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


  • August 31, 2015

    Dear Esther,

    Thank you for giving this a listening ear and being there to help. I am having a hard time with the relationship between my mother and myself. Growing up, there was a lot of strife and conflict with verbal fights between us.

    It was dysfunctional and a lot of hurtful things were said on both ends (no father in the picture as she was single). To her credit, she worked hard and ensured all our needs were met as well as some wants. She is also very giving and caring to others, always rushing to someone’s aid. I also have memories of the good times we had, in between the fighting and despair.

    Now I am married and a mother of two. I left my hometown and created a lot of distance between us in the hope that I would heal and start my life afresh. I also hoped being away would improve our relationship as we were not sharing the same living space.

    This was not to be. Every time we talk or stay in touch there is always some form of strife. I admit to having had resentment to some of the things she did in the past but after a lot of therapy and prayer I have let it go. However, I have a fear of her ruining my present happy life just to see me miserable.

    I have asked God to remove this fear. I think it stems from how over-controlling my mother was even into my adult years, always trying to micro manage every aspect of my life. She is a born-again Christian and raised me to follow God so I don’t understand why we have this strife between us. She says she loves me and I believe her.

    In our previous mediations with a neutral party we have both repented and asked each other for forgiveness. But it’s like we can’t have a mother-daughter relationship that is desired. I feel, that when other people say, “Honor your father and mother” in reference to one of the commandments, they have not walked in my shoes and just expect me to roll over and let her have her way. What about: “Parents do not provoke your children?”

    I am not trying to justify my actions or deflect fault. My question is: Should I take a lengthy break from her with no communication so that I can heal from this? I also don’t want to talk anymore because it always leads to a fight, which is not good for either of us. My husband also thinks I should distance myself because he hates to see me hurt, and crying over this.

    What is the right way to honor her as God commands? I know she is lonely, as my brother for unknown reasons has estranged himself from us for years. She misses her grandkids and I know it would make her happy to see them and hear about their development.

    I live in a different country and last year when we visited it did not go well. There was a fight and also some untrue rumors that had reached my grandmother about me. The source of it was my mother because she is the one who knew the details of the situation but what was told to my grandmother was twisted and over stretched. We had an intervention with other family members where we prayed and tried to talk this out for the last time. I think we reached a mutual forgiveness point but reconciliation was not instant.

    This is reflected in the strained phone conversations we have had and my refusing to accept her calls and text messages in the last two-months. I honestly want to just cut-off my mom but I do not know if it is the right decision in God’s sight.

    I want to please God most of all. I also need to focus on my 3-year-old and my newborn. This turmoil drains my energy. My husband also wants me to stop dwelling on this situation and just walk away from it all together.

    How do I please God if it’s still difficult to get along with my mother? I love her and I truly forgive her in my heart of hearts. How can two born-again Christians not get along? I also don’t want to be left behind because of this issue. I am born-again and believe in Jesus.

    Thank you.

    Sherry


    Dear Sherry,

    Sometimes in life when we need or want to make a decision about something, whichever way we choose, neither solution may be ideal. The long history of contention and strife you have had with your mother certainly is a difficult one.

    From reading your letter and carefully thinking and praying about your situation, it sounds like you really want to be free of this seemingly never-ending friction with your mom. Boundaries are something we should always respect with one another but some people (most often family members) seem to ignore this simple courtesy.

    You can honor your mother by not getting caught-up in any more unpleasant verbal exchanges with her. I would not just cut her off cold. I suggest writing her a loving letter, a snail mail letter, not an email. Try to explain to her that you truly love her but the time has come in your life where you need all your energy to raise your two very young children.

    “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit” (Proverbs 15:4).

    Tell your mom that you don’t blame her or hold any animosity toward her and that you are sincerely sorry for the part you have played in all of this, but that you simply cannot continue to participate in a situation where there is so much conflict.

    Since nothing productive seems to come out of your interactions together you have made a decision to continue on with your life without the telephone, texting, and emailing aspect of your communication. This way what you are doing is clearly stated in writing and cannot be convoluted.

    This is not to punish her or hurt her, but it is matter of self-preservation so you can function properly and take care of your children. Tell her you cannot go on in a state of distress because of a unpleasant phone conversation, etc. For whatever reason the two of you are just not on the same wavelength and the best thing to do is to love each other from a distance through occasional letters via the traditional mail services.

    You can send her pictures of the children as they grow; in fact, make some photo albums for her and mail them to her occasionally, a couple of times a year. You can send her nice greeting cards now and then. In this way you would still be honoring her but not allowing the same old negative dynamics to take over. If she does not like the decision you’ve made, then simply tell her that you are sorry but this is how it has to be so you can function.

    The verbal arguments, and all the other undercurrent problems have taken a toll on you and you really have no other choice in the matter. You have a great responsibility to your husband and the children and cannot handle any more stress. You can also point out that these chronic negative interactions are not good for her either.

    You can probably expect her to get angry once she reads your letter. If she writes back with an upsetting letter, please contact me and I will work through it with you. I do understand, and I am sure many of the readers do as well—that even the slightest communication from a dysfunctional loved one can be like driving a stake into one’s heart.

    So for now, take it one-step at a time. Write the letter, put a couple of recent pictures of your kids into the envelope and mail it. If she calls or texts you, you can ignore it because you have already stated your case. Then if she writes back, let’s see what she says or if she makes any demands.

    Remember this is your first step to taking back your life, so you will have to be a bit patient. But once you state your case, you should stick with your decision or else you might get wrangled back into the same negative interplay.

    No doubt your mom did everything she could to provide for you, and for that you are grateful. But that was her responsibility. As time goes on in the future you can always do some nice things for her, but I would proceed with caution. Right now, you must make peace with yourself that you are not doing this to be unkind to her, but you are doing it so you can be a responsible parent and carry on.

    The Lord knows every last detail of our lives, better than we know them ourselves. Go before Him and ask for His blessing and healing. Confess your part in the problems and ask Him to help your mother realize that she too has created this separation, which may need to continue for a very long time.

    When you find yourself getting upset and feeling angry toward her for any of the injustices in your relationship, remember what Jesus said on the cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” On some level your mom is in a way handicapped to get past her “stuff”—whatever it is. Being a single mom must have been very hard for her. Always think of her with compassion and any angry feelings you might have will dissipate. And for you, growing up without a father has complex issues.

    You can please God by kindly making the case to your mother about how this lifelong drama must end and that you are not harboring any hatred or anger toward her. You are not going to be left behind in the Rapture over this. You are truly sorry and repentant, but that does not mean you have to open yourself up as an object of verbal bantering.

    Sherry, please focus on the blessings the Lord has given you: Two beautiful children, a good husband and a life that is away from the close proximity to your mom. The distance didn’t help because the communication continued as it did. But now you can take a step to change all of that. Start with the letter.

    If she sends back an angry reply, then you may have to take a stronger step and cut-off the communication completely. But we won’t think about that quite, yet. I think you will feel better if you take this one step first before entertaining the idea of totally cutting her out of your life and that of you children for a very lengthy time.

    As far as being a born-again believer and not getting along, that does sound like an oxymoron. But believe me, it happens all the time. Pride is a relentless foe and rears its ugly head even amongst many professing Christians. And only God knows if a person is truly saved.

    When we are walking in the flesh we are living life giving into temptations leading to a life spattered with sin (which includes habitual verbal abuse). When we walk in the Spirit we live our lives in a way that reflects the inner workings of the Holy Spirit, Who dwells within all true believers.

    We should always be conscious of how we are behaving and be careful not to grieve the Holy Spirit. We should always try our best to be a good witness for Christ to others.

    A lot of people profess to be born-again Christians, yet I am continuously amazed at how many of these people are going through life as if they never made a sincere profession of faith. They are spiritual infants who are in desperate need of repentance and re-evaluation of their proclamations of faith.

    I think some people will be surprised at the Judgment Seat of Christ. The motives for everything a believer does for the Lord will be judged. Some will lose their rewards because their motives for serving the Lord are insincere and self-serving (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).

    “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

    Some professing Christians are not really saved. They are Christians in name only and will have to face the Lord at the Great White Throne judgment along with the rest of the unsaved. God is not mocked and all those who are parading around professing Christ, but blatantly defying His principles showing no good fruit whatsoever are in great jeopardy. God knows the heart intent of each person. He is merciful and just.

    Since you are truly repentant and have given your life to the Lord, I urge you to grow deeper in your faith and search the Scriptures daily and be sure to have a good prayer life where you communicate with the Lord often, each day.

    The stronger your prayer life becomes and the more you absorb the Scriptures, the less the cares of the world will affect you. You will be able to move on and not get caught-up in the minutia of this life, which includes chronic family problems.

    I also recommend reading two articles that we have from the FAQ section on Rapture Ready. The first is: “Why Is Strife a Sin?” The second is titled, “How Important Are the Words We Speak?” [1]

    Please keep in touch with me and know that I am praying with you. It is going to be all right, Sherry. We serve a great and mighty God who cares very much about you and all His children. Please give this entire matter over to Him and let’s pray that a wonderful result will yet come out of all of this.

    God bless you!

    Esther

    “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29).

    Endnotes
    http://raptureready.com/faq/faq635.html
    http://raptureready.com/faq/faq631.html



    August 24, 2015

    Dear Esther,

    Hi, I’m Cameron, a 17 year old in high school. I do consider myself blessed, but I have lost my faith in religion, sort of. I believe in God, but I cannot fully call myself a Christian. These past few weeks, before I sleep...I have prayed and prayed.

    I do not like the thought of death but I know “to live...you must die.” I’ve been reading the books, The Left Behind series. It speaks about being left behind after the Rapture. Personally, I feel God has told me to not believe in Him and to stay after the Rapture to evangelize; that He is real after the Rapture.

    I am anxious and nervous though, because I am young. How can I put my belief into God when I'm so very skeptical in believing in Him? Please help me.

    Always,

    Cameron


    Dear Cameron,

    I am so glad you reached out. By the time you finish reading this, it is my heartfelt prayer that you will understand that God is very real and in no way would He tell you not to believe in Him now and to put off believing in Him until after the Rapture. That is completely unscriptural.

    It is a lie from God’s arch enemy, the devil—Satan, the deceiver. He would place such ideas in your head and use the world around you to cause you to doubt. He is the father of lies.

    His number one weapon against the truth, against the Word of God is promoting false philosophies and religions. Cameron, it is understandable that you do not gravitate toward religion; that is a good thing. It is a personal relationship with Christ that matters, not religion.

    The devil is working day and night trying to convince you and me and everyone else that the true God of the Bible does not exist or that if He does exist, He is just one of many gods.

    But please don’t fall for that deadly trap. The devil wants you to think that as long as you are a nice person and do nice deeds, your eternity will be just fine. He would even like you to go to church on Sunday as long as you don’t take that “Jesus” who sacrificed Himself on the Cross, too seriously.

    The Bible is filled with Scripture about believing. Here is a short list:

    “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

    “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 5:24).

    “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47).

    “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24).

    “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

    In the following verses, Jesus cautions us about Satan, the devil:

    “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).

    “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).

    Evil and Satan are complex topics. The devil is not just some type of fictitious evil concept, or a figment of one’s imagination. Satan, whose original name was Lucifer, was a marvelously beautiful angel who held a very high position. He was not created to be evil, but he became so through his own corruption.

    His own pride, greed and self-importance caused him to try to replace and overthrow his own Creator—Almighty God. In the following verse you will see how Satan tried to usurp God’s authority, resulting in his eviction from heaven:

    “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High’” (Isaiah 14:12-14).

    Cameron, you can also see from the previous Scripture that Satan broke the first of Almighty God’s Ten Commandments: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). Although Satan was thrown out of heaven—his first rebellion (Luke 10:18), he still has access to the heavenly domains and also roams around on earth prowling about like a roaring lion (1 Peter 1:8). But halfway through the Tribulation he will be ousted from the heavenly realms permanently (Revelation 12:7-12).

    “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. And the LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?” So Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it” (Job 1:6-7).

    Satan tried to overthrow God’s throne. He became his own god, worshipping himself rather than the true God and Creator 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 and cause havoc and heartache any way he can.

    The same human inclination for self-importance and power later enticed Adam and Eve into sinning when Satan lied to Eve and said: “You will be like God” (Genesis 3:5). Because of the fall of Man into sin all of mankind is separated from the God of creation, the Holy God of Israel.

    Mankind inherited this separated sin condition from Adam and Eve. The inclination to sin is in our spiritual DNA and only through Christ can we be freed from that deadly affliction (the Adamic nature we are all born under).

    “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12).

    God’s way of reconciling humanity to Himself is through Christ’s death sacrifice on the Cross, which paid the penalty for all of mankind’s sins. Reconciliation with God and the gift of eternal life is based upon the confession of Jesus of Nazareth, accepting the only begotten Son of God, as Savior.

    “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation” (Romans 5:8-11).

    Satan will stop at nothing to try to defeat Almighty God. He is the consummate definition of evil, shrewdly plotting to get his own way. He thrives on creating agony and total destruction. Where there is unspeakable calamity, we can find the signature of Satan. We need only tune into local and world news reports each day to learn about dark and disturbing events.

    These matters cannot be explained except for the undeniable presence of evil, orchestrating one tragedy after another. Evil has infiltrated the hearts and minds of inordinate numbers of people. But in Christ we have hope and the assurance of spiritual victory. It is up to each one of us individually to accept His free gift of salvation .

    Don’t let Satan steal away your life, Cameron. He has your right where he wants you. Don’t give him the satisfaction of surrendering your soul to him. The eternal glory of the Lord is available to anyone who wholeheartedly accepts His free gift of eternal salvation, as long as it is before we take our last and final breath.

    Scripture tells us there will be those who will wait until they find themselves living through the inescapable terrors of the Tribulation to accept Christ’s free gift of salvation. And that is what you are saying, Cameron. There is no guarantee you will even live that long. You could die tomorrow. People die unexpectedly every day.

     Tomorrow is promised to no one. Any one of us could take our last breath today. Then it will be too late. The only way we can embrace righteousness and holiness is to be covered by the atoning blood sacrifice of Jesus. We are to believe and accept Christ today, not some day in the future.

    “For He made Him [Jesus] who knew no sinto be sin for us, that we may become the righteousness of God in Him. Behold now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 5:21, 6b).

    By accepting Christ’s free gift of salvation—because of Him—we are purified so we can enter into the presence of a Holy God—the holiness of heaven. I choose to believe Christ when He tells me there is a literal place that is filled with so much torment and anguish that only He can save us from it. Christ holds the key to salvation and eternal life.

    There is no other way, despite what biblically illiterate people would have you believe. Avoid hell by personally receiving Him as your Lord and Savior. Blind allegiance to manmade philosophies and religions will only hurt you. Here are some Scriptural references to that horrific place called hell:

    “And these [who reject Christ] will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous [believers] into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46).

    “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17).

    “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me you cursed, into the everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels’” (Matthew 25:41). [Jesus is speaking of the people in the final judgment.]

    “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).

    Scary stuff. It defies logic. Inconceivable: “Everlasting fire; the lake which burns with fire and brimstone.” Surely these statements must be allegorical and mythological. No, that is not what the Lord says. He says this is the real condition of a real place called hell. We mortals are limited in our understanding of the broad scope of this insidious spiritual war. Trust and believe in the One who died for you.

    “But God demonstrates His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.

    “For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:8-10).

    “And this is in the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11-12).

    “And He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son. In which we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13).

    In the following verse Christ speaks of His death sacrifice on the Cross, the payment for all of mankind’s sins, and His resurrection, as well as the fact that He holds the key to life and death:

    “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forever more. Amen. I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (Revelation 1:18).

    “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:9-10).

    Cameron, you say you cannot really call yourself a Christian. You are right. In order to become a true Christian you must choose Christ and become spiritually born-again. Please believe in Christ and accept Him as your Lord and Savior; by doing so you become a true child of God, as Scripture teaches.

    Recognize this dying world for what it is and the living risen Christ for Who He is. He is the way, the truth and the life. Only through Him can any of us escape the wrath that will be poured out during the soon coming prophesied seven-year Tribulation.

    Only through Him can we be saved from an eternity of suffering. Please let go of preconceived ideas and lies of the devil that separate you from the living Christ and the abundant life that He wants so very much to share with you.

    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 the devil is disarmed and we are made permanently victorious—our eternal destiny is shielded from any bullets he fires.

    “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 can count on the Lord. He does not change:

    “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

    What does salvation in Jesus Christ really mean?

    “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).

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

    “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

    We can have a close, personal relationship with the Lord when we are born-again by the Holy Spirit and come to repentance. The spiritual rebirth Jesus spoke of is necessary in order to be saved, in order to have a personal relationship with Him, and to be able to understand the Word of God through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

    “But the natural man [unsaved person] 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” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

    “Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born-again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?”

    Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born-again’” (John 3:3-7).

    “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

    When we sincerely accept Christ and receive Him as our Lord and Savior, we are filled with God’s Holy Spirit and are spiritually born-again. Water baptism is a public testimony showing we have placed our faith in Jesus. Being baptized as a child, a ritual performed by some religious groups will not get us into heaven. Neither will church or synagogue attendance.

    Each person is personally accountable to God and must make his or her own decision to either accept or reject God’s saving grace. God gave us free will. It is up to each of us to choose eternal life with God or eternal torment and separation from God. Choose Jesus Christ and you will be saved forever.

    [Jesus said,] “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24).

    Christ took on the sins of the entire world through his death on the Cross to give us all the opportunity to be with Him for eternity and keep us from hell and the lake of fire (1 Timothy 4:10). He suffered for us, so we won’t have to suffer an eternity of inconceivable torment. But each individual must choose either to accept Christ by following His commandment to be born-again, genuinely repenting and placing Him first. Or face an eternity of horror.

    You can come to faith in Christ, and be born-again by praying a personal prayer of repentance and faith. The words you use are not important. Your 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 your 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.

    If you are not sure what to say, follow this simple heartfelt prayer, but you must mean it with all your heart:

    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 to 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, the Messiah of Israel and of the world. Amen.

    Cameron, please put away the Left Behind books and start reading and studying the Bible. I have shared a lot of information here to help you get started. Realize that you must take God’s Word—the Bible seriously, and resolve to start a new life with Him at the forefront of your daily life. Seek out those who love the Lord and leave behind those who are the enemies of the Cross.

    Cameron, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. God loves you so very much and is waiting for you with open arms. Run to Him while you still can.

    In God’s love,

    Esther

    “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air [the devil], of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience [the unsaved]” (Ephesians 2:1-2).


    August 17, 2015

    Dear Esther,

    I look forward to reading your wonderful column every week. Can you give me some hope for the future? With everything that is happening in this world I am beginning to feel somewhat paralyzed emotionally.

    Innocent people all over the world are getting hurt. I am really afraid what might happen to me, and my family. I have two children, ages 12 and 14. They are starting to feel nervous and afraid about going to even basic school events at their Christian school worried that something could happen to them.

    I do try to reassure them that everything is all right but honestly it is all getting too unsettling. I do read the Bible but I cannot seem to get past this fear. Everyone in our household is saved except my husband.

    He watches TV all night after work and doesn’t have much to say about world events. He doesn’t think anything unusual is happening in the world and laughs off Bible prophecy and thinks the Bible is about as reliable as an old phone book. I feel the burden is on me to help our children feel safe.

    Thank you,

    Caroline


    Dear Caroline,

    I have received a number of letters lately with concerns similar to yours. If we let ourselves get overwhelmed by the circumstances around us we will lose our ability to enjoy the blessings we do have.

    We are living at a time the Lord warned us about; the world is heading toward the fulfillment of the prophesied a one-world government, a one-world religion and the seven-year Tribulation period. It is not easy to see our great country turning more and more into a godless tyrannical weak-kneed nation of demagoguery.

    Our great and blessed hope of course is, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior—the mighty King and Creator. The day is soon coming when He will take His rightful place on the throne of David and will be literally reigning and ruling over a rejuvenated planet Earth. This is something to keep in mind each time you and your children feel hopeless and scared.

    Everything seems to be getting out of control all around the world but God promises to return and dramatically change this fallen world, and all believers are to be partakers of His coming millennial kingdom. We must hold on to that promise and make the most of each day. It is God’s grace that can carry us when we think we can no longer stand to see another moment of corruption and the anti-God tactics taking hold.

    We have God’s promise that before all hell breaks loose, before the Tribulation begins, all true born-again believers will be lifted-up to glory and safety by the Jesus Himself in the Rapture. After the seven-year Tribulation we will return with Him and his holy angels and assist Him with His 1000-year millennial reign.

    It is not unusual to feel stressed and scared considering the state of affairs in this wicked world; although the Lords tells us to “fear not” in dozens of Scriptures. But our flesh is weak and if we give in to fear then we could surely become incapacitated from hearing and seeing the news reports. But all genuine born-again believers are indwelt with the Holy Spirit and the Lord has promised never to leave us or forsake us.

    We are His children and He is our Protector. We can take comfort in knowing that wherever we go and whatever we do the Lord is with us, guiding us and ministering to us. It is our job as believers to stay in prayer and communicate with Him – by quieting our minds so we can discern His will and guidance for our lives.

    We know that the devil prowls around like a roaring lion like seeking whom, he can devour (1 Peter 5:8). He does this by leading his demonic armies into acts of aggression and terror in the spiritual realm, which is manifested outwardly in the physical world.

    Perpetuating fear is always the devil’s doing but when we belong to Christ, we are covered by His blood sacrifice and the devil is defeated. Satan will always try to harass believers but greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world. So whenever you and your kids start feeling fearful, say these Scriptures aloud:

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

    Please keep reading your Bible and consciously make an effort to take your Bible study to a deeper level. I strongly suggest reading the Scriptures out loud. There is something about hearing the Word of God out loud as it penetrates deep into our hearts and minds. You can do this with your two children every day. Take turns reading the Scriptures to each other.

    Each time you hear and read God’s Word you are feeding your faith. The more you read and study, the more your faith will grow, and the less anxiety you will feel about today and the future. Encourage your children to get very involved with you and other believers in Bible studies—reading the Lord’s faithful promises. Believers need not be slaves to fear. We don’t have to be afraid if God is our Helper.

    “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15).

    If you are involved in good church or have some other Christian friends make a point of meeting together to encourage one another. Instead of watching and listening to news reports spend that time immersed in the Word of God, listening to sermons and reading spiritual books. Write out some encouraging Scriptures for your children on nice sheets of paper each day and place them in their backpacks.

    Text them or email them during the day with encouraging Bible verses to help keep them grounded in God’s Word. Reassure them that they are not alone and that God is with them. Fill your home with beautiful Christian songs of praise and worship.

    Ask your children to help pick out some favorite songs and if you can afford it, take them to a Christian bookstore or browse the Internet together and let them choose some new CD titles that they can listen to and call their own.

    What we fill our minds with is very important. I am reminded of a song often taught to young children. Since the Lord tells us we must be like a child to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:13), these lyrics are wonderful for anyone to contemplate on:

    Oh, be careful little ears, what you hear for the Father up above, is looking down in love, so be careful little ears what you hear.

    Oh, be careful little eyes, what you see, for the Father up above, is looking down in love, so be careful little eyes what you see.

    Oh, be careful little mouth, what you say, for the Father up above, is looking down in love, so be careful little mouth what you say.

    Oh, be careful little hands, what you do For the Father up above, is looking down in love, so be careful little hands what you do.

    Oh, be careful little feet where you go For the Father up above, is looking down in love, so be careful little feet, where you go.

    Oh, be careful little mind what you think For the Father up above, is looking down in love, so be careful little mind, what you think.

    Oh, be careful little heart what you love for the Father up above, is looking down in love, so be careful little heart, what you love.

    Caroline, keep communicating with the Lord throughout each day and teach your children to do the same. No matter what happens in this world, we have eternity with the Lord to look forward to. We cannot be shielded from all the bad news and negativity but we can keep it all in perspective in relation to Scripture.

    As we see things get more and more absurd, rest assured that the Lord’s return cannot be far off.

    As far as your husband is concerned, pray for him faithfully and ask the Lord to remove the spiritual blindness from his eyes, heart and mind. And be grateful that your kids are able to go to a Christian school which shows he must not be totally against the faith, but of course that won’t get him into heaven.

    Praying for our unsaved loved ones is so important and very powerful. Ideally, it would be wonderful if you could lean on your husband, but God will carry you and strengthen you as you continue to reach out to Him.

    God bless you Caroline; stay close to Jesus and you will be able to deal with life’s trials and tribulations. Always remember, we are already victorious in Christ and this world is not our home.

    Esther

    “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust’” (Psalm 91:1-2).

    Endnotes
    http://www.dltk-bible.com/oh_be_careful_little_ears.htm


    August 10, 2015

    Dear Esther,

    I look forward to reading your great column every week ever since I discovered it earlier this year. It seems that so many Christians are not really living for Christ. I know the Bible says something about an apostasy.

    I have been only saved for about a year. I am a bit confused about what the Emergent church is, and why some Christian leaders say we should team up with the Catholic Church. Can you help me understand more about this trend? Is the Roman Catholic Church part of the Christian church? I would appreciate it if you can shed some light on any of this.

    Sincerely,

    Tony


    Dear Tony,

    Thank you for your kind words. I will do my best to address your concerns. We are living in the last of the last days and the prophesied Apostasy is well underway. No, the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) is not a Christian church in the true biblical sense. The RCC is part of the Apostasy and so is the Emergent church.

    The Greek definition of the word “apostasy” means “a defection; a renunciation.” Webster’s Dictionary, the 1928 Edition provides a solid definition, “An abandonment of what one has professed; a total desertion, or departure from one’s faith or religion.”

    Scripture gives us more information on what we can expect prior to the Tribulation. The Day of the Lord is in reference to the Tribulation years.

    “Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him, that you may not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come, Let no one deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction [the Antichrist]” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3).

    Notice the order of the passages, the distinct succession of the verses in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3: Let no one in any way deceive you by any means, implies that attempts to deceive are at play. Immediately after that verse we read: For it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, implying: defection, caused by what is stated in the previous verse: “deceive” (deception). After the deception, comes the apostasy, the falling away.

    To illustrate further, consider the end-times apostasy in the parable of the leaven showing that apostasy is going to take place in the last days, and that the infiltration of corrupt doctrines into the Church will result in total apostasy. In Matthew 13 and 16, the “leaven” is the end-times apostasy (false doctrines) as shown by Jesus in the parable of the leaven.

    Jesus warned about false doctrines:

    “Another parable He spoke to them: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened’” (Matthew 13:33).

    “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?—but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Saduccees’” (Matthew 16: 6, 11-12).

    Jesus’ parable of the leaven is concerning apostasy in the last days. It is a warning about false teachings and false doctrines, a “standing away from faith.” By the Lord’s own account, leaven is false doctrine. In Thessalonians 2:3, Scripture teaches that the explosion of false doctrines in the last days will take hold, making the way for Antichrist. The following verses clearly show that some will teach false doctrines that contradict the true teachings of the Bible.

    “Now the spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:1-2).

    “For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds” (2 John 7, 9-11).

    Many “sheep in wolves clothing” are deliberately infiltrating the Christian church offering confusing, distorted teachings spanning from the Emergent church movement, “contemplative prayer” trends—to “seeker-sensitive” doctrines. They are dangerously compromising the gospel by attacking the very basic, core-truths of Scripture. Substitutes for God’s redemptive work are running awry—propelled by those who do not accept the authority, inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible.

    Because they do not like or want to accept the truths of the Bible, a deceptive tactic used by some “evangelicals” who compromise the Scriptures is this: They say the true meanings of Scripture are “unclear” in an attempt to appear modest and gain popular favor with their target audience, when in truth they are casting doubt upon God’s inerrant Word.

    The Emergent church is a movement that claims to be Christian. The Emergent church is used to describe a broad, controversial movement that seeks to use culturally sensitive approaches to reach the postmodern, un-churched population with the Christian message. Some Emergent churches might use props such as candles, statues, and incense along with poems, videos, etc. Emergent church services can be very informal, while others are more formal.

    Emergent churches seek to reach the lost by focusing on relationships and developing a “story,” a “journey of life” that is expressed through the “narrative of learning.” These words and others are often used by emerging teachers in describing their religious experiences. Other terms sometimes used are “reimagine,” “tribe,” story of Jesus,” deconstruction,” etc.

    Sometimes in this movement there is an ambiguous, feelings-oriented desire to experience God and also share in the lives of people as they seek to find God their way. Some Emergent churches go so far as to say those outside of Christianity will be saved. We know that this is the opposite of what Scripture teaches!

    Some Emergent churches are environmentally focused, while others concentrate on local community issues. Some downplay biblical doctrine, reinterpret creeds and de-emphasize tradition, while some hold on to some tradition. It is very difficult to exactly define what an Emergent church is. The common denominator that they have is that they stray from basic biblical truths in some way, shape or form.

    In 1994 an ecumenical document was signed by some leading Evangelical and Roman Catholic leaders her in the United States. The co-signers were Charles Colson and Richard John Neuhaus, representing each side of the discussion. It was part of a larger ecumenical rapprochement in the US that had begun in the 1980s with Catholic-Evangelical collaboration in parachurch organizations such as the Moral Majority.

    One of the most recent and most outspoken proponents of Christians and Catholics together is the controversial megachurch leader, Rick Warren. A video that was released in 2014 documenting Rick Warren calling for Christians to unite with Roman Catholics and Pope Francis. Warren has also referred to the Pope as the “Holy Father” which has raised serious concerns among Christians nationwide and is resulting in calls for Warren to repent.

    Matt Slick of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM) repudiated each of Warren’s points. “Sure, there are Catholics who love the real Christ, the one who died on the cross for our sins. That is not the problem,” he said. “The problem is the Roman Catholic Church’s false teachings concerning Mary and salvation.”

    “Rick Warren says both the Catholics and the Protestants believe in the Bible. But, there is a significant difference between the Bible of the Protestants and the Roman Catholic Church, which has added seven books,” Slick wrote. “There are numerous problems in the apocryphal books, such as the teaching of salvation by works and the offering of money for the sins of the dead.”

    “Warren implies that both Protestants and Catholics have the same view of salvation,” he continued. “Though it’s technically correct to say that Catholics believe in salvation through Jesus Christ, they reject justification by faith alone in Christ alone. Instead, it teaches that good works of various kinds are necessary for salvation.”

    Matt Slick also pointed to several Roman Catholic teachings on Mary, mainly from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), such as that Mary “by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation” and that “by asking Mary to pray for us, we acknowledge ourselves to be poor sinners and we address ourselves to the ‘Mother of Mercy,’ the All-Holy One.” (This is clearly a heretical unbiblical teaching.)

    “Rick Warren has not only failed to recognize the problems in these serious areas, but he has lent his credibility as a Protestant pastor in support of the Roman Catholic Church,” Slick wrote. “This should never be done by any Protestant pastor who takes the Bible seriously.

    I must conclude that Mr. Warren does not take the Word of God seriously and/or he does not understand the damnable teachings of Roman Catholicism regarding salvation. Rick Warren needs to repent,” he said. [1]

    Mary worship is a big problem in the Roman Catholic Church. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) the RCC call the Catholic Mary the “All Holy One” (CCC2677). Devotion to Mary is encouraged (CCC971). Praying to Mary is part of their teaching (CCC2679).

    Mary is worshipped (Vatican Council II, p.420). The RCC teaches that “So no man goeth to Christ but by His Mother,” (Vatican Website: Encyclical of Pope Leo 13th on the Rosary, Octobei mense, Pope Leo 13th, 1903-1914).

    The false teaching continues as already pointed out in the Matt Slick quote above; the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that Mary brings us gifts of eternal life by her manifold intercession continues to bring gifts of salvation (CCC par. 969). And outrageously the RCC teaches that Mary made atonement of the sins of mankind:

    “Mary, by her spiritual entering into the sacrifice of her divine son of men, made atonements for the sins of man and (de congruon) merited the application of the redemptive grace of Christ. in this manner she cooperates in the subjective redemption of mankind.” (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Ott, page 213)

    “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).

    Tony, as you can see by just some of the false teachings addressed here, the Roman Catholic Church is indeed a false religious organization that has deceived millions of people. The qualities and works attributed to Mary by the Roman Catholic Church far exceed what is revealed to us in Scripture. In fact the Bible says not to exceed what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6). But through Catholic tradition a whole host of unbiblical teaching concerning her have been proclaimed.

    And Mary worship is just one of many doctrinal problems within the RCC. The entire organization is filled with unbiblical rituals, idol worship, pomp and circumstance that have nothing to do with the biblical Jesus and His teachings.

    Revelation 17:1-18 reveals to us that there will be a one-world religion during the seven-year Tribulation. It is evident that those who call themselves Christians but embrace the false teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and the Emergent church movement are paving the way for the Antichrist’s one-world religious system. We don’t know exactly what the end-time one-world religion will consist of but we can see the formation of it taking place today.

    In 2014 Pope Francis came out with a statement that equating Islam with violence was wrong and called on Muslim leaders to issue a global condemnation of terrorism to help dispel the stereotype. The leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, told reporters aboard his plane returning from a visit to Turkey that he understood why Muslims were offended by many in the West who automatically equated their religion with terrorism. [2]

    So we have the Pope who thinks Islam is a religion of peace and so-called Christian leaders who work to unite Christians with the false teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. The Lord Jesus warned that in the last days many would abandon the faith and we can see that prophecy coming to fruition.

    “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

    The concerns you have expressed are all part and parcel of the last days prophetic time line. We are heading toward a one-world government and one-world religion that will explode during the Tribulation years. The best thing we can do as believers is share the gospel truth with as many people as possible.

    Tony, thank you for your sharing your concerns and questions. I hope this brief synopsis of the Apostasy taking place will help you to better understand the deceptive times in which we live.

    God bless you,

    Esther

    “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

    Endnotes
    [1] http://christiannews.net/2014/12/02/rick-warrens-call-for-christians-to-unite-with-catholics-holy-father-raising-concerns/
    [2] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/01/pope-francis-islam-_n_6249350.html


    August 3, 2015

    Dear Esther,

    Just some Christian conversation this morning...What do you think?

    Almost every morning I am tempted by fear. Anxiety was a generational curse. My mother raised me to fear life. She feared EVERYTHING. I realize this now, as an adult Christian. It caused a lot of heartache to say the least.

    But I wonder... is fear really Satan, or could it be an angel who has come, to in fact, say…fear not: To reveal to us God’s presence. To remind us of the words that are hidden in our hearts...God’s Scripture.

    This morning while washing dishes, negative thoughts came to mind...What if this or that does or doesn’t happen. Temptations of feeling the need to be a people pleaser (especially since I’ve gotten help from organizations and people I hardly know, and they are waiting to see what I do next). And the temptation of wondering how the people I had to leave behind feel...my lost family, whom rejected me, including two adult children.

    I even fear relaxation...am I being lazy, is this taking advantage of someone at the moment? One time, I lived in my mother’s basement after a separation, In deep depression. I was eating the Word of God night and day. It was my only hope. I remember how I had to fight Satan off daily to receive from God what I needed. I was so persecuted and judged.

    I was seeking the Kingdom, even though I was already saved, I was in a hopeless state. Much humility I have endured. The Lord reminds me though, that It was my tough life that lead me closer to Him. Should we be thankful for our enemies thrusting us up to heaven? Maybe we wouldn't have became children of God without them?

    It is so easy to become a sheep without a shepherd. Godly knowledge is not for the faint hearted. Needless to say...in my Christian walk...God helped me to be very brave. I have endured much...oh my goodness! It’s a wonder I’m alive...so many people have tried to kill me, and they don’t even know it. I’m sure a lot of Christians can relate.

    The pruning process can be very painful. I struggled greatly on how to walk in the Spirit here in this fallen world. I just wanted to desperately go to my heavenly home. God keeps saying...my grace is sufficient for you.

    It is so helpful to remind myself of idolatry. When we place God first...perfect love casts out all fear.

    What a wonderful Savior we serve!

    Sincerely,

    Paula


    Dear Paula,

    You sound like a very interesting and intelligent believer. You have stood up to the wiles of the devil many times over and have greatly grown through all of it. You ask me what I think about your missive; I think you are a perfect example of someone that the devil has tried to ruin and terrorize but glory to God, all it did is strengthen your relationship with the Lord. No, I don’t think fear is from an angel other than the fallen angel—Lucifer, the devil.

    He is an expert in the business of spiritual warfare and his first line of defense is to terrify and immobilize people so they think they have no hope in God or better yet, that there is no God. He wants to destroy every man, woman and child and he does so by intimidation. He uses people to do his bidding and as you know from personal experience he has a lot of accomplices. Most of the time his helpers are oblivious to how they are being used by him.

    “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).

    What you describe about your mother is not unusual. Fear and anxiety can definitely cause a person’s quality of life to suffer if left unchecked. With God’s help, it is better to consciously work to let go of the past and do as Scripture teaches:

    “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13b-14).

    I don’t know of anyone who has not been in some way affected at one time or another by fear. Especially today, when we see this hate-infested world heading full speed ahead on a collision course with God Almighty. But as believers, we have the steady grace of God to push us forward and pull us above fear so we don’t allow it to gain control of our lives.

    We should always remember, we are living in a spiritual battlefield and the enemy is relentless. That is why we must do as these verses teach:

    “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

    Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.

    And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—” (Ephesians 6:11-18).

    Paula, what you have shared is not uncommon. So many people are raised with fearful parents who mean well but cannot seem to keep their own anxieties from negatively impacting their children. Although you are still struggling with anxiety issues to some degree, what you have shared is certainly proof of the Savior’s never-ending love and compassion for His creation.

    It sounds like you have been through a great deal and instead of falling away from the Living God, your trials and tribulations drew you closer to Him and you are a mature believer. Now that is God’s love in action.

    “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).

    The Bible has much to say on worry and anxiety. You already know by staying in the Word you have been able to work through chronic fear on a daily basis. In the book of Matthew, Jesus instructed us not to worry about tomorrow, about food, clothing, etc.

    “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin” (Matthew 6:25-26, 28).

    Jesus also said we should live life one day at a time and not borrow trouble thinking about what could be, or what if...

    “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).

    And the apostle Paul’s encouragement to the believers at Philippi is also meant for us today. We should not be anxious, but pray. Prayer strengthens us as we communicate with our Heavenly Father, which also keeps our flesh nature from getting out of control. We must be alert and vigilant because the devil is like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).

    “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).

    By casting our anxieties on the Lord, we can navigate through our daily lives while the Holy Spirit carries us forward strengthening us. By allowing Him to renew our minds as taught in Romans 12:2, God’s mighty hand will “lift you up in due time” (1 Peter 5:6-7). An important aspect of discovering the secret to tranquility can be found in the Psalm 37:3-7:

    “Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday. Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.”

    When we put all this wonderful Scripture to work in our lives our fears and anxieties will no longer debilitate us. Paula, next time negative thoughts come to your mind, stand on God’s Word immediately. You know negative thoughts never come from God. We can be our own worst enemies, but the devil does not need our help!

    You have made amazing progress by calling out to God and surrendering to His grace. Choose right now not to let any more negative thoughts hold you captive. Refuse to give into disparaging thoughts. Let God’s Scriptures saturate your mind so much that there will be not be any room for anything but His voice. It is vital that you place ALL your trust in Him regardless of your outer circumstances.

    You know all too well that this life is comprised of an overwhelming abundance of deceptive strongholds controlled by Satan himself. But in Christ you are free and do not have to allow the dark forces to infiltrate your mind and play with your life like you are some sort of wobbly rag doll. You are an heir of God (Galatians 4:7); hold on to that promise and stand tall.

    “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).

    Stand tall and claim your freedom in Christ. Make the most of your days left here in this broken world and reach others for Christ while there is still time. You have so much to offer others because of your life experiences and spiritual maturity. Don’t underestimate what a blessing you can be to those who are hurting and need a compassionate, understanding friend.

    So there you have it Paula; my thoughts and also my best wishes for you. And yes, God’s grace is sufficient as you say, and as you have learned that firsthand. In these very dark days it is imperative to stay wide awake and do whatever we can to further the gospel. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and heart with me and our readers. The Body of Christ is blessed to have you as a dedicated and faithful servant. Never hesitate to write and let me know how you are doing.

    In God’s love,

    Esther

    “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).


    July 27, 2015

    Dear Esther,

    I’ve been married for over 30 years. I met him (my husband) when I was 15 and he was 22 and became pregnant, which says a lot about the neglect and unsupervised place where I was raised; for he should have been charged with statutory rape but no one cared.

    I became born-again at the age of 20 after living a very wicked lifestyle over such a short time. All praise to God for saving me when I wasn’t deserving of being saved and God has always been faithful to me through all my struggles. And I want to say God convicted me through the power of the Holy Spirit in my home. It didn’t happen in a church building, it truly was a miracle.

    I guess he wanted me to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was all Him and not some emotional altar call. I’m not downing altar calls for I believe there should be one at the end of every service (which I’ve found to be lacking in most churches today for spreading the gospel of Christ and salvation—the Great Commission).

    I learned God can call anyone anywhere He so chooses as He did me, and when I got up off my knees, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I had been taken out of darkness and translated into His kingdom of light. I was born-again with new desires, all glory to God!

    I filed for divorce right before God saved me and I was about to go through with it and I was seeing another man who took good care of me and my children. I often wonder how much better life would have been had I gone through with that divorce and married the other man who was willing to go to church, and most likely would have given his heart to the Lord, which he did years later. He is presently with the Lord even now as he has passed on.

    Anyway, back to the present; we have had lots of problems, raised three children; my husband is an alcoholic and has ruined us financially many times over. We’ve lost two homes and now rent. I rebuilt his credit line by budgeting but he has ruined it again. I still budget the best I can with what he gives me but we are not making ends meet. It has become a struggle again. My children are all grown and living on their own now, thankfully.

    There has been a lot of lying going on and I can’t trust anything he says. Even if he does tell the truth I can’t believe him because of all the lies he has told; secrecy as to where money goes, and in the past there has been abuse. I have stayed with him based on the Word in 1 Corinthians 7:12-14 which says we are not to divorce the unbeliever if he chooses to stay and in my case he chooses to stay.

    I chose to stay because I didn’t want to disobey God and I believed my husband would change and had hope he would give his heart to the Lord. He does believe in God but hasn’t committed his life to the Lord Jesus. I have endured much heartache and have even become physically ill from it all and am disabled now; I am old. This relationship is more of roommates existing together than a marriage; we don’t even sleep in the same rooms. We have become co-dependent and I feel sorry for what I know might become of him if I were to up and leave. I have images in my head that he would become one of those drunks with nowhere to live. I had an uncle like that and I don’t want that to that to happen to him.

    He needs me to restrain him which I detest doing because I feel he is a grown man and should handle his business which I harp on him about, over and over which can’t make him feel good about himself. I love the Lord with all my heart but I am so frustrated with this situation.

    I don’t care about money but I do want a roof over my head and food to eat and I don’t want to be alone even though I know God is with me, always. I don’t want to be alone as far as human companionship but I dream of having peace that I know I would have without him around.

    He prefers I don’t talk much so really I feel alone in that way anyway. I know there are programs to help disabled people but hate the idea of being reliant on the government to provide a roof over my head. I also feel sorry for him and still love him and always will but when do I put my spiritual well being first?

    I tell myself this is the lot given me and God will grow me through it all but sometimes I don’t know if that is true or just my justifying the situation. I have threatened to leave him many, many times, kind like Peter calling wolf.

    I don’t know what God wants me to do anymore concerning this. I just pray daily, “Come quickly Lord Jesus, Come.” And I know it is selfishness that I want Jesus to come not only to make things right in this messed up world which I can’t wait for Him to do but also to deliver me out of this horrible situation.

    Thank you for your encouragement to all. God bless you! Your letters greatly encourage me and I know others that are going through similar situations.

    In Christ,

    Betty


    Dear Betty,

    It is a blessing to have this ministry and I so appreciate your kind words. You sound like an amazing woman. God bless you! Your life narrative is filled with heartache, abuse, neglect, disappointment and chronic frustration. No one wants to feel like a babysitter for a spouse. But if you read the many letters I receive you would quickly learn you are not alone. But that does not make your own plight any easier.

    We know we cannot change the past and the best way to survive the here and now is to not dwell on it (easier said than done). But you know, as Christians we have God’s love letter to us—the Bible. Jesus warned us that in this world we would have tribulation but then quickly followed-up by saying, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Each day we have evidence that this corrupt, broken world is so far gone that nothing but Jesus’ Second Coming will put an end to all of this, or in the case of true believers we have the promise of the Rapture.

    Imagine if we did not have the Blessed Hope—the glorious appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ; think how much worse things would be. You already know you cannot change your husband and from what you have shared, separating from him is not a viable option unless you could live with a family member. (But that could bring on another set of problems.)

    Even with all the negativity in your life you can bring some joy and peace into your life by working to emotionally distance yourself from your husband. You can do this by spending as much time as possible filling your heart and mind with the Scriptures and focusing on the good things in your life. When one’s health is not the best it is a double challenge to be cheerful, but we all must deal with our given circumstances knowing that God does see what is going on and that He is there for us.

    Threatening to leave has done nothing but create more friction, especially when your husband knows you are not in a position to go anywhere. So to make your own life more satisfactory it has to begin with changing your thoughts and how you relate to him; otherwise you will spin into a deeper web of misery. Since he “prefers you don’t talk too much” that should make your life easier. The less you get into frustrating conversations with him the better off you will be. Talk to Jesus instead!

    Accepting your situation is part of your emotional healing. I am not saying you should approve of your husband’s selfish destructive behavior. But I am saying once you let go of what you cannot change then you will feel less burdened. If you can’t change your circumstances then you must make the best of your present conditions. As far as your finances, keep going to the Lord about it. He will make a way for you. We don’t know how, but He will provide.

    “I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread” (Psalm 37:25).

    Even with your disability and the problems with your husband, surely there must be something to be grateful for that will help you feel less abused. You mention that you have three grown children who are on their own. That alone is a huge blessing. If you have a good relationship with them, make an effort to keep in closer touch with them. You gave many years of your life raising them, and to see them as adults living fruitful lives is a direct reflection of your loving sacrifices and efforts.

    Your overwhelming disappointment in the man you married is very understandable. He should be taking care of you and doing everything he can to make your life better. But he is one of millions who cannot see past his own selfish desires, and frankly shows little or no concern for how his behavior hurts others. But of course you already know that. Ironically, he probably doesn’t think he has a problem, which is part of the alcoholic personality.

    Alcohol abuse is a serious problem and lying comes along with it. It is so hard to feel hope when you live under a roof where chronic dysfunctional behavior is the norm. But Betty, as you know, Jesus is there for you. Yes, your outward circumstances are filled with problems. In order to survive your given circumstances you must choose to embrace your situation as best you can without allowing yourself to get pulled into your husband’s dramas. You can do this by focusing on Jesus even more.

    It sounds like you do have your own space in your home, and considering the challenging issues, that is something to be grateful for. Make your personal space as comfortable and appealing as possible. Spend your time searching the Scriptures and listen to soothing Christian hymns. Listening to those hymns will really help calm your mind and emotions.

    Sometimes when someone does not feel well it is hard to read. If that is the case for you, invest in a good audio Bible. Even with a tight budget you can find edifying material on the Internet which you can purchase for little money, and often download for free. Listen to the Scriptures and make listening to the hymns and Scriptures a great part of your day. Time can pass quickly and each day is one day closer to spending eternity with Jesus.

    The Word of God is a healing salve and will strengthen you. And remember, “Greater is he that is in you than he who is in the world” ( 1 John 4:4). Remind yourself often that this life is temporary and how blessed you are to know that! I personally don’t know any true believer who is not anxious to be with Christ. This life is a cesspool of broken promises, intense corruption, lies and deceit.

    Betty, I am so sorry your life has been so trying and that you are suffering. But there is always tremendous hope in Jesus. You know your future is going to be far beyond the best we can even imagine and what you are going through now will be gone forever.

    For encouragement, please read or listen to Paul’s prison epistles (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon). When you do, keep in mind that he was suffering in terrible conditions yet God used him in such a fantastic way. That alone should inspire all of us to be steadfast in our walk with the Lord and trust Him even when our outward circumstances are very difficult. And to think that Paul, previously known as Saul, was once a ruthless persecutor of Christians before his Damascus Road encounter with Jesus and subsequent conversion.

    James wrote that this life is but a vapor and then we are gone (James 4:14). And Paul wrote that all believers are immediately in God’s presence when we die (2 Corinthians 5:8). I know you hold on to that promise. The way things are going in this extremely corrupt and wicked world, it can’t be too long now before we are freed from this fallen planet and taken home in the Rapture. Even if we have a bit longer here than we would like, we can still grow in the Lord and be useful to Him.

    If you have some true Christian friends I hope you can spend time with them, and worship the Lord together. Today there are many ways we can connect with other believers, and in your case, I think it is especially important that you do.

    In a way, you are in a prison and many are in this life, but your great blessing is that God reached out to you and saved you in a most wonderful and unique way. And He has clearly been giving you the grace to handle your problems. He will continue to do so. Continue to place all your hope in Him. (Hope produces endurance and perseverance.)

    “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:15).

    Precious Betty, continue to hold on to Jesus. Keep your mind and heart fixed on Him and He will give you the inner peace you so desperately need. You may not feel like jumping for joy, but the Lord’s peace is one of a deep inner knowing that you belong to Him, and when He decides it is time to bring you home, He will richly reward you.

    “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee; because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in Jehovah for ever; for in Jehovah, even Jehovah, is an everlasting rock” (Isaiah 26:3-4).

    When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and disheartened, please remember just how much Jesus loves you. Remember how much God the Father loves you. And the Holy Spirit—the Comforter, is always there for you. Jesus suffered tremendously so we can spend eternity with Him. He was the suffering servant who took all our sins upon Himself and endured intense torture and ridicule (Isaiah 53). Yet, even while He was nailed on the Cross before the last moments of his earthly mission He said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34a).

    Betty, in your heart, you must forgive your husband. His mind has been taken hostage by the enemy. That does not mean you must like his behavior or condone it. Like others, your husband has been ensnared by the enemy, and unfortunately you have been his primary target of abuse. Forgiving your husband frees you to follow Christ in a manner some people do not understand.

    It is through genuine forgiveness that we can move forward and not allow let the despicable behavior of others to destroy us. It is through forgiveness we can live with the enemy and still stand. In the flesh, forgiveness can sometimes seem nearly impossible. But you have the Holy Spirit living within you.

    Let the Holy Spirit take over and enable you to let go of any bitterness and animosity you may be carrying. Don’t give the enemy the pleasure of reminding you how lousy your husband’s behavior has been (is). And to answer your question, “I also feel sorry for him and still love him and always will but when do I put my spiritual well being first?”

    Here is your answer: Place your spiritual well being first right now by forgiving your husband, and let go of what you can’t change. Continue moving forward with your personal relationship with the Lord moving into a deeper level of communication with Him. Unforgiveness is a sure way to hinder a believer’s relationship with the Lord. Unforgiveness has even been called “spiritual poison” that the enemy uses against Christians to disconnect us from God.

    Betty, you are a redeemed child of God and are already victorious through Christ. Always keep that in the forefront of your mind. Take each day one step at a time. Be sure to keep your prayer life strong and include your husband in those prayers. Pray specifically for peace in your home. God has saved and changed people with worse transgressions and until he takes his last breath there is still hope for him.

    Please keep in touch with me and let me know how you are doing. Always keep in mind your future is going to be so phenomenal that it is impossible for our finite minds to comprehend any of it. You won’t be disabled, you won’t be neglected, used and abused. You will finally be fully free. And thank you Jesus that this world is not our true home! Now that is something to be exceedingly grateful for and to celebrate.

    In God’s love,

    Esther

    “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed;we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:7-10)


     July 20, 2015

    Dear Esther,

    I am so helped when I read the responses you have for people who are struggling in this life as Christians. Thank you and thank God for your ministry, may He bless you and keep you!

    I have returned to the Lord after many years away. It has been about three years that I recommitted my life to Christ.

    After my mother died and I separated from my second husband, the Lord began to work in my heart and called me to repent. During my separation I lived with my sister (and her partner) who has been in my life for many years. While I was away my husband began to seek Jesus also after many years living in the world and not even thinking about his conversion as a young man. (My husband and I were drawn back together by the Lord about 3.5 yrs ago.)

    We are still not attending a church but we both read the Word almost daily and pray. I would like to find a church but my husband is very skeptical of religious people and people in general. I can see how Jesus is changing him in that way.

    With that said, I have always been close to my sister. She took myself and my two daughters in when we needed help. I was able to get on my feet and buy a house of my own. That has been many years ago now.

    My sister was a police officer when she felt she needed a career change. She was given a grant from a Baptist church and attended South Western Theological Seminary to get her Masters degree in counseling. This is when she came out as lesbian and introduced our family to her girlfriend who she was with for about 20 years.

    They recently split up and she is involved with a very young woman who she had counseled for a few years. My sister says she would marry this woman and would even have a child with her through artificial insemination. It is so crazy because she is in her late 50s.

    I have told her about my recommitment to Jesus and that I read the Bible. I think she hates the fact that I am following Christ but she would never show that emotion to me. I just keep thinking over and over as to what to say to her if she brings up the new Supreme Court ruling on marriage or if she decides to get married.

    I still have not met the young woman she is seeing but she very much wants me to meet her. All this is snowballing in my head and I just pray for her and ask Jesus to help me; I guess you could say I am beside myself. I am scared I won’t honor the Lord because I am concerned that she will think I am against her. At the same time I want to do what the Holy Spirit wants me to say and do.

    Another issue I have is with my other sister. Last July her youngest son, 21 years old, shot himself in the head and my sister found him. This has been the worst thing ever to happen to her, obviously. I pray for her all the time. She is now seeing a “spiritual advisor” and I feel her anger when I mention the Lord.

    I just am so worried that I might say the wrong thing. She is devastated. I mostly just listen and support her but I am avoiding her. Should I stay away from family and just be with the people God places in my life or should I engage with my family? I feel like we have all become estranged in a way.

    I remember when I was saved at 19, I said to my dad, “God is going to bring this family to its knees.” I think it made him a little nervous and he said he hoped not. (Sorry this is so long of a letter.) I have started to write you before but stopped because I didn’t know how to make this short.

    Thank you Esther!

    Love in Jesus our Lord,

    Heather


    Dear Heather,

    Thank you for your kind sentiments about this ministry. It is because of special people like yourself who contribute letters, and all our readers, that we are able to encourage one another. To God be the glory and praise for His amazing grace and guidance.

    First, it is wonderful that you recommitted your life to the Lord and that you and your husband have reconciled; and are sharing the Word of God together and praying. When Christ is truly the center of a marriage it can only get better. I can understand his skepticism about people. Far too many people are not trustworthy despite their religious or spiritual jargon.

    Keep in mind we are living in the time of 2 Timothy 3:2-4, “For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”

    Your husband is wise to be very cautious considering the disturbing behavior of some people who profess Christ but will stab you in the back in a heartbeat in order to further their own agendas. Control issues and selfish motives are huge in some ministries, and some smiling-faced “Christians” will spread slanderous lies and do their utmost to hurt others to get their own way. (Wolves in sheep’s clothing.)

    But God is not mocked and He sees everything. He knows the true intent of all hearts and in time those same delusional people who profess Christ but work to hurt others will reap what they sow. Let’s pray that in time some authentic believers will become a part of your lives. It is sad but true that many ministries/churches are filled with people who cannot be trusted, so have patience with your husband.

    Perhaps if you could get together with even one other Christian couple and have some good fellowship, that would be one way to start trusting. But what is really important is your personal relationship with the Lord and your husband’s personal relationship with the Lord. When we place Christ first in our lives, everything else comes together.

    “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:23).

    And placing Christ first in our lives does not mean in thought or word only, but in real life behavior where we live authentically for Him and not for selfish gain. You’ve heard the story about the person who goes to church every Sunday, sings Halleluiah and says “Amen” to everything the pastor says. But on Monday morning he or she is as vicious as a pushy street thug running over anything and everything that is a perceived threat to that person’s self-serving controlling agenda.

    Now regarding your two sisters, you certainly do have some challenges. But you know, Heather, all things are possible with Christ even when situations seem impossible (Luke 1:37). It is obvious you love your sisters and do not wish to hurt them in any way, and that you are appreciative of their kindness and generosity toward you and your children.

    I can understand your feelings of fear and your wish not to offend your sisters. It really isn’t all that long since you have come back to the Lord. It might take some more time for you to be a bit stronger, and more grounded in your ability to communicate your love for Christ to your cherished family members without feeling like you are crushing on their reality.

    Your dilemma not to hurt your sisters and not to compromise your commitment to the Lord is something that will work itself out in time. Avoiding some people sometimes is not a bad idea. But it is only a band aid, a temporary way of dealing with issues unless you decide not to deal with them at all and simply keep your distance for a very prolonged length of time.

    Even if you avoid your sisters, and because you are a caring and compassionate person, you will still carry your feelings of discomfort within unless you go directly to the Lord and ask Him to take away the emotional pain. Ask Him to strengthen you so when you are placed in a situation with your sisters or anyone else, and your faith is tested, you will not compromise.

    “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also” (John 15:18-20).

    Ask the Lord to lift the burden of dealing with your sisters. It does not sound like you want to sever the relationships so we need to find a way for you to be able to interact with your sisters without you feeling like you are carrying a heavy ball and chain around with you. But depending on how they respond to you, you may have no choice but to distance yourself. We are always shaping and forming our thoughts. Just as we chose to walk with Christ we can choose what thoughts we will use. Choose a life-giving thought life and realize all the thoughts of fear and doubt do nothing but cause pain and immobilize us.

    In the book of James (v. 1:6) we are reminded that worry is a form of doubt and that when we pray we must believe and not doubt in order for our prayers to be effective. We are conditioned every day of our lives to have doubt and fear. Fear and intimidation is the mantra of the left who rule the demonically inspired mainstream media in this country. The devil wants us to be terrified to the point of being useless to God.

    Remember, fear is not of the Lord and it is through Him that we can overcome any doubts and fears that keep us from being productive and strong, and handle challenges that we face each day. Regarding your sister who lost her son, I think you are already doing what you can. Listening to her and just being there for her when she needs to unload her feelings is a caring thing to do.

    However, feeling her anger toward you when you mention the Lord is symptomatic of her own lost state, and seeking the advice of a so-called spiritual advisor is a bad way for her to deal with her loss (you already know that). Now this is where your God-given strength must come through: If she continues to direct anger toward you because of your love and commitment for the Lord, you may have to distance yourself for a time.

    Sometimes no matter what we say, some people will shut us out because we are committed to the Lord and they have hardened their hearts to His truth. You must not feel responsible for your sister, for her feelings and her reactions. (And that goes for both sisters.) You have done nothing wrong. Yes, what she is dealing with, the loss of her son, is terrible. But you have tried to help and comfort her. You have shared the Lord with her, but she will not receive the truth.

    If she continues to direct anger toward you then you must step aside. You can do it in a loving way by telling her that you will always be there for her but you cannot accept her anger because it is unfair of her to be upset with you because of your love and devotion to Christ. Respect is a two-way street. Your ongoing prayers are the best thing you can do for her. Hopefully, in time, she will realize that you are trying to help her and she will stop acting so angry.

    Sometimes we have to love people from a distance and surrender the entire situation to the Lord. Give your sister some time, her loss is very difficult. Once in a while you could send her a loving greeting card or text her and say something like, “Thinking of you with much love. Please let me know if I can do anything, I am here for you.”

    That way you are reaching out to her, but it is up to her to respond and receive your kind sentiments. The loss of her son is huge but that does not mean she can direct her anger at you and place you in a compromising position.

    Now concerning your other sister, the situation is not any easier. She obviously has chosen a lifestyle that is far outside of godly biblical principles and your own comfort zone. And once again, you must not allow yourself to be made to feel like what she is doing is something you must condone and accept. It sounds like your sister was involved with a very liberal church and seminary void of straightforward biblical truths.

    I am concerned for you that it will come to a point where you will have to come right out and tell your sister that you love her very much, and will always appreciate what she did for you and your children when you needed help, but because you love her you cannot pretend that the lifestyle she has chosen is something you can condone.

    Heather, your faith and commitment to Christ will have to override any pressure to keep “peace” between the two of you if she gets upset and angry. It would be inauthentic for you to pretend to go along with her chosen lifestyle. Of course, none of us like to be placed in such an awkward, uncomfortable position.

    But sometimes we must face a time in our lives where we must choose to go on a road that will keep us walking in obedience to the Lord or walk on the road of compromise, which will inevitably create spiritual discomfort and cause separation from Christ. We should do our best not to grieve the Holy Spirit, and I know you are aware of that.

    When we are serious about our commitment to the Lord, life does not necessarily become easier when dealing with family and friends (or the world in general). Life most often becomes more difficult because of our faith in Christ.

    “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 timothy 3:12).

    You are facing a fork in the road, Heather. You can either choose to go on the high road where you will continue to grow in your walk with the Lord or you can choose to try to please your sisters and place God on the sidelines.

    I know that may sound harsh but you can’t really have it both ways. You already fell away from the Lord for a time in your life and He graciously drew you back to Him, along with your husband. I would not encourage you to place yourself into a compromising situation because of the inevitable hurt, disappointment and/or anger your sisters will feel once they realize you are a new person in Christ and cannot sit on the fence (2 Corinthians 5:17).

    You could be the very catalyst that may eventually cause your sisters to repent and come to faith in Christ. At the moment that may seem impossible but never underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit. You are doing this sister no favor by possibly agreeing to meet her new girlfriend. What would you do and say? Please re-read Romans 1:26-27; 1 Timothy 9-10; Mark 10:6-9).

    Heather, please get into your prayer closet with the Lord and ask Him to give you courage to deal with your sister and to give you the words you will need when you do tell her that you love her but cannot go along with her lifestyle. (You realize if she does not repent her eternal future is frightening.) She is wanting you to meet the new girlfriend but think carefully before you even take that step. You must not feel obligated to approve of something because your sister has done some nice things for you.

    I wish I could make all of this easier for you. You have my love in Christ, moral support, compassion, my prayers and best wishes. I have confidence in you, Heather, that you will be able to deal with both sisters, and move forward with your walk with the Lord without compromising your commitment to Him.

    When it is all said and done, only what we do for the Lord matters. One day soon, we will all face Him. Think about that; how you wish to be when you are face-to-face with the Lord. The troubles with your family will not be pressing in on you then, and you won’t be thinking about how your sisters feel toward you. You will be wishing you had done anything and everything to please Him. He deserves our full-allegiance.

    It is easy for all of us to get caught-up in our day-to-day lives and have a sort of quasi-mental amnesia about our true home. But this is not our true home as the Scripture teaches. We must remember that each day of our lives so we are not pulled to and fro into frustrating situations ruled by the flesh, giving this life much more importance than we should.

    “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).

    God bless you, Heather, for your caring heart. It is not easy to be a believer in this fallen world and it seems to be getting harder each day. The social pressures scream, “Tolerance at all cost.” (As long as it is not tolerance for the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of kings, the Savior and Messiah of this world.)

    How surprising and shocking it will be for the unrepentant, for those who chastise and mock us, when they bow their knees and confess Jesus Christ is Lord. But tragically it will be too late for them. They will be ushered into the lake of fire for eternity.

    “For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:11-12).

    And remember Heather, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). I would love to hear how you are doing in the future. Stay close to Jesus, stay in the Word and you will be able to handle your sisters, and your own feelings of fear.

    “For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

    In God’s love,

    Esther

    “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I (press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14).


    July13, 2015

    Dear Esther

    I have been referred to as “Goody two shoes” all my life by family members and friends as well as non-friendly persons. I never took offense to this for I thought, I must be setting a good example. But now I realize those same people think I look down my nose at them. This could not be further from the truth.

    I’m 43 years old and ask God for wisdom to know right from wrong and to help me make the right choices. I love to have conversations but I find that if the person in conversation is speaking of incorrect facts I am said to become overwhelmingly over bearing. I am going to give you a example of a recent conversation...

    I visited my favorite aunt last weekend with my husband and we were comfortably talking about movies but then the conversation turned to my aunt having a Bible study with a Jehovah Witness. (Please understand that I do not direct the conversations to discussions of faith but that is always what ends a relationship with those I love.)

    My aunt says that she is learning a lot from the Jehovah Witness person and I am trying to explain that their beliefs do not follow the biblical structure. She states that they believe salvation is through Jesus Christ but they don’t believe in the Trinity. She also states that they will go to heaven because they believe in Jesus.

    This is where my body begins to tremble and although I can’t quote Bible verses (I’m more visual memory), I will have summaries of verses pop in my head that spout out of my mouth and it is very hard for me to hold back.

    I told her that to know Jesus you must know God and to know God you know Jesus and to know Jesus the Holy Spirit will work with you for they are all one and the same. But to believe one without the other is not truth, not the gospel and therefore not worthy of listening to. My aunt also quickly says she is not witnessing to this person, just wanting to understand what they believe.

    I continue to say that if my aunt is not witnessing then there is no purpose for a Christian to get involved in this type of “Bible study” for you can find what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe online. And then, because by now, I am accused of never listening to that faith, I then have to let her know that I did sit many times discussing that faith and told her my last visit by a Jehovah Witness must have put a blacklist on my house for they haven’t come back in years.

    My aunt said, “But did you really listen?” My response was, “How else could I answer the gentleman’s questions if I didn’t listen to him read a verse in the Bible to me, and ask me how I felt about that verse?” I continue to tell my aunt that I told him I thought that without the Holy Spirit those are just words in a book. The Jehovah Witness visitor jumped up and looked at me as if I blasphemed and ran (yes ran) to his car and left. My aunt says I never listen and when it gets to faith I am overpowering.

    Now my problem is not my faith, I believe in the Trinity, and have since a very young age and all throughout my life. Jesus has always drawn me back to Him when I would detour and get lost. PRAISE JESUS!

    My problem is I now have been disconnected from six of my siblings, my husband’s three siblings and I can’t volunteer at church (not by choice), but because I have a hard time keeping my tongue under control where faith is involved.

    I have a wonderful Sunday school class but I have to bite my lip throughout class and have even tried to write down my thoughts but it’s impossible to keep quiet because the class wants to know why I’m writing or what. But then if I share, precious time turns to difficulty.

    One time I waited until after class and showed the teacher a Bible verse that was to help answer a question she had but she really didn’t want a true answer. I guess because she had already reasoned and told everyone how she saw it. I’m not angry, I’m sad and that is why I have distanced myself from making new relationships. But I honestly love to help others and I can’t be like those whom I know that can listen to someone saying things like, “Maybe their god is your God but a different name.”

    I want to scream. I feel like not only have they hurt God they are hurting themselves and I so want to make them see the light. No matter how much I try to control this I can’t; tears are on edge and emotions build and everyone knows I’m about to declare loudly that God is, was, always will be the I AM and there is no other.

    Well, this is a very long letter and I am not sure there is an answer for me other than to distance myself. I pray and that must be enough. Although if you have any suggestions I will listen. I question myself when others say that I don’t listen but the criticism is from the same people who are always surprised when I know their likes and dislikes or what type of shoes or music or even their favorite foods. How could I know those things if I don’t listen?

    Thank you for your time.

    Kristy


    Dear Kristy,

    My goodness! Where shall we begin? It is evident that you love the Lord and are bothered to no end when others are lukewarm in their understanding of the Bible. So being a bit edgy in their eyes is causing you a lot of grief.

    Some people love being busybody activists and foolishly go out of their way looking for situations and even ministries that they personally have issues with only to get confrontational with those in charge. Others are wiser and will hold to God’s truths in a gracious humble manner that will be edifying and productive. In your case, you are simply responding passionately to what is going on around you.

    The cold hard fact is that we are surrounded with too many people who are not always dedicated to the Scriptures, and are traveling in Christian circles for other reasons than glorifying God. The apostasy is growing in the Church, which means many people are not on fire for the Lord, many are unsaved and are simply going through the motions (at best).

    It is understandable that you would get frustrated when those around you do not hold to the same love and devotion for God and His teachings. It is refreshing to hear of someone (you) who takes the Word of God to heart and is upset when others compromise the Scriptures or simply don’t show any common sense or real interest in their professed faith.

    The way you describe yourself could lead someone to believe you are the nagging problem but it is better to be honest than take a breezy and bumpy ride in a sinking boat.

    Sometimes when we are very enthusiastic about our faith others can become quite bothered. I would say that is a good thing—to a point. But it is always a good idea to cultivate a bit of tactfulness when relating to individuals who obviously water down the Word of God or have an agenda that is questionable. But even then, no matter what we say or do, we will offend others because they would rather have their ears tickled (2 Timothy 4:3).

    How we defend our faith can have a positive or negative impact on others. I don’t mean that you should not hold fast to you convictions but sometimes we need to step aside just enough so the Holy Spirit can do His life-changing work in others. Our role is to deliver the message and then let the Holy Spirit do His redeeming work. Prayer is the most powerful method to help bring about positive changes even in circumstances that seem hopeless.

    As you have found out our good intentions can sometimes backfire. Since you are well-aware of the issues with those you are alienated from, fervent prayer is your best solution. We serve a God of restoration and in time the Lord may very well heal the separation you have with the people you speak of in your letter.

    But nevertheless, can you image if John the Baptist had tiptoed around whispering the Name of Jesus? It is inconceivable to me after reading how he took to heart his mission for the Lord! I am sure in those days he was considered some sort of lunatic by some folks. But in God’s eyes he was a great and faithful servant. It ultimately cost him his life.

    Today the politically correct masses squirm when someone dares speak the truth. Instead of accepting the obvious truth the person is vilified, ostracized and made to feel like some sort of sub-human. This is true in Christendom as well. Far too many churches have fallen away from teaching the Bible and have become Sunday morning social clubs where cult of personality reigns and the true Jesus is nowhere to be found. Those who stand tall for the Lord are considered judgmental, intolerant and behind the times.

    You mention in your letter that you have a good Sunday school class but you have had an awkward interaction with your teacher. I have noticed few people in leadership positions like to be approached with biblical insights. I am sorry to say but control issues seem to exist with many who are in leadership roles. (Not always, but more often than not.) It is unfortunate because we are to respect one another and approach ministry matters with humility.

    A Bible teacher or pastor should be delighted to see a student deeply involved in studying the Scriptures as we are commanded to do (2 Timothy 2:15). Instead the Bible student or congregant is often brushed off. This type of behavior from church leaders is in direct conflict with biblical principles and chokes off genuine fellowship and discourages spiritual growth.

    Considering your situation overall, keeping your distance with those who are bothered by your enthusiasm is not a bad idea. But I would not go out of my way to avoid them. If a situation comes up and you must interact with someone you have had issues with, be cordial but don’t get into any intense discussions with them. Sometimes we must stand alone in our faith. But we are really never alone because Jesus is with us.

    Once we understand the type of people we are dealing with in life that frees us to do our work for Christ in a more effective and productive manner. Spend your time and love for the Lord reaching others for Him in a ministry that will appreciate your forthrightness. You already know you can’t change people, only God can.

    If you can’t find a church or Christian ministry where you fit in, see if you can start your own small ministry where you can share the gospel and have some good Bible studies. You have the chutzpah to speak out for Christ. So many professing believers won’t witness to others because they are too uncomfortable and worried that someone might ridicule them.

    Use your gift of boldness to share the gospel. Boldness coupled with a loving attitude are so needed today. Stay close to Jesus and He will guide you to whatever it is that He has in mind for you. Use all the negativity that you have experienced as a life lesson and move on.

    We cannot undo the past or make people like us. We cannot make people love Jesus and make Him Lord of their lives. But we can place one foot in front of the other and walk down the path that the Lord has paved for us.

    Use your personal disappointments to compassionately understand others. And be mindful that sometimes a quiet voice can speak volumes. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom and discernment in each situation, and prayerfully interact with those you are led to share Scripture with.

    If the individuals you mention in your letter are so bothered by you and cannot appreciate your dedication and enthusiasm for the Lord, then what is the point of having a relationship with them? Pray and hope for reconciliation but keep moving forward.

    It is one thing to have family and friends we must spend time with occasionally, but on a day-to- day basis it is best to choose our friends wisely and spend time with others who are committed to furthering the gospel and rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

    Think victoriously, Kristy. The Holy Spirit will empower you to overcome the struggles in your life. Sometimes a new beginning is necessary. Let go of the past and move forward choosing your words carefully when you do interact with others.

    Begin each day with determination. Spend precious time with the Lord in prayer and Bible study. Trust Him to lead you to those who will appreciate your devotion to not compromising the Word of God.

    God bless you for your dedication to God's truths.

    In God’s love,

    Esther

    “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).


    July 6, 2015

    Dear Esther,

    I very much enjoyed your response on prayer. Praying has given me the balance I need in my life as a Christian it is very reassuring to know that the Lord is available to us 24/7. I have been thinking a lot lately about heavenly angels and wonder what you might have to say about them. My knowledge about heavenly angels is limited. Sometimes I wonder if they are real and if they are helping us in our lives. Anything you might know from Scripture would be appreciated.

    God bless you!

    Annie


    Dear Annie,

    Thank you for your kind words. The Bible gives us some marvelous and heroic accounts regarding God’s holy angels. Angels are helpers, guardians, official announcers of news, and emissaries of both the mercy of God and the wrath or judgments of God. Angels have often been referred to as God’s secret agents. Here is just a short synopsis of the many biblical references made to God’s holy angels:

    Angels are God’s faithful assistants reverently serving Him:

    “The LORD has established His throne in the heavens; and His sovereignty rules over all. Bless the LORD, you His angels, mighty in strength, who perform His word, obeying the voice of His word! Bless the LORD, all you His hosts, you who serve Him, doing His will” (Psalm 103:19-22).

    “The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness” (Matthew 13:41).

    “And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth, to the farthest end of heaven” (Mark 13:27).

    “And to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus, is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8).

    “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:1-2).

    “And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:31).

    Angels can visit the earth from heaven:

    “And he [Jacob] had a dream, and behold a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold the angels of God were ascending and descending on it” (Genesis 28:12).

    “And He said to him [Nathanael], “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open up, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” (John 1:51).

    We have protective angels:

    “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them” (Psalm 34:7).

    “For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11).

    Angels can suddenly appear to help in a time of need:

    Even Jesus, was helped by an angel from heaven. When He was fervently praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was in agony knowing what He was ahead of Him; that He was about to be crucified and take upon Himself all the sins of the world.

    “Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him” (Luke 22:43).

    After Jesus had fasted in the wilderness for forty days and forty nights, Satan tried to tempt Him. But Jesus rebuked the devil and he fled. Immediately after, angels came to minister to Jesus: “Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him” (Matthew 4:11).

    “And he [Elijah] lay down and slept under a juniper tree; and behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said to him, ‘Arise, eat.’ Then he looked and behold, there was at his head a bread cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, ‘Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.’ So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Herob, the mountain of God” (1 Kings 19:5-8).

    “And when Peter came to himself, he said, ‘Now I know for sure that the Lord has sent forth His angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting’” (Acts 12:11).

    “But the high priest rose up, along with all his associates (that is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy; and they laid hands on the apostles, and put them in a public jail. But an angel of the Lord during the night opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said, “Go your way, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life. And upon hearing this they entered into the temple about daybreak and began to teach” (Acts 5:17-21a).

    “For this very night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold God has granted you all those who are sailing with you.

    Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God, that it will turn out exactly as I have been told’” (Acts 27:23-25). (An angel comforted Paul and told him that no lives would be lost in the shipwreck.)

    “When the morning dawned, the angels urged Lot to hurry, saying, ‘Arise, take your wife and your two daughters, who are here, lest you be consumed in the punishment of the city’” (Genesis 19:15).

    “Then Daniel spoke to the king, ‘O king, live forever! My God, sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me; inasmuch as I was found innocent before Him; and also toward you, ‘O king, I have committed no crime’” (Daniel 6:21-22).

    “Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert” (Acts 8:26).

    “And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. And Zacharias was troubled when he saw him, and fear gripped him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John [John the Baptist’s birth foretold]” (Luke 1:11-13).

    Angels continually exalt God and have His attention:

    “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you, that their angels in heaven continually behold the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10).

    “And I looked, and heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing’” (Revelation 5:11).

    “In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory’” (Isaiah 6:1-3).

    Joseph received guidance and warnings to protect the baby Jesus from an angel in his dreams (Matthew 1:20, 24; 2:13, 19).

    Angels proclaim awesome news and important events:

    Angels announced the birth of Messiah Jesus to the shepherds:

    “And an Angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone all around them; and they were terribly frightened. And the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will be for all people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.

    And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.’ And it came about when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds began saying to one another, ‘Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made know to us’” (Luke 2:9-15).

    Angels are strong and powerful:

    “Bless the LORD, you His angels, who excel in strength, who do His word; heeding the voice of His word” (Psalm 103:20).

    “Wheras angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord” (2 Peter 2:11).

    An angel was very involved in bringing the revelatory visions to the apostle John during his exile on the island of Patmos.

    “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And he sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John” (Revelation 1:1).

    “I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud. And a rainbow was on his head; his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire.

    He had a book open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and cried out with a loud voice, as when a lion roars. When he cried out, seven thunders uttered their voices” (Revelation 10:1-3).

    “After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory” (Revelation 18:1).

    “Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. Then he said to me, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God” (Revelation 22:8-9).

    Annie, there is a lot here to contemplate about angels. They are indeed real and as you have read, serve God in many ways. While heavenly angels carry a great deal of authority, it is always limited to God’s will. They never veer away from God’s intentions. They always glorify Him and never themselves. What an exciting future we have when we will be living side by side with our heavenly angels in the heavenly realm. Even so come Lord Jesus!

    “Forget not to show love unto strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:12).

    In God’s love,

    Esther

    “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing’” (Revelation 5:11-12).

    Endnotes
    Excerpts from A Better World Is Coming Soon - Don’t Miss It, Expanded 2013 Edition, pp.373-378, Kit. R. Olsen, World Bible Society.


    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).