Learning from Jabez

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Last week I wrote a Facebook post on the Prayer of Jabez. It was not my best work. I woke the other day with that on my mind as the Lord was speaking to me in my dream about the part I glossed over, his name. His mother named him Jabez, because she bore him in pain. What a thing to do to your child.

Names. We are given a name at birth. Some parents try to make them as unusual as they can making up their own names or spellings, while others research meanings and try to pick just the right one.

We often have nick names or “pet” names given to us by others. Sometimes the names are the taunts of cruel children on the playground, a sibling or even a parent. I am sure Jabez knew something about that, being named a pain by his own mother.

Then there are the names we give ourselves (that the enemy feeds us) that highlight what we see as our faults and failures.

But the most awesome name we are given is the one we get when we receive Jesus as our Savior and Lord, Child of God!

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All those names that taunt and tease, and try to hold us down, only have power over us if we believe them. That’s where knowing the Word of God comes in handy. When we know who God says we are and let that truth sink deep into our souls (the Sword of the Spirit) there’s no room for those lies.

dcf901b237e3f70a3743dfd05cc7d07fI love that Jabez did not let his name define him. The first thing we are told about Jabez is that he was more honorable that all of his brothers. For someone who was likely teased by siblings and others about his name,  he did not let it make him bitter. He chose the higher way.  God’s way. He did not let it limit him or limit what he sought from God.

I know for much of my life I let those taunting names define my self-worth and limit the power of God to work in my life,  because I did not seek it. I did not seek, because I believed I was too broken and unlovable and unworthy.

Even as a believer I could pray in faith for everyone except me. I knew God could do whatever I needed, but I doubted if He would do it for me. Well, we are all unworthy (Romans 3:23) until Jesus comes into our hearts and makes us new. He made a way for us to become children of God (John 1:12). He makes us a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT.

Let me tell you, don’t listen to the enemy’s lies. He will do whatever it takes to belittle you and distract you from being all God created you to be. Don’t let the enemy tempt you with comparisons, either. You were created as a unique person for a specific purpose that is solely yours. Each of our journies may be similar in some ways, but we each have a different path that God has laid before us. And His timing is perfect for when things happen in each life. Just because Jane Doe over there started doing something in her 30s doesn’t mean it’s too late for me in my 50s. Instead of comparing be preparing yourself in the Word and in prayer. Be ready when the Lord calls and answer by following wherever He leads. 

Since I have learned what the Bible says about who I am I started taking those negative thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5)  and replacing those lies with God’s truth. Now I am able to wield that Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) with skill and accuracy (see Jesus’ temptation in Matthew 4:1-11). You can and must, too!

Let’s take another look at Jabez’s prayer:

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He trusted God to bless him. He was bold enough to ask God to enlarge his territory. Territory equals land and that equals wealth and standing in the community which equals increasing his sphere of influence. Jabez knew he needed God to be with him to handle life’s ups and downs and to help him resist evil influences. If children in his time were anything like they are today he probably got teased about being a “pain.” He knew pain and he didn’t want to cause pain to himself or anyone else. He was an honorable man and God honored Jabez for it by granting his request.

“You do not have, because you do not ask” James 4:2 ESV.

What requests have you hidden in your heart, because you are afraid to ask God to grant your request? Do you feel undeserving of God’s love and care? Take it all to the Lord and let Him show You how much He loves you. Memorize some of the verses in the “Who I Am In Christ” list above, so you are armed for battle when the enemy taunts and teases you. Then present your petitions to God (Philippians 4:6-7). And see what He does in your life! 

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Blessings and peace,

Julia

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Gone Astray

I am sorry it has been a month since my last blog post. It’s been a challenging month for me with migraines, sinus issues, and other personal issues that have distracted me from the tasks God has given me to do. This is a timely message for me, as I need to hear it as much as anyone. I have not only allowed these things to distract me from writing, but from much of my prayer and reading/studying times, also.

Jeremiah 29:11-14 NIV, 11For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

Do you feel like you are in “exile” from the presence of God? God is always near us. If He seems far away, it is likely because we are not seeking Him or we are involved in a pattern of sinfulness. It is sin that first separated people from their God. Can you imagine what life would have been like for us if Adam and Eve had resisted the temptation of the serpent and called out to the Lord for help? 
To find the Lord and know His presence in our everyday lives we just need to seek Him with all our heart (v. 13 above). If you are feeling like God is far away from you, take some time to examine your life:

1 John 1:9 NIV, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Are you living in a pattern of sinfulness? If so, God is always ready to pour out His grace and forgiveness upon us when we repent (turn away from) and confess our sins. Come before Him in faith and pour out your heart to Him.

Isaiah 55:6 NLT, Seek the LORD while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near.
Are you making time for the Lord? Do you pray daily? We cannot expect to feel close to God without spending time with Him (in the Word, worship, and in prayer) any more than we can feel close to another person if we don’t spend time talking and sharing life with them. Prayer is the way we communicate with God. Starting our days with prayer gives us a good start to our days. It helps us focus on what is important and prioritize our days. But prayer should be a part of everything we do. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 urges us to pray continually. Every decision we make, every problem we face, and even every good thing we enjoy in life is reason to pray what some refer to as “popcorn” prayers. It’s as simple as saying:
Thank You, Lord, for this great parking space!
Thank you, Lord, for this beautiful day.
Father, help me stay focused at work and complete this project on time.
Lord, keep me alert as I drive and get me to my destination safely.

Psalm 119:11 NASB, Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.
Do you spend time reading and meditating on (thinking about) the Word every day? We cannot expect to know God if we don’t learn about Him through His Word and prayer (conversation). The Bible is an instruction manual on godly living for us, but it also reveals the Father’s heart and character to all who take the time to seek Him.

John 14:26 NLT, But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative–that is, the Holy Spirit–he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.
When you read the Word, do you ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you’re reading and show you how to apply it in your life? That is one of the reasons God gives us His Spirit when we receive Jesus as our Savior.

Psalm 46.10 NLT, “Be still, and know that I am God!
When you pray, do you rush through a list of requests without spending time being still before the Lord and soaking in His presence? The NASB version of this verse is, “Cease striving and know that I am God.” I think it says it well. If we are striving to do life in our own power we are not seeking the power of the Lord in our everyday circumstances. That is the way God created us to live our lives in His power.

1 Chronicles 16:11 ESV, Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!
The NIV and NASB versions translate it as, “seek His face continually.” We all too often seek the hand of God (provision, healing, help), but we don’t seek face time with Him as often as we should. Oh the joys we miss because we rush through our days. Nehemiah said it this way (v. 8:10),  “the joy of the LORD is your strength.” It is in His presence that we find the strength to live our lives and He fills us with His joy. This is the joy Jesus spoke of when He said (John 15:9-11 NLT), “9“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” This joy does not depend on our circumstances, but only upon the the relationship we have with the Lord. His presence is our joy no matter what life brings. I am reminded of Stephen in the book of Acts (7:54-60 NLT). Even in the face of being stoned to death, Stephen found joy in God’s presence.

Here are a few more verses on seeking the Lord:
Mathew 7:7 NLT, “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.
Psalm 34:4 NIV, I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
Psalm 37:4 NIV, Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Of course, when life gets us down we are also supposed to bring our requests (Philippians 4:6-7) and all our cares (Psalm 55.22, 1 Peter 5:7) to God in prayer. We just need to remember he is not a genie in a lamp who is there to grant all our wishes. He is our Sovereign God and our Heavenly Father. As our Lord and God, He deserves our praise and worship, and as our Father He wants our obedience (which Jesus equated to love in John 14:15, 21, 23 & 15:10) and relationship (face time) with His children. Hear the words of Jesus (read out loud):
Matthew 7:7-11 NLT, 7“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 9“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? 10Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! 11So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”

May the peace and joy of the Lord’s presence be yours,
Julia

The Rock of Ages

Isaiah 26:4: Young’s Literal Translation, “Trust ye in Jehovah for ever, For in Jah Jehovah is a rock of ages”      

Darby Bible Translation, “Confide ye in Jehovah for ever; for in Jah, Jehovah, is the rock of ages.”

I’ve been listening to a new Steven Curtis Chapman CD (Deep Roots available at Cracker Barrel or Crackerbarrel.com) of old familiar hymns including Rock of Ages. I’ve sung that hymn probably 100s of times, yet it’s only since I got this CD that the lyrics really started speaking to me. I feel a smile come over my face as a picture forms in my mind when I hear, “Rock of Ages cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.” I see the Rock moving to form a space, a shelter in which I can hide. In that cleft (cave) I am enveloped in The Lord’s strength, embraced by His power, and safe in His love. Whether it’s translated The Rock ofAges, The Eternal Rock, or The Everlasting Rock, this Rock will never crumble, crack, or roll away. Our God is strong steadfast, and true.

1 Chronicles 16:11 (NASB),  Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually.

When we’re in the “cleft” of the Rock, we are in His presence. One of the reasons I like this verse is the word continually. We need to seek God’s presence continually, not just in the hard times. Could it be that we might be able to miss some of the hard times if we did this. Some versions of this verse use the word presence instead of face. Both words are good, but I like the face version of this verse because it emphasizes we need to be seeking God’s face and not just His hand of provision and protection. Face time with the Lord. I want face time like Moses (Exodus 33.11, 21-23) and Elijah (1 Kings 19:9-18) had with the Lord. Even Abraham was called God’s friend (Isaiah 41:8, James 2:23) and he conversed and even debated with the Lord (Genesis 18:16-33). God wants us to be real and truthful with Him. Even if what we are feeling is anger, fear, or doubt, we can bring it all to God because it is the real truth of how we feel. There is no point in prentending or sugar coating things for God. He knows our thoughts and the condition of our hearts. He just wants us to come to Him acknowledging that He is bigger than our problems and only He can help us through them.

I find much wisdom and solace in the Psalms. David sometimes lamented to God about the trials he was going through. Read Psalm 22. http://niv.scripturetext.com/psalms/22.htm This is a great example of how David cried out to God in his troubles, yet he never forgot that God was more than able to meet his needs and rescue him from his troubles. Sometimes we just need to pour out all those feelings, to let go of them. That’s okay, more than okay. Just don’t forget that He is The Rock of all the Ages and He will never let you down. It’s a matter of trusting God and His timing to make it all work out for us, the ones He loves, that He has called to fulfill His purposes for our lives (Romans 8:28) and the lives of people we touch. The hardest times we will have to face in our lives (tests) then become our testimony. Our testimony is what has prepared us to help others through similar experiences. God reveals Himself to us and through us to other people. So, when you are going through trials, seek the Lord, but also ask Him to direct you to another believer who can come along side of you to help you walk through the test/trial. Then, when you have gone through and have your testimony, keep your eyes and ears open for God to lead you to someone else who needs your help in the same way. I have found it truly amazing how the Lord has seen me through some of the hardest times in my life, brought someone else into my life with similar cicrumstances that I could be His hands, feet and mouth (to speak). I have seen God changes lives and I have been able to praise God for the troubles I had because I was able to relate to and help another person through their trials. It is healing to your own soul, too. Hallelujah! God is good!

David knew what it was like to be afraid and tired of his circumstances. He spent years running and hiding in caves as King Saul pursued him wanting to kill him (see 1 Samuel 19:1-31:6 for the story of Saul’s pursuit of David to kill him and how both men handled their relationship with God). David not only wrote psalms of lament, but also wrote many about the Lord being his Rock, Shield, and Fortress  (ex: Psalms 18,  19, 28, 31, 33…). He found safety and protection not only in the physical caves, but in the presence of the Lord. That’s where we need to live. In so personal a relationship with the Lord that we are comfortable in His embrace and continually talking to Him, sharing our inmost fears, wants, and needs.

Remember this when you are going through trials in your life and you don’t think you can take another moment in your circumstances: 2 Samuel 22:2-3, 47 The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior– from violent people you save me. “The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be my God, the Rock, my Savior!

Blessings,

Julia

What Can A Christian Do In The Face Of America’s Moral Decline

1I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. 7And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles. 8Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing (1 Timothy 2:1-8 NIV).

 

These are troubling times. Our country as a whole no longer clings to the faith of our fathers, to the Word of the Lord. Instead, our values are being corrupted. Many people are working through the courts and legislatures to make what is sin, acceptable in the eyes of man. When Christians point out the sin as being wrong we are called intolerant, bigots, etc. It does not help that some Christians are going about trying to reform the “sinner” in a very combative manner. This gives all Christians and especially God a bad name. It also puts the “sinner” on the defensive. 

The Holy Spirit may very well already be at work convicting a person of their sin, which is why I feel they are so determined to put laws into place to validate their behavior as good and normal. We must work in cooperation with the Holy Spirit in God’s timing and direction to make changes in our country, see souls save, and lives changed. We will not win the battle of right and wrong with arguments and criticism. It will only bring about fear and lashing out from the “sinner”. 

Christians are being too confrontational instead of loving toward those who are openly sinful in their lifestyles. We cannot back down from the Word of God and make allowances or accept sinful lifestyles as right and normal, BUT if we use the Word to bash people over the head it only serves to drive them farther away from God. We are supposed to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Even if you consider someone an enemy, we are commanded by Jesus to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43-48, Luke 6:27-36). “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare” (Proverbs 15:1 NLT, see also 15:18 & 25:15).

So, what should we be doing in the face of the decline of our country’s moral fiber? Our response should be:

Keep praying for America and confessing our country’s sins before the throne of God.

Pray also for the Holy Spirit to touch hearts, preparing the ground for the seed of the Word to bring souls to a harvest of repentance and new life in Christ. 

Live our lives every day in love with grace and mercy. Do not persecute the “sinner”, but proclaim the love of Jesus to a lost and hurting world (love the sinner hate the sin). Reach out in love to lead others to the cross. The Holy Spirit is the one that will convict their hearts to bring repentance.

Pray generally for our country, but also specifically for our leaders from President Obama on down, to the local mayor and town council, that they would give their lives to Jesus and live to honor Him and bring glory to His name.

Pray for and talk to your neighbors, co-workers, unsaved friends and family. Share with them the testimony of how you were saved and how you have seen God work in your own life.

When it comes time to vote, pray over the ballot and vote according to the Word of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit.

If we want to see revival and true repentance as a nation, we need to spend more time on our knees “standing” in the gap for those who are lost. It is the only way. Prayer is our offensive weapon in spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:18).a

Philippians 4:4-7 NIV, 4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 pray continually

We are at war, but not with the sinner, for we are all sinners made righteous only through the grace of God and faith in what Jesus did to redeem us at the cross. We are waging spiritual warfare:

10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people (Ephesians 6:10-18NIV).

Notice that all the armor is on the front of the body. We are meant to face the battle and never turn our back to the enemy. We need to equip ourselves for these battles by: 

Being sure of our salvation (Romans 5:3-5; Philippians 1:6, 2:12; Hebrews 5:9; 1 John 1:9)

Speaking and believing the truth. The Word of God is trustworthy and true (Psalm 33:4, 40:10; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18). 

Living in the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus and doing everything in His name (Romans 1:17, 3:21-26; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Colossians 3:17). 

Keeping the faith and never losing hope. God always keeps His promises (Psalm 145:13, 1 Corinthians 1:9, 2 Thessalonians 3:3).

Knowing and memorizing the Word, so we can wield it as a weapon against the lies and tricks of the enemy (Psalm 37:31, 40:8, 119:11; Matthew 4:1-11).

Let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts to keep us from fear and doubt (John 14:27, Colossians 3:15, James 3:17-18).

Pray continually and in all things seek God’s presence and release His power in our circumstances (1 Chronicles 16:11, Daniel 6:10, Matthew 6:33, Acts 1:8, Romans 15:13, 1 Thessalonians 5:17). 

Pray for all God’s people to remain firm in their faith (Ephesians 1:15-21, 3:16-19; Colossians 3:3-14).

Stay alert and resist temptations, so we are not deceived by the ways of the world (Ephesians 4:26-32, James 4:7-8, 1 Peter 5:6-11).

Blessings,

Julia