Friends,
Three people I’ve loved and cared about passed from this earth over the last seven days. The first (Evie) was a missionary woman who was 101 years old and had lived her whole life doing wonderful work for the Lord. We went to her funeral yesterday.

The other was a childhood friend (Becky) who, though she was two years older than me, was always so sweet to me. When my parents were dorm parents for nine months at the southern mission center when I was in third grade, she was in 5th grade, and I remember playing Barbie dolls with her and I remember how kind she was. She also visited our jungle village the next summer, and though we later lost contact, in the last few years, we reconnected and emailed a bit. A few days ago I found out she died of a heart attack.

Now today, I found out that a classmate (Danny) from the all-mission school in Manila, died two days ago, also of a heart attack. As I write this, there is a funeral for him going on two hours away. I am shocked and sad. My husband and I used to hang out with him and his wife as they were courting and after they got married. It was a big blessing because Danny, who had been in the wild crowd in high school, had been gloriously born anew and I got to see him totally on fire for Christ. He came to the church we were going to (and had been married in) and there courted his very sweet wife who he seemed to know immediately that he was going to marry. It was beautiful to see how changed a person can be and how God favored him. Though we drifted apart, I hear they’ve been loving the Lord all these years. I’m truly grieving for his family.

So, death. Yeah, it’s not a nice thing. Even though it ushers Jesus-followers into His presence, it is still not pretty and it is still a loss for family and friends and co-workers. May all of us be ready to meet the Righteous Judge who has seen and heard everything that has gone on in our lives, our hearts, our minds, our words…

The funeral yesterday –well, I was going to write about something the pastor said. She, and yes, the pastor of Evie’s church is a woman, made a statement in her moving sermon that really struck me. It’s a statement most of us think at least one time in our lives, whether we actually voice it or not. It’s this: “Something terrible happened; and Jesus didn’t show up.” The way she said it, and how she correlated it with grief-filled situations, made a tear form in my eye and a lump in my throat. Though this was a funeral, I hadn’t shed any tears yet, because we were all prepared for Evie’s passing and we were together to honor her life more than grieve. I had visited her last month, my parents had visited her almost every week for years, her children had visited often, and she had lived an exceptional life alongside her husband who, having passed some years before, had contributed famously to Bible translation, as had she.

But I was thinking of others… who live heart-broken, grief-stricken, pain-filled, rejected, bewildered…

So the statement: “Something terrible happened; and Jesus didn’t show up.” Isn’t this how many people have felt as they’ve watched their dreams crumble, as they’ve felt disappointment solidify, as they’ve experienced or seen terrible things happen?

Why, Lord? Why do You allow, or even sometimes cause, pain, and even to those who love You? We’ve probably all asked our Lord such a question. And this even though we know that suffering produces good things like perseverance, character, maturity, wisdom, faith, hope, righteousness, Christ-likeness, peace, and reward. (Rom. 5:3,4 // Heb. 12:11 // Ja. 1:2-5) We know we are called to suffer (1 Pe. 2:21) for these reasons, as well as for the sake of others. (2 Cor. 1:3-7 // Col. 1:24) Moreover, Phil. 1:29 tells us, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him.” So we suffer, also, for the sake of the Lord–! For His glory and His purposes.

I was thinking about these reasons God allows us to suffer as the pastor spoke, though she was using John chapter 11. There we read that Martha, and a bit later Mary, when they went out to meet Jesus after their brother, Lazarus, had died, both greeted Him with, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” (v. 21,32) Yes, why didn’t Jesus show up in time? Why, when He heard that Lazarus was sick, did He intentionally stay where He was two more days? (v. 6) Well, we’re told why. Jesus says that it was for the sake of the disciples and others –to increase their faith in Him (v. 15,42)– and that the glory of God could be seen. (v. 40) Thus He called Lazarus back from the dead and a fantastic miracle was seen (v. 43,44) which caused many to put their faith in the Lord. (v. 45) But, incredibly, some who witnessed the miracle merely hardened their hearts to the obvious, and so much so, that they were party to those who plotted Christ’s murder. (v. 46-53) How true it is that we have many these days who do such a thing! –Hardening their hearts and deliberately blinding their minds to the Truth in spite of all the glaring evidence!

So, although we grieve with those who say, whether it be with a hollow and hopeless tone or with a loud sob, “Something terrible happened! And Jesus didn’t show up!”, we can comfort them with this: Jesus does show up. In fact, He is there the whole time. And He does not let one bit more happen than the suffering one is able to endure. And He does turn it around for much good, even extreme reward.

May we, then, who believe God’s Word, be courageous in the face of suffering. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Cor. 4:17)

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

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Friends,
We are to resist injustice in every way legally possible. The news articles below show how the ACLJ continues to fight injustice on the front lines and I strongly encourage others to subscribe to and read the information they send out, to pray fervently, and to support their efforts any way one can.

In one of the articles that can be clicked on below, we can read Nahgmeh’s anniversary letter to her husband (Saeed) in prison. It is heart-breaking. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to have to lie down at night weeping for one’s wrongfully-imprisoned husband and have to wake up day after day to such a reality.

Yet many in world are enduring pain…

I’ve been increasingly praying, “Lord Jesus, come soon. Please defeat the Evil Realm and bring Your loving justice and righteousness to this sin-torn earth.” Truly, the majority of the world’s inhabitants have refused to repent, and thus society, in general, is only going to keep spiraling down. (2 Tim. 3:1-5)

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

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Rachel,This week the Supreme Court put a major pro-life law on hold.The law would shut down deadly abortion clinics, protect women, and save countless unborn babies.The abortion industry will stop at nothing to defeat this law.

We’re aggressively fighting to defend pro-life laws at the Supreme Court with a vital brief.

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Read Our Report: Abortion Industry Doesn’t Care About Women.

In one week, we’re filing a critical brief to defend a Marine who was court martialed for displaying a Bible verse.

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When we take action, we can win. This week the Air Force agreed with our demand letter.

Read Our Report: Gen. Olson Won’t be Court Martialed for Faith.

The trial of 2 Christian pastors in Sudan continued with a dangerous turn of events.

Read Our Urgent Update: Pastors’ Attorney in Sudan Arrested.

The nuclear deadline came and went this week, and Pastor Saeed is still not free.

Read Naghmeh’s Letter to Pastor Saeed for Their Anniversary.

Tomorrow, as we celebrate our Independence Day, we must continue fighting for freedom.

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Calloused Talk

June 14, 2015

Friends,
Those who are persecuted throughout the earth… well, it is something most of us, I’m sure, find hard to think about. The pain and fear which we realize others are enduring, as well as our overwhelming feeling of impotence in how to protect them, is enough to send anyone to their knees in intercession. Even so, there are some who mock. Some whose callousness is so low it should be reserved only for those recognized as barbaric. Yet we have them among us, in spite of the fact that we claim to be a civilized, tolerant society.

Read at this link:

http://aclj.org/persecuted-church/bill-mahers-malignant-mockery-of-persecuted-christians-is-repugnant?utm_medium=Email&utm_source=ExactTarget&utm_campaign=newsletter

Please pass the link on, asking others to take a stand against such talk.

Let’s also all be praying that God will protect and deliver innocent people from the hands of the cruel. Let’s pray hard this week for Saeed and others who are imprisoned for their faith in the Gospel of Christ Jesus. Pray for their freedom, and pray that God will give them His supernatural strength to remain unflinching in faith and even in joy.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
Often, when we’re going through some kind of trial or suffering, temptations to turn to evil rise up to entice us. Oh, the evil doesn’t hardly ever look evil. Instead it looks good and comforting, and it whispers promises of rescue and of happiness. However, underneath the silk, and behind the soothing words, we catch a glimpse of evil and sin. We realize that with the pleasure and “salvation” lies a catch. A trap, actually.

But we’re desperate. We’re lonely. We’re tired. We’re bored. We’re weary of waiting on God to do something, to deliver us from our affliction, from our oppressor, from our distress. We feel so victimized and we believe that our time for being cared for gently and understood by the many, including by God, should be now. So we turn a blind eye to the tentacles lurking amid the shiny waters. We turn a deaf ear to the hiss behind the music. We turn a hard heart to the sin coursing through the merriment.

In we therefore go. And it’s good fun for a while. The friends are friendly, jovial, and caring. Until they get tired of us. Which is pretty much right away. Because that’s what they do. –They use others. They use each other, and anyone else they can find, and have no qualms about it because they consider their behavior normal. Because isn’t that the game all of society is playing? The game called “Use & Cheat”? Use and cheat where you can, whenever you can, as much as you can? They seem to think so.

Christ-followers need to be on guard about this game. For the game hides in brilliant packages, in winsome smiles, and even in “godly” talk. We need to be on guard about the promises of pleasure and of rescue which are really just traps. Jesus, our God, is the only real and lasting deliverance, the only real and lasting delight.

Job 36:21 warns, “Beware of turning to evil, which you seem to prefer to affliction.” Are you, Friend, going to give up your good morals –your integrity, your honesty, your purity, your principals, your birthright– for a bowl of stew just because it will alleviate your pain for a moment? The stew’s salvation is temporary. You know that. The stew comes with strings attached. (Heb. 12:14-17) Big strings. Sinful strings. Eternal death strings. It’s not worth it. Wait on God. “Call out to Him in your distress and He will answer you.” (See Ps. 120:1)

With suffering always comes temptation. The devil is ruthless and loves to fire away at easy targets. God allows it to test us, but He also provides us with a way to escape every arrow. If we call out to Him for help, He will give us the strength to take that way. Every time.

Affliction will come and go. Throughout life. Preparing for it God’s way and knowing who our real Fortress is, is how we will escape the evil which always seems to try to take advantage of our “weakened” condition. Then, with God –in His Spirit and His Spirit in us– we will remain standing firm.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
When we have been tricked, harassed, oppressed, defrauded, or mistreated in any way, Gen. 50:20 is a comforting verse. It says, “You schemed evil against me, but God fashioned it into good, in order to accomplish the salvation of many people, as He is doing today.” Here is the verse said another way, written even more literally from the Hebrew text: “But as for you, you intended against me evil, but God intended it for good, in order to bring to pass a day as this, the saving of many lives.”

Joseph, who was thrown into an empty well by his jealous brothers and then, the same day, sold as a slave to Ishmaelites who in turn sold him in Egypt, is the one being quoted in Gen. 50:20. Not only had he risen to great power, but he forgave his brothers, reconciled with them, and treated them kindly. As for the good which God brought about through the wickedness (and humiliation) of Joseph’s brothers, and through the righteousness (and strengthening) of Joseph, numerous lives were indeed preserved.

Therefore, for those who choose righteousness –for those who earnestly seek God and take refuge in Him– there is no suffering that is wasted, no hardship that is not being fashioned into good by God. Not only will wisdom, strength, maturity, and growth in holiness occur, but for many others as well, there will be deliverance from sin and eternal salvation.

And that is the purpose of our lives, is it not?

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
I doubt that anyone can deny that nearly every family on the face of this earth has been afflicted with trouble. If it’s not a mountainous one, then there are likely several small ones that remain lodged and immovable like irritating thorns. The overall reason is simple: We live in a fallen, condemned world –a world controlled, and a people blinded, by the evil usurper and false god, Satan. (John 3:18 // 2 Cor. 4:4 // 1 John 5:19)

But Jesus! For He came and destroyed the devil’s rulership by buying mankind back to Himself, the ransom price being Christ’s death. (John 12:31-33 // 1 Tim. 2:5,6) However, because most of mankind does not believe this and because they refuse to repent by coming out of the darkness into the freedom Christ’s blood purchased for us (John 3:16-21,36 // Col. 1:13,14), the devil and his servants continue to deceive and devour. (John 10:10 // 2 Cor. 11:13-15 // 1 Tim. 4:1-3 // 1 Peter 5:8) For this reason, those who do not stand steady in faith (meaning firm, confident, and faithful in the Truth) cannot resist him. (1 Peter 5:9 // 2 Peter 3:17) For only by being in Christ (that is, by being obedient to Christ’s Leadership –Rom. 8:9) can a person be safe. (1 John 5:18)

But if a person is safe from the evil one by abiding faithfully in Christ, and we can thus ask anything of Him (John 15:1-7), then why are Christians still experiencing troubles? The reasons vary, but God’s Word gives us answers.

One reason is that we may be contaminated by something which God is trying to purge out of us. (Pr. 20:30 // Titus 2:14) This pollutant infecting us may be another person, a group of people, a habit that dishonors Christ’s name or that simply takes time away from doing His will, or it may be some other sin we have which we are not fully cognizant of. Suffering, though, has a way of causing us to seek God, and when we do that, we are enabled to hear His voice –His rebuke and His instructions. If He reveals to us that the affliction is His punishment to us (or to those we have aligned ourselves with), then that affliction is His way of motivating us to cease whatever is displeasing to Him or to leave the fellowship of those who are. This God does to us in love “so that we will not be condemned with the world.” (1 Cor. 11:32)

Another reason God’s people suffer is that He uses it to make us stronger and to train, for even greater purposes, those who do please Him. (Heb. 12:1-13) Discipline is normal and good for the athlete, for the surgeon in training, and also for the faithful follower of Christ. Unquestionably, no one can learn hard things without great strain. Certainly then, no one can learn about God –His ways and character– and get to know Him who is the infinitely amazing and complex Eternal One, by sitting back with ease. No, God must be sought. And when finite, contaminated man seeks the Holy, Infinite, Most High God, it does take much time, great effort, and yes, usually many tears.

A further and related reason for God bringing us trouble, is that He is testing the quality and sincerity of our hearts. (1 Thes. 2:4 // 1 Peter 1:6,7) The test is to see if we have passed into a more stable and mature faith than we displayed amid previous troubles. (Ja. 1:2-4,12) Of course it’s not God, before whom all hearts and minds lay exposed (Jer. 17:10 // Heb. 4:13), who actually needs to see if we have grown, but it is we who need to be faced with the facts. We are the ones who must recognize whether or not we have developed spiritual muscle and fortitude so that we can set to work on areas that we realize we are lacking in. If we do not set about to rectify our spiritual deficiencies, we can be quite assured that God will send us continued tests of adversities until we pass with a score of excellence. Such a required score is not reserved merely for surgeons and Olympic athletes, but also for those being trained by God to conform to Christ-likeness. (Mt. 5:48 // Rom. 8:29 // 1 John 2:6)

If we are conducting ourselves, in God’s opinion, with spiritual excellence, He still may wedge us into hardships. Why? Because not only do they make us strong (Rom. 5:3,4), but they also make us understand how weak we are on our own! Therefore, this weakness and humility are the very things that create our spiritual strength, for they keep us clinging ever-tightly to our Savior, so that therein is our Christ-likeness. (2 Cor. 12:7-10)

So, being that tribulation is pretty much unavoidable in life, how should we respond to it? With patience. And with trust in the One who knows what He is doing in allowing it or in even causing it directly. And if we continue to believe His promises, praise Him, cry out to Him, and take refuge in Him, the trouble will pass; or else the Lord will give us strength to joyfully endure, as well as give us glimpses of the reward that is yet to come. For it is by sharing in Christ’s sufferings, that we actually attain, not only more blessings of holiness, peace, wisdom, and contentment on earth, but a much greater honor throughout eternity. (Mt. 5:1-12 // 2 Cor. 4:17 // Heb. 12:9-13 & 11:35 // 1 Peter 2:21-24 & 4:12-14)

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
Yesterday my husband went with me to the nursing home. I was especially glad that he did because one of our best friends there was crying and had to inform us that her son had passed away on Sunday. That son had been in a wheelchair since about five years before 2005 which was the year we were taking him and his mom to the church we were going to at the time. I really admired my husband who was so patient in getting him and his wheelchair in and out of the car and also in taking him to the restroom at least twice during every service.

A year later our half-paralyzed friend moved out of the nursing home, but his mom stayed. So I didn’t see him near as much after that, but his mom grew to be a dear friend of mine. Mother and son visited each other weekly (others would take them), and they had a close relationship, depending on each other a lot emotionally.

I think it was so kind of the Lord to compel my husband and me to visit the nursing home yesterday so that we could give encouragement to this grieving mother whose son had just died two days before. I reminded her of how happy and healthy her son was –no more sadness, pain, loneliness, or suffering. I reminded her of all the Bible study he’d been doing the last several years and how he had been teaching her too. I reminded her that her son’s transition from earth to Heaven was under the complete control of the Lord and that He had chosen the timing. I pointed out to her the big blessing it was that she was there at his house (her old house) to be with him at the last, and that even after he was rushed to the hospital, she was able to go in and speak with him in his last moments. Not everyone, I said, has the blessing before a death of having exchanged loving words all day.

All the while, I was sitting next to our friend, hugging her close, sometimes wiping her eyes with a tissue. My husband, who she’s always adored, said some kind words too, and before leaving, I prayed aloud for her and the family and thanked the Lord for her son’s love for God and His Word.

This man had not always loved God and had actually been a terrible alcoholic, sending his family shattering. But, after the stroke and realizing his life was utter chaos, he turned to God. I smile wistfully as I recognize that my husband and I were just one of the stepping stones that God used to lead this man closer to knowing Him. What a joy it was for his mom and I both as we often discussed the Scripture passage he had been teaching his mom from earlier that week.

Well, our dear friend who was so poor, so lonely, so neglected by the world, and had so much hardship living alone handicapped as he was, is now vibrant, handsome, healthy, and living in friendship and joy. Yes, we are sad in one way, and we know his mom will miss him ever so much, but the suffering is over for him. The Lord took him unexpectedly, but He always knows best. As I hugged my friend yesterday, she said, “Well, he did say recently that he didn’t know what he would do if I passed away before him. That he’d be very lonely. Now I don’t have to worry about that.”

Definitely that worry is over for her. And knowing her son is now with the One he came to love and know, though through terrible trial, should, even though she misses him immensely, give her joy, peace, and relief.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel