Friends,
When God makes a covenant with someone, He expects that person to hold to the terms of the covenant. This means that obedience to the agreed-upon terms is necessary; otherwise the covenant has been broken. God is always faithful, but people often are not. So what does the Lord do when a person violates a covenant made with Him?

Many are claiming that God grants grace to those who are unfaithful in upholding one’s covenant with God. In other words, they think that God’s gracious grace covers everything they do in violation, and that their violations don’t really matter. But is this the case?

Look at what the Lord said to King Zedekiah and others who had made a covenant with Him and with each other to free their fellow Hebrew slaves, and who acted accordingly but then violated it. (Jer. 34:8-11) God said to them, “Recently you repented and did what is right in My sight: Each of you proclaimed freedom to his countrymen. You even made a covenant before Me in the house that bears My Name. But now you have turned around and profaned My Name… by forcing them to become your slaves again.” (v. 15,16)

Truly, reneging on their agreement was a huge sin in God’s eyes. He considered it disobedience to Him (Jer. 34:17), He considered it profanity against His Name (v. 16), and He considered it a violation of His covenant with them. (v. 18) For all this, they would pay dearly –being punished with disgrace, with the sword, with plague, and with famine. (v. 17) God made Himself clear: “The men who have violated My covenant and have not fulfilled the terms of the covenant they made before Me, I will treat… [very harshly].” (v. 18-22) Why are people so unafraid then to break a covenant they’ve made with God? Why are people so neglectful in fulfilling the terms of a covenant they’ve made with the Lord?

Could it be because most are teaching that for those in the New Covenant God is lenient?

However, this is twisted theology, for God has granted mercy and grace ever since creation, and especially for those who repent and obey Him. True, God who does not change (Heb. 13:8 // Ja. 1:17) has offered humans a New Covenant, but does it make God more lenient –more apt to turn a blind eye to His people’s sins? Certainly not. Instead, He expects more.

The New Covenant is one in which God puts His laws in the heart and mind of each person who makes this covenant with Him. (Heb. 8:10) The New Covenant is one in which God puts His Spirit into the spirit of each person covenanting with Him and gives them His power to fully meet His righteous requirements. (Rom. 8:4,9) This being the case there is no excuse to violate God’s Covenant of Salvation through disobedience. (Heb. 2:1-3 & 10:26-31) If those who violated the law of Moses were killed (10:28), “How much more severely do you think a person deserves to be punished who has violated the New Covenant?” (See v. 29) Indeed, for those who do such a thing, destruction from God rushes upon them. (v. 27,30,31 // 1 Cor. 3:16,17)

God is not playing games, dear “Christian”. If you have covenanted with God –that He save you from the Rule of Darkness to participate in the Rule of Christ (Col. 1:12,13)– then it needs to be a reality that Jesus is your Boss 24/7.

As our Lord has stated clearly: “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25)

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
It should be concerning to us that there are many Christians who are not adequately concerned about their wayward loved ones (or their own waywardness). Relying on their beliefs about OSAS (once saved, always saved), or thinking that a “salvation prayer” once prayed guarantees the purchase of eternal life (which it does not –Luke 8:13-15), these individuals do not fulfill their own responsibilities before the Lord. They remain lax in intercession, wisdom, and tough love, foolishly believing that their “backslidden” loved one, though he or she may lose some rewards, will certainly not lose out on an eternity in Heaven.

It seems that John 6:37 is one verse the above-mentioned people rely on. Jesus says there, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never cast out.” Of course Jesus is telling us the Truth here, but many read into it what is not there. For one thing, it is those who come to Jesus –not once, but on a continual basis– who are truly coming to Jesus. As our Lord says in the same chapter, “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in him.” (v. 56) And then in the next verse He says that “the one who feeds on Me will live…” (v. 57) Is a backslidden person feeding themselves on Jesus? No, they are not eating and drinking Him who is the Word and Spirit (v. 63), and are therefore not remaining in Him.

Now someone may claim that there is a reading of the Word and a walking in the Spirit, but this is a hollow claim if there is continued disobedience to Christ. This is made very clear from such verses as Mt. 19:17, John 5:38-40, John 15:10, and 1 John 2:3-6, as well as many others, like 1 John 3:24 which says, “Those who obey His commands live in Him, and He in them.”

So, in going back to John 6:37 we find the assurance that those who come to Jesus –meaning, through continual obedience to Him– will remain in fellowship with Him / will continue to belong to Him / will not be cast away. Jesus gives this assurance again in ch. 10, verses 27-30, but there again, we can read that those kept safe (saved) are those who follow Jesus. If someone stops following Jesus, that person slips into an unsaved state. (John 15:6 // Heb. 6:4-6 & 10:26-31 // 2 Pe. 2:20-22 & 3:17)

Furthermore, any person who accepts the Gospel as true and pledges to the Lord that he will follow Him, yet does not wholeheartedly leave sin or self-rule is not, in reality, following Jesus, is he? Indeed, how can that person be in the will of God, which is a necessity for entrance into Heaven, as Jesus makes clear in Mt. 7:21-23? Truly, if someone is not obeying Christ, that person is not following Jesus, that person is not in the will of God, and that person’s eternal condemnation remains a real and dangerous likelihood. (John 8:31-36 // Rev. 3:15,16)

Let’s remember that the man in Luke 9:61 was not hanging on to any apparent sin, and was maybe even trying to uphold the fifth commandment about honoring one’s parents when he said to Jesus, “I will follow You, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Yet how did Jesus answer him? “Jesus replied, ‘No one having laid his hand upon the plow and looking on the things behind, is fit for the Kingdom of God.'” (v. 62) Wow. But had Jesus not already taught that one’s salvation hinged on one’s choice to deny self, take up one’s cross daily, and follow Him? Yes, we read this in the same chapter, verses 23-25. No wonder the apostle Paul said that he forgets what is behind and strains toward what is ahead in order to win the Prize. (Phil. 3:13,14) No wonder he taught that the old self must be killed (Rom. 6:6,7 & 8:13 // 2 Cor. 5:17 // Gal. 2:20) and that “what counts is a new creation”. (Gal. 6:15)

So, who is being referred to in John 6:37 whom the Father gives to Jesus? By interpreting Scripture with Scripture, we have seen who it is: It is those who, by believing, have turned from their own path to follow Jesus, closely, obediently, faithfully, on His path and where He leads them. As Jesus says a few verses down (in John 6:45), “…They will all be taught God. Everyone having heard from the Father and having learned, comes to Me.” These, then, are the ones the Father gives to Jesus: Those who have listened to Him and have embraced the Truth with absolute commitment. (John 10:27-30 & 12:25,26)

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Divorcing Christ

June 5, 2018

Friends,
With all the divorce going on, it seems strange that many Christians think that it is not possible for someone to “divorce” Christ. If they cannot recognize that Scripture teaches that we can do so, and that we must therefore carefully guard against it, it does seem that people would admit the concept just through watching any relationship go sour, for, truly, numerous relationships that begin excitedly and happily and with expectations of harmony and unity, do just that.

Paul says in Gal. 1:6,7a, “I am astonished that so quickly you are deserting from the one who called you in Christ’s grace to a different gospel –which is really no gospel at all.” He goes on to inform us that adhering to a false gospel is to walk the road of confusion and damnation. As he also warns in 1 Tim. 4:16, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” Anyone then, who does not continue in the Truth (learning it, knowing it, and living it), being warped and sinful, is self-condemned. (Titus 3:9-11)

Shouldn’t we take note of what John 6:66 says? It informs us that after hearing a teaching from Jesus that they didn’t like, “many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.” John says “disciples” did this. Disciples are those who listen and learn from and follow a particular teacher. However, they changed their minds and turned back. What does Jesus say of such individuals? He says, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62) In other words, defectors will be rejected at the celestial gates.

1 Tim. 4:1 says, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” To abandon something or someone is the same as to renounce, disown, discard, and completely give up. We certainly have seen people give up a hobby, a career, a philosophy, a belief, a marriage, or a person. It does happen, and quite frequently.

In one’s relationship with the Lord, the Lord is always faithful, even if we are not. (2 Tim. 2:13) This does not mean, however, that He will not disown us if we disown Him, for precisely this consequence is what verse 12 states. It says there, “If we endure, we will also reign with Him. If we disown Him, He will also disown us.” Not only is this last statement clearcut, but it, along with the first statement, seems to draw a contrast –that those who do not endure in the Truth (in dying to the old and living in the new –v. 11 // Rom. 6:1-11) have, through their failure to endure, disowned Christ and will not reign with Him in His coming Kingdom.

“But I haven’t disowned Jesus,” a person may say. Yet such a person is forgetting that the Word of God reveals that there are more ways to disown Christ than by declaring, with words, a renunciation. Titus 1:16 says, “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny Him.” The two verses previous say of these types that their minds and consciences are corrupt and that they do not believe the Truth. This tells us, then, that though people may claim to know God, through their sinful actions and minds they are actually denying Him. Jesus makes this same concept clear in Mark 8:34-38 when He teaches us that in order to save our soul we must deny ourselves, carry our cross, follow Him, and not be ashamed of Him and His words. 2 Tim. 3:1-8 speaks similarly, revealing that although certain people may have a form of godliness, they remain depraved and rejected if they are denying God’s power –particularly that it is fully adequate to transform.

There are numerous other passages in Scripture that warn us that it is possible to veer off the Path of Truth (who is Jesus Himself). There are warnings in Revelation to the church of Sardis about their deeds not being complete (3:2), and thus the command to “strengthen what remains and is about to die”. (Same verse) Verses 4 and 5 show that one must live pure and be an overcomer to be found worthy so as to not have one’s name erased from the Book of Life.

The Lord warns the Ephesian church as well: “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” (Rev. 2:4,5) Forsaken, fallen, repent, remove… these words make the warning clear: Christians can forsake the Lord, fall away, and be removed from their position of salvation. Verse 7 adds to the fact of this concept when Jesus says, “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” In other words, those who do not overcome (do not continue in the Truth) will not be given that right. Verses 10 and 11, addressed to the Smyrna church, show also that one must overcome, and be faithful until death, to reap eternal life.

Peter warns that people who distort the Scriptures do so to their own destruction. (2 Pe. 3:16) He warns us to be on our guard about not falling for these distortions which would cause us to fall from our secure position in Christ / in Salvation. (v. 17) He warns us to make every effort to be found blameless before God. (v. 14) He warns us that it is possible, after escaping the world’s corruption by knowing Christ, to again be entangled and overcome by the world, which would put us, he says, in a worse position than had we never know the way of righteousness. (2:20-22) Heb. 6:4-6 says similar and so does chapter 10, verses 26-31 and 35-39. Jesus Himself explicitly taught that there are those who believe the Word of God for a while, but then through hardships or pleasure, fall away (Luke 8:11-15); and He said as well that there are those in Him who get cut off, thrown into the fire, and burned because they did not remain in Him through obedience to His commands. (John 15:1-10)

I could go on with the Scripture verses, but what I am pointing out should be clear: People can “divorce” Christ. They can turn from following Him. They can disown allegiance to Him and His words. They can commit treason and “adultery” against Him. (Ja. 4:4) They can spurn His Kingship and Leadership. They can rebuff His love and His Shepherding and His voice. They can do all this even after years of having loved Him and having worshipped Him.

We’ve all seen someone disown a spouse, even after 10, 20, 30, or 40 years of upholding a marriage covenant. It does happen, and it happens because one or both allow temptations or boredom or trials to wedge in and divide them. Humans are fickle and we have to work to not be so. Jesus is never fickle, but always faithful. However, He also will not force anyone to come to Him or stay with Him. I came across a youtube video a couple of weeks ago of a man who talks on and on about how silly it was of him to have loved Jesus and have fervently evangelized like he did for so many years. He says he had believed in Jesus and His words whole-heartedly, but now his claim is that he knows he was under the influence of brainwashing. Did this man formerly have a genuine relationship with the Lord? He says that at the time, he was certain that he did; but now he says it was merely an illusion. Sadly, this is certainly not the only “divorce” from Christ that I’ve seen.

Disowning the Truth is a possibility –for any of us. We must, therefore, in order to remain unified with our Lord, make every effort, and take every precaution.
Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friend,
How do we live a victorious, righteous life, pleasing to God? First of all, we must have the mindset that we are in training and that what God wants and expects is that we be in the process of becoming Olympians. Olympians may fall or get tired, but they keep “working-out” because their goal is the gold. Our goal is Christ-likeness (Rom. 8:29) and to “be imitators of God” (Eph. 5:1), and we are not to ever get rebellious against our Coach or get slothful. We have periods of rest and enjoyment, but it is always to be within what is allowed. Sin is not allowed for anyone and certainly not for the one training to be like Jesus, for again, submitting to this training is required in order for a person to be saved. (John 8:31-36 // Rom. 6:22)

If we do sin, due to some neglect of what we’ve learned or due to getting weary, we are to repent and take measures to not enable opportunities for sin. If we sin deliberately or due to habitually neglecting the Word of God and neglecting to put it into practice, then we are in rebellion, and if we continue there, we have forfeited grace. (Heb. 10:26-31; see also Ezek. 33:12-20 and Jonah 2:8)

Of course no one has been perfect, but our goal –daily– is to be perfect, and Jesus has commanded this of us. (Mt. 5:48) Just as anyone is to strive hard to get an A on an exam or perform medical surgery perfectly, so are we to understand the importance and to do whatever is necessary to live, 24/7, pleasing to our Creator and Judge. This means that we conduct ourselves in every situation as Jesus would, as 1 John 2:6 commands, and to walk in His will continuously (Mt. 7:21), growing in the Word which purifies us (John 17:17) and enlightens us to what His will is. (Eph. 5:10 // Ja. 1:18-25)

So how do we walk strong and steady in God’s will? We change our mindset, stop conforming to the world, and offer, as a living sacrifice, our body to God. (Rom. 12:1,2; see also 2 Cor. 5:15 and Gal. 2:20 and 1 Pe. 4:2) This we can do if we saturate ourselves in the Word of God. Jesus says in John 6:53, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no Life in you.” He also says in verse 63, “The words that I speak to you are Spirit and they are Life.”

Are you filling your mind and heart and spirit with God’s Word daily? If not, you will have trouble trying to defeat sin. If you are filled up daily with God’s Word then you will be filled up with His Spirit who gifts us with His power and instruction and compulsion to obey it. If we squelch Him, however, by not obeying His promptings, then even our reading and our prayers will be, or become, Life-less. As 1 John 3:24 says, “Those who obey His commands live in Him, and He in them.”

Jesus says in John 15:1-10 that we cannot bear (good) fruit without abiding / remaining in Him. Foundational to being in Christ is to be in His Word. Yes, we must repent and renounce sin, self, the world, etc. (Luke 9:23-25), and ask the Lord to take the reins, but if we do not follow up by soaking ourselves in the Truth (the Word), then we will quickly wither (Luke 8:13), as we will do if we resist obeying the Word.

The Good News is that “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” (2 Pe. 1:3) But, that power does come only by knowing the Lord (same verse) and this comes by listening to Him in His Word and following what He is saying (v. 4 // John 10:27,28) If you are following sin, you do not follow Jesus, for they walk in opposite directions. Following sin / disobeying Christ’s commands means not knowing the Lord (1 John 2:3) and not possessing the Truth (v. 4) –the Truth that by knowing it sets us free (John 8:32)– for if we know the Lord, then we have the Spirit, and we do follow Him, not the sinful nature. (Rom. 8:9) In other words, when we follow the Spirit, who is in the Word, who is Jesus (John 1:1,14), the Truth (14:6), then we are freed up to participate in God’s holy, divine nature (2 Pe. 1:4), and through this participation have His power to reject any and all sin. (1 John 3:9)

As to being chosen for salvation –all people have been chosen for salvation. Through the cross, Jesus draws everyone (John 12:32), having died to pay for everyone’s sin (1 Tim. 2:6 // 1 John 2:2) and rising to show He had the right to do so. (Rom. 1:1-4) He wants all people to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4) and all to repent so that they will not perish. (2 Pe. 3:9) It is to believe a lie for someone to think they are excluded and have no hope. As long as we are alive and have even a speck of faith, God can work with that and bring even the worse to repentance and salvation –if we allow Him to do so through asking, repenting, not making provision for temptations, and going forward with those things we are, so far, able to obey. (John 14:23 // Acts 5:32 // Heb. 5:9)

Look at Paul who helped some of God’s people be murdered (Acts 22:4) and yet who repented when he was confronted by the Truth / Jesus. (9:1-22) There is definitely hope for everyone. But we must submit our will, our thoughts, our words, etc. to Christ’s control and leadership. If we start to slip, we tell God again that we are submitting to Him and we again ask Him for help and praise Him that He is able and willing. We then run from sin. We throw out those things and relationships which trip us up. And we read the Word and put it into practice. We continually take every thought captive to be obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5), we keep our armor on (Eph. 6:10-18), and we stay focused on the fact that we are Olympians in training.

May the Lord encourage you and help you take His Word to heart and act accordingly.

In Christ,
Rachel

Our 30th Anniversary Trip

November 8, 2017

Friends,
This last weekend, to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary, my husband and I flew to Arizona to see the beautiful cliffs and mountains of the Coconino National Forest and of Grand Canyon. We had a great time and thanked the Lord for the opportunity (as well as His help in our mile and a half uphill hike to Sterling Pass!). I also thank the Lord for my husband’s commitment to me, all his help in my ministries, and the Lord’s commitment in protecting us, providing for us, and leading us all these years. Here are some photos we took of our anniversary trip:

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
A friend and I were talking yesterday about the Lord, about suffering and death, about injustice propagated by this world’s present evil ruler, and about the age to come. During this discussion she asked me what I thought was the reason why so many people who don’t seem deserving have easy and prosperous lives while others who seem kind and good struggle and often suffer. I said that Scripture tells us that God uses hardships to test us in order to see if we will remain faithfully trusting Him, and so that we will draw nearer to Him, know Him and obey Him better, and this so that we will be loving Him and others more fully and correctly.

I said that Jesus taught that life is about overcoming –that we must overcome the temptations to give in or give up, and that we not allow trials to turn us from our Lord. I told her that if God does find us to be faithful overcomers, He will grant us huge rewards, including honor and rulership positions, when He comes (in person literally) to rule the earth (from the physical Jerusalem in Israel) with a rod of iron, with perfect justice, and with perfect righteousness.

I explained to my friend that our mortal lifespans are like one blade of grass, or one speck of dust, compared to our eternal, immortal life to come, and that it will definitely be worth it if we take our trials graciously and seek to do and become what God desires.

Here is a video sermon my brother gave at church back in July and it should be a great encouragement for anyone who would like a reminder of how to think and behave during hard times.

http://api.monkcms.com/Clients/embed_video_preview.php?moduleRecordId=4280628&CMSCODE=EKK

My brother is a very interesting speaker, so I want to also give the new link where anyone can listen to the sermons he gives to the college group at UTA. (Once you click on a sermon, it does take a minute to download.) Here is that link:

http://www.utacornerstone.com/listen

One of the verses I told my friend yesterday was John 12:26b. Jesus says there, “He who serves Me, him will My Father honor.” (Yes, we should definitely look forward to being honored by our King!) I described for her the Mt. 25:14-30 passage about the servants’ investments of their talents and about how we should do what is necessary so that we, along with some of them, will hear the Master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your Master’s happiness!” (v. 21, and again in v. 23) I told her about Jesus’ promise in Rev. 2:26: “To him who overcomes and does My will to the end, I will give authority over the nations.” And in 3:21: “To him who overcomes I will give the right to sit with Me on My throne.”

There are many other verses I could’ve mentioned to my friend. Like Mt. 24:13: “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” And 2 Tim. 2:12a: “If we endure, we will also reign with Him.” And of course 2 Cor. 4:17: “Indeed, our light afflictions, which are but for a moment, are producing for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory.” And certainly Heb. 11:35, for it confirms that obtaining “a better resurrection” comes from having endured suffering faithfully.

Truly our hardships are not wasted. If we respond to them as God wills.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Dear Reader,
“I’m going to Heaven… I possess eternal life… I will live forever.” Such are the statements of many who call Jesus “Savior” and of many who even call Him their “Lord”. Are you one of these who claimed this privilege? If so, ask yourself if you do the will of God. Consistently? If not, how often? Is it actually only a few times a week that you obey what God asks of you? –What His Spirit and Word command? Let’s personalize these questions and be honest. For Jesus has told us very clearly that in order to inherit the Kingdom of God we must be doing the Father’s will. (Mt. 7:21-23) Nothing else we do or claim, no matter how righteous or powerful it appears, will save us. (Same verses)

Let’s not be deceived. Once we step into Christ, we are to leave the old self and lifestyle behind (2 Cor. 5:17 // Gal. 2:20), living not for ourselves, but for the will of God. (2 Cor. 5:15 // 1 Pe. 4:2) This is what it means to die and be buried with Christ in baptism (Rom. 6:1-7) –the baptism into water, spiritual fire, and the Spirit (Luke 3:16 // John 3:5 // Gal. 3:27)– so that in becoming one with the Lord in spirit (1 Cor. 6:17), we receive God’s divine nature (1 John 3:9) and power (2 Pe. 1:3,4) and are enabled to submit to the control of the Spirit (Rom. 8:9) and conduct ourselves, at all times, with Christ-likeness. (1 John 2:6) Don’t let anyone tell you that we are not commanded to earnestly work toward this goal, for we certainly are to do so! (Rom. 8:13,14,29 // 2 Pe. 3:14) We are to be holy and perfect and sinless in ALL we do and desire! (Mt. 5:48 // 1 Pe. 1:13-16 // 1 John 3:5-10,24) This is what keeps us as permanent children within God’s family. (Mt. 12:50 // John 8:31-36) This is what keeps us in the will of God and justified before Him. (Heb. 10:26-39 // Ja. 2:14-26 & 4:17)

Should those who preach and teach be concerned about these things? Absolutely! 2 John 1:9 says, “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God.” Verses 10 and 11 command us not to welcome such people and that if we do, we are sharing in their wicked work. Do we grasp what this is saying? False teaching is serious stuff! It is wickedness, and if not repented of, it is a cause for damnation both for teacher and hearer! (1 Cor. 15:1,2 // Gal. 1:8,9 // 1 Tim. 4:1,2,16 // 2 Pe. 2:1-3) Let us be, therefore, extremely careful that we not come under the delusion of a lie (Eph. 4:14 // 2 Thes. 2:10-12 // 2 Tim. 3:5-4:4), but instead rebuke those who turn to philosophies of the world and to doctrines taught by demons. (Titus 2:1,15 & 3:9-11 // 1 John 4:1-6)

In light of these truths, here are three excellent prayers from God’s Word:

Ps. 143:10: “Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; may Your good Spirit lead me in the land of uprightness.”

Ps. 86:11: “Teach me Your way, O LORD, and I will walk in Your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your name.”

Ps. 119:33: “Teach me, O LORD, to follow Your decrees; then I will keep them to the end.”

We must be praying, as well as studying God’s Word diligently. And we must be obeying. This is how we walk in / consistently do the will of God. This is how we attain Life Forever.

“The world and its desires are passing away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:17)

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel