Gift (4)


Possibly even more than Romans 3:23, the passage we last dealt with in this blog, Romans 6:23 sounds like anything but good news. That is partly because we have been bombarded all of our lives with the nonsense of self-esteem. You are important! You are wonderful! You are flawless! You are a winner! You can be anything you want to be!

But as helpful as that thinking may be, it strikes many of us as unreal, a little like the Easter Bunny. We were on the ball team where everyone got a meaningless trophy when we didn't win a game. Or we told a friend she had a beautiful hat, when we were just too shocked to speak the truth.

But in His love God speaks reality to our hearts. Romans 6:23 reads,

“For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Let me point out two crucial things this verse teaches.

1. This verse brings us to the Desperate Need of the Gospel.

The world promises wages in its counterfeit currency. The true wages of living our lives as if we didn’t need God are lostness and death without Him.

So you have cancer. You go to two doctors. One of them smiles, gives you pain pills and a fishing poll. The other doctor says we are going to operate on you to remove the tumor from your body. I have been there. The hard words are the good news?

2. This verse also teaches the Wonderful Gift of the Gospel.

The gospel is not something you earn. It is the gift of God's love.

Many years ago I served in a church that was unhappy with me. God gave my wife and I great comfort in Revelation 3:9. He assured us that the people would come to know that He loved us. At first I wanted to say, "No God. I want them to know that I was right." But after His word began to wash over us, we decided we needed His love in our lives more than we needed to be successful or impressive.

Every wonderful thing in life comes from His love and the gift of the gospel. It is eteranlly good news!

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     by A. B. Simpson
Once it was the blessing, Now it is the Lord;
Once it was the feeling, Now it is His Word.
Once His gifts I wanted, Now the Giver own;
Once I sought for healing, Now Himself alone.

Once 'twas painful trying, Now 'tis perfect trust;
Once a half salvation, Now the uttermost.
Once 'twas ceaseless holding, Now He holds me fast;
Once 'twas constant drifting, Now my anchor's cast.

Once 'twas busy planning, Now 'tis trustful prayer;
Once 'twas anxious caring, Now He has the care.
Once 'twas what I wanted, Now what Jesus says;
Once 'twas constant asking, Now 'tis ceaseless praise.

Once it was my working, His it hence shall be;
Once I tried to use Him, Now He uses me.
Once the power I wanted, Now the Mighty One;
Once for self I labored, Now for Him alone.

Once I hoped in Jesus, Now I know He's mine;
Once my lamps were dying, Now they brightly shine.
Once for death I waited, Now His coming hail;
And my hopes are anchored, Safe within the vail.

As Simpson describes; prayer can be transformative to the life of each Christian. We often can begin praying with a specific motive, but end up refocused in relationship with Jesus, and finish praying with an entirely different motive, desire, or outcome.  He is that good to us and desires to meet us with that depth of intimacy!

Yet prayer, for many, is an afterthought in daily life.  Few consider praying until hardship strikes, or a circumstance gets out of their control.  It's only then that prayer becomes applicable or important in their lives.

Many are so lacking in practice that they struggle knowing how to pray, what to say, or how to approach God.  Some are unaware of the many examples of prayer in Scripture- or that Scripture can help us focus on God (more than ourselves or circumstances) as we pray.

In our American church culture, prayer is largely a spectator event.  Many churches treat prayer almost as an add-on in the service (a tradition that must be honored- at least for 1-3 minutes of a busy, tightly-packed, hour-long service/program/event), or at best, a specialized thing that only those who are "gifted in prayer" (there's no such thing as the spiritual gift of prayer) do in a small, separated room set apart from the rest of the hustling and bustling people in attendance.  A pastor or elder may "say or offer a prayer" in front of the congregation, but seldom, if ever, are the church attendees invited to pray or practice prayer with or for one another.  Is it any wonder that American Christianity is considered by many outside of the Church to be a toothless, weak, religion- and something that is just like every other religion or cult belief system in the world today?  Have you seen a "Coexist" bumper sticker, with symbols of many popular religions (including the use of the cross as the T in the word) on a car recently?  When you see that on a car, it essentially means, "Christianity is no different, more powerful, or life changing than any other belief system."  What a lie and misconception!

God's Gift of Prayer- Our Difference Maker

It's no question that many people, following other belief systems/faiths, pray to the gods of their imaginations.  By deception, the dark forces (demons) playing the role of god(s), will sometimes, or often, "answer" the prayers offered in the manner the person asks. They do this in order to further deepen the deception the misled praying person has opened him/herself up to receive.  The person will feel further empowered in their belief system and thus, their god(s) become real, meaningful, and powerful to them (or they, themselves, may feel powerful).  Yet, it's all a lie; they're praying to a lie and liar- Satan.

But Christian prayer is vastly different than prayer of any other religion or cult.  The difference comes from the People receiving and stirring the prayer within us- Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit (in case you're not aware; the Holy Spirit is a Person, not a thing; one of the Trinity- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)!  Jesus is the only Person who died to take the sins of everyone upon Himself; to set each person free from sin and eternal separation from God; and to lead them into a personal, intimate, relationship with Himself, the Father, and through the working of the Holy Spirit.  It's by faith in Jesus; His work of living a perfect, sinless life; His death and taking the sins of all upon Himself; His resurrection from the dead; ascension into Heaven; and His upcoming return to establish His eternal kingdom, that we are saved.  No other god or belief system can bring us into a personal relationship with the Savior of our souls!  Only Jesus was given power (by God the Father) to rise from the dead, take away our sins which separate us from the Father, and establish us into a personal relationship with our Creator, Redeemer, Lord, and Savior.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. - Ephesians 2:4-10

The Holy Spirit's Work

Since creation, the Holy Spirit has been actively wooing the hearts of men, women, and children, to seek and know God (and Jesus Christ, His Son)- often through prayer.  Whether people realize it or not; each day, they are given opportunities to realize God is in their midst (in truth, He's always present no matter where they are and no matter what they're doing- good or bad) and that He wants a close, ongoing relationship with them.  But those separated from God by their sin and sinful lifestyles miss His presence.  They're blinded by their sin, the world's ways, and our adversary, the devil.  The Holy Spirit is constantly working to bring conviction of sin to the heart, mind, and attention of the sinner (as a means to help them realize their need to turn toward God and away from sin, called repentance).  He does this in many ways- drawing the hearts of each person in ways that personally connect with their history, motives, desires, background, prior emotional, spiritual, or physical wounds, and much more.  He's the one working to soften hearts that have been hardened by sin, the world, and the devil.  The Holy Spirit is actively working out God's love- and is a constant reminder that God has not given up on a single living soul on this planet!

Yet, many have no idea that they're being pursued by God.  Some may, but reject God for one reason or another.  Others are confused by the "white noise" of all the religions bantering about to add to their numbers and practitioners- and thus many discard God as they give up altogether in their confusion.

Is the Holy Spirit too weak to turn the heart of every person to faith in Jesus Christ?  No.  He could; but God has given each person a will.  They can control it, make decisions, and choose to do whatever they please.  The Holy Spirit won't force Himself, or Jesus Christ, upon anyone who refuses Him.  He yields to their preferences and choices.  Ultimately, they choose whether they'll humble themselves or harden their hearts toward God.  The Holy Spirit patiently works and waits- even until the person's last breath of life on earth.  But if at that time they continue to reject Him, their eternity will be spent in Hell; permanently separated from God- just the way they ultimately chose or wanted it. 

As Christ-followers, we can quickly forget that we were once in that position ourselves. 

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. - Ephesians 2:1-3 (emphasis added)

What Do You Pray About Most?

What consumes most of your focus when you pray? 

A church surveyed members of its prayer team asking what kinds of things they regularly prayed for.  Out of every 10 prayer requests or matters prayed for, 8 focused on personal events or requests (for things WE are doing, events WE are involved in, stuff WE are dealing with, etc).  While no matter is too small or inconsequential to take to the Lord in prayer, if we look at this ratio, that means less than 2 out of 10 prayers are focused on praying for specific people to come to faith in Jesus Christ; for missionaries that God has sent and/or is using to spread the gospel to others; for personal or corporate revival in the Church; worship of God Himself, etc.  Our prayers tend to be or become very self-centered if we're not watchful!

Praying for the Spiritually Blind to See

To help us focus outward, in alignment with the Spirit's work, and the salvation of others, we can begin doing these following things:

Pray.  Ask God to bring to your mind 5-10 people who you know are without a personal relationship with Jesus, or who you're not sure if they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

  Write.  Write those names somewhere where they'll regularly remind you to pray.

3.  Pray.  Pray scripturally for each person by name- including their name within the Scripture as you pray.

I pray that the eyes of ________'s heart would be enlightened, so that he/she would know the hope that can be found in Jesus (Ephesians 1:18).

Remove the heart of stone from _________, and give him/her a new heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19).
Father, produce a godly sorrow in _________, which will bring about repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regrets (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Holy Spirit, guide _________ to the understanding that the wages of sin is death, but eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord is a free gift (Romans 6:23).

I pray that the gospel would be presented to _________, not only with words, but also with power and with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction (1 Thessalonians 1:5).

There are many other Scriptures you can pray as you search the Word.  I encourage you to do so!

As we pray for others, their lives and circumstances will change, and we'll also begin to fulfill Jesus' command in Matthew 6:20-21 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Prayer is a gift God has given us to bring us into deeper relationship with Himself, and also to bring others into relationship with Him as well.  As we pray, our lives are changed- as are the lives of those we pray for.

One Request

If you begin praying specifically for someone using the Scriptures listed above, or other Scriptures the Lord leads you to pray, would you write to me about how God changes you, and/or a person you pray for as you've prayed?  Stories of God changing lives (both within Christians and non-Christians) need to be told as encouragement to others.  Share these stories with others you know- as a testimony of Jesus' work in your life and in the lives of others!

Lord, continue to teach us to pray.


* Scripture examples borrowed from Paths of Gold; Praying the Way to Christ for Lost Friends and Family, by Terry Gooding.

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9651013679?profile=originalAs your Thanksgiving dinner is digesting I would like to share with you a presentation of The Candymaker’s Gift produced by my friends David and Helen Haidle. The Candymaker’s Gift is an excellent story to share with your grandchildren during this Christmas season about the real meaning of Christmas. You can show it to them or you can send it to them in an email.

You can listen to it on YouTube at

The Christmas season is an excellent time to share the message of God’s love with our grandchildren.

Helen Haidle, award-winning author of 54 books for children and adults, wrote the first book on the meaning of the candy cane. Helen wrote this fiction story after she had shared the symbolism of the candy cane with her Sunday school students. "The Candymaker's Gift" won a C.S. Lewis Silver Award and a CBA Silver Medallion.

To learn more about David & Helen Haidle’s Seed Faith ministry go to The book is out of print you ocan listen to the story on YouTube.

By Lillian Penner








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The Emotions of Mary and Joseph

  Recently my husband and I attended a reunion in Branson, MO where we saw the awesome performance of The Miracle of Christmas at the Sight & Sound Theatre. I was impressed by how they displayed the emotions of Mary and Joseph when they were faced with the announcements of Gabriel.


While the Jewish nation was waiting for God to free them from living in Roman bondage God sent the angel Gabriel to tell Mary, “You are highly favored! The Lord is with you . . . You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus…” Since she was, a Virgin Mary was greatly troubled and questionedthe angel. Gabriel said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. . . For nothing is impossible with God.” Mary recognized God’s voice and answered, “I am your servant, and may it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.


Joseph, Mary’s fiancée was troubledwhen he learned Mary was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. He did not want to expose her to public disgrace so he had in mind to divorce her quietly. However, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins (bondage).” When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel commanded him and took Mary home as his wife but had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he named the son Jesus.   

 Even though Mary and Joseph questioned the angel, they recognized the voice of God and submittedto his agenda, not knowing what it would mean for them and their people at the time.

 Pray for your grandchildren to live so close to God that when He speaks to them they will recognize his voice, listen to Him, follow Him in obedience, and trusting Him, as Mary and Joseph did. They were greatly troubled, however, they recognized the voice of God that the angel Gabriel delivered, and they obeyed. Mary had the honor of giving birth to Jesus, the long awaited Messiah fulfilling what the Lord had said through the prophet Isaiah.

May God bless you richly as you prepare for the Christmas season

as we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

By Lillian Penner

National Prayer Coordinator

Christian Grandparenting Network

 Christmas Gift Suggestion

Grandparenting with a Purpose: Effective Ways to Pray for your grandchildren would make an excellent Christmas gift for your friends who are grandparents.

In celebration of the Christmas holiday, I would like to offer you an autographed soft cover copy for $12.00, including shipping and handling. Just go to the “Purchase Now” link and we will send your shipment. 


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