Friends,
While witnessing downtown yesterday, a young man approached me, asking about how to live righteously. After several minutes of encouraging and exhorting him, through which he listened earnestly and asked more questions, he then asked me how he could defeat his problem with lust. Since I’d already spoken about the spiritual tools and weapons that God’s Word tells us have been provided for followers of Christ, I brought up that one initial, basic step is to stop watching most of what is on T.V. He agreed that this (supposedly) acceptable activity was definitely an avenue of inciting lust.

Since the sin of lust is a huge factor in bringing one’s fellowship with the Holy God to a screeching halt, and is often the main hindrance to one’s ability to even begin to approach Christ or follow Him, lust needs to be renounced and rejected, even in its slightest forms. God’s Word commands that we not participate in coarse joking (Eph. 5:4) nor in any hint of impurity (v. 3), including in our own homes. (Ps. 101:2) This involves not setting before our eyes any vile thing (v. 3) and holding to a contract with our eyes not to look at any other person lustfully. (Job 31:1 // Mt. 5:28,29) (I am not talking about appropriate, loving desire for one’s spouse.)

Jesus has strong words concerning those who engage in lust. He says it is adultery and that if it is not completely rooted out from the heart, it will send a person to Hell. (Mt. 5:27-30) This is plain language from Jesus, and we do everyone an enormous disservice if we not often reiterate His warning, especially to young people before they become adapted to the culture’s portrayal that lust is normal.

“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Jesus’ warning in Mt. 5:28) This lust can happen and grow as one walks in stores or on a sidewalk, conducts business, listens to certain music, or watches anything unapproved by God. Therefore, as Jesus continues, “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away, for it is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into Hell.” (v. 29)

Fundamental steps in gouging out lust may very well be to unplug the T.V. and put it in a closet to be used only for special family viewings that enrich the mind of Christ we are to have, guard, and maintain. (1 Cor. 2:16 // Col. 3:2) This we will want to do if we fill our minds with God’s Holy Word which, if taken to heart, enables us to discern between good and evil (Heb. 5:13,14) and in how to utilize the freedom and power we’ve been given (Rom. 1:16 // 2 Pe. 1:3,4) in making the continued, deliberate choice to reject everything that could trip us up in our walk of fellowship with the Lord. (Heb. 12:1 // John 15:1-10 // 1 John 1:5-7)

God in no way tolerates the sin of lust –in any form. It is to be eradicated from our lives forever, or it will send the participant to Hell. All Christ-followers need to acknowledge this, teach this, and themselves, while also expecting others to do so, live accordingly.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

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Friends,
I strongly encourage that we soberly and prayerfully ask ourselves these questions:

1. Is my life, when viewed by God, a life that is in His will –daily, as well as regarding my overall life and lifestyle? We know the verses about the necessity of being in God’s will in order to be granted the Kingdom of Heaven on That Day. One is Mt. 12:50 where Jesus makes it clear that we are not part of His family unless we DO the will of the Father. 1 John 2:17 is another verse that tells us that a person does not inherit eternal life unless they DO the will of God. And of course most are familiar with Mt. 7:21-23 where Jesus makes it crystal clear that even those who consider Him their Lord and who minister in His name –that if they have not walked in the will of the Father– will be eternally rejected.

2. Do I often live according to the sinful nature? Gal. 5:19-21 teaches that those who commit acts of the sinful nature, including those relating to impurity, idolatry, and selfish ambition, do not inherit the Kingdom of God, while Eph. 5:3-6 and Col. 3:5-10 teach the same. Rom. 6:1-7, 2 Cor. 5:15, and Gal. 2:20 & 6:14 show us that being in Christ means having crucified Self, while verses such as Mt. 12:36,37, John 5:29, 1 Cor. 4:5, 2 Cor. 5:10, and Rev. 20:11-15 warn us that we will reap Heaven or Hell based on our motives, our words, and our actions –regardless of our assertion that we love Jesus. (John 14:21 // Titus 1:16 // 1 John 2:3-6)

3. Do I truly know the Lord, or are He and I mere acquaintances? Jesus has taught that we must know Him intimately and that this comes about only by being obedient to the commands of His Word, Teaching, and Spirit. (John 8:31 & 15:14 // Rom. 8:9,13,14) If we do not know and obey the Lord and His Truth, we will reap Hell. (2 Thes. 1:8,9) If we keep on in sin, we will reap Hell (Mt. 13:41,42 // Heb. 10:26-31), because those who do what is sinful are not unified with Christ’s Spirit but are unified with the devil. (1 John 3:7-10,24) If we continue to avoid doing what we know we are supposed to do, then we sin and will reap Hell. (Luke 6:46-49 // Ja. 4:17) Regardless of our claim to having faith, if we shrink back from living by faith, we will reap Hell. (Heb. 10:35-39 & 11:6) If we have abided in Christ by being His servant, yet we get lazy in our obedience, our holiness, and our communion with Him, then we will reap Hell. (Mt. 24:48-25:46 // John 15:6) If the Lord considers our deeds incomplete, then He considers us disobedient to Him and we will reap Hell. (Rev. 3:1-6,15,16)

4. Am I taking to heart these Scripture verses that are being pointed out to me? I encourage everyone to make the choice to read very, very carefully the warnings I am presenting here and to pay attention to the fact that they are coming straight from God’s Word. I encourage us to not take the verses lightly, but to take them to heart, to sit quietly before the Lord, and to ask Him to reveal to us if we are truly in danger of being rejected on the day we stand knocking on Heaven’s door. Masses believe themselves to be saved, but let us each ask the Lord, in honesty and with a listening heart, if we actually are. For again, as we know, multitudes think they are saved and yet are not. What a terrible day that will be for them!

As we envision ourselves standing ready to be judged by the One who has given commands that we have or have not followed, let’s remember these passages:

a) Luke 13:23-28: When someone asked Jesus if only a few people would be saved, Jesus, who had previously taught that this would indeed be the case (Mt. 7:13,14), revealed that even those who, at Heaven’s gate, would reason with Him that they had listened to His teaching and ate and drank with Him (communed with Him), would be rejected based on –no, not their belief in Him, for they did believe– but on their unrighteous deeds. In that same Luke 13 chapter (v. 1-9) Jesus reveals that the unrighteousness that reaps this rejection is a lack of repentance from sin that includes the refusal to produce the good fruit the Owner desires.

b) Luke 10:10-16: This passage warns us of refusing to hear the message being given by someone whom Christ has truly sent to us. It warns us that in rejecting the warnings of Christ’s servant or evangelist (v. 2,3), we are rejecting Christ (v. 16) and that it will be more bearable on the Day of Judgement for those in Sodom than for those too self-righteous to see their own wickedness –their wickedness of having refused to walk in faithfulness, holiness, and obedience to Christ, His Spirit, and His Word.

Well, those are four questions I encourage us to ask ourselves. I pray that everyone will recognize that God’s Word is warning us that many are, in large part, rebellious toward Him. May it be understood that to serve Christ to some extent while also resisting His full leadership and every command, is a type of mutiny. Let’s all answer ourselves honestly about whether or not we have regularly followed the Lord’s orders in daily life. Let’s be truthful about if, in the overall picture, we have walked in His will for our lives. These self-examining questions and responses are crucial.

Many who claim to be Christians have called themselves “Job” at times. But what about Jonah? He too suffered –not as God’s display of righteousness, but instead due to his rebellion against God’s call and will for him. Maybe we are really a Jonah. If so, we’ve placed ourselves under God’s wrath until we repent.

Let us, therefore, listen to God’s voice. Is He saying to any one of us, “You, ______, have been rebellious against Me.”–? I fear that many people who do hear God say this to them think that such a statement means “somewhat rebellious, but okay” when in actuality it means God’s current grade over that life is “Rebellious”.

If a person repents and walks in God’s will now, they will be accepted. But if a person continues to resist and do their own will, they will be rejected –eternally. May we all grab ahold of wisdom and the fear of God and soberly consider the questions above, what we must answer, and what we intend to do about it.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Trust God For 2016

January 20, 2016

Friends,
For many people, this new year, as brief into it as we are, has already brought difficulty, uncertainty, and distress. Let us encourage one another, therefore, with the all-powerful, comforting words of the Living God –He who can change the worst circumstances around for our good, for the good of others, and for the glory of His Name.

In addition, as we meditate on God’s Word and promises, let us not forget that waiting is part of believing, that patience is part of trust, and that thanksgiving is part of faith.

Here are some of God’s wonderful words:

“My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Ps. 121:2) Wow! Can we have any better Helper than HIM?!

“Our eyes look to the LORD our God, till He shows us His mercy.” (Ps. 123:2) Let us be reminded here that we are to look steadily and patiently at Him who is Mercy itself and who does, absolutely, act with abundant mercy (as well as power) toward those who trustingly wait.

“He sends His command to the earth; His word runs swiftly.” (Ps. 147:15) Let us believe that God gives commands on behalf of those who are in union with Christ and are petitioning Him (Eph. 3:12 // 1 John 5:14,15), and that He has legions who promptly and effectively carry out His orders.

“Victory rests with the LORD.” (Pr. 21:31) No matter how high the probability of defeat, let’s keep reminding the Lord that He is the One who is able to grant us victory. And let us remember that praising His Name (even when we don’t feel like doing so), and that walking in obedience to what we already know we should be doing, are measures that prove our trust in Him.

“No ear has heard, no eye has seen any God besides You, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.” (Isa. 64:4) Let us not act presumptuously, but instead wait in loving expectation for our God to perform His will in the situation.

“Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who hope in Me [trust in Me / wait for Me] will not be disappointed.” (Isa. 49:23) Let’s believe this!

“Have faith in the LORD your God and you will be upheld.” (2 Chron. 20:20) This is true, so even if we seem about to go over the precipice, we must keep trusting till the deliverance arrives.

“Everything is possible for him who believes.” (Mark 9:23) –Who believes in the One of whom it is said, “For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37)

“Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.” (Isa. 50:10) During the uncertainty, we are to trust in and rely on God who is fully able to give us step by step help, counsel, and guidance.

“Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him; do not fret…” (Ps. 37:7) For, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust in your strength.” (Isa. 30:15) Yes, “Blessed are all who wait for Him!” (v. 18)

Indeed, God asks, “Was My arm too short to ransom you? Do I lack the strength to rescue you?” (Isa. 50:2) He answers the questions for us: “By a mere rebuke I dry up the sea…” (Same verse) –A mere rebuke. –A simple command. This is all it takes for God to execute the miracle, and at the perfect time.

“The LORD will accomplish for me.” (Ps. 138:8) Let us be confident of it –no matter how long it seems to be taking!

Therefore, “I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His Word I put my hope.” (Ps. 130:5)

Truly, this year, and every year, is held in God’s full and loving control. Let’s believe this and remind each other to wait in patient, grateful, expectant trust –even, and especially, when the wait feels like it’s taking forever.

Because Christ-followers walk, not by feelings, but by faith in God’s all-powerful Word.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
We thank the Lord with the rest of those who cared and who prayed for the Abedini family that Saeed would be set free from his Iranian prison cell. The Lord does honor faith and answer prayer, and we who say we trust God are responsible to keep trusting Him steadily while He works in His own timing, sometimes delaying for reasons we usually are not privileged to know.

Please read:

http://aclj.org/persecuted-church/breaking-american-pastor-saeed-abedini-and-other-americans-have-just-been-freed

This morning my mom said that in her morning Bible-reading, she was blessed especially by James 1:2,3 which she then read to me over the phone. It says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” –Pure joy? –In encountering many trials? Yes. And why? –Because it is God’s way of testing our faith and developing in and for us that valuable asset of perseverance. For perseverance brings about maturity, wisdom, holiness, peace, healing, and all good things. (v. 4 // Heb. 12:1-13) Yes, our faith, once proven genuine, will result in our salvation, honor, and rulership alongside Christ Jesus. (1 Pe. 1:6-9 // Rev. 2:26 & 3:21)

Let’s believe in and thank the Lord for promises of His such as, “Those who hope in Me will not be disappointed.” (Isa. 49:23)

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
One evening last month (on 12/12/15) as I was studying the Scriptures while also questioning the role I had in the furtherance of God’s Kingdom, the Lord’s comfort came to me afresh. This is what I wrote down within the same hour –as a possible post but particularly so that I would remember for myself God’s encouragement to me:

~~~~~
Friends,
It was through a woman preacher that God called me to use my life to proclaim His Word, and speaking directly to my spirit, He used exact words.

When I was admiring an older woman preacher (a guest speaker) at Preach The Word Church in Minneapolis, MN, my first year in college, I was thinking something like, “If she is a woman and can preach, then that means I could. And I want to do that!” I suddenly heard from the Lord, very clearly in my spirit, these exact words: “You are going to be an evangelist.”

In spite of having just been wishing I could preach, hearing this from God was actually a big shock. For one, I was studying to be an El. Ed. teacher and two, because I really had never envisioned myself speaking on a platform in front of adults. I was very shy, and the times when I felt compelled to say anything within a group, even within a small Bible study, my heart would begin to pound so hard that I usually just had to remain silent. I still find it amazing that I actually had that overwhelming desire come into my heart and mind to be a preacher of the Word when I saw that woman preaching that Sunday and that, furthermore, it was right before God stated to me that I was going to be an evangelist. I also find it amazing that this happened at a church called Preach The Word, one that I had been attending for a few months (whenever I could catch a ride there).

When the Lord said these words to me, I believed Him at the time (and afterward), even though I found it profoundly incredible. But, I reasoned to myself that one day I wouldn’t be as shy and therefore later in life I’d be able to get up in front of others to preach. I also figured that I’d be asked to preach at different churches (for that is what I considered to be an evangelist). I did not think about the possibility of preaching on public sidewalks or over the internet, as at the time I knew next to nothing about either.

Today is 12/12/15 and after feeling discouraged about the realization that half of Christ’s body (the female gender) is experiencing their gifts being repressed, I immediately felt the Lord reminding me again that He had called me to be an evangelist, that He had initially done so while using a woman preacher/evangelist, and that I am to thus not worry about anything man says or does to me. It warmed and comforted me, and some tears formed in my eyes. I felt the Lord’s great love and affirmation wash over me, assuring me that I have been using my life the way He prescribed for me, and that I am to continue faithfully in His choice of assignment for me.

Thank you, Lord. I love you and want to fulfill my calling, always doing exactly what You say. Please continue to give me Your power, Your words, and Your guidance.

Rachel
~~~~~
To whom was the resurrected Christ first revealed, and the commission given, to tell the disciples, including the men, about Him? –To women. Moreover, “‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy [will proclaim My Word]…'” (Acts 2:17)

Yes, everyone who is willing to follow Christ has been commanded and empowered by the Lord’s Spirit to proclaim, teach, and model, throughout the earth, the teaching found in the inspired Word of God. In what manner, what location, and with what gifts we fulfill this, is up to God, not men. (1 Cor. 12:4-11)

 

Take Notice, Stop, & Try

January 2, 2016

Friends,
Well, it’s a new year and I pray that all who love Jesus will make choices that further our effectiveness in proclaiming what is written in God’s Word. Because every day there are people in pain, loneliness, and despair; every day there are people in rebellion against God; and every day there are people dying and going to Hell. Even if we have our own concerns, it sometimes takes only five or ten minutes extra to make a big difference. I was reminded of this again this week when I passed through the ER lobby on my way to the 5th floor of a hospital.

I passed a young woman groaning and writhing as she lay on her side on a long cushion bench. “What could I do?” I thought. “I’m already tired, and I’m in a hurry.” The person who had been waiting for me as I parked the car said that the woman had been calling out to Jesus and that maybe we should tell a person at the front desk to check on the woman. I whispered that I suspected her problem to be drug related and that since she had a hospital band on already, she probably was just going to have to wait her turn. It was distressing, though, for there must have been at least 50 people waiting their turn.

I was going to go on, but the person with me said we should do something. I decided to try to do what I could and I went over and knelt by the young woman. “I’m so sorry you are in pain,” I said. “Do you want me to pray with you?”

“Yes, please,” the woman cried, grabbing my hand.

“What is your first name?” I asked gently.

She told me, and with my face close to hers, my left hand holding her hand, and my right hand caressing her back, I prayed that God would alleviate her pain, heal her, bring her close to Himself, and give her a good and happy 2016. I prayed that God would comfort her and help her. She said “Amen!” several times through my prayer, and afterwards when I hugged her, she hugged me and didn’t want to let go. So I just kept hugging her as she cried. I told her to be reading God’s Word because that is food for our spirit and makes us strong and courageous and gives us comfort and guidance. She kept agreeing.

When she saw I was about to go, she asked me to get her some ice, so I said I would ask a nurse, which I did. The nurse said she couldn’t have ice, but that she would go and check on her. I hope she did.

I tell about this occurrence only because the Lord is leading me, I believe, to tell it. (I was going to write about something else tonight.) But I believe the Lord wants to encourage us through what I’m writing about here to remember that we are to stop and take notice of those people –at least those in our path– who are “bleeding in the ditch”. We can’t help everyone, that’s for sure, but we can often ease a small bit of pain someone is experiencing, if we would just give a few minutes of our time. –Even if we are hurrying to church. –Even if we are rushing to a ministry post. –Even if we are tired or feel we have little to offer in curing the person’s problem.

We should still try. We should still stop. We should still ask. I had thought the woman would not welcome a prayer from me, a hug, or a word of gentle exhortation about God’s Word. But she did. And she thanked and thanked me. So… shouldn’t we always take the chance if we can?

I think the Lord is reminding me to do so. I hope others will hear the call as well.

Then 2016 might be a turning point year. For someone. Someone we stop next to, take notice of, and give help to, even if it seems “meager” to us.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel