There are several references in the New Testament to public prayers that are unacceptable, and it is true that Jesus condemned the Pharisees’ manner of praying. But Jesus Himself prayed out loud on occasion (see John 17), as did the apostles (Acts 8:15; 16:25; 20:36). Acts 1:14 says, “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” Then in verse 24, the apostles prayed together to choose someone to fill Judas’ spot among the twelve. They were clearly praying together and out loud. So, the sin was not in the public nature of the prayer or the fact that people could hear it.
In Luke 18:10–14, Jesus gives this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Notice that the tax collector also prayed aloud, but his prayer was from a humble heart, and God accepted it. The sin of the Pharisees was not public prayer but a haughty spirit.
Later, Jesus says, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation” (Luke 20:46–47). Here the sin is not the audible nature of the prayer but its pretentiousness. Jesus condemns the hypocrisy of pretending to have a relationship with God while oppressing the very people He loves.
Then in Matthew 6:5, Jesus says, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” Again, Jesus is not condemning the fact that people prayed aloud, but that they were putting on a public display for their own benefit. Their motive—to be seen of men—was the problem. Such prayer is not real prayer, but empty words meant for the ears of other people (Hebrews 10:22). Proverbs 15:29 says, “The LORD is far from the wicked but he hears the prayer of the righteous.”
In Ephesians 5:20, Paul instructs the church to “give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Communal prayer is one way a local church worships God and encourages one another. What Jesus condemns is arrogance and hypocrisy. For someone who is clearly disobedient to God to lead a public prayer as though he or she had much to brag about is the kind of hypocrisy that Jesus denounced. To use public prayer as a means of showing off or impressing others is wrong. But sincere prayer from a humble heart is always welcomed by God and can be an encouragement to those who hear it (Jeremiah 19:12; Psalm 51:17).
 Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
“Biblical times” covers a broad section of history’s timeline, since Bible history spans several thousand years and a number of cultures. Through those years and in those cultures, betrothal traditions varied. However, some elements of betrothal were consistent throughout.
“Engagements” in Bible times, like those in modern-day Western countries, were heterosexual relationships preliminary to marriage. Then, as now, the engagement period gave the bride time to prepare for her new role, to gather personal belongings, to adjust relationships with parents, siblings, and friends, and in some cases to become better acquainted with her fiancé. The groom used the engagement period for similar matters, including completing the house in which he would raise his family.
Arranged marriages were common in Bible times, and it was possible that the bride and groom might not even know each other until they met at the wedding ceremony. If the parents arranged the marriage while the bride, the groom, or both were too young for marriage, a much longer betrothal would ensue. What seems strange to modern Westerners is that neither sexual attraction nor love was considered a necessary prelude to engagement or marriage. Parents who arranged a marriage for their children assumed that love and affection would grow out of the intimate acquaintance and sexual bonding that naturally takes place in a marriage. This mindset helps explain why Ephesians 5:25–33 commands Christian husbands to love their wives and Christian wives to respect their husbands. Such love and respect grew after the wedding and was not necessarily required beforehand.
In modern Western culture, there is a clear distinction between betrothal/engagement and marriage. In the cultures of Bible times, the distinction was much less definitive. Betrothal in most eras of Bible history involved two families in a formal contract, and that contract was as binding as marriage itself. Betrothal then was more of a business transaction between two families than a personal, romantic choice. Dowry or bride price agreements were included, so that a broken engagement required repayment of the dowry. After betrothal, all that remained were three matters: the wedding celebration, the bride’s move into the groom’s house, and the consummation of the marriage.
The best-known example of betrothal is that of Jesus’ mother, Mary, and her fiancé, Joseph. When Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant, and before he understood the miraculous nature of the conception, he thought that Mary had violated her betrothal, which was as binding as a marriage contract. At first, Joseph believed that his only recourse was to divorce her, or “put her away.” Matthew records the account: “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly” (Matthew 1:18–19). Matthew says that Mary was “pledged to be married,” but he also calls Joseph “her husband.” The fact that a “divorce” was required to break the betrothal shows that their premarital contract was legally binding. If, even during the betrothal period, Mary had been sexually intimate with someone other than Joseph, she would have been guilty of adultery.
 Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
We all have a desire to love and be loved. We experience different levels of love from parents, siblings, friends, and others. But most of us also want to find that special someone we can share a deeper level of love with. Finding true love can seem incredibly difficult, and it’s often hard to understand why. A big question to consider first is, “what is my definition of true love?” Understanding what we mean by “true love” can help us see what we’re really seeking and why or why not it’s working.
The world tosses around the word love very loosely. Love is often associated with intense feelings that, in truth, are self-centered and noncommittal. In so many movies and TV shows, we see characters who follow their hormones and have sex before marriage. When “love” is shallowly rooted in pleasant emotions or physical feelings, it turns off as easily as it was turned on. Now, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to experience good emotions toward the person we love; however, if that is the foundation of the relationship, the relationship is in trouble. If the kind of “love” we see demonstrated in today’s sex-saturated culture is what we’re looking for, no wonder it seems difficult to find; it’s not true love we’re after but an experience that, by nature, can’t last for long.
The Bible gives a much different picture of love. True love is of God—in fact, Heislove (1 John 4:8)—and He’s the One who put the need to love and be loved in us. Therefore, understanding His design for love is crucial. True love, according to the Bible, is rooted in sacrifice, commitment, and an impulse to benefit the loved one (see John 15:3). God’s love for us took Him to the cross. We know for certain that Jesus was not experiencing “happy” emotions on His way to the cross (Luke 22:42–44). The Bible describes our relationship to Jesus as that of a bride and bridegroom (Matthew 9:15; Ephesians 5:32). True romantic love is designed to lead to and grow within a marriage commitment (Genesis 2:24) and should be rooted in sacrifice (Ephesians 5:22, 25–28).
Any number of things could make finding true love, according to God’s design, difficult. Here we will focus on a few big obstacles that we face:
Thinking there is only one “right” person for us. This is a lie that can keep us fearful that we’re settling for less than the best. Waiting for one’s perfect “soul mate” to show up can be a long wait. Whomever we choose to marry becomes the “right” one for us, because we’ve made a lifetime commitment to that person. The Bible has narrowed the field: our true love must be a believer who is living for the Lord (2 Corinthians 6:14–15); beyond that, God will provide wisdom and discernment (James 1:5). Wise, godly people who know us well can also provide guidance in finding true love.
Thinking that a person will or can fulfill us. Only God can truly fulfill us, so we don’t have to find romantic love to have a sense of fulfillment! None of us are perfect, and to expect another imperfect human being to meet every need is unrealistic, unhealthy, and can only lead to disappointment.
Not being willing to change or grow. It’s easy to imagine the kind of person we would love to be in love with, but how much effort do we expend in becoming that kind of person ourselves? We all have our own issues that we must address with God’s help in order to be the kind of people He desires us to be. It can be tempting to think that finding true love will magically solve those issues. But being in a close relationship with someone will not fix our problems; it is more likely to expose them more. This can be a rewarding part of the relationship, as iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17), if we are willing to change and grow. If we’re unwilling to change, the relationship will be strained and could eventually be destroyed. This does not mean that every personal issue must be dealt with before we get married. Rather, we should get into the practice of asking God to show us what things need to be cleaned out of our lives (Psalm 139:23). As we become the people God wants us to be, we will be better suited for whatever relationships are in store.
Thinking it’s too late to find true love. Finding true love and getting married is an important step and not to be taken lightly. A cautious step is better than a quick and reckless one. Three times, the Song of Solomon warns, “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires” (Song of Solomon 2:7; 3:5; 8:4). God’s timing is always best.
We know that God cares about our desire to find true love. When we fully surrender that desire to Him, we release the burden of trying to make true love happen ourselves (Matthew 11:29–30).
Love is an essential quality of God, and He shows us in the Bible how real, true love works. Redefining love or trying to find it outside of God’s design is asking for frustration and disillusionment. Surrendering our desires to God, submitting to His will, and finding our fulfillment in Him are the keys to finding true love. “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).
 Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
This is the second post in a short blog series on the life of Joseph. Click here to read part one.
It sounds strange, but even in prison Joseph experienced the Lord’s blessing. His administrative skills were noticed by the warden, and soon he was placed in charge of all prison operations. Joseph was so competent and efficient that “the chief jailer did not supervise anything under Joseph’s charge because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made to prosper” (Genesis 39:23).
After some royal intrigue, Pharaoh’s cupbearer and chief baker arrived at the prison. Whatever the nature of their crimes, the baker and the cupbearer were put in prison to await Pharaoh’s verdict.
One night, each man had a dream so troubling and extraordinary that they were still upset the next day. When Joseph asked the cause of their consternation, each recounted his dream. In response, Joseph correctly interpreted each dream—a life-changing message of restoration for the cupbearer and a life-ending message of condemnation for the baker.
The Genesis account makes it clear that God was the one who gave the men their dreams and gave Joseph the accurate interpretations. Like Daniel centuries later, Joseph knew that he had no natural ability to tell the future (Daniel 2:27–30). The Lord revealed the true interpretation so that His power might be displayed and His purposes fulfilled.
After interpreting the cupbearer’s dream, Joseph specifically asked the man not to forget about him:
Keep me in mind when it goes well with you, and please do me a kindness by mentioning me to Pharaoh and get me out of this house. For I was in fact kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing that they should have put me into the dungeon. (Genesis 40:14–15)
Twice before, Joseph had been unjustly treated by other people: first, by his own brothers and then by Potiphar’s wife. This time he entrusted himself to Pharaoh’s cupbearer. And again, he would be let down. The cupbearer was indeed restored to Pharaoh’s service, but he was indifferent to Joseph’s plight and “forgot him” (Genesis 40:23).
But God had not forgotten or abandoned him. Nor would the Lord allow the cupbearer’s forgetfulness to last indefinitely. The time was coming when Pharaoh would need someone who could interpret dreams. Right on cue, in the unfolding of this divinely ordained drama, the cupbearer would remember his extraordinary prison experience. God’s plan for Joseph was coming together exactly as He intended.
One night Pharaoh awoke in a cold sweat, startled by the most vivid and terrible nightmare he had ever experienced. In his dream, Pharaoh found himself on the banks of the Nile River, with seven beautiful, healthy cows feeding in a meadow nearby. The scene was peaceful and serene. Suddenly, like something from a horror movie, seven skinny cows rushed into the field, attacked the fat cows, and ate them! Even after devouring the fat cows, the skinny cows remained as ugly and gaunt as before. The frightening images were enough to wake Pharaoh from his sleep. Later that night, a second nightmare repeated the same shocking pattern, except instead of cows, seven plump heads of grain were gobbled up by seven thin, withered heads.
The next day, the king was deeply troubled. He was even more disturbed when none of his magicians or wise men could interpret the dream. The alarming situation was enough to jog the cupbearer’s poor memory. Pharaoh wasted no time in securing Joseph’s release. He was given a change of clothes and a quick shave, and was rushed into Pharaoh’s presence.
After Pharaoh recounted his dream, the Lord revealed its meaning through Joseph. Both dreams depicted the same future reality—there would be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. If the Egyptians were to be ready for the coming catastrophe, they would have to begin storing up resources immediately. Moreover, a man with administrative skill and managerial experience would be needed to organize the collection and storage effort.
Clearly, God had orchestrated Joseph’s past experiences and trials for that moment. If his brothers had not sold him into slavery, he would not have been brought down to Egypt. If Potiphar had not purchased him from the slave market, he would not have gained the experience he needed to manage people and commodities within an Egyptian context. If he had not been falsely accused and sent to prison, he would not have interpreted the cupbearer’s dream. And if that had not happened, he would not have been summoned by the Pharaoh on this divinely appointed day. His responsibilities in Potiphar’s house and in the jailhouse prepared him for his new role in Pharaoh’s house.
The Lord had overseen all those events to bring him to this one moment—when Joseph would be ready to organize a national food drive, saving millions from starvation. Pharaoh recognized God’s hand on Joseph, and immediately knew the former prisoner should run the food-gathering operations for his empire.
Joseph’s life is an important reminder for each of us: There are no accidents. As the Author of history, the Lord orchestrates all events to bring about His will. In triumph as well as tragedy, He directs our steps to put us where and when He wants us for His sovereign purposes. And while we may not experience the radical ups and downs of Joseph’s life, we can rest in the knowledge that even the most insignificant event is a divine appointment in the hands of the Lord.
That truth is dramatically displayed in Joseph’s story. In one day, his fortunes had been completely reversed. That morning, he woke up in his prison cell. By evening, he went to sleep in the palace. Thirteen years earlier, he came to Egypt as a lowly slave, but now, at the age of thirty, he had become the second-most-powerful ruler in the land. None of it was coincidence—the Lord was in control at every turn, and His sovereign plan was not yet fully revealed.
Undoubtedly, even at this time of exaltation, Joseph still wondered about his father and his brothers back in Canaan. What would they think if they could see him now? And what of the dreams God had given him when he was still at home? The Lord had revealed to him the meaning of other people’s visions. But what about his own?
It would be several years before the Lord would make His true purposes known to Joseph. Next time we’ll look at the conclusion of the story, and just how crucial a part Joseph played in God’s sovereign plans.
(Adapted from Twelve Unlikely Heroes.)
Available online at: http://www.gty.org/resources/Blog/B140528
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Yesterday, we looked into some baseline biblical facts about the nature of sanctification. We saw, first, that sanctification is a fundamentally internal and supernatural work. And so true holiness of heart is not something that we can accomplish directly in ourselves. Instead we learned, secondly, that sanctification is a sovereign work of the Spirit of God. The Scriptures everywhere attribute that work to Him.
But while it’s unmistakable that the Spirit is the sovereign agent of sanctification, that fact in no way contradicts the reality that He effects this transformation through the use of means which the believer must appropriate. God has ordained that the Spirit accomplish this glorious work through means. So when Scripture commands us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, it is commanding us to make diligent use of the means the Spirit employs in effecting our holiness.
Today, I want to look into what Scripture has to say about five of those means of sanctification—five means which we can appropriate, and, by doing so, put ourselves in the way of the Spirit’s sovereign, sanctifying work.
Yesterday marked the 450th anniversary of the death of John Calvin. Here are nine things you should know about the French theologian and Reformer.
The Coming Of A New Dark Age
“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” 2 Thessalonians 2:3,4
When the Christian church was hit by a hostile takeover in 325AD by Constantine of Rome, it disappeared for the next 1,200+ years into the shroud of pagan Roman Catholicism. We call that period of time the Dark Ages.
The Church that Jesus Christ died for and was entrusted to the Apostle Paul did not reemerge until the time of John Wycliffe and the Reformation. We call this time period The Enlightenment. In 2014, the LGBT Mafia is, for different reason and for a different outcome, attempting the same type of hostile takeover.
Step One: Rewriting The Scriptures
If the LGBT is to be successful, they first must neutralize all those pesky scriptures – Old and New Testaments – which condemn sodomy between men and lesbianism between women. Its kind of hard to sit in the pews and feel comfortable with the bible telling you your lifestyle is an abomination before a righteous and holy God. So they have been hard at work, publishing bible translations (perversions) which remove the offending passages. Bibles like the Queen James Bible aim to meet this need. Its authors say this:
“The Queen James Bible resolves any homophobic interpretations of the Bible, but the Bible is still filled with inequality and even contradiction that we have not addressed,” the web site notes. “No Bible is perfect, including this one. We wanted to make a book filled with the word of God that nobody could use to incorrectly condemn God’s LGBT children, and we succeeded.”
Authors like Matthew Vines, already a queer celebrity, has written “God and the Gay Christian” which seeks to completely rewrite the historic biblical position against homosexuality. Book publishers who fear the wrath of being labeled as “homophobic” by the LGBT Mafia, are publishing books like these which are lapped up by a powerless, Laodicean church rendered impotent by a decade of cotton candy preaching from the like of Joel Osteen and others. Because of the spiritual deadness that exists, these tactics have been surprisingly effective. Just as Obama labels all those who oppose him and his Marxist politics as “racists”, the LGBT label all those who oppose their queer lifestyle as “hate speech”, which coincidentally, is a crime. The LGBT Mafia is ruthless when they attack, just ask Phil Robertson or the Benham Brothers.
“For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.” Romans 1:26.27
Step Two: Infiltrate The Churches
A website called GayChurch.org has been compiling facts and figures of the number of churches and denominations that now offer a LGBT-friendly service, and we found this numbers to be quite revealing. Note the following taken from their website
- Another trend that has continued is the number of independent Catholic churches now surpasses the number of Roman Catholic parishes that are brave enough to publically pronounce their affirming stance. The latter is hardly surprising though, given the Vatican’s ongoing negative policy toward the gay and lesbian community. Hopefully we will begin to see this stance soften under Pope Frances.
- The five denominations of United Church of Christ, Episcopal, Lutheran ELCA, Presbyterian, and United Methodist account for 4,623 of the gay-friendly churches listed, which is close to 70% of the directory. The only change from 2012 being that the United Church of Christ has moved slightly ahead of the Episcopal churches to be the most prolific gay affirming denomination. I see this trend continuing through 2014 and beyond.
And look at what they feel is the main reason for their success:
- I believe the gay marriage initiatives throughout this country and the world is a key indicator that major progress has taken place. Religious beliefs, unfortunately, are one of the major reasons why prejudice has been allowed to continue against the gay and lesbian community for so long. Indeed, it was religious dogma that gave ‘validity’ to allowing prejudice to exist in the first place. In the same manner, I believe that opening church doors, hearts, and minds will in turn, be the vehicle that helps break down these same walls. I am constantly reminded in my heart that this movement is as much to heal the Body of Christ herself (i.e. the church as a whole) – as it is for us in the gay and lesbian community.
Step Three: Using Gay Marriage As The Battering Ram
Obama’s legacy, whether it will be finished in this term or his third one, will be centered around 3 mains things that he managed to pull off. Socialized Medicine, granting Illegal Aliens illegal citizenship, and Gay Marriage. Obama works so hard on promoting gay marriage, you would think he was getting a commission on the marriage licenses. The LGBT Mafia is very smart, they know that they need to ram this down our throats and sell it in order pass the rest of their agenda. And on this point, they have been astonishingly successful.
Nearly every major Fortune 500 company – including Walt Disney – is on-board with promoting a sodomite lifestyle. At the Magic Kingdom, it is paraded in front of children, and if you object you’re a homophobe.
The bible says that in Revelation 3, the last church before the Rapture – Laodicea – will be cold, dead, lifeless and powerless. The only thing they have an interest in is money and material wealth. In 2 Thessalonians, it talks about a great “falling away” which also will happen. In fact, both these things are happening right now, and because of that, this “hostile takeover” attempt by the LGBT Mafia will be successful. Bible believers will be marginalized, neutralized and either hauled off to a prison cell or driven out of town on a rail.
We live in a great and dark age, and are watching the slow but steady fall of the Christian Church. But there is a ray of Hope is all this, and that’s the Rapture promised in Titus 2:13 and 1 Corinthians 15. And after we go, the rabid, ungodly hordes of the LGBT and others who preyed upon the Church will be left alone to have the empty shell that will remain. It will be a “form of Godliness”, but without any of the power of it. It will culminate in the apostate “whore of Babylon” church system, led by the Vatican, which the bible talks about in Revelation 17 & 18.
So, to the LGBT Mafia, we simply say this: “…but this is your hour, and the power of darkness”. Luke 22:53
The post The 3 Step Plan By The LGBT Mafia To Destroy The Christian Church appeared first on Now The End Begins.
Why the Catholic (and Emerging Church) “Eucharist” Does Not Line Up With Scripture
The Catholic Church teaches that once a Catholic priest has consecrated the wafer of bread during Communion, the wafer turns into the literal and real body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ.1 Therefore, the Communion Host is no longer bread but Jesus, under the appearance of bread and is therefore worthy of adoration and worship. The Catholic Catechism states succinctly:
In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.”2
The Church and the world have a great need for Eucharistic worship. Jesus awaits us in this sacrament of love. Let us not refuse the time to go to meet him in adoration, in contemplation…
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