Sunday, September 30, 2012

Jabez Knew What He Was Talking About

1 Chronicles 4:9-10
Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, "I gave birth to him in pain." Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, saying, "Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain." And God granted his request.

Bruce Wilkerson wrote a book a while ago called The Prayer Of Jabez. It was a big deal when it came out and controversial for what he claimed: Jabez's prayer that is listed in 1 Chronicles possesses the powerful prayer framework that will transform your life. Many in the Christian world scoffed at what they saw as a prosperity gospel message while others claimed it is a huge revelation. I'm mostly in the middle on these matters as many look at what's external and not at the heart condition. Any message of Christ can be twisted to justify a prosperity gospel message while others sensationalize what is Truth and lose what has been rooted in God's character from the beginning. I personally think that Wilkerson's book The Secrets Of The Vine is a much more powerful message, but prior to reading that I read The Prayer Of Jabez. This was about twelve years ago and focusing on just one aspect of the prayer was pretty eye opening: it revealed just how faithful God has been to me. It showed me that a persistence (even if at times my heart really wasn't into it or just plain being selfish) in prayer and the effect of drawing near to the Extraordinary has on me. It's actually quite comical and delightful.
I'm sure that to some this list isn't such a big deal. Many have lived amazing lives that are full of cool adventures and memories. For me, I consider my life pretty mundane. I haven't really distinguished myself in any field which makes anything amazing in my life very much God blessed. For that, I am thankful and will be thankful to Jabez and his example.
The one aspect of Jabez's prayer that stood out to me is "enlarge my territory". It sounds like a "make me rich" request, but it more about having us see that God a much larger story in store for us; that He desires for us to pray for audacious and crazy things that will be huge in advancing His Kingdom. It is a mindset that asks God to do something so big, that it can't possibly be from man.

I am originally from California. I had the mindset that I would live my whole life there. I had little desire to see much more than what I knew. I mean, I had snow in the Sierras, beaches in Santa Cruz, an engineering job in Silicon Valley, all of my family and friends nearby and all my favorite sports teams there. What I'd never consider is that I'd end up moving to Tennessee. Not only that, I'd end up owning a KOA campground in the very small town of Sweetwater. This means driving a tractor, cleaning sewers and dealing with difficult guests. It means that I wore a bright yellow shirt and drove a golf cart around while picking up trash and repairing just about anything that could get broken. It also stretched me to learn many new things. I had to be the janitor, the customer service representative, the bookeeper, mechanic, grounds maintenance man, marketing specialist and boss. I'm also glad to say that I believe my grandfather would be proud to know that his youngest grandson who grew up in the suburbs taught himself to drive a tractor. I was stretched beyond my own means. I prayed a lot about things since so much was riding on the success of the business. I learned so much about myself there. God expanded me in ways that I could never imagined if I'd stayed in Northern California.

I used to be adverse to travel. Believe it or not I hated the change, the strain of travel and just not being able to relax being away from what was comfortable. For some reason I started getting encouraged by others to get out and help minister away from my comfort zone. This has led me to helping build houses in Mexico. That in fact meant using outhouses and living in a dusty and dirty makeshift camp. It also meant meeting people who literally had no roof over their heads. It meant connecting to people with whom I barely could communicate with. It was so powerful to see the tears of joy of a sixty year old man as we handed him the keys to his newly built two room house. Going through that can change your heart. God showed me that I had much to learn about love and much to appreciate about what my life is.

Travel also means helping in the sticky, bug filled Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. The destruction down there was shocking at times. I was in Waveland and was standing on an empty lot. It took me a few minutes before I realized it was a campground. If there's one thing I should easily recognize is a campground. I just couldn't see it because there was so much that was destroyed and that nothing around me was familiar. There were literally whole neighborhoods that were destroyed with all members of the families working: boys directing traffic, girls cooking, moms organizing while dads operated heavy equipment. This was community at its best.I learned how to repair roofs and do drywall work. I saw how generous people can be. I received many warm hugs of appreciation. This showed me that I have much to learn about mercy.

Travel also can involve and random call from a good college friend: one that invites you to get involved with a small village in the Western Highland of Guatemala. It would be a time to reconnect with my IVCF friends from college. Seeing the Mayan people made me think that somewhere at the Tower Of Babel, some of my ancestral relatives found their way to Central America while others found their way to southern Japan. I felt like a tall Mayan there. All of these trips involved lots of bottled water, but this one also involved building an outhouse. It also involed kids. Lots and lots of kids who seemed to love you instinctively. They also showed me that hard work is not lost on this generation. The people of Panyebar must be hard workers to survive. They also are looking for ways to thrive as they move more and more into the modern culture. God showed me the blessing of friendships that last a lifetime. It also showed me a lot about joy. Children with so little material possesions had the more valueable gift of joy; play was instictive and spontaneous; laughter was constant. I needed to expand my experience of joy and found it in Guatemala.

To be honest, I took a few college courses that were out of sheer laziness. Two of them were Basketball Training and Basketball Coaching Theory. Both of them aren't exactly Organic Chemistry in terms of complexity. Along with that I have spent all too much time watching sports. Somehow God even can use my laziness for His glory. I first volunteered to be an assitant coach for Fox's JV basketball team. It was my hope that this would be a good connecting time with him (and it has). I have found myself leaning on the things that I learned from basketball coaches and classes that I picked up along the way. Through some tragic circumstances (the head coach was in a car accident and thankfully is doing well), this led to me becoming the JV Head Coach. During the summer, the Varsity Head Coach retired; I was asked to fill his shoes. Is this something that I'm qualified to do? One definitely questions that. I know that being the kid who sat at the end of the bench in high school isn't an auspicious beginning to a coaching career. Anyway, I'm on the verge of my first season as a Varsity Basketball Head Coach. God has gifted me with some wonderful young men and a great pair of assistant coaches. I know that somehow, God is preparing us for something great. Maybe not in wins, but in terms of leading young men. My hope and prayer as we embark on this season is that each of us on the team grows to see more of God's leading in our lives; that He is intimately involved in the process of growing; and that His love for us is deeper than we can possibly imagine.
I see that Jabez was on to something. Not a magical set of words that will give you things you want, but something far better than that. It is access to seeing God work and not just far off somewhere, but deep and intimately in your life. It is a transformational experience that can only be accomplished by God. So Jabez and his prayer is much more about our heart condition. Are we ready for what God is going to do? Are we open to not only His leading but His vast stores of love?

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