Monday, May 21, 2018

The Heart of Jabez "Help Me Not Cause Pain"


   While making another journey through the scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation, I once again came across that wonderful little jewel found hidden amongst the rather tedious documentation of genealogies found in First Chronicles chapter 4. 
   Maybe God knows and understands that our attention span seems to shrink with the less than exciting portions of scripture.  So, He inserts this wonderful little account that is filled with wisdom and encouragement and stimulates the sluggish brain.
   Starting with verse 9 of chapter 4, here is the story:
 Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.”
And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested.
    The name Jabez means grieve or sorrowful.  We are not told if the pain this mother carried was physical from the actual birth process or if it was mental anguish for some reason.  Whatever the reason, she burdened the innocent child with a name that was a daily reminder that somehow he brought pain to his mother.
   I was most taken by the last part of his prayer. “that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain.”
   With a name like that, poor Jabez may have felt like he was the cause of every pain in the entire world.  Somehow, he was to blame.
   He did have one thing right.  There is a connection between evilness and pain.  God calls for us to be holy as He is holy.  God’s laws and directives point us toward light and life and peace and joy.  Our enemy, (the enemy of our soul) directs us toward evil which always brings pain. Then he somehow convinces us that if we inflict pain on someone else it will relieve our own pain.
   Jabez may have hated his name and what it meant.  He did not want to be a source of pain to his mother or anyone else.  He knew the wise solution.
   As I read this account, I got curious about who were these brothers that Jabez was more honorable than.  I scanned back through the passages just prior and those after his prayer.  Not a single word about who begat Jabez, or who Jabez begat.  I am still curious and intrigued.  This I do know.  God inserted a jewel of wisdom in an interesting place. 
   A Christian counselor I know often says, “hurting people hurt people.  Maybe Jabez was praying for God’s strength to help him heal from his hurts instead of lashing out and hurting others.  Maybe he realized he needed more than just his own strength.  So do we and so do our children.
   Just this week we learned of another young man who lashed out by killing school mates in Texas.  Maybe it would help if we taught our children to call on God to help and heal when they hurt, if we taught them to call on God to help when they need strength to hold back from lashing out their pain on others. Maybe it would help if we taught them to pray like Jabez….  “that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!”
   A closing thought, God granted him what he requested.


Friday, September 15, 2017

God Loves You

  This is a simple message to anyone who might not know this.  God loves you.  The One True God, the maker of Heaven and Earth, the One who created you with design and purpose loves you.
   The world is becoming messed up and confusing, people fighting each other, missiles being shot into the air and coming down who knows where.  It can be frightening.
   There are floods and devastation from hurricanes and fires burning out of control.  There is hunger and pain and fear. Terrorists attack innocent people as they go about their lives.  In the midst of these things please know that God loves you.  He genuinely and desperately loves you. 
   The Holy book says:  John 3:16-17…For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.  God want's to save you not condemn you.
  It was God’s plan to demonstrate His love by sending His Son.  How did His Son react? He came willingly. He came knowing He would have to die to bring us this gift of everlasting life.   Romans 5:8 says:  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 
   Yes, God loves you and Jesus Christ loves you.  They have made a way for you to have relationship with them.  Open your heart to this love.  Ask forgiveness for your sins.  Allow the shed blood of Jesus to cover your sins and make you an adopted child of the King.
   Romans 8:16 says: The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. 

   May God bless you.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Sending Prayers

Sending Prayers

  I have been noticing something lately that causes me some concern. On social network places, on news broadcasts, or articles, I hear and see the phrase “sending prayers out to you.”
  The common phrase used to be “I am, or we are praying for you.” Maybe they mean the same, but maybe not. If a person sends out prayers to you are they asking you to somehow fix your situation? Are we our own God?
  The meaning of prayer according to the New Oxford American Dictionary is, a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship. Prayer is intended to bring in the help of a higher power because the situation is too big for mere mortals.
  Prayer is a truly wonderful thing. The idea that God, the one who created us loves us and desires relationship and communication with us is rich and mind boggling. Prayer is a gift. Prayer is powerful when connected to the right source. A prayer sent out willy nilly connects to nothing and has no value. A prayer sent out to the one and only true God has infinite power.
  Prayer, however, can be intimidating because if we get serious and really get on our knees and talk to God, we sense that He might be taking note of us and all our failings and imperfections. The nearer we draw to Him and His perfection the more we become aware of our own sinfulness. Maybe there needs to be some house cleaning before we start making requests of God. No wonder people want to simply toss out a simple “sending prayers to you dear.”
  Scripture (the authoritative source for knowing about God and prayer) tells us that no one can come to the Father unless they come thru the Son. John 14:6 says: Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
  When we pray to the Father we must go through His son Jesus. We cannot take a message to the Father without the Son. The Son is clean and sinless. Instead of hearing requests from an unclean vessel God hears the request from a clean one. His Son. Always take Jesus with you when you pray. It is the blood of Christ that covers our sin and makes us worthy of relationship and communication with the Father God.
  If you want your prayers to have power and truly make a difference in someone’s life search out the scriptures and learn how to access God’s power. Search and find what Jesus Christ has done for you.

  “Sending prayers out to you,” is like tossing out a life raft made of cotton candy. Looks good, sounds good, even smells good, but quickly melts away and changes nothing.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

I Love Rocks


  I love rocks. I really do. I guess it’s a good thing since there is no shortage of rocks in these Ozark Mountains of Arkansas where I live. It seems that they grow and multiply like weeds.  My lawn mower doesn’t appreciate them as much as I do.  They come in all different sizes, different colors, with different characteristics, but all are interesting.
   I come by this love and appreciation for rocks quite honestly.  My mother and grandmother were rock collectors, although they called themselves and folks like them “rock hounds”.  It's a good description.  Eyes always to the ground scouting for any worthy to be added to their collections like bloodhounds on the hunt.
   In addition to the family heritage of rock hounding, I have other reasons for this interest in rocks.  I find them fascinating.  Though they are quiet things, rocks really do tell stories.  Well now, that just reminded me of a scripture verse. Sorry, but this happens all the time. Luke 19:40…But He (Jesus) answered and said to them, (the Pharisees) “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”  Jesus was making His triumphal entry to Jerusalem just before His crucifixion. The multitude of His disciples were praising God saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 
   The Savior of the world would get praise that day even if it came from the rocks.  I hope I praise Him enough with my voice and my life that my rocks don’t have to cry out.
   Back to why I like rocks.  Like I said, sometimes they have stories to tell, sometimes they are part of the story and sometimes they are the whole story.
   Regarding rocks with stories to tell, this would be the interesting fossils that I find. We have found what appear to be clams encapsulated in rock.  This discovery would make a person wonder if at some time in the past water covered the tops of these mountains.  According to Genesis 7:19-20, it did.  (19. And the waters prevailed exceedingly on the earth, and all the high hills under the whole heaven were covered.  20.  The waters prevailed fifteen cubits upward, and the mountains were covered.)  I am confident that my rocks, if they could talk, would have very interesting stories to tell us.  I think they might whisper to us “Heed the word of the Lord.”
   I love the story of young David before he became king, and how he chose five smooth stones from a brook and went to do battle with the enemy, a feared enemy who was fiercer and bigger and who brought with him a sword, a spear, and a javelin to this battle.  David had his slingshot, five rocks and God.  David told this enemy, “I will win and then all the earth will know that there is a God in Israel.”  David did win with one rock and they and we can know there is a God.
   Sometimes rocks have a story, sometimes they are in the story, and sometimes they are the whole story.  My favorite rock is the Rock of my salvation, the stone the builders rejected. 
Psalm 61:1-2:  Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer; From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

   By the way this Psalm was written by David, the same boy with the slingshot and the same man who became King David.  He might have been king but he knew who was higher than him.  
   This rock that is higher than I.....this is my favorite.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Fixer-Upper

The Fixer-Upper

  When my husband and I travel we take mostly back roads, the ones that trail thru small communities and wind lazily around in rural areas.  Some might find this boring, but we find it refreshing.  We find all kinds of “treasures” on these outings, interesting flea markets, occasional wildlife, and interesting architecture.  As we travel along, we play a game we call “fix it up or tear it down”.  This is in reference to interesting old homes we find that have lots of character but need lots of work.  We decide between us if we would fix them up or tear them down.
  On one such trip we were traveling highway 6 in Pennsylvania and went through the town of Coudersport.  We happened on to the most wonderful fixer upper we had ever come across.  It was a sad old broken down three story with so much character and potential we fell in love with the old beauty.  It was obvious that she had been completely neglected for who knows how long, but the possibilities were endless. It was almost as though I could hear her call out, “make me new again”. 


           
  Oh, how I wished I could answer that imaginary call.  Boy could I day dream about fixing this one up.  For the next few years when we would travel to Pennsylvania to check on my husband’s mother, we would also check on this fixer upper, to see if anyone had bought it or changed it, or tore it down.  One year we must have gotten on a different street going thru that town, because we couldn’t find it.  We looked and looked where we thought it was but could not find it.  We surmised that it must have been torn down.  It saddened our hearts.  The next year we didn’t really look but happened on to it again accidentally and were overjoyed.  There she was still standing, 


   And wonder of wonders someone had started to work on it.  Someone out there believed like us that this wonderful old architectural gem was worth restoring.




  What a beautiful sight to behold.  When we got home that year we contacted the realtor named on the sign in the yard to get the whole story.  Someone was indeed going to restore what we learned is called “Old Hickory”.   She would become a bed and breakfast.  And, we can follow the progress.  Old Hickory has her own Facebook page.  Each small advancement brings joy and excitement.
  I believe there is something in us that longs to see things at their best potential.  It is fulfilling to watch something in ruins brought back to what it was designed to be.  Whether it be an old mansion or an old car or an old piece of furniture there is a satisfaction in seeing it restored.  As you can see from the pictures my husband likes to restore cars.
    I think God feels that way about us.  And really, don’t we all have an awareness of those areas in us that need repair?  Don’t we desperately long for clean slates?  Don't we too cry out “make me new again”? 
    We were designed to be magnificent beautiful loving children of God.  He created us for Himself, but the enemy struck quickly and dragged mankind off into his camp. And now, in the enemy’s camp we deteriorate and face many kinds of onslaughts that steal our beauty.  Just like Old Hickory, buffeted by time and weather, we are battered by our enemy who works to keep us enslaved in his camp.  But………God sees us.  He always sees us and He loves us with an amazing love. 
   The first thing we need in order to be restored is to get out of the enemy’s camp.  We, like Old Hickory, need to be purchased and have a new owner who will restore us to our intended beauty. God says, “I will buy you back and I will restore you.  The price to buy us was high.  It cost God his Son Jesus dying on a cross, shedding His blood (innocent blood) to buy us back.  But He did that.  Accepting that truth and allowing Christ to be Lord then begins the restoration process.
  
2 Cor 5:17 says:  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
2 Cor 4:16 says:    Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.
Col 3:10 says:   and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him,

   Someone on Old Hickory’s Facebook page ask the question “how do you know what colors to use?”  The answer was that when they scraped the old layers of paint off and got down to the original they could see bits of the original color.  God knows under the layers of sin, hurt, discouragement, failures, and pain there is a person that He created with beauty and uniqueness and purpose.  Little bit by little bit He starts removing the old and replacing with new.  Just like with the mansion it doesn’t happen all at once.  New ownership happens all at once, but restoration is a process.
   Sometimes we can be judgmental regarding someone’s progress or our own restoration progress.  Instead of rejoicing at every little victory we tend to look at how much is yet to be done. 

   Let me encourage you to look at yourself and your brothers and sisters as works in progress like that beautiful old mansion with its new owner.  As Christians, we are new creations.  As we grow in grace and truth His beauty will shine through. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Granny Will Save Me

Hebrews 11: 6 says, But without faith it is impossible to please Him, (God) for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
   This is telling us that faith is a really big thing to God.  When we have faith in Him, it pleases Him.  This week I got a small inkling of this kind of pleasure that God gets from our trust and faith in Him.  Three of my grandchildren were spending the evening with us while their mom and dad had a much-needed date night.
   Six-year-old Calvin was educating younger brother (three-year-old Elijah) about the horrors of ticks and tick bites.  He had watched a documentary about the scariest animals (mosquitos and ticks were at the top of the list).  He was quite descriptive about how the nasty little fiends latch on and don’t let go.  He made it sound like they never let go and you are now doomed.  Elijah didn’t bat an eye but proclaimed with complete confidence, “Granny will save me.”
   Sweet were the words, they melted my heart. And they were cute and funny.  I have chuckled each time I remember his confident words. But there was something else.  It pleased me that he had faith that Granny would save him from any nasty tick.  He sees me as a protector and deliverer, a safe place.
   This little episode reminded me that God is my protector, my deliverer, and my safe place of refuge from every trial, fear and enemy.  When faith rises to the surface and I trust God to see me thru a hard situation, or joy comes bubbling into my heart because I know with confidence that I am His child and He has redeemed me and has given me a place in His family, and when I am comforted by the truth of His love for me I know that these seedlings of faith rising up please my Heavenly Father.  That is what you call a win, win.
   Why do you suppose faith is such a big deal to God?  For one thing, if you are looking anywhere else besides Him it is useless wasted time and effort. The One True God knows there is no other god, no other power, no other wisdom.  Because of His love He wants us to come to the real One and only.   If you are trusting yourself, you are missing out on the strength and power and wisdom of the Creator of the universe.  God desires for us to have access to these things. 
    Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father (God) except through Me.  Jesus is the access key. 
    I believe what Jesus said.  I choose to come to God through Jesus.  That is faith.  It pleases God.  I now have access to this Father who has power and wisdom and love.
   There are way more than nasty ticks out there to grab hold of us.  No matter how complicated life gets, no matter how disturbing the world news is, no matter what the enemy throws at me, with confidence I can say, “God will save me”. 

   Will things always turn out the way I want them to?  No, but I know that my soul is secure and I can say with assurance because of what Jesus Christ has done, God will save me.  You want to please God?  Have faith.  It truly is a win, win.  

Friday, April 21, 2017

STORY TELLING TIME

      I love the Wednesday night services at the church I attend.  We have a meal together with fun and fellowship. Then we have a time of Bible study and sincere prayer.
     Lately, in the Bible study time, we have been looking at the parables of Jesus.  Telling little stories about life situations was a great teaching tool.  We all tend to be like children and need these “make it plain for me” wisdom stories.
     Even King David came to a place in his life that he needed a “you need to wise up story”.  This particular story-telling incident is found in 2 Samuel chapter 12. 
     Before I get to the story, let me explain why King David needed this lesson.  This explanation we can find in chapter 11.  This chapter of scripture tells us that David lusted after a woman who was not his wife.  He gave in to the lust and then when the woman became pregnant he sought to cover his sin by insuring that the woman’s husband died in battle.  Sin on top of sin. The last verse of chapter 11 says this: But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.  Sin, the crossing of God’s boundaries displeases Him.  
     I doubt if anyone wants to displease the Lord.  But we go off on selfish ventures that does just that.  You might ask, “If we do displease Him will He stop loving us? 
    The answer is “No, He will love us still, but we will probably miss out on blessings He wants to give and, He just might have a “wise up” story for us.  He does not want for us to sin.  Sin causes havok and that is not what God wants for us.
    King David’s “wise up” story was delivered by the prophet Nathan at the Lord’s request.  Nathan told King David this story:  There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor.  The rich man had many flocks and herds.  The poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children.  It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him.  Well the story goes on that a traveler came to the rich man.  Well, this rich man refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”
     Blind to the comparison and reason for the story, King David’s anger was greatly aroused against this rich man who would do such a thing.  King David tells Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die!  And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.”
    Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!”  O boy, truth, and shame, came crashing in and repentance was the result of this story.

    The parable that we looked at this week was one that opened my eyes a bit.  I had read it many times but had not understood it fully, and probably still don't understand it fully.  (Let me say here that I appreciate my pastor and the lessons that he brings on Wednesday nights.  The next few paragraphs of this blog come from my notes from his lesson.)
     It is the parable of the persistent widow.  It is found in Luke chapter 18: 1-8.  There are just two characters in this story that Jesus is telling. 
     The first character is a judge.  This judge is described as one who did not fear God nor regard man. Since the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom I think we can safely assume that he is not a wise judge.  On top of that he didn’t care about people.
    The other character in the story is a widow woman with an issue that needed resolved.  She wanted justice.  We learn that the judge finally took care of the situation not because he cared or because he was a good judge but because she was bugging him.
    Then Jesus compares the lousy judge to God our Father. His words are wonderful yet sad.  “And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with then?  I tell you that He will avenge them speedily.  Nevertheless, when the Son of Man come, will He really find faith on the earth?”
    The widow, one who is alone is compared to God’s people, His elect, his beloved bride. We are never alone.  The widow was a stranger to the judge.  God’s children are not strangers to Him.  They are loved and special with an invitation to come boldly to Him. 
    That poor widow sought help from an unjust judge.  We seek help from a righteous Father.  She was alone fighting her cause alone.  God is for us, He is on our side, and Jesus is our advocate.
    In times past I somehow thought the lesson in this parable was to never give up and to keep praying until God answered.  That however puts the focus on the woman.  I realize that the lesson here is to focus on who God really is and to rest in the assurance that He cares. 
     The lesson is that I can trust Him completely even when He doesn’t answer right away.  He will answer with wisdom at the right time and in the right way because He loves us very much.
    If you have prayed long and hard for a situation, keep praying and remember as you pray who is at the receiving end of your prayer. Keep your focus there.  It is a loving holy God who beckons you to come to Him.  He says we can come without fear.  We can come as often as we need to, and we come knowing we are loved. We can be sure that He will use great wisdom when He answers.
    Viewing God for who He is will increase our faith. Faith pleases God. I mentioned that these words are wonderful yet sad.  They are sad because Jesus asks the question, "When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?"  He wants us to know we don't have to badger Him.  He wants us to know how very much He loves us.  He is the very best judge.  Trust Him.  Blessings.