A week ago, I wrote a piece on This is How a Church Resists Tyranny. I’d written, “GraceLife Church in Edmonton, Alberta Canada is a normal, every day church. They have a couple of pastors, a medium sized congregation, earnestly teach and preach the word, and do this Sunday by Sunday, like any church. However, since December, they were told to limit attendance and comply with COVID health measures or face legal consequences.” The church issued a public statement outlining their stance, the whys and wherefores according to the Bible.
Those consequences came today. Their pastor, James Coates, was arrested and jailed. For what? The ‘crime’ of preaching. Mike Hovlund ( @MikeHovlund) was co-pastor with James Coates until Mike planted a church himself. He is up-to-date on the latest news (if you care to follow @MikeHovlund on Twitter) and said of the events of today:
Prayer is a privilege and a responsibility for every Christian. Why? It is the way Jesus taught us to communicate with Him.
Rather than the wrathful gods of the Aztec era of human sacrifice, or the ancient Middle East where child sacrifice was required, or the Muslim god who is demanding but mercurial and untrustworthy, the One True God creates us to have a love relationship with Him. He wants to redeem us from our sinful state to dwell with Him in heaven. His Holy Word tells us who He is and how to love Him back, and His promises never fold.
In His Bible, He explains how to communicate with Him. Unlike the gods of old, all other gods as a matter of fact, (who are no gods at all) we can speak with Him at any time. He has told us He listens. From Genesis to Isaiah to Philippians, we’re told to pray to God.
“And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD” (Genesis 12:8)
“Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:” (Isaiah 55:6)
“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” (Philippians 4:6)
So what IS prayer, exactly? Why do we pray? How do we pray?
As Christian Research and Apologetics Ministry (CARM) explains, “Prayer is the practice of the presence of God. It is the place where pride is abandoned, hope is lifted, and supplication is made. Prayer is the place of admitting our need, of adopting humility, and claiming dependence upon God. Prayer is the needful practice of the Christian. Prayer is the exercise of faith and hope. Prayer is the privilege of touching the heart of the Father through the Son of God, Jesus our Lord.”
He has made Himself known in three Persons, God, Jesus the son, and Holy Spirit. We can pray to all three or to one or to two. He is all the same. Any or all are appropriate to pray to. However, the Triune God is the ONLY appropriate person to pray to. The first Commandment says that He is the one true God and we shall have no other gods before Him (Exodus 20:2-3). We do not pray to angels. (Revelation 22:8-9). We do not pray to saints such as the Catholic Church worships. (1 Timothy 2:5) We do not pray to Mary the mother of Jesus. (Luke 11:27-28). We do not pray to the dead, whose final condition is fixed. (Luke 16:19-31; Hebrews 9:27). We pray to God only.
How, then, shall we pray? Jesus answered this exact question in Matthew 6:9-13.
“Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. 11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread. 12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 ‘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.’]”
It is not to say that unconscious repetition of this exact phraseology is the way to pray. Jesus pray ‘in this way‘. He began with a statement to whom He was addressing. He led with a praise. It is always proper to praise the Lord at any time but especially in prayer because it sets our heart condition rightly and reminds us of our position as submissive supplicants. This reminder helps us when the prayers are answered in a way we do not expect or in a timing we are uncomfortable with.
Give us this day our daily bread is a statement from Jesus telling us it is all right to ask for things to sustain us while we are living on earth. (Matthew 6:32-33). But you notice the prayer doesn’t say pray in a way where you ask for surplus, He is asking for daily bread. Not weekly bread. The manna that was given to the Hebrews in the desert was given daily. Asking for daily bread helps us not become greedy hoarders, too self-reliant, and it also is a way for the Lord to bless us daily!
Asking the Lord to forgive our sins is a way to remind us that before any prayer can be answered we need to ensure we are on the right side of God and not accumulating sins, and also that if we forgive others we are also on the right side of God. (Matthew 6:14-15; Mark 11:25). Why should He bless a bitter heart? He will not. (1 John 2:9).
“Lead us not into temptation” must be understood correctly. Barnes Notes: “God tempts no man. See James 1:13. This phrase, then, must be used in the sense of “permitting.” Do not “suffer” us, or “permit” us, to be tempted to sin. In this it is implied that God has such control over the tempter as to save us from his power if we call upon him.“
So don’t mindlessly repeat Jesus’ prayer exactly but let the power behind the concepts conform your heart to your own words. Know to Whom you are praying. Praise Him. Understand you position before Him as penitent, His kingdom within you and also your external destination someday. Ask for what earthly provision you need in humility, trusting Him to answer in faith. Ask for unearthly provision such as release from temptation or protection from temptation.
Is there a proper bodily position in which we pray? Some prefer head bowed, others prefer to look up. Some pray with eyes closed, others keep them open. Still others pray silently, some prefer aloud. Standing, sitting, kneeling, walking,…all these postures are in the Bible. Here is a very short answer to the question of whether there is a commanded posture for prayer, at Grace to You.
The most important thing about prayer is that in order to communicate this way with God, you must be saved he does not listen to nor answer the prayers of the unsaved. (John 9:31; 1 Peter 3:12). The entire Christian faith is based on the fact that Adam’s sin separated us from our holy and righteous God. That separation includes communication and intimacy, including prayer. The most important utterance you will ever emit is the confession to Jesus, plea, or prayer for forgiveness of your sins God WILL hear that one.
that if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)
If you are new to prayer, don’t worry about fancy words or proper phrases. That is the utter beauty of our God. He hears the heart cry, understands the motivation behind what we are asking. He listens to all words fancy or not, as long as they are sincere. Don’t worry, just pray! It is a way to talk with Him. He doesn’t change by your prayer, but you are changed by praying. So don’t put it off another minute!
Praying the Bible by Donald S. Whitney
The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions by Arthur Bennett (Editor)
There are many resources online to help the Christian believer strengthen her faith. We live in times where we’re blessed with being able to access some of today’s best preaching and teaching, and also can become familiar with the Divines from the past. We have podcasts, sermons, blogs, videos. What a bounty!
I always try to connect you to the most solid ministries that I can. I came across Steve Kozar’s youtube podcast the other day. His channel covers many different topics in different ways, and I stumbled onto his “Hit the Bar” portion of the channel. He and his lovely wife Paulette present a video, allow the viewer to watch for a bit, then the ‘hit the space bar’ and pause it while dissecting it off the cuff.
I was familiar with Steve Kozar’s name from having read the Pirate Christian (Chris Rosebrough) for many years. The two do a lot of apologetics and discernment work together. But I never really delved into Kozar’s own website “The Messed Up Church” until I listened to his Hit the Bar youtube/podcast and he mentioned the website with all its resources.
He was doing Hit the Bar about Beth Moore. It was the more famous clip of her 2014 speech where she talked about receiving personal revelation about a coming ‘downpour’ and ‘awakening’, that people would scoff at, where she called any disbelievers in her pronouncement ‘bullies’, and used no scripture.
Though this was an older clip of Moore, the discussion between Kozar and his wife Paulette was new. I had never listened to Kozar or his wife. In my opinion, if you really want to get a sense of a person, watch a podcast of a husband – wife team discuss something together.
Kozar and Paulette were sweet together. I loved their calm and sweet interplay. It was kind. Steve’s insights on Moore were terrific. He raised many points I had never considered, even though I’m quite familiar with that clip and Moore in general.
He said in this speech Beth Moore was laying her Charismatic cards on the table. It was 2014 and she really came out of the Charismatic closet so to speak, with being bold in speaking FOR Jesus. Kozar said, “She has no fear of speaking prophetically,” and this is a problem. He hit the bar at the points where she shuts critical thinking down, and explains how. Kozar said she was a very good actress, the entire speech felt memorized and staged, and showed that. He demonstrated how she uses false dichotomies to divide rather than unify, and how that is the beginning of a cult. Moore uses vague terms so that people can individually interpret for themselves rather than unify around a clarifying scripture or doctrine she is presenting. He noted the points at which she basked in adoration of the audience, instead of pointing to Jesus. [As a side note, Steve also has an issue with her wild eyes, as I myself noted recently.]
The Hit The Bar discussion about Beth Moore is here.
All in all, it was wonderfully insightful. I recommend Steve Kozar’s website and his youtube channel with the various types of videos and discussions.
Kozar noted that at The Messed Up Church website, a plethora of resources await the reader. In “Cornucopias“, there are links to a myriad of resources about many different false teachers. There are definitions and explanations of what apologetics is, what discernment is, and more.
Our Purpose –Confronting & Exposing Apostasy. –Explaining Biblical Orthodoxy. –Rebuilding Shattered Faith by the Light of the Gospel from God’s Word. –Returning to the Reformation principle of: –Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura (Grace Alone, Faith Alone, Scripture Alone)
Please check out The Messed Up Church website and/or the Youtube channel. It’s helpful.
In 2016 I wrote a discernment essay raising troubling concerns about Ravi Zacharias. I noted his slide downward, his praising of Catholic mystics, some untruths regarding his credentials, and his refusal to take a position on whether the Catholic Church is false (saying the two churches have merely ‘doctrinal differences!), creationism vs evolution, the Doctrines of Grace, or most of eschatology.
A Christian Apologists’ job is to take a stance on the doctrines of the Bible and proclaim and defend them, so the refusal to be clear on 40% of the Bible seemed a nonstarter to me. I’d also noted that I had attended a live speech event, and had listened to many of Ravi’s other speeches online. I said that he seemed to me more of a spellbinding anecdotal storyteller and secular philosopher than a Christian Apologist or evangelist. Lots of mentions of Jesus, not a lot of talk about sin, wrath, and repentance.
I wrote later that year that Ravi had spoken at false teacher Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church and called Warren’s church “one of the greatest”. I’d noted that he had also appeared on false teacher Joyce Meyer’s television program, and said Joyce puts out “great Bible teaching.” His partnering with false teachers spoke volumes both about his lack of discernment and his lack of courage.
Two months ago, in December 2020, I updated the situation when the Ravi Zacharias International Ministry (RZIM) itself had investigated their founder (who had recently passed away). They announced confirmation of newly revealed sins Mr Zacharias had performed. RZIM made this preliminary report public. The RZIM organization promised to be forthcoming with the conclusions of their hired investigation ended. I attached the RZIM updated facts to a discernment lesson, here.
RZIM’s hired investigators submitted their final report this past week and what they found was disheartening in the extreme.
We’ve all heard and seen how Grace Community Church led by Pastor-Teacher John MacArthur has continued to meet and preach despite California’s attempts to shut them down, or to enact measures that would be so onerous it would effectively shut them down. They resisted, and have paid the price. The price is literal, there is an accumulation of fines they’ve set aside for the day they must pay it to the government officials, and they’ve paid by having come to the notice of scandal mongers, cacklers, and yellow journalists who smear the church and disrespect the pastor and elders continually.
We know also that there are many other churches that are resisting shutdowns and over-the top infringes on religious liberty in America and abroad. One such church came to my attention when a friend up in Canada sent me the link to their church’s statement on why they remain open and preaching.
Before I share the statement, here is what the Bible has to say about churches and preaching. Paul urged Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and exhort, with great patience and instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:2).
Recently an article was published by a yellow journalist against a well-established, reputable ministry, charging its leader with the sin of wealth, hypocrisy, and comparing him to false teachers. The organization she wrote negatively about is Grace Community Church, Grace To You, and John MacArthur.
There are two issues with the article. One is the brand of “journalism” displayed in the article, and the other issue is whether a well-known pastor or teacher having money or wealth presents an immoral problem in and of itself, which is what the yellow article intimates.
Joyce Meyer is a very popular female Bible teacher and preacher. She has been on the scene for decades, and shows no signs of slowing down. She has 10 offices around the world and employs 500 people. Her brand of charismatic/name-it claim it religion has deceived many. This is sad, but the Bible says that many will be deceived by false teachers. I pray that anything here will spark a further Berean investigation by the reader and through prayer, come to the other side of discernment in understanding why Meyer should be avoided.
Joyce Meyer preached that Jesus was a sinner, had been born again, stopped being the Son of God, paid for our sins in hell (from 1991 Booklet called The Most Important Decision you Will Ever Make), and was tormented there. Meyer preaches a different Jesus. She is a heretic.
Joyce Meyer preaches to men and mixed gender audiences in violation of 1 Timothy 2:12.
Joyce Meyer preaches that it is normal and expected to hear directly from God, when contrary to her claim, the scriptures claim they are sufficient (2 Timothy 3:14-17), and the Word is closed. (Revelation 22:18-19). Yet she teaches that God speaks individually to people today. Example, in essay “It’s not that complicated” she wrote -“Do you ever wonder if God speaks to people? You’ll be happy to know the answer is yes. But first let me explain how distractions can hinder His voice” and taught more from her book How to Hear from God or in this video.
There’s more, but these should suffice to illustrate to the reader that Joyce Meyer’s teaching is not edifying.
Please do not allow a teacher’s longevity lull you into thinking they must be good. Please do not allow a ministry’s global breadth to lull you into thinking he or she is good. In fact the Bible says that popularity is often a mark of falsity. (Luke 6:26). The world wants their ears tickled. In 2 Timothy 4:3 we read
For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires,
If you follow Joyce Meyer, please consider these things. Please stay in the pure, undefiled faith, and find some good Bible teachers to follow, beginning with your own pastor and elders at your own church.
The title of this essay is the name of a book by Erwin Lutzer, but I want to explore the concept today. I’d seen a blog recently (I’m sorry, I forget where) but I’ve read the book and combined with the recent blog I’d read, made me think even more about heaven. We should have an eternal perspective and think about our heavenly home as home, and this earth as a temporary sojourn. Because it is. Here is the blurb for Lutzer’s book,
“One minute after you die, you will either be elated or terrified-and it will be too late to reroute your travel plans. When you slip behind the parted curtain, your life will not be over. Rather, it will be just beginning-in a place of unimaginable bliss or indescribable gloom. One Minute After You Die opens a window on eternity with a simple and moving explanation of what the Bible teaches about death.”
I think a lot about heaven. I named this blog The End Time because we are in the end time, and the next event on the prophetic plan of Jesus is the rapture. After that, the Tribulation, the Millennium Kingdom, then the Great Throne Judgment where everyone is judged in front of Jesus, then sent to their final destination in a body that can withstand either the due punishment in hell )lake of Fire) or the glory of the Lord in heaven.
But even before that, the right now times, means that people are dying every day and they are sent to their temporary destination. Let’s be real. There is a hell and there is a heaven.
If a person dies as an unforgiven sinner, if they had not repented of their sins to Jesus and submitted to His Lordship of their life, then they go to hell to be punished for their sins. This happens immediately when a person dies, as in, the body becomes dead. No blood pumping. Yet there is a soul in each one of us, and the soul lives on forever. When the body dies, the soul and body are separated and the soul goes to heaven or hell, with a temporary body (probably) until the time of final judgment at the end of ALL things when you are fitted for a body that will withstand the place you’re destined to dwell. As Lutzer said, you are either elated with boundless joy, or you are distressed beyond understanding, to the point of gnashing your teeth (Luke 13:28) for all of time.
If your destination is hell, you will live in utter darkness. (Matthew 8:12, Jude 1:13).
The newly restored and fortified body will undergo fire for all time. The fire is variously called a blazing furnace (Matthew 13:42), the fire of hell (Matthew 5:22), an eternal fire (Matthew 18:8), unquenchable fire (Mark 9:43; Isaiah 66:24). or tormented with fire and brimstone (Revelation 14:10).
Of course, the people populating the lake of fire are separated from God (but not His wrath). Even while on earth unbelievers are not separated from God totally in their fleshly lives. They receive blessings from Him just by virtue of living in the creation, receiving rain for their crops, being gifted with children, and being sustained in this life for however many days are allotted to them. However, in the Lake of Fire there is no laughter, no joy, ho hope, and no blessing of any kind.
It is a city where nothing unclean will EVER enter it, nor anything detestable nor anything false! (Revelation 21:27)
The place He is preparing for us is bright, crystal, light glinting off crystal walls and no darkness at all! (Revelation 22:1-5).
The city is pure gold, clear as glass as well as its street! (Revelation 21:18). The walls of this better city are adorned with every kind of jewel! (Revelation 21:19)
The Lamb is present, and we worship Him! (Revelation 22:1-5)
Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32).
What must we do to enter this glorious kingdom, whose designer and builder is God, (Hebrews 11:10) where everything is perfect, where we dwell WITH our savior? First recognize you and I are sinners. We rebel from the moment we are born, even in the womb our very flesh is already saturated with sin. Sin means thinking, saying, or doing anything that breaks God’s Law. He is holy and pure and perfect. We are not. Therefore we cannot dwell with Him. Moreover, He is a just Judge, and cannot let the guilty go unpunished. (Exodus 34:7).
But He is also merciful and loving, and He sent His Son Jesus to live the perfectly righteous life He demands. Jesus was obedient, lived that life, and was sacrificed on the cross. His shed infinite blood atoned for our infinite sins, but even more, He transferred His righteousness to those who will repent of their sins. If we repent of our sins, and claim Jesus as our Savior from that place of torment and darkness, we will live with Him forever. God declared us righteous, He justified us as ‘not guilty by way of Jesus.
Jesus is the ONLY way to heaven.
John 14:6 says, Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:1–4).
Heaven and hell are real places, not metaphors. All flesh will dwell forever in one or the other. Please consider these things.
I’m watching the Netflix series, The Crown. As she is portrayed in the series, the Queen (Elizabeth II) doesn’t seem approachable, relaxed, or in any way inviting toward friendliness. She is royalty, majesty, remote.
As her TV-husband character put it regarding the immediate royal family, “Everyone in this system is a lost, lonely, irrelevant outsider, apart from the only person person that matters. She is the oxygen we all breathe. The essence of all our duty.”
That’s how we view Jesus as royal king. He is our raison d’etre, the oxygen we all breathe, our sole focus. He is high and lifted up, remote, unapproachable, as a King should be.
It is raining here today and tonight we are supposed to receive snow showers. Here in north Georgia the word ‘snow’ elicits squeals of excitement and also more than a little fear. In other words, it’s rare.
I’m from Rhode Island. I lived through the Blizzard of 1978, one of the worst blizzards that ever fell in America anytime in weather recorded history. I moved to Maine just afterward and stayed for about 30 years. I am quite familiar with snow, and lots of it. I do not squeal with excitement when the forecasters say the word, I groan instead.
Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, And have you seen the storehouses of the hail, (Job 38:22)
For He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the gentle rain, ‘Pour out a mighty downpour.’ (Job 37:6)
But I do love to ponder His creative work. I particularly enjoy His work as Creator. Jonathan Edwards did too. Edwards said,
The end of the creation is that the creation might glorify [God]. Now what is glorifying God, but a rejoicing at that glory he has displayed? ~Jonathan Edwards
Edwards took a horseback ride or a walk every day, and pondered great thoughts, and enjoying thinking of God as creator. Edwards enjoyed the creation he admired so much, and praised God for it always.
It’s hard for me to imagine the infinite capability God has in creating every snowflake differently. If one snowflake is this beautiful, how gorgeous will heaven be?
And even more amazing, He created all the souls on earth that ever were, uniquely and individually. Each person looks different, has different DNA, and a different personality. What an amazing creator God we have!
But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— (1 Corinthians 2:9)