Tag Archives: parable

Enlarging territory

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 4:10 NKJV)

In the days of colonialism, enlarging territory involved sending people to other countries and persuading the inhabitants, by treaties or gifts or military force, to give you land for your empire where you can settle your excess population. Things haven’t changed much. After all, humanity is planning to do something similar by sending settlers to Mars, although that planet, as far as the scientists can tell us, is uninhabited by intelligent life.

Image by WikiImages from Pixabay

In either case, I don’t think that was the enlarging of territory that Jabez requested. I think it is more like the blessings of God to work through his life bringing increase to his character, service and sphere of influence.

Consider for a moment. A young couple gets married and moves into a one-bedroomed apartment. After a few years they have a child or two or more. They have to enlarge their territory. Fortunately, the husband has now established himself in his job and they can afford to move into a bigger apartment or even their very own house.

As the children grow and mature, they attract boyfriends and girlfriends. Before long, the family doubles as sons- and daughters-in law are added to the people they love and care for. An 8- or 10-seater dining table might now be required.

Meanwhile, the couple’s sphere of influence grows as they interact with work colleagues, other parents at the school, then teenage friends and their parents, then finally the family of their sons- and daughters-in-law.

All this supposes the blessing of God is with them and that the hand of God is upon them. There are so many snares and pitfalls along the way that can shipwreck the process.

In the same way, our ministry should expand under God’s leading as our character and experience grows. I consider my blog my ministry and I shall certainly pray that the God of Heaven enlarges it.

Expanding territory can also include our business. It is good to pray for God’s influence in expanding our business or endeavours.

God answered Jabez’s prayer because it was according to His will.

Jabez also prayed to be kept from evil (which accords with Jesus’ model prayer) and not to cause pain to others. These are both things we can pray and know we are in God’s will.

My Prayer

O God of Heaven, please bless me indeed and keep Your hand upon my life. Enlarge my capacity to love all those you have given me to care for and serve. Enlarge the borders of my ministry. Please keep me from evil and open my eyes so that I may not cause pain to others. Please grant my request. Amen.

More Dimensions

In my Christian walk and study I’ve come across many concepts that are hard to understand. Examples are: the fact that Jesus was 100% God and 100% man; the Bible is 100% inspired by God, yet 100% written by man. This latter was explained brilliantly by Nicky Gumbel.

“Sir Christopher Wren, the most famous architect of his time, built St. Paul’s Cathedral. He began in 1676 and it took him 35 years to build it. He was 44 when he began and was 79 when he completed it in 1711. Sir Christopher Wren built St. Paul’s Cathedral, but actually he didn’t lay a single stone—other people did that. He directed its construction. In the same way, God did not “write the Bible”—He used human authors. But He inspired them. He was the “architect” behind its construction. Every stone in St. Paul’s Cathedral was there because Sir Christopher Wren intended it to be there. And the Bible is as God intended it to be.”

Something else that has bothered me is the fact that in one place the Bible says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved,” (Romans 10:15) and yet Jesus told the parable of the sheep and the goats where the King welcomes into the kingdom those who have fed the hungry, welcomed the stranger, clothed the poor, looked after the sick and visited the prisoner. “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’” (Matthew 25:40 NIV)

I recently attended a Conference on the letters of John by Robert W. Yarbrough. He added a third dimension to the confusion by citing Matthew 7:15. “Many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will say to them plainly, ‘I never knew you.'”(NIV)

These people obviously believed in Jesus and did good works in His name. But He did not know them. In other words, there was no love relationship between them and Jesus. Dr Yarbrough explained these three conflicting criteria for entering the Kingdom of Heaven with a three dimensional graph. The X-axis is Faith, the Y-axis Works and the Z-axis Love. All three are needed simultaneously.

On our own we can try to do good works but faith and love are miraculous works of the Holy Spirit in us. Until Jesus is Lord of our lives, we will not know the faith and the love that He imparts to us and grows in us.

My Prayer

Lord Jesus, I know that many concepts are beyond my human understanding. I want a three dimensional faith and not a flat, lifeless one. Please grow me in directions and dimensions where I am lacking. May I know You more clearly, love You more dearly and follow You more nearly, day by day by day. Amen.

A Rose in the Car

Recently a friend gave me a single rose. I wanted to keep it from wilting in the car on my way home. We have been in the middle of a heat wave for the last week or two. I asked for a small bottle that I could use to keep the flower in water. I managed to find a suitable spot in my car to wedge the bottle and keep the flower upright.

As long as the stem of the rose remained connected to the water, the rose would stay alive and drink up the water. However, should the stem be removed from the water for a while, it would suck up air instead, leading to a quick decline.

Jesus said, “Remain in me and I will remain in you. for a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” (John 15:4 NLT)

Jesus was talking about a vine and its branches but it is also true of a rose and water. The rose stem needs to remain in the water so the water can remain and flow through the rose stem.

In John 7, Jesus talks about “living water,” by which He meant the Spirit. If we walk by the Spirit, i.e. keep constantly connected to Him, we will not gratify the desires of the flesh, (Gal 5: 16) which cause us to wilt and fade as the living water is no longer in us.

My Prayer

Lord Jesus, I do not always keep connected to You. Please help me to walk more and more by the Spirit, like a rose keeping its stem constantly in the water. I know that without You I can do nothing. Thank You for Your life-giving Spirit. Amen.

The Good News

We’ve moved to Karridene which is only a railway bridge from the beach.

In setting up camp, I also set up my bird feeder. It usually takes the birds a couple of days to find out that there is a source of free food. One bird has to come across it by accident and then communicate by tweet or actions the good news.

This hasn’t happened yet so we have a source of bird food dangling uselessly outside our campsite.

This is a picture of the world today. God has made available abundant blessings like forgiveness, eternal life, peace, power and the opportunity to become children of God, but most people just go about their daily lives unaware of the free gift available.

The Bible says “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved… And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him and how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? (Romans 10 vs 13 – 14 selected)

It behoves us, who know the Truth to communicate the good news by our words and actions.

My Prayer

Lord, please give me the compassion for others that You have. Please guide me in telling others of Your great love. Please bring somebody across my path today that I can tell about You. Amen.

Gifts and Talents

I read Joshua 3 and 4 today, where Joshua, under God’s guidance, led the Israelites through the Jordan River. The priests carried the ark of the covenant into the river which was in flood. As soon as their feet touched the edge, water from upstream stopped flowing and piled up in a heap a great distance away.

The priests stopped in the middle, still holding the ark, while all the people crossed over in their tribes. Chosen men, one from each tribe, collected twelve stones from the river bed and carried them on their shoulders until they reached Gilgal.

Imagine the strength required of the priests to hold the ark, which was overlaid with gold, for a number of hours while standing still. Imagine the strength required of the twelve men to carry heavy rocks on a long hike. They were presumably chosen for their strength.

Strength is a gift from God, as is leadership, athletic ability, intelligence, entrepreneurial skill, artistic or musical talent, or any other God-given talent.

Image by Brigitte Werner from Pixabay

Jesus said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” (John15:5b NIV) The World lauds and rewards human achievement, but none of it is possible without God’s gifting.

My eighty-nine-year-old mother always says, “Use it or lose it,” usually talking about her brain and how she does crossword puzzles to exercise it.

As Jesus illustrated in the parable of the talents, (Matthew 25:14-30,) it is true of all God-given abilities and talents. If a man gifted with unusual strength goes to the gym and exercises regularly, his strength grows. A musician, dancer or actor practices regularly to become better in their field. Those gifted with intelligence study to make the best of their abilities. If they don’t, they are like the servant who buried his talent in the ground and the master took it away from him.

Use it or lose it.

My Prayer

Father God, You are the giver of all gifts and talents and You distribute them as You will. May I neither envy those more talented than myself, nor neglect to exercise or use the gifts You have given me. Amen.

Rest Stop

We are on our way to the South Coast in our motorhome. The vehicle is heavy, uses a lot of petrol and travels slowly. We tackle manageable chunks. Today’s journey was from Randburg to Harrismith. The advert says, “Life’s a journey. Enjoy the ride.” However, after two hours travelling, it is time for a rest stop. It can be dangerous if the driver gets fatigued and he loses concentration. Luckily, nowadays there are One Stop petrol stations with nice, clean bathrooms, a shop to buy groceries and some kind of fast food or sit down restaurant, as well as petrol pumps. We stopped at Villiers.

The Bible talks a lot about rest and refreshing. God knows that in the journey of life, we also need rest stops. He commanded in Exodus 20, “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work…” (verses 8-10a NIV) When the Pharisees got obsessive-compulsive about it and micromanaged the law, Jesus pointed that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. (Mark 2:27 NIV) God knows that we need to rest from our labour regularly. In the same way that a mother of a two-year-old will insist on an afternoon nap, God prescribed a regular rest for our good.

The Bible also talks about “times of refreshing” eg Acts 3:19. This is like splashing cold water on your face when you have been driving for some time. In everyday life we can experience times of refreshing by looking out of the window and seeing God’s creation, going for a walk or run, attending a retreat or stopping to smell a flower.

My Prayer

Lord Jesus, thank You that You have provided opportunities to rest and refresh myself. Thank You for an opportunity to go away on holiday. May I be a blessing to everyone I meet along the way and at our destination. Amen.

Turkish Carpets

My son spent a week in Turkey before coming to visit us in South Africa. He gave me a mouse pad that looks like a Turkish carpet.

High quality Turkish carpets are made by hand. Wool or silk is used. The long threads are laid side by side on the loom, then the rug maker knots the cross threads around a group of two and between them, cutting the pile to size with a sharp knife. For each square centimeter of carpet, a hundred and forty to a hundred and fifty knots are needed. The whole process takes a long time – two years for a medium sized rug.

We are masterpieces under construction and God uses the hands-on-process. No part of our past is accidental. God has a plan and works towards it slowly. He knots us to different people at different times and to different situations to make the pattern He designed. We are not yet complete. We are growing in Christ and it is not through our efforts but His.

Paul wrote to the Colossians , “To them (God’s people) he has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.” (Col 1:27-28)

My Prayer

Father God, thank You that You treat me as an individual. You are growing me into the person You designed me to be. Please give me patience in the process and willingness to be compliant in Your hands. Amen.

The Number 40

Today, our daughter celebrated her 40th birthday.

As was usual at these events, there were a number of people making speeches. One of my daughter’s friends had taken the trouble to research the number forty in the Bible.

It rained for forty days and forty nights, the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years, Jesus was in the desert forty days. It seems that forty is a number of completion, perhaps completion of training in some aspects. It is never pleasant to be stuck in continuous rain, to be wandering in the desert or to be without food in the wilderness for any length of time. Yet all these periods of hardship were part of God’s eternal plan, some of them for the strengthening and training of God’s people for the next stage of His amazing story.

The friend ended with expressing a sense of excitement. She couldn’t wait to see what God was going to do in the next phase of my daughter’s life.

We often do not understand why God brings hardship into our lives and why He seems not to answer our prayers immediately. It is possible that the Lord is training us for the next stage so we can glorify Him. It may not be forty years or forty days, but our Father knows the exact length of time the programme will last.

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, but his favour is for a lifetime.” (Psalm 30:4 -5 ESV). It goes on to say, “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (NIV)

My Prayer

Lord God of the Universe, Your ways are not my ways and I don’t always understand Your ways. When I go through rainstorms or desert experiences in my life, please remind me that You are in control and You know exactly what You are doing. Amen.

Eiderdown

My sister-in-law had an old eiderdown that was falling to pieces. It had sentimental value to her so she kept it in a cupboard. Recently she turned seventy and received some gifts of money. She pooled it and went to a shop nearby that restores eiderdowns. They clean and restore the feathers and make new quilts. My sister-in-law is thrilled with the outcome.

It reminds me of a scripture verse from 2 Corinthians. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself…” (5:17-18.ESV)

God does not make the new creation from scratch. He takes the old damaged and disintegrating person and remakes them as something beautiful. This is not instantaneous but is a process, just as the old eiderdown has to be cut up and the feathers cleaned and renewed before starting on the new creation.

My Prayer

Thank you, Lord, that because of Christ’s sacrifice, I have become a new creation. Please continue recreating me into Christ’s image. May my life reflect Your glory and Your craftsmanship. Amen.

Ducklings in the Parking Garage

When we went to tenpin bowling on Wednesday, we saw a duck nonchalantly leading her seven ducklings through the parking garage at Northcliff Square. Apart from being surprised, we were concerned for them. They were so low on the ground and not easily visible from car seats. How easy it would be for a driver to run over them!

It reminded me of a time when Jesus said to His disciples, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16 NIV)

He had just given authority to the disciples to drive out impure spirits and heal every kind of disease and sickness.

Jesus knows that the world is dangerous. He sends us into Satan’s world. His advice to us is to be like Him – innocent, yet shrewd. Although Jesus was gentle and lowly in spirit, He showed Himself very shrewd when it came to dealing with the Pharisees and rulers.

I am sure the ducks had no idea how dangerous a parking garage can be for them. In the same way, we are not always aware of spiritual dangers and temptations that are around us constantly. We need to be on our guard.

My Prayer

Lord, You have promised to be with me always. I need to be in the world but not of the world. Please teach me the skills, like innocence and shrewdness, that I need and continue forming me into Your image through the Holy Spirit. Amen.