Knowing God’s Will

September 23, 2011

Friends,
Often it is difficult to know what God’s will is concerning details of our lives. Here are some things that will help:

1. Know God’s Word: Read it and meditate on it daily, memorize it, and quote it often throughout the day. The Spirit uses the Word to guide us.

2. Submit oneself to the Lord: First thing upon waking, say, “Lord, in the name of Jesus, I completely submit my heart, mind, and will to Your Lordship, as well as my every decision.”

3. Try all the doors of opportunity: If a certain door appears open and one that you think going through may please the Lord, then commit it to Him, ask Him to eliminate all blocks from the enemy, and then try to go through. If it remains blocked, accept it, and go on to another door.

4. Ask ourselves questions: Ask, “How will this decision affect eternity –for me and for others?” And, “How will this action (or word or thought) appear as it is looked back upon from eternity’s side?” Such questions will give us wise perspective when being tempted by “the heat of the moment”.

5. Praise and thank the Lord: With cheerful gratefulness, exalt the Lord for what He is doing for us, in us, and through us to further His Gospel of freedom, righteousness, love, and salvation. Continue to thank Him that even though we may not see the mountains being removed, nor understand His workings, we have a God we can fully trust and rely on to bring about what is best. This displays our faith, builds our faith, pleases and honors God, paves the way for continued deliverance, and sends the enemy running.

6. Wait in purity, rest, and confidence: Do this, encouraging oneself often with God’s words in Isa. 30:15, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.”

These are things that will definitely help us as we wait for God to reveal His will to us concerning the details of our lives.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

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Know & Obey Our Eternal Life

September 22, 2011

Friends,
1 John 5:20 tells us, “He is the true God and eternal life.”

There is only one true God and Savior (Isa. 43:10,11 & 45:21) and that is Jesus. (Micah 5:2 & John 8:58 and 12:41 with Isa. 6:1) There is therefore no other Door / Gate to eternal life. As Jesus says, “I am the gate; whoever enters through Me will be saved.” (John 10:9)

“Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said… ‘It is by the name of Jesus Christ… Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.'” (Acts 4:8-12)

Paul writes, “… Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God… made Himself nothing… and became obedient to death… Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…” (Phil. 2:5-10) and confess / admit / acknowledge / declare that He is King. (v. 11)

We must admit that Jesus is indeed the Sovereign God and Ruler over all (match Rev. 19:13,16 with 1 Tim. 6:15,16), and we must eagerly and gratefully submit to His Rulership. If we do not, we have chosen to remain condemned rebels. (John 3:18-20,36) Rebels are those of the dark kingdom, those who belong to Satan. (John 8:44)

How do we know who these are as compared to those who belong to Christ’s Kingdom? Those in Christ’s Kingdom obey Christ (which means to do the will of the Father (Matt. 12:50) and put God’s Word into practice (Luke 8:21), doing so as controlled by the Spirit. (Rom. 8:9,14) This means they are born of God and thus do not continue to sin. (1 John 3:9)

People of the dark kingdom do sin. 1 John 3:8 informs us, “He who does what is sinful is of the devil.” Therefore it is not difficult to tell the difference: “He who does what is right is righteous, just as He [Christ Jesus] is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil.” (v. 7b,8a) And again in verse 10: “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God.” And for those who think they are allowed to hate, the rest of the verse says, “neither is anyone who does not love his brother.” And “brother” does mean any fellow human being, including the lost (Luke 15), the suffering (Matt. 25:31-46), the poor (James 2:1-13), the oppressed (Isa. 58:10), the person of another race (Luke 10:25-37), and even one’s enemies. (Luke 6:27-36) We are to love perfectly (Matt. 5:43-48), not only with words but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:18), and without favoritism. (James 2:1)

So, if Jesus is the true God and eternal life, and the only Gate through which to step into salvation / eternal life, then how do we do this? We “repent, turn to God, and prove our repentance by our deeds.” (See Acts 26:20) These deeds are those behaviors which please God, which means we will also refrain from those deeds which would displease God (those deeds, thoughts, and words which Jesus Himself would never do). If we do follow Jesus and hold to His teachings (John 8:31 & 14:15), then He gives the in-dwelling Holy Spirit to those who obey Him. (14:23 & Acts 5:32) Then, as Heb. 5:9 says, “He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.”

Now, what is this “eternal salvation” or “eternal life”? Yes, it is Jesus; but how else, besides being submissively obedient to His Kingship, and being a dwelling of His Spirit, do we possess Him –He who is eternal life? This is how: We KNOW Him. And we know Him by this: He abides in us (our spirit) as we abide in Him –His Word and His presence. (John 15:1-5) As Jesus 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.” Knowing God through Jesus by the Spirit equals possessing eternal life / eternal salvation, and this knowing will be displayed in a life of holiness and obedience to God. Knowing… obeying… Knowing… obeying… This is what it’s about. And who is it we are to know and obey if we are to possess eternal life? Answer: The Lord Jesus, who is God.

For those who do not know and obey the Lord, 2 Thes. 1:5-9 should be given to them as warning: “God’s judgment… will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with His powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord…”

“But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.” (Heb. 10:39) For “We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true. And we are in Him who is true –even in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” (All of 1 John 5:20)

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Quiz Over Mark, Ch. 1-3

September 21, 2011

________,
I admire you that you are willing and ready to read and study the Gospel of Mark and take some quizzes. May the Lord bless your entire life as you grow in knowing Him and His Word. Here is the quiz I made up for you:

OPEN-BIBLE QUIZ OVER MARK, CHAPTERS 1-3:

1. To be baptized by John, what attitude and confessions were necessary?

2. Since even demons believe that Jesus is “the Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24,34 & 3:11 & James 2:19), what besides belief must we have and do? (Hint: See Mark 1:8,15,17,18)

3. What were some significant things about Levi, applicable to us?

4. Give three likely reasons for why, when Jesus healed the man with the shriveled hand, the Pharisees got so mad that they then began their plot to kill Jesus.

5. Summarize three other miracles within these three chapters which Jesus performed.

6. What do you think it means to blaspheme the Holy Spirit?

7. What is Jesus teaching us in Mark 3:31-35?

8. In light of 1 John 2:6 which says, “Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did” and Rom. 8:14 which tells us that “those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God”, how can we apply Mark 1:10,11 to ourselves?

9. If Jesus Himself found it to be necessary, what should we, from Mark 1:35 learn we are to also do, and why is it necessary?

10: What is one main instruction or insight you’ve received from these three chapters of Mark?

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Too Late… Drug Bust

September 20, 2011

Friends,
When I went to visit at the nursing home today, I was met with, “Did you hear..?” No, I hadn’t heard yet, but I was shown the article in the town’s weekly newspaper –a drug bust last Wednesday night. It made me very sad, and still does, for the home belonged to one of my friends, and I had just visited her there two days before. Had I been witnessing to this friend? Yes –continually since meeting her about eight years ago. I’d also prayed for her most times before I’d leave, as well as numerous times when she’d call and ask me to do so. Had I witnessed to the others who lived in her home with her? Yes, particularly to her new boyfriend who had come to live there about a year ago. He knows the Bible very well, has preached in pulpits, and he and I would quote Scripture back and forth at length to each other as we discussed theology. But, I knew they were living in sin (though I didn’t know about the drugs), and I’d lovingly rebuke them every time.

Now what? Well, all six who lived in the house, plus the two who’d come to buy their cocaine, could face up to life in prison. Why did they all think their sin was worth such a chance… such a tragedy..? It’s heart-breaking that even after being warned and warned and warned of inevitable judgement God will bring to those who refuse to repent of their sin, they wouldn’t repent! Yet how likely is it that now, as they sit in jail –fearful, and wondering what their futures hold– they badly wish they’d heeded the warnings of conscience, of God’s Word, of the sermons they’d heard at church, and of Christian friends and family who kept reminding them of the importance of getting right with God? It’s likely that they would give up their sin now. But… unfortunately, it’s too late.

How many people wait until it’s too late to seek Truth… to seek God… to turn from their own particular pet sins? Most. And why do they wait? Because they don’t believe it will happen to them. They don’t believe they will get caught… or punished… They think they are above the laws of probability… or the laws of the inevitable… But are they? Is anyone? Of course not. If consequences are not reaped for years, they will be reaped eventually. Even if it’s after the grave. (Gal. 6:7,8)

As Jesus wept over the foolish, rebellious choices of Jerusalem’s inhabitants (Luke 13:34,35 & 19:41), we can also hear God’s heart breaking in Isa. 65:1-3: “… I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’ All day long I have held out My hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations –a people who continually provoke me to My very face…” The Lord has provided for everyone deliverance from sin (John 1:29 & Rom. 6:18), but this is obtained on His terms –that is, by faith (Eph. 2:8,9 & John 3:16) –a faith that leads to obedience (Rom. 1:5) and holiness. (6:22) If people refuse to step through salvation’s Door (John 10:9), or they turn back from following Him (2 Peter 2:20), then “This is what the LORD says: ‘… But as for you who forsake the LORD and forget My holy mountain, who spread a table for Fortune and fill bowls of mixed wine for Destiny, I will destine you for the sword, and you will all bend down for the slaughter.'” (Isa. 65:11,12a) And –why? “For I called but you did not answer, I spoke but you did not listen. You did evil in My sight and chose what displeases Me.” (v. 12b)

Salvation is extended to everyone. But people are the ones who make the choice: To continue in doing evil, or… to quit their sin, believe in God’s Way of salvation, and walk the highway of holiness. (Isa. 35:8) May my friends still repent… someday. For though they’ve chosen to wreck their earthly lives, they can still cry out to God for forgiveness, and that He will redeem their souls unto eternal life.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
Jesus said to Peter in John 13:7, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” How often the Lord could say this to all of us who hesitate in allowing Him to wash us and prune us! But do we want to bear fruit? Then we must submit to the humility, the pain, the cutting, the delays, the process… and say, “I trust You, Lord, no matter what.”

God’s goal for us is that we become conformed to Christ-likeness (Rom. 8:29) –which means holiness– for “without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Heb. 12:14) However, the only way for God to mold willful, sinful humans into this, is to train and discipline us (v. 7-11), and this does cause us suffering and pain. 1 Peter 4:12 tells us not to be surprised at this, though, for to suffering we were called (2:21) so that our faith may be proved genuine. (1:7) Obedience proves our faith (and repentance) genuine (Acts 26:20), but how can our obedience be tested if we do not receive exams? Tests are trials… afflictions… but we must pass these by continuing in our unwavering trust and submission to God even when it causes us anguish. Then, in passing these tests, we grow in faith, thus obedience, thus Christ-likeness, and thus ever-more useful vessels through which He can further His will on earth. Heb. 5:8 informs us that Jesus Himself “learned obedience from what He suffered.” Should we think that we will learn obedience any other way?

One problem with us humans is that we tend toward distrust of God. When we can’t understand why He’s allowing troubles into our lives, we think He is our enemy, a harsh task-master, and unconcerned with how much we’re suffering. We may not put these thoughts into words, but the bewilderment we experience, plus the lies Satan bombards us with, do have their effect. But here is the difference between the man who walks naturally versus the man who walks in the Spirit: The first demands to know what is going on, where he’s being led, and what the future entails. The second simply trusts, follows step by step after the Lord, and continues in praise, love, and thanksgiving, remembering that to walk by faith, not sight, is what the spiritual man does do. (2 Cor. 5:7) He does not make himself sick trying to reason out what he can’t reason out, or allow himself to be alarmed when God seems to change tactics or directions, but he instead calmly accepts that he can be filled with Holy Spirit power (Acts 1:4,5,8) and faith unto obedience (Rom. 1:5) without knowing “the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority.” (Acts 1:7)

Our walk is not about knowledge (except that of knowing our Lord –Jer. 9:24), but about faith. “O you of little faith” (Matt. 6:30 & 8:26) is not something we should cause the Lord to say to us. Rather, we should strive to think and behave so that He might commend us daily with these words, “[Child], you have great faith!” (15:28) For what does Jesus do for such a person? He will give this promise: “Your request is granted.” (same verse) –Because those who have great faith, are those who walk in the will of the Father, and such servants have been privileged to receive what they ask for. (John 14:12-14 & 15:7 & 1 John 5:14,15)

So: “This is what the LORD says: ‘Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the LORD.” (Jer. 9:23,24)

If we know the Lord… know Him well… then we will not feel an incessant need to understand what He is doing. We can ask, but concerning all that He does not choose to inform us of, we can confidently, even cheerfully, continue to walk in faith and trust… obedience and holiness… and submit to all He uses by which to train and discipline us. Why? –Because we believe with child-like faith our Lord’s words to us: “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” (John 13:7 again) Yes, and we will see that He certainly had our highest good planned, as well as the privilege of participating as His ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:18-20) in the furtherance of His Gospel of love and salvation; and this, so that He might acknowledge and honor us before the Father and the holy angels on that day when He comes in His glory. (Matt. 10:32 & Luke 12:8 & John 12:26 & Rom. 8:17)

Then we will realize that the pain and bewilderment were exceedingly well worth enduring in order that we could obtain the glorious prize (2 Cor. 4:17 & Phil. 3:14) –that “crown that will last forever.” (1 Cor. 9:25)

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
Along with a lightning and thunder storm, we had a heavy rain tonight –something we’ve had so little of this year, that for the first time in the eleven years we’ve lived out here, our pond went dry last month. So what a blessing to watch and listen to this storm knowing that, in spite of the nervousness storms may cause us, we can anticipate refreshment to the land. The whole land… our whole state and some neighboring states, certainly need refreshment.

During this storm tonight I happened to look at my flip calendar for today’s date and I found the verse appropriate for the occasion. It’s Nahum 1:3. It says, “The LORD is slow to anger and great in power; He will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of His feet.”

God’s Word tells us repeatedly that the Lord is slow to anger. This is such a blessing to know and experience, especially when most people are quick to become angry, and over the most self-centered reasons. But God, who has every right to be angry over sin –because it is vile and because sin ultimately is cruelty toward others (which is an affront to God who is not only perfect in holiness and righteousness, but also in love, 1 John 4:16-18)– is patient, long-suffering, and eager to forgive. And this, even though He could snuff out rebels and sinners with no effort at all on His part, and no second chance on theirs.

But, because God is love, He does not leave the guilty unpunished. I often say to people downtown who try to tell me that God is too loving to punish people for sin, “Really? So if I choked you and slapped you right now, it’d be right for me to walk away unpunished?” This makes my point clear, for no one wants to think they themselves could be violated without the violator having to reap punishment for it. They then recognize that a decent society, or teacher, or judge, or God, should, and would, stand up for the one violated, and would do so because of concern, compassion, and love.

So is God’s way in the storm? Most certainly. God uses storms to clear away the smog, settle the dust, make things grow, strengthen roots, and give better visibility. He does this not only with physical storms, but spiritual ones as well –those concerning careers, relationships, tragedies, testings, judgements… Haven’t many of us been in a storm of drought –a parched bank account, a dry relationship, a dehydrated soul…? Hasn’t this intense heat spell we’ve endured this summer been like a metaphor to us of the heat inflicted upon our spirits? God has been working… intervening… disciplining us. He’s been patient… slow to anger… but also not leaving the guilty unpunished. And all because He is loving. For in wanting no one to perish forever (2 Peter 3:9), He allows, or even gives, “momentary troubles that achieve for us an eternal glory that far outweighs the sufferings.” (See 2 Cor. 4:17)

In view of all this, may we rejoice when the storms come through… when the drought lingers on and on… because they teach us that God cares, that He loves, that He is intervening… so as to capture people’s attention… that they will become desperate enough to repent and call out to Him. And this, so that He might gloriously save them –now and for eternity.

God knows what He’s doing, why He’s allowing the trials… Our job is to trust, to wait, to obey, to praise. Yes, and to do all this even when we don’t understand. For to know HIM, and to be confident that His Word is true when it says He is loving, merciful, mighty, and just, we will rest quietly amid the chaos, assured that His way, His plan, His path, is right there inside. And that after the storm…? Refreshment will definitely come.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
We celebrated my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary tonight with many family and friends, some who came from several states away. My sister and her husband organized the whole thing, including the food, the decorations, the video/photo show, the scrapbooks full of letters and cards which friends had sent, and the program. There were quite a few people who got up to say nice things about my parents and how my parents had ministered to either them or those they knew. When I went up front to speak, I agreed with others that my dad had always been a lot of fun. I also told how he’d gotten me my first horse when I was eleven years old. I said that my mom had always been so loving and motherly to me, and a best friend. I told how both my parents, my dad leading, had family devotions with us every morning, teaching us numerous Bible verses. There were a lot more praise-worthy things we all could have added, but the party’s purpose was to honor my parents, as well as the Lord who has enabled them to have 50 exciting and fruitful years serving Him together in full-time ministry, and this was accomplished beautifully.

So many people said as they left, “That was a perfect party.” Yes, one at which we celebrated two lives who affected each other, their children, grand-children, relatives, co-workers, and friends, for good. –And for the furtherance of God’s love and Gospel, not only by having translated the New Testament into the language of a tribal group who did not have God’s Word, but just by being the godly role models we all could continuously watch.

I’ve always been proud to say these are my parents.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel