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The Purpose of Prayer

Well, here we are two weeks into the new year. That means that 27% of all the New Years Resolutions have now been broken! I don’t know if any of you have made any new year resolutions this year (If I remember right – I don’t know that any of us did last year when I asked.) But if you did, I sure hope you’re able to stick with it longer than two weeks.

This week I was reading an article about the business model of gyms and fitness centres. And the article said that these businesses bank on people to sign up for gym memberships in January and then never show up. That’s a key part of their business model. The article said that…

If gyms operate at more than 5% of their membership at any given time, no one can use the gym. They want them to sign up, but they know that after the 15th of January, they won’t see 95% of them again.

That’s pretty incredible! But not too surprising, because I think a lot of us can relate.

I think all of us recognize the value of staying healthy and fit. Now certainly there can be those factors out of our control that prevent that, but generally speaking, all of would like to see ourselves healthy and fit and physically able to do all the things that we’d like to do.

And so most people would agree that it would be good for them to exercise more. Going to the gym would be beneficial. It would be a good habit to get into to. But yet, despite the knowledge in our head of how valuable physical activity and fitness is, very few people actually make it a priority to exercise or go to the gym or do all those things that are required if we want to stay healthy and fit.

Many of us have really good intentions – and we may go through short bursts of time of making the effort – but in the long run, very few people actually stick with it and make it a part of their lifestyle.

And I think we have a similar experience when it comes to the spiritual disciplines.

Over the past several weeks we have been looking at the spiritual disciplines (or the healthy habits) that Christians have been practicing over the centuries in order to cultivate a deep, meaningful relationship with God. We’ve spent a lot of time focusing on the Bible (because that really is the foundation for everything we believe – we have to know and understand and apply this book to our lives), but today I want to look at another healthy habit – and that is prayer.

And prayer, I think, is very much like exercise. Everyone knows that it’s important, and everyone agrees that they really should do it more often, but yet, very few people make it a priority so that it becomes a central part of their life.

And so I spent some time this week trying to figure out why that is. Because every Christian I know agrees that prayer is important. They have the head knowledge that prayer should be central to every Christian’s life! But yet, almost every Christian will tell you, “I really don’t pray like I should. Maybe I pray some, but I really should pray more.”

Now of course, there are some exceptions. There are some people out there that just have amazing prayer lives – and usually, you know exactly who those folks are. They just seem to be so in-tune with God. Even in the midst of great struggles and trials, these folks aren’t shaken at all. It’s like they have this unwavering trust in God. And these folks tend to be so wise and patient and loving and kind. It’s like they’ve been mentored by God Himself! That’s the result of a lifetime and a lifestyle of prayer.

So why aren’t there more of those folks? Why isn’t every Christian like that? What is it about prayer that makes it so difficult to adopt as a lifetime habit? We know how important prayer is, and yet we struggle to make it a central part of our lives! Why is that?

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Christianity Is About Changed Lives

Over the years, banks have made it increasingly difficult to counterfeit money. And the reason for that is that, over the years, counterfeiters have become quite skilled at creating counterfeits and these counterfeits dupe banks, businesses, and ordinary people out of their hard earned cash. 

Thankfully, probably because of these security features or ones like it, I’ve never experienced getting stuck with counterfeit cash and I hope I never do. But I have had experience with counterfeits. 

Last summer I took up the hobby of collecting silver. I bought some collectors coins from the Canadian mint. I bought some “junk” silver from eBay – that is, old Canadian or American coins that 50 years ago had actually had some silver in them. And I also bought some silver coins and silver bars from various mints all over the world.

I was fairly naive at the time and didn’t do my research as well as I should have. To make a long story short, I spent some of my hard earned cash on some counterfeit silver. I have one here – I keep it to remind myself to be a little bit wiser in future eBay purchases.

To just look at it – it seems like the real thing. It’s the right size, right shape, the design matches the real thing. But underneath the thin silver coating, is a bar of copper. It is not a pure silver bar as advertised. It was a fake. It was a counterfeit – I had been duped.

If you have ever been duped by counterfeits, you know the feeling. You’re mad the other guy for taking your money! You’re mad at yourself for falling for their deception.

It stinks. No body likes getting duped.

But you know, people get duped all the time. We live in a world where many people have been duped about God – about who He is and what He’s like – About the meaning of life and realities after death. Our world is full of counterfeit religions and counterfeit beliefs.

And getting duped in this way is far more serious than getting ripped off on eBay. I mean, we’re talking about life-changing, eternal consequences here. So it is absolutely imperative that we can sort out what is true and real and what is counterfeit when it comes to our beliefs about God.

And what makes it increasingly difficult is that many of these counterfeits are very convincing. I mean, that’s the nature of a counterfeit – it looks like the real thing. If it wasn’t convincing, no one would fall for it.

So with so many convincing, yet different beliefs about God and who He is and what life is all about, how do we make sure that we believe what is really true and real? How do we keep from being duped?

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Nutshell Truths

Have any of you ever been duped by counterfeit money? I’ve never experienced getting stuck with counterfeit money and I hope I never do. But I know others have. And that’s got to be a terrible feeling.

Imagine that you’re selling your car on Kijiji for maybe a couple thousand dollars. Some guy comes and checks it out and want to pay cash for it. So he gives you 20 one hundred dollar bills. He takes the car, you take the money and when you go to deposit it in the bank, the teller tells you that it’s all counterfeit. It’s fake. You got ripped off and there’s nothing you can do about.

That would stink big time! Wouldn’t you be mad? Mad at the guy for ripping you off and mad at yourself for not checking the money closer? No body likes getting duped.

But you know, people get duped all the time. Not just with counterfeit money, but with all kinds of things. We get duped by the “no-money-down” commercials on tv, or the “drink this beer and life will become a party” advertisements. We’re likely to see several of those during the superbowl this afternoon. We get duped by the big promises of the lottery tickets or by investments too good to be true.” You read in the news about people who have invested all their life savings with a certain investor only to find out later that the investor was a fraud and all their money is gone. They were duped and now they have nothing.

And while its certainly painful to get deceived out of your hard-earned cash, it’s tragic when people get duped in areas of life that are far more serious.

We live in a world where many people have been duped about God – about who He is and what He’s like – About the meaning of life and realities after death. Our world is full of counterfeit religions and counterfeit beliefs. And getting duped by those are far more serious than getting duped by a used-car salesman. I mean, we’re talking about life-changing, eternal consequences here. So it is absolutely imperative that we can sort out what is true and real and what is counterfeit when it comes to our beliefs about God.

And what makes it increasingly difficult is that many of these counterfeits are very convincing. I mean, that’s the nature of a counterfeit – it looks like the real thing. If it wasn’t convincing, no one would fall for it.

So with so many convincing, yet different beliefs about God and life and death out there, how do we make sure that we know what is really true and real? How do we keep from being duped?

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Gideon – Part One

For the past couple of weeks we’ve been looking at some of the unknown heroes and zeros of the book of Judges. We started with Ehud – the left-handed man who rescued the Israelites by defeating King Eglon. Then we looked at Deborah, Barak, and Jael last week as they defeated King Jabin and the commander of his armies – Sisera. But today we’re going to look at another judge – one who is a little more well-known then some of these others. Today we’re going to look at the life of Gideon.

You’ll remember the cycle of sin that we’ve been talking about in the book of Judges. Israel would sin and so God would send their enemies to punish them. And after several years of enduring this oppression, the Israelites would repent and cry out for God to save them. Which of course, God did by sending them a judge – that is, a rescuer – like Ehud or Deborah. But then, as soon as the enemy was defeated and that particular judge died, the Israelites would go right back into sinning again and the cycle would begin all over. Sin, oppression, rescue, sin, oppression, rescue.

And so, it’s quite predictable, that after 40 years of peace after Deborah rescued Israel from King Jabin and his commander Sisera, that Israel would again sin, and God would have to send another enemy to oppress them. And this time, the enemy was a doozy. If you have your Bibles you can turn to Judges chapter 6 – verse 1.

Table of contents for Heroes and Zeros

  1. Ehud
  2. Deborah, Barak, & Jael
  3. Gideon – Part One
  4. Gideon – Part Two
  5. Samson
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The Difficult Change

Change is difficult. We see that in every aspect of our lives. Just this morning I went through the difficult change of being asleep, comfortable in my bed to being awake and getting ready for church. That was a difficult change. Many of you have moved and taken on new jobs throughout your life – that change is difficult. Many of you have gone from being a newly wed-couple to having kids – that’s a difficult change. Then when those kids grow up and move out, that’s a difficult change there again. As you grow older, your body wears out and you can’t do things like you used to – that’s a difficult change. Life is full of change and most often, that change is difficult.

Even physics say that change is difficult. Isaac Newton’s first law of motion states that an object in motion tends to remain in motion, unless an external force is applied to it. When a train is barreling down the track in this direction, it is very difficult to change it’s direction to go the other way. Change is difficult.

As our church moves forward in the direction God is leading us, there’s bound to be some changes. Some may be minor, some may be major, but all changes will come with some degree of difficulty.

So to help us through the process a little bit, this morning I want to look at some of the major changes that happened in the early church.

The first change that we want to look at is a changed way of coming to God.

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