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Bible Insights

How to Respond to Pain

The Birth of Jabez

The obscure Old Testament character Jabez is only mentioned in two verses in the Bible. A reoccurring theme (if two verses can have a reoccurring theme) is pain.

The birth of Jabez is marked by pain and his mom gives him a name to let everyone know that. What a terrible legacy to give a boy, a name that serves as a constant reminder—to him and everyone else —that he caused extreme discomfort to his mom and is likely destined to continue to cause pain.

Jabez could have opted to live up to those expectations, allowing his name to be a self-fulfilling prophecy or he could attempt to overcome it. He chose the latter, asking God to keep him from causing pain.

And God answered his prayer!

Regardless of our past or the hand that life has dealt us, we don’t need to let that define us. We can overcome it and become something else, something better.

God helped Jabez do just that and he can help us to; we only need to ask.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Chronicles 1-4, and today’s post is on 1 Chronicles 4:9-10.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Deliver Us from Evil

Pray That God Will Protect Us from Harm

Do you ever ask God to protect you from evil? You can. It’s biblical. It’s part of my morning routine, and based on what I’m about to share, I want to be more intentional about making this request each day. There are two key prayers in the Bible that offer scriptural support for asking God to deliver us from evil.

The Lord’s Prayer

What we commonly refer to as the Lord’s Prayer—because it came from Jesus, our Lord—we should more appropriately call the disciple’s prayer—because it’s for his disciples, and for us. This stands as the most significant prayer in the Bible. First, because Jesus taught it. Second, because he gave it to us as a model to follow.

Consider the line in Matthew 6:13 from this prayer. In most translations, it says “deliver us from the evil one,” or simply “deliver us from evil.” Some versions use the word rescue, save, or free, but deliver is the most common translation.

Jesus gave us this prayer is a model to use, so we should follow it and pray that he will deliver us from evil.

The Prayer of Jabez

Another biblical prayer that I find significant is the lesser-known prayer of Jabez. (There’s even a book written about it.) Aside from the Lord’s Prayer, I call Jabez’s prayer my favorite prayer in the Bible. Why is this? Because after Jabez prays, Scripture records God’s response. It says that God granted his request.

This means that God accepted Jabez’s petition and answered his prayer. Oh, how this encourages me when I pray.

One line in Jabez’s prayer is that God would “keep me from evil1 Chronicles 4:10). Though some translations use the word harm or pain instead of evil, most say evil.

Two Prayers to Deliver Us from Evil

It should be enough that Jesus tells us to ask God to deliver us from evil. But the Bible gives us a second example through Jabez, along with God’s confirmation that he answered Jabez’s prayer when he asked for the same thing.

When we ask God to deliver us from evil, he will do just that. Click To Tweet

This should encourage us that when we ask God to keep and deliver us from evil, he will do just that.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

My Favorite Verse in the Bible

God Grants Jabez’s Request

My favorite verse in the Bible is about an honorable man. His name is Jabez. What did he do? He prayed. That’s it. Does that sound boring? It could be, except for the outcome.

The result is profound. After Jabez prays, the Bible says that “God granted his request.” How reassuring is that?

This simple phrase, that God answered his request, is seemingly not profound, but it is most encouraging to me. It’s a reminder that God hears our prayers—even our bold, audacious, far-reaching requests—and then answers them in the affirmative.

When I pray, there is often a mystery to the words I say and what they mean: when God answers, how he answers, and if he answers the way I expect him to.

Sometimes it makes sense to me and other times, not so much. During dry times, it may seem like he never answers, but there are also times when the answers are quick and obvious.

God answers our prayers. Click To Tweet

This verse is a powerful reminder to me that God does indeed hear our prayers and answer them. Just ask Jabez.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Chronicles 5-7, and today’s post is on 1 Chronicles 4:9-10.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

How to Discern the Difference Between Biblical Commands and Biblical Narrative

In the Bible We Must Distinguish Between Prescriptive Text and Descriptive Text

The Bible contains a lot of versus that tell us what to do and what not to do. These verses stand as commands from God. Bible scholars call these prescriptive texts, as they prescribe the behavior God expects from us.

However, many more verses in the Bible are narrative. They tell us what happened. Bible scholars call these descriptive texts. They describe what occurred, usually without godly commentary.

Prescriptive Texts

The Ten Commandments are prescriptive texts, as is much of the law of Moses. The Old Testament prophets often include instructions from God. These are also prescriptive texts.

Paul’s letters tell the people what to do, which are prescriptive. Jesus leaves much of his teaching for us to interpret, but he sometimes tells people what to do. Look for passages that start with him saying, “but I tell you . . .” What follows are his instructions of what to do and not do.

Descriptive Texts

However, most of Jesus’s biographies (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are narratives. They tell us what happened. They record Jesus’s words for us. And they document the people’s response to Jesus. They describe what happened.

These are descriptive texts. The Book of Acts is also like this. The Old Testament has many historical books that tell us what happened. Genesis, Joshua, and Judges stand out as descriptive texts. The first and second books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles are also descriptive passages.

Distinguishing Between the Two

It’s critical that we make this distinction as we read the Bible. We want to follow and apply the prescriptive texts—especially those in the New Testament—doing what they say. Sometimes they cover things we should do, and other times it’s things we shouldn’t do.

However, we would be in error to take a descriptive text and turn it into behavior to follow, a command to obey. For example, consider Nehemiah 13:25. In this passage, Nehemiah is furious at the men for breaking God’s command to not marry foreign women.

His response to their disobedience shocks us. He beats some of them and pulls out their hair. Yes, God’s leader hits sinful men and yanks out their hair.

Keep in mind that the Bible merely describes his behavior. It doesn’t tell us to do the same thing for people who don’t follow God’s rules. Furthermore, we shouldn’t see this as God’s approval for corporal punishment. It isn’t. It’s merely a passage that describes Nehemiah’s reaction to the disobedience of others.

In the Bible we should read descriptive texts as narrative and not turn them into commands to follow. Click To Tweet

Where the Lines Blur

However, there’s a slight twist to this distinction between prescriptive and descriptive texts. Consider the short account of Jabez and his prayer. The Bible records Jabez’s prayer for us, but it doesn’t tell us to pray it.

Yet, the Bible notes that God grants the requests Jabez made (1 Chronicles 4:9-10). This confirms God’s approval of Jabez’s words. Though this falls short of a command to obey, it does emerge as an example we can follow.

Yet when God adds his commentary to the behavior of biblical characters, we can take his approval of their actions as worthy of emulation and his disapproval, as conduct to avoid.

When Reading the Bible

When we read the Bible, we’ll do well to follow the prescriptive texts, appropriately applying them to our culture and lives today. Similarly, we should read the descriptive texts as narrative and not turn them into examples to follow.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

My Favorite Prayer in the Bible

Discover How God Reacts to the Prayer of Jabez

Last week I wrote about The Most Dangerous Prayer in the Bible, at least the prayer containing the most risky line. It’s a reminder that we must forgive quickly and fully.

Now let’s look at my favorite prayer in the Bible. It’s the prayer of Jabez, found in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10. It’s a prayer I say most every day. I don’t repeat it because God needs to hear me say it again but to remind myself that I prayed it.

There are five phrases in this prayer, my favorite prayer, which The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson details (check out my review):

1. Bless Me Indeed

I don’t see Jabez’s request for God’s blessing as a hint at materialism or a prayer of greed. Instead it’s Jabez’s desire to be a blessing to others. The more God blesses him, the more he can bless others. This is as God blessed Abraham so that he could bless others (Genesis 12:2-3).

2. Enlarge My Territory

Again, Jabez’s prayer for more territory isn’t a pursuit of wanting more for the sake of more, it’s a means of influence. Jabez knows that with more territory comes greater influence. And don’t we all want to influence more people for God?

3. May Your Hand Guide Me

It’s foolish for us to try anything on our own, doing it our own way. We need the hand of God to guide us in everything we do.

4. Keep Me from Evil

The request to keep us from evil is a prayer for protection and safety. The Lord’s prayer repeats this idea.

5. Not Cause Pain

The final element is to not cause pain. If anything we do harms others, it’s for naught. The opposite of causing pain is to do good. To produce joy, to encourage others, and to promote peace are all good ways to not cause pain.

The Outcome of My Favorite Prayer

After Jabez prays his short prayer, the Bible records God’s response. I blogged about this here and again here. To me it’s the most comforting phrase in the Bible. It simply says, “God granted his request.”

When we pray, may our words align with the heart of God. And may he grant our request. Click To Tweet

God answers prayer. That’s so encouraging. He answered Jabez’s prayer in the past and he can answer our prayers today, as well as in the future.

When we pray, may our words align with the heart of God. And may he grant our request.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Women in the Bible: The Mother of Jabez

Though an entire book was written about his prayer (The Prayer of Jabez), we actually know little about Jabez. The Bible only mentions him in two obscure verses, buried among a lengthy genealogy. We know even less about the mother of Jabez, not even her name.

We do know his birth is difficult, and the name she gives him reflects the physical pain his arrival caused her. This is all we know about her.

However, we can infer more of her traits from the character of her son. Jabez is an honorable man, more honorable than others. We also know he has a deep connection with God, for when Jabez prays a bold prayer, God answers it.

We can implicitly connect these qualities with his mother, the woman who raised him. Surely Jabez’s mother is a godly woman, who taught her son how to live an honorable life, follow God, and to pray with effectiveness. What more could a mother give to her son?

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Chronicles 1-4 and today’s post is on 1 Chronicles 4:9-10.]

Get your copy of Women of the Bible, available in e-book, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Should We Avoid Vain Repetition When We Pray?

Pray with Intension

As a kid I took seriously the warning in the Bible to avoid vain repetitions when we pray. Even at a young age I knew that reciting a memorized prayer over and over did not impress God. In fact I suspected it sorely vexed him.

Given this I was highly critical of my church for spewing forth the Lord’s Prayer in rote unison each Sunday morning. I’d wag my head at their babbling. Though I’d participate, I hoped God knew that in my heart I didn’t go along with their repetition.

Gee, don’t they read their Bible to know they’re not supposed to do this?

They so ingrained this habit in me that all someone needs to do is begin droning “Our Father…” and I’ll jump in without the slightest hesitation. The church has programmed me to perpetuate their vain repetition—even though I know I’m not supposed to.

Reciting a memorized prayer over and over does not impress God. Click To Tweet

So, then, it will surprise you to know that each morning I say the Prayer of Jabez:

“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!” (NKJV)

But I don’t repeat this simple little prayer every morning because I think God needs to hear it again. With him, once is enough.

I say this prayer every morning because I need to hear it again. I need to remember what this prayer says and to consider ways that God has answered it in the past 24 hours—or what I may have done to thwart it.

Then when I have duly reminded myself, I add an addendum that often goes something like this: “Thank you God for hearing my prayer and answering it: in the past, in the present, and in the future.”

That’s a prayer worth repeating.

Consider is there’s value in saying the Lord’s Prayer or Prayer of Jabez. If your church recites the Lord’s Prayer in unison each week, what do you think about it?

[Matthew 6:7, 1 Chronicles 4:9-10]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

What the Prayer of Jabez Means To Me

What the Prayer of Jabez Means To Me

In my prior post, I made a couple of tweaks to the prayer of Jabez. The original text reads:

“Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, ‘Because I bore him in pain.’

“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 4:9-10, NKJV).

Consider my paraphrase:

Jabez was a man of honor and integrity, but his mother had nicknamed him “hemorrhoid” and always called him a “pain in the butt,” because his birth was so painful.

And Jabez pleaded with God: “Bless me abundantly—so that I may bless others—and grant me much influence; keep me on the right track, so that I may do good things, and no longer be viewed as a pain in the butt!” And God said “yes!” to his petition.

That’s what the prayer of Jabez means to me.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Chronicles 1-4 and today’s post is on 1 Chronicles 4:9-10.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Don’t be a Pain in the Butt

Don’t be a Pain in the Butt

When I study the Bible, I use multiple versions (translations), depending on my mood and goals. One version that I seldom use, however, is the New King James Version (NKJV). There’s no particular reason, it’s just how things have worked out.

There is only one passage that I have memorized using the NKJV. It is 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, the “prayer of Jabez,” which reads:

Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.”

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.

I like this rendering because, unlike the over versions I’ve checked, the reoccurring word “pain” connects his past—his birth—with his hope for the future. To make my point, consider a couple of tweaks in today’s vernacular:

Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother had nicknamed him “hemorrhoid” and always called him a “pain in the butt,” because his birth was so painful.

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 no longer be viewed as a pain in the butt!” So God granted him what he requested.

The mother of Jabez gave him a terrible legacy—and the God of Jabez took it away!

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

What’s Your Favorite Bible Verse?

What’s Your Favorite Bible Verse?

What is your favorite verse in the Bible? Is it John 3:16? That seems to be one commonly cited. Or perhaps, it’s commonly cited, only because it is the only one people know.

As a teen, just to be contrary and catch people off guard, I would claim that my favorite verse was John 3:17. It’s a good one, too, and worthy of consideration.

Or how about: “God helps them who help themselves.” That may be a popular and comforting thought, but I can’t find it in my Bible, so that doesn’t count.

My favorite verse, at least for this season of my life, is quite a bit more obscure. It’s the last part of 1 Chronicles 4:10. To save you the effort of looking it up, it simply says, “And God granted his request.”

The back-story, found in that verse and the preceding one, is that a guy named Jabez prays. After he prays, the Bible simply records that God answered his prayer. It’s my favorite prayer in the Bible.

I find that wonderfully comforting and joyfully encouraging to know that God answers prayers. That is why this is my favorite verse.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.