Friends,
When running a couple of errands yesterday morning, my husband stopped at a gas station to get gas. Three young African American boys were walking around offering free gift cards to people, stating that they were from a certain church and were wanting to bless people. One boy offered my husband one and asked him if he would like prayer about anything. Though my husband declined the card, suggesting that the boy give it to an unbeliever who he could invite to his church, he did eagerly accept having the boy pray for some relatives of ours; and the boy prayed a very sweet, earnest prayer.

When my husband got home and told me about this encounter, I was so blessed. I prayed for those boys and for whoever was influencing, teaching, and encouraging them to be bold and proactive in showing the love of Christ. I prayed that these boys would keep on being bold in spreading the Gospel and be evangelists and followers of Jesus all their lives. I also prayed for their families and their church.

I tell about this because it is encouraging to see that there are people who are getting out, using their time and energy, to be available to show kindness and pray for others. And it is particularly encouraging when I see or hear of young people doing such.

Jesus has told us to go into all the world, teaching others to follow Him and obey all His commands. (Mt. 28:19,20) He has told us to feed and clothe the poor, to show hospitality to those in need, to visit those in prison, to look after the sick, and to do these things even for those who are considered the least important in society. (25:31-46) This is indeed what life consists of if we are truly following Christ. This is what meeting together to encourage one another (Heb. 10:25) should be about –“how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (v. 24) True Christianity is not about huddling and huddling while neglecting to get out on the field. What sports team would do that? Why then do most “church teams” think it’s okay?

Jesus has said, “He who is not with Me is against Me.” (Mt. 12:30) Oh, of course most church-goers claim to be “with” Jesus. But are they –when they won’t follow Jesus’ leadership in their day to day lives? Jesus has said, “Whoever serves Me must follow Me; and where I am, My servant also will be.” (John 12:26) In other words, where Jesus is and where He leads, is where His servants must be and go. But… if one will not give up one’s life, one’s self-interest, one’s self-rule, then that one will lose his soul. (v. 25)

Let’s look at Jesus’ full statement in Mt. 12:30. He says, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters.” So… if we are not gathering with Jesus (and He is gathering people into His Kingdom), then we are scattering people away from His Kingdom. If we are not with Him on His mission, then we are against Him. This is a serious accusation! But being Jesus, who knows all hearts, and who does not lie, spoke it, then it is reality, no matter how insistently a person claims otherwise. Yes, it is the case: Those who do not labor with Jesus in His field (the world), work against Christ’s efforts to bring in the harvest (bring souls) to Himself. Yet when confronted with such statements made by Jesus, how many people meeting in church buildings this morning would show any concern whatsoever?

Let’s us be concerned though. Let’s join those who are striving to do what they can to get out and be a part of Christ’s true body –those going forth to share His love and Truth while inviting people, and teaching people, to follow our Savior and Lord.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
Chapter four of Ephesians begins with the admonition that we live a life worthy of the calling to which we have been called. (v. 1) Verse two reveals some of the characteristics/actions we are to have/show in order to do so –being completely humble, gentle, patient, and loving. We are to recognize that Christ Jesus, through His grace, has distributed to each one of us certain gifts for the building up of His body (Eph. 4:7,11,12; also 1 Cor. 12:4-14,27) so that we all reach maturity and fullness in Christ. (Eph. 4:13) We are expected to be “full of goodness” (Rom. 15:14) and “complete in knowledge” (same verse), that we may be “competent to instruct one another” (same verse) and discerning of “how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Heb. 10:24)

This is the new way of Life, the result of the new self we have put on. The “old self with its practices” (Col. 3:9) has been discarded. (Same verse) If we are truly in Christ, He circumcised off of us the sinful nature. (2:11) “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17) “We have been buried with him through baptism into death –death to sin by the old self being crucified– so that we may live a new life.” (See Rom. 6:1-7 and Col. 2:12,13) Indeed, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” (Gal. 5:24) “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (v. 16) And “if the Spirit of God and Christ lives in you, you will be controlled by the Holy Spirit; you will not be controlled by the sinful nature.” (See Rom. 8:9) Don’t let anyone fool you: The latter leads to eternal destruction, the former leads to eternal life. (Rom. 6:16-23 & 8:13,14 // Gal. 6:7,8)

So, the old self followed the “former way of life” (Eph. 4:22) and it was “being corrupted by its deceitful desires” (same verse), but the new self has a new attitude (v. 23) and is “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (v. 24) Therefore, let us “put on the new self” (same verse) every day “that we may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way [–that is, by] bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.” (Col. 1:10)

Do we understand The Truth? Do we recognize that most people are teaching a falsehood when they say we can live as we please if we have Christ’s righteousness imputed to us? Rest assured: “Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” (Rom. 8:8) Consequently, those who are not “bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God” (see Col. 1:10 again) are not wearing the new self (Eph. 4:24), are not clothed with the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 13:14), are not conformed to His image (8:29), have not offered their bodies as living sacrifices pleasing to God (12:1), and are not going to inherit Christ’s Kingdom. (Eph. 5:19-21; see also Rev. 3:14-16)

“What counts is a new creation.” (Gal. 6:15) This newness, this clean self, must permeate the heart, the mind, the attitude, the words, the deeds –everything– of that new creation. Then, and only then, is a person pleasing to God, saved, and worthy of the calling of belonging to the Lord. (John 15:10 // Eph. 4:1 & 5:3-17 // Col. 1:10 // 1 John 2:3-6)

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Following A Human Guru

July 16, 2018

Friends,
Last week, Wednesday, while evangelizing at the train and bus stops downtown, I went up to the restaurant area as I sometimes do. It’s always a less receptive crowd up there and also less people who believe the Bible is the Word of God. I encounter more atheists there as well as more people with weird beliefs.

There was one particular guy (I’ll call him Lance) who crossed the street toward me and to whom I offered one of my tracts. He stopped but wouldn’t take one and when I said it mentioned fearing God, he immediately told me that we should never fear God. I said we should and I was going to remind him of some Scripture verses that said so, but he interrupted me and asked if I knew a certain teacher on the internet, and he said his name. I said that I had heard the name (since I’d watched this psychologist once or twice but was not aware of anything spiritual that he teaches.)

“Oh, he is great!” Lance was all aglow as he talked about his favorite internet guy’s (very bizarre) teachings. On he went, oblivious to his rudeness of making me listen to him when he had refused to listen to me or even take a one-paragraph tract I’d written. He even reprimanded me when I gave him a look of disbelief.

“You’re just following a man,” I finally was able to interject. “How do you know he’s right?”

Lance went on to give me his reasons. He had initially said he believed some of the Bible, but when I tried to speak again of it, he turned to go, repeating that I should listen to his teacher who definitely has the Truth (supposedly).

“He is your guru!” I exclaimed. “Yikes!”

Lance was already stepping into the crosswalk, but he looked back at me with surprise, like I’d jolted him, for a moment, to his senses. I hope I did. I hope he thought about it and the foolishness of following a mere man… trusting a mere man… to teach him spiritual truth.

Why do people do such a thing? Why do they risk their lives and eternities on some human teacher who has simply made up his or her own brand of spiritual truth? Why do they not seek God Himself, research the validity of the Bible, and study there?

After Lance left, I thought of some Scriptures that, sadly, I felt described his state of being: “…but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools…” (Rom. 1:21,22) And, “the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.” (1 Cor. 3:19) And, God has made it so that “the world through its wisdom does not know Him.” (See 1:21)

Truly, no amount of listening to “wise” people is going to get anyone anywhere closer to knowing God, the Truth, the Way, the Life. It has to come by studying and believing His Word, listening to His Spirit teach us through His Word, and putting His Word into practice by the power of His Holy Spirit.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
When people speak about signs that we are in “the last days” or are nearing the end of the age, we often hear them speak about the increase of natural disasters, alignments in the heavens, and the deceptions of false teachers. But what about the warnings from Scripture about the dissipation of love?

Jesus warns, “At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other.” (Mt. 24:10) Some of us have observed Christ-followers who have gotten lax or preoccupied with the world and turned back from following Jesus. But what about those who go further –hating those whom they once loved and even betraying them? Isn’t this increasing?

I used to think that in Mt. 24:12 when Jesus says, “…the love of most will grow cold” He meant that the love many had for Him would grow cold. However, if we look at the context and the verse above (v. 10), the cooling love seems to be directed toward other human beings. The verses imply that those who were once loved, namely family members and close friends, would be those who would become hated and betrayed by those whose love had grown cold. More than this, Jesus seems to be revealing that love itself within many people would wane –that they would cease to be loving, compassionate, thoughtful, warm-hearted, caring, merciful people, and that by doing this, they would be turning from Him (who is Love), even if they weren’t aware of it.

What causes this love growing cold in so many? Jesus tells us. He says in verse 12 that it is due to the increase of lawlessness. I’m sure most of us would agree that we hear from the news that this is happening throughout the world, and we likely notice it ourselves in our own experiences. Wickedness is rampant, evil is spreading, and disrespect and disregard for laws –both moral and civil laws– has been intensifying for years. And because of this, the love of most is growing cold –so cold that it has flipped into hatred as well as betrayal against those who were once cherished and protected.

2 Timothy 3:1 warns us, “There will be terrible times in the last days.” The following verses state that people will love themselves, money, and pleasure, but at the same time be without love toward other people, or toward God, goodness, or the Truth. (v. 3,4,8) They will have a form of godliness, but yet deny its power (v. 5), and they will be controlling and deceptive. (v. 6,13) Slanderous, treacherous, proud, unforgiving, abusive –these being just some of their other characteristics (v. 2-4)– are how they persecute their parents and those who are living godly lives. (v. 2,12) We are commanded to stay away from such people. (v. 5) –Not so that we behave unloving toward them, but so that, as 1 Cor. 15:33 warns, we do not learn their ways and also become corrupt.

1 John 4:12 tells us that “if we love each other, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.” Is God’s love being made complete in us? Or have we stagnated it and let it cool? “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (v. 8 ) Indeed, when people behave cooly toward others, they reveal their lack of intimacy with God. They reveal their rejection of the Faith (Mt. 24:10-13), they reveal their opposition to the Truth (2 Tim. 3:8), and they reveal their denial of the power of Christ in their lives. (v. 5) Such people face rejection by God (v. 8 ) if they do not repent and walk in love, for as Jesus warns, “those who stand firm to the end will be saved.” (Mt. 24:13) Stand firm in what? The Faith. (v. 10) But what does the True Faith consist of? Doesn’t it appear that Jesus is stating in verses 10-13 that it consists of Truth, righteousness, and warm-hearted (fervent, tender) love? In fact, it looks like Jesus is revealing that these three concepts are synonymous.

The increase of lawlessness is threatening the existence of love in the world, of love amongst believers, of love in our hearts. But we can resolve to resist those icy winds, so that by the power of Christ, we will be found standing firm to the very end.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel