Prayer of Jabez or Prayer of Paul?

I’m not a theologian. I didn’t go to Bible college and my Bible study is mostly personal reading, observing, comparing translations, etc. In other words: my blog posts are just my observations and thoughts and what I’m learning in my personal study.

In today’s #DailyBibleReading I read the “Prayer of Jabez”. This is my third time reading through the entire Bible, so I know I’ve read this paragraph before, but somehow I missed it.

‘There was a man named Jabez who was more honorable than any of his brothers. His mother named him Jabez because his birth had been so painful. He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!” And God granted him his request.’ 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 

My first reaction: “Wow, what a fascinating paragraph in the middle of a chapter of chronology. I’d love to know more about this guy.”

Second reaction: “The prayer of Jabez sounds really familiar. Where have I heard about this before?”

So I googled “Prayer of Jabez”.

Whoa. I guess it is a somewhat controversial topic. It looks like there is a best-selling book, “The Prayer of Jabez” by Bruce Wilkinson. Per Amazon’s synopsis of the book: “Readers who commit to offering the same prayer on a regular basis will find themselves extravagantly blessed by God, and agents of His miraculous power, in everyday life.”

I’ve never read the book before so I can’t really speak to it, but there are a lot of posts criticising it. See here, here, and here for a few of the concerns.

My observations:

  1. Be careful what you read: There are a lot of people writing about the Bible, preaching, teaching, blogging, etc. (Me included.) Be careful of what you read. And make sure you are reading the Bible first and foremost. For everything you read or hear about the Bible go back to the Bible and make sure it is biblically based. Like I said a the beginning of the post, I’m not a theologian. And even if I was, that doesn’t mean everything I say is correct. And even if God is doing something in my life or leading me to do something, it doesn’t mean it is the same for everyone. We all have our OWN walk with Jesus.
  2. God doesn’t promise a life free from trouble: The prayer of Jabez and the snippet of his life is beautiful. But in today’s #BibleReadingPlan I also read about Paul who was also a man of prayer. Find some of his prayers here and here. Like Jabez, Paul was an honorable man who followed the Lord, but his life on earth was marked by pain, trouble, and prison:

    ‘A few days later Felix came back with his wife, Drusilla, who was Jewish. Sending for Paul, they listened as he told them about faith in Christ Jesus. As he reasoned with them about righteousness and self-control and the coming day of judgment, Felix became frightened. “Go away for now,” he replied. “When it is more convenient, I’ll call for you again.” He also hoped that Paul would bribe him, so he sent for him quite often and talked with him.

    After two years went by in this way, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And because Felix wanted to gain favor with the Jewish people, he left Paul in prison.’ Acts of the Apostles 24:24-27 

     

  3. Read the Bible: Over any biblical book, commentary, devotional, Bible study or blog, read the Bible. The more you spend time reading the Bible and becoming familiar with it, the easier it is for you to know what is biblically based teaching and what is false.
  4. Pray: I’m not saying you shouldn’t pray the Prayer of Jabez, but prayer is more than just reciting someone else’s prayer. Pray YOUR prayer. Be intimate with Jesus. Talk to Him. Plead with Him. Tell him the desires of your heart. Your fears, your doubts, your sins. Praise Him. Thank Him. Cry out to Him. Worship Him.

Along with reading the Bible and praying, trust God. Whether you have the life of Jabez or the life of Paul, God is in control. Follow Him. He doesn’t promise us a life free of pain here on earth, but he does promise heaven for those who put their faith in Jesus.

 

 

 

 

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What is Faith?

Yesterday at church our pastor said, “Faith is thinking highly enough of God to trust Him with your life.” 

For example, God told Abraham that even though he was a very old man, he would have a son and his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. This was a seemingly impossible promise. But Abraham believed God. He trusted Him. He understood God’s power and His character.

Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.  Genesis 15:6

Faith isn’t just believing that God exists – even the demons intellectually believe that God exists (James 2:19), but they haven’t put their faith in God. The demons don’t trust God with their lives. Faith means trusting in God.

The English word “Faith” in the Bible is translated from the Greek word “pistis” or πίστις. It means “firm persuasion, assurance, firm conviction, guarantee.”

Faith in Jesus is what God wants from us; a firm conviction that Jesus is God – that he died for our sins and that everything he says is true – and that we trust in Him.  If we have this Faith, we will be saved.

So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe. That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, “I have made you the father of many nations.” This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing. Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!” And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb.

Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous. And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.

Romans 4:16-25

Abraham believed. And that belief was credited to him as righteousness. And because of his belief and trust in God, he obeyed God. Obedience follows belief. Because we believe that God knows what He is talking about and we trust Him with our lives, we want to follow the path he has shown us.

Here is an analogy: A hiker got lost in Yosemite National Park. It was snowy, freezing, and getting dark. The hiker was out of water and food, didn’t have a tent, and wasn’t dressed for cold weather. The hiker didn’t have a map, GPS, or even a compass. It was his first visit to Yosemite and he wasn’t an experienced climber or hiker. He had climbed up a steep hill an hour before, but in the dark, he had no idea where the ledge was or how to get down to the path.

Then a park ranger showed up.

The park ranger had 20 years of experience as a ranger in Yosemite. He had a degree in Wildlife and Forestry and was an expert mountain climber. He was the most respected ranger in the park. He hiked in Yosemite every day and had walked that very area of the park numerous times that week already. He also had a map, a GPS rescue radio, flashlight, trekking poles, water, ropes, and a rifle in case of bears. He said, “follow me, I’ll take you to safety”.

Now the hiker had a decision to make. He could stay where he was and hope he didn’t freeze to death. Or he could try to find his way on his own and hope he didn’t fall off a cliff. Or he could follow the park ranger and trust the ranger knew the way to safety.

The hiker doesn’t need to pay the ranger. He doesn’t need to prove he is a good person before the ranger will guide him to safety. He doesn’t need perfect hiking gear or mountain climbing skills before the ranger will agree to help him.

He just needs to make a decision to trust the ranger and follow him.

Faith in Jesus is that simple. It is trusting Jesus. And following Him.

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

“There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.” John 3:16-21

 

 

Transformation by Time Spent with Jesus

Everyone has sins they struggle with. On any given day, the main areas I struggle with are being patient, being respectful of my husband, not losing my temper, and controlling my tongue. And occasionally lust depending on the time of the month and if I happen upon a movie starring Channing Tatum, Idris Elba, or Zac Efron.

For years I thought, “I’m a Christian, so I shouldn’t struggle with sin so much. Why doesn’t God just take my sin and temptation away?” If God washes our sin away when we become saved then why do I end up gossiping on a regular basis? Why am I not overcoming sin?  Why am I still yelling at my kids? Why do I get so frustrated? Why am I not more like Jesus?

Then one Sunday in church I heard a word I’d heard a million times before, but for the first time, the concept stuck: Sanctification. Sanctification is the process of becoming more like Jesus . . . moving from a life of sin to a life that is holy. For the majority of people this isn’t an overnight thing, but a gradual daily transformation. Little by little. We become more like Jesus.

How does Sanctification happen? It doesn’t happen by saying a quick prayer or even going to church on Sunday. It happens by spending time with Jesus every day. Reading the Bible. Praying. Worshiping God. Memorize Bible verses and meditating on them. Fasting. That is all I need to do – keep my mind focused on Jesus and spend time with him every day. He’ll do the rest.

I’ve experienced this in my own life. I’m changing . . . ever so gradually. I still get mad. I still gossip. I still sin. But not as much. And the temptation isn’t as great as it used to be. And I can guarantee you I can’t take any credit for the changes in my attitude and behavior because I’ve tried to make changes myself and nothing worked long-term. I’ve gone to counseling, read self-help books, even joined support groups. Sure, I learned some helpful tools and had some accountability, but never experienced any deep heart transformation.

Until I started having coffee with Jesus every morning.

Then everything changed. Not overnight. Not anything noticeable to anyone but me (at first). But the old me has started dying. I leave a little piece of the old me behind every morning when I meet with Jesus. And I leave my daily time with Jesus with a little more of Him in me.

Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.  John 17:17 

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  Romans 12:2 

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,  1 Peter 2:2

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, Deuteronomy 11:18-20 

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.  1 Timothy 4:7-10

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

Psalms 146:7‭-‬9

#DailyBibleReading #BibleReadingPlan

He gives justice to the oppressed and food to the hungry. The Lord frees the prisoners. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are weighed down. The Lord loves the godly. The Lord protects the foreigners among us. He cares for the orphans and widows, but he frustrates the plans of the wicked.
Psalms 146:7‭-‬9 NLT

Peace in the Midst of Chaos

How do we find peace in this chaotic world?

There is chaos all around us. Anytime I turn on the TV or look at my phone it is swirling around me – from the KKK in Charlottesville, to nuclear threats, to political unrest, to celebrity suicide. And then there is the chaos of everyday life.  From getting kids ready for back to school and keeping up with my to-do list.

But my God is a God of peace. And if I focus on Him, all the chaos falls away.

Isaiah 45-18 NLT

Chaos is nothing new. War, racial tension, family disagreements, and unrest have been here since sin entered the world. God didn’t create us to live in chaos. Our eyes aren’t meant to focus on the worries of the world.

Our eyes should be focused on Jesus.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. 1 Peter 5:7,10

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Isaiah 26:3

Those who love your instructions have great peace and do not stumble. Psalms 119:165

Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. Psalms 34:14 

How do we find peace in this chaotic world?

  1. Seek Jesus: Read the Bible every day. #DailyBibleReading
  2. Do a Self-Inventory: “Am I doing good in the world?” Do something good. Every day. Show kindness to a stranger. Do something loving for a family member. Pray for an enemy.
  3. Pray: Keep a prayer journal. Take your worries and hurts to Jesus.
  4. Praise God: Thank Him and praise Him.

Turn off your phone. Open your Bible.

Peace - turn off phone

 

Musings on the Kingdom of Heaven

#DailyBibleReading #BibleReadingPlan

“But what do you think about this?

A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway.

Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go.

“Which of the two obeyed his father?”

They replied, “The first.”

Then Jesus explained his meaning: “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do. For John the Baptist came and showed you the right way to live, but you didn’t believe him, while tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even when you saw this happening, you refused to believe him and repent of your sins.” Matthew 21:28-32 

I am a poster child for “fly over” America. I live in the middle of the United States in a nice, middle-class house. I have a husband, two kids, and a dog. I drive my kids to sports and school.  I am a typical “soccer mom” (minus the soccer and the peppy smile and cute blonde pony-tail . . . I’m the mom hanging out in her car with no make-up and lots of gray hair, trying to finish an overdue library book while drinking lukewarm coffee).

I am rarely pushed out of my comfort zone. I’ve traveled internationally and seen poverty, but it doesn’t touch my day-to-day life. I go to church with a lot of other hard-working, suburban, mid-westerners.

Yes, there are hipsters and hippies and refugees in our midst, but the count is small.

Sure, there are probably a lot of us living paycheck to paycheck, but not too many who are skipping meals due to lack of money.

This is my little piece of the world.

Not to say there isn’t pain and drama and sin in my church – there is – plenty of it. Just like every church in the world, the seats are full of people silently suffering from depression and anxiety. Whether in their past or present life – there is the struggle of addiction to porn, drugs, alcohol and gambling. There is divorce. There are past childhood wounds. There is future baggage being created. There is gossip and anger. There is hurt. There are struggles.

There are also the same faces that are seen every Sunday – the church leaders, the greeters, the childcare volunteers.

And then there are the invisible Christians. There are those who walk in and walk out of church, unnoticed. There are those who never even walk in the doors, because they are ashamed of the baggage they carry. There are brothers and sisters in Christ who go to church in prison as they serve a life-sentence. There are those who never show up on Sunday morning because they are in a nursing home or hospital.

In my mind, I see the “Kingdom of Heaven” being my church on a bigger scale, just without the ongoing sin and pain.

And it some ways it will be. But in other ways it will be much different.

In heaven, the invisible Christians will finally be seen. And they won’t be last. They will be first. The death row inmate who gave his life to Christ in the final hours will be leading the choir. The former thief will be at a place of honor. The invisible Christians – the poor and the hurting – will be those with the best seats at the table.

There will be people from every nationality and ethnicity, worshiping together. The prostitute with the preacher. The murderer with the cop. The man who struggled with same-sex attraction and the man who struggled with judging others. The republican and the democrat. The liberal and the conservative. The socialist, the libertarian, and the communist. The rich and the poor. The elderly and the infant.

Maybe it is time that I open my eyes and see others the way Jesus sees them. Love them the way Jesus loves them. Show compassion like Jesus showed. For all I know the homeless man I pass on the way to church might have a seat reserved for him in heaven, at the right hand of Jesus. The woman who keeps her head down at the grocery store and looks like her life is a mess . . . might be first in the Kingdom of Heaven.

About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” Then he said,“I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 18:1-4 

“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” Matthew 5:3

“God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” Matthew 5:10 

“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” Matthew 7:13-14 

“I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” Then Jesus said to his disciples,“I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked. Jesus looked at them intently and said,“Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” Matthew 19:23-26 

Matthew 20: Showing up Late for Work

Today’s #BibleReadingPlan had me read Matthew 20:1-19. Recently my pastor taught on this passage, which showed me this parable in a light I’d never seen before. You can listen to the sermon here on Journey Church’s website.  Pastor Phil Human does a great job illustrating what this parable means . . . but I’ll take a shot at summarizing as well.

  • God is the boss of heaven. He is a kind boss. He is merciful. He is generous. He is loving.
  • Someone can turn to God in the twilight of their life – and God will welcome them into heaven just the same as someone who served Him their whole life.
  • Our focus shouldn’t be on what others are doing, how much money they are making or rewards they are getting . . . our focus should be on the tasks God has given us and our relationship with Him.
  • I need to humble myself and be grateful for the gifts God has given me.

The Parable:

6 a.m.: A landowner went into town to hire people to work in his vineyard. He found a group of laborers and agreed to pay them a set amount for working the full day. (For example, $80)

9 a.m.: Same landowner is back in town and sees some people standing around doing nothing. He offered them a job to work in the vineyard for the rest of the day. They didn’t negotiate a pay rate, but he said he’d pay them whatever was right at the end of the day.

Noon: Same as 9 a.m.

3 p.m.: Same as 9 a.m.

5 p.m.: Same as 9 a.m.

7 p.m.: Everyone comes in from work and stands in line to get their pay. They line up from how long they worked. At the front of the line are the guys who only worked for a few hours. I imagine they aren’t even tired after only working a few hours. The landowner hands them each $80.

When the guys who had been working all day see this they start to do the math and get excited, thinking if the landowner paid these guys $80 for working 2 hours they are probably going to get $520 for working 13 hours!

But as they go down the line, the landowner hands everyone $80.

The guys at the end of the line were extremely upset with the landowner and didn’t think he was being fair.

But in reality, he was paying them exactly what he had agreed to pay them. They weren’t getting ripped off. They were being paid the going rate for the work they did. But, the landowner was being kind to the others and the 6 a.m. workers were jealous.

As Pastor Phil said in his sermon, most of us hear this parable and get a little indignant just like the 6 a.m. worker.

But now switch things around a bit . . . let’s get real. I’m not a 6 a.m. worker. I may have been a “Christian” from a young age, but I wasn’t actively running the race until a few years ago. And when it is hot, I take a lot of water breaks. I give into temptation. I get easily distracted from the tasks God has given me.

Am I really a 6 a.m. worker? Not by a long-shot.  Not even a 9 a.m. or noon worker. I’d probably say I’m a 3 p.m. worker . . . but if I’m honest I’m actually a 5 p.m. worker. I spend the majority of my day hanging out in town. And I give God the left-overs of my energy and time.

God asks me to spend time with him. To love him with all my heart and soul. To love my enemies. To love my neighbors. To care for the widows and the orphans. To be patient, kind, merciful and humble. 99% of the time (or more) I am none of these and do none of them.

But God, in his kindness, is going to give me the same reward of admission into heaven as He gave our mentors from the Bible – Peter, Paul, Mary, Stephen. By God’s grace, I will enter heaven just like martyrs, missionaries, apostles and saints.

Instead of getting indignant about the 5 p.m. workers getting $80 . . .  I need to look in the mirror and see myself for what I am: A 5 p.m. worker.

I should be on my knees thanking God for his kindness and mercy because I am being given a gift far more generous and wonderful than I could ever earn or will ever deserve.