Dear Esther
If you are having a challenging day or burdened with some personal problems, then you can be sure others are too. Write to Esther and she will have some good sound biblical advice and answers for you. You will be helping others by sharing your need or concern. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).


You can email your question to Esther at:
dearesther1@yahoo.com


Prior Letters



April 14, 2014

Dear Esther,

I was gloriously saved about three years ago as evidenced by a drastic, literally overnight change in personality, an insatiable hunger for the Word of God, a profound, inexplicable love for God and my fellow man, and a palpable sense of the presence of God (that sometimes made the hairs on my arm stand up) especially when I prayed.

Most of my sins fell away immediately; I failed to crucify sexual sins in my life and get rid of a then-brand new TV that I truly believe God wanted me to get rid of, because I believe He said it was an idol to me. I made excuses and backslid horribly back into the world, into deep addiction to pornography, depravity and sinful bondage.

Even in my backsliding state, I witnessed for Christ at my work place and prayed for His intervention because I was grossly and deeply ensnared in my sins; a newsletter from David Wilkerson called, “The Awful Consequences of Backsliding” convicted me and I asked God to chasten me because it was the only way I could be freed from my wickedness.

God answered! A horrible set of circumstances directly related to my sins all but destroyed my life. Still, I failed to repent. One night while reading the Word, I came across Hebrews 6:4-6, Hebrews 10:26-31, and Hebrews 12:14-17.

Convinced that I blasphemed the Holy Spirit, I fell into a black vortex of utter dread and suicidal despair, complete with a vision of the holiness of God sent me to the hospital for 4 days! I struggled for 8 months, reading everything I could, listening to sermons all day long and attending service after service, crying daily, desperately trying to be reconciled with God.

I’m slowly recovering, struggling desperately to believe and accept God’s love and ease my stinging conscience. By the grace of God, I have had some success over my sin, putting away pornography, pulled away from the world and living in obedience as best as I can with regular intense prayer and Bible reading. I still have the TV but I don’t watch it. I still struggle with intense bodily urges to lust but God has been faithful in delivering me from my sins.

Things however aren’t quite the same. I’m trusting the Lord to restore me fully but thoughts of having possibly committed the unpardonable sin linger and rail against my conscience. Is there ANY unequivocal way of determining whether I’ve quenched the Spirit completely out of my life and am hopeless?

Is there a biblical precedence I can take hold of for hope? Both David and Saul were told by prophets of the results of their disobedience; one by Samuel unto destruction (“God has rejected you”) and other by Nathan unto life (“You shall not die”)…can I expect the same?

I’m tormented with doubt, guilt and pain. Nine months I’ve struggled to return to the Lord. Have I repented enough? How can I know I’m saved? Am I even elect? How can I know for sure? Why is my heart cold? Have I been rejected like Esau? I am often crushed by guilt and despair, cry DAILY, several times a day and considered suicide, surrendering my faith.

I feel myself giving up and simply not caring any more. Please, please pray that God will break my stubborn self-will and unbelief. He PROMISED that He would not cast me away if I come to Him. I NEED A NEW HEART and I feel so alone, ugly and unloved! Please help.

Christopher


Dear Christopher,

Please stop beating yourself up. If you have genuinely repented, you are saved and the Lord sees you as righteous in His eyes. Your heart intent is what matters the most. You don’t need a new heart; you need a new outlook on your life. It is evident to me from what you have said that you are very remorseful of your past.

This is the time to call on the promises of the Lord. Please read and study Psalm 91. If it makes you feel any better, many others have been through what you are going through and have recovered from their own self-guilt. Do NOT allow the enemies of God to try to keep you from living a full-life in Christ for Christ.

Try to calm down and rest in HIS love. Place all your burdens upon Him and He will carry you through this (Matthew 11:28-30). Please do not look back. All that will do is slow you down.

I suggest you get into a ministry or church where you can do something fruitful for the Lord and interact with other true believers. Taking the focus off, ourselves and ministering to others is a great healer. I don’t know how long you have been reading my column but I would encourage you to read through many of the previous letters, and you will find much hope in the advice given to others.

The doubt you are feeling can be overcome by casting all your anxiety on the Lord. And take it one day at a time, and don’t borrow trouble:

“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).

You can discover the secret to tranquility by studying these passages:

“Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass” (Psalm 37:3-7).

When we ask for forgiveness of our sins and truly repent, our salvation is assured. Please read and study the following Scriptures:

“By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:13-16).

“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:13).

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:1-3).

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 3-5).

Sometimes just before a person makes a deeper commitment to the Lord it can feel like nothing we ever did for Him matters and all we can see, is our weaknesses. I think you are closer to totally walking away from the ways of the world than you think. But you must stop panicking. You need not be a slave to fear:

“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15).

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).

You need not be afraid as God is your helper: God has said, He will never leave you or forsake you:

“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

David was very depressed until he repented and was forgiven:

“When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah” (Psalm 32:3-4).

God immediately forgave David when he repented and confessed his sin:

“I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah” (Psalm 32:5).

David’s confession of sin and his cry for forgiveness occurred only by God’s grace. His prayer for repentance is cited in Psalm 51:1-17.

Peter, who denied Jesus, was forgiven and restored (John 21:15-19). Jesus even entrusted Peter with His beloved people for whom he died on the cross. Jesus said: “Feed my lambs, “Take care of my sheep.”

Jesus forgave the murdered on the cross (a strong example of saved by grace alone):

“And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

We must always remember that God has compassion:

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).

God’s forgiveness is awesome and great:

“The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities.

For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:8-12).

True believers (that’s you, Christopher) are rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought into the Lord’s eternal kingdom and are forgiven of ALL sins:

“He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood] the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).

God has bestowed His grace upon us, choosing us, forgiving us of ALL our sins through Christ’s blood sacrifice (Ephesians 1:3-10).

God sweeps away our sins and wants us to sing for joy!

“I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and like a cloud, your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you. Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it! Shout, you lower parts of the earth; break forth into singing, you mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and glorified Himself in Israel” (Isaiah 44:22-23)

Christopher, it is going to be all right.

We are cleared (justified) of all guilt by faith in Jesus and find peace in Him:

“But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:21-15).

Christopher, a lot of professing Christians don’t think twice about whether they are pleasing the Lord or not, they are too busy pleasing themselves. The fact that you are deeply concerned about all of this tells me you love the Lord and you that belong to Him.

You are not alone. You belong to the King and He is coming back soon to take us to our true home.

The Word of God is always available to you. Believe the Scriptures when your read them. They are God’s messages and promises written to encourage and strengthen us. When we try to overanalyze every human weakness within ourselves we will never be free in Christ. Let go of the need to be perfect in your own strength and allow the Lord to reign in your life.

It is only through Christ that we are made righteous. We can never do enough to earn acceptance by our Holy Creator. Don’t fall into a “works” pattern to try to prove your standing before God. It is by fully accepting what He says in His Word that we can find peace and live a productive life for Him.

Christ’s last words were: “It is finished.” In the Gospel of John, the Greek word translated “it is finished” is tetelestai, an accounting term that means “paid in full.” Christopher, when those voices of doubt try to ruin your walk with the Lord remember: “It is finished!”

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Please keep in touch with me and never hesitate to reach out. Print out this letter, study it and keep the message close to your heart. You are someone who can encourage others tremendously because of your wilderness experience.

God promises to guide us, always:

“The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, And strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail” (Isaiah 58:11).

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye” (Psalm 32:8).

God has not abandoned you. He is holding out His loving arms to comfort you. Resolve to no longer fall into the trap of negativity and doubt. March forward in Christ’s righteousness which covers you, always carrying the shield of faith.

“Above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one” (Ephesians 6:16).

In God’s love,

Esther

“And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28).


April 7, 2014

Dear Esther,

I’m not sure how to get my thoughts into email form, but I’ll try my best. I’ve been alone most of my life. My mother abandoned me, and shortly after, my father married my stepmother. He left me, too. My grandparents raised me and I do thank God for that. My battle now is that I have a mind like a 40-year-old in a 26-year-old body. It’s a blessing, but also a curse. The curse is finding friends and people to connect with on the same level as myself.

I am married and have a beautiful son. However, my husband works a lot and I don’t see him often. When he is off work he is always: very stressed, tense and just wants to be left alone. God found me while I was young, and I have been thankful to have the Lord. But, sometimes having no tangible friends (that are not 4 years old) makes me feel alone. Why is it so hard to find people to hold onto as tight as I try to; I mean friends as well as my husband. I have no one around that has that passion and desire like I have for the Lord.

The friends my age that I’ve known since K-12 are living wild lives partying or are deep in sin. I’ve tried to be close to them, but their lifestyles and mine clash. I don’t find bars fun and I don’t want to sit around listening to them complain about other people either. I was bullied in school so I only have two “friends” the rest are on a name only basis.

It’s hard for me to muster up the courage to get close to people. I’ve ALWAYS been abandoned. God has been the only consistent Person in my life. Why is it so hard to find people that hold on tight like I try to? I mean, people aren’t perfect but it doesn’t seem like true friends can be found.

My husband says he’s saved but I don’t see much evidence. I go to a good Bible church and I’m involved. My husband has gone a few times gone but isn’t involved. He is also very angry when I am involved in different activities. His excuse is because it takes time away from him; which his idea of quality time is my sitting around doing nothing while he’s on different tech devices. I hold onto God tightly but he doesn’t, and tries to come between my relationship with Him.

My husband acts jealous. I spend a lot of time reading my Bible. I do so when he chooses to play video games or watch TV. But still he acts like I need to give it up for him. When we met seven years ago he went to church every Sunday. He told me he was a born-again Christian and from everything I saw it seemed true. We were married in his mother’s church. He is a few years older. He’s 31, I’m 26.

I read my Bible often but he always tells me that my wanting to do things like that together is pushing him too much or like shoving it down his throat. We do pray with our son together before he goes down for his nap. I’m involved in the worship team and a group called “Awakening” which is like an interpreting dance group. I have a study group on Wednesday nights. But, he hates when I go practice or am away.

He says it’s because he thinks I should be spending time with the family. However, sitting and watching him play video games for three hours just feels like I’m wasting my life. To be honest, I feel like I am more of a roommate more than a wife cleaning, cooking and staying at home. I never had many friends because I was very shy and bullied. When my husband and I met everything was so different. He was spiritual and had everything on my list. I was picky when it came to guys because of being abused. Somehow I feel like I was fooled.

I know God is good and when frustrated I try to remind myself that the devil will use any means possible to try and destroy God’s people. It’s just lonely sometimes. Thank you for your prayers. I love my son and do what I can but I hope he doesn’t take his father’s habits when he grows. I read your article every week. Thanks in advance for the advice.

Elaine


Dear Elaine,

I am glad you wrote. Your life story is filled with many issues that must be placed in a perspective that will best help you cope and thrive. I can see why you would feel alone and abandoned, especially considering you were abandoned by your mother, and then your father.

Only Jesus can heal wounds like this, and as you say, He found you early. You have a concern shared by many other Christians who, like you, find it very hard to find friends and people they can connect with. In your case, it is even more hurtful because of the abandonment issues.

“When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take care of me” (Psalm 27:10).

We are living in the last days when people are getting more and more self-centered. The majority of the population is very self-seeking and only concerned about their own personal little world. The Lord shows us those who belong to Him and who we are to stay away from. He is letting you see what people are really like so you can make sound spiritual choices.

It is unfortunate that this also applies to many of the people we find in our churches. It is even more complicated when it comes to the person we chose to marry; especially if once interested in the Lord and then later falls away.

Your frustration to find others who have the same passion for the Lord is understandable. A lot of people can rattle off Christian buzz words, and try to give the appearance that they are deeply devoted to the Lord but sadly, too many are using Christianity and the outward motions of going to church, etc. as just another social activity or as a money-making business.

But I am glad to hear you are involved in a church. If others around you are more on a superficial level, it may be you whom the Lord is using to try to awaken them to get more serious about their faith. It sounds like your husband is backslidden. From the way you describe the situation he seems very different from the man you dated and married.

I know it is not easy to get some people to open up. Have you tried talking to his mother to see what she thinks about all of this? Perhaps she can offer some answers to why he has changed so much from the man you thought he was when you married him. I can see why you would feel like he fooled you.

It sounds like your husband has fallen into a rut. And his behavior is symptomatic of something deeper that is hard to discern; he wants you near yet he is not willing to give of himself.

I can see why you would feel like you are simply a prop or a security blanket of some sort, and find it disturbing that he feels threatened when you want him to participate in reading the Bible, or anything to do with the Lord (except for the one prayer at your little son’s nap time). At least that is something. Ask the Lord in prayer for your husband’s spiritual growth and to help him realize that you too, have needs.

Your marital situation is one many Christian women can relate to. Sometimes a husband tends to become very proprietorial (someone who has an exclusive right to something or someone) and does not like anyone or anything competing for his wife’s attention. This shows a lack of spiritual and emotional maturity.

It sounds like he has a tough job and when he is home he may not be thinking clearly that you, too, have needs. While he is insisting you hang around him, he absurdly ignores and neglects you in a way that is only going to create a wider rift between the two of you. This is very selfish behavior, not at all the way the Lord asks husbands to behave.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 22:25-27).

Try everything you can to let him know how you feel; he may not know how you really feel and it may come across that he is taking you for granted. Or it may be that his jealousy wants you where he can see you. This all sounds like insecurity on his part. You have a little child together and I urge you to find a way to get to a point where you can both contribute to the relationship in a way that will keep peace in your home, especially for the sake of your little boy.

Once you calmly let him know it is not fair that he makes demands that even pull you away from the Lord, and the things that are important to you, ask if he will go to Christian counseling with you. If he refuses then tell him lovingly that it takes two to have a relationship and without him participating in your life too, then the relationship is headed for trouble.

It sounds like he wants assurance of your love and devotion. But he must understand that you need that same assurance. And by trying to keep you from the Lord and your involvement at church he is damaging the relationship. Tell him how much you miss the times when you shared life, together; especially when you shared Jesus, but first point out all his positive attributes.

Let him know you have your own interests also and it is not fair that you should be expected to put aside even the Lord so you can sit and watch him while he is involved in his video games and television shows; that you are at a point in your walk with the Lord where you cannot sit idly by filling your mind with secular minutia.

Be sure to tell him you love him and are there for him, but intimacy comes when two people can openly share what is important to both of them. When there is no joy in a marriage it is very hard to smile and get excited about anything.

Ask him what happened to his interest in the Lord. Remind him that was what drew you to him, and you are extremely perplexed why he is no longer walking with the Lord together with you—as he once did. And tell him that it is not fair for him to expect you to decrease your commitment to the Lord even if he has.

You are right in your assessment that true friends are hard to find. People have all kinds of expectations when making friends. The best way to make friends is to not have any expectations and let the friendships develop on their own. I know this might sound a bit harsh, but perhaps you are better off not having too many friends. In fact that is what Scripture teaches:

“A man of too many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).

This world is so fallen that we may never have the friends we hope for to a large degree. Back biting and deceit exist everywhere, and sadly even amongst so-called Christians. But the Lord will bring special people into your life as you continue to pray that He opens the door to sharing Him with the right people, and closes the door to those who are self-seeking phonies.

It is very hard to trust anyone. Jesus said it would be this way (2 Timothy 3:2). Some people will even tell you they are praying for you but your discerning spirit says not to get involved or trust them. Pay attention to the nudging of the Holy Spirit. And always remember we are living in enemy territory and rethink what your needs in this world really are, and what the Lord is calling you to do.

I understand that you read your Bible and are involved in your church; that is very good. But please rethink how you view yourself in relation to these last days and how much energy you want to spend trying to make earthly relationships flourish—considering the time we have left here—may not be very long. Sharing the gospel should be our number one priority (Matthew 28:19).

Being a mother is a full-time job. Nurture and love your son the best you can. He is your gift from God and his young years are so precious. They pass so quickly; enjoy them and have fun with him. When he is older you will miss that delightful little 4-year-old who is so dependent upon you, now.

I have already made some suggestions about how to improve your marriage but it takes two to make the improvements. If all the compromising must come mostly from one person (you) than you have an uphill battle. And from what you have shared, that may well be the case. If so, then you will have to find a way to look at your life in a different way.

Expectations almost always let us down. The major disconnect is that your husband has left the Lord behind in a demonstrative way, and the spiritual bond that you had together is no longer shared in your relationship as it once was.

Does your husband understand Bible prophecy? One approach you might try is to ask him if the two of you could start studying Bible prophecy together. Point out some things to him that might peak his interest and above all keep praying for him. Do it in a way which brings current events into the discussion so you are not “shoving” the Lord and His Scriptures down his throat. We cannot change people but God can.

Try to focus on all the blessings you do have. Being a stay-at-home mom is a huge blessing. Find creative ways to make the most of your time at home. You may never find the type of deep interaction with others in this life that you crave, but you can be a shining example for the Lord by your loving approach to things.

The Lord has a way of turning our disappointments into joy, but we must let go of idealism and realize everything that happens to a Christians is an opportunity for spiritual growth and to prepare for our eternal future with Him.

I can tell you that most people do not have the relationship with a spouse that they envision for themselves. Instead of being sorrowful, we must make the most of the situation. Be as cheerful as you can toward your husband, although you are not getting what you need, and trust that the Lord is working on him. In time, the relationship still has a great chance of improving. And be glad that he is a hard worker and is providing for the family.

Keep fellowshipping with the Lord and He will sustain you.

The Lord asks us to give thanks in all things. Now that sounds like an impossible feat at times. But we must trust Him. He understands your heartaches and has been there for you. He warned us that we would have tribulation in this life, so we must not get overly exhausted about the trials and disappointments we face. This is not our true home. Keep remembering that when you feel disconnected from others.

And take great joy in knowing all of the misery we have had to endure because of this fallen world is a temporary state of affairs. As true believers, we are only passing through. Often it is a good idea to think, I am on a journey, I don’t like the rough and lonely road, but thank God, this is not my true home.

Elaine, there is a very happy ending to all of this, to the trials of this life, but it may not be until we are face-to-face with the Lord. That is when we will be free of the entanglements and heartaches of this broken world. In the meantime do your best to act as an ambassador for Christ, and that alone will reap many blessings as you sow seeds to bring others to His saving grace.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Consider yourself blessed, Elaine. See if you can find ways to meet other mothers who do know the Lord, even the two friends you do have should be counted as a blessing. And your involvement at your church should be a support for you to some degree, anyway. Many people cannot even find a good church.

Keep thanking God for your husband’s positive traits, and for your beautiful little boy and all the good in your life. In this life, the people we meet, even close family members may disappoint us, but Jesus will never let us down. And your amazing future with Him is guaranteed. Please focus on all the positive blessings you have and you will begin to feel less victimized and alone.

When we are on the disappointed end, we must change our attitudes to better deal with the given circumstance. It sounds like your husband loves you very much (in his own way), but has taken the wrong road (a detour) that has broken the bond you so crave.

Focusing his time and mind on videos, etc. has skewed his ability to see things for what they are. If he was once strong in his faith, he can be again. He is using these things as an escape, to tune out for the daily grind of life—like so many others do.

Please keep in touch and let me know how you are doing. I think there is still great hope for your marriage. Give it all over to the Lord. Keep praying for him and your relationship. God can work miracles to change your husband’s heart and attitude (although it doesn’t look that way right now to you).

Be loving and patient and always keep in mind that from a prophetic perspective—we are going home soon. And all of these earthly matters will soon be long gone.

In God’s love,

Esther

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).


March 31, 2014

Dear Esther,

It has been a blessing to read all the emails from other brethren and the sound biblical counsel that you give them. I want to share my testimony/struggle with you and maybe help another believer that may have this same struggle!

I have been a born-again believer since I was 16 years old. I am 50 years old now. The Lord Jesus saved me in March 1980 when I was living a life of fornication, lying and deception. I was so excited about my faith and my new relationship with the Lord Jesus.

I started sharing with my family and friends, of my new found faith, but I had a secret of still indulging in sexual sin with my boyfriend because I didn’t know God’s Word on fornication (since my parents lived together and were not married).

I knew a little bit about God’s Word from occasionally going to church, but I didn’t know the depth and seriousness of it. I was mentored later in my relationship with Christ by three mature believers and they helped me to understand what it truly meant to walk in faithfulness to the Lord Jesus, and what His Word required of me as a new believer.

I have been walking in love and obedience to Him since that time. Not perfectly, but by His grace and mercy.

I met some other believers and we moved to a place in Philadelphia, which I thought was a church of born-again believers who loved Jesus. Unfortunately it turned out to be a CULT and I was taught the Word of God, but there was a lot of Scripture-twisting and the most damaging of the experience was a works-salvation gospel, which I was taught instead of the true grace-salvation gospel (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The greatest part I will say of the whole experience is that I have made some great lifelong friendships with sisters who were there and have since left, and are now living for the Lord.

Today, not very often, but at times I’m bombarded in my mind and I struggle with thinking that the Lord is displeased with me—if I’m not doing some kind of work. We had a chart of works/activities that we had to fulfill every day before 12 midnight. We were working 24/7 trying to make sure we were doing some religious activity (otherwise the LORD would not be pleased with us).

If I’m not reading my Bible or something spiritual, I feel harassed and out of the will of God. My desire is to read the Bible every day so I can fellowship with my Father and know His will and commune with Him. I delight in serving Him with the gifts He has given me. It’s not a chore or “have to” mentality.

I just get overwhelmed with all of this sometimes. I continually give it to the Lord and ask Him to take this from me. I know His finished work on Calvary paid my sin debt in FULL. I know I’m saved by grace and faith alone. I just get overwhelmed with this in my mind sometimes and I’m praying for it to be removed.

I feel assured right now as I’m writing you and confident in God’s Word (no matter what my feelings say), I know they are feelings and attacks from the enemy. Would you please share some biblical counsel and suggestions?

God bless you and may the Lord continue to use you and shine upon you!!!

We are more than conquerors through Him who loves us.

RP


Dear RP,

Thank you for your very kind and thoughtful words. You are obviously dedicated to the Lord. He has brought you through some rough territory. The enemy is an expert at portraying himself as an angel of light, as you well know.

Too few Christians are aware of how Satan does this through other so-called Christian ministries; especially, when the approach is to lure in unsuspecting people who are genuinely seeking biblical truth. But what the devil means for harm, the Lord counters with blessings and goodness. You are a living testimony to that, today.

False religions and false teachings are Satan’s greatest method of deceiving people. You are not alone in getting caught-up in a group that may look godly initially—but then the Scripture twisting and blasphemous doctrines emerge. One of the greatest after-effects from being involved in a cult is the brainwashing, the mind-bending indoctrination that haunts a person long after renouncing anything to do with the cult.

Many years ago I met someone whose job was to rescue people from cults. He was hired by family members who had lost a son or daughter to a cult. This man’s job was to deprogram victims who had been emotionally and mentally abused by the cult. He was strongly grounded in the Word of God and understood the subtle tactics used by cult leaders—to confuse and indoctrinate the “flock.” The after-effects can linger on for a very, very long time. I think that is what you are dealing with (to a small degree).

The keeping busy for God tactic is a common theme in cults; works, works, and more works is a way to make a person feel like they are unworthy no matter what they do. At what point are our works enough? Never; so this is a way to control and confuse people. This slavery that you were subjected to has a way of breaking the spirit of a person—if it were not for the Lord Jesus’ intervention at some point.

You are already doing everything a believer is asked to do. Continue to pray throughout each day as we are commanded (Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:17), read, study, memorize and meditate on Scripture. It is up to the Lord to open the door for us to do more. We serve Him by being available 24/7, as certainly you are, but as you already know that does not mean your life must evolve around any particular strict spiritual routine of trying to earn God’s love and favor.

If a church member or a neighbor needs help, we help them. When the pastor needs someone to do something in the church and we have the gift to do it, we do it. This is all we can do. God is never displeased with us if we are not doing things in the church 16 hours a day. He wants you to spend most of your time with Him in prayer and in the Word. It sounds like you are doing that, already.

The thoughts you are having that God is displeased with you, as I said before, is part of the mind bending tactics by the cult. It is not always easy to ignore the accusatory voices, but you can, with the Lord’s help. As long as you are praying throughout each day, spending time in the Word every day and are available to serve God—that is all you can do. Consider all the nice people who are unsaved but are very religious. Day after day they toil to please the Lord. But they are in bondage to their religion (as you once were, although you were saved).

In Christ we are made free, and that is what we must remember and think about. When those voices of condemnation start working on you, the best thing to do is start quoting Scripture out loud, and start praising and thanking God for His greatness. Not silently, but out loud. There is power in the Word of God and we are strengthened when we actually hear it. Jesus is the Word made flesh (John1:1-4).

It is also a good idea to find a good audio version of the Bible and play it while you are driving your car, and at home. Fill your mind with God’s Scriptures at every opportunity. But don’t use Christian media as a substitute for reading, studying and speaking the Word of God. Use Christian media resources only as an addition to worshipping the Lord and studying His Word.

From reading your letter, it is evident that you are a mature and serious believer, and a great blessing to the cause of Christ. Your involvement with the cult has given you a perspective that many Christians don’t have. Your effectiveness in reaching others is strengthened because of your experience. You bring a type of depth to your faith that can only serve to benefit others.

You are in a position to discern problematic teachings; you have developed spiritual radar that can detect so-called biblical teachings that are amiss. You have also developed a sense of identifying phony Christians with hidden agendas. You are blessed in ways that can help you minister to others—who are confused about their faith and counsel them in what constitutes authentic Christianity.

Because you have the Holy Spirit living within you, coupled with your experiences with false Christianity, you can overcome any doubts about the Lord being pleased with you. After all He died for you! He loved you long before you were saved. He knew you before you were born. His love for us is incomprehensible. That is what you should focus your thoughts on.

Christ deliberately placed Himself in a position where He willingly suffered—tremendously—to bring us to a point of reconciliation and redemption. God is our abiding companion in the Person of the Holy Spirit. Our heavenly Father wants us to pour our hearts out to Him when we are shaken by the cruel and vicious dynamics in this fallen and corrupt world. He is ever-present in our time of need. We are never alone. Lean on your Heavenly Father for comfort. Realize your great worth in the Lord’s eyes.

“For as many who are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, Abba, Father. The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:14-18).

The more you read the Scriptures that speak of the Lord’s love for you, the doubts about your good standing with Him will diminish. Healing from the type of abuse you endured comes through worshipping and praising the Lord. It is a miracle in some ways that you were able to get away from the cult.

Praise God in all things and communicate with Him all day long. Aknowledge Him in all you do as you navigate through your day. Trust in Him completely, in His Word. We are to live by faith, and that means we TRUST Him. I know you already know all of this, but it is good to be reminded and encouraged—to keep our focus on God’s lovingkindness.

By praising the Lord and offering Him a joyful heart, the accusatory voices that are causing you to doubt, will subside. You are already a champion for Christ. You have victory in Him. All the glory goes to God, and you are a benefactor of His tremendous grace. Whenever those accusatory voices fill your mind, quote Scripture and thank God for all the blessings in your life, and particularly for saving you from going down the road of destruction.

I have said this many times: When the devil knows we belong to the Lord, he is fully aware he has lost the battle for our souls. But he will do whatever possible to make us think that God does not love us, that He is disappointed with us and that we are useless to Him. Satan will try to keep us from living a productive life so we can’t reach others for Christ.

But we know greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world, and nothing can keep us from the love of God. Be encouraged. The Lord loves you deeply and sees you as a redeemed child of God, not a failed one. The failed one is the individual who foolishly rebels against Him never admitting a need for the Savior. People like this are often hopelessly lost and tragically condemned for all eternity, because of their foolish pride.

Surely you bless many because of the wisdom you have gained. Through your struggles to get clarification regarding your faith about true Christianity, you have come out on the winning side. I leave you with one very important Scripture that I hope you will meditate on every day:

“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

Rejoice, RP, you are in a position to minister to others from a unique perspective. Spiritual deception is running rampant, and you have gained spiritual discernment to alert others to this growing epidemic in these last days. Use all of what you have been through to God’s glory. Can you see how God has given you much to work with to help others gain a genuine walk with the Lord? Surely you are very special in His eyes.

On that day glorious when you finally see Him face to face, rest assured that He will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:21b).

In God’s love,

Esther

“Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, therefore I hope in Him!” (Lamentations 3:22-14).



March 24, 2014

Dear Esther,

I have been trying to get divorce papers signed for over three years now. My husband, for whatever reason just doesn’t sign them. He isn’t demanding anything or arguing about them so I think he is just ignoring them.

I like to think I tried everything I could before filing for divorce; church counseling, private counseling, marriage retreats, prayer, more date nights alone, etc. But marriage doesn’t work when one of the two doesn’t care or contribute to the relationship.

I finally resigned to the fact that divorce was my best option when my spouse started to be verbally abusive to our two children, leave them home alone while I was at work when he just wanted to go to the store for pop or chips (they were 4 and 6 at the time). He was not employed or bothering to look for a job—yet draining our bank account and racking up debt for which I found out later was for porn.

He became a compulsive liar even about things that were of no importance. He went so far as to lie to me three months in a row that he paid the utility bill and I found out he wasn’t when I came home (on a VERY cold January night... only 17 degrees) to find out we had no heat, lights, water or anything, and that he had the slip from the utility department in his wallet that gave us 30 days warning until the utilities would be shut off.

We had the money to pay it he just never bothered to pay it but told me he did. I’m not trying to bring his character down, just letting you know that I don’t take getting divorced lightly. I meant ‘til death do us part when I said it.

Anyway, the point of my letter is to get some insight as to what counts as adultery. I have befriended my next door neighbor. I know having sex is sinful and that is not my intent with this man, but is holding hands, kissing (not passionate kisses, just little hello and good-bye kisses) or just enjoying each other’s company like snuggling under a blanket on the couch watching TV and talking? I am not wanting or looking for a serious relationship and have told him that.

I don’t lust after him but feel just a strong familiar love toward him like a close family member. (I know that sounds strange since most people don’t hold their family members hands!) I feel more like he is a guardian angel as I know I can count on him for anything and he would be there.

He is a true gentleman as he helps me put my coat on, opens the door for me and has never pressured me into anything sexual or anything that I’m uncomfortable with. He is divorced and misses his three children (he only gets to see them every other weekend) so he is good with my two girls. He has a natural dad instinct and I think he is a good male role model for my children as they grow up with a father that doesn’t call them or spend time with them for 4-5 weeks at a time—even though he only lives two miles away.

I have prayed about this a lot and fasted a little but don’t feel I have gotten an answer from God, or else I completely missed it. My neighbor told me he was told in a dream that he was supposed to be here for me. I don’t know what that means and if it was from God or not but he seems to think it was. I don’t want to sin and sometimes I don’t enjoy my neighbor’s company because I get worked up about weather I am sinning or not.

I find my mind justifying both sides and I need a non-biased third party to look at this objectively and help me with this struggle. I have mentioned this to my neighbor and he has said he will leave this friendship if I feel that he is a temptation and not a gift from God.

I know we are in the end-times and it is especially the time to stay pure and righteous so I dwell a lot on this relationship and if it is from God or just a temptation trap. I know God does not change his laws and thou shalt not commit adultery is a big law, but I read in Exodus 21:10-11 that if a man takes a second wife and doesn’t provide for the first wife like he did before then he must set her free (just paraphrasing).

Am I free because my husband is now married to his porn and does not provide for his family (no child support) or am I looking for a loop hole to ease my worries?

Sorry I rambled on so. I really do appreciate your time and attention to my letter and to all those who you have helped.

Thank you and may, God bless you.

Mary


Dear Mary,

I am glad you reached out. After first reading your letter I found myself shaking my head, I am still shaking my head, taking in the seriousness of your dilemma with your husband. I get so many letters asking why men are not fulfilling their family obligations and leadership roles. It is startling to say the least.

To get directly to your question, “What counts as adultery?” The obvious answer of course would be sexual relations outside of a marriage. But adultery takes sin into a broader range: The idea consistent throughout Scripture is that “adultery” is unfaithfulness to a covenant relationship; an unfaithfulness that may manifest itself in any number of ways, but which inevitably leads, if not corrected, to the breakdown of that relationship.

You, dear Mary, are in a situation where there is a tremendous breakdown in your marriage covenant and as you have already mentioned, it takes two to make a marriage and that your husband has not shown any interest in the least—to work things out and repent from his abusive behavior and adulterous lifestyle.

Early Bible translators (both the Hebrew and Greek words), at times even translated the terms to reflect their meaning of adultery as the: “breakdown of covenantal relationships.” The King James Version, for example, translates the Hebrew word for “adultery” (which is na’aph) as “break wedlock” in Ezekiel 16:38.

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible also translates this Hebrew term this way: “adulterer; woman that breaketh wedlock.” William Tyndale (1494-1536) translated the Greek as “breaketh wedlock” in Matthew 19:9.

Therefore, when it is stated that “adultery” has occurred, this may well be far more than the fact that two people have engaged in an illicit sex act. It is really stating that a covenant relationship has been broken, which may have been caused by any number of things (including an illicit sex act). This point is strongly given in the following statement found in Malachi 2:14:

“The Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.”

Those who deal treacherously with their spouse are guilty of breaking a covenant relationship. This is also “adultery.”

Our Lord Jesus spoke about adultery in the heart:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).

Adultery is as much an attitude as an act. We find that even he who commits adultery with the eyes is called an adulterer (Job: 24:15).

The following thought-provoking quote from a classic Greek reference work makes the point best: “From the religious standpoint, adultery does not consist merely in physical intercourse with a strange woman; it is present already in the desire which negates fidelity” (Dr. Gerhard Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 4, p. 733-734). Yes, adultery can occur only, and entirely, within one’s heart, with no other person actually, physically involved.

“And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9).

Mary, your husband is committing sexual immorality. Sexual immorality does not only mean physical penetration.

Expressing admiration and respect for other men or women outside of the marriage covenant is not the same as lusting after them or committing sexual immorality. We all admire and respect certain people. You and your friend are kind and respectful to one another and are not involved in a lustful illicit affair. However, there are a number of problems which I would like to point out:

I assume you are a born-again believer, which means we are not to hang-out with the unsaved and make them our closest friends. Is you neighbor also a born-again believer? If not, then I am sorry to say, please distance yourself from him (as far as a being a close friend), but first share the gospel if you haven’t already. He sounds like a very nice person, so I can see why you feel a bond with him, especially after the nasty and irresponsible treatment from your spouse who has abandoned you and the children.

You can be friendly neighbors from a distance but not close buddies (if your special friend is not truly a born-again believer). As far as his dream, the source could be his own wishful thinking (desire) or something else. So I would not place a lot of weight on that. He told you he thinks it is from God, but what is his perception of God? Is he a true born-again believer?

If he is a born-again Christian then I would hope you would both spend time praying and studying the Bible together and have a relationship where the Lord is exalted. Do you attend a good church with your girls and involve them in Christian ministries?

Next, snuggling up under a blanket is not a wise idea. I think that should stop. A Christian man or woman must live by different standards than those in the world. I understand there has been an arctic wave throughout much of the U.S. this year, but how about two blankets and not snuggling up to one another where there is close physical contact? “Snuggling” can lead to more physical intimacy. Physical intimacy should be between married couples.

From reading your letter, I think you are a very dear person and of course having a wonderful man around who treats you so well is a huge comfort. But he has to be the right man; a true Christian. The physical intimacy, even from the way you describe it is not a good idea. An occasional hug is one thing, but more than that—is stepping into an area that is going to a place where you should not be, especially as a Christian woman.

How well do you really know this man, anyway? I also think you are both in denial to a degree. You are both hurting from your past relationships and are greatly comforted by one another. You both many have much stronger feelings for each other than you may be willing to admit to yourselves and to each other. And of course that is very understandable.

You are being a support for each other and blessing one another with friendship; which is, by the way, the best basis for an enduring and authentic marriage covenant (when God is the center of it). But because you are a born-again Christian and unless he is also, the depth of your friendship is biblically inappropriate. Even if he is a born-again believer, the physical closeness is wrong.

Your husband has placed you and your children in a very difficult situation. You obviously want to be faithful to the Lord’s admonitions. Your husband is leaving all of you hanging in limbo—while he continues with his irreverent behavior, not fulfilling his role as a husband or father.

I don’t think you need to be concerned about a scriptural “loophole.” Your husband has dug himself into a godless ditch. You have the huge responsibility of raising two children, and having a good male friend in your life is a blessing, someone who is obviously more concerned about you and your children than your own husband; that in itself is not a sinful relationship.

But once again, we, as blood bought believers are not to take comfort from the world (the unsaved) to the degree that you are. I do so much want this man to be saved, so the two of you can continue to fellowship—but with new boundaries. A lot of people talk about God but that does not mean they are saved.

Your husband has not been there for you and the girls for many years. He abandoned all of you when he decided to live for himself and his sex addiction. He has moved out and takes no responsibility for his godless behavior. It sounds like your husband has completely shut-down to the needs of others and is totally obsessed with himself and whatever gives him pleasure; an infantile mentality in an adult body.

Any type of addiction or obsession can ruin a person. He or she becomes numb and only seeks to gratify selfish fleshly desires, regardless of how it affects others. Unless your husband becomes a true born-again believer, and totally repents—his eternal future is doomed. So where does that leave you and your girls?

If your estranged husband is not giving you child-support, speak with your attorney about the legal options available to make him accountable. This is a responsibility he has not only legally but biblically; the fact that he lives elsewhere does not relieve him of his responsibility.

“But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).

If you had not already tried everything possible to work out your marriage I would suggest you explore all the avenues you already have. So that leaves you with three choices. God is a God of reconciliation but your husband is into other women and in a very sordid way. He is not doing anything to make the marriage work.

First, you at least press for a legal financial aid. You might have enough money to support your girls, but nevertheless their father is still responsible for them. He should not be allowed to get away with behaving so callously and irresponsibly. As long as he is able to get away with doing nothing for his family, he will continue to go downhill and take the rest his family with him. (Allowing him to get away with his irresponsible behavior is a form of enabling without directly meaning to.)

Until your husband reaches a condition which will be a personal crisis for him, he will continue to ignore you. Neglect is a form of abuse. He has already been abusive and continues to not take responsibility for his behavior in the many other ways which you have addressed. It sounds like his mind is so polluted from his porn addiction (and who knows what else) that he has become someone who has lost a sense of reality. He desperately needs deliverance, which can only come from the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit’s work of renewing of the mind (Romans 12:2).

Second, the divorce can be completed without your husband’s signature. A good paralegal or lawyer can help you. You do not have to be at the mercy of your husband’s unwillingness to sign any legal documents. He simply needs to be served notice of divorcement by an appointed official, which your lawyer should be able to arrange.

Third, divorce is always the last resort but you are in what seems to be dead-end situation. If you want to try to reconcile and live with your husband again, go and try to talk to him. Tell him if he stops his adulterous behavior and becomes financially responsible for the family, then perhaps you could all live together again. If not, then you must move forward and be legally free of him. (But somehow I don’t see him changing considering his track record.) The only way he would change is if he confesses Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, genuinely repents and makes amends to all of you.

 Even if you did not have this special friendship with your neighbor, I urge you to get to the bottom of what to do regarding your marriage. You have a right to ask your husband if he intends to start taking responsibility for you and the children, or if he is going to place you in an impossible situation and simply ignore you. Considering the entire history with your husband, if you cannot get any redeeming answers out of him—then I don’t see any choice but to find a way to be legally free of him. Being left hanging in limbo is very detrimental to you and your girls.

I know you say you don’t want a serious future relationship, but you might change your mind as the wounds heal from the very complex problems with your husband.

Until you resolve the status of your marriage, everything in your life will be in a state of confusion. If your husband wants to reconcile and live under the same roof, and you want to give him another chance -- that is up to you; but as I said before, unless he is a changed man (born-again by the Spirit of God), I don’t see that happening. After all, you already went through counseling, pleading, praying and many other efforts before everything came to this point.

Mary, you have been traumatized by the man with whom you took marriage vows. You meant it with all your heart—that is evident. It is going to take some time to heal from the abuse. Years from now you will feel like a different person. Please be careful who you give your trust to and who you spend time with. We all need supportive people in our lives. The man next door sounds wonderful. But if he is not saved, then he is not the right man to pal around with. I pray he is. He sounds like a very special person.

Please don’t hesitate to write if you have any further concerns. And let me know what you decide to do and how things are going for you and your precious girls. Your unsaved husband has left the marriage. It has been a long three-year separation not to mention the emotional separation long before his physical departure. According to Scripture you are not bound to him.

In God’s love,

Esther

“But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace (1 Corinthians 7:15).



March 17, 2014

Dear Esther,

Thank God, I found this site and all of the helpful letters on it! I read your column weekly, and I am delighted to see that so many are here, asking for sound biblical counsel instead of ungodly worldly advice.

I wish you’d been around longer; then there would be more of your letters to read! I notice that many are going through similar tribulations, as I. If I had the authority to, I’d speak for everyone and say, “Thank you,” to you for all of your help and godly wisdom.

I also, would appreciate your counsel. You see I was saved just last August, and though I’d say it’s very, very late in the game, He still had a plan for me! I felt convicted to go out and share the gospel with the world, since if He could save me so late, He could do it for others. But I think this is where the enemy has come to ruin me. I am discouraged by the rude responses when I share the gospel.

After nearly a decade, my family started going back to church last year. My church is Christian, and our pastors are really good. For example, they talk about sin and topics such as the false converts (“Churchianity”). My family is one of the first to get out of the church on Sunday, and my mom often asks why I would want to stay to talk to the pastor (almost sarcastically). This really bothers me.

I wish we were able to stay and meet other young people at the church and participate in other Christian functions outside of church -- like a lot of young people do. But thank you for praying with me that I’ll meet someone who I can connect with. I really am thankful, for I do so long for a close friend in Christ to talk to.

Please, pray for my father. My father only believes parts of the Bible. I have talked to him about (salvation, etc.) a couple of times, but he has not made any changes. I think that he thinks some of it is funny – like how “white” lies are still lies in God’s eyes. He doesn’t go with us to church at all. He told me that he knows everything about it already. There’s more on that, but I think you understand...I just can’t think of him being left behind after the Rapture. How would he know what happened?

It’s so utterly scary, and I don’t know how to approach him a third time about going to church and getting saved. I think my dad acknowledges the fact that we need Jesus’ blood but doesn’t want to trust Him completely. My mom, I haven’t said anything about salvation to her for awhile.

She says that I criticize her and she doesn’t like it so she sends me away. There’s not much I can do about that, I think. I know they’ve heard the gospel at least once. It feels so harsh to just say, “They’re not saved.” I love them so much, and, I know the implications of it, but I know it’s either yes or no on this one. It’s so scary!

My family seems to be falling apart spiritually. They’ve become so bitter and indifferent, even hypocritical in disheartening ways. My siblings are becoming so lazy. The stress of having to care for and clean-up after them is driving my parents crazy.

I cannot do it all for them, and they won’t listen to me about how important it is to pray and read the Word. I pray for them, but I’ve been so stressed out that on some days I couldn’t finish my homework. But perhaps this motivated me to witness to my friends even more.

I’ve witnessed, or, tried to witness to my best friends and others. But, even with tracts, prayer and solid proof, they still won’t listen to me. My very best friend laughed until she turned red, saying “God loves me, I’ll be fine!”

It’s true that He is all love. I even cry thinking about how much He loves this fallen race that won’t repent or acknowledge Him. I’ve given tracts and witnessed to others, but to no visible avail.

Some call themselves Christians and yet live sinful lives of hypocrisy. Just today a professing “Christian” who hadn’t really given me a chance to talk to him said in class, “But that’s not real!” (Referring to Adam and Eve.) Our teacher who is Catholic responded, “I know, but the myth…” It’s so heartbreaking, but I still pray for someone to reach them.

I don’t think I’m making any real progress, and the negative looks I get from people I’ve given tracts to -- really discourages me. I go to high school in a troubled city where sin is so prevalent. The people just love their ways, it seems. I feel like Noah! I have the truth of God’s Word, but so many turn away from it. I’m scared that the people who will listen may someday turn on me; fights aren’t uncommon.

The people who I thought were my friends showed their true natures to me after my witnessing, by mocking me and their Creator (sometimes deliberately so that I will hear them). It’s so sad, that professing to be wise, they are fools, hurting my feelings but really hurting themselves. I’ve lost some good friendship with some people, and I am probably going to make enemies, yet I obey Psalm 94:16 as best I can.

I suppose what I really am asking is for help to deal with the spiritual “loneliness.” My family is playing Christianity, the school’s majority seems so dead set against Him, but having a true Christian friend would make it more bearable.

Christ of course is my rest and comfort, but if I could find someone I could connect with over the Bible it would be great. The closest I’ve gotten is a girl who reads the Bible...but is in a cult. I still haven’t properly witnessed to her, but I must, soon. I remember the Catholic convert Philip whose letter was posted some time ago on your site. He was even around my age (17).

That made me so hopeful, both in the sense that people are being converted and that I could find a friend in Christ (for I have already some unsaved friends). I pray for the Holy Spirit to take charge of the people I witness to, and to inundate me with Himself so that I can witness well.

I also pray for friends and future friends in Christ to come into my path. I know for sure that God is faithful and true, (for just one example, two of my friends accepted Christ after quite the struggle). I know that God sometimes uses other people to carry out His perfect will, so I think that maybe you can help me.

My question is, do you have any ideas on how I could form friendships centered on Christ and what should I do about my parents?

The Lord is good, that’s enough to talk about for hours (or write the longest psalm in the Bible about!). I am not really like a lot of teenagers my age; I’m kind of conservative in dress, speech, behavior, etc. So I feel like I’m without a crucial link that could be useful.

Thank you, again, Esther!

Down but not out of fellowship with the Lord.

Julian


Dear Julian,

You are quite an exceptional young man. Considering you are 17, saying you were saved very, very late in the game makes me smile. You have an entire lifetime ahead of you! And so many people don’t come to know the Lord until they are much older, and so many who do profess faith in Christ are not nearly as dedicated, serious and authentic as you—at any age. You can find lots of letters going back to October 8, 2012. Scroll down on the page and on the left side and you will find more letters.

From corresponding with you over the months it is evident to me that you love the Lord and are totally serious about living your life to please Him. I would say that is a very rare trait for someone your age (or any age for some). I know of a number of professing Christians who are twenty and thirty years older than you and even grew up in Christian households—yet take no self-responsibility to learn their Bibles and sadly, they are social Christians at best. You are right; there are a lot of hypocrites.

Some “Christians” rely on the words of TV preachers and teachers instead of undertaking serious Bible study as the Lord commands, and they have very little substance in their supposed walk with the Lord. Those who are Christian-media-obsessed, and not God and Bible-obsessed are doing God, the body of Christ and themselves a great disservice.

Your dedication is very heartening. Never accept any teaching without studying the Bible to see if what is being taught is right and true (Acts 17:11). Christian media is filled with convincing preachers and teachers ( seasoned salesmen) who are lining their pockets with the hard earned money of trusting, unsuspecting people who don’t understand they must verify what they hear by studying the Bible.

Some believers seem to think if they tell others they know little or nothing about the Bible that they are being humble. They are not. They are exposing their foolish rebellion, their disobedience, disregarding God’s admonition to study our Bibles daily, in order to be equipped to give an answer to everyone who asks the reason for our hope.

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer” (2 Timothy 2:15).

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed” (1 Peter 3:15-16).

All born-again believers are called to be disciples and you, Julian are making a great start. Be careful not to get caught-up in Christian circles with those who have weak and ungrounded spirits and are essentially only paying lip service to the Lord. Your pastors are right about false converts.

Professing believers who think they are being amusing about not understanding Scripture (because they don’t make a real effort), and depend primarily on Christian media for gems of “wisdom,” are a disgrace to the body of Christ and to God Himself. Any teaching we get outside of diligently studying the Word of God should be in moderation—when we already have a good solid biblical foundation and can discern and detect problematic teachings.

Many good Christian media outlets exist but we need to be able to discern truth from fiction. Without a strong biblical foundation and an abiding authentic relationship with the Lord it is not possible to have good discernment, and it is easy to be led astray by false teachings.

“These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

Your enthusiasm to reach others for the Lord is very refreshing. You most definitely have leadership qualities, and I would not be surprised if the Lord calls you into full-time ministry at some point; perhaps you will become a pastor or a great Bible teacher. The Christian church is in need of strong trustworthy leadership.

Now regarding your parents; no doubt they love you and want the best for you. You are in a challenging position because you are the one trying to lead them spiritually and they are taking baby steps at best. But that does not mean they have no hope, and regardless of their unsaved condition you know we must always be respectful of our parents. (That is unless there is some type of serious abuse.)

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12).

And keep in mind your mother does take you and your siblings to church, so that is a start. We don’t know how the Holy Spirit is moving in her life. Give it some time with her and be appreciative of her small steps. The best way to deal with your disappointments at home is to set a godly example. Give your dad time, too. Your prayers are reaching the Lord.

In some of our email correspondence you were upset with yourself for not being able to control what was coming out of your mouth, sometimes, when everything gets to you. That sounds very teenager like to me! But you don’t have to act on that kind of emotion. (You already know that.) Use all that pent-up frustration and energy you have for your desire to awaken others to the Lord’s truth in a more productive way.

Since you have already witnessed to both your parents, it is time to let the Holy Spirit do His part. You have done your part. Your concern for them and others is admirable, especially in a world where so few people genuinely care about each other. The hidden self-serving motives of so many people must grieve our Lord to no end. You have the right selfless attitude—which is so needed in the body of Christ today.

In your case, your parents are living their lives with the best of intentions but are not filled with the Holy Spirit—so what makes sense to you and me—is foolishness to them, and many others you are diligently trying to reach.

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

I strongly suggest you take some time away from everyone, perhaps in the quiet of your bedroom. Reevaluate how you are going to move forward with your life from this point forward. Ask the Lord to guide you in the direction he wishes you to go. The more you settle down and spend quiet time with the Lord, the more you will be able to handle the distractions at home and the disappointments at school.

If there is a youth group at your church, see if your parents will allow you to get involved. You might even call over to your church and see if there is anyone who could drive you back and forth to some additional church functions that your mother may not be willing to attend. If you find someone then kindly ask permission from your parents, and you will have the fellowship with others that you are longing for.

“A man of too many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend [Jesus] who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).

One true Christian friend is worth more than a dozen phony Christians. God will place that one special Christian friend you long for into your life when the time is right. And what about the two friends you mention who accepted Christ “after quite the struggle?” Are you not communicating with them? Was their profession of faith insincere and short-lived?

Your enthusiasm is great and I pray you will always be enthusiastic for the Lord. One thing I want to caution you about is to be careful not to let others drag you down. I know you are frustrated and discouraged because you don’t see the fruits of your labor. But persevere and realize you are so much further ahead than many.

Keep sowing the seeds of the gospel as the Holy Spirit leads. Let go of any expectations on how people will or will not react. And share the gospel when you feel the Holy Spirit leading you, when you have an opening to witness to others. The timing may not be right sometimes, so be prayerful and wise when sowing your seeds.

Also be mindful that we are living in a very dangerous spiritual war zone where hidden traps are strategically placed by the enemies of God to try to destroy us. You say you think the enemy has come to ruin you by discouraging you, and by all the negative reactions you are getting from your presentation of the salvation message.

It is good that you are aware of demonic tactics but don’t let the negativity of some stop you from sharing Christ when you have an opening. “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4b). As you go through your day realize that you will have those who will come against you, but always read Psalm 91 to encourage and strengthen you. Memorize it and mediate on the words. The Lord does not want us to reach others in our own strength, but in His. Pray for patience, wisdom and protection—from evil, every day.

“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you (John 15:18).

Regarding your physical safety at your school; steer clear of those you know are troublemakers. If a bully tries to confront you don’t say anything, walk away—preferably to where some adults or school officials can be found. Think through a plan of action so if someone does try to cause trouble you won’t be caught totally off-guard. It is always good to be prepared and cautious. When you are out in the world always be sure to pray for protection from evil. Pray as you go through your day.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

From this point on, Julian, I suggest witnessing at your school to only those who you feel the Lord is placing on your heart. Many will ignore the salvation message when they hear it. The way you live your life is the best example to get the positive attention of others for Christ. Perhaps today they mock you, but when one of your classmates gets into trouble it may well be you, he or she will come running to for advice and support.

Peer pressure can be a relentless foe. I would not be surprised if a lot of people really want to say, “No,” when they are being pressured to go along with things (that they know they should not be involved in.) But so many people are lost and have little, if any sense of why they even exist. If they understood that we were created to serve God, then this world would not be in constant chaos.

Instead of serving God, the majority serve themselves. This is true in the world and sadly often within the church. Instead of worshipping God in a real authentic sense, too many worship themselves and want others to worship them, too. Seeking self-adulation is a guaranteed path to self-destruction.

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).

Julian, you have a wonderful genuine spirit and God will bless you for all your efforts. Place all your focus on growing in God’s Word and doing well with your schoolwork. Pray for spiritual and physical protection. When you least expect it you will connect with other like-minded individuals who are also serious about their faith. Trust that the Lord has you just where He wants you.

Soon enough, you will be graduating and I would not be surprised if you are involved in some type of wonderful evangelistic ministry by then. Even if you do not have any close Christian friends right now, keep praying for that one true Christian friend which you desire. God will not let you down.

He knows what is best for each one of us. Lean on Him completely and He will sustain you. Sometimes friends can be a hindrance when we want to make great strides in our relationship with the Lord.

Once again, see about getting more involved at your church. Good churches are hard to find these days, so you are very blessed. Thank God in all things even when our outer circumstances are troublesome. He has a plan for your life—for how to best serve Him. Always keep your personal relationship with the Lord at the top of your list.

“Pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

You sound like a very resourceful young man. Pray that the Lord will open the right doors for you and close the wrong ones. Be kind and loving toward your parents and siblings even when you are frustrated. As they see you mature in the Lord, hopefully they will be forced to look within themselves and realize that they, too, need the Lord’s saving grace.

In your enthusiasm to share your faith, be careful to bridle your tongue when others condemn you (and the Lord). Let Him deal with those who lash out. Whatever you do, don’t get caught-up in the need to defend your message—which will only serve to weaken your testimony. Keep giving all your concerns and frustrations to the Lord daily, during your prayer time with Him.

Don’t make it your mission to convince others about Christ, make it your mission to share the message—God will do the rest. Some people will never accept the gospel truth; and some people will, and you may never know how much the message you share today may open the door for someone’s future deliverance.

Please continue to keep in touch with me. Keep up the good work and your strong dedication to the Lord. Whenever you get discouraged, realize that the dynamics of this life are filled with many challenges—but rejoice, because you have Jesus and your future is forever secure in Him. And we are not responsible for the choices others make.

In God’s love,

Esther

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).


March 10, 2014

Dear Esther,

Thank you so much for such an amazing response about the caterers and their dilemma.

I read the questions and your responses all the time and you always have just the right answers. I truly believe because you pray before you respond, the Holy Spirit speaks your responses.

With that said, I am in a bind. As a Christian with strong moral values, I don’t believe it is right to condone the marriage of a gay couple. And I never thought I would be put in a position where I would have to make this choice, but I am.

You see, my male cousin is getting “married” in September of 2014, and I received a “Save the Date” card in the mail. The good news is I live a few states away and won’t be able to attend. The state in which he lives does recognize gay marriage so it wouldn’t be just a civil ceremony. They could actually find a church!

My dilemma is what kind of a card do I send to him, if one at all? And if I don’t send one, I would really hurt my aunt’s feelings if I didn’t respond at all. She had a really hard time accepting this and was in denial for a long time. I feel deep sorrow for her and my uncle but none of them are saved. I do pray for the entire family and send my aunt devotions now and then when the Holy Spirit puts it on my heart.

I am friends with my cousin on Facebook but he doesn’t correspond with me. I am sure he has seen the many references to the Bible, Scripture and Jesus so he knows where my belief’s stand. I just don’t want family drama by me ignoring his “Save the Day” announcement. I feel I should somehow respond but I’m just not sure what would be proper. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Confused Cousin


Dear Confused Cousin,

Thank you for your kind words of appreciation. Without God and His leading, this ministry would not be thriving as it is.

This topic is such a tough one on so many levels. As believers, it seems we have to tip-toe around cautiously. The intensity of a possible backlash from others is  real—from those who are morally compromised, morally bankrupt or genuinely confused, and do not understand or accept God’s teachings (especially on this sexual lifestyle sin.) The threat of legal action is also a very real possibility looming over business owners or outspoken believers—who do not want to compromise their Christian principles.

You have a number of advantages here that work in your favor. The first one is the fact that you and your cousin really have no relationship. As you mention he is your “friend” on Facebook but he never communicates with you. Your concern for your aunt and uncle is very kind and very necessary. They need all the love and support they can get.

Imagine if it were you in your aunt’s shoes. (You probably already have!) Imagine the day she and your uncle actually witness their son’s “union,” how shaken they will be. It must be devastating for them. I get a sense that this entire situation could act as a catalyst for them to come to know the saving grace and love of our Lord Jesus. And you may well be the strong godly influence they might reach out as time goes on.

You could send a benign type of greeting card to your cousin. “Thinking of You” is a type of card that is not inappropriate. You don’t have to say “congratulations or “best wishes.” Just sign your name (with love). Once you get the actual “wedding” invitation you can simply check off that you are not coming (if a return attendance card is requested for the reception). You don’t have to give an explanation to your cousin other than what you have already mentioned—you live far away.

But it seems to me that your time would be well spent if you wrote a heartfelt letter to your aunt and uncle. This could be an opportunity to begin to open their spiritual eyes. Tell them how much they mean to you, that they are very important to you and that you fully understand that this is a very difficult situation for them. Consider sending them a Bible and some books on Bible prophecy. If you email me, I can make some suggestions.

Share with them (if you feel led to) how you became a Christian; share your testimony, explain to them that because you have made a very serious commitment to the Lord, that you must be true to His teachings. Try to relate to them in a way that they will see that you are not acting judgmental but are simply staying true to your commitment to God—to your biblical faith.

Ask your aunt and uncle to be understanding of your faith, and that “tolerance” and “understanding” works both ways. You are being tolerant of your cousin’s choices as they are, and in turn the same sentiment should be returned to you. But take it a step further and share how we are living at a time in history when so many biblical prophecies are converging. Not only are you concerned about your cousin, but about them and where they will spend eternity.

You know that the Lord forewarned that a time would come (and that time is now) when wickedness (as in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah) would come again, and it would be a sign pointing to Christ’s soon return. God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19), and He will pour out His wrath during the Tribulation. All those who reject Christ’s gift of salvation are in for a very rough ride. Share how they can be spared form God’s wrath, using Scripture.

Your aunt and uncle probably have no understanding about any of this. Sharing Bible prophecy with them would be a good way to begin to share Christ’s teachings and how the current state of affairs in every corner of the world are moving us toward the final fulfillments of God’s prophetic warnings relating to the last days.

If your aunt and uncle cannot accept your position not to get involved in and condone your cousin’s “wedding” and they begin to act detached toward you, then so be it. Our job as believers is to deliver the salvation message. We cannot make people accept the truth. But with your continued prayers and loving kindness there is great hope. Since you have been praying for the entire family and sending your aunt devotions as the Holy Spirit impressed upon your heart, surely the Lord has been working in their lives. If a family “drama” does erupt, perhaps that is what is needed. You can handle it!

And don’t for a minute think it is because of you. You are on the side of righteousness and truth. Your family members who reject Christ’s teachings are lost and no blame should be placed on you. You must be prepared that some difficulties might arise—but whatever happens remain calm, patient, pray and think things through. Often when we act as ambassadors for God we must tread through rough waters. You are entitled to live your life as you wish just as your cousin is entitled to live his life as he wishes. And in Christ’s strength you can handle whatever happens.

Any number of scenarios could develop over time. Your cousin’s “marriage” might fail—it most probably will. Your aunt or uncle might have a health crisis. They could be faced with death which might cause them think about what happens to them after they die. We simply don’t know how their lives will unfold. The important thing is to keep praying for them and continue to be kind and loving. Trust that the Lord is right there with you as you are faced with whatever evolves. Keep praying for his guidance and wisdom.

Pray for a miraculous intervention for these family members so they will become open to accepting God’s provision of grace and love. (But be sure to find a way to point out some fulfilled Bible prophecies which should get their attention.) This will take some effort on your part to gather together some information, but you can do it.

I have noticed that sometimes (too often) Christians hesitate to witness to their own family members for fear of getting negative reactions. This is when we have to step back and realize this is serious business. Heaven and hell are real places and there is no going back once we die.

And the thought of an Aunt Jane or Uncle Bob in hell should be enough incentive to get past any personal fears of discomfort. But there seems to be a common thread of hesitancy that runs through many believers who truly do love the Lord; a type of trepidation that sharing Christ with family members and loved ones will end-up in creating alienation or loss (rejection).

This is when we have to be willing to suffer for Christ’s sake. Sometimes losing friends and family members is part of the price we pay to be faithful to the Lord. But we are never alone when we belong to Jesus. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1)

Whenever we are faithful to the Lord, we are doing the right thing. Our fears and concerns that we might offend or alienate someone should not overpower us and stop us from reaching out to those who desperately need to learn the truth. (Surely if you saw your aunt about to step into the street and a fast car was approaching you would cry out and warn her, even grab her and pull her back to safety.)

Keep relating to your aunt and uncle from a place of loving concern. We cannot control how others will behave or react. We have to be willing to let go of everything for Christ’s sake. It is not easy because we are surrounded by the unsaved everywhere we turn. But we can do it whatever we have to in Christ’s strength (Philippians 4:13).

Unless the Holy Spirit gives me an unexpected face-to-face interaction with someone to share the gospel, I often find writing a witnessing letter is a productive way to begin a dialogue. I explain the salvation message (sometimes I include a good Bible tract or a good witnessing book). Later, I follow-up with a phone call or arrange to meet in person. I find this is an effective way to try to reach family members, friends and even some acquaintances.

The book of Romans helps clarify why we cannot earn our way into heaven or why we cannot enter the presence of our holy God—simply because we are good and kind. The early chapters of Romans spell out why we must be reconciled to Christ. You can pull from that book in your letter to your aunt and uncle or from other Scriptures you are led to share. The letter might take some time to write. Be sure to pray as you work on it and don’t be in a rush to write down your thoughts.

Whenever we come from a place of humility and love, we cannot go wrong, even if some people are bothered or offended by our love for the Lord and His true biblical teachings. The day is coming soon, when many will be left here on earth to suffer the Tribulation. Revelation 7:9-15 tells us multitudes will be saved, accepting Christ during the Tribulation (and will be martyred).

It is devastating to realize so many will not come to faith in Christ before the Rapture—but many will, after we are gone. Tragically, they will suffer greatly. Our efforts today might have a greater effect on the unsaved than we may ever know. I would say that some who finally do accept Christ during the Tribulation—could be family members and friends, people we know personally today.

Often when we try to share our faith it seems like we are spinning our wheels getting nowhere, but we are setting the stage for the future possibility for others to receive Christ. Never underestimate how what we shared many years ago may be bringing someone closer to making a decision for Christ today.

However it goes with your aunt and uncle, don’t allow them to make you feel bad for standing up for what is right. They are in the wrong if they make an issue out of all of this. Share as best you can and place boundaries where and when you need to. You can do this in a loving way.

If it creates distance between all of you, it won’t be because of you, so don’t take it personally. The distance would be because they don’t want to accept Christ’s teachings and His free gift of salvation; because of their own pride and unwillingness to accept the gospel.

Keep in mind that this is not our true home, we are only passing through. For those of us who really care about others, it is very painful to know that those who reject the Lord are tying a noose around their own necks when they say, no to God’s redemptive grace. The best thing to do is keep praying. Continue to pray that the Lord will remove any stubbornness from hard to reach folks, and to strengthen your resolve even more—as we are faced with challenging situations as the Day of the Lord draws near.

God bless richly you for your faithfulness to the Lord and for setting a strong example to others. Keep fighting the good fight, and soon we will be in the presence of our great and mighty King. Until that day glorious day, stay strong in Him. When you stand before Him face to face you will be so glad you did.

In God’s love,

Esther

“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12).


March 3, 2014

Dear Esther

I honestly do not know how to say this but my spiritual life has been in constant battles of ups and downs, especially with lustful thoughts and addiction to pornography! I pray for forgiveness all times even with tears a times, but it keeps coming. I don't want to miss the Rapture with this kind of life, what do I do?

Tom


Dear Tom,

I have been thinking and praying about your letter for a number of weeks now. No one is free of sin. But at some point in our Christian walk we need to take a stand that we are not going to engage in what I would call: chronic lifestyle sins. Everyone has sins that we will need to deal with until the day we die or the day we are taken out in the Rapture.

But chronic lifestyle sins are especially very dangerous -- we can fall into real trouble spiritually and on every other level. As believers we must decide if we are going to keep one foot in the world or make a total commitment to the Lord. Are we going to play games with God, ourselves and others, continuing to compromise the way we live to the point of misery and self-destruction? Or get intensely serious about our faith?

And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it” (Genesis 4:6b).

Once we have entered into a born-again relationship with the Lord, indwelt with the Holy Spirit, everything changes. But because God has given us each free will, the tendency can be to live a life of spiritual compromise, grieving the Holy Spirit—until we realize that life as a true Christian is not one where we can compartmentalize worldly things and at the same time try to fit in Jesus and His teachings when and where it is convenient.

Once we are saved the things that bring the unsaved sinful pleasure—bring heartache to true believers (just as you are experiencing). If you were a professing Christian but living a chronic lifestyle of sin and not bothered by it, I would be worried about you to the point that you might not really be saved. But since you accepted Christ, as your Savior and you are feeling very remorseful and miserable -- you are closer to letting go of living a compromised life than you may think.

God loves you so much! He is holding onto you trying to show you that the things you think are giving you momentary fleshly “pleasure,” keep you from Him and from living the kind of life He wants for you. Have you ever noticed how some professing Christians use the grace argument to continue to deliberately partake in the ways of the world, continuing to do things that clearly go against biblical teachings? It does not sound like you are doing that. It sounds like you are willing to, and trying to stop the spiritual and emotional bleeding.

Yes, we are saved by grace through faith and by Christ and Christ alone but we must also consider what is written in the book of James. Once we are saved, faith without works is dead. And that means what we do and how we live our lives should be a reflection of our inner commitment to Him -- by operating in ways that are not of this world. And that means letting go of habitual lifestyle sins.

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:22, 25).

I am always amazed to observe professing believers who chug down bottles of wine when out to dinner or at small gatherings saying, “Jesus drank wine.” And use any excuse to do things their way -- to gorge themselves in alcohol or whatever the godless habit is. Apparently they missed the Scripture that says, “Do not be drunk with wine.” And also the Scriptures that are filled with many admonitions to live holy lives and seek after godly wisdom and not worldly destruction.

About a year and a half ago a young soldier wrote and was plagued with the same issues you are struggling with. He felt tortured within and to make it even worse he was engaged to be married and his fiancé had no clue about what he was doing. In the Bible the Lord tells us if a person even looks at a woman with lust for her has committed adultery (Matthew 5:27-28).

Whatever the vice is (the sin) the remedy is the same. Until we are willing to let go of the things that are driving us into despair and grieving the Holy Spirit, we cannot live a joyous life in the Lord. It is a choice. Who will we serve—God or self? And without the Holy Spirit in control it will be an endless battle with the flesh.

“Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17).

Christ must become the center focus of our daily lives, not fleshly habits that take us away from Him. You probably already know this in your head. But until you make a one-hundred-percent honest heart commitment to stop engaging in things that the Lord has spelled out in His Word— that are offensive to Him, and very debilitating to you morally and spiritually, you are going to continue feeling the crushing weight of despair.

If you want to increase you own sense of self-worth and the Lord’s joy, then you must get out of the way and let the Holy Spirit take over your life. It is thorough Christ that we are made whole and in Him we are totally sufficient and do not need external strokes from the world.

“He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

When we truly walk in the Spirit we cannot continue to happily partake in behavior that fulfils the lust of the flesh. Our love for the Lord must surpass all distractions. We must die to self:

“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Galatians 5:14-17).

One of the greatest weapons Satan uses against Christians is to try to make us believe that we cannot be free of tormenting vices. In our own strength we cannot get to a point of true peace over some issues. But Scripture screams, “I can do ALL things through Christ WHO STRENGTHENS me.”

Only through Christ and His redemptive power can we walk away from harmful habits designed to destroy us. Immerse yourself in the Word of God and realize Jesus is what life is all about not worldly distractions. The Word of God is alive and powerful:

“Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. For the word of God i living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:10-14).

Tom, please understand we are living in an extremely dangerous world. We are living in enemy territory. Satan’s objective is to trip up every person he can and make their lives miserable. You need no longer be a victim of your own self-destructive lifestyle choices and Satan’s stronghold on you.

Claim your rightful place as a warrior for Christ and do everything necessary to stop compromising yourself. If you have to move, get a different job, let go of “friends” who are a bad influence, do it. We are living in the last of these last days and your concern about the Rapture is valid.

Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

If we cannot include Jesus in whatever we are doing—then it is wrong.

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.

For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light” (Ephesians 5:8-14).

In the book of Romans the apostle Paul wrote of his never-ending struggle with sin. He was caught in a battle between his old nature and new nature in Christ. He realized he could not win the battle with self—that he had to rely totally on Christ to deliver him from his own fleshly desires. It is not until we came to the realization that only through the power of the Holy Spirit (abiding within) that our lives can change. What we cannot do for ourselves God will do for us. We get the victory but God gets the glory.

Tom, you are not alone. God is right there ready to pull you out of your broken-condition. Cry out like never before:

“O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24).

It is Christ who will deliver you. Unless we place Christ first in our lives first and truly ABIDE in Him, we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes over again and again. But through Him we can overcome even the most difficult challenges. Christ is the Vine and we are the branches and we must rely totally on Him to bear good fruit. This principle applies to whatever it is in our lives that is causing separation from Christ.

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:1-8).

Tom, it is time to decide if you will continue to live by the ways of this morally bankrupt world or take up the cross daily and follow Christ. The Lord is separating the wheat from the chaff in these last days. Go before the Lord in prayer and confess your sin, repent and He will wipe the slate clean. Pornography or whatever the issue—is only a symptom of the real problem. The problem is your disconnect with the Lord, not having an ongoing authentic daily relationship with Him and a lukewarm commitment. You have to intensely get into the Word of God and fill your mind with His truth.

Please rededicate your life to Christ and stay away from those who would pull you away from Him. Even Christian television is laced with bad apples, the same goes for some Christian Internet videos/shows. Much of what is marketed as Christian is greatly compromised filling the minds of viewers with false doctrines. So many convoluted teachings are running rampant these days that one can be led astray if not grounded strongly in the Word of God.

Too many professing Christians buy into doctrines that are simply wrong. They rely on being spoon fed by others instead of taking self-responsibility, neglecting serious Bible study so they can have the discernment necessary to authentically walk with the Lord, and identify self-appointed “experts” who cannot be trusted.

Too many people rely on men (women) for their so-called Christian walk—those who they prop up on pedestals instead of the only One who deserves adulation, our blessed Savior, who should be given all the glory. The merchandising of Jesus is a huge problem and some do it so cleverly that massive numbers of people are fooled.

The Lord commanded us to thoroughly study our Bibles and not base biblical truth of the musings of men and women that parrot one another. We are to become disciples. That will never happen if we are tuning in searching for the latest “whatever” on TV, etc. Instead, start a Bible study with others. Get together a team of like-minded believers and begin an outreach program and go share the gospel with great zeal.

Satan is an expert at creating tiny little openings that eventually lead to destruction.

Be wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove (Matthew 10:16). Seek God’s wisdom, abide in Christ and soon you will not even want to partake of the things that are corrupting you. Tom, surely you are not going to allow Satan to outsmart you. You have the King of the universe to fight on your behalf.

We all have weak moments but that does not mean we have to act on them. We are surrounded by temptations everywhere, especially through electronic media. We can’t get away from all gateways to potential trouble completely—so change must come as your inner spirit-man totally surrenders to the Lord.

When we think about how intensely Christ willingly suffered so we could be saved from the horrors of eternal torment and regain fellowship with Him, and how He was tortured and brutalized to the point that He could not even be recognized, the least we can do is be faithful to our calling and resolve to let go of the world’s entrapments.

A good Scripture to quote when you find yourself getting pulled into the sordid temptations of the world is this:

“Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve’” (Luke 4a, b).

“But don’t get into a conversation with the devil. Only communicate with God and use Scripture when dealing in spiritual warfare, just as Jesus did. He never got into a conversation with the devil. He always quoted Scripture.

If you know of a strong Christian man who you can be accountable to and spend time with, that would be a good support for you, someone who you can trust. Choose your friends carefully and surround yourself with true dedicated believers whenever possible. Decide that you are no longer going to live like a lukewarm Christian -- but a man who is on fire for the Lord and lives to serve Him.

Time is short. Give the Lord everything within you. You won’t regret it. Remember Tom, eternity is a very, very long time. Don’t take chances living in a manner that could whittle away at your faith all together. It can happen and has happened to many people. Consider the Hollywood celebrities who were once professing Christians and now they are strung out on the occult and drugs. Say good-bye to the ways of the world and rededicate your life, your entire being to the One who created you and loves you.

You already have the victory in Christ. Now go for it. Give the Lord your best.

In God’s love,

Esther

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:15-16).
 


February 24, 2014

Dear Readers,

Last September I received a very heart wrenching letter from a dear woman. We communicated back and forth many times via email. She was in a state of severe distraught as you will read below. Today, about five months later the serious and desperate situations in her life have turned around in ways that have God’s miraculous fingerprints all over them. I am also posting her most recent letter to encourage everyone who is facing serious trials or any type of trial, not to give-up, regardless of the circumstances and how hopeless things may seem.

Prayer and great faith truly can change things. You can read some of our detailed published communications and my initial responses to Cindy aka (Anguished), by clicking on the September 16, 2013 entry to the left of the “Dear Esther” home page.

“The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry; but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth. The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:15-18).

In God’s love,

Esther


September 16, 2013

Dear Esther,

I am a Christian and try to follow Christ as best as I can with His help. But now I am sick of my life and just want to give-up. I don’t want to live any more. I don’t even know where to start here. I feel like I don’t fit in anywhere! I don’t want to sound like I am paranoid, but it seems that most people view me as a joke. Since I moved here from Brazil four years ago, I haven’t been able to make one single friend. I try to be as nice as I can to people, but it doesn’t matter. I am a shy person, but I compliment people mostly when they pass by me, I talk to them when they talk to me and occasionally I will start conversations.

Still I don’t have any friends, just a few acquaintances. I’ve been in and out of churches and I might as well be a shadow. I’ve been looking for a church for a while and I am very discouraged by what I see. I know I sound overly critical but it seems almost impossible to find a church that follows the Bible completely, not to mention all the cliques in these churches. My family and I have been visiting a church for three weeks now and to be fair, they seem to have sound doctrine, the pastor is really nice and people shook hands with us during the service.

But not finding friends and the right church for me are the least of my problems. My husband was diagnosed with liver cancer nearly two months ago. He has two large tumors that they’re trying to downsize through chemoembolization so that he can go on a transplant list. We have a three-year-old child together. He had the first of his treatments done three weeks ago and it took a toll on him and on me, too. I have to be strong to help him and take care of my daughter without anyone else to help.

All of my family lives in my home country and I am not really close to my husband’s family who are from here. He is not very close to them, either. We don’t fight with them or anything but we’re just not close. I am scared as to the possibilities of what is going to happen to my husband (thank God he is a Christian too), but I don’t want him to die! I don’t want to be a widow and raise my daughter without her father.

I know God is taking care of us and that we will always suffer bad things in this fallen world but all of this, put together seems like too much for me to bear. I know this is extremely selfish and cowardly, but I am at a point where I almost don’t care. If I kill myself will I go to hell? I would gladly take my husband’s place and have those tumors in me but I can’t do that. I don’t want to stay here and see what is going to happen. I don’t want to stay in a place where pretty much no one other than God cares about me.

I know how important it is to know that God loves me and I am glad He does, but He wants us to have fellowship with others. How can I have fellowship with other Christians if I haven’t found any who want to fellowship with me?

You’ll probably think that maybe I am not telling everything, that I must do something to push people off, but I have a clear conscience about this.

Also, this world is so disgusting and filled with evil. I am tired of it!

Please pray for my husband and daughter.

Anguished


Hi dear Esther,

Sorry it took me so long to write with an update. I’ve been so busy the past few months.

On December 26, my husband was admitted to the hospital because of liver failure and his kidneys were also going bad. Prior to that, a week before, he had spent two days in the hospital due a cellulitis infection. Also, his chemo treatments had to be cancelled for his bilirubin count was too high. So a few days before December 26 he was sent home with a treatment for the infection; the medication affected his kidneys greatly, he spent two days without going to the bathroom and that's when I took him to the hospital.

Three days after he was admitted, they moved him to the ICU, because he needed dialysis treatment since his kidneys had shut down. Things weren't looking good at all, and I knew he was dying. It was horrible to see Bill that way, he could barely keep himself awake, he was freezing all the time even though he had a machine called, Bear Hug, that was a heated blanket on top of him on top of his other blankets. His family thought he was going to die for sure, but I felt like the Lord was telling me otherwise. I understand the context of Ezekiel 37 is for Israel, but I started praying it over Bill for his health.

On January 2nd, a liver was offered to Bill. The main transplant surgeon, which, thank God is a world renowned one at Froedtert hospital, said that he hoped the liver being offered was the right one for Bill because he had only three months to live at the most!

Later that day, another surgeon said Bill had maybe 30-90 days to live. Through all this, God gave me such an amazing peace. I can really tell you that I had, and still have the peace that surpasses all understanding. On January 4th, Bill called me at 4 a.m. to tell me the liver offered was in great condition and they were going to be transplanting him in a few hours. I took our daughter to my mother-in-law’s house and went to the hospital.

There, they told me the surgery would take between 6-8 hours so I stayed in a waiting room feeling a little nervous and peaceful at the same time. The surgery started at 8 a.m. and at 12 p.m. a nurse told me things were going well. When it was 12:40 p.m. a beeper which they gave me in case something happened started vibrating, and I thought the worse had happened. They told me to go into a secluded room in the waiting area and wait for the surgeon who wanted to talk to me. Those were 15 long minutes of waiting! The surgeon came and told me the surgery was over and that everything was successful!

I felt so relieved, words cannot describe it. He said I could go to see Bill in a couple of hours. When I went to see him, I wasn’t expecting to be so overwhelmed by the amount of wires on him and the breathing tube in his mouth. I must have looked pale because one of the nurses asked if I was okay… but I didn’t cry. Plus I was also shocked that he was awake but acting funky, trying to yank the wires.

One of the surgeons said he had never before seen an organ that so perfectly fit a recipient. It was just the right size for Bill. That was one of my prayers, that Bill would get a liver that was the perfect one for him. The only bad thing about this is that someone had to die. I pray that their family is comforted every day and that if they don’t know the Lord, they will come to know Him. Prior to the transplant, the doctors said a transplant patient usually stayed around two months in the hospital.

In Bill’s case, right after the transplant, his kidneys started working slowly and they were working well two days later. Six days after the transplant, he was moved out of the ICU to what they call the floor for patients who don’t need as much attention as in the ICU. His recovery was so amazing that most of the doctors and nurses commented and still comment on it. It is not at all the normal recovery. On January 20th he came home, since he was doing so well.

As of today, he is recovering very well and the scar from the transplant is almost gone. He is also having some setbacks. He has some cramping since the surgery every day, also his red blood cell count is very low, so they will be giving him some injections on Monday. He is also having to see an oncologist to make sure the cancer cells aren’t there and that the cancer won’t return. So these are things we are praying about, but I know the Lord will complete what He started in Bill.

I am so grateful to the Lord, for His care for us, in every detail. For the amazing health coverage we still have, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to pay all the hospital bills. For having enough money for our basic needs.

I am grateful for all of Bill’s co-workers who donated hundreds of hours of sick and vacation time so he wouldn’t lose his paychecks. For my mother-in-law who took care of our daughter all the days I needed to be at the hospital. For my neighbors—God touched their hearts to shovel the snow for me especially on the days I was feeling completely exhausted (without my asking them and some of them didn’t even know what was going on in our lives). For all the people who prayed for us. Our God is wonderful and He takes care of every detail of our lives! He would still be wonderful even if things hadn’t turned out this way, but I am glad they did.

Thank you so much for your prayers as well, God bless you Esther.

Cindy


Dear Cindy,

When I think back to how things were and how you felt when you first contacted me it is evident that the Lord has been steadily working in your life in ways that are nothing short of a miracle. I am so proud of you for not giving-up, for trusting that even through intense adversity—that the Lord had His plan and no matter what would happen, you were preparing yourself to accept it, knowing the Lord was in control.

The situation with your husband is incredibly encouraging. What struck me about him early on in our communication is his great attitude. Standing by him as you have shows what a godly woman you are -- even though you were hurting so very much about many things in your life (besides his very serious illness). You walked in faith and did not lean unto your own understanding, and now you and your family are blessed with such a happy ending.

And thank you for agreeing to share your story with others. As believers we are to encourage and hold up one another in prayer and take on one another’s burdens. You have been a blessing to me, Cindy, as I have observed over the past five months the depth your faith. Your tenacity to serve the Lord has brought you and your family to this point.

God bless you for your faithfulness and for your authenticity. In one of your emails you shared that even when your husband was in rough shape—he went out to an event where he witnessed to others; a man who was facing imminent death, yet he did not sit around wallowing in misery. He was faithful and did his best to reach others for the Lord. Only a man truly dedicated to the Lord could do such a thing when he himself was hurting so badly.

I pray that the Lord will continue to bless you and your family and that He will use your testimony to enlighten others about our great and merciful God. None of us know when we will take our last breath, and each day counts. We should never take for granted the people and the blessings we have in our lives—because truly, in an instant our life circumstances can change. Clearly, the Lord has a plan for you and your family and I look forward to hearing how things are progressing for all of you from this point forward.

“For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen” (2 Corinthians 11:36).

Be sure to try to get as much rest as possible, Cindy. You have been through a lot in a relatively short time and your body, mind and emotions need to rest. Sometimes when we take care of others we tend to neglect our own need to rest and rejuvenate.

Try to find a way to get into a quiet place in your home where you can commune with the Lord through heart-to-heart prayer. Allow yourself to peacefully doze off giving your entire body a rest; rest in His love dear, Cindy. Jesus has carried you and your family through a very trying time, and He truly is the Great Physician, who has given you and your family this incredible miracle (as you fully realize).

“And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick” (Matthew 14:14).

In God’s love,

Esther

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).


February 17, 2014

Hello Esther!

I have a short question for you, as I really respect your advice. My husband, Preston, owns a catering business which he just started this year. Although we are still financially struggling, he is getting some clients, a blessing straight from God.

Recently, a man contacted Preston about catering his wedding, and they exchanged some emails planning some ideas and discussing payment. Then this man told Preston, “I don’t know how to say this but it is a civil union, not a wedding. We are two grooms.” My husband, a bit shocked, said “Oh that’s fine, we cater to anyone,” and said he knew he had to protect us from a lawsuit.

Both of us are not sure about how Christ would respond to catering a civil union celebration and wanted to seek your advice. We have asked other Christians, and responses have been divided. Some have said that we should back out and not be a part of it.

Others say that we should continue, and at a meeting bring up that we are Christians, and possibly shine God’s light and love to these clients, as they are probably used to rejection and may not know Christ’s love. What do YOU think?

I really respect your advice to others, and think God has blessed you with great wisdom. Thank you and God bless you, my sister in Christ.

Kate

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).


Dear Kate,

Thank you for your kind words, I really appreciate them. I have been thinking and praying about your situation. I think this is a good opportunity for you and your husband to create some “red flag” markers for when people come to him and request his catering services. What I would do in the future is have a form of some sort. Tell everyone this is standard for your record keeping and organizing of planned events.

For example, if the event is a wedding, ask for the names of the two people getting married. Ask for both their names, the date of the wedding and some basic food-related questions, etc. If you get an application with another two grooms or two brides then you will know right away what you are dealing with, and you won't be taken by surprise and can better handle any possible problematic circumstances. Hopefully you will be able to identify the genders of the two people by asking the names.

As much as you need the business, it might be a good idea for your husband to get into the habit of saying: “What is the date of your wedding (or event)? We have been really busy lately and my wife takes care of all the bookings and she has all our available dates. I will have to check with her, and please fill out our questionnaire so we can better serve you.”

Now there is a chance that if someone wants to use your catering service, and you say, no, and tell the inquiring person the particular date they have in mind is not available, he or she might change their date and request another date, but hopefully that won’t happen.

Notice I said, the date is “not available.” You can even say, “It is already booked.” Being “booked” or “not available” could mean you are busy doing other things, not necessarily catering an event.

In this particular case, since your husband already agreed to accept the job after he was told that two grooms are involved, I think he has to go through with it. If he had not done that I would say, forget the whole thing and walk away. But now the door is opened up for Christian bashing and a possible hate “crime” to be pointed in your husband’s direction. Use this experience to keep these dynamics from ever happening again.

Please pray with your husband about how much of your faith you might or might not share in this situation. My concern is if you start getting calls from some of their friends or associates and turn them down one after another—they might use your Christian faith against you and it could all turn out to be a big mess at some point. As tight as the gay community is, you might also get an avalanche of gay customers if they like the food, etc. They are a very tight bunch and word of mouth is a way they relate to each other when they find something they like.

You can pray for these people. As Christians we always want to be merciful and kind but also not condone obvious assaults against the Lord and His Scriptures. It is a very tough situation to be in; the days when a business owner could easily turn away business and had the right to decide who he would or would not serve, has been so politically sabotaged, that one must be very careful (as you and your husband are now trying to be).

If the question of your faith comes up for any reason, of course tell the truth but but I am not sure making an issue of what your beliefs are, at this point would do any good, unless you feel the Holy Spirit urging you to witness to those involved in this event. A genuine spirit of Christian kindness and love may be the best way to proceed. Your husband can shine his Christian love and heart for Christ while he is on the job by being kind and loving.

Actions can truly speak louder than words. And praying for these lost souls is a very effective way to get results. You may never know the outcome, but by trusting the Lord to intervene in their lives you are doing God’s work (like a secret agent). The Lord asks us to pray without ceasing. Praying for the unsaved, especially for the healing of morally degenerate conditions is essential.

The outward circumstances regardless of the particular habitual and chronic sin—is a symptom of spiritual blindness. Remember, in 2 Corinthians the apostle Paul wrote that the “god of this age” (the devil) has blinded the minds of those who reject the truth of the Bible. We must pray that those who are in Satan’s clutches would be released and no longer blinded by him. Certainly the two “grooms” fall into this category of spiritual darkness to the point where God has given them over to depraved minds. Fervent, intercessory prayer is the greatest hope in such cases.

“But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).

“In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done” (Romans 1:27-28).

It seems to me this situation came to your husband as it did, perhaps to be used as a warning to be very careful how he proceeds with his new business—since we are living in a world where the moral climate has deteriorated so badly, and as Christians we must be prepared for how to handle it all.

This is a very delicate situation. Standing up and declaring your faith and saying, “No way can we do this now,” would not be productive, it would only serve to push the lost souls even further away from ever accepting the truth of Christ. If your husband were a pastor being asked to perform this civil ceremony of course the answer would have to be, “No.”

It is really up to you and your husband to decide what to do. You asked me what I think and this is my response. I would also start praying immediately that somehow the Lord would intervene, and the job would be canceled by the “groom” or for some other reason that is out of your control. That is always a possibility. And pray that He will bring you more work, especially from other believers.

This is the hardest question I have ever received. Only through the Lord’s grace can we deal with some of the very difficult situations that come our way, as believers. Be sure you and your husband pray together daily and ask the Lord for guidance in how to conduct his business, going forward.

If some of your Christian friends jump all over you for not canceling this job, tell them how the job was already accepted after your husband said what he did, and to make an issue out of the situation now would backfire and do nothing to bring these lost souls closer to Christ (for the reasons I have already mentioned). If they are truly concerned they should join you and your husband in prayer for these two very confused individuals.

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).

I will pray with you that this situation will be used to God’s glory, somehow. What the enemy intends for harm, God uses for good. Consider this dilemma another reminder that Jesus is coming soon—to clean-up the evil, the moral depravity in this world as only He can. The good news is that the Rapture will happen first and all believers will be rescued from this ungodly world and the problems that we must deal with will no longer be an issue. And best of all, we will finally be with our blessed Lord and Savior.

God bless you Kate, and please let me know what you and your husband decide to do and how it all turns out.

In God’s love,

Esther

“Therefore, ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing so you will heap coals of fire on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good’” (Romans 12:20-21).


February 10, 2014

Dear Esther,

I live with a family member who has been in trouble with the law most of her life. I have been living with her for six years. She has a gambling addiction and lives on a meager disability. I have been helping, preaching to her, but the minute I go away for three days, she is out the door and gone; then lies constantly.

I am at the point where all I do is, scream at her hoping this will get through to her. I have tried everything. I was raised Catholic all my life and then found a Christian church five years ago and got baptized. I do not belong to this church as they are constantly asking for money, and it is a mega-church now and the praise and worship is like a “rock band” with smoke and strobe lights aglow.

Now, I had put aside $7,000 in a safe and I trusted her. This money was for a down payment on a car. I drive a 14 year old car. I trusted her. I did not look in the safe for three months and the other day I thought I would look in the safe as I wanted to use the money. I had told the family member the money was for a rainy day.

She took it all and blew it at a casino. I am literally sick to my stomach. Esther I have said things and prayed for her to die. I am so upset I do not know where to turn. I have tried every day for a week to forgive her, but then I see her and want to strike her. I have a lot of hurt, betrayal, and anger and do not know what to do.

Can you help me?

I have prayed and prayed and then I just go back to my ways when I see her. Should I move? She will end up in a homeless shelter or go out of control and end up in jail because she cannot afford it on her disability. My family says it is not my problem.

I read my Bible every day, but living with certain family members who do not live a Christian lifestyle is bothering me.

Thank you for all you do, Esther.

God Bless you.

Sincerely,

Anne


Dear Anne,

One of the most hurtful things to endure is when we do our best to help others and then we are stabbed in the back. Your story is heart wrenching, but I am sorry to say this type of situation is not an isolated one. So many families have at least one out-of-control dysfunctional family member who causes chronic problems.

The circumstances and details vary, but dysfunction and chaos are the undercurrent themes. In your case you have had too much compassion with a person who already has a track record of trouble, and all your kindness has backfired. I am so sorry because being betrayed and losing money is a very painful experience.

Now that the money is gone you have been taught a very tough life lesson. A gambler cannot be trusted with money. By leaving money in the house (even in a safe) you were playing with fire and you got burned. Adults who have severe addictions are just as vulnerable as young children. Sadly, they can NEVER be trusted.

Consider this analogy. If you were a parent and you had a child of five years of age, would you leave a box of matches and a can of gasoline where he or she could get them? No! A child cannot be trusted with dangerous objects.

When we lose a large sum of money or a valuable possession we lose heart and it can take a long time to get over it. This is the old flesh nature taking over. But when we look at this from a spiritual and eternal perspective it does not matter how many material objects we lose, when we realize that everything we have has been given to us by God (James 1:17). That $7,000 was a gift from God. Perhaps He allowed it to be taken to send a message to you to be more careful of whom you trust and to act as a reminder of how fleeting our earthly possessions are; and to get you to remove yourself from a very toxic situation.

Please read these verses and meditate on them:

“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:8).

This heartache can be used to bring you into a closer relationship with the Lord. He can restore your loss in ways that we cannot foresee. The Lord knows your heart and He is a God of restoration. Step back now, take a very deep breath and seriously consider breaking ties with this family member. If she ever makes restitution to you or gets treatment for her gambling addiction and repents, then you can consider rekindling the relationship.

The Lord wants us to be compassionate but he also wants us to be wise. He is also very explicit in regard to the people we spend time with. We are not to be unequally yoked and fellowship with the unsaved. We are to minister to them but not hang out with them.

“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).

When you live with someone who is addicted to anything you cannot trust him/her, ever. By allowing your untrustworthy family member to know you had money in a safe you put a temptation before her. You may have wanted to give her some peace of mind that there was money available for a rainy day, for an emergency, but telling a gambler there is money around is an invitation for trouble and loss.

An addict does not think like a straight person. Your family member’s mindset was to get her hands on that money and use it for her gambling addiction. If you start another rainy day fund I suggest telling no one about it unless it is someone who has proven to be extremely trustworthy.

Perhaps you could file charges against her for theft and have the police arrest her, and then drop the charges if she agrees to go through rehab. That may be one way you could get her into rehab. The court would consider her financial situation and perhaps get her into a rehab situation that is paid by the state or a private organization. It sounds like you need to take a very tough stand. You know, the old saying, “tough love.” You will not get your money back, but it might be a way of forcing her to deal with her addiction.

You can also ask her to pay you back $25.00 a month, but even if she does, she will never pay it all back. You must realize you made a mistake and press on. And try not to let your loss overtake you to a point that your walk with the Lord becomes compromised.

You need time to recover from what you have gone through with this family member. Please don’t be too hard on yourself. But take action to extract yourself from a very unhealthy situation. Keep your heart and mind focused on Christ and not your outward circumstances. Jesus is the great healer and in time you will not feel so trampled upon. But living under the same roof with this woman is very self-destructive.

If you can move out and get a place of your own or live with some Christian women who are not addicted to gambling, drugs or alcohol that would solve your problem. As long as you live with her it will be very hard to overcome your hate and rage toward her due to the loss, and her ongoing scheming and lying. You have to separate yourself from her to be able to eventually forgive her. I don’t see that you have any other choice unless you want the same song and dance to continue, and to your detriment.

When you are with this person and find that you are getting very angry and wanting to scream, leave the room and go right into prayer. Ask the Lord to calm you and strengthen you. And He will. Never abandon praying to the Lord, asking Him to intervene and give you peace of mind as you try to get over this betrayal.

Six years is long enough to give your family member a chance to clean-up her act and try to help her from going over the edge, but now it is time to cut her loose. Once you reach the point where you are filled with hate at her selfish behavior you have no choice but to move on. Cut your losses and move on.

Without meaning to, at this point, you are enabling her to continue in her self-destructive lifestyle. Sometimes a person has to hit rock bottom, even ending up in jail before God can start to work with them. Your family member needs to face herself and God. I have heard many stories where some criminals/addicts are presented the gospel in prison and the Holy Spirit gets a hold of them and later they become some of the strongest most productive Christians.

This advice is strong and a bit harsh, but it is necessary. Very few people understand how powerful addictions are. Most people know drug addicts will steal and even kill to get money for their next fix, but they don’t understand that all addicts are strong candidates to commit crimes to get their next fix—whether it is drugs, money for gambling, alcohol or anything else.

Our Lord and Savior is a great discerner of hearts. We need to be also:

“Now when He [Jesus] was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man” (John 2:23-25).

Anne, I know you are concerned about your family member’s future and how she will survive. But what strikes me as very odd is that she is on disability and yet when the opportunity presents itself she is off and running to a casino to gamble. Maybe she should try getting a job! So whenever you start feeling sorry for her, remember she is an adult, she is responsible for the choices she makes and you cannot save her. Only God can.

You do not have to disown her, but you must be very firm with her. I know it is hard right now because you are very angry and upset, but try again to pray for her. Prayer is the best way to get results. Give the entire situation over to the Lord and He will hear your cry for help. Your family member is in desperate need of the Lord and needs deliverance in a major way. Others with serious addictions have overcome them with the help of the God, she can too. But unless she is allowed to “bottom out” the chances of her getting saved and letting go of her disastrous gambling habit is very slim.

I also suggest you seek out a good Bible teaching church where you can make new Christian friends and worship the Lord together. The church you describe in your letter is symptomatic of the lukewarm and lost condition of many of today’s Christian churches, but there still are some good ones where the Bible is taught verse by verse and the congregation is serious about their faith, and not looking for an elaborate production (which has nothing to do with honoring the Lord). Over-the-top productions are all about honoring the flesh. You are right not to get involved at that church.

Anytime I see hyped-up entertainment productions underwritten by churches and various ministries I find it very disturbing. Some churches spend hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars on extravagant productions which appeal to the flesh, and I wonder where the glory to God is. What is the point? Could it be to grow the mega-churches and rake in more money and stroke the egos of the participants?

Yet we have brothers and sisters in the Lord all over the world in desperate need of basic everyday living necessities. All the money spent on such pomp and circumstance would be better used to help those in need, and reaching others with the gospel would be more in keeping with Christ’s teachings by actually using the living Word of God—the Bible. Yes, good old-fashioned preaching.

“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Also, some churches have recovery programs for gambling and other addictions. Search out a church that offers that kind of ministry and perhaps that would be another option for your family member once she realizes you are finished with her. Getting addicts into treatment is very tough, though. Denial, denial, denial is the operating mantra. In this case it sounds like only the threat of jail might get your family member started on a path to recovery.

Your family members who say she is not your problem, they are right. You have done everything you can. Now it is time to let it go and give it ALL over to God. Trust that He can work miracles even in situations that seem impossible.

“But He said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27).

Please let me know how things work out for you and I will be praying with you that this very unpleasant matter is resolved in a most positive way. God bless you Anne, for caring enough to help this lost soul. But the best way you can help her now is to let go of her.

“Cast your burden on the LORD, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22).

In God’s love,

Esther

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).


February 3, 2014

Dear Esther,

I’m Tyler and I am 14 years old. I accepted Jesus when I was 13 years old. I have always been fascinated with the end times, and the Rapture is what actually caused me to get saved. The fact that I can feel Jesus is coming REALLY soon overwhelms me. (Is that bad?)

I guess because it’s so surreal to know that I will be spending all eternity in heaven and that I’m blessed enough to be in the last generation. Satan tries to plant thoughts it my head that makes me doubt my salvation and that Jesus won’t come back for me and that I will miss the trumpet. It’s really annoying. Do you have any advice on how to stop doubting?

Please Help,

Tyler


Dear Tyler,

I am thrilled to hear you are saved and that you are serious about your faith at such a young age. Nothing is more important in this life than getting saved and having a genuine relationship with the Lord. May God bless and guide you as you grow in Him. To answer your question if it is bad to be overwhelmed by feeling that Jesus is coming soon, I say not at all. It is a good thing because you are aware of the many signs that point to His soon return. We are commanded to watch for Christ’s return and not be lukewarm in our faith.

”Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming” (1 John 4:4-5).

Notice how the Lord feels about those who are lukewarm and vague in their faith:

“So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth” (Revelation 3:16).

And we are to love God with our entire being, so being overwhelmed by the nearness of His coming is a good thing, especially if you share the gospel with others as we are commanded to do:

“Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind’” (Matthew22:37).

“And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16).

The best doubt-buster is the holy Word of God. Tyler, the Bible is loaded with God’s marvelous promises that pertain to all believers and that includes, you. Once we are saved the devil knows he cannot keep us from heaven but he sure will try to make our lives miserable at every turn. But the good news is this: Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world, and we can overcome the fiery darts of the devil.

“You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Consider what happened in the Garden of Eden. You would think that old miserable wretch, the devil, would find a new way to get to people but since his doubt-technique worked so well with Adam and Eve, he continues to try to place doubt in our minds regarding the truth of God and His Word.

God gave the order not to eat from the tree in the midst of the garden. When the serpent told Eve that she could be like God if she ate from that tree, he placed doubt in her mind about exactly who God is and His superior identity (that cannot be surpassed). Doubt set in about what God said and then pride took over. You are already aware of what the devil is trying to do to you and by using the Word of God—you can be free of his doubt-thoughts.

Every true Christian at some point has had doubts about God, about our salvation and about many other things pertaining to our walk with the Lord. As long as we are in our mortal bodies and on this fallen planet we will have our inner struggles. But it is by faith that we overcome our doubts. And faith comes by hearing the Word of God.

“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

Tyler, you must put on the whole armor of God:

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:10-19).

The apostle Paul ensured us that we are not ignorant of the devil’s devices (2 Corinthians 2:11). That is, if we daily stay in the Word of God and focus on His promises and blessings. Remember, nothing can take a true believer away from God:

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

God’s forgiveness and salvation through Messiah Jesus is forever binding, covering all our sins—past, present and future:

“And I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and My Father are one” (John 10:28-30).

“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 1:24).

Another aspect to keep yourself grounded in the truth of God’s Word and your eternal security would be to be very careful who you spend time with, what you read, what you watch on television, the video games you play, what and who you listen to.

“Do not be deceived: Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

This world is rigged. The dark forces, the enemies of God have booby-trapped all aspects of life. It is no accident that Satan is called the “prince of the power of the air.”

“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others” (Ephesians 2:1-3).

We can never let our guard down because we are living in a very intense spiritual battlefield and the weapons of our warfare are not carnal:

“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled” (2 Corinthians 10:4-6).

The devil has infiltrated all facets of this earthly life. As a believer you can be assured of victory because of Jesus’ blood sacrifice on the cross. When those doubts set in dismiss them by speaking the Word of God. The Word of God is most powerful:

“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

I also urge you to use great discernment when dealing with people and choosing what you will allow yourself to participate in. Not everyone who professes to be a Christian is a true Christian. Many are Christians in name only, so be very observant and watch how people behave to see if their faith is authentic. We are not saved by our behavior but godly behavior is a reflection of our true spiritual nature.

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will [know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-20).

Pray for God’s wisdom to take hold of your life and prayerfully make your choices. The Holy Spirit will guide you. Be sure to find some other believers who you can fellowship with regularly. It is important to have at least one other person you can read your Bible with and pray with, if at all possible.

“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” Matthew 18:20).

Tyler, your doubts will dissipate when you learn as much about the Bible as possible. If you want to be filled with wisdom, study the Bible every day. Ask for wisdom and understanding (James 1:5), and let the Holy Spirit teach you (1 John 2:27). Remember, there is no mystery, doctrine or passage in the Bible that a true believer cannot understand if he or she seeks to understand it. The Holy Spirit searches the depths of God (1 Corinthians 2:10), and He can give us everything the Father wants us to know. Since we have the “mind of Christ” we can understand and know teachings of Jesus.

“For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

Every Christian needs spiritual strength. The main way to increase one’s spiritual strength is through prayer and study of the Word. It is through these two daily activities that we increase our faith. Since Jesus spent long hours in prayer (Mark 1:35; 6:46; Luke 5:16) then so should we. Sometimes He prayed all night (Luke 6:12). As I already mentioned, according to Romans 10:17 faith comes by the Word. To increase your faith you must increase your prayer and Bible time.

We should also ask God to help us trust in Him for all things. When we have a decision to make about most anything we should ask for guidance to make the right one. It is also a good idea to get wise counsel (Proverbs 1:5; 11:14; 12:15; 15:22; 20:18; 24:6).

Every time we open the Bible we should ask for knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures (Proverbs 3:13-14; 9:10; 10:14; 16:20). Knowledge and understanding of Scripture is more important than riches, fame or anything you can think of (Proverbs 8:10; 16:16). Along with knowledge and understanding we can ask for wisdom (Proverbs 2:6-7; James 1:5) which is even more valuable than knowledge and understanding (Job 28:12-19; Proverbs 3:13-15; 8:11; 16:16).

The way we obtain wisdom is by wise counsel (Proverbs 13:10). The wisest counsel in the universe is found in the Bible. If you want the best counsel is to study the Bible (Proverbs 3:1-4). If you cannot find the answer to your question or problem in the Bible, seek counsel from a wise man (Proverbs 12:15; 19:20).

Another way to gain wisdom is to fellowship with wise men (Proverbs 13:20). We can also gain great wisdom by meditating on Scripture (Joshua 1:8; Job 22:22; 23:12; Psalm 1:2; 4:4; 19:14; 63:6; 77:12; 104:34; 119:15, 23, 27, 48, 78, 97, 99, 148; 143:5; 1 Timothy 4:15). When we earnestly pray for wisdom and we treasure the Scriptures more than our daily food or whatever we have an affinity for, we will be given wisdom. Those who obtain wisdom love their own souls (Proverbs 19:8).

I am confident that you will get through this time if you follow the suggestions in this letter. Keep walking forward and don’t look back. You will not be left behind and your future is so great it is impossible to describe. We may still have some bumps in the road but our “redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:28).

Be of good cheer, my brother in Christ. God is not going to abandon you. Walk tall and know that you belong to Him.

Never hesitate to contact me, and please let me know how you are doing.

In God’s love,

Esther

“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5).





January 27, 2014

Hi Esther,

Your “Dear Esther” column has been such a blessing, thank you for everything you do.

I am reaching out with something I have been struggling with as a Christian. While raised Catholic, I became born-again while a teenager (I’m now nearing 30-years-old) and attend a non-denominational, biblical-driven church.

I moved to Chicago after graduating college and met my now-husband who is originally from there. We relocated to my home state (in Florida) and both love our new home.

After visiting for the first time, my mother-in-law informed us she is moving here after retirement. This has me concerned. She has a very strong, dominating personality and can be overwhelming.

She visits a couple of times a year and her trips wipe us out - she has an abundance of energy and once she arrives, she has us going non-stop telling us where she wants to go/eat/see. When we try, to establish compromise, she gets upset and acts very childlike. She has on occasion started yelling and getting nasty when she doesn’t get her way (toward my husband, never me). My husband is very patient -- loving and level headed and stays above the fray when she lashes out. I have a calm, reserved demeanor so her loudness and abrasive manner is difficult for me to handle. I am always respectful and nice but it’s a challenge to say the least.

She is also a devout Catholic who regularly says she is going to convert us back to the Catholic Church and snatch our kids and baptize them once we have them. She insists on always going to her Catholic Church and makes us feel guilty and refuses to come to ours.

We have had (while my husband was present) several conversations about Christianity, most recently during Christmas about Israel and their claim to the land. She was saying that most Jews that now live there do not have true Jewish roots and are “pretenders” if you will. And, they are “hard/tough” people. I quoted Scripture saying how Israel is their God-given land and they are His chosen people and as Christians we should be their biggest supporters and advocates. She then said (much to my surprise) that “the Bible is just a collection of stories compiled by men.” I couldn't believe that and said, it’s God’s living Word - and it would be impossible for the Bible to 100% accurately predict the birth, life and death of Jesus, among numerous other examples that are continuing today, if it wasn’t.

My husband does establish boundaries but she tends to bulldoze them and push and push until she gets (enough of) her way. She has been divorced for 25 years and has no desire to meet anyone else. I find it very difficult to be around her for an extended amount of time. We went on vacation together, it was exhausting and my nerves were shot.

I’m worried our marriage will struggle if she moves - she'll have no support system in Texas and will be a constant presence. My husband and I have a wonderful marriage and get along great - but navigating her demands is taxing and causes stress.

Is it wrong to not encourage her to move here? It’s not like she consulted us in the first place. My husband has said she could help us out once we have kids but I’ve never seen her function in a supporting, helpful manner. She always takes full control and it’s her way or the highway. She can be very sweet and generous but she’s a force to reckon with. She is always welcome to visit, but I am not sure I could handle her full time.

I pray for strength and grace and would greatly appreciate your third-party opinion. I fully believe we are in the end-times and part of me thinks we may not have even three years left, but none-the-less I would love your advice. I don’t want to blindly walk into a situation without first thinking through what it could mean for everyone involved.

God Bless,

Jennifer


Dear Jennifer,

Thank you for the kind sentiments. I am glad you are blessed by the column. You sound like a very considerate, fair and thoughtful person and no matter how things evolve, it will be all right.

In the secular world it is said that money and in-laws can be the biggest problems in a marriage. Since we have Jesus those matters can be dealt with in a way that goes beyond our natural thinking.

I feel for you. Are you saying that your mother-in-law wants to move in with you and your husband or move to Florida into her own residence very near the two of you? If at all possible it would best if she had her own home if she does move down there. From what you are telling me it sounds like the lady is very domineering and this is where your husband will have to “handle” her (even more than he is now). I know you already know this but remember, we are talking about HIS mother. He is never going to see it completely the way you do.

From reading your letter, I think your biggest leverage with your husband and your mother-in-law is your Christian faith. I have one suggestion that would be very non-threatening to your marriage relationship. (I would not mention why you are doing this.)

First, you can say you want to understand more about the Catholic deception for yourself. You don’t have to announce this -- simply start reading and learning more about the Catholic Church. Share with your husband what you are reading. I pray your husband will take an interest in learning more, and then from understanding more about the serious problems with that religion, he might come to the realization that his mother needs to be delivered from her false religion. The Catholic religion has many like her, I am afraid, and it is all pomp and circumstance—ritual upon ritual. Lie upon lie!

Your description of what your mother-in-law thinks of Israel, the Jewish people and how she considers the Bible only a collection of stories written by men and not inspired by God—shows she is in deep spiritual trouble. Not only is she involved in a false religion, she is clueless about the truths of God’s Word. Hopefully in time you and your husband can enlighten her. The Lord wishes for no one to perish and it sounds like your mother-in-law needs a lot of prayer.

If you and your husband together would do an in-depth study on the serious problems with the Catholic Church to reinforce the fact that his mother is a very lost and confused soul, the seriousness of his mother’s lost condition might sink in (sink into your husband’s mind). As the spiritual leader of your family it is his obligation to keep your family in a sound and authentic relationship with the Lord and reject ALL other doctrines.

It sounds like you have a little bit of time. You are certainly in a tough position because it is always difficult for a mother/son relationship to be challenged. He can still have a close relationship with her but he needs to lay down the law regarding her Catholic faith. You can also turn the tables on her (the guilt you mention) by pointing out clear abominations to the Lord, which she most certainly embraces as a Catholic. One of them is praying to Mary. I have written a bit in my column on this topic and have some resources recently from a letter as recently as a few weeks ago.

This is a start to try to deal with your situation. We always want to honor our parents, and the most respectful thing children can do for their parents, is share the true gospel when their parents are lost. Once your mother-in-law realizes that you and your husband are very serious about your Christian faith that might make her back off considerably all the way around. The guilt should be on her for being involved in a very dangerously deceptive and false religion.

I agree with you that we are very close to the Rapture, especially according to Psalm 90 when we calculate generations. But we can’t be sure. We could be here longer than we want to be. Please go back and read some of my letters from the past couple of months. I know I have one in there about the Pope and more recently a response from a young man who says he recently got saved but is surrounded by Catholics in his family. Be sure to check the letter to Phillip which was posted on December 23, 2013. At the end of my response you will find some excellent resources listed. Also read the October 7, 2013 letters about the Pope and the Catholic Church.

Regardless of your mother-in-law’s overbearing personality, the first best approach is to go right to the heart of the matter where it really counts—the eternal life and death situation of true salvation.

Let me know if this approach might bring your husband to realize how he must be more, strict with her (in a loving way of course). If not, we will try another approach. And as I always say, prayer is the most effective tool. Please pray for the Lord to intervene in this dilemma and for your mother-in-law’s salvation. If she really gets saved, then she might actually become a lady that you can cope with. If she rejects the salvation message and clings to her false doctrines then perhaps your husband will realize that her presence is a detriment to your marriage.

You sound like a delightful young woman and your husband sounds like a special blessing. I hope you are praying together. The more time you share in the Word of God, the stronger your relationship will be. We live at a time when families are being attacked. Don’t let the devil get a stronghold in your marriage. Reaching out as you have shows you are very bright and trying to avoid just that. The devil always uses weak vessels to try to undermine believers. I see your mother as that weak vessel. But keep giving your concerns over to the Lord and He surely will make a way for all of this to be resolved in a peaceful and satisfactory manner.

And as far as being concerned about her not having a support system in Texas, she must have lots of friends through her church so I would not let loneliness on her part be a major concern. Many support groups exist for retired folks. It sounds like she can manipulate things to suit her, and that would include finding a support system.

Jennifer, trust that the Lord will help you with all of this. I am only an email away. Please reach out whenever you need to and I will do my best to get back to you in a timely fashion. Also, please get back to me if you have any questions about what I have said here.

Be confident that with the Lord we always have a way to resolve conflicts.

In God’s love,

Esther

“Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken” (Psalm 55:22).


January 20, 2014

Dear Esther,

I’ll give you a little bit of my background first. I am married, and have three children (5 years, 2 years and 6 months). I was saved at the age of 12 and have grown in my Christian faith. My marriage is “unequally yoked’ as my husband walked away from the church and the faith a few years into our marriage. He has backslidden as a result and now you would not be able to tell that he is a Christian.

He swears, hates the church, and will not talk about God. He watches vile things on television etc. and enjoys dirty jokes. I honestly wonder if my husband was ever saved in the first place. He is, however, faithful and treats myself and the children relatively well. As a consequence, my husband and I have drifted apart, as we now have nothing in common to talk about, or do together but we both are very committed to our marriage and our children.

In a way, this has become a blessing in disguise. His departure from the Lord has caused me grow spiritually and desire the Lord all the more. I cannot get enough of reading the Bible, listening to expositional teaching online (praise God for the Internet!), and meditating on Him. I have desired to live a more pure life because of this. I have no desire to watch television, watch movies, or enjoy the secular entertainments of this world. It is during this time, I learned about the Rapture.... and I long for His return.

So you can see, husband and I could not be more different. We love each other, but no longer walk on the same path, so to speak. There have been times in my life where the Lord has impressed upon me events that would happen in my life. Very rarely does this happen, but when it does, it is always comes to pass. I believe He does this in His mercy and grace to prepare me for the trails in my life.

On May 2012, He impressed upon me that I needed to get prepared financially as my husband was going to need it. At the time (foolish me!), I thought we were going to be raptured and that my poor husband was going to be left behind with the mortgage. I was excited, and began to tighten our budget.

September 2012 was when EVERYTHING happened. My husband came to me one day and said that his workplace was retrenching workers due to government cutbacks, whether permanently employed, or on contract. With a sinking heart, I then told him what God had told me. But no Rapture, no heavenly lights...my husband was going to be unemployed.

Not long after, my husband was notified that he was going to lose his job. In that same week we were told that I was going to lose our baby (I was pregnant). In that same week, we had been informed that not only is my 4 year old deaf but she had also been abused sexually by another child in her day care (I worked part-time then). I lost the baby a few days later, and I kept on working during my miscarriage because I knew that we needed the money, and I could not afford any time in the hospital.

I was in shock. For the first time EVER I approached my pastor for advice. How should I feel? How should I glorify God? I knew that God was in control, but I was in such shock that I needed to see some sort of “rainbow” -- a promise that everything was going to be okay.

The next day, when I came home from work my daughter presented me with a painting. It was longer than my kitchen table and just as big. Goodness knows how she painted it, but it was a huge rainbow.

I cried. (I still have this rainbow painting today).

It was then that our “visitor” started to appear at night. My husband approached me not long after this, and told me that he saw a “woman” dressed in white in the children’s bedroom. I did not believe him, but told him that he had been watching too many unsavory movies, that they have polluted his mind. He mentioned a few times after that that he saw this “being” in the children’s rooms. The children then started not wanting to go to bed and sleep in their beds. To check things out, I slept in the children’s bedroom. I saw and heard nothing. I shamefully dismissed my husband’s and children’s concerns. After all, I reasoned, I was a Christian and surely no evil could enter my home. God was bigger!

In January, I saw the fact that now I was going to have to be the breadwinner and work full-time, while my husband would look after the children as he looked for work himself. I was also hospitalized suffering a major hemorrhage early in my next pregnancy. Despite the major loss of blood, my baby survived! I was now in the hospital, trying to recover in order to go to work, while at the same time, wanting to do anything to protect my baby.

I was released from the hospital a week later and allowed to work provided that I would not exert myself. So I had to go to work not knowing whether I would hemorrhage again and lose the baby, or whether I would lose my job due to my medical “restrictions.” I was restricted in housework duties and was hampered in the care of my children. I could no longer pick them up, or have them in my lap for cuddles. I could not take them anywhere on any trips and my house began to “let go.”

It also meant that I could not go to church, as I was unable to run around after my very active children. I was devastated. I had no helpers in church to look after my children, and Shane (my husband) was not willing to go. So I had to miss out. What was even more terrible, no one from church called to see how I was doing. I was devastated. I learned many valuable lessons about pastoral care from this experience.

My husband then approached me and wanted to know whether we had been “cursed” by someone. I certainly agreed that we were under some sort of spiritual attack (I still didn’t believe in the apparition though). My pastor recommended that my house should be “blessed.” With my husband’s permission, I invited our pastor to our house and he blessed each room - especially the children’s room.

A few nights later, I woke up in the middle of the night to feel a “presence” in my room. I could not see it, but I could feel its malevolence and hatred. The room was thick with it. I was pinned to my bed and struggling to breathe with the force pushing against me. All I could think of was that my baby was going to be harmed. I could not breathe! I was terrified! I would love to say that I did something glorious in that moment, but I didn’t. I promptly fainted.

I believed my husband by the next morning. I had obviously been upset by “something.”

That night, as I put the children to bed, I began my usual prayers when I felt “it” again... the hate, anger and malevolence. I began to sweat, and then audibly prayed a prayer of protection for the children, my husband and myself. The “feeling” went away instantly.

Every night I started to pray a prayer of protection for my family as part of our usual bedtime prayers. The “disasters” stopped - my eldest began talking about God and wanting to learn about Him. I gave birth to my gorgeous girl, despite complications. I still have to work full-time.

My husband has applied for jobs, but to no avail. He has been able to acquire casual work here and there. He has begun to be depressed and bad-tempered, and found the looking after of children too much for him. I placed the children in formal care. Strains in our marriage have begun to appear, but I am trying hard to continue to be Christ-like in our marriage. I am getting tired. I have now assumed all of my husband’s “roles” as well as my own.

I am now the breadwinner for our family. I have to provide spiritual protection. And I also have to be the homemaker and nurturer of my children, as well as leading them spiritually. am my husband’s helper and I am seeing to his needs and trying to boost his confidence and esteem. I still refer to him as the “head of our house,” even though I have assumed all his roles. The joy of the Lord is my strength. (I keep reminding myself of that.)

In December 2013, things started to look positive for us. My husband started a consulting business which looks to be quite profitable. Also, the Lord (seems to) have impressed upon me to become involved in foster care, and I have started to make steps toward that.

The spiritual attacks have begun again. The “spirit” visited my husband on the one night when I was away with the children at my parent’s place.

Electrical equipment in our home starting to fail; so did our cars (mind you, they are getting old).

My husband tore a tendon in his arm. It affects his ability to use the computer.

Conflict has arisen between my parents and my husband about his parenting skills. My father (who is not a Christian) has accused my husband of inappropriately disciplining of our children. This really has caught me by surprise, and honestly, to doubt myself. I started to have these thoughts: Has my husband started to beat our children? Am I deluding myself? I wrestled and prayed about this for a whole day. Are my children in harm’s way? What do I say to my husband?

My children are happy. My children have not been beaten—of that I am sure. My father saw my husband clip my 2 year old son across the ear because he tried to run away and inadvertently ran in front of a car. He is deaf and has speech delays. You cannot reason or talk to him. He doesn’t understand. But my dad doesn’t see this. I have defended my husband’s parenting. My parents do not want me to foster children as they feel it would be too much for me. So conflict has arisen between us and my family.

My family is my support network. As I cannot talk to my husband, I would talk to my mum about my problems - she is a Christian. Because our two men are arguing, it hampers our ability to talk to each other. The support network with my mum is gone now. I am alone spiritually in this.

I feel, but could be in error, that something wants to stop my husband from a great career opportunity, and also to stop me from foster care.

Am I under spiritual attack again? Is this a time of trial and testing? Is Satan ramping things up a notch because he knows he doesn’t have much time? What can I do about this? How do I get rid of this evil spirit for good? Or do I have to pray over my family every night?

Any advice would be wonderful.

May God bless you,

Venessa


Dear Venessa,

As I read your letter, I was getting the impression that you live in the UK, possibly, from the way you express yourself, the punctuation and spelling you used in your email. Your devotion to the Lord is admirable and exceptional. You are mature in your faith and well-grounded in the Lord. I can see why you are so perplexed by this demonic assault in your home. Many things happen in the demonic spirit world that we cannot understand. But the Lord assures us that greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).

I have spent quite a bit of time in London. I had a nice fully-furnished flat in lovely house in St. John’s Wood, which I sub-leased from a lovely woman who was going off to Israel for an extended time. Soon after I set-up house and got situated I had an alarming discovery, but only in one of the rooms—the bedroom. It seemed that there was an overwhelming evil presence in the bed. I could barely sleep. In fact I could not. I could not stand being in that bed because the horrible “presence” was always there, and even more so at night. It was so strong and overpowering.

I called a friend to come by to check out the situation and he agreed that there was something in that room and more specifically, in the bed, as if it was lodged into the mattress itself and not about to leave. This particular house was very old, but quite nice. I am sure that the “presence” had been in the house for some time. But it was not going away, so I shut the door to that room and lived in the rest of the house.

Now I am not saying the UK is more haunted than anywhere else, but I did notice a lot of occult manifestations while I was there on that particular lengthy trip. From what you have described I would seriously consider moving, if there is any possible way. Since your pastor has already come by and blessed the house, and the evil spirit is still there, I would not want to hang around. It seems that these evil spirits sometimes get entrenched in a physical location and from what I have read it is very tough to get rid of them. Sometimes the only option is to move.

It does not help that your husband is backslidden and as you mention it is much more likely that he is not saved at all. Demonic entities like to use the weakest vessel in a family and considering how you describe the way your husband uses his free time, his mind is already filled with filth and darkness. Consider it a tremendous blessing that he has been relatively kind to you and the children. But he is clearly a troubled man. Sometimes we simply walk into a situation that is a stronghold for evil forces and it has nothing to do with the people who live in the house. But we can’t be sure. Perhaps the people who lived in your house previously were into something very dark. It is hard to know.

Spiritual attacks can also come when we are serving the Lord faithfully to keep the believer confused and distracted. Satan will try to attack strong believers to try to discourage them and undermine their efforts to reach others with the gospel. If a Christian is backslidden, forces of darkness are also busy seeking to harass people. Be sure to remove anything to with the occult from your home; books, etc.

We must never give up hope and keep trusting in God no matter how bad things get. Here are some verses you can meditate on (Isaiah 26:3-4; Romans 5:3-5; 12:12; Ephesians 6:10-18; James 1:2-4). However your situation is unusual requiring wisdom and action.

Prayer is vitally important. Praying for protection every night for the family is very good, but you should also pray throughout the day as often as possible (Ephesians 6.18; 1 Thessalonians 5.17). It sounds like you are doing that already and it is vital that you continue to do so. Remember, that no matter how bad things may get for us it pales in comparison to what some of the heroes of faith endured. Meditate on these two passages (2 Corinthians 11:23-28; Hebrews 11:32-40).

When Jesus was confronted by the devil He always quoted Scripture out loud. Please start quoting Scripture out loud, especially the verses that our Lord used when He was dealing with Satan. If that demonic entity shows up again quote Scripture directly and see if it doesn’t leave your home for good.

“Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve’” (Matthew 4:10).

Considering the tremendous burden you are carrying to provide for your family and hold things together it is evident that the Lord is giving you great inner and outer strength. Your husband is very fortunate to have such a faithful and devoted wife who can step up and do what needs to be done when life becomes very difficult. The Lord will certainly bless you.

Now as far as the foster care, are you really in a position to take on any more? Perhaps the Lord wants you to help find appropriate homes for those who need a home but not necessarily under your own roof. We all have our limitations and taking on too much is never a good idea. Your parent’s may be right on this. And consider the demonic activity under your roof. Do you want to bring others into that situation?

Also, always keep in mind that this world is not our home and we should not become overwhelmed with all the problems we face (easier said than done). As we deal with them in the power of the Lord (Ephesians 6:10; Philippians 4:13) we must keep our minds on our eternal home (Colossians 3:1-2).

The best weapon against the attacks of the devil is walking in the Spirit and in the light of God (Galatians 5:25; 1 John 1:7). As we obey God, He will protect us and guide us (2 Chronicles 16:9; Psalm 12:5, 7; 20:1-3; 31:23; 32:7; 91:4; 125:2; Luke 21:18; Proverbs 2:8). And remember, all believers have a guardian angel who watches over them (Psalm 34:7; Daniel 6:22). Also meditate on 2 Kings 6:17 to see that all true believers not only have a guardian angel watching over them, but an army of guardian angels if need be.

Fear not, Venessa. God is on your side so who can be against you? (Please meditate on Romans 8:31-39.)

As you meditate on the passages I have noted you may also want to memorize some of them and other special verses. Memorizing Scripture is a valuable weapon in spiritual warfare (Deuteronomy 6:6; 11:18; 30:14; Psalm 37:31; 40:8; 119:11; Proverbs 2:1; 3:1, 3; 4:1, 21; 6:21; 22:18; Isaiah 51:7; Ezekiel 3:10; Romans 10:8; Colossians 3:16). And remember, the Word of God is more powerful than any two-edged sword (Hebrew 4:12).

The idea of moving is never fun, but you might not have a choice if the demonic assaults continue. If the Lord is not stopping the demonic attacks, then He may be trying to get you out of that house to possibly avoid some type of future problems. It’s hard to know, but if this continues you certainly can’t stay in that house.

Venessa, you sound like a very exceptional lady. God is going to work this out for you but you must be open to whatever needs to be done to get away from the demonic harassment in your home. It is highly unlikely this evil force will follow you and your family to a new residence. I think there is something about your house that this evil entity is attached to. I also would not go around talking about this to others, other than your closest Christian friends and your pastor. Stay in prayer and see how the Lord leads you to resolve this very disturbing situation.

Please keep in touch with me and let me know how you are doing and what you decide to do about your living situation. If God wants you to move, He will open the way.

In God’s love,

Esther

“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:11-13).


January 13, 2014

Dear Esther,

I know that God forgives and forgets our sins, but how do we? If our sins or decisions in life have caused others pain, how do we forgive ourselves and move on? If those people do not want to even hear an apology, what are we to do? I also worry that I have hurt their spiritual walk when I think of the verse that says we need to forgive or God won’t forgive us.

I would never want to put anyone in that position but fear my past decision has done just that. I feel this is keeping me frozen in guilt and hindering my witnessing about God’s love and saving grace to others. I know how short time is and we are nearing the Rapture so I’m trying to get the word out, but feel I’m in a battle with my past. Any suggestions?

God Bless,

Struggling


Dear Struggling,

Self-forgiveness is one of the hardest things, especially for those who are truly growing in the Lord and take their faith seriously. No relationship can evolve without forgiveness and repentance. Once we are saved and understand the enormous struggles people have in this corrupt world, our compassion should grow—along with the desire to please the Lord and love others. It certainly sounds like you have reached that point.

The first thing we can do is try our best to make right the wrongs we have inflicted upon others. If you hurt someone in any way, go to them and apologize and then make restitution. Once you do that you will find it much easier to forgive yourself. If the person you wronged does not want to hear an apology from you, you can write your apology and mail it to them. Making an apology is important whether it is in person or by mail.

“Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24).

By attempting to communicate by whichever method seems most appropriate, you will have said what needs to be said and you can move forward. Pray that the Lord will touch the person you are trying to make amends to, and that He will give that person a sense of acceptance. If the person ignores you or refuses to accept your apology, then you must rest assured that you have done your part. Everyone makes mistakes and it is those who make a point of trying to make reparations, they are doing the right thing and honoring the Lord.

Jesus commanded us to forgive others in the Disciple’s Prayer (Matthew 6:12). Once we do that there is nothing more we can do. We cannot change a person’s heart, attitude or make anyone love us. Once you have apologized you can also tell that person you want their friendship and fellowship and ask them if there is anything you can do above and beyond apologizing to bring about reconciliation. If the person says, “No” and shuts you out, then you have done everything you can. At that point you must let go and totally let God take it from there.

In our walk with the Lord we will meet many people. Some are sincere and devoted believers and some are not. Those who carry anger and malice in their hearts toward others are either spiritual infants or unsaved. How a person responds and treats another says a lot about the condition of their relationship with the Lord. As I have said many times, we cannot change people but God can.

On this earth there is not one person alive who at some time has not offended another. As far as hindering a person’s spiritual walk, once we have apologized and made our amends we have done our part. We are not responsible for how a person responds or acts. Keep in mind that the devil and his demonic armies are experts are making us feel guilty and want to keep us feeling emotionally paralyzed so we don’t share the gospel and become useless to God.

Don’t let this happen to you. As long as you have reached out, repented and done everything you can to address any harm you may have brought upon others, then you are not guilty. It would be beneficial for you to focus on some Scriptures dealing especially with forgiveness.

This guilt you are feeling is essentially crossing over into the area of fear. Fear can totally immobilize us.

“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15).

We need not fear when God is our helper:

So we may boldly say: “The LORDismy helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6).

It sounds like you know in your head that the Lord has forgiven you—so please take that to heart as well, so you can fully receive His blessings. Also, moving forward has to do with trust. Do we really trust the Lord to work in a situation after we have done everything humanly possible?

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

The Lord is always faithful. His mercies are new every morning:

Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great isYour faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!” (Lamentations 3:22-24).

We are to always place our hope and trust in the Lord. When we mediate day and night on His Word we will no longer be pulled to and fro. In Him we are new creations and by His stripes we are healed! What a marvelous and awesome God we serve. In Christ we are made free, we are no longer enslaved to the past or the ways of the world. The Lord tells us to let go of the past:

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you” (Philippians 3:12-15).

Regardless of the circumstances (the details will vary and differ), our best and only solution is to take the Word of God and use it as He has instructed us to, and day by day in God’s strength—through His grace—He will heal us from whatever ails us.

My struggling friend, you are not alone. At times we all struggle with various issues and the answer is always the same. We must wholeheartedly trust the Lord that He will intervene and take care of every last detail. Our job is to stay faithful to Him and grow in His Word. Let the Holy Spirit take over and give you the peace you need. The peace of God comes through praying in faith and studying His Holy Word. Praise Him and thank Him in all things. The more you praise and worship the Lord the more at peace you will be.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Keep your mind focused on Him and not on the present or past circumstances, and you will be strengthened:

“The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You. “Trust in the LORD forever, for in GOD the LORD, we have an everlasting Rock” (Isaiah 25:3-4).

Please take great comfort knowing that Christ died for the very reason you are grieving, for your self-guilt and remorse, for all the sin in our lives—that is why our great Lord and Savior died on the cross in our place. He does not wish for us to go through life bogged down by our past mistakes.

I will leave you with some Scriptures to encourage you, verses relating to forgiveness. Please study them and memorize them: Isaiah 1:18, 44:22-23; Psalm 32:1-2, 32:5, 103:12; Colossians 1:13-14; Ephesians 1:7-8.

Decide today to let go of the past, you cannot change any of it. Begin today to give your all to the Lord and He will set you free from the chains that are keeping you from living fully in His joy.

God bless you and keep you. Keep reaching out to Him. His comfort, His merciful and forgiving heart is always near. Don’t let the enemies of God steal your joy.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1).

In God’s love, Esther

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).


Jan 6, 2013

Hi Esther,

I just want to start out by thanking you for your column. I read it every week and just this week I wondered how on earth you remain so grounded when the people around seem so oblivious to the possible end of their lifestyles, as we know life on earth today. Then reading your reply, I was struck by your compassion and commitment.

Onto my dilemma, which seems similar in fact to above, because some days I honestly feel like packing up and going home! I am just so sick and tired of banging my head against the proverbial brick wall! I watch my family around me and the tears flow, Esther. They know the Lord’s requirements, they even know the Rapture is ahead but oh how little time they spend dwelling on the implications that will affect others once it hits!

I am sure I am not alone in my battle. The Lord is definitely there and many other Christians are also there! My question is what more can I do?

I pray, I talk -- in fact my kids tell me I eat sleep and dream of that day! I honestly try not to concern myself too much with the salvation of my own children, because the Lord Himself has given me His promise to bring them to heaven (Jeremiah 31:16-17). But some days I interfere in God’s plan and out of frustration get angry and want to shake them up to the reality!

Thankfully those days are very few, and most times I am able to pray and remind the Lord of His promise and my soul is still! Esther, I weep and pray daily for those in the shopping malls, those driving along nonchalantly with no clue! I sometimes get so I cannot sleep for long periods in fact I try go to bed early but this hurt just keeps pressing in and I lay awake agonizing over the fate of those left behind!

I see the people running to and fro actually going nowhere and I listen to their plans which do not include our Lord. I feel as though I cannot bear it! It is actually an agony to go to church and hear the pastor not give ONE warning, ONE altar call! I feel like jumping out of my seat in frustration! I am shocked at what I see around me and am devastated to know that that day will break soon!

I feel so absolutely helpless apart from the time spent in prayer. I look forward to leaving this world but it's like being torn apart to know that there are those who will be left behind. Is it normal? I know our Lord is in control and He will bring many fellow children into His Kingdom after the Rapture, but why would they want to be so stubborn and take the long way the difficult way?

I rejoice that our Lord’s provision for a great multitude are destined for salvation after the Rapture and pray that the many that I keep hammering while on earth will be joining me soon. I often feel excited to see just who out of the many I’ve mailed, texted and spoken to will be there, and it humbles my soul enough to make me double my efforts while there is still time. I appreciate and pray for each and every saint who labors in the field to bring in the harvest.

I spend a lot of time alone just talking to God that sometimes it feels I am so heavenly-minded as to be of no earthly use. Is this possible? Oh how my heart breaks over my fellow human beings who are being led like sheep straight into the devil’s slaughter house!

Have I lost my balance? Oh I pray not! I sometimes want to go and hide in a cave just to be with the Lord and not see the pain of those around me. The Lord has been so good to me, blessed me through many trials and tribulations and has kept me from many temptations and held my mind in His pathways!

Esther I am praying for you in these times where just being on earth can overwhelm even the saints.

Frustrated and Overwhelmed!


Dear Frustrated and Overwhelmed,

Thank you for your kind words of appreciation and for your thoughtful prayers. All the glory goes to God for it is truly His grace and guidance that makes this ministry possible. The Lord is my strength and my refuge.

What you are experiencing is an obvious testament to these last days. The condition of the world is just how Jesus said it would be; a time of apathy and self-indulgence with little or no thought by even some professing Christians about His soon return or reaching others for Him. Instead, too many are concerned with keeping up with the latest social trends and expanding their wallets for selfish reasons.

I am sorry you are having these frustrations within your own family. Far too many people simply do not have true compassion and have a disconnected attitude when it comes to caring about others. It is also evident that many people are not saved. How we conduct our daily lives and treat others is a reflection of our lost or saved condition.

It is going to be difficult to find a lot of truly dedicated Christians because we are living in the last days (2 Timothy 3:1-9). If you do not find a sister in the Lord to fellowship with, you know you have Jesus to pour your heart out to. People will always let us down, but God never will.

Our perspective must change if we are to emotionally survive the disappointing dynamics of this cursed world. Instead of allowing the frustration of the situation to take over our lives, we can use this time to grow deeper in our personal walk with the Lord and depend solely on Him. The sweet fellowship of the Lord will drown out our cries of exasperation and disappointment. So keep praying as you are but emotionally let go of what you yourself cannot change.

The idea that we can always have a strong support system and meaningful fellowship with others is not something we can count on. Far too many people are caught-up in lifestyles that place the Lord in the backseat instead of the driver’s seat. Try to think of the void with your family members as an opportunity to move yourself to a deeper level of prayer and communication with the Lord.

Through Him we are made strong by meditating on His Word day and night (Joshua 1:8). As we deepen our relationship with Him we are freed from the mind-bending attitudes of others. We must allow Him to deal with those we cannot reach. It is through our fervent prayers by petitioning the Lord for others—that we can give our best. Remember, the Scriptures teach that the Word of God is more powerful than a two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12).

Trying to talk some sense into a vessel that is filled with worldly distractions and self- indulgence is an exercise in futility. Praying is much more effective, so you are already on the right track. Keep praying! Part of the problem is the lack of leadership in the churches, the lack of true biblical teaching. You mention that your pastor does not even give altar calls or speak about the warning signs of these last days.

This is not uncommon although there still are some good churches where the pastor will give altar calls and teach directly from the Bible verse-by-verse. Please see if you can find a better church in your area. If not, then you might need to start a home Bible study—if you can gather together a few like-minded people.

I am perplexed by your citing, Jeremiah 31:16-17. That promise was to the people of Israel in that day. It is not a promise which we can claim today. Children who reach the age of accountability are not automatically saved because a parent is saved. If your children are preteens you should try to spend time with them in prayer and in reading the Bible. The Word of God tells us that faith comes by hearing and hearing comes by the Word of God:

“But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “LORD, who has believed our report?” So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:16-17).

Only the Lord knows the age of accountability for each child—depending on their maturity and ability to comprehend the need to make a conscious decision for Christ by being born-again. We are all individually accountable to the Lord to either accept Him or reject Him. If your children are teens or adults you can talk about the Lord when the Holy Spirit gives you an opening. Try to get them involved with you in serious Bible study. If they do not respond just keep praying and trusting in God to reach them.

No parent is given a guarantee that their children will be saved. Children are not punished for the sins of their parents and vice-versa:

“The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son's iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself” (Ezekiel 18:20).

And righteous parents cannot save their children by their righteousness:

“Even though these three men, Noah, Daniel and Job were in its midst, by their own righteousness they could only deliver themselves,” declares the Lord GOD” (Ezekiel 14:14).

“Even though Noah, Daniel and Job were in its midst, as I live,” declares the Lord GOD, ‘They could not deliver either their son or their daughter. They would deliver only themselves by their righteousness’” (Ezekiel 14.20).

It is evident that the Lord has given you a strong desire to reach the lost. Your compassion is extraordinary. Your obedience to share the gospel and warn others of the trouble ahead shows your deep love for the Lord. But instead of being frustrated by the blind leading the blind try to reach out to those who might actually listen.

Take a good look around your community and see if there is an opportunity where you can talk to people about the Lord. Share your testimony and then explain to them how they can be saved. A good gospel tract is helpful when trying to reach others. You can give them to people you meet when you are out.

You should give serious consideration to attending a different church, one that has an evangelistic outreach that you can be part of. If there are no churches where you live that have an outreach program ask your pastor to start one and volunteer to be part of it. If he says no, then your home Bible study group would be your next best option.

You are doing what all Christians should do – being heavenly-minded (Colossians 3:1-2). If you are not sharing the gospel when the HOLY SPIRIT opens the door, then you are of no earthly good. If you are sharing the gospel and no one is being saved that is not your fault. God saves souls. Our job is to sow seeds and share the salvation message. God will take care of the rest.

As long as you are in prayer throughout the day (Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:17) and you are in the Word throughout the day (Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1:2; 2 Timothy 2:15) you are doing all you can. The rest is up to the Lord and the free will choices of others.

If you hunger (Deuteronomy 8:3) and thirst for the Word (Psalm 42:1-12; 63:1) every day and live a holy life (1 Peter 1:15-16) and have walked in God’s steps (Job 23:12) that is all you can do. And if you consider how to stimulate others to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24-25) and they do not respond—it is not your fault, but keep praying for them.

Dear friend, you are doing what you are commanded to do. Trust God to do the rest. He knows best how to reach each person at exactly the right time. Your efforts may very well reap a great harvest. Your faithfulness will surely be rewarded. God bless you for your love and concern for those who are woefully lost.

Keep fighting the good fight and trust that the Lord is working in the lives of those whom you have held up before His throne in prayer. We might not see immediate results, but the preliminary groundwork is very important.

We must trust Him to do what we cannot. Being overly attached to the end-results of our labor is not something that will benefit us. (From therein stems your frustration.) Once you alert others to the lateness of the hour and have shared the gospel, let God take over. Be encouraged dear friend, your hard work will reap many benefits. And be sure to share the gospel with your children too, so they can make a personal decision for Christ when they are mature enough to do so.

“Thus says the LORD: “Refrain your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for your work shall be rewarded, says the LORD, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy” (Jeremiah 31:16).

In God’s love,

Esther

“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12).



Dec 30, 2013

Dear Esther

I feel in my spirit we REALLY ARE the last generation. My family is prepared for that from an eternal perspective, but from an earthly perspective how do we balance what we see going on around us and Bible principles of working hard and saving for our future? We’re in our late forties and are good stewards of our money - - tithing, saving thru a 401K, pay all our bills on time, we live modestly, donate where we can, etc., etc.

But I guess the question really is...how can we know what a “generation” is? I believe a generation can span anywhere from 70 to 120 years which means we could be outta here between 2018 to 2068 based on the 1948 birth of Israel as a nation.

My retirement date would be around 2030. If I stopped saving, we’d be in trouble seventeen years from now. But from all that is going on around us, I find it very hard to believe the Lord can continue holding back much longer due to all the sin going on and fulfillment of Bible prophecy unfolding at this very moment. Seems heavenly kingdom building is more in order than earthly retirement building these days. I often feel like I should cash it all out so that I don’t lose it all in the impending financial collapse (what I “might” need) and/or start supporting more ministries and save less for the future.

Am I the only one having these crazy concerns?

God Bless you!

Michelle


Dear Michelle,

You ask some good questions which I am sure many other believers ask themselves. First, let’s talk about what a generation is, based on Psalm 90.

Considering the intensification of prophetic signs we have observed since Israel became a nation in 1948, it is apparent that all signs point toward this generation as the generation that will see Messiah’s return; the Second Coming of Christ.

The majority of scholars agree that those who were born around the time modern Israel was reestablished can expect to see all prophecy, including the return of Messiah Jesus come to pass. The soon return of the Lord is directly tied to the return of the Jews to the land of Israel and the rebirth of the nation of Israel. Israel’s problems will escalate, but Messiah Jesus will faithfully intervene at the end of the seven-year Tribulation, defeating Antichrist and his armies, and restoring Israel forever.

“The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years” (Psalm 90:10a).

A generation, according to Psalm 90 is seventy years─or eighty for those who are exceptionally able-bodied. The rebirth of Israel as a nation came about in 1948. We are now nearly into the year 2014. Those who were born around 1948 fall into this life-span category. If you do the math based on this Scripture, you will see there isn’t much time left before the Lord returns. In the book of Matthew chapter 24:32-34 Jesus said:

“This generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”

“This generation” is in reference to those who will witness the things Jesus described relating to the end of the age in Matthew 24, including the restoration of the nation of Israel in one day (May 14, 1948).

An Awesome Fulfillment of Prophecy

“Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she gave birth to a boy. Who has heard of such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day?Can a nation be brought forth all at once?” (Isaiah 66:7-8a, emphasis added).

The previous Scripture shows that the prophet Isaiah foretold the rebirth of Israel, which came about “in one day” (on May 14, 1948). We are living in the generation pictured by the Jewish boy in Isaiah 66:7-8a. The Jewish boy portrays how Israel will grow-up as a nation, and by the time he is eighty (2028), the Millennium could very well begin. I think this is an interesting and a probable analysis, but the bottom line is that no one can say for sure when the Lord will return.

The Lord’s return may happen sooner or even sometime past the eighty-year mark. Scripture is not exactly precise on where within or around these life-span years (70-80) the Rapture and Tribulation will take place. Although, if we watch for the foreshadowing signs we can have a general idea when these critical prophetic events will come to fulfillment, and when the millennial reign of Messiah Jesus will begin. The important thing is to stay vigilant and share the gospel at every opportunity while there is still time. [1]

If we calculate a generation according to Psalm 90 (to the maximum eighty-year mark for a generation) and take off seven years for the Tribulation—that takes us to around 2028 for the Second Coming and 2021 or sooner for the beginning of the Tribulation and fulfillment of the Rapture prophecy.

Even with this type of calculating we cannot be sure so we must always be wise stewards. I don’t give financial advice but we can be guided by Scripture and by reaching out to the Lord in prayer. If we don’t have peace about something we can be sure we are on the wrong track when making any type of decision.

“And the Lord said, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to givethem their portion of food in due season? Blessedisthat servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has” (Luke 12:42-44).

Hundreds of Scriptures in the Bible mention money. One major Scripture to keep in mind is not to covet (Exodus 20:17). It sounds like you have a very good balance in your life about that by not living extravagantly, and by giving to others; our Lord loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34).

Michelle, your retirement date is a long way off, and a great deal can change by then. You are right to say that so much of Bible prophecy is being fulfilled today making you wonder if planning so far into the future is wise. But we cannot be sure how long the Lord’s return will be even if we pay close attention to the many signs.

Heavenly kingdom building is always more important than earthly retirement building. You already know that. When we trust the Lord to meet our needs as He has promised, no matter what happens we will be all right, even if there is a financial collapse. We might lose some money but He will provide for us somehow. When we faithfully reach others for Him, we are reaping eternal benefits by being obedient to the Lord’s command to spread the gospel.

Trusting the Lord completely—is the bottom line in all of this. If you feel very strongly to give or save in a particular way after seeking the Lord, then you must follow those promptings. When we are walking in-step with the Lord every day, we can discern the leading of the Holy Spirit. We should always pray for wisdom in all we do.

A positive balanced approach is always the best way to deal with any issue. We should be heavenly minded with a sensible attitude saving for our earthly future—however long that may be. From reading your letter I can tell you are mature enough spiritually to be able to make the right decisions for your life.

As long as you stay focused on the Lord, Michelle, you cannot go wrong. God always has a way of getting us to where we need to be if we are sincerely devoted to Him. He is very merciful and gracious and wants us to be fully dependent upon Him for everything in our lives.

The entire book of Ruth is great to read as a reminder of how God blesses those who take refuge in Him. God has sovereignly planned what shall come to pass and He sovereignly carries out His plans. By trusting Him we can be sure our future will be taken care of. So no matter what, with God all things are possible and He will never abandon us. Rest in His love Michelle, and He will guide you and give you the wisdom to make the right financial decisions about your future.

“In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11).

In God’s love,

Esther

“I will bless the LORD who has given me counsel; My heart also instructs me in the night seasons. I have set the LORD always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved” (Psalm 16:7-8).

Endnotes
[1] Olsen, Kit, A Better World Is Coming Soon - Don’t Miss It (2013 Edition), pages 54, 55.




Dec 23, 2013

Dear Esther,

I am a relatively new believer in Christ having just accepted him as my Lord and Savior this past August. The Rapture Ready website actually led me to Christ after having been raised a Catholic all of my 16 years of life. As such, I am feeling the pull between the varied opinions on Scripture. I have given up my false Catholic beliefs based on these Scriptural proofs found on the Rapture Ready website and feel most pulled to believe the premillennial and Pre-Tribulation Rapture point of view.

I feel a bit trapped in that I am the only one my family that I know of to have actually been spiritually born-again and to have been saved by Jesus Christ. I don’t have another person with the same beliefs to talk to and to go to for support. I feel myself fighting in my head against this world, the flesh, and Satan.

Satan keeps planting doubt in my head and telling me that Jesus won’t come, there isn’t any Rapture, and that God doesn’t exist. I know in my heart, that Jesus is coming and He is my Lord and Savior who died for my sins on the cross, that Rapture will happen, and that God does exist and that He is a loving God.

It is just so hard keep positive and to know the truth. Therefore, I am writing this email to you for comfort and encouragement. I also have a few questions. One of the things claimed by the Catholic Church is the presence of Jesus’ body and blood in the wine and bread in communion. My priest usually cites the times in the Gospel of John when Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life and I will raise them up on the last day” (John 6:53-54).

From what I read on this topic on the Rapture Ready website about this topic is that this is meant to be taken metaphorically, but I am confused, because the Rapture Ready website holds to interpreting Scripture literally, where applicable. If this is not meant to be taken literally, what tells you this and what does this passage actually mean? Another question is which Day of the Lord is referred to in the many references to it in Scripture? The Pre-Tribulation Rapture and premillennial doctrine seem to refer to multiple days of judgment and Comings of the Lord.

This point was addressed in an anti-dispensationalist article I was reading and it was something that confused me before then too. Another thing the anti-dispensationalist article said was that the Pre-Tribulation Rapture and premillennial doctrine promotes multiple ways of salvation and multiple judgment days, something the author says disproves this doctrine based on what he has found in the Bible.

So, like I mentioned before, the ideas laid out on the Rapture Ready website seem to fit and feel right in my heart, but I need encouragement. I ask for links to articles proving these ideas and for you, to pray for me. I also ask for a connection to somewhere that I will be able to correspond with fellow believers, if such a thing exists. I will continue to pray to the Holy Spirit for discernment and to Jesus, that he may still may soul, and show me the way.

Thanks for your help!

May the Lord come soon!

Phillip


Dear Phillip,

I am glad you reached out and that you found salvation in the Lord by reading the information on Rapture Ready. It is wonderful that you are serious about your faith and asking important questions. I would ignore the article you mention that tries to discredit the Pre-Tribulation Rapture. Sometimes Rapture Ready has some articles that are simply there to show the opposing views of others.

There is only one way of salvation, through Jesus Christ alone, and there is one judgment after the Rapture for believers (Bema seat judgment) when believers give an account of their lives face to face with Messiah Jesus. The judgment seat of Christ does not determine our salvation. We know that was resolved forever by His sacrifice on the cross on our behalf (1 John 2:2 and John 3:16). The sins of all born-again believers are forgiven, and they will never be condemned or judged for them (Romans 8:10).

At the judgment seat of Christ rewards will be given to believers based on how steadfastly and faithfully we serve Him (1 Corinthians 9:4-27 and 2 Timothy 2:5). Much later, after Christ’s 1000-year millennial reign on earth, there is another judgment for the unsaved (the great white throne judgment). Phillip, it would be a good idea to stop reading anything that has to do with challenging the Pre-Trib Rapture or your faith in general. Biblically, the Pre-Trib Rapture of the church is the correct view.

The Rapture will happen (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, 1 Corinthians 15:50-54). God cannot lie and He has promised to remove all true believers before the Day of the Lord. The Day of the Lord is in reference to the Tribulation. Jesus comes once in the Rapture (in the clouds when all true believers meet Him in the air. But the next time, He comes directly to earth at the Second Coming, at the end of the Tribulation followed by His saints on white horses—when all the nations are gathered together at Armageddon, when they literally try to fight against Him and destroy Him (Revelation 1:7, 19:11-16; Zechariah 14:3-4; 2 Thessalonians 2:8).

Satan plants doubts in the minds of all believers. Now that you are saved he will work constantly to try to trip you up and weaken your faith. The best antidote to his bullying is getting deep into God’s Word.

“You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Every believer at some point has doubts, even if it’s for a moment. Study the passages in which it is prophesied that in the Last Days (our time) there will be mockers who will claim Jesus will not return (2 Peter 3:3-4). The biggest mocker is Satan.

The best way to circumvent the attacks of Satan is to read, and study the Bible every day, a pray as often as possible. Memorize as much Scripture as you can and carefully meditate on the Word. It sounds like you really need to connect with some other believers in your area. Have you looked into any Christian churches near your home? Or would that be going against your parents’ wishes? Perhaps you can convince them you are mature enough to seek out fellowship with other believers in a way that does not sound threatening or disrespectful. It is important to remain very respectful of your parents and others despite a difference of opinion.

I have a friend who came to Christ at your age (16). He grew up in a very strict Orthodox Jewish home. His parents learned of his conversion and gave him an ultimatum; to either renounce his faith in Christ or leave home. As a true born-again believer he would not renounce his faith in Christ, so he left home. The Lord has used him in a mighty ways ever since. (In fact he has your same first name.)

I am not even remotely suggesting you leave home. Of course you should not, but I am very much encouraging you not to let the opinions of the unsaved, including family members stop you from living for Christ and growing in your faith. But stand your ground with love and not anger or resentment. Pray for your unsaved family members and friends. Right now you feel alone but you really are not alone. You have the Holy Spirit living within you and you are a new creation in Christ. The Lord will give you the strength to deal with whatever opposition comes your way. Rely on Him for everything in your life.

The Catholics’ claim that when Jesus said you must eat His body and drink His blood to have eternal life is absurd.

If you think John 6:53-54 is to be taken literally then no one could ever be saved. No one ever ate the body of Jesus and no one ever drank His blood while He lived. When He died His body was placed in a tomb and three days later He rose bodily from the tomb. No one ate of His body or drank of His blood after He rose from the dead.

It is obvious that His statement was metaphoric. Even Catholic priests will admit that no one has ever eaten of the literal body of Jesus and consumed His blood. Instead they claim that the wine is transformed into the blood of Jesus and the wafer (host) is changed into His body (transubstantiation) when the priest utters the magic words: “HOC EST ENIM CORPUS MEUM” (This is My body) and “HIC EST ENIM CALIX SANGUINIS MEI” (This is My blood).

Did Jesus mean His followers must eat bread and drink wine that is magically transformed into His literal body and literal blood?

Or:

Did Jesus mean the Bible is His body and daily confession of sin is drinking His blood?

Remember, Jesus is called the Word (John 1:1, 14; 1 John 1:1; 5:7; Revelation 19:13). He also repeated the truth that Man is not to live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8:4; Matthew 4:4). It is obvious that eating the body of Jesus means to study His Word.

When we confess our sins we are in essence “drinking” the blood of Jesus. Jesus cleanses us of our sins when we confess them (1 John 1:9). What cleanses us of our sins? His blood, see Ephesians 1:7; Revelation 1:5, 5:9). Drinking His blood is the daily act of confessing our sins.

God does not give His children the power to live a holy life by a magical custom of eating a wafer and drinking wine. He gives us that power when we daily study His Word as He commanded us to (Deuteronomy 6:6-7; John 5:39; Acts 17:11; Romans 15:4; 2 Timothy 2:15) and when we confess our sins to Him directly, not a priest or anyone else (1 John 1:9, 1 Timothy2:5-6)).

Remember, that the Catholic lay people do not drink wine during communion. They only eat the wafer. If the Catholic interpretation of John 6:53-54 is correct the hierarchy has condemned all Catholics except the priestly class to eternal damnation.

Catholic priests say Catholics need to eat the wafer to have the body of Jesus in them. This is unnecessary since Jesus literally lives within all true believers and so does God the Father and the Holy Spirit (John 14:23; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16; 1 John 4:12-13). The idea that believers in Jesus must eat a wafer that is magically transformed into the body of Jesus to have Him present is a severe rejection of the truth that He lives within all true born-again believers 24/7.

What every person needs is to become born-again by the Spirit of God, which does not involve repetitive never-ending rituals orchestrated by a priest or anyone else. Please read through some of my other responses to letters we have posted on “Dear Esther” for additional encouragement and biblical insight.

The Catholic hierarchy rejects the clear teaching that God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit spiritually live within all true believers. Instead they added the idea of eating the wafer to get Jesus inside them. This is a very dangerous idea because it denies the truth in the Scriptures and adds a custom that has nothing to do with Christianity.

The idea of eating flesh to get their essence inside of you is a warped and ancient pagan idea. Many ancient cultures believed and practiced cannibalism. Other pagans believed that they would absorb the power of animals when they ate them. Many of the native, American Indian tribes believed this.

The belief that eating a wafer which has been transformed into the literal body of Jesus to get Him inside of you—is a variation of this pagan practice. It is has nothing to do with the Bible.

We also know that Jesus would never tell anyone to eat human flesh and drink human blood. That was strictly forbidden by the Mosaic Law (Leviticus 17.12; Deuteronomy 12:16, 23-24). If Jesus meant people must eat His flesh and drink His blood He contradicted Himself.

Notice that after Jesus made His declarations cited in John 6:60-65, many of the people who were following Him, left (John 6:66). He made it clear that it is the Spirit of God who gives eternal life and not works of the flesh. When Jesus asked the twelve if they would leave Him also, Peter made his great confession saying:

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and have come to know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:68b-69).

Consider this: The Catholic Church holds to the doctrine of transubstantiation while no Protestant denomination believes in it. Only a small number of Protestants believe in consubstantiation which teaches that the bread and wine remain bread and wine, and it “spiritually” become the body and blood of Jesus.

If the Roman Catholic Church is right about this doctrine and ALL Protestants are wrong in not believing it, does this mean ALL Protestants as—the Council of Trent declared are anathema and are not saved? The Bible teaches only true born-again believers are saved.

The Council of Trent (1545-1563) declared in the canons of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist:

If anyone denies that the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist, but says that Christ is present in the Sacrament only as in a sign or figure, or by his power: let him be anathema.

. The Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist is wrong, and the Protestants got it right, as they did with numerous other doctrines—such as salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone apart from works (Ephesians 2.8-9). I would trust the Bible over declarations made by men, especially those who have hidden-agendas outside of serving the Lord.

“But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7).

Always consider the source when you are sizing up a situation. In the Christian church we can find sin and hypocrisy. Jesus warned that this would happen, especially in the last days. But the Roman Catholic Church has had so much controversy, specifically a long history regarding the sexual abuse of young boys/men. Considering this one thing alone, anything they declare as an absolute should be carefully scrutinized. Nowhere does the devil get more mileage than by using false religious systems to fool people and take them away from the true God of the Bible.

We are living at a time of tremendous deception. Phillip, please stay in the Word of God (not the Catholic “Bible”) and you will see that you are on the right road. Count your blessings a thousand times—that you have been freed from the confines and heresies of the Roman Catholic Church. Read primarily the New American Standard, the New King James or the American Standard (1901) versions of the Bible.

Jesus Himself declared the truth about communion when the bread and the wine are used, to be in remembrance of Him, not a matter of these substances becoming His literal body!

“And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gaveit to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:19-20).

It is a dangerous practice to take single Scriptures from the Bible out of context. The Scriptures must be interpreted with careful consideration of other verses in relation to one another. Here is a great teaching to memorize and use when you are studying your Bible, as taught by the late great biblical scholar, David L. Cooper. The Golden Rule of Interpretation:

When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate content, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicates clearly otherwise.

By using this method of Bible interpretation we can quickly assess that John 6:53-54, is to be taken “otherwise” and not literally. Phillip, the more you study the Word of God, the confusion and doubts you are having will dissipate.

We should always keep in mind that every passage in the Bible is empowered by the Holy Spirit and has only one primary meaning. However, there may be many applications. Every doctrine found in the Bible is absolute. No doctrine can have two or more correct meanings. It is always the responsibility of every believer to diligently study the Scriptures so he or she has the correct understanding of every doctrine and passage in the Bible (2 Timothy 2:15).

The greatest teacher is the Holy Spirit. As we let Him have more of us, more of our commitment and time, and as we allow Him to renew our minds and grow as believers with pure hearts, He will guide us and teach us:

“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you.

These things I have spoken to you, while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:16, 25).

I am praying for you, especially that the Lord will bring some like-minded true believers into you’re your life. Keep calling out to Him and pray for protection every day from the evil forces that want to keep confusing you. So many youth outreach programs exist at good churches. See if you can connect with some other Christians in that way. The Holy Bible is the best place to get your information, but I do recommend the following material since you asked for some resources. Check them out on Amazon and the Internet links provided:

A Better World Is Coming Soon – Don’t Miss It, by Kit Olsen. Here is just some of the material listed in that book’s resource guides, which will greatly benefit you:

A Woman Rides the Beast: The Roman Catholic Church and the Last Days, by Dave Hunt.

Queen of All:The Marian Apparitions’ Plan to Unite all Religions under the Roman Catholic Church, Jim Tetlow and Roger Oakland.

The Gospel According to Rome: Comparing Catholic Tradition and the Word of God, by James McCarthy.

Faith Undone, Roger Oakland - Exposing the dangers of the emergent church movement grounded in age-old mystical approach; a highly deceptive teaching leading to Roman Catholicism and interfaith perspectives -- pointing toward the coming One World ecumenical religious system of Revelation 17.

http://www.justforcatholics.org/ - A great website, especially good for Catholics with the focus on salvation and other Catholic-related issues; also good for Protestants.

http://www.religiouscounterfeits.org/nas.htm - A very interesting, very informative site on religious counterfeits and New Age deception, including the Catholic connection to the New Age god of pantheism.

http://www.chick.com/catalog/assortments/0931.asp

http://www.chick.com/information/religions/catholicism/

Phillip, Jesus has overcome the world and He is coming soon. I will continue praying for you. Pray that the Lord will bring some true, dedicated believers into your life. He knows your needs. Connecting with others who are strong in the faith is very important. I am only an email away and I look forward to hearing from you in the near future. Never hesitate to reach out.

In God’s love,

Esther

“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Timothy 2:5-6).


Dec 16, 2013

Hi Esther,

I’m 58 and have been a follower of Christ for years, and over the years I’ve been studying prophecy and material like Edger Cayce, the Hopi Indians, Nostradamus, Dr. David Jeremiah, The Harbinger, Dead Sea Scrolls, The Late Great Planet Earth, Book of Enoch and many others. Most of all the HOLY BIBLE is what I read, and compare notes to, and it blows most books out of the water. Sooner or later they trip-up somewhere! For example, the Hopi claim they will be flown to other planets on ships without wings. It sounds to me like Satan has been playing some heavy games a long time ago with our indigenous ones.

Anyway I talk to JESUS a lot in prayer and over time I have said things against Satan, like, “Your time is short and why are you doing these stupid things, you’re going to lose anyway.” My faith has held up against attacks on my family, money, the car, etc. But this is new now: It is my mind.

I think of things against GOD and I don’t want to. I have cried many tears in prayer about it but it won’t stop. I would rather end up below than offend GOD in any way! I’m worried about my future. I’m a self-help kind of person. WILL MY MIND CONDEMN ME BEFORE MY GOD?

Signed,

Worried Sick!


Dear Worried Sick,

It sounds like you are about to make a breakthrough in your relationship with the Lord. I say that because He wants us to be totally dependent on Him, and I think your time has arrived. You say that you are a self-help kind of person. We are to be responsible with how we approach our lives, and not be dependent on other people for our daily needs—we are to work, provide for our household and take self-responsibility (2 Thessalonians 3:10). We need to do our part but then we need to let go and let God take care of the areas that are out of our reach.

Have you ever had an idea in your head and then by the time you were finished trying to make it happen, something better came along? That is an example of when God does His behind the scenes work and gives us far better results than we could ever achieve in our own strength.

It is good that you have explored many religions and traditions, and time and time again you have come to the same conclusion—that the Bible is the accurate Word given to us by the Creator of this vast universe. However, with your research you came across ungodly information and much of it has pagan and demonic roots.

You are absolutely right. Satan has been playing some heavy games for a very long time (since his initial rebellion against God). Our finite human minds can only handle so much. It sounds like you are immersed in an acute spiritual battle stemming from being exposed to the dark forces. Please stop reading books about “spiritual” practices that are clearly unbiblical. Do not give the devil an opportunity to take a foothold in your life (Ephesians 4:27).

If you have books that deal with the occult or New Age practices in your house, I suggest destroying them. The devil can get a stronghold when we play on his playground. I have heard of many cases where believers have had to take some severe steps to be able to get their full-focus on the Lord because of their long-term involvement in investigating demonically-based writings and/or participating in New Age/occult trends.

Your mind is filled with all kinds of confusing chatter that will dissipate once you resolve not to keep researching various materials that have occult-based teachings, and when you surrender totally to the Lord. He is the one we should devote all our time to outside of our necessary earthly tasks.

You are in an excellent position to help and warn others that they should be very careful what they take into their minds. We should fill our hearts and minds with the glory of God, His Holy Word and the beauty of God’s creations—not the polluted stench of mankind’s rebellion which is evidenced by the low-moral standards portrayed on television, various forms of media (including trendy social media), and nearly every aspect life.

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things arenoble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

I also recommend you do not engage in conversation with the devil. We are to flee from him, not get into a confrontation with him. Do not underestimate the devil’s power. Of course God is all-powerful and can circumvent everything that comes against us, but we need not set ourselves up for intense spiritual battles with the enemy. We have enough battling going on even when we ignore God’s greatest enemy. We are to submit to the Lord, place our full attention on Him, and do our best to avoid things that contradict Him.

“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

To remind you of how bold the devil can be, please carefully read the following Scriptures. If he was this blatantly pushy with Jesus Christ, who is God, just imagine how ruthless he is when dealing with mere humans.

Satan Tempts Jesus

Luke 4:1-13:

“Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry.

And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’”

Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.”

And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”

Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”

And Jesus answered and said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’ “Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.”

We should directly quote Scripture when we do have to address the devil, when we are faced with demonic attacks. Notice, Jesus always quoted Scripture when dealing with the devil.

“Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve’” (Matthew 4:10).

“But He [Jesus] turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:23).

It is wonderful that you are reading your Bible, but it is imperative that you make an all-out-effort to spend consistent time reading the Scriptures alone without the back and forth comparisons of other non-Christian books/teachings. What is the point of continuing to read unbiblical jargon when you say you already have concluded that the Word of God is far superior to all of them?

The negative thoughts about God that you are having will stop—once you methodically spend time exclusively in Scripture and let go of other material that does not support biblical truth. Please be careful how you spend your time. Don’t watch television unless it is something of historical or biblical value.

And forget the secular entertainment shows and social events. All these things add to the confusion in your mind. The overall message in all forms of media is very anti-God. Choose what you watch and listen to carefully and wisely. We are bombarded with secular godless messages everywhere we turn. Cover and protect yourself with God’s Holy Word.

So many wonderful resources are available that compliment the Holy Scriptures. If you are involved in a good church, please get more involved. You have the Holy Spirit who will minister to you and calm you as you interact less with worldly activities. You cannot heal your mind in your own strength, only in the Lord’s strength. What we think and what we say, does affect us. Who our friends are and what we focus on does matter.

Jesus has promised never to leave or forsake us. Let Him fight this battle of your mind for you. The battle is His to fight. Your job is to be obedient; read and study the Scriptures daily and communicate with Him through fervent heartfelt prayer. The stronger you are in the Word the stronger your mind will become. The Word of God is your most powerful weapon against the forces of darkness.

“Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:11-12).

It sounds like you truly love the Lord and do not want to offend Him in any way. By disengaging from worldly influences as much as possible and avoiding non-biblical reading material your mind will become much stronger.

At the moment you are worried about your future eternal destiny because of the negative thoughts you are having about God. It is by claiming the promises of God, which are given in the Bible, that you will be reassured that your future is secure in Christ Jesus. He paid the sin penalty for you and the devil would like nothing more than to keep harassing you and make you believe otherwise.

Dear friend, you can face physical death from this life without fear. God will get you through this difficult time:

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You arewith me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).

Although you are going through a season of emotional and mental torment, by meditating on the Scriptures you will be reminded of your position in Christ:

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together” (Romans 8:14-17).

Nothing, not even death can separate us from the love of God:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35, 38-39).

Please let go of the need to investigate non-biblical prophecies and teachings, and start today to fill your mind only with the Word of God and godly truths.

“Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:5).

And remember, Jesus said, “Follow me.” He is the Word of God made flesh. Follow Him and Him alone and the distractions that are confusing your mind will no longer be an issue.

Please cast all your anxiety on the Lord and your healing will begin:

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).

Dear friend, please keep in touch with me and let me know how you are doing. I will be praying with you. God loves you so very much. Take your Bible everywhere you go. Read it as often as possible. Memorize Scripture and make it an integral part of yourself.

You are closer than you think, to reconciling God’s peace in your heart and mind. Your struggle will be a great help to others. Sometimes we must travel through territory that seemingly feels as if we have abandoned God, but He will never let us go if we are contrite in spirit, as you are.

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

I have a friend who was going through a similar, tough time and she even used to place her Bible under her pillow every night, prayed fervently and in a short time her mind was healed from the attacks of the enemy and even her own self-doubts. I am confident that you too, will feel much better soon.

In God’ love,

Esther

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).