Prayer – WHY?

Prayer is effective

Why should I bother to pray? Why should you bother to pray? As the title of this blog says, prayer is effective.  It works. But first let’s back up a bit and ask another question. What is prayer? Before we can be convinced that prayer works we need to know what prayer is and how to pray. Maybe I should have done this blog before the series on The Lord’s Prayer but we can catch up.

So, what is prayer? The dictionary lists prayer as a noun and defines it as “a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship.” Asking for help or thanking Him for His help are certainly two aspects of prayer that the Bible tells us to practice. But prayer is so much more than this.

God is our Father and we should talk to Him as we would our earthly fathers. I told this to someone many years ago and very quickly was told that his earthly father wasn’t someone that anyone would want to talk to. I know, some of us don’t have a good relationship with our earthly fathers for various reasons. I was actually in that same position myself so I understand. But our Heavenly Father is GOOD! We need to talk to Him frequently just as we would talk to any loved one. Cultivate the habit of prayer. One way to do this is to realize that every thought, word and deed is in His view. God sees and knows all about us, so why not address all of our thoughts toward Him? (This is also a good way to help keep your thoughts from straying into area they should not stray.) Live a life of prayer! 1Thessalonians 5:16 says, “pray without ceasing.” I believe this can be done as we begin to understand that through the Holy Spirit God lives in us and He knows what we think and feel.

He also understands. Jesus was born an infant, became a toddler, a teenager and a young adult just like all of us. He lived with peer pressure, changing hormones and adolescence. Yes, Jesus is (was) God, but He was also fully man. And Jesus prayed! In fact, He prayer a lot. Jesus believed that prayer worked and He modeled that belief for us.

One thing that Jesus made very clear was that prayer was not like rubbing a magic lamp to get whatever you wanted. He said, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, then you will ask for anything you wish, and you shall have it.” (John 15:7 GNB) Notice that He said “if you remain in me AND MY WORDS REMAIN IN YOU…” Living a life of prayer as I described above will help us to keep His words in us. We cannot expect that Jesus will make us millionaires and help us to live a life of frivolous debauchery. While some believers are blessed with finances it is their gifting to finance the kingdom work. They live a life of prayer and it shows. (Here I need to say that not all who call themselves Christians are actually true believers. They live a material life seeking money and fame and they use Jesus name in vain. “By their fruits you will know them”.)

Remaining in Jesus words isn’t that hard. Spend time reading the Bible and praying. Your efforts will be rewarded. If you are sincere Jesus will guide your readings, give you insight and understanding. So talk to the Father today. You don’t need fancy words or formats any more than you would need to talk to your earthly dad. God WANTS to hear from you and you NEED to talk to Him.

I will continue this study on prayer but don’t wait for that. So start praying and reading the Bible now. Most people find that as they spend more time talking to God that they will find more meaning and richness in the Word. God speaks to us through His Word and the Holy Spirit will certainly direct you to the readings you need.

© 2022 Tim Lehmann. All rights reserved.

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Faith

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. …And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:1, 6 ESV)

 

Definition of faith: (Merriam – Webster dictionary)

  1. allegiance to duty or a person LOYALTY
  2. belief and trust in and loyalty to God
  3. firm belief in something for which there is no proof
  4. something that is believed especially with strong conviction

 

I am challenged from time to time to defend my position that Jesus is the only Way and even that God actually exists. These people want proof. Part of me understands this. I am, by nature, skeptical. I want to know why you tell me what you do.

So what is my defense and proof of God and Jesus? I have none! I do not try to prove His existence. I know He lives. I talk with Him daily. (If you think that labels me insane, so be it.) To quote the song “He lives within my heart.” The Holy Spirit dwells in me and as a result I have faith that God lives.

I could spend hours going over various archaeological finds that back up the Bible, citing miraculous healing and seemingly impossible rescues, all attributed to God. All of this is great and I love to hear about them. They bolster my faith, but they are not the reason for my faith.   The reason for my faith is that God put it in my heart to believe. If I think that I was capable of developing enough faith to be saved then I could boast about this as a work that I did. But it wasn’t me. In Ephesians we are told that it is definitely God’s doing that we have the faith to believe. In Romans we are told that carnal man (those not born again) cannot, by themselves, submit to God’s law and that in the flesh we cannot please God.

God loves the world (that is the humans that He created) so much that He sent Jesus to pay an unbelievable debt that we are unable pay. This debt of sin and the penalty has been lifted for all people who believe. God gives everyone the faith. All they have to do is ask. The Holy Spirit draws people to Jesus. That is one of His purposes. The gift God gives, that is faith, is available to every person on earth.

If we accept God’s gift, we can experience the blessings and ultimate joy that goes along with the new birth. This is true Grace. If we demand proof, though, remember, “without faith, it is impossible to please God.”

 

 

© 2019 Tim Lehmann. All rights reserved.

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Works

For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. (Ephesians 5:5 ESV)

So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:17 ESV)

If someone were to take these two verses, by two separate writers, apart from their context, they could make a great basis for a works based religion. And that has been done many times over the centuries. It seems, at first glance, that both Paul and James are teaching that we must have a certain kind of works in order to get into the Kingdom. But, as a friend of mine likes to say, “what does the rest of the Bible say?”

There are many places where Paul expounds on salvation by grace alone. He is very persistent in letting his readers know that it is not what we can do but what Jesus already did.

Throughout the Old Testament the prophets proclaimed God’s demand for perfect sacrifices. The lambs, bulls and doves had to be spotless. The Israelites were to give their best to the Master. So, with this in mind, how could any flawed human be a fitting sacrifice? We can’t. Romans 3:23 tells us, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We cannot do enough good deeds, or works, to attain salvation. Ever.

So what’s up with the devotion verses for today? It’s not a matter of attaining salvation. It is a matter of living out your salvation. If you are saved, that is “born again,” (John 3:3) then you will have the Holy Spirit living in you. Before you were saved you lived for yourself. Your mind was not set on the things above. Then Jesus cleansed you. He made you a new person. This new person is now filled with the Holy Spirit and longs to please his new Master. (If this is not the case with you then I strongly advise you to get with a Bible believing preacher and get yourself right with God.)

This does not mean that we are perfect. We are still human and still stumble, slip and even fall from time to time. The difference is that when we do sin the Holy Spirit prompts us into repentance. We know that we have done wrong. Not that we have done something that will hurt us, but we have done something that Jesus does not approve of. So the verses for today are not a works salvation. But if you are saved, than you will have the works. Your behavior will reflect the Holy Spirit inside you.

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I Believe…

  1. The Bible is the inspired Word of God. (2 Timothy 3.15-17)
  2. There is one God, evident as three separate persons, yet divinely one. (Deut. 6.4)
  3. Man is born into sin, lives in sin, and will die in sin unless he accepts Jesus as his savior. (Romans 5.12, 6.23)
  4. Jesus died so that man can be saved. It is a gift of God, not something man earned. (Romans 6.23, 10.13)
  5. There are two ordinances of the Church that Jesus commanded His followers to observe.
    1. Water baptism. (Matthew 28.19)
    2. The Lord’s Supper or Communion. (Luke 22.19)
  6. In the filling and indwelling of the Holy Spirit as a separate act of God. (Acts 2.4)
  7. Believers are to witness and make disciples. (Matthew 28.19)
  8. In healing of the body, mind and spirit. Jesus suffered that we might be made whole. (Isaiah 53.5,
  9. That Jesus will return again for His followers. That believers will be raised from the dead and those alive at His return will be taken up to heaven. (1Thes. 4.16)
  10. That those who refuse to accept Jesus are condemned to an eternity in a literal hell. God has not condemned them, but by their refusal of Jesus they have condemned themselves. (Luke 16. 19-31, John 3.18)
  11. In the promise of a new heaven and a new earth where righteousness dwells. (2Peter 3.13)

The Holy Spirit—Nature, Work and Gifts

The Holy Spirit is God

Recognition of the Holy Spirit as a member of the Godhead is a major part of our doctrine. This recognition is tied to the doctrine of the Trinity that says that God is one God, expressed as three distinct persons; God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
The scripture clearly shows the Holy Spirit to be a multifaceted, dynamic part of the Godhead. It is critical for us to understand Him, as much as anyone can under God.
Throughout the Bible it is made clear that the Holy Spirit is God due to the attributes that are ascribed to Him. (Being God, it would be inappropriate to call the Holy Spirit “it” as some do. We refer to Him as Him.)

Omnipotence

The Holy Spirit is omnipotent. This means that He is “all-powerful”. Only God can legitimately make that claim. “You send out your Spirit, and they are created. You renew the face of the earth.”. (Psalm 104.30)

Omnipresence

The Holy Spirit is omnipresent or everywhere at all times. Again, an attribute of God. David asked,  “Where can I go to get away from your Spirit?” then he listed some places that would be very hard to for him to reach such as heaven, hell and the depths of the sea. In all of these places God was there. David knew that the Holy Spirit was God.  (Psalm 139.7)

Omniscience

That the Holy Spirit is all-knowing or omniscient is brought out in a number of scriptures. The apostle Paul was inspired to write “the Spirit searches everything, especially the deep things of God.” (1 Corinthians 2.10) In John 14.26 Jesus said that the Comforter (another name for the Holy Spirit) will teach us all things and bring to our recall all that we need to know.

Unchanging

In 1 Corinthians chapter 12 we are shown many abilities that the Holy Spirit bestows on believers, yet it is brought out that this is the same Spirit. The Spirit’s immutability is compared to that of Jesus in these verses. The same Jesus of whom it is written He is “the same yesterday, today and forever.”

Eternal

And finally, the Holy Spirit is eternal. The writer of Hebrews uses a word in the Greek that is full of deep meaning. He says that the Holy Spirit is not just never ending, but never beginning, never ending and always continuing to exist. (Hebrews 9.14)

The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament

The very first mention of the Holy Spirit is in Genesis chapter one. In the second verse it says, “The Spirit of God was hovering over the water.” This is a good way to introduce Himself. The original words used here could well be translated as “the life of God.”  Often when a person dies it is said that his spirit has left. This is common from Abraham and throughout the Bible.
While He is so much more than that, as we will see later, He is also the life of God. (Please take this only as a metaphor. As humans it is not really possible for us to understand the make-up of God, so we use metaphors and examples.) There are many instances in the Old Testament that show the Holy Spirit’s work and power.
Later, also in Genesis, Pharaoh needed some answers so he was searching for “a man who has God’s Spirit in him”. (Genesis 41.38) Even then we see the Holy Spirit as One who answers the needs of God’s people. In this case Joseph was the man and we all know the story of how he saved the Jewish people by following the Holy Spirit’s leadership.

The Holy Spirit in the New Testament

Most of us have read where the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus when He was baptized and how the Holy Spirit came upon the believers in the upper room on the day of Pentecost. These are just two of the many times the Holy Spirit is mentioned in the New Testament.  The apostle Paul said that “Every scripture passage is inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3.16). God, in the form of the Holy Spirit, is the source of that inspiration.  Since the only scripture Paul had was the Old Testament, this is a New Testament look at the work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament.
In his famous Pentecost sermon, Peter said that we, as believers, would receive the Holy Spirit as a gift. Jesus promised that this would happen, even as it was foretold by the prophet Joel in the Old Testament (Joel 2.28).
The gift of the Holy Spirit is God’s presence in His people today, to give us the courage and ability to spread His Word to the world. Without this, we would be weak and ineffective. Too many times the world opposes the Word of God, often quite violently. We need God’s power to see us through.
A number of Christian denominations claim that some of the outward manifestations of the Holy Spirit, most notably tongues, are at best for the first century. They claim that passed away with the apostles. I would like to point out that God, not the apostles, gave believers the gift. Also there are many recordings of people other than the apostles who spoke in tongues as an evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit.
I will cite one example here, but there are many. Peter was lead by the Spirit to the home of a Gentile named Cornelius.  He witnesses to them and all of the household was saved.  Acts 10 verses 44—47 records that all who heard Peter were filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages. No one could deny that even Gentiles were being filled. God used this filling to show that everyone could  be saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit.
It is the same today.  God uses the outward manifestations of the Holy Spirit to show that everyone, without regard to race, gender or past history, can be saved and filled with the Holy Spirit.
Over the next months we will take a closer look tongues, healing and some of the other manifestations of the Holy Spirit.

Purpose of the gifts

Some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are listed by the apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians. These are the commonly accepted gifts, and I hesitate to add to this list. On the other hand I don’t want to say that God doesn’t gift as He chooses. We need to recognize that God is Sovereign, and if He chooses to present a gift that is needed for a specific situation that is not in this list, but meets the definition of spiritual gifts, then we need to accept that as His prerogative.
Before we list the gifts, I want to point out a few things about all spiritual gifts. Paul said that, “There are different spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. There are different ways of serving, and yet the same Lord is served. There are different types of work to do, but the same God produces every gift in every person.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6) Spiritual gifts ALWAYS point to and glorify Jesus. The deceiver can duplicate and counterfeit gifts, and often does, but look at who gets the glory.
The giver of gifts
All true spiritual gifts come from God. We are all part of the Body of Christ, and it is Jesus Christ Who sent the Holy Spirit. (John 16.17) In 1 Corinthians 12.15-22 Paul explains that as one body we have many parts (or functions) and that even though these parts are different they are all needed.  Each gift is given as needed in the church.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit

The gifts of the Spirit are listed as words of wisdom, words of knowledge,  courageous faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues, and interpretation of tongues. As soon as he lists these he says,  “There is only one Spirit who does all these things by giving what God wants to give to each person.” (1 Corinthians 12.11) There are many gifts, but only one gift giver. And He gives “what God wants” to individuals. Not what we think we need.

Using the gifts

We  will take a closer look at the use of the individual gifts later, but there are two overriding concerns that cannot be said too many times.
“There are different ways of serving, and yet the same Lord is served.” and “ Everything must be done in a proper and orderly way.“ (1 Corinthians 12.6 and 14.40) The focus of the Holy Spirit is to bring glory to Jesus. This is not done when we are in total disarray. The desire to serve one another is good, but we need to remember that the goal is to glorify Jesus. He is glorified when we serve others, even as He served.  God wants us to use the gifts He gives us to glorify His Son as we are serving others.