Posts Tagged With: boldness

Luke 11: Teach Us to Pray

The disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray (which would mean Jesus’ way of praying, not how to pray in general as they would have been taught to pray since childhood) and he gives them two contrasting teachings.

First, he gives them what we know as the Lord’s Prayer.  The outstanding point of this prayer is how God-centered it is.  God is praised.  It is God’s kingdom that we wish to see advanced.  The rest of the prayer is one of basic provision: bread for today, forgiveness, and protection from the Devil.

Next, Jesus also challenges his audience to pray with audacity:

So this is my word to you: ask and it will be given you; search and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.  You see, everyone who asks receives!  Everyone who searches finds!  Everyone who knocks has the door opened for them!  (11:9-10)

This is the prayer of bold persistence. Prayers of this sort are focused on the person praying.  This is a very different kind of prayer from the first.

Most of us pray one or the other of these prayers.  We easily pray for ourselves and God’s agenda takes a backseat.  We have an easy time taking our needs to God but have yet to learn there may be a more important, kingdom-advancing point to our need.  Or, for others, God is the center of much of our prayer and we feel guilty asking for ourselves.  We might come around to “asking, seeking, knocking” but only after our own best efforts have been exhausted or we are convinced we should dare to ask for ourselves.

Jesus tell us here that both kinds of prayers are necessary.  There is not one right way to pray.   Some days all that matters is God’s agenda and we can be content with the basics. Other days, in desperation, we cry out boldly for our own needs, because we must.

Life requires both.

What did you learn today about prayer?

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Ephesians 6: Doing Battle

Let’s try something visual today.

What does it mean to do battle for God?  Which of the following pictures best depicts how you would envision it?  There are a lot of different, even conflicting, ideas that a question like that conjures up.  Paul gives his thoughts on the question from Ephesians 6 at the end.

Be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his power.  Put on God’s complete armor. . . . the warfare we are engaged in, you see, isn’t against flesh and blood.  It’s against the leaders, against the authorities, against the powers that rule the world in this dark age, against the wicked spiritual elements in heavenly places.  For this reason, you must take up God’s complete armor.  Then, when wickedness grabs its moment, you’ll be able to withstand, to do what needs to be done, and still be on your feet when it’s all over.  So stand firm! . . . Pray on every occasion. . . . You’ll need to keep awake and alert for this. . . . Please pray that God will give me his words to speak when I open my mouth, so that I can make known, loud and clear, the secret truth of the gospel. . . . Pray that I may announce it boldly. (6:10-14a, 18-20)

trusting ~ standing ~ praying ~ speaking

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Acts 24: Resurrection is Key

Paul is confronted by Felix, the Roman governor in Caesarea.  Is Paul truly the rabble-rouser the Jews make him out to be?  That is a serious charge in peaceful Rome.  In response, Paul confesses the following:

It is true that I do worship the God of my ancestors according to the Way which they call a “sect.”  I believe everything which is written in the law and the prophets, and I hold to the hope in God, for which they also long, that there will be a resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous. (24:14-15)

What strikes me here (and in almost every other public address either Peter or Paul gave in Acts) is that resurrection is so foundational to the belief-system of the apostles.  Key to the gospel is resurrection from the dead.  This is mentioned again later in the chapter at 24:21.

I wonder if resurrection is that fundamental to our ways of thinking and talking today.  I more often hear forgiveness from the guilt of sin mentioned in our gospel language.  That is okay.  Of course, forgiveness is important as well, and it was a part of the gospel sermons in Acts too (c.f., Acts 2:38).  But not as often as resurrection.  If we have downplayed resurrection in favor of forgiveness of guilt from sins, what are we missing?  And why have we made this switch?  What does this reveal about us?

Paul is a wanted man.  Leave him alone in Jerusalem for 15 minutes and he is dead.  He is sitting in a Roman jail under suspicions of disturbing the peace.  Rome deals swiftly and decisively with people who upset the Pax Romana.  In Felix, he is talking to a man who more so wants a bribe than the truth, and Paul has no intentions of paying up.  He is headed to Rome, where Caesar’s word is truth, and Caesar has no reason to preserve Paul’s life.

How can Paul maintain such boldness and calm?  Paul has already told us:

I hold to the hope in God . . . that there will be a resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous. (24:15)

What do you think about this?

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Acts 7: Spirit-Filled People

Stephen amazes me.  Bloodthirsty men grab him.  The Sanhedrin is no guarantee of justice.  These proceedings can be every bit the Kangaroo Court they were with Jesus.  Yet, Stephen is firmly resolute.  He says what has to be said (v.51), knowing this will only sign his own death warrant.

How can he be this bold, this obedient?

We find the answer in verse 55:

“He, however, was filled with the holy spirit.”

“Being filled” is a major idea in Acts.  Nine times some significant character is said to be filled with the Spirit (the apostles at Pentecost, 2:4; Peter, 4:8; the believers that received Peter and John after they were rescued from prison, 4:31; the seven deacons, 6:3; Stephen, 6:5 and 7:55; the blind Saul, 9:17; Saul turned Paul, 13:9; and the disciples in Pisidian Antioch, 13:52).  To be filled with the Holy Spirit seems to mean having a deep connection to the Holy Spirit, open to the work of the Spirit, known for possessing the fruit of the Spirit, especially joy and faith.  As this Spirit is the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9) we should expect that a person who is filled with the Holy Spirit will be much like Jesus.

This point is brought home in a special way in the story of the stoning of Stephen.  Stephen is being pelted by rocks.  Death is drawing closer, and Stephen says two things:

Lord Jesus,” he cried out, “receive my spirit.” (7:59b)

Lord, don’t let this sin stand against them.” (7:60b)

Sound familiar?  That’s right.  These are two of the seven things Jesus said while on the cross.  Stephen is truly a man like Jesus, filled with the Savior’s very Spirit.

Five times in Acts, though, we read of other options for “filling.”  Ananias’ heart was filled with “Satan” (5:3).  The high priest and Sadducees who arrest the apostles for preaching in Jerusalem were “filled with jealousy” (5:17).  Bitterness filled the heart of Simon the Sorcerer (8:23).  Elymas the sorcerer from Cyprus was “full of all kinds of deceit and trickery” (13:10).  Seeing the success of Paul and Barnabas, the Jews in Pisidian Antioch were “filled with jealousy” (13:45).

One way or another, we will be filled.  With what do we want it to be?

Lord, fill us up until we overflow!   

 

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