Prayer

The Bible is clear that God wants us to talk to Him.  We are to thank Him for what He has done, praise Him for who He is, ask Him for assistance, and confess our sins to Him.

But how exactly are we supposed to talk to God?  Some people feel that they can’t talk to Him because they don’t know how.  Some people fear praying in public because they don’t know how to pray.  This seems strange since the Lord Jesus gave us a template to follow in Matthew 6:

  1. We are to pray to God the Father
  2. We are to glorify God and worship Him
  3. We are to pray that His will would be done.
  4. We are to ask Him for the things we need
  5. We are to ask Him to forgive us for our sins
  6. We are to ask Him to help us lead a victorious Christian life.
  7. We are to recognize His sovereignty.

I’ve also noticed lately that many Christians seem to be mixing up the Trinity while praying.  I have been taught that when we pray, we are supposed to pray TO God the Father, in the name of God the Son, through the power of God the Holy Spirit.  Jesus Christ never prays to Himself or to the Holy Spirit, but only to God the Father.  Here are all the times people prayed in the New Testament where different members of the Trinity are mentioned: |

1. Acts 4:24-30 In this passage the apostles are talking TO God ABOUT Jesus and the Holy Spirit, so it’s obvious they’re talking to the Father.
2. Stephen prays “Lord Jesus receive my spirit!” in Acts 7:59
3. Romans 1:8 Paul prays “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all…” Paul is speaking of two separate persons here.
4. Ephesians 5:20 says “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;” That seems pretty clear that we are being directed to pray TO the Father in the name of Christ.
5. Colossians 1:3 says “We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,” Again, praying to the Father.
6. Revelation 5:9 the saints in heaven pray directly to Christ in song.

There are two instances where people pray to God the Son and both are when the Son of God is physically visible to the person praying. So we must ask: is it wrong to pray to Christ? Not necessarily, but it is not usual to do so.  The problem with praying to Christ instead of God the Father is that we confuse who we are talking to sometimes.

Many times I have heard well-meaning, doctrinally sound believers pray, “Father, we thank you for dying on the cross for our sins.” Do these people believe in patripassianism (Sabellianism/modalism) which teaches that God the Father died on the cross? No. How could the Father die on the cross when He was separated from Jesus for those three hours while Christ took the sins of the world on himself?   Another thing I’ve heard is someone praying and they switch back and forth such as “Thank you Father for sending your Son to die on the cross for us and we look forward to your return in the clouds.”   The most innocuous of these is when someone prays to the Father, and then ends the prayer with “In Your Name, Amen” (instead of “In the name of Christ/Jesus/the Son/etc”).  While I don’t believe it’s sinful to pray this way, I do believe it can confuse new Christians and allow for doctrinal error to creep in.

Now, do I say this to be critical of my fellow Christians? No.  I firmly believe that God can and does translate and interpret these prayers correctly. Perhaps this is one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit when He prays for us as in Romans 8:26-27.  I believe God hears and adjusts those prayers for accuracy. God knows what you mean.  But does that mean we shouldn’t care that we are praying incorrectly? No. I think it’s important that we as believers not have a cavalier attitude about how we are talking to the God of the universe, the Creator of all things, the Redeemer of our souls.  I think we should follow His example and not thank the Father for being born in Bethlehem, because He wasn’t. God the Father has never been born.

We should think about the words we’re using when we pray.  We should think about who we are praying to and about as we pray, and not simply be talking out loud using words when we aren’t thinking about their meaning.  Next time you pray, determine to talk to God the Father in the name of the Son in the power of the Spirit.

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Hell

I got to thinking about Hell last night.  The image of Hell that we have is people suffering in flames surrounded by demons tormenting them.  As my last post covered, this is not completely true because Hell was actually created FOR the demons/fallen angels to be tormented (Matthew 25:41).  Satan and his demons will be suffering right next to all the humans who rejected Christ while alive.  But the main thing that people think of when they think of hell is probably some variation of “hot”, “flames”, “burning” or some such.

People don’t talk about the psychological punishment in hell.

Let me ask you a question: Do you have any regrets? Any words you said you wish you hadn’t? Anything you’ve done that you wish you could have done differently (or not at all)?  I think we both know the answer to those questions, because none of us are perfect.

You see, that’s one of the great parts of being a believer in Christ:  we are forgiven.  We don’t live with regret.  I believe that when a Christian dies he or she is taken into the presence of Christ immediately (2 Cor 5:8).  And after the Great White Throne Judgment Christ will “wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain” (Rev 21:4). So believers will not live with regret on the new earth.

But the unsaved?  I think that will actually be the worst part of Hell.  I saw an episode of the British show “Black Mirror” (I don’t recommend the series because it’s got some inappropriate stuff in it) but the episode “White Christmas” had a man being tormented inside a scenario reminding him of his greatest regret over and over, and at the end of the episode, the technology existed to speed up his clock so every hour of real time would literally feel like a thousand years to him. The last words of the episode were “Leave him there until tomorrow” (or something like that).  So this man would be tormented by the knowledge of what he had done for 24,000 years before they came back the next day.   Add in unbearable pain from flames and another billion years of time and you will have only scratched the surface of how bad hell is.

Little wonder that I don’t wish anybody to “go to hell” and that I try to warn people both in real life and on the internet of the danger they are in if they don’t trust Christ.

The acronym YOLO (“You Only Live Once”) is used to refer to the belief that you only get one life and you should pack as much enjoyment into it as you can, because this is the only chance you get to have fun.   I prefer to think of it with Hebrews 9:27 in mind:

And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,

Those who say “Only God can judge me” seem to forget that one day He will.

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Matt Walsh and Satan

I’m currently reading a book by popular conservative Catholic blogger Matt Walsh called The Unholy Trinity: Blocking the Left’s Assault on Life, Marriage, and Gender. I’m currently in chapter 3.  In chapter one he sets up the premise of the book.  In chapter two he reveals the reason so many liberals defend abortion, and destroys their arguments, revealing abortion to be the horror that it is.   I highly recommend this book and would encourage you to pick it up.

However, Mr Walsh makes three glaring errors in the opening paragraphs of his book. First of all, he claims that Lucifer lived in heaven “before time itself.” Satan is a linear being, which means he was created to live inside of time. There is only one being that is outside of time, and that is God. The best statement against this view (expressed again in chapter two) is Genesis 1:31 which states that after God created everything (including Man) that “everything was very good.”  If Satan had already rebelled, then not everything would have been good.

Secondly, Matt claims that Satan “and those who followed him were cast out of Paradise, down into the hideous depths of Hell.”  This is the extrabiblical idea that Hell is a very hot place where demons torment the ungodly and Satan is ruling over everything down there. Nothing could be further from the truth.  Satan was cast out of his position in heaven, but as Job states, he can still go there sometimes.  Also, Revelation 12:9 says that he was cast down to earth, NOT hell.

Thirdly, Matt claims that in hell Satan reigns “over his pitiful kingdom of darkness” in hell. This is a common misconception because nowhere in the Bible does it say that Satan is somehow “in charge” of Hell. Satan is the “prince of the power of the air” and “the god of this world.” I Peter 5:8 says Satan is walking amongst living humans. In Job 1 AND 2 Satan states that he has been walking around on the earth. In all likelihood Satan has never even been to Hell and will not go there until the end of the Tribulation period as foretold in in Revelation 20.

I think this is an important point.  Satan does not rule over Hell.  The idea that he does gives him an authority that he does not have. Matthew 25:41 is clear that Hell was created to punish Satan and his demons, not for humans (though it will be used for this).  Hell is a place of unimaginable torment and the only people that go there are those who reject Christ.  They will be tormented for eternity not by demons, but by God’s wrath.  In reality, the demons (including Satan) will be tormented right next to the humans. Satan is dangerous, yes, but if you trust in Christ, you need not fear him.

In conclusion, if you have questions about the logical flaws in modern liberalism, Matt Walsh is a good source for information.  If you have questions about angelology (the study of angels, including Satan), look elsewhere.

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Shipt comes to Indianapolis

I shop at Meijer.  For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s a store which resembles a Super Wal Mart. This month they announced that they are partnering with another company called Shipt, to offer a service where the user can order groceries from home, and in as little as an hour one of the company’s shoppers will go to Meijer, collect all the items the user ordered, and deliver them to the user’s home.

Evidently the cost is $99 a year (or $14 a month for those who are bad at math), and as long as your grocery orders are always over $35, delivery is free (if you don’t tip).  However, there is also the fact (not on their home page, but buried in their FAQ) that the price of each item you order is about 12.5% more than what you would pay in the store.

 
Their website says “Shipt prices will vary slightly from in-store prices to help cover the costs of picking, packing and processing. Our members can expect to pay about $5 more using Shipt than they would on a $35 order purchased in the store themselves. For example, a loaf of Wonderbread costs $2.29 in the store and $2.59 to have it delivered to your door using Shipt. Our members are happy to pay the extra $.30 for the convenience and time saved!”
 
So in short, you can now pay $99 a year to get your groceries delivered directly to your house. But you will pay 12.5% more for the privilege. Let’s look at an example. Let’s say you normally have a food budget of $500 per month.  That means you pay $6000 annually for groceries. With the delivery and higher cost of each item added in, that same amount of groceries will now cost you just over $70 more per month, or about $850 more per year with a new cost of $6850 annually.

Is it worth $70 per month for you to avoid going to the grocery store?  Not for me personally, but I can understand how many would like this service.  The good news about that is that if there are many who join the service, it will create a bunch of jobs for people willing to go grocery shopping for someone else’s food.  According to the reports from the website from people who currently work for them in other markets, their shoppers make between $15 and $25 per hour (plus tips), and after several trips, they just know where everything is in the store so they get more efficient each day.  The other incentive to work for the company is that the pay is comparable to being an Uber driver, but without the weirdness of having total strangers ride in your car.  It might be a good part-time job to bring in added income. 

Will I use their company?  Probably not.  Will I work for their company at some point?  Possibly.
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Coffee and Christ

I would encourage all of my Christian friends to evaluate their relationship with coffee. Could you survive without coffee? Can you start your day without coffee? Would your daily interactions be significantly worse if you didn’t have coffee? Have you ever used the words “I need coffee”? Because you don’t.
 
There’s a difference between something that is enjoyable and something that you NEED to survive. There are basic physical needs that we have, there are spiritual needs, etc.  But I submit that coffee meets none of these needs. It is one thing for someone to say, “I enjoy coffee.”  It’s another thing entirely for someone to say “I need coffee.”     
If you are a Christian, and you find yourself “needing” coffee, you may want to evaluate your relationship with coffee.  Are you addicted?  Is coffee an idol for you?

I will give a personal example here.   In 2005 I moved to the Indianapolis area. I rapidly became a Colts fan. In December of 2005 I went to my first Colts game, and I was hooked.  Being surrounded by 60,000 screaming fans focused on the actions of these 22 men on the field is an amazing feeling.  It’s much different than watching the game on television.    Over the course of the next year I slowly became addicted to the Indianapolis Colts.  I knew every player. I knew their positions, their game stats, the teams they were playing, etc.  I watched every game. I bought several jerseys (some for about $80 each). I went to several games, and bought a season ticket for the 2007 season. I went to almost every game, unless I had to work.

Our church gets out about 11:30 on Sunday mornings. The Sunday afternoon games start at 1pm, which gave me just enough time to drive the 45 minutes to the stadium, park, and walk in, getting to my seat just before kickoff. I remember being upset one Sunday because the songleader of our church wanted to have a “short practice” after the service, and it lasted about 20 minutes.  I was actually angry as I drove to the stadium, because I knew that I was now going to miss kickoff.  Shortly thereafter I finally realized that I was addicted to the Indianapolis Colts.  They had become more important to me than other things that should have been more important, and therefore, they were an idol.
And so I gave up my idol.  I canceled my season tickets.  I stopped obsessing about the Colts.  I’m still a Colts fan. I still watch games, but it’s not the end of the world if I miss one.  Today I could probably only name four or five players on the team. I only go to about one game every few years.  I don’t own the jersey of any active Colts player.  I have effectively downgraded the Colts from an addiction to something I enjoy from time to time.
Some of my Facebook friends post frequently about how much they love coffee. A few post incessantly.  Now I’m not saying these people are addicted.  But they do seem obsessed.  And so, to those of you who think you can’t live without coffee, I would encourage you to take a good look at the coffee bean and ask yourself:  is coffee more important to you than anything else?  Could you go a day without coffee?  Could you go a week?  A month?  If your answer is “I’m not sure,” you might want to take a good, long look at your priorities.
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Charging

chargerThis morning I woke up and hit the power button on my phone only to find that my battery was at 1%. I had five seconds to look at the screen before the phone shut down with a dead battery. That’s when I realized that last night I didn’t plug my phone in to the charger.  The charger was plugged in to the wall right next to my phone. It had been there all night. But I didn’t plug it in.

It occurs to me that many Christians go through life this way. We have the Bible. We may even have several Bibles. But if you don’t read the Bible and plug yourself in to God’s charger, your spiritual battery is going to die.

We have prayer available to us day or night, in any time at any place. If we have trusted in Christ as Savior we may come boldly to the throne of grace.  But how often do we? How often do we speak to our Heavenly Father, the Creator of the Universe?   Just having God available to us does not help us.  We must grasp the opportunity to speak with Him and read His Words.  Only then can we recharge and become useful to Him.

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Conflation and the Pope

Conflation is the act of merging two sets of ideas into one. One website explains it as “negative or careless blending of two otherwise disconnected ideas.” In recent usage it means to confuse two ideas or events as being the same thing. An example would be Kellyanne Conway and her recent statement that “two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre.”  She most likely conflated the two Iraqi refugees in Bowling Green who pled guilty to terrorism in 2011 and the terrorist responsible for killing four marine recruiters in Chattanooga (which is NOT Bowling Green) in 2015.  She mixed them up in her mind into one event, even though they were two separate events separated by 200 miles of geography and four years of time. That’s conflation.

I mention this because the Pope, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, was guilty yesterday of conflating the morals and guidelines of the Bible given to individual people with the morals and guidelines of the Bible given to governments and nations.

The pope stated, “In the social and civil context as well, I appeal not to create walls, but to build bridges. To not respond to evil with evil. To defeat evil with good, the offense with forgiveness. A Christian would never say ‘you will pay for that.’ Never. That is not a Christian gesture. An offense you overcome with forgiveness. To live in peace with everyone.”

Is the pope wrong? Yes and no. While it is theologically correct that Christians are called to forgive, to live in peace with others, to defeat evil with good, and to build bridges, it is NOT theologically correct to conflate Christian ideals with civic policy and procedure.

Does this mean we should not promote Judeo-Christian values in our government? Not at all. I believe we should have a government that punishes certain sins (such as murder, rape, etc), not a government that forgives offenders continually. We should make laws that encourage people to live moral lives. But we should not expect the government to operate as an individual person should. For instance, Peter asked Christ how many times he should forgive his brother, and Christ’s response indicates that forgiveness should be limitless. Should this principle then be applied by the government when someone breaks the law repeatedly? No.

And that’s why we need a wall. We need secure borders so that we can enforce the rule of law among our own people. We need to keep people out who aren’t supposed to be here. I keep hearing about “the Christian thing to do” as it relates to foreign relations, immigration, etc. People who use those words to refer to the policies of the United States government are conflating guidelines given in the Bible to individuals with guidelines given to the government in general.

The United States is not a “Christian Nation.” It is a nation that has Christian citizens. Even if every single citizen was Christian, it would still not be a “Christian Nation”, it would be a nation made up of Christians. It seems like I’m splitting hairs, but it’s an important distinction. You see, being American does not have anything to do with your status with God as a Christian or non-Christian.

The United States is being invaded right now by people who don’t belong here. I know that on the surface that sounds racist, but it’s not. As an example, let’s just look at ethnic Mexicans. I’m saying that the American citizens of Mexican descent belong here, whereas those of Mexican descent who are NOT American citizens (or have permission from the government to be here) do NOT belong here. Now, is that racist? Obviously not. Ethnicity has nothing to do with my determination regarding who belongs here and who doesn’t. I am simply interested in protecting the rights of United States citizens from those who are here illegally.

I don’t agree with Trump on everything, but I do agree that we need to secure our borders. What to do about the people who are already here illegally is a different question, but the first step is to prevent any further influx. And in that the pope is wrong: as a country we should NOT be building bridges, we SHOULD be building walls.

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