Category Archives: Christianity

Truth and Love

The two things Christians need more than anything these days are truth and love.

Arguing about Bible prophecy or other controversial doctrines isn’t love. We do need to talk about these issues, but we need to blanket the conversations in love.

If you just have truth and no love, you aren’t attractive, no one will listen to you. 1 Corinthians 13:1

If you have all love and no truth…what good is that? Tolerating sin in the name of love, isn’t love at all.

We need to proclaim the truth, and be a people known for our love and grace. With the Lord, we can balance these two things, we can be a people used by the Him to change hearts…Just as Jesus, who came in love, proclaimed grace and truth to a lost world. John 1:17

Don’t let your love grow cold…your love for the Lord and truth, and your love for the lost. Matthew 24:12

1 John 2:5, “But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.”

3 Jn. 1:3-4 “For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”

Ephesians 4:15, “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:”

Fruit Inspecting

Oranges2Have you ever been in danger of becoming a fruit inspector? As a Christian, there is nothing wrong with practicing prayerful discernment when it comes to choosing friends and fellowships, in fact, we’re told to examine our own hearts before the Lord as well. But fruit inspecting often doesn’t stop there.

We all have convictions about things. Some convictions are stronger than others, but it’s best to err on the gracious side of things when it comes to interpreting other folks’ walks in the faith. My convictions are personal to me, and between me, my husband, my family and God. The Bible says in Colossians 2:16,

Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:

We aren’t to judge on these things. Period. But I believe “fruit inspecting”–that is, judging one’s Christian-ness by one’s observable or outward “fruit”–is not only dangerous, it’s highly misleading and all puns aside: fruitless.

Look at the Pharisees. On the outside, they appeared to have it all going for them. They adhered to the “code”. The behavioral code. The good-works code. The dress code. The church attendance code. But they failed to love others, to have grace and mercy, to be humble from the inside out, willingly transparent about their struggles and faults. Their fruit wasn’t real, it wasn’t a result of being connected to the “Vine” or from abiding in Christ, nourished by Him alone. Remember that true fruit of the Spirit is defined in Gal. 5:22–23 as, “…love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance…”

It is tempting to focus overmuch on outward appearances and behavior as signs of salvation, not only in our own lives but in others. But we all know what the Bible says about that.

1 Sam 16:7b says, “…for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.”

There’s got to be grace. And we can’t examine others without examining ourselves more closely. Think of how much we all had to learn the hard way…our desire should always be to encourage and edify other believers in the Lord, and be salt and light, but not to get in the way of the Holy Spirit. When a person becomes saved, they become justified (“just as if I’d never sinned!) and sanctified (made holy and righteous in Jesus) but there is also an ongoing process of  sanctification. Our Father has his ways of refining all of us. The Christian life is a refining fire…and some may have to spend 5 years in the wilderness as opposed to others spending 40. Our goal is the Promised Land, a victorious life through Christ as we by faith learn what it means to reckon ourselves dead to sin after salvation, and what it means to walk by the Spirit, not by the flesh. Or in other words, how to plug into the vine and just be grapes! Also, when we look for fruit in a Christian’s life, we are looking for Gal. 5 fruit, not works of the flesh. The works of the flesh contradict the works of the spirit.  Read Galatians 5 and see how entangled the Galatians were with works of the law. Circumcision was bondage to them. Is there anything wrong with circumcision? No. But making it part of salvation or the fruit of the spirit, of a life abiding in Christ, yes, that is taking it too far.

Also, how do we accurately judge another Christian’s fruit when there is definitely such a thing as a carnal Christian? This is dangerous territory and I believe the only reason to *go there* is to determine if this Christian is one we want to pursue fellowship with on a deeper level. Remember that iron sharpeneth iron, and we often assume the standards of those we befriend. This would be advice for the single gal who is waiting and watching for a godly future husband. Or to the new family at church who yearns for true fellowship with likeminded believers. Ask yourself, are they walking with Jesus Christ and evidencing all the fruit of the spirit, not just pieces of fruit here and there? Or are they ‘hearers only’ as James refers to? Are they servant minded, feet-washing believers–as our Savior was?

2 Corinthians 2:15 says,

“For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish:”

Our lives need to be a fragrance to the unsaved, our lives and fruit should attract unbelievers as they see Christ in us…If our lifestyle, actions, reactions, sins, or false piety, etc. raise questions and cause confusion to the unsaved, we become a stumbling block.

There is also a tendency to question our salvation or the salvation of others when we “fruit inspect”. We may say, ” Well, I haven’t consistently read my Bible in weeks, or shared the gospel with others in a long time. I feel far from God. I wonder if I’m really saved?” This is attaching works as if they are proof of salvation, when it is a gift of God, not of works lest any man boast. (Eph. 2:8-9)

Instead let us pray to our Father to keep us from being Pharisaical fruit inspectors and examine our hearts and others’ hearts by the word of God. Do we/they claim to be a Christian and lie? Do we/they claim to be a Christian and not have a servant’s heart for others? Do we/they claim to be a Christian and yet lack love and grace? That doesn’t mean those that do or don’t aren’t Christians, but it means we might not want to fellowship with ones that do these things, and it may mean an eventual heart to heart questioning them, “Hey, as a Christian, how do you reconcile this behavior of yours to the word of God, brother/sister?” A carnal Christian will have no joy or assurance in the carnal life, but they are still a Christian.

1 Corinthians 13: 3 really sums this topic up better than I ever could:

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Good works apart from true spiritual fruit profit nothing.

Want to know more about carnal Christianity? Here is a short article on the subject.

Equipping the Saints website

Breezing in here to share a source of great wealth to me lately, the Equipping the Saints website. Are you struggling with hard things? Be encouraged by a site that explains how death to self takes faith to comprehend and experience. Learn about true humility, which only comes from Christ in us, when we abide in Him and stop struggling with being “good enough” or “doing enough” and just realize that until He takes over, we’re just good at getting in the way of progress! “Self” is a powerful enemy of the plans and purposes God wants to accomplish in our lives.

Here’s a quote from the site to whet your appetite!

“The Christian life is not our living a life like Christ, or our trying to be Christ-like, nor is it Christ giving us the power to live a life like His; but it is Christ Him-self living His own life through us; ‘no longer I, but Christ.'” Miles J. Stanford

And something from the Lord to prick your heart,

John 15:4-5, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”

Here’s to fruitfulness that only comes from reckoning ourselves dead to sin and alive to Christ!

–Mary

The Great Science Debate

KJV_BibleLast Tuesday we popped up some kettle corn and gathered round the computer for what’s being called “The Debate of the Century”. It was 2 hours and 45 minutes of Ken Ham, of Answers in Genesis, and Bill Nye the Science Guy tackling the question, Is Creation a Viable Model of Origins in Today’s Modern Scientific Era?

The disappointing thing about the debate was that they didn’t get very far on the topic specified, but still, we were euphoric by the end, because Ken Ham did a fantastic job of presenting the validity of the Young Earth Creationist viewpoint and how scientists have been using the Bible for centuries to make valid predictions in the field. He had an impressive line-up of video presentations, including live interview clips by Creation scientists (such as Dr. Raymond Damadian who revolutionized modern medical technology with the invention of the MRI scanner) to back up his data. Most of all, we were impressed with Ken’s humble, gracious attitude and his heart for truth. He unashamedly admitted many times that he takes the Creation account literally, and presented the gospel at least 3 times during the debate…with scripture.

Ken Ham also pointed out the two kinds of science, a differentiation widely ignored by mainstream science. That is, that there is a big difference between historical science dealing with origins, and observable or operational science. Mainstream science wants to claim that there is no difference, hence their claim that an evolutionary worldview is essential to proper scientific understanding and procedure…which is not true at all.

Our children are ages 16, 13 and 9, and we figured there would be some evidence from Bill Nye’s argument for evolution that we’d have to research and debunk. On the contrary…I can’t tell you how many times the kids hit the pause button and spouted off the real science behind the manipulated facts Nye presented as solid evidence. I guess all of those creation seminar dvds and Apologia textbooks have been worth the hours spent studying! If you watched the debate and have questions, the Answers in Genesis website put together an “Answers” page, that provides answers for everything Bill Nye brought up during the debate. We were also disappointed that Nye didn’t seem to take this discussion very seriously, nor did he address the questions Ken Ham had for him. He kept saying that if Creationists gave one piece of evidence for an out of place fossil (using the secularists’ own dating methods), he’d be so grateful, science would be so grateful.  Ken Ham gave him that evidence, and even a picture of it in his slideshow–45,000-year-old wood in 45-million-year-old rock! Bill Nye willingly ignored it. Now he is calling for Ken Ham to build an exact replica of Noah’s ark and see if it is seaworthy for over a year. The interesting thing about the ark, is how it affected early Naval architecture. I’ve linked to more info, if you are interested.

If you would like to watch the debate, I am not sure how much longer they will leave it up for public viewing, but the Answers in Genesis YouTube Channel still has the debate available, as well as the Post-Debate Commentary, which we also highly recommend watching.

Estimates are that at least 5 million people from 190 countries were tuned in at one point or another to this debate…that is amazing coverage. And the debate is bleeding over into conversation all over the internet. My take-away from that? This topic of creation vs evolution has been silent due to secular censorship for far too long—and people want to discuss it!

One last important note. There are many Christians that believe God created the world via the big bang or that evolution can be explained into the creation story. To this, Ken Ham asks…how could millions of years of animal death, disease, predation, extinction and other natural evils such earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis, as evidenced in the fossil record, come before man’s sinful fall in the garden and God’s subsequent curse? There really is nothing about evolutionary origins that is compatible with the Biblical account.

And that’s my .02 cents about the big debate!

Overcoming emotional hurts with Christ’s help

I often get letters, behind scenes, expressing great anguish and crippling turmoil over familial hurts that seem insurmountable and are accompanied by pleas for help. I just wanted to answer this one publicly and with virtual hugs. It’s okay. Jesus understands. And you are not alone. Here’s my story.

First, I want to tell you, I understand. I understand the being overwhelmed, the agony, the injustice, the “no one can understand and possibly everyone things I’m over-reacting”. The not being able, much less willing, to put yourself out as a target when those “archers” responsible are in the same vicinity! I felt the same emotional turmoil for years, whenever I was around a certain someone. Those were hard but growing years. I’m so thankful for a godly mother’s counsel, and her strong shoulder on which I cried many times.

Like you, survival meant keeping a distance and meantime in the civil distance, with much prayer and a lot of maturity in both the other person and myself, I have been able to put the hurtful things that happened behind me. I NEVER thought I’d be able to be around that person with my guard down, but happily I am. I pray that over time and with God’s healing between you and this other person, total renewal (love, forgiveness, trust) will be gained. Until then, you are wise to listen to your loving heavenly Father and protect your fragility, build yourself up in the confidence and strength that comes from the Lord.

1 John 5:14, “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:”

2 Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:”

Our heavenly Father will equip you. Perfect love casts out fear! Pray that Jesus will give you an overwhelming love–unconditional with no past recriminations hovering–for this person. A love that will cover their human failings toward you.If you are like me, you will have many kneeling-before-the-throne sessions, weeping, praying for the burden to leave. But the joy isn’t in the burden leaving, as much as it is in surviving it by God’s grace and coming out on the other side scathed, but healed, and enabled to help spread the message of hope that you’ve experienced firsthand.

The Lord gave me that for my situation. I wanted to bawl for joy when he crushed that last wall I’d built for my sanity and protection, and let me just feel love and compassion for the one that had hurt me so, with no history tainting it WHATSOEVER. I even cleared the air with them, and apologized for my part in the problem, not hinting at anything they might have done. It is so over–and I am free and so incredibly thankful to have that horrible, crippling angst of a burden rolled off my heart. To be able to be around them with no hurts between us any more is a MIRACLE! He is faithful so just keep hounding the Lord for peace and healing on this–even if your loved one never changes–I believe you will get to the point of having a Jesus-love for him or her that can see past their faults and sins and even let this unfair treatment of you and hurtful words roll off of you because you are SO bathed in Jesus’ affirmation and love, blood-covered and GRACED out, that you’ll hurt more for this other person than yourself when those darts hit their mark.

Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

But, in the meantime, do keep your distance so you can focus on healing and commit to pray hard for this perfect work. I can’t explain how all my hurts, anger, insecurities, jealousies over the injustice of it all (false rumors, etc.) were completely vanquished and it wasn’t overnight…but it definitely happened and it was all Jesus. I think of this person now with so much love, sometimes with tears as I pray for their precious family. What a blessing!

Having read all of that, I hope you get a message of HOPE and can see that I’m not judging, because I’ve been there. Perhaps I didn’t have as much to forgive in my situation, as you do in yours, but Jesus can handle it.

Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:”

Psalm 27:1, “The  LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

The blessing of total forgiveness is that forgiveness will come much easier for you down the road when others hurt you. The more like Christ we become, the more dead we become to self, and “dead people” don’t get offended or hold bitterness or grudges. I would much rather be dead to “self” and alive to Christ. For more on this, you may want to read my Dying to Self series. For now I’ll leave you with Galatians 2:20,

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

God bless you and heal you as you seek His ways in all you do…

Cookbooks and Food Miracles

Today I picked up a large cooler full of ground venison from the meat locker. Tonight we’re celebrating “red meat in the hoose” by utilizing The Pioneer Woman Cooks cookbook…her bacon-wrapped and bbq-tomato-gravy slathered meatloaf (page 150) to be exact. And her PW’s Creamy Mashed Potatoes (page 146) made from Yukon Gold potatoes from our very own garden. I haven’t been immersed in such a delightful cookbook since my mom gave us the Two Chicks from the Sticks cookbook. Another must-have. Hint. Many of our best-selling farmer’s market recipes have come from that last one.

But the real reason I’m blogging tonight (besides having t.i.m.e. and no one else competing with me for our one and only computer…) is that we had another miracle recently! We have them quite often actually. I wish I had time to blog about each and every one.

This miracle occurred one chilly morning a couple weeks ago. I was down at our field pens, doing chores for the 30 little chickies we’re raising…when a hunter pulled up. He’d been hunting and successfully bagged his buck and wondered if I could come take a picture of him with it. Just FYI, we’d met him the previous weekend when he’d kindly let us know he had permission to hunt the forested area north of our property. So he’d be driving through our place in the wee hours of the morning and didn’t want us to be alarmed. Heh, if he only knew how familiar we are with the “wee hours” of the morning, getting up at 3:55 am every day to milk. But I digress. Nice guy, from out of state. He waited on me to run up to the house and pull my banana nut bread out of the oven and then we were off for a photo shoot.

The drive was through pasture, a little rough. By the time we got done with the pictures, I could tell he was anxious to get the deer gutted and his deer stand dissembled, so I offered to help. That was a fun ramble through the woods to the deer stand…he pointed out a bobcat lair, among other interesting things I didn’t know were within a half-mile of my home!

The blessing of this adventure is that we got a large cooler of ground venison for our freezer! Because this guy was from out of state, he couldn’t take his deer home with him. He asked if we happened to like venison…we LOVE venison. Not only that…but less than two weeks before, I’d announced to my family that I was praying for God to dump some red meat in our laps so they better watch and see how He was going to provide it. We had been out of everything but our broiler chickens for a while, and I sure was missing the versatility of having ground red meat at my disposal. We just don’t buy beef from the store…we process our own beef here at home because we like to know what we’re eating! I’d even begun grinding some turkey so we’d have ground meat…but turkey is just meant to be roasted. An added blessing of venison is that it doesn’t contain any antibiotics or vaccines….which is a hallelujah side bonus! *grin*

We are truly thankful, and excited to enjoy this first meal made from this venison gift tonight. I guess I’d better go mash up some potatoes!

Have you got anything in particular you need to take to the Lord in prayer? Another thing you should know…the same day this hunter relayed his intention of giving us the meat from his deer, my in-laws stopped by with a grocery sack of beef from their freezer. What a double blessing! Meat to eat while we waited on the locker to process the venison. God loves to knock our socks off…but so often…we “have not because we ask not”…

What miracles has He done in your life recently?

Miracle on New Year’s Eve 2012

My husband and I were up at the barn milking the cows when it happened. Screams, distant enough that I shoved my hood back and strained to distinguish whether or not they were in fun or in terror. I’d just been watering the livestock at the back of the dairy barn, humming “Let it Snow,” thinking what a gorgeous adventure I was having, helping the love of my life milk ye old cows, tromping through 3 inches of white stuff, and just loving the calm still of a snowflaked world on New Year’s Eve. Inside the house, a table piled with our favorite finger foods awaited us, special movies hand picked for bringing in the New Year, and a roaring fire in the fire place. Life just didn’t get better than this.

Until my heart stilled at the sounds of all three of my girls screaming for help. My husband jumped away from Gertie, our Jersey-Guernsey cow that he was finishing up, and asked me if something was wrong out there. I was still in denial, hoping there wasn’t.

“I think they are just playing…I shut the chickens in early tonight, so they let Guiney out to romp in the snow a bit.” I hurried through the barn, heading for the door that was nearest the commotion.  Guiney is our female Australian Shepherd, my 12 year old’s special pet, a great dog…but one with an affinity for eating my laying hens. We dare not let them out at the same time.

When I reached the big sliding south door of our dairy barn, all doubt as to the seriousness of the situation vanished. My 8 year old was hysterical, hardly able to talk she was wailing so loudly. “Mommy! Daddy!” her screams were punctuated with chest-shuddering sobs, “Guiney’s head is caught in a trap, she’s going to die, come quick!”

My husband took off running, I’ve never seen him fly over the snow so fast. Later we looked at his boot prints…all a good four feet apart. Down the long hill, past our horse pens, around the fledgling fruit trees we planted last year, and across the small pasture where we keep our broiler pens…I prayed he’d make it in time. Adrenaline pumping, I hurried to free the dairy cows from their stanchions and turned them back into their part of the barn where they could munch alfalfa and not get into trouble. I hurried to my youngest, still wailing as if her heart had broken into a million pieces, bent over in the snow, rocking and praying to God to please please save Guiney.

My own emotions were threatening to pull me under. This couldn’t be happening. If only the girls had asked before letting Guiney out. But how could they know that there was a trap set down by the field pens, set to catch the elusive critter that’s been after the chickens here of late? I hugged my youngest close and we prayed together, loud desperate pleas to the only One who could work the miracle needed a quarter mile away.

Youngest didn’t want to go near the scene, she just knew Guiney was dead, and couldn’t bear to have it confirmed. I sent my delirious little sweetheart trudging forlornly to the house, and headed down to the rest of my family. When I got within view, my hubby was heading back this way…I hollered down to him, thinking he might need something and I could save him some steps. He gestured with his hands in a way that I thought meant, “She’s gone. She died. It’s over.” The tears I’d been fighting rushed out, my rip-tide of emotions finally collapsing when all hope was gone. But then I saw Guiney, up and walking around, a ghost of a dog…as if nothing had happened. What?

I immediately thought of my little one, who had just gone into the back porch. I turned back and hollered, “She’s alive!” I had to yell it several times.

She stumbled out, in disbelief, a little nymph all bundled up in coveralls and her red “rooster” ski hood that covered her face with eye-and-mouth holes. “She’s alive?”

We were both so broken up with relief, and tears flowing, that we could hardly communicate. We hugged, our first thought after the relief was that God had graciously answered our fervent pleas. Then we headed down the snow-capped driveway to the rest of the family and Guiney-the-wonder-dog met us. Has any dog ever been so lavished with love as this precious blue-merle Aussie? I hugged and hugged my second-born daughter, Guiney’s owner, and we thanked God over and over for saving her doggie.

My oldest told me the story. She’d seen the killer trap snap around Guiney’s neck. Guiney died in her arms, having first passed out from lack of oxygen. When my husband got there, he pried open the trap with his bare hands, usually not possible. Part of the miracle. He confirmed that Guiney was dead. But not one to give up easily, he decided to breathe into her nose and work on her heart. Minutes crept by. He kept breathing for her, but her eyes were rolled back, and she should have gulped in air the minute he’d gotten the trap off. He sat her up against his chest and moved her around, hoping to stimulate things. The girls were standing a little ways away, praying, hoping against hope, and hearing their daddy pray out loud  in between breathing for our dog. He was about to call it quits, when Guiney’s eyes moved slightly.

The girls were just sure it was all over. All they knew was that their daddy had gotten quiet. But when they heard him say, “Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord!” they looked at each other in amazement. Could it be possible? Guiney moved a bit gingerly, but soon was up walking around. By the time youngest and I got mid-way down the driveway, Guiney was jogging to us, as if nothing was wrong. Not a dot of blood even smeared her lovely white collar.

Tonight we have much to be thankful for…we’ll always remember the miracle on New Year’s Eve 2012, when God raised our dog from the dead. This is the kind of faith lesson that will loom over all of us in future hard times, a monument to a mighty God who sees each sparrow, and dog, that falls, and who holds all of our lives in His hands.

Why we like Mark Cahill’s resources

Just so you can see for yourself the impact of a righteous mission-minded man on a young teen’s heart, I’m sharing this letter my oldest daughter wrote a few months ago. I hope it encourages you to check out Mark Cahill’s resources for your own family. We highly recommend them all, but our favorites, ones that we’ve watched over and over again in the past 5 plus years, are Lukewarm No More and Stand Out. They’ve had a phenomenal impact on our Christian walk. Here’s the blurb given at his site for this particular DVD:

There is now a DVD of the talk I have been giving called “Lukewarm No More.” The message is taken out of the book of Revelation Chapter 3 about the Laodicean church.

Is it possible that you are going to a lukewarm church? Or is it possible that you are lukewarm in your faith? Watching this DVD will make it very easy for you to figure that out.

The first time I ever gave this talk, there were numerous people who told me after listening to the message that they repented of numerous things in their lives that did not line up with the word of God. They stated they are now living a holy life that has been given over completely to the Lord. Listen and be challenged to make sure that you never fall into the category of lukewarm ever again.

Also includes the message “Stand Out”—two talks on one DVD!

My daughter’s letter to Mark follows…

Hey Mark,
I’m sure you don’t remember me since you communicate with so many different people in so many different ways, but I feel like I know you personally from watching all of your DVDs except for your newest one (and that problem will soon be remedied!), reading your books and first tract, and visiting one of your speaking events. You also gave our small country church a whole box of One Second After You… booklets and we have really enjoyed giving them away.

I can feel in my veins the urgency to reach lost souls before it is too late. The return of our Lord is imminent and I think that the Devil knows it more than anyone and is working over time to keep his slaves from being freed. He seems to be more aware of the present battle that is raging than most Christians these days. This year I have felt more worldly temptations than ever before, and yet every time I begin to feel discouraged the Spirit of the Most High God reminds me that I am wholly and solely His: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”(2Cor.6:17-18) That verse always makes my heart leap!

One thing that is very disheartening to me lately is the disinterest in reaching the lost on the part of SO many Christians. I’m afraid that sometimes it makes me less zealous instead of making me work for my Lord more heatedly. Thank God, I have several friends who truly love the Lord and they are a huge blessing to me. After all, you and I are only two of the “7,000 in America, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.” If only we could keep our focus on God rather than man. I have decided that one of Satan’s greatest footholds in a Christian’s life is to keep them from reading the Holy Word of God and thus shift their vision from Christ. As Proverbs 29:18 says: “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law happy is he.”
And Psalm 119:105 “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” You’ve seen these before but it doesn’t hurt to see them again. It never does when you’re talking about God’s Word!

I didn’t exactly mean for this to be so long. I know that you are super busy. I just wanted to encourage you to keep up the good work and that I am fighting for the cause of Christ as well. Stay on the straight and narrow path, Mark, and when you begin to feel discouraged let the utter GREATNESS of our Lord Jesus Christ overcome it. We are praying for you…

Thanks so much for the DVD and booklets. I am fourteen and will be sharing these resources (or should I say “Weapons of our Warfare”?) with many young friends. The DVD will be watched at several sleepovers (or battle planning sessions) and will be loaned to many families. We have some loaned out right now actually and I just watched Watchman on the Wall this afternoon…*smile*.

Well, I had better go! Stay true until the nets are full, Mark!
Forever in Christ…

***********

Be sure to check out Mark Cahill’s site and be as blessed by his evangelistic resources as our family and many others have been! As Mark is so fond of saying…

“Until the nets are full,”

Mary

Are you really a Christian?

In a world of people who claim Christianity, yet live their everyday lives as if our Lord Jesus Christ doesn’t exist, it’s easy to wonder if they are truly saved. Are they? Are you? Am I? Perhaps even more sobering…what about our children?

Jesus himself makes a startling statement in Matthew 7:22-23,

Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Can you imagine anything more devastating than taking your salvation for granted, and finding out on judgement day that your Christianity was a sham in Jesus’ eyes? In a day and age where people claiming to be Christians are “prophesying” and doing miracles in Jesus’ name, it pays to have discernment…and the only way to gain reliable discernment is to study our Bibles, and see what God says about salvation and the fruit of true Christianity. If it can’t be 100% proven by the Bible, then what are we doing trusting in what man says, over what God says?

Case in point. I really thought I was a Christian. My parents assured me that I’d prayed the “prayer” when I was two years old. At the age of seven, I began sweating my own “un-recalled” salvation experience. I now realize that God was prodding my heart. My biggest question at the time, was childishly simple:

Is there a difference between believing Jesus died for me on a cross 2,000 years ago, and believing any historical fact, such as “Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492”?

That question plagued me as a seven year old! I was raised in a godly home, a pastor’s daughter, my parents knew that I *knew* the ABC’s of salvation, but they didn’t know that I didn’t understand the heart’s involvement and response to what Christ had done for me. I was so young, that my head was nodding to the factual side of what needed to be done, but my heart wasn’t involved. Sure I wanted to escape hell, who wouldn’t. Sign me on the dotted line! I didn’t have a fruitful Christian life on the inside until more recently in my adult years. Thus, I fully believe a person can be a very good, moral person, and believe that they are doing everything required by a  church, or a fellowship of believers, to fit in, to be of “service” to God…and even bring others to the saving knowledge of Christ, but not be really saved. We’ve got to remember that to the Lord, all our righteousness is as filthy rags. It’s HIS righteousness, never ours, that makes the difference.

I urge you, if you are a “Christian” with doubts, please be sure you aren’t trusting in any of the following:

  1. Someone else’s assurance that you indeed “prayed a prayer” of faith when you were very young.
  2. Infant baptism, or any other baptism for salvation. Don’t take my word on this, study the instances of baptism in the Bible. There are no cases of infant baptism, and all other instances of adult baptism follow decisions of salvation.
  3. Faith in a prayer you prayed. The prayer doesn’t save you. Jesus’ shed blood on the cross saves you, once you repent of your sins and turn to Him, believing! Did Jesus or Paul ever outline a “salvation prayer” in the New Testament? A “1-2-3 Pray-after-me” type of prayer? No.
  4. Did you “make a commitment” to the Lord? Did you “trust Jesus as your Savior”? Did you “give your heart to Jesus”? None of these phrases have Biblical backing when it comes to salvation.

Let me say this again. Faith doesn’t save you. Christ saves you, and faith is the channel that gets you there.

What does it take to be saved? Different denominations make different claims. Check them to see if they are biblical. Repentance of our sins, and faith alone in Jesus’ shed blood alone, is what saves us. There is nothing we can do to earn or deserve eternal life.

Our pastor reminded us last Sunday, that there are two kinds of sorrow…a godly sorrow leading to repentance, and a worldly sorrow, somewhat akin to “regret”. Check out what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 7:8-11 about these two kinds of sorrow. (emphasis mine)

For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though [it were] but for a season.

Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.

For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.

For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, [what] clearing of yourselves, yea, [what] indignation, yea, [what] fear, yea, [what] vehement desire, yea, [what] zeal, yea, [what] revenge! In all [things] ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.

Bottom line…we can come to Christ in prayer, and repent of our sins and believe that his shed blood on the cross wipes our debt of sin clean. But it’s not our prayer that saves us. It’s Jesus alone. If you aren’t trusting Jesus 100% alone to save you–you aren’t saved–works do not save. Works are anything your church says that you need to do in addition to the above…when you add works into the mix, you are changing the gospel, and making it as if Jesus death was in vain. Dangerous stuff as Galatians 2:21 tells us:

I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness [come] by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

Romans 10:9-10 says it so simply:

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

This is only a partial glimpse into my own personal journey through this issue. I hope to share my full testimony here one day soon. Meanwhile, what would it hurt to re-examine your own heart before the Lord?

The Saving of Self-righteous Naaman

Naaman has everything he could want. Prestige, power, success, reknown, but  he’s dying from leprosy. Sound familiar? What a picture of self-righteous mankind who thinks he has everything, but in reality, he’s lost in sin that ONLY God can cleanse. So the Old Testament story of Naaman is really a picture of New Testament salvation.

Our pastor has been taking us through the lives of Elijah and Elisha recently, and he has such a gift for placing us in the story. I’m often wanting to share my sermon notes here at the site, but usually run out of time. I just want to say up front, that the bulk of this post’s teaching are straight out of his mouth, as fast as I could jot them down, not my own. With the exception of a couple minor embellishments of mine…and with his permission to share it here, let’s dive right in!

This is a narrative deeper than the muddy Jordan where Naaman bathed his leprous body. For instance, leprosy in the Bible, is a picture of sin. Leprosy is an internal disease that manifests externally, it’s disgusting to look at, and comes with a stench. It’s highly contagious. Just like sin, it’s debilitating, destructive and leads to death.

Here we have the top ranking officer of the host of the King of Syria, not an Israelite, btw, but still the scripture says Naaman was honorable because “by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria”. God used Naaman to chasten Israel. Naaman was “a mighty man in valor” well respected country wide, and then we’re told the kicker: “BUT he was a leper.”

That there is a real contrast for such a high ranking official. Check out the whole story in 2 Kings 5:1-19.

Enter the “little maid”. It’s interesting in this story, that servants play a pivotal role. Firstly, this little Israelite captive pipes up and says,

Would God my lord [were] with the prophet that [is] in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy.”

We can surmise that this little gal has been trained by good parents who must have been teaching her that with God, ALL things are possible. She’s been raised on stories of Elijah and Elisha, what a miraculous time to have been alive! Don’t you just smile at her implicit, unswervable trust in God here? I mean, who is she in this household? A child servant. Yet follow the channels her little declaration sets in place. Little maid tells her mistress (Naaman’s wife), then in verse 4, there’s a reference to “one” who tells Naaman, next thing we know the King of Syria knows about it and is mailing a letter to the King of Israel! And oh man, the King of Israel rents his clothes and has a panic attack. He says:

“[Am] I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy? wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me.”

Good night. This King of Israel has less faith than a little girl captive over in Syria. Come on! This king should have followed the biblical precedent shown by King Hezekiah–what do you do when you receive bad news in the mail? Lay the letter out before God and pray over it. Same thing we should do today when we receive disturbing news. Apparently the King of Israel doesn’t know there is a prophet of God in Israel! He’s about to find out!

Enter Elisha. Elisha hears about the missive from Syria, and about the King of Israel’s distress, but he sees this as an opportunity to let someone outside of their nation know that there is a prophet of God in Israel!

So Naaman arrives with a hugely impressive entourage of people, and a LOT of money. He’s willing to pay BIG time to be healed. This procession is a big deal. This is a self-righteous, top ranking general’s arrival at Elisha’s house.

And Elisha doesn’t even come out to meet him. Ouch. He sends a messenger out the door with a succinct, to the point message. “Go wash in the Jordan seven times.” Um, what’s this look like today? Imagine several helicopters landing in the soybean field below your house and the President of America and his secret servicemen requesting an audience…and you send your hired man out to talk for you. You’re busy. Uh-huh.

Elisha sends a message. By the way, what Naaman needs is the MESSAGE, not the man. Naaman needs the gospel.

The Bible tells us in verse 11 what Naaman’s reaction is. He is “wroth“. A few verses later it says he “went away in a rage“. He rants: “Behold I thought…” Now there’s his problem. His expectations were dashed. He says, “We have better rivers” in Syria, I could have bathed in them. I’m picturing him stomping around, frothing at the mouth.

Two things to pick up on here. The Jordan river is not a sparkling pristine little bubbling brook. It is a muddy river. Nothing fancy. But is it about the water, really? Is the water going to heal Naaman? No.

So Naaman is leaving. He’s done. But here come his servants. Remember I said servants play a pivotal role in this story? Parallel to be gleaned here? God can use anyone He wants. Can adults learn about God from children? Yes. Are we God’s servants? Yes. There are a lot of unnamed servants in this story who are in Heaven today…I can’t wait to meet them and hear the rest of this story!

But I digress. Naaman’s servants end up reasoning with their master. They point out to him that if God had asked something BIG of Naaman, Naaman would have done it. If he’d been told to do some “big tough guy thing” like slash his chest, walk on his knees on glass, make a sacrifice, etc. he would have obliged. But God was asking something simple. Wash and be clean. The servants implored him to “Do it and see if it works”.

Wash and be clean. Salvation is SIMPLE. We can’t do any great thing to earn or deserve it.

So Naaman agrees to give it a whirl. What do you think is going through his mind as he eases himself into the Jordan river and begins dipping? Do you think his pagan servants are on the banks of the Jordan holding in their laughter? Their great and mighty leader is doing something VERY BIZARRE here. I’m thinking Naaman’s own skepticism is increasing with each dip not revealing any improvement. Until the 7th time. He comes out of the water with skin like a child’s, it’s probably wrinkle free. If he’d lost any fingers to leprosy, they were regrown. This is a MIRACLE!

This was NOT the Jordan River that did this. This was NOT water that did this. This was COMPLETE obedience to God’s word and command–Naaman humbled himself and let go of his pride and self-righteousness and submitted to God’s authority, and he was a changed man afterward as we will soon see. But in case you didn’t pick up on this yet, that COMPLETE obedience was a reference to Naaman’s continuing to dip in the Jordan the full seven dips…Seven is the Biblical number of completion. Study it sometime, it’s pretty phenomenal.

So this changed man and his company of soldiers and servants heads back to Elisha’s dwelling, and THIS time, Elisha himself comes out to greet him. No one had ever healed leprosy before. Remember I said leprosy is a type of sin in the Bible? Interesting to note that God spent two whole chapters in Leviticus detailing how the priests were to deal with lepers, down to what to do with it if it was in the warp and weave of the clothing! The LONGEST passages in Leviticus are on leprosy! It’s worth repeating: Leprosy is an internal disease that manifests externally, it’s disgusting to look at, and comes with a stench. It’s highly contagious. Just like sin, it is debilitating, destructive and leads to death. Leprosy is incurable.

Naaman wants to thank Elisha with gifts, he refers to himself as a SERVANT! I’m telling you, Naaman is a changed man from the self-impressed guy that threw a hissy fit a little while ago. But get this, Elisha refuses to take anything from Naaman. Because this is a picture of salvation, and salvation cannot be bought or earned. You can’t put a price to what God gives freely. Very important. If you are sharing the gospel with someone, and they offer you money or gifts as a thank-you, you shouldn’t take it. It sends a mixed signal. Salvation should never be accompanied by a price tag. It’s not biblical.

In verse 17, Naaman gives allegiance to the God of Israel, and immediately we see his conscience begin working when he asks a peculiar question in verse 18. “In this thing the Lord pardon thy servant” (there he goes referring to himself as Elisha’s servant again!) Naaman is humble before Elisha. This guy’s had a life-changing experience here! Okay, so here’s his question:   

“In this thing the LORD pardon thy servant, [that] when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon: when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon thy servant in this thing.”

I love that new believer conscience kicking immediately in, don’t you? He’s already realizing that it will offend God if he, as custom of their country demands, accompanies his master, the King of Syria, into the house of Rimmon, a pagan deity. He may not understand everything about the God of the Israelites, as a new believer, but he’s on the right track here. He’s not worshiping Rimmon, he’s already said in verse 17, that he’ll not offer sacrifices or worship to any other God, but he has some things to figure out as far as correct theology goes. Elisha knows this.  And Elisha says, “Go in peace.”

I don’t know about you, but I wonder how many others came to believe in the God of Elisha as a result of Naaman’s cleansing? Can’t wait to hear the rest of the story…UP there…