Praying in Jesus’ Name

And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13).

Many use this verse as a way to convince God that He must answer their prayers since they are praying in Jesus’ Name but Scripture is very clear that, if we pray according to His will, He hears us (1 John 5:14).

God is not obligated to answer every selfish prayer we pray but, as we draw closer to Him, our desire to please Him grows, and that is when our prayers our answered because they are finally in line with His will.

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There are some things that we can pray without wondering if it’s His will. For instance, God’s Word says that He is not willing that any should perish but instead desires that all come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Therefore, we can, in faith, pray for the salvation of our loved ones.

There are times when I feel like it is God’s will to heal a friend or family member. I will then pray wholeheartedly for their healing. Sometimes, even if I’m not sure what God is doing in a person’s life, I will pray for their healing, trusting God to have mercy and hear my plea but knowing that, if He chooses not to answer in the way I desire, He has a greater plan. Faith goes beyond believing my prayer will be answered; it is knowing that God knows what is best and trusting that He is still at work even when I don’t understand.

I have seen God’s hand at work so many times so I suppose it is pretty easy for me to trust the Lord. In spite of what some believe, God still saves, He still heals, He still cares. I don’t know about tomorrow but I know who holds my hand.

Walk in Unity

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! … For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore” (Psalm 133: 1, 3b).

“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:1-4).

Unity. One of the things Jesus prayed for His followers (John 17:11) but one thing I don’t see a lot of today. Since the time of Jesus, God’s children have fought over everything from the core doctrines of the faith to the very petty disagreements. Churches have split over the proper way to baptize or how often to take communion, and what kind of bread and drink should be used when doing so. I really don’t think this is what God intended. Jesus would confront sin but He would not debate people to try to convince them of His views. He didn’t cast off His disciples every time they did something stupid. He understood that God gave Him those followers, and He spent His life teaching them and walking with them.

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Today, we often treat each other as easy come, easy go. Relationships just aren’t that important to us, which I think is very sad since people are the only thing we are taking to Heaven with us.

I realize there are times when you must separate from others but the only time Scripture tells us to cut off others is for immorality. There are also times when you may need to leave a church but there is a Godly way to do it, and it’s not by taking half the church with you.

We need to learn to recognize those whom God has put in our lives and, when we find them, determine to work things out and not let them go. We cannot receive the rebukes and exhortations and, yes, even occasional necessary rebukes if we aren’t in fellowship with others.

If you have cut off a friend over a small disagreement or have left a church with an attitude that affected more than just yourself, you need to repent. If you were part of a singing group that you feel mistreated you and you promptly slandered them upon your departure, you need to go back to those you have talked to and acknowledge your wrongdoing. It’s no wonder that people aren’t flocking to know God when they see His children fighting amongst themselves and tearing each other down. Satan doesn’t have to destroy the Church when the Church is doing a good job of destroying itself.

Was Joseph of Arimathea a Secret Disciple?

I have heard whispers throughout my lifetime as a Christian that hints at the fact that a person can be a Christian yet be a “secret disciple.” The primary example all fingers point to is Joseph of Arimathea, the “secret disciple” which asked for the body of Jesus. Is this true? Does the Bible teach that we can be “secret disciples” of Jesus Christ?

When we read in John 19:39 about Joseph being a disciple but “secretly,” we are not reading a narrative of approval. If we want to know how John felt (underneath the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) about those that “believed” on Jesus but didn’t confess Him openly, we must go to the book of John Chapter 12:42 – 43. It states:

“Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (Emphasis added).

The chief rulers here included those that are typically known as the Sanhedrin, which Joseph was an “honorable” member of (Mark 15:43). What John reveals here is the symptom and the disease. The symptom is that they did not confess Christ before men. Why? Because the disease is that they loved the praise of men MORE than the praise of God. Interesting. Moreover, if you were to consider what John says about Joseph in light of these verses, it is plausible to deduce that he felt the same way when he exposed why Joseph was a “secret disciple” in the first place. It says in John 19:38 that he was a disciple secretly “for fear of the Jews.” If someone is trying to justify that it is possible to be a “secret disciple” because it says so here, they would also have to consider the exposition of the rest of the verse and ask themselves whether or not this is a badge of honor. That is like saying, “Hey, I am proud to be a secret disciple because I’m scared.” While maintaining the position of being a secret disciple, it is inevitable that you would be biblically declaring your sin. Now, even though I have revealed all this, there are some good things that we can learn from Joseph’s mistake despite him being secretive about his belief in Christ.

Let us first consider that Joseph was known as being honorable and having a good reputation (Luke 23:50). Apparently he was also rich (Matt 27:57) and was held to a prominent position in the Sanhedrin (Mark 15:43). It is also worthy to note that his faith in the Old Testament Scripture was genuine as well understanding that he was looking for the Kingdom to be come and be fulfilled (Mark 15:43). Finally, he was also of those among the Sanhedrin that did not consent to the unjust manner of Christ’s trial and death (Luke 23:51). So what we are dealing with here is an individual who was indeed sincere in his dealings, just in his judgments, and desirous to be a disciple of Christ, but he was confronted with what every person who wishes to follow Christ is confronted with – fear of man.

In my book, “Apocity: The Greatest Omission,” I reveal why the sin of not evangelizing (apocity) is caused by fear. Fear is one of the giants that seek to slay us when it comes to our open confession of Christ in any shape or fashion. But can we continually be a fearful “secret disciple” and still be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ? I think the Scriptural answer is no! Here’s why. As we already stated, Joseph is not painted in a positive light when it says that he was secretly a disciple. The Scriptures and history teaches us pretty plainly how one is portrayed when they deny Christ in any fashion. Also, when you read how John portrays Joseph asking for the body of Jesus, it is clear that John is making a parallel. In order for Joseph to ask for the body of Christ, he essentially had to do two things:

  1. He had to forsake his worries concerning what the Jews were going to do and boldly ask for the body of Christ. Some Greek expositors say that Joseph literally had to “summon the courage.” Why? Because he knew that doing this was going to cost him his position, his reputation, and his standing among the Jews.
  2. In forsaking his position as chief priest, he willingly defiled himself with a dead body, even though Leviticus 21 teaches that priests are not to do so.

The only dead bodies priests were allowed to make contact with were the bodies of their immediate relatives (see Lev. 21:1-4). This presents a spiritual illustration that is powerful if you have ears to hear. That being said, we clearly see a bolder Joseph. Although I am speculating by saying this, it seems to me that John was somewhat putting his stamp of approval upon Joseph at this point. It is kind of like saying, “this man, who was once a ‘secret’ (insert sarcasm here) disciple, now boldly and unashamedly asked for the body of our Savior, even though he knew it would cost him everything!” Finally, John points out how even Nicodemus, “who first came to Jesus by night” (John 19:39), is now also putting himself at risk by day! This is what we should exemplify! Not secret discipleship! If you are of the persuasion that you can continually follow Christ secretly, here is my final plea.

quoteWhen someone justifies their apocity (in other words, their reluctance to share their faith in any way) by using Joseph of Arimethea as an example, it should sadden us considering the much happier and bolder ending to this man’s story. When we take the negative aspects of a person’s character in Scripture and we use that as an excuse as to why we can continue in sin, whether apocity or any sin, we miss the mark of what Scripture is teaching us. God’s word shows us our flaws so that His grace can abound, and so His goodness can lead us to repentance. Not only that, it serves as a warning to us to be obedient and NOT make the same mistakes (Romans 15:4). Although in the grand scheme of things, a person who is a professing believer will have seasons of shame, if the Holy Spirit truly resides within them, they can’t but speak the things which they have seen and heard (Acts 4:20). So if you are reading this, and you believe you can be a faithful witness of Jesus Christ “secretly” through fear, I beg you to consider the sin which you are justifying. Do not think that just because Scripture exposes Joseph of Arimethea as being secretive that you can continue in the same fashion. There is no shame in being a Christian. The shame we feel only comes when we refuse to openly declare that we are Christians, knowing that Christ openly bought us, bearing our shame that we deserved.

Special note: I foresee some making an clamorous rebuttal to what I have stated above by revealing the work of those in foreign countries whose work in the gospel in very “secretive.” The problem is context. Those who are “secretive” are so in a difference sense than Joseph of Arimathea. To point out the covert work for the sake of the gospel is not the same as being silent for fear of man. Not only that, shame on those that try to use the work of those who are missionaries overseas as a means to justify our fearful silence in America. It does not compare. Let’s remain steadfast in our witness. It’s one thing to use discretion concerning when to speak the gospel, it is quite another thing to succumb to fear. I pray the Holy Spirit will teach you the difference.

Jesus is Ever Near

The last few weeks, I have been in California, and I have a little over a week until I return home. Although I travel a lot and usually plan a couple week’s vacation here and there, I became homesick this past week. I am thanking God for allowing me to be here and spend some time with friends but I also really miss my family. I didn’t realize I could still experience that feeling at my age. Then again, maybe no one is too old to love their family.

This morning, as I was praying, I thanked God that He is with me no matter where I am at. My earthly family may not be able to be with me every moment of every day but my Heavenly Father is, and I am so grateful. He is the One who gets me through the lonely times of life. No matter how much they try, friends and family can’t fill the void that only God can fill. He provides peace and joy in the midst of homesickness because I know I am where He wants me for now. When it is time for me to go home, I will be equally grateful because I have had a nice break and hopefully encouraged some people along the way.

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Maybe because of my homesickness, God has been so good to especially draw near to me. This morning, as I was praying about what to write, my mind was going in several directions, which I love because it means that God is speaking. If He is speaking to me, I am more confident that He will use my words to speak to you. He is great like that!

The song that is going through my head as I write this is:

Days are filled with sorrow and care
Hearts are lonely and drear
Burdens are lifted at Calvary
Jesus is very near

Dwell on that today and let Jesus comfort your heart. He is there if you’ll reach out to Him.

Dealing With Stress

Stress is a killer. Everyone knows it and yet it is so hard to avoid at least some degree of stress. Although everyone deals with it, I think women tend to have a harder time than men do in keeping their emotions under control as they are surrounded by the high demands of life.

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I am almost finished reading a book called Women and Stress, and it has been an encouraging reminder that I am not the only one who sometimes feels overwhelmed with things. The important thing is learning how to deal with stress. Although we have real issues that affect us, we still must handle them in a Godly manner.

God doesn’t want His children to be stressed out. Life is stressful but He will give grace if you lean on Him. If it’s a very stressful season for you, take time hourly to be quiet and draw near to Him. He is there with His arms open wide no matter how many times you need a shoulder to cry on.

Why this will be the last Starbucks I drink.

imageI don’t make a habit of photographing my food or drinks, and I certainly don’t post them for others to be subjected to, but the cup of Starbucks in this picture is significant because it will be my last.

I shrugged my shoulders as Starbucks bullied small coffee companies (e.g. here and here).

I looked the other way when Starbucks sued small coffee companies (e.g. here and here).

I ignored the fact that Starbucks uses GMO products.

And I rolled my eyes when Starbucks tried to ram race issues down my throat.

But now I discovered something about my favorite coffee chain that is too egregious to look past; too evil to ignore

Continue reading here.