Friends,
Now at the close of yet another year, we should look back and honestly evaluate our own spiritual growth. Do we score low, mediocre, or high? What score do we truly think the Almighty God would give us? Was our year dedicated to Him, or was it dedicated to what we desired? Was our year submitted to Christ’s Lordship, or was it submitted to the sinful nature? Were we continually pressing forward to please the Holy Spirit of God, or were we continually turning back to please Self? Whose voice did we heed? Who made our decisions?

If we claim that Christ Jesus is our Savior and Lord, this means we have, in devoted submission, declared Him (He who is the King of kings) to be our Ruler and Boss –now, in this life, as well as in the one to come. For if we have done this genuinely, true faith will lead “to obedience, which leads to righteousness” (Rom. 6:16), which, in turn, “leads to holiness.” (v. 22) The result of holiness is eternal life (same verse), but without it, a person will miss the grace of God (Heb. 12:15), and thus being rejected (v.17) of his inheritance rights he sold through sin (v.16), will be denied the blessing of salvation and never see the Lord. (v. 14,17,25)

Rom. 1:5 says that we received grace to call people “to the obedience that comes from faith.” But aside from calling others to this, did we call ourselves to it throughout the year? If we did, it certainly brought us spiritual growth, freedom from sin, and joyful slavery to God and righteousness. (6:16-22) But if we did not, we kept ourselves in slavery to sin, thus walking in death. (v. 16,21,23) For faith without obedience is dead and useless faith (James 2:17,20,26) –useless toward the salvation of the one claiming to believe, and death to the spirit –that state of remaining in separation from God.

Let’s consider these things as we give ourselves a careful, thoughtful, and sincere year-end spiritual examination. And no matter our score, let us determine to always strive, yearly and hourly, for that God-like perfection which Christ commanded of us in Matt. 5:48: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

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Friends,
Are there people who are doing the devil’s will without knowing it? Yes, there are. The passage of 2 Tim. 2:14–26 informs us that we who are servants of the Lord are to gently instruct those who are trying to oppose the Word of Truth so “that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” (v. 26)

One of the devil’s favorite traps seems to be that of enticing people into a war of words –something that “is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.” (v. 14) Such arguments disgust and confuse listeners, and are harmful to many lives and souls. For some listeners will be swayed into believing false doctrines, while others will harden themselves from listening to any more messages concerning Christ, even for the rest of their lives. The multiplication effect of this is astronomical as multitudes are then hindered from coming to know the Truth.

So what are God’s servants to do? Well, when we are met with argument, we are to continue to speak the Truth to those who will listen, but to do so gently, with wisdom and love. I have found this to work most of the time, but with the few who do insist upon arguing, I cut the conversation off as pleasantly and lovingly as possible, saying, “Well, let’s continue to seek Truth.”

Coming to a knowledge of the Truth is what the devil desperately does not want for anyone, for once someone finds the Truth and steps into it, the Truth will set them free from his evil grasp. (John 8:32 & 1 John 5:18) This is why Satan tries to thwart, all along the way, the person’s search. He will intercept the seeker’s search with false teachers, sinful friends, discouragements, confusions, and even with distractions that seem worthwhile, but aren’t.

One common distraction seems to be the quest itself, not of Truth, necessarily, but of knowledge, which seems to be fueled by pride –the pride of “knowing”. For many people, unable to accept the simple Truth because it requires that they apply it in order to truly grow and know more, decide that they’d rather just continue their pursuit of learning (2 Tim. 3:7), rather than actually arrive at the knowledge of the Truth. (same verse) “Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around themselves a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (4:3) Thereby they turn away from the Truth (v. 4), rather than step into it. But they don’t step into it, because they really don’t want to repent of their sinful desires. (2:22,25) Thus, on they chatter, becoming more and more ungodly (v. 16); and while their words aid them in ceasing to be wise or good (Ps. 36:3), they deliberately deceive themselves concerning their own depravity. (v. 1,2)

In view of all this, God’s servants must be ever-alert to the devil’s entrapments so that we will continue abiding in the Truth ourselves –seeking it, applying it, and becoming more intimately acquainted with Him who is the Truth. (Jesus –John 14:6 & the Spirit –1 John 5:6) And where, first and foremost, do we search? We search in the Word of Truth (2 Tim. 2:15) –that is, God’s Word which is the Truth (John 17:17), and by which, if taught by the Spirit of Truth (John 16:13), is able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2 Tim. 3:15)

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Single, Fulfilled, & Devoted

December 29, 2011

Friends,
The Lord’s will for His children is that we be holy and pure (1 Thes. 4:3) and serve one another in love (Gal. 5:13), thus fulfilling the law of Christ. (6:2) If the maximum way we can do this is to be married, then God will have us be married. But if we can do this best by being single, then we should be content and joyful to strive for our potential there. As 1 Cor. 7:32-35 teaches, an unmarried person does not have to have the divided interests of trying to be devoted to both the Lord and a spouse, and so this situation, in view of eternal benefit, can often be best. For the more devoted we are toward the Lord’s concerns, the more we grow spiritually, and the more we grow spiritually, the more He can use us for His glory. The result of this then, of course, is that we reap not only more eternal reward for ourselves, but we are best equipped to lead many more people to Christ so that their eternities are, as well, certainly greatly affected.

Now, though most of us know this is true, why then do so many singles bemoan their singleness? Why are they so often searching for a spouse, wasting valuable time going out with those whose lifestyles and personalities are incompatible with theirs, or even whose characters are ungodly and ignoble? It is not only foolishness, it is sin.

God has called us to love Him first and foremost. Our attention should be on Him and His desires at all times. Have we not been bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:20a) –with the precious blood of Jesus? (Acts 20:28) Then we are to honor God with our body (1 Cor. 6:20b), and knowing this body’s spirit houses the Holy Spirit of God (v. 19), we are to give Him complete control. (Rom. 8:9) Would God really tell a single person to go out on all those dates? Would He tell them to spend time and money eating out, watching movies, and indulging in other worldly entertainment and pleasures? Really now. Will God judge these behaviors when we stand before Him on Judgement Day to give an account of all we did? Oh yes, if God will acquit us or condemn us based upon the account of every one of our words (Matt. 12:36,37), He will certainly judge our every wasteful action. (16:27 & 25:30)

Single people need to be calm and patient as they wait for the Lord Himself to bring the right spouse along. If they are not, they will not only be wasteful, but they could marry a person who is not the one God has planned for them. Then there will be years of grief and turmoil, and God’s purposes will be delayed or even thwarted. Oh, don’t listen to the Calvinists who say that all that happens is God’s preordained will. God certainly had a plan in store for all the Israelites to enter the promised land. But why didn’t they? Because of their sin –their unbelief and disobedience. (Heb. 3:7-4:11) It is the same for us. As Heb. 4:1 makes clear, the promise must be entered into. It is entered into by faith and obedience.

How should singles behave? They should conduct themselves as devoted and holy children of their Heavenly Father while maximizing the benefits of their single hood for the honor of Christ’s name and the furtherance of His Gospel. Singles can serve the community, intercede, pray, and commune with God without interruptions from the responsibilities that arise out of married life. This is good –and an honorable station. Yes, a single may cry out to God to give him a spouse, but this weeping needs to be kept for the time on one’s knees, not in frantic pursuit of the opposite sex or in hours devoted to depressing, belittling thoughts. No, instead singles should take advantage of their freedom to serve God to their fullest potential, even if they are also petitioning God for Him to bring them the right spouse.

Let’s encourage singles to take joy in the time of life they find themselves in and encourage them to use this timely wisely that they may grow into spiritual maturity and produce fruit that will last. Then if it be God’s will to have them one day marry, each will humbly find himself to have become a vessel of Christ-likeness, able to be a beautiful blessing to God, a hurting world, and one’s spouse.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
It is remarkable that Calvinists, while saying they uphold Scripture far above any teachings of men, say that God predestined all things before time began. This would mean that He fated –saved and doomed– every soul before they were born or came to exist. It would also mean that God preordained and predetermined, by His declaration and will, all events. All events would have to include evil events, even the most base and cruel. This is, in fact, what John Calvin taught, and what Calvinism’s TULIP teaches.

Scripture, though, does not teach the above. Let’s look at just one verse (though there are many) which says otherwise: “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone.” (James 1:13) Can God do wrong? No. Can God sin? No. Can God commit evil? No. Can God be tempted to do evil? This verse emphatically tells us that He cannot. And what else does it say? It says that He cannot tempt anyone else to do evil –! ! !

Well then, if God cannot tempt anyone to commit sin or evil, how could He be the cause (the originator and the culprit) for making someone else commit sin or evil? How could God preordain (declare and will) a person to commit sin or evil? That’s just it: He can’t. Then why do the Calvinists teach that He can –and in fact, has, from eternity past? Answer: Because they misrepresent God. –Because they have very false doctrines about God. Indeed, they are not only teaching falsehoods, but their teachings are so blatantly false, that their doctrines can be none other than “the doctrines of demons” which 1 Tim. 4:1 warns us about.

God’s Word tells us very clearly who is to blame when it comes to temptation. It is the person himself. God sent Jesus to set us free from the dominion, the slavery, the mastery, the control, of the evil one and his realm of darkness, as well as from our own wicked desires (Matt. 1:21 & Rom. 6:16-18 & 7:8,14,23-25 & Col. 1:13 & 1 John 3:5 & Rev. 1:5), but if someone refuses to step into this freedom, then he can blame no one but himself for succumbing to temptation. For “each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.” (James 1:14) So that is the cause behind temptation: A person’s own evil desire. It’s not God! It’s not God’s predestinated will –! ! !

“Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” (James 1:16,17) Let’s get it straight: God only gives good gifts, perfect gifts, pure and righteous and holy gifts. He does not declare or will or preordain temptations, nor does He predestine a person to commit sin or evil. But, while clinging to TULIP above the Scripture they insist they hold to solely, Calvinists show themselves to be very, very wrong.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
The reason we need to well know God’s Word for ourselves is because there are multitudes of counterfeit ways of salvation being promoted. Some are very close to the Truth, but if the way is sprinkled with falsehoods, then a person walking in that counterfeit gospel, will soon find himself far off course from the True. This would mean that he would be “alienated from Christ” (Gal. 5:4) so that “Christ would be of no value to him at all” (see v. 2), and he would be “eternally condemned” (1:8) along with those others who turn to a different gospel. (v. 6,7)

Many gospels, at least those who claim to be Christian, teach about the blood of Christ shed on the cross as payment for the sins of mankind. They teach that Christ rose from the grave showing His conquest over death, sin, and the devil. They teach that a person must believe this and repent. However, the problem lies in that most do not teach what the words “believe” and “repent” actually mean. They teach that “to believe in Jesus” means we must accept it as true what the Bible says about Christ rather than teaching that this acceptance is a daily submission and trust. They teach that “to repent of one’s sins” means a one-time expression of remorse for one’s sins rather than a complete u-turn from a lifestyle and heart that harbors sin to a lifestyle and heart that continually obeys God.

Most “Christian” gospels insist that Jesus is the only way to God (which they should) and they often picture a person trying to decide whether or not they should walk across a horizontal cross which acts as a bridge between two cliffs, sin and condemnation on one side, God and Heaven on the other. But what is usually not taught when this picture is shown, is that it is not merely a decision of “Hmmm… Do I want condemnation or Heaven?”, but, “Am I willing to become Christ’s completely obedient slave?” The latter is the pivotal question which must be dealt with in sincerity.

Phil. 2:10,11 informs us that every single knee will one day bow to Christ, acknowledging Him as Lord (meaning King, Master, Ruler), and that every tongue will do the same. But what the true Gospel proclaims is that by making Jesus Ruler of one’s life now through our grateful, loving, and submissive choice, we avoid having to do so later in fear and trembling.

Here, then, is what the true Gospel teaches in regards to that person making the decision to walk across the horizontal cross: We are invited to cross over, but to do so we are expected to first bow, with a contrite and grateful heart, to the King whom that cross represents, and that once we cross over, we are to bow again, ready to obediently serve the Savior-King the rest of our lives –which means, every moment of every day.

But is this what most “Christians” teach? No. Instead they teach that it is by making a decision of belief, and saying one is sorry for his sins, that eternal life is thereafter guaranteed. There is little, if any, mention about the necessity of bowing to Christ’s rulership on a continual basis –even though the true Gospel says we must. (Rom. 8:9,13,14 & Gal. 5:24 & 6:7,8 & Matt. 5:48 & 7:21-23 & 12:50 & Luke 6:46-49 & 16:13 & John 14:15 & 15:1-10 & Acts 5:32 & 26:20 & Heb. 10:16,26-31 & James 2:14-26 & 1 Peter 1:14-16 & 1 John 2:3-6 & 3:6-10, etc., etc.) This omission is the error of the counterfeit gospels –all those ways of salvation being taught which do not save.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Kissing The Face Of God

December 26, 2011

Friends,
Someone gave me a Christmas card several years ago which I keep displayed year-round as a reminder to me of the privilege true Christians have.  It is a picture of Mary holding the baby Jesus and kissing his cheek.  The caption says, “Kissing the face of God.”  Grasping the meaning of this phrase is certainly worship-inducing as one thinks of the enormous love God showed mankind in coming to earth as one of us.  That He came to live amongst us so that He might show us how to live –how to love and speak and act and worship, and so that we might not only be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:,18,19), but become intimate friends with Him.  (John 15:14)

This card reminds me that as wonderful as it was that God became a human baby, able to be held and kissed and cared for by a mother, it is just as wonderful that God, the majestic King-Creator of the universe, allows Himself to be adored and ministered unto by any and all mere human beings who want to do so in Truth.  And that not only does He allow it, but He takes joy in it and responds by lavishing upon us even more of His love, attention, and fellowship.

God did not leave us when Jesus bodily rose back up into Heaven.  No, He instead came to us in an even better way.  He came as the Spirit so that He might indwell each of us.  This way we would always have Him with us, and only a prayer away from helping us, comforting us, counseling us, and guiding us.  Is not the promise in Heb. 13:5 something to rejoice about, “because God has said, ‘I will never leave you; I will never abandon you.'” –?  And as Jesus promised, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  Before long, the world will not see Me anymore, but you will see Me… [and] will realize that I am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you.”  (John 14:18-20)  Who is this promised to?  It is for whoever has (meaning, has deep in his heart –Ps. 119:11 & Heb. 10:16) Christ’s commands, and by obeying them, shows he loves Jesus.  (John 14:21,23)

Well, this card reminds me of the wonderful relationship we have all been invited to have with the Mighty Most High God –that of being able to kiss His face in adoring worship and be held in His everlasting arms of love, rest, comfort, and salvation.  (Dt. 33:12,27)

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

The Mighty God –Within Us!

December 25, 2011

Friends,
“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel.” (Isa. 7:14) We find this same statement in Matt. 1:23 concerning Jesus, only it adds, “–which means, ‘God with us.'”

God with us. Do we fathom the riches, the wonder, the joy –of this? Do we comprehend the blessing bestowed upon us in this Gift? God with us. Not just for 33 years, but on and on and on, for “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.” (Isa. 9:7) Does this “government” refer to a worldly government? Well, Jesus, when He returns bodily, will indeed set up His rule of justice and peace on earth, but since He came the first time, His rule is within the hearts of His followers. (Luke 17:21 & John 18:36) If He does not rule in a heart, even though the person may claim to believe, know, or follow Christ, that soul is not a citizen of His Kingdom. (1 John 2:3,4 & Luke 6:46 & 14:27 & 16:13 & Matt. 12:50)

But, for those of us who have entered Christ’s Kingdom –the Kingdom of God (John 3:3-8), we walk in the peace of God, His favor resting upon us continually. (Luke 2:14) This invitation to enter Christ’s Kingdom is extended to “all the people” (Luke 2:10) and should be recognized for what it is: “Good news of great joy”! (same verse) Why? Because we’ve been given a Savior! (v. 11) –The One who “will save His people from their sins”! (Matt. 1:21)

For it is in, through, and by Christ Jesus that Isa. 9:1-7 is fulfilled: “There will be no more gloom for those who are in distress.” (v. 1) “The yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor… has been shattered.” (See v. 4) For at the cross sin, evil, Satan, blindness, and darkness were defeated! (Col. 2:15) Therefore, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.” (v. 21) Jesus is the Light –the Light of the world (John 8:12)– for all who will look and believe and come into the Light. (3:14-21)

This is how it is that “those living in the land of darkness / the land of the shadow of death receive the dawning of the Light.” (See Isa. 9:2) For this Light brings them joy and rejoicing. (v. 3) And the Light is the Child, born in the Bethlehem stable, the King of the universe, the Creator-God become human.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (v. 6) Our Heavenly Father became the Child! Our Mighty God became the Peace between Himself and sinful man! The Most High God comes to dwell within us as the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Counselor. (John 14:16-23) This is the King who reigns “with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.” (Isa. 9:7) –The Sovereign Ruler of all –come to live and reign within each heart who receives this marvelous Gift ! ! !

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel