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PASSOVER in the Bible is celebrated as such in most Christian countries – and Easter does not derive from Ishtar

brödPassover is translated ”Easter” – a fact

Each year when it is getting closer to Easter there will always be some native English speakers (I would assume not only Americans) who claim that Christians should not be celebrating this holiday because it is related to paganism (Ishtar) and because Easter bunnies must be involved in the celebration. It is extremely difficult to get them to understand that the Biblical Passover is in fact still called Passover and celebrated as such in most Christian countries. Just because Easter bunnies pop up in America and other English-speaking countries, it does not mean that they do so in all countries. There is no obligation to celebrate the holiday with bunnies, and in fact not even all Americans do. Some call it the Resurrection Day, and that is fine too.

Fortunately there are only a few Americans who believe that English-speaking countries are the center of the world and that the sun revolves around them.

Here are som FACTS about the holiday called Easter in English and Passover elsewhere

  1. The word PASSOVER is found in the Bible. In the KJV the word is found 72 times.
  2. The first time we come across the word it is in relation to the Exodus and the Jewish commemoration of it – where males had to be circumcised before they could participate (Ex. 12:48) and where a proper sacrifice had to be made. Ever since Calvary, the focus of the commemoration has changed from the Exodus to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ – our Passover Lamb – who offered his life for mankind during a Passover holiday. The Jewish Passover was a foreshadowing of the spotless Lamb of God whose blood would cover the sins of those who believe in him, causing God’s judgment to pass over them.
  3. Most Christian countries have continued to have Passover celebrations ever since Calvary, albeit not according to the old Jewish traditions (but with a focus on Calvary). The NAME of this holiday is PASSOVER in most such countries (naturally in their respective language).
  4. Now comes the fact that confuses so many English-speaking Christians: The holiday which is called PASSOVER in most non-English speaking countries, is translated into EASTER in English! We know it is the same holiday because ”Easter” is celebrated at the very same day/weekend as the rest of the Christian world where they call the same holiday ”Passover” (in their respective language). It is therefore not correct to say ”Passover is not Easter”. It is!
  5. The reason for this language difference is due to Tyndale’s choice to use the word ”Ester” in his English Bible translation rather than sticking with the Passover word. John Wycliffe before him (produced the first English Bible in 1382) had translated from the Latin and left the word pascha untranslated and called it pask/paske. The word Ester is Anglo-Saxon and not Babylonian. It was the common word for both Passover and Easter.
  6. Easter/Ester has nothing to do with Astarte (Ishtar in English), and it is not a safe linguistic method to assume that words which might sound alike in the English language are related to each other! You can end up with all sorts of craziness by making such assumptions.
  7.  Just because America and some other countries include Easter bunnies in the holiday, it does not mean that all countries have this pagan element. Sure, there might be other pagan elements involved depending on country, but there is NO OBLIGATION to celebrate the holiday with any such things.
  8. The Bible does not prohibit anyone from celebrating the Passover (Easter) holiday with a focus on the perfect Passover Lamb. Nor does the Bible teach Christians to talk other Christians out of celebrating it.

Even wikipedia says: ”In most European languages the feast called Easter in English is termed by the words for passover in those languages and in the older English versions of the Bible the term Easter was the term used to translate passover.”

Col. 2:16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

Each year at the time of the Passover, children ask their parents why they are celebrating it (see Ex. 12:24-27; Deut. 6:20-23) and that continues to be a wonderful fact even today even if Calvary is the focus rather than Exodus (they are intertwined). Children (and adults) will continue to ask questions such as ”Why are we off from school/work today, and why are all the stores closed?”, ”Why do we celebrate Easter?”, ”What is Good Friday and what happened on the first Good Friday?” Why did Jesus die for the world?”, ”Why did he have to suffer on the cross?”, etc. These questions are often the cause of further discussions about the Bible, and if Christians are present they have a great chance to spread the gospel. Also in secular countries JESUS CHRIST is the focus, and Christian communities do not have to pay a dime to let his name be spread around the country through radio, TV, and other news media. This is done totally free of charge.

Believe it or not, but despite that the name of Jesus Christ is spread freely in so many secular countries during Easter, the Ascension day, Pentecost, Christmas, etc, there are Christians (English-speaking) who are not happy about it! They would prefer that most of these days immediately ceased to exist because they are convinced that they are pagan and that God does not like them. Let us assume for a minute that the Christmas celebration was ”pagan” a few hundred years ago (which is not a fact). Would God really be upset if we eliminated this pagan holiday by placing a Christian holiday in its stead? Would he have preferred if we let the pagan holidays be, and if we avoided new Christian celebrations? Where is that verse in the Bible, where God dislikes seeing Christians commemorating the birth of Jesus, the crucifixion, the resurrection, etc?

Or do they perhaps suggest a scenario which is a total utopia, where Christians gather in churches totally free from all falsehood, where Christianity is spreading  like crazy, etc? Is the best way to reach this goal to get rid of Passover (Easter), Christmas, etc? Would that be the great starting point to reach a higher level? Unfortunately it is quite possible that they will get what they want in the near future when we get closer to a world government, and where eliminating all religious holidays will be one step on the way. In that way Jesus Christ will be an even more forgotten name. Let us be thankful for each year that we have our Christian holidays intact.

Another article about Easter.

Does God predestine people to be non-elect, or do people corrupt themselves?

calvinism 19Is God making people wicked, or are they wicked against his will?

This is a hard question to answer for someone who believes that God forces no one to sin while at the same nothing comes to pass against his will.

Calvinists often speak from the both side of the mouth when they on the one hand claim that God predestines people to become elect or non-elect from the foundation of the world, and on the other hand claim that God forces no one to be wicked. Sometimes they try to blame Adam for people’s ”sinful nature”, but this does not solve the problem since he arrived on the scene after the ”foundation of the world” (and the Bible does not claim we have inherited his sin anyway).

So which one is it? Are people wicked against his will or according to his will? (Any of his wills …) Does God force people to be sinners or not?

Calvinists might suggest that God merely ”passes over” people and leaves them to their own devices, which means that such people will do what their nature urges them to do – which is performing all sorts of evil (like being wicked by default). Although, what choice do they really have? If only one single choice is available to them, and if God determines  to turn them into non-elect (for no apparent reason), must they therefore not become exactly as God has determined? Surely they could not have become elect if God wanted them to be non-elect? Would it not be surprising if someone who God did NOT want to become elect – but rather non-elect – still ended up as elect? That could not possibly happen, right? Again, I can see no other option but one (1) for the victims that were forced to become non-elect. Is not ”forcing” the proper word here?

The Bible tells us that people are separated from him due to their transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). This means that it is when people choose to SIN as they are  spiritually ”dead” and therefore also lost (until they repent, if they ever do). Calvinists often make a similar claim, but do they really mean it?

The whole Calvinistic process:

  1. People go to hell due to their sin. (So long it is fine, but it gets worse …)
  2. Why do they sin? Because they are bound by a sinful nature.
  3. Why are they bound by a sinful nature? Because they are wicked non-elect sinners.
  4. Why are they wicked non-elect? Because God created them as such from the foundation of the world – before they even existed, before they were born and long  before they could sin.
  5. This means that people are not dead due to their sins after all, but due to their bad luck of having been chosen by God to be wicked – with no way to escape from this misfortune.

Again, this Calvinistic process means that sin is NOT the reason for their damnation, but GOD’S CHOICE is. So why do Calvinists so often say that people are lost due to their sin if they do not really mean it? (Sinning would just be a consequence of God’s refusal to let people seek him and do good – from the foundation of the world.) Add to this the Calvinistic idea that 1) God is sovereign in such a way that he micro-manages everything, and 2) nothing comes to pass against his will. This means that if we criticize anything or anyone, we are criticizing God himself who caused it all to happen.

Not all Calvinists would agree that this is a proper understanding of their belief system (but many do agree). Still, they cannot escape from the many contradictions resulting from trying to save Calvinism.

Sinners commit sin against their nature

The Bible teaches that sinners do wicked acts against their nature, and not according to their nature:

Rom. 1:24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.26 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

Once I heard in a podcast where a Calvinist asserted that a person bound by his wicked nature would not choose the right thing (like seeking God). He was then asked by the host ”Could he?”. The Calvinist replied ”He wouldn’t!”. He was asked ”Could he?”. The Calvinist replied ”He wouldn’t!” He was again asked: ”Could he, though?”, and the Calvinist continued to say ”He wouldn’t!”. It is easy to understand why the Calvinist was reluctant to answer the question (which was ”could he?” and not ”would he?”). If a non-elect person not only would not choose the right thing but neither is capable of it (by no fault of his own), the guilt must be placed on someone else but him. Namely on the one who caused this awful dilemma – namely God.

Fortunately this is not the God of the Bible. If people are wicked, it is their own blame and not God’s. God pleaded with his people Israel to do right, just like he pleads with all of us.

Ex. 18:30 Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord God. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.31 Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?32 For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.

People corrupt themselves

God is not the one corrupting people by determining/orchestrating/choosing/forcing/ordaining/predestining people to become wicked sinners before they are even born. The Bible says that man himself is to be blamed for being corrupt and not God. In order for someone to corrupt himself, he must first exist (and have a heart and a brain) in order to make choices. Man does not corrupt himself until he chooses to make sinful actions. Not a single day before.

Gen. 6:12 And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.13 And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.

Deut. 9:12 And the Lord said unto me, Arise, get thee down quickly from hence; for thy people which thou hast brought forth out of Egypt have corrupted themselves; they are quickly turned aside out of the way which I commanded them; they have made them a molten image.

Deut. 32:5 They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation.

Judge 2:19 And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way.

Hosea 9:9 They have deeply corrupted themselves, as in the days of Gibeah: therefore he will remember their iniquity, he will visit their sins.

2 Pet. 2:19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.

2 Pet. 3:16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

Jude 1:10 But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.

God works all things after the counsel of his own will? Eph. 1:11

secret willGod’s will is that man should use his free will and seek him (see Acts 17)

God has a sovereign freedom to accomplish whatever he chooses, like guaranteeing the proper inheritance to the children of God (which are those who are following Jesus). The promise is to those and no one else.

The following verse is a popular Calvinistic proof text, often quoted (by itself) to support the idea that everything under the sun occurs precisely according to God’s plans, down to every single detail:

Eph. 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel  of his own will

The verse of course say no such thing (that God’s will always happens), unless we are talking about his will to give man free will and make man responsible for his own actions. Note that it says ”works” all things and not ”cause” all things … The verse does not say that all thoughts, words and deeds are predestined by God, but it rather explains what God does, in terms of providing wonderful promises through Christ.

Councel in Eph. 1:11 is a translation from the Greek noun βουλή (boulé, Strong’s 1012) and could also be translated deliberate wisdom. This noun derives from the verb βούλομαι (boulomai, Strong’s 1014) and means will, intend, desire or wish. 

Some theologians claim that it is also about God planning and arranging all physical circumstances in order to achieve his exact plans which always take place down to the finest detail. This is something the Bible does not say.

The noun boulé occurs 12 times in the KJV Bible. Examples:

Luke 7:30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.31 And the Lord said, Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like?32 They are like unto children sitting in the marketplace, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept.

Quite clearly God’s counsel can be rejected.

Acts 2:22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: 

If God caused and scripted Calvary in all details, why does the text not say so? Instead we can read that his foreknowledge was involved. Knowing about future events is not the same as causing future events.

Acts 20:27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.28 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.29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

Paul is clearly not a Calvinist since he does not relax and trust that God’s will always happens and that the elect will remain elect (and the non-elect remain non-elect). He warns people with tears night and day because disciples will be drawn away from the gospel. Why does he do that if nothing can go wrong but always turn out as God wants? Paul rather believes the scriptures, and understands that prayers can make a difference!

Acts 27:12 And because the haven was not commodious to winter in, the more part advised to depart thence also, if by any means they might attain to Phenice, and there to winter; which is an haven of Crete, and lieth toward the south west and north west. — 41 And falling into a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the forepart stuck fast, and remained unmoveable, but the hinder part was broken with the violence of the waves.42 And the soldiers’ counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape.

1 Cor. 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.  

Unfortunately Calvinists usually believe that God decrees ”whatsover comes to pass” and are keen to interpret “work all things after the counsel of His will” as though everything pans out exactly as God wills it, both good and bad. That would include God deterministically scripting every murder, rape and abortion that will ever take place! The text, however, must not be read in this sweeping and all-inclusive way. The “all things” refers to all things that God accomplishes in Christ (in a general sense) because this is what the previous verses talk about.

Eph. 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ

Paul provides examples of the above mentioned blessings and promises, which are only meant for those who are IN CHRIST which is the condition for salvation. The eternal purpose is that God’s children, his church will be able to look forward to a guaranteed inheritance waiting for them in the heavenly places. Again, the condition is to be IN CHRIST, and if someone does not endure to the end that person is no longer IN CHRIST and the promises are therefore not tied to him. The ”salvation bus” is predestined to go to heaven and guaranteed to be blessed, but who is in and who remains to the end? That is totally up to us and we know the conditions which are presented to us. Those who are in Christ are considered to be his holy children. The text does not say that the promises are provided with no conditions.

It might be a help to ask oneself what is predestined according to His purpose. In order to get the answer one must of course go back to the previous verses, because a verse can never be read in a vacuum. The answer is again ”the inheritance in Christ! The verse right (v. 12) after says ”That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ”, and v. 13 continues to talk about ”trusting” and ”believing”. It is possible that Paul includes the very first belivers in this sentence, and we should note that ”trusted” is an action that people might choose to do. God will not ”trust” for us or instaed of us. It is rather a condition for salvation. V. 19 says ”the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe. The believers are in Christ – again, the condition.

If I would tell someone about my work and say that ”all things” worked out perfectly fine – maybe even after the counsel of my will – the listener would not assume that I just claimed that every single thing in the entire world worked out absolutely great, and that I have solved all the world’s problems. Neither would the listener assume that I claimed to be the cause of all things that I said took place.

Compare:

Phil. 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Paul is here talking about being content no matter what state he is in (in both good and bad circumstances) and to be able to do the good works which God has prepared for us to do (Eph. 2:10). Paul is not including everything under the sun in ”all things”, but the term must of course be understood in its context. The verse certainly does not say that byall things” you can do all forms of evil and wickedness through God who strengthens you. Similarly, Eph. 1:11 does not say that the “all things” would include evil and wickedness.

All things work out for good for all people  -more than in a general term?free will 3

Paul promises us in Rom. 8 that all things work out together for good to them that LOVE GOD, which of course is a condition for salvation. If Paul had meant that all things work out for good for all people everywhere, including all details from God’s perspective, then he could have skipped the condition of having to love God.

Rom. 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 

In the same chapter Paul explains which conditions that apply for escaping condemnation: 1) You must be IN JESUS, and 2) you must not walk after the flesh but after the Spirit. This is something that WE must make sure to do, and God will not do it for us:

Rom. 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. — 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

He goes on to explain, that if we live according to the flesh (not an obligation), we cannot please God. The solution to the problem is of course to NOT live according to the flesh but after the Spirit:

Rom. 8:5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

Paul explains that we definitely do not have to live after the flesh. The choice is clear; if you live after the flesh you will die, and if you live after the Spirit you will live. Who are the sons of God? Those who have chosen to be led by the Spirit of God. If someone lives after the flesh, he can certainly not blame God for it but only himself. The better option is always to live by the Spirit in order to get life:

Rom. 8:12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

Paul tells us about the same wonderful promises of glorification just as in Eph. 1, but again, only for those who are God’s children who live after the Spirit:

Rom. 8:17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

Paul repeats again that all things work together for good to them that love God. The ”calling” is widespread because we know from the parable of the King’s wedding feast (Matt. 22) that many of those who were called to participate in the feast (they were even on the guest list) declined to go. One person who actually did go to the feast was still thrown out because he had neglected to wear appropriate clothes (his own responsibility). We are justified when we are cleansed from our past sins, and after this point our goal is to be conformed into the image of Jesus which is something to look forward to. We have an assurance in the hope of salvation while on earth, as long as we abide in Jesus of course. Rom. 8:29 is referring to those in v. 28, who love God. Do read about Rom 8:28-30 here.

Rom. 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

God provides provisions and works all things after the counsel of his will, but he does not cause people to act according to some predestined plans. If God forces people to think and act in a certain way, what is the point of judging them for things they cannot possibly avoid?:

1 Cor.10:13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked. He would prefer that they would repent in order to live:

Ez. 18:23 Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?

If someone ends up with an interpretation which makes God the greatest culprit and a lover of sin, this is clearly an erroneous understanding. A religion that blames the sin of all mankind on God is clearly incorrect. We should rather use this verse as a filter:

Ja. 1:13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, NEITHER TEMPTETH HE ANY MAN 

We are requested to not excuse our sin by suggesting ”God made me do it”. God does not tempt anyone, much less causes anyone to sin, but in order to save the philosophy of Calvinism God must be blamed for the sin of all mankind even though it is blasphemy? Calvinists might try to solve the problem with ”it’s a miracle” or ”God’s ways are higher than our ways”, but in that case anyone can introduce contradictions into the Bible and excuse them by saying ”God’s ways are higher than our ways” and ”who are we to question God?”. 

It is a lot safer to agree with the Bible which says that God’s will does not always happen. Yet, he is still in control (does not mean micro management) and all things work out wonderfully for those who love him.

Calvinists and their focus on a sovereign God who must submit to Calvinism

calvinism 38God is sovereign, but what does it mean?

Calvinists have a huge focus on God’s sovereignty, which would not be a bad thing had they not interpreted this unbiblical word in a very unfortunate way.

The Calvinist R.C. Sproul for instance wrote:

”If there is one single molecule in this universe running around loose, totally free of God’s sovereignty, then we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will ever be fulfilled. ”R.C. Sproul.

Also freewillers believe that God IS sovereign but certainly not with the Calvinistic interpretation. God is so sovereign and powerful that he is able to create us in any way he likes, including creating us with free will where we are responsible for our own actions (rather than blaming our shortcomings on God). Or is this too difficult for him? Must he ask someone for permission before he can create us with free will?

While freewillers also believe that God is sovereign, their main focus is rather on God’s holy character and the fact that he does not tempt anyone, much less causes anyone to sin. This means, that if someone suggests that God directly or indirectly makes people sin (or endorses sin in any shape or form), it is clearly a huge misunderstanding and an attack on God’s character. Many would call it blasphemy. The fact that sin does exist is evidence of that God’s will does not always happen, which is quite clear in the pages of the Bible. God is in control of his creation even though he does not act through micro managing human beings.

”Sovereignty” and ”sovereign” are words not found in either the KJV nor the NKJV Bible (except for ”sovereignty” mentioned once in the NKJV but not in relation to God).  ”Sovereignty” is however found in the NIV in a couple of cases where it does not refer to God (Dan 5:18, Dan 7:27) and ”sovereign” is used multiple times referring both to God and others.

It is therefore not incorrect to say that ”sovereignty” and ”sovereign” are not Biblical words, if you exclude modern translations which many Christians are reluctant to use. When Calvinists are told about the lack of these words in the Bible, they usually bring up the trinity and say something like ”The trinity is not mentioned in the Bible either! Does this mean that it’s false?!”. They neglect to notice that the freewiller does not claim that absence of these words in the Bible automatically means that God is therefore not sovereign. What the freewiller does say is that the word must mean defined before we can conclude if it is a correct description of our holy God or not.

What if I asked a Calvinist if he believes that God is sympathetic. Yes, or no? Is he? The Calvinist might say that yes, ”sympathetic” could very well be one of many definitions applicable to God. What if I then said ”See?! Therefore God would never send anyone to hell! That would not be sympathetic at all but truly unkind!”. Then the Calvinist might rightly protest and say that this interpretation does not automatically follow. Of course God could still be sympathetic even though he rightly judges people’s hearts and sends some to hell due to their evil actions and refusal to submit under him. So the Calvinist might admit that God is sympathetic but he certainly does not admit to God being the sort of sympathetic that I propose. What right do I have to define the word ”sympathetic” in such a way? Therein lies the problem.

Non-biblical words must be defined or else you would not know whether you agree with them or not. Who has the authority to define unbiblical words, add them to the Bible with a strict definition tied to them? It is not always a watertight solution to let theologians define such words (even though they are usually right on target). If we truly want to learn and understand God’s true character, it is a lot safer to pay attention to the descriptions and examples which are used in the Bible. Or else anyone can select various unbiblical words, insist on a preferred meaning and add them to the Bible.

Atheists might suggest that if God is all-powerful and sovereign, he should be able to do absolutely everything, including performing logically contradictory ideas such as creating a square circle or even ceasing to be God. This is what one of my daughter’s  science teachers taught his high school science class, with the summary and conclusion that this is proof for God’s insufficiency and therefore non-existence. (For some reason  schools are supposed to be neutral when it comes to religion, but atheism can freely be taught with no consequences?). Although, the God of the Bible never promised to be this sort of omnipotent being who likes to perform ridiculous things – and by the way ”omnipotent” is mentioned once in the KJV Bible (Rev. 19:6) in relation to his reign.

The point is of course that both Calvinist and atheists make the mistake to insist on a certain definition of words which may not even be included in the Bible. They might erroneously assume that everyone sides with their understanding of these words.

Read more about 15 Bible verses Calvinists misinterpret in relation to God’s SOVEREIGN WILL

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked? Jer. 17:9

heart 2The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jer. 17:9 KJV

The book of Jeremiah, just like Job, Isaiah, Ezekiel, etc, contains portions of poetic expressions, parables, hyperboles, prophesies, etc, so we must be careful to not read every verse in a literal way. Some Christians often quote Jer. 17:9 in order to support the idea that we are born in sin (which the verse does not say) and that we are constantly sinning in thoughts, words and deeds. Possibly also that God must separately ”enable” a person to do good or else he is not able to do so. (Many reformed believers think that God for some reason does not enable all people to repent and do good). Nevertheless, it is rather clear that the same chapter (just like many other chapters in the book of Jeremiah) contains a good portion of poetic expressions. If those should not be read in a literal way, why should Jer. 17:9?

Let us read the rest of the same chapter – Jeremiah 17:

17:1 The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars;2 Whilst their children remember their altars and their groves by the green trees upon the high hills.

Is the above literally true? Is the sin of Judah written with a pen of iron and diamond, and literally graven on people’s hearts? Upon the horns of altars?

3 O my mountain in the field, I will give thy substance and all thy treasures to the spoil, and thy high places for sin, throughout all thy borders.4 And thou, even thyself, shalt discontinue from thine heritage that I gave thee; and I will cause thee to serve thine enemies in the land which thou knowest not: for ye have kindled a fire in mine anger, which shall burn for ever.5 Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.

Through poetic expressions we can read above that God is angry due to his own people (Judah) departing from him. This is not the first time they do so and seems to be a recurrent problem in the Old Testament (which makes us understand the description of their heart in Jer. 17:9). As a consequence of Judah’s heart departing from him, God will cause thee to serve thine enemies in the land which thou knowest not”. The better option would of course have been to be obedient to God in order to avoid this unfortunate disaster. The chapter continues to explain what a dreadful future those who depart from him will get:

6 For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.

Notice the poetic language and illustrations which make an important point. The chapter continues to explain why it is a much better option to trust in the Lord.

7 Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.8 For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

Notice the poetic language above. Then comes Jer. 17:9:

9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?10 I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.

The claim that the heart is ”deceitful” and ”desperately wicked”, is a general claim stated right after explaining how Judah had departed from God yet again. It is not hard to watch the TV news and naturally feel like exclaming that ”people are deceitful and desperately wicked”, after seeing constant examples of war, rape, gang rape, pedophilia, Satanism, censorship from the elite, etc. This does not mean that every single person in all parts of the world is always deceitful and wicked – around the clock – and not being able to be anything else but think and do evil.

The answer to the question ”who can know it?” (the heart), is God can! Just like James says in Ja. 2:24 – we are justified by works and not by faith alone – God says here that he will give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings”. The fruit is important for our salvation. See in John 15 where Jesus explains how important it is to remain in him, as a branch in the vine, in order to provide fruit. If the branch no longer produces fruit, it will be broken off and thrown in the fire. If a person does not produce fruit, it is his own fault and God should not be blamed. 

11 As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not; so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.

Notice the poetic language. A more modern English would be: Like a partridge that hatches eggs it did not lay are those who gain riches by unjust means. When their lives are half gone, their riches will desert them, and in the end they will prove to be fools” (NIV). Naturally God warns against it. Still, people end up as fools (naturally against God’s will) by taking things of value not belong to them. There are consequences for bad behavior. 

12 A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary.13 O Lord, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters.

Again, we can see here that it is not a good idea to forsake God and depart from him. They shall be ashamed due to their choice to act against God’s will. However, they shall not literally be ”written in the earth”. 

14 Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise.15 Behold, they say unto me, Where is the word of the Lord? let it come now.16 As for me, I have not hastened from being a pastor to follow thee: neither have I desired the woeful day; thou knowest: that which came out of my lips was right before thee.17 Be not a terror unto me: thou art my hope in the day of evil.

Jeremiah is saying ”I have not run away from being your shepherd” (NIV). Good choice.

18 Let them be confounded that persecute me, but let not me be confounded: let them be dismayed, but let not me be dismayed: bring upon them the day of evil, and destroy them with double destruction.

Since Jeremiah is faithful to God, it is not right for people to persecute him. Yet, some did and Jeremiah is concerned about it and pray to his Lord.

19 Thus said the Lord unto me; Go and stand in the gate of the children of the people, whereby the kings of Judah come in, and by the which they go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem;20 And say unto them, Hear ye the word of the Lord, ye kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that enter in by these gates:21 Thus saith the Lord; Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem;

God gives instructions to Jeremiah and since Jeremiah is a good man, he is likely to obey them. Unlike many of his forefathers!:

22 Neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the sabbath day, neither do ye any work, but hallow ye the sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers.23 But they obeyed not, neither inclined their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear, nor receive instruction.

Above we can see how some of Jeremiah’s forefathers did not obey God. ”they did not listen or pay attention; they were stiff-necked and would not listen or respond to discipline” (NIV). This is clear proof that God’s will does not always happen, because he prefers to give man free will and thus make him responsible for his own actions. God is not the one making people stiff-necked so that they cannot obey him. They are doing this to themselves, to the dismay of God.

24 And it shall come to pass, if ye diligently hearken unto me, saith the Lord, to bring in no burden through the gates of this city on the sabbath day, but hallow the sabbath day, to do no work therein;

25 Then shall there enter into the gates of this city kings and princes sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they, and their princes, the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: and this city shall remain for ever.26 And they shall come from the cities of Judah, and from the places about Jerusalem, and from the land of Benjamin, and from the plain, and from the mountains, and from the south, bringing burnt offerings, and sacrifices, and meat offerings, and incense, and bringing sacrifices of praise, unto the house of the Lord.

So IF Jeremiah will diligently listen to God, many things will turn to the better for the city. It is up to Jeremiah.

27 But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.

If Jeremiah will NOT listen to God and obey him (which clearly is an option since God warns against it), then there will be consequences for the city of Jerusalem. Hopefully Jeremiah will make the better choice.

Harden not your hearts!

In the same book – Jeremiah – we can read:

Jer. 4:4 Circumcise YOURSELVES to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.

We should make sure to not harden our hearts:

Hebr. 3:7 Wherefore as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, 8 HARDEN NOT YOUR HEARTS, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness

Pro 28:13He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.14 Happy is the man that feareth always: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief.

2 Chron 36:11 Zedekiah was one and twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. 12 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD his God, and humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet speaking from the mouth of the LORD.13 And he also rebelled against king Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God: but he stiffened his neck, and hardened his heart from turning unto the LORD God of Israel.

2 Chron. 12:14 And he did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the Lord.

We are wonderfully madeheart

It is clear that we are born wonderfully made (see this article), and we are neither born with deceitful hearts or forced to have deceitful/wicked hearts due to any ”nature” forced upon us against our will:

Ecclesiastes 7:29 Lo, this only have I found, that GOD HATH MADE MAN UPRIGHT; but THEY they have sought out many inventions.

Isaiah 7:16 For BEFORE THE CHILD SHALL KNOW TO REFUSE THE EVIL, AND CHOOSE THE GOOD, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.

Romans 9:11 (For the children being not yet bornNEITHER HAVING DONE ANY GOOD OR EVIL, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)

Isaiah 44:24 Thus saith the Lord, thy redeemer, and he that FORMED THEE FROM THE WOMB, I am the Lord that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself

Zecharia 12:1  The burden of the word of the Lord for Israel, saith the Lord, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and FORMETH THE SPIRIT OF MAN WITHIN HIM.

Genesis 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.—31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.

Biblical examples of bad / unregenerate / spiritually dead people who seek God and do good

acts 17 27We are created to seek and find God

Our reformed friends often claim that we cannot seek God, repent or do good unless God monergistically ”regenerates” us, which is a term that they unfortunately interpret as God making us see and enabling us (actually forcing us) to seek him and come to him. The Bible, however, explains that we are all created to seek and find God, and that he is not far away from any of us:

Acts 17:26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but NOW COMMANDETH ALL MEN EVERY WHERE TO REPENT.  

Every single man (all people) has been given the light, and if we receive him and believe in him, God will give us the power to become the sons of God. It does not say the other way around; that God gives light to some people and gives them power so that they can believe in him.

John 1:9 That was the true Light, WHICH LIGHTETH EVERY MAN THAT COMETH INTO THE WORLD.10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.12 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

Each time an atheist decides to not sin, it is surely a good thing. There are loads of atheists every day who do many good deeds by being helpful to complete strangers without expecting anything in return. This does not mean they are saved, but it shows that we can all do good. Seeking God and repent are good things which bad people are requested to do, and they are created by God to do so. If a person does not repent, the blame must be on him and not on God.

1. The prodigal son

The prodigal son came to his senses while living in deep sin away from his Father. He made a good decision to repent for his sins and return to his Father. He went from being alive, to being dead (due to sin), to being alive again:

Luke 15: 24 For this my son WAS DEAD, and is ALIVE AGAIN; he WAS LOST, and IS FOUND. And they began to be merry.—30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.—32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was DEAD, and is ALIVE AGAIN AGAIN; and was LOST, and is FOUND. 

The prodigal son was clearly dead while living with prostitutes (Luke 15:30). The below verse is a good description of his status and (unless he repented), his future would be corruption – which means spiritual death since it is contrasted with everlasting life:

Gal. 6:8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

2. Rahab, the harlot

Rahab rescued the Joshua’s men, which was a good thing to do. It is quite possible that she decided to rescue these strangers because she was aware of their God who was the God of both heaven and earth – which would include herself. She wanted them to swear by this Lord to return her kindness and letting her and her family stay alive. James says that she was justified by works (she combined faith and good deeds):

Josh. 2:9 And she said unto the men, I know that the Lord hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you.10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed.11 And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.12 Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the Lord, since I have shewed you kindness, that ye will also shew kindness unto my father’s house, and give me a true token:13 And that ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.

Josh. 6:17 And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the Lord: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent.

Ja 2:25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?

3. Barbarian islanders of Malta

Barbarian inhabitants of Malta showed much kindness to Paul and his companions, and showed this compassion for them due to troublesome rain and cold. These islanders were not ”regenerated” because afterwards they thought that Paul was guilty of murder in his past and that he was justly bitten by a viper as a punishment for his past deeds (Acts 28:4).

Acts 28:1 And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita.And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold.

4. Evil fathers

Also evil people can do good to the children (which surely is a good thing), and even give good gifts to them. It is definitely possible to find multiple atheists who are being nothing but kind to their children, and even towards relatives, friends as well as complete strangers. There are even non-believing soldiers at war who have even given their lives for other fighting men.

Luke 11:13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

5. Everyone

Peter asks everyone to repent (that would be both good and bad). If they do so, they shall receive the gift of the holy Ghost. It is not the other way around; that God gives the holy Ghost to certain people and in that way they enabling them (and forcing them) to repent.

Acts 2:38  Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

6. Cornelius was not certainly not a bad person, but before he (and his family and friends) received the holy Spirit he had faith and did good

Cornelius with all his house feared God, and he gave much alms to people and constantly prayed to God. His urgent prayers, fasting and alms-giving were noticed by God who sent an angel to him in a vision. Prior to Peter’s visit to his house Cornelius had collected family members and friends who were all waiting for Peter’s arrival. Peter came and explained that he believed that Cornelius (and maybe his company too since Peter addressed them all) already knew the word of God – the gospel about Jesus Christ. ”— Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)37 That word, I say, ye know”. This means that they had faith, and consequently had good deeds to go with their faith (faith without works is dead) before any of them had received the holy Ghost. 

Acts 10:1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.3 He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius.4 And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. 5 And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter:6 He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.—

22 And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee.—24 And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and he had called together his kinsmen and near friends.

30 And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing,31 And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God.32 Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee.33 Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.34 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.36 The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)37 That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached;38 How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.— 43 To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.46 For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?

8. Saul/Paul

Unlike Cornelius Paul was not a humble person but rather a dangerous pharisee. He saw Jesus in a vision on the way to Damascus, and fortunately he was not disobedient to the call that the vision involved. He obeyed the Lord Jesus and visited Ananias who was a child of God. Not until three days after the vision was Paul filled with the holy Ghost, with Ananias as a tool.

Acts 9:17 And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.

Acts 26:19 Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision

Other examplessin

I can also mention Lydia, who was already a God-fearing and worshipping woman when God opened he heart to attend the things spoken by Paul. (It does not say that God selected Lydia and opened her heart to believe.) She obviously already had the right mind and heart to hear and understand the deeper things of God presented by Paul. It is always a good choice to not be ”a natural man”. 

Acts 16:14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. 

Acts 16:14 and a certain woman, by name Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, worshipping God, was hearing, whose heart the Lord did open to attend to the things spoken by Paul (YLT)

People can also do bad things even though they are fully capable, and expected, to do good.

God expected Cain to rule over sin and naturally understood that he was created with this capacity. Still, Cain slew his brother against God’s will. Cain was already a sinner before this time, since he did not react well do God’s rejection of his offering (which makes one wonder about the condition the fruit since God rejected it).

Gen. 4:4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering:5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fellAnd the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?7 If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.8 And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.

Do read my article about regeneration not preceding faith here.

Pray ye that your flight be not in the winter Matt. 24:20

Matt. 24Prayers make a difference

The first time we can read about people praying to God in the Bible (rather than having a conversation with him in person) is in Gen 4:26:

Gen. 4:26 And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the Lord.

Reformed Christians might pray just as much as other Christians, but the question is why they make this effort considering that they also believe that we are not able to thwart God’s predestined plans no matter what we do (as per Calvinism). They might reply that they pray because God tells them to do so, but what would be the difference if they did not? If all things pan out exactly as God wants, surely we can afford to be extremely relaxed when it comes to praying?

See the verses below. If we are able to cause the preferred season thanks to our prayers, then maybe we are able to influence people to have an open heart for the gospel as well? (Meaning; people are not predestined to be saved or damned from the foundation of the world.) Apparently God has not yet decided which season of the year the flight in question will take place, because Jesus asks us to pray about it. This is evidence that all things are not written in stone, and that we can affect things with our prayers. If we have an active prayer life, we will be stronger spiritually and will be better equipped to escape (and/or endure) hardship which will come to pass in the future:

Matt. 24:15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)16 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:—20 But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day

Luke 21:34 And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.35 For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.

We can pray that we will not enter into temptation, and we will become stronger spiritually if we pray. This is something that we are supposed to do, rather than placing the responsibility on God. Combining prayers with fasting is a good advice, which can also be done alone. However, Paul tells married couples to be united again so that Satan will not be able to tempt them. Again, this is something we are expected to do in order to affect our mind-set and the future.

Matt. 26:41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

1 Cor. 7:5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

We can pray that God will send workers for the great harvest, which means that we can influence both people and God with our prayers:

 Matt. 9:37 Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few;38 Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.

Speaking in tongues is something we should be eager to do (and do not let anyone tell you something else), but it is even better to be able to interpret the tongues. Speaking in tongues is one spiritual gift, and interpreting tongues is another separate one. The best combination is to have both gifts, because then we are able to edify even more people than just ourselves. We can pray about it!:

1 Cor. 14:13 Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.

When we pray, it helps if we believe that God can hear our prayers and that we are able to achieve what we pray and strive for (even if other elements are also involved). Our own faith can affect the outcome, and God will hear the prayer of the righteous. If we live in unrepentant sin, however, it is not certain that God will hear our prayers:

Mark. 11:24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.25 And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.

1 Tim. 2:8 I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

Mark. 5:33 But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.34 And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.

Prov. 15:29 The Lord is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.

Prov. 28:9 He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination .

Dan. 9:4 And I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments;

praying 4When Jesus became man in flesh, he prayed/communicated with his Father God just like we pray to God. Also Jesus can affect things thanks to prayer/communication, which of course is obvious since the whole world was created thanks to the divine words ”Let there be light”:

Luke 6:12 And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.13 And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles

Jesus shows through a parable, that we can definitely affect God with our prayers. Even someone who does not fear God might very well adhere to constant pleadings. This does not mean that God will not listen to us the first time but requires constant pleadings before he does, but the point is that even a bad person might eventually give in for constant crying and pleadings, so would not our Father in heaven even more pay attention to his children’s urgent prayers?:

Luke 18:1 And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;2 Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:3 And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.4 And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;5 Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.6 And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.7 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?8 I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

Jesus taught us how to pray, and he gave us an example. We can pray for the outcome of things, we can give thanks for what we already have (regular food), etc. We can also pray that his will shall be done, which indicates that it is not certain that the best option for all mankind or individuals will always take place. Praying is therefore important tool. Notice the moral sense: If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”

Luke 11:1 And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.2 And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.3 Give us day by day our daily bread.4 And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.5 And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves;6 For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him?7 And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.8 I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.9 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.11 If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

Paul constantly prayed for others, and wanted to be prayed for himself. This is because he knew that prayers can influence things for the better:

Rom. 1:9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers

2 Cor. 13:7 Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates.

Rom. 15:30 Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me;31 That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints;32 That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed.

Phil. 1:18 What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.19 For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,

2 Cor. 1:11 Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.

2 Thess. 3:1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:

Col. 4:Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;3 Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:— 12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.

2 Cor. 8:4 Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.

1 Thess. 3:10 Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?

2 Thess. 1:11 Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power:

2 Tim. 4:16 At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.

Philemon 1:22 But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you.

We can pray that people will receive the Holy Ghost:

Acts 8:14 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:

As believers we can pray that people can get healed. All people will not get healed all the time and live forever (Lazarus, who came back to life thanks to Jesus, eventually died), but if you for instance check the mission by TLR and Torben Søndergaard, Christians indeed have been given the power to heal in the name of Jesus:  

Acts 28:8 And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him.

Ja. 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.17 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.

You cannot expect to fall in a miraculous trance or see visions, unless you spend time in prayer (like Peter, John, Daniel, etc):

praying kidActs 22:17 And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance

The prayers from righteous believers can be seen together with the smoke of incense before God:

Rev. 8:3 And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.4 And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.5 And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.

1 Pet. 3:12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.

God heard the prayers of Zacharia:

Luke 1:5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.—13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.

Cornelius was a righteous God-fearing man, and before he received the holy Ghost, God heard his prayers and saw his works:

Acts 10:30 And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing,31 And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God.

God heard the prayers of Hezekiah and saw his tears. He gave him support and added 15 more years to his life time:

2 King. 20:5 Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the Lord.6 And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.

We can learn a lot from the book of Jonah when it comes to prayer. Even the pagan mariners understood that it was a good idea to pray to God during times of trouble, and  the they and Jonah alike understood that this particular problem occurred due to Jonah’s resistance to God. God has prepared a big fish to swallow up Jonah, but God also heard Jonah’s prayer from the belly of the fish and helped him out. The king of Nineveh also understood the power of prayers, fasting and the importance of a sincere repentance. The attitude of the inhabitants of Nineveh made God change his mind, and he decided to not do what he had previously said he would:

Jonah 1:6 So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.7 And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah.8 Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou?9 And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land.10 Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him. Why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.11 Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous.12 And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them.14 Wherefore they cried unto the Lord, and said, We beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O Lord, hast done as it pleased thee.15 So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging.16 Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord, and made vows.17 Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Jonah 2:1 Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish’s belly,And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.

Jonah 3:6 For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water:8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.

Below an important secret is revealed. We are able to take on the full armour of God – praying included – and this will make our spirits stronger. Notice also that Daniel through fasting and prayers received a special revelation, and how the angel explained to him that although his prayers were heard the first day, the prince of Persia (among the rulers of the darkness of this world …) withstood him for some time. This means that we should not give up since we are not wrestling against flesh and blood but against  invisible powers:

Eph. 6:11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel

Dan. 10:2 In those days I Daniel was mourning three full weeks.I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.—11 And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent. And when he had spoken this word unto me, I stood trembling.12 Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words.13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia.14 Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days