What Rocks Your World?
On Tuesday, about 6:00 p.m., March 31, I was in my favorite chair reading, when George Swanson called. He was choked up and having difficulty speaking as he told me that his wife, Evelyn, was seriously ill with pneumonia and shingles and telling him, “I just want to go Home!” (In March, seven years ago, George’s first wife, Belva, went Home.) So, for George, the grief of separation was pending again. As I was praying with George on the phone, my chair began to rock, the floor began to roll, and the wind was blasting at our window. Then Della came rushing down our hallway asking if I felt something unusual. Earthquake! As the Idaho earthquake was rocking our world physically, grief was rocking George’s world emotionally. George cut the conversation by telling me he had to go – Jeff (his son) was coming in. About 6:30 a.m. Wednesday (our time) the phone rang. It was Jeff calling me to let us know that just after 5:00 a.m. (Pacific Time) Evelyn slipped into eternity. Safe in the arms of Jesus! She’s Home now! George had told me the evening before that he didn’t want to be selfish – he wanted her to get her wish – but was dreading the separation. Please pray for George (a long-time, faithful friend)!
A few weeks ago, as we were studying Acts 16, it occurred to me that I was wrong about thinking that Elvis Presley introduced Jailhouse Rock back in the 1950’s. Actually, God initiated a jailhouse rock 1,900 years earlier with an earthquake in Philippi. Why? Well, Paul and Silas (His missionaries) had been falsely accused and unjustly beaten, put in jail and locked in stocks! How did they respond to such injustice? Were they moaning, groaning, griping and threatening the jailer? No! They were singing! Praising God for the opportunity to suffer for our Lord Jesus! The record says: “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, ‘Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.’ Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.” Acts 16:25-34 (NKJV)
Before God rocked the jailhouse, the new congregation in Philippi had Lydia and her household plus a formerly demon-possessed girl – now there was the jailer, his household and very likely some of the prisoners! Do you realize that the church at Philippi became the most faithful supporting church for Paul and his missionary team? (Probably because Luke stayed there to help them.)
What rocked their world in Jerusalem some years earlier when Jesus was crucified? The record says: “Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land…. And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, ‘Truly this was the Son of God!’” Matthew 27:45, 50-54 (NKJV)
If God rocks your world physically, emotionally or spiritually – praise His holy Name! He is up to something great! A diving accident that broke her neck rocked Joni’s life when she was only 17 years old – but God has used that event to impact millions with His love and truth. Last month, at the bottom of our Prayer Requests page, we shared this:
Joni Eareckson Tada testified that these ten words from a friend changed her life when she was so depressed that she wanted to die: “God permits what He hates to accomplish that which He loves!”
“The Chinese word for crisis is a combination of the word for danger and the word for opportunity!” ~ Charles Morris
“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows – but it does empty today of its strength.” ~ Corrie ten Boom
“God will never waste our pain if we will give it to Him! More valuable than the greatest, highest points in your life!” ~ Tim Tebow
“God is dead – let’s dance on His grave!” ~ Bertrand Russell.
But he ignored the fact that His grave is empty! Hallelujah!
Do you have skeptics or mockers in your circle of influence? Here are a few very potent and probing questions you can ask them:
- If Jesus did not prove that He is God, the Creator who came to redeem us by breaking the bonds of sin, death, and hell by His resurrection from the grave, how do you explain the conversion of three thousand men on the day of Pentecost – just fifty days after The Passover when Jesus was crucified? The apostles boldly preached that Jesus had risen from the dead to the people who had the most opportunity to examine the evidence. They did not tell the people, “Once upon a time in a faraway place…” Mystical stories lack specific details that can be verified.
- How do you explain the conversion of Saul of Tarsus if Jesus remained dead in the tomb? Saul, the primary persecutor, became the apostle Paul, the passionate persuader and the second most influential individual in history (overshadowed only by Jesus Himself)! Paul’s personal testimony was that Jesus appeared to him in his resurrection power and spoke to him: “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” If Jesus did not rise from the dead and appear to Saul, why did he give up his power and position to become pressured and persecuted to death?
- If Jesus did not rise from the dead, how do you explain the conversion of Simon Greenleaf? After carefully examining the evidence for the resurrection, Simon Greenleaf wrote that there is no better attested fact of ancient history than the resurrection of Jesus Christ! He also asserted that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote accurate historical records. Who was Simon Greenleaf? He was the renowned professor of jurisprudence at Harvard University, who came to be known worldwide as the ultimate authority on how to gather and evaluate evidence. His three-volume set of textbooks on determining the accuracy of evidence had become the text for training lawyers and judges worldwide. Add to this that Simon Greenleaf began his examination of the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus as a non-believer in Jesus. He started the research because one of his students challenged him to do so!
- If Jesus did not rise from the dead, how do you explain the conversion of atheists who set out to expose Jesus as an imposter and the Bible as a bundle of myths? C.S. Lewis described himself as the most reluctant convert in all England – yet he was “surprised by joy”! Other prominent names among these reluctant converts are Sir William Ramsey (one of the founders of modern archaeology), Josh McDowell, Frank Morrison and Lee Strobel. There are many more. Are you willing to carefully consider “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel or my book, “Ready To Give An Answer”, if I send you a free copy?
Simply Ignorant or Willfully Ignorant?
While on the cross, Jesus, out of His magnanimous love, prayed: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Whether simply ignorant or willfully ignorant, they were actually fulfilling God’s plan for Jesus, the only begotten Son, to pay the penalty of their sins and ours as the perfect sacrifice. His precious blood was the only innocent blood that could pay for the sin of another (and another, and another)! He paid with His own blood for them! And for me! And for you! What then will you do with Jesus? His arms are open to you by His amazing grace!
The apostle Paul wrote: “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” 1 Corinthians 2:7-8 (NKJV).
Beauty from Ashes
Did you get that? Even though they were willfully ignorant of Who Jesus really was, they were simply ignorant of the impact of what they were actually doing or they would not have consummated the cruel and cowardly crucifixion! They would not have crucified the Lord of Glory if they had realized what they were doing! But God Almighty (and all knowing), in His magnanimous grace and majestic wisdom, orchestrated the event to our salvation and His glory! No wonder Paul exclaimed, “God forbid that I should glory – save in the cross of Christ!” At the cross God gave us beauty for ashes – and out of His amazing grace He exchanges His wholeness for our brokenness, His purity for our perversity, His peace for our perplexity. Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Whose Fool Are You?
Actually, we will ultimately be either fools in the eyes of the worldly crowd or fools in the eyes of God. Paul said about the apostles, “We are fools for Christ’s sake…” 1 Corinthians 4:10. Whose fool are you?
Standing Before the Judgment Bar of Christ
Are you forgiven? Greatly blessed and highly favored? When you stand before Him on Judgment Day – will He be your Savior or your Judge? Will your sin be exposed – or is it covered by the precious blood of Christ? Each of us needs to ask himself or herself: Can I say with the apostle Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”? Galatians 2:20
Why is it so urgently important to consider these probing questions? I’ll let the apostle Paul also clarify that question!
“For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.For it is written: ‘As I live’, says the Lord, ‘Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.” Romans 14:8-12 (NKJV).
Have you fled from the wrath to come into His loving arms of forgiveness and grace? G.K. Chesterton wrote that for those who do not believe in God, sorrow is fundamental, and joy is peripheral. For the Christian, joy is fundamental, and sorrow is peripheral. This reminds me of a chorus we often sang when I was young: “If you want joy, real joy, wonderful joy – let Jesus come into your heart!”
Do you have the deep assurance of your personal salvation and the peace of God that passes all understanding? You can! The apostle John wrote: “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. And this is 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. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life,and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”1 John 5:10-13 (NKJV).
What is Your Destiny?
Your destiny is to one day stand before the risen Christ – Lord of lords and King of kings! Will you with overwhelming joy see His open arms and hear His kind voice say, “Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of your Lord”? Or will you tremble in terror as you hear His solemn voice rumble like thunder saying, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels…”? Matthew 25:41
If you harbor the fantasy that hell will be a picnic with your friends – think again! Jesus paid the penalty for our sin on the cross – so when you picture what hell is like, look at the agony of excruciating pain and separation. The very root of the word excruciating is “crux” – from which the word ‘crucify’ comes.
If you do not have the deep abiding assurance in your heart that you have received Him and are trusting Him and Him alone for your salvation, isn’t it past high time to come Home to the open arms of your Savior?
Psalm 23 – from the vantage point of Heaven (by Werner Gitt)
“Translator’s Introduction: It was both a privilege and a moving experience to translate this free adaption of Psalm 23 from the perspective of eternity, below. It was composed by my good friend in Germany, Dr Werner Gitt. It came to him after he delivered the eulogy at the funeral of his long-time close friend, Werner Trauernicht, who died suddenly and unexpectedly in February 2020. He was contemplating how his friend (whose surname literally means ‘do not grieve’) would now be rejoicing with his God and Saviour.
I know that this emanates from the deepest wellsprings of sincerity in the heart of Dr Gitt, who has often and extensively written of the glories of Heaven in his global ministry. And he has worked tirelessly for many years to fulfill his yearning that as many as possible might take up the Saviour’s invitation to join Him in the eternal rest.
May this ‘extension into eternity’ of the comforts of the well-known Shepherd’s Psalm serve as a reminder of what awaits those who believe—not because we deserve it but because of the unfathomable grace of God, shown in what Christ did on the Cross.
Dr Carl Wieland, Brisbane, Australia”
“1 This same Lord is my shepherd here in Heaven, too, just as He was on Earth; there are no shortages here, I want for nothing.
2 He leads me into the immeasurable breadth of the heavenly glories, and shows me the eternally flowing fountains of love and mercy.
3 My soul is in a perpetual state of complete happiness; here, too, He takes me by His hand and leads me through the heavenly realms.
4 I have long left behind the dark valley of death, and here there is nothing more for me to fear. When I arrived here, you wiped away all my tears from things suffered while on Earth.
5 You invite me to be seated with you at your eternal banqueting table, in the presence of all those saved by you—there are no more enemies here. You have adorned my head with eternal crowns, and from your heavenly treasury you endow me with an overflowing abundance of riches.
6 I am now experiencing your goodness and mercy for all eternity; I have truly reached the eternal home, which I will never have to depart.”
Most Richly Blessed
In former prayer letters I have repeatedly told you that I feel most richly blessed with Della and our family – and the reminders Della has for us in the pictures and plaques in our home. This time, while we are in the midst of this national and worldwide crisis of corona virus, I want to express how I feel most richly blessed by the powerful, pertinent promises of our loving Father. For example:
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren…. Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:28-29, 37 (NKJV)
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33 (NKJV)
“Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:37-38 (NKJV)
I also feel most richly blessed to know that many of you who read our prayer letters also put your trust in the promises of God, believe Him even in the tough times, pray for us and our requests, believe in the evangelistic, nurturing and training purposes of Overseas Outreach, and donate to help fulfill those purposes. THANK YOU! We appreciate you and thank God for you often! Also, we want you to know that we recognize your spiritual commitment to your local church comes first before your offerings to Overseas Outreach. The enclosed return envelope is to be a convenience for you if the Holy Spirit is motivating you to give to Overseas Outreach. Please do not interpret it as an obligation, for “God loves a cheerful giver” – and so do we!
We wish we could pass on to you for prayer the very important report from ministry partner, Natasha Reimer/Mulberry International. I wish we could also send you all of Sergei Golovin’s report for February/March – which has a lot to praise God for as well as the heart-rending situation for people in Ukraine. I’ve decided to send you a couple paragraphs from Sergei’s report. If you would like more complete information, please contact us. We can forward to you all of Sergei’s report and/or all of Natasha’s report. Each is nearly two pages long.
Respectfully yours & His, Rick & Della