Effective Prayer

The revelation about prayer, which is of the first magnitude, is that prayer is a 100% spiritual ministry. 4 important truths about prayer

  1. Everything in the natural must be overcome and be brought under Spiritual Authority if you are to succeed with prayer.
  2. Because Prayer is so effective and powerful, Satan fights it and you causing an unrelenting warfare on the spiritual battlefield.
  3. This spiritual context has caused PRAYER to be one of -if not- the most misunderstood and least successful ministries in the Church.
  4. THERE IS NOTHING NATURAL ABOUT PRAYER.

We all want our prayers to be “effective,” so much so that when we focus on the “results” of our prayers, we lose sight of the incredible privilege we have in prayer. That people like us can speak to the Creator of the universe is itself an amazing thing. Even more astounding is the fact that He hears us and acts on our behalf! The first thing we need to understand about effective prayer is that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ had to suffer and die on the cross to even make it possible for us to approach the throne of grace to worship and pray.
Hebrews 10:19-23 (NLT) 19 And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. 20 By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. 21 And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, 22 let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water23 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.

Effective Prayer

Although the Bible offers a great deal of guidance on how we can deepen our communication with the Creator, effective prayer has more to do with the one doing the praying than it does with “how” we are to pray. Indeed, Scripture says in James 5:16 The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective , and in 1 Peter 3:12 & Psalm 34:15 “eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer and, again in Proverbs 15:8 “the prayer of the upright pleases Him”. Prayer saved the righteous Daniel from the lion’s den (Daniel 6:11), and in the wilderness, God’s chosen people benefitted from Moses’ right standing with God (Exodus 16–17). The barren Hannah’s steadfast and humble prayers resulted in the prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 1:20), and the apostle Paul’s prayers even caused the earth to shake (Acts 16:25-26). Clearly, the passionate prayers of God’s righteous children can accomplish much (Numbers 11:2).

We need to make sure that our prayers are in line with God’s will. 1 John 5:13-15(ESV) I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. Praying in accordance with God’s will is essentially praying in accord with what He would want, and we can see God’s revealed will throughout Scripture. And if we do not know what to pray for, Paul reminds us that as God’s children we can rely on the Holy Spirit to intercede for us, in Romans 8:27 (ESV)And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Without Jesus the only prayer God hears is that of repentance. If you are not saved God is not obligated to listen to any of your prayers.

 

Isaiah 59:1(ESV) Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

 

Psalms 66:17 (ESV)I cried to him with my mouth, and high praise was on my tongue.18 If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.19 But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer.

Fortunately, “1 John 1:9 (ESV)if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness

 

Matthew 21:13 He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!”

 

Jesus is pretty serious about prayer and His Father’s house.

Jesus is the gate into the House of Prayer, repentance is the key.

John 10:1(ESV)“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.

 

The Bible tells us that true repentance will result in a change of actions Acts 3:19(ESV) Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out,). Acts 26:20 declares, “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” The full biblical definition of repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of action.

Repentance and faith can be understood as “two sides of the same coin.” It is impossible to place your faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior without first changing your mind about who He is and what He has done. Whether it is repentance from willful rejection or repentance from ignorance or disinterest, it is a change of mind. Biblical repentance, in relation to salvation, is changing your mind from rejection of Christ to faith in Christ.

Barriers to effective communication with God

  1. Praying with selfish desires and wrong motives. “James 4:3(ESV) When you ask you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures”.
  2. Rejecting God’s call or ignoring His advice (Proverbs 1:24-28 Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded,25 because you have ignored all my counseland would have none of my reproof, 26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, 27 when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you.28 Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me.),
  3. worshipping idols (Jeremiah 11:11-14(ESV)11 Therefore, thus says the Lord, Behold, I am bringing disaster upon them that they cannot escape. Though they cry to me, I will not listen to them. 12 Then the cities of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem will go and cry to the gods to whom they make offerings, but they cannot save them in the time of their trouble. 13 For your gods have become as many as your cities, O Judah, and as many as the streets of Jerusalem are the altars you have set up to shame, altars to make offerings to Baal.14 “Therefore do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer on their behalf, for I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their trouble.),
  4. turning a deaf ear to the cry of the poor Proverbs 21:13 Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.

 

All these serve as additional obstacles to an effective prayer life.

Effective prayer is a way to strengthen our relationship with our Father in heaven. When we study and obey His Word and seek to please Him, the same God who made the sun stand still upon the prayer of Joshua in Joshua 10:12-13 (ESV)12 At that time Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.”13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.

We have access to the throne through Jesus
(Hebrews 4:16(ESV) Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.).

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Tactics of Satan used against us today

Despite the fact that he is a doomed, limping enemy, the old Dragon remains crafty, as Scripture says. To fool you, Satan will use various tactics that Scripture warns us about. I want to tell you about some of these tactics because 2 Corinthians 2:11 says that Satan cannot trick us if we become familiar with the tactics he uses against us.

Satan will lie to you because he is a liar. If you believe him, your life will be destroyed, because you will be trusting the person Jesus calls the “father of lies.” Your response to lies must be reading your Bible and listening to Jesus, who throughout John’s Gospel repeatedly says, “I tell you the truth.” Furthermore, when you hear the lies, speak honestly about them with godly friends so that Jesus can speak truth into your life through them. Remember, you never have to persuade the liar that he is wrong and you are right. Instead, be like Jesus, who, in Matthew 4:8–10, ignored the liar’s lies and remained devoted to the truth of Scripture.

Satan will come to you when you are weak and tempt you to sin just as he did Jesus, because he is the tempter. The goal of his temptation is to draw you near to him and away from Jesus in rebellion. Your response to sinful temptation must be to resist the devil so that he will flee from you. When you do sin, you must keep short accounts with God by repenting of your sin to Jesus and anyone else you have sinned against.

Satan will come to you as your accuser. Satan’s accusations often come in the form of a second-person speaker. Some people who claim to hear voices or have negative self-talk may, in some instances, be undergoing demonic opposition. For example, people frequently report thinking or hearing such things as “You’re worthless,” “God could never forgive you,” “You deserve what was done to you,” and “You should just kill yourself to end your pain.” When we think or hear such things we must realize that Jesus would never say such things to God’s children, and if you are hearing accusations like this in the second person, then a demon may be whispering in your ear, hoping you will believe them over Jesus.

Satan will come to you, often during a season of God’s grace being poured out, to rob you of joy by condemning you. He will remind you of past sins that Christ died for and that you have earnestly repented of. In doing so, he will attempt to get you to disbelieve in the sufficiency of Jesus’ work on the cross for you. If you believe the Dragon, you will either doubt God’s forgiveness or seek to do something in addition to Jesus’ work to merit your own forgiveness. Either way, you disbelieve in the finished work of Jesus on the cross for your sin, and you will be compelled toward either despair or religion but not toward Jesus. In these seasons, you will find an anchor for your soul by meditating on Romans 8:1, which says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Satan will use your sincere heart to heap upon you a very vague, general conviction that, if not recognized, will propel you into deep introspection as you frantically search for some sin. This is because Satan mimics God and perverts his work. God convicts you of specific sins so that, with his compassionate help, you can repent and move on to freedom and joy. Satan, however, will seek to defeat and discourage you through guilt that is so general that you never know exactly what to repent of and are thereby left in paralyzing bondage and despair. In John 8 we are told that Satan is basically like an abusive parent and, like all abusive parents, his intent is not to correct you but to harm you, causing suffering and grief so that you feel destroyed without any clue as to what you have done or how to fix it.

Because so many sins of both omission and commission have been committed against you, Satan will also seek to gain ground in your life through bitterness (Eph. 4:17–32). The sad truth is that there is virtually no way that everyone who has ever sinned against you will come forward to repent and ask your forgiveness. If you wait for the people who have sinned against you to repent before you can forgive them, you will be prone to bitterness, which Hebrews 12:15 describes as a root that will feed other demonic weeds in your life. Therefore, as God the Holy Spirit brings to mind the people who have sinned against you, you must forgive them. This does not mean minimizing or accepting what they have done, but rather entrusting them to God for his justice through Jesus’ suffering on the cross or their deserved torment in hell. Your part in forgiveness is giving up your just right to hurt them for the hurt they did to you. God may also ask you to confront some of them in order to give them an opportunity to repent, and if they do not, you must trust Jesus to judge and sentence them justly on the day of final judgment.

Satan will seek to get your eyes off of Jesus. In The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis writes, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” To be sure, we can err in one way by diminishing or even denying what the Bible teaches about Satan and demons. The Bible exhorts us to fix our eyes on Jesus, and not Satan or demons. Even though they are real, real problems occur when we obsess over them, hunt for them, or blame everything on them.

Satan will seek to use your unbelief in him. Satan has great freedom in his work with you, to the extent that you have functionally disbelieved in his existence and as a result overlooked his active work in your life. As you grow in your understanding of how Satan and demons work, however, my caution to you would be not to blame everything on them as Eve did, but rather continue to take responsibility for your own sin and entrust the punishment of those who sinned against you to the Lord.

Satan will seek to use your pride. Because the root of Satan’s work is pride, you must also continually speak, think, and act in humility, as God’s grace to you requires. As Jesus said in Luke 10:20, “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

From: Pastor Mark Driscoll on “Spiritual Warfare”

Origins of Christmas and Why we don’t lie to kids about Santa

The very foundation of the Christmas holiday is a lie. The Messiah was not born December 25th. He did not ask us to celebrate his birthday. He did not say to set up a tree in our house and decorate it and our houses with anything. Santa Claus does not exist. He doesn’t have reindeer that fly and he isn’t going to come down anyone’s chimney on December 25th and leave any gifts. Everything is a lie. Is Yahweh the originator of this holiday? Or is it the father of lies? Jesus condemned the leaders of that generation for teaching lies:

John 8:44 – “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the “truth, because there is no “truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.

It’s high time that we forsake these lies and abide in the ” “truth! Let’s forsake this foolish practice of yoking the Messiah (who said “I am the TRUTH”) together with lies, for He has nothing to do with lies.

Revelation 22:14 – Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

5 But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.

If we want to practice a lie, we need only celebrate Christmas and we will be doing just that. But if we want to abide in the “truth, we will avoid all lies.

The book of Revelation also predicts a future time when those who hate Yahweh rejoice at the death of His two witnesses, for they will make merry and have a gift exchange:

Revelation 11:91010 And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.

Sound familiar? I don’t know for sure, but it sounds a lot like one day the two witnesses will die and the whole world will rejoice that they can keep Christmas again. I think it’s time we make sure we are on the side of “truth and righteousness.

‪How Did Christmas Come to Be Celebrated on December 25?

  1. Roman pagans first introduced the holiday of Saturnalia, a week long period of lawlessness celebrated between December 17-25.  During this period, Roman courts were closed, and Roman law dictated that no one could be punished for damaging property or injuring people during the weeklong celebration.  The festival began when Roman authorities chose “an enemy of the Roman people” to represent the “Lord of Misrule.”  Each Roman community selected a victim whom they forced to indulge in food and other physical pleasures throughout the week.  At the festival’s conclusion, December 25th, Roman authorities believed they were destroying the forces of darkness by brutally murdering this innocent man or woman.

‪B.    The ancient Greek writer poet and historian Lucian (in his dialogue entitled Saturnalia) describes the festival’s observance in his time.  In addition to human sacrifice, he mentions these customs: widespread intoxication; going from house to house while singing naked; rape and other sexual license; and consuming human-shaped biscuits (still produced in some English and most German bakeries during the Christmas season).

‪C.    In the 4th century CE, Christianity imported the Saturnalia festival hoping to take the pagan masses in with it.  Christian leaders succeeded in converting to Christianity large numbers of pagans by promising them that they could continue to celebrate the Saturnalia as Christians.

‪D.    The problem was that there was nothing intrinsically Christian about Saturnalia. To remedy this, these Christian leaders named Saturnalia’s concluding day, December 25th, to be Jesus’ birthday.

‪E.      Christians had little success, however, refining the practices of Saturnalia.  As Stephen Nissenbaum, professor history at the University of Massachussetts, Amherst, writes, “In return for ensuring massive observance of the anniversary of the Savior’s birth by assigning it to this resonant date, the Church for its part tacitly agreed to allow the holiday to be celebrated more or less the way it had always been.”  The earliest Christmas holidays were celebrated by drinking, sexual indulgence, singing naked in the streets (a precursor of modern caroling), etc.

‪F.      The Reverend Increase Mather of Boston observed in 1687 that “the early Christians who  first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.” Because of its known pagan origin, Christmas was banned by the Puritans and its observance was illegal in Massachusetts between 1659 and 1681. However, Christmas was and still is celebrated by most Christians.

‪G.    Some of the most depraved customs of the Saturnalia carnival were intentionally revived by the Catholic Church in 1466 when Pope Paul II, for the amusement of his Roman citizens, forced Jews to race naked through the streets of the city.  An eyewitness account reports, “Before they were to run, the Jews were richly fed, so as to make the race more difficult for them and at the same time more amusing for spectators.  They ran… amid Rome’s taunting shrieks and peals of laughter, while the Holy Father stood upon a richly ornamented balcony and laughed heartily.”

‪H.     As part of the Saturnalia carnival throughout the 18th and 19th centuries CE, rabbis of the ghetto in Rome were forced to wear clownish outfits and march through the city streets to the jeers of the crowd, pelted by a variety of missiles. When the Jewish community of Rome sent a petition in1836 to Pope Gregory XVI begging him to stop the annual Saturnalia abuse of the Jewish community, he responded, “It is not opportune to make any innovation.” On December 25, 1881, Christian leaders whipped the Polish masses into Antisemitic frenzies that led to riots across the country.  In Warsaw 12 Jews were brutally murdered, huge numbers maimed, and many Jewish women were raped.  Two million rubles worth of property was destroyed.

‪III.     The Origins of Christmas Customs

‪A.     The Origin of Christmas Tree
Just as early Christians recruited Roman pagans by associating Christmas with the Saturnalia, so too worshippers of the Asheira cult and its offshoots were recruited by the Church sanctioning “Christmas Trees”. Pagans had long worshipped trees in the forest, or brought them into their homes and decorated them, and this observance was adopted and painted with a Christian veneer by the Church.

‪B.     The Origin of Mistletoe
Norse mythology recounts how the god Balder was killed using a mistletoe arrow by his rival god Hoder while fighting for the female Nanna.  Druid rituals use mistletoe to poison their human sacrificial victim. The Christian custom of “kissing under the mistletoe” is a later synthesis of the sexual license of Saturnalia with the Druidic sacrificial cult.

‪C.     The Origin of Christmas Presents
In pre-Christian Rome, the emperors compelled their most despised citizens to bring offerings and gifts during the Saturnalia (in December) and Kalends (in January).  Later, this ritual expanded to include gift-giving among the general populace.  The Catholic Church gave this custom a Christian flavor by re-rooting it in the supposed gift-giving of Saint Nicholas (see below).

‪D.     The Origin of Santa Claus

‪a.       Nicholas was born in Parara, Turkey in 270 CE and later became Bishop of Myra.  He died in 345 CE on December 6th.  He was only named a saint in the 19th century.

‪b.      Nicholas was among the most senior bishops who convened the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE and created the New Testament.  The text they produced portrayed Jews as “the children of the devil” who sentenced Jesus to death.

‪c.       In 1087, a group of sailors who idolized Nicholas moved his bones from Turkey to a sanctuary in Bari, Italy.  There Nicholas supplanted a female boon-giving deity called The Grandmother, or Pasqua Epiphania, who used to fill the children’s stockings with her gifts.  The Grandmother was ousted from her shrine at Bari, which became the center of the Nicholas cult.  Members of this group gave each other gifts during a pageant they conducted annually on the anniversary of Nicholas’ death, December 6.

‪d.      The Nicholas cult spread north until it was adopted by German and Celtic pagans.  These groups worshipped a pantheon led by Woden –their chief god and the father of Thor, Balder, and Tiw.  Woden had a long, white beard and rode a horse through the heavens one evening each Autumn.  When Nicholas merged with Woden, he shed his Mediterranean appearance, grew a beard, mounted a flying horse, rescheduled his flight for December, and donned heavy winter clothing.

‪e.       In a bid for pagan adherents in Northern Europe, the Catholic Church adopted the Nicholas cult and taught that he did (and they should) distribute gifts on December 25th instead of December 6th.

‪f.        In 1809, the novelist Washington Irving (most famous his The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle) wrote a satire of Dutch culture entitled Knickerbocker History.  The satire refers several times to the white bearded, flying-horse riding Saint Nicholas using his Dutch name, Santa Claus.

‪g.       Dr. Clement Moore, a professor at Union Seminary, read Knickerbocker History, and in 1822 he published a poem based on the character Santa Claus: “Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.  The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in the hope that Saint Nicholas soon would be there…”  Moore innovated by portraying a Santa with eight reindeer who descended through chimneys.

‪h.       The Bavarian illustrator Thomas Nast almost completed the modern picture of Santa Claus.  From 1862 through 1886, based on Moore’s poem, Nast drew more than 2,200 cartoon images of Santa for Harper’s Weekly.  Before Nast, Saint Nicholas had been pictured as everything from a stern looking bishop to a gnome-like figure in a frock.  Nast also gave Santa a home at the North Pole, his workshop filled with elves, and his list of the good and bad children of the world.  All Santa was missing was his red outfit.

‪i.         In 1931, the Coca Cola Corporation contracted the Swedish commercial artist Haddon Sundblom to create a coke-drinking Santa.  Sundblom modeled his Santa on his friend Lou Prentice, chosen for his cheerful, chubby face.  The corporation insisted that Santa’s fur-trimmed suit be bright, Coca Cola red.  And Santa was born – a blend of Christian crusader, pagan god, and commercial idol.

4 reasons to not tell your kids about Santa, Very few people deny the historic reality of Jesus; and though millions of children affirm the existence of Santa, we know well that the minds of children are not capable of differentiating between fantasy and reality–particularly when the parents they are trusting tell them Santa is real.

  1. Santa promotes works righteousness. That might sound harsh, but keep in mind the aforementioned goal. The heart of the gospel is the glorious trade of our sin for Christ’s righteousness. It is a difficult concept to teach because kids are legalistic by nature. It takes a lot of time, prayer, and thoughtful conversations to help them understand that God loves us because of Christ’s good works, not ours.

Then along comes Santa.

He’s jolly, sparkly, magical, and he promises gifts to children who are good.

  1. Santa blurs the lines between fact and fantasy. So precious are the moments when the kids climb onto our laps for a Bible story. We talk about Jesus and how He lived a perfect life and died for our sins. We talk about the mighty power of God who created the world, parted the Red Sea, and closed the mouths of lions. They listen intently.

And they believe what we tell them

They trust us implicitly. We must want so dearly lead them in the truth.” If we throw Santa into the mix of “true” stories, what will they think later when they find out Santa is not real? How about Noah’s ark? How about the ten plagues? How about that Jesus guy who was kind of like a religious magician? We want the categories of true and fantasy to be clearly divided. Characters don’t get to jump back and forth from one category to the other.

  1. Santa is a type of god. think about it. He is omnipotent (all powerful – makes toys, rides a magical sleigh, goes up and down chimneys). He is omnipresent (everywhere at once – how else could he deliver the presents?). He is omniscient (all knowing – he knows who is bad and who is good). He is eternal. He is perfect. He is the whole package. I can’t think of another mythical creature that encapsulates so many characteristics reserved for God alone. When we describe God to our kids I don’t want them thinking, “Oh yeah, kind of like Santa.” No. God is not like anybody. We want to keep it that way.
  1. It’s hard to compete with Santa. Who cares about a baby in a manger when there’s a huge man in a shiny red coat throwing presents and candy around like it’s going out of style? Kids spend the entire Christmas season looking for signs of Santa. They write him letters. They bake him cookies. And that’s just the kids. Playing make-believe takes a lot of work for us grown-ups. We are on the other end of it trying to hide the evidence and figure out how to field all of their questions. All the time and energy we put into keeping up the Santa myth could be spent focusing on Christ’s birth.

Some parents call the Santa myth a lie while others call it pretending. I’m going to call it a huge deception. Kids ask questions all the time and we should answer them truthfully.

So where does that leave us with Santa? He’s everywhere we go. We can’t exactly hide from him. And we don’t want to. We treat Santa like any other part of life. We explain him. We use him as an opportunity to teach our kids how to think. We don’t want them to run and hide in fear or to venture out on their own to find the answers their parents wouldn’t give them. We have open and honest conversations about it.

What difference does it make?

The Bible gives us no reason—and certainly no instruction—to support the myths and fables of Christmas and Santa Claus. They are tied to the ways of this world and contrary to the ways of Christ and His holy truth. “Do not learn the way of the Gentiles,” God tells us (Jeremiah:10:1 Hear the word that the Lord speaks to you, O Israel! This is what the Lord says:“Do not act like the other nations, who try to read their future in the stars.Do not be afraid of their predictions, even though other nations are terrified by them.Their ways are futile and foolish. They cut down a tree, and a craftsman carves an idol.They decorate it with gold and silver and then fasten it securely with hammer and nails so it won’t fall over.).

Professing Christians should examine the background of the Christmas holiday symbols and stop telling their children that Santa Claus and his elves, reindeer and Christmas gift-giving are connected with Jesus Christ. Emphatically they are not!

God hates lying! “These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:16 The Lord hates six things;in fact, seven are detestable to Him:17 arrogant eyes, a lying tongue,hands that shed innocent blood,18 a heart that plots wicked schemes, feet eager to run to evil,19 a lying witness who gives false testimony, and one who stirs up trouble among brothers.).

Christ reveals that Satan the devil is the father of lies (John:8:44

44 You are of your father the Devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and has not stood in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of liars.)

Parents should tell their children the truth about God and this world’s contrary and confusing ways. If we don’t, we only perpetuate the notion that it is acceptable for parents to lie to their children!

Can a Christian promote a pagan holiday and its symbols as something that God or Christ has approved? Let’s see what God thinks about people using customs and practices rooted in false religion to worship Him and His Son. We find His views clearly expressed in both the Old and New Testament.

God specifically commands His people not to do what early church leaders did when they incorporated idolatrous practices and relabeled them Christian. Before the Israelites entered the Promised Land, God gave them a stern warning: Deuteronomy:12:29 “When the Lord your God annihilates the nations before you, which you are entering to take possession of, and you drive them out and live in their land, 30 be careful not to be ensnared by their ways after they have been destroyed before you. Do not inquire about their gods, asking, ‘How did these nations worship their gods? I’ll also do the same.’ 31 You must not do the same to the Lord your God, because they practice every detestable thing, which the Lord hates, for their gods. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. 32 You must be careful to do everything I command you; do not add anything to it or take anything away from it.

Many centuries later the apostle Paul traveled to and raised up churches in many gentile cities. To the members of the Church of God in Corinth, a city steeped in idolatry, Paul wrote: “What fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?

“For you are the temple of the living God . . . Therefore ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you’ . . . Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 6:16 And what agreement does God’s sanctuary have with idols? For we are the sanctuary of the living God, as God said: I will dwell among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be My people.17 Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord; do not touch any unclean thing, and I will welcome you.18 I will be a Father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to Me, says the Lord Almighty; 7:1 Therefore, dear friends, since we have such promises, let us cleanse ourselves from every impurity of the flesh and spirit, completing our sanctification[a] in the fear of God.).

Instead of allowing members to rename and celebrate customs associated with false gods, Paul’s instructions were clear: They were to have nothing to do with them. He similarly told Athenians who were steeped in idolatry, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts:17:30 “Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent,).

God clearly forbids adopting pagan worship days and customs to worship Him. Jesus Christ plainly tells us that “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.).
We cannot honor God in truth with false practices adopted from the worship of nonexistent gods.

Jesus said: “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Mark:7:6-7He answered them, “Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites, as it is written: These people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.They worship Me in vain,teaching as doctrines the commands of men. Disregarding the command of God, you keep the tradition of men.” He also said to them, “You completely invalidate God’s command in order to maintain your tradition!). With God no substitutes are acceptable! It makes no difference that Christians mean well when they observe Christmas. God is not pleased.

Almighty God, who made us, preserves us and gives us eternal life, has made His will in this matter known to you through His Word, the Bible. Will you honor God or follow the traditions of

Hearing the Voice of God

Samuel heard the voice of God, but did not recognize it until he was instructed by Eli (1 Samuel 3:1–10). Gideon had a physical revelation from God, and he still doubted what he had heard to the point of asking for a sign, not once, but three times (Judges 6:17–22,36–40). When we are listening for God’s voice, how can we know that He is the one speaking? First of all, we have something that Gideon and Samuel did not. We have the complete Bible, the inspired Word of God, to read, study, and meditate on. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17). When we have a question about a certain topic or decision in our lives, we should see what the Bible has to say about it. God will never lead us contrary to what He has taught in His Word (Titus 1:2).

To hear God’s voice we must belong to God. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). Those who hear God’s voice are those who belong to Him—those who have been saved by His grace through faith in the Lord Jesus. These are the sheep who hear and recognize His voice, because they know Him as their Shepherd. If we are to recognize God’s voice, we must belong to Him.

We hear His voice when we spend time in Bible study and quiet contemplation of His Word. The more time we spend intimately with God and His Word, the easier it is to recognize His voice and His leading in our lives. Employees at a bank are trained to recognize counterfeits by studying genuine money so closely that it is easy to spot a fake. We should be so familiar with God’s Word that when someone speaks error to us, it is clear that it is not of God.

While God couldspeak audibly to people today, He speaks primarily through His written Word. Sometimes God’s leading can come through the Holy Spirit, through our consciences, through circumstances, and through the exhortations of other people. By comparing what we hear to the truth of Scripture, we can learn to recognize God’s voice.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that we can train our ear to recognize the voice of God above all the noise. “But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14). It is by practicing, by reason of use, that we are able to discern whether what we hear is of God, our flesh, or the Devil.

Isaiah 30:21 says, “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” Whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.”

So God will speak, and you can hear His voice, but you must be careful — especially when you are a young Christian — that you objectively confirm that you are following the Holy Spirit and not another voice. Our own flesh can scream pretty loud (especially when we are under pressure, or we want something very badly). And the Devil is the father of lies — he is the great deceiver.

So how can we know whether we’re hearing the voice of God? The Bible gives us seven basic keys or filters through which every possible leading should be judged. We are to carefully examine the thoughts and intentions of our hearts — and the words of godly people who may have influence on us by their words and actions — through the use of these seven keys:

  • Scripture: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (II Timothy 3:16-17).
  • The Holy Spirit speaking to our heart: “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, and everyone his brother, saying, ‘know the Lord,’ for all will know Me, from the least to the greatest of them” (Hebrews 8:10-11).
  • The Prophetic (word of knowledge, word of wisdom, personal prophecy): “Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good” (I Thessalonians 5:19-21).
  • Godly counsel: “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14).
  • Confirmation: “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed” (Matthew 18:16).
  • The peace of God: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful” (Colossians 3:15).
  • Circumstances/Timing: “After these things he (Paul) left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. He came to them, and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working; for by trade they were tent-makers” (Acts 18:1-3 — this relationship between Paul, Aquila and Priscilla — which happened as a result of circumstances — became one of the most important strategic partnerships in the book of Acts).

Many times the Lord will confirm His direction to us through three, four or more of these keys — especially when we are in the process of making an important, life-changing decision.

The Case for Tongues and the Holy Spirit

  • Two Essential Truths About the Holy SpiritThere are two truths about the Holy Spirit that we need to have clear from the beginning.
    • The first truth is that the Holy Spirit is a person not an impersonal force.
    • The second truth is that the Holy Spirit is God not a creation of God.
    1. The Holy Spirit Is a Person

    The most important passage to support the first truth is John 14–16. At least three things in these chapters confirm that Jesus thinks of the Holy Spirit as a person not a mere force.

    1) Jesus calls him “another Counselor/Helper” in 14:16, “I will pray the Father and he will give you another Counselor to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth” (14:26; John15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

    ; John16:Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.). When Jesus calls him a Helper/Counselor or Comforter, he treats him as a person not a force. And when he calls him “another Counselor,” he means, “He will be a counselor like me.” The Holy Spirit is a counselor like Jesus is—he is a person.

     

    Charismatic and Pentecostal, Full Gospel churches are noted for their preaching emphasis on the “works” of the Holy Ghost. Yet it is obvious that most Spirit-filled Christians are not doing what they were taught or if they were ever taught: Living in the power (“dunamis” Acts 1:8) of the Holy Spirit and the “…greater works…” of Jesus, John 14:12. There is a dire need today for a balanced emphasis on the Person, along with the “works” of the Third Person in the GodHead:

    We have to learn a balanced emphasis on the Holy Spirit:

    a. I Corinthians 12:4-6 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

    1.  The Father operates the powers.
    2.  The Son administrates (ministers) the authority.
    3.  The Holy Spirit manifests the power.
    4. not everyone gets the gifts.

    The limited “emphasis” on the Holy Spirit indicates that Full Gospel churches implement the Baptism in the Holy Ghost and enter into the experience, but do not, as a rule, practice the lifestyle as set forth in the Book of Acts.

    1. If one does not go beyond the “experience” of being baptized in the Holy Ghost, into a relationship with the Holy Ghost, he will soon slide back into nominal Christianity. He will go:
    2. From exuberant joy, to an attitude of nonchalance.
    3. From elated worship experience, to just enduring church services.
    4. From enthusiastic witnessing, to just holding a creed.
    5. The church must move past the dramatic “experience” of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit into a regular, intimate and real relationship with the Person of the Holy Ghost, so we can live with power, New Testament Christianity.
    6. This is NOT the norm in Full Gospel churches today for several reasons:
    7. The Person of the Holy Ghost and how to have a relationship with Him is not properly emphasized.
    8. The reason the Person of the Holy Spirit is not taught, is because of a deficit in our theology and thus in our doctrine.
    9. It is implied by current teaching about the Holy Spirit that He is an “influence,” a “power” or even just an “attitude.” He is looked upon as a Christian “tool.” Little or no emphasis being made of His “Godness” much less His real Person
    10. The reason His Person is not regarded or understood, is because He is not really seen in the Triune GOD, who He IS!
    11. The church today is so limited in the knowledge and understanding of the Trinity, that:
      •  They are ill at ease or embarrassed to refer to the Holy Ghost as “God” in their conversation.
      •  Their praying remains confused. In trying to relate to the God(Head), they little know or understand the place of the Trinity in their prayer life. They feel guilty of Tritheism.
      •  To consider the worship the Holy Ghost as God causes guilt, for they feel they are taking reverence away from the Father and/or the Son.
  • Jesus says in Acts 1:5 and 8 that baptism in the Spirit means, “You shall receive power . . . and you shall be my witnesses.” This is an experience of boldness and confidence and victory over sin. A Christian without power is a Christian who needs a baptism in the Holy Spirit. I am aware that in 1 Corinthians 12:13 Paul says that baptism in the Spirit is an act of God by which we become a part of the body of Christ at conversion, so that in his terminology all genuine converts have been baptized in the Spirit.

  • I was told multiple times “Brother if you don’t learn how to speak in tongues your will never have a powerful prayer life” My answer was always “What Verse?” But I have a couple for them….
  • James 5:15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
  • 1 Peter 3:Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
  • 1Peter 3:10 For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit;11 let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
  • 1 Peter 4:The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers

Well what about tongues and being baptized in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues?

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
The Greek word  for power here is “Dunamis” it is the power for performing miracles, moral power and excellence of soul, power to overcome sin.
Ephesians 5:18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, The scripture here is present tense meaning to continually be filled. Baptism of the spirit is not a one time thing.
There are false teachings out there popular within the charismatic Pentecostal movement saying “the evidence of being baptized in the holy spirit is speaking in tongues.” Or gibberish as I would like to say.

Nowhere then, and this is very important, nowhere does the Bible teach that the gift of tongues is anything other than human languages. If you have a question about that, all you need to do is to go back to Acts 2:4, “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other languages, it’s the word language, they speak with other languages, as the Holy Spirit was giving them utterance.”

Notice that they didn’t have to learn how to do it? Somebody didn’t sit them down in a chair and say, “Empty your mind and start talking in unintelligible syllables.” No, the Spirit gave them utterance and they began to speak and what did they speak? It’s very clear, “The multitude came together,” Acts 2: At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers.They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee, and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages! Here we are—Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, 10 Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabs. And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!”

Acts 2:6, “They were bewildered, they were from everywhere, by the way, “They were each hearing them speak in his own language.” It wasn’t doubletalk, it wasn’t gibberish, it wasn’t angel talk, it wasn’t celestial speech, it was just different languages.

It is very clear it was language. The word in Acts 2 is glossa, it means language. They were hearing people speak in their own language. That’s all; it wasn’t some angel talk, some gibberish, some secret ecstatic language, some nonsense talk. Then it says also they were hearing in their own dialektos, dialects, that also we find used in Acts chapter 2. So there were unbelievers present at Pentecost hearing God’s message in their own languages and their own local dialects, not ecstatic gibberish.