Friends,
It astounds me that there seem to be so many people that teach and believe a certain doctrine that ruins families and harms individuals to a greater extent than they’ve already been harmed. It is the doctrine that teaches that remarriage to another spouse is continuous adultery and thus, in order to inherit eternal life, such married people must divorce, must try to remarry their first spouse (even if he or she is remarried), and if that is not possible, then to remain unmarried (to anyone) till death. Or, if they do want to remain married to their present spouse, they must live in separate bedrooms and both be completely celibate. One of the promoters of this devastating and false doctrine comes out of the Church of Christ.

It seems remarkable that such a doctrine can be taken seriously, especially when one considers all the other sins Christians have committed in the past and yet believe they have been forgiven of by God without having made amends for them all. But, if sexual sin is, as the legalists seem to think, the worst sin, then what about those who were promiscuous before marriage and became “one flesh” with someone before he or she married that person, or even before he or she married someone else?! Marriage, in God’s eyes, is not merely a vow, but a consummation of two becoming one flesh. Shouldn’t, then, the Church of Christ also say that any formerly promiscuous person must divorce their present spouse, go back and find and marry that first person they had sex with, or otherwise remain celibate? Would that not be the correct teaching if they want to be consistent in their doctrine?

The reality is, is that people usually do not divorce on a whim. They have reasons. Often good reasons. And usually they have tried and tried to work it out. Generally the majority of the fault does lie with one partner –the one who is sinning and refuses to repent. –The one who refuses to love and behave as Christ would, but instead assassinates his spouse’s character, peace, and well-being. And why? Because just like murderous Cain, who belonged to the evil one, the sinning person is wicked and the other person is righteous. (1 John 3:12) In other words, it is because evil people, while really hating themselves, rather prefer to cast their hate at easy prey who are more righteous than them.

In such situations should it not be realized that the vows of marriage have already been broken and that the persecuted man or woman is therefore not bound in such circumstances? (1 Cor. 7:15) Indeed, “God has called us to live in peace.” (Same verse)

So, if there is continued, unrepentant abuse or addiction, then there has been a breaking of the marriage covenant, just as adultery or any unfaithfulness breaks it. Certainly abuse is to break the “caring, cherishing, honoring” vow, and addiction, too, would fracture that vow, as well as there being lying involved, which would have already ruptured the “one flesh” covenant.

Without a doubt, unless there is repentance (full change) from illegal, unlawful, and/or dishonoring behavior, there can no longer be true fellowship / marriage / oneness. When God has to keep watching any continued cruelty, deceit, or poison, is that fair for either spouse to allow something to continue that is so displeasing to Him? Of course not. This does not mean divorce must happen, but certainly no one should enable that which is displeasing to God. Some sort of measures must be taken to make the wickedness stop.

Some Church of Christ type people may agree that a toxic marriage must end but they will also stick with their belief that the divorcees cannot marry anyone else, lifelong. Truly, even after divorce, the rest of us believe it is probably best to wait a few years to see if there is repentance. But regardless, everyone must permit the divorcee to listen to the Lord herself; for God, who is merciful and who does speak to His children, will guide the divorcees in what He plans or allows for them personally. God knows some people are weaker (financially, emotionally, physically, spiritually, etc.) than others, and He is compassionate in this. Only the Lord knows, not others, all the facts surrounding why a couple divorced, and why they remarried other spouses; so whatever sin God has forgiven the truly repentant, the rest of us must forgive also.

Even so, many people seem to be listening to the legalists and are thus going through great distress as they try to decide whether or not they must divorce their present spouse, even though their second marriage is otherwise fine or even wonderful. Honestly, it is heart-breaking to listen to the turmoil these Church of Christ types have brought upon already hurting, but conscientious, individuals as they insist on further family break-ups.

In my opinion, it does seem that many people are harder on themselves (or on others) than the Lord is. I think of 1 John 3:15 that says that “no murderer has eternal life in him.” But Moses murdered. (Ex. 2:12) And yet God called him to lead a nation out of bondage, did many mighty miracles through him, knew him face to face like no other prophet (Dt. 34:10-12), and had him appear with Elijah to talk with Jesus on the mountain. (Mt. 17:3) God mightily used and honored this former murderer and gave him His presence, all indicating that God pardoned Moses for his sin.

The same could be noted about Paul. Paul was party to the death of Stephen and rounded up Christians to imprison them. (Acts 8:1-3) Yet Paul became a mighty servant of Christ. We do not see him making physical amends to each family he harmed, but instead saying, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13,14) This, I believe, should be everyone’s attitude wherever they are at (spiritually), every day. And it should be the way we view everyone else who is genuinely straining to follow Christ daily.

Legalists should remember Ja. 2:10,11: “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.” The verses before this are reminding us about the law of love and that if we do not love correctly, we are lawbreakers. Then verse 13 goes on to say that “judgement without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.” And that verse ends with, “Mercy triumphs over judgment!” This last phrase is a huge reason for all who have sinned (everyone) to rejoice! The whole passage is speaking about love, and judgment, and law, and if we are unsure of how to interpret it, we can use other Scripture verses to help us. Such as Gal. 5:18, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law”, and 1 John 4:12, “but if we love each other, God lives in us.”

Indeed, anyone who is truly repentant about anything, including divorcees who have remarried other spouses, should be viewed by the rest of us as the Lord views that person: Forgiven, and people He wants to use, both as couples and as individuals.

Church of Christ types, though they have some excellent leads about opposing OSAS, are nonetheless, legalists. And legalism is not Christ’s way at all. Let us, therefore, help silence their doctrine by which they, in the name of Christ, “are disrupting whole households.” (Titus 1:11)

To read what I wrote several years ago about this issue, click here: https://knowgodsword.wordpress.com/sermons/divorce-remarriage-new-post/

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
I was really surprised earlier this week when someone emailed me who I’d not seen or heard from since 1991! Having lost contact with each other, it was exciting to hear from her, especially since we’d been really good friends our last two years of high school. What was even more exciting was that she told me she has been doing several ministries –three different Bible study groups a week (besides her full-time job!), visiting at shelters, and doing a ministry where she packs brown bag lunches and then walks the beaches handing out the bags to the veterans and the homeless there. Having written messages on the bags, she talks about the Lord with those she encounters. I was thrilled to hear about it, for all these years I hadn’t known what happened to this friend or if she had continued to even follow the Lord.

See, our friendship had begun when I timidly asked her if she wanted to go to a Bible Study Youth Group that I had just begun attending and I’d said it so lamely that I silently blamed myself when she declined (though a few weeks later she did start going). Hearing from her this week and what she’s doing as unto Jesus, –well, I felt like it was a great encouragement the Lord was giving me, like He was saying, “See how I can multiply My servants efforts?” And, “Yes, concerning all the seeds you’ve ever sown, regardless of whether or not you’ve known anything about it, I have been working in those lives.”

Last night I was talking to a different friend, encouraging her concerning the hard trial she’s going through. She happened to mention that someone had told her how soothing it is to hear her play the clarinet as she often does for the residents at a nursing home. I was very excited to realize she does this on a regular basis at four different senior care centers! I encouraged her to continue, and to believe that her efforts help way more people than she realizes. For truly, I reasoned, when a person feels soothed and uplifted, he or she will, themselves, likely act kinder toward others, and this kindness is thus spread and multiplied. She agreed and was further encouraged.

It really isn’t too hard to offer an invitation, give a ride, visit someone, pray for someone, give a neighbor or a stranger a gift of Christ’s love, assist with a need, or just give someone a kind word, a note of encouragement, a compliment, or a smile. Any one of these might go a whole lot further than we could ever anticipate.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Honor Them This 9/11

September 11, 2016

Friends,
Today we should definitely remember, and pray for, the families of those who lost loved ones in the 9/11/01 tragedy of the Twin Towers. Let us also pray that the Lord will thwart the plans of evil people worldwide who, in the name of their god, think and teach that it is heroic to kill anyone who disagrees with their religion. All who have been harmed at the hands of such wickedness, and all who have fought to help and rescue others from those hands, should be remembered and honored by the rest of us.

As important as this day of remembrance is for that, today is also a day to remember another group of individuals who ought to be honored, cherished, and given attention. They are those who are grandparents.

National Grandparents Day was created as a reminder for us to take notice of our grandparents, to listen and learn from them, and to make them feel cherished and appreciated. This is highly important. The Fifth Commandment tells us to honor our parents so this would include honoring them as we guide our children in how to honor their grandparents. (Ex. 20:12 // Mark 7:9-13 // Eph. 6:1-3 // 1 Tim. 5:4,8)

Even for those who are not our parents or grandparents but who we suspect are elderly, lonely, and in need of encouragement, let’s pay some attention to them too. Do we realize how many persons languish in nursing homes or are confined at home, feeling forgotten and discarded? Likely way more than we wish to believe. Before the Lord we are responsible to them! (Mt. 25:31-46)

National Grandparents Day is significant. It is a day we should uphold. Grandparents are people we should respect and honor and love. Not only by our words, but in action involving our time.

Today is truly an important date for it is one in which several groups of people are to be remembered. Remembered for their contribution to us. Remembered because every person is valuable –the aged as well as those who sacrificed their lives for strangers on 9/11 in New York, and for those who died so unnecessarily as they began their normal day of work.

Let’s not forget to honor all these groups and to pray for those closely affected. And, for those to whom we can personally, let’s give our time and our love.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Take Notice, Stop, & Try

January 2, 2016

Friends,
Well, it’s a new year and I pray that all who love Jesus will make choices that further our effectiveness in proclaiming what is written in God’s Word. Because every day there are people in pain, loneliness, and despair; every day there are people in rebellion against God; and every day there are people dying and going to Hell. Even if we have our own concerns, it sometimes takes only five or ten minutes extra to make a big difference. I was reminded of this again this week when I passed through the ER lobby on my way to the 5th floor of a hospital.

I passed a young woman groaning and writhing as she lay on her side on a long cushion bench. “What could I do?” I thought. “I’m already tired, and I’m in a hurry.” The person who had been waiting for me as I parked the car said that the woman had been calling out to Jesus and that maybe we should tell a person at the front desk to check on the woman. I whispered that I suspected her problem to be drug related and that since she had a hospital band on already, she probably was just going to have to wait her turn. It was distressing, though, for there must have been at least 50 people waiting their turn.

I was going to go on, but the person with me said we should do something. I decided to try to do what I could and I went over and knelt by the young woman. “I’m so sorry you are in pain,” I said. “Do you want me to pray with you?”

“Yes, please,” the woman cried, grabbing my hand.

“What is your first name?” I asked gently.

She told me, and with my face close to hers, my left hand holding her hand, and my right hand caressing her back, I prayed that God would alleviate her pain, heal her, bring her close to Himself, and give her a good and happy 2016. I prayed that God would comfort her and help her. She said “Amen!” several times through my prayer, and afterwards when I hugged her, she hugged me and didn’t want to let go. So I just kept hugging her as she cried. I told her to be reading God’s Word because that is food for our spirit and makes us strong and courageous and gives us comfort and guidance. She kept agreeing.

When she saw I was about to go, she asked me to get her some ice, so I said I would ask a nurse, which I did. The nurse said she couldn’t have ice, but that she would go and check on her. I hope she did.

I tell about this occurrence only because the Lord is leading me, I believe, to tell it. (I was going to write about something else tonight.) But I believe the Lord wants to encourage us through what I’m writing about here to remember that we are to stop and take notice of those people –at least those in our path– who are “bleeding in the ditch”. We can’t help everyone, that’s for sure, but we can often ease a small bit of pain someone is experiencing, if we would just give a few minutes of our time. –Even if we are hurrying to church. –Even if we are rushing to a ministry post. –Even if we are tired or feel we have little to offer in curing the person’s problem.

We should still try. We should still stop. We should still ask. I had thought the woman would not welcome a prayer from me, a hug, or a word of gentle exhortation about God’s Word. But she did. And she thanked and thanked me. So… shouldn’t we always take the chance if we can?

I think the Lord is reminding me to do so. I hope others will hear the call as well.

Then 2016 might be a turning point year. For someone. Someone we stop next to, take notice of, and give help to, even if it seems “meager” to us.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Love Naghmeh & Believe Her

December 19, 2015

Friends,
Yesterday at a Christmas party I saw a woman who I know has been working closely with Naghmeh, the wife of Saeed Abedini, the man imprisoned in Iran for his Christian faith. When I asked this woman how Naghmeh is doing, the response I got was somewhat evasive though she told me that Naghmeh is under attack, needs a lot of prayer, and that the issue has been in the news. So, today I decided to google it. Here is one of the sites I read at:

http://www.charismanews.com/culture/53685-despite-calls-for-prayer-over-abuse-pastor-saeed-s-wife-can-t-deny-this

Truly it is disheartening to hear that Saeed himself was, and still is, causing his wife pain in his treatment toward her. It is depressing to learn that a man many of us have prayed for and then have wondered why God has not released him, has a heart and mind that chose to repeatedly rebel against God’s holy law. This is what viewing pornography is –rebellion against God, His holiness, and His moral law. As Jesus made clear, it is adultery and a sin that brings with it the payment of Hell. (Mt. 5:27-30) It is the opposite of treating others as we ourselves would want to be treated. (Mt. 7:12) It is hostility to God (Rom. 8:6-8 // Ja. 4:4) and it is treason agains the vows of marriage. (Mt. 5:28 & 19:3-9 // Eph. 5:21-33)

Sadly there are those who would discredit Naghmeh for coming out with the truth. I read one such article and felt repulsed by the guy’s attitude and statements which downplayed the evil of pornography and which called Naghmeh’s credibility into question. Tragically, this type of response is exactly why most abuse goes unreported, particularly in Christian circles. The woman isn’t believed! Or she is blamed. Or she is made to feel ashamed for mentioning it. And this, in spite of the fact that rarely is spousal abuse fabricated. Read here:

http://www.charismanews.com/world/53402-why-pastor-saeed-abedini-s-wife-kept-his-abuse-secret-until-now

Just a few hours after being at the Christmas party yesterday, I received a text from a friend in another state, telling me that a month ago she had moved to a friend’s house to separate from her husband. I was definitely happy to hear this news because for years I have admonished her that this is the best, and likely only, way to help her husband see his need to change. After reading today about Naghmeh’s accusation and some of the fall-out, I found it significant that her dilemma and my friend’s dilemma are similar. My friend, whose husband was deeply into pornography even while they were in ministry together, had a monumental catastrophe happen to him. After months of prayers from people everywhere, God intervened and freed him (physically), but although his sin was exposed, his heart did not genuinely repent. This fakery is no way to try to uphold a marriage, for until a man truly repents in sorrow and brokenness and exhibits a complete transformation of behavior, words, attitudes, expressions, etc., there can be no real reconciliation between him and God or between him and his wife. It’s impossible.

Contemplating these two tragic marriages, along with many more abusive marriages I’m aware of (either broken or still on-going), grieves me, but I am left again with the thought that some tragedies and injustices are, maybe more often than we realize, a direct punishment from the Lord, as well as His warning to the oppressor that he must repent.

It is not easy for any person, especially a Christian wife, and especially one in the limelight, to come forward with the allegation that her husband has been abusive or has been living a lie of any sort. It is tragic for the wife. May the Lord open the eyes of those in the church who have turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to these heart-breaking, family-devasting sins rampant among the sheep –and among the leaders. And may the Lord soften the hearts of all who claim to be Christians so that they reach out to Naghmeh exactly as Jesus Himself would and exactly as the Holy Spirit directs.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

A Beautiful Wedding

April 26, 2015

Friends,
One of the most beautiful things in the world for anyone to witness is that love between a bride and groom as they say their vows, especially when they say it with deep emotion and with words obviously not from rote, but from their own hearts.

So, a few days ago when a friend sent me the video of her son’s and her daughter-in-law’s wedding (which I’d very much been looking forward to viewing), I was greatly blessed and actually had tears streaming down my face through the whole thing. What a beautiful bride, what sweetness between them, and what precious words of commitment they expressed to one another. And what an extra-special occasion too in that both families were able to travel back to their country of origin (the Philippines) to celebrate it.

Here is the uniquely beautiful wedding video:

https://vimeo.com/123591432

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

The Lord Loves His Church

August 31, 2014

Friends,
This morning at church there was a song that had lyrics about hands being held high in worship to the Lord. Standing with everyone else, I looked around and a bit behind and felt great joy to see almost the entire church (at least two thousand hands) lifted in beautiful exaltation to God. I whispered to my husband, “Look at that. That is SO cool.” He agreed. It was really precious. Especially as I felt God’s love well up in me for His church.

Interestingly, Gary’s sermon (which comes after the singing) was about the church. He spoke about how churches and para-church organizations often emphasize either the cause, the community, or the corporation, but how all three are equally important. In regards to the latter, he reminded us that churches should be stable, stable meaning that good financial stewardship is being practiced, that everyone is participating, and that the pastor and the elders are deciding things together while taking into account others and others’ concerns. In regards to community, churches should be places where all who come feel secure and loved, and where everyone remembers that everyone else is still “in process”. And in regards to the cause, everyone should be working to further the Truth and Way of the Lord, being compassionate toward the weak and wounded, but never neglectful in training and putting that training to practice.

The church is Christ’s body and bride. Because of this, we should be careful how we speak about her. Yes, there is the adulterous church and the counterfeit church. But there is certainly the real; and she is not always perfect. She is in process. She is sometimes messed up, limping, or sick. This is because her parts –Christ’s body parts– are many, and they consist of individuals, individuals who are at different levels in their knowledge of the Lord.

Jesus loves His church. He loves individuals. He loves those He is working with –those who have committed themselves to Him, or even those who have hesitantly called out to Him for help. He is tender toward those who are lagging –lagging not because of unwillingness, but because of the weariness of setbacks which life often brings.

Have we ever seen a man who truly loves his wife? Maybe she is a wife who has an illness –physical or otherwise, or maybe she is fine; but regardless, he cares for her attentively and with deep tenderness and patience. Whether or not we’ve ever seen such a man (I have), we can know that the Lord Jesus cares for His church like this, and perfectly so. While encouraging her to get stronger and stronger, He embraces her when she’s broken. He lifts her up, steadies her, instructs her, and waits for her to catch her breath and take the next step. He holds her up as she continues to try and gives her extra-special nourishment until she’s healed.

The church is Christ’s own body. Therefore, we are to love the church, and love the individuals who make up the church. We are to be patient with her, pray for her, help her, encourage her, instruct her, and love her –the bride as a whole, as well as each body part. We should be careful that we don’t speak against her lest we be stabbing / wounding / grieving the Lord Himself. The idea that we are the only ones still being faithful to the Lord or the only ones whom the Lord is using or working with, should be extinguished. We are not the only ones. The Lord has reserved for Himself many more than we realize. True, they may not be perfect yet (and neither are we), but they are cherished by the Lord. They are in His service, or at least getting there, and they are worshipping, or learning to worship, from genuine hearts.

Looking at the sea of raised hands this morning, I was reminded of the immense love, patience, and concern the Lord has for His body –the individual parts, but also the church as a whole.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel