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. (1 Chronicles 4:9, 10 NKJV)

So often I associate Jabez to his prayer of expanding his territory and growth – be that physical prosperity or spiritual. But today, it caught my eye the last part of his prayer, “… that I may not cause pain.”

Verse 9 tells us that he was named Jabez because he was a painful birth (like any of them aren’t…) and his mother named him a name that became a lifelong reminder of the pain he caused her.

What a curse.

I wonder if Jabez’s prayer wasn’t a cry out to God in desperation to get out from under that curse. “God – make me able to bless others and don’t let me become evil so that I won’t cause anyone anymore pain!”

What if his prayer isn’t a prayer based on prosperity, but on trying to break away from the constant reminder of the pain he caused.

I’m a nickname kind of guy. I shorten or morph almost everyone’s name that I know. It makes me wonder, as a father, what words have I spoken over my kids. What nicknames have I given them and what do my kids think of that nickname? Will they grow up with a complex always trying to get out from under that name? Or have I given them names that they want to live up to… names that strengthen and encourage them… names that call out the giftings that God has blessed them with?

I think I will reevaluate what nickname I call my kids, my wife, and my friends.

Choosing Faith

Isaiah 55:8-9 (NKJV)

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.

In carrying over from Earl’s thoughts yesterday, I find myself in a bit of a waiting game with the Lord.  I’m under tremendous pressure to accomplish something at work involving an outside company by a certain date.   The ball is in the other company’s court and has been since Friday and absolutely nothing has happened since then.  In my schedule of things that need to happen by certain dates – a.k.a. “my thoughts and my ways” (see verse 8) – they are completely behind schedule and no matter how much I try, I can’t get them to get moving.

Clearly, I need His help with these circumstances admittedly beyond my control.   My plans are not His plans.  My thoughts are not His thoughts.

Hebrews 11:1-3  (NKJV)

11 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.

By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

…the worlds were framed by the word of God.”  He is in control.  I am not.  I guess this is where faith kicks in..  Rephrase – I guess this is where I choose faith.

Ephesians 6:10-18  (The Message)

A Fight to the Finish

10-12 And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.

13-18 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

The New King James Version says in v11 “… and having done all, to stand.”  I’ve done all I can do.  Now I stand.  I chose faith.  I choose faith in God and all that He is and all that He has proven to be.  I choose to have faith in the character of Him who never changes.  I’m choosing faith.

Raising Cain

(This was my post today on another blog I do with some of my accountability brothers – I wanted to share it)

I’ve spent this week in Genesis 4 in my BSF study.  I knew early last week I’d be writing about  Cain, but didn’t quite know what… not exactly sure how this post will shape up but let’s see where it goes.

Genesis 4:1-5 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have acquired a man from the LORD.” 2 Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 3 And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. 4 Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, 5 but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.

The New King James Version. 1982 (Ge 4:1–5). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

We all know Abel raised livestock and Cain tilled the ground.

One question not answered here is this.  “How did Cain and Abel know to bring an offering to the LORD?”  Is this something the LORD taught Adam and Eve during or after the process of killing an animal to clothe them (cover their sin)?  Or did the LORD sometime before this recorded episode instruct Cain and Abel on what a proper offering was and how to bring it before Him?  The details don’t really matter because what is implied is that Cain and Abel were versed, or at least instructed  on a proper offering to God.

For years I’ve tied the acceptance of Abel’s offering to the fact that Moses calls out that it was Abel’s first fruit (v4). That implies (as I’ve heard taught for years) the tithe – the first part of what God brings – even without knowing if there will be anymore to come – which requires faith.  Hebrews 11:4 “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.”  The first fruit offering requires faith.  I still believe that to be a powerful truth.

However, something I read in my notes really caught my attention.

“If Cain already knew God’s will concerning sacrifices, then he may have been too proud to trade with his brother for a lamb.  He would have asserted his independence by choosing to worship God in his own way”  BSF Lesson 6, Series 1, Genesis, p.3

God says something similar to Moses in Deut 9:12 when the Israelites made a golden image against God’s explicit command.

12 “Then the LORD said to me, ‘Arise, go down quickly from here, for your people whom you brought out of Egypt have acted corruptly; they have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them; they have made themselves a molded image.’

I wonder if I have a little Cain in me.  It’s certainly a thread woven through the pages of the Bible – mankind worshiping God in their own way.  Is it any wonder that there are now (reportedly) over 41,000 Christian faiths in the world today?  Not to mention all the various non-Christian faiths… each starting with someone worshiping God in his or her “own way.”

Isaiah 53 says:

6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Not at all where I thought this post would go… but glad it got here.

God, help me to worship you exactly as you command me to – nothing more – nothing less – nothing to do with me.  Amen.

My name is Neo!

I was on a recent flight home from San Francisco and decided to watch “The Matrix” while en route.

I really like this movie from a pure entertainment standpoint and there are and have been lots of discussions about various spiritual analogies in the story line that correspond to the Gospel.

If you’ve read my blogs for long, you know that I very often correlate the everyday stuff of life to a spiritual truth that God’s teaching me.

Anyway, I’ve put a link to a YouTube video of one of my favorite scenes in the movie – not so much for the special effects, but because of the story and one of those thoughts God’s buried in my noggin.

The scene is the subway scene where Neo (the main character) fights Agent Smith for the first time.  For you who haven’t seen the movie, it’s a science fiction thriller in which the world we currently know and understand is really a mirage only played out in our minds -which the machines dictate as we’re all plugged into “the Matrix”.  The story is about the fight for freedom and getting “unplugged” from the matrix to live as real and free human beings – the way we were created.

In the matrix – the main character – played by Keanu Reeves – is named is “Thomas Anderson” when he lived under the veil of the Matrix.  When he gets unplugged from the Matrix to live a real and free human life –  his real name is Neo.  However, Agent Smith (a digital representation of the sentient programs sent to kill and destroy the free human race – interesting concept huh?) always refers to Neo with his old name when he was living in the Matrix.  Always calls him “Mister Anderson”.

The Matrix: Neo fights Agent Smith (played on YouTube site)

I love this scene because Neo is finally beginning to believe that he is not “Thomas Anderson” any more.  He is beginning to understand he is not the same person he was. He is new.  He is Neo.

As I watched this scene – for the twentieth time – God began to really put in my heart that I am not the same man I used to be.   No matter what my enemy – represented by the agent, Mr. Smith in the movie – calls me… no matter what my adversary calls me… I am a new creation.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)  17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.  

I am no longer what I used to be.  I am no longer what I did.  I am defined by Christ in me.  He died for my sin – all of it – all that I ever committed and all that I will ever commit, so that I will be blameless before God before his throne.

When that sinks in, how can I be anything but grateful.  How can I be anything but the new creation He created me to be.


Running After Papa…

Forgiveness – it’s too easy.

I think I take sin too casually. Perhaps, it’s that I take forgiveness to casually.

I think I take sin too casually.  Perhaps, it’s that I take forgiveness to casually.

I’m reading through the Bible again this year, but this time chronologically.  I just started Leviticus.  I’m not sayin’ I’ve read this book as often as I’ve read, say, James.  However, I have read Leviticus a time or two and something just slapped me in the face today.

“4 Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. 5 He shall kill the bull before the Lord; and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall bring the blood and sprinkle the blood all around on the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of meeting.” (Leviticus 1:4, 5 NKJV)

“… He shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering…”
“… He shall kill it before the LORD…”

Let that sink in. Imagine being “he”.

The first part of the process, I remember – the transferring of my sin to the animal to be offered.  My sin.  My actions, thoughts, attitudes and disobedience – what I did –  becomes the cause of what is about to happen to this animal.

It’s the next part that gave me a bloody nose today.  What hit me is that in this practice, I  kill the sacrifice – by hand – with a knife. There was no lethal injection or medicine to put the animal down and make this easy, clean and painless.  No, this is ugly, loud, and messy.  It is bloody and painful and gruesome. I can only imagine how difficult it is and how much work it was.

It turns out, the last time I read this passage a couple of years ago, I was struck in a very similar manner – see the post here:  “What A Bloody Mess!”

Here’s where it’s different.

I believe if I had to perform that perform that sacrificial ritual – that bloody, exhausting, sacrifice – each and every time I wanted forgiveness, every week , every month, every day – I believe I’d behave differently than I do.

How would my behavior change if I had to gruesomely slaughter a bull to get forgiveness?  How would my behavior change every time I wanted forgiveness, I had to take the life of another animal?

Jesus died a vicious, bloody, painful and gruesome death – so I could have forgiveness.  How would my behavior change if I had to watch “The Passion of The Christ” before every confession? If I had to visualize the beating and abuse He endured for me?

But I don’t.  Jesus died for me to have forgiveness – and that forgiveness comes easily. I only have to ask for it.

At the very least I should remember what my Savior did and endured for me and EVERY one of my sins.  I should remember it every time I ask for forgiveness…

Thank you LORD for dying for me and providing forgiveness and eternal atonement.

Running After Papa

The original “eternal flame”

“And you shall command the children of Israel that they bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually. In the tabernacle of meeting, outside the veil which is before the Testimony, Aaron and his sons shall tend it from evening until morning before the Lord. It shall be a statute forever to their generations on behalf of the children of Israel.” (Exodus 27:20, 21 NKJV)

As the LORD details the building of the tabernacle, the first positional work detail he assigns is for Aaron and his sons to tend the lamp stand and make sure it stays lit.  Make sure the lamp never goes out.  It is to be lit 24x7x365.   Always on.I wonder why?

I have my opinion – which is why I have a blog. 🙂  Honestly though, I wonder if I fully comprehend all God was (and is)  trying to communicate with the “eternal flame”.If you remember when the Israelites first left Egypt, we see the LORD continually before them in the form of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  I have to thing that was one of the most amazing things to see in human history.  This grand, enormous pillar that would lead from the front and them move to the back to protect them.   This amazing phenomenon that would morph from a cloud to fire.  I wonder if it made any sound as it burned or transitioned from cloud to fire or fire to cloud?

But I also wonder – beyond the literal guiding and protecting – if it was to keep a constant reminder before the Israelites that God, the LORD himself, was ever present and constantly guiding and protecting.

See, here’s what I know.  I am a very forgetful creature and I live among a host of very forgetful creatures.  We see it all through the great exodus of Israel from Egypt and actually all through the Old Testament that Israel continually – and quickly – forgets the goodness, the love, the greatness and the authority of our great God.  I wonder if God ordained and established the eternal flame to not only be a visible and constant reminder to Israel (and me) that He is always present with guidance and protection.  I wonder if He created it to be tended so that Israel (and I) would constantly remember that and that they had vowed to obey his statutes, covenants and ordinances.

This leads me to ask myself the question, what do I have before me – that I need to continually tend – to continually remind me that Christ is IN me and WITH me to provide me with guidance and protection?

Running After Papa…

What are YOU looking at?

Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.” And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. (Exodus 14:12, 13 NKJV)

The Israelites had just witnessed the greatest amazing miracles of God. The miracles they witnessed weren’t because of anything the Israelites had done, but solely because the God of the universe pursued them to rescue them because He wanted to.

But at the first sign of trouble – fear set in and ran rampant. The people immediately cry out in fear and blame Moses for their seemingly impending death. (I find this humorous because Pharaoh was coming to get them back to keep working in Egypt – he wouldn’t dare kill the lifeblood and workforce that kept Egypt growing!)

Unfortunately I relate much too closely with the Israelites. I immediately look at the situation as it appears.

Therein lies my problem.   I look at the situation and not at my faithful God

“The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (Exodus 14:14 NKJV)

Moses, on the other hand, views the exact same situation but from a completely opposite viewpoint. In fact, he doesn’t look at the situation.  He looks at God.  He views it in confidence that this same God, who just rescued the nation from Egypt, who was the one that hardened Pharaoh’s heart each time to show His glory, would be faithful. He viewed it with a sort of excitement to see how – not if – God would prove faithful again.

God help me be more like Moses and trust in your compete deliverance in the face of trouble.

Running After Papa…

Demons do it naturally…

Mark 5:1-20 (Read it here)

What a great passage… Particularly the last verse, verse 20. It reads: “And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled.

Here is a guy who could not be bound because of the many evil spirits living in him. He was living in a graveyard. He had ripped off any shackles and chains other people had used to try and subdue him with. All day and night he tortured himself – cutting himself with stones.  He was a mess.  He was possessed by many evil spirits.

HOWEVER! When he saw Jesus from afar (v6) – he ran to him and worshiped Him.  That’s crazy!

Did the thought ever occur to you that this was quite possibly the very first time this man had ever laid eyes on Jesus? If this man was living in the graveyard, ostracized by everyone, then it’s highly likely no one had ever told him about what Jesus was teaching or who Jesus claimed himself to be. He probably hadn’t heard that Jesus was performing miracles of healing and freedom.

But something in this man knew.

Something in this man knew Jesus.  Something knew his power, his authority, and his might. Something in this man revered Jesus and acknowledged his royalty. I believe that the evil spirits knew Jesus.  They also knew they were subject to him and were following protocol that they had observed and practiced millions of times in Heaven.

When in the presence of the King, you bow down and worship. See Phil 2:9-10.

Why don’t I follow the same protocol?

Why do I sometimes have difficulty doing what demons do naturally?  

OUCH!  That stung just writing it.

Jesus delivered him. Jesus freed him. Here was a man who had a brief encounter with Christ and was freed from a lifetime and lifestyle of bondage and harm.  Jesus changed him.  Jesus changed me.  Jesus can change anyone who submits to him.

When Jesus and the disciples were about to leave. The man begged to go with them. (v18)

How often do I do the exact same thing? When I have a life-impacting encounter with the Lord, how quickly I want to just tarry there and stay in his presence. But that’s not what we’re to do.

Jesus would not let him go with them.

v20 says “And he [the formerly demon-possessed man] departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled.”

He told his story and all marveled.

That’s it.  It’s that simple.  That’s all we have to do. Proclaim all that Jesus has done for us.  I tell my story.  You tell your story.

No person can argue, refute, or deny what one man had experienced.

We don’t have to be gifted orators or preachers or evangelists. We simply have to tell our own story.  I can’t tell yours.  You can’t tell mine.  We are the only ones who can tell our own story.

Tell your story.

Running after Papa…

Walking with God

What does it take to walk with God?

Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV

‎5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
‎And lean not on your own understanding;
‎6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
‎And He shall direct your paths.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart” – this could be the most difficult thing to do on a consistent, day-in, day-out basis – and it’s more than it appears on the surface. This requires trusting that the LORD’s will and His glory are the ultimate end-game, motivated by love and his desire for us to become more like Christ. This motiviation, this desire for our Christlikeness, is only part of the equation for His directing – making straight, leading, making smooth – our path – our way of life, way of living.

The equally important half of the equation is that we are to acknowledge Him in all our ways – our path, direction, manners, way of living, and moral character. Acknowleging Him is more than giving lip service. This word means to know by experience, to percieve, to recognize. Our life (“way”) should be such that other people can percieve, experience, and know God by experiencing Him – his characteristics, his attributes – in our lives.

The marriage of these two parts of the equation put us in a place to walk in the paths God has directed – made straight and smooth. Our failure is engaging our own minds and our own understanding when

1) things are going well – thinking we had anything to do with it.. It might be intentional, it might be subconsiously, but we begin to tell God, “thanks, but I’ve got this…” and lean on our own understanding.It also

2) thing aren’t going well. We start trying to understand why. Instead we need to “Trust in the LORD with all your heart…” God has a plan. God loves us enough to allow circumstances that aren’t pleasant. Think of Jonah. God had to get through to Jonah and he was willing put all the other men on the same boat as Jonah in jeopardy as he brought the storms on Jonah.

Walking with God doesn’t mean level paths and flowers. Somtimes it can be a difficult and seemingly dangerous journey – but as we learn to trust him with ALL our heart, we aren’t moved or intimidated by our surrounding circumstances.