To Mark, Again

October 21, 2014

Mark,
I appreciate you taking the time to give a clear explanation of your view.

If you read more of my posts you will find that I do not believe that we are already perfect, but that perfection in obeying Christ is a requirement that we are to strive for daily (Mt. 5:48), and that we are to take this goal just as seriously as should a soldier take seriously his Commander’s orders, or a doctor his vow of adherence to the practice of good medicine, or an Olympic athlete to the pursuit of the Gold Medal.

I believe that obedience to Christ is what maintains unity with His Spirit (1 John 3:24), the outcome being salvation (Heb. 5:9; see also Mt. 25:14-30), and that disobedience / not putting His words into practice, defiles God’s temple, and if not repented of, brings upon oneself God’s eternal wrath. (Mt. 24:45-51 // Luke 6:46-49 // 1 Cor. 3:16,17)

As to Rom. 7 being a justifiable support for the belief that Christ-followers are expected to continuously struggle with sin, well, here is my response to that: http://knowgodsword.wordpress.com/2012/01/28/their-error-with-romans-7/

What if it is said, “He does not continue to curse”, or “His wife does not continue to ski”, or “They do not continue to go to church”, or “He does not continue to preach”? In the same way, 1 John 3:9 should be taken, as well as 5:18 which says, “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin.” And when 3:6b says, “No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him”, we can compare the statement with one such as this: “No one who continues to smoke can be on our baseball team.” Up against such a requirement, how many times can a person indulge in smoking until he is rejected?

Jesus has informed us that “everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34) and that such a slave does not have a permanent place in God’s family (v. 35), nor is he free. (v. 31-36) Being a slave to sin, we know, leads to death (Rom. 6:16), yet Jesus did not say, “Everyone who sins a lot is a slave to sin [which leads to death].” He just said, “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” See this post:

http://knowgodsword.wordpress.com/2014/02/02/commit-sin-slave-to-sin-death/

However, Christ-followers believe (and thus walk in) the Good News! –Like 1 John 5:4 which reminds us that everyone born of God has, through one’s faith, victoriously overcome the world. Verses 1-3 remind us that love for God is to obey His commands –commands which are not burdensome for those truly born again. This all is the result of having been crucified to the world and it to us (Gal. 6:14) –which happened because of our faith in Christ’s work on the cross. (same verse) It is the sinful nature that was in us that has been crucified (5:24) –that we’ve died to (Rom. 6:2) and are done with (1 Peter 4:1,2)– and we are given God’s own nature (1 John 3:9) –our new self (Eph. 4:22-24) –a new creation, the old gone. (2 Cor. 5:17) This has then resulted in being given fullness in Christ (Col. 2:6,10) who is powerful over all. (v. 10) In Him and by Him the sinful nature was circumcised off of us (v. 11), and now we are fully armed, in Christ, for victory, for Jesus has given us His authority to overcome all the power of the enemy. (Luke 10:19)

I believe that it is typically one’s behavior that determines one’s belief system. People see themselves and others behaving a certain way –namely, struggling with sins of different types– and so they create a theology to fit their experiences, selecting a few Scripture verses (and even twisting some) for support. However, we should always, when studying God’s Word, take it at face value, believe it as the top authority it is (rather than what humans have taught us), and change our conduct accordingly, calling out to the Lord to help us while also praising Him for being the God who is fully capable of conforming us to Christlikeness.

I appreciate both your cordiality and your insights, so I do hope you will contemplate all the verses I’ve mentioned above and respond from there at your convenience.

Rachel

P.S. To Mark

October 20, 2014

To Mark at my comment page today,

P.S. If once-sanctified people sin deliberately there is no more sacrifice for sin but only a walk toward Hell. (Heb. 10:26-31) So, when those who believe themselves to be “Christ-followers” sin, how much is the sinning deliberate? For is sin not deliberate if we have neglected to prepare ourselves against it as diligently as would a soldier or an athlete? (2 Tim. 2:4,5) –Or if we have not been training ourselves to be godly (1 Tim. 4:7), have not been putting on the full armor of God (Eph. 6:11), have not been praying in the Spirit (v. 18), and have not been filling ourselves with the knowledge of the Word (Ps. 119:11), all so that temptations to sin (and let’s remember that we’ve already died to sin –Rom. 6:1-7 // Gal. 5:24 // Col. 2:11) can be rejected? Where should the line be drawn concerning willful sin, amounts of sin, and the frequency of sinning?

Jesus says that if we do not remain in Him and His words, we get cut off, we dry up, and we get thrown to the fire. (John 15:1-6) He says we must obey Him to remain in His love (v. 10), revealing that we have a responsibility, and that it is to remain by obeying. But, how much obedience is the required obedience? 100%? Or would 70% be okay? In answering this, should we not take into account that Jesus tells us that in order to belong to Him we must give up everything we have (Luke 14:33) and never look back? (9:62) If Jesus is telling us that we are to give up any relationship to people or possessions that He commands, should not these last two verses remind us that we have already been commanded to completely renounce (give up / die to) any and all our relationship to sin?

Thank you, ahead of time, for your response.

Rachel

Kiana Honored Queen

October 18, 2014

Friends,
Eight nights ago, at Alvarado’s Homecoming, my niece, Kiana, was one of the five senior princesses. She had chosen as her escort a young man named Tim who is one of the “LifeSkills” mentally challenged students she has assisted for two years at her school. Tim is the one I wrote about in my 12/16/13 post whose father was tragically killed last Fall in a motorcycle wreck. Kiana, in response, organized a charity fund raiser at her school and also wrote to the radio station, KLTY, asking if they too would like to help Tim’s hurting family.

So, as our family watched from the bleachers Friday night, 10/10/14, and all the princesses and their escorts stood on the football field at half-time, Kiana Headland was announced to have won queen! It was very exciting!

Truly, Kiana is deserving of the title. Not only has she assisted with the handicapped class, but she is a major leader in her school. She is the president of the student council, vice president of the student body, is a cheerleader, was the cheerleader mascot last year, was junior homecoming princess last year, is one of the top students grade-wise, and the list goes on. Most of all, she is a sweet and good girl who loves Jesus, shines Him to others (including to the Japanese people when they go every summer to Japan to minister, as well as to the international students attending the local university who she joins her parents in ministering to). More than all this, Kiana shows thoughtfulness and maturity like few others her age. Our family is very proud of her as well as thankful to God for helping her achieve and flourish.

Besides the excitement we had on Homecoming night, Kiana had invited me, along with her parents, to attend her classes that morning, as all the students’ parents were invited to do for their teens. That was a lot of fun and so was watching her and the other cheerleaders cheer for the pep rally. She had arranged for Tim and some of the other LifeSkills students to join in at one point to lead the crowd in a cheer, and that was definitely precious to watch.

Below are some photos of the whole wonderful day.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

P.S.  Here, also, is a link to the newspaper’s photos:

http://www.midlothianmirror.com/gallery/collection_38a6ae56-72f5-515f-9436-f46e61eff04e.html?mode=nogs

Kiana and Tim

Kiana between two of her best friends who were also runner-ups

Kiana between Tim and his sister

Kiana (after receiving the queen’s crown and sash) and Tim; Alvarado fans in the background

Kiana and Tim with my brother and his wife (Ruth)

Kiana with her boyfriend, the football captain, by the gym, Homecoming morning

Kiana and her boyfriend of two years (who escorted her last year) and her parents

Me, Kiana, and my brother

Kiana and Tim when we visited his classroom

Kiana rehearsing the cheer with Tim and two of his classmates

My brother helping Ruth tie the Science Lab apron we had to wear in that class

Kiana and me wearing the aprons and goggles in Science Lab

Kiana and her dad cleaning up after the pep rally

Beautiful Kiana, getting ready before the evening Homecoming game

My parents met us at the football field

My brother and Tim before half-time

My mom and Kiana hugging after she won (Btw, the ring Kiana wears is a purity ring –a symbol of her vow to God to be pure.)

My parents with the new Homecoming queen and king between them

Me, Homecoming Queen Kiana, and Homecoming King Tim, 10/10/14

Friends,
Last week my mom and I witnessed to and prayed with a couple who were originally from Africa. The woman was a Christian and the man said that because one of his parents is Christian and one is Muslim, he is both Christian and Muslim. We tried to gently explain to him that a person cannot be both, for the two religions, though yes, they overlap in commanding righteousness, do, for the most part, contradict one another. The man and woman were polite listeners, and at separate times my mom and I prayed with the wife who was eager to have her husband come to the Truth.

One thing I almost always bring up with Muslims who think that their religion and Christianity can mix is that Jesus claimed to be the “I Am” (John 8:58) –the Almighty Most High, Creator and Only God. If Muslims teach that Jesus was merely one of the great prophets, how are the faiths compatible?

I also almost always ask a Muslim about how he believes that his sins can ever be atoned for. If we’ve all sinned, I say, and sin requires either punishment or pardon, how do you get God to pardon you for all your sins so that you can make it into Heaven? The Muslim usually answers to the effect that he is trying to be good enough. Yet this, we know, is impossible before a perfectly holy God. For perfect justice to be upheld, there must be a punishment or a ransom paid –and a ransom paid requires a Redeemer. The Muslim religion has no such Person. It all falls on the Muslim individual –how much he can please God; and of course all of us are a part of fallen humanity in which every human falls short of God’s requirements. (Rom. 3:23)

The Christian, on the other hand, and though he, also, like the Muslim, wants to please God, has both a Redeemer and a Savior. Jesus has bought us back to God by the shedding of His blood (Acts 20:28) –the blood of Him who was/is sinless. (2 Cor. 5:21) This is the only way to be forgiven by God for sin (Heb. 4:14-16 & 9:22), and thus the only way to be saved from God’s wrath against sin. (1 Thes. 1:10) By stepping into Christ, therefore, and doing so “by faith in His blood” (Rom. 3:25), we come into the One who is sinless and we abide there in loyal submission to Him (Luke 6:46-49 & 14:25-35), we abide there living His life (Gal. 2:20 // Col. 2:10), we abide there by having renounced sin (Rom. ch. 6 // Gal. 5:24), we abide there free from Sin’s mastery (same verses), and we abide there, pleasing God because we are controlled no longer by the sinful nature but by His Seed / Nature / Spirit. (Rom. 8:9 // 1 John 3:4-10) By the Seed / Nature / Spirit of God in us –which comes by being born of His Spirit (John 3:3-8)– we have the power to live up to that righteousness which, as Muslims and Christians agree, God does indeed require. (Jesus Himself told us that the command is perfection. –Matt. 5:27-30,48) And if we do allow ourselves to get weary or neglectful so that we take up sin, we have an Advocate and a Cleanser who comes to our aid when we repent. (1 John 1:9-2:6) But, who does the Muslim have? No one but himself. And he, the Muslim, is not powerful enough or good enough.

Christianity and Islam are not compatible. The faiths cannot exist together in harmony. Anyone who thinks he can adhere to both and be in the Truth is just deceiving himself.

“Seek the Truth,” is what we told this confused man. And it is what everyone needs to do who is not yet walking in the Only Truth and Life –He who is the Only Way to the Father (John 14:6) and He whose teaching is the only Redemption (John 8:31-36 // 2 John 1:9), this being because He is the Father Himself in bodily form. (Isa. 9:6 // Col. 1:15-20 & 2:9)

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
Just by living on this fallen planet, we are bound to have storms –trials, disappointments, grief, pain, death… This isn’t Heaven. But, we do have God. We do have a Savior. And His Spirit is available for all who put their trust in Him, all who walk obediently with Him. His name is Jesus and He is completely able to save us from all that we need to be saved from. This means saved from sin and Hell, but it does not always mean being saved from having to endure storms. Therefore, being that storms are part of this life, we need to understand what the Lord requires of us as we go through them.

The Lord requires us to have faith. Faith in Him. Faith that He will see us through, be right there with us, give us peace and strength in the journey, and mold our character into Christ-likeness. We must have faith. Without it we cannot please God. (Heb. 11:6) But with it, we overcome the world. (1 John 5:4) And even if we die, we live. (John 11:25,26)

How do we exercise and prove our faith? We obey the Holy Spirit. But this we can do only if we are reading the Word which is where He / His Truth is found, heard, known, and experienced. (Here is a very important post regarding this: http://knowgodsword.wordpress.com/2011/07/27/salvation-comes-through-the-word/)

When we are led by the Spirit of God / the Word of God, we will be led to pray in praise, especially if we are going through, or expecting to go through, a storm. This praising, faith-filled prayer to God will be intense, it will be continuous, and it will be battle –meaning, strenuous, but also flowing compulsively like a torrent. For when we, by our will and faith, open wide our mouths, God Himself fills our tongues. (Ps. 81:10) He has brought us up out of bondage, storms, pain, heartache, and afflictions from the enemy (see same verse), and He will do so again –through our prayers that are filled with praise.

But let me say it again: A tiny morsel of God’s Word and a small bit of praising is not going to bring the answer, the deliverance, the miracle. It takes making the battle our priority. It takes making the winning of it an expectation of confident faith. And it takes engaging our battle weapons whenever –and I mean, whenever– we get the chance, whether it be while driving, cooking, cleaning house, or walking down the aisle of a grocery store. In other words, we must be quoting the Word and exalting God continuously and assertively as we exhibit for Him our complete trust in Him and His will for us.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Acts of Self-sacrifice

September 28, 2014

Friends,
In the suburb next to the one we live in there has been a beautiful occurrence that has gone national. It can be read and viewed here:

http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Grand-Prairie-Homecoming-Queen-Shares-Her-Crown-275390651.html

Being that homecoming is actually a very big deal in Texas, this act of kindness shown by two girls toward another is no small thing. But giving up the crown for their friend who had experienced a cruel prank has reaped more reward and honor than had they kept their crown. What an inspiration to all of us to remember those who hurt, those who are bullied, and those who are less fortunate. And what an encouragement to remember to be kind, generous, humble, unselfish, and self-sacrificing!

Last year I wrote about my niece, Kiana, who was her school’s 11th grade homecoming princess and whose boyfriend accompanied her in his football uniform. This year this same young man is the captain of their football team, but, ever since last year, Kiana, with his agreement, has planned, if she gets nominated again, to have a particular other classmate to be her escort. This classmate happens to be mentally handicapped. Kiana has assisted with him and the other handicapped students for several years, getting them involved and participating, and this year, while being a cheerleader, the president of the student council, and the vice president of the student body, she has organized for them to be a part of several things including the cheerleaders. Talk about someone who has worked to make potential outcasts feel included and honored!

There are many self-sacrificing people in the world. True, there are many who are not, but there are many who are. And all too often their acts of kindness and selflessness go unnoticed. Maybe this is why it is so wonderful when someone’s does get attention. Even national attention.

May many take such heart-warming stories to heart and strive to think of ways to show kindness to everyone they can, especially to those who may be hurting somehow. I’ve seen that sometimes even the smallest act of kindness can go a very long way. It can melt a heart, it can create a friendship, and it can save a soul.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

That Eternal-Life-Food

September 21, 2014

Friends,
Jesus has given us this command: “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life which the Son of Man will give you.” (John 6:27) Yet what is it that most people in the world are working hard to attain? What is it which drives them to go hither and thither, being busy, busy, busy? It is the desire for the world’s food. It is the world’s nourishment they seek. It is the world’s crumbs –those rotting, hollow, and counterfeit joys and support systems– that they are striving so hard to possess and eat.

But Jesus has instructed us to reject such a pursuit. Instead, He has told us, we are to work for that Food which does not evaporate or perish but which lasts and gives true and eternal life.

What is this Eternal-Life-Food? Jesus has informed us in the same chapter that this Food is Him –His body and His blood. He has told us to nourish ourselves on Him. He has let us know that because the Father has placed His seal of approval on the Son of Man (also in v. 27), He (Jesus) is qualified and able to give us this lasting Food. Because He came down from Heaven and gave His life for the world (v. 33) His flesh eaten produces eternal life. (v. 50,51)

Jesus’ flesh and blood which He has spoken about that we are to eat and drink (v. 53-58) is actually His Spirit which comes by way of His words. (v. 63) Therefore if we do not nourish ourselves with the Word of God, Christ is not in us and we are not abiding in Eternal Life. (v. 53) Yes, our physical bodies need physical food, for that is how God created us. But our spirits must be nourished with spiritual food (Mt. 4:4), and the only True Food, the only Food that produces eternal life, is Jesus who is the Word of God. (John 1:1,14)

Let’s caution ourselves, though, about one thing: It is not enough to just eat (read) the Word of God. We must digest it (meditate on it) and let it work in our spirits so that it produces that Life which it is supposed to produce in us. We must let it strengthen us and let it be our source of godly action, our source of power to do the Lord’s will. We know that without the Spirit we can do nothing; thus we need Him. But the Spirit is filled up in us when we read the Word and put it into practice.

Let’s stop striving for food that does not profit our eternal souls, but instead strive –daily– for the Eternal-Life-Food which Jesus gives us through His Spirit in His Word.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel