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.

 

Advertisements

The Pathway To God’s Presence: Book Review

I am a Christian, and have been a Christian since I was a young child.  But as the case with many, it was not always a perfect story; I didn’t simply nod as the preacher spoke and went on my merry way.  I’ve wrestled with doubts, some as big as they come, and I have waded through despair, and misery, in my desperate search for Truth.  I have cried tears of woe as I stared into the depths of my soul, seeking God’s guidance even when I was not sure if the God that I had always worshipped existed.

So when I am speaking with someone who does not believe in God, and when they may think that I have never thought about the hard questions, I can assure them that I have thought extensively about my doubts, and I have felt the dark of hopelessness wrap around my faith hanging by a thread. And that is why I want to tell them about the faith that I have revisited; a faith that has lasted throughout my lifetime amidst times when I doubted its substance. You can read about this time in my life Here, and my recovery, Here.

Although I have recovered from the specific doubts that I had at that time, it took me a long time to really sense God’s presence back in my life like I felt it at all of those youth events, retreats, and missions trips, or at times when I was simply at a “better place”.  And it is still something that I pursue wholeheartedly; not that God has ever left me, for His Spirit abides in us throughout our life after our conversion, but that I had lost a Sense of His Presence, and that I always want to pursue Him.

How to regain that Sense of God’s Presence is what “The Pathway to God’s Presence” by Tom Elliff is written about. The book was published by CLC Publications in Ft. Washington, PA.  Printed in the USA.

Summary

The title of the book reflects the theme; searching for God’s Presence.  Elliff takes the reader through various stages of recognizing a lost sense of God’s presence, our reaction to that lost sense, and what we are to do to when we find ourselves there.  The author illustrates his point through referencing the story of Moses speaking with God on the mountain, when at the same time, the people of Israel are making an idol out of Gold because they lost their sense of the True God’s presence.

Elliff makes several key points in his book about how to regain your sense of God’s Presence, and those are found in chapters 5 & 6 predominantly, starting with the importance of prayer, and going into three C’s: Communion, Conflict (wrestling with the Lord), and Conformity.

Review 

As someone who has struggled with doubt, and as someone who has been in tears, many times, wondering where my passion for the Lord, and my awareness of His Presence has gone, this book has renewed my mind with that fact that this walk of faith that we are all on needs our attention, and immediate action.  When our lives are busy, and we can’t seem to find time to spend with the Lord, we need to realize that we DO have time, but we are not seeing spending time with the Lord as important enough to us. This NEEDS a change because He is the foundation of our being, and we are Called to seek Him, and Love others.  But how can we do this if we tell God, “I’m too Busy, try tomorrow, next week, or even next month”?  We NEED God, and we NEED a sense of His presence to guide us.

The positives that I see from this book is that the author really takes you on a practical walk through on how to notice and address the issue.  He breaks a lot of his chapters down into sub-section lists that are very helpful for the organization of the book, as well as the reader’s thought process.

The negatives would be that by the way that the author words some of his points, it makes it seem like he is saying something that would not be accurate to his beliefs.  For instance, on page 26, the author writes “The glory of God will be removed from your life any time you are unwilling to come to terms with Him regarding any known sin”.  In that quote, it would seem that the author is suggesting that the Holy Spirit would remove himself from us based on our unfaithfulness; which we know is simply unorthodox (not within Church tradition). But we also know that this was not what the author was trying to say because on page 75, after he quotes Duncan Campbell, he explains the quote by saying, “it was not that he felt he had lost his salvation, but rather there was a dryness, a lost sense of the presence of God”.

To get a better sense on his intent, watch the book trailer by Clicking Here

That being said, I know what he was trying to say, but Semantics is a BIG deal when it comes to discussing theology. And so I would caution the author on that. The author also makes various points about God not using someone in unrepentant sin (pg. 26, 28). Though the Lord commands us to repent, the Lord can call anyone, and change their heart.  However, I do not want to dock my rating of the book based on a different understanding of the Scriptures that is not a cut and dry issue on either side.

As far as the physical book quality:  The binding is tight, no pages are loose, the cover is attractive, the pages are thick and are easy to flip through, and the book was published and printed in the USA. CLC Publications produces just as quality books as larger publishing houses do.

Favorite Quotations

“If your attitude is that the presence of God should be sought after you have tended to an endless list of other responsibilities, Satan will insure that your list will grow increasingly longer. A lost sense of God’s presence signals that it is time for immediate action” – Pg. 67-68

A prayer that the author suggested praying to the Lord:

“Lord, I know I’ve lost the sense of Your presence.  I can’t seem to will myself back into a more spiritual state.  I’m both confused and helpless, and it’s in this state of distress that I call upon You” – Pg. 70

“Hours of study, doctrinal orthodoxy, feverish religious activity and compassionate ministry to others are each commendable, but they cannot take the place of knowing God” – Pg. 89

“It is the presence of God you should desire more than all else.  It is worth searching for.  It is worth staying in the search until you find it.  And once God blesses you with the restoration of His glory, it is worth going on in such a fashion that you have both the vital and visible signs that He is with you”. – Pg. 133

Recommendation

Yes/No: Yes, it is a book that would help someone if they find themselves dealing with this issue.

For Who: Individuals.  When you are dealing with these personal issues, although having a supportive and praying friend is helpful, as the book affirms, doing this book in a group setting would not be proper because those who deal with this issue will not receive the proper one-on-one attention that they would need from a mentor, or a good friend.

Ranking 1-10:  8  

Explanation of ranking:  Overall, the book is helpful, and it makes a lot of good points, but the wording is something that would be confusing to the reader, and it is possibly misrepresenting the author’s actual views, from what I can tell.

Closing

Right now, in the month of April 2014, this book is on sale for only $7.50, Plus shipping.

For $7.50, you can purchase a book that is written to address the issue of losing that “new” feeling of faith that may be lost.

Please SHARE this blogpost to your own blogs, and your social media sites if you would like to.  Also, please COMMENT and let me know what you think!

-Jon

Links

Book Trailer: Click Here

Purchase the book: Click Here

Author’s website: Click Here

Links for the Publisher – CLC:

Website: Click Here

Facebook Page: Click Here

Twitter Page: Click Here

Pinterest Page: Click Here

Our Response to Social Media: Response to “3 things to stop posting on social media”, and “The 5 most annoying FaceBook posts about getting engaged”

We all have frustrations in our lives, whether in our real lives, or in our online lives.  Remember those heated youtube, redditt, or facebook debates? Remember the drama between your friends in middle school? Well…this post is not addressing those things, but rather, it is addressing something far more pressing to our social media culture; something that goes without being checked, and is even championed as the “truth”.

I am talking about the general social media cultural shift that now gets annoyed when they see certain things from their friends on their newsfeed. No, these are not the political rants… But pictures of babies, families, married or single couples expressing their love publicly, people expressing their every emotion, and even certain engagement announcements can make people frustrated.

Here are two articles that best capture what I am addressing:

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/culture/tech/3-things-stop-posting-social-media#comment-399912

http://wittyandpretty.com/2013/05/31/the-friday-5-most-annoying-facebook-posts-about-being-engaged/

My idea of addressing this issue came before seeing the blogs and articles complaining about it; the articles that I saw just merely confirmed to me that it was an issue that was larger than my little society at college.  If you want to get more “into” reading this post, please read the above articles for yourselves before you read further.

I will start by addressing some of the societal norms that I have seen, some of which are addressed in the articles shared.

  • Frustration over excessive posting
    • This is one that I understand the frustration more, but at the same time, I wonder why it is such a frustration for so many
      • Proposed Solution: Just simply hide that person’s content from your newsfeed if it bothers you.  If they are a true friend, check up on them by going to their page every so often.  Save yourself from the frustration/anger in your heart.
  • Frustrations over overly emotional postings; where a person posts how they are feeling at any given moment.
    • This is the facebook friend that says “my day sucks” a few times a week for either a legitimate reason, or simply because one comparatively tiny thing happened that threw their day off.  A lot of people get frustrated over this because it seems unstable, and weak.
      • Analysis: If you are becoming frustrated by these postings, it means that you honestly do not truly care about what is going on in that person’s life.  Yes, they may be crying because of a “stupid” thing according to some, but if that is the case, than there is a legitimate emotional need/problem there, and complaining about them is showing your apathy towards finding a solution.
      • Solution: Ask them why things are bad, talk them through some things, or simply say, “I just prayed for you” to them on that status, or in a message.  When an individual is depressed, they will convince themselves that no one truly cares about them, so you may be adding to the problem.  And if you cannot handle that, you may have to hide them from your newsfeed.
  • Frustrations over Romantic Postings
    • This is the couple that posts “I love you” on eachother’s facebooks, or share status updates involving them.  Perhaps even the couple that posts pictures of themselves with one another, hugging, or kissing.  A lot of people get frustrated over this because they do not understand why a couple needs to express that so publicly, and perhaps deep down it bothers them because they may not have a significant other.  Trust me, I do not understand the kissing profile picture either, personally, but I wont complain about it.
      • Analysis: Personally, I try to keep the cutesy stuff on my facebook minimal between my long-time girlfriend and myself, but to be honest, this is partly due to my fear of being judged by others. When my friends post about their love of their significant other, as long as I approve of their relationship, I should rejoice over their Joy that they have.  To be honest, why would it concern others so much if a couple is expressing their love? It may be a problem within the observer…That they may be so negative because they judge others through the way that they would do things, they don’t understand the importance of the situation to that couple, or they may be jealous.  Is it odd if a couple has to say “I love you” on facebook every day? Yeah, maybe…but why does that concern me/you?
      • Solution: Rejoice in your friends joy. If you cannot do that, you may need to work on your compassion. Ask yourself why it frustrates you so much.  More likely than not, after you examine it, you may realize that your reasoning is minimal if not all together flawed.  Yes, it may be too much for YOU, but maybe they need to have that public affirmation, so they know that their friends who read their statuses, know that they love their significant other. And if there may be a legitimate concern over co-dependency/emotional instability, maybe you need to ask them some caring questions.
  • Frustrations over Cliche engagement statuses
    • Some people may post “My BFF just proposed”, “can’t wait to be future Mrs. Jane (fiance’s last name)”, I liked it so I put a ring on it, etc..  Other complain that it is too cliche, that its annoying to phrase it that way, or they doubt that the person who the person is marrying is truly their best friend.   The article about this above also talked about taking his last name, and stated that the person did not have to give up their last name.
      • Analysis: Really?  You are complaining about an engagement update??? Really? This is an expression of Love and commitment that should only happen once in a life time, and you want to rain on their well-deserved parade by complaining that you don’t like how they announced it?? I am a bit more harsh on this point because I honestly do not understand it.
      • Solution: It is their lives, not yours. If they are truly your friends, look past their cheesiness and just rejoice with them.
  • Frustrations over excessive baby photos/family photos
    • I am not even going to address this. You should know.

Concluding Statements: I am a Christian who tries to follow Jesus in my daily life. The majority of this article above was written to any audience of any creed.  But at this time, I would like to address the Christians who deal with these complaints brewing within them.  First off, I have been guilty, and probably will be guilty in the near future, over reacting negatively to these things.  Even the last one, I didn’t understand a baby photo every month, but I think i will have a better understanding when I am a parent.  Just guessing.

The fact is, Christ calls us to love one another and to correct hypocrisy (just read a Gospel account), and Paul instructs us in Romans 12:9-13 to love and unite and rejoice with our fellow believers.  He then goes on to tell us to love our enemies, and to overcome evil with good (12:14-21).  That being said, I would wager that complaining about our friends posts that may annoy us, but have no real ground, is not how the Christian should respond.  The Christian should address any problems that arise out of Love, and seek to find a solution, first looking inwardly and then looking outwardly.  For it was Christ who said, “First remove the plank out of your own eye so that you can see clearly the speck in your brother’s eye”(Matthew 7:5).

Even in these little things, these social media frustrations, Christians are failing to live out the love of Christ.

 

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