December 14, 2014
Yesterday I wrote about the command in 1 Thes. 5:17 to pray without ceasing, and how important and powerful it is to do so. Praying is a privilege, and continued faith-filled prayer can move God to bring about miracles for us. However, is this privilege awarded to those who practice rebellion against God? It is not. Yet many who consider themselves Christians do not seem to understand that their sinfulness separates them from God (Isa. 59:2) and that He refuses to hear the prayers of the unrepentant. (same verse; see also v. 1-8) In fact, all who continue to sin will not know peace (v. 8 ), but will incur upon themselves ruin, disgrace, and destruction from God. (Ps. 52:1-5 // Eph. 5:5,6 // Heb. 10:26-31)
God says to the wicked, “What right have you to recite My statutes or take My covenant on your lips?” (Ps. 50:16) You have no right, God says, for by your hatred of discipline and casting My words behind you, you have forgotten Me. Thus I will tear you to pieces with none to rescue you! (v. 21-23) Those who have kept company with adulterers (v. 18), those who have exercised an unbridled tongue, using it for evil and harm –boasting, hostility, slander, and deceit (v. 19,20 & 52:1-4)– are those types of whom God refers. Their prayers will not only not be heeded by God, but He will uproot them (Ps. 52:5), bring them terror (78:33 // Jer. 49:4,5), and pour out His wrath on them like a flood of water. (Ho. 5:10) All who forsake the Lord will be revealed for the fools they are (Jer. 17:11,13) when God casts them down to the dust (v. 13) and assigns them a place in Hell with the hypocrites. (Mt. 24:51)
The privilege of prayer is only for the righteous –for those who turn their backs on their disobedient ways (Isa. 1:15-20), wash themselves till they are clean (v. 16), and learn to do right. (v. 17) But for those who resist and rebel, God states that He finds their prayers and offerings detestable (v. 12-14), their mouths and hearts disingenuous. (Ps. 78:34-37) If they do not repent, they will, one day, be rejected by God forever. (Luke 13:1-9 // John 15:6 // Rev. 21:8,27)
December 13, 2014
The Lord does so many kind things for us –to encourage us, uplift us, help us, instruct us, and to remind us of what is important. He often does these things in such seemingly natural ways, though when we really think about them, we realize they hardly could have happened by mere chance.
Earlier this week I was at a vehicle inspection garage getting my car inspected. It is in a busy part of town where the boulevard has commercial buildings on both sides, not homes. So understandably, when I saw a white-haired Caucasian man about 75 years old walking up to the inspection garage from out of nowhere, I was surprised. He seemed so out of place that I quickly prayed, “Lord, give me a divine appointment.”
The guy opened the glass door, looked around, and smiled. “Hi!” he said.
“Hi!” I answered, smiling back. The young woman in jeans with her back to the window didn’t even look up from her iPhone. In fact, I never did see her face the whole time because she kept her head bowed and her hair hanging down like a veil.
Maybe a bit nonplussed by the other woman’s unfriendliness, the man turned his attention back to me. “How are you?” he asked me.
“I’m fine,” I responded. “Are you an angel?”
The guy laughed and asked, “Are you?”
“You’re the one that just came walking up from out of the blue,” I said jokingly. “There’s not even any houses around here.”
“I walked from home. It’s not too far –just across the freeway.”
“Oh, okay,” I said. “You just come here to get coffee.”
The guy laughed again and poured himself a cup. Then he stood near the counter, facing me. “Angel or not, I see you have the Spirit. Am I not right?”
“You are right,” I said, my tone no longer teasing. “I love the Lord and His Word with all my heart. And I serve Him.”
We smiled at each other, both knowing why we had had the instant connection. The Spirit in him was the same Spirit in me. It truly is a preciousness hard to explain.
“Pray without ceasing,” the man said suddenly.
“Absolutely,” I said, and I knew he was speaking the Lord’s message to me. I knew I needed the reminder. I knew God was reminding me that prayer does change things but that we need to pray them through. I knew God was gently and kindly reminding me that He has ordained that our prayers move Him to action and that our continued prayers move the mountains. I knew God was reminding me to keep on praying about those things I was burdened about and to remind certain others to do the same and not give up.
At that point a garage worker told me that my car was ready. But before I left, I said to the angel, “I’m Rachel. What is your name?”
“Bill,” he answered as we gave each other a side hug. “Don’t forget,” he said. “Pray without ceasing.”
“I won’t forget,” I promised solemnly. “Thank you.”
I had tears in my eyes as I drove the few blocks home thinking about the kindness of the Lord… thinking about how He gave me a divine appointment as I asked… how this time it was for my encouragement from another servant of His… how important prayer truly is, how vital, how powerful… how I need to have the faith and strength to keep praying, all the time, everywhere, and about all sorts of things.
The story doesn’t end just yet, though. Two days later –yesterday– I was in a store and found myself talking with a woman who was confiding to me about the suffering their family was going through due to the trauma of one family member. Another stranger joined our conversation and she happens to be a counselor at a Christian church. So the Lord sent two encouragers to the hurting woman, and as He did so, He also confirmed Himself, His presence, His Word, and His specific message to us. For just as we were parting ways, I said, “Pray without ceasing.” The counselor turned back toward me, stared at me, and said, “Someone just quoted that to me a few hours ago. I haven’t heard that verse in a good while and now, suddenly, twice in one day? It’s God speaking to me!”
I stared back at her, acknowledging with thanksgiving God’s confirmation to me too concerning His reminder about prayer. The hurting woman, seeing the other two of us so amazed, seemed to also have a rise in faith, and when I suggested we pray right then for her, she welcomed it with tears. Afterwards, we hugged, gave our phone numbers to the hurting woman, and went on talking for at least another ten minutes about the Lord and the comfort, peace, and guidance found in His Word. And about how praying continually brings deliverance and healing.
Divine appointments? Certainly. And God is able to bring beautiful ones our way. –When we ask, and often even when we forget to ask. But, if prayer really changes things, then let us put 1 Thes. 5:17 into practice. For just think how different so many lives, including our own, would be –if we would really “Pray without ceasing” every day and everywhere we go.
December 11, 2014
It’s been a busy few weeks for me. A lot of it has been visiting those who are sick. Yesterday my mom and I visited a 91 year old missionary at the mission’s apartment building where she (“Aunt” Vivian) has been living, and actually thriving. With joy she cared for her ailing husband there until he died while she also has continued to nurture all the beautiful plants in and around the building. “And to think everything is running just fine without me!” she said, laughing. “Yes, isn’t that how it is?!” I responded. “We’re reminded we’re not the savior of anything.”
It’s true. We often envision ourselves as so necessary. But God has other willing servants besides us and He brings them forward at that time when He chooses to put us on the sidelines or to take us Home.
Still, we’re going to miss my “Aunt” Vivian, for she found out last week that she has two fast-growing tumors in her stomach that can’t be operated on. “Well,” Aunt Vivian said happily yesterday during our visit with her, “The Lord has to take us somehow.” I was sitting next to her, patting her as she lay on her couch, and my mom and I both exclaimed about how wonderful it is to see her still exhibiting her usual cheerful attitude. Aunt Vivian went on to tell us how kind and attentive the other missionary residents have been to her –some bringing meals, others checking on her even in the middle of the night, and some offering to sleep on the floor beside her some nights. “It is truly beautiful,” she said several times.
After leaving her room, we saw another friend in the hall –Mr. D.B. I was so sad to see him still very hunched over, a condition he’s had for years. We asked about his wife who also has been bad off for about a year, and being that he said she was up, he welcomed our request to visit her. So we did. There too we had a nice visit as we sipped the cranberry juice Mr. D.B. gave us, and, as we had with Aunt Vivian, we had a time of prayer with them. Later, after leaving, I told my mom how heart-breaking it is to see that Mr. D.B., even in his condition, is obviously doing most, if not all, of the care-taking for Mrs. D.B. In fact, I’ve seen him at the grocery store –reaching for groceries, all bent over… Oh, that we had more time in the day to help all the hurting people!!!
Then there is my “Aunt” Jean –the 81 year old who I wrote about on Nov. 17. Well, she passed away this morning at about 4:30. I’m glad that I, my husband, and my parents took time to visit her last month in the hospital. May the Lord comfort her family.
Then there’s my “Aunt” C. She had a massive stroke a few days before Thanksgiving and is not doing well. My brother gave some money for the youngest daughter to drive the five hours here, which she did and was able to stay a few days. Aunt C’s other children live nearby, thankfully, but it is still very hard to see our friends going through such suffering.
One of our missionary friends who was 94 asked me a while back when we visited her at her Assisted Living Home to be praying that she would go to be with Jesus. I did pray it and when she told my dad on one of his last visits to see her, “Please ask Rachel to pray that I die,” I prayed it even more –that the Lord would relieve her soon of her suffering. A few weeks later He did –on Oct. 29th of this year. She had been a missionary in Peru with her late husband, leaving behind a beautiful legacy, including that of influencing one of their sons who chose to carry on the Gospel work there.
Last Friday I drove back out to the country to attend a funeral (which is now appropriately called, for those who followed Christ, “A Celebration of Life”). My friend, Darlene, from the Sabbath church I sometimes went to, and who was only 68 years old, passed away, due to cancer, the Monday before. The Celebration of her life was so nice, and we were all comforted in knowing that she had stated that she was completely at peace about dying. Apparently she was even more wonderful than I thought –never to hold a grudge, always forgiving, so full of joy and fun, and also wise and responsible with home and church affairs, as well as her managerial job at the local newspaper. I found out that she had been the one who boarded the Sunday School bus as a child and led the way for her siblings to also seek God’s Truth.
Darlene left behind her preacher husband, who seemed to be doing well, four kids and their spouses, and several grand-children. Though it was a happy time in seeing so many of my friends again, I did shed tears during some extra touching parts of the very lovely service. I kept thinking of Darlene’s sweetness, her consistent kindness to me (even though I had often expressed to them my disagreement in some of their beliefs), and how everyone recognized that her outward elegance and beauty came from her inward holiness. It made me wish I had known her even better. It made me think again about what people will say about me when I die. It made me more determined to be a sweeter, better person…
Maybe we all should think about it: When we die, will people attend a funeral, or will they be attending, truly, “A Celebration of My Life”? In other words, who of us are living lives that others can celebrate, that others consider to be a life well spent, that others receive warm and joyful feelings as they think about us..? Or, do they have sad thoughts as they think on us? Sad because there was a lot of strife, cruelty, inconsideration, rudeness, unfairness, dishonesty…? Did our life cause others remorse? Did our life point others to Jesus and His ways, or did our life point others away from Jesus and His ways?
Hopefully, no matter where we are at in the level of goodness, sweetness, holiness, and overall Christ-likeness, may we, right now in the present, “be living wisely and making the most of every opportunity as we are careful to walk in God’s will.” (See Eph. 5:15-17) May we be allowing all suffering, sickness, hospital visits, and death to remind us to make every day count. –To make it count for what is right, and good, and holy. To make it count for salvation –others’ and our own.
December 1, 2014
Our family had a really good Thanksgiving Week last week. One of the highlights was that my dad and I took Ian to the zoo on Wednesday. (Not only do all three of us love animals, but we also very much enjoyed taking the Dart train there and back.)
Ian is my brother’s youngest son and my parents’ youngest grandkid. He is at that age where everything is exciting and because he is such a good boy, he is tons of fun to be with. What a great day the Lord gave us! –Not only interesting animals to see (like the baby giraffe, the baby chimpanzee, the elephants, and the large male lion outside the window of the Serengeti Grill where we ate pizza), but we were also surrounded by absolutely lovely weather amid gorgeous Fall leaves.
Below are some photos of our wonderful zoo outing.
I thank the Lord over and over for all of His abundant blessings, as well as for His great goodness, His kindnesses, His care for us, for who He is, for what He has done for us, and for all the more-than-remarkable creatures and world He has made!
November 30, 2014
In order to be saved, we must know the Lord. Moreover, we must know Him increasingly. It is not enough to say that we know about God / Christ, or even that we at one time knew Him. Just as with any relationship, the communication and the togetherness must be continuous, growing, and moving forward. It cannot become stagnant lest the fellowship wane and wither. A good and healthy relationship with the Lord must be maintained, and for this to happen, fellowship must grow so that it remains living and vibrant.
The importance of growing deeper in relationship with the Lord does not seem to be stressed in most of Christendom. Instead, knowledge of the popular parts of the Gospel, knowledge of different doctrines, and knowledge of Church History seem to be some of the main emphases, as well as the knowledge of worship techniques and ways to inspire a crowd.
However, the whole point of our existence is that God wants relationship, and so to this we have been called. God wants fellowship with willing and eager individuals who truly love Him and understand who He is –that He is their Creator, Shepherd, King, Leader, Father, and Best Friend. Yes, He commands obedience because He knows what is best, but He also has given us free will. Yes, God requires that we reverence Him because He is the All-powerful Most High, but He also desires that we delight in Him with attitudes of joy and confidence. Yes, God has created us to worship and praise Him, but the angels, and even the animals, trees, and rocks do, or could, give Him that. Humans are the only ones who can choose to turn from fallenness to God, and who can continue to choose to love Him, worship Him, thank Him, and serve Him. In other words, humans are the only ones who can choose to seek and cultivate intimacy with God. God has called humans to choose to do this, and He has made the way possible for us to do so through Jesus’ atoning sacrifice that appeased God’s wrath –His wrath against sin and sinners.
So are those who believe in Jesus, yet who are not growing in relationship with Him, saved? God’s Word tells us that they are not. (2 Thes. 1:8,9; see also John 15:2a,6 and compare with Mt. 25:1-13 & Acts 5:32 & Titus 2:11-14 & Heb. 5:9) This is the case because, in not knowing God / Jesus, a person is not understanding what He has, or is, saying to them through His Word and Spirit. Thus there is no way to walk in the will of the Lord (and to not walk there is to be damned. –Mt. 7:21 & 1 John 2:17) Such people can know what the Bible says, but they do not have the Word (Jesus / Life) dwelling in them. (John 5:38-40) Such people can have a form of godliness and even be doing “miracles”, but their ability comes from themselves or from the Counterfeiter. (Mt. 7:21-23 // 2 Cor. 11:13-15 // 2 Tim. 3:5-7 // 2 Peter ch. 2)
Jesus, in His prayer to the Father, says in John 17:3, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” The statement is plain and clear, is it not? 1 John 5:20 says the same –that in knowing God through Jesus Christ, we know Him who is the true God and eternal life. Thus abiding in Christ and abiding in eternal life are synonymous. (v. 11,12) But, we can’t abide in Christ (neither can He be in us) if we are disobeying His commands. (3:24) In fact, if anyone claims to know Christ yet does not do what He commands, that man is a liar. (2:4) The Truth (Jesus / His teachings / God’s Word) is not in such a man. (same verse) Indeed, having a relationship with the Lord (belonging to Christ / knowing God) rests on whether or not we are obeying Him. (v. 3)
Jesus says it this way in John 15:10: “If you obey My commands, you will remain in My love.” He says in verse 14, “You are My friends if you do what I command.” In 14:23 He states that being in-dwelt with the Spirit of the Father and the Son is contingent upon one’s obedience to His teaching.
In Mt. 19:17 Jesus says that we must obey God’s commandments if we want to enter Life. In 12:50 He says that those who belong to His family are those who do the will of His Father.
God’s Word is clear: Obedience to the Word and Spirit (Christ) is how we come to know God. This relationship is a walk / lifestyle / existence of obedience, not a one-time act. It is a consistent walk, not a wavering between obedience and disobedience. It is a walk in the sphere of God’s love (John 15:10) where we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord.” (2 Peter 3:18) It is a striving to possess, in increasing measure, those qualities which make effective our knowledge of Christ so that we will maintain our pure and powerful, and thus saved, position. (v. 17 & 1:2-11)
Therefore, as Ho. 6:3 exhorts us, let us continually press on to know the Lord. Then God, if we seek Him with all our heart and forsake our sins, will pardon us and make Himself known to us. (same verse // Isa. 55:6,7 // Jer. 29:13,14) If we ask the Lord to teach us His ways so that we can know Him (Ex. 33:13), He will grant us our request along with His Presence, His rest, and His favor. (v. 14,17) He will put His Law (Word and Way) in our mind and heart (Jer. 31:33) and forgive us (v. 34), and each of us will be able to legitimately boast that we truly understand and know the Lord. (same verse & 9:24)
In fact, everything else we’ve gained, we will consider rubbish in comparison to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus, the Lord, for it is that continued intimacy and oneness with Him which will keep us walking the blessed path of His Presence –that of eternal salvation. (Phil. 3:7-11)
November 24, 2014
1 John 3:4 says, “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.” Do we not believe God’s Word here? Do we not understand that when we sin we are breaking God’s Holy Law –that which commands that we walk “in all goodness, righteousness, and truth” (Eph. 5:9)? Do we not understand that, regardless of how well we uphold parts of the Law, to stumble at just one point is to break all of it? (Ja. 2:10) Apparently, many are deceiving themselves to Hell as they listen to the Word but are lax in obeying it. (1:22) “Oh, I know and love Jesus!” so many say. Yet because they refuse to obey Christ’s commands, 1 John 2:3,4 condemns them as liars who do not possess the Truth.
So, we read that to sin is to commit lawlessness. To commit lawlessness is to commit rebellion against God. To commit rebellion against God is to commit wickedness. To commit wickedness is to forfeit eternal salvation. (1 Cor. 6:9)
What are the acts of wickedness? They are any of those things which displease God. They are any of those things which go against all goodness, righteousness, and truth. A wicked act is any deed, thought, word, or belief that rebels against the control of the Holy Spirit. (Mt. 5:27-30 // Rom. 8:1-14 // Gal. 5:16-25) Wickedness is anything which comes from the sinful nature.
Many people, even those who claim to follow Jesus, think that they are in-dwelt with the sinful nature even while they claim to also be in-dwelt with God’s nature (–that nature which 1 John 3:9 says born-anew people possess). This they believe, insist upon, and propagate, even when Gal. 5:24 (and such verses) are pointed out to them. This verse says, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” Is this unclear language to the reader? A few verses up “the acts of the sinful nature” (v. 19) are described. (v. 19-21) And verse 21 ends with, “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” Is this unclear? It’s not. And neither is 1 Cor. 6:9,10 which states and describes the same; nor is Rev. 21:8.
“Well, I’m not living that bad,” many claim. But haven’t we just reminded ourselves that to transgress at one point of the Law is to break all of it?
Let’s look at Eph. 5:3,4. They say, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed… neither obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking…” How many so-called “Christians” are engaged in hints of impurity? Many! And before we point fingers, let’s examine our own selves. (2 Cor. 13:5) Do we lust? Do we speak even one filthy sentence a week? That’s 52 filths a year. Is that not more than a hint of impurity? Eph. 5:5 warns us, “For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure, or greedy person –such a man is an idolater– has any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and God.” What about the things we watch and listen to? –Are we not participating in impurity by such means and contaminating the temple of God? We are, and God will destroy the temples of His Holy Spirit which become defiled and refuse to be kept clean. (1 Cor. 3:16,17)
Let’s use some reasoning skills here. Can a person who is committing some kind of sexual impurity, whether he engages in it with his body or his spirit (mind, heart, thoughts, words), have any inheritance with Christ? No, we just read in Eph. 5:5 that he cannot. (Neither can a greedy person.) Why, then, do we keep hearing questions about whether or not the sexually immoral are true Christ-followers? For God’s Word makes it abundantly clear that they are not.
2 Thes. 1:8,9 states it plainly that those who do not know God or obey Christ’s Gospel will be punished with eternal destruction. Jesus says that those who do not do God’s will, regardless of the “good” deeds they think they are doing, will be condemned. (Mt. 7:21-23) Jesus calls such pretenders “hypocrites, blind fools, unclean, wicked, and snakes headed for Hell.” (See Mt. ch. 23) He warns us that if we follow such people, we will become as much (or more) a son of Hell as they are (v. 15) and will fall into the pit with them. (15:14) Eph. 5:6,7 warns us to stay away from the disobedient, for they are recipients of God’s wrath.
Yet even with all this warning from God’s Word, we still have those who refuse to come out and be separate from the unclean. (2 Cor. 6:17) They will not “purify themselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit” (see 7:1), for they do not truly reverence God. (See same verse) Have we not been repeatedly commanded to remove ourselves from those who walk unrighteously? We have! (6:14) If we do not, God is not our Father. (v. 18) If we do not, we will be corrupted along with them (1 Cor. 15:33) and be condemned to Hell. (Mt. 23:13)
Therefore, 1 Cor. 5:9-13 has told us to judge those so-called “Christians” who commit sexual immorality, greed, idolatry, slander, drunkenness, and fraud. We are to expel them from our worship services and not have any association with them. (same verses) We are not to tolerate those who claim to love Jesus but who continue to sin. Only if such sinners have genuinely repented and are asking, with sincerity, for our help, are we to have any association or patience with them. But for hypocrites: Zero tolerance.
Everyone who sins breaks God’s Law. Everyone who breaks God’s Law is in violation of His holy standard. Everyone who violates God’s holy standard must repent of their rebellion. Repentance is proved by deeds (Acts 26:20) regardless of what false-gospel propagators insist upon.
November 21, 2014
Yesterday while witnessing at the bus stops, my signs and tracts proclaimed that by meditating on Jesus, who is the Word of God, and by applying His words, we are delivered from the dark realm. People are eager and grateful to hear this message of hope, for it is The Truth and The Good News.
One young man who I’d talked with some months ago, asked me to pray for him to get delivered. I told him that I would pray for him, and I did, but I first told him that it is by our own choice to truly believe and apply the message (the one I was proclaiming) that we step out of bondage, are delivered, and walk in freedom from addictions and other sins. He looked so hopefully at me and listened so thoughtfully. I reminded him of the weapons we have as we walk the path of freedom –those of praise to God (which demons hate and flee from), of quoting the Scriptures (which Jesus Himself did against Satan when tempted in the desert), of taking our thoughts captive to obey Christ (2 Cor. 10:5), of petitioning prayer, of staying far away from places and people who cause temptations, and of nourishing our spirits with the powerful Word of God which, in soaking into our spirit (and mind and heart) –convicting us and motivating us to repent– purifies us (Eph. 5:26), thus making us spiritually wise, clean, and strong.
“So,” I said. “As Gal. 5:16 says, ‘If we walk in the Spirit, we will not fulfill the desires of the sinful nature.’ It’s the sinful nature people are indulging in which is causing most of the wretchedness in the world, is it not? But if we walk in the Spirit, we are abiding in freedom. It begins with each one of us. So let it begin with you and with me. We can be skilled Olympians at it –at walking in the Spirit. And how do we do this? We make the choice to meditate on God’s Word daily, understanding that we must have this Food for our spirit just as we understand we must have physical food for our body. Then we apply the Lord’s words, putting them into practice. We do this every day, every minute. This is how we walk delivered and free.”
Something like that is what I said to this listener. And it’s similar to what I said to many listeners yesterday at the bus stops. It’s the message of hope, of faith, and of freedom. It’s the Great News and the proclamation that everyone needs to hear, understand, and grab hold of.
May all God’s servants believe it whole-heartedly themselves so that they will proclaim it everywhere possible.