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



September 15, 2014

Dear Esther,

I read your column every week and I love it. I appreciate the fact that you remind us to hold ourselves accountable to the Scriptures. I had a situation where my own sister was a lot like the one you wrote about last week. My sister thinks she is saved but she is as nasty as they come. I know we are saved by grace but I cannot see how that means we can behave like the unsaved and be truly Christian.

My sister has not shown any good fruit -- ever. Salvation does not come cheaply. Jesus suffered terribly for us. But so many people think that because they make a profession of faith that they can still live their lives any way they want. They do not understand that we are to repent and that the renewing of our minds is also part of the calling the Lord gave us. We are supposed to be “new in creatures in Christ.” I often think about that very troubling Scripture in Matthew 7:21:

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

Anyway, you mentioned public schools in your response and I have been wondering if you know anything about the Common Core agenda that is being implemented in many of the public schools? I don’t hear much of about it except from a few sources that mention it briefly. I would appreciate anything you can share.

Thanks,

Joanne


Dear Joanne,

Thank you for your letter and kind words. What you say is true. A real problem exists in the church when people think they can use God’s grace to mean a change from the old person to the new person in Christ—as an incidental thing—that may or may not happen. They forget the Scriptures that call us to be holy. We can never earn our way into heaven but it is by our fruit as you and the Scriptures say, that we will know those who are genuine in their walk with the Lord (Matthew 7:20).

Some people simply cannot get past certain behaviors. Is that free will and rebellion working in an unrepentant heart or is it a mental/emotional disorder that God will take into account? Only God knows for sure who is truly saved but He certainly gives us plenty of admonitions that we are to follow His commands.

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:14).

But of course the Lord knows we are fallen creatures and no matter how hard we try, we are going to fall at some point and not always keep His commandments. That is exactly why He died for us, to take away our sin. It is the intent of the heart that is crucial to a believer’s walk with the Lord. That is where grace comes in.

It is by His grace and grace alone that we are saved. But if professing believers have wicked agendas and deliberately hurt others again and again, then an examination of whether one is truly in the faith is necessary, 2 Corinthians 13:5:

“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?”

One of the marks of a Christian is a changed life and a godly attitude as evidence of the Holy Spirit living within. A born-again believer does not scheme and go out of his or her way to cause harm to another.

Now regarding your question about Common Core, yes I can share a bit about it.

Common Core Standards Initiative is the most recent education program coming from the Obama Administration.

Common Core should concern every God-fearing individual because it will affect everyone at some point. Common Core is part of this administration’s plan for spreading socialism, redistributing the wealth and destroying the suburbs. According to Stanley Kurtz, author of Spreading the Wealth: How Obama is Robbing the Suburbs to Pay for the Cities, one of Obama’s biggest plans is to create socialism in America is through Common Core education.

A nationalized education system is contrary to States rights and the U.S. Constitution. A national education program, top-down, centrally controlled is not what our Founding Fathers ever wanted. Simply put, it is anti-Christian and un-American. The Founding Fathers knew that by controlling all the information going into the minds of people, despotic governments and dictators could take over a nation.

Education then becomes indoctrination and propaganda. Our Founding Fathers purposely left the word education out of the Constitution; education was left to be up to the under the States and to local parental control.

Some of the education laws against national standards, curriculum control are: 1) The Department of Education Organizational Act (1979), 2) The General Provisions Act and 3) The Elementary and Secondary Act (1965) and most recently amended by the No Child Left behind Act of 2002. Each of these says the same thing: “The federal Department of Education shall not be involved in developing, supervising or controlling instructional materials or curriculum. Actually, parents and local school boards are to be in charge of education.

Bill Evers, a Research Fellow of the Hoover Institute located at Stanford, stated the following about the importance of local control:

“The insight of competitive federalism is that the 51 State school boards are better than a single federal executive branch office, and 15,000 local school boards are better than either 51 State school boards or a single federal office.”

Here are some insights as to what the Common Core agenda is about:

Common Core will control and dictate to teachers what they can and cannot teach: According to Diane Ravitch, a research professor of education of New York University, the reaction of teachers is: “A maelstrom of pent-up resentment over being forced to do what’s wrong for kids and being afraid of losing gainful employment by speaking out.”

By controlling the information going into the minds of the people, dictators are able to take over a nation. Schools then become the indoctrination and propaganda centers; only that which the dictator or “president” wants is allowed to be taught. This is illustrated with the education program under Hitler in Nazi Germany.

Common Core also contains a “master teachers corps” which this administration has formed which will spy on teachers and administrators similar to those in Nazi Germany to make sure only the “proper” teachings are being taught. Students in Hitler’s time were also trained and rewarded for spying and reporting on their teachers. Teachers who dared speak out against Nazism were fired and most of them also ended up in Concentration camps.

Common Core is the final stage of taking control of the public school curriculum, rewriting American history and calling it social studies -- undermining national sovereignty, promoting environmentalism, requiring multiculturalism, restructuring government and redefining education as job skills.

To illustrate this we need only look at the authorized and funded textbook titled: We the People. It uses the word “ideas” in place of “self evident truths.” It speaks of the U.S. Bill of Rights as a document of the document of the eighteenth century, “reflecting concerns and issues of the age in which it was written,” Ina n attempt to imply the Bill of Rights is no longer for today.

Back in the 1940s (and earlier), globalist visionaries agreed that biblical Christianity must be quenched -- or changed -- before a world government could be established. The World Health Organization, WHO), a UN agency is tied to this elitist agenda. Behavior modification processes implemented for decades have greatly contributed to the demise of Christian values. Their re-interpretation and eventually eradication of the concept of right and wrong has been the basis of child-training, little by little, step by step.

These Marxist globalists want to push their agenda through worldly anti-God psychological tactics and by using sociology in the primary school, leaving other topics at the bottom of the academic list (dumbing down students). They strive to “eliminate social and emotional barriers to learning.” One cannot help but wonder if this includes the Christian faith and a biblical view of what is right and wrong. Or the Constitutional rights that protect religious freedom. We already see evidence that the globalist agenda is undermining Christian-Judeo values.

The mass psychology of these elitists has already dramatically changed our world. The war against Christian symbols and holidays may be the most obvious symptom. God has been banned from traditional Christian celebrations, art projects, seasonal songs and American history.

Concerned parents, teachers and patriotic Americans are expressing their objections to this godless method of “education.” Our very wise Founding Fathers believed that the best government was small, local government; closest to the people it governed; that it is best when governed by parents and small local school boards, not by the Federal government.

Parents and others are concerned that Common Core will take away more parental rights over their children. The fact that parents were not even consulted or had any idea that such a curriculum was in existence shows the lack of concern and regard for parents’ rights.

Personal data collection is part of Common Core. Extensive databases will track over 400 criteria on each child: Salary or Wage, Dwelling Ownership, Family Income Range, International Code Number, Neglected or Delinquent Status, Medical Treatment, Medical Laboratory Results, Religious Affiliation, Religious Consideration, Voting Status, Social Security Number (SSN), etc.

Cursive handwriting will no longer be taught. This would keep students from reading the original documents of our Founding Fathers as well as letters from their grandparents. Students are expected to become proficient in keyboard skills instead.

Math standards are being lowered. According to James Milgram who is a professor emeritus of math at Stanford University and served as a member of the Validation Committee for Common Core national standards for math, he said: “The Core Mathematics Standards as written to reflect very low expectations.” Common core of a Trojan Horse for Education Reform, Orlean Koehle, p.32.

English literature, many writings considered to be great classics are also being systemically removed. Attorney Emmit McGrourty said that Common Core English standards remove much classical English literature. Having children read manuals instead of reading as much literature, would not help them develop their critical thinking skills. Common core of a Trojan Horse for Education Reform, Orlean Koehle, p. 33.

Sandra Stotsky, who is the University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform, sat on the Common Core review for Language Arts. She stated that “Common Core will lead to a low level of literacy for all high school students.”

To sum up the outrageous problems with Common Core, Anthony Esolen, a professor of Renaissance English Literature and the Development of Western Civilization of Providence College in Rhode island, says the following:

What appalls me the most about the Common Core Standards is the cavalier contempt for great works of human art, thought and literary form. It is the sheer ignorance of the lively imagination. We are not programming machines; we are teaching children. We are not producing functionaries, factory like. We are to be forming the minds and hearts of men and women. Frankly, I do not wish to be governed by people whose minds and hearts have been stunted by a strictly utalitarian miseducation.

Joanne, the information presented here is just a small sampling of how our education system is being systemically changed to try to control our children and destroy traditional Judeo-Christian values. We know that the Bible teaches there is coming a day when a the architects of the one world government will strive to complete an unyielding loyalty of their victims which will not tolerate loyalty to God , country or family.

They will use the very powers of the government they seek to destroy to separate children from their parents influences at birth, “protect” them form spiritual influences of the church and the moral precepts of God which are instilled but the families. But school districts in “local control” states can dump Common Core Standards. Local school boards probably have the right to remove their school districts from the new Common Core academic standards that are being forced on school districts around the by state education officials.

It is important to educate ourselves on this demonically inspired plot to destroy our great nation, our families and children. A good book to read is one I quoted from earlier, Common core of a Trojan Horse for Education Reform, written by Orlean Koehle.

But be of good cheer, Jesus has overcome the world. So many prophetic signs are converging before us and taking hold. Our job is to reach as many people as we can with the gospel while there is still time. As believers we have Christ, our Blessed Hope and the Rapture of the church and it can’t come too soon.

A good way to start or end the day after praying is to read aloud Psalm 91:

“He who dwells in the (shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust!’For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

You will not be afraid of the terror by night, or of the arrow that flies by day; of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or of the destruction that lays waste at noon. A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not approach you.

You will only look on with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. For you have made the LORD, my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place. No evil will befall you, nor will any plague come near your tent.

For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and cobra, the young lion and the serpent you will trample down.

‘Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name. He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. ‘With a long life I will satisfy him and let him see My salvation.”

May the Lord have mercy on us and take us home soon!

In God’s love,

Esther

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).


September 8, 2014

Dear Esther,

I love your ministry of helping and encouraging others! May God continue to bless you for your work. I am not sure how to even begin. My heart hurts so much, actually aches. I grew up a minister’s daughter. I am in my late 30s. Married 20 years to a godly man. I’m a homeschooling momma to our teenage son.

It feels like I was born in the church, having attended twice on Sundays, Sunday school and everything else since I was christened. I am a fifth generation born-again Christian. I come from a family of many pastors.

I say all that just to say that how I was raised, and my influences have all made me who I am today. I am thankful as I have been blessed. I love the Lord so much. Thank God I’m saved! I asked Him into my heart at age 5. Again at age 18 as a rededication to Him since I really understood more at 18 than at 5 of the seriousness/commitment to serve and believe and love Jesus with all my heart.

So anyway, things have been good in my life for the most part. Good childhood and great marriage. On top of that, blessed very well financially. My husband makes a 6 figure income. NOT saying it to boast, as believe me, he is so humble.

We are very frugal/minimalist types, we give most away and we don’t take it for granted, and it’s just money. We couldn’t care less if we go broke tomorrow. All that matters is Jesus. “Take the world, just give me Jesus! But having a luxury company car, being able to be a stay at home mom/wife our entire marriage, from age 18 to 39... causes jealousy in others. That is my issue.

I have always been a good girl. I am nice. I love kindness, love helping and love giving. I am also sensible and sensitive to others. I don’t flaunt money or give in the open for all to see. I try super hard to just be a girl after God’s own heart.

I am not a perfect person or claim to be but all in all, honestly, ask anyone who knows me, they would all say I am the sweetest, meekest person they know. Though saying that doesn’t sound meek. But I just need to let you know the truth of who I am so you can understand my issue.

My issue is that I have a younger sister who is extremely jealous and competitive.

She didn’t grow up with the same influences as I did. She is 5 years younger. By the time I was out of high school and married, my dad stepped down as a pastor after his brother died. My uncle was a pastor, too, and they were so close. My dad has continued to guest-preach/fill in at churches ever since.

But my sister didn’t grow up being so involved with church as I did. That is partly what makes her who she is now (not as spiritually minded). Some may describe her as lukewarm or worldly. On top of that, she is a teacher. I home school. Something she takes issue with. Her teaching environment seems to be toxic/gossipy with other teachers. They have an attitude about being better than others, they are “career women.” I find nothing wrong with her being a teacher. In fact I support her. But she has this attitude of competitiveness.

We have a huge family, lots of cousins, and she has issues with most everyone. She cuts people out of her life if they (to quote her): “Have nothing to offer” her. She has a really difficult reputation. The family thinks she is mean, prissy, hard, snobby etc.

On the other hand.. Everyone loves, me. I’m the one they call for anything; prayer, holiday meals, visiting etc. I guess because I am nice and sweet, quiet but loving.

Over the last year and half since we moved closer to my sister’s town to be nearer to her and my parents, she has taken her jealousy to another level. She has tried to bad mouth me, hurt me, yell at me. She has been a mean bully. Most of my family would never tolerate it. They’d tell her off! But I just take it and take it.

I can’t even list the many examples of meanness and manipulation that she has used toward me. She is trying to cut me out of her life. I think it’s because it hurts her that I’m blessed and likeable. But she could be too, if she would just be kind and sweet.

I have prayed and Lord knows how many times I cried over this. I don’t like anyone not to like me, as unrealistic as that is. But I keep loving her despite the awful things she says and does. I tried to show her that there is no competition necessary. I also gave her many things to show love. I’ve reached out many ways over and over.

My parents say she’s just difficult. They are praying, too, for the situation as its getting awkward now where she avoids family functions because she doesn’t want to be near me! My dad also feels it’s a spiritual thing and prays it will be broken so healing and restoration can happen.

But it seems hopeless and I feel like it will take a miracle for us to have a normal sister relationship. In the meantime, it has broken my heart. I just want everyone to get along, I want peace and love. Life is too short for family issues.

And then I also think, “Well, maybe this is my “cross to bear.” Life’s been good except this one major family issue.

I realize so many others have bigger problems. But this is my burden, and it makes my heart ache so badly that I’m being treated so unkindly and it is heart breaking that we don’t have a good relationship. Such a shame!

Things could be so wonderful. She has a sister in me who is loyal, would love her to pieces, help, give, do anything in the whole wide world for her but she is missing out, and so am I, on a fun close loving relationship and friendship.

It hurts and there’s nothing I can do. I can only keep praying, loving her from a distance and remain helpful whenever possible.

Any advice?

Thanks most kindly.

Many Blessings,

From: A Broken Hearted Sister


Dear Broken Hearted Sister,

I am glad you reached out. Thank you very much for your words of appreciation. You sound like an exceptional person very deserving of kindness and love from family and friends.

It sounds like you have done anything and everything to show unconditional love to your sister. Jealousy is a very tough nut to crack. It is rampant in the church and everywhere throughout this broken world. Competitive jealousy is a driving force in the fast lane of self-created misery.

The problem is clearly a spiritual one. From what I have read it does not sound like your sister has a genuine relationship with the Lord. Pride is always at the root of jealousy and until the person harboring jealousy can see his or her own shortcomings, there is little hope of having an authentic relationship with that person.

You can stand on your head in the middle 5:00 rush hour traffic, risk you life to prove your loyalty and love, and you will still be rejected. By harassing you, and now ignoring and rejecting you, your sister is making a strong statement, albeit a very foolish and immature one.

It is her way of trying to show she doesn’t need what you have to offer; but that’s not true. She would like to have your blessings, so by trying to harm you she is in essence trying to destroy you, and her need to not be who she is.

Good, reliable friends are so hard to come by and if she cannot appreciate you then she is a fool. Her pride and need for control is something that is hurting her more than it is hurting you. But she is too caught-up in herself to realize she is creating her own misery and walking down that very broad road that will ultimately take her to an eternity of permanent separation from the Lord is she does not change and repent.

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

It is obvious that you have been very kind to your sister even while she mentally and emotionally pummels you, and tries to harm you. Perhaps in her mind she is perceiving a threat (that simply does not exist). It is her own contrived perception.

When a person is as kind and as caring as you, yet treated rudely—even viciously—then you can be sure that the problem is with the other person. Some people just need to be mad and overreact with an attitude of indignation. They are not living a Christian life by any stretch of the imagination.

If someone is truly a born-again believer there is no excuse for treating friends and family rudely, and neglecting them. Unbalanced hostile people are spiritually depraved. They might even talk about the Lord all the time but it is by a person’s behavior that the real person is known.

We cannot change people and when this type of rejection and abuse is interjected into a relationship it is very hurtful. Neglect is a form of abuse. Sometimes I think some people will get into heaven on the basis of insanity/mental illness -- because too often some professing Christian “friends” are anything but attentive, loving and thoughtful. They seem to be unreliable, unbalanced, controlling and too “busy” to bother. And here you are doing anything possible to enrich your sister’s life by making yourself available to her (that is the biblical way).

In one of my books I wrote: “We should never be too busy doing ‘work’ for God that we pay little attention to those who are reaching out to us.” Now in your case with your sister, it is tough to see any evidence of her making efforts to live a godly life; doing godly things that she might use as an excuse to ignore you and try to shut you out of her life. But by using her role as a teacher -- that is her way of trying to show superiority toward you. She may as well be mocking Jesus when she mocks you.

What she fails to understand is that by homeschooling your son, you and your husband are taking responsibility for his education, as the Bible teaches parents should. Yet in her carnal mind she is foolishly trying to use her profession as a power play against you, to try to belittle you. This is very unfortunate, especially if she teaches at a public school where God is not welcome. Your sister sounds very lost. She doesn’t seem to understand it is she who is on the wrong side of how to educate children so they learn godly precepts.

Your love for your sister is admirable, especially after she has taken so many steps to hurt you. But you have already found out that nothing you say or do will bring her into an authentic relationship with you (at this time).

For your own peace of mind, the best thing you can do is what you are already doing: Pray for her. Pray that she will have a true born-again relationship with the Lord. Until she does, it does not sound like she will recognize how the conflict she is causing for the entire family stems from her own selfish irrational thinking, resulting in her cruel behavior. You want peace. She wants conflict.

Considering the circumstances, you must find a way to detach yourself from her abuse. That does not mean you have to stop loving her as your sister. As you say in your letter, you can love her from a distance. But in order to function in good health and be in a position to serve the Lord to the best of your ability, your sister’s drama must take a distant back seat in your life.

Some people actually get a thrill from hurting others. She is aware of how much her rejection of you, your goodness and love -- bothers you. Rejecting you and what you have to offer feeds her warped sense of self-pity. Don’t give her the satisfaction of seeing that you are frustrated about it. It is great that you want everybody to just get along, but that is not her thinking at all.

The best thing you can probably do for her is let her live her own life with the hope that her bad behavior will catch-up with her. Be cordial when you must interact with her but don’t go out of your way to “save” her from herself. Continue to be your loving, caring self but don’t have any expectations that you will be appreciated by your sister at this time.

She obviously needs to have a few tough life breaks (heartbreaks) and then she might begin to examine herself. And even then there is no guarantee that she will. If the opportunity presents itself you can tell her you will always be there for her, but let her go for now.

Ask the Lord to give you peace within yourself about this so you can be free of your sister’s emotional stranglehold over you. Give the entire situation over to the Him. God can make a way when there seems to be no way and in time she may just come running to you—knowing that you are the one she can count on. So don’t think all your love for her is lost. But your sister needs time to fumble and fall before her pride can begin to be broken.

In the meantime I suggest to try not to focus on her so much. Use all the love and goodness you have to reach others for Christ. Use your tremendous generosity to love and serve other family members, and individuals who would welcome your friendship. Your heartache may not go away completely, but it will diminish when you give your love and attention to those who will appreciate you and not play games with you.

God knows how brokenhearted you are and He will comfort you. Trust Him to work in your sister’s life in ways that you simply cannot, and I would not be surprised if sometime in the future you write and tell me that your sister has had a wonderful change of attitude and is back in your life. Prayer can change things.

A passage that comes to mind is quite fitting in your situation. It might sound harsh, but it pretty much sums it up:

“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces” (Matthew 7:6).

You have already tried to be a peacemaker (Matthew 5:9). It’s time to let your sister go until she takes responsibility for her hatred and selfish godless behavior. One more thing: We know prayer can change things. But we don’t know if your sister will ever want to take responsibility for her selfish rude self.

She has free will and as I said before, she may have to get knocked down a few times before she even begins to take a look at how she causes her own problems. We’ll hope and pray for the best but please try to let it go. It’s God’s battle to fight. So many other people would love to have a friend like you!

God bless you, dear Sis for your caring heart.

In God’s love,

Esther

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).


September 1, 2014

Dear Esther

Before I tell you my reasons for writing, I want to say something about your column. I have noticed that you have been blessed with a gift to see things from a man’s or a woman’s point of view, which is not an easy thing to do. However, more important, I feel that your responses are well received and respected, because they are mostly based on God’s perspective, which He makes clear in His Word.

There is just one more thing I should mention. I enjoy your letters so much that I could spend hours reading them. Whether a person’s thoughts or actions are right or wrong, you have such a lovely way of presenting them with the truth. Your words are kind and encouraging, and are expressed in such a loving manner. This is truly meekness and it is pleasing to the Lord.

My reasons for writing might be a little different from the letters that normally cross your desk—or perhaps not. I actually have more than one question, but they are relevant to my story and situations. Opening up my life to the world like this is a very difficult thing for me to do, but I’m hoping to get answers so that some important issues in my life can be resolved.

Esther, I am a Christian, but I didn’t come to Christ until I was forty-eight years old. We all know what life can be, living in Satan’s workshop for forty-eight years. It was by the grace of God that I made it that long without Him.

As I was approaching adulthood, I never doubted that one day I would fall deeply in love, get married and have lots of children just as my parents did. They were my example of what marriage should be. They not only loved each other, but they respected and cherished one another. I assumed that would be the same life for me. However, as the years went by, and never even coming close to a proposal, I began to wonder if something was wrong with me.

Was I not good enough, pretty enough, smart enough or worthy of being someone’s wife? Those were the questions that plagued me year after year. My friends began to get married, one after the other. By the time I was in my early twenties, practically, my entire group of friends was already married. I wondered why I couldn’t land a husband as well. It was a sharp blow to my ego and to my self-esteem.

I became obsessed over the mere thought of being an “old maid.” I know it sounds crazy, but I stopped attending weddings and baby showers, because it was just too painful for me. I was so envious and angry that it wasn’t happening to me, that I lost many friends, because I didn’t want to be around the “happy couples” anymore. Sad, isn’t it?

While still in my twenties, I dated a fellow and through the course of time, the relationship developed into a closer one. I thought I had found “Mr. Right.” WRONG! Inevitably, the relationship came to an end, because of an unintended pregnancy. I knew he wasn’t thrilled about it, but it revealed a side of this man that I had never seen before!

Sparing you most of the horrid details of the suffering he laid upon me, the worst things I had to deal with was the feeling of being betrayed and being fearful of his threats. He made it clear that he wanted no part of this child and he was going to make sure there would be no child support demands in the future.

He ordered me to have an abortion, and I was too spineless to stand up to him and say, “NO! Like it or not, this baby belongs to the both of us and YOU alone don’t get to decide what happens to it!” The trouble was, I was scared, and having a meager salary and no college education, I knew I couldn’t take care of a child alone, so I felt as though I had no other choice but to have the abortion. I was afraid and I didn’t know where to turn. He was so mean that he made sure I went ahead with the procedure by having his friend, who was a nurse working at the same hospital, spy on me to confirm that the abortion had taken place. (There were no privacy laws then.)

Afterward, I felt so ashamed and guilty. I wept constantly, never being able to tell anyone about it. I’ve carried this awful secret throughout my life. I hate when the topic of abortion comes up; especially when my Christian friends, who are nurses, talk about their patients that had abortions. One of them said that she only does what is necessary to take care of her patients, and nothing more. When they are in pain, she says “You just had an abortion, what do you expect?” She said she has no empathy for them whatsoever.

That broke my heart. I don’t think she would have made those remarks if she had any inkling that I was one of those sinful women years ago. People need to be careful about what they say and to whom they say it to. I am not denying that abortion is a grievous sin—it is. But, because it is such a heinous sin, and they never had to be in that situation, they don’t realize how some women truly agonize over their decision or even have the abortion under direst.

Every woman whose has had an abortion, will stand before God, but He is the judge, and no one else. I don’t expect everyone to understand, but as for Christians, I ask; what about forgiveness, where is the compassion that Jesus expects from His children? Are they so pious that they cannot see the beam in their own eyes? Didn’t Jesus say, “Those without sin cast the first stone?” Whether people admit it or not, everyone has skeletons in the closet. I don’t want to see what’s in theirs!

Twenty-four years later, I accepted Jesus as my Savior. I trust that God has forgiven me for all of my sins, including murdering my child. But even now, knowing that God has forgiven me, and in my heart I know that this issue is settled between me and the Lord, I still can’t me bring myself to tell anyone about what I did.

Esther, my first question is this: Am I being dishonest or hypocritical by not telling people about my abortion? Could it be pride that stops me? I just feel that this sin was between me and God, and it is forgiven. What is the point of telling people about it now?

I am very aware that sin always has consequences. If I’m not mistaken, consequence means effect, result or outcome. So, I think the consequence for my sin is not being able to forget about my deed, even though God has forgiven me and I have forgiven myself. I use to think my consequence was that God would not allow me to get marry, especially while I was still in my childbearing years, because maybe, He could not trust me with another child, being that I didn’t do right by the first one.

But now, I think that would be punishment, not a consequence. Am I correct? If not please explain. Well, I am much older and hopefully wiser than I was twenty-four years ago.

Sometimes I get lonely and ache for human touch. I want to have someone to come home to and share my life with. But, I have managed to I find purpose in my life, and that is serving God, which brings me much pleasure. Now, I am in my sixties and after years of wrestling with this issue, and praying—I mean really praying about it, I still don’t know if God’s answer about marriage is no or wait.

One thing I am positive about, and that is if marriage is in God’s plan for me; it won’t be long before it a reality. However realistically, I don’t have many years left. On the other hand, if it is not in His plans, He will gives me unambiguous peace about the answer being no.

So, what do you think, Esther? Am I foolish for feeling the way that I do? Is it all a pipedream? Is love only for the young or for those who found love in their youth and still have it in their old age? I feel as though I have a lot of love to give, and I still feel that I was called to married life, even if it’s just for a while. What do you suggest for an older woman who continues to wait for her “Adam?”

Isabella


Dear Isabella,

Thank you for your very kind sentiments. I appreciate them so very much. Rest assured I am a “she” as the name Esther denotes. I can tell you it is the Lord and His grace that give me the ability to be “Esther” and respond to the dear people who reach out to for love and guidance. It is my blessing, for sure. I have a very broad background and this is one of the ways the Lord has given me to serve Him and others.

Regarding your question about the abortion. My answer is, “Absolutely not, you are not being dishonest or hypocritical.” That event is between you and God. And it is in your past. It is no one else’s business. People can be very unkind and use such things against others and furthermore, you don’t owe anyone an explanation. In fact, it would be wise not to talk about it unless you feel the Lord leading you to help someone who is in a similar situation. Scripture teaches that we should not dwell on the past:

“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead” (Philippians 3:13).

And as far as the heartless Christian nurses you mention, shame on them for their self-righteous attitudes. Since they are professing Christians they might revisit this Scripture:

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5).

And I don’t believe God kept you from getting married because of your past sin. You have asked for His forgiveness and repented and He is not going to hold a grudge. So please stop beating yourself up. The Lord loves you and promises His forgiveness. We serve a merciful God.

It is tough to discern why you have not married. One thing I can tell you from the many letters I receive; most marriages are in serious trouble. So many men are abusive to their wives. I have not yet received on letter where the man is asking for guidance about an abusive wife. and so many problems exist.

Did you ever consider that God has been protecting you from a situation that would not be good for you? Even in Christian circles so many women are hurting and barely hanging on wishing they were free form their marriages. That is not to say there are not many great Christian men, but we need more.

I can understand wanting to feel cared for and have a physical loving touch, etc. Finding a core group of true believers should help fill that void. And a change of thinking would help. Instead of thinking of yourself as an “old maid” think of yourself as married to the Lord. He really is your true husband. And this life, dear Isabella is not our true home. The Lord has better plans for you. We are so conditioned by society to think some things have to be done a certain way otherwise something is wrong with us.

It is much harder to serve the Lord when one has a family because time becomes a real balancing act. Consider yourself blessed that you are able to give the Lord all of your attention when others cannot. Focus on your true home and think of this life as the temporary one that it is.

I don’t know how you are involved in serving the Lord but I am sure you could bless many by even being a surrogate mom or grandma. You sound like such a sweet person and if you can build an adopted family, that could fill some of your needs. As far as connecting with a man for marriage; if that is what the Lord has in mind for you, the right man will appear without you having to make any effort. No, I don’t think it is a pipedream at all.

“So shall the knowledge of wisdom be to your soul; if you have found it, there is a prospect, and your hope will not be cut off” (Proverbs 24:14).

Your life is hardly over and you could still meet someone that God intends for you. But I would not dwell on it. Go about your life and if the Lord has someone in mind for you, he will come into your life. And you will know it when someone is right for you. He must be strong Christian man otherwise your life will quickly become a living hell. Trust me; from all the letters I get, an unequally yoked marriage is hell on earth.

The important thing is to continue walking with the Lord trust the Lord Him that He is with you and know what is best for you. Keep seeking His guidance and carry His love in your heart. Try to be joyful and count the blessings you do have. If there is a “Mr. Right” for you, it is not at all too late.

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

Please don’t hesitate to reach out again. It usually takes me a couple of weeks to catch up with all the letters I receive -- but I do make an effort to get to everybody.

God bless you sweet Isabella, and may the Lord’s favor shine brightly upon you.

In God’s love,

Esther

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).



August 25, 2014

Hi Esther,

Thank you that you stand up for Jesus Christ, and are not ashamed of His name. Your articles are very encouraging and help me realize that others face the same problems I do.

The Lord saved me about 20 years ago. At that stage I attended a Pentecostal church, which I remained with for many years. As per the norm now days the preaching and teaching went off the rails.

I left the church and have not attended a church for a while now. It is quite difficult to find a good Bible-based teaching church in South Africa.

I have felt a tug on my heart to worship with other believers. There is a church near my home which still preaches the need to repent and be forgiven of sins, through Jesus Christ.

The problem is this: This church practices the laying on of hands whereby people are prayed for and then fall over backwards onto the floor. Nowhere in Scripture have I come across this.

Could you please advise?

Regards,

Alan


Dear Alan,

Thank you for your thoughtful words of appreciation. I am sorry you are having trouble finding a good, solid Bible teaching church. It is a real problem everywhere. I know of few good churches here in the United States. Most of them have sold-out in one way or another; many falling into the category you speak of. Falling backwards onto the floor and losing control of oneself is not biblical.

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, "When I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the LORD” (Amos 8:11).

The term “slain in the Spirit” is used in the Charismatic circles to designate a supposed movement of the Holy Spirit upon a person. The claim is that the Holy Spirit moves with such power on a person that the person is “slain” (so overcome by the presence of the “Spirit” that he or she falls down to the ground being completely overcome).

Many evangelists have televised meetings where Christians gather together. Some of these meetings have special times of healing or “receiving the Spirit.” This is where the “evangelist,” who is supposedly anointed to be able to do this goes around putting his hand on peoples’ foreheads causing them to fall down to be “slain in the Spirit” as they are overcome by the presence of what is claimed to be the the Holy Spirit. This display is unfortunate since it is unverifiable, ostentatious, and could very well be nothing more than the overcoming power of emotions of a person.

On the other hand, it is possible that the Holy Spirit could move so powerfully on a person that he/she is overcome. After all, God is incredibly powerful. But, the problem is not with this possibility but with whether or not it is biblical. We must always seek to remain as close as possible to the Word of God and let it guide our words and practices, as you Alan, are doing. So, let’s look at the Word of God:

Perhaps the closest occurrence we can find in the Bible to being slain in the Spirit is where Paul the apostle fell to the ground when Jesus appeared to him:

“And it came about that as he journeyed, he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me’” (Acts 9:3-4).

Is this being slain in the Spirit? No, it is not. But it is an instance where people fell to the ground when the presence of the Lord was strong. Some people have reported incidents where the power of the Lord was so strong that they were forced to bow to their knees. But the result was worship and adoration, not a lack of bodily control.

Nevertheless, let’s look at some additional Scriptures used to support being “slain in the Spirit”:

“And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his garment as white as snow; and the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men” (Matthew 28:2-4).

“Judas then, having received the Roman cohort, and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth, and said to them, ‘Whom do you seek?’ They answered Him, ‘Jesus the Nazarene.’ He said to them, ‘I am He.’ And Judas also who was betraying Him, was standing with them. When therefore He said to them, 'I am He,’ they drew back, and fell to the ground” (John 18:3-6).

“At midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads’” (Acts 26:13-14).

We can see that in the presence of God people fall to the ground. This is natural and proper given the majestic holiness of Almighty God compared to our sinfulness. Falling to the ground in the presence of the Lord is to be expected. But, does this mean that being slain in the Spirit is biblical?

When someone is slain in the “Spirit,” he or she is usually touched on the forehead by a pastor or teacher or evangelist, etc. This touch alone seems to be the compelling means by which a person receives this movement of the “Spirit.” The person is then incapacitated for a period of time. Again, is this biblical? Apparently not, since there is not a single instance in the New Testament where someone is touched on the forehead and falls to the ground due to the presence of the “Spirit.”

Furthermore, the danger in this phenomena is that it can be set-up by the teacher who appears as someone special, an “anointed” individual with the power to cause the Spirit to move on people. They then congregate around this individual and view him/her as a specially-anointed person. This is inherently dangerous, especially given the numerous theological errors taught by many of the TV evangelists.

This is not to say that the Spirit of God cannot knock someone down, or that the Spirit of God does not move today. Of course the Holy Spirit is still very active in the church. But, given the overt sensationalism in the TV church movement, the numerous unbiblical practices and teachings that occur, and the over-eagerness of people to be slain in the “Spirit,” I would be cautious about accepting this type of phenomena as a move of the Holy Spirit. [1]

Alan, if you have met some people that you resonate with at the church you are going to or anywhere else in your home town, consider starting your own ministry. Pray about this and see how the Lord leads you. Home churches are becoming very popular due to the politics, weirdness and aberrant teachings in too many of today’s churches. Seek out others who are in similar situations and work together to create an atmosphere of worship and Bible study.

I don’t see what else you can do unless you go to all the Christian churches in your community and see how they operate. But from what you say that option sounds like it is very limited. And don’t be afraid to ask questions about what their beliefs are and what they teach. If the pastor or whomever it is that you speak with cannot give you answers to your questions, then you know that is the wrong place for you.

Today with the Internet it is possible to connect with so many people. Even getting involved in a good Christian blog where others share and encourage one another is another way you can fellowship with others. Ask the Lord to guide you as you go forward to find the right situation for you. He is there for you and will guide you.

Keep in mind the most important times are the ones that you personally spend with the Lord, one on one. It is then when you can best discern His “still small voice” and receive the guidance for your life. His sweet fellowship cannot be replaced and it is often when we cannot connect with others to worship Him with us, that we grow the most in the Lord. Solitude can reap great rewards when we are give our all to Him.

It can be very discouraging not to have a home church or a consistent core group of believers to fellowship with, but in time, the Lord will bring true believers into your life you can spend time with. Use this time to draw closer to Him. Vow to keep filling your mind with Scripture; focus on His teachings and you will feel a peace in your life that will help dissipate the aloneness you feel. Trust that He knows what is best for you.

God sovereignly works all things according to His will and rules over all things. He cares for the birds, the flowers and He will then, certainly care for His children. Ask Him to bring the right people into your life. Ask Him to guide you to a solid place of fellowship and worship. It could very well be to start your own home ministry or to find a designated place in your community where you can gather together with like-minded believers. A few small steps could start something wonderful for you and others seeking true Christian fellowship.

Please keep in touch with me and let me know if you find a new church or a way to gather together with other true believers. Seriously think about taking small steps toward starting your own ministry. God can bring His children together in ways we cannot, and open doors that need to be opened when the time is right. Our job is to be obedient and place Him in first in our lives 24/7.

In God’s love,

Esther

“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 3:5-6a).

Notes
[1] http://carm.org/


August 18, 2014

Dear Esther

I have read you every week for a while now and find you to be wise and knowledgeable through your walk in the Lord. Mature. I, on the other hand, am still rather wet behind the ears in my walk. I constantly pray for wisdom, discernment and knowledge from the Lord (as I want to understand His truth, the ONE AND ONLY truth), as I mature in my walk with Him.

I feel in my heart that I know His truth regarding an issue that came-up at work tonight, but would like the input of one more mature than I am.

A co-worker and I discuss issues all the time regarding the Lord and the ‘signs of the times.” He mentioned the teaching given at his church Sunday. He said it was an excellent lesson on submitting to authority. Government authority. What he got from the teaching was that we are to totally submit to our government because it is of God.

I’ve heard stories of government officials pushing 501(c)3 churches to present Romans 13 this way in order to keep their 501(c)3 status. Whether this is true or not, I don’t know.

I believe the verses in Romans 13 are based on a government that rules by God’s Word, that a godly government is there to keep US from committing evil, not to make us submit to evil. If you take it the way he obviously did, then by all rights, all who are left on earth after the Rapture should submit to the government of the Antichrist and take the mark of the beast. It would also mean we went against God when this nation was founded on its refusal to bow to England’s tyranny.

When I disagreed with him on the meaning of submitting to government authority (as in any government opposed to God’s Word and evil), he asked me how would I be able to repent for resisting what God put in place if they killed me. I was floored.

I do agree with one thing he said, that we get the government we deserve. As a nation, we are getting what comes when we turn our backs on God and are turning our backs on Israel. I, however, disagree that we are to submit to tyranny and evil. That is submission to Satan.

Esther, the days grow darker by the minute. It’s a time for Christians to stand for God, not to submit to the devil. Am I wrong in my interpretation?

Your sister in Christ,

Leigh


Dear Leigh,

Thank you for your very kind words of appreciation. You are not as “wet behind the ears” as you think. I would say you are right on target. No, you are not wrong. Romans 13 is being used out of context. It is always dangerous to take one verse alone and try to build a doctrine around it.

Your concern is very valid. We are to follow what the Bible teaches and if something goes against the teachings of the Bible then we are not to participate. Something like gay marriage or abortion may be legal in some states but we, as believers, know better and are not to condone such things. And these practices are both heavily supported by the current administration and many state governments.

Your point about the 501(c3) churches is an important one. This is a sensitive topic for some folks. Recently, I heard a Christian lawyer read over the radio some of the rules and conditions that go along with the 501(c3) tax exempt status. It was frightening. All constitutional rights are essentially denied.

The majority of the churches in America have organized as “501c3 tax-exempt religious organizations.” This is a fairly recent trend that has only been going on for about fifty years. Churches were only added to section 501c3 of the tax code in 1954.

We can thank the late Senator Lyndon B. Johnson for that. Johnson was no ally of the church. As part of his political agenda, Johnson had it in mind to silence the church and eliminate the significant influence the church had always had on shaping “public policy.”

Although Johnson proffered this as a “favor” to churches, the favor also came with strings attached (more like shackles). One need not look far to see the devastating effects 501c3 acceptance has had on the church, and the consequent restrictions placed upon any 501c3 church; 501c3 churches are prohibited from addressing, in any tangible way, the vital issues of the day.

That is why you don’t hear most pastors addressing the huge problems in this country. Instead of relying on God for their needs, they rely on the State; a total contradiction of what Scripture teaches. These preachers might even present verse by verse teachings from the Bible but they are silent as to the social issues of the day that are very much affecting our culture.

For a 501c3 church to openly speak out, or organize in opposition to anything that the government declares “legal,” even if it is immoral (e.g. abortion, homosexuality, etc.), that church will jeopardize its tax exempt status. The 501c3 has had a chilling effect upon the free speech rights of the church.

Much confusion exists today over “separation of church and state.” There seems to be no shortage of debate over the original intent of America’s Founding Fathers, and their views on how far religious influence may extend in matters of “public policy.” One issue, however, appears to be well settled, and is agreed on by everyone; America’s Founding Fathers never intended there to be a State-Church system.

Throughout most of our history there were no State-Churches. Churches in America were commonly known as “free-churches.” Yet today, State-Churches have become the norm. Most church members now attend a State-Church without even realizing it.

Most churches in America today are organized as “non-profit tax-exempt religious corporations.” Have churches always operated as incorporated 501c3 organizations? No, this is a relatively recent trend that began in the 1950s. Prior to that churches operated as churches, and they were much better off, in every respect.

An incorporated church is a “creature of the State” and declares the State is its “Sovereign.” Incorporation does not protect a church from being sued, but only ensures that it can be sued; 501c3 churches have limited freedom of speech and are restricted in speaking out on vital moral issues of the day. [1]

Let’s read this Scripture:

“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth’”(Matthew 28:18).

So the “powers that be” must be subject to God or they don’t have any authority. The preachers who are teaching that we all should submit unto wicked rulers in our government are ignoring the fact that even the “higher powers” are subject to other higher powers, and many in history have deliberately ignored those higher powers in order to commit wicked actions.

It is necessary to have government. If there were no laws there would be complete chaos and criminals would terrorize people even more than they do today. As Christians we are subject to the righteous justice of the law, like the punishment of evildoers, but when the evildoers themselves become the governors and officers of the land, we are not commanded to submit to evil rule and ordinances. We cannot serve Man by breaking God’s laws.

“For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil” (Romans 13:3-4).

If a leader is doing good works, and punishing evil, then Christians should be submitting to that authority, but what if a ruler is a terrorist to the good works (teachings) of the Bible? If he/she is a terror to good works, then we need not be afraid of his/her power.

We subject ourselves to leaders (rulers) until they are a terror unto good works, and then they no longer have authority in those particular areas of wickedness. God’s Word is the standard of measurement we use to determine if a ruler is good or evil, and if that ruler is evil, then they have no authority.

Christians who teach they are to be obedient to wicked governments should be embarrassed, and we have a duty to rebuke these preachers.

Some preachers are correctly teaching that all higher powers are ordinances of God (i.e. God allows good and evil governments both to exist), but incorrectly teaching that we make ourselves submissive to them no matter what. If you follow the logical reasoning of that argument, those same pastors are teaching we should make ourselves submissive to Satan (as you, Leigh have already determined!).

I think your friend at work is confused and so is his church. I would suggest you don’t get into heavy conversations with this person on this topic because I don’t think you will get anywhere. Sometimes it is best to be cordial and simply change the topic to something else. Use your good energy to help bring the unsaved to Christ, while we still have time in these last days.

It is my experience that self-righteous people cannot be reasoned with; it is best not to get caught-up in their web of convoluted proselytizing. Pray that the Lord will awaken your co-worker. You have already let him know the truth; now it is up to him whether he receives it or if chooses to hang on to his wrong thinking.

Leigh, you will find people in the Christian world who will attempt to convert you to their particular way of thinking and ignore key Scriptures that refute their particular (flawed) ideas. We cannot appeal to people who think they are spiritually superior. Consider it a blessing when such people gravitate away from you.

“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.

In God’s love,

Esther

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires” (2 Timothy 4:3).

Endnotes

[1]http://hushmoney.org/


August 11, 2014

Dear Esther,

I am a born again believer, yet I am confused by the terms “filled with the Spirit,” and “baptized in the Spirit.” Can you possibly expound on this and tell me what the difference is? I would greatly appreciate it.

Valentina


Dear Valentina,

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit occurs the very moment we turn to Christ by faith (1 Corinthians 12:13). At the moment of our spiritual birth, the Spirit of God comes to live within us bringing Christ to our hearts. He then places us (spiritually baptizes us) into what is termed the Body of Christ or Body of Messiah (His church).

The Holy Spirit never takes a vacation or goes away on long walks. Once filled with the Holy Spirit, one is always filled with the Holy Spirit. However, considering the way we can all “fall short” and the carnal manner in which some believers continue to conduct their lives, one wonders if the Holy Spirit truly lives inside some of them, or if they were ever truly saved.

“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).

Accepting Christ—being “born-again” one day and subsequently receiving the Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit) at a later time is not Scriptural. However, being “filled” with the Holy Spirit is an ongoing, continuous experience in the sense that it is up to each one of us as believers to allow the Holy Spirit to direct our lives, our behavior, to be continually filled by Him—to yield to Him. In that regard we can and should be “filled” with the Holy Spirit often. We should do our best every day to give ourselves over to the Holy Spirit and avoid quenching His loving guidance.

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30).

The Holy Spirit is the abiding presence of Christ’s presence within us. Scripture dogmatically reveals if the Spirit of God does not live in us, we do not belong to Him. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit happens to every truly repented believer once and only once at the time of salvation; just as salvation is a one-time gift—a “done deal” so to speak. I have heard some Christian church leaders say, “We are a Spirit-filled church,” implying that they have a special move of God or something beyond what other true Christian churches have.

“However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Roman 8:9).

All genuinely born-again believers are Spirit-filled or they are not truly saved, and there are no special or additional “fillings” of the Holy Spirit given to select individuals. As born-again believers, we are all equal in Christ. However, how each individual treats and relates to the Holy Spirit is a strong determining factor for spiritual growth. In that sense only, some churches are more Spirit filled than others, only because of the way each individual at that church relates to the Holy Spirit. Through prayer and true devotion to the Lord we are continuously filled. [1]

What is the difference of being baptized with the Spirit and filled with the Spirit?

These two terms being baptized in the Spirit and filled with the Spirit have become synonymous with each other but they are distinct in the Scriptures and should not be confused.

Scripture shows that the baptism of the Spirit happens at our salvation experience.

John came baptizing in water but said, “There is one who will come after me. . . He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1:7-8; Matthew 3:11; John 1:33). In Acts 1:4-5, after His resurrection Jesus said: “You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” In John 14:16, Jesus told us that the Father, “He will give you another helper, that He will be with you forever.”

The phrase “Baptized in the Holy Spirit” is not used in Scripture but baptized “with” the Holy Spirit is used twice; Acts 1:5 and Acts 11:16 (which refers to Jesus’ statement in Acts 1:5). The phrase “with” - Greek- en; a primary preposition denoting (fixed) position (in place, time or state).

In Acts 2, the 120 in the upper room were baptized by the Spirit, which is what Jesus told them to wait for in Acts 1:5.

Some people were filled with the Holy Spirit before the New Testament: Numbers 11:16-17. God had the Spirit put upon the 70 elders to empower them for service. Verse 17: “Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them.”

The prophet Ezekiel wrote: “And He said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak to you. Then the Spirit entered me when He spoke to me” (Ezekiel2:1-2).

This was before there was a baptism with the Spirit in the New Testament. Speaking of John, “He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15); his mother “Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:41).

John’s father “Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied” (Luke 1:67).

Even “Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness” (Luke 4:1).

Is the baptism of the Spirit a salvation experience or a separate experience of the Spirit after one is saved? The Bible’s consistent teaching is that there is only one Spirit baptism - at salvation, but there are many fillings. This Spirit baptism occurs once for every believer; it is the new birth. The baptism of the Spirit is given to all believers alike, (1 Corinthians 12:13).

ALL believers are baptized by the Holy Spirit, (Galatians 3:27). ALL believers have been baptized into Christ. What is available to all of us are subsequent fillings that keep us walking in the Spirit’s power to live a life pleasing to the Lord and pursue serving Him and doing His will.

“And he [Christ] is the head of the body, the church” (Colossians 1:18), Jesus is the baptizer, making every believer today part of the Body of Christ. The Holy Spirit is given to bring believers into the “one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13).

Galatians 3:26-27: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Meaning to wear him to be seen on the outside like a garment; we are to be living epistles.

On the day of the Pentecost the apostle Peter promised unsaved Jews that they would receive the Holy Spirit as a gift when they repented and were baptized. It was promised to people who had not YET been born again. Acts 1:5 says that they would “be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Acts 2 does not mention Spirit baptism but shows the result. Verse 4 says: “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:4: “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

This is why tongues or prophecy accompanied the baptism of the Spirit, to show a group of people were saved, that they received the Holy Spirit. Each time a different people group received the Holy Spirit in their salvation they exhibited a manifestation to validate them.

The Jews who first received the Spirit and spoke in tongues preached to other Jews at Pentecost. Acts 2:38: “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” They, (the 3,000 recipients) received the Spirit from hearing the word and believing, but this time you can see in Scripture they did not speak in tongues.

The Samaritans that Peter and John came to had already received the Word of God, were baptized and still did not have the Spirit.

Then “they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit” ( Acts 8:17).

Later to Peter’s amazement in Acts 10, Peter saw firsthand the Gentiles come into the covenant of grace. Acts 10:44-45: ”While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. … the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.” The gift was the Spirit from above, and produced the new birth before Peter could finish his sermon.

In Acts 11:16 Peter states that by Spirit baptism, salvation began for the Gentiles; both groups were saved and put in the body the same way.

If you are not baptized in the Holy Spirit then you are not “in Christ.” Romans 8:9 states: “If any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, the Holy Spirit's indwelling makes the body of the believer his temple (Ephesians 2:21-22), individually and collectively.

It is a Spirit baptism from above that buries us with Christ into his death (Romans 6:3-7). Individuals could not be considered believers before they received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, as is evident from Paul’s question, to those in Acts 19:1-7: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” Therefore the presence, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is essential to proving salvation. Paul’s question in Acts 19:2 is significant, “Into what then were you baptized?”

Paul makes it clear that it is necessary for the Holy Spirit -- that which is called baptism with the Holy Spirit: “When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.”

At Pentecost Christ was the Baptizer, with the Spirit (Acts 1:5). When they received the Holy Spirit they possessed the new life in Christ through being born-again. This is repeated in Acts 8 and Acts 10 for the Gentiles. There is no command in Scripture that tells us to be re-baptized by the Holy Spirit because that is what takes place in salvation.

Teaching another baptism with the Holy Spirit for those who are born-again is not correct; the Bible teaches to be filled and refilled as a continual and necessary process. We do not lose the Holy Spirit in us, nor do we get more of Him. What this means is that He gets more of us. We give him control of our lives daily; we present our bodies as a living sacrifice to the Lord each day, and he fills us with himself and has control over our lives.

Being Filled

Ephesians 5:18-19 states: “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”

This is the tense of being continually filled, meaning often; it is not a one-time event as the baptism of the Spirit is. In contrast, the filling of the Spirit is a continuous activity. Paul makes a contrast that our being filled with the Spirit does not have the same effect as drinking alcoholic beverages, but is the opposite. A Spirit-filled Christian has his Bible in his heart. As David said, “thy word I have his in my heart that I may not sin against you.” It is essential to KNOW the Word to live a spiritual life.

Being filled with the Spirit means one has self-control. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is self-control (Gr. egreitei), not lacking it. The Holy Spirit is given to believers so that they might have the power to live like Jesus and be different than they were before. It is a matter of giving up areas of our lives over to the Holy Spirit’s control to have Him fill it with the Spirit. As we walk with the Lord and obey, He continually fills us with His Spirit so we are progressing in the sanctification process and can be more effective in other people’s lives.

“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). The filling of the Spirit is a command not an option (Ephesians5:18). Being filled has to do with allowing the Spirit to be the dominating influence over our lives, not letting selfishness or the world influence our lives. It is about yielding, allowing His control to influence and affect our character which will have others see Christ through our lives. It is putting loving behavior into action and not operating from a place of self-centered control toward others.

Paul’s prayer for the Colossians is related to them being filled with the Spirit; Colossians1:9-10: “[We] do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may have a walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

There is no command in Scripture that tells us to be re-baptized by the Holy Spirit. Why? Because it is something that immediately happens when one is born-again. Teaching another baptism with the Holy Spirit for those who are born-again is not correct; the Bible teaches to be filled and refilled as a continual and necessary process.

When faith is exercised at the moment one believes, the Holy Spirit indwells us (Galatians 3:2).

The Greek perfect tense is used in 1 John. 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1, 5, 18. It emphasizes an action that was completed in the past but continues unchanged into the present. It means it is instantaneous, regeneration is not a process, but its effect continues to the present. We are justified and are presently being sanctified and will one day be glorified.

In the book of Acts, the endowment of power was for their witnessing, by preaching of the Word. The power was seen in transforming lives when people’s sins were forgiven through the gospel being preached. Boldness, not just tongues, was the common denominator of being filled with the Spirit. “Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit said to them...when they saw the boldness of Peter...” (Acts 4:8,13). “They [the believers] were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (4:31).

“Brother Saul...was filled with the Holy Spirit.... Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues... (9:17, 20). “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit...speaking boldly in the Lord (Acts 13:45-46,52, 14:3; 1 Thessalonians 2:2). A Spirit filled person or church will be bold in proclaiming the truth, the gospel and standing against error. “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).

What many believe as a separate baptism should more accurately be called a filling of the Spirit. To be filled with the Spirit is a daily occurrence, to be baptized with the Holy Spirit (baptized into the Body by the Holy Spirit) happens only once. So the baptism with the Spirit is what takes place at salvation which places us into the Body of Christ and He indwells us. The filling of the Spirit is part of our sanctification, our discipleship, as we give over the areas we need to for His control. [2]

Valentina, I hope these answers will give you a better understanding on this important topic regarding being “filled with the Spirit,” and “baptized in the Spirit.”

God bless you and thank you for your letter.

Esther

Endnotes
[1] A Better World Is Coming Soon - Don’t Miss It, Updated Expanded 2013 Edition, pages 231-232, Olsen, Kit, World Bible Society.
[2] http://www.letusreason.org/Biblexp212.htm


August 4, 2014

Dear Esther,

I am 21 years old, have always lived in a loving Christian home and have been raised Christian. I have always believed, but in the last few years, I finally have reached that point in my life where my innocent child-like view of my faith is becoming a more mature, adult view.

What bothers me is that I know I have let my time in college and speaking with others “pollute” my faith in a sense, and I never wanted that. I have let questions of doubt enter into my life, and I have done everything I can do to fight it off by finding answers in the Bible or from pastors, fellow believers, or my parents.

I’ve managed to find peace in the Bible with many of my questions, but one in particular has, I’m sure, unnecessarily confused me to the point of great frustration: “What really is the purpose of prayer?”

This may sound like an incredibly dumb question, but I really want to understand, and I almost feel as though God will be furious with me because of all of my questions and “soul searching” if you will. The idea of disappointing Him really upsets me.

What really does prayer do? What is the purpose of it, especially considering that God already knows what will happen, and has a plan for each person, and in turn, the world?

For example, a small child in the hospital is battling cancer, so hundreds of people pray for this child to be healed. If God already knows this child’s outcome, what would be the point of praying?

I feel horrible for even asking this question, and I’m sure that what I've really done is think way too far into it, and way overcomplicated it. I really would appreciate and be grateful for any insight you could give me.

Unreasonably Confused,

Danielle


Dear Danielle,

This is going to sound strange at first, but it always gives me pause when I hear someone is going off to a secular college regardless of a strong Christian upbringing. It is almost guaranteed that the Christian college student will encounter situations where his or her faith will be tested; some type of spiritual confusion will seep its way in. Although that is also true today of all schools even from the very early years unless they are truly founded on biblical principles.

Liberalism (godlessness) has overtaken so many areas of our culture. Now think about this:

Why do you think prayer was removed from the public schools in the 1960s? Because bit by bit any reference to God the Creator had to be quashed. The devil has an agenda and he is using godless people to accomplish it. We are living in a spiritual battlefield and unless we arm ourselves with prayer and the Word of God, we are going to get sidelined and injured at best, or lose our Christian faith all together.

This spiritual battle in which we are involved is very serious with eternal consequences. How we handle it is the key to our well-being and functionality as believers. Prayer helps break through spiritual (demonic) strongholds. Demonic strongholds come in many shapes and forms: Through illness, poverty, marital distress, various forms of neglect, abuse and slander; the list is endless. It is through prayer that we appeal to the Father for help. Prayer is the First-Aid remedy in this demonically oppressed world.

The three types of prayer cited in the Scriptures are praise, intercession (when we pray on the behalf of others) and personal requests. These three types of prayer can be short prayers or lengthy ones. It is a blessing to be devoted to prayer (Romans 12:12; Colossians 4:2; 1 Peter 4:7); meaning we should spend time in private prayer on our knees, and in prayer when on the go. We should also pray with others (Acts 1:3, 16:25).

Prayer is our lifeline of communication to God. It is through prayer and studying the Bible that we gain spiritual strength which spills over into all areas of our lives. Prayer is a way of showing the Lord our love for Him, and fellowshipping with Him. It pleases Him to fellowship with His children and hear our prayers.

“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is His delight” (Proverbs 15:8).

Prayer is a way to serve the Lord and show our obedience (Luke 2:36-38).

Revelation 3:20 shows us that if we open our hearts to the Lord, He will come into our hearts and fellowship with us. We are to glorify God and enjoy Him and it is through prayer that we can speak with Him.

Our Heavenly Father loves us and wants to bless us and it is through prayer that God is glorified.

“Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13).

We can find examples in the gospels where Jesus prayed to the Father:

“So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed” (Luke 5:16).

Because we are Jesus’ followers, we should follow His example.

Prayer brings results.

“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16).

Prayer is a major avenue on the road to Christian maturity. We cannot grow in our faith if we do not spend time with God in prayer and studying His Word. We can go without food for a while without too much discomfort but when it goes on too long we become weak.

It is the same for the spirit within; we will get weak in the spirit if we do not spend quality time with the Lord every day. Prayer and the Word of God are the fuel we need to keep our spiritual lives running in the right direction—on the road to a victorious life in Christ.

Prayer is often thought to be a way to convince God to do our desires, but it should be more accurately understood to be a way to grow in wisdom and understanding. It is then that He can work through us. When we have a right relationship with the Lord, His desires become our desires.

Prayer is what you need to keep you from weakening in your faith. Sometimes it might seem like God has not answered some prayers but in time we can see how prayers are answered in unexpected ways or see how the Lord has kept us from getting into a situation that would harm us.

To answer your question about why we should pray for a sick child: Because God asks us to. We must trust Him, although we cannot fully understand His ways. Prayer can change things and break through negative barriers. Those prayers strengthen and comfort the child and his or her loved ones. Although God knows the outcome in every situation we are nevertheless commanded to pray as Paul taught in Philippians:

“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 your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Danielle, please make it a goal to pray regularly and trust God when He tells us prayer is a very necessary part of the believer’s life. The Lord desires to have a relationship with us. Prayer is a vital part of cultivating that relationship. We should approach prayer from a place of thanksgiving; prayer is a form of worship exalting God Almighty who gives us life. Without Him we could not even take one breath.

Once you start to regularly pray and spend time with the Lord you will not wonder what the purpose of prayer is. Your faith will be strengthened and you will have a deeper relationship with the Him. You will not be so easily pulled away from God by those who serve to “pollute” your faith and place “questions of doubt” into your mind. It is by having a strong prayer life that we can discern God’s will for our lives and make wise decisions.

When you go about your day, be sure to take a few minutes when you can to read your Bible, praise Him and thank Him; pray for His blessings and protection in this demonically infested world. When you are at home find a quiet place you can go to and fellowship with Him for longer periods of time. Spending time with the Lord is like a healing balm after a very windy day.

I pray that the Holy Spirit will minister to you in ways that will bring great joy to your heart and help you to move past this time of confusion and uncertainty. And please let go of that “mature adult-view” of your faith. Jesus has better advice:

“And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:2-4).

I hope this has helped clarify your concerns, Danielle. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any more questions. It is by bearing one another’s burdens that we show our love for the Lord and for others.

In God’s love,

Esther

“Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 12-13).


July 28, 2014

Dear Esther

I have been studying my Bible more consistently lately thanks to your reminders in your responses about the importance of studying the Bible, and not being glued to TV and other worldly distractions. I am wondering if you can help me with Psalm 1. You mentioned it recently.

It seems to touch on so many aspects of life. The part about being prosperous is a bit unclear to me, and also the part about not standing in the way of sinners or in the seat of the scornful. Any feedback you can give me would be great. I really enjoy reading your articles every week. I always learn something interesting and new. God is using you in a great way.

Thank you,

Zach


Dear Zach,

Thank you for your kind words of appreciation. I have written a bit on this topic before, but it is always good to revisit and discuss Scripture. The first psalm is one that essentially speaks to being happy, successful, joyful and prosperous. The word “prosperous” has almost become a derogatory word among Christians because of the way the prosperity gospel shysters have twisted the Scriptures to suit their personal agenda of selfish-gain. Let’s start with reading the entire psalm:

Psalm 1: The Way of the Righteous and the End of the Ungodly

“Blessed the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.

The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.”

The word “blessed” could be translated “happy” or “joyful.” The way to be happy and joyful is plainly seen in Psalm1. The psalmist makes it clear that we can have a happy, joyful, prosperous Christian life by not doing three things:

1.When we do not accept the counsel of the ungodly; that is, the humanistic society of today’s culture and live by godly principles as detailed in the Scriptures. We should only take counsel from those who consider God in every activity of their lives. James said it like this:

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.’”

These verses show us that the happy, faithful man will steer clear of the humanistic and behavioristic philosophies of the current culture, such as: “Do your own thing “ or “If it feels good, do it.”

“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. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”

2. The blessed or happy, joyful person does not stand in the way of sinners. That is, he does not do what sinners do. He or she realizes that there are two levels on which a person lives: The fleshly level and the spiritual level. A born-again believer will seek to live on the spiritual level and not get caught-up in the ways of the world.

“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5: 19-21.

In the next verse Paul shows that there is a much higher level by which to live—the happy, joyful, prosperous manner which the born-again Christian will seek to live:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:19-21).

Paul’s disciplined living is seen in 1 Corinthians 9: 24-27:

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”

3. Now regarding scoffers, a believer will never sit in the seat of scoffers. The scoffer is one who casts aspersion on the veracity and truthfulness of God’s Word. The scoffer or scorner is one who makes a myth out of the early chapters of the book of Genesis, and any other part of the Bible that he or she wants to condemn. Scoffers laugh at the idea that the universe and mankind came to be as a direct creation of God Almighty. Scoffers cannot accept the miracles of the Bible.

So the person who lives the happy, joyful Christian life will be one who readily accepts and believes the entire Bible—the revealed Word of God, and has no trouble whatsoever accepting it as the very Word of God. The psalmist goes on in the next verse (v. 2) to show what believers must do to strengthen their walk with the Lord:

“But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night (Psalm 1:2).”

It is by meditating (studying, contemplating) on the Word of God that we renew our minds. Meditation in this sense does not mean the type of meditation that is so often emphasized by various cults, religions and philosophies that practice the emptying of the mind—which is a very dangerous process where deceptive unclean spirits can enter into a person. Jesus described this danger in Matthew 12:43-46:

“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.”

The passive meditation of the unsaved in emptying their minds is very dangerous. The meditation described in God’s Word is exactly the opposite. It is setting one’s mind on the truth of the Word of God.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).

When we have the mind of Christ we are at peace with joy in our hearts regardless of our circumstance, knowing full-well that our eternal futures are sealed and our victory in Christ is assured. We are prosperous spiritually because we are steadily growing in the Lord. When we are grounded in the Lord wisely navigating throughout each day, we reap many blessings. The Lord promises He will provide for all our needs; we may not become very rich by worldly standards in this life—but we will live balanced contented lives.

The psalmist says: “Blessed [happy] is the man who meditates on the law day and night.” And Paul says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The way to renew our minds is by consistently reading and studying the Bible, having a steady prayer life and interacting with other true born-again believers, sharing the Scriptures and worshipping the Lord.

What David emphasizes in Psalm 1 is so clearly brought out in Romans 12 where God, first of all, tells us to offer our bodies:

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).

God wants all of us. By giving our bodies we give Him our minds, our emotions, our ambitions, all of who and what we are. We are not to be fashioned according to this world, but we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. The renewing of our minds is imperative in order to be happy, joyful and prosperous in the Lord.

Zach, it sound like that is what you are doing. By practicing these godly principles we raise ourselves to accomplishing higher levels of God’s will, which includes obtaining a servant’s heart. The more we take in of God’s Word, the more balanced and useful we become as God’s servants. This way of living is true prosperity.

When we place our focus first on the Lord our lives come together in a poignant way. True riches (prosperity) come from glorifying God. In His grace and mercy our needs are met and He blesses us in ways that cannot be measured. All of this is a preparation for our true heavenly home. Keep doing what you are doing Zach, and you will reap God’s benefits in this life and the one to come. He has sovereignly planned what will come to pass and He sovereignly carries out His plans. Our job is to be obedient by being faithful and honoring His commands.

“Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand ,and I will do all My pleasure, ’Calling a bird of prey from the east, the man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it” (Isaiah 46:10-11).

Thank you for your letter Zach and God bless you as you continue to walk with the Lord.

In God’s love,

Esther

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).


July 21, 2014

Dear Esther,

Hi my name is Shannon. I am a born-again Christian. I accepted Jesus into my heart when I was 12 years old. I’m now in my mid 20s. I’m coming to you with a heavy heart today. My issue is that I know I am a homosexual. Please do not jump right to conclusions. Upon studying God’s Holy Word, I feel a bit confused.

I have read different versions of the Bible and I find a particular verse to be speaking to me. This verse is Leviticus 18:22. I want to quote the Wycliff verse: 22 “Thou shalt not be meddled, [(or) mingled,] with a man, by lechery of a woman, for it is abomination.” Now, as I’m sure you know the King James Version of this same verse is: 22 “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.”

I would love some clarification from you. I feel truly in my heart that God has told me it doesn’t matter who I love and fulfill a healthy, loving relationship with as long as I love with God on my side. It seems to me that when the King James Version was written, the author’s personal preferences were written into this new version. Any advice or clarification you can give me I would greatly appreciate.

Thanks so much,

Shannon


Dear Shannon,

I have prayed and pondered about your letter. I will do my best to give you the clarification you are asking for. I feel very badly for you, for the confusion you are feeling. The most reliable answer to your situation is to read Scripture taken from translations that are as close to the original tongues as possible. I prefer to use the American Standard 1901 version of the Bible which is translated from the original tongues or the New American Standard Version.

It is hermeneutically incorrect to take only one Scripture and apply it to a situation when there are other Scriptures relating to the same topic. On the topic of same sex involvement, let’s examine the following Scriptures:

Romans 1:26-28 American Standard Version (ASV)

“For this cause God gave them up unto vile passions: for their women changed the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another, men with men working unseemliness, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was due. And even as they refused to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up unto a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not fitting.”

Romans 1:26-28 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

“For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper”

And here is your choice, the Wycliffe Bible:

Romans 1:26-27 Wycliffe Bible (WYC)

“Therefore God betook them into passions of shame [Therefore God betook them into passions of evil fame, or shame]. For the women of them changed the natural use into that use that is against kind.

“Also the men [the males, or men,] forsook the natural use of woman, and burned in their desires together, and men into men wrought filthhood, and received into themselves the meed that behooved of their error [males into males working filthhood, and receiving in themselves the meed, or hire, that behooved of their error]. And as they proved that they had not God in knowing [And as they proved not to have God in knowing], God betook them into a reprovable wit, that they do those things that be not suitable.”

As you have read here, the Scriptures are quite clear on the error of same-sex involvements. (including women with women). BUT. That does not mean what you are feeling is not genuine to you. Shannon, I can tell you are a very dear person and it must be very hard to feel so confused. How can we feel something so strongly and yet look at Scripture and be told otherwise? The answer to that question is complex and may never be fully answered. The better question would be this: Do I accept the Holy Scriptures or not?”

So you have a choice to abide by the Scriptures or go into denial and risk an eternity of never-ending separation from God. As you have just read, there came a point where God “gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.”

In other words, God removed His blessing and let those who reject his teaching believe their own distorted views.

Shannon, after carefully thinking about you, the best suggestion I can come up with is regardless of your identity, refrain from any type of sexual involvement (sexual immorality) unless you are in a man/woman marriage. You may feel love for another woman in a way that cannot be biblically unsupported, but if you do not act on those feelings that would show you are honoring the Lord and His Word.

Also, I suggest getting deeply involved in Bible study on your own and with a good group of true believers. The more you focus on the Lord the less you will feel drawn to engage in relations that will separate you from Him. If you hang-out with others who are not biblically in-tune, I think you may have a hard time staying true to the Lord.

Many people talk about the Bible and God, but that does not mean they are true Christians or that they understand the Scriptures. We live at a time when many people like to create their own doctrines and spin Scripture to try to support their personal agendas and desires.

Ask the Lord to strengthen you and please keep in mind that eternity is a very, very long time. Once we take our last breath, the choice we make in this life to either serve the Lord or our flesh, will determine our eternal fate. Hell is a very real place and nothing in this world is worth risking an eternity in hell, and eternal separation from God.

This world is so temporary and corrupt. Deception and moral depravity on so many levels have become the “norm.” But as believers we are not to partake in the ways of the world. If we can keep our focus on heaven and the Lord, the distractions and temptations of this life will not have such a stronghold on us. Perhaps it would also be a good idea to recommit yourself to the Lord once you carefully think through your position. We should all periodically examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. You could publicly show your re-commitment to Him by getting baptized -- even if you were baptized as a child.

“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you-- unless indeed you fail the test” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Who we spend time with affects us more than we might think. Choose your friends wisely, those who are Christian in action and deed and not only in words. And also keep in mind that we are all in the midst of a spiritual battle. Satan is literally hell bent on destroying us. We can even fall into deceptive thinking and feelings, especially when we may have been disappointed by people in our lives (men and women). Our emotions can rule us if we are not solidly grounded in God’s Word.

Please be mindful of how your past relationships may have taken you to the point where you are today. In this world it is often very hard to feel safe in relationships. When we are abused, neglected or abandoned by those we once held very dear, it can be quite devastating. Neglect is a form of abuse and is one of the major components in dysfunctional relationships that can lead to unorthodox behavior if we are not grounded in God’s Word.

When we place our trust in others and they betray us, of course that can be very painful. If men have betrayed and abused you, that may have caused you to feel safer around women. I have observed that some women because of past abuse from men no longer want to be in heterosexual relationships.

But this is all part of the fallen condition of this world. Sometimes some people don’t realize how much they hurt others with their bad behavior. If you have ever experienced great disappointment and loss in a relationship, you may be gun shy to trust men, and may feel safer around women.

But Shannon, the only Person we can really count on is the Lord Jesus. People will almost always let us down, but God never will. He sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). I believe you when you say you are gay. My concern for you is that somehow you have come to that conclusion outside of the Holy Scriptures, and that is not in keeping with being a Christian. Feelings do not equal biblical truth.

In fact, according to the Bible we cannot always trust our “feelings.” Remember, Saul before he became Paul, how he persecuted Christians? Just because his conscience did not tell him he was wrong, does not mean he was right (obviously). It is the same for us. Sometimes when we think it is all right to do something but the Scriptures say otherwise, then we must abide by want God says, not our personal feelings. The Holy Spirit will not “tell us” something is okay when it contradicts Scripture.

“There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).

From reading your letter, it seems to me that you understand that Scripture teaches that men are not to have relations with other men. Have you ever considered how those men think they are doing what is right and feel just fine about it?

And how about those involved in false religions? They also think they are right. Those caught-up in the teachings of the New Age/New Spirituality movement reject the Bible’s literal meanings. I can tell you that most of those folks think they are living blissful lives on a path to some kind of self-empowerment, and are very comfortable with themselves. But they are deceived by the god of this world.

A person’s conviction to do something or live a particular lifestyle that is not supported by Scripture—cannot be a message from God. This type of thinking is a self-induced message or one that comes from other sources including internal and external conditioning. For example, advertising and social media are filled with hidden messages saying it is okay to do a lot of things that totally contradict Scripture. Our culture is filled with all types of godless activity supported by the liberal media everywhere we turn.

Subliminal conditioning is everywhere, and it can go so far as to form a person’s (unbiblical) opinions about life. That is why it is imperative to stay close to Jesus, read and STUDY the Bible daily and not be fooled and taken in by the ungodly influences of the world.

I wish I could say, “Go ahead, do what feels right to you,” but I cannot ignore the Scriptures that tell us that having an intimate relationship with someone of the same sex is not condoned by the God of the Bible. If I encouraged you to live a lifestyle that the Lord is against, I would not be acting in your best interest.

That does not mean I don’t genuinely care about you as a person or that I am personally judging you. I am simply the messenger. I am showing you the Scriptures that cannot be denied. What you chose to do with them is up to you.

Also, consider this point: If you were born gay, then why would the God of Creation place into His Holy Book that say same-sex relations are off limits? Wouldn’t that be cruel? And why did He destroy Sodom and Gomorrah if being gay is all right? My prayer for you, Shannon, is that you will be freed from the confusion you are having. You may even have to make all new friends. Do whatever it takes to stay true to the Lord. It is in your best interest to do so. He can change your desires to His desires—that is a big part what being born-again is all about.

You will find many liberal churches that have strayed from biblical truth. They water down the gospel message and support many lifestyles that are not godly. False teachers reinvent God’s Word and lead many good people astray. The apostle Paul gave us a strong warning to beware of those who disguise themselves as servants of righteousness:

“No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).

They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed” (1 Titus 1:16).

“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy,)unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these” (2 Timothy 3:5).

Shannon, please do not take the counsel of men who compromise Christ’s teachings. God is a God of love and we are to love one another but not in ways that clearly contradict His Word.

“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!” (Psalm 1:1).

The Scriptures tell us that love: “...does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6).

The Word of God is the truth and anything apart from it is not from the Lord. Whenever I read the following Scripture I get a little bit of a jolt. We have been so conditioned by the world to believe if something is from the heart, it is right. But this is what the Bible says:

“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

Please think carefully and realize that God does not send confusing and conflicting messages.

“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33).

A true born-again believer cannot have peace when operating outside of the teachings of Scripture. We can find God’s will for our lives in the Scriptures. Please think through all the points made here and choose carefully whom you will serve. Change can seem overwhelming at times but with God’s strength we can overcome many challenges.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.

I very much want the very best for you.

With much love and compassion,

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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things” (Philippians 4: 6-8).


July 14, 2014

Dear Esther,

I had a bit of a shock over the 4th of July weekend. I had some friends over and got into a conversation with one of the women about the Rapture. This is someone who has been going to church every Sunday since primary school. She started telling me that she did not think we should be looking for signs for the Rapture but instead living responsible lives to help bring peace on earth so Jesus can return. She said she thinks I am too obsessed with the Rapture and I should spend more time doing things to make the world a better place.

I thought we were supposed to watch for the Rapture and be on the alert. By the time she left I felt like I had been visited by someone who never knew the Lord, and all this time I thought she was a Christian. I do live a responsible life but I also think we are living in the last days. Do you have any advice on what I should do? Isn’t it true that we are to watch and warn others?

Confused and bewildered,

Annie


Dear Annie,

What you encountered is a sad testimony of many professing Christians today—most often those who are involved in liberal churches and make the mistake of thinking that Christians can work to usher in a new and improved world. But that is not what Scripture teaches. This is a Kingdom Now/Dominionist false teaching which has been embraced by various “Christians” and churches that do not hold to the literal interpretation of the Bible.

Christians are commanded to “watch,” to be “alert” and to be spiritually “awake” for the Rapture as stated in the Scriptures by Jesus, Paul and Peter. They said this to motivate Christians to “watch” for the warning signs of His return.

Jesus gave a few commands to His disciples and to all Christians of the Church Age, to be alert and ready when He returns. A command by Jesus to “watch” and to be “ready” was given at the conclusion of the Olivet Discourse:

“Watch therefore: for ye know not on what day your Lord cometh. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what watch the thief was coming, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken through. Therefore be ye also ready; for in an hour that ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 24:42-44).

This command was given to all Christians, but it has greater meaning to those of us who are living in the last days of the end times. We must “watch” the warning signs to know approximately when Christ will return so we are not caught by surprise as Jesus commanded. How can we be “ready?” There are only two things we can do – live holy lives and “watch” for the warning signs that precede the return of Christ.

Jesus told two parables in the Olivet Discourse after giving a detailed description of what would take place before and during the Tribulation. The first was the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-12). Five of the virgins were waiting and ready when the bridegroom returned, and five were not. The virgins who were not ready were not allowed into the wedding feast. At the conclusion of the parable He warned:“Watch therefore, for ye know not the day nor the hour.”

The bridegroom was delaying his return; that is why all of the virgins fell asleep. The question of how long the delay will be is obvious. It will be nearly 2000 years, because He has not yet returned. All of the virgins fell asleep, but five were prepared when the bridegroom returned. They had oil in their lamps. Christians today who “watch” the warning signs are prepared for the return of Christ. Those who are not “watching” the warning signs are not prepared for His return.

The second parable concerns a man who goes on a journey and gives his servants money to invest while he is gone (Matthew 25:14-30). He was away for a long time (Matthew 25:19). We know that the duration between the ascension of Jesus and His return will be about 2000 years.

We are to watch and pray as recorded in Mark:

“Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. It is as when a man, sojourning in another country, having left his house, and given authority to his servants, to each one his work, commanded also the porter to watch. Watch therefore: for ye know not when the lord of the house cometh, whether at even, or at midnight, or at cockcrowing, or in the morning; lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch” (Mark 13:33-37).

Jesus gave a similar command earlier in His ministry, after admonishing His followers to seek the kingdom of God rather than the riches of the world (Luke 12:35 39). He concluded by saying:

“Be ye also ready: for in an hour that ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Luke 12:40).

The commands to believers to be “ready” and to eagerly “wait” for the return of Jesus were given for the “generation” living in the “last days” and also given in a general manner for all generations to keep their minds on the things above rather than the things on earth:

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).

Christians who “watch” for the warning signs of the return of Christ, rather than seek after the riches and the pleasures of this sinful world, are the obedient and faithful servants.

Christ will return when those who are not “watching” do not think He will return. Those who are “watching” the warning signs will know the approximate time of His return [not the day or the hour but the season]. (1 Thessalonians 5:4).

Paul gave several admonishments to the churches that he founded to “wait” for the return of Jesus Christ. He gave this admonishment to the church in Corinth to wait for the return of the Lord.

“So that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:7-8).

The verses admonishing the believer to “wait” and “watch” are given specifically for those living in the “end times” and generally to all believers throughout the Church Age, just as the commands by Jesus were given. If Christians keep their eyes on Jesus each and every day, they are less likely to be carried away by the temptations of the world.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul stated that all believers are to “wait” for the return of Christ:

“For our citizenship is in heaven; whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).

Prior to this statement Paul exhorted his readers to press on toward the goal, be complete, live by the same standard he does and to follow his example (Philippians 3:14 17). He also warned them that there were some people who claimed to be saved, yet they were “enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things” (Philippians 3:18-19).

In this admonishment, Paul was reminding all believers throughout the Church Age to remember that our home is heaven, and that they should “wait” for their Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.

In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul praised them for turning from idols to the living and true God. He then told them to “wait” for His Son Jesus, who will come from heaven to deliver them from the wrath (Tribulation) to come:

“For they themselves report concerning us what manner of entering in we had unto you; and how ye turned unto God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, who delivereth us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).

This command was given to newly-born believers who had turned away from “idols” to live holy lives. He added to that command the admonishment to “wait” for the return of Jesus. The context of this passage is holiness, and Paul added the promise that Jesus would return someday and keep Christians from going through the Tribulation. The “wrath to come” is the Tribulation. When one lives a holy life he will patiently “wait” for the return of Christ by “watching” the warning signs.

All believers from the apostles to the last generation are commanded to “wait” for the return of Christ. When one considers the parables of Jesus (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27), where He made it explicitly clear that He would be gone a “long time” (Matthew 2:19), so one must be “patient,” as James wrote (5:7-8), and “wait” for His return by “looking” for the warning signs.

Later, in his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul gave another warning for them to “watch” for the return of Christ. He described the Rapture (4:13-17), and then commanded them to “comfort one another with these words” (v.18).

“But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that aught be written unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. When they are saying, peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall in no wise escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3).

Paul then warned his readers in verses 4-9 to be spiritually alert and sober:

But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief: for ye are all sons of light, and sons of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep, as do the rest, but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep in the night: and they that are drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, since we are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God appointed us not into wrath, but unto the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In verse one, Paul summarized that the Rapture/Tribulation will catch the unsaved by surprise, as a “thief” does when he comes to steal in the dead of night. They will be cheering when there is a time of so-called “peace and safety” in the world. The lost will be caught by surprise, but believers who are awake will not be completely caught by surprise by the return of Christ.

The late Dr. John Walvoord made the following statement:

“When the day of grace ends with the translation of the church, the Day of the Lord [the Tribulation] begins at once.” (The Rapture Question, page.162)

In his second letter to the church in Thessalonica, Paul also exhorted Titus to warn his flock to live holy lives by looking for the return of Christ:

“For the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us, to the intent that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly and righteously and godly in this present world; looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a people for his own possession, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:11-14).

This is an exhortation to live a holy life. All Christians should be “looking for the blessed hope and appearing” of Christ. It is holy living that leads a person to look for the return of Jesus Christ by watching for signs. Peter also warned to be “looking” for the return of Jesus Christ. Peter wrote this after saying that the world would be destroyed by fire (Jesus will rejuvenate the earth for the millennial kingdom):

“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief; in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, by reason of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?” (2 Peter 3:10-12).

The context of this passage is holiness. Peter explains that, because this present world and universe will be destroyed by fire some day, Christians should live holy lives. While a believer is living a holy life he should be “looking” for the Rapture. Again, holiness precedes “looking” for the return of Christ. If one is living a holy life, he will then “watch” for Christ’s return.

The context of the commands and warnings by Jesus, Paul and Peter to be “alert” is holiness. Christians are commanded to live holy lives, and “looking” for the return of Christ is an important aspect of holy living. None of the verses regarding Christ’s return tell us that Christians will make the world such a great place that will then cause Him to return. The Scriptures tell us the world will get worse and worse prior to His return despite the holiness of true Christians.

Christians who believe in Preterism, Amillennialism, Postmillennialism and Dominion Theology are not obeying the commands of Jesus to “watch” for His return by actively “looking” for prophecies to be fulfilled before that blessed event.

Annie, your friend may very well be confused by any one of those false teachings.

One radio talk show host has said that Christians are to “wait for the Second Coming, but not to look for prophecies to be fulfilled beforehand because there are none” (Bible Answer Man program, 6.22.2009). How wrong he is! This is a perfect example why so many “Christians” are confused. We must always do as Acts 17:11 states:

“Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of the mind, examining the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so.”

Annie, I suggest sharing the Bible verses I have cited with your friend, and explain to her that many false teachings exist today. She obviously does not understand the Scriptures. Pray for her and be patient with her. If you go to a good Bible teaching church invite her to come with you. Or try to meet with her in private or with other believers who understand the biblical teachings of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture. Once you have shared the truth and if she rejects it, it is better to just let her go.

“And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet” (Matthew 10:14).

Continue to pray for your friend but don’t get caught-up in an unproductive and dysfunctional relationship.

“Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces” (Matthew 7:6).

Annie, I wish you the very best and keep watching. Jesus is coming soon!

God bless you,

Esther

“Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).


July 7, 2014

Dear Esther,

We’ve communicated a little bit in the past regarding my struggles with certain sin issues and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the basis for salvation from sins. I do have a question regarding C.S. Lewis. Should I be reading his works? Do you think he has good insight into understanding the Christian faith? Just wondering your opinion/advice.

Thank you,

Donny


Hi Donny,

No doubt, C.S. Lewis gained a huge following and is still very popular today. The danger with his work is some truth can be found intertwined with many unbiblical ideas. I call this a “hook.” A hook is some truth to get you to read more, to the point where false teachings emerge. Cults are very good at using this technique to pull people into their way of thinking. However, this is not always done deliberately. I think C.S. Lewis was a very confused man. Upon careful analysis too many problems exist in his work, which I find antithetical to the Holy Scriptures.

I am going to list a number of problems with his work, which you can then contemplate on and decide for yourself if reading his books is going to draw you closer to the Lord or further away into a realm of confusion.

C.S. Lewis espoused Darwin’s theory of human biology forcing a different view of some parts of the Bible than the historic orthodox accepted evangelical viewpoint. In the matter of God’s creation, Lewis had no difficulty in being committed to theistic evolution. Lewis called man “the highest of the animals.” He also acknowledged: “If by saying that man rose from brutality you mean simply that man is physically descended from animals, I have no objection.” Elsewhere he said: “What difficulties I have about evolution are not religious….”

Lewis believed in theistic evolution. In his book, The Problem of Pain he wrote:

“If by saying that man rose from brutality you mean simply that man is physically descended from animals, I have no objections…. For long centuries God perfected the animal form which was to become the vehicle of humanity and the image of Himself. He gave it hands whose thumbs could be applied to each of its fingers, and jaws and teeth and the throat capable of articulation, and a brain sufficiently complex to execute all material motions whereby rational thought is incarnated. The creature may have existed for ages in this state before it became man…. We do not know how many of these creatures God made, nor how long they continued in the Paradisal state.”

An analyst of Lewis’s writings, Richard Cunningham, deduced: “Lewis did not believe in the infallibility or the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures.”

Concerning the doctrine of “total depravity,” Lewis wrote in The Problem with Pain: “I disbelieve that doctrine.” Though Lewis believed that “men are sinners” – he didn't believe in the doctrine of original sin. He said this is partly on the logical ground that if our depravity were total we should not know ourselves to be depraved and partly because experience shows us much good in human nature.”

Lewis, of course, misunderstands what theologians mean when they use this term. Total depravity does not mean that mankind is as bad as it could be nor that unredeemed individuals can do nothing but evil. The unsaved are capable of great acts of kindness and love as well as recognition of both good and evil (in themselves and others). They are capable of comprehending that a creator God exists (Romans 1:18).

What total depravity means is that every aspect of our being is depraved, or corrupted, by sin: our minds, our hearts, our words, our emotions, etc. (Romans 3:10-18). It also means, unaided by the power of the Holy Spirit, no one would ever choose to turn to God (2 Corinthians 3:15-4:6; John 6:37, 44). Lewis had an unbalanced view of the capabilities and free will of the unbeliever.

This deduction is evident throughout the writings of Lewis and hardly needs to be proof-texted, but one important statement found in Miracles would be helpful Lewis wrote:

“My present view… would be that just as, on the factual side, a long preparation culminates in God’s becoming incarnate as Man, so, on the documentary side, the truth first appears in mythical form and then by a long process of condensing or focusing finally becomes incarnate as History. This involves the belief that Myth in general is… at its best, a real though unfocused gleam of divine truth falling on human imagination.”

The Hebrews, like other peoples, had mythology: but as they were the chosen people so their mythology was the chosen mythology – the mythology chosen by God to be the vehicle of the earliest sacred truths, the first step in that process which ends in the New Testament where truth has become completely historical. Whether we can ever say with certainty where, in this process of crystallization, any particular Old Testament story falls, is another matter. I take it that the memoirs of David’s court come at one end of the scale and are scarcely less historical than St. Mark or Acts; and that the book of Jonah is at the opposite end.”

It becomes obvious that Lewis’s love for mythology seriously clouded his understanding of biblical truth. He is playing a dangerous game here—deciding which parts of Scripture are historically true and which parts are “true myths.” Lewis comes down on the side that the New Testament is largely factual, including the stories of Jesus. But how can he make that determination?

If God revealed to us vast amounts of information, all of which He claimed to be true (but were really myths), how are we to know with any certainty that anything in Scripture is more than myth? How can we, with Lewis, arbitrarily decide that the story of Jonah was a myth but Jesus was not? The manipulation of Scripture in this manner leaves the door open for rejection of any or all that it contains—determined only by our presuppositions and personal desires. Lewis’s perception of Scripture is a serious flaw in his thinking.

J. I. Packer spoke of Lewis’s “failure ever to mention justification by faith when speaking of the forgiveness of sins, and his apparent hospitality to baptismal regeneration….”

Lewis expected that some non-Christians would be saved. This is most troubling when he said:

“Though all salvation is through Jesus, we need not conclude that He cannot save those who have not explicitly accepted Him in this life.” On the radio he announced: “We do know that no [one] can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him.” Inclusivism and heresy are the problems here. He also held to the skewed doctrine of Purgatory.

Lewis was an inclusivist believing that some moral non-Christians would be saved: “Though all salvation is through Jesus, we need not conclude that He cannot save those who have not explicitly accepted Him in this life.” (The Screwtape Letters, p.11)

In the Last Battle, the final volume in the Narnia series, Aslan (the Christ figure) accepts the service of a follower of the god Tash: “Son, thou art welcome,” Aslan says to this individual. Emeth (the Tash-server) protests, “I am no son of Thine but a servant of Tash.” But Aslan (the Christ figure) insists, “All the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me,” and accepts a follower of another god!

Even more clear, and more shocking, are these statements that Lewis made:

“There are people who do not accept the full Christian doctrine about Christ but who are so strongly attracted by Him that they are His in a much deeper sense than they themselves understand. There are people in other religions who are being led by God’s secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it.

For example, a Buddhist of good will may be led to concentrate more and more on the Buddhist teaching about mercy and to leave in the background (though he might still say he believed) the Buddhist teaching on certain other points. Many of the good Pagans long before Christ’s birth may have been in this position.” (Mere Christianity, pp. 176-177)

Lewis also said: “I couldn't believe that 999 religions were completely false and the remaining one true.” Similarly he stated: “We are not pronouncing all other religions to be totally false, but rather saying that in Christ whatever is true in all religions is consummated and perfected.”

As a member in good standing of the Anglican Church, Lewis accepted an Anglican position on purgatory and prayers for the dead, as well as practicing auricular confession of sins. He believed in a substantive reality to heaven and hell but was agnostic about matters such as the precise dimension and duration of hell.”

In Mere Christianity, Lewis attempted to identify the essential doctrines that would define all Christians of whatever stripe. He claimed to accept the major creeds such as Nicene and Athanasian, yet he championed many unorthodox theological views.

He was heavily influenced by Roman Catholics such as J. R. R. Tolkien and G. K. Chesterton and so closely aligned with Catholic theology that “many who read Lewis’ first book, The Pilgrim’s Regress, assumed he was a Catholic, and, in fact, the second edition was published by a Catholic publisher. Today he continues to be accepted by Rome as much as he is by evangelicals, while he was sympathetic toward Catholicism.

Of course such a view will have an influence on one’s understanding of the Fall. Lewis does not believe in the literal accuracy of Adam and Eve sinning in the Garden. In reference to the Fall he says, “I have the deepest respect even for Pagan myths, still more for myths in Holy Scripture…. What exactly happened when Man fell, we do not know; but if it is legitimate to guess, I offer the following picture – a ‘myth’ in the Socratic sense, a not unlikely tale.” (The Problem with Pain, pp.71, 77)

Lewis believed the events found in the first three chapters of Genesis as “true myths” (stories that are not literally factual but teach some truth, a view usually held by theological liberals but sadly, also increasingly accepted by some “evangelicals”). As far back as 1963 Martyn Lloyd-Jones warned that C. S. Lewis had a defective view of salvation and with good reason. Let’s take a look at several soteriological errors in Lewis’s theology.

In Mere Christianity Lewis was clear that he rejected the substitutionary atonement:

“Now before I became a Christian I was under the impression that the first thing Christians had to believe was one particular theory as to what the point of this dying [Christ’s] was. According to that theory God wanted to punish men for having deserted and joined the Great Rebel, but Christ volunteered to be punished instead, and so God let us off. Now I admit that even this theory does not seem to me quite so immoral and so silly as it used to…. Theories about Christ’s death are not Christianity: they are explanations about how it works.”

While Lewis reframes this doctrine to make it sound a bit ridiculous and a bit more believable than he one thought, he is nevertheless clear that he is not a fan of what is considered one of the fundamentals of the faith— that Christ died in our place, taking upon Himself our sin and satisfying the righteous wrath of God is not an “immoral” or “silly” theory – it is the very heart of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

In an article in Christianity Today admits, “Though he (Lewis) shared basic Christian beliefs with evangelicals, he didn’t subscribe to biblical inerrancy or penal substitution. He believed in purgatory and baptismal regeneration.”

Lewis’s attraction to evangelicals may have been because of his evangelical-like “conversion” – “He had an evangelical experience, this personal encounter with the God of the universe.” His works actually fell out of fashion in the 1960s only to come roaring back more recently. In fact, sales of his books have increased 125% since 2001 and, since his Narnia series were made into movies, so his star will continue to rise for some time to come. (Bob Smietana, “C.S. Lewis Superstar,” Christianity Today, December 2005, p. 29)

C.S. Lewis showed worldly compromise and a preference for Ecumenism.

In 1993, Christianity Today explained why C.S. Lewis has been so popular among Evangelicals:

“Lewis’s … concentration on the main doctrines of the church coincided with evangelicals’ concern to avoid ecclesiastical separatism.” (Christianity Today, 10/25/93)

Christianity Today magazine admits that C.S. Lewis is popular to Evangelicals today because, like then, he despised biblical separation. Like it or not, the Bible teaches that Christians are to separate from the unsaved (2 Corinthians 6:14-17; and from other professed “Christians” who live in unrepentant sin (1 Corinthians 5:11).

So how should we view C.S. Lewis? His ability to cut through the intellectual clouds and offer insightful analysis of human nature and our relationship with God is unique. Most of us have gained much because of the writings of C. S. Lewis. On the other hand, he was not an evangelical. His theology is deficient at best in the key areas of Scripture and salvation. He believed in neither sola fide nor sola scriptura, the two battle cries of the Reformation.

Those who read him must keep these things in mind, filter his teaching through the grid of Scripture and hold him to the same standards that we are to hold all others. Because Lewis was a man with an incredible ability to package his insights in thought-provoking ways does not mean that what he writes always aligns with God’s Word. He was a man who had keen analytical abilities and incredible writing gifts. But he was a man who rejected or minimized many of the most important truths given to us by God.

Donny, thank you for bringing this topic to our readers. C.S. Lewis was a talented man, but as you have just read, he had some very serious problems staying true to Scripture.

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

In God’s love,

Esther

“Whoever transgresses[and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds” (2 John 1:10).

Notes
1.http://www.svchapel.org/


June 30, 2014

Dear Esther,

I was reading your column today, June 23rd, and I was astonished to see that you agreed that it was okay for someone NOT to attend church in a church building, for lack of a better description. Is it really okay not to go into a church building?

This is what you said in response to Michael:

“As far as not getting involved in a church, that is understandable. I do recommend that some people do so because there are those who need that kind of interaction. And then there are those who do not. It is wonderful that you are leading your family and taking your faith seriously. Keep up the good work and stay close to Jesus as this world continues to implode.”

From what I can see, the way we do church these days is not at all the way it was done in Acts.

Also, now that we have the Internet where sermons, Bible studies, and discussion boards are at our fingertips 24/7, do we really need to go sit in a building for an hour or two on Sunday mornings, going through the weekly routine?

My husband and I are members of a very small independent Baptist church where the pastor is sound, and we enjoy attending. However, I find I can “feed” myself just as well without being in church on Sunday-- but I’ve been feeling guilty that I’ve felt this way, and haven’t wanted to sin by dropping out completely.

Then there’s the verse about us “not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together.” What do we do with that?

My husband is an extrovert who would probably miss the interaction with everybody if we didn't go to church, but I’m an introvert who loves to read, study, and listen to sermons by myself.

My pastor would say, “Oh, you NEED to be in church on Sunday so that you don’t miss the fellowship of other believers.”

How did you come to the conclusion that some people need to be in church every week, and some do not? Do you feel it’s okay for anyone who wants to, to leave formal church, or only those who are in unsound churches?


Dear Becky,

How many times did Jesus preach out in the open air?

Did Jesus and His disciples stay within four walls?

Or did Jesus tell His disciples to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth?

Today we have many churches with four walls where throngs of people elevate pastors into very elaborate lifestyles. And some churches are more modest. We are to serve each other and keep our motives pure and focused on the Lord. It is true some churches have mission programs and local outreach programs to reach the lost and the needy. But where is the true fellowship? And how many churches have true biblical teaching? Are the pastors really serving the congregation or going through the motions? Are they wanting to grow the numbers in that church building to gain more money and power or truly serve others?

The true church is not a series of buildings and ceremonies rooted in ancient tradition. Instead, the church is the body of true believers. The true church consists of those who are regenerate; that is, it consists of those who are “the called” the true Christians.

• Romans1:6: “among whom you also are the called (klaytos) of Jesus Christ.”
• 1 Corinthians 1:24: “but to those who are the called (klaytos), both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
• Jude 1: “Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to those who are the called (klaytos), beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ.”
• Revelation 17:14: “These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called (klaytos) and chosen (eklektos) and faithful.”

The Greek word “klaytos” means “call, invited, divinely selected and appointed.” 1.The Greek word for “church” is ekklesia and is formed from a compound of the word “ek” (out of) and “kaleo” (call).

Therefore, the church is the “called out ones.”

“Eklektos” in Revelation 17:14 above means simply means “chosen” and comes from the verb “eklegomai” which means to choose, to choose out.

Therefore, the church, the ekklesia, is the “called out ones.” [1]

Some need the church “family” in a designated building and what that environment provides. The problem is that this can sometimes serve to constrict, rather than enlarge our parameters in how we serve the Lord.

The voice listened to is a man’s and that is how the congregation gets their guidance and spiritual sustenance. If they are okay with it, then that’s where they need to be and remain until the Lord shows them otherwise. The focus in the church with four walls is often on church activities rather than growing in personal relationships with the Lord and effectively reaching others for Christ.

If we are involved in a local church we should support it with our time and finances, but not made to feel we must adhere to one man’s ideas or expectations. The mission of each church should be evangelism and discipleship and not a place that functions like a fraternity or club that is much like secular organizations.

Those who follow the Holy Spirit’s direct leading are where they need to be. Some have been called out of “her” because the church with the four walls environment hinders them instead of helping their walk with the Lord.

As believers we are not limited to any little segmented piece of Christianity because discernment is sharply tuned to the BELIEVER’S walk with the Lord, not as Baptists, or Methodists, or Pentecostals, or any such splinters of Christianity. We are directly led by His Spirit without the filtering of so many other voices. We, the sheep, hear His voice.

This is not a matter of for or against meeting in a church building. It is deciding to be led strictly by the Lord without the physical ornamentation of a building and the props so many rely on to “follow” Him. Some people need to be around groups of people constantly, and others serve the Lord more effectively at various stages of their lives by being more independent.

Unity in the body of Christ (the Christian church) is very important. But it does not mean total conformity (agreement) and uniformity (sameness). Although maintaining unity in the body is essential, it is also necessary to value the separate and distinctive qualities that make each of us an individual “part” of the body. Both aspects, unity and individuality, deserve emphasis and insightful appreciation. This makes for a healthy church body, when we acknowledge that it is Christ who binds us together and makes us one.

Now Becky, to answer your concern about fellowship, I hope you understand that Michael has regular fellowship with the people he works with and at his home church. From the many letters and concerns I have received from others with their frustrations and disappointments with churches across America, far too many of these churches are a huge disappointment.

Today, many churches exude territorial attitudes which only serve to distance newcomers as well as faithful attendees. These attitudes places a wedge between the leadership and the flock. Some pastors and church members have a judgmental attitude toward those who do not regularly participate in their particular church building. This is a very prevalent problem.

We must also remember that in vast numbers of churches in America, there is little or no true fellowship. Sitting in a Bible study and worship service is not fellowship. Chatting about the latest ball game, movie, politics, etc. for ten minutes after a church service is NOT fellowship. Church going is often a very impersonal experience leaving the believer hungry for genuine fellowship and spiritual growth opportunities.

True fellowship is sharing with others about spiritual matters, praying for each other, studying the Bible (interacting together, not just sitting in a room listening only to one person without being able to speak out). We are to exhort one another, dig in deeply into the Scriptures and apply the teachings to our everyday lives.

“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).

The Scriptures are clear that believers are to fellowship with each other. But that does not mean believers are confined to a “church building” to do so. It is living a daily lifestyle devoted to the Lord and His teachings that comprise true fellowship when interacting with other believers. We are to serve one another and bear one another’s burdens and not get caught-up in shallow matters that are not spiritually edifying.

“They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.

Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-27).

“Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:12-13)

Daily prayer, Bible study and fellowship is vital to keep a believer from straying from the Lord as explained in Hebrews 3:12-13. Going to a church building once or twice a week to remember God is too limiting. It is up to each one of us to have personal Bible study and prayer time, and find ways to fellowship with other believers on a daily basis.

Most churches do not have home Bible studies and prayer meetings. Some pastors have fallen short in their duty to provide for the spiritual needs of the flock. That is why many devoted believers have opted for home churches and Bible studies as Michael and his family have. Many Christians gather together in unconventional ways today for various reasons, some which I have already addressed.

We can take all of this one step further. What is at the core reason for attending a church building? Is it to grow in the Lord, to cultivate and tend to a true personal relationship with Him? Is it to serve others? Is it to honor the Lord? Without a personal born-again relationship, going to church buildings is nothing more than making appearances with a group of people who are also going through the motions of “Christianity” without much substance.

A person’s motives and heart attitude must reflect a redeemed spirit of authenticity when sitting in a church building as well as when going through one’s day (when no one but the Lord can see what he or she is doing). Some people use church and ministry work to try to show themselves to be honorable and true believers when in fact they are deceitful slanderers and carry malice in their hearts. We are living in a time when deception is prevalent and we must guard our hearts.

A number of people have written to me saying too many of the churches they have attended are nothing more than social clubs with backbiting, gossip and weak shallow “sermons.” Some unscrupulous people have infiltrated the church causing dissention. This makes finding a church more challenging. So many are desperately trying to find an authentic Bible believing church—where Bible study and discipleship are the pivotal points of the church, and where true fellowship thrives.

Sadly, this is true not only for many believers but also some good pastors who have been abused by the church system that they trusted. The apostle Paul warned of perilous times and perilous men. Is the Lord truly glorified in the church building or is it a man who has his own hidden agenda leading the flock? We must be discerning and wise to always place our allegiance with God and not men who may or may not have godly motives.

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (2 Timothy 3:3-5).

And Jesus spoke of those with dark deceptive hidden motives:

“Therefore the Lord said: Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men, Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work among this people, a marvelous work and a wonder; for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden.”Woe to those who seek deep to hide their counsel far from the LORD, And their works are in the dark; They say, “Who sees us?” and, “Who knows us?”

This is why so many believers today are involved in home church groups for spiritual growth and fellowship. I have frequently suggested getting involved in a good church (when one can be found). But those who cannot find an authentic Bible-based church in a church “building” are encouraged to get involved in home church groups where the Bible is studied, the Lord is worshipped and fellowship with others is taken to a more personal and meaningful level.

In your case, it sounds like you are benefiting from attending your local church and you also enjoy doing some independent study. That is wonderful. You and your husband have each other to fellowship with when you are not at your church. It is blessing that you and your husband go together, and that you have what you feel is a “sound” church. Regardless, every man should lead his family in daily devotions. If the husband is unsaved then the wife and mother should do her best to spiritually guide the children.

We need not be rigid about worshipping the Lord in a church building. Our motives and dedication to the Lord determine our authenticity and how we grow as believers. The Lord may lead someone to leave a particular (formal) church regardless of how great the teaching is, perhaps only for a season—to serve the Lord in different ways. Once again, our walk with the Lord is a personal one and sometimes we are “called out” to worship and fellowship in other ways.

However, if someone is simply walking away from a good solid Bible teaching church to pursue a personal selfish lifestyle where God takes the back seat, then that is a grave mistake. We are all at different stages of our walk with the Lord. Some people need a lot of interaction with large groups in a church building and some do better having some distance from a formal organization at different seasons of their lives.

Attending a church where the pastor and other leaders are totally sold-out for Jesus and not for selfish gain or questionable personal agendas is a prerequisite for a healthy church. Otherwise the church becomes tainted with undercurrents that keep the congregation from growing spiritually, and in turn, cause fellowship to remain on a superficial level.

Unfortunately weak leadership is far too prevalent today, that is why more and more believers are seeking alternative avenues of worship. Serious reorganization needs to take place in many of today’s churches to truly meet the needs of the congregation and become a beacon of Christ’s light in a world that is getting darker with each passing day.

Becky, you stated: “But I’ve been feeling guilty that I’ve felt this way, and haven’t wanted to sin by dropping out completely.” I hope after reading this response to your letter you will understand that it is not a sin to stop attending a church that meets in church building. But it sounds like you are happy with your local church, and your husband especially likes attending, so leaving should not be an issue for you unless you feel the Lord calling you to take a different direction.

Participate as you feel the Lord leading you and be grateful you have a place to go to where you are blessed and can bless others.

God bless you for your heartfelt thoughts and desire to be obedient to the Lord.

In God’s love,

Esther

“Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually” (1 Corinthians 12:27).

Endnotes
[1] http://carm.org/


 June 23, 2013

Hello Esther,

My wife and I still read your advice articles and always appreciate them even though they may not apply to us at the moment. I find that all advice given from a biblical point of view applies at some point.

We are still doing home church. My wife baptized me in the bathtub at home after we were studying Acts on my 40th birthday. I noticed the Pharisees that didn’t get baptized in water by John for the remission of sins were kind of like many people I work with. They have a good position and are self-pronounced experts on the Bible and all things concerning theology; Jesus, love and what not...

I think the Lord has kept us out of churches to keep us from becoming spiritually blind. I can only deduce that because when I first realized that Jesus is the only way, I started reaching out to people and the ones that I reached out to were (as I see it now), the wrong people. With the exception of reaching out to you of course (I’m so thankful for you by the way).

From Presbyterian, to Church of Christ, to Baptists I’ve reconciled that what some of these well-intentioned people believe—compared to what the Bible and Jesus teach that people are mostly believing lies over truth.

A friend from work (an Ammillennialist by the way) and I began a Bible study during lunch, one day a week. We read the Bible for about 10 minutes and then we talk for 10 minutes and then we pray for 10 minutes around the room. It has been good most of the time. As the Bible study has become more popular it has begun to be dominated somewhat by a few that only point out how much God loves us, leaving out the fact that He is also holy and righteous.

When I bring this up in the room there is typically just silence. Same when I bring up repentance or not living in sin or studying prophecy. I’m not saying all are spiritually blind, but the ones with the loudest and most frequent comments are the ones saying the wrong things, usually.

Also, during the recent sessions, I’ve noticed that less of the Bible is being read, less prayer and more liberal opinions are going around the room. It is being corrupted.

I know some of the men fairly well and we’ve shared our struggles and sins that we know are wrong. After I was baptized in water I did experience the remission of sins. Baptism was referred to in the gospels and in Acts as providing for the remission of sins so I felt the need to obey that call to baptism and with good results.

I see people that love Jesus, but are still spiritually blind possibly changing who Jesus is to fit their beliefs. Although this confuses me it does not surprise me at this point. My question is, why would someone choose to ignore the sin in his or her life over being right with the Lord?

Joining an organized church denomination is not something I ever plan to do. Anyway, I thought I’d share my thoughts with you and let you know that we are doing well. Prayers are being answered and powerful things are happening. I think there isn't much time, but even if there is way more time than I think before the Rapture, I want to get as many people the truth as possible and let the Holy Spirit work on people in hopes that they might be saved too. I just want to serve Him out of gratitude for what He has given me.

Take care,

Michael


Dear Michael,

Thank you for updating me on your life. I remember our past email correspondence. I am grateful for your words of appreciation and that you find the work here beneficial. I am glad you and your wife are doing well.

It is blessing that you can have a regular Bible study/gathering at your workplace. I would say that is highly unusual these days unless your work for a Christian organization. Even though you point out problems, a lot of good can come out of the meetings. I suggest being patient with the group.

A lot of people come from biblically anemic situations or are products of what they have been told by others without ever studying their Bibles to verify what they have been taught truly corresponds with the Scriptures. The Ammillennialist  believer is a perfect example. He cannot talk about prophecy because sadly, it is out of his comfort zone.

It sounds like you are trying to pack a lot into about thirty minutes. The group needs one leader to guide the meeting with a particular objective each time and to keep a sense of order. Meeting together and randomly choosing what to read and discuss each time may be contributing to your complaint:

“I’ve noticed that less of the Bible is being read, less prayer and more liberal opinions are going around the room. It is being corrupted.”

Since the time you meet with your group is so short and only once a week, make an effort to have either a topic of discussion or choose one or a few specific Scriptures to study and discuss. The same Scripture(s) or topic could continue over a period of several weeks if need be. For example, you could choose Scripture such as this one, which deals with the moral depravity in the world today:

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:1-4).

Or you could discuss the importance of studying all the Scriptures, which would of course include prophecy:

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

You could make the following Scriptures as part of the group study, which clearly deal with the future:

“And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD” (Joel 2:30-31).

“And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Luke 21:25-26).

“Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).

“So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (Peter 1:19-21).

Little by little as you expose the group to Scriptures they may not even have been aware of, they might start to think about them. Always pray before you begin the meetings and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and give you wisdom.

Since you already home church your family, consider inviting some of the people who attend the lunch Bible study/meeting to an evening Bible study at your home or perhaps take turns and meet at each other’s homes. The lunch hour meetings could spill over into longer evening or weekend meetings where you could get into more in-depth study and fellowship.

To answer your question, “Why would someone choose to ignore the sin in his or her life over being right with the Lord?”can be answered from many perspectives.

As far as not wanting to address sin and the matters of accountability for an individual’s actions (sin) in relation to the Scriptures, that is a problem throughout much of the church. Consider the milquetoast “feel good” teachings that have dominated Christian media.

Jesus want us to “feel good’ because we are having an authentic relationship with Him, trusting Him for our best, not because we are using New Age style affirmations hoping to create our own reality, keep sin alive and simply give Him an nod of acknowledgment here and there.

We live at a time when many professing Christians want to escape the label of intolerance and narrow mindedness. They want to please Man instead of God. It will do no good to try to get into a verbal battle with such folks telling them that they fall short and are not living up to God’s commands. The best thing to do is carefully plan and choose pertinent Scriptures and make them part of the group’s Bible study. Let God’s Word speak for itself.

It might take some time for some of your co-workers to really listen and start thinking about what they are reading and hearing, but if they are sincere believers, they will not be able to ignore the truth. Some may still not apply the truth to their lives but at least they will be aware of Scriptures that address God’s command for holy living.

In any group you will always find a few dominating personalities and even those who prop themselves up as self-appointed experts. The best way to deal with them is to let the Word of God expose them for what they are or are not. It will take time, but place your trust in the Lord that He will deal with those who are puffed up with their own self-importance.

As far as not getting involved in a church, that is understandable. I do recommend that some people do so because there are those who need that kind of interaction. And then there are those who do not. It is wonderful that you are leading your family and taking your faith seriously. Keep up the good work and stay close to Jesus as this world continues to implode.

You have the right attitude desiring to reach others for Christ, as the Holy Spirit does the necessary work on individuals you witness to. Another topic you could bring to your group if you expand to evening or weekend gatherings is the topic of Discipleship. This is very important and something few churches get into.

I am going to leave you with some topic suggestions and a few corresponding Scriptures which you can incorporate into your group Bible Studies:

Anxiety: Matthew 6:25-34; Philippians 4:6-7; 1 Peter 5:6-7.

Anger: Psalm 7:11; Mark 3:5; Proverbs 14;17; James 1:19-20; : Proverbs 12:16.

Bitterness, Resentment, Hate: Ephesians 4:31; Galatians 5:15; Hebrews 12:15.

God’s Warnings and Call to Obedience: Matthew 7:13-14; 71-23; 24-27, Proverbs Hebrews 10:26-31.

Repentance: 2 Corinthians 7:10-11; 2 Chronicles 7;14 ; Isaiah 55:6-7.

Serving Others: 1 Peter 4:9-10; Philippians 2:3-5; 1 Peter 4:10-11.

Forgiving Others: Matthew 6:14-15; Ephesians 4:31-32; Mark 11:25.

Prayer (Waiting on the Lord): Hebrews 4:14-16; 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18; James 5:16.

Priorities: Matthew 6:19-21; Luke 12:15; Philippians 4:11-13.

Trials: James 1:2-4; Romans 5:3; 8:18; James 1:12.

Michael, this is only a short list of topics and examples on how you can better organize your meetings, and hopefully cut-down on wasted time when others spout off their liberal opinions. Ask the Lord to transform the group so those who are truly interested in growing in the Lord will become active participants and those who are there to just sound off their own “stuff” would either start listening or go away.

Let me know how things progress for you and may the Lord bless you for your wonderful efforts.

In God’s love,

Esther

“But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions” (1 Timothy 1:5-7).


June 16, 2014

Dear Esther,

I am afraid the world is ending, and I don’t want it to. I like to play video games, listen to music, and draw stuff. I believe in God a lot even though I get thoughts that He doesn’t exist or that He is not real. I am just wondering if it is wrong to listen to the music I listen to, and play the games I play. I listen to a lot of electronic music that is instrumental, and I thank God every morning for waking me up, but I am afraid that I will burn. I am scared.

When I listen to the music I put lyrics about thanking Jesus, and God for waking me up each morning. I also have a problem with ADHD, Aspergers and I take my medications. I am on my way to kicking my porn addiction it has been a day and counting. I pray for everyone I know, and I pray for the world to get better. I also am trying to not lust, but it is hard. I need help. I been having problems missing people.

I pray to find out if a man who my mom didn’t think was my father for 20 years, is my father. I also help people the best I can. I need help. I am scared that I will never get married. I went into depression for about six months because I forgot about God. I will still keep my one value that I will not have sex until I am married. I pray every day, and I believe Jesus died to save me from my sin, but what can I do? Please help.

Worried Serious


Dear Worried Serious,

I’m sorry to hear you are having so many problems. It sounds like you need to take one-step at a time to work through these issues. The Lord loves you very much and your life can get better. He says so in His Word. It is wonderful that you are praying a lot. Prayer is so important; it is our lifeline to the Lord. Reading and studying the Bible will strengthen you and renew your mind and emotions.

When Christ returns at the end of the seven-year Tribulation, He will put an end to the chaos in this world. He will rejuvenate the earth and the millennial kingdom will begin. That is when there will be real peace on earth. Jesus the Messiah will rule and reign on earth with all true born-again believers for 1000 years. So as far as not wanting the world to end, be encouraged. Jesus is coming back to clean-up this mess.

God is in control and everything that is happening now is leading toward a glorious climax when the evil manipulations of mankind will be put to a stop by Jesus Christ Himself—the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. That is something to look forward to. He promises to remove all true Christians in the Rapture before the Tribulation begins.

Knowing these biblical facts should help you understand that the “end” of this world as we know it, will be the time when everything you are concerned about will no longer be an issue (as long as you are saved from above). We should rejoice, and realize that our earthly lives in our earthly bodies is very temporary. God has more exciting plans for His children.

During the Millennium the day-to-day heartaches of this life will be gone forever and all born-again believers will be reigning and ruling with Jesus the Messiah. What could possibly be better than that? In your situation, so many things are uncertain but the one thing that is certain is Jesus Christ and His promise of eternal life. Our focus must be on Jesus and not on the worldly conditioning that falsely teaches that we must gratify the flesh.

“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 8:16-17).

From Suffering to Glory

“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. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:18-21).

Each day we can find reports in the news that are very disturbing. But many of these things were forewarned by Jesus Himself as signs of the last days. Once you can get this in perspective many of your concerns will become much less overwhelming. Easier said than done sometimes, but that is what is needed in this fallen corrupt world. Jesus is our blessed hope. He is the one we can count on. We must rely on Him for our inner peace and well being.

Please find some good Christian online ministries where you can listen to or watch good sermons every day. In order to be free of your afflictions you must take Jesus and His teachings very seriously. Listen to soothing hymns that exalt the Lord and feed your soul. Your overall demeanor will be strengthened as you make these changes.

You may feel alone but you are really not alone. You may never know the identity of your earthly father, but you have you Heavenly Father. You can always count on Him. Cry out to Him for comfort.

Be sure you have made a sincere profession of faith and that you are truly born-again by the Spirit of God. And I implore you to get involved with a good Bible-based Christian ministry for some for moral support. Resolve not to allow yourself to do things that you know would grieve Lord. Stay away from those who are living a life of compromise, involved in the ways of the world. Find friends who love the Lord and are strong in their faith.

Instead of focusing on what is missing in our lives, a better strategy is to prepare for our eternal lives. Nothing we do in this world—unless it is for God’s kingdom—will really matter when it is all said and done. The ways of the world take us a away from God. Our daily endeavors should be geared toward growing closer to the Lord and reaching others for Him. As long as we keep the focus primarily on ourselves we will not be able to partake in the joy of the Lord.

It is good that you are praying but are you really willing to let go of your own fleshly desires that you know are wrong?

Until you surrender fully to the Lord, you will be torn and continue to struggle. As long as you are watching pornography and partaking in other godless “entertainment” you are placing a wedge between yourself and God. Playing too many secular video games can numb the mind and take a person to a place that is far away from the Lord. These bad habits can break a person down morally, psychologically and emotionally. They keep us from having an authentic relationship with the Lord.

Some secular music is okay, classical music for example is generally fine. But a lot of the secular music (lyrics) as well as their rhythms have sexually immoral and dark overtones which should be avoided. Even instrumental music can be a problem, depending on the beat of the music. Music can incite anger, depression, rebellion; or a state of serenity, love, happiness and joy. We must be careful what we listen to; music can powerfully effect an individual in a positive or negative way.

I am not sure what kind of instrumental music you are listening to but it would be best if you would listen to spiritual hymns and Christian praise and worship music.

Without a firm foundation in Christ and His Word, you are going to flounder. Resolve to live for Christ and not by the ways of the world. There are many FAQ articles on Rapture Ready that you can read to help you grow in your faith and your understanding of the Bible, and the world in which we live. But only use the sources on the site as a compliment to daily Bible study.

All the things I have addressed comprise my answer to your question, “What should I do?” I also suggest in addition to what I have already said (not instead of), that you should seek out Christian counseling, where you can sit down with someone in person on a regular basis. I can encourage and guide you but I think meeting with a strong Christian face-to-face, someone who and has a solid foundation in Christ could be a great help.

You need some consistency in your life and step-by-step things will get better. Considering the complex array of problems that you have, and the fact that you are on medication leaves me to believe that not isolating yourself is important.

Please ask your doctor about the medication you are taking and if it may have contributed to the depression you went through. If so, ask him to modify your dosage or give you something else. The best medicine is God’s Word. But sometimes we do need to be under a good doctor’s care, too.

I also suggest finding a strong Christian support group where you can openly share with each other; true Christians, not a secular group. Please get involved in a good solid Bible teaching church in your area and let go of anything you know is not pleasing to the Lord. 

As far as marriage, you are doing the right thing abstaining from intimate relations while you are single. If the Lord wants you to get married he will bring the right person into your life. He knows what is best for you. The closer you get to the Lord, the more clearly you will be able to discern His will for your life and conduct your life in a manner that is pleasing to Him.

The Bible teaches fear is not of the Lord, but it is easy to let ourselves become afraid when we are confused. Please get into the Word of God and read His promises. Trust Him with all your heart.

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

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart exults, and with my song I shall thank Him. The LORD is their strength, and He is a saving defense to His anointed” (Psalm 28-7-8).

Your healing will come from a combination of the things I have suggested. But the greatest healing is by consistently reading the Bible, praying and fellowshipping with other Christians who are dedicated to the Lord in spirit and in truth. It is by integrating His Word into your daily life that you will be strengthened. The more knowledge of Jesus you have, the more of God’s grace and peace will rest on you.

Your overall well being hinges on the strength of your relationship with Christ. He wants us to grow, to have an abiding relationship with Him. In this life there will be tribulation (John 16:33), but when we have a solid foundation in Christ we can better navigate through the challenges of our daily lives.

“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1-4).

I wish you the very best. With God’s help and your obedience to Him, your life can take on a much clearer and more joyful reality.

In God’s love,

Esther

“For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:10-14).


June 9, 2014

Good Morning Esther,

I just started reading your column and am enjoying it. I have a question for you.

Last September I asked my daughter if she would like to attend a revival with me and to my surprise she said, “Yes,” as she was not a Christ follower. She attended three nights and on the third night she went up to accept the Lord, which I was elated over.

She had been attending a community college and wants to become a substance abuse counselor, as she can relate to that life since she, too, is an abuser of alcohol. She commented to me that they were talking about evolution and she knows from her upbringing that evolution is not of God so she was disillusioned with attending this college.

After the meeting she had the strong desire to attend their Bible college, so I told her I’d lend her the money to attend and that's what she did from November to May of this year. What bothers me is that she has had no outward appearance of change. She still hangs around with her unbelieving friends, which is not so bad, but she then still drinks until she’s drunk and still smokes, and swears. I know I sound judgmental, but that's my question.

Do you think she really had a conversion or was it just “lip service?”

I tried explaining to her that we are known by our fruit, but she said they tell her in her school not to be judgmental, but I’m very concerned that she just wants to go to this school to get a job in a Christian environment and not in an AA environment. I know only God knows our hearts and I don’t want to be judgmental, but are we not supposed to say anything and just let people “think” they are saved?

I’m very concerned that she’s being fooled by the devil. It’s actually harder to talk to her now that she has professed to be a Christian, than it was before. Please tell me what to say to her to get her to understand that the devil is working overtime on her to keep her.

Thank you for any comments and God bless you in your service to Him.

Char


Dear Char,

I feel for you. Your situation is very challenging. No, you don’t sound judgmental at all. You sound like a concerned mother who sees her daughter living a very unhealthy self-destructive lifestyle. I don’t know which Christian college your daughter attends but it sounds like it is a very liberal school. The term not to “judge others” has been sorely misunderstood. It is one thing to unfairly make unfounded accusations of others but another thing to call out unbiblical practices and lifestyles. I too, am concerned with you. The fact that she is even harder to reach since she has attended this school is disturbing.

However, the change in a new believer is not always apparent outwardly for some time. Change comes about from within, where the Holy Spirit works on the believer’s earthly nature to bring about the changes, denoting they are truly saved. It takes place within the heart and the spirit where slowly but surely the changes will become evident to others.

It may be too early to see the expected “fruit.” Not every conversion is alike. Your daughter is young and it will take some time for her to reach the place where she will know that the lifestyle she is living has to stop. As her mother, your concern is understandable but it is the Lord’s work, not ours, that will ultimately take her from where she is now to where He wants her to be.

You entrusted your daughter’s salvation to God, now you have to gently step aside and let God work in her life, and not necessarily according to your expectations of how she is supposed to be producing fruit. Your daughter may have to go through a few tough situations before she fully grasps what it means to live for Christ and to separate herself from the ways of the world.

“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

I am concerned about your daughter’s continued use of alcohol, smoking and her profane language. I pray in time instead of using alcohol as an escape she will fully turn to the Lord. Pummeling your daughter with words of disappointment will most likely work against you, so be careful. I am not saying you should condone her crude behavior, but rather find a way to help her deal with her drinking problem. This is one area where you should not step aside.

I hope your daughter realizes that she could never be a substance abuse counselor unless she herself is no longer indulging. You mention AA in your letter. I do not recommend Alcoholics Anonymous. This is why not:

On the onset, if you quickly look at the credo of Alcoholics Anonymous, their 12-step “recovery program” one might conclude that the program could be compatible with Christianity. But when you carefully read it, a biblically void Pandora’s box emerges. Notice the problems with the AA creed which I have emboldened below:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

As wonderful as it is to bring people together to strengthen each other to recover from serious problems, the A.A. approach to healing and recovery is racked with New Age liberalism that accepts any false god and the unbiblical doctrines attached to that entity. Alcoholics Anonymous does nothing to get to the root of the drinking problem, which is sin and they fail to understand that there is an absolute disconnect from the true biblical God, which ultimately feeds the progression of any addictive habit. This type of therapy takes a person away from the true God of the Bible opening a wide door to false religious practices.

Any addiction is a form of sin, and yes people can get very physically, emotionally and psychologically dependent upon alcohol and create massive problems and tragedies for themselves and countless others. But until alcoholics come to truly know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and surrender their lives to the Holy Spirit, they will always be in bondage. Man made rules (recovery programs not based on Christ) cannot cure a person’s sin problem or addiction problem. Right believing produces right living.

Alcoholics Anonymous means well, but the organization’s program for recovery is based on a faulty premise elevating false gods to depend on for the hope of sobriety. Only Jesus Christ can truly free anyone from the bondage of substance abuse and addictions of any kind. Countless stories have been told how participants of A.A. continue to drink even though they go to meetings again and again. The recovery rate is very low.

I think the situation with your daughter would be dealt with effectively by getting involved in a Bible-based Christian recovery program. You could call Calvary Ranch which is located in California but they might also have some suggestions where they have affiliates in other states. If you call and speak to someone some of your questions and concerns will be addressed: 1-800-404-2258, http://www.calvaryranch.org/ .

It is important for your daughter to continue her education, but at the moment it is more important that she gets treatment for here alcoholism. Until that is dealt with life is going to be a rollercoaster ride for her and those who love and care about her. Do whatever it takes to get her into treatment.

The people at Calvary Ranch or another good Christian facility can guide you as to how to get her to participate. She probably won’t want to go at first, but once she gets involved with others who are recovering/recovered alcoholics, they will be able to deal with her and relate to her from a spirit of tough love and self-responsibility.

An intervention is necessary. Professionals at a rehabilitation center can help facilitate an intervention to get her into treatment. If she was laying on the street bleeding, would you do everything possible to get her help? Of course you would. Well, your daughter is bleeding profusely emotionally and reasoning with her at this stage is very difficult. I strongly recommend she gets into a good Christian treatment program.

To recap what I have said, your daughter’s spiritual growth and the fruit that shows her sincerity is going to take time. There is an elephant in the room—her drinking problem. Your best method of help is to become a prayer warrior for her. And getting her into a Bible-based treatment situation for her addiction must be a priority. I don’t think there is a perfect treatment facility, but a good Christian one such as the one I suggest could help your daughter face herself and begin the necessary changes. Then she will be better equipped to grow as a believer.

Your daughter’s profession of faith was probably sincere but until she gets the help she needs for her drinking problem, she is not going to make good choices for her life. It is true some people will receive Christ as their Lord and Savior and they can immediately change and stop doing things that are self-destructive— but not always.

Char, it is natural to be frustrated by this situation and of course you would like your daughter to show more evidence of her commitment to the Lord. But as I have stressed, she needs to deal with the substance abuse issue and then the rest of her life will take on a new positive direction. Her thinking is impaired and I can guarantee she is hurting inside.

A battle is raging inside her and reasoning with her right now is not easy. Please do everything possible to get her into a strong Bible-based Christian recovery program. It is from the Word of God and God’s grace that her healing and recovery will come but she needs others who have been where she is to work with her. Trying to talk sense into an addict is like talking to a brick wall. Denial is huge part of her problem.

A strategy to think about to get your daughter into treatment is to point out to her if she is serious about eventually wanting to become a substance abuse counselor, going through a recovery program like the one I mentioned would be a good experience for her.

But it is best if you get advice from a person at the rehab center on how to get her in there. She probably doesn’t want to stop drinking and it may take an intervention to get her into rehab. Getting the help your daughter needs is imperative. All the money spent on her college education could go to waste if she does not deal with her drinking problem. Consider any money spent on her recovery as a necessity. Better to take one semester off from college to deal with her problems than have a repeat of how things of how things have been going.

One more issue: You say hanging out with her unbelieving friends “is not so bad.”

An occasional interaction would be all right but if she is “hanging out” with these people regularly they will most likely draw her away from the Lord. As believers our closest friends should be genuine Christians. The book of Proverbs has some words of wisdom regarding believers choosing friends carefully:

“The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray” (12:26).

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14).

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

Char, spiritual growth takes time. Some grow faster than others. But the people we spend time with are either going to bring us closer to the Lord or pull us away from Him.

There is still much hope for your daughter. Your prayers are of utmost importance. Please let me know how things are going. And be sure to realize and understand that she will need follow-up after she leaves the rehab facility. The counselors there will be able to guide her in how to live out in the world and connect with some local Christian support groups.

It would also be beneficial for you to get involved in a good woman’s Bible study. That is something you could do with your daughter at some point. Sharing and studying the Word of God together on a regular basis would bring an important dimension into your relationship.

Char, please reach out to those who can best help your daughter. At least call Calvary Ranch and see what they can offer. At this time, in conjunction with your prayers, that is the best thing you can do for your daughter. Get her on a road to recovery. Pray that she will take the program seriously. Yes, there are many stories you may hear about an addict who goes through treatment and then relapses. But this is where your prayers and faith in God can do work to keep that from happening.

Place your daughter in God’s hands and never stop praying. He is a God of restoration. He is our blessed hope in a world gone mad.

In God’s love,

Esther

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



June 2, 2014

Dear Esther,

I am 18 years old and about to graduate from high school, and ready to start my first year of college this coming fall. I planned to live at home with my parents for this next year until I can earn enough money to live on my own.

I also became a born-again Christian last January when I attended a church outreach with a good friend of mine from school. He had been talking to me about the Lord and the great church he goes to. I was raised in a Jewish household. My parents are not very religious -- but they are not in favor of my new found faith in Christ, especially my dad.

He thinks I have gone off the deep end. He has even accused me of taking drugs causing me to have a distorted mind. I don’t take any drugs. I am into jogging and health foods, not into being stupid and self-destructive. I keep my grades up and try to take some responsibility for my own life. I am not looking for hand-outs. I work 30 hours a week after school and on weekends. My dad is angry but my mom did say to me she knows some people who attend a Messianic congregation and maybe they understand something she does not.

Things have been very tense around here at home since I accepted Christ as my Savior. I don’t know how bad things will get while I am living here, but whatever happens I cannot and will not renounce Jesus. I hide my Bible and my Christian books so my dad won’t get upset, and I feel like I have to live a double-life. I want to shout the salvation message from the rooftops, yet I feel like a am being muzzled right here in my own home.

Can you offer any suggestions on how to handle my situation?

And thank you for all the great letters you have every week. I have learned a lot from reading them.

In Christ,

Barry


Dear Barry,

I am glad you find this column helpful, and a support for you, thank you. You sound like a fine, outstanding young man with a good head on your shoulders. As bleak as things look right now with your family, life can get much better.

I know of a gentleman who was in a similar situation, but even worse. He was raised in a strict orthodox Jewish home. At age 16 he came to faith in Christ and both his parents were so upset, they told him he would have to immediately renounce his faith or leave home. He could not renounce his faith so he left home. At the time he was extremely devastated. But God took good care of Him, brought the right people into his life and he was able to get a fine education. Later he raised a wonderful family of his own and became a popular evangelical speaker.

I am not suggesting in the least that you leave home before you are ready. Your education is important and living at home for now, makes sense. I only share with you about how another young man was essentially disowned by his family—to show you—that God took care of him under intense pressure. He became even stronger in his faith and his resolve to serve the Lord. So the important thing to remember is that you must trust the Lord completely.

In your case, the fact that your mother even mentioned she has friends who attend a Messianic congregation should be taken as a glimmer of hope. Although your dad is very opposed to your faith, it is my prayer that he will not aggressively forbid you to stop. Be as respectful and kind to him as you can and realize he has lived his entire life without the knowledge of the Scriptures and the truth of Jesus. We don’t know how the Lord is working in his life and once again, this is where trust comes in.

Any number of wonderful things can happen over the next many months and years as you grow in the Lord. We don’t know what doors God will open for you. Have you considered asking your mom if she would be willing to get together with her Messianic friends? Perhaps you can all meet for lunch or better yet, attend a service at the Messianic church.

Explain to your mother that your faith in Christ is not a whim for you but a reality that you are strongly committed to. Tell her how much you love her and how much she means to you. Thank her for all she has done to raise you to be a person of integrity and responsibility. Tell her that the last thing you want to do is hurt her and your dad, but that you must be true to your convictions and the commitment you made to the Lord.

You may be the one to help your mom come to a saving grace in Christ. And perhaps somewhere down the road, your father, who is very upset right now may have a change of heart. Never, ever underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit.

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Longsuffering is a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22). Think of your situation in that way. Yes, it is frustrating that you cannot fully express your love for the Lord at home as you wish, but it is through patience and a loving spirit that we must persevere in our faith. God will bless you for your faithfulness. It is also very important that you place your attention on God’s promises and not the outward circumstances at home.

Pray for an opportunity to tell your father that you appreciate everything he has done for you throughout your life, and although you don’t agree on some things, that you love him and respect him and care very much about him. Especially with Father’s Day coming up very soon, try to find a way to express your love and respect for him.

By coming from a place of maturity and kindness you will be showing him Christian love. He might still scoff at you but give him time. Right now he is in shock. He may not be a religious Jew, but he is still a Jew and until he understands that Jesus is his Messiah, he will feel betrayed. This has nothing to do with you. It is his conditioning.

You are the one who is going to have to be strong here. We don’t know how the Lord is going to work out any of this but the last thing you should do is get abrasive and angry with him. Even if he starts to press you and insult you. Say as little as possible and don’t get into a back and forth heated exchange with him. It will only make things worse.

You might not get the loving support you need from your father, but try to understand how he sees things. If he lashes out at you, keep praying for him (even silently) as he delivers his complaints. And remember, you have your Heavenly Father who is there for you at every moment. Pray that He will bring about a happy ending and heal the divisions in your family. Pray for peace in your household.

Barry, from my perspective, I think the Lord has given you a great deal of responsibility, and that means He thinks highly of you and knows you can handle it. Not every 18-year-old is as mature and well-grounded as you are, and in time the Lord will lead you to His best for you. At the moment you are suffering the loss of your father’s approval, but you have gained eternal life and your name is written in the Book of Life.

You have done the right thing. You have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior which is huge. You have come to a place in your life at a very young age where you can serve the Lord and use your time here on earth constructively and wisely. Whenever you feel alone and discouraged due to the disconnect with your family, get deep into the Scriptures. God will give you the grace you need to deal with whatever comes your way:

“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”

When we are disappointed and hurting from the negative reactions of loved ones, it is best to try to realize that most people are doing the best they can with the awareness that they have at the time. The best remedy is to keep giving it all over to the Lord and let Him work out the details. Our responsibility is to be faithful to our individual callings and come from a place of kindness and goodness. The moment we let resentment get into our lives nothing good can come from it.

Paul had a thorn in his flesh. This is how he dealt with it:

“And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 9-10).

The Lord directs all things by His infinite wisdom. Always cast all your concerns on Him, and He will comfort and support you:

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

Barry, although you have this dilemma at home, use every moment you can to grow in the Lord. The day may very well come when your parents will look to you for answers. This world is on a major collision course with God. I think it would be helpful if you spent some time learning as much about Bible prophecy as you can, and how your Jewish roots tie in with your faith. Always be ready to give an answer for your faith, which comes about by diligently studying the Scriptures.

If you email me I can send you contact information to some ministries that I think would be helpful to you for moral support—others who have Jewish backgrounds. They also offer some good Bible-based material that will bless you as you study God’s Word. Reach out to others who will support you in your faith and don’t look back. Keep reaching forward:

“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” (Philippians 3:12-14).

It sounds like your friend who invited you to his church is someone you can continue to fellowship with. Try to count all your blessings and know that God has a special plan for your life. Serving Him—is that special plan, and how He calls you to do that will become evident as time goes on.

The enemy would love to see you miserable and distract you so you are rendered useless to do the Lord’s work. But I know you won’t let that happen. Think about this: You are graduating from high school, and you are already sold-out for the Lord. What a great way to start your college years. Be very careful who you spend time with, and how you spend your time when you are out in the world. Be sure those you are closest to are strong in the Lord. Choose your friends wisely.

It would be a good idea to get involved in some serious well-grounded Bible studies with others you can speak to about the Lord. And when you are at home, use the time you have in your own room to pray, worship, and study the Scriptures with a grateful heart. Pray that your father’s stubbornness will be broken and that your mother will at least be approachable and even participate with you in exploring the Messianic ministry. Pray for their salvation and for God to create a situation where your parents will begin to at least be willing to listen to the truth.

Resolve to be a godly example even when others are living compromised lives. Refuse to be driven and tossed about by all the adverse circumstances of life or by the opposition from evil that we fight against every day. Instead, ask the Lord to make you increasingly more like Christ in your thoughts, words and deeds. Barry, continue to work and study hard this next year. Make Jesus number one in your life and I would not be surprised to hear from you one day with all kinds of exciting news.

May the Lord comfort you and encourage you as you finish your last year of high school and enter into a new and exciting phase of your life. He will carry you when everything seems to be overwhelming. Keep giving all your cares over to the Lord again and again, for He will never leave you. He is your greatest advocate and can open the right doors and close the wrong ones. God is not going to abandon you as you move toward your spiritual destiny.

“For with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37).

Be sure to get back to me and let me know how things are going for you. Whatever happens, continue to place your hope in the Lord and His infinite wisdom. Hope produces endurance and perseverance. God is able to do much more than we ask or imagine. Stay close to Jesus and walk boldly into your future knowing that He is with you and wants His best for you.

In God’s love,

Esther

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).