Almost Monthly Newsletter
January 1998

In This Issue
Mail Box An Open Letter To Family And Friends
Itinerary Roman Catholicism Today
Ruth's Diary Testimony: Robert Vonderharr

An Open Letter To Family And Friends
By: Steve McMurrer

This letter came to our office a few weeks ago. We were touched by it. We want to share the hearts of this couple with you as an encouragement and challenge to reach out to your own friends and family.

We hope this letter finds everyone in good spirits and good health. . .One big development in Mary’s life and my life this year we want to share with you is that we have become born-again, Bible-believing Christians. We thought we would share this letter with you as one way to begin to share the excitement and happiness we have found in our personal relationships with Jesus Christ.

We feel compelled to send this letter and would love the opportunity to discuss your perspective on The Truth of Jesus’ Gospel, which we have summarized. Some may be offended by it. Some may not fully understand what we say here. Please talk to us about it. In any case, we love each of you dearly and want you to fully understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which remained hidden from our understanding for many years.

Where does one start a conversation like this? I guess at the critical point Mary and I both learned through similar but different paths. You see, like many people, we were led to believe that what God asked us to do on this earth was to be faithful to your religion (in our case, Roman Catholicism); try your best to be a good person, husband, wife, father, and mother and to love your mother and father, and your fellow neighbor. Do these things well and, if you’re lucky, you’ll only have to spend a short time in purgatory before you go to heaven. (This is the abridged version. In person, we can expand on it.)

What God has shown us with absolute clarity, through two very distinct paths, is that we can be assured, today, as we write this letter, that we will go to heaven if we put our complete trust in Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins and His resurrection from the dead. If we believe that His single death and resurrection paid the price for all our sin and profess our belief in the same, then our heavenly existence is assured and cannot be lost. In other words, our entrance into heaven is based on the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross; not on any works or actions we can take. No one anywhere at any time in the world can be “good enough” to merit entrance into heaven. Not Mother Teresa, not the pope, not the most devout religious person you know. We all sin and the price we pay for our sin is death.

So, how do you get in? How come Mary and I know we are going to heaven? How can we be so presumptuous? Are we any better than anyone reading this letter? Absolutely not!! I’ll lay out some Bible verses below that make it clear why this is the case, but before I do, let me try to summarize it. Our God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is so deserving of our praise and glory and is so perfect that we fail to realize how dark our souls are compared to the brilliance and purity of God, even if we only sin “a little bit.” All the Hail Mary’s, Our Father’s, attendance at Mass, receiving the eucharist, going to confession, receipt of the other sacraments—none of these activities or works erase the stain of our sins. The Bible tells us very clearly that all of our works are like filthy rags in the sight of God. Doesn’t sound fair? God makes the rules; not man. We are not to question His plan for Salvation, but to give Him all the glory He deserves.

So, how do we erase the stain of our sin? By believing in Jesus’ death and resurrection and submitting our lives to His will and purpose. Why does this work? Because Jesus was born as a man, but retained His deity as God. He lived a perfect life and was without sin. He was crucified for proclaiming that He was God. He died and rose from the dead three days later. His perfect, unblemished life was offered up to God as a sacrifice, one time, on Calvary. God accepted that perfect sacrifice as atonement for all who would trust Jesus as their personal Saviour. When He died on the cross, He took on every sin I committed and will commit in my life, the same for Mary; the same for you and everyone who has ever lived. When you are born-again in Jesus Christ, in God’s eyes, He has forgotten all of your sins and you are wearing the perfect, pure white robe that Jesus earned for you on the cross. And God and the whole of heaven rejoice when you don that robe through your spiritual rebirth. God sees you in that white robe which covers your human sinfulness with the perfect, unblemished sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross. Because you are “wearing” the robe Christ has prepared for you through your belief in His one-time sacrifice, you have eternal Salvation.

The catch is that you have to accept this most gracious gift from God. It is receiving this gift that is called being “born-again.” Remember, Jesus told Nicodemus, “Amen, amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3 (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine Text). Jesus went on to say in the Bible: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that those who believe in him may not perish, but may have life everlasting. For God did not send his Son into the world in order to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not judged; but he who does not believe is already judged (condemned), because he does not believe in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.” John 3:16-18 ibid.

God makes it very clear in the Bible that we must receive His gracious gift if we want to enter heaven. If we don’t accept it, if we continue to think that we can be good enough or add something to the finished work of Jesus Christ, it’s pretty clear that we will go to hell. Based on our human standards, good people who seem deserving of heaven are going to hell. Not fair? Yes it is, because time and time again God has offered every one of us the opportunity to accept His gracious gift. And God makes the rules.

Born again belief in Jesus Christ is not just mental assent to the facts of Jesus being God. It is acknowledging our human sinfulness before God, admitting our inability to stop sinning, repenting of our sin, and asking Jesus to enter our lives in a personal relationship and to direct our lives according to His perfect will.

For Catholics, many of these statements are anathema. That is, the Catholic Church teaches Mary and I are damned to hell for our beliefs. It’s very clearly stated in multiple places in church documents based on infallible pronouncements of the popes. The church has stated that its traditions have equal footing with the Word of God as represented in the Bible. Not only that, but the magisterium (the teaching authority of the church) holds the key to interpreting the Bible for us. It’s sort of a Catch 22 situation. Even if you begin to think or to question the Catholic Church’s teaching, the rules for being a member prevent you from doing that. If you don’t agree, or think I’m making that up, read the booklet, The Pontifical Commission on Interpreting the Bible, prepared for the church.

What Mary and I would urge you to do is spend some time reading the Bible. (This is encouraged by the Church.) Dig in and understand and read it on a daily basis. It is the Inerrant Word of God (It contains NO errors). Jesus quoted it often, at least 90 times in the New Testament He said “The Scriptures say. . .” or “It is written. . .” He recognized it as the Word of God. In fact, the Bible says Jesus is The Word Incarnate (the Word made flesh). The Bible says all Scripture is God Breathed. God’s Word was breathed unto the writers and they wrote the accounts of what God had told them. And just because the writers were men and women, prone to sin and error like you and me, it does not mean that they made errors when they wrote down what God revealed to them. It’s illogical to conclude there are errors based on the fact that they were human writers. Just because one can make errors, it does not follow that one always does make errors. God prevented them from erring when they recorded His revelations.

In addition to changing our perspective on many things we encounter day- to-day, our belief in Christ’s finished work also brings us to conclude that some of the teachings of the church are unbiblical and make a mockery of Christ’s death on Calvary. Some of these errors are contained in the tracts that may be included with this letter. The primary practice that we object to is the sacrifice of the eucharist in the manner the Catholic Church practices. You see, Jesus died once on the cross for our sins. It is a once and perfect sacrifice. Jesus even uttered the words, “It is finished” as He died. The words recorded in the original Greek mean “paid in full” as if paying a debt. His death paid the debt in full for all our sins. The church’s sacrifice of the Eucharist at the Mass is not just a reenactment of His death on the cross. The church says that it is the unbloody sacrifice of Jesus. That is, the priest is able to offer sacrifice for sin any time he offers mass. Jesus died once for our sins! A church that has expanded a simple memorial to the point that now an actual, literal sacrifice of Jesus time and time again during the mass is seen as a praise to God—that church has lost focus. It is a mockery! How many times must Jesus be offered before the sacrifice is acceptable to God? A million, a billion? The Bible says Jesus died once for our sins. We have chosen to believe the Bible and not the Catholic Church. The eucharistic sacrifice in the mass is nothing but bread and wine. To believe it becomes the body and blood of Christ (i.e., Transubstantiation) is idolatry, which violates the second commandment. (Don’t bow down to and worship idols.)

There are other points of disagreement, the primary one being that the church teaches that it is faith plus works that allows one to gain eternal Salvation. The Bible says it is faith only. We choose to believe the Bible and not to rely on the traditions that have been invented by man—that have become Catholic Church tradition. Now let us mention a few key Bible verses that we believe point out God’s simple plan of Salvation. Please look them up in your Bible and reflect on them. Please be open to hear the message God’s Word has for you today. Your eternal life depends on it! God showed Mary and me that we were religious, but lost.

We recommend Paul’s letter to the Romans as a starting point for getting acquainted with the Bible. A few verses are listed here: Romans 3:22-24, 6:22-23; 5:8; 10:8-11; 3:20. Please read them and mark them in your Bible then read the whole book through so you understand them in their context! Ask God to show you clearly what His Truth is. He is faithful to answer this prayer because His will is that none of us should perish.

There is so much more we could fill in here. We hope you receive this message with open hearts and we look forward to opportunities to discuss it with you further. Our address is 13900 Rock Still Ct, Clifton VA 20124.

In This Issue

Another Ex-Catholic for Biblical Christianity
Robert Vonderharr

Twenty years ago my life suddenly changed. Our family lived on a farm in western Minnesota. Beyond food, raiment, and shelter. . .something, perhaps everything. . .was desperately missing.

Honestly, though we were religious, my heart never sensed the presence of God nor any purpose in the virgin birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. I knew about Jesus from religion classes as a young lad; but, I didn’t know Him! I didn’t know Him as God. I didn’t know Him as a friend. I certainly didn’t know Him as my Saviour. How could I? No one ever explained Bible truth to me: that I was a wicked, lost sinner headed for a Christless hell! Our family never read or studied the Bible; so, how would I know about the reality and certainty of hell? Hell was mentioned in church, but never that this is where “I” was headed. How could I have known about the love of Christ? How could I have known that, on Calvary’s cross, Jesus died for “my” sins! Heaven seemed so far away. . .

Then someone cared enough for my soul that he prayed for God to reveal my sinful nature to me and change the direction of my soul with a convicting turn. Twenty-one years ago Bob, a fellow college dorm resident assistant, made a list at the beginning of my senior year. That list included ten students that he asked the Lord to allow him to witness to concerning Salvation in Christ alone. My name was on the top of that list of depraved sinners. Imagine (briefly) Bob, the drunken carouser, the womanizer, the filthy, fowl-mouthed religious person, and (worse) the confident, aspiring, and controlling accounting student who didn’t need anything or anyone.

To make a long story short, after three months of weekly Bible study meetings and many more hours of individual Bible reading with particular study in the book of Romans, I finally realized, indeed, that I was a lost sinner headed directly for eternal separation from God. What’s more, I was well deserving of the lake of fire! “Why, Bob, you couldn’t have been that bad!” Ask my wife, Marianne! Ask some of the born-again Christians that were on campus! Better yet, ask the Lord Jesus Christ! It wasn’t the degree of badness, it was simply the fact that I was never one of His. My father was the devil. (John 8:42-44) My friends at the time were unsaved sinners. My family was deceived by Rome just like I was.

It was genuine repentance that came to the heart of this sobbing farm boy when I asked Jesus Christ to save my poor soul and remove all of my sins as far as the east is from the west. That was the moment of my spiritual birth! Christ’s blood was once and forever applied to the doorpost of my heart through repentance and faith in the completed sacrifice of Jesus Christ. A loud and joyful Amen! if you agree. If not, come to the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved! Become a child of God while the invitation is open. You’ll be glad you did. His hand is stretched out to you! Come!

In This Issue

Roman Catholicism Today

Losses To Protestants

Roman Catholics are abandoning their church for evangelical groups in mounting numbers. Hundreds of bishops from the Americas have gathered at the Vatican to determine what to do about it. In Latin America the attitude is that well-financed Protestant missionaries are part of a conspiracy to destroy Latin America’s identity. The problem is especially acute in Latin countries where Catholicism has dominated for five centuries. At least 25% in Venezuela and 33% in Guatemala are now Protestant.

Meatless Fridays

With a unanimous vote, the U.S.A.’s 300 Roman Catholic bishops have moved their 61 million followers one step closer to a return to meatless Fridays. It was not clear when this might take place or what form any of the rules might take, but is is being studied and they could act as early as November of 1998.

“Sign of Times”

John Paul II has said that the series of Marian apparitions that ended 80 years ago at Fatima, Portugal, rank as one of the most significant events of this century. He referred to them as “one of the greatest signs of the times,” and said that the event “helps us to see the hand of God.” He repeated the exhortation of the apparition that the faithful recite the rosary every day.

R. C’s. Experience Holy Laughter

More than 1,200 Catholics jammed the Presentation Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church in Philadelphia last August to experience charismatic revival. Roman Catholics laughed hysterically after they were hit with what Howard-Browne refers to as “the joy of the Holy Ghost.”

In This Issue

From Our Mailbox

“A grateful thanks for your letter. Pleased to note you are both still energetic for the Lord. We have no conservative churches in this large area of East London. 80% of the children of this country have never heard the Gospel. 180,000 abortions were carried out last year. Muggings and rape are the order of the day. We were once a great nation, but what sad and widespread barrenness. Truly our nation has forsaken the Lord. Please remember our ministry in prayer. Greetings to all the team. Please keep sending your CHALLENGER.” (ENGLAND)

“I have had a copy of Dave Hunt’s new video, ‘A Woman Rides The Beast’ sent to you. It is so explosive that you will want to carry it. It will make your heart rejoice that such a good tool is available. Be encouraged.” (WI)

“When I was struggling with whether to remain Catholic after 45 years or become a Christian, I was lent a copy of Pilgrimage From Rome. Reading it helped me greatly. I now have a real relationship with the Lord and have left Roman Catholicism. Now I need a copy to share.” (CA)

In This Issue

Ruth's Diary

“Great is the Lord and greatly be praised!” What a thrill to look over the past year and recall the many blessings so graciously bestowed upon us. There is no human way that we can thank Him enough. We can only live faithfully for Him.

Since the beginning of this ministry we have prayed for the Lord to send workers to help us. He has sent quite a number and each one has been a blessing to the work and to us and we continue to love and pray for those who have moved on. Only a few have been full-time. We were thrilled this summer when some dear friends visited. A few months later they called to ask us to join them in praying about their joining the staff. Now the Lord is bringing them to live on the property! John and Marian Swearingen will arrive sometime around the first of February. Please pray for them as they prepare to move, as they travel, and for us to have things ready for them to move into temporary accommodations. Some young men helped clean a section of the garage, other friends helped move storage boxes, and then a few days later, a crew of men from one of our local supporting churches worked all day on January 1st insulating, hanging dry wall and painting. We will need to start raising funds for permanent housing for them, so please pray for this need and contribute as the Lord leads.

There are many of you who have been praying for the problem I have had with my weight for several years. With tears I want to thank you! After all the diets I have tried and failed, the Lord has led me to a diet, exercise, and nutritional plan that is working! At the end of August, my goal was to loose 100 pounds. I am now more than half-way there! You can’t imagine how much better I feel and how much more work I can get done in a day. Please keep praying. It is usually easier to lose the weight than to keep it off. For the Lord and the sake of the ministry I want to be victorious in this. Also, keep praying for us as we travel to meetings. The schedule is nearly full for 1998!

In This Issue


Jan 11 1998Faith Baptist ChurchCrossville TN
Jan 14 1998Tilton Baptist ChurchDalton GA
Jan 18A 1998Life Gate Baptist ChurchHixon TN
Jan 18P 1998Ashland Terrace Baptist ChurchChattanooga TN
Jan 24-28Riverside Baptist TempleRiverside CA
Feb 1 1998Ex-Priest Cipriano Valdes FamilySan Diego CA
Feb 3 1998Retired Navy Chaplains (Baptist)San Diego CA
Feb 5 1998Swearingen's scheduled to arrive at MTC
Mar 1P 1998Filipino-American Baptist ChurchChula Vista CA
Mar 8 1998Pomerado Road Baptist ChurchPoway CA
Mar 15A 1998Bible Baptist ChurchVallejo CA
Mar 15P 1998Orchard Ave Baptist ChurchVacaville CA
In This Issue