Hindered Prayer

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, September 30, 2016 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

[This blog post is part of a series. The previous post is here, and the next post is here.]

What stops our prayers from being answered? What hinders our prayers? I am not talking about what keeps us from praying. I am talking about when we pray, what stops them? Throughout this series, I have been learning about how to pray, what kind of prayers to pray, and much more. This is the 11th post of this series and I am almost halfway done… for now. This week, I am going to introduce a mini-series on what hinders prayer.

First, we need to be praying God’s prayers. Praying our own prayers for our own purposes will not be productive nor answered. We need to pray the prayers that God places upon us. This post is about what happens when we pray the kinds of prayers that God wants us to pray, and they do not get answered.

Second, we need to understand the nature of prayer and the character of God. One of the greatest misunderstandings about prayer is that it acts like a formula or a process. Let me re-iterate. Prayer is not a process. It is not a method that you follow like an instruction manual where if you say this in this certain way then it will be answered. Prayer is about our relationship with God. Prayer is about bringing God’s will to earth into reality. God will answer the prayers he initiates. They WILL be answered. So if prayer is about bringing God’s will into reality and God always answers prayers, why are they stopped at times? The first question we have to ask: Is the problem with God or is the problem with us? Too often, if our prayers go unanswered, we assume the problem is with God. We must get this straight. If God’s prayers go unanswered, the problem lies with us.

I have often heard that prayer is like a circuit board. God is looking for “switches” (our prayers) to make the circuit complete. Does this mean we can stop God from accomplishing his will? Absolutely not. It just means we can remove ourselves from having a role in it. If we do not participate with God’s plan, he will find someone who will. In every circumstance except for the work on the cross, God found a man who would pray his prayers, who would speak his words. Even in that exception, Jesus, God in the flesh, did it as a man. Jesus could not do what he did as God. He was God, but he had to do it as a man. He taught us how prayer truly works.

Now what stops these prayers? Let me explore several issues in this post, then in the next two weeks, I will hit some specific ones. The first thing that hinders prayer is doubt. If we get the message from God that we need to pray for a specific thing or issue, do we pray with faith? Or do we doubt that God will come through? Often, when we pray “if it be your will…” it is with doubt because we do not have the confidence that what we are praying for is indeed God’s will. I am not talking about when we do not know it, but rather when we do know it and we still question it. Doubt is a very easy prayer killer.

Here is an example of how doubt affected an entire nation. In Numbers 13-14, Moses sent twelve spies to scout out Canaan. When they returned, ten of the twelve spies brought a bad report. They had doubt. They knew God promised them the land, but they did not believe that God would carry them through to the end. They thought the giants would wipe them out. Only Joshua and Caleb believed. Because of this doubt, God cursed them to wander the wilderness until every person of that generation age 20 and up, except Joshua and Caleb, died. Doubt is a very easy prayer-killer.

Another prayer-killer is quitting, and when we stop praying. Sometimes we do not see the results we would like to see in the time we see and we simply stop praying. There are times where I wonder if things I have sought never came because I stopped praying about it. In this whole series up to this point, praying with perseverance has been the big one. Even after my last few posts on this very topic, I am still struggling with praying and praying and praying until the answer comes. But this is not merely praying all night, even though that plays a big role in this concept. This is talking about praying day after day after day until the answer comes. Too often we give up too soon. But back to how Israel refused to enter the Promised Land. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram accused Moses of failing to bring the people to the Promised Land. It was not Moses nor God that prevented them from entering. It was their own doubt, their own quitting of believing God that kept them out. If you know what God wants you to be praying, do not stop until you know the answer has come.

Another cause of prayers not being answered is because there is a battle going on in the heavens. Daniel gives the great example of this. He saw a vision of a man and prayed immediately for an answer. But none came for three weeks. When it came, the angel revealed that he came with the answer immediately but was delayed by the Prince of Persia. Sometimes our prayers are hindered because the enemy is fighting to keep it from being answered. This is why praying with perseverance is so important. Sometimes prayer is a war, and that is another topic I will address in a couple months. We may need to pray in spiritual battle to see our prayers through to fruition.

Allow me to hit a few other quick points that I learned from Eric Ludy in his sermon Praying Through. Sometimes, our prayers are not answered because we simply miss the mark. Like in archery if we miss the target, this is when our prayers are not aligned with God’s will. Sometimes we pray for selfish reasons. Sometimes we waiver in our prayers. We are only half-hearted in it. Sometimes we pray and we are living in disobedience. How can we expect God to answer our prayers if we are living contrary to his will? If we are living in sin, God has no obligation to answer anything we pray. Just ask Saul. Sometimes God will not answer our prayers because we are dishonoring to the authorities God has placed over us. Jesus understood the importance of authority. So did the Roman Centurion. If we disrespect our parents, bosses, administrators, and even our government (the position, regardless of who is in it), it very well reflects our respect of God’s position of authority. Why should he honor our prayer requests if we are fighting against the very principle that makes our prayers work? The last thing Ludy mentions is a lack of abiding in Christ. We have got to live in Christ and his will. When we do that, our prayers will find their answers.

Joshua had a prayer go unanswered. He had just conquered Jericho and was going against the tiny town of Ai. He was beat soundly. Joshua begged God to reveal why he failed them, and God said: “You have sin in the camp.” Achan had disobeyed God by taking some spoils from Jericho, and it cost Israel a battle. Sometimes it is someone else’s sin that is hindering our prayers. Sometimes it is someone we are associated with who is hindering our prayers. Joshua found Achan and had him executed. If someone we are associated with is sinning and causing God to curse us because of that, we need to cut off that relationship. Jehoshaphat was a righteous man, but God got on his case twice for allying himself with wicked men. Sometimes our allies will hinder our prayers. Be careful who you unite with.

There are two other major things that hinder prayer and they deserve a separate post. Next week I will address the fickle prayer and the selfish prayer.

This forum is meant to foster discussion and allow for differing viewpoints to be explored with equal and respectful consideration.  All comments are moderated and any foul language or threatening/abusive comments will not be approved.  Users who engage in threatening or abusive comments which are physically harmful in nature will be reported to the authorities.


Conversation with an Atheist - Founded on Faith, Part 2

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, September 29, 2016 0 comments

by Steve Risner

Last week we touched on a few things the Founders had to say about Christianity in the new republic (yes, we live in a republic which is not the same as a democracy). This was in response to some things an atheist friend of mine had to say about this nation's heritage and how Christianity fits (or doesn't fit) into it. Last week was a sort of warm up to this week's blog post which should make the obviousness of the truth extremely clear. The question I hope to answer today: did the Founders create for us a Christian nation or was it entirely to be a secular state?

At first, it seems easy to answer this, right? Of course the Founders meant for the nation to have nothing to do with religion. That's why we have the Bill of Rights, which says we can all practice our religion as we see fit. I agree we do have the rights outlined in the Constitution that tell us we can express ourselves in terms of our faith as we like. According to some, this is precisely because the Founders were Christians (most of them). 29 of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence held seminary or Bible degrees. In fact, of the 250 or so commonly referred to as “Founders” of our great nation, not a single one could be labeled a secularist. They all believed in God to one degree or another. Some were very strong in their faith, while others were more skeptical or had differing views on some of the tenets of Christianity. But all, without exception, were religious men. Many were devout Christians who held their faith as the most important and most defining characteristic of who they were. Does it make sense that these men, who held their Savior so close to their hearts, would intend to make a nation that was free FROM religion? Of course not. This is precisely why we have freedom OF religion. This means the government cannot force a religious belief on you or make you adhere to the “state religion.” It's because of the faith of our Founders that they saw fit to write into our Constitution this God-given freedom.

My contention is that the Founders knew the importance in Christianity in governing and in maintaining a moral society. There is no doubt of this when you read their words. This nation was founded on Christian principles by predominantly Christian men to govern a Christian people. John Adams said, “The general principles upon which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity… I will avow that I believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.” Concerning the need for Christianity in maintaining society, George Washington said, “Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” He believed that without Christianity (the religious principles he referenced), morality would decay. We see this today in our society as we become more secularized.

The first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Jay, would probably be an authority on the nature of our nation's founding. He said, “Providence has been given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation, to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.” As I discussed last week, this doesn't mean the system of government we have prefers Christians to non-Christians. It does mean that Americans can choose whom they desire to be in office. That's a completely different idea than suggesting the government favors Christians.

Another Founder, Daniel Webster, remarked, “The Christian religion – its general principles – must ever be regarded among us as the foundation of civil society.” Does this sound like, perhaps, we are a Christian nation founded by Christian men on Christian principles to govern a Christian people? It does to me, but you decide. Noah Webster (no relation to Daniel) confirms this by saying, “No truth is more evident than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.” And, “I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist and be durable in which the principles of Christianity have not a controlling influence.” These men seem to think that Christianity was the backbone of our system of government and that any government not based on the principles of Christianity could never ensure the freedom of its people.

Last week I mentioned Justice David Brewer as he explained the nature of what is meant by our nation being a Christian nation. He wrote the opinion during the famous Church of the Holy Trinity vs US case where the Supreme Court of the United States said, “These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation.” Here we have the highest court in the land making a very clear statement about our nation's connection to Christianity. What about Congress? In 1854 Congress declared, “In this age, there can be no substitute for Christianity... That was the religion of the founders of the republic and they expected it to remain the religion of their descendants.” They further said, “The great, vital, and conservative element in our system is the belief of our people in the pure doctrines and the divine truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” They seemed to believe in the great importance of Christianity to our Founders, to our founding, and to the continued existence of the nation. So I've quoted all branches of the US system of government—various presidents and secretaries, Congress, and the Supreme Court as well as Justices of that Court—all declaring clearly that this nation is, indeed, a Christian nation. Who would know better than those who founded it, or were very close in time to those that founded it? People sometimes contest that these sayings really mean what they, to me, seem to obviously say. To those people I like to bring up a few interesting actions (since actions speak louder than words, you know) that our Founders and our government participated in.

Last week I mentioned that George Washington told the Delaware Indians that they would greatly benefit from adopting our Christian faith. He also said, “What students would learn in American schools above all is the religion of Jesus Christ.” Our Founders held education as a very important aspect of our society. Education went hand in hand with Christianity. In fact, the government sponsored a couple different things that are related to Christianity and education. Numerous laws were passed during the Jefferson administration which had as their goal the Christianization of the Indians. Rather than cite the numerous examples, it should suffice to say that several instances of government money going to build churches, pay clergy, print Bibles, and instruct the Native Americans in the ways of Christianity can easily be found simply by doing research if one desires the details. The government sent missionaries to the Native Americans. Congress also stated, “The Congress desire to have a Bible printed under their care and by their encouragement.” They needed Bibles printed because there was a shortage of them due to the War and the inability for outside sources to ship them to us. It was recommended that the United States print their own Bible, to which Congress agreed. It's contested whether or not the Bibles were actually printed but it makes no difference. They intended to print them or buy them for the army, which General Washington welcomed, and for the Indians for their education in Christianity. Because of this, historian W. P. Strickland exclaimed in 1849, “Who will charge the government with indifference to religion when the first Congress of the states assumed all the rights and performed all the duties of a Bible Society long before such an institution had an existence in the world!”

The Capitol building is also a place of interest here. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate approved the Capital building to be used as a church. Thomas Jefferson was the president of the Senate at the time and gave his approval (he was the vice president of the U.S., if you're unclear as to who the president of the Senate is). He gave permission for this while vice president, but he had actually already won election to the presidency and was awaiting his inauguration. Many, if not most, of the government officials who were in town on any given Sunday were expected to be in attendance.

How could a government that today is seen as almost antagonistic or in opposition to religion be so firmly and blatantly for Christianity, its service, its meetings, and its education? It seems so obvious, in my opinion, that the Founders never intended to remove Christ from this land or from the government. In fact, many of them insist that Jesus Christ was the basis by which we gained our freedom and formed our own nation. The Declaration of Independence confirms this, as does Thomas Jefferson when he said, “And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God?” You can easily see as our nation has less faith in Christ it slips further and further into chaos, lawlessness, and depravity. Just look around! We forget where our rights come from, so we allow the government to strip them from us one at a time. For me, when I hear things similar to what this atheist told me, it makes me sad to think we've come so far from our roots and we've been victims of revisionism so much so that we have no idea any longer who we are, where we've come from, or what really matters. God have mercy on us.

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A Little Time Off

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Tuesday, September 27, 2016 0 comments

by Bill Seng

“I have much to write to you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.” ~3 John 13-14

I don’t know how many people at this point are aware of this, but my wife and I are expecting our second child to arrive with a tentative due date of December 5, 2016. We plan to name him Caleb Carter Seng, and we are really excited to do the whole new parent thing all over again. We have grown quite a bit since the birth of our first son, Jaden William Seng, but we have also learned that there is much to prepare for and certain things that need to be attended to before the baby is born.

One of the things that I have taken upon myself is a second job. Currently, I have essentially been working, well, a lot. I have been putting in a lot of hours, which has resulted in me having to be away from my family more than I would prefer right now. Ever since I made this decision to take a second job I decided that I was going to stick it out as long as I could in providing a weekly blog post for the Worldview Warriors ministry. But lately, the late nights and physical nature of my second job have been wearing me out too much to be able to give to my family the emotional, psychological, and spiritual support they need in preparation for this new addition to our family. Thus, I have determined that I will be taking a leave from blog post writing for a span of time so that I can be the whole-hearted spiritual leader of my household.

It has been a huge blessing being a blog writer for Worldview Warriors. It has challenged me and caused me to grow in ways I would not have imagined.

I believe I started writing blog posts in 2013, pending the release of my first book, The World That Then Was. At that time, my posts were based on Creationism, the existence of God, and the evidence for Jesus Christ. Back then, I tried to answer every single question that was thrown my way with as much detail as I could, lest I forget something and get ambushed with more skepticism. Those days were fun, exciting, and frustrating; wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone thought the same way about everything?

It was in 2015 that we started working through books of the Bible as a group in Worldview Warriors. Even though I have noticed that the interest in my posts have not been as high as what they used to be, working our way through these books has been a lot of fun. If you could only sit in on one of our blogger meetings to hear the discussions we have about the various angles and opinions on each passage of Scripture we write on! One of the things I wish everyone who reads these blog posts could know is what a wonderful bunch of people are contributing to this ministry, of which I am the least. I would give them all kudos right now, but it would take too long, so I will just list them out and give a blanket statement about what I think of them.

Jason DeZurik, Katie Erickson, Logan Ames, Charlie Wolcott, Nathan Buck, Ami Samuels, and Steve Risner are some of the best people you are ever going to meet. They love Jesus, have a heart for people, and have the humility to admit when they are wrong and the boldness to tell you when you are wrong. If only I had the integrity and strength of resolve as the least of these Jesus freaks… well, I honestly don’t know how to finish that statement, but it would be awesome.

What I look forward to now, in terms of Worldview Warriors, is the upcoming event Rooted and Established. During this time off I will be solidifying what I will say at this event so that I can give those who attend my workshops their money’s worth. I’m going to give you a taste of my book 10 Irrefutable Proofs of Creation, a look at how bad theology leads to a bad worldview, provide clarity on why dinosaurs and the Bible matter, and what Satan’s fall means for us.

I cited the Apostle John from his third letter at the top of this post because I think that is the heart of all of the Worldview Warriors team; not just that we could write to you, but that we could meet you face to face and discuss these things with you so that you might experience how much God loves you and we love you in the most understandable way possible. If you can, come to Rooted and Established in Marion, Ohio on November 11th and 12th, not only for our gratification that you came, but also for your own spiritual growth. It will be wonderful reconnecting there and maybe even getting to know some of our faithful followers. Thank you for your support. It is both humbling and a pleasure sharing in the ministry of the Gospel with all of you!

This forum is meant to foster discussion and allow for differing viewpoints to be explored with equal and respectful consideration.  All comments are moderated and any foul language or threatening/abusive comments will not be approved.  Users who engage in threatening or abusive comments which are physically harmful in nature will be reported to the authorities.


Judges 9:1-21

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, September 26, 2016 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

Today’s passage of Judges 9:1-21 is a long one, but I encourage you to read it here before continuing on with this post.

The story in this passage revolves around Abimelech, who as we saw last week was one of Gideon’s 70 sons from his various wives and concubines. Abimelech was born of a concubine (who is lesser status than a wife) who still lived under her father’s household in Shechem. Interestingly, Abimelech’s name literally means “my father is king” (in Hebrew, “ab” means father, the “i” means my, and “melech” means king). Gideon was not the king, although the people wanted him to be after his victory over the Midianites. Perhaps Abimelech’s mother the concubine wanted to honor Gideon by naming their son Abimelech; we don’t have that detail recorded in Scripture.

Abimelech had 69 half brothers, and he was likely shunned by many of them because his mother was a lowly concubine, not even a full-fledged wife. He appeals to his brothers to get more prestige and recognition from them. Abimelech makes the logical argument that it’d be better for one man to rule over the people instead of 70. I’ve been involved in projects with multiple leaders, and I can agree that such a situation never works out well. Abimelech appeals to the people of Shechem to make him their leader. The city of Shechem was on an important trade route, so it was a prominent city in the region. It was founded by the Canaanites, and it’s likely that the people maintained a link with them.

Abimelech is worried that the people will choose another of his brothers instead of him, so he gets rid of the competition. He hires people to kill all of his half brothers except for the youngest, Jotham (verse 5). The people of Shechem apparently don’t care that Abimelech is essentially a murderer, so they make him their king (verse 6)!

Jotham knows Abimelech’s true character, so he’s compelled to warn the people about the person they just put in charge. He uses a fable to explain Abimelech’s true character. This is the same literary technique that Jesus uses with His parables in the Gospels.

In Jotham’s fable (verses 8-15), he uses the imagery of trees and plants. First the trees want the olive tree to be king. It was a very valuable tree, with its oil being used for lamps and its olives for food and medicine. But the olive tree had important functions, so it declined to be king. Next the fig tree was nominated. Figs were a key crop, however, so it too declined. Third, the grape vine was suggested. But its vines are good for wine, so the vine also declines being king. Finally there’s the thorn bush. It’s really not good for anything, so since it’s not doing anything, it might as well be king, right?

Even though Jotham’s point seems pretty clear, in verses 16-20 he provides an explanation. Gideon was the olive tree, and Abimelech is the thorn bush. It’s not wise to make someone your king just because they have the time and motivation to do it; they should really be a qualified leader. But since the people seemed to like Abimelech, after calling them out like this, Jotham fled the area.

So how does this apply to us? Here in the United States, the election drama is heating up. We are preparing to choose a new leader for our country. Who is an olive tree? Who is a thorn bush? Take a look at the political candidates and pray about who God would have lead this country of ours for the next 4 years.

This also applies in the non-political realms of our lives. Everyone is a leader in some way, whether you have an official leadership title and position or not. You may be a leader in your household. You may be a leader for your friends at school. You may be a leader to a younger sibling. We are all leading someone, so what kind of leader are you? Are you cruel and ruthless like Abimelech, or are you following God’s ways and imitating Him in your leadership?

Examine your life and the leaders in it, and pray to God to help you make wise choices.

This forum is meant to foster discussion and allow for differing viewpoints to be explored with equal and respectful consideration.  All comments are moderated and any foul language or threatening/abusive comments will not be approved.  Users who engage in threatening or abusive comments which are physically harmful in nature will be reported to the authorities.


Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, September 24, 2016 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

I was reminded recently that the pursuit, and even the desire to leave a legacy, is vanity. Now, I am sure that someone will take issue with that and argue with me that there are ways to leave a noble legacy of doing good, and I would agree. The issue is that our desire for and to leave a legacy is about US, no matter who or what we leave that legacy for.

The futility of 'legacy' is that it only lasts as long as the memories of people who knew us. And the farther from us each person is, the more unclear or even warped the legacy becomes. Milton S. Hershey is a great example. He started the Hershey Chocolate Company, from which we have the Hershey Bar, Hershey Kisses, and a host of other candies. His legacy is still in effect, particularly the Hershey Trust, which benefits from product sales, and is a benefit to orphans, single parents, and low income/special situation students. Eligible students are able to go to school, live on campus, and have all their basic needs provided for them through the trust, so they can focus on their education. Many are able to pursue their dreams and become good citizens and contributors to society when they graduate. But are the company, the trust, and the school still making decisions the way Milton would have?

It's safe to say they are not, because they are addressing questions and issues he never had to, and they are taking the business in directions he may never had intended to. Legacy only lasts as long as it is convenient and relevant and then it is cast aside; out of sight, out of mind.

In Judges 8:29-35, the same thing happens to Gideon. As soon as he dies, people go back to worshipping the false god of fertility, Baal. The writer of Judges indicates this is Baal-Berith, which means 'Baal of covenant.' Jewish historians believe this is clearly the same Baal nicknamed ‘lord of the flies,’ but the word 'berith' or 'covenant' may point to the practice of carrying around a small idol and pulling it out and kissing it throughout the day. Think of it in terms of a lucky rabbit's foot kind of idol. As soon as Gideon was in the ground, there began this practice of carrying lucky charms around, superstitiously holding them and kissing them.

What lasting impact had Gideon had? What was his legacy? It’s almost like this passage screams, "Who cares!"

It wasn't about Gideon or his legacy; it was about Gideon being faithful, helping Israel follow God and get free from the oppression and corruption of Midian. That mission was accomplished, and the land enjoyed 40 years of peace because of it.

  This passage celebrates Gideon's faithfulness, and then like an 'Easter egg' in a movie plot it also shows us there is already a sequel story in the works. Even though Gideon had freed Israel from Midian, Israel had not let go of the superstitions they learned. As quickly as a young child might do what they shouldn’t when a parent turns around, Israel returns to Baal worship when Gideon is no longer there as God's leader.

For me this passage begs the question, where are the leaders Gideon trained up during his time? Did he train anyone up? Who was there to carry on the faithful example of following God after Gideon died?

See, legacy alone has little lasting influence. It is the people who are raised up and trained that carry on the mission beyond our individual time on earth. What I accomplish in my time is for my time, and my part will end when I am done. But who is being unleashed to live their potential and be committed to God's course for them? Who is carrying on the next part of God's mission after we are gone?

Do we recognize that this is NOT just a leadership issue? It's a faith issue for every single person, because each of us can contribute to God's purposes or distract from them by worshipping lesser things. And we worship what gets the most of our attention.

So, I share all that to say, don't be discouraged by whether people carry on your example or not. Don't be the kind of person who tries to get away with things because some authority figure isn't looking. And stop with the superstitious stuff about appeasing spirits or God, or anyone - just stop, because superstition is a waste of time.

Get your eyes off of your own legacy and just do what God has called you to do. Equip and empower those around you to live out their calling and mission. Focus on letting God be seen through you, and trust God to lead others for their part of the journey.

This forum is meant to foster discussion and allow for differing viewpoints to be explored with equal and respectful consideration.  All comments are moderated and any foul language or threatening/abusive comments will not be approved.  Users who engage in threatening or abusive comments which are physically harmful in nature will be reported to the authorities.


Praying With Vain Repetition

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, September 23, 2016 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

[This blog post is part of a series. The previous post is here, and the next post is here.]

One aspect of praying that God despises is vain repetition. In 1 Kings 18, Elijah set up a massive showdown on Mt Carmel between the prophets of Baal and himself alone. The prophets of Baal shouted out their prayers of many words, did their rituals, cut themselves, and nothing happened. Elijah mocked them throughout the day and then finally said a very simple, basic prayer, and God showed up with fire. Jesus told us not to pray as the heathen with their many words, as though that would impress God.

How often do our prayers have many words but have no real substance? How many times do we think we are praying with persistence but in reality are just praying with vain repetition? Allow me to explain what this looks like. My pastor, when driving for a school, had a vehicle that was on its last legs. He described how he would rub the dashboard saying, “Lord, please run, please run.” One day, God told him to just stop; it was praying with vain repetition.

I can certainly relate. One of my pet peeves is being late, particularly if something should be in place and is not. It does not take me long to lose my peace and get antsy if I am waiting for something to come in and the deadline is fast approaching. I find myself praying: “Please come in. Please come in.”

Here is a big one that I am very guilty of. How often do we pray for our meals or for our meetings or before bed and we just say a prayer by rote? How many of our prayers are just a mantra and not any actual communication with God? I have to admit, I am convicting myself as I write this.

Why do we do this? There are several reasons. One is impatience. We want it settled right now so we can have peace entering the situation. Another one, which is more often the case, is lack of trust in God to take care of it. Often, we believe God did not hear us so we keep saying the same thing over and over again, as though we are reminding God that we are still here. We know God is the only one who can take care of it, but if we do not see the results in the timing we like, we get frustrated with God for not coming through.

If the fault here in God, or is it in us? Is God unable to deliver, or do we have issues with God’s delivery method? God has no obligation to answer prayers of doubt and he has no obligation to move any faster if we try to rush him. To quote Miracle Max from The Princess Bride: “If you rush a Miracle Man, you get rotten miracles.” Did God not say he would do it? Do we not believe that he cannot lie, nor will he shrink back on his promises?

I have been talking about persistence in prayer the last couple weeks. This is not persistence. We must distinguish between vain repetition and persistence. Vain repetition is when we really don’t believe God to deliver and think the power is in our words. Persistence is when you go at it with God and do not let go until it is done. Very often, vain repetition is used on trivial issues like waiting for a package to come in, or a vehicle to work, or someone to hurry up. Persistence is used when there is a great need and you will not take “no” for an answer.

Related to this is knowing when to stop praying. I have been reading through Rees Howells: Intercessor and he understood the notion of praying of persistence. He would pray for days or weeks or even months at a time for what he was dealing with. But one thing stood out: the moment he got the answer, the moment he gained the position of intercession (which I will talk about several posts from now), he stopped praying. He would say something like: “God gave the answer. The connection has been made. It is finished.”

How do we know when to persist and when to call it? First we need to know what God’s will is on the given situation. Many times, we know God’s will more than we would like to admit. It will always be in line with what is in Scripture. Do we know Scripture? Do we know what God says through it? When a verse jumps out at you, that is typically God telling you to pay attention to it. If you authentically do not know what God has said about this situation, then you need to persist to find out. Sometimes God may not tell you anything other than to be patient and wait. Other times he will tell you precisely what will happen or what you need to do.

If you get the word about what God will do, pray and pray and pray that it will be done until you get that confirmation that it will happen. Elijah on Mt. Carmel is a prime example. He already knew God’s will to bring rain after revealing himself. But he had to pray and pray and pray until it came. He stopped the moment the cloud was seen. It hadn’t started raining yet, but the job was done. The rain was coming. He did not need to pray one more time.

Elijah’s prayer was repeated seven time, but it was not in vain repetition. He was not praying with doubt, with impatience, or generic hope. He knew precisely what needed to happen and he prayed with confidence that it would be answered, and he kept praying until it was done. And when it was done, even though it was not raining yet, he stopped and outran Ahab’s chariot in coming down from the mountain.

Why do we need to persist in prayer? Why can’t we simply say the prayer and leave it? There are times where we do that, but there is no real faith mixed into the prayer. Faith requires action and is that absolute confidence that it will take place. Paul Washer describes a time he was talking with a girl to be saved, and told her to cry out to God that he would save her. She came the next day distraught because nothing happened. Washer then told her to go home and continue crying out to God until he saves her or stop praying and go to hell. The next night, God saved her. That is persistence. You know what you need and go you after God until it happens.

But there is another reason for persistence: our prayers have been hindered. Many times people wonder why water from a river does not come. They think the river has dried up, but in reality, all that kept it from coming was a blockage. Next week, we will examine several things that hinder our prayers. Not things that keep us from praying, but reasons why our prayers are not answered.

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Conversation with an Atheist - Founded on Faith, Part 1

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, September 22, 2016 2 comments

by Steve Risner

Do we live in a Christian nation? Do we live in a Christian state? What's the difference, if any? Is the US partial to Christians? Does it offer rights and privileges to Christians that it does not offer to others? These are questions I hope to help you ponder today as we begin a look at our heritage and what the basis for our freedom is—at least according to our Founding Fathers. This blog post was sparked by a conversation I had with an atheist who I quoted in my last blog post as saying, “... the American system is stacked a little unfairly toward the New Testament crowd.” Pay close attention to the fact that he said the “system” not the people. Further into the conversation I will get into how he actually believes we are not a Christian nation at all. It seems he would like it both ways here, saying we get special favors being Christians yet we are not a Christian nation and it matters little what the foundation of the Constitution is (the Declaration of Independence is what he's getting at there) or what the basis for our legal system is (the Christian Bible is what he's getting at there). Obviously, these things are absolutely not true. The basis or foundation of anything is important in understanding that thing, isn't it? What something is built on is crucial for understanding its intent and meaning, in my opinion. So we'll take a short look at that today, although volumes of books could be and have been written on the subject.

I've very frequently gotten into this discussion with people over the years. In fact, I wrote about this topic in high school and had a special speaker come into my class and speak on it. That was over 20 years ago. My contention in these discussions is always that the United States of America is a Christian nation. What does this mean? That's the kicker. On occasion, the person I'm chatting with will interpret this to mean we are a Christian state—that the government is Christian in nature and the official religion of the country is documented as Christian. This is obviously not true, but people want to argue with me about it, believing this is what I am saying. No. What I am saying is this nation was founded by Christians on Christian principles to govern a Christian people. My friend who I have been quoting in this series says that the foundational beliefs of the Founders and the basis on which the documents that founded our nation were based doesn't matter at all. This is strange to me. Why?

Let's take a short look at the Declaration of Independence which is the actual document in question. The Constitution is NOT the document that founded the nation but is merely the document that establishes our laws and system of government. Our nation was founded the day we stood up and told Great Britain we were sovereign and no longer were under their authority. We did that by writing and signing the Declaration of Independence. The entire premise of that document can be summed up with my paraphrase:
God gives all men rights. Your actions (they gave a list of examples) are attempting to take those rights from us. As a result, we are no longer under your authority but under our own as given by God.

Did you catch that? The entire idea rests on the fact that God gives all men rights. All of us are “precious in His sight” to quote the Sunday school song. If one people group decides to discard the rights afforded to all people by mistreating another group, they are violating God's order in my opinion.

So back to my original stance: We are a Christian nation because we were founded by Christians on Christian principles to govern Christian people. It's because we are a Christian nation that we welcome and respect other faiths to be exercised in this great land. There are many examples of places where you cannot practice your faith freely. Many Muslim nations and communist countries or dictatorships do not allow the free practice of religion. There are other examples as well, but the point is it's because of our Christian heritage that we all can worship as we see fit. This is not the same as saying all religions are equal or true. That's another topic we can get into later. But suffice it to say, that is clearly not what the Founders believed nor is it how reality appears to me.

I'll quote David Josiah Brewer, a Supreme Court Justice in the late 1800's, to explain what I'm saying: “...in what sense can it be called a Christian nation? Not in the sense that Christianity is the established religion or that people are in any matter compelled to support it. On the contrary, the Constitution specifically provides that 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.' Neither is it Christian in the sense that all of its citizens are either in fact or name Christian. On the contrary, all religions have free scope within our borders. Numbers of our people profess other religions, and many reject all. Nor is it Christian in the sense that a profession of Christianity is a condition of holding office or otherwise engaging in public service, or essential to recognition either politically or socially. In fact, the government as a legal organization is independent of all religions. Nevertheless, we constantly speak of this republic as a Christian Nation--in fact, as the leading Christian Nation of the world. This popular use of the term certainly has significance. It is not a mere creation of the imagination. It is not a term of derision but has substantial basis--one which justifies its use.”

This is in contrast to my friend's belief that Christians get special privileges here in the States. It may be that the people more often support a Christian, sure. That's because many of us are Christians and we have a common belief with the individual. This, in no way, means the “system” shows favoritism. It clearly does not. My atheist friend says, “It is hard to run for public office if you do not profess your love for Jesus Christ.” If this is true, it's because the voters want someone they trust and believe in who shares their values. It has nothing to do with the US government showing special privileges to Christians. If anything, his point supports mine—that we are a Christian nation. We want to be led by men and women who share our faith. That's not favoritism on the part of the state. It's the way we as citizens vote.

I believe my friend decided arbitrarily that the basis for our nation's founding and the concepts employed to develop our government are not useful for determining if we are a Christian nation or not, because the fact that if he accepts either of these things—the beliefs of the Founders, the basis for the Declaration of Independence being written, or the principles used to construct our system of government—then he must admit he's wrong. The case is fairly open and shut. Let's take a peek at a few of the Founders to see what they say on the matter.

Patrick Henry, the man famous for saying, “Give me liberty or give me death,” has a lot of other great things to say. Henry was a general during the Revolutionary War. He served as the governor of Virginia twice, was a legislator, and ratified the US Constitution. He said, “Whether this [the American War for Independence] will prove a blessing or a curse will depend upon the use our people make of the blessings which a gracious God hath bestowed on us. If they are wise, they will be great and happy. If they are of a contrary character, they will be miserable. Righteousness alone can exalt them as a nation.” This statement was based on Proverbs 14:34. It seems rather clear he believed the foundation of life and happiness and, therefore, our nation was based on the worship of our Creator.

George Washington, our first president, Commander-in-Chief during the Revolutionary War, president of the Constitutional Convention, and a judge said, "It is impossible to account for the creation of the universe without the agency of a Supreme Being. It is impossible to govern the universe without the aid of a Supreme Being." Do we think that this great man would say such a thing only to do the opposite? Washington is also quoted as saying, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.” Some say he never said this, but it's similar point is found in so many other of his sayings that it seems he may have. If nothing else, it's nearly a paraphrase of the previous quote. He even said, in 1779 to the chiefs of the Delaware Indians, “You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are… Congress will do everything they can to assist you in this wise intention.” He was certainly not a multiculturalist as most separationists were. He and the other Founders believed that converting people to Christianity and assimilating them into our culture was a virtuous task; a far cry from what the government stands for these days.

There is much more to say on this and I've just scratched the surface. Next week, I will reveal a few more things the Founders had to say but even more importantly what they did that confirms we are most certainly a Christian nation founded by Christians on Christian principles to govern Christian people. Thank you for reading and God bless America.

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Lord of the Flies: When Religion Becomes a Cult

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Tuesday, September 20, 2016 0 comments

by Bill Seng

“No sooner had Gideon died that the Israelites again prostituted themselves to the Baals. They set up Baal-Berith as their god and did not remember the Lord their God.” ~Judges 8:33-34a

I used to enjoy scary movies quite a bit and, to me, there is nothing scarier than movies involving demonic activity, possession, and other weird paranormal things. A common sign in such movies that demonic activity is occurring is that unusual amounts of flies swarm in areas around the home of the main characters. I used to wonder, “Why do these movies often include flies?” There is a very practical answer to that, which is related to the false god the Israelites worshiped after Gideon died.

As this blog post unfolds you will see that the Israelites made a common mistake that still happens today. It says that they forgot the Lord their God, not that they forsook him. Of course, they departed from him by forgetting him, but it seems like there was some remnant of a thought about God even when they engaged in their idolatry. The Lord is the One who established a covenant, which is a personal and intimate vow, with Israel. When they had forgotten the Lord, they began worshipping Baal-Berith, whose name means Lord of the Covenant.

It is important to take note of the last actions of Gideon before they began to worship this false god. Gideon had created an ephod, presumably to honor God, but instead everyone started to worship the ephod. The band Casting Crowns wrote a song titled Slow Fade, and its message is that once you start to sin a little, your willingness and boldness in sin will grow until the sin has grown out of control and the consequences become dire. This is what happened with Israel under Gideon. Ironically, Gideon was also known as Jerub-Baal for having previously destroyed the idols of Baal and the people in response said “Let Baal contend with him,” assuming that if Baal was a god, he would deal with Gideon. Baal did nothing, exposing him as a false god, and the people chose to follow Gideon and the Lord God.

Anybody familiar with the title of this blog post will recall that the Lord of the Flies was a story about a group of children that became stranded on an island and had to set up their own civilization without the aid of adults. Their attempt quickly crumbled and the boys became savagely violent and contentious against one another. After the death of Gideon, the people lost godly direction (which had already been tainted by Gideon’s worship of the ephod) and they sought to worship a god to whom they could make an idol. They were without direction, which is why they chose to follow Baal-Berith.

Not much is known about Baal-Berith, aside from the meaning of his name. Some have speculated that the name may have derived from the Hebrew word “berit,” which means circumcision, a sign of the covenant. But according to Jewish Rabbinic tradition, Baal-Berith is associated with Beelzebub, who is mentioned in the New Testament. The Pharisees accused Jesus of driving out demons through the prince of demons, Beelzebub (Matthew 12:24). Beelzebub was often times portrayed in the shape of a fly. Hence, the portrayal of demonic activity in movies through swarms of flies. It is meant to show the viewer that Beelzebub, the prince of demons, is in their midst. Some speculate that the covenant referenced in the name Baal-Berith may have been in connection with an idol made in the form of a fly that his worshipers may have carried as a good luck charm of sorts. What can we learn from all of this?

1)      The Bible is our authority on God. When people start trying to find God on their own, but refuse to consult God’s written revelation, they will be unable to learn who he is or what he requires. The people of Israel chose to ignore God’s revelation and to pursue their own interests.

2)      Just because our leaders might engage in ungodly activity does not mean it is okay for us to partake as well. It is all too easy to believe that a leader of any sort knows better than his or her followers. Truth be told, leaders are just as susceptible to evil as anyone else. The only way to know is to hold to a solid set of principles that hold even the leaders accountable.

3)      Avoid being encapsulated by narrow dogmatic teachings. There are core teachings to Christianity that we must be dogmatic about, but there are so many peripheral issues that it is easy to make an idol out of any one of them. For example, I think the topics of predestination, free will, baptism, communion, and speaking in tongues are often times issues in Christianity that we become too dogmatic about. When we overemphasize doctrines like these, it is easy to forget the one who granted us the right to become children of God.

The Israelites knew better, and Gideon knew better, than to worship anyone but the Lord God. The problem is that their faith had been so corrupted by the time Gideon died that they couldn’t remember anything about the Lord other than he was the Lord of their covenant. It became a Lord of the Flies scenario where they ended up worshipping the Lord of the Flies.

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Judges 8:29-35

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, September 19, 2016 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“Jerub-Baal son of Joash went back home to live. He had seventy sons of his own, for he had many wives. His concubine, who lived in Shechem, also bore him a son, whom he named Abimelech. Gideon son of Joash died at a good old age and was buried in the tomb of his father Joash in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
No sooner had Gideon died than the Israelites again prostituted themselves to the Baals. They set up Baal-Berith as their god and did not remember the Lord their God, who had rescued them from the hands of all their enemies on every side. They also failed to show any loyalty to the family of Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) in spite of all the good things he had done for them.” (Judges 8:29-35)

We’ve been writing about Gideon for about 2 months now, and we’re finally coming to the end of his story. After his victory in battle thanks to his obedience to God, and the people wanting to honor him for that, Gideon settles back into life at home. His many wives and sons indicate his prosperity in that day. God honored Gideon’s obedience to Him by giving him a large family.

One of Gideon’s concubines is singled out in this passage. A concubine is similar to a wife, but with lower status; another word for one could be a mistress. It should be noted that just because Gideon had many wives and concubines doesn’t make it ok in God’s eyes. Gideon was still a human, prone to sinful tendencies, and this was one of them.

So this one particular concubine of Gideon’s lived in the town of Shechem. She was still under her father’s household and authority, but Gideon would visit her periodically. (Again, just because Gideon did it does not make this ok in God’s eyes!) She is singled out because she bore Gideon a son named Abimelech, who we’ll read about more next week. Stay tuned.

The fact that verse 32 says that Gideon died “at a good old age” indicates that he had a long and full life. This expression is used elsewhere in the Old Testament to describe Abraham (Genesis 25:8) and David (1 Chronicles 29:28).

And what happened after Gideon died? The people began to worship idols again (verse 33). The phrase “When the cat’s away, the mice will play” comes to mind here. Gideon was the one who had destroyed their altars to Baal and their Asherah poles, so once he was gone they essentially built them right back up again. They began to worship the false god Baal-Berith; this literally means “lord of the covenant.” This was their blatant disregard for the covenant that Israel had with God, which they were now clearly abandoning, yet again.

Israel continued to forget God’s provision for them, and they constantly turned to the things of this world. God had rescued them in a triumphant victory from the horrible oppression of the Midianites, and now they completely turned their backs on Him!

But how often do we do that as well? Maybe the power of God set you free from an addiction, and then you soon get addicted to something else. Maybe you briefly praise God for something good that He did in your life, but the next day you turn your back on God and rely on yourself again. We do this all the time, because we’re a sinful people, but that’s no excuse. We need to try to be more like Gideon and less like the Israelites, turning to God and relying on Him rather than following other people or the ways of this world. People come and go, but we are continually called to follow the one true God.

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Pruning Seasons

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, September 18, 2016 0 comments

by Ami Samuels

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts away every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15:1-2

I enjoy having flowers outside. I have planters of geraniums and ferns on my porch. For years my plants would do well at first, and then they would become overgrown and not look very pretty. I asked my mom what I was doing wrong and she told me that I needed to prune them back. At first I had a hard time pruning them back; it felt counter-productive to me. But once I started pruning them back I noticed new blooms popping up. Pruning is necessary, because if you don’t cut the stem back the plant still sends nutrients to a dead or expiring bloom and it isn’t sending nutrients to new flower or buds.

That was how I felt about moving from my hometown to a new city. It was my first move and I missed my family and friends. It felt like a pruning process. I remember hearing an amputee explaining that when they lose a limb that, “It still hurts and feels like it is there, but it is gone.”

To a much lesser degree, emotionally I felt this way about moving away from my family and friends. These people were once part of my daily life, and now they were far away and I missed them being such a big part of my life.

Looking back, as hard as that season was for me, God grew me in so many ways as a Christian. My walk with Him became so much closer. He has provided ministry opportunities for me that I would never have stepped into without this season of pruning and growth.

If we don’t allow God to fully prune our lives, we can spend time pouring our thoughts and energy into something that is dying or expired, in turn missing what God has in store for our lives. Without pruning we miss new growth.

Where is God taking the pruning shears to your life? Is it a group of friends, an activity, or a physical move? The next time you feel like something is being taken away or you have loss, pray and ask God to show you if He is pruning you for new growth.

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Praying on Empty

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, September 16, 2016 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

[This blog post is part of a series. The previous post is here, and the next post is here.]

When I wrote my post for last week, I was in an intense battle. Fatigue had all but completely taken me over, and I felt like I had lost pretty much everything I had been building the previous 2-3 months. Four weeks ago, I spoke at a homeschool conference and at the same time ran a booth for Worldview Warriors. I was going strong leading up to that conference. I did have a few distractions before it came and the conference itself was spectacular. However, right after the conference, I was wiped out. I was spiritually, mentally, and physically spent. And I wanted to keep up with the prayer adventure God has me on.

Have you ever had a time when driving and your car ran out of gas? Fortunately I have not experienced that, but I know the feeling in a physical and spiritual sense. Last week, I mentioned about how I had spent a full day at my church to pray before the school year began. I gave a solid strong two hours just pouring out my heart to God, but when that prayer ended, I was drained, empty, and I had nothing left. I was ready to go home. I was planning on staying through to the evening when I had Bible study and I was done just after noon. But I told God: “I can’t leave yet.” I did not know what to pray or how to pray any further at that point. I had nothing in the tank. This is when I got this concept of “Praying on Empty.” What do you do to keep going when you are spent dry? This is the same concept athletes deal with in their games and competitions. How do they keep going when they run out of energy? That is what this post is about.

Last week, I talked about how one evening, I told God, “If you tell me to, I will stay up all night to pray.” That night, God said nothing. I said it again the next night, and God said, “When you are ready.” I wrote that post on Tuesday, two weeks ago (well ahead of last week’s release). One of my closing remarks in last week’s post was the desire to do that all-night prayer vigil, but needing the right moment and motivation. It would defeat the purpose to try on a night before when there is nothing going on that day. I needed the right reason to pursue that dream.

Then on Sunday, a week and a half ago, my pastor preached a good message about how the enemy tries to stop us in our efforts to fulfill God’s purposes. Before the sermon, we dealt with some intense spiritual battles through the worship and the all-nighter rang in my head. I was to do it that night. I had the right motivation because I knew this was the time, even though Labor Day was the next day. So I listened to a couple good sermons about prayer in the afternoon and began preparing my heart and my mind for the long night.

As I showered and prepared for the prayer time, I asked God what he wanted me to pray for and he suggested I pray over my prayer topic list in great detail. I had 22 topics at this point and this post is #9 on that list. That night, several times the fatigue hit hard. I remember at 11:00pm and 1:00am in particular I was ready to quit, but I was determined to finish. At 1:30, I finished praying over my list, but did not want to stop. So I listened to a sermon by Leonard Ravenhill called “Travailing in Prayer,” but at 2:30am I was done. I simply could not continue. It grieved me that I could not finish the job. But this was the longest time I had gone in prayer through the night alone. Only one other time did I stay up, and that was at a retreat when I was in college. I went from midnight to morning, but for most of it I was not alone.

Here, I truly pushed my limits and succeeded in going “beyond empty.” God filled me for those hours when I had nothing left, and I noticed something else of great importance. I had heard of it from others, but never experienced it myself until this night: when I woke up, I was tired, but no more tired than I had been during the week and had just as much energy as I would have had even if I had gone to bed at a normal time. I am certainly going to go for it again soon.

How do you keep on going, when you are spent physically, emotionally, spiritually? The hardest time to pray is when you are tired. In Matthew 26:36-46, Jesus is praying in the Garden of Gethsemane and his closest three disciples, Peter, James, and John, flat out cannot stay awake. Jesus asked them to stay awake and pray lest then fall into temptation. Three times, they fell asleep. Prayer is not easy. It is not a cake walk. And effectual prayer often takes perseverance, travailing through hard labor. One thing I have been learning from Eric Ludy about prayer is the concept of “dig, dig, dig, until you find the treasure.” It does not matter how tired you are. If you know the treasure you are digging for and its value, you will pursue it with everything you have. I believe this is part of why so few of us are so weak in our prayers, including me: because we do not see the value of what we are praying for, we are not desperate enough to lay it all down to go get it at all costs, nor are we willing to put every ounce of strength we have into pursuing it.

This is the concept known as “Praying Through.” You are persistent and unrelenting, refusing to let go until it is accomplished. It is Elijah praying seven times for rain. It is Jacob wrestling all night with God. It is Daniel taking three weeks to get an answer for his vision. Our prayers are going to take effort and time. I believe D.L. Moody prayed for one guy for 50 years before he finally came to Christ. Do we have the endurance to pray that long? Most of us probably have a hard time praying just for five minutes. I was one of them for many years. And even now, I still see signs of that flab, that weariness, and that gauge hovering below empty.

I may be tired. I may be exhausted. But I know I cannot quit. I know I lack the strength, but I know Christ has it. I know I lack the motivation, but I know Christ has it. If I have to stop for the night to rest, then so be it, but the next day, I need to learn to go back to digging and back to prayer, until what I am seeking is found. Refer back to my post on Praying with Expectations. You need specific prayers so you know what you are after and so you know how to keep on praying until victory is gained.

As we pray, let us pray through to the end. Let us not stop because we get tired. Let our prayers only stop because know we have received the answer. If we need to praise the Lord because we cannot think of anything else to pray, then praise. If God has given you a gift of tongues, pray in tongues. If you have no words to say and are only capable of groaning and grunting as Hannah did, then groan and grunt. No matter what, just pray, and keep praying, and keep praying.

God wants us to persist and keep pressing forward until we get it. However, he does not want any prayers of vain repetition. Next week, I will address the differences between persistence in prayer, praying in vain, and knowing when to stop praying.

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One King

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Tuesday, September 13, 2016 0 comments

by Bill Seng

“The Israelites said to Gideon, ‘Rule over us – you, your son and grandson – because you have saved us out of the hand of Midian.’
But Gideon told them, ‘I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you.’” ~Judges 8:22-23

The lust for power is an enticing lure. In a political environment like today’s, it is hard to imagine that anyone would have the audacity, courage, or strength of resolve to refuse an opportunity to seize control over a nation. It is slightly disheartening to think that in order for someone to run for president, he or she must take the initiative to run for that office. What I mean by this is that you must believe that you are the best person for the job. Have you ever thought about the audacity it takes to run for president? Our first president (in the United States) did not have such a reputation.

George Washington was a man renowned for his humility. Now, it has been said that he refused an offer to become the king of the United States, but there are credible sources that would bring this claim into question, thus I will exclude it from one of his noble acts as a leader. What is indisputable is that Washington willingly relinquished power after the Revolutionary War. Considering the dictators that have seized power through force, this alone says that he was a man of tremendous character. Perhaps even more impressive is that he chose to not pursue a third term as President of the United States, despite the temptation to retain power. George Washington knew that he was unworthy of power and that any delusion to believe otherwise would be the first step toward a corrupt mind.

Gideon refused to receive the position of kingship over the Israelites after he had scored a miraculous (literally) victory over the Midianites and their allies. When he was offered the authority to rule, he responded with an answer you wish the Israelites would have taken to heart in the days of Samuel the prophet. At that time, the Israelites demanded that Samuel the prophet anoint the first king over Israel. He was troubled by the request, but God consented. Their response to Samuel’s pleas was, “No! … We want a king over us. Then we will be like all of the other nations, with a king to lead us and go out before us and fight our battles” (1 Samuel 8:19-20). Although it is not evident in the response of the Israelites in the day of Samuel, it is evident in the day of Gideon that the demand for a king actually sprouted from idolatry.

Gideon’s response to the Israelites was, “The Lord will rule over you” (Judges 8:23). God is King. Why do you have a need for a human to rule over you? You silly people. In fact, if you study ancient history, you will notice that time and time again when an individual is appointed king over any group of people, that person will often be considered a god. This was evident in Egypt, Babylon, and even Greece and Rome. We might not think of our leaders in America as gods, but we can just as easily idolize them.

We often fall into the trap of thinking that our chief executive (the president) will solve all of our problems. In 1 Samuel 8, the Israelites state that the king will fight their battles for them; evidently they forgot that their sons would be the soldiers of the king. Leaders and rulers will always disappoint us if they and we forget where their power is derived from. No one has power because of how good or amazing he or she is. God alone grants power to the authorities of this world. George Washington had this figured out and Gideon almost had it figured out. Unfortunately for Gideon and the Israelites, the sin of the nation would not be satisfied until an idol was made and then worshipped. Gideon delivered this request to the Israelites unintentionally by forging an ephod that the entire nation worshipped. Verse 27 records that Gideon and his family were ensnared by idol worship of the ephod. What a disappointment after such a great victory.

Even if you are not a leader according to an official position you occupy, in the Lord’s family we all occupy the position of priests. Thus we are all leaders to someone and need to live lives of humility, always remembering that our position of children of God is only granted through the grace of God. Grace is not grace unless it is undeserved. We should, therefore, be eternally grateful and humbled at the great gift that God has given us.

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Judges 8:22-28

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, September 12, 2016 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“The Israelites said to Gideon, ‘Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson—because you have saved us from the hand of Midian.’
But Gideon told them, ‘I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you.’ And he said, ‘I do have one request, that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder.’ (It was the custom of the Ishmaelites to wear gold earrings.)
They answered, ‘We’ll be glad to give them.’ So they spread out a garment, and each of them threw a ring from his plunder onto it. The weight of the gold rings he asked for came to seventeen hundred shekels, not counting the ornaments, the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian or the chains that were on their camels’ necks. Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family.
Thus Midian was subdued before the Israelites and did not raise its head again. During Gideon’s lifetime, the land had peace forty years.” (Judges 8:22-28)

We’ve been writing for the past few weeks about Gideon and his small army battling the Midianites. We read how God made it clear that He would get the glory for the victory, not Gideon, because the Midianite army was over 400 times larger than Gideon’s. Then we read how even after Gideon’s army made the Midianites retreat, they chased them and apprehended their kings.

Now, after all that, Gideon returns home as a triumphant leader. The people of Israel, knowing of Gideon’s great victory, want to make him their leader. They want to worship Gideon as being victorious, rather than worshipping God. Fortunately Gideon is humble and realizes this, and he puts a stop to it.

Gideon does, however, take a reward for his victory. He requests gold earrings from the people, which he makes into an ephod. I’m sure that’s just what anyone today would want, right? “Gideon, you’ve just won a huge victory over the Midianites, what are you going to do now?” “I’m making an ephod!”

So what exactly is an ephod? Good question. One commentary I read says, “The ephod was an apronlike garment worn by the high priest and was made of linen; blue, purple, and scarlet yarn; and gold thread. Two shoulder straps and a waistband held it secure.” The ephod was an article of clothing that the priests would wear when they would consult with God. Making the ephod gave the people a way to honor Gideon without him becoming their leader.

It’s important to note that the gold for the ephod actually came from the Midianites. In verse 24 we see that it came from the “plunder,” which was the items they took from the Midianites when they fled. Gideon wasn’t asking for the Israelites to give up their possessions, but rather a small part of what they received because of his obedience to God that resulted in Israel’s victory.

But, the ephod was also associated with idol worship in that day. Remember how back in Judges 6, Gideon destroyed the people’s altar to Baal and their Asherah pole? It really wasn’t that long ago that the people were worshipping those idols. The people yearned to have a physical object to worship, rather than only worshipping the one true God. Old habits are hard to break, so the people began to worship Gideon’s ephod.

Even though the people were still not worshipping only the one true God, they still had peace from the Midianites for 40 years.

What can we learn from this? The main lesson for us today is that we need to worship God, not other people or man made objects. While I’m guessing you don’t have a gold ephod that you worship, we do have many other things in our lives that we treat as idols over God. We worship sports teams, musicians, movie stars, or even put our families and friends as more important than God in our lives. We often worship whatever makes us feel good, which is not necessarily God and can often be things that are sinful.

Follow Gideon’s example and worship God with your entire life, giving Him all of the glory for everything He has done for you.

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Secondary Infections

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, September 10, 2016 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

I recently was praying for someone who neglected a urinary tract infection and had it develop into an infection throughout their body. It reminded me of the passage we are blogging on this week.

Read Judges 8:1-21. As Gideon pursues the remaining Midianites who ran from the battlefield, he encounters people from Succoth and Penuel who refuse to help. Initially, Gideon's reaction to them seems severe. Maybe they were afraid to help, thinking Midian would grow strong again and attack them for helping Gideon. That's reasonable, isn't it? Why would Gideon promise to discipline and kill the men of the cities for refusing to help him?

If we look a little closer, we find out that the city names came from Jacob naming locations where he encountered God. Succoth is the place where Jacob built a booth (a ‘sukkot’) and camped after wrestling with God. Penuel (meaning 'face of God') is nearby, and it is where Jacob was re-named 'Israel' when he encountered God. Succoth is in the tribal lands of Gad, and Penuel was in the tribal lands of Benjamin (Penuel is sometimes referred to as 'of Judah' also). So, what does that mean?

Jacob, the patriarch of Israel, had twelve sons. Among them were Gad, Judah, and Benjamin. It is likely that these cities were in the lands where these sons settled. It is also likely that these people were related or were fully Israelite, and yet denied to help their own people.

They might have been willingly helping Midian and gaining from it. Maybe they just rejected offering aid to their own people because they didn't support the battle or Gideon. Maybe they disagreed with God's command in regard to overthrowing Midian. Whatever their motive, they were at least helping the enemy escape, and at worst they were committing treason.

  If the land was to be rid of Midian and its harsh oppression, then those who sympathized with Midian had to be dealt with as well. Succoth and Penuel were secondary infections in the land, demonstrating just how destructive and divisive the influence of Midian had been. Gideon had to deal with them as a part of what God called him to do.

When we neglect or fail to resist an infection, it can spread to other parts of the body, and corrupt even healthy organs and tissues because the body is already under stress with the first infection. If left alone long enough, simple infections that the body should be able to fight off will oppress enough of the body that it will begin to die.

  So, I ask you to take some serious time to reflect and consider the following two sets of questions:

- For your nation: What is the primary infection that is eroding the health of your society? What are the secondary infections and where are they taking root in the culture? How will you be available to God and begin to attack the infection for the sake of your society (including those infected)? What help do you need to get started, and what is stopping you from getting that help?

- For you personally: Where have you allowed yourself to be ruled by your desires or the tyranny of the urgent? What are the secondary infections forming, and how are they affecting you and those around you? How will you be available to God and begin to attack the infection for the sake of your heart and the hearts and lives of those around you? What help do you need to get started, and what is stopping you from getting that help?

Let this be our prayer in this season: Lord Jesus, help us to see where we are infected and festering in our desires and broken ideologies. Help us to see the infection in and around us. Help us have compassion on those infected. Ready us in your power to fight for the health of our nation. Ready us in your grace and strength to fight for the lives of people all around us, who are saturated with infections we have called ‘normal.’ Purify us, God, and use us to purify and rescue others in every circumstance you make available to us. Turn our nation, as you return our hearts to you.

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Praying With Perseverance

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, September 9, 2016 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

[This blog post is part of a series. The previous post is here, and the next post is here.]

It is totally fitting that as I approach the topic of praying with perseverance that I had to deal with the issue. How often do we quit on our prayers too early? Do we have the strength and the fortitude to pray with perseverance? With endurance? With tenacity? I was doing well in my prayer life through this study coming up to about 2 ½ weeks ago, then I hit a wall… right about the time I spoke at a home school conference. I ran out of gas and I knew the problem. I had no prayer endurance. I had no ability to persevere in my praying.

In the early days of this journey a couple months ago, I recall telling the Lord in the shower one night that I would stay up all night in prayer if he needed me to. That night, nothing happened. The next night, God told me something that he has been ringing in the back of my mind the last few days: “When you are ready.” OUCH! That night I made it until midnight and I had to get to bed. And to be honest, I have not tried since. I still value my sleep too much.

In my praying, I have put aside my video games, other than a few quickies on my computer (Candy Crush and Solitaire) to make more time for praying and Bible study (I would often play for 1-3 hours many days when not dedicating free time to writing). But the last couple weeks have been rough. I get home from work exhausted and I end up vegging on the computer until 8:00pm, and even then trying to pray has become hard work. As I write this post, my prayer life has had occasional moments of strength and that “manly” stuff. But lately it has felt like nothing but flab and weak and pathetic. To be honest, the idea of “Is it worth it?” has crossed my mind numerous times. The temptation to get my games out again has returned. Those thoughts are not from God. Playing video games is not a sin, but for me, until this season of training comes to a close, it is. God told me to set them aside for the time being so I can focus on praying.

Praying is often not casual talk with God. It is often hard work. It is a spiritual battle not merely against the forces of darkness but primarily against the sinful flesh trying to retain control of your body and your mind. I hear stories of guys like John “Praying Hyde” Hyde who prayed so hard and earnestly that his heart literally shifted to the other side of his rib cage and he died in prayer. They prayed with extreme passion and perseverance and they tend to make me do a gut check. My prayer life has been nothing even similar to that.

I have been reading The Complete Works of E.M. Bounds and one of his books is on the praying saints of the Bible: Moses, Elijah, Samuel, Jeremiah, Daniel, Paul. While they all had problems, they all had prayer in common.

Elijah is one of the most noted examples of someone who prayed with perseverance. After his big showdown with Ahab and the prophets of Baal, Elijah prayed for rain. He stuck his head between his legs and groaned as one would preparing to give birth. It was hard work. He asked his servant if rain was coming and six times, the answer was no. How many of us would have given up by the third time? Elijah prayed a seventh time and the rain came. Let us not forget that Elijah was just a man like any of us. He is held as the greatest of all the prophets and yet he was just another man like us.

Jacob was another prayer warrior. He was a messed up man for most of his recorded life, but he was a man of prayer. The showdown came in Genesis 32 when Jacob wrestled all night with God. This is often depicted as a physical match, but in reality it was a battle of prayer. Jacob fought with God that night until he got was he was after. From that day forward, Jacob lived as the Godly patriarch he is praised to be.

Daniel had one of the longer recorded prayer sessions in Scripture. In Daniel 10, he has a vision of a man that so terrified him it made him pale. Daniel prayed for an interpretation right then and there, but it did not come for three weeks. He had to pray for three weeks to get an answer. What caused the delay? The angel delivering the message said he was sent immediately but was delayed by the Prince of Persia. Many times we have to pray like we are in battle and keep praying until it is won.

Eric Ludy, in his sermon “A Man of White Knuckles,” describes the life of Nehemiah, and how he was a man who did not allow for a moment the weariness of the world and the opposition from the enemy to slow him down. This quote from the 4:15-4:28 mark of the sermon got my attention when preparing this post: “If you ever feel that dimness [tiredness and weariness] and that cloud around your spiritual mind and your spiritual heart, you grip your sword harder and you refuse to relent until it leaves.” I did fencing for 15 years so this definitely rings true for me. Many times in my competitions, I would get tired and I would not have the fortitude to push through the tiredness and leave it all on the fencing strip. I did not know how to do that. For so many years of my life, I could go on and on and when I had enough, I was done. But I never knew how to push through.

One of David’s Mighty Men, Eleazar, fought for a field against the Philistines and fought so hard his hand claived to his sword. That means his hand locked onto it and the sword had to be pried from his hands because his grip was so tight. THAT is the kind of prayer God wants us to be praying. We are to keep going and going until victory is won.

I’ll be honest. I do not know how to pray like this. In the last several nights, I have told God straight up that I do not have the substance to pray the kind of prayers he is teaching me about in this season. I just do not have it. I do, however, know that Jesus has it. When I pray, I need to call upon his strength. I still need to set up that appointment with God to pray through the whole night. I recall Eric Ludy describing his need to do that in Wrestling Prayer and he only needed to do 3-4 nights of that (not in a row) in developing his prayer life. I know when I do it and I make it through that God will give me the strength for the next day. I do not want to intentionally plan it on a day when I do not have to do something the next day. That is the wrong motive.

To be able to pray through the entire night, or even to be able to pray through an entire day, one thing I will need to learn is how to pray through. How to pray when on empty. The day I prayed at my church a couple months ago in prepping to launch my new school year, this concept rang in my head and is worthy of its own post. Next week, I will address what God is teaching me on how to pray when on empty.

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A Loaf of Bread for the Saints

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Tuesday, September 6, 2016 0 comments

by Bill Seng

“He said to the men of Succoth, ‘Give my troops some bread; they are worn out, and I am still pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.’” ~Judges 8:5

Some people will go as far out of their way as they can to disrupt God’s work in people’s lives. One of my favorite evangelists in the United States was released from prison last year upon being convicted of some sort of tax fraud. Without going into detail, the case was somewhat absurd and the charges that were brought upon the evangelist could easily have been laid against just about anyone in the United States. After deciding not to fight the charges, as he was expecting the case to essentially be thrown out, the judge, who was strongly anti-Christian, threw the book at him and sentenced him to 10 years in prison, which had expired about a year ago. Now, during that time he brought over 300 prisoners to Christ, but that’s beside the point. Instead of giving this man a lighter sentence or throwing out the charges altogether, these biased legal participants decided to teach this Christian a lesson for being as outspoken for Jesus as what he was.

After forcing the army of the Midianites to retreat, Gideon and his 300 men were in hot pursuit of the remaining forces to wipe them out. They had vanquished 120,000 swordsmen and were looking to finish the job once they caught the fleeing troops. Understandably, Gideon’s men had become tired. Not once but twice, they came upon villages, Succoth and Peniel, and asked for some bread to replenish the battle-exhausted troops. Both villages denied Gideon’s request and sent the men out starving as they pursued their enemies.

2 Timothy 3:12 states, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” In this instance, Gideon and his men were obeying the Word of God. Their request upon these villages was not a toilsome request as there were only 300 men to feed and they were only asking for bread. Nonetheless, those who want to see the saints of God thwarted and humiliated would refuse to spare even this much. Their expectation is that because they deprive the saints a material blessing, they prevent them from fulfilling their cause. In the case of Gideon, this is not true. They continued to pursue their enemy despite their fatigue because God had empowered them to defeat them. Natural circumstances cannot thwart the power or will of God in the hands of an obedient servant.

By denying Gideon’s men a blessing, the people of Succoth and Peniel did not bring down a curse, as they may have expected. Instead, they prevented God from blessing their villages and, furthermore, Gideon returned to bring both villages to justice by oppressing Succoth and killing the men in Peniel. So, not only did they rob themselves of a blessing, they brought a curse upon themselves.

Jesus said that “if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42). To me, this is a very powerful passage. So often do we focus on what factors bring judgment upon disobedient people that we forget how richly God blesses those who graciously bless his saints. It is important for us to be rich in good deeds as God has purposed us to be a blessing to the world and not a curse.

Also remember, although Gideon lived under the promises of the old covenant, we live under the promises of the new covenant today. He cursed the villages that denied him and his men. The Apostle Paul tells us to bless and not curse those who persecute us (Romans 12:14). It is for God to judge the wicked, not us. The covenant established with Israel in the days of Gideon was intended to cleanse the land of evil and establish a holy nation on earth. The promise we have through the new covenant is to establish a kingdom in heaven. Thus, God is the executive of justice, not us.

When oppressors come around, do not be discouraged. God’s will is that we might grow through times of persecution and become more like his Son who suffered through the ills of the world. We can endure and like Jesus, and we can also bless those who might otherwise deserve a curse for how they try to disrupt the plans of God.

This forum is meant to foster discussion and allow for differing viewpoints to be explored with equal and respectful consideration.  All comments are moderated and any foul language or threatening/abusive comments will not be approved.  Users who engage in threatening or abusive comments which are physically harmful in nature will be reported to the authorities.