Posts Tagged “1 Chronicles”

Phil and I have been taking ballroom dancing lessons for about four months. Tonight is our first recital! Yes, I thought only children had dance recitals. Guess I was wrong about that. We’ll be dancing the rhumba and the waltz. Earlier this week I wrote about lessons from the battlefield and how they can be applied to our spiritual life. In honor of our dance recital tonight, I thought I’d share some lessons from the ballroom.

There are a few lessons our instructor, Michael, has been working on with us every single week. We’ve taken about twelve lessons and I don’t think a week’s gone by that he hasn’t mentioned all three of these things. And like our battlefield lessons, I find them applicable to my spiritual life. In fact, since I have someone harping on me about these lessons each week and we practice a couple of other times a week, these lessons are in the front of my mind and are serving as reminders of how I ought to live.

Lesson 1: Stand Tall

When you stand tall you command authority. You think and act differently.

Do you know who you are in Christ? We are many things, but I like the description in 1 Peter:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
1 Peter 2:9 (NASB)

We are chosen by God, he has made us a part of His royal priesthood, and he’s given us a calling. What a privileged position we hold! Cherished by the creator of the universe! Knowing that ought to make us stand tall. There’s no slouching from insecurity in the King’s Kingdom. Yet when we are tempted to be downhearted, we can remember King David’s words:

But you, O LORD, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.
Psalm 3:3 (NLT)

We may be as Paul described – hard pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted and struck down, but we are not crushed, in despair, abandoned or destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8-9, NIV). Why? Because God is the lifter of our head. He is the one who holds our head high. I ought to be living as that royal priesthood, as a person for God’s own possession.

A person who lives like that doesn’t slouch. That person has a regalness about them. Not an arrogance, but a regalness.

And it’s not all about how we walk, there is a spiritual application of this that goes deeper. Spiritually, we ought to be standing up. When we face the enemy, we’re not to be worn down, defeated, expecting to lose, afraid of being seen.

No, we should be standing tall in confidence and command because we are God’s holy nation, we are His ambassador. We’ve been called out of darkness, given the assignment of proclaiming His excellencies, His supremacy, and His great love.

We ought to stand tall. Because God is the lifter of our heads.

Lesson 2: Follow the Leader

Oh, I’m not always good at this one. Phil lifts his arm indicating that I’m supposed to go under it for an underarm turn and I just keep dancing my little box step. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t recognize his lead. I just didn’t feel like doing it. I needed a break from the last step we did.

Except for the fact that sometimes Phil’s leads are a bit indefinite and Gods leads are always perfect, the rest is about the same. Sometimes I miss the lead. I wasn’t ready. I wanted to stay in my routine. I wasn’t paying attention to Him and missed the lead. Or I wanted to take a break from the last battle he put me in.

I did a search in the Bible on the phrase “Follow me.” One of the things that jumped out at me was Jesus’ calling his Disciples. He met Peter and said “Follow me.” He met Matthew and said “Follow me.”

He said this as he called another disciple:

21  Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”    
22  But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
Matthew 8:21-22 (NIV)

And His message was the same to the rich young ruler:

21  Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
Matthew 19:21 (NKJV)

Follow me. That’s what God says.

If we move this command into the battlefield, there’s a good reason to follow Him. There’s a good reason not to take the lead away from Him – because it is His battle to win, not ours.

David knew this when he fought Goliath. He met Goliath with these words

“Today, all those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”
1 Samuel 17:47 (NIV)

When we stop following, we put the battle into our own hands. When we stop following, we take the plan for the day and put it into our own hands. It doesn’t belong in our hands. It belongs in the Lord’s hands and He will give the victory

Lesson 3: It’s Not All About the Footwork

You know, I want it to be all about the footwork. Because I can get the footwork down. Slow, quick, quick. Slow, quick, quick. The footwork is the easy part. Michael is always telling us that the reason we take lessons isn’t to learn the footwork, we could get that from a video. The reason we take lessons is to learn style – to put the polish on the footwork.

What he’s talking about is adding passion to dance. Putting our feet in the right place at the right time is just a small part of dancing. An important one, but still a small one.

When we translate that into our walk with the Lord, we say that it’s not all about the fundamentals. The fundamentals are important – reading our Bibles daily, praying, serving, being thankful, worshipping, tithing, and many other things – they’re the fundamentals – they’re getting our feet in the right place at the right time. They’re very important, but it’s not all about the footwork – it’s not all about the fundamentals. It’s about the passion of the dance – it’s loving the Lord with our whole heart. It’s serving Him whole heartedly.

King David gave this advice to his son Solomon as he was handing over the plans for building the Lord’s temple:

“And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the LORD sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will find him.
1 Chronicles 28:9a (NLT)

That’s more than footwork. Learn to know your God intimately.

Lesson 4: It Takes Practice to Get it Right

We’re taking lessons because we want to know how to dance well. I’m shocked that we’ve spent the bulk of our lessons learning one dance. I would have guessed we could learn the rhumba in about three weeks. Yet here we are at week ten and we’re still learning the rhumba. The more we practice, the better we get.

The same is true in our spiritual life. Somehow we have the expectation that we ought to be good at it immediately. After all, we love the Lord – shouldn’t the rest come naturally. Uh – no. It didn’t for the Apostle Paul:

15I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. 16But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. 17So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

18And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 19I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. 20But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

21I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22I love God’s law with all my heart. 23But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.
Romans 7:15-23 (NLT)

Yes, I don’t really understand it – I want my feet and my body to go one direction, but they repeatedly go the other way. Well, on the dance floor, it’s not that big a deal. But in life, much more so. Yet living the life God wants us to live doesn’t come naturally. Sinning comes naturally. Living in holiness takes practice and requires listening to the Holy Spirit. Don’t be disheartened when you don’t get it right the first time. Keep practicing!

4 Lessons from the Ballroom:

Lesson 1: Stand Tall
Lesson 2: Follow the Leader
Lesson 3: It’s Not All About the Footwork
Lesson 4: It Takes Practice to Get it Right

Let me encourage you, friends, to live out my ballroom lessons in your spiritual life. God is worth it.

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartMake thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High…But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me. If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God.
Psalm 50:14, 23 (NLT)

We’ve spent several weeks on the topic of giving thanks, and I hope you are all working on your thanksgiving muscle. Yet I would be remiss to leave the subject without recognizing that there are times when it’s difficult to give thanks.

There are times in our lives when our bodies, spirits and/or hearts are broken. There are times when we feel like God is very far away. At those times, it is difficult to give thanks. Yet still, the commands of Scripture remain that we are to “give thanks in all circumstances.” It’s at times like this that we need the blessings that come with thanksgiving. Yet making those thanksgivings is a challenge. That’s when we truly learn to make thankfulness our sacrifice to God. It is a sacrifice because we do it out of obedience and out of a long history of knowing God’s goodness, even if we’re not able to feel that goodness at any given moment.

So I’ve gone to Scripture recently. Because I believe that if God tells me to “give thanks in all circumstances,” He will also teach me how to do so. I’ve looked up all the verses that say “give thanks” and believe I’ve found a secret in them – God’s secret about how to be thankful, even in those times when thankfulness seems hard.

There are 33 verses in the Bible that command us to “give thanks.” Those 33 verses identify 4 things that help us to be thankful. Two of those things are reasons to be thankful. The other two things are actions that help us to be thankful. So Scriptures gives us both reasons why we can be thankful and things we can do to help us to be thankful. We’re going to look at those 4 things.

Psalm 136, verses 1 through 3 give us the reasons to be thankful:

1Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
2Give thanks to the God of gods.

His love endures forever.
3Give thanks to the Lord of lords:

His love endures forever.
Psalm 136:1-3

The two reasons are right there in verse 1 — Because God is good and because His love endures forever.

“God’s love endures forever.” Almost half of the Scriptures that command us to “give thanks” tell us to do so because God’s love endures forever.

No matter what is happening to you today, no matter what your circumstances are you can know that God loves you more than you can ever imagine. He loves you with an everlasting love and His love endures forever. That word “forever” includes all circumstances and is for all times.

He loved you so much that He willingly sent His Son, Jesus Christ to live on earth as a man and then to die on the cross so that the penalty for your sins could be paid. Scripture says that we are all sinners; that we have all asserted our independence from God, gone our own way. The Bible calls that sin. And Scripture is clear that the penalty for sin is death. But the Gospel message is that God offers us the gift of eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus chose to die in your place and in my place so that we can live for eternity with God. That’s how much God loves us. That’s how much He loves you.

My favorite verse in Scripture is found in Romans 5:8. It says that God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. That’s a love that endures forever.

God’s love is the same yesterday, today and forever. It endures forever. And that’s something that you can be thankful for every day of your life. No matter what your circumstances are, no matter how people around you are treating you, no matter how cranky you feel, God still loves you.

When we turn our attention away from the things that have gone wrong in our world and instead think about or meditate on God’s love for us, God changes our perspective and enables us to be thankful.

The second reason Psalm 136:1 gives for giving thanks is a simple one: because God is good. When I think about how powerful God is, how He spoke the world into existence, how the winds and storm obey Him, I am very thankful that He is a good God.

God describes Himself to Moses in Exodus 34. Listen to this:

6And [God] passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”
Exodus 34:6-7

That’s the goodness of God – compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands and forgiving sin. I can be thankful for a God that is so good.

Now those of you who know Scripture, know that I didn’t finish God’s description of himself. He is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, and he does forgive sin.

But the verse goes on to say that the does not leave the guilty unpunished. A good God cannot overlook sin, and we wouldn’t want him to. God’s goodness requires justice. That means that the price or penalty must be paid for our sins. But His goodness also provided a way for that justice to be served. He sent His own son to die for our sins so that we might share eternal life with Him. God has already told us that when he judges sin, the penalty for it will be death. But He’s also already paid that penalty through the death of Jesus. When we accept Jesus into our heart and make him Lord of our lives, God no longer sees our sin. He sees that Jesus has already paid the penalty for it. That’s something to be thankful for.

I wrote earlier that Scripture identifies 4 things that help us to be thankful. The first two are reasons we have to be thankful: Because God’s love endures forever, and because He is good. Scripture also gives us two actions or assignments that help us to be thankful.

The first one is found in Psalm 100, verses 4:

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
Psalm 100:4

“Give thanks to God and praise His name.” We are to praise God. It’s pretty hard to praise God without developing a thankful heart. It’s hard to praise him and stay in a bad mood. Even when circumstances are difficult around us, we can choose to praise God. When we do that, we soon find that our spirits rise and we’re no longer looking at the difficulties around us, but at the goodness of God. Even when things seem to be at their worst, there are things we can praise God for.

We can praise Him for his goodness and for his never-ending love. We can praise him for his mercy and for sending Jesus. We can praise him for his presence in our lives. We can praise him for the wonders of His creation. We can praise him for giving us His Word to read. We can praise him for the peace and comfort He gives us.

The second action I see tied to giving thanks is related to praise. We can find it in 1 Chronicles 16:8-9:

8Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
9Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
1 Chronicles 16:8-9

Scripture tells to “Tell of God’s wonderful acts.” When it’s hard to be thankful, remembering the good things God has done and telling others about them changes our perspective and produces a thankful heart in us. Do you know God as your savior? Tell others about Him! Has he blessed your life? Tell others about it. We looked at the first three verses Psalm 136 earlier. If you are struggling to give thanks, I encourage you to read the entire psalm. It doesn’t tell us to proclaim the mighty deeds of God, it simply does it. Here are just a few of the things the psalm says to give thanks for:

Give thanks…

to him who alone does great wonders, (v4)
who by his understanding made the heavens, (v5)
who spread out the earth upon the waters, (v6)
who made the great lights — the sun to govern the day, the moon and stars to govern the night; (v7-9)
to him who divided the Red Sea asunder (v13)
to him who led his people through the desert, (v16)
to the One who remembered us in our low estate (v23)
and freed us from our enemies, (v24)
and who gives food to every creature. (v25)

The Psalmist is proclaiming the deeds of God. If you were to write your own psalm, how would it read? Mine would read something like this:

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His love endures forever.
He saved me when I was running from Him
He set my feet on a solid rock, He removed my need for striving
He blessed me with a wonderful husband
He leads me in adventures of ministry, He gives me joy in serving Him
He forgives my sins
He teaches me the mysteries of life with Him
He restores my soul and He will give me the crown of life

I challenge you, the next time it’s hard for you make thanksgiving your sacrifice, write your own Psalm 136. You will find that God’s goodness will overwhelm your heart; that His goodness is bigger and better than everything that is pulling you down. Your circumstances may not change, but your heart and your spirit will.

You’ve all heard of Hellen Keller. She was born in 1880 unable to hear or see. The circumstances of her life were pretty bad. Yet she found things to thank God for every day. Listen to this quote from her:

“For three things I thank God every day of my life: thanks that he has vouchsafed me knowledge of his works; deep thanks that he has set in my darkness the lamp of faith; deep, deepest thanks that I have another life to look forward to—a life joyous with light and flowers and heavenly song.”

If you know Jesus Christ as your savior, you can say that same prayer. “Thank you, God, for giving me knowledge of Your works. Thank you for bringing to my darkness the lamp of faith. Thank you, Lord, beyond measure, for the promise of eternal life with you.”

If you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Savior, you can do that now. If you have never said “Yes” to God, you are headed toward an eternity without Him – an eternity in hell, separated from God’s goodness and love. But that’s not what God wants. He loves you, and His love endures forever. He has made a way for you to spend forever with Him in heaven. That way is by asking Him to forgive your sins and to be Lord of your life. It’s His deepest desire for you.

You might pray a prayer something like this one:

Father in heaven, thank you for making a way for me to spend eternity with you. Forgive me, Lord for going my own way. Thank you for sending your Son Jesus to die on the cross as payment for my sins. Lord Jesus, come into my life. Teach me what it means to live my life for you. And Father, thank you for the promise of spending eternity in heaven with you. Thank you that you are good and that your love endures forever. I pray this in the precious name of Jesus. Amen

If you’ve prayed that prayer, you are a new creation in Christ Jesus. You have more to be thankful thank you ever have before.

When you find yourself in times where thanksgiving is hard, make it your sacrifice to the Lord. Turn to Him, remember His goodness, and give thanks.

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9“And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the LORD sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will find him. But if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. 10So take this seriously. The LORD has chosen you to build a Temple as his sanctuary. Be strong, and do the work.”
1 Chronicles 28:9-10 (NLT)

That’s the advice King David gave his son Solomon shortly before his death. I find the first sentence to be quite interesting – learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately – emphasis mine, of course. Those key words learn, know and intimately teach us important lessons about our relationship with God:

We learn to know Him intimately. It doesn’t just happen. It doesn’t even come naturally.

“Be still, and know that I am God!”
Psalm 46:10a (NLT)

Being still doesn’t come naturally to most of us. But we can learn to be still. We can learn the difference between God’s voice and satan’s temptations. We can learn the difference between God’s voice and our emotions. If we want to know God intimately, we must learn to know him. We must study His ways and follow His leading. And in learning, there is error. We won’t always get it right. But we can confess any sin in those errors, turn toward Him again and He accepts us and teaches us more.

We learn to know Him intimately. We don’t learn about Him, we learn to know Him. I know many things about President Obama. But I don’t know him. I’ve never met the man or anyone in his family. I’ve watched him in various situations over the years, seen a movie about his upbringing and life influences, but I’ve never talked to him to learn what makes his heart beat. I don’t know Him intimately.

We’re not just to learn to know things about God, we’re to learn to know God. That means meeting with Him, not just reading our Bibles. It means having fellowship with Him, not just singing praise songs.

We learn to know Him intimately. God doesn’t want a surface relationship. He wants intimacy. And intimacy means that we must also be vulnerable to Him. He already knows all our stuff, so let’s just admit it and be transparent with God. When worship becomes tender with the fullness of the Spirit, let’s not rush past it. Let’s learn to be still in God’s presence.

The wonderful thing is that God wants us to know Him intimately. Yes, we must learn to know Him intimately, but we have His assurance that we will find Him when we seek Him with all our heart. We have His promise that He will be found by us. He wants intimacy with us. Let’s pursue it!

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God tells us in His word that:

16ALL Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV) (emphasis mine)

And I choose to believe that…Then I come to long passages like the beginning chapters of 1 Chronicles. How are we to read and love Scriptures when for the past week it seems all I’m doing is reading names, names and more names. Most of which aren’t pronounceable and most of which I can’t relate to one another. Yes, I suppose it’s nice to know that…

10The descendants of Solomon were Rehoboam, Abijah, Asa, Jehoshaphat, 11Jehoram, Ahaziah, Joash, 12Amaziah, Uzziah, Jotham, 13Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, 14Amon, and . If you’re reading the additional reading Josiah.
1 Chronicles 3:10-14 (NLT)

And I might even be able to remember some things about some of those people (although without research I can’t be sure if what I remember about Jehoshaphat is really about this Jehoshaphat or some other Jehoshaphat), but…inspired by God and useful for equipping me for the works God has prepared for me? OK, that’s a bit of a stretch in my faith sometimes!

Yet it is God’s Word, so I choose to believe it. So I choose to read those passages. But let me be honest with you – because perhaps you’re a bit like me and wondering…why? And beyond the “why”, I want to address the “how” – how do I read those kinds of chapters.

First the “Why”
Why should I read chapters that seem to have no impact on my faith and practice? The answer to that one is simple – because God has told us that ALL scripture is God-breathed and has value for us. OK. I don’t get it. But then I also don’t get why He had to make more than 35,000 different types of spiders. This falls into the category of obedience for me. God said it would be profitable. I choose to believe God. I choose to do things that I wouldn’t normally do because I believe God.

Then the “How”
How do I approach chapters of names upon names? All of the above not withstanding, I usually don’t read these passages with the same deliberateness that I read other passages. Let me say that occasionally I do read them carefully, focusing on each name, or even reading them aloud forcing myself to concentrate on each name. Occasionally. Because I take God at His Word and believe there’s value in it for me. But most times, I approach the passages in one of two ways:

From a “Why did God include this” perspective –
I ask the bigger “why” question – “Why did God choose to have them included in the Bible?” Considering this question when reading passages that seem irrelevant to us will help us begin to appreciate them and find value in them. It’s often where I find the lessons in these passages. In the case of names, for example, I learn that God cares about individuals enough to have their names recorded. I learn that He is a God of detail and precision. I learn about the importance of genealogy to God. I can take any of those lessons into more depth (through study or meditation and prayer) to learn more about the heart of God and the ways of God.

From a “what catches my attention” perspective –
I skim the passages, letting my eyes touch each paragraph to find anything that is different about the paragraph or any name that jumps off the page at me. If there is, I will carefully read that passage and then study it if God leads.

It’s this kind of reading that will cause passages like this to jump out at you:

9There 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. 10He 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 (NLT)

These two verses about Jabez fall in the midst of 37 verses of names upon names. All other verses simply tell us who was the father of whom. Names, names and more names. Except these two verses devoted to a man named Jabez. When reading long passages like 1 Chronicles, I look for anomalies – things that are different and stand out. Jabez stands out.

I’ll leave the discussion of these two verses for another time – or you can check out one of the many books on the verses the book here one of the many books on the verses the book here. For now, let me encourage you to keep reading! It’s OK to skim sometimes, but keep reading!

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Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013Reading God’s Word is the best way to get to know God. We learn who He is and how He works. It is His love letter to us, His instruction manual written for us, and it breathes His Spirit upon us as we read.

You’ll find our April reading schedule in the March/April bookmark and in the table below.

Click on one of the following buttons to open a PDF file of the March-April bookmark or all bookmarks. After the file has opened, you can print it or save it to your hard drive from your browser’s file menu.

Click here for the March/April 2013 recommended reading bookmark. Click here to download all bookmarks for 2013.

What treasures have you found while reading this week? Share them with the rest of us. You can email me, leave a message on the Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog.

Blessings, Friends!
Enjoy God! Enjoy life!

Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for April is below.

Resting at the River's Edge April 2014 Reading Schedule

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9Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” 10And 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)

Perhaps you’ve heard of Jabez. His name literally means “he will cause pain.” That’s what his mama named him, presumably after a difficult birth. I’ve been wondering how that affected him emotionally as he was growing up. Knowing that he’d been named “he will cause pain” – and undoubtedly personalizing it to “I will cause pain” – must have been painful mantel to wear every day of every year of his life. “Of course it must be true,” our Enemy would scream into his mind, “because your mama said so…And you’ve already done so, hurting the one person you say you love more than anyone.” Our enemy can wreak havoc with our minds and emotions and ultimately our life if we listen to him.

We recently read this verse 1 Peter in our Resting at the River’s Edge reading.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8 (NLT)

The enemy has been on the prowl lately. Have you heard the news reports lately?

  • “58 deaths in the Caribbean attributed to Sandy”
  • “Sandy wreaks devastation – utter devastation in New Jersey”
  • “More than a dozen deaths in US caused by Sandy”
  • “Raging fire destroys at least 80 homes”
  • “Sandy could potentially affect more than 66 million Americans”
  • “The Wrath of Sandy”

I’m an adult and I understand that I haven’t caused any of this – they’ve simply named a hurricane after me. Yet each time I hear a news report or read a headline it has jolted my brain – feeling to my brain somewhat like a hard slap in the face. So I’ve been feeling a bit of a kinship with Jabez these last few days.

And God has used the experience to experientially teach me some things that I’d already learned from reading Scripture. That’s called reinforcement. It’s not pleasant but it seals the teaching in our spirits.

Words have impact and that impact has the power to change and shape one’s reality. Just as the New Jersey shore has been impacted by the waves and its shape has been significantly changed by the erosion of the beach and the destruction of roads and bridges, one who is the subject of hurtful words is subject to the effects of those words – the erosion of their confidence and destruction of their dreams.

Scripture says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21, NASB). We have the power to both destroy and give life with the words we say. Hearing repeatedly over the past few days that “Sandy” has brought devastation into millions of lives has not had a life-giving affect on me. Similarly telling a child he isn’t good for anything (or at anything) will not have a life-giving effect on him. Just like telling ourselves that we’re not good for anything or we can’t do anything right is not life-giving. Those words have the power of death.

Just as words can cause death, they can also bring life. We can pray and speak words that counter any and all words the enemy is using for destruction. Jabez’s prayer is simple and interesting. He prays “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!” (1 Chronicles 4:10, KJV) Jabez very specifically speaks words of life to refute the words of death that he hears every time someone calls him by name. “Lord, bless me. Help me to do well. Keep your hand upon me. Keep me from evil. Keep me from causing any pain.”

“Jabez, would you…” a friend might have said.
“You, the one who causes pain, would you…” is what Jabez might have heard.

So he fought back – in the spiritual realm. “Lord, change my reality – make me one who does not cause pain. Bless me so that I might be a blessing to others.” You might say “Sandy, you’ve added that last phrase. It isn’t in Jabez’s prayer. He didn’t pray anything about being a blessing to others.” No, he didn’t. But the short discussion of Jabez begins with the phrase “Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers” (1 Chronicles 4:9, KJV). An honorable man (or woman) is generous (following God’s laws and His heart). It is totally within the context of the few verses to presume that Jabez’s heart’s desire was to be a blessing to others.

I am blessed – my mama named me “helper of mankind.” That’s what my name means. Yet this week I’ve been hearing about all the horrible things my namesake is doing. So I am beginning to fight back as Jabez did. When I hear or read the headlines, I am turning them around:

“58 deaths in the Caribbean attributed to Sandy”

“Lord, may I bring life to 58 people in the Caribbean. I don’t now how that might happen, but nothing is impossible with God.”

“Sandy wreaks devastation – utter devastation in New Jersey”

“Lord, may I be a blessing in some way to the state of New Jersey? Enlarge my territory so that I may give more. Enlarge my influence so that I may have a greater impact for good.”

“Raging fire destroys at least 80 homes”

“Lord, may I be a builder and not a destroyer. Lord, use me to ignite a fire of passion for You that spreads faster than the raging fire of New Jersey.”

“Sandy could potentially affect more than 66 million Americans”

“Lord, enlarge my influence so that I may affect more than 66 million Americans for good, not for harm. It sounds like foolishness to my ears to even ask such a thing, Lord. But You tell us to ask, so I ask to be an influence for the Kingdom of God in a greater measure than I can imagine. My namesake is affecting these people for evil. Use me, Lord, to affect an even greater number for good.”

“The Wrath of Sandy”

“Lord, keep me from wrath. May my life be marked with the joy of the Lord and a consistent outward display of the love of God.”

Whew! Those are some pretty lofty prayers – prayers that even scare me; prayers that sound impossible and foolish to me. But I believe God answers prayers and I believe He encourages us to pray lofty prayers with lofty ambitions. So I, whose name means helper of mankind, choose to speak words of life to myself, to pray words of life over my life and ministry, and to believe for those words to have an impact – both in this world and in the next.

[Jesus is speaking:] Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.
John 16:24 (NASB)

What words spoken against you do you need to reverse by praying life instead death?

PS: While Storm Sandy has been trying to wreak havoc in my emotions, she is definitely wreaking havoc in the northeast United States. Please pray for the victims. If you are able to help, giving to any of the following organizations is a good thing:

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1 Chronicles 16:29-30
Give to the LORD the glory he deserves! Bring your offering and come into his presence. Worship the LORD in all his holy splendor. (NLT)

Give to the LORD the glory due His name; Bring an offering, and come before Him. Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness! (NKJV)

Isaiah 66:1-2 (NLT)
1This is what the LORD says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Could you build me a temple as good as that? Could you build me such a resting place? 2aMy hands have made both heaven and earth; they and everything in them are mine.

Sunset Sky in the Firelands
Dandelion Feathered
Light Through the Clouds
By the River's Edge
Purple Flowers
Lake
Flower Amidst Rocks
Wheat

Photo credits to Terry Caudill. Thanks, Terry!

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Resting at the River’s Edge provides an opportunity to participate in reading through the Bible in a systematic way. Here’s more details about the plan and our schedules.

Track your reading along with us using the table below, the downloadable half-page PDF or the May/June bookmark.

Share with others what God is teaching you. E-mail me, leave a message on the Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog.

Enjoy God as you begin to enjoy summer!
Sandy

Download All 2012 Bookmarks Here

Download only the May/June 2012 Bookmark Here

Download a Half-Page PDF of the June Reading Plan Here

Here’s June’s reading plan:

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Jesus’ Teaching, Miracles, Crucifixion and Resurrection;
The Church is Formed; and Jewish History from a Religious Viewpoint

This month  during our Resting at the River’s Edge readings we’ll finish the Gospel of Luke, begin the book of Acts and read through 1 Chronicles and part of 2 Chronicles.

I’ve so been enjoying the Gospel of Luke – Jesus’ story written from the perspective of a historian and doctor. We’ll be reading the last half of the book – pages jam packed full of the teachings and miracles of Jesus followed by His crucifixion and resurrection. Don’t simply read through Jesus’ teachings – imagine that you are in the crowd of listeners and ask God to reveal how His message should impact your life.

In the book of Acts we’ll read about how the  Church was formed as the Apostles and disciplines, under the power of the Holy Spirit, preach God’s message with accompanying signs and wonders. Again, I encourage you to put yourself in the scenes – how would you have reacted when Saul wanted to meet with your fellowship shortly after he became Paul? What would your position have been when the topics of circumcising gentiles and eating meat sacrificed to idols were discussed? And what do the Acts of the Apostles – that is, the great miracles they performed – mean for your life today?

The books 1 and 2 Chronicles are among those that record the history of the Jews from the last judge (Samuel) and the establishment of the first king (Saul), to the exile of the nation to Babylon. (The other books are 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings.) 1 and 2 Chronicles provides Jewish history from the perspective of the priesthood. (Last year we read 1 and 2 Kings which were written from the perspective of the prophets.) You might say that Kings provides the political record and Chronicles provides the religious record.

We will see in the books of 1 and 2 Chronicles a God who is faithful to His covenant with Abraham even when Abraham’s descendants are unfaithful to Him. We will also see the cycle of God blessing His people when they obey His will and disciplining them when they disobey. As you read, think about how you would have responded in each situation. Would you have remained faithful to God? How would you have responded to His discipline?

Lots of great Inspired Words to read and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to our hearts. May God bring them alive as you read during the month of April. Blessings, Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for April is below.

To download a PDF of April’s recommended reading plan, click here.

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Love, The Gospel & The Law

This month we’ll read:

  • The three letters of John and the book of Philemon (think “love”)
  • The book of Luke (think “Gospel”)
  • Deuteronomy (think “Law”)

The exciting thing is that all reveal God’s purposes, His nature and His great love for us. Here’s a snippet from Deuteronomy, Luke and 1 John.

7“The LORD did not choose you and lavish his love on you because you were larger or greater than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! 8It was simply because the LORD loves you, and because he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors. That is why the LORD rescued you with such amazing power… 9Understand, therefore, that the LORD your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and constantly loves those who love him and obey his commands. Deuteronomy 7:-9

30b“Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end….35b So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:30-35

1How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him…. 3Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. 4Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins…. 1 John 3:1-5

If you don’t know this God, I encourage you to read with us this month. If you do know this God, I encourage you to read with us this month. He has something to say to each of us. I’m looking forward to it!

Blessings, Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for March is below.

To download a PDF of March’s recommended reading plan, click here.

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