Dear Esther
If you are having a challenging day or burdened with some personal problems, then you can be sure others are too. Write to Esther and she will have some good sound biblical advice and answers for you. You will be helping others by sharing your need or concern. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).


You can email your question to Esther at:
dearesther1@yahoo.com


Prior Letters

  • May 11, 2015
  • May 4, 2015
  • Apl 27, 2015
  • Apl 20, 2015
  • Apl 13, 2015
  • Apl 6, 2015
  • Mar 30, 2015
  • Mar 23, 2015
  • Mar 16, 2015
  • Mar 9, 2015
  • Mar 2, 2015
  • Feb 23, 2015
  • Feb 16, 2015
  • Feb 9, 2015
  • Feb 2, 2015
  • Jan 26, 2015
  • Jan 19, 2015
  • Jan 12, 2015
  • Jan 5, 2015
  • Dec 29, 2014
  • Dec 22, 2014
  • Dec 15, 2014
  • Dec 8, 2014
  • Dec 1, 2014
  • Dec 24, 2014
  • Nov 17, 2014
  • Nov 10, 2014
  • Nov 3, 2014
  • Oct 27, 2014
  • Oct 20, 2014
  • Oct 13, 2014
  • Oct 6, 2014
  • Sep 29, 2014
  • Sep 22, 2014
  • Sep 15, 2014
  • Sep 8, 2014
  • Sep 1, 2014
  • Aug 25, 2014
  • Aug 18, 2014
  • Aug 11, 2014
  • Aug 4, 2014
  • Jul 28, 2014
  • Jun 21, 2014
  • Jul 14, 2014
  • Jul 7, 2014
  • Jun 30, 2014
  • Jun 23, 2014
  • Jun 16, 2014
  • Jun 9, 2014
  • Jun 2, 2014
  • May 26, 2014
  • May 19, 2014
  • May 12, 2014
  • May 5, 2014
  • Apl 28, 2014
  • Apl 21, 2014
  • Apl 14, 2014
  • Apl 7, 2014
  • Mar 31, 2014
  • Mar 24, 2014
  • Mar 17, 2014
  • Mar 10, 2014
  • Mar 3, 2014
  • Feb 24, 2014
  • Feb 17, 2014
  • Feb 10, 2014
  • Feb 3, 2014
  • Jan 27, 2014
  • Jan 20, 2014
  • Jan 13, 2014
  • Jan 9, 2014
  • Dec 23, 2013
  • Dec 16, 2013
  • Dec 9, 2013
  • Dec 2, 2013
  • Nov 25, 2013
  • Nov 18, 2013
  • Nov 11, 2013
  • Nov 4, 2013
  • Oct 28, 2013
  • Oct 21, 2013
  • Oct 14, 2013
  • Oct 7, 2013
  • Sep 30, 2013
  • Sep 23, 2013
  • Sep 16, 2013
  • Sep 9, 2013
  • Sep 2, 2013
  • Aug 26, 2013
  • Aug 12, 2013
  • Aug 5, 2013
  • Jul 29, 2013
  • Jul 22, 2013
  • Jul 15, 2013
  • Jul 8, 2013
  • Jul 1, 2013
  • Jun 24, 2013
  • Jun 17, 2013
  • Jun 10, 2013
  • Jun 3, 2013
  • May 27, 2013
  • May 20, 2013
  • May 13, 2013
  • May 6, 2013
  • Apl 29, 2013
  • Apl 22, 2013
  • Apl 15, 2013
  • Apl 8, 2013
  • Apl 1, 2013
  • Mar 25, 2013
  • Mar 18, 2013
  • Mar 11, 2013
  • Mar 4, 2013
  • Feb 25, 2013
  • Feb 18, 2013
  • Feb 11, 2013
  • Feb 4, 2013
  • Jan 28, 2013
  • Jan 21, 2013
  • Jan 14, 2013
  • Jan 7, 2013
  • Dec 31, 2012
  • Dec 24, 2012
  • Dec 17, 2012
  • Dec 10, 2012
  • Dec 3, 2012
  • Nov 26, 2012
  • Nov 19, 2012
  • Nov 12, 2012
  • Nov 5, 2012
  • Oct 29, 2012
  • Oct 22, 2012
  • Oct 15, 2012
  • Oct 8, 2012


  • June 29, 2015

    Dear Esther,

    I read your words of wisdom every week. I live in Australia and I have been saved for about two years. I read the Bible every day but sometimes I am not sure how to pray. I am not sure if I am really reaching God. Is there any guidance you can give me on this? I go to a nice church but other than the worship service there is not much teaching on prayer. I would also like to know how and what to pray when leading others to Christ.

    Thank you,

    Gerald


    Dear Gerald,

    I will be glad to share some important points on prayer. Scripture tells us to pray only to God the Father in the Name of Jesus Christ, His Son. Some religious groups who call themselves Christians pray to Mary or other “saints” which is not biblical. It is nothing less than idol worship which the Lord forbids and detests.

    “You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them” (Exodus 20:3-5a).

    “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:5).

    The Lord’s prayer is our model, Matthew 6:9-13:

    “Pray, then, in this way:

    ‘Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name.
    Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
    Give us this day our daily bread.
    And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
    And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’”

    We can boldly come to God the Father through Jesus, our High Priest, who understands our needs:

    “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).

    Gerald, when we pray we should humble ourselves before the Lord. We should not pray to impress others but rather to honor Him; to deepen our communication with Him and to praise Him.

    [Jesus said] “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites; for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men.

    Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

    And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them, for your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:5-8).

    It is very important to pray daily and as often as possible. And we must pray in faith without doubt:

    “But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6).

    Prayer is our communication line to God, as are the Holy Scriptures. Talk to Him about everything. He loves us completely—in ways we cannot begin to understand. He is interested in the matters that concern us. He knows everything there is to know about us, but nevertheless wants to have an ongoing personal communication with us.

    Scripture teaches that God even knows how many hairs are numbered on our heads (Luke 12:7; Matthew 10:30) and that He collects our tears in a bottle and keeps a written record of them (Psalm 56:8). Reach out to Him and He will guide and comfort you. He will make a way for you when there seems no way. He is our Rock and a most sure help in times of trouble.

    “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

    Prayer is one of the many basic daily activities of all believers. Reading, hearing, studying and contemplating Scripture are the other basic daily activities. We are encouraged to pray always (Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). And dare to pray for great things with great conviction (James 5:17-18).

    We have the example of Paul (Colossians 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:3). We have the example of Timothy (Colossians 1:3). Praying always means to be in constant communication with the Lord. We can make brief requests and express our gratitude while we are on the go and we should pray privately on our knees as the Lord and the apostles did (Mark 14:32-35; 6:12; 22:41; Ephesians 3:14; Acts 7:60; 9:40; 20:36; 21:5).

    We should pray in the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 6:18; Jude 20; Romans 8:26, and pray according to the will of God (1 John 5:14-15). If we are unsure what to pray, we can pray in the Holy Spirit: “but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” [silent, inaudible words] as taught in Romans 8:26.

    Believers can know God’s will by studying the Scriptures. Prayer is our way of speaking to the Lord. He speaks to us by His Word. It is a blessing to hear, read, study, and memorize His Word every day—to listen to Him. Instead of worrying we should cast all our anxieties on the Lord (1 Peter 5:6-7; Philippians 4:6-7).

    Although you may not feel God is hearing you, that does not mean He is not. We must use the Scriptures as our gauge and not our feelings. Scripture is filled with admonitions to pray. Prayer is our lifeline to the Lord. It is that still quiet voice within that we must pay attention to try to hear God’s voice.

    The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and His ears are open to their cry” (Psalm 34:15).

    In Psalm 6, verse 9 David said, “The LORD has heard my supplication, the LORD receives my prayer.” By developing a genuine relationship with the Living God through prayer and Bible study, by meditating on the Scriptures, our faith is strengthened. We must have faith that our prayers are heard and will be answered.

    The more you enter into this type of fellowship with the Lord, the more confident you will be that He is there for you. And be sure you have forgiven those who have hurt you so your prayers are not hindered. Carrying a grudge of any sort is very detrimental to having an authentic relationship with the Lord.

    “And Jesus answered saying to them, “Have faith in God. Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions” (Mark 11:22, 24-25).

    “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).

    There are generally three types of prayer: Praise, intercession (when we pray on the behalf of others) and personal requests. These three types of prayer can be short prayers or lengthy ones. It is a blessing to be devoted to prayer (Romans 12:12; Colossians 4:2; 1 Peter 4:7); meaning we should spend time in private prayer on our knees, and in prayer when on the go. We should also pray with others (Acts 1:3; 16:25).

    What happens when we pray together? Jesus said:

    “Assuredly. I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:18-20).

    As you personally know, the unsaved can come to faith in Christ and can be born-again by praying a personal prayer of repentance and faith. The words used are not important. A person’s sincerity and genuine commitment to the Lord is what counts. Saying a prayer, then walking away and forgetting about the Lord does not count for salvation.

    The sincere intent of a person’s heart is what matters to God. There has to be true repentance, a true change of heart; a repentant heart that will seek Him first and leave behind habits and lifestyles that are contrary to His will and His teachings. The following verses express the heart confession necessary in order to be saved.

    “That if you confess, with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).

    Gerald, you can use the following words as a guide when leading someone to salvation. Use this simple heartfelt prayer, but the person coming before the Lord must wholeheartedly mean it:

    Heavenly Father, I accept your Son, Jesus Christ, as my Lord and Savior. I believe in His death, burial and resurrection. I realize I have made many mistakes in my life. I have been confused and deceived by the lies of this world. Please forgive me. I ask you to come into my life, regenerate me and fill me with your Holy Spirit so I can be born-again and saved by your grace.

    I want this to be a new beginning and have a close, personal relationship with you. I want to learn more about you through prayer and careful Bible study. Help me to truly repent and live my life in a way that is pleasing to you. Please write my name into the Book of Life. I pray this in the Name of Jesus the Christ (Yeshua Ha Mashiach), the Messiah of Israel and of the world. Amen.

    Gerald, your desire to grow in the Lord through prayer and to share the gospel with others is just as the Lord commands. Stay close to Jesus in your heart and speak to God (pray) as often as possible and you will no longer have any doubt that you are reaching Him. Your attitude is the right one! God bless you for your efforts and faithfulness.

    In God’s love,

    Esther

    “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16b).


    June 22, 2015

    Dear Esther,

    I have been married for eighteen years. I had always served God to the fullest for twenty-three years. From the very beginning after I married my husband he wasn’t very kind to me. I understand we have ups and downs in marriage, but ours has been more down then up. We have three beautiful children who are in their teens.

    For the most part in my marriage, I have been a stay-at-home mom. My husband left God for about six years and my marriage was a wreck. I forgave him for all the infidelity, mistreatment, physical abuse (not anymore), and verbal abuse. He was involved with a woman for about ten years and the most part I didn’t know. He stopped the relationship, when he came back to Christ four years ago.

    This woman and my husband have continued to communicate with each other during those four years. We lost our home and cars because of her. We started over by trying to work out our marriage. This took a toll on my kids. I kept holding on to God and hoping God would change him. The attitudes, mistreatments are still there despite him trying to work on our marriage. I forgave him, and he said that he had stopped the communication with the woman, but every time this woman called it brought back the resentment in my heart.

    I simply gave up on my marriage in the end. My husband saw the change in my heart. I continued to serve God and showed my children to serve God. My kids tell me that I am all they have. They resent their dad and don’t respect him at all. They have major attitudes towards him, and he blames me. I got a job, and God blessed me with a vehicle. I filed for divorce because that woman did not stop her calling. I am tired of this life.

    Now this is where I went wrong...this past year I met up with a friend from the past, and we started talking. We are having an affair and I am so torn into pieces. I filed for divorce for the way my marriage has been. I am not filing because of the affair. He has nothing to do with this.

    When my husband found out about it he said he would blackmail me and tell people but now says he will keep this between us. I am just afraid he would use the affair information against me with the church and kids. If the church he is attending finds out, I am kicked out. I want to still have access due to family attending there. I am unsure about all this. I do love my husband with my all

    He has confronted me once again about all this about what decision I am going to make. I know my kids are hurting in all this. I feel responsible, because we are in limbo due to the divorce. My children and I are what my husband only has. He does have family, but are not close at all. Honestly, what I see in my husband I just feel sorry for him.

    I mentioned before...I have seen a change in him though. I am just cynical due to the past. He has been trying to win my heart. I do feel my heart melting. I feel God telling me to forgive him.

    The friend I have had the affair with is willing to marry me. He has an education and knows about my children. He is willing to take them under his wing. He wants to buy a nice home for them and build our lives together although my kids have never met him. I have mentioned him in the past about what a nice person that he is. (I was dating him when I was a young girl out of high school.)

    My husband has changed a bit for the better ... I do see it, but I know it’s temporary. He now tells me that he loves me and wants to spend the rest of his life with me. I still love my husband despite everything, but I have been there and done it. He tells me to choose him or my friend.

    I have gotten the approval of the divorce by my pastor. I am just afraid of life. I am afraid over all of starting over. I don’t make enough money. I also feel guilty over this affair I am in.

    I want to get things right with God. I don’t want to lose this man, too. He is really kind. I know what I did is morally wrong in the eyes of God. I never in my life thought I would end up this way. I don't want my children to know about any of this. Please guide me in the right direction. I know that confusion is not of God.

    I am aware that I have to forgive all in all. I still love my husband dearly. I also see my friend as an opportunity for a better life. I am just stumped in all this. I know that if I choose my husband I will hurt my friend dearly. He has waited patiently for one year and one month. I hope to hear from you.

    Thank you,

    Truly Sad


    Dear Truly Sad,

    I am including all your communication here with my response and I am going to ask you to read it aloud by printing it out, if you can. When no one is around, read it out loud. Read it out loud several times. Listen to your life. This entire dilemma must be looked at from the early years of your marriage.

    Straightaway things were not right. No man, especially a church going professing Christian man should abuse and disrespect his wife in any way. And what is “truly sad” is that it happens far too often.

    A man who cannot control his anger and has even physically abused his wife clearly does not have “the fruit of the Spirit” which would give evidence of true salvation. Your spouse is out of order and failing in his obligation to you, your children and most important, to God. He seriously needs to learn what it means to be a Christian husband and father and behave like one.

    Your husband is not in a position to make any type of demands on you whatsoever. What I find really ridiculous is that after he said his ten-year affair was “over” he did not cut-off that relationship, but continued to torture you with the girlfriend’s phone calls for four more years (after he supposedly came back to Christ).

    What does that mean, “When he came back to Christ?” Who is really this man’s lord, anyway? Is it himself? “By their fruits ye shall know them’ (Matthew 7:16a).

    Your husband is in dire need of regeneration. He has brought so much confusion, heartache and shame into your marriage. Even the children don’t trust their father and have lost respect for him. Generally children want to be with both parents. They will forgive all kinds of things. But when the situation gets to the point where they lose respect and trust in their father then the damage that has been done is very serious.

    Of course what you did is not right by engaging in an affair. You must stop and repent immediately if you are still involved in a sexual relationship. But considering the long-term abuse and degradation that has gone on in your marriage why would anyone be surprised that you became entangled with someone who seems to truly care about you?

    And if your husband tries to use this against you, he needs to look in the mirror at his own pathetic track record and point his finger at himself and not you.

    And trying to blame you for the way the children feel about him is wrong. Right there, he does not want to take responsibility for the damage he has caused all by himself. Instead, he blames you.

    Do you understand that this is underhanded manipulation?

    Telling you now that he wants to spend the rest of his life with you sounds nice. But didn’t he say that to you eighteen years ago? Did he have a trio of violinists on the front lawn to serenade you when he made his recent plea? He can say whatever he wants but his track record is terrible. And you have admitted that you know his improved behavior is only temporary.

    As far as making a decision about your future and the future of your children I would not make it based on the approval or rejection of your church. If they cannot forgive you for your indiscretion, then you are in the wrong church. God will lead you to a church where forgiveness is understood. Your family members involved there should be able to understand that.

    You say you feel God telling you to forgive your spouse. Yes, you must forgive him, as you have in the past. But there comes a point where when his words and promises must be turned into action. You mention that you see positive changes in him but you know it is “only temporary.”

    With that said, then how can you possibly subject yourself and your three children to more uncertainty with this untrustworthy, unstable, derisive man? You clearly have grounds for divorce as your pastor has said.

    And the fact that he has little family should not be the determining factor for you. You can feel sorry for him but you don’t have to sacrifice yourself and your children because you pity him. He had his family. He was too busy messing it up with his girlfriend and with his abusive behavior.

    Also, people who have been subjected to long-term abuse cannot always think clearly and they often make excuses for the perpetrator of the abuse: so be careful not to fall into that trap. You can pray for him with a forgiving heart but you don’t have to swallow his poison.

    The broken-condition of the marriage is symptomatic of his lack of commitment to God. Without serious and genuine repentance he has no chance and neither does your marriage. Unless he is truly born-again by the Spirit of God he will never change.

    As far as your friend, you must be as upfront with him as possible. If he is truly your friend then he will be there for you. If you believe you must give your husband one last chance to make things work, then that is your call. But unless he becomes truly born-again and sincerely apologizes to you and your children, there is little hope that anything will change for the better for any length of time.

    From the outside looking in it sounds like your friend cares much more for you than your husband. I assume he is a believer. If he is not, then you should absolutely stop any thoughts of having a future with him unless he does come to faith. If he is a believer, you must repent together of your sin and vow not to engage in any sexual relations until after marriage vows are made before God.

    The fact that your friend wants to marry you, take on responsibility for your children and provide a peaceful secure future for all of you is quite telling. I would not take it lightly. Considering you have given your “husband” a very long time to change I would be very cautious of any of his verbal overtures to try to keep you, now.

    If you decide you want to marry your friend then I would thank God that there is someone kind who is willing to take on important responsibilities that your spouse has woefully neglected.

    If you decide you want to have a future together with your friend, then I would talk to your children privately. Feel them out. Ask them how they would feel if they could have someone special to provide for all of you. If they are pleased then you could tell them more and assure them that they will have a stabile home life a last and that of course they can always visit their father.

    I would then introduce them to their future stepfather. If they want the family to stay together regardless of their father’s reckless shameful behavior then you will have to strongly consider that in your final decision.

    Once you make your decision please let me know and then I will have a few more suggestions for you, either way. Think carefully and wisely. A Scripture has come to mind for me several times while I have been writing this:

    “As a dog returns to his own vomit, so a fool repeats his folly” (Proverbs 26:11).

    Please spend some time alone with the Lord and ask Him to strengthen you and give you the resolve you need. You need not be confused any longer. Change can seem frightening sometimes but with Christ all things are possible. Change can be wonderful. You know you would not want anyone you care about to continue in a seriously ruinous situation. You must apply that same thinking to yourself.

    And don’t underestimate your children. They have already been subjected to a lot. Perhaps if they knew they have a chance at some sort of stabile life they would be celebrating and feeling free of the stress that they have had to endure because of their father.

    If they should somehow find out about your friend in a derogatory way, you can tell them the truth and I would bet that they would understand considering their father’s selfish and hurtful behavior.

    If your children knew that this man wants to take care of them and provide a home for them, I don’t think you will have much to worry about at all. He did not cause this divorce. Their father is responsible for his own destructive actions that have resulted in this situation.

    God bless you, and know that we have a very compassionate and merciful God. Spend some quiet time carefully reading from the book of Proverbs. Pray fervently and ask the Lord to strengthen and guide you.

    Now do what you have to do and the Lord will give you the peace you so desperately need.

    “The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, A refuge in times of trouble” (Psalm 9:9).

    In God’s love,

    Esther

    “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand’” (Isaiah 41:10).


    June 15, 2015

    Dear Esther,

    I am about to start my sophomore year of college. I am working a new job to help pay for school and prepare for the coming school year. I would like to start a Bible study for some of my classmates. My pastor back home gave me some ideas but after reading your great column for some time now I thought you might have some suggestions on what to include or anything else that would be helpful.

    I love the Lord very much and have been saved since I turned thirteen. I don’t come from a Christian family but my parents are okay with my faith. I feel it is important to share the gospel with others as Jesus said we should, and also to study the Bible a lot. I think by starting a Bible study with others who are interested would be a good way to serve the Lord.

    I would appreciate any suggestions you might have.

    Thanks very much!

    Phil


    Dear Phil,

    You sound like a very industrious outstanding young man. It is wonderful that you want to start a Bible study. I do have some suggestions for you.

    Every Christian should learn how to lead a Bible study. If the Lord tarries, one day you might become a father. It is very important that Christian fathers know how to teach the Scriptures to their families because they are commanded to do so (Deuteronomy 4:9; 6:6-7; 11:18-19; 32:46; Psalm 78:3, 5; Proverbs 1.8; 2:1; 3:1; 4:1; 6:20). By starting a Bible study not only will you be doing something important for the time being, but you will be preparing for your future, too. Christian mothers should also teach the Scriptures to their children (Proverbs 1:8; 6:20; 31:26).

    To lead a Bible study one must first know the Bible. It is not necessary to know the Bible from cover-to-cover, but it is a goal that everyone should have who seeks to teach Scripture. It is best to teach through the Bible book-by-book. You do not necessarily have to start with Genesis and work your way to Revelation.

    Choose a book to teach through and master that book. It is best to start with a book that you are familiar with. If you have limited knowledge of the Bible start with the general epistles (James through Jude). Begin with James by reading the entire book for several days. Pray for wisdom as you read through it (James 1:5).

    Next write out a teaching outline. Write out discussion/study questions to give to your students. Memorize the key verses in the book. Spend as much time as possible meditating on that book. Continue reading the book once a day until you finish teaching it.

    Do not think you must stick to your outline point-by-point as you teach. If the Holy Spirit leads you to teach on something that is not in your outline be sure to do it. If your class wants to focus on something that is not in your outline do so unless it is totally unrelated to the passage and you believe it would be a distraction.

    As you study the Bible always keep the Golden Rule of Interpretation in mind:

    When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate content, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicates clearly otherwise.

    1. Determine who the message is being given to and why.
    2. Determine if the message is to be understood as being literal or
    symbolic; using the Golden Rule of Interpretation.
    3. Determine the context (what is the subject).
    4. Determine the dispensation and if the message is for us today.
    5. Find as many passages dealing with the subject as you can.
    6. Put together the message of all the passages to determine what is being said.
    7. Give clear statements far more importance than unclear statements.
    Base the message of an unclear statement on a clear one.

    Before each Bible study pray by yourself for wisdom as you teach. Also pray that the Holy Spirit will give you and those in the Bible study wisdom. If one or more people in your study want to pray with you before the study, that is a good way to get started.

    Before you begin to teach have a time of prayer with everyone in the study. Let some or all of the participants pray with the group. Pray as much as possible, for the prayer of the upright is His delight (Proverbs 15:8), and He hears the prayer of the righteous (Proverbs 15:29).

    Encourage the students to pray short prayers. If someone prays for several minutes speak with him/her afterward and explain that in group prayer time it is best to offer short prayers. Set an example by your prayers.

    Sometimes you can give the students discussion questions before you begin leading the Bible study. Ask them to write out answers to the questions before the lesson even if they don’t know all the answers. Read the verses or let the students read the verses that you plan to teach on.

    Then ask them what their answers are for each discussion question. If they answer them correctly congratulate them. If they answer the question incorrectly give them the correct answer and explain the passage as much as is needed.

    If they answer the question correctly you can explain the passage in more detail using cross references. Rather than spoon feeding your students the answers and lecturing them, motivate them to seek out the answers for themselves. Encourage them to study more, and emphasize the fact that a true disciple thirsts and hungers for God (Psalm 42:2; 63:1); for truth (John 17:17) and for righteousness (Matthew 5:6) each and every day of his or her life.

    Also explain that as one grows in knowledge and understanding of the Word, one’s hunger and thirst for greater knowledge, understanding and wisdom grows. If you do not display a hunger and thirst for the Word in your life and in your teaching, your students will not develop a true hunger and thirst for truth.

    Remember to explain that when one has an overpowering hunger and thirst for God, for His righteousness and the truth, it is important to study the Bible (John 7:37; 6:48). All of our spiritual knowledge, understanding and wisdom come from the Bible. It should be our primary source of spiritual food.

    It is good to read books about the Bible and transcribed sermons by men who knew the Word and lived it. Some of the best heroes of the faith to study under are: John Wycliffe (1320s-1384), John Hus (1372-1415), Martin Luther (1483-1546), Huldrych Zwingli (1484-1531), William Tyndale (1494-1536), John Calvin (1509-1564), John Knox (1510-72), William Gurnall (1617-1679), John Bunyan (1628-1688), Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), George Whitefield (1704-1770), Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) and Miles Stanford (1914-1999).

    Always keep in mind that when you answer a question from a student do not try to come up with a clever analogy. Rely on Scripture. Quote the Bible or turn to the appropriate passage and read it. Let God answer the question instead of you. It is the infallible, Holy Word of God that convicts people of their sins (Hebrews 4:12), produces faith in them (Romans 10:17) and gives them understanding and wisdom (James 1:5). Let God do the talking.

    Most men who seek the office of pastor (1 Timothy 3:1) think it is necessary to graduate from seminary to be fully equipped. That is not true. All seminaries emphasize the study of commentaries and books by men they consider to be faithful to Scripture.

    It is best to emphasize the study of the Holy Scriptures and avoid excessive use of commentaries and books; they will only cause confusion because we cannot be sure how the author gained his or her knowledge. Too many “teachers” or commentators simply repeat something they heard and never bother to fully study the Scriptures. But be sure to use Bible dictionaries and concordances. (I will leave you some resources below.)

    The best way for a man to be properly equipped to be a pastor or Bible teacher is through daily reading, study, memorization and meditation of Scripture with intense prayer. It is the Word of God that prepares a man to be an under-shepherd of Jesus, not the study of denominational doctrines, commentaries and books.

    Phil, if you follow these basic principles you will do well with your group. Please let me know how you are progressing once you are up and running for a while. More young men should be like you. You are setting an excellent example for others by taking your walk with God to others and not getting swayed aside by the secular entrapments that are so prevalent in colleges today.

    God bless you and protect you as you move forward to serve Him in this very productive way.

    In God’s love,

    Esther

    “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

    Here are some good resources for you to assist with your Bible studies:

    http://www.blueletterbible.org - An excellent resource for online Bible study.

    http://asv1901.com/ - A full online presentation of the excellent and reliable 1901 Standard American Version of the Bible.

    http://www.biblegateway.com/ - An exceptional site for looking up Scripture, all popular Bible versions are included as well as passage translations in a number of foreign languages.

    http://www.e-sword.net/ - A fast and effective way to study the Bible online.

    http://www.bible-history.com/ - Bible Maps, Study Tools, Archeology, Ancient documents and much more.

    http://www.biblestudytools.com/concordances/strongs-exhaustive-concordance/-Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance Online.

    When I don’t use a computer to assist with my Bible studies, I like to use the items listed below when I need to look up something:

    The Strongest Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible - James Strong LL.D., S.T.D., S.T.D. Fully Revised and Corrected by John R. Kohlenberger III and James A. Swanson

    Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament - Joseph Thayer

    Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon - Francis Brown

    An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon - Liddell and Scott

    Exegetical Fallacies - D.A. Carson

    A Greek Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature : Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich and Danker

    Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains - Louw and Nida

    Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 2003 Edition

    Lexical Semantics of the Greek New Testament, Louw and Nida

    Semantics of New Testament Greek, J.P. Louw

    Endnotes
    Bible Study instruction and Resource list extracted from, A Better World Is Coming Soon - Don’t Miss It, pp. 386-387, Kit R. Olsen, World Bible Society 2013.



    June 8, 2015

    Dear Esther,

    I’ve been a born-again Christian for several years now. I’ve read my Bible 14 times cover to cover and I study God’s Word as much as possible every day (I know the Word of God and believe the truth with ALL my heart). I research Jesus on the Internet to gain as much knowledge as possible. I pray and talk to Jesus constantly all day and night...I’ve become obsessed.

    My family and friends have noticed a huge change in me and they think I’ve gone off the deep end with my faith...They’ve gone as far as to make fun of me (as if it’s all make believe). Why do people react this way? Jesus is real! the Bible is the real Word of God! Yet people shut down when His Name is mentioned. I can never talk to them about the Rapture because they don’t understand or believe it’s going to happen someday. I feel alone in my faith (with a few exceptions).

    I’ve become so involved with reading that it has affected my everyday life. So I decided to read only a couple hours on the weekends. I know I’m saved from the moment I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior and acknowledged that I am a sinner in need of a Savior (I have no doubts). I needed Him more than ever at that time and now as well.

    My life was pretty much all in order and lived fairly comfortably, even though I’m divorced. But ever since I accepted Jesus, I’ve lost my job a couple times, my income has been cut, I lost my home, savings and retirement is down to almost nothing. My father, brother and several close friends have passed away within a couple years (very unexpected). I trust God is in control, but my life has spiraled. I wonder sometimes where is He? I know we suffer here on earth. To me it seems life is not that fun or exciting anymore.

    I love Jesus with all my heart, soul and mind. I have no plans on falling away. I read Rapture Ready faithfully and I look forward to your encouraging words. Your column is my first stop on the site.

    My friends think I’m using my faith as a crutch to help relieve life’s pains. I don’t feel that way but I do feel more sad than I used to for whatever reason. My question is this: Why (after accepting Jesus into my life) has so much happened to me and my family? I know we suffer here on earth. Life feels different; more gloomy than not.

    When I pray, I don’t feel like rejoicing anymore, I feel like crying. I’ve talked to others about this and they say sometimes they feel the same. Is this normal? Am I supposed to feel sad? Will God answer my deepest desires to be happy and make a difference to others? Will God restore my lot in life for the better? I was hoping you could give me some very welcoming words of encouragement.

    Thanks Esther,

    Paul S.


    Dear Paul,

    No doubt you are committed to the Lord and love Him with all your heart. As far as those who make fun of your all-out commitment to the Lord or consider it a crutch, rest assured; that kind of response is a common reaction from the unsaved. (Sadly, they will live to regret it.) Remember, 1 Corinthians 2:14:” But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

    Sometimes when we take a true leap of faith life can get worse before it gets better. Suddenly those we thought we could count on become negative forces in our lives because we are no longer living in the world the way they are. We receive Christ but others reject Him and therein lies the problem.

    As believers we can sometimes be bombarded with one challenge after another with seemingly no end in sight. After we are saved and the Lord opens our eyes to the futility of this godless world, we must shift gears and understand we are here temporarily and that this is not our true home. Our perspective on this life has to really change in order to cope and deal with negative onslaughts that can come our way.

    When we are seriously walking with the Lord as you are, we become much more aware of the frivolity of this life and the downright evil in this world. If we are serious about our faith the more aware we become of the sinister and dark forces, the more overwhelmed we can feel if we are not looking at the entire picture from an eternal perspective.

    The sadness you mention relates to what I just described. It also doesn’t help being mocked by friends and family for our faith; of course that makes us sad. When we see the filth and depravity of mankind in this fallen world we also feel sadness. When we are in the midst of one of life’s storms and no longer feel joyful and our hope is challenged, it hurts so much. But that is the time to take life one moment at a time and continue giving all our concerns to the Lord.

    We cannot always understand why life around us seems to be falling apart but we can be sure that God is working things together for our good (Romans 8:28). We must not allow doubt and the devil’s assaults to take away our joy. We must believe in God’s promises, for He is faithful.

    When we have an eternal perspective and know that we are covered by Christ’s blood sacrifice and pray with complete faith knowing that our great and mighty Creator is working on our behalf (regardless of the outward circumstances), things will get better. We serve a God of restoration and hope. Surely His goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives (Psalm 23:6).

    Paul, you know the Bible tells us that the devil is “the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2b). He roams the earth like a roaring lion seeking whom he can devour (1 Peter 5:8). But the believer can count on the Lord and not allow the enemy to take away God’s promises:

    “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8b).

    You must hold on to your faith knowing the truth and reject the lies of the devil who works to destroy us and incapacitate us:

    “We [believers] know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:19-20).

    Jesus cautioned us about Satan—the devil, to be aware of his absolute wickedness:

    “He [the devil] was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44b).

    And you know we are living in a spiritual battlefield and the enemy is very cunning and powerful. It is imperative to put on God’s spiritual armor every day. The devil would like the Lord’s faithful to believe God has abandoned us, but that is simply not true,

    “Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles [schemes] of the devil. And take on the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6:11, 17).

    “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds” ( 2 Corinthians 10:3, 4).

    Consider that Satan tried to overthrow God’s throne. He became his own god, worshipping himself rather than the true God of the universe. God’s response was to cast him from heaven down to earth. Ever since that time there has been an enormous struggle going on between good and evil, between God and Satan.

    Arrogance, pride and brazen self-aggrandizing are all traits that took Satan out of God’s good graces. Satan took advantage of the power God initially gave him and used it against Him. Since then, the devil has stopped at nothing to try to usurp the King of the universe. He wants to destroy God’s creations (you and me), and cause havoc and heartache any way he can.

    The devil, through the enticements of this world is trying to cleverly persuade everyone into thinking there is no need for the Savior. The devil only wants to hurt us, to rob us of our chance to have eternal freedom and life in Christ. He is playing a deadly game with a loaded gun aimed directly at each man, woman and child—never hesitating to pull the trigger.

    Unless we are reconciled with Christ we are all in full firing-range of the devil and his loaded gun. When we choose salvation in Christ (as you have) the devil is disarmed and we are made permanently victorious—our eternal destiny is shielded from any bullets he fires. So remember that! You are victorious in Christ and you have succeeded in this life. Your salvation in Christ is your success.

    “You are of God little children, and have overcome them [the devil and his influences] because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

    You could have huge sums of money and a smile on your face (as so many do) and be totally deceived into thinking the “fun” and social “pleasures” of this world are what life is all about. (That is until you take your last breath and your money is useless and you find yourself eternally separated from God.)

    Jesus is our faithful Messiah. Only the Lord can make a way where there seems to be no way. Nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37). He will never forsake you or leave you. I can attest to that from personal experience many times over. God has intervened in my life many times but in His own good time and not mine. We must have patience and keep trusting that the Lord is working in our lives. Praise Him even when you are hurting. He understands suffering like no one else.

    Sometimes God Almighty is molding us so we will gain more strength from Him; to become totally dependent on Him. And when the storm is behind us, we can without a doubt know that it was He who brought us through the rough terrain and opened up new avenues of living.

    “And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

    Guarding against becoming an easy target for the spiritual attacks and chicanery of the devil is a necessity in this world. Any believer can be demonically attacked, especially when doing important work for the Lord. But when we arm ourselves with the Word of God and prayer, and have a genuinely strong relationship and commitment to the Lord, the devil will flee (James 4:7).

    Although, as you are finding out, tough spiritual battles (tests) can happen even when we are strong believers with hearts faithfully focused on the Lord; especially when we are working to witness for Christ and expose the devil and his wicked schemes. God will allow devoted believers to go through some harrowing trials to strengthen our faith, compelling us to place our complete trust in Him (James 1:2, 12).

    When we are going through a dark valley it can seem harsh to read in Scripture that we should not be anxious about anything and that we should give thanks in ALL circumstances; but that is what we are admonished to do:

    “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

    “Pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18).

    Scripture also teaches that when we pray we must pray in faith:

    “But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6).

    Paul, your breakthrough and light at the end of the tunnel could come at any time. God has not abandoned you. Place your focus on the blessings you do have and remember that God’s grace is sufficient for every need.

    “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed” (2 Corinthians 9:8).

    God has a plan for your life and that plan is to serve Him. You know it is not about what we get from the Lord but what we give Him. In our faithfulness and giving, our own needs are met. Use your God-given gifts wisely. Don’t allow the naysayers to pull you down. Be positive and reject vain babblings that serve to undermine you.

    Jesus lived a very simple life, yet in this world the mantra is: “The more stuff, the better.” That kind of thinking can ruin anyone. Believe and know that your life is in God’s hands. Continue to be faithful and believe Him when he says:

    “’For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope’” (Jeremiah 29:11).

    Paul, when doubts and negative thoughts creep into your mind, you must reject them. Replace your thoughts with the glory of God and your life will get better. And resolve in your heart and mind to be of good cheer by concentrating on your victory in Christ. God has overcome the world! (John 16:33).

    “A cheerful heart is a good medicine; but a broken spirit drieth up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).

    It would be good to listen to some traditional hymns and fill your mind with God-honoring music. The hymns will lift your spirits and help you choose joy, despite your circumstances. And be sure to continue reading from your Bible every day. Psalm 91 is a great passage to study often. The Word of God is very powerful. It provides sustenance for our weary souls and draws us closer to the Lord’s comforting presence.

    “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

    God bless you and strengthen you, Paul. And be encouraged knowing that one day soon all the heartaches of this life will vanish and we will be with the Lord forever and ever. (Even so come Lord Jesus.)

    Let Jesus be your happiness, Paul. Trust that He is working on your behalf to strengthen you; to refine and mold you into being the best you can be for Him. He loves you so very much and He is with you.

    Esther

    “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11).


    June 1, 2015

    Dear Esther,

    I’ve always been blessed and thankful to our Heavenly Father. I have an excellent job that I work very hard at. I have family, friends, and good health and have so much to be thankful for. My company last year announced a massive reduction in force to happen this February 2013. When they announced this I started thinking of opening my own business.

    I prayed night after night that I would be part of the reduction and would receive a modest severance to start my own business in which I would work “normal” hours. To my dismay in February, every one of my co-workers in three departments were let go except me, and I also received a promotion last week.

    The company plans to bring in contractors for all my co-workers who were let go. I know I should again be thankful, but I’m having a terrible time with it for different reasons. First, I work long hours at the job, and I had wanted more time to spend with my family and friends, and to go back to church. Two, I now have survivor guilt. And three, with the promotion I will now be working even longer hours. My Mom (64) told me God has a reason for everything and a plan.

    My question is, how do I listen better spiritually to know whether I should trust God that I should open my own business anyway (take out a loan) and that it will succeed, and that I’ll still be able to pay my bills? Or do I continue working long hours as much as 90 hours a week (including weekends) with no time for family, friends and church?

    I’m just so very confused because I don’t understand the plan God has for me. I have prayed and prayed I would have more time to go back to church. And why was I the only person that was not laid off. I’m so tired of the long hours. Just so very confused. Are there certain Bible Scriptures I could read that would help me, and bring me comfort?

    When I was younger I used to go to church all the time, but the last 35 plus years my life has been devoted to my career and nothing else. I can feel our time is short, and I want to get closer to the Lord again. However with the long hours and stress I don’t even have time for myself.

    I thank you kindly, and God bless you.

    Trudy


    Dear Trudy,

    When I first read through your letter all I could think of is this: “It’s time for this precious lady to make some serious choices and decide if she is going to put God first in her life or keep working herself into oblivion.”

    What is the point of continuing, as you are when it is clearly causing you severe anguish?

    It sounds like you sincerely want to make a change in your life but are so involved in your current lifestyle that you cannot see clearly how to take the steps you need to make positive changes; changes that will give you the peace and harmony that you need in your life. Starting your own business doesn’t necessarily mean you will have to work fewer hours.

    With any business unexpected things can come up, and it will be you who will have to hold things together. And we can’t be sure how the business will do and if you will be able to pay your bills. But many small businesses have succeeded and yours can too, but what you must be careful of is that you are not walking away from one overly taxing situation into another.

    Not all promotions and things that seem favorable to us are always from the Lord. Especially when we are not in strong communication with Him. I could list a number of things that from the outside looking in could appear to be a blessing when in fact they are just deceptive ways for the enemy to take up our time and keep us from having a real relationship with God.

    Some who are into New Age philosophers would probably say, “See how only you were left at the job. It’s meant to be!” But the reality is, you are seriously stressed. You are grateful and thankful for your “blessings” but nevertheless out of balance and unable to enjoy your life, despite the success of your career.

    I have thought carefully and prayed about your situation for some time now, since I received your letter. You wrote that you “prayed night after night” to be part of the reduction, etc., yet your job has survived and now the company wants even more of you.

    In a down economy that is very impressive (by the world’s standards). You also wrote, “When I was younger I used to go to church all the time, but the last 35 plus years my life has been devoted to my career and nothing else.” The “nothing else” is the scary part.

    Thirty-five years is a long time. When we are so busy that we can barely have a consistent abiding relationship with the Lord, and totally consumed with a career as you are, then we have fallen short (sinned against God). We all sin against God, and we all do this in different ways. But a time comes when we must choose between the ways of the Lord or the ways of the world. Your time has come.

    You are confused because you are not in step with the Lord. All of this reminds me of the lyrics from an old Jackson Browne song, “Running on Empty.” Even the words of a popular secular song can be used to show how we are empty without the Lord first in our lives, although of course that was not the songwriter’s intent. What he didn’t get is that he was running on empty because he was lost without God in his life.

    “Running on-running on empty, running on-running blind. Running on running into the sun. But I'm running behind.”

    You also wrote, “I am so tired of the long hours.” Trudy, you are a slave to your job. Can you somehow modify your lifestyle so you don’t need to work so many hours? Can you find a way to make a plan to walk away from your job within a specified period of time while you ask the Lord in every moment that you can grab—to truly guide you? If you start your own business there are no guarantees but considering the alternative it might be a viable option for you.

    But first you must sincerely repent and have a change of heart. Examine yourself and ask yourself if the money and worldly success are driving you. If you died tomorrow what could you show the Lord, what have you done for Him with all the gifts that He has blessed you with? Will he show you wood, hay and stubble when you face him at the Bema seat? Or will you have given your time and talents to the Lord’s work?

    It might sound like I am being a little rough on you but I am very concerned for you. Trudy, all that really matters in this life is what we do for the Lord. But the world feeds us the lie that we have to go out and spread our wings for self-fulfillment. It is so easy to go astray and get caught-up in striving but never arriving. We are bombarded with one seductive emotional, psychological and material “goodie” after another.

    It is great that you want to go back to church but I am more concerned that you immediately find a way to have regular quiet time to spend with the Lord so you can be at peace and actually hear the direction that He wants you to take. Many people make the mistake of putting God into a box. He is over there, while we are over here doing our own thing. For some there is church time and then there is “my” time. That is a mistake. Our entire lives should be God’s time.

    If we are truly born-again and saved, the Holy Spirit dwells within us. It is when we meld together with the Lord by having a real, consistent, personal relationship with Him that we can best be led by the Holy Spirit. When we can reach that point of closeness with the Lord, daily decisions flow with an intrinsic awareness, which only He can give us. Our lifestyle choices will reflect our devotion to Him, with an awareness of serving Him in all we do.

    Perhaps you could ask your closest friends and family to meet with you once a week or at least every other week in a relaxed setting to pray together, study the Bible together and make it a real time of fellowship focused on the Lord Jesus. Fill your heart and mind with the Lord. You must make the time, somehow.

    From my personal observation I have seen people grow in the Lord in much more effective ways when they are part of a small group, a home “church” rather than sitting once a week in the midst of acquaintances in a church building. Take your Bible with you when you leave the house and find some moments to read from it. I never go anywhere without my Bible. You never know when you might have a few spare minutes to read and study.

    I used to go to a very popular church in my neighborhood. I met a lot of nice women there. But I was shocked to notice that none of them had their Bibles marked up from personal study. In fact the pages all looked brand new, barely touched. They went to church several times a week and were involved in various church ministries, but most of them did not really know the Word of God in an intimate way—except a little bit from the sermons they sat and listened to. They always relied upon others to feed them rather than taking self-responsibility as the Lord asks us to:

    “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

    “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

    So rather than worry about going to church, find ways from the moments that you do have to communicate with the Lord through prayer, and really get serious about having an ongoing personal relationship with Him. Being a Christian is not about church, it is about having an authentic born-again personal relationship with the Lord. You could even listen to the audio Bible on your way to and from work.

    Consistent, personal Bible study is mandatory if we want to grow in the Lord. When you do this, little by little you will begin to have a clearer sense of direction and sense of God’s true purpose for your life. You have spent most of your life putting your career first. Please spend the rest of your life putting the Lord first in an authentic way.

    There are plenty of carnal Christians. I think you want to be a genuine Christian. It sounds like you are ready to get serious. Believe me, when the reality of eternity sinks in, when you are face to face with our Savior, the One who died for you, you will not be thinking about your job, you will be wishing you had done everything possible that is pleasing to Him.

    It is not too late, but don’t wait another day to make amends with the Lord and ask Him to renew your life in a way that is centered around, Him and His will for your life.

    Some comforting Scriptures you can read are Psalm 23; Deuteronomy 32:10-12; Psalm 103:8-18; Psalm 91:1-2; Psalm 139:9-10; Psalm 55:22; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.

    Please keep in touch with me, and please don’t make any hasty decisions. Think of this time as a time to renew your faith and walk in faith, which I hope it will be. The Lord will guide you and give you the answers you need but you must make a change in your approach to Him. Research the pragmatic possibilities of starting your own business but the Lord must come first in the entire scope of your life.

    I would also encourage you to consider thinking about looking for another job with a different company where your talents and skills are needed but with fewer hours and less demands. You might not make as much money, but you would be free of your current situation which is clearly taking too much out of you.

    You sound very competent to take on a new challenge and considering your situation at your current job, having your own business might be the best option for you. And at least look into what other jobs are out there that would not take up all of your time and energy. But those are options only you can decide with the Lord’s leading once you are more grounded in Him.

    When we make serious, positive changes in our lives, we usually have to go through some hurdles, but when it is all said and done, a greater peace will take over. Don’t look back and don’t beat yourself up over past decisions. Instead, walk forward now with Jesus at the helm. Tomorrow is promised to no one. It is today that we have to make count for the Lord. Trust Him completely and give your all to Him.

    “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified” (Romans 8: 28-30).

    In God’s love with all sincerity,

    Esther

    “Set your mind on things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:2).


    May 25, 2015

    Hello and may God bless you, Esther!

    I have been saved since 2004. I have had many struggles with sin but I can say for the first time in life I finally feel free. Praise God!

    The Lord kept taking me to the prodigal son Scripture in Luke. I believe he was trying to tell me something. And after taking me there on a number of occasions I finally said enough is enough! I want all the Lord has for me.

    I am still, though, going through a really difficult season in my life right now, however. My question, is it wrong to ask God, why? My heart is breaking and I keep wondering how much longer can I endure this trial.

    I look forward to your reply.

    John


    Dear John,

    I am happy to hear from you. No, it is not wrong to ask God, why. But I can tell you that the choices we make have a lingering effect on our lives and it takes time to get past the “clean-up” stage from all we have reaped and sown. But if you are now truly repentant and have surrendered your life to Almighty God, then you will see some light at the end of a dark tunnel. Never lose hope; and trust the Lord with all your heart.

    Be sure you spend time with some other kind and faithful Christians who will encourage you. As long as we are still breathing it is never too late to live right for the Lord. But when we are coming out of a season of rebellion we must be mindful that it will take time to gain our grounding in the Lord. Be patient with yourself and run as fast as you can from situations that would cause you to drift away from God’s ways and His blessings.

    It is during times of testing and trials that we often grow most in the Lord. Now that you are back to serving Him you can more fully appreciate His goodness and His overwhelming love for you. Vow to yourself and to the Lord that never, ever again will you stray from Him. Simplify your life so you are not pulled in too many directions. Keep you living space clear of clutter which in turn helps keep your mind clear of cluttering thoughts.

    Be sure to find a way to get into a quiet space and commune with the Lord. Cry out to your Heavenly Father—Abba, Daddy in Hebrew. He will comfort you in ways no one else can. Develop a deep sense of devotion and appreciation for His Son, for the One who died for you so you could be set free from the bondage of this world.

    How blessed we are to receive the benefits of the incredible sacrifice and grace of our merciful Lord—who so willingly received the most torturous beatings and rejections so we can live.

    Keep your focus on the Lord Jesus and stay away from the cheap thrills of this world. You know that Scripture teaches that we should be in the world but not of the world. Armor yourself each day with God’s Word and be very aware that the devil is prowling around looking for those whom he can devour (1 Peter 5:8). Don’t give him an opening.

    It is difficult to even turn on the TV these days without being assaulted by some sort of demoralizing message. It is as if the entire world is going mad. But the Lord forewarned in Scripture that perilous times would come:

    “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

    John, please be encouraged. God loves you so very much. When the trials seem like they will never end, when our hearts are breaking and no one seems to care, that is when you can be especially assured that you have a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). Jesus will never leave you or forsake you. Give your heartache to Him. Ask Him to strengthen you like never before and to pull you out of whatever it is that is causing you so much pain.

    Sometimes when I think of what the disciples endured, it is hard to comprehend. No two hurts are the same and each of us responds differently to trials and disappointments. But the one steady thing all true born-again believers have is God’s promise. The promise of eternal life free of the misery and the shocking behavior of individuals who might as well be Satan’s recruited representatives.

    As long as we are alive and living in this world we will have challenges.

    [Jesus said,] “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

    So we all know that this life presents us with one hurdle after another but the part to key in and focus on is the second part of the Scripture: “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

    We have to pull ourselves out from the intensity of the insanity going on around us and hone in on Jesus—our Blessed Hope, and never forget His many promises. He has already freed us from the clutches of the devil; but that slithery snake, the father of lies, is busy trying to make our lives miserable and convince us that life is nothing but hardships and suffering (John 8:44).

    But hold on, John. As a born-again believer in Christ you are a new creation. You do not have to buy into the despair that Satan loves to dish out. He of course uses weak-willed people and various situations to discourage us but he cannot separate you from the One who has given you new life.

    In order to get through whatever it is that is so tough right now, it is imperative that you get into a quiet place and use every moment you have to strengthen your faith and your walk with the Lord. You can do this by immersing yourself in His Word; not only by reading it but by internalizing it in a way that you are strengthened to the point where the Scriptures become a part of you. When you do this, the trials in your life will not have as much of a discouraging impact on you.

    I am not saying all your problems will go away but you will be able to get past them and still come from a place of joy. The devil wants to rob you of your joy (John 10:10). But remember and say this verse to yourself often throughout each day:

    “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world’ (1 John 4:4).

    We cannot change other people, we cannot always change our circumstances but we can go to the One who is steady and lean on Him. And I guarantee you, if you do this faithfully, your load will lighten up. You will be able to look back one day and say, “I am glad I had that trial. I am so much stronger now and so much closer to the Lord; thank you Jesus.”

    Consider what Christ endured for us. He suffered in an unfathomable way like no one else, ever. So many suffer in various ways. None of it makes sense, yet that is how it is. We live in a fallen world and until the Lord returns people will suffer and go through trials. We must trust the Lord that whatever we are dealing with is for a reason.

    The goodness and favor of God will be yours as long as you are dedicated to our blessed Savior, sincere in your faith and not living some sort to double life where you present yourself as a devoted Christian but behind closed doors are a hypocritical phony committing atrocities. At the moment you might not feel like He is always with you, but He is.

    “The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:8).

    Our walk with the Lord must be authentic, and surely He will balance the scales and lift our burdens even when there seems to be no way out. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, delight yourself in Him and He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4). And by the way, the good Lord has a way of turning those desires into something a bit different than what you might have had in mind in the first place: He will steer you toward a way of life that is best for you and in keeping with His Scriptures.

    “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

    Whatever is troubling you, let it all go and give it all to Him. You are bought and paid for. Christ paid the ultimate price for you. Your thinking can reflect gratitude for all He has done for you even in the midst of hardships. Things will get better. Don’t give up. Lean on Him and you will be get through your trial.

    So John, as I said before, there is nothing wrong with asking God, why. But instead I suggest you don’t spend too much time trying to figure out why, and put one foot in front of the other, put on your armor—the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:11).We are living in a massive war zone; a spiritual battlefield that is sometimes very subtle and also very brutal, upfront and personal.

    God has given us the ammunition we need to deal with the trials of life. Go to His Word and saturate yourself with it; you will get through this challenging time. And remember that this life is truly only a vapor when we consider eternity (James 4:14).

    “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

    Please keep in touch with me John, and let me know how you are doing. We serve the great God of mercy and grace. Lean on Him and believe what He says:

    “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

    May God bless you and strengthen you.

    Esther

    “For with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37).


    May18, 2015

    Dear Esther,

    First, I would like to thank you for taking the time to run your advice column on Rapture Ready! Your answers are always so edifying and full of wisdom. I’m an eighteen-year old guy heading off to university this fall, and I’m excited to finally be able to strike out on my own. I’d also like to be married some day, but it will definitely be a few years before I’m ready.

    With the Rapture looking more imminent than ever, I was struck by the fact that I probably won’t ever meet that special someone. Older male mentors say that if I want to experience marriage I’ll have to make it happen here, because it just won’t happen in heaven. Of course that’s backed with Scripture but I just can’t shake the feeling of disappointment.

    They bring up the fact that believers that are anticipating Christ’s return will receive a crown, but it seems like if I do that I pretty much have to give up on my dream. It’s easy for the older guys to dismiss me and my concerns—they’ve already lived their lives and done all there is to do.

    I definitely don’t want to put anything in this world over being with Christ, but it’s just so hard to let go. How can I look forward to the Rapture AND getting, married? Do I have to choose? Thank you very much for taking the time to read my question, and God bless you.

    Peter


    Dear Peter,

    I am glad you wrote. Thank you for your kind words. I am blessed to know that a fine young man like you is reading my column. With all due respect to those older gentleman who are mentoring you, I agree that perhaps they are coming from a place that is well-intentioned but somewhat limited in perspective.

    You don’t have to make your dream happen. If you are truly walking with the Lord, He will make it happen. I have good news for you, Peter. If God has a wife in mind for you, you will get married before the Rapture. As long as you are taking steps to be productive, the Lord will open the doors that He intends for your life. He knows what is best for us.

    “Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:4-5).

    We don’t know when the Rapture will happen. Although many signs show that the time of the Rapture is drawing near. I can remember people saying 15-20 years ago that the Rapture was about to happen. I have an older friend who told me about how he bought into everything in Hal Lindsey’s book, The Late Great Planet Earth -- thinking that the Rapture would happen in 1981; long before you were born, Peter.

    I have not read the book but from what I understand, although Lindsey did not actually claim to know the dates of future events with any certainty, he suggested that Matthew 24:32-34 indicated that Jesus’ return might be within “one generation” of the rebirth of the state of Israel (1948).

    Hal Lindsey interpreted that Scripture to mean that one generation is forty years (all of which is pure speculation). I think Psalm 90 gives a better and more accurate perspective of what a generation is (70-80 years). He had the part about Israel right but not the lifespan years that define one generation.

    Some trusting readers of Hal Lindsay’s book took his suggestions as a sign that the Tribulation or the Rapture would occur no later than 1988. Then in his 1980 work, The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon, Lindsey predicted that “the decade of the 1980s could very well be the last decade of history as we know it” (more speculation that has proven to be false). And we are all still here in 2015.

    My friend believed what Lindsey suggested in his first book, and according to him, many of his friends did as well. They avoided getting married and made decisions about their lives based on the author’s projections, and now decades later they regret having made decisions based on the failed summations of the popular author.

    So with that said, although the Rapture is definitely drawing near, perhaps very near, we cannot be sure when it will happen. The best thing to do while we are waiting is to help bring others to salvation in Christ (while there is still time), and continue to live responsible lives preparing for the future—as you are, by pursuing an education.

    Live your life to the fullest but be absolutely sure it is Christ-centered. Believe me, when God brings the right girl into your life the relationship will be blessed. Rushing into a situation to beat the Rapture countdown clock would be a terrible mistake and it sounds like you are well aware of that. When the Lord brings two people together everything will flow -- as long as He is the center of the relationship.

    You will meet a lot of pretty girls in college but not all of them will be committed to Christ; only a girl who is truly born-again in Christ should be a possible future wife otherwise you will have a very tough time. I receive so many letters from those who did not pay attention to 2 Corinthians 6:14 where the Lord instructs us not to be unequally yoked – and their marital problems are overwhelming and devastating.

    It is wonderful that you want to be married and are working toward that end. Concentrate on your schoolwork and avoid hanging out with the liberals in college who are determined to radically change the thinking of good Christian students. Many once-dedicated Christians have fallen away from the faith in college because of the constant in-your-face liberal godless indoctrination.

    College campuses are some of Satan’s greatest recruiting grounds for waywardness leading to an eternity of misery and hellfire. Armor yourself with God’s Word each day and seek out those who are truly committed to Christ.

    Your future wife should be a good friend, first. You never know whom you might meet in college. A much older dear friend of mine, a brilliant scholar, met his wife at age seventeen in college while in the registration line at Bob Jones University. By age eighteen he was already pastoring a small church, married at age twenty, and working hard.

    He also continued to pursue multiple doctorate degrees for over a decade. He and his wife were together in their early years and are still happily married serving the Lord together in mighty ways in their twilight years.

    The best thing you can do is to trust the Lord completely for your future. It is fun to daydream about a hopeful special loved one, that’s fine. But when you keep your eyes focused on Jesus – everything that He has planned for your future will fall into place. Maybe sooner than you think.

    Be industrious in finding ways to make money and learning new things in college that will make you self-sufficient economically and enable you to take on the responsibility of a wife and family. But always do it in a godly manner, never mind what the flavor of the month is with your peers who may not be walking closely with the Lord.

    And if the Rapture does take place and you are unmarried, rest assured, at that point it will not matter to you. Nothing, not even a perfect earthy marriage can compare to the glory of the Living Christ. Our finite minds cannot comprehend the way we will be when we receive our new glorified bodies. Everything that seems so important to us now will not have the same emotional pull on us.

    Peter, please be of good cheer. Enjoy your life, continue to grow in the Lord and make serving the Him your priority. Don’t worry about the Rapture. It is in God’s control. He created you for such a time as this. Everything will fall into place. Our heavenly Father delights in making His children happy. You sound like a very fine young man with a great future.

    It is nice to have older friends as mentors but the best mentor is Jesus Himself. Continue to grow close to Him and He will guide you in all you do. It is not uncommon for Bible students to eventually outgrow their mentors. A time will come when you will seek the mentorship of men less, and God more.

    The Christian church is in great need of strong, godly, balanced biblical leadership; teachers who have great discernment and are not preaching their personal philosophies, but rather properly interpreted Scriptures using correct hermeneutical principles. You sound like a young man who could lead others and do great things for the Lord.

    You can look forward to both getting married and the Rapture. You really don’t have to choose. God already has a plan for you and you can be sure it is the right one. Detach yourself from the outcome; enjoy each day and do your best to serve Him wholeheartedly.

    We should always place Christ first in our hearts, and then our lives will have a flow that moves us in the direction He knows is best for us. You can still long to be married and long for the Rapture. Whichever comes first will be God’s perfect plan. When you can look at it from that perspective you should have a lot more peace and joy about your situation.

    You have much to look forward to. Enjoy these years and stay close to Jesus. God bless you and please let me know how you are doing every now and then.

    In God’s love,

    Esther

    “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).