The Power of Prayer: Notes on 1 Samuel 1

The bible tells many stories that contribute to one main theme, and that is God’s faithfulness and Grace towards His people, and how he uses the ordinary man to accomplish His Will.

We see how the Lord used Noah to re-establish the world after the great flood, how he used Abraham to establish His people, how he used Moses to free them from Egypt, and how he used the prophets to bring back a wayward people into the folds of God once again. However, the largest example of this is how Christ came to bear the weight of sin for all of the world.

But we still have problems trusting in His faithfulness.  We still draw a distinction between the God that we see all across Scripture, and the God of 2014.  And while we know that the prosperity Gospel is a farce, and that God may put us through suffering to build endurance (James 1:2-4), we go to the other extreme which is to say that God may not answer our needs at all.  This leads us to question the power of prayer.

I admit that I have had a hard time believing that God would provide me with a job that would provide for myself, and my wife when I am married.  I have lost sleep and worried in anxiety over this one problem in my life because it was not just myself who I had to worry about.  And I still do not have a job confirmed, but I have been attaining more interviews.  However, my fiance never lost hope. She has always reminded me to pray, always been there for me, and she has always reminded me of God’s faithfulness. She is a blessing.

And so we come to the true content of this post, which is on 1 Samuel 1, which you can read by Clicking Here.

Summary

In order to understand the situation, we have to understand the context.  Hannah is one of TWO wives of Elkanah, and Hannah is barren, while Peninnah has bore her husband children already.  In that culture, barrenness was shameful because a woman’s identity and worth were wrapped up in her ability to bear children, which is why Peninnah taunts Hannah year in and year out.  And so Hannah is upset at this, and she blames herself,  even when when her husband tells her that he loves her, while no mention is given of the husband telling the other wife that he loves her as well.

And so, on the annual trip to the temple to worship and to sacrifice, Hannah pleaded with the Lord to give her a son, and that if he would give her a son, that Hannah would offer that son to the temple to serve the Lord for all of his days.

When Hannah and her husband returned to their home after the trip, he made love to her, and whether or not he knew of her prayer to the Lord, at that time, is unknown

Lo and behold, the woman who was barren for all of her life is now bearing a child.  Imagine the joy that Hannah and her husband felt; for although the husband had children from his other wife, Hannah was the one who he loved.

After the child had been weaned, Hannah took the child to the temple to give to the priest to raise him in the house of the Lord, whom her son would serve for all of his days.

Observation

There are a few points that one could make through using this chapter.  A point could be made for a biblical marital Love, in how Elkanah loved Hannah for who she was, and not what she could give him.  Another point could be made about how God performed a miracle in making a barren womb bear a child.  However, the last point is not the full picture: God did not HAVE to grant her request, and her Request was not even a dire Need.

The Lord answered Hannah, not out of necessity, for her husband had other children, but because Hannah was faithful, had pled to the Lord, and had offered herself, and her future son, up to Him, and the Lord willed for it to happen.  And The Lord used her son to be a monumental prophet in the Old Testament narrative.

The Lord knows the Desires of our heart.  He knew the desire of Adam for a companion, so he made Eve.  He knew the desire of the lame man, so He healed him.  However, this is not to say that all of our desires will be fulfilled; for God is not a cosmic gum-ball machine that gives us what we want as long as we pay our dues.  But those things that are within the Will of God, those desires of your Heart, God will fulfill.

But the theme of this passage, of God being faithful and full of Grace, does not stop there with prayer; it extends to explaining to us that having faith is not easy, and that it can be very difficult, but God has never ceased his unending faithfulness. His steadfast love endures forever! I join the psalmist in saying in wonder,  “who is man that you should care for him?”(Psalm 8:4)

Application

Do you pray to the Lord like you know he is listening?

It is easy to be skeptical, but the Lord has shown us time and time again throughout Scripture that Prayer is important for our faith, and that he does answer it.

Do you carry everything to God in prayer?

All of your worries, doubts, concerns, praises, accomplishments…have you prayed to the Lord about them? Have you thanked him?

God is, and always has been faithful.  It is foolish to say that His faithfulness and activity in his people’s lives has decreased over the years.  Does this mean that God will speak to you, or use you to bring His people back to Himself?  It is possible, but it is unlikely; think of how many people spanned the time of the Bible, and how few have ever spoken with God, seen him, used in a monumental way, or seen visions.  But His faithfulness to us remains steadfast, even if our perception of Him is not as clear as it was to moses when he saw the burning bush.

Pray and seek out the Lord. He is willing and able to listen.

-Jon

As always, let me know what you think in the Comments, and please follow my blog if you are a newcomer! Take a look around to see my other writings while you are here.

 

On War

  • From Jesus:

“Blessed are the peacemakers..” But,
“Do not repay evil for evil..” But,
“Turn the other cheek when an Evil man strikes you..” But,
“Love your enemies..” But,
“Pray for those who persecute you..” But,
“Blessed are the Peacemakers..” But,

  • From Paul:

“Bless those who persecute you..” But,
“Repay no one evil for evil..” But,
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I   will repay, says the Lord…” But,

The above quotes are actual quotes from the Bible, specifically the New Testament.  I added the “But,” at the end of the quotes because these quotes are commonly brushed off by conservative evangelical Christians (In my experience).  To be clear, I want to start off my saying some things:

  • This post is not meant to “convince” you, but to cause you to think
  • I believe that God is the only one justified to take another human life, which is why he directly commanded the Israelites to go to war, gave specific instructions for punishment of sin, etc..
  • Yes, I’ve read Romans 13..But I’ve also read 12
  • I am not saying that political pacifism is biblical
  • I believe that, in certain instances, God works through the Government to carry out His wrath (via Romans 13)
  • Therefore, I understand that war happens, and I understand that for political reasons, sometimes it must take place, but I do not support war.  Read on for more.
  • I do not believe that the Christian should be involved in warfare (via Romans 12, and the Words of Christ)
  • I believe that the Israelites in the OT had complete right to go to war, as they were commanded by God to do so, and when they went to war apart from the will of God (like what Saul did), there were consequences.
  • Never once do you see an instance where Christ(during his time on earth), His disciples, or the early church in The book of Acts, retaliate, even in self-defense.
  • Christ is coming back, and will pour out the wrath of God, and will indeed kill the evil doers.

My answer to the question: “What if someone threatened your family?”

  • If someone broke into my house and threatened my family, I would do ANYTHING in my power to save them, but that does not mean I would feel right or justified in taking a life.

Biblical Nonresistance vs. Pacifism:

I usually claim to be a pacifist because growing up, being a pacifist simply meant to be non-violent/non-resistant. But the truth is that I am not a “pacifist” as some would understand the meaning of the word, but for the common understanding of the term in practical life, I just say that I am a pacifist.

The fact is that sometimes, our country may have no choice but to defend ourselves, and/or go to war.  And maybe some of the nation’s actions are done because the Lord is carrying out His wrath. And to be clear, God could work through ANY nation to carry out His wrath. But I have no way of knowing what is God’s wrath, and what is just Man’s doing, so I just stick to the opinion that a Christian should not be involved in warfare.

For if we go to war apart from the will of God, that’s murder.
If we sentence someone to death apart from the will of God, thats murder.

The fact is…If its God’s will, it will be done.  So I would rather not support, and not be envolved with war or the death penalty because I have no idea what instances are man’s will, and what are God’s.  And as far as God’s will goes, it will get done regardless, as stated before.

So what of Christian Soldiers?
– If a Christian had the same view I do, they would not be involved in warfare, so obviously, the ones who are in warfare are not doing anything in rebellion to the word of God, in their minds.  But I would still challenge them on taking the words of Christ, as well as Paul, seriously.

The reason I say “seriously” is that the quotes that I mentioned are generally brushed off by those in support of war and the Christian’s involvement in it.

I once heard it said that, What Jesus says about non-resistance is something we should strive for, but its not practical.

Lets carry that logic:
Not having pre-marital sex is something I should strive for…but its not really practical.

See how that logic fails?

“Support our troops”
I will respect them just as I respect anyone else. If they are in need, I will try to help them, just as I seek to do to others.  I will support them by not supporting wars that may get them killed, and leave their family behind.  I will respect them by not protesting against them.

So please, next time you look at Romans 13…read it in context of Romans 12.  Also, seek to take Christ’s words seriously.

And for all wondering, this is what I view a biblical interpretation of the passage where Christ tells His disciples to buy swords is:

http://holyspiritactivism.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/why-did-jesus-tell-the-disciples-to-buy-two-swords/

This is posted on my blog, as opposed to on facebook because I know it is a sensitive topic.  I know that others much smarter and more experienced than I have different opinions than myself.  But I have yet to hear a solid biblical argument from the other side, besides saying that the Israelites went to war in the Old testament; which as stated before, they were justified to do so because they were Directly commanded by God to do so.

Discoveries in Genesis 18-19

I found out something quite interesting today while I was reading my bible to prepare for sunday school this sunday.  I realize that these are not new views, but I have just recently found them in my own reading.

Turn to Genesis 18 in the New American Standard Bible:

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+18&version=NASB

In this chapter, we see the reference to the three beings that confront Abraham.  Now, there has been many illusions as to the identity of these individuals, but I would suggest that they are the Trinity, the Godhead.  I am not an originator of this view, merely a repeating voice; but, I have discovered this truth for my own walk.

Notice the use of the Noun, LORD in vs. 17, 20, and 22.  Normally this is easy to look past because we are accustomed to seeing the word “Lord” used to refer to royalty, wealth, etc.. But in these instances, there is something more.

In the NASB, when the english text says LORD, as opposed to “Lord”,or “lord”, it means that the hebrew text says “YHWH” (YahWeh), which is a Holy and reserved name for God, the Creator.  No biblical author, translator, or editor, would ever pen that word unless it was referring to God in the original languages (translators, editors), and even then, they did not write it often, and instead used “Lord”, which is translated from a normal hebrew name for God.

That being said, examine how the first two persons with this name are conversing with one another, and no one person is showing dominance over the other…they seem equal.  Now notice how the third person with this name stays behind to comfort Abraham, but again, any mention of allusion to this third person as being subservient to the other two is not found in the text.

Now turn to Chapter 19, read the account, but pay close attention to vs. 15 and 16, which is telling of how these two men who went to lot (for the third one stayed with abraham) had to grab lot to save his life, and upon doing so, the text says in verse 16, that the “Compassion of the LORD was upon him”.  If what I laid out in chapter 18 is truly about the Trinity, then that quotation about the LORD’s compassion may actually be a litteral presence of the LORD that Lot felt, through the two persons.

And if what I came across is two, that these three persons are the three persons of the trinity, then it would prove that they can be different places at different times because the 3rd mentioned LORD is with Abraham, while the other two are in Sodom. What is more is that each is called “LORD” which is the name of the One God, Creator, there cannot be more than one, and yet there are three beings/persons called “LORD”.  This would indicate a union and a distinction between the three; each is separate, unique in attributes, but equal in roles, and are all referred to as YHWH, “LORD”, God.

Interesting, huh?

Renewed, Revived, Loved, Redeemed.

I am Renewed, Revived, Loved, and Redeemed.

If you have been following my blog, you know that my last blogpost was about my time of doubt(If you have not read that post, I advise that you do).  In this post I am going to write about what it feels like to be put in the fire and taken out again.

**I keep my specific doubt confidential because it is a major one, and I would not want to cause anyone to doubt the same thing I had because of my revealing it to them.**

The Fire: I was in a place of doubt that tore my world apart.  My life, purpose and mission had been shred. I had never before faced something of this magnitude, either spiritually, or elsewhere.

The Recovery: I knew that there was a God, and I even believed he was the same God I had always believed in, and that what I had once believed was worth believing, even if, in the end, it was not true.  That was my starting point.  I then read an article that addressed my doubt specifically, and  I spoke to two friends and my girlfriend on the night of my worst doubting point.  All of these things helped.

The following Monday, I met with the associate Pastor of my home church.  He came to my school in the morning and we went for coffee, and went to my classes together.  We did not talk about my doubt for those two hours at Starbucks, but we did talk about theology.  I was able to state opinions, back them up logically, and be comforted in the belief that I firmly believed them. This was HUGE in my recovery.  But I was looking for more…I wanted that emotional “spiritual high”, that “rebirth” feeling; but it didn’t come.  My pastor explained to me that he thought it was much better and healthier to live a life of constantly seeking after God, than relying on emotional/spiritual highs from time to time.  I have since agreed.

What I have learned:  When people are in doubt about major stuff, even some minor stuff, quoting the Bible will not help much because, at their current state, they may not even know how to view the Bible anymore.  They need some “facts” to lean into.  These “facts” may not be absolute facts to everyone, but they have to seem logical and factual to them.

For instance, I though that it was factual that my faith was something worth striving and living for, even if it turned out to be false.  Because I had that base, I was able to seek help for my doubt to get back to what I once had, and eventually, I was able to get back to believing what I had believed before.  I also looked at how Jesus came, and how it was not how the Jews expected him to come; so it didn’t make sense that someone would make this story up to base it off the Old testament prophesies, and it didn’t make sense that the prophesies were written after Christ came to earth because The Dead Sea Scrolls were found that contained full books of Isaiah, with some dating back to around 200 B.C.  Logically, the validity of Christ’s story panned out.  This advanced me further in my recovery.

Logic and Philosophy may be the best things to help someone think about who is going through doubt.  Maybe its not for everyone, but for me, this helped.  But this thinking cannot go unguided because the doubters mind is vulnerable.  It is very helpful to have Christian brothers and sisters around them, as well as pastors,elders, or deacons.

Now I have the experience that will help me to at least know where to start in helping someone who is in doubt.  I will tell of my own story of doubts and how I overcame them.  I will ask some of the questions that helped me through, and I will show them love and openness where their Church or Christian community might show them rejection.

 

Church, we need to be open to help people answer their questions, for we cannot afford to be closed.

Lets Overcome The Apathy.

 

A Prayer for Doubt

Below is a prayer that I have written that I hope is useful for you.

“O God,

I come before you in the midst of my own doubt.

What I once thought to be unwavering, has wavered;

What I thought to be absolute truth, has been questioned;

What IS the whole foundation of my life, has shaken.

Lord, restore to me your guidance, and help me recognize that by saying this prayer, it is evidence that I still firmly believe in you; I still love you.  I believe, but help me in my unbelief. Amen.”

 

I have recently faced doubt head on.  It was the scariest moment that I have ever faced in my entire life.  I felt like my whole meaning of life, my whole being, had been called into question.  Everything that I have been taught and believed for years, was up for debate; was on trial.  Deaths in the family, break-ups, years of bullying, and anything else that I ever went through, was NOTHING compared to this.

I wanted to do some research on the topic that I was doubtful about, but there was no solid Christian rebuttal to be found in a google search that addressed the question that had me so distressed.  Then a friend told me about an essay he read when he was pondering the same thing as I was, and after reading this essay, my soul was put at a little rest. But it was this question that started to get me back on track and gave me hope;

“If everything you believed and were taught was a lie, would it still be worth pursuing?”

To that question, I gave a confident “Yes”.

Jesus is worth pursuing.  He is worth striving for. He is worth serving.  My world does not make any sense without Jesus, without God, without Christianity. He is my rock, my foundation, and my fortress.

However, I am not perfect.  I have had, and will probably have again, doubts that have been both mild and severe.  What I have found is that there is not much of an outlet for an individual to go to in the evangelical circle to get help with their doubts.  When people are having doubts about the existence of God, Christ, or the validity of the Bible, pointing these people to scripture passages will most likely not help them.  They need something more.  They need someone to listen without judgement, and someone who can guide them out of their deep valley using some of the tools that the listener has learned through overcoming their own doubts.  I believe that there needs to be more availability to express doubt, but it would be preferable for individuals to express doubts to close friends, family, or church leaders who have training/experience in counseling, or merely just a heart for it.

I would never wish the process of going through major doubt of faith to anyone.  Although it does make us stronger; it feels like you are going through hell on earth when you are in the midst of doubt.

I hope that this blogpost has or will be helpful to you on your own spiritual journey.

If you ever have any questions about God, or you have doubts, please email: questions.seek.answers@gmail.com

May God Bless You,

-Jon

 

Ideal Church

For the past two years, I have felt a steady pulling on my life to be more open to the idea of being a pastor someday.  The thought scares me, and honestly, I don’t wanna do it.  But I feel like God is leading me in that direction(sorry for the Christianese, but when I use it, I mean it).  I have preached at my home church when my pastor was on vacation, and in a few weeks, I am preaching at my grandmothers church, and I was just going to sing there, but the lady asked me if I wanted to preach too.  Its been crazy how things just seem to be heading that way.

For the past week, I have been thinking about my ideal church, if I could build any church I wanted, and if I could operate it how I wanted it to be operated…how would I do it.  I have a few ideas.  Its a long post, so if you really care, read, it was fun to make!

Building:

Sanctuary:  Octagon shaped building with stone-laid walls and a smooth concrete floor. The pews will be made of wood, with kneeling fold-out attachments, and they will be set in a semi-circle formation with a platform in the front center.  Behind the platform will be a plain wooden cross against the wall with white AND purple/crimson linen draped in the center, to represent Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection.

Fellowship Hall:  This would also be stone laid, and will shoot out from the octogonal sanctuary at the wall behind the podium.  This hall would be large and rectangular, and its purposes would be for games, sunday school lessons, fellowship dinners(held every week), and for the other uses.

Ordinances: 

The Lords Supper- Our church will partake in the Lord’s supper by going into the fellowship hall and breaking multiple loaves of bread, and giving each person a glass of grape juice.  We would celebrate it as a real meal, had together, and with one or more presenting the symbolism in the bread and juice.  I would want it done this way because it seems like this is what the Lord’s supper originally was intended to be, and what it started out as. Also, in my experience, I feel more reflective when I have more bread or juice to consume, rather than the one piece of bread that is over in a few seconds.

Baptism – Baptism would be for professing believers, and it would be done as soon as a person expresses interest in becoming baptized, or upon their salvation.  The individuals would meet with one of our pastors for 15-30 minutes before, during, or after a service so that they and the pastor can discern if their desire and faith is sincere, and would thereafter be baptized in front of the congregation on that day.  Baptism would be done by either sprinkling or immersion, whichever the individual choses, and they would also have the option of wearing white baptismal robes if they so chose.

Church Leadership/staff:

Pastor: There will be 3-4 pastors(1 being me) of our church, each having the same rank and title, and the same responsibilities.  Preaching the sermon would be rotated to each pastor week by week, and congregational visits or special ceremonies would be done on whoever would be available, or whoever is requested.  These pastors would not have a salary  because they would be working their normal jobs during the week, or will be retired.  Each will use the same email account, which will be the main form of contact within and by the church.

Sunday School teachers: All volunteer.  No Salaries.

Youth Pastor: There will be 2-3 Youth Pastors who would operate along the same lines as the pastors, and will have regular jobs during the week as well, and will also not have a salary from the church.

Janitorial:  All church members(including staff) will sign up for days where they and their families can come into the church and clean.

Why no Salaries?

Although getting a salary for your ministry work is not wrong, and is, in fact, completely biblical, I feel like a church could operate on volunteer work, and therefore, the money normally used to pay salaries can be used for improving the community, aiding missionaries, supporting children in third world countries, aiding local city missions, helping the homeless, caring for the sick, and many other much needed things.

Music:

Hymns would be sung a lot, and amplification for instruments would not work well in a stone and concrete building, so any instrumentation will be either unplugged, or very little amplification.  We will NOT split into two services for different types of music, it will be blended.

Theology/Creeds: 

We would adhere to the Nicene Creed, and our theology will be influenced greatly by anabaptist/mennonite foundational beliefs, especially regarding a Christ-o-centric view of scripture and way of living.

The wood pews, and kneeling fold-out attachments are little ways that would cause us to sacrifice our comfort so that we would be reminded of what great a sacrifice Christ gave for us.

The church will Not take any official position on the questions of election, eschatology, who “Israel” is, on dispensational or covenantal theology, or any other complex, gray-area, theological concept. This would be done to avoid unneeded devisions.

Anyway, thats all for now; I may edit and add on to it later.  But yeah, let me know what you think.

What IF everyone went to heaven?

If you knew that all go to heaven anyway, would you still be a Christian?  

Would you still follow after God like you are now? 

I believe that Christ is indeed the way, truth, and life, but the thought dawned on me that the ones who believe that all go to heaven, and still make an effort to serve and follow Christ…are displaying some awesome faith, even if I may disagree with their theology.

In their thought, if they didn’t follow God, they would still go to heaven, but they still follow God because they Love and want God for who he is, not what he will give them.

>> By the way….The title was to get you to read the post 🙂

Are we following God because we want Him and Love HIM, or are we only loving because of what we expect to get(eternal life)?  

If we got to heaven and we saw ones who did not believe in Jesus while they were on earth, would we rejoice that they were there?  Or would we scorn and say how they don’t deserve to be there?  And if we would say that…then are we really serving God for God, or just God for Reward?

I earnestly wish with all of my heart that all could go to Heaven; that all could be saved.  And I firmly believe that God desires this too…because its in Scripture: 

1 Timothy 2:1-4(NASB)

“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2  for kings and all who are in [a]authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and [b]dignity. 3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4  who desires all men to be saved and to come to the [c]knowledge of the truth”

2 Peter 3:9(NASB)

“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”

And That is Why Christ came – 1 Timothy 2:5-8(NASB)

5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at [e] the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle ( I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. 8 Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.

 Christ is the only way, the only path, and the only Truth.

So if God desires all to be saved…shouldn’t we?  

Sometimes we can grow bittier towards the non-believer, and we look on them with scorn.  But shouldn’t we desire them to come to a saving knowledge of Christ instead of pointing our finger in accusation and disgust?  Evangelism has become mainly represented in the World’s eyes as a guy standing on a street corner saying “Have you ever told a lie? Then you are a Lier! And liers go to hell, but Jesus came to save us, and all you have to do is believe in him”, and the reality is that the world may not even give you that nice of a summary.  In the standard Gospel outreaches, little is said about who Jesus is, what he has done, and what he has done in our own lives.  Instead, Jesus is preached as a “get out of hell free” card that players of the monopoly of life can pick up at their leisure.  A standard Gospel presentation may be effective for some, but it needs more than a bulleted list, and it needs to show who Christ actually is.

God does desire all to be saved. I desire all to be saved.  But not all will be saved, for not all will accept Christ.  What are you doing to spread God’s message?

Are you in Love with God so much that if there was no heaven you would still follow him?  Are you in Love with God so much that you would rejoice to see others in heaven who you did not think deserved to be there?

Heaven and Hell are real, so we should take them seriously. But are we at times slighting the Glory of God by diminishing Christ to a checklist?

These thoughts have made me think, reflect and grow, and I hope they will for you as well.

My thinking has been brought on by the discussion of the mindset of the elder brother in the story of the Prodigal Son, in the Book, “The Prodigal God” by Timothy Keller.