Tag Archives: Acts of the Apostles

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)

Recently a “new born” Christian expressed concern that “everyone” in his church, beginning with the pastor, concluded public prayer with the innocuous phrase “in His name. Amen” instead of “in Jesus’ name.” In his young Christian walk, he had been taught we should always pray in the name of Jesus, but this was not what he was witnessing in his church, and he was offended. I encouraged him to try not to judge because we cannot know the true motives of the person voicing the prayer; that judgment belongs to God, but I also encouraged him to follow through on his conviction, and when he has opportunity to voice a public prayer, to boldly pray in Jesus’ name.

Following my counsel to this young Christian, I thought about what he had said, and I recalled observing the same thing in my own Christian circles. I often hear those who I believe are strong Christians pray publicly – even among other Christians – and close their prayer with the generic “in His name we pray.” Why is that? In whose name are we praying? “His name” could be George, or perhaps Francis of Assisi. Now, I have heard many people pray that way when they are in a “mixed” crowd. Perhaps they do it to be politically correct and not offend someone who does not recognize Jesus as God, but why do it in church or among other Christians?

I am not one who adheres to or promotes special formulas for prayer. The prayer of Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:9-10) is no magic formula – although it was for Bruce Wilkerson. Neither is the so called Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) – more aptly named “the Model Prayer” – something that need not be oft recited. Nor does prayer have to need to be uttered in King James English; God understands modern English perfectly, even coming from a teenager. 🙂

To me, prayer is simply carrying on a conversation with the Creator of the universe. What an awesome privilege we have to do that! Paul encourages us to “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). How does one do that? Well, how do you carry on a conversation with a close friend or relative? How do you talk with your spouse? A conversation with God should be no different, albeit more reverent and respectful – after all, you are speaking to God. I speak to God all day long, and it does not require that I bow my head and close my eyes, or that I voice my prayer audibly. God knows our thoughts (Psalm 139:4), and He cares about every detail of our lives. No one else may care about the terrible traffic you face on your daily commute, but God does, and He doesn’t mind hearing about it. So, prayer isn’t something mystical that need be approached with some magical manipulative formula. Just talk to God!

But there are those occasions when we need to have more than a casual conversation with God. There are needs that come into our lives or the lives of those for whom we care. Perhaps we have a friend or a loved one that is lost and in need of the Savior. Prayer may be needed for some ministry effort. Naturally, God knows about and cares about all of these needs, but He wants us to care about these needs just as He does, and He wants us to talk to Him about those needs. Perhaps He wants us to join Him in the effort to meet those needs, and He will not impose those things on us unless we care about them too. When we talk to Him, He speaks to our hearts as well. But when we pray about these things, Jesus says that we should ask all these things in His name. “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you” (John 15:16, emphasis added). It should be obvious that this is not meant for frivolous requests like: “my house needs a new roof,” or “I need new tires for my truck” or “Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?” (I threw in that last one for those who might remember Janis Joplin. 🙂 ) Notice that Jesus called us for a purpose “that ye should go and bring forth fruit.” “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight” (1 John 3:22, emphasis added). “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us” (1 John 5:14, emphasis added). Part of that will is that we pray in Jesus’ name.

The name of Jesus is powerful when invoked. Following Jesus’ ascension into heaven, the first miracle performed by the Apostles was when Peter healed the lame man at the Temple by praying in the name of Jesus: “Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6, emphasis added). Paul cast a demon out of a young woman by calling on the name of Jesus: “Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the [demonic] spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour” (Acts 16:18, emphasis added). “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Colossians 3:17, emphasis added). “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord [Jesus]” (James 5:14). So powerful is that name of Jesus, that it should not be uttered carelessly. Paul called the Corinthian church on account of an incestuous marriage between a man and his father’s wife – probably his stepmother. Paul instructed the church to withdraw fellowship from the couple if they would not repent and further, “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 5:4-5, emphasis added). Without doubt, these people were saved, but were living in sin that damaged the testimony of Jesus Christ; therefore Paul called for prayer that God would punish them harshly, perhaps even by premature death, rather than have such sin infect the rest of the church (1 Corinthians 5:6). But notice that the power is in the name of Jesus.

So, there is no magic formula for prayer, but if the prayer is of a serious nature, something that requires Divine intervention and something that is in accordance with God’s will, it should be asked in the name of Jesus and not just “in His name,” but “in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.” This is true for all of our petitions to God, but more importantly, when praying publicly where others can hear. You cannot know who is listening to your prayer. “His name” informs the hearer of nothing. They may not know who “He” is. I would further exhort all believers when called on to pray in public in the hearing of a mixed audience, do not be ashamed to invoke the name of Jesus loudly, and boldly.  Recall Jesus’ words: “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38). Pray in Jesus’ name.


Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Gospel, Prayer, Religion, Theology

Near Death


“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)

There seems to be an increased interest in the paranormal these days: crop circles, UFOs, alien abductions, zombies, vampires, etc. Included in these are the reports of “near-death” experiences. This seems particularly to have piqued an interest among Christians due to the Christian predisposition to think about the afterlife, particularly heaven. A new “Christian” movie that has added fuel to this fire takes its title from a book by the same name: Heaven Is For Real by Todd Burpo. This is supposedly a factual account of a little boy who dies in a hospital operating room and goes to heaven and returns to report all kinds of amazing things about his experience there.

A Christian lady concerned about what to make of this phenomenon told me about a nurse friend who told her about near death experiences she has witnessed. “I feel very uncomfortable about this,” she said to me. “It does not seem Scriptural…doesn’t seem to match with what Jesus has taught about death. And so, I’m wondering if these sorts of things are considered ‘false prophets doing great wonders to seduce even the elect.’”

She continued, “Surely it is tempting to hear ‘proof’ that such beauty exists…even to believe that, yes, heaven exists, and Jesus is waiting with outstretched arms when we die. Surely some people might become believers upon hearing such tales…at least, folks that would believe ‘we go to a place of great beauty, bright light, where Jesus is’ when we die. It’s such a comforting picture. But is it Scriptural? Are we to believe in these things?”

I assured her that I share her skepticism about these near death experience reports. Obviously, we cannot judge what another person experiences because only they are privy to that information. The same goes for judging another person’s salvation – only God (and the individual) truly knows the condition of the heart. So, when someone reports a near death experience, we have to take them at their word, because only they and God know what they experienced.

But going back to our example of salvation, we can pretty well guess the state of a person’s salvation because of the kinds of “fruit” they bear. Granted, a person may be putting on a good front leading us to think they are saved – in fact, they may even be fooling themselves – but they are not truly saved. Or the opposite may be true. The person may truly be saved, but are presently living in a temporary “back-slidden” state. Again, only God knows for sure, but we can certainly judge their “acts” and know if those acts, or fruits, are genuine – at least outwardly.

Coming back around to our near death question, except for a very small number of cases, most of these experiences report the very same thing regardless of the spiritual condition of the individual. There have been a few reports of individuals experiencing hell, and they are very thankful that they were “brought back,” but this is the exception rather than the norm.

I viewed a video on the topic recently[1]. For some time now neurologists have been studying near death experiences and to date they have no explanation for this phenomenon. It seems that the only thing they have been able to confirm is that when a patient is clinically dead, all brain activity ceases. They have been unable to determine at what point the patient has the “out-of-body” experience. Is it just before they die or is it when they are revived? They do not know. Yet the patients all seem to report similar experiences: a feeling of warmth, peace, acceptance and unconditional love. So, if all of these “good” experiences are true, regardless of the spiritual state of the individual, that might lead one to conclude that everyone goes to heaven – except for really, really bad people. The question then is how does that line up with what the Bible says?

There are several accounts of resuscitations[2] in the Bible where people died and were brought back to life: the raising of the widow’s son (1 Kings 17:22); the raising of the Shunammite woman’s son (2 Kings 4:33-36); the man raised at Elisha’s tomb (2 Kings 13:21); the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Matthew 9:25); saints raised at the death of Christ (Matthew 27:52); raising of the widow’s son (Luke 7:15); the raising of Lazarus (John 11:43-44); raising of Tabitha by Peter (Acts 9:40-41); and the raising of Eutychus by Paul (Acts 20:9-12). With all of these examples, there exists no record about what the individuals experienced during their time of death. In every instance, the Bible is silent.

There is one instance where one died and then returned to tell about it. That was Paul in Acts 14:19-20. He later relates his experience in 2 Corinthians 12:2-7:

I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, … such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man … How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. (vv. 2-4)

So, Paul experienced something, but he was not allowed to speak about it. This evidence from Scripture calls into question all the reports we are hearing today. Is it possible that there is a hidden agenda there? – one that says, “What you believe makes no difference. If you are a reasonably good person, you will go to heaven.” That is the devil’s oldest lie: “Yea, hath God said …? … Ye shall not surely die” (Genesis 1:3, 4).

Jesus spoke more about hell than He spoke of heaven. In Luke 16:19-31, He relays the account of a rich man who died and woke up in Hades and likewise, poor, sickly Lazarus died “and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom” (v. 22). Here we are given a peek into the afterlife from which no one returns (generally speaking). Two very different places are depicted and two very different experiences are presented. Jesus related this “story” as an actual account. Considering His divine nature, He had firsthand knowledge of this event, which clearly shows us that not everyone goes to the same place or experiences the same thing. Something else worth noting in this account is that nowhere does Jesus describe the rich man as being a particularly (what we would consider) a “bad” person. From Jesus’ account, we gather that the rich man was self-absorbed, narcissistic, self-centered, selfish, and unconcerned with the plight of the poor beggar that sat at his gate, but it’s not as if he were a mass murderer, or anything like that. He may have been a good father, husband and provider. He was evidently concerned about his loved ones (vv. 27-28). Had we known him, we probably would not have considered him to be a bad person. Those who mourned him at his funeral probably thought he ascended to “Abraham’s bosom,” but that certainly was not the case.

So, the bottom line is that we cannot know with certainty what these people have experienced, but we are right to employ a healthy dose of skepticism. There is no biblical basis for these reports, and science offers no satisfactory explanations. The fact that most experiences reported are positive contradicts Jesus’ very words that “strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14). The truth is that most people will NOT have a good experience. If these experiences are genuine, we should expect more bad experiences than good, but that is not what is being reported.

Of greater importance to anyone reading these words is the assurance and security of a place prepared for you by the Savior. He says:

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:1-3)

God promises: “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). Jesus adds to that: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near” (Isaiah 55:6).


[1] Documentary: “The Day I Died” http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/day-i-died/

[2] Note that resuscitation is not the same as resurrection. In the former case, the individual eventually dies again. In the latter case, the individual remains alive for ever. Jesus is the “first fruits” of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23). Because He lives, we can be assured of eternal life.

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The Rising Debt

US Debt Clock as of 5:15 PM, EST, October 6, 2013

US Debt Clock as of 5:15 PM, EST, October 6, 2013

… forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. (Matthew 6:12)

Our national debt is currently at $16.9 Trillion, and rising at the rate of approximately $21,412 per second. This is an incomprehensible figure, especially considering that the median household income is about $50,000 per year. That is equal to about 2.5 seconds on the national debt clock. We hear those trillion dollar figures being thrown around as if nothing by the liberal media and left-wing politicians on a daily basis, and most listeners (if they are even listening) have no concept of the implications of such a horrific burden on our people and future generations. Those who are paying attention are screaming, “Stop! You’re going the wrong way! Stop!” But no one seems to be listening. It would be nice if someone with a heavily reinforced check book would come along and say, “Here, let me take care of that for you.”

As great as the national debt is, there is a debt that we owe that is far greater than that. It is the debt of sin that every individual owes for offending Holy God. Indeed, if we could imagine the most righteous person imaginable, if that person had told the smallest “white lie,” that sin alone would far exceed the level of the national debt. In fact, as one 19th Century pastor, William Elbert Munsey, put it, when we offend an infinitely Holy God, we have offended Him infinitely, so that our debt is equally infinite.

Many ignorantly justify their own righteousness by comparing themselves to someone who is more sinful. For instance, a mass murderer might say, “Yes, I killed six people, but I’m not as bad as Hitler; he killed over six million!” That is an extreme example, I know, but it makes the point. Those who judge themselves by those who are greater sinners than themselves hold a false sense of security that when they stand before God, their good will outweigh the bad, and they will qualify for entry into heaven. Nothing could be further from the truth. John says of the end of the age, at the great white throne judgment, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their worksAnd whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:12-13, 15). Very simply, if your name is not written in the book of life, then you will be judged “according to your works” as recorded in the “books.” One of those “books,” I believe, is the Bible, the Word of God, which is the standard by which we are all measured. According to this passage, those whose names are not written in the book of life have the record of their works measured by the standard of God’s Word, and apparently, no one meets the Standard. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one … For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:10, 23).

The good news is that someone with unlimited resources has stepped up and said, “Here, let me take care of that for you.” His name is Jesus Christ. “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:4-6). This offer comes to us at no cost to us. It is a free gift that cannot be earned, bought or repaid (Ephesians 2:8-9). As with any gift, it must be accepted, and no one is under any obligation to take it. Why would anyone reject such a gift? “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12).

If you cannot pay off the national debt, what makes you think you can pay off your personal sin debt to God? He will pay it off for you, if you will let Him. If your name is not written in the book of life, or if you are unsure of where you stand, you need to:

  1. Repent of your sins (Mark 1:15; Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19; Acts 8:22)
  2. Believe, i.e., put your faith and trust, in Him (John 3:16-18; John 3:36; John 8:24; John 20:30-31; Romans 10:9; Hebrews 11:6; 1 John 3:23; 1 John 5:13)
  3. Ask forgiveness for your sin and receive His salvation (Matthew 7:7; Matthew 21:22; Romans 5:17; Ephesians 2:8; Hebrews 9:15; 1 John 1:9)
  4. Baptism should follow as it is an outward and visible profession of faith in, obedience to, and identification with Christ as Lord (Acts 2:38)
  5. Join the fellowship of a Bible believing church (Hebrews 10:23-25)

The debt is paid in full. All that remains is for you to accept the free gift that is offered by the One to whom the debt is owed and the only One that has the authority to cancel the debt. The choice is yours.

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Seeing, They See Not


And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. (Acts 9:7)

Saul was a religious fanatic. Following his approving support of the stoning of the first recorded Christian martyr, Stephan (Acts 7:58), he “yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem” (Acts 9:1-2). Saul was ready to bring in the followers of “The Way” either dead or alive, and he would have given his life for the extermination of these infidels – those who had turned away from the religion of their fathers. Such zeal is nothing strange to us these days, unless you are a Christian; Christians do not normally behave in this manner.

But God had something else in mind for Saul, and He would turn Saul’s zeal for his religion into zeal for the Person of Jesus Christ. Saul was a hard-case, and getting his attention would require more than witnessing the death of a faithful martyr. So Jesus met him in person on his mission to exterminate the believers that were in Damascus. “And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” (Acts 9:3-4). Saul was soon to learn that his mission against The Way was really a mission against God Himself as Jesus directly identified Himself with His church: “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest” (v. 5). The very God whom he thought he was serving and whom he wanted to please struck Saul blind (v. 8), and put him in “time-out” for three days (v. 9) to give him time to reflect on his experience. Saul’s life was dramatically changed following this, so much so that “after … many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him” (v. 23). He was even given a new name, Paul, by which he is most commonly known (Acts 13:9). Everything about Paul changed following this encounter with the risen Christ.

The conversion and transformation of Paul was miraculous indeed, but what about the others who had accompanied Paul on the same mission? They also heard a voice but saw no man. The encounter apparently had some impact on them because they “stood speechless,” but for them, nothing changed. In fact, they may have been the very ones that turned on him, and “took counsel to kill him.” When we think about it, it really should not come as a surprise. Jesus said, concerning the Jewish religious leaders, “Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive” (Matthew 13:13-14).

Today, the Gospel is preached though every possible medium available – even this simple blog – and though it is heard by countless millions, it has no effect on most. Jesus said that “strait [small] is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14). Seeing, they see not, and hearing, they hear not.

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Savage Wolves

Wolf in Disguise


For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.  (Acts 20:29)

Paul was not speaking prophetically when he uttered these words to the leaders of the Ephesian church.  He was very much aware of the work of the Judaizers who tried to make Jewish legalism a prerequisite for salvation.  Then there were the Gnostics who denied the humanity of Christ, and who taught that the flesh was inherently evil and would eventually perish, but the spirit was good and would eventually be saved.  Therefore, they could sin in the flesh without harming the spirit.

Yes, Paul was familiar with these wolves that went about attacking the flock.  He knew that the Ephesians would not be immune to their attacks unless they were prepared in advance for the onslaught that was sure to come.  Therefore he warned the Ephesian leaders, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (v. 28).  Paul knew that the best defense against false teachers was a well-fed “church of God” that was well nourished on the Word of God.  The psalmist expressed it this way: “How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103).

Apparently the Ephesians learned their lesson well.  As our Lord addresses the Ephesian church, He offers these words of praise:  “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted” (Revelation 2:2-3).  However, in their zeal to combat false apostles, they left their first love (Revelation 2:4).  We need to learn how to defend against the savage wolves, but we should never lose focus of our first love, the Lord Jesus Christ.


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