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Break the Cycle

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When i sat to write this I had a topic of encouragement.  Be encouraged that God can use you to do miraculous things, if you trust in Him.  Honestly that message is still there, but God has unlocked a bigger theme through the scripture I was looking at.  

I have been going through 1 Samuel and we see the nation of Israel no longer satisfied with being ruled by God.  They were a theocracy, ruled by God, and instead wanted to have a man as a king, become a monarchy.  We are shown throughout the Old Testament how Israel’s faith is up and down.  One minute God does great and miraculous things through them the next they act like they don’t even know Him.  This pattern is a reflection of our lives.  That we can ride great spiritual highs and then be back in the world doing something stupid.  God shows us this pattern so that we might recognize it and change it.  

As we read through 1 Samuel we get to chapter 13, Saul has been king now for two years and he has this small little squad of three thousand people that they run around and attack some garrisons with.  They are starting a rebellion and and the Philistines don’t play that.  They come out with thirty thousand chariots, six thousand horsemen, and an uncountable number of people.  You have this little ragtag team of three thousand everyday people now facing this massive army.  It gets worse though, as we continue to read in chapter 13 we are told that only Jonathan and Saul have swords.  Everyone else had farm tools, e.g. axes, sickles, and goads.   The Philistines didn’t let the Israelites have weapons for the very reason that they didn’t want them to be able to fight.  The Israelites didn’t even have blacksmiths, it was forbidden by the Philistines.  So all of the Israelites had to come to the Philistines to get anything metal, and have anything metal sharpened.

What a sad state for Israel to be in.  The nation that was governed by God.  They were the super power and now they are nothing.  Nothing could stop them when they were coming out of Egypt, except themselves.  In Joshua we read about how the Gibeonites feared Israel because they had been commanded by God to destroy all the inhabitants of the land.  The Gibeonites speaking with Israel in Joshua 9 vs 24

“So they answered Joshua and said, ‘Because your servants were clearly told that the Lord your God commanded His servant Moses to give you all the land, and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you; therefore we were very much afraid for our lives because of you, and have done this thing.’”

They knew that nothing would stop Israel as they conquered the land, so they lied and deceived to ensure that they would live.  As we read on in Joshua we get to the battle between Israel and the five kings of the Amorites (the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon).  The king of Israel is afraid too.  In Joshua 10 vs 1-2:

“Now it came to pass when Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem heard how Joshua had taken Ai and had utterly destroyed it - as he had done to Jericho and its king, so he had done to Ai and its king - and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel and were among them, that they feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, like of of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all its men were mighty.”  

In all Joshua leads the nation of Israel to conquer 31 kings in the promised land.  This is a nation that had just come of our slavery and bondage.  They wandered in the desert for forty years and still they have the military prowess to come and obliterate everyone they came into contact with.  

What happened Israel?  Why did you step so far backwards? This is what we do in our own lives though.  We get to a great place following God and then we get complacent.  We stop pushing forward and then we go backwards allowing sin to creep into our lives.  It's something that we can teach our kids too.  Take Israel for example.  There is about 300 years from Joshua to Saul.  For 300 years this pattern is setup and carried out.  It doesn’t happen overnight, but will slowly form.  Before you know it you are in full bondage and not living in the freedom of the Lord.  You have taught your kids, your kids teach their kids, and so on.  

But we can break the chains of bondage.  We can break the cycles that our families might be in.  Going back to 1 Samuel 14 where we saw the massive Philistine army coming against the untrained and unarmed Israelites, we now see Jonathan taking action.  Jonathan tells his armor bearer one day that they should go over to the Philistines garrison.  They go trusting in the Lord that if the Lord was with them He would give the Philistines over to them.  He says in verse 6:

“Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will work for us. For nothing retrains the Lord from saving by many or by few.”

They go trusting in the Lord that He can do mighty things through many people or through just a few.  They set up a few tests for the Lord to show Himself and then they know that the Lord has given the Philistines into their hands.  What we are told here is an amazing thing.  There is a cycle that has put the Israelites in a desperate position.  They have started to come around to knowing that they need to change, but don’t have the tools to make this change.  They stand, three thousand normal people against a great fully trained and fully armed army.  The odds aren’t stacked at all in their favor, and are basically defeated before the battle even begins.  

But the odds don't matter to God.  He makes the impossible things easy.  When Jonathan puts his faith and trust in the Lord, God uses him to make big changes.  God will do the same in your life.  If you find yourself in a position of being defeated before the battle begins.  If you find yourself caught up in the cycles of the flesh, trapped by your history, God can free you.  When you trust in Him and move out following His lead He will deliver you from those cycles.  He will break the chains that hold you down.  

For Israel this is a turning point.  The nation will rise from this lowly position and quickly become one of the greatest nations in the world.  From this point gives rise to David and Solomon.  The greatest kings that Israel would have.  The same faith that we see in Jonathan is the faith that we see in David as he stands against Goliath.  It’s time to break the cycles and break the chains, and rise to be the person that God would have you to be.  If Jonathan had gone up against the Philistines on his own without the Lord we wouldn’t read about him again because he would be dead.  But the Lord went before him and fought that battle with him delivering the Philistines into his hands.  The same for our lives.  When we fight the battles against addictions or the flesh and sin on our own, we fail.  We can’t do it.  Given the opportunity to sin again we will.  That is just our nature.  We can’t just stop it on our own.  We need God to fight the battles for us.  So put your trust in Him and walk as He calls you to walk.  Seek Him in all things.  I love when people at church ask me for the wifi password.  It is “Matthew 7:7” which reads:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”  

Do you see why I love it! Ha!  And it continues in verse 8:

“For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

If you truly are seeking after the Lord and look to Him to free you, He will.  I pray that we would all be set free from our chains and we would begin new cycles that bring glory and honor to the Lord.  

Prayer Series 1: How, When, & Why We Pray

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God has put on my heart to do a blog series about prayer.  Not because I am an expert by any means, but because it’s a personal area of growth for me.  As believers, we always hear we should study the Word, spend time in prayer, and spend time in fellowship.  For a few months now, my heart’s desire has been to draw closer to the Lord through prayer and I want to spend 2018 doing just that, but practically how is that done?  I think my frequency is good - praying throughout the day, during my Bible studies, before meals, teaching my kids how to pray, getting more comfortable praying on the spot for people in need, stepping outside my comfort zone to pray out loud in groups, praying for our church family through the prayer team and the C4 Women’s Facebook Group (if you don’t know about those and want to, just ask!) - but how do I go deeper when I do pray?  How does God want me to communicate with Him?  What heart does God want me to have for prayer?  How can I worship God through prayer?  How can God grow me faster through prayer?  How can I learn more about God’s will for my life through prayer?  I’m sure one could spend a lifetime dedicated to the study and practice of prayer, but I’m excited to see how the Holy Spirit will grow me (and you) in 2018 building on the foundation that’s already laid.  My goal (God willing), is to share on one practical application “topic” about prayer for each blog post this year (~1/month).  I want and desire a strong prayer life, and I must be intentional about understanding, applying, and praying about what I learn.

First, let’s understand HOW and WHEN we should pray.  Ephesians 6:17-18 says:

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, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—

 

Once we are saved, along with the word of God, we should be praying ALWAYS in the Spirit with determination for the needs of all believers, including ourselves.  Read this verse and the verses before and after it over and over and read it in different translations too.  We’ll go deeper in later blogs, but as a believer this verse should weigh your heart to want to pray more and more and more.

What does the Bible say about WHY we should pray?  I’ve been reading a book cleverly titled “How to Pray” by R. A. Torrey.  It’s a whopping $4.39 on Amazon and is worth every penny.  I’m going to summarize the first chapter in bullets, as it gave eleven solid Biblical reasons with corresponding verses about WHY we should pray.  I pray you go deeper in Bible study and let these scriptures sink in and elevate the importance of prayer in your life as it did for me.

We should pray because:

  1. There is a devil and he is against us – Eph. 6:12-13 (note verses 17 and 18 above are after these verses and praying is HOW we overcome spiritual attacks)
  2. Prayer is God’s appointed way for obtaining things - Jas. 4:3
  3. The Apostles regarded prayer as an essential daily activity – Acts 6:4, Rom. 1:9, Eph. 1:15-16, Col. 1:9, 1 Thess. 3:10, 2 Tim. 1:3
  4. Jesus Himself spent significant time in prayer – Mark 1:35, Luke 6:12
  5. Jesus lives and is available right now to make intercession for us, which is how He brings us to completeness – Heb. 7:25, Rom. 8:34
  6. Prayer is how we receive mercy and obtain grace in time of need – Heb. 4:16, Luke 11:8
  7. Prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, is how we obtain fullness of joy – John 16:24, Ps. 16:11
  8. Prayer for every need and anxiety, with thanksgiving, is the how God frees us from anxiety and gives us the peace of God which passes all understanding – Phil. 4:6-7
  9. Prayer is the method God has appointed for us to obtain the Holy Spirit – Luke 11:13, Acts 4:31, Acts 8:15
  10. Prayer is how we fight against the cares of this world and the distractions and temptations all around us and focus on Christ, so we’re ready for His return – Luke 21:34-36
  11. Prayer is how we align our hearts with God’s will and it promotes our spiritual growth - Ps. 139:23-24, Ps. 51, Ps. 119:18, Jas. 1:5

Finally, to quote Pastor Matt: “Prayer is not about changing God, it’s about changing YOU.  God is perfect!  Prayer aligns my heart to God’s will and God’s will is found in His Word.  We should pray God’s own words, therefore, we must know His Word.”  I pray this Bible study has increased your heart’s desire to grow your prayer life.  Start praying for God to reveal to you how to pray.  Next time, we’ll go deeper on praising God during prayer and why praise is a crucial component.

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