. The following is his narrative.

My grandmother was the youngest of four children. She was only 15 months old when her mother died of typhoid fever.  Her father struggled to care for the children himself, with the help of relatives and housekeepers.  But this became too difficult and he eventually put the kids in a children’s shelter and went back to Italy to search for an Italian nanny. Instead of a nanny, he returned two and a half years later with Theresa, his new wife!

The shelter had served good breakfasts of oatmeal or bacon & eggs. Now their breakfasts consisted of coffee, bread and a chunk of Parmesan cheese.

Theresa was frugal. The three girls each had two everyday dresses and one Sunday dress. Theresa allowed them only one bath per week.

Soon two little brothers were born.  Theresa favored her own children over the stepchildren.  The best food went to their father and then to the little brothers.  Theresa demanded the older children say “they didn’t want it,” when asked by their father. She would threaten to beat them if they didn’t obey.

They were often hungry. Theresa tried to get the stepchildren to smell the meat and then eat bread, but she was unsuccessful with that ploy. She did insist the children eat bread with everything.  Even when they ate watermelon or grapes, they had to eat bread. This habit remained with my grandma all her life.

Once her older sister stole a jar of olives from the basement. The girls enjoyed the olives, but later Theresa discovered the olive pits under the bed. They were in trouble again.

Maria, her oldest sister at age 10,  had to get up before school and bake the bread while Theresa slept.  Maria was allowed to save one piece of dough and the children could do whatever they wanted with it. Usually, they would flatten it like a pizza and put sugar and raisins on it.  Sometimes they’d top it with tomatoes and olive oil. That would be their dinner on the days they baked bread.

Theresa threatened to beat the stepchildren if they didn’t obey. Often she beat them even when they did obey.

When my grandmother was 18 her father had a stroke and died. Theresa became unbearable after his death. She made it clear she wanted the stepchildren out of the house as soon possible. Grandma married at 19.

Although they lived in the same city, Grandma never saw Theresa again–until 25 years later. It was after she learned Theresa was very ill and not expected to live.  Grandma went to see her for the first time since she’d left home.  Theresa spent her last days with my grandma at her side, caring for her.  It was during that time that Theresa asked Grandma to forgive her. She did.

  • Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.    Colossians 3:13
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Incarcerated Teen Surrenders to Jesus

An incarcerated teen was eager to surrender his life to Jesus.  Once he did, he began to change. He shared that he felt “peace” and just a good feeling about his future. I noticed he quickly cleaned up his language and began sharing his new faith with the other guys.  A few months later he was released.

Now, a year later, he again shows up in my Bible study!  I was disappointed. I told him I never expected to see him return. He explained that he was only back for a short time because of a minor infraction that occurred during his incarceration a year ago.

Then with a strong voice, he shared with the boys in the group, how God had changed him. He said, “You all should receive Jesus!  He is real and He has changed my life! After I was released I never went back to drugs,  never went back to METH. I’ve been going to Bible study and to church. I have new friends who also love God and I’m doing really good in school.  God has changed me so much!”

His story gave such hope to the other minors, that at the end of our time,  ALL of them wanted Jesus too!  What a night!

I later told him that perhaps he was called back so he could share his story.  He agreed.

Then he said, “By the way, I had my first birthday last month—I became one-year-old as a Christian.” He had remembered the date when we had prayed together that Jesus would come into his life.



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Aaron is Dying! Lord, He Doesn’t Know You!

Our dear friend and neighbor suddenly discovered he had terminal cancer. We were heartbroken.

Aaron was not religious, but neither were we.  Yes, I had recently come to know Jesus as my Lord.  Yes, I wanted to share my faith with him so he too could experience God’s love and peace.  But I was not religious and I knew religion could not help Aaron—but Jesus could!

Why was it so difficult for me to share my faith?  Why had I put it off? I could not put it off any longer!

I called the hospital.  Aaron was semi-comatose, but could have visitors.  A registered nurse myself, I knew he might still have his sense of hearing. He might understand my message. I prayed all the way to the hospital, for God’s wisdom, for our time to be protected and for Aaron’s heart to be receptive.

He didn’t respond when I spoke, took his hand or when I wiped the perspiration from his forehead with a moistened cloth.  Nevertheless, I explained that Jesus loved him, died for his sins and wanted to give him peace and eternal life.

“Aaron, if you want Jesus to forgive your sins and come into your life, will you squeeze my hand?”

Instantly, I felt his hand tighten around mine.  Although his eyes remained closed and he seemed otherwise non-responsive, he did respond! Truthfully, I was shocked! What should I do next? I began nervously praying aloud, thanking God for forgiving Aaron’s past sins and asking God to send His Holy Spirit, now, to indwell Aaron.  I ended with, “Thank You, Lord, that now I believe Aaron belongs to You forever.”

As I looked up, I noticed tears rolling down from Aaron’s closed eyes. His hand moved up to his face attempting to wipe them away, but in his weakness he missed the spot. With tears in my own eyes, I grabbed a tissue and wiped his tears for him.

I took the glass of water next to his bed and placed the straw between his lips. “Here’s some water, Aaron.” He drank! I was silently praising God because I knew Aaron had heard the message, and I believed he had received it.

When Aaron died a few days later, I both rejoiced and wept while praising God for His faithfulness. I thought, “Yes, my intentions were good, but why did I put it off for so long?”

“Dear Lord Jesus, make me more sensitive to Your Holy Spirit’s nudging to share You with those who are hurting or lost.  Truly, we don’t know what tomorrow holds—and our time, indeed, is short.  Amen.”


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No Touch Policy

I’ve discovered that different jails have different rules for Bible study facilitators. Our jail has a “no touch” policy. That means absolutely no hugs or handshakes.

One day while clothes shopping I saw a former inmate who had been in my Bible study for six months. Our eyes met at the same time. She was so excited she screamed!

I put my arms out and said, “Now we can touch!” She ran into my arms and it was a precious embrace. She started telling me how her life has changed since her release—she was involved in a church and had a new job.

Then she loudly called to her mother who was across the room, “Mom! Come and meet Kathleen!  She taught me the Bible when I was in JAIL!”

No shame—just tears of joy as she related the love she has for Jesus, and for the one who told her about Him.

Another time while at the beach, a former female inmate stopped at our Bible table. She and her husband were looking through our books. When she looked up our eyes met. We recognized each other at the same time. We hugged and she happily introduced me to her husband and children.

She was bubbling with joy as she shared that her husband had now come to Christ and they’d found a good church and were growing in their walk with God.

“Thank you Lord, for the privilege of seeing a little of your fruit. This is Your work. These are Your beloved children. Thank You for continuing to lead them in Your ways.”

  • Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creation. The old has gone, the new is here!     2 Corinthians 5:17


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