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.

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…

One word changes everything – James 1:1

If we could only live out this one little chapter in this one little book.

Frankly, if we could all live out the first half of the first sentence, everything else would fall in place.

James 1:1 (NKJV) James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ…

I’ve always been intrigued by James’ identification of himself. Bondservant. We know him as Jesus’ half-brother – the son of Joseph and Mary. He was also the cousin of John the Baptist – another great name in his generation. I’ll tell you, I would have probably done a little name dropping, if I were James….

Yet James identifies himself as a “bondservant.” So what does that really mean?

Strong’s Concordance defines it to mean the following:

  1. a slave, one who gives himself up to another’s will
  2. devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests

The idea here is not a slave like we understand of pre-Civil War America – where human beings were forced or born into bondage and regarded as owned property to be bought, sold, used, abused, or traded as their owner saw fit. The idea here is a voluntary stepping into servant-hood out of devotion and relationship.

This completely describes Christ’s life on earth. Jesus gave himself up to another’s (his Father’s) will – to the point of death (Philippians 2:8). Jesus was totally devoted to his Father to the disregard of his own interests, his own desires, his own wants, his own image. He didn’t care what people thought, or said, or did toward him. He was completely and utterly walking in God’s hands. After all, Jesus did what his Father did (John 5:19) and said what his Father said (John 12:49).

Jesus voluntarily stepped into servant-hood out of devotion and relationship to God, his Father – to the disregard of his own interests.

James voluntarily stepped into servant-hood out of devotion and relationship to Jesus and God – to the disregard of his own interests.

So the question begs itself…. How do I identify myself?

The question goes deeper than it seems on initial glance. Not only does this imply how I identify myself to others, but how do I really identify myself to myself?

Do I give up to another’s will? Am I so devoted to my Lord? Does it show in how I treat – or should I say serve – my wife and family? After all, Ephesians says I’m to love my wife like Christ loved the Church – for whom Jesus died.

It all comes back to complete humility. If you’ve read many of my posts, you know I often end up here… Galatians 2:20. Dying to self as an act of my will.

Discuss: How does it affect mine and the lives around me to accurately identify myself as a bondservant? How do I do that?

Leave a comment.

Running After Papa…