Thursday, May 27, 2010

Family Cornerstones 3

"Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, '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." 1 Chronicles 4:10
For the first decade of our lives we seemed to be in such want. At least that's how I viewed our life, anyway. We always seemed to have one emergency or another to handle and it seemed we were always gasping to keep our heads above water. I remember many tears and clenched fists raised toward heaven asking when the blessing would come to us. When would it be our turn to have? When would we be able to say we lived on Easy Street? Why was life so terribly hard? Why was it so painful to just live a normal life? Why were all our efforts for nothing?
Then God introduced us to the prayer of Jabez.
The name Jabez means pain. In ancient times a person's name signified a parent's dream for their child or defined their character, physical appearance or circumstance into which they were born. For Jabez, his birth caused his mother great pain. But to the writer of Chronicles, Jabez had grown to be a man "more honorable than his brothers" (vs 9). Somehow, he'd overcome his label of pain to become a man of honor.
At first glance his one-lined prayer seems to be a request for the greater "things" in life without effort on his part; almost treating God like a jeanie in a bottle who is suppose to grant his every wish. In searching the commentaries on this verse however, this man Jabez was asking God for something different and in the humblest of ways.
Biblical blessing is not the receiving of material things, per say. When Jabez asked for God's blessing he was throwing his life wide open to the will and ways of God, submitting his will to all that God had in store for him wherever that meant he should go or to whom he should go (enlarge my territory of influence). Asking for God's blessing in our lives then, should not be a grocery list of items to stuff into our already affluent lives but a humble request to allow God His way with us; to invite God's supernatural means to supersede our weaknesses for His glory in our circumstances or with those He puts in our lives.
Okay, so how does that apply to our family cornerstone? We submit our will to God's, step out in boldness and take risks. We've learned that when God says "move" we step out in faith toward Him without hesitation and when he says "stop" we stop. It's a life within the posture of true worship. He blesses the heart of obedience that is turned toward Him, always.
Jabez continues his short prayer asking that God's hand be on him. The biblical definition of God's hand being on someone/some place was to signify God's presence and power throughout that person or place. When God enlarges our sphere of influence the task before us can be daunting, overwhelming, unmanageable. Like Jabez, we cannot do life within our own strength. It's not all about us but all about God's power through us.
He concludes his prayer by asking God to keep him from harm. Some texts interpret harm as evil. It doesn't take long when you're walking in true obedience to God's truth to realize that life gets more difficult. Just as much as God's eyes go back and forth in the whole earth, searching for those whose hearts are turned toward Him, so too, our enemy, Satan, prowls around the obedient seeking to destroy and kill. Life is a battle fought in the spiritual realm but sometimes we get caught in the middle. When that happens, like Jabez, we need to ask God to fight the battle, keep us from the harm of our that we will be free from pain.
We've been married over 2 1/2 decades now. There are still times of great want. There are still family crises that overwhelm us. But this is what we've learned: to live our lives unselfishly submitted to God, to seek God's face in prayer over everything, to live by faith which means stepping out in obedience with great boldness, to identify the Enemy's battles and let God fight them, and in everything...give thanks.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Family Cornerstones 2

Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth have been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.'" Matthew 28: 18-20
When we first etched this scripture reference (Matt 28:18-20) into our pool deck we knew our pool would be used for baptisms. In the early years of the church we attended, an elderly couple opened their home and pool to the church body for its annual picnic and baptism. Our daughter was one of those baptized in their pool. However, as time left its mark on them they had to sell their home. Over the next few summers we were privileged to host the annual picnic in our back yard and witness our own son emerge from baptismal waters.
As the church outgrew our yard and purchased their own baptismal tank, we wondered how that verse would continue as a family cornerstone. It's not like we were going to pull people in off the street and evangelize them into baptismal waters or anything! That's certainly NOT our style. So, we pondered this for awhile.
Then, we realized our own children were who we were responsible for discipling. As much as we know there were other influential adults in their lives, God had given them to us for a predetermined time, to allow them to be fed and nurtured into a faith in Jesus. We were primarily responsible for this process and no one else.
It wasn't always easy. There were times we wondered if anything we taught them was sinking in and for a brief time, we thought we'd failed. But Jesus reassured us with his parting promise, "I will be with you always, even to the end of the age." We weren't in this parenting/discipling thing alone. Jesus was journeying right alongside us.
Now our children are grown and out of the house. On the hottest summer days, they come home to take a dip, share a meal and catch up on the week. As we sit back and reminisce over growing up at home, we realize Jesus really was with us in our discipling journey. Our son is head of his own household, raising a Christian family alongside his wife, and playing in the worship band at church. Our daughter and son-in-law are serving orphans in Uganda on short-term missions trips. As we all gather poolside or hold hands around the dinner table while saying grace, we are reminded that yes, we have helped to make disciples of Jesus and continue to do so into the next generation, even in other nations.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Family Cornerstones

"But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve...But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." Joshua 24:15
Have you ever taken the time to consider what defines you as an individual or as a family?
Eight years ago we decided to add an in ground pool to our backyard landscape. It was a desire my husband had since we purchased our home. We knew our children would love it because they enjoyed our neighbor's pool every summer since they were born. As we signed the contract with the local pool company though, we knew this investment wasn't just a frivolous expense meant only for our own pleasure. This pool would be a gathering place of celebration, solace and ministry for friends and family.
As we watched the contractor's backhoe break ground we discussed how we would consecrate this pool for ministry. God gave us four verses to use as the cornerstones of our family's ministry and we etched one of the scripture references in the corners of our pool deck. Now a cornerstone is defined as "the chief foundation on which something is constructed or developed." Our guest rarely notice them but we know they're there and they serve to remind us each time we sit and visit with people on a hot summer's day or enjoy a fire in our chiminea on a cool evening that God is present.
Over the next few days, I'd like to share our cornerstone verses with you.
We etched Joshua 24:15 in the first corner (see reference above). This is significant to us because Joshua led by example. There he stood, chosen leader of the Israelites, God's chosen people and he gave them a choice. He didn't rule as a dictator forcing them into a false faith in God. He gave them a choice. Irregardless of their choices, Joshua and his family chose to follow God. As a family, that's how Peter & I have lived. We have never forced our faith on any of our guests. Everyone is welcome whether they believe in God or not. And, as we share a picnic lunch or a dip in the pool we make every effort to represent God in conversation and hospitality.
One of my fondest memories so far, is witnessing my son emerging from the water having just been baptized by our pastor. It's nothing I will ever forget. I'll also never forget the many high school friends who celebrated the end of school every June in our pool. Many times they were simply high school kids enjoying hanging out and other times I'd catch a certain few in conversation asking one of my kids, "How do you know God really exists?"
Our faith in God is one of our cornerstones on which our family is built. What defines you?