Live Boldly!

Most of us would love to possess more confidence and live with greater boldness. It would feel great to finally overcome the timidity and the fear that too frequently hold us back.

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul urges him to conquer any timidity he might have. More importantly, he shows Timothy how to do this and live with boldness and confidence.

Timothy does not have to manufacture this confidence, Paul says. He doesn’t have to dig deep within himself to find the boldness. Nor does he have to “fake it till he makes it.”

Because, as Paul reminds him, Timothy has been given the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit lives inside of us, he has real power, love and self-discipline to give us. When we realize that we have God’s power, love and self-discipline as our own, this generates all the boldness and confidence we need.

So, would you like to be a more confident person? Would you like to enjoy living life more boldly? This is not as difficult as it might appear.

It begins with doing the things that allow us to tap into the presence of the Holy Spirit. Through these activities we can access the power, love and self-discipline that the Holy Spirit wants to give us:

  • Have a daily time for meditation on the Bible and prayer
  • Attend church regularly — weekly, if possible
  • Join a growth group or Bible study so that you can hear from God in a group setting
  • Make a regular practice of attending Holy Communion

As you do these things, ask yourself, “Where do I see God’s power and love here? How am I encouraged to respond with thanksgiving and love for God by exercising more self-discipline?”

And most of all, remember who you are. You are a dearly loved child of God, bought with the blood of Jesus Christ. You are a disciple of the Savior who boldly and confidently went to the cross on your behalf — to win eternal victory for you. So you have every reason in the world to live with boldness and confidence.

By faith in Christ, you have the Spirit dwelling within you. Check out these gifts that the Spirit wants you to have! And live boldly, my friend!

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7, NIV).

Lord, take my timidity away. Give me your Spirit so that I may have the Spirit’s power, love and self-discipline in my life.

Our Bible reading for Thursday, October 22, is Jeremiah 48:1 – 49:6, 2 Timothy 1:1-18 and Psalm 119:81-88.

Header image based on "43: Daily Inspirational Bible Verse" by Tito and Eva Marie Balangue, CC By 2.0

Unlimited… Even with the Limits On.

Sometimes we feel like our situation or circumstances limit us. And that can be hard to take. We like to live our lives without limits.

But often the limits are not nearly as limiting as we think they are.

Paul demonstrated this when he came to Rome and was placed under house arrest, with a Roman soldier guarding him. It would have been easy for Paul to cave and think that this would hinder him from accomplishing his goal of sharing Christ with the Romans.

But instead, Paul maintained his focus on his purpose — glorifying God and sharing Christ. He wore Jesus’ heart on his shirtsleeve, and was warm and welcoming to any who came to visit him. And he used the exceptionally powerful weapon that he had at his disposal — the gospel.

He simply went about his business, and didn’t let the imposed limitations disturb him or distract him from his appointed mission.

When we remember that our real purpose in life is to glorify God in all that we do, limitations don’t seem so limiting any longer. Paul could glorify God from his rented house in Rome.

When we recall that our job description is always, “Love!” the limitations fall away because we can show the love of Jesus wherever we are.

When we wield the powerful word of God as Paul did — it’s the sword of the Spirit! — we realize that all we ever need to accomplish our mission is to teach about the Lord Jesus Christ. Wherever we might be, we can do that with boldness and without hindrance.

We become unlimited, just like Paul did, even when serious limits might seem — to the casual observer — to be present.

“For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!” (Acts 28:30-31, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Saturday, July 11, is 2 Kings 22:1 – 22:20, Acts 28:17-31 and Proverbs 16:28 – 17:4.

Jesus, help me to move beyond all limitations — whether self-imposed, or imposed by others — and continue to share you and your salvation boldly with others.

Header image based on "Fenced In" by Jeff Golden, CC By-SA 2.0

Bold Prayer

If you want to watch someone who was completely unafraid to put audacious requests before God, look no further than King Hezekiah of Judah. He was a master of bold prayer.

With Sennacherib and 185,000 of his best men surrounding the walls of Jerusalem, and ready to decimate Judah’s puny homeland defenses, one would have thought that it was prudent, if not pre-ordained, that Hezekiah would simply surrender and end the siege.

Instead, Hezekiah prayed. Against all odds. Against all reasonable expectations. Against all public opinion. And probably even against his own raging, internal doubts.

He prayed. Boldly.

And he asked God to simply be God. Hezekiah knew that his God reigns over all the kingdoms, all the kings and all the emperors who rule the kings. He was confident that his God is the One who makes and sustains all of creation — whether in heaven above or down here on earth.

His shoulders are broad. He can carry us. Whatever we might need as he guides us along the way, he’ll provide it. That’s the way Hezekiah saw it.

And most of all, Hezekiah was confident that for his children God has open eyes, understanding ears, and an empathetic heart. And since Hezekiah knew full-well that through faith he was God’s child, he was sure that God would affirm that faith by hearing and answering his prayer.

And that’s exactly what God did — in a miraculous and astounding fashion! You’ll want to get the rest of the story for yourself in our reading from 2 Kings for today.

Pray boldly, my friends. You’ll never go wrong by doing so.

“And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: ‘Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see…'” (2 Kings 19:15-16a, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Friday, July 10, is 2 Kings 19:14 – 20:21, Acts 28:1-16 and Psalm 83:1-18.

Jesus, teach me to pray boldly, knowing that through you, I pray as a dear child of my Heavenly Father. Help me to be confident that my Father’s eyes are ever turned toward me and his ears are always tuned in to me.

Header image based on "171.365" by Morgan, CC By 2.0

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore, Toto!

Did you get the feeling today? By that, I mean the “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto!” feeling…

Let’s face facts. Those who hold that the Bible is completely true in all its parts, and absolutely relevant and applicable to our lives today are now in the minority in the United States. Honestly, we probably have been for a while.

So, it’s not always easy to be a Christ-follower. Our world has become increasingly foreign to us. Sometimes we’re not the most popular people. And certainly, our views about things are, at times, totally detested by the majority culture in the United States (and elsewhere around the world).

As our culture moves further and further from a Biblical worldview, we need to look more and more closely at the apostle Paul.  He operated in a world that actually knew nothing about a Biblical worldview. Further, Paul’s world had absolutely no history or cultural memory of such a worldview. Imagine that world for a moment!

We will benefit greatly from studying his approach, because what we will see is that Christians who are both grace-filled and truth-filled can do very well in such a world. Even more, we will see that the Christian faith can not only survive in such a scenario, it can thrive and grow!

The city of Corinth was not exactly the kind of place that put godly morals on prominent display. Just the opposite! But the apostle Paul shows us we need not fear. It’s not necessary to shrink back and be silent. Rather it’s necessary to dive right into the fray.

Withdraw? Not at all! Instead, engage that world.

Notice, however, Paul’s engagement was not a political engagement. It was a law-gospel engagement. He “devoted himself exclusively to preaching.” We have a Savior to offer the world. We have divine truth to extend to our neighbors. We have amazing grace and certain forgiveness to give away. We have life and peace — in this life, and more importantly, in the life to come.

We, like Paul, need to teach and live in God’s grace and God’s truth — gently, winningly, and also pointedly. No, it won’t always be easy. We can expect that people won’t understand or agree with us. Some will actively oppose us. And some will go further than that and become abusive.

But that didn’t stop Paul. And it won’t stop us, either! When it comes to teaching about the truth and love of Jesus, we will not yield, but press on. When it comes to enduring abuse, we will not freak out or become unnerved, but quietly repay evil with good.

“Love!” is always our job description as Christ-followers. Love by sharing truth. And love by showing kindness.

“After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth… Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, ‘Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles'” (Acts 18:1, 4-6, NIV).

Lord, help me to be bold to proclaim Jesus to a fallen world, to proclaim divine truth to a deceived world, and to proclaim God’s love to a hurting world.

Our Bible reading for Saturday, June 27, is 1 Kings 18:16 – 19:21, Acts 17:22 – 18:8 and Psalm 78:17-31.

Header image based on "Dorothy and Toto" by Alex Beattie, CC By 2.0

It’s Just Not Possible!

Peter and John had healed a crippled man at the temple in Jerusalem. This gentleman was over 40 and had been crippled since birth. And everyone knew him well because he had been a fixture at the temple gate.

The Jewish rulers, elders and teachers of the law were not happy about this. They thought they had stamped out this Christianity “thing” by executing Jesus. But now it appeared that it was all about to crack wide open again. They had to admit, Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it” (Acts 4:16, NIV).

But these Jewish religious leaders were determined to put an end to it. So they summoned Peter and John and told them to stop speaking and teaching about Jesus.

I got to thinking about how impossible obeying this command would have been. I’m writing this from near Glacier National Park. And I’m imagining someone telling me to stop talking about how beautiful the mountains, the lakes, the streams, the sky — the whole landscape! — is here. I don’t know that I would be able to stop exclaiming how beautiful and amazing it is!

Think about Peter and John and the other apostles. They had watched Jesus teach with great power. They had seen him do many miracles. They heard him predict his crucifixion (on multiple occasions), and then be crucified just the way he told them he would be.

Then they had seen him rise from the tomb, as he had also told them he would do. On multiple occasions they witnessed Jesus alive after he had been brutally executed. At his ascension, they watched him rise into the clouds and return to heaven.

Then they experienced Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. On top of all that, they had been given the power to do miracles themselves. And here was a man who had been crippled from birth, healthy and whole for the first time in his life of 40-plus years, because of the power of Jesus Christ working through them!

What do you think is going to happen if someone tries to shut them up?

It’s just not going to be possible! They had seen how beautiful and amazing Jesus is!

And the same applies today to those who have witnessed in their own lives the power of forgiveness of sins through Jesus, the transformation from a life of pursuing sin to a life of following Jesus, the healing power of being given a new identity, a new destiny, a new purpose, a new set of possibilities in life and a new community of fellow believers to enjoy.

Shut us up? It’s just not possible! We have seen how beautiful and amazing Jesus is!

“Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, ‘Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard'” (Acts 4:18-20, NIV).

Our Bible reading for today is 2 Samuel 11:1 – 12:31, Acts 4:1-22 and Psalm 71:1-8.

Lord, help me to be bold to confess my faith in you, and tell as many people as possible how beautiful and amazing you are.

Header image based on "Glacier National Park sunset" by Bradley Davis, CC By 2.0

Expect Opposition

David was a humble, yet powerful leader.

His humility was evident in how he rose from a shepherd boy to become a king. Along the way, he needed great courage because he would fight battles against Goliath, Saul, the Philistines, and… need I mention any more?

The battles, in other words, were constant. And sometimes they were against people who were supposedly his allies: his generals, his soldiers, even his own children.

Then there were the battles with his own sinful nature. Think Bathsheba. Or numbering his troops.

David didn’t always like the opposition, but he did learn to accept it. I think the realization came early that life and work would offer opposition, when David — as a mere shepherd boy — learned to fight bears and lions.

Our problem is that most of us have not grown up as shepherds. Opposition can take us by surprise. After all, in our own minds, we have the best of intentions. Our hearts are totally in the right place, aren’t they? Our mission is the most important mission in the world! What could there possibly be to oppose?

Opposition can wear us down. It can discourage our hearts and deflate our enthusiasm. And if it comes unexpectedly? Well, that’s especially disconcerting.

That’s why it’s best if we expect opposition — anywhere, anytime, from any person. Like David learned to do — humble and powerful as he was; kind-hearted and well-intentioned as he was.

That’s also why David always turned to God for courage and comfort. God was his peace in times of trouble, his courage in times of fear. God was his constant companion — and God was for him — even when everything and everyone else seemed to be against him.

“Then people will say, ‘Surely the righteous still are rewarded; surely there is a God who judges the earth.'” (Psalm 58:11, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Saturday, May 9, is Judges 9:1-57, John 6:1-24 and Psalm 58:1-11.

Lord, help me to expect opposition. Most of all, help me to know that I will face serious spiritual opposition in life. Whatever opposition I might face, help me to know that it can come from anywhere, at anytime, and from any person. But most of all, help me to be like King David — always at peace, and filled with courage, knowing that you are with me.

Header image based on "opposition" by Abhi, CC By 2.0

It’s not the size of the crowd…

… it’s the size of the cross in the crowd.

At least, that’s what Jesus says. And he says it because large crowds had started following him and listening to his message.

They had seen the miracles he performed. They respected him for his teaching with authority. They loved the way he displayed grace and mercy to the poor, the ill, the injured and the hurting.

But Jesus looked at the crowds and made a bold statement. In effect, that strong statement asked each one in that crowd to examine his or her own heart.

Were they ready to make sacrifices to follow Jesus? What if those sacrifices involved something really big, or even someone really important?

Jesus says that if we resist that kind of sacrifice for his sake and refuse to carry our cross (as Jesus first carried his for us), then we cannot be his disciple.

That’s a strong expectation from Jesus. But then again, this is the same Jesus who sacrificed his life for us, to make himself the perfect sacrifice for our sins.

It’s said that no great leader ever asks those following him to do something that the leader himself is unwilling to do.

The thing is, as big a sacrifice as Jesus demands from us, his sacrifice for us was greater still.

“Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:25-27, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Sunday, April 12, is Deuteronomy 16:21 – 18:22, Luke 14:15-35 and Psalm 44:13-26.

Jesus, thank you for your sacrifice for me. Help me to make sacrifices for you too. I want to make those out of gratitude for your love. I want to carry my cross for you, as you once carried yours for me.

Header image based on "Jesus Cross" by Claudio Ungari, CC By 2.0

Impossible Righteousness

Do you ever feel like saying, “Really, Lord? Really?! How is that even possible?”

If you get to know the real Jesus (not the “Jesus” our culture sometimes makes up in its head), you’re going to have moments like that. Because Jesus says things that are difficult — if not impossible — to do. And really, many of them are hard to even imagine.

It just so happens that there’s a whole bunch of these sayings in a section of Luke affectionately known as “The Sermon on the Plain” (which bears a striking resemblance to the teaching in the Sermon on the Mount).

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:27-31, NIV).

Could we review that quickly?

  • Love my enemies?
  • When someone hates me, treat them well?
  • When someone curses me, bless them?
  • When someone pounds on me, let them do it again?
  • If someone steals from me, offer them more of my property — as a gift?
  • If someone asks for help, always give it to them? Every last time?
  • And then, if they take advantage of my kindness, just let it go?

Well, that’s exactly what I hear Jesus saying. How about you?

I think if we actually acted like this, we would stand out. Big time. And Jesus says that we will too.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.” (Luke 6:32, NIV).

Impossible to do all these things? Yes, it absolutely is impossible to pull them off in our own power. That’s why we need Jesus. He did them all for us. He did the impossible perfectly so that he could present his impossible righteousness to us as a gift.

And he will send his Holy Spirit so that each day — living in Jesus’ grace and forgiveness — we get a little better at doing the impossible ourselves! Then, because we stand out, we can point people to a Savior named Jesus who stood up for a world of sinners.

Our Bible reading for Thursday, March 26, is Numbers 21:4 – 22:20, Luke 6:12-36 and Psalm 37:21-31.

Jesus, thank you for standing up for me, and offering yourself as the perfect sacrifice for my sins. Thank you for being my Champion. Now, by your Spirit’s power, allow me to stand out by making choices that the world finds distasteful and completely uncomfortable.

Header image based on "Agape" by Marcelino Rapayla Jr., CC By 2.0

Over-Promise? Not God!

An angel named Gabriel came with a message for Mary. She would be the mother of the Messiah. This was an amazing statement. Because the Messiah would also be the Son of God. And he would be the Savior of the world. And a King whose kingdom would never end.

Quite the promises! Mary was astonished at the words that fell from the angel’s lips. First, she was troubled in her heart. Then came bewilderment. Had this guy never heard of making promises you can’t keep?

After all the amazing and confusing things that Gabriel told her, there was one phrase that seemed to turn the tables for Mary.

For no word from God will ever fail” (Luke 1:37, NIV).

Gabriel’s reminder to Mary was that when God says something, you can bank on it. That’s a reminder we also need, isn’t it? We especially need that reminder when it comes to having a Savior named Jesus.

We hear so many confusing, competing, “promise-the-world” messages in our world today. So we don’t always know what we can bank on and what we can’t. We sometimes feel much the way Mary did — astonished, bewildered and confused.

And let’s face it. A time or two we’ve probably even been guilty of this ourselves. We’ve sent messages that confuse or over-promise.

What Gabriel wanted Mary to know — and you to know — is that God cannot over-promise. No word he speaks to you will ever fail.

You can bank on that. Even better yet, you can bank on him.

Our Bible reading for Saturday, March 14, is Numbers 1:1 – 2:9, Luke 1:26-38 and Psalm 33:12-22.

Father, thank you for giving me your words and promises. I love knowing I can rely on them. I get great peace from having somewhere I can go and be perfectly confident in what’s being said. Most of all, thank you for Jesus. He is the One in whom I confidently find forgiveness and salvation.

Header image based on "Promise?" by Carmella Fernando, CC By 2.0

Relentlessly Pursued, Unfailingly Loved

Minute after minute after minute. Hour after hour after hour. Day after day after day.

They pursue me, relentlessly.

You know who I mean: Satan. The world. My own sinful nature. Every hour, my powerful, untiring spiritual enemies hunt me.

“Fall,” they whisper. “You will fall.”

I get so tired of their voices playing over and over again in my head. In my heart.

But, Lord, I know that minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day, you are with me. You are my God. And your love for me never quits.

The clock may tick. The minute hand slowly moves around the face of the clock. But each new minute, each new hour, brings more of your grace, more of your forgiveness, more of your love.

More of your strength.

I may be relentlessly pursued by powerful enemies, but I am also unfailingly loved by you, my Savior.

“But I trust in you, LordI say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me. Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love.” (Psalm 31:14-16, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Sunday, March 8, is Leviticus 17:1 – 18:30, Mark 14:17-42 and Psalm 31:9-18.

Lord, when my soul is consumed with anguish, when I am in distress, renew my faith in you. My spiritual enemies — Satan, the world, my own sinful nature — pursue me relentlessly. Help me to know that each day is in your hands. Let me enjoy your smile today. Love me faithfully so that I can be convinced — day after day — that your love for me is unfailing.

Header image based on "Yuno's alarm clock? No, it's mine." by Toshiuki Imai, CC By-SA 2.0