Praying for boldness

Jesus left that place and came to his hometown. His disciples followed him. On the Sabbath, he began to teach in the synagogue. Many who heard him were surprised. “Where did this man get all this? What’s this wisdom he’s been given? What about the powerful acts accomplished through him? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t he Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” They were repulsed by him and fell into sin. Jesus said to them, “Prophets are honored everywhere except in their own hometowns, among their relatives, and in their own households.” He was unable to do any miracles there, except that he placed his hands on a few sick people and healed them. He was appalled by their disbelief. Sending out the disciples Then Jesus traveled through the surrounding villages teaching. He called for the Twelve and sent them out in pairs. He gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a walking stick—no bread, no bags, and no money in their belts. He told them to wear sandals but not to put on two shirts. He said, “Whatever house you enter, remain there until you leave that place. If a place doesn’t welcome you or listen to you, as you leave, shake the dust off your feet as a witness against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that people should change their hearts and lives. They cast out many demons, and they anointed many sick people with olive oil and healed them. ~Mark 6:1-13 (CEB)

How can I in my own life speak with boldness? In 1 Jon 5:14-15 (NIV) it says, “And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him.”

Two situations that I feel most uncomfortable is with a group who have known me most of my life and the other is with a group of people who do not know me at all. But when I feel my weakest God says, “My grace is enough for you, because power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9)

In Mark chapter 6, even after Jesus didn’t receive a good reception from his home town, he still tells his disciples to go out and to be confident in their work, to go out in boldness. And they did. Verse 16 says “So they went out and proclaimed that people should change their hearts and lives. They cast out many demons, and they anointed many sick people with olive oil and healed them.” Their boldness was shown by their works.

After Jesus’ resurrection the disciples were threatened by the government, but instead of backing down when they were told to be silent they prayed, “Now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:29-30) So when the disciples felt threatened by the work they were doing their response was to pray. “When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31)

Christ came into a multicultural world. In a world of many beliefs it might be understandable that the disciples may have been fearful to even mention their faith in Jesus Christ. In a time when loyalty to the official religion often was required, it would have been simpler to go along with the crowd. In such a dangerous time where the promotion of any new religion was perilous, they would have been safer to hide any evidence of faith in Jesus Christ.

Instead of running, conforming or playing it safe the disciples prayed for boldness to speak up about the gospel. They didn’t ask for security, relief from persecution or the demise of the opposition. They asked for boldness to continue in the work that Jesus called them to do.

How often do I even remember to ask for boldness to do God’s will? What difference would it make in my life if I did remember to pray for boldness? When the disciples prayed for boldness they found it gave them the wisdom, the faith and the power to live faithful and effective lives. When I continually pray I find my life transformed from one of “knowing” to one of believing. With believing I find boldness to go about the work of Jesus Christ.

Father in Heaven, whether in groups I am well known or in unfamiliar places I ask for boldness to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world. May I not back down when I feel uncomfortable but remember that despite my weakness your glory can shine through. Amen.

The vast unknown

I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the LORD; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. When you call me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you search for me, yes, search for me with all your heart, you will find me. I will be present for you, declares the LORD, and I will end your captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have scattered you, and I will bring you home after your long exile, declares the LORD. ~Jer. 29:11-14 (CEB)

I have a need to know. I need to have a plan. If you were to list my strengths, organizing and planning would be attributes that would make the list. As often happens, sometimes our strengths are also our weaknesses.

I like to plan and organize because it gives me a secure feeling of where I am going. Sometimes it even comforts me as I look back and can see where I have been. But when people ask me “what is next” when it comes to God’s call on my life I have to say…. “I have no idea”. I have no plan. I do not know what is coming next.

There is no information for me to neatly analyze and organize.

There.   Is.   Just.  The.   Vast…     UNKNOWN.

Here I realize that God does not want me relying on my self. If I knew what God’s big picture was for my life I soon would be busy, head down with calendar in hand, planning out all the steps that would get me there. I would stop looking up. There would be no trust.

Instead of giving me a big picture, God whispers in my ear, “Trust Me“. To trust God I must take my eyes off of the things I keep myself busy analyzing and organizing so that I can look up to see what is going to be the next step. In the unknown, I HAVE to trust God. With a plan, the trust lies on me. If the plan is with me I am limited to my abilities and knowledge. With me I am bound to fail. If the plan is with God, there is a vast wealth of ability and knowledge. With God…. all things are possible. Even if the possibilities are yet, a vast unknown.

Thank You Heavenly Father for walking with me hand in hand through the vast unknowns of life. Help me keep my eyes on Your and my ears open to hear You whisper… “This is the way you should go.” Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Long time coming

Jesus crossed the lake again, and on the other side a large crowd gathered around him on the shore. Jairus, one of the synagogue leaders, came forward. When he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet and pleaded with him, “My daughter is about to die. Please, come and place your hands on her so that she can be healed and live.” So Jesus went with him. A swarm of people were following Jesus, crowding in on him.  A woman was there who had been bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a lot under the care of many doctors, and had spent everything she had without getting any better. In fact, she had gotten worse. Because she had heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his clothes. She was thinking, If I can just touch his clothes, I’ll be healed. Her bleeding stopped immediately, and she sensed in her body that her illness had been healed. At that very moment, Jesus recognized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” His disciples said to him, “Don’t you see the crowd pressing against you? Yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’” But Jesus looked around carefully to see who had done it. The woman, full of fear and trembling, came forward. Knowing what had happened to her, she fell down in front of Jesus and told him the whole truth. He responded, “Daughter, your faith has healed you; go in peace, healed from your disease.” ~Mark 5:21-34 (CEB)

There are times where we find ourselves completely powerless. In the beginning we received sympathy and support but when things get drug out we find people starting to drift away and even begin to avoid us. We search many places looking for healing only to find no help. When we find ourselves alone after all we have done to try to heal ourselves we, like the woman who didn’t want to bring attention to her wounds, try to sneak in our healing. We want this to be just between us and God.

Jesus didn’t want the woman to remain behind her mask. If he allowed her healing to have remained secret she could not have been restored to the community. She would have remained taboo to her friends and family. Jesus wanted her community to see that she was healed and restored to wholeness. He wanted her to step out from behind her mask of sickness. He wanted her to be restored to Life.

There are times we feel that Jesus has passed us by when prayers have been sent up for healing. Maybe things don’t unfold as quickly as we wanted or through the means we had envisioned. But we need to have the faith and hope of this woman. We need to be open to the possibilities.

Heavenly Father, when answers don’t come as quickly or in the way I would like for them to come, please give me the strength to continue walking with faith and hope. May I have your strength to hold on until your healing comes. Amen.

Lean not on my own understanding

Herod the king heard about these things, because the name of Jesus had become well-known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and this is why miraculous powers are at work through him.” Others were saying, “He is Elijah.” Still others were saying, “He is a prophet like one of the ancient prophets.” But when Herod heard these rumors, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised to life.” He said this because Herod himself had arranged to have John arrested and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of Herod’s brother Philip. Herod had married her, but John told Herod, “It’s against the law for you to marry your brother’s wife!” So Herodias had it in for John. She wanted to kill him, but she couldn’t. This was because Herod respected John. He regarded him as a righteous and holy person, so he protected him. John’s words greatly confused Herod, yet he enjoyed listening to him.  Finally, the time was right. It was on one of Herod’s birthdays, when he had prepared a feast for his high-ranking officials and military officers and Galilee’s leading residents. Herod’s daughter Herodias came in and danced, thrilling Herod and his dinner guests. The king said to the young woman, “Ask me whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” Then he swore to her, “Whatever you ask I will give to you, even as much as half of my kingdom.” She left the banquet hall and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” “John the Baptist’s head,” Herodias replied. Hurrying back to the ruler, she made her request: “I want you to give me John the Baptist’s head on a plate, right this minute.” Although the king was upset, because of his solemn pledge and his guests, he didn’t want to refuse her. So he ordered a guard to bring John’s head. The guard went to the prison, cut off John’s head, brought his head on a plate, and gave it to the young woman, and she gave it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard what had happened, they came and took his dead body and laid it in a tomb. ~Mark 6:14-29 (CEB)

In real life, the story doesn’t always end with “They lived happily ever after”. John gave his life for God. He never backed down from what needed to be said. He gave his all for God. He gave his life. The story doesn’t always end like it did for Daniel in the lion’s den or as it did for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They had great faith and stood up for what they believed and it all turned out right for them in the end.

I also can’t help but think of Paul. He tells us in his second letter to the Corinthians that there is something that he continually struggles with. He has prayed for it to be removed, but God didn’t. (2Co 12:7-10) Sometimes God asks us to live through or with a circumstance. Sometimes the answer is not deliverance this side of heaven.

Most of the time when we pray, we pray for God to do something to us or for us, But God wants to do something in us and through us. I have to remember that God sees time differently than me. I have to trust that He is working all things together for my good (Jer. 29:11) even when it doesn’t feel like he is, even when I don’t receive an answer to prayer in the way that I want it to be answered.

My part of the picture is giving my cooperation for God to work through me. God gives His self to us for His purpose only as we give ourselves to God. God does not ask me to give up who I am but for the death of self-centeredness. God asks that despite my circumstances that I allow myself to be used for His service. When I give my all in service to Him my story does have a happy ending. It might be different than the worlds’ view of the happily ever after version but when I do His will, my story in the end is happy one with Him forever in heaven.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will direct your paths.

Proverbs 3, 5-6

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him Forever in the next. Amen. –Reinhold Niebuhr

Body, soul and spirit

Therefore we were buried together with him through baptism into his death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too can walk in newness of life. If we were united together in a death like his, we will also be united together in a resurrection like his. This is what we know: the person that we used to be was crucified with him in order to get rid of the corpse that had been controlled by sin. That way we wouldn’t be slaves to sin anymore, because a person who has died has been freed from sin’s power. But if we died with Christ, we have faith that we will also live with him. We know that Christ has been raised from the dead and he will never die again. Death no longer has power over him. He died to sin once and for all with his death, but he lives for God with his life. In the same way, you also should consider yourselves dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus. ~Rom. 6:4-11 (CEB)

As a believer I have all I need for a  life in Christ. If I don’t know it I can’t experience the reality of it.

One of the Biblical truths I grew up with is how when we are baptized we died with Christ, are buried with Christ and have risen with Christ. But I am sitting right here, alive. What died?

1 Thessalonians 5:23 says, “Now, may the God of peace himself cause you to be completely dedicated to him; and may your spirit, soul, and body be kept intact and blameless at our Lord Jesus Christ’s coming.” According to this verse we are a three part whole. Thinking of myself in this way makes it a little clearer.

The invisible is easy to overlook until it’s not there anymore. When we look at the shell of a loved one that has passed on we are quite aware that we are more than just a body.

My body is the visible shell that the world sees. My soul, my mind, is the invisible part of me that thinks and feels. It interprets information that is received and it can only whether it is a lie or truth. We readily acknowledge these two parts of our being. But the third, my spirit is what links me to God.

If I take a moment and think back to the Garden of Eden I remember that Adam and Eve were told that if they ate from the Tree of Knowledge they would die. I distinctly remember them walking away from their encounter with God after their sin. (Gen 3) Weren’t they supposed to die? Their body and soul left the garden, but the damage was to their spirit, that invisible place that connected them to God is what died. Therefore every human was born into death, with a “dead spirit”.

The only way I can bring life to my spirit is to admit that it is dead and receive the One who is Life. God’s Holy Spirit makes life available leaving me with a choice. The choice I am faced with is that I can either receive truth from my circumstances by responding to what my soul, my mind tells me or I can listen to the truth that through Christ’s sacrifice I have now been united with God’s Spirit.  The Spirit feeds me Truth and leads me in the way I need to go.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; don’t rely on your own intelligence. Know him in all your paths, and he will keep your ways straight. ~Proverbs 3:5-6 (CEB)

Heavenly Father, I thank you for your guiding Spirit that speaks truth to my heart. Help me to listen to the Truth and not respond to my current circumstances as if that is truth. Help me to keep all my ways straight. Amen

Saved from self

He rescued us from the control of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. ~Col.1.13.(CEB)

Darkness is the only choice when we don’t believe. When God rescues us he takes us out of darkness into the light. The initial passage from darkness to light is our coming aware of and the need for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus came to rescue the lost, the hurt, the broken and the lonely. We get that part but this understanding of need for forgiveness isn’t the only step.

It takes more than just trying to live righteously. I can’t do this by my own strength. It is not just understanding the forgiveness side of the cross and then working to earn life. This will put me back into bondage. This is not the freedom of living in the light.

I need to be saved from my self. God didn’t save me from darkness to send me off to make new masks. Masks of try-to-do-better, try-to-be-more. This just lands me back into darkness because I cannot be better or more on my own. I need to be saved from my self.

Five years ago this is where God found me. In a terrible self made mess of self-effort, self-reliance, self-righteousness which left me in a pit of self-doubt. Well if self is my addiction, that pit was my rock bottom. At this point I was very aware that I was not getting anywhere by my own effort to live right.

I missed the point. Jesus didn’t come just to save me form my sins…  he came to give me Life. True living that could only be found from the source of all life. There is only one place to find my identity. I no longer have to move from hiding behind one mask to another. My coping skills do not define who I am.

There are two sides to the cross. Death of my sins AND new life.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for the forgiveness of my sins. I thank you that you also saved me from my-self. I thank you for not leaving me in the pit of self-doubt trying to earn my life by my own effort. Amen.

A sheild

All God’s words are tried and true; a shield for those who take refuge in him. ~Proverbs 30:5

God knows we need places to hide. Not the masks of “I have it all together” but a shield of “I know I don’t have it all together but I know the One who does”. It seems the psalms are riddled with poetic lines that sing of safe places of rest and shields from the troubles that surround at all sides.

But you, Lord, are my shield! You are my glory! You are the one who restores me. ~Psalm 3:3

God is my shield; he saves those whose heart is right. ~Psalm 7:10

The Lord is my solid rock, my fortress, my rescuer. My God is my rock— I take refuge in him!— he’s my shield, my salvation’s strength, my place of safety. ~Psalm 18:2

God! His way is perfect; the Lord’s word is tried and true. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him. ~Psalm 18:30

You’ve given me the shield of your salvation; your strong hand has supported me; your help has made me great. ~Psalm 18:35

The Lord is a sun and shield; God is favor and glory. The Lord gives—doesn’t withhold!—good things to those who walk with integrity. ~Psalm 84:11

God will protect you with his pinions; you’ll find refuge under his wings. His faithfulness is a protective shield. ~Psalm 91:4

God is my loyal one, my fortress, my place of safety, my rescuer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, and the one who subdues people before me. ~Psalm 144:2

This Shield protects us while we figure out how to move on in our journey. It protects us as we try to move on in our lives. Life happens, someone dies, tragedy strikes, illness occurs, a court decision doesn’t go the way we think it should, a spouse falls back into addiction, a child has been arrested. God wants to provide us with a safe place while we struggle with questions of why and how to continue on. God gives us a resting place in him while we struggle with learning the Truths and until we are able to embrace them

How do you continue forward when your heart is breaking? I have asked this a lot…

Maybe it is in the little things: a smile at my son when I feel like crying, a walk with my husband though I want to be alone, a laugh with my daughter when there is so much to do, a cup of coffee with a friend despite a busy schedule, reading my Bible even though I am mad at God…

Maybe it is in the daily tasks: of doing laundry when I’d rather stay in bed, fixing my hair when I’d rather put it in a ponytail, cooking a meal when I’d rather not eat, dusting when I’d rather just read… It amazes me how much better I feel after doing these simple acts of life.

God shields my heart while I go through the act of living until it feels right again, one smile at a time, one task at a time, a gift of normalcy not meant to be a burden but a way for us to carry on.

We are supposed to ever move on. It is the nature of living.

Heavenly Father, shield my heart this day as I take this day one step at a time. I thank you for Your love and peace that passes my present understand. Be with me in all I do and say this day, may it ever be a reflection of Your love to those I meet. Amen.

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