What Are We Celebrating?

It’s that time of year again!

Time for making cookies, shopping for gifts, decorating the Christmas tree and all our house inside and out. Time for family gatherings, parties at friends, watching Hallmark Christmas movies. The list goes on and on.

As I listen to people talk about the holiday, it almost seems at times as if it is more of a stressful time for some than a joyous celebration. People wonder if they will get the right gift for that special someone, if their decorations will look as nice as the neighbor’s next door, if they will have enough time for all they need to do to celebrate this holiday.

And I have to ask myself: what are we celebrating?

The Early Church did not celebrate Christmas. For them the important date was the day Jesus arose from the grave. Granted without His birth He could not have grown up and died for us. But for the Early believers, the important thing to celebrate was His resurrection. Two of the Gospels do not even mention the birth of Jesus but all four Gospels give great detail of the last days of His life as He was crucified, buried and rose again. The Aposle Paul shared that this was the heart of the good news.

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

Doing some research into church history, I discovered that the first Christmas was celebrated December 25, 336. The Roman emperor Constantine decreed this celebration to take place throughout the Roman Empire and Pope Julus I selected the date of December 25. Bible scholars tell us there is nothing in the Bible or in Early Church history to know the date of the birth of Jesus. Many reason that it was more lately that his birth was in the spring. Would shepherds be out on the hills with their sheep in the middle of winter?

Many pagan societies observed this date as a celebration of the winter solstice. This was the shortest day of the year and would lead to the return of the sun. In ancient Germanic cultures, they would burn a Yule log, light bonfires, tell stories and drank ale. Ancient Romans had a seven-day celebration, Saturnalia, beginning December 17. They would have a sacrifice at the temple of Saturn followed by several days of a carnival atmosphere. oldest winter celebrations in the world.

It is believed by many scholars that the Pope chose December 25 to try to turn people away from the celebration of Saturnalia and begin to follow the Christian way of life.

Whatever the reason for the choice of December 25 it has come down to us as the day to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

But again, I ask: what are we celebrating?

I recently visited a Christmas celebration at a local mall. I wondered what someone who had no knowledge of our customs and came to the celebration would think it was all about. There were all kinds of items with Santa Claus, the elves, the reindeer. But I saw nothing about the stable, the manger, Jesus.

Now – do I sound like Scrooge?

I certainly do not mean to. I love the decorations, the Christmas movies of the Elf on the Shelf and all that goes with our holiday in America. This week I will be busy putting up my tree and decorating my home all in red and gold, looking for that perfect gift for my husband.

But I wonder: What if you were told your friends were going to have a party to celebrate your birthday. You get excited and come to the party expecting greetings from everyone – and maybe some presents. You arrive early because you are so happy your friends want to celebrate this day with you. When you arrive, no one acknowledges your presence. No one offers you a seat at the table. There are no signs saying, “Happy birthday.” Instead, another person is seated at the head of the table. Everyone is talking to him, wanting to have their picture taken with him, toasting him. You are totally ignored.

You might go home wondering: what were they celebrating?

I hope you will enjoy this month and all the food, decorations, shopping, family gathering, parties. But I hope you will truly remember who and what we are celebrating.

I hope you will take time to listen to this song – and ask yourself: what am I celebrating?

I

To What Do You Pledge Allegiance?

I try to stay away from political posts because my goal for this blog was to encourage, and maybe make someone smile.

However, our current political scene is so chaotic, and our politicians are contributing, not to unity, but division. What makes me sad is to see the church trading its beliefs to gain political power. So when I read this today in my study, I must share it.

These are not my words. The following is taken from the book “The New Testament in Its World” by N.T. Wright.

When Paul says that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20) he is emphasizing that the Messiah, who reigns in heaven, and who will one day return from heaven, is the object of our hope and loyalty. There was nothing wrong with being a citizen of Rome, just as there is nothing wrong with being a British or an American citizen. But when the gospel of Jesus is unveiled it reveals the true empire, the true citizenship, the true lord and in that light all the pretensions of empire, not least the arrogant and blasphemous claims of the emperor himself, or the propaganda of power-hungry presidents, are exposed as folly. The church’s vocation is not to bless the power, policies, and pantheon of civic leaders, but to measure them by the standard of Christ, to pursue the things that make for peace and justice, and to proclaim that all will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. The church was never intended to be the religious department of any empire, but always to be building for the true kingdom, setting up an embassy for the one true lord, living lives according to his symbols, his teaching, his story and no other. If that means suffering, that will mean following the pattern of the Messiah, and confidently expecting his rescue and reward. The church’s loyalty cannot be auctioned off to those who promise it political influence; not can its core convictions be pummeled into submission to fit the reigning zeitgeist. For citizens of heaven, the gospel should be declared, not domesticated.

View From the Parsonage

(This was my first post when I started my blog. Revisiting it still makes me laugh. Hope it will you also.)

For many years I was a pastor’s wife.  In many ways, it was a blessing for which I am thankful.  What a privilege to be allowed into the lives of families at those very joyous times:  weddings, baby dedications, graduations, anniversaries.  I have enjoyed providing the music for many a bride to walk down the aisle.

It was also an honor to share with families at those sad times:  deaths, divorce, sickness.  While “enjoy” is probably not the right word to use, I have felt blessed to provide music for the funeral of many a dear saint.

What a joy to share God’s Word in a class with the children or young adults and to see that moment when their eyes light up with understanding, to watch them grow in their walk with the Lord!

But if I am honest, I must admit that there are also times when being a pastor’s wife felt anything BUT a privilege and honor.  Times when I wanted to run from the parsonage and say, “I quit!”  It’s hard to hear your husband criticized and hold your tongue.  Frustrating when you have planned a date night, are all dressed up and about to walk out the door only to have it cancelled because someone in the congregation calls and needs your husband.  Or, you are just about to sit down to a family meal when the phone rings – and off he goes.  There were times I wanted to pull the phone out of the wall.

But along the way, I have had moments when I wanted to laugh!  Some silly and funny times.  I always said when my husband retired, I was going to write a book about “The View from the Parsonage.”

Well, there’s no book – but I certainly want to share some funny stories in my blog.  I promised my husband –

the names will be changed to protect the innocent – and the guilty.

For now, let me just share with you some thoughts –

You might be a pastor’s wife if:

  • You’ve ever had a church board hand you a job description with no attached salary package.
  • You are the secretary at the church.
  • You are not the secretary at the church, but people assume you are.
  • You think about burning down the church if that would give you more time with your pastor.
  • You used communion cups to serve your grandchildren orange juice.
  • People automatically assume you know the inside scoop on everything going on at church…and you do…but your lips must remain sealed.
  • You are expected to attend 2 baby showers, 3 birthday parties, 2 weddings and 1 graduation in a month (and, of course, brings gifts for each one).
  • You’ve ever had someone angry with you because you sent a card, but didn’t come to see them.
  • You’ve ever had someone angry with you because you came to see them, but didn’t send a card.
  • Your house sometimes feels like an extension of the church with all the traffic it gets.
  • Your husband always knows someone or someone always know him, everywhere you go.
  • Your husband is constantly excited to tell you something else he’s learned…and you struggle to remain as enthusiastic as you wish you could be.
  • You get roped into proof-reading or listening to the rough drafts of sermons…all the time.
  • You’ve resigned yourself to the fact that there will always be more books that your husband will want but will never read…but will buy anyway.
  • You could pay off your house if you just sold all the Bibles laying around the place.

There will be more stories to come!  Believe me, I have plenty.

If you read this and are a pastor’s wife, I would love to hear from you – to hear some of your stories!

Want Eternal Life?

A rich young ruler came to Jesus with an important question: “What can I do to inherit eternal life?”

Depending on what religious background you come from, there could be different answers.

Some religions reject the very idea of “eternal life” and believe your spirit will live on in some form or another and that reincarnation depends on how you lived in the present life.

Other religions believe you inherit eternal life by the good deeds you do in this life.

Christianity is unique in stating there is nothing we can do to inherit eternal life, but that it is a free gift given by faith in Jesus Christ.

Yet, when we look at this young man’s encounter with Jesus, the answer Jesus gave seems to imply we do inherit eternal life by what we do.

Jesus told him “If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” Is Jesus saying that we are saved by obeying the commandments? What about the verses that declare we are saved by grace and not by our own efforts?

When the young man asked Jesus exactly what commandments he should keep, Jesus recited six of the ten commandments. The young man informed Jesus that he had kept all these commandments all his life, but then asked, “What do I still lack?”

The rich young ruler was confident of his goodness. Still, he apparently recognized that something was missing. He had been honest and truthful. He had kept himself pure from sinful deeds. So what did he lack?

Jesus saw that this young man was leading a selfish life. He had not cheated anyone, but he had also not been willing to share his riches to help others. He lacked the love of God for others.

Jesus was pointing out the one area where the man did not fulfill the Law. If inheriting eternal life meant giving up his wealth, he was not willing to do that. His love of wealth became the obstacle to his following Jesus. His love of money prevented him from obeying the two greatest commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart” and “Love you neighbor as yourself.”

Today many look at this story and say that only applied to this young man because Jesus knew the young man’s heart was focused on money. He would never ask us to sell all we have and give to the poor.

Probably not. But I think the lesson for us is to examine our own heart. Is there anything we want to hold on for ourselves and not surrender to the Lord. Maybe it is our money. Are we generous with the financial blessings we have been given? Do we spend it all on ourselves or reach out to the needy in our community? Maybe it is our time. Are we willing to turn off the TV and spend some time in prayer and God’s Word. Or give up that nap we had planned and go visit someone who is lonely and in need of encouragement. Maybe it is our talent. Do we seek how we can use the God-given abilities to not enjoy ourselves but to help someone else? Bake that cake for a neighbor, knit a scarf for the homeless, play music to the elderly in the nursing homes.

Eternal life is a gift from God. But we need to make sure that there is nothing that stands between us and a love for God that puts Him first, others second and then ourselves.

Is there anything I lack? Lord, show me.

Friday’s Fruitful List

The Bible lists nine fruit of the Holy Spirit. I find it interesting that it is fruit not fruits; singular not plural. Appears God desires for us to display all of His attributes; not pick and choose. It should be our prayer for all of the Holy Spirit’s presence to be shown in our life.

  1. love
  2. joy
  3. peace
  4. patience
  5. kindness
  6. goodness
  7. faithfulness
  8. gentleness
  9. self-control

Jesus said we would be known by our fruit.

Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit...Matthew 12:33

Two things I note about fruit.

First, for a tree branch to bear fruit it must be attached to the tree. Cut apart from the tree, it will soon wither and die. Jesus told us:

Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.

So, we cannot on our own display with any consistency the fruit of the Holy Spirit. That is the beauty of it. We do not have to work hard and strain to be loving, have joy, self-control etc. When we “stay in the vine” we will produce the fruit as naturally as an apple tree produces apples.

Second, the purpose of fruit is to provide nourishment for those who pick the fruit. Sometimes I think we feel having fruit of the Spirit is to make us some wonderful Christian. But I think the purpose is to provide love, joy, peace etc. to those around us who need it.

I pray I will have the love of God so those I meet who need someone to show love will find it in me. I pray I will have the joy of God so those I meet who may be discouraged will be encouraged by what I say or do. I pray all of the fruit will be shown in my daily life as I meet others so that I can be an encouragement, maybe provide a challenge, certainly show the character of Jesus to others.

It’s Not Fair – or Is It?

Reading this week in Matthew the parable Jesus told of workers and their pay. He tells of the owner of a vineyard who goes out to find workers to harvest his crops. Apparently, there were men who had no permanent job and would gather in town hoping for someone to give them work for the day.

Arriving early in the morning the owner offers the group of men gathered there a day’s wages if they would work in his vineyard. The amount of wages being agreed on, he took the men to his fields to work. As the day went on, he decided he needed more workers to get the job done so he returned to the town square and found more men looking for work. With this group no set wages were agreed on; the owner simply said he would pay them whatever was right. He continued to go back to the town square throughout the day and hired more workers each time with the understanding he would pay whatever was right.

At the end of the day when time came for the workers to be paid, he told his manager to pay those who had been the last to be hired first. Was this fair? Imagine you were one of those who had worked throughout the entire day having to stand in line and wait while those who only worked one or two hours received their wages first.

The men who were paid first received a full day’s wage. Seeing that, those who had labored all day thought they would be getting more and were probably excited about the prospect of making more than a day’s wage.

However, when they came to be paid, they received the same wage as those who had only worked a few hours. They were not happy campers.

Was this fair?

When the workers complained to the vineyard owner, he reminded them that they had agreed to work all day for a day’s wages. That was fair. He had kept his word. They were given exactly what he had promised and what they had agreed to.

In our culture this would be a source of lawsuits and demonstrations. How does that line up with “equal pay for equal work.”

Wondering what Jesus really meant by this parable, I think of the meaning of God’s grace.

The workers had not been taken advantage of. They received exactly what they had agreed to and what was the going rate for a day’s labor. This story shows the owner’s generosity, his mercy, his grace to all.

I believe it is a good reminder to us that we are not saved by what we do, but by the mercy and grace of God. Sometimes we may think “I’m a good Christian. I have never cheated on my husband. I have been a loving mother. I give generous to the church and to those in need. But I am slow to recognize how sometimes I have acted selfishly, been unkind or critical to others, turned a blind eye to someone in need.

And so, we really want God to be fair? To give us what we deserve? Have we lived a perfect life with no need of mercy or grace? Thank God that he is not fair.

He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. Psalm 103:10

Second thought – the workers who came late to the field, did they not have a family that needed to eat also? How was it wrong to give them a wage that allowed their families to also have their needs met?

Some of us may make great sacrifices for the work of God. Then like the thief on the cross with Jesus, others slip into the kingdom on their deathbed without having done anything for God’s kingdom.

Is this fair?

This scandal of grace is a sign of the unbelievable goodness of God. It’s possible that someone could look at a lifetime of service and feel, like the early laborers, that they were cheated. But this is the wrong way to look at faithfulness.

When we truly recognize the lavish generosity of God’s mercy, it’s a game changer. We stop focusing on what’s “fair,” and begin to humbly appreciate God’s unbelievable benevolence. Hopefully, we recognize what the early laborers missed: It’s a privilege to serve a God who is so kind and unselfish.

The Jesus project

Do You Know What is the Truth?

In reading the book of Jude in the New Testament this week, I was reminded of his warning to the church that there would be false teachers that pervert the truth of God’s Word.

Thinking of “truth” reminded me of Pilate’s question to Jesus: “What is truth?” Pilate asked this question in response to Jesus’ claim to be the very essence of truth. No doubt Pilate was, like many today, very cynical about what is truth. Or, perhaps he really was longing to know what the truth was.

Many today say there is no such thing as absolute truth. What is true for you may not be true for me.

In some ways, they are right. If we are standing face to face and someone asks us where the door is, to me the door would be on my right, but to you it would be on your left. In that situation, truth is relative – different for you than for me. However, what would be absolute truth in that circumstance is if someone asked us if there was a door. We both would have to say yes.

I am not a Greek or Hebrew scholar but my simple research tells me that the Greek word for “truth” is aletheia, which literally means to “un-hide” or “hiding nothing.” In other words, the truth is there to be seen, nothing hidden. The Hebrew word for “truth” is emeth, which means “firmness,” “constancy” and “duration.” Psalm 119 states that God’s Word is firm and constant.

Your eternal word, O Lord, stands firm in heaven.

Jesus declared He was the truth.

I am the truth, the way and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Making that statement today will immediately lead many to object. It can be offensive to those not of the Christian faith.

Here is the dilemma I think the church faces now. On the one hand, Jesus has clearly called us to love and appreciate everyone – regardless of their sex, ethnicity, religion etc.

On the other hand, if He is the truth, we cannot compromise our belief.

But what is keeping me awake some nights is how many are taking this Christian statement and using it in a most un-Christ-like manner.

The calls for us to make this a “Christian” nation frightens me. Jesus plainly told us His kingdom was NOT of this world.

The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; no one will say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is inside you.”

My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight… but my kingship is not from here.

Jesus taught that His kingdom would not be like any other. However, like any kingdom there would be rules. Rules like:

  • Love your neighbor
  • Treat others the way you like to be treated
  • Be merciful
  • Forgive others
  • Be humble
  • Serve others
  • Bless those that curse you
  • Pray for those who persecute you 

The list could go on, but it can be basically summed up in one word: love. Love in the Kingdom of God is not an option; it is a command. If we want a Christian nation, then the only way to achieve that is not by electing the “right person.” It is not by enforcing our Christian beliefs on others. It is not putting down those whose lifestyles are in opposition to God’s Word. It is by loving those who are outside the Kingdom.

This is how the Early Church became so strong that eventually even the powerful Roman Empire recognized it. But loving and caring for others.

So please beware of the false propaganda we are hearing today from those who claim to be speaking for God. Often, we allow false information to be spread among us because it is interesting, and we are slow to put an end to it. We must stand for the truth – not compromise our own beliefs to be politically correct. But at the same time, we must remember only the love of Jesus can change a person’s heart.

The Seven Churches of Revelation and Me

Revelation is a book of the Bible that I have found confusing and difficult to understand. Throughout my life I have attended Bible studies, read books and listened to a host of people give their viewpoint on the meaning of the book.

Several years ago, Tim LaHaye and Jerry B Jenkins wrote a series of novels called “Left Behind.” The books are the authors’ interpretation of Revelation. They write of a seven-year conflict between the Tribulation Force (people who have converted to Christianity after what they call the “rapture”) and the New World Order led by the Antichrist. The series was adapted into four movies. I never read the books, but I did see a couple of the movies.

There are as many different interpretations of what the book of Revelation means as there are different church backgrounds. Some of the different ways of looking at the book are:

Preterist

This line of reasoning says we should view the book from a historical context and try to understand it as being written to the people of John’s day. We try to understand the political and religious times and how the readers then would understand John’s words.

Historicist

This approach says many of the events of the book seem to have taken place in the first century. This gives us an outline of history of the church in the past and a glimpse of what may yet happen in the church until Christ returns.

Futurist

Believers in this group (which is where LaHaye and Jenkins fall) believe the books tells us of future events which will take place at the “end of time.”

Idealist

This group teaches that Revelation does not pertain to any particular time (past, present or future) but is simply a story of the constant struggle between good and evil.

My church background was of the “futurist” viewpoint. I must confess, however, that listening to all the teachers who seemed so sure of what they believed only added to my confusion. I had to ask “how could they be so sure what all the images in the book really stood for?” Most of what they said seemed to me to be simply their opinion without any definite proof of their “theories.”

Yet it was almost considered heresy to suggest that these teachers who claimed to have perfect knowledge of the meaning of Revelation should be questioned. My solution was to just avoid any Bible study on the book of Revelation.

Years have passed and our local church offered a study on Revelation. I decided to give Revelation another chance.

The lesson was on chapters 2 and 3 which tell of John recording a message from Jesus Christ to the seven churches.

I was prepared for the usual explanation. 1) these churches represent different stages of church history. Each of these stages can be traced to specific times in the history of the church. This point of view says we are in the stage of the last church, Laodicea. 2) these churches represent different types of churches that would be throughout time. Of course, those who take this point of view always see their own church as one of the two churches that had no criticism from Jesus and other churches as one of those that received strong criticism.

What a surprise as I found a new take on these chapters.

Church is not a building, not an organization, not a denomination. The church is made up of those who believe in Jesus Christ. I am the church.

What I need to take from these two chapters is not some eschatological, deep mystery meaning. I need to look at the praise and the criticism each church received and ask myself how I stand up to that.

  • Have I lost my first love? Am I as excited about God’s Word and His church as I once was?
  • Have I remained true to God’s Word? Am I compromising my beliefs to fit with my culture?
  • Have I become lukewarm to the things of God? Have I lost my sense of what is valuable and pleasing to God?
  • Do I need to strengthen my faith?

I am not sure where this study will lead but I am approaching it to learn any lessons that will help me be the “church” I need to be and not worry about the “mysteries” found here.

How Well Does Your Yoke Fit?

Jesus gave an invitation to put on His yoke.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

What did He mean by that? Exactly what is a yoke?

A yoke is a wooden crosspiece fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to a plow or cart that they are to pull.

A yoke allowed two animals to share a load and pull together. Most of the wagon trains bringing people to settle the west were pulled by oxen using a yoke to keep them working together and to help them pull the wagons which could weight up to 2,500 pounds. In our own country before the modern tractor and farm implements, a yoke was used to help the farmer plow the fields for planting.

Two Oxen ready for work.

The Bible references for a yoke often referred to a heavy burden or duty. When King Solomon died and his son, Rehoboam, became king he warned his people that he would rule them with a “heavy yoke.” Their response was to desert him and create a separate nation with another king (1 Kings 12). The prophet Isaiah used the symbol of breaking a yoke to speak of freedom for the Israelites from foreign rulers. The prophet Jeremiah wore a yoke around his neck as he warned the people of Jerusalem of their coming capture by the Babylonian empire.

So why would Jesus use the image of a yoke to invite followers to come to him and take on a yoke? How would submitting to His yoke give us rest?

If we think of life as an allegory to plowing a field, we begin to understand how His yoke would give us rest. The oxen wearing a yoke help the farmer get the field plowed. But it is the skill of the farmer that directs the oxen so that the furrows are straight and at the right depth for the seed. So, as we allow God to direct us, we can rest in the knowledge that He will lead us in ways that are best for us. We can spend less time worrying and more time trusting in His direction.

He says we will learn from Him as we wear His yoke. I did some research on oxen and found that they are trained for months, even years before they are able to do the heavy pulling expected of them. Their owner spends time teaching them to respond to verbal commands like:

  • “Step Up” – go forward
  • “Gee” – turn right
  • “Haw” – turn left
  • “Whoa” – stop
  • “Back” – back up

As we take up the yoke of Jesus, we begin to learn from Him. Through prayer, Bible study and just learning to hear the Spirit’s prompting we gain knowledge of God and grow in spiritual maturity. Just as it takes time to train an ox, our walk with God requires time for growth.

I like to think that when I accept the yoke of Jesus, I am now walking alongside Him. The daily burdens of life are easier because He is pulling with me. Thus, His yoke becomes “easy” because I am not facing life’s difficulties alone.

Doing research on oxen I found that owners must adjust the size of the yoke as the oxen grow. Doing this keeps the oxen from being hurt by bad-fitting yokes. Jesus’s yoke is “easy.” He knows us well and when we trust Him, the yoke He places on us is not restrictive but rather helps us in our work for His kingdom. I don’t pretend to understand all the physics, but I am told when an ox allows his owner to put the yoke on him, it actually helps him pulling the load. When we submit to the leading of God and His direction for our life, our yoke will fit perfectly. If we resist the yoke (the direction of God) then the load will become too much for us.

Does your yoke fit? Are you seeking God’s direction and willfully obeying Him?

Dangerous Prayers

My church has been doing a series on dangerous prayers – and it has given me much thought.

I have to admit that most of my prayers are for me and mine. While there is certainly nothing wrong with praying for my family, my friends, my needs, taking a look at some of the prayers in the Bible has reminded me that I am called to let my love and concern go beyond my own small circle.

Looking at the prayers in God’s Word leads me to go deeper in my prayer time. Time spent in prayer should not just telling God of our needs and desires, but a time to be quiet and let Him speak to us.

Psalm 139:23-24 – “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

The prayer of the early church in Acts has always amazed me. After two of their leaders had been arrested and spent the night in jail, they were released with the command to never speak of Jesus again. Arriving at the house where the church was gathered for prayer, I would think they would pray for God’s protection, for deliverance from the persecution. But they did not. Instead, they prayed “make me bold.”

Acts 4:29 – “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.”

In our culture today when it seems society is more and more hostile to Christian principles it can be so easy to just ask God to keep me and mine safe. But I need to ask God to help my family, my friends be bold to proclaim God’s love to this needy world.

Many times, when I pray for my family, my prayers are focused on more material issues. “Give this child a job.” “Heal this child.” “Help this child in their efforts for school or work or family.”

Again, these prayers are certainly ones we should pray. After all, God cares about every aspect of our life. But I found a prayer in one of the Apostle Paul’s writings that helps me focus on the most important needs of my family – their spiritual welfare.

Colossians 1: 9-12 – “We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.”

In today’s message my pastor talked about Isaiah and his experience when he had a vision of the Lord in all His glory. Isaiah’s first response was to recognize his own sinfulness and need of cleansing. When the seraphim placed a coal of fire on his lips and told him he was forgiven, his immediate response was to say “Send me.”

I often wondered why the seraphim chose to place the coals on his lips rather than on his head or hands. But when Isaiah saw the glory of God, he responded by saying “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.”

Isaiah understood what Jesus later told us. “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them. But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”

As Isaiah experienced God’s forgiveness, he was ready to say, “Send me.” How often do I pray for God to meet this need or solve this problem, but how often do I make myself available for God to use me as an answer to that prayer?

I realize as I pray I need to take time to be quiet, to let God speak to me about areas in my life that need forgiveness, healing, strength. To say “search me.” To pray “make me bold” that I might be unafraid to share the good news of God’s love to those I meet at the store, in the library or wherever I may go. To focus more on the “spiritual” needs of those on my prayer list and not just on the “physical” needs. To ask God to “send me” and then seek to be more aware of the opportunities He places in my path to be used of Him.

Dangerous prayers – prayers that might require more of me rather than just giving God a list of wishes/needs for Him to take care of.

Join me in praying some dangerous prayers and see what God will do in us and through us.