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July Spare Change

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Don’t Give Up on Prayer

I have always incorporated prayer into my spiritual life.  As a Christian I know it’s very important; but let’s be honest, prayer has become sort of a “lost art” for many Christians today.  The modern church has become so self-sufficient that while we pray, prayer is not really that important.  It has become relegated to a few moments each morning or before a meal.  We are so busy that we don’t take time to pray properly.  Deep down I believe that there are many Christians that really don’t think prayer works.  They don’t get the desired results within their allotted timing so they have all but given up on it. 

I am here to say that we need to recommit to prayer.  I believe that prayer needs to be the most important thing we do all day. The famous reformation theologian, Martin Luther, once said, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”  We must make prayer the most important thing we do all day; however, I believe that in spite of our lack of discipline with prayer that the tide is changing in the church.  If not for the simple fact that the world is changing and we find ourselves not being able to control things any longer.  We also find ourselves dealing with governments and movements that now have more influence in the culture than we do.  When this happens, Christians are driven to prayer.  We have nowhere else to turn but to turn to the Almighty Heavenly Father.  This type of desperation needs to mark our prayer lives.  Here are three way to recommit to prayer:

  1. Become Disciplined

Prayer is a discipline that is learned.  You don’t become a Christian and automatically have a fully developed prayer life.  It takes years to grow in your walk and prayer life.  Prayer is like any other thing that requires discipline— it takes time and commitment.  If you want to get fit you have to take time to work out.  If you want to have an effective
prayer life then you have to “work out” in prayer.  One thing that helps is to have a prayer list or journal.  Really it’s just a place to write down things to pray about.  I have a list of permanent requests and a list of temporary requests that are crossed off and added too on a regular basis.  There is no secret to a deep prayer life…it takes time and
commitment.

  1. Become Desperately Stubborn

One of the key factors in people that have strong prayer lives is a feeling of stubborn desperation.  They don’t give up on a prayer need easily.  Prayer is used in our lives as a means of expressing trust and faith in God.  I believe God wants to know that we really trust Him.  The more we pray about something according to God’s will the more faith we are exhibiting.  Now it is key to remember that we pray according to God’s will, this means to not pray for a pile of cash or a new sports car.  However, it is okay to ask God to help you meet your financial commitments or to use your resources wisely.  It is also okay to pray about reliable transportation.  These are perfectly acceptable requests.  We also need to look past our own needs and pray for the world around us.  We must go the Lord, desperately seeking His divine intervention in our lives.  We must acknowledge that we are helpless and need Him to work as only He can.  In this we understand that God does not always work in the way we want or in our timing.  He is not a cosmic Santa Claus.  This means that sometimes we have to pray for days, weeks, or even years before He moves.  We also have to accept His solutions even when they don’t match our expectations.  However, if we are truly expressing faith through prayer I don’t think we will ever be disappointed in God’s answers, He usually does much more than we expect.

  1. Don’t Give Up

This may seem redundant but I want to drive home the point.  We cannot give up on prayer.  Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “pray without ceasing”.  He also says in Philippians 4:6 that we need to bring everything before God in prayer.  Jesus calls us in Mark 11:24 to ask in prayer and believe that God will work, and you know what—He will!  This is just a sampling of verses that tell us to pray continually about everything going on in our lives.  This is just a simple reminder to not give up.  If your prayer life has been light over the last little bit then recommit to prayer.  Don’t give up on prayer, God is waiting to move.  He is just looking for faith-driven people to cry out in desperation to their loving Heavenly Father.

 

 

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June Spare Change

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                           3 Things We Learn From the Life of Samson

Samson is one of my favorite characters in the Bible.  This might seem like an odd choice since he was one of the most despicable and sinful people; however, if you do a search of Samson you will find that he doesn’t just show up in the book of Judges, he is briefly mentioned in Hebrews 11:32.  This is significant because this passage is known as the Hall of Faith.  This passage describes many great characters in the Bible like Abraham, Moses, David, etc. and it tells a brief story of their faith in God.  It was shocking for me to see Samson’s name listed here.  As I mentioned before, he was a very unsavory person that cared only for his own selfish desires.  He lived a self-directed life that was fueled by his physical passions and unchecked emotions.  Why in the world would he be listed along with these great men and women of faith, and what does this have to do with my life?   To answer these questions we have to go back to the beginning of his life.

1. You Are Born with a Purpose
Samson was born of a promise. He was chosen to be a judge, to lead Israel out of Philistine occupation. Israel was in a cycle of sin, punishment, repentance, and rescue.  They had being doing this over and over again.  God would send surrounding nations to oppress them because of their sin, they would cry out to God for help, and He would send a judge to lead them out of the oppression.  Samson was born to be a judge, he was also born a Nazirite, which was a special vow of purity that people took to be used by God in a mighty way.  Another famous Nazirite is John the Baptist.

Samson was supposed to end the 40 year occupation of the Philistines.  To accomplish this goal he was given super-human strength.  This strength was provided by the Holy Spirit.  However, Samson had no desire to fulfill his call, he didn’t want to gather the Israelites to fight, he simply wanted to live his life and fulfill his own desires.

We are like Samson in many ways—we are born with a purpose, but we forsake that purpose to live a self-directed life.  God has called us to live for Him and use our lives to bring Him glory, nevertheless we just want to fulfill our own desires and passions.

2. You Have Chosen a Self-Directed Life
Samson chose to live a self-directed life. I don’t have time to explain all the ways in which he disobeyed God, but here are a few examples. Samson slept with prostitutes and he desperately wanted to be with and marry foreign women, which is expressly forbidden by God because foreign women would turn a man’s heart away from God; Solomon is a perfect example of this.  He had no regard for his Nazirite vow, he broke it regularly.  He was ruled by anger and revenge.  Once he became so angry he killed 1,000 Philistines with a jaw bone of a donkey because they were seeking revenge on him for burning all their crops down.  Samson also tore the gates off a city and carried them for many miles because of his anger. 

He fell in love with a woman named Delilah that eventually became his downfall.  He had become so enamored with his strength and filled with pride he did not think anyone could take him down.  After much coaxing, Delilah learned that when Samson’s hair was cut then he would lose his strength.  Samson’s hair was cut and he was imprisoned by the Philistines but not before his eyes were gouged out.  Samson’s self-directed life eventually became his destruction.  He was now weak and broken because he chose to live for himself instead of God.

We are the same.  We choose to live a self-directed life.  God wants to use us, he wants us to bring him glory, but instead we live for ourselves.  It doesn’t matter who we are or where we come from it always ends the same way…brokenness.  We are broken without God, we are destitute without faith in Him.  Think about your own life choices that you made without God in mind.  Where has it led you?  Chances are it has led you to brokenness.  This might seem like a very depressing message until we realize it’s not over.

3.But, It’s Never Too Late
Samson’s story doesn’t end there—while in prison his hair begins to grow back, as does his faith. He is humbled and broken, which is the perfect place for God to do His greatest work. I believe that while he was imprisoned God changed Samson’s heart and brought him near to Him.  God used his little seed of faith and grew it into something that he could use.  The story of Samson ends with him praying that God would use him one more time.  He is brought out by the Philistines to be mocked.  He is placed near the center pillars and God gives him his strength back one last time.  With it he brings down the house and kills over 3,000 Philistines.  This was not God’s original plan, but God used Samson’s faith in the situation he was in to bring glory to Himself.

Samson’s story tells us that it’s never too late.  God can use us in spite of our brokenness, in fact He can use our brokenness to bring us to a deeper faith in Him.  We may think we are too broken, or we may think we are too self-involved, too sinful, too (fill in the blank)…but that’s just not true.  Jesus can take all our self-directed, broken, sinful consequences and turn them into something beautiful.  It’s not too late to be used by God.  It’s not too late to bring God glory with our lives.  We just have to turn to Him in humble faith.  We give Him our brokenness and He gives us forgiveness.

If we made a list of the most faith-driven people in the Bible Samson would not be on it.  So it’s a good thing that God made the list and it’s a good thing He included people like Samson because that means there is hope for you and me.  We might never put our names on a list of faith-driven people either, but if you trust Jesus then you will be on that list.  We can have faith in God, we can turn to Him and be used by Him.  Remember, with Jesus it is never too late.  Turn to Him today!

 

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