Tuesday, June 25, 2013

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Contradictions in the Bible? Part 2

When considering anything in the Bible, all things must be taken in context. Essentially, the Bible unfolds the same information from Genesis to Revelation. The New Testament in simply a continuation of the Old Testament. This is why the authors of the New Testament often refer to the Old Testament and the Old Testament prophesied what would happen in the New Testament. The Old Testament, for example, has many prophesies leading up to Jesus, the Christ. Jesus birth, life, trials, death and resurrection are all predicted in the Old Testament. There were over one hundred prophecies about Jesus in the Old Testament that were fulfilled in the New Testament. It is unmistakable that the resurrection of Jesus was called for in the Old Testament and completed in the New Testament. For instance, Isaiah 53 describes the crucifixion, 700 years before it happened. If, as some say, the Bible is but a “conspiracy theory”, it is the best and longest lasting in history. Over a period, in excess of five thousand years, the conspiracy has not yielded to changes of any kind: rather, each successive generation has continued to fulfill the conspiracy through both good times and tribulation.

What did they give Jesus to drink on the cross? When Jesus was nailed to the cross He was offered ‘wine with myrrh’ (Mark 15:23), as a pain killer, but refused it. Later, when Jesus thirsted, he was given vinegar to drink (Matthew 27:34, John 19:29, Mark 15:36).

Where was Jesus when He healed the blind man? Matthew 20:30-34 says: The two blind men were given their sight as Jesus was leaving Jericho. Mark 8:22 says: And he cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him. Mark 10:46 says: And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging. Luke 18:35 says: And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging. John 9:1 says: And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth (this was in Jerusalem). I think it is rather obvious that there was more than one blind man who was healed by Jesus.

Is it folly to be wise or not? This is so easy I almost didn’t include it. The Bible constantly states that the wisdom of God is right, and the wisdom of man, without the wisdom of God to guide it, is useless.

Can a Rich man get into Heaven? In Matthew 19:24-26 Jesus says: “I say unto you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, with men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” God, in the salvation He offers through His Grace, is no respecter of persons. Accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior and you will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; regardless of your financial status.

Jesus said some would not see death before they see Heaven’s glory. Matthew 16:28 says: “Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.” Luke 9:27 says: “But I tell you of a truth, there are some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.” Matthew 17 says: “Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and brought them up into a high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” (Verified in Mark 9:4) If this doesn’t qualify as seeing Gods Glory and the kingdom of Heaven opened, I don’t know what would be. Jesus was transformed, His clothes changed, two dead guys appeared and God, the Father, spoke to them about Jesus – WOW! Peter, James and John saw all this.

The Gnostic Gospels. It is obvious, in scripture that Paul was speaking against the Gnostics as presenting “another gospel”. The Gnostic gospels represent a group of writings about Jesus, and the early church, that were rejected by the early church and therefore cannot be counted as scripture. The “different gospels” were said by the early church to be of the antichrist. The Gnostic gospels often are in conflict with the true scriptures which were written by the early church as inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Gnostics also mixed the truth of the gospel with pagan ritual. There are drastic and important differences between the true gospels and the Gnostic gospels. They say that Jesus hung around with the disciples for eleven years after being raised from the dead. They say that Jesus was married. They say that Mary was impregnated by a man, rather than the Holy Spirit. They apparently believed that the Holy Spirit was female. There are other examples that could be stated, but I don’t think it necessary.

How many times did the cock crow? What does it matter? The prophesy, by Jesus, was that Peter would deny Jesus 3 times, before the cock crows twice. Has anyone ever heard a cock crow only once? Matthew 26:34 says: “Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, that this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.” Mark 14:30 says: ”And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.” Luke 22:34 says: “And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.” John 13:38 says: “Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, the cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.” John 18:26-27 says : “One of the servants of the high priest, being his kinsman whose ear Peter cut off, saith, Did not I see thee in the garden with him? Peter then denied again: and immediately the cock crew.” As we can see, the emphasis was on the denials of Peter, not how many times the cock crew. The time period for the three denials that night was to be before the rooster let himself be known.

As with all of my writings, everything must be compared to the Bible, for verification.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

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Hearken Unto The Voice Of The Lord

It always amazes me how relevant God’s word is no matter what the time, place, or circumstances may be. We hear his voice speaking to us from scripture as if He had sent us an email to update us afresh and grant His wisdom for godly living for that very day. He is so awesome to behold each and every day. O that I were more diligent to seek Him every day, that I may learn more of true joy which can come only from walking in the fear of the Lord. Fear, you say? Yes, fear. In fact, it is the only fear that the believer is commanded to have. It does not mean ‘to be afraid of’ in the traditional sense. Rather, we are to regard Him and all that He is, says, and does with the utmost regard and respect.

I find myself often thinking of my Daddy when I think of my heavenly Father. Daddy was far from perfect, as we all are. However, I regard myself very blessed in deed for having a Daddy that didn’t play around or pull any punches. His discipline may not have always been imparted in a completely godly manner, but I was never left to doubt about right and wrong. My Mama and Daddy made a good match. Daddy could be very strict, which is a good thing, and Mama tempered his strictness with her tender way of softening the harshness with loving compassion. I don’t mean that false kind of compassion that seeks to rescue the child from having to suffer the consequences of his actions. I can honestly say that I can’t remember her coming to my ‘rescue’ in a way that would undermine the discipline from my Daddy. She just had a way of talking with you that made you realize that, even if he had administered discipline harshly, in the end it really was for your own good. At any rate, I was raised to respect their authority over me, and it often kept me out of a lot of trouble and danger simply because I did not want to disappoint them. Because I had them in my life, that relationship has helped me learn how valuable and precious is the fear of the Lord. Trouble will come in like a flood when we lose that fear (respect/ awesome regard for Him and His authority), and decide to walk our own way in rebellion and disregard for all that He has taught us. They helped me develop an understanding that doing the will of my Heavenly Father (doing that which was pleasing in His sight) would always be for my own good.

The fear of the Lord forms the whole basis for our faith and the direction of our lives as individuals and as a nation. What we choose - to believe and live for the Lord, or forget God and go our own way - is going to determine our final outcome. I began my study this morning in the book of Jeremiah, specifically chapters one and two. In it, I saw our selves as individuals, the church, and our nation. The Lord begins by telling Jeremiah that he is to be His spokesman, His prophet to speak to the people the truth and will of God. At first, Jeremiah resists for he can not imagine that he would be capable of successfully fulfilling such a seemingly overwhelming task. “But the Lord said unto me (Jeremiah), say not, I am a child; for thou shalt go to all that

I send thee, and whatsoever I command thee Thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee and shall deliver thee, saith the Lord.”(Jer. 1: 7) In other words, He was telling Jeremiah not to be swayed or fearful of mankind, what they may think, agree or disagree with, but to stand strong and not waver or compromise anything that he was told to say. At that time Jeremiah was speaking to the nation of Israel, but God’s word is as prevalent to us and our condition as persons and as a nation today as it was then. If we understand that, reading the Bible is like picking up a newspaper today to read the news of the day, with the exception that everything in the Bible is truth.

God is telling Jeremiah that the people have forgotten Him and have chosen to go their own way. They are acting as if they no longer acknowledge that it was He that delivered them out of Egypt and brought them into their own land to become a nation unto Him. A chosen nation through whom all others may came to know the one true and living God. Because they have turned that back on Him, the Lord begins to show Jeremiah what is going to happen to them as a nation if they do not turn their hearts back to Him and obey only Him. “Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land. And I will utter my judgments against them touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken me, and burned incense unto other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands.” (Jer. 1: 14, 15) I can just hear some people saying, “God wouldn’t do that to us today. He is a God of love and forgiveness.” Well, that is true. But He is also still a just God who is the same yesterday, today and for ever. He is a God of order and consistency. As Israel was judged, so shall we.

Once again He told Jeremiah not to fear the faces of man as he went to speak the truth of the Lord to them, for if he did He would confound Jeremiah in their midst. He warned Jeremiah that the people would resist and fight against him, but they would not prevail against him; “for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee. (Jer. 1: 19) This should give pastors and other believers the strength and nerve to take a stand for the Lord and not waver no matter what the people of the world at large think or do. Yet where is our voice, where is the boldness that we should have in taking a stand for the Lord and His ways. Instead, we have let our voices become little or even silenced all together, through intimidation and “fear of their faces.” If you and I, the body of believers can not stand for the Lord in thought, word, and deed then we can blame no one but ourselves when our faith is being marginalized by the secular humanism of this present age.

The Lord asks us today, just as He did of Israel in ancient days: “Thus saith the Lord, What iniquity have your forefathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity?” (Jer.2: 5) He reminds us today, as then, that He established us as a nation in a land of plenty that had His favor because of our faith in Him. Yet, we too, have forgotten Him and defiled the land, and made our heritage from Him an abomination.

The voice of the Lord, through the prophets and scriptures, still speaks to the preachers and the church as a whole today, telling us that we have forgotten Him. “The priests said not, Where is the Lord? And they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit.”(Jer. 2: 8) Is this not happening all over again even in churches that profess faith in Christ? He tells the people to look at the nations around them and see the irony of the fact that, even though they worship false gods that can really do nothing for them, they stay faithful to their false gods and don’t change. However, we who have known the one true living God and have been delivered out of so many tribulations, and experienced such favor from Him “have changed their glory for that which doth not profit.”(Jer.2:11)

Yes, history repeats itself, and yet we refuse to learn from it. We, the body of Christ, have refused to keep the fear of the Lord in our hearts and have gone astray. We have left the protection of our Lord and we have been ‘confounded’ in the eyes of the world for “fear of their faces”. We have left our first love and allowed false teaching to come into our churches. We have become as the harlot, letting ways of false gods come into ourselves and our churches instead of staying true to following Him and His ways and none other. It has many names like pluralism, diversity, secular humanism, universalism, all of which are used to prepare the way of the one world religion of the latter days. All are contributing to the apostasy, or falling away from the true faith in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All are a part of the spirit of anti-Christ. Yet, we are often looking at all of these things and speaking of them as good and signs of evidence that, because we are now more tolerant and accepting of differences, we are now better equipped to demonstrate our love to one another. We are calling evil good.

Still today the loving arm of the Lord is outreached in His mercy and grace.
Yet, we still refuse to listen to His voice urging us to repent and turn our hearts back to Him. He is longsuffering, but he warns us of judgment, still hoping that we will cry out to Him. He warns us by these words: “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and have hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water!” (Jer. 2: 13)

We are witnessing the results of our adultery against the Lord. Our family unit is being destroyed from within as we refuse to study the word for ourselves, and neglect teaching our children of the Lord. We expand the definition of the family to include every deviation imaginable. Then, in our own vanity, we look at all the divers and perverted forms of the family and pronounce them ‘good’. We even consider ourselves as more enlightened, wise, and godly for we think that through our acceptance of greater diversity we have made ourselves more tolerant and loving of others. It has been said that the last standing ethical value in a decadent society will be the perverted form of tolerance. Tolerance used to mean having the ability to love and care for others in spite of differences that we do not agree upon. Now the definition of the word has been perverted to mean that tolerance is not just overlooking differences, but now we must to accept, agree with, and condone the differences in one another. However, the Lord has said this: “Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be ye horribly afraid, be ye desolate, saith the Lord.”(Jer. 2: 12)

We look around us and wonder at the destruction of our cities as they are laid waste by economic failure, sexual rebellion, and every form of violence. We shake our heads and wonder how in the world has this all come about. Others will look upon our demise and think that it’s just a blip in the road, and we will bounce right back before you know it. Our nation has gotten so in debt, and yet few have realized that our debt problem is really a spiritual problem; the solution is not of man, but can only come from the Lord and our return to Him. Some will say the problem is due to one group having too much while others have too little. We have missed the point altogether. It’s not that our pockets are too full or too empty. It’s because our hearts are void of the love of the Lord, and our minds have become sick from a lack of fear of the Lord. We have cast aside all the riches that can only be found through faith and trust in Him. We have forsaken His ways and exchanged them for the corrupt ways of the world. “A man’s ways are right in his own eyes.” In our own pride and arrogance, we have called the ways of the world good and the ways of the Lord evil. We have made God a bigot and a liar. We think we are progressing into our own manmade utopia. Instead we are preparing the way for our further degeneration rather than regeneration.

The Lord, in His wisdom, still unwilling that we should perish, continues to warn us of the results of our godless ways. “Hast thou not procured this unto thyself, in that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, when He led thee by the way?” (Jer. 2: 17) “Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord God of hosts.”(Jer. 2: 19) He has not given up on us, but continues to beckon us to return to Him. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways: then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”(II Chron. 7: 14)

Ginger Rahn

Saturday, June 1, 2013

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You Are Redeemed Through Faith In Jesus Christ, Not By Works

“Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand whole. This (Jesus) is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4: 10 – 12)

** I urge each of you to read the news article that has been copied below. Then compare the Popes assertions with the word of God as your standard of measure for complete truth. This paper is my response not only to the article, but also to further comments connected with the article that were posted on Facebook.

News Article: “All who do good are redeemed – including atheists.”

Huffington Post

[Pope Francis rocked some religious and atheist minds today when he declared that everyone was redeemed through Jesus, including atheists.
During his homily at Wednesday Mass in Rome, Francis emphasized the importance of "doing good" as a principle that unites all humanity, and a "culture of encounter" to support peace.

Using scripture from the Gospel of Mark, Francis explained how upset Jesus' disciples were that someone outside their group was doing good, according to a report from Vatican Radio.

“They complain,” the Pope said in his homily, because they say, “If he is not one of us, he cannot do good. If he is not of our party, he cannot do good.” And Jesus corrects them: “Do not hinder him, he says, let him do good.” The disciples, Pope Francis explains, “were a little intolerant,” closed off by the idea of possessing the truth, convinced that “those who do not have the truth, cannot do good.” “This was wrong . . . Jesus broadens the horizon.” Pope Francis said, “The root of this possibility of doing good – that we all have – is in creation”

Pope Francis went further in his sermon to say:

"The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can... "The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!".. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”
Responding to the leader of the Roman Catholic church's homily, Father James Martin, S.J. wrote in an email to The Huffington Post:

"Pope Francis is saying, more clearly than ever before, that Christ offered himself as a sacrifice for everyone. That's always been a Christian belief. You can find St. Paul saying in the First Letter to Timothy that Jesus gave himself as a "ransom for all." But rarely do you hear it said by Catholics so forcefully, and with such evident joy. And in this era of religious controversies, it's a timely reminder that God cannot be confined to our narrow categories."

Of course, not all Christians believe that those who don't believe will be redeemed, and the Pope's words may spark memories of the deep divisions from the Protestant reformation over the belief in redemption through grace versus redemption through works.

The pope's comment has also struck a chord on Reddit, where it is the second most-shared piece.
More from Reuters:

Atheists should be seen as good people if they do good, Pope Francis said on Wednesday in his latest urging that people of all religions - or no religion - work together.

The leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics made his comments in the homily of his morning Mass in his residence, a daily event where he speaks without prepared comments.

He told the story of a Catholic who asked a priest if even atheists had been redeemed by Jesus.

"Even them, everyone," the pope answered, according to Vatican Radio. "We all have the duty to do good," he said.

"Just do good and we'll find a meeting point," the pope said in a hypothetical conversation in which someone told a priest: "But I don't believe. I'm an atheist."

Francis's reaching out to atheists and people who belong to no religion is a marked contrast to the attitude of former Pope Benedict, who sometimes left non-Catholics feeling that he saw them as second-class believers.] - - - - - - - - -

The article above was in the Huffington Post. It presented a teaching from the new Pope, Pope Francis. A link to the teaching that was given by the Pope in his homily of the day was posted on Facebook. Accompanying the link to the article were several comments made by others, some of which seemed to support the Pope’s point of view that all are redeemed regardless of faith. Additionally, some seemed to think if only more of us would believe that all are redeemed by doing good, (thereby asserting that would faith become less a bone of contention and remove cause for arguments), the result would be a greater demonstration of love for each other throughout the world. As professing Christians, I believe we are walking on grounds of deception and danger.

I know not whether anyone will read this, or if it will have any positive impact. I just know that I must at least make an attempt to present the biblical view of the basis for true redemption. I am not a theologian, nor do I mean to present myself as knowing all things. However, I do know the One who does know all things. Realizing my own limitations, may my thoughts be true to the light of the Gospel, not the ‘gospel according to Ginger.’

Unfortunately, it seems apparent that Pope Francis, the newly appointed Pope of the Catholic Church, has fallen away from the teaching of sound doctrine. One of the fundamental foundational teachings of Christianity is that salvation and eternal life is received as a gift by the grace of God through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, who alone paid the price in full for our redemption when He willingly gave up His life to redeem you and me from sin and death. Look all the way back to Abraham. We are told that his faith was counted unto him as righteousness, not his works. (Refer to the following scriptures for further insight: Genesis 15: 6, Romans 4: 3, 22, Galatians 4: 22) Yet Pope Francis is now teaching that “all who do good are redeemed, even atheists.” This is a false teaching. It is not new, but is the spirit of the anti-Christ, which is spreading into the body of believers. Either out of ignorance or conscious decision, we are following false teachings that “tickle the ears” leading to deception, and the practice of ‘leaning unto our own understanding,’ rather than learning sound doctrine from the word of God which leads unto truth and godly wisdom and understanding. In addition, it seems foolish for the Pope or anyone else to assert that even atheists are saved. An atheist doesn’t believe in God, doesn’t believe in Heaven, and doesn’t believe in salvation or eternal life. The Pope tells a hypothetical story which has an atheist asking the question- ‘What about me, I don’t believe?’ meaning, “I am an atheist, but am I going to Heaven too even though I don’t believe?’ If the atheist doesn’t believe, he won’t even be asking such a question. To insinuate such a thing to an atheist would be an insult to his choice of unbelief. Why would an atheist have any concern about going to a place he doesn’t believe in to be with a God whom he doesn’t even believe exists?

This Pope is deviating from the previous Pope, and is clearly teaching that all are saved by their own good works, regardless of whom or what they believe in or don’t believe in; whereas, the Bible teaches that we are saved by faith in the work of Christ, not by our ‘good’ works. This false teaching is found in such beliefs as Universalism (many paths to God regardless of what or whom you believe in). They, as well as some others, take scripture out of context, neglecting the scriptures around it that are there for the express purpose of giving the full council of the Lord for clarification. For example: “For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.”(John 3: 17) Read alone, that scripture could be construed to mean that all are saved, with or without faith in Jesus. It’s just that kind of misleading that causes the people to stumble and fall away from the truth. Look at the difference in the meaning when it is combined with the other scriptures around it. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved. He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Is it not a shame that people will reject God’s free gift of salvation and eternal life because they would not repent and believe in Him, but would rather think that they can earn their own path to God through their own ‘good works’? I know for sure that, without the righteousness of Christ given to me by faith in Him, I could never be good enough or do enough ‘good works’ to even come close to the standard of God’s holiness.

Salvation through ‘doing good’ is not supported in any measure by the word of God. Let the Bible speak for itself even further:

(Eph. 2: 4 – 10) “But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us [made us alive- my words] together with Christ, (by grace are ye saved;) and has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Jesus Christ. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Should you want further confirmation of the doctrine of salvation through faith in Christ, refer to the following scriptures: James 2: 24, Romans 4: 3, Romans 9: 16, 31-32, Romans 3: 20, 24, 28, Acts 4: 12. Note that, as stated in Eph. 2 above, our faith in Christ should result in the doing of good works out of a desire to do that which is pleasing to God. Good works are a ‘fruit,’ or sign, of the indwelling Holy Spirit who teaches us to glorify God in thought, word, and deed. It is through these good works that we lay up treasures in heaven that have eternal value. James 2 examines these works and explains that they are to give evidence of our faith in Christ. He explains that there are two kinds of faith: one that leads to godly works, and one that does not. One is true, and the other is false. God has foreordained that we should walk in good works as Christ did. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask in my name, I will do it.” (John 14: 12-14)

Does this mean that man can not do good works if he does not believe in Christ? Does it mean that mankind, without faith, is incapable of loving one another? No, for we are made in His image whether we believe in Him or not. Justification (just if I had never sinned) in the eyes of God and regeneration (the process of being transformed daily into the image of God) results in good works that give glory and honor to God, and not to we ourselves. We are led to keep His commandments ever before our eyes and in our hearts, applying and living them out in our daily lives through the power of the Holy Spirit. Keeping His commandments does not mean legalistically keeping a bunch of do’s and don’ts, but rather listening to the Father and submitting your will to do that which is the will of God, rather than going your own way to do whatever you desire to do. It’s having a daily relationship with the Lord which moves us to recognize our need to follow and obey Him in such a way that His desires become more and more a natural part of us as we each yield our own will to that of the will of the Holy Spirit.

Further topics of conversation were brought up through additional comments in response to the Pope and each other. One comment seemed to make the assertion that doing good was often demonstrated better in the lives of atheists and non-Christians than in the lives of Christians. In part, it seemed to be referring to the ethical value of tolerance. First of all, may I point out that in the Christian based society, where tolerance of the differences of others is more often protected than in any other religion, the atheist is given more free reign to practice and spread his atheistic beliefs, unfortunately to the demise of the Christian society at large? For example, if the atheist in a Muslim country even tried to vocalize his belief that God does not exist, he would have his head chopped off. A Muslim under Sharia law is not even allowed to profess faith in another god, much less profess faith in no god. Their religion, especially among the radicals, is one of demand and coercion, not of personal choice. If you doubt that, you only need to refer to the demise of those who try to be a Christian within the Muslim nations. Today’s Christians may argue over certain aspects of their faith, but they don’t kill each other over their differences. Sunnis and Shiites are killing each other in the Muslim faith because one sect does not esteem the other sect as a true Muslim. I don’t deny that a lot of awful things have been done ‘in the name of Christ, but the ones who have committed them have acted against the will of God, not according to the will of God.

Secondly, a militant atheist tries to marginalize and even eradicate the right of others to freely practice their faith in God. Isn’t it ironic that they spend so much effort and energy fighting against the very thing that they don’t even believe exists? If the secular world has its way, Christians will no longer be able to freely practice their faith in the public arena, and parts of the word of God will be deemed as hate speech.

In addition, it was inferred that an atheist may be better company and less judgmental than a fellow Christian. I can understand why an atheist may give the appearance of being less judgmental. By what standard would they be ‘judging’ anyone? An atheist does not believe in God or in any of His morals or commandments by which we Christians are supposed to judge ourselves in the first place. For the atheist there are no absolutes of right and wrong; there are only man’s opinions which are continually changing from moment to moment and place to place. A Christian should not stand in judgment of an unbeliever. They can not be held to living by the absolutes of the Lord, but only to secular standards of ethical values and the attitude of “if it feels good, do it as long as you ‘think’ it does no harm?” If there is no God, there is no need for a Savior, there is no salvation, there is no need for repentance, and there is no eternal life. You are born, live your life until you die, and that’s it.

There have been those who would point to a criticism that Gandhi made of Christianity when he said, “The trouble with Christianity, is the Christians.” Once again, they and he too have missed the whole concept of why redemption can only be received through Christ, and not our own good works as Hindus believe. We have often heard the following question directed towards us, especially after we have failed to meet the expectations of others: “And you call yourself a Christian?” I’m not making excuses for our failings, sins, or coming short of the mark. I intend to point out that being a Christian does not make one perfect, rather we strive to follow the One who is perfect, knowing that we are forever in daily need of asking forgiveness and repenting, and submitting our will to the will of God. Is the atheist, who may give the appearance of being less ‘judgmental,’ by not rebuking or correcting others when it is needed, really demonstrating more love for others? I contend that showing true love for one another does not mean that greater love is demonstrated by accepting and maybe even condoning that which we know to be sin in our own lives or the lives of other Christians. The longer we are not brought under conviction of sin in our life, the more it becomes engrained in our lives. Pretty soon, our conscience will no longer feel any need for repentance. We will not listen to the inner voice of the Holy Spirit that would convict us of sin unto repentance. Further more, we may even begin to call that which is evil good, and that which is good evil. Society at large is already doing that and many of us Christians are following right along not far behind.

I find it ironic when a professing Christian would hold up the atheist as presenting a higher standard of demonstrating love because the atheist did not challenge their poor behavior, etc. When one’s behavior is challenged, the all too often response of the one being rebuked may tend to be, “Who are you to stand in judgment of me?” Or, “You are so judgmental.” I am in no way presuming that we Christians are without hypocrisy in our lives. Yes, unfortunately, we may often say we believe in one thing, but then act in a manner that is completely the reverse of that belief. Neither do I excuse it; we bring shame upon ourselves. But I do point out that because a Christian believes in the one who is perfect, does not mean that they themselves have or ever will be the personification of that same degree of perfection – at least not until we are face to face with our Savior and He has completed His work in us. If we could reach that level of perfection here on earth, we would have no need of our Savior.

Sure it stings when others point out our shortcomings. I don’t say that every criticism is valid, nor is it always administered in the attitude of tactfulness and love as it should be. However, ‘if the shoe fits’, regardless of who or how it was administered, wouldn’t it be better to hear the truth and be given an opportunity to recognize the need for repentance which could lead to a positive change, thereby granting us a chance for a more abundant life? Many times I have received a rebuke, reproof, or admonition that some correction was needed in my life. Like any other form of discipline and chastisement, I can’t say I enjoyed it, but in the long run it was worth it and has often led me to pray, “Search me O Lord, and see if there be any wicked way in me.” Better to get rid of it than to let it take root and grow.

Far more valuable is the friend that is willing to speak truth to us, even if it hurts, than the fake friend who would use flattery to tell you what you want to hear instead of what you need to hear, even when it may lead to your harm and destruction. “Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way: and he that hateth reproof shall die. A scorner loveth not one that reproveth him: neither will he go unto the wise.” (Prov. 15: 10, 12) Unfortunately, we have all too often fallen into the category of those who refuse to learn and be led of the truth for lack of biblical knowledge and guidance from the Holy Spirit, and due to our own stubborn pride that does not want to see the truth. If we don’t face the truth, we don’t have to take responsibility for our actions or for our need of change.

So is it important to love one another, both believer and unbeliever? Of course, for that is the will of God. But we are to love the Lord our God first, (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) with all our strength, mind, soul, and spirit. When we put Him first in our lives, He enables us to love one another with a love that far surpasses any idea of love that we may have conceived. We have all sinned and come short of the mark. So we are to walk in love and forgiveness toward one another. However, that does not mean that we are to then accept and condone sin, no matter what form it may take. Remember, I am speaking here of Christians speaking to one another, not Christians to unbelievers. Just because a society may change its mind about what is or is not sin, does not mean that God has changed His. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. God will not be mocked. Although God is loving and forgiving, He is a Holy God and a just God. When we go against His commandments, forgiven or not, we still have to suffer the consequences of our choices. For example, if I am not a good steward of what God has provided and I go out and frivolously spend my weekly wages, even if I repent and receive forgiveness, I will still suffer the consequences of my actions: get more in debt, have less to eat, etc. Not only will I suffer the consequences, but my entire family will be affected. Hopefully, if we ask forgiveness and repent, we will correct our actions and learn so that we don’t keep repeating or practicing the same sin and get more and more enslaved by it.

As Christians, we are encouraged to rebuke and reprove one another in love. Other Christians are one of God’s tools to help remove some of those impurities and smooth off the rough edges that we all suffer from. That doesn’t mean they don’t love us, or that they are being judgmental. We are supposed to speak truth in love and tactfulness to one another; thereby encouraging one another to stay on the straight and narrow path. Of course it doesn’t mean that we are to accept every criticism as written in stone and ‘thus saith the Lord.’ But might it not be a blessing to be told the truth by a friend that loves you, than to be told a lie? There is a scripture that has been particularly helpful and comforting to me in times when I have experienced the sting of rebuke or reproof. “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips. Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practice wicked works with men that work iniquity: and let me not eat of their dainties. Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head;”(Prov. 141: 3 – 5)

Again another comment in connection with the Pope’s assertions, brought up the subject of the Biblical view about the practice of homosexuality, and that adhering to such beliefs, according to the secular world, is a demonstration of hate from the Christian. I thought this was supposed to be a matter of tolerance. I thought tolerance was supposed to be the ability to make allowances for the differences in others without having to accept or condone those differences. Are we saying that Gay people can not love straight people because they don’t agree with the straight lifestyle? Then are they guilty of a hate crime? Or is tolerance a one way street, and only straight people can’t love Gay people, without agreeing with and condoning the Gay lifestyle? I thought love was supposed to be for the person. When did tolerance of differences get connected to other conditions? When did things get so politically correct that now people can’t love one another even if they don’t agree with, accept, and condone those differences?” Jesus loves the sinner, but He never compromised and condoned or accepted the sin.

The Bible exhorts all Christians to constantly renew our mind by the washing of the water of the word in order to guard against deception. The position or standing of our teachers does not guarantee that they are thus free of the ability to be false teachers who are preparing the way of the anti-Christ and the one world religion of the latter days. We are walking directly into the days of darkness that our Lord warned us which had to come before His return. Jesus said to His disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe unto anyone through whom they come.”(Luke 17: 1) The time of the apostasy, or falling away from the faith, is at hand for anyone with spiritual eyes to see. Yes, the body of Christ is being corrupted by false teaching, and many are falling away from good sound doctrine of the faith. The only way to prevent this is to pray and study as individuals and with other believers to become biblically literate that you may not be deceived. “Now the [Holy] Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons.”(I Tim. 4:1) We must be on guard that we may be able to distinguish between truth and false teaching. It is the combination of the truth of the full council of the word, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, these two will give unto us understanding of the wisdom and knowledge of the one true living God. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” (I John 4: 1)

Yes, it so saddens my heart when I see the church being corrupted by the secular ways of the world at large, knowing all the while that my own imperfections have and continue to contribute to that very corruption. So I must seek the Lord daily to continue to be strengthened by His word. I must daily pray that I will listen to the voice of His Holy Spirit that I may resist the devil and fight the good fight to endure to the end. It is pointed out by some that Christians hate Gays, etc., but give a pass to promiscuity in their sons and daughters. Again I reiterate for emphasis, hating the sin of either one is not equivalent to hating the sinner. We are supposed to hate the sin, not condone it; however, we are to love the sinner for none of us is without sin. The fact that couples living together out of wed lock may be more acceptable in the sight of today’s society does not change in any way the view of God towards it as practicing sin. There is no difference between the sin of homosexuality and the sin of heterosexual sex outside of the confines of the covenant of marriage; they are both equally sin. Because mankind may lesson or remove their disapproval of any form of sin does not negate God’s disapproval of it. God wants only that which is good and beneficial for mankind. We might not understand why He says certain things are wrong, but He has His purposes and who are we to question Him? So if any sin is seemingly receiving a pass in the sight of society, we can be assured it does not receive a pass in the eyes of God. The morals of mankind may change; the morals of God never change for He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is a God of order, not chaos. If anyone carries a sign that says “God hates Gays (GLBT), they are ignorant of the word of God. God loves the sinner and that’s why He has sent His Son to die for us that we might be saved through faith in Him. As God loves Gays, so Christians are also to do. It’s not that Christians are not sinners; it’s that we are saved sinners. Being saved does not mean that we are saved to continue in the practice of sin, but that we are saved and led to seek His forgiveness and repent (change, turn away from) of sin.

When a Christian tries to speak out against immorality today, the scripture that is used most often in an attempt to intimidate and silence their voice is “judge not lest ye be judged.” Jesus never stopped speaking out against that which was against the will of the Father. He would recognize sin as sin and call the sinner to repent, which is to cease, desist, change, turn around and go the other way. The more we choose to stay in sin, the more it becomes embedded in us, turning into iniquity and eventually becoming so gross that it is an abomination unto the Lord. It is the fashion of the day to take the word of the Lord out of context and pervert it in order to promote ungodly deeds and values as being good and right, just as the Pharisees did to Jesus. Therefore, in the atmosphere of politically correctness, it is not surprising when one who advocates the truth of the word of God is now called a bigot and a hater. This too was addressed in the scriptures concerning the calling of good as evil and evil as good. “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” “Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!” (Isaiah 5: 21, 23)

It is sad to see even Christians being deceived by the world as they turn away from standing for godly truths and standards by some misguided sense of false compassion, further enabling us to become more enslaved by sin, regardless of what form it takes. There are many politically correct social justice agendas, but for the sake of expediency, I will speak about only two particular examples: that of pro-choice, and the view that gay marriage is equivalent to traditional marriage. For the sake of political correctness, many Christians will align themselves not with the word of God, but with the standards of the secular world. I can just hear someone saying, “O so you would have a mother die instead of getting an abortion that would save her life?” The problem is that abortions, in the beginning, were said to be only for real and dire health measures. Yet you see what has happened – babies that are viable for life are being murdered, abortions are done as a form of birth control, and for the mere sake of convenience. Our most innocent and vulnerable are being slaughtered. It is often more politically correct to speak out for saving animals than it is to speak out for saving the unborn child. The family unit is already deteriorating. Undermine the standard of traditional marriage, and who knows where that destructive flood will end? Where would our children be if we just stopped teaching them right and wrong, and just let them have free reign in their lives to choose to do whatever they want to do no matter what harm it may bring to them or to others? O that’s right; we’re already guilty of that too. We’re raising children to think that it’s only their own feelings that count, creating self-centered, selfish beings, and robbing them of their precious little souls so they will never become all that they were meant to be.

Adult Christians are spending less and less time in the word of God. We are supposed to be teaching our children about God from His Word. Praying as individuals or as a family is becoming a thing of the past, and the beliefs of the secular world are coming in like a flood. We are forgetting God and His ways.

We are no longer submitting ourselves to the will of God and the standards that He has set for our own good and protection. Instead, we are becoming ‘wise in our own eyes’ and setting aside the knowledge and wisdom of the Lord. We are walking more and more into the darkness of the powers of the principalities of the earth (Satan, the lust of the eyes (the world) and the lust of the flesh). We are being so consumed by the deceitfulness of the father of all lies, Satan, that we can hardly even hear the voice of the Lord anymore. Yet the Lord is long suffering and continually keeps His arm outstretched to us in His mercy and grace. He never gives up on us; we give up and turn our backs on Him, and surrender to the ways of this world. O how true is His word: “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.” There is no such thing as being neutral about Christ. If we try to be neutral in the struggle of good against evil we are really separating ourselves from God who is the essence of all good. If we are not drawing near to him daily, we are drawing away from Him. This only points to the importance of why we are told to seek Him daily in the study of His word, that we should keep His statutes ever before our eyes and in our hearts, applying them in our lives by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit that we may not be deceived and lead astray from the protection of His ever loving arms. To put it bluntly, when we refuse to follow Christ, either consciously or unconsciously, whether it is from lack of knowledge or lack of commitment, we take ourselves out from under the protection of the will of God and place ourselves on Satan’s team. Christians are acting in a way that undermines the word of God, thereby aligning themselves with those that advocate the very things that are against the will of God. To see an example in the earthly realm of the destructive effects that such actions can have, one only has to look at the tragedy of broken and dysfunctional families resulting from parents who continually undermine each other in the raising of their children, and spend little or no time teaching them God’s ways.

I don’t suggest that I know what is in God’s plan for those who have never heard the gospel. He is the one that judges the heart. I can only say with assurance that I have heard the gospel; therefore, I am responsible for my choice to reject or accept His gift of salvation through His plan for my redemption. If I know what the gospel says then how arrogant it would be of me to tell God that His plan for salvation is wrong or unfair. Isn’t that exactly what we are doing when we presume to place our thoughts and opinions over His? I’m glad that God is God, and it is not my responsibility to decide who does or does not go to Heaven. I just know He has given each of us the responsibility to choose to believe and trust in Him for our salvation. I do know that He has asked all believers to tell others about the gift of salvation He has provided for all who will believe and receive. I know that I have no righteousness of my own, but He has imputed righteousness to me by faith in the shed blood of Jesus. God grants me the opportunity to do good works that I might bring glory and honor to Him. I have nothing of myself to boast of, for anything that I am or have, that is of any eternal value, are all gifts from Him. Yes, I do believe that all have the possibility of choosing to do good things. But those good things do not make me a good person, nor do they earn me redemption.

When Gandhi and others say that the trouble with Christianity is Christians, they have missed the whole foundation of belief in Christ. “When Jesus heard it (meaning a statement made by Pharisees), He said unto them, “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”(Mark 2: 17) Other religions are all based on man’s ability to earn the way to heaven by their own good works. Christians go to Heaven, not because they are perfect or because of their good works, but because of what God has done for them. He sent His Son. His Son paid the price in full. In return, all God asks is that we accept and believe in the one He sent, and repent that we might be saved. Belief in Christ alone! No one else paid the price; not Mohammed, not Buddha, not Gandhi; no one but Jesus. If there was another way, why in the world would God the Father send His Son to go through such Hell? Why would Jesus be willing to give up the glories in Heaven to come to earth to save a bunch of sinners that could choose any and every other path and reject the plan of salvation made by the Father in Heaven? People often say, “How could a loving Father send anyone to Hell? The answer is He doesn’t; we send ourselves when we reject Christ, thereby refusing His free gift of salvation and eternal life. Shouldn’t the greater question be, “Why would a loving God send His only Son to die while we sinners already have so many other paths of our own choosing to go to Him? Talk about self-righteous arrogance! Does that even make sense in man’s limited realm of thinking and reasoning? Jesus is the one and only person that is the essence of good and perfect for He is God incarnate. Once again, Jesus said, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father, for the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” “If you believe in me, believe also in the One who sent me.” The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one, and there is no other name on Earth by which one can be saved. On this I stand, for all else is sinking sand.

It seems that there are those who think we can not really ‘know’ God. However, it is written, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119: 105) Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of our faith. It is through Him and the word of God that we can know God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh to the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and henceforth ye know Him and have seen Him.”(John 14: 6, 7) As Christians we can not be ‘pickers and choosers’, taking a verse out of context and choosing to believe in a part, rather than believing in the whole true meaning as gleaned from the full council of the word of the Lord. The law of gravity stands true and it can not be changed or perverted if order is to remain. So why do we try to pick and choose parts of God’s word, making it conform to our opinions, rather than accepting God’s truth and changing our opinions to align with the word? “For what if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and might overcome when thou art judged.”(Romans 3: 3, 4) “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction for righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”(II Tim. 3: 14-17)

If we say that we can not really know God, we make Christ a liar. He said that if we had known Him, we would have known the Father for the Father was in Him and He was in the Father. (John 14) Of course, he also clarified it even further: “Believest not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I speak unto you, I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or believe me for the very works’ sake.”(John 14: 10, 11) To know Christ is know God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for He was and is God in the flesh. Does knowing God mean that we know all that God knows or is? Of course not, for His ways and thoughts are higher than ours and our minds are infinite, not finite. As we walk with the Lord through His word, and are led by His Holy Spirit, He will reveal Himself to us more and more each day. That’s why the words of this song ring out so very true:

“Everyday with You, Lord is sweeter than the day before
Every morning I will worship, every evening I’ll adore
‘Cause everyday with You is sweeter, sweeter than the day before”

Unfortunately, all too often, we refuse to learn to be led by the truth of His word by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is written: “Preach the word; be instant in season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they will turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (II Tim. 4: 2 – 4) Our hope is in the Lord, not in ourselves. Be not deceived, redemption is not through our good works, but through faith in Christ, for whom we do good works that He might be glorified, and not we ourselves.

Ginger Rahn