~ Click on this link for today's readings ~
1 Chronicles 4:5-5:17 ~ Acts 25:1-27
Psalm 5:1-12 ~ Proverbs 18:19
Old Testament - Today in 1 Chronicles 4 verses 9 & 10 we will read 2 verses that modern-day author Bruce Wilkinson wrote a best selling book upon called The Prayer of Jabez – “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, "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.” Have you read the book The Prayer of Jabez? I have. It has been a couple of years ago. And overall I thought it was a decent book. But, I guess I personally never bought into the whole “formula” of the book – I believe the book basically encouraged folks to pray Jabez’s prayer every day and then blessings will come into our lives so that we can bless others. I’ll start off with a pretty high level question for you here – Why do you pray? How do you pray? What should we pray? Does God want us to pray? Did Jesus pray? Should we model Jesus in praying? I guess I’m coming to think more and more that we of course should pray. Often. Every chance we get really. “Pray without ceasing” ideally. But I’m starting to believe that we pray primarily to discern God’s will and God’s heart – to hear God’s still small voice – rather than to ask for stuff. I mean, I think it is certainly okay for us to ask for stuff on occasion – if it is within God’s will and plan for our lives. But I don’t think we should pray to God as if he was some cosmic slot machine, and that the more we pray, the more blessings / stuff we will get. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think Bruce Wilkinson’s book advocated this idea necessarily. I just think we should be cautious to not view prayer as a “magical” thing that will produce “magical” results in our life. I believe we pray to know the heart of God. I believe we pray for intercession for others. I believe we do pray sometimes to ask for blessings within God’s will and plans for our lives – and I stress “we” and “our” here, as a collective community of the body of Christ. Why do you pray? Do you pray to “listen” to God? Do you pray to intercede on the behalf of others in need?
Note that Bible.org has a nice overview of Bruce Wilkinson’s book, including both pros & cons, at this link.
New Testament - Continued incredible wisdom displayed by Paul in today's readings! His appeal to Caesar may look like on first glance he was trying to save his life. Many commentators believe that Paul was actually doing this strategically to get to Rome so he could preach the Gospel in Rome! Yes, he'd be arriving in Rome as a prisoner, but, if we know Paul at all, we know that being a prisoner will not stop him from preaching the Gospel! I love this whole scenario. Paul certainly seems a bit "down and out" on the ways things are going in his life. He's been imprisoned for two years, he is barely avoiding being killed or beaten, and yet he's continuing to think of every way to preach the Gospel and advance the Kingdom of God! I wonder about this in our lives today? Are we like Paul in this regard? Are we constantly thinking of ways to preach the Gospel and advance the kingdom? My hunch is that most of us are living very nice lives - no real threat of being killed or imprisoned. And I sometimes wonder if our comfort is maybe the real enemy? Are we not focused on preaching the Gospel or advancing the Kingdom of God because we are simply too comfortable? I do think one of the devil's greatest tricks is to simply distract us. Not to get us to do evil. But to distract us. Make us too comfortable perhaps? I don't know... I'm just so impressed with how Paul was so focused on the Gospel and building the Kingdom, in the midst of all his challenges. And I worry about why we are not so focused - and I think it might be our comfortable distractions...
Below is a great image of Festus' conversation with King Agrippa about Paul's case from verses 21 & 22 - ""But Paul appealed to the emperor. So I ordered him back to jail until I could arrange to send him to Caesar." "I'd like to hear the man myself," Agrippa said. And Festus replied, "You shall--tomorrow!"
Bible.org's commentary on today's Acts readings titled "Paul's Appeal" is at this link.
Psalms - I love Psalm 5 verse 3 - "Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly." This is a great reminder to pray in the mornings - before we start the hustle and bustle of the day. I know that many of you are reading the One Year Bible readings in the morning, which I think is a great way to start your day! I personally am doing the readings at night. However, I do see a huge positive difference in my day if I do pray to God in the morning and pray specifically about the upcoming day - and pray for others that I will interact with that day in the prayer as well. Praise God for the morning!
Actually, while I'm talking about the morning here, let me go off on a tangent if you don't mind... :) I honestly have lived much of my life as a "night owl." I went to bed late and woke up late. And I had all kinds of good "reasons" of why I was a night owl. But, I will be honest here - I don't think being a night owl was good for me. I honestly believe there is so much wisdom in the old adage of "early to bed, early to rise, helps make a person healthy, wealthy and wise." I personally think that being a night owl was a lack of discipline on my part. I don't mean to say all this to make you other night owls out there feel guilty... :) But, I do want to encourage you, in that if you think you are stuck being a night owl the rest of your life, I don't think it is true. I believe you can make the transition to being a morning person. I am an example of someone who has transitioned from being a late-night person to an early-to-bed person. (well, yes, I'm still a bit in the transition phase sometimes it seems...) And I am here to tell you, mornings rock! Early mornings are so beautiful and peaceful! They really are an amazing time of the day to connect with God... Praise God for the morning!
Proverbs - Proverbs 18 verse 19 is very timely in my life... "It's harder to make amends with an offended friend than to capture a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with iron bars." Just this past weekend I received a voicemail from a friend that made me so angry when I listened to it! And I thought to myself, "that is absolutely no way to talk to me. I'm gonna call him back right now and set him straight on this!" And then after settling down a bit, I decided this voicemail was not worth the argument. I had every apparent "right" to take up an argument because of tone of the voicemail, but something inside of me (thanks God!) encouraged me not to do so. And I ended up calling this friend back later and didn't address the voicemail tone, and things have been great ever since. Did I do the right thing? Should I have called him out on the voicemail tone? Should I have started up an argument? For some reason I didn't. And this Proverb seems to make me think I did the right thing. If I had taken up the argument over the voicemail, I just might have been clicking a "lock" that would have separated us for a season...
What verses or insights jumped out for you in today's readings? Please post up in the Comments section below!