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.

Masks of our choosing

Then they both saw clearly and knew that they were naked. So they sewed fig leaves together and made garments for themselves. ~Genesis 3:7 (CEB)

When we make the choice to believe Satan’s lie, we believe that we must perform for our acceptance. We realize that we do not measure up. We are aware of our nakedness, our vulnerability, our imperfection.

What do we do when we realize that we do not measure up? We scramble for something to hide our shame. We put on masks of our own making, sewn together with fear. What are some masks that we might wear in our realization that we are imperfect? Here is a small list:

My service in church will make me acceptable.
I gain respect by acting responsible.
Following the rules makes me good enough.
Acting righteous makes me righteous.
Getting up early to pray every morning will make me a good Christian.
Cooking healthy meals makes me a good mom.
Keeping my house clean makes me a good wife.
Working hard makes me a good employee.
Insert here your own insecurities…

Does God leave us in our insecurities? While we are hiding God comes looking for us. He beckons to us, calling us to come out to him. “Where are you”, he calls. He already knows our hiding spot (Gen 3:8-9). He calls to us because we have to come out of hiding in order to be found. We have to come out from behind our masks in order to be healed, in order to be made whole.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for calling to me and not leaving me behind my masks of insecurities. I want to be made whole. Help me to be healed. Amen.

Truth is…

Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people? ~Jeremiah 8:22 (NIV)

“Can we only speak when we are fully living what we are saying?  If all our words had to cover all our actions, we would be doomed to permanent silence!  Sometimes we are called to proclaim God’s love even when we are not yet fully able to live it.  Does that mean we are hypocrites?  Only when our own words no longer call us to conversion.  Nobody completely lives up to his or her own ideals and visions.  But by proclaiming our ideals and visions with great conviction and great humility, we may gradually grow into the truth we speak.  As long as we know that our lives always will speak louder than our words, we can trust that our words will remain humble.”~ Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer

Sometimes the words I speak are not the things I feel. Sometimes the smile on my face does not disclose the pain that lives inside. Sometimes the truth I speak is still struggling to take hold in my heart.

While I struggle with living the truths that I know, that doesn’t make them any less real. I know that I am a beloved child of God, even if I don’t always “feel” that love. Does that make me a hypocrite that I profess God’s love when I don’t always feel it myself? No I really don’t think so. I can’t always trust my feelings. I have to remember the truths I know. Gradually I grow into these truths. Slowly I move more toward the convictions I profess. With great humility I continue to spout that I am simply a human with a vision of one day completely feeling that Love that I know I already surrounds me.

“How long will you forget me, LORD? Forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long will I be left to my own wits, agony filling my heart? Daily? How long will my enemy keep defeating me? Look at me! Answer me, LORD my God! Restore sight to my eyes! Otherwise, I’ll sleep the sleep of death, and my enemy will say, “I won!” My foes will rejoice over my downfall. But I have trusted in your faithful love. My heart will rejoice in your salvation. Yes, I will sing to the LORD because he has been good to me.” ~Psalm 13 (RSV)

Heavenly Father, I ask You this day to so surround me with Your love that all question of its existence cannot survive. I know that there is a balm in Jesus Christ that will heal my sin sick soul.

Deep wounds

When I kept quiet, my bones wore out; I was groaning all day long— every day, every night!—  because your hand was heavy upon me. My energy was sapped as if in a summer drought. So I admitted my sin to you; I didn’t conceal my guilt. “I’ll confess my sins to the LORD, ” is what I said. Then you removed the guilt of my sin.  That’s why all the faithful should pray to you during troubled times, so that a great flood of water won’t reach them.~ Psalm 32:3-6 (CEB)

I fell. It was storming and wet and I had to get gas. While I was pumping gas, and because I can’t just stand there waiting for my car to fill up with gas, I thought I would move my bag from the trunk to the front passenger seat while I was under some protection. That way when I got home I could just dash in the door with everything. As I stepped over the hose, somehow my foot got tangled and with the lack of traction due to oil and water, I fell with all my weight landing on my knee. To stand and walk did not cause great pain but bending my knee hurt. Taking ibuprofen seemed to reduce the swelling and I seemed to just be black and blue with no major injury.

Because it is just a big ugly bruise, I think it is funny. It makes a good story. One minute I am walking, the next moment, I find myself looking at the underneath side of my car. I kind of enjoyed showing the bruise off to my family as it went through a rainbow of colors. There is no real damage done. The damage is only on the surface and over time it will fade away.

A couple years ago, I injured myself running. It wasn’t so funny. I was embarrassed to have allowed the injury to happen. I should have known better. I should not have let it happen. So I felt. I was afraid that I would never run again. I hated to talk about it. If you looked at my leg you couldn’t see that there was anything wrong. It just hurt. Bad. After a few days I realized that I was not getting better and went to see a physical therapist that sees people at a local running shop. He told me to continue with heat, ice, stretching and ibuprofen. After a week of doing this he said I could try a 3 mile run on flat ground.

One week later, after doing exactly what I had been told I went off for a light run. It was a little sore but no major pain so I finished running the three miles. As the day went on my leg began to hurt more and more. Two day later my leg and ankle began to swell. I couldn’t hide the fact any longer that something serious was going on. This situation had become bigger than me.

It took four months for my leg to heal enough to no longer limp when I walked. I began to run again but the fear of injuring my leg again was constantly in my thoughts. Still I feel twinges in the tendon that I pulled below me knee and I remember the hobbling pain I lived with day and night. The memory of this injury will always be with me. Re-injuring the tendon again will always be a possibility. My leg will never be the same.

When life injures me, I find myself in a similar situation. The surface wounds though painful are easy to share, talk about and even get a good laugh. But the deep really painful hurts that no one sees are harder to talk about. Often it is frightening. Many times it is embarrassing and I think I should have known better than to let myself get into that situation. Sometimes it hurts too much to move to go get the help that I need. Even after I begin to heal the fear of re-injury is ever present. Some hurts are life changing.

There comes a moment when you know this injury has become bigger than you. God has put us in community for our healing. James 5:14-16 says “If any of you are sick, they should call for the elders of the church, and the elders should pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. Prayer that comes from faith will heal the sick, for the Lord will restore them to health. And if they have sinned, they will be forgiven. For this reason, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous person is powerful in what it can achieve.”

Turning to God in our pain will help direct us to a community for our healing. When we talk with others about what is wrong in our life we find that we are not alone in our pain; we find that there are sympathetic people to our plight and we find that we are not the only ones in this situation. We find that there are people who have been through what we have been through and they survived. In sharing our stories we give each other hope. Hope for the journey.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for community. I thank you for fellow sojourners on this journey called life. I thank You for those whom You have sent to walk with me along the way providing hope. May I always be willing to shine a light for others so that their travels can continue always toward You. Amen.

Crossroads

 

 

Don’t be afraid of them because the LORD your God is the one who will be fighting for you. ~Deut. 3:22 (CEB)

Do not be afraid. This is a phrase that is used throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelations. It seems these words are said during times of great change or before a call of service. To Abraham when he was called to leave all he had ever known. To Moses who was called to lead his people out of Egypt; to Joshua who was called to lead the people out of the desert into the Promised Land.  Gideon.., Samuel.., Joseph…

Mary was called at a young age. The first words that were spoke to her were “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.” (Luke 1:30) Before Mary hears anything else, God first wants Mary to hear that she is safe and that she has found approval from God. Her identity is a gift ~ “favored child of God”. These words are meant to strengthen and empower. To others Mary may seem an unlikely candidate for helping God save the world. She is young, poor, has no social standing and she is female.  Nothing about Mary declares that she can be who she is called to be apart from God.

Mary is treasured as the mother of Jesus. At one point she was just flesh and blood, just like me, no stronger or more intelligent. What elevates her was her simple offering of herself to God, knowing that she was inadequate for what God called her to do, but with a willing heart to go where He wanted her to go. She knew she was limited in what she could do apart from God. It is her willing heart that has set her apart.

I have a gift from God, His love for me. My identity is that I am a Beloved child of God. I am called to hear His voice among my crowded and distracted life. What is my call? My call is to hear and to be willing to go where He leads me. “Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it…” (Jer. 6:16) Nothing is more urgent in my life than the yearning to know and do God’s will. Every day I need to ask God, “Where are you leading me today?”

Every day is a crossroads Lord. Will I do your will, or will I follow my own desires? Lead me in the way I am to go.  I know that I am limited by what I can do on my own but with the Holy Spirit directing me I can know and do Your will. I thank You for Your love. Amen.

An awakening

When the crowd heard this, they were deeply troubled. They said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter replied, “Change your hearts and lives. Each of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is for you, your children, and for all who are far away—as many as the Lord our God invites.” ~Acts 2:37-39 (CEB)

Maybe it is hearing tv evangelists or street corner preachers that plant the idea in our heads that coming to Christ is a lightning bolt moment. While coming to Christ may seem like a once-in-a-lifetime experience it is really an ongoing journey within us. Conversion is a lifelong process of turning more and more fully toward God in all that we are, possess, and do. I can look back over my life and see earthshaking moments that seemed to shift my life more in line with Christ. But such moments are just part of the process not the end as I give myself over to the transforming power of God.

It took a long time for me to come to terms with the fact that change is not instantaneous. While conversion requires our decision and action, it takes time to change us into the image of Christ. I have also learned that it took time to develop my bad habits so it will also take time to undo the habits I have formed. Without the work of undoing the bad habits they will come back or new bad habits will take their place. (Matt 12:43-45)

Sometimes like Paul we need to begin our conversion by being knocked down. Once God got Paul’s attention, Paul began his conversion as he groped this way in blindness. With his sight gone, he was able to see with interior eyes. Paul’s conversion continued day after day as he began to give meaning to his hew name, Paul. His conversion continued till he end when he was on his way to Rome in chains.

I get a glimpse of Paul’s ongoing conversion when I read in Romans 7:15-21, “I don’t know what I’m doing, because I don’t do what I want to do. Instead, I do the thing that I hate. But if I’m doing the thing that I don’t want to do, I’m agreeing that the Law is right. But now I’m not the one doing it anymore. Instead, its sin that lives in me. I know that good doesn’t live in me—that is, in my body. The desire to do good is inside of me, but I can’t do it. I don’t do the good that I want to do, but I do the evil that I don’t want to do. But if I do the very thing that I don’t want to do, then I’m not the one doing it anymore. Instead, it is sin that lives in me that is doing it. So I find that, as a rule, when I want to do what is good, evil is right there with me.”

Conversion is an awakening of the spirit. Suddenly the world begins to make sense despite the absurdity, the injustice, the pain. Our vision is opened up enough to be able to absorb the contradictions and the collision of opposites. We go from being blind or short sighted to seeing with God’s eyes. The love of God dawns upon us and with it comes the most amazing promise and a new hope. What we cannot redeem, God can, and what we cannot erase God will.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for Your grace that saves me. I thank You for awakening my spirit and the transformation You allow in my life. I claim the strength You promise as I try to do Your will, one day at a time. Amen.

To move on

Compassion and deep forgiveness belong to my Lord, our God. ~Dan. 9:9

Part of being human is to hurt and be hurt.   Forgiving does not mean that I am denying my pain. Forgiveness means that I stopped pretending the hurt isn’t real. Only if I experience the sense of having been wronged and the impact of he action or attitude on my life is forgiveness possible. This is true whether or not harm was intended. Until I am honest about how I feel, forgiveness, and the ability to move forward cannot happen.

Loving, merciful and forgiving God, You have forgiven me much. May I forgive others as You have forgiven me, so that I as forgiven and reconciled can walk through this day with a glad and upright heart. Amen.

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