Who Are We Believing?

August 15, 2017

Friends,
If we distort the Word of God, then we do so to our own destruction, as well as to the destruction of those we influence. (1 Tim. 4:16 // 2 Pe. 3:16,17) Indeed, those who make a practice of disregarding God’s laws will fall more and more into doctrinal error and they will cause others to also fall from the Truth and from salvation. (Same verses) It is only in holding to the Truth that we are abiding in Freedom / Jesus (John 8:31-36), so if we choose to get careless about this, we have “no permanent place in the family” (v. 35) “and fall from our secure position.” (2 Pe. 3:17)

The Word of God warns us repeatedly that we can get deceived by false teachings. (Mt. 24:24 // Rom. 16:17,18 // Gal. 6:7 // Col. 2:4,8 // 1 Tim. 4:1 // 2 Tim. 3:13-16 // etc.) We are to diligently guard against this through careful study of the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:14,15 // 2 Pe. 3:2), by listening to and heeding what the Holy Spirit is teaching us (John 16:13), and by having an intimate relationship with Christ (17:3) “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col. 2:3)

All Scripture is God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16 // 2 Pe. 1:20,21) and every word is inerrant / flawless. (Pr. 30:5) As Ps. 119:160 declares, “All Your words are true; all Your righteous laws are eternal.” Yes, various Bible versions may have some translation errors, but in this day of the internet when we can compare numerous versions and get the English words alongside the Hebrew or Greek words, and use teaching tools that explain how those Hebrew or Greek words were often (or rarely) used, –well, we have no excuse to not understand what God is communicating to us in His Word.

The question is, though: Who are we really believing? If we are believing what men say regardless of what the Word of God is saying, then we are not actually putting our trust in God, but instead in men. That is idolatry. God’s Word is flawless. Men’s words are riddled with error. So, even if men, in their own minds, distort what God’s Word is saying to fit their own preconceptions and experience, does this change what is true? No. God’s Word is fact, the Truth, unbendable, and unable to be changed, compromised, or distorted. –Except in the minds of the deceivers and the deceived.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Mrs. B’s Funeral

August 5, 2017

Friends,
Mrs. B’s funeral last Tuesday, which was in the country funeral home sanctuary, was exceptionally wonderful. One reason was that the preacher (Homer Morgan) gave a superb sermon –full of joy, faith, hope, the Gospel message, and Scriptures. Later, when I asked Mr. B where they had found such a great preacher, he told me that he and Homer’s dad had ‘coon hunted together! Also, after the short graveside service, when I thanked Mr. Morgan for giving such a Spirit-filled message, I learned his church is in Fruitvale and I realized I had walked with my signs in that town back about 12 years ago. I also realized that, due to another elderly couple inviting me, I had visited his church several times (though I think his dad was the preacher then).

I also learned that Mrs. B’s sister had been praying a lot for Mrs. B’s salvation, as well as had the oldest daughter who had started attending a Baptist church two years ago and whose Sunday School class had been praying too. In fact, about eight women from the class came together (from an hour away) to the funeral and they, the daughter, and Mrs. B’s sister thanked me profusely for helping Mrs. B ask God to forgive her and save her eternally. Before I left, I talked again with the oldest daughter, and also her daughter, and they cried with gratefulness when I told about how Mrs. B finally prayed that day before she went into a coma. (See my last post where I described that.) I told them, as I had told several others, that I could sure see how God was using the prayers of many, many people to save Mrs. B from an eternity without Him. No wonder we who love Jesus could rejoice at this funeral!

One other thing I thought was really special, was that the family had laid out some of Mrs. B’s 30 or more hand-stitched quilts along the backs of the sanctuary pews. I had seen several of them before, but certainly not all of them, and they sure were a display of beauty and skill! Since I had arrived there early, I tried to look at each one, and in so doing, I thought lovingly of Mrs. B, of how much I would miss her, of how thankful I was that she was no longer suffering, of how powerful and compassionate God is to save even a long-time stubborn sheep, and furthermore of how great God is to give people such incredible talents such as He did for Mrs. B in her quilting. See this photo I took:

Yes, God is so good. Again and again I thank Him for saving Mrs. B. And I thank Him that her funeral was one we believers could rejoice at and at which the marvelous Good News was presented to everyone, including to the unbelievers’ ears and hearts, if they were listening. I had asked people to be praying about the funeral to be Spirit-filled, and it was. The Lord uses any of us who are willing vessels, and I am so thankful for a remarkable small-town preacher whom God used to comfort and inspire us at the funeral of Mrs. B. Here is a link to one of his Youtube sermons: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtHoYdHgqQM

We never know when we will die and it could be sudden. Mr. Morgan had mentioned on Tuesday the terrible tornados that had hit East Texas on 4/29/17, including Fruitvale. We know that a tornado can whip through a house and leave a person dead within seconds –yes, it can be that abrupt and unexpected. Shouldn’t we, then, never postpone being fully ready to meet The Almighty Judge? Here is a link of some of the tornado damage done in Fruitvale, Texas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KaDyqMocLaE

Here is another link where a woman there, who lost a lot, still gives God glory: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMv4x11Ezug

Here is one showing the damage in another nearby community where I’d evangelized in about 2004: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uH_cT6xxNeA As I drove in the line of cars from the funeral home to the gravesite on Tuesday, I noticed the damage there and I felt sad. Sad to think about the places and people I’ve evangelized, knowing that most probably never repented, and realizing that many have probably since died. Even so, I thought about how merciful and powerful God is, and that what He has done for the Bells, He could have done, and can still do, for anyone and everyone.

I feel so privileged to have known many precious people in East Texas, including dear Mrs. B. I am so glad to have been one vessel God used in bringing her to salvation, and feel so blessed to have consistently felt some of God’s immense, intense, incredible, supernatural love for her. I am so, so happy to be looking forward to seeing her in Heaven.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Mrs. B Prayed

July 28, 2017

Friends,
Last Sunday, after hearing the mission’s report by my friend’s daughter at their church and visiting other friends, including at the nursing home, I visited Mr. and Mrs. B at their home where they’ve lived most of their nearly 65 years of marriage. I’m always asking my prayer partners to be praying for the Bs and for them to get into right relationship with Jesus and that day was no exception. I was excited to announce that evening that Mrs. B had finally humbled herself to pray for forgiveness and salvation!!!

Mr. B had repeated a prayer after me several months ago to receive from the Lord forgiveness and salvation but Mrs. B had still, over the months (including over the last 17 years that I’ve known them), refused to do so. I’ve been out to the country to visit them several times this year, but each time she still declined to pray. Last Sunday I had a small feeling that “today was the day”. I greeted and hugged Mr. B when I entered their house and a few minutes later I went into their kitchen where Mrs. B was sitting at the table huddled under the cuddly mint green blanket I’d given her for her 87th birthday in January.

I hugged Mrs. B and asked her how she was doing and she said something like “puny” or “pitiful” (two words she often uses). The poor thing has already been on hospice for a brain tumor all of 2017, and a week ago Wednesday when I’d called, I’d found out she has pneumonia. (Their three kids have been taking turns caring for her all year and they have a hospice nurse as well as a woman who comes in to cook and clean.)

Mr. B came into the kitchen and sat down with us and they then told me about their night before –that Mrs. B could barely breathe and they’d had to call the nurse at almost midnight who came from a half hour away to adjust her breathing machine. The nurse was a help but both Mr. and Mrs. B stressed to me how much Mrs. B had wished she could just die.

Mrs. B said it again to me, “I really would rather be dead.”

I stroked her back and arm and said after a pause, “But we don’t die, you know.”

The Bs both nodded and I went on: “Our spirits immediately go to one place or the other.”

They nodded in agreement again so I gently said to Mrs. B, “Don’t you want to make the choice to go to Heaven instead of Hell?”

Shockingly, Mrs. B, this time, said, “Yeah. But I don’t think God can forgive me because I’ve been so mean.”

“But that is why we need a Savior,” I responded. “And because of Him God will forgive anything.”

She nodded.

“Besides, Mr. B has been mean too.” It was a half-joke and I added, “And so have I.”

They gave a slight laugh and then I asked, “Do you want to pray a prayer after me?”

“Yes,” was Mrs. B’s answer.

I hugged Mrs. B tighter and my tears began flowing as we began to pray and Mrs. B asked God to grant her His forgiveness and salvation, and to be in eternity with Him. I saw, after we had prayed, that Mr. B was wiping away some tears too. I was so, so relieved and so grateful to the Lord for His power and compassion and mercy and ability to bring a stubborn sheep to salvation!

“My daughter is trying to love Jesus too,” Mrs. B said after we’d prayed.

That surprised and gladdened me because it seemed that this “heathen” family could maybe all turn to the Lord eventually. How good God is!

I stayed talking with Mr. and Mrs. B about an hour more, several times getting up to get ice cubes from the freezer to give to her to chew on as she requested. Then when she started getting sleepy, I prayed with them for God’s comfort and strength and continued mercy, took two photos of us together, hugged them tightly, and left. As I drove away, I cried some more with relief and said, “God, now You are going to take her.” I felt that He was saying to my spirit that the very next day she would go quickly downhill.

Well, today as I was halfway through writing this post, I decided to call the Bs. Their son answered and he told me that Mrs. B had been okay Monday morning, but in the afternoon had suddenly and greatly worsened. Morphine had been given to her and she went to sleep and hasn’t woken up since. Their son said that her vitals are okay but she is breathing on one lung and that her kidneys and bowels have shut down. The doctor has given her less than a week to live, but I pray the Lord takes her in His compassionate and perfect timing. Maybe today or tomorrow.

For some reason I’ve been shedding a lot of tears since this news today. I guess maybe because I’m so un-nerved to think that had I not been obedient to the Lord, I would be devastated beyond words to know that Mrs. B had never prayed to ask the Lord to forgive her and save her. Yet what huge, huge relief to be able to believe that she has escaped Hell because she DID pray, willingly and sincerely, this last Sunday! Yet she escaped by only one day!!! ONE day! It’s scary.

I keep thinking, “What if…?” What if my friend hadn’t invited me to her church to hear the mission report? What if not wanting to take the two hour drive to that church would have kept me from going out to the country on Sunday? What if I’d chosen to take time to visit too many others and not the Bs? What if I’d not mentioned eternity when the Bs mentioned that Mrs. B had wished for death in her misery? What if I’d not been gentle enough or courageous enough in my actions, expressions, and words? What if she had said “No” –again?

But she didn’t say no. She said “Yes.” And she prayed very sweetly after me as I led her in the simple prayer of asking Jesus to forgive her and save her.

I am so, so, so glad and relieved to be able to look forward to being with both the Bs in Heaven. Because God is faithful and exceedingly merciful and, even though I vigorously teach that obedience and knowing the Lord is essential (1 John 2:3-6 w/ John 17:3), God’s mercy, we gratefully know, triumphs over judgement (Ja. 2:13) for those who unify themselves with Him even at the very last hour of their lives. (Mt. 20:1-16)

Praise be to the Lord who has heard, and worked, and answered, and saved!

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

P.S.  Exactly 22 minutes after I posted this, I got a text at 5:49 p.m. that Mrs. B has passed away.

Joey & Rory

July 26, 2017

Friends,
I drove two hours out to the country on Sunday to hear a friend’s 17 year old daughter and three others give their report in their church about the Southeast Asia mission trip they had just returned from. It was precious. Another friend who I’d invited to meet me there attended also. She and I went to lunch after and then later sat in her car to talk and pray and listen to a music CD of a couple I’d never heard of till then —Joey and Rory. That evening she sent me this song and I just listened to it today:

https://youtu.be/majRtw3cvec

I went on today to also watch and listen to the very beautiful story of how this couple met and how they knew God was orchestrating it. View this:

https://youtu.be/zPUNpPIvZwQ

Trying to make sense of the huge turn in their journey, listen to Rory’s words here:

https://youtu.be/ZoDUYhweFbg

Besides their stunning songs, music, and personalities, their story is extraordinary and both sad and wonderful. Here is a tribute to Joey:

https://youtu.be/xDfAJEX7Dyo

And another one:

https://youtu.be/VvbGRjIpaRQ

And here is a link where Rory talks at Joey’s funeral:

https://youtu.be/x7ZTRF8c94A

Their songs and story have obviously touched my heart. I hope it touches your heart also and that their courage, faith, and love encourages us in whatever we are facing.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,

This little girl is half Agta and lives in a village next to the village I and my siblings grew up in. Her mom is an Agta woman and her dad is the Filipino pastor of their village. She needs help. Her dad has taken her to a city, a day’s bus drive away (each way), to have medicine put in her eye, and they need money to be able to do this on a regular basis. The family is very, very poor. Please consider giving to this girl and please tell others who also may be able to help.

Here is the link where a person can donate to help in this cause: http://partnersacrosscultures.org/donate In the box that says, “Person or trip for funds to go to” a person must type in “Agta” and then contact me at my comment page (which I will not publish) to let me know the amount given for this little daughter of the pastor. If someone would prefer to give to her through Paypal, just reach me through my comment page and I will send you my brother’s Paypal information.

For the Agta, even a fews dollars goes a long way. Thank you so much for contributing.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
My sister’s daughter, Violet, was on Japan’s national news today. She and some others volunteered to help with the clean-up necessary due to the terrible flood damage that happened in Hita, Oita, Japan the first week of this month.

The reason she is there is because she joined the group (for the first time) that my brother organizes every year to go to Hita to help him and his family share Christ and God’s Message with the Japanese. Each young person stays in a Japanese home and commits to serving their host family, while also helping with the evangelism activities my brother administrates.

I hope people are praying for those affected by the flood. There is much ruin and some family’s homes were washed away completely. May God comfort the people of Hita and may they see their need for The One who is All-powerful and is able to heal and help and save.

Violet can be seen working in several of the clips, and they also recorded a few statements from her. Watching her reminded me again of what a tender heart she has for others, and how she gives of her life whenever and wherever she can. (She is the one who raised over 22K through bake sales, etc. to purchase a well for the Hadza in Tanzania, Africa, which I posted about last year on 7/26/16.)

Here is the link to the Japanese newscast today:

 

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
“‘The church will be inhabited forever and the church through all generations. Their bloodguilt, which I have not pardoned, I will pardon.’ The LORD dwells in the church!” (Joel 3:20,21) Sound familiar? It shouldn’t. Maybe these verses actually say this: “‘Jesus will be inhabited forever and Jesus through all generations. His bloodguilt, which God has not pardoned, He will pardon.’ The LORD dwells in Jesus!”

Those who adhere to Replacement Theology tell us that all the passages in the Old Testament where God made promises to the Israelites regarding their nation, the physical land of Israel, and the city of Jerusalem are promises that have, since Christ’s resurrection, been removed and transferred to “the true church of Jesus Christ” (or, for those who take the brand of Fulfillment Theology, to “Christ Himself”). But can their teaching be the Truth? –Even as they contradict the statements of God?

The above is how the Replacement/Fulfillment Theology adherents have to read Joel 3:20,21, unless of course, they choose to believe that God breaks His promises. But here is what the verses actually say: “‘Judah will be inhabited forever and Jerusalem through all generations. Their bloodguilt, which I have not pardoned, I will pardon.’ The LORD dwells in Zion!”

Is God promising in these two verses something regarding the Jews’ homeland or should we believe that it refers to the church’s homeland? What is the plain meaning? Who is the promise, which God is giving through the prophet Joel, being given to? Certainly it can be seen that the whole of the book regards the Israelite nation and its separateness from all other nations. This is especially obvious in verses 1-3 of chapter 3 where God promises to “restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem” and “gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat” so that He can enter into judgement against the nations for what they have done to His people, His land, and His inheritance.

The Valley of Jehoshaphat is a literal place that separates Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, so if God foretells that His judgement against the nations will take place there, it is a falsehood to teach otherwise. Moreover, if the Lord says that this is “concerning My inheritance, My people Israel,” (Joel 3:2) then it seems that only pride or ignorance would cause someone to teach that God actually meant, “My inheritance, My people, the church.” Does such a teaching make sense when God goes on to say, “for they scattered My people among the nations and divided up My land”? (Same verse) How exactly have the nations divided up the land of the church so as to make God angry?

God promises again in Joel 3:12 that He plans to, and will, judge all the nations when they advance into the Valley of Jehoshaphat. He promises in verse 16 that He will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem even while also being “a refuge for His people, a stronghold for the people of Israel.” In verse 17 He says, “Then you will know that I, the LORD your God, dwell in Zion, My holy hill.” These three verses alone reveal that God claims the hill of Zion as His, states that He dwells there, and states that He is the God and Fortress of those He is addressing, the people of Israel. The rest of verse 17 shows God saying, “Jerusalem will be holy; never again will foreigners invade her.” This is a further promise to the people to whom Joel was preaching –that their capital will one day be holy and forever free from all invasion. Considering history, verse 17 informs us that this promise is for the future, as does verse 18 which promises abundant prosperity and another (physical) situation that is future: “A fountain will flow out of the LORD’s house and will water the Valley of Shittim” –likely by irrigation means. However, for Egypt and Edom, a desolation is decreed. (v. 19)

So now we arrive again at Joel 3:20,21 which we began with: “‘Judah will be inhabited forever and Jerusalem through all generations. Their bloodguilt, which I have not pardoned, I will pardon.’ The LORD dwells in Zion!” This cannot refer to the church or to Jesus. The true church, since they are truly in Christ, has already had its bloodguilt pardoned, and Jesus has never had any bloodguilt, for He is, always has been, and always will be, perfect. Thus Joel 3:20,21 can only refer to the people who inhabit Judah, Jerusalem, and Zion whom God names as His own.

“Never again will My people be shamed.” God promises this in Joel 2:26 and again in verse 27. In verse 19 He promises, “Never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations,” while verse 18 states, “Then the LORD will be jealous for His land and take pity on His people.” It says, “His land” and “His people”. In verse 20 God declares that He will drive the northern army into a parched land and into the eastern and western seas, creating a stench. References to armies and geography should necessitate that this be read literally.

The book of Joel was, and still is, a message to Israel specifically, not to the church specifically, and certainly not to Jesus. It is a call for Israel to repent that they may be spared when “the day of the LORD” comes upon mankind. “Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on My holy hill.” (Joel 2:1) For, as God says, “A nation has invaded My land, powerful and without number…” (1:6)

The book of Joel is “The word of the LORD that came to Joel son of Pethuel.” (Joel 1:1) “And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the survivors whom the LORD calls.” (2:32) Yes, “‘Judah will be inhabited forever and Jerusalem through all generations. Their bloodguilt, which I have not pardoned, I will pardon.’ The LORD dwells in Zion!” (3:20,21)

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel