Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Praying for Midwestern Christian Academy

Jabez was more honorable than his brothers; and his mother called his name Jabez, saying "Because I bore him in pain."  Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, "Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!"  And God granted what he asked.  I Chronicles 4:9-10

Tucked away in the book of I Chronicles, which isn't one we read from or from which we hear much in the way of preaching very often are these two verses about Jabez.  About twenty years ago, these two verses became the subject of a book that got a lot of attention in our prosperity-oriented society.  The point that the author attempted to make was that this little prayer, tucked away among the lengthy genealogical listings of Chronicles, is a promise from God and if you recite it, he will bless you the same way he did Jabez, expanding your "territory", meaning your personal prosperity. 

That's not the point, though. 

Jabez was born in pain, and the reference here comes from Genesis 3:16, and God's curse on Eve.  He was born in pain, but he is asking for God's blessing, so that the "hand of God" would be with him and while he caused pain at his birth, now his desire is to turn pain into a blessing.  It's not a selfish prayer.  If it was, God would not have answered it.  But he is asking God to keep him from harm so that he might not be known for causing pain, but for being generous.  The perception of his life was that he was a good guy, "more honorable than his brotherrs" according to the writer of Chronicles.  So there is something for us to learn from these two obscure verses tucked into the opening of the Chronicles genealogies. 

God gave an honorable man, Jabez, a blessing because he asked for one, not to use for selfish purposes, but so that his name would no longer be associated with pain.  There's not much more to the story.  Jabez asked for three things.  One, that God would bless him.  Two, that God would enlarge his territory.  And three, that God would keep him from evil.  The requests are unique to Jabez' life and they were consistent with God's will.  There's no indication that God made Jabez fabulously wealthy or anything about the size of the material blessing.  There are three separate requests, one for a spiritual blessing, one for a material need and one that benefits others.  It's a great model for a prayer. 

So would you join in with us? 

Dear Lord, we pray that you would bless the ministry of Midwestern Christian Academy.  Many children have passed through here over the time that it has been in existence and those who have led and taught have had it in their hearts to be honorable, to follow the leading of your Holy Spirit and to do your will as you have directed.  Lord, we ask for the resources that we need to expand our ministry for your glory.  We ask that you keep us from evil and make us a blessing to our students and their families.  In Christ's name we pray.  

Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Last Quarter

The coach called his football team together in the huddle.  He stood at an angle so that they could not see the scoreboard while focusing their attention on him.  It was the end of the third quarter, and they were trailing their opponent 31 to 3.  They had kicked a field goal at the end of their first possession in the first quarter and that was it.  Every other time they got their hands on the ball, they made a mistake that cost them the possession, either a fumble or a pass interception, or they just failed to move the ball.

The coach's speech was simple and full of clich├ęs.  "This game isn't over until the clock runs out," he said.  "It's not time to think about going home, it's time to start playing the game I know you can play."  There was some awkward silence as the coach looked at each player directly without saying anything.  Then he said, " The odds are against us.  We have to figure out how to score 29 points in 12 minutes and keep them from scoring any more and that means we have to play our best for 12 more minutes.  If you quit now, the failure will hurt and it will be something you will never forget."

They had the ball to start the fourth quarter. The other team came out onto the field acting like they'd already won the game.  But for the first time all night, things started to come together.  Two quick touchdowns, partly the result of the determined effort made by the team that scored them and partly the result of mistakes made by the other team's thinking they'd already won made the score 31-17 with nine minutes left.  A mistake by a receiver on the kickoff led to another quick touchdown and it was 31-24.  The other team, nervous and feeling pressure now, committed two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on their next drive and had to punt.  For the first time all night, a team that trailed 31-3 going into the fourth quarter had a chance to tie or win the game.  They scored the touchdown with just 13 seconds left in the game.  Now they are faced with a decision.  Do they go for the tie, and force an overtime game, or do they go for the win?

Without knowing the outcome, you get the point.  It is important to finish well and not quit.  These last few weeks of school are a critical time.  We've finished our Terra Nova test, but that's not the final measurement of this year's accomplishment.  Our curriculum objectives, especially in mathematics and language arts, are preparing students for the next grade level.  From this point until the end of the school year, all of the objectives are focused on introducing new concepts and building on the skills learned during the past year. So it is important for our students to finish well.  Go for the win.