Bible Study

Story of Dorcas in the Bible

I received a comment recently on a previous post titled “Women Disciples of Jesus.” The reader pointed out that I had overlooked Tabitha/Dorcas as a disciple.

After reviewing the story, I decided this character needed more than a paragraph; she needs an entire blog post!

While the entire story of Dorcas may be only 7 verses long, it has many encouraging lessons for us.

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Christian Encouragement

You Can Pray Bold Prayers

The Bible is rich with descriptions of the prayer life of Jesus, but one of my new favorites is in Matthew 26:36-42. Jesus is praying in the Garden of Gethsemane and asks His Father, “If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” v 39. Jesus knew all things are possible with God, and so he boldly prayed His request aloud to His Father. If Jesus prayed bold prayers, I want to learn to do it too!

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Biblical Definition of Boldness 

We don’t have to look far to find bold Bible characters that showed courage, confidence, and fearlessness. I think of David confronting Goliath or Queen Esther risking a death sentence to go before the king.

But there is an important aspect of Biblical boldness that helps all of us to be bold. Biblical boldness is based on a strong confidence in God. It is a gift we receive when we rely on His power and trust in His promises and truth. Fear and timidness melt away when we believe He is in control, sovereign and unchanging.

Biblical boldness is not:

•confidence in self

•prideful or arrogant

•possible on our own strength

We Are Called to Be Bold

How are we to use this boldness from God? We don’t want to appear pompous or use it for selfish reasons. And does it seem pretentious or a bit irreverent to ask the Holy King of the Universe to listen to our bold prayers?

There is a right way to use this boldness. We can dismiss our fears, doubts, and anxiety and express the gift of His “holy boldness” correctly.

Bible Verses about Boldness 

Here are 4 verses that express different aspects of boldness:

•“When I called, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted.” Psalm 138:3. David praises God for his gift of boldness which gave him strength.

•“Joseph of Arimathea… went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.” Mark 15:43. It was common for the bodies of the crucified to be left on their crosses as a last act of humiliation. Joseph boldly took a huge risk- unconcerned about the consequences to himself.

•“After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” Acts 4:31 (Acts is full of verses of the boldness of the disciples as they used the power of the Holy Spirit to spread the Good News.)

•Paul describes Isaiah’s bold prophecy-“And Isaiah boldly says, ‘I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.’” Romans 10:20. Isaiah’s boldness was a warning to the Israelites who rejected their Messiah.

Boldness in Prayer Scripture 

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16.

This verse changed my life when I first read it. I grew up with a healthy dose of awe regarding God’s presence, but not much of the mercy and grace.

To come within a mile of His throne would have been enough for me. But He has much more in mind for us. Yes, He is a sovereign and omnipotent King, but He is also a supremely loving and compassionate Good Shepherd.

The only one trying to discourage us from coming boldly into His presence is our enemy. He wants us to think He is unapproachable. But this verse tells us to come- in reverence, but boldly.

Pray With Confidence Verse 

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” 1 John 5:14.

God hears us when we pray- silently or weeping, articulate or simple.

The emphasis on this verse is on His will, not ours. He wants us to come to Him confidently, and talk about your situations, align our thoughts with His, and listen for His answers. We worship a generous God; He wants us to ask anything. That doesn’t mean He answers every prayer in the way we want it to, but we should pray about everything. Pray with confidence!

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Bold Prayers in the Bible 

There are many ways to pray boldly. Let’s look at two examples of bold prayers in the Bible.

I want to start with the verse that sent me down this path of searching bold prayers-

• Jesus Prays in the Garden of Gethsemane 

 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death…” He fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’ ” Matthew 26:38-39.

Jesus knew God’s plan of judgement and redemption, but boldly asked if He would take it from Him (even as He was face down on the ground in humility). We read His struggle was intense. Wasn’t there another way?? No- only the sinless Son could take on our punishment and restore our relationship with the Father. Jesus prayed in trust and obedience that the Father’s will be done.

If Jesus Himself could boldly ask this of His Father, why would we hold back anything that is in our hearts?

Wrestling with God in Prayer 

Jacob wrestled with God all night long in a fascinating story found in Genesis 32.

Jacob was fearful of meeting with his brother after cheating him out of his birthright years earlier. He spent the night before the meeting, alone, in a tent to pray.

God comes to Jacob and they wrestle all night long. God finally tells Jacob to let Him go; it was daybreak. That was when Jacob boldly prays, “I will not let you go unless You bless me!”

Jacob wasn’t dictating anything to God, but “wept and begged for His favor” (Hosea 12:4) as he prayed. Jacob had finally come to the place where He couldn’t fight God any longer. He could only hold on tightly to God and rely on His blessing.

Jacob showed persistence in his wrestling and finally resorted to a bold prayer. We can also show the boldness of Jacob when we are praying about our greatest struggles and fear.

How to Pray Bold Prayers 

Do you believe Jesus died for your sins? If so, then you have the privilege of coming into God’s presence through bold and confident prayer.

In Him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” Ephesians 3:12.

Jesus is the One who made a way for us to pray boldly and confidently. We do not have to be afraid to come before Him, but can come anytime, with any request. He waits to hear from you.

Examples of Bold Prayers 

•Pray God’s Word and promises. For example: I pray Psalm 19:14 before I sit down to write- “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” I am praying in His will, but boldly praying that what I write would please Him- who is sovereign and all-knowing!

•Or this bold prayer:

Search me O God and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” Psalm 139:23. It takes courage to ask God to point out our sin and dissect our thought life!

•Pray boldly for the desires of your heart, the blessing of a child, a new job, your finances, physical healing, relationship healing, etc. Praying big, bold prayers doesn’t force God to do anything! We pray boldly and then trust in His timing and will.

•Be specific in your bold prayers. Many times, we pray, “I need your help, God!” But we can be specific in asking for what we need.

For example: “God, my car (furnace/computer/etc.) needs repairs, and I don’t have the money to fix it. I pray as David did in Psalm 40:17: ‘I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; O my God, do not delay.’ Please provide a way for me to either get the funds I need or work out a solution.”

I boldly prayed recently for a family member to see her doctor within the week instead of waiting for the scheduled appointment, which was months away. God answered in His way- she got on an “urgent list” should there be any cancellations.

•Pray boldly with the expectation and faith that He will answer. Jesus instructed His disciples to pray in faith in Mark 11: 24: “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” NKJV.

This doesn’t mean we are demanding God answer our prayer in the way we wish, nor does it mean that He will answer every prayer in the way we ask. To pray in faith is a dependency on God’s will and the belief that our all-powerful God can work miracles.  

Boldness in Prayer 

I distinctly remember a time in my prayer life, when exhausted from the burdens I was carrying, my only prayer was this: “Thy will be done.” In my eyes, I was trusting Him to take care of me and accepted anything that came my way.

But now I see how dismissive and unresponsive this was. It was as if I was shrugging my shoulders and telling God, “whatever.” This is the complete opposite of praying boldly!
We are children of the Most High God- redeemed and esteemed! We are valuable in His sight. Our prayer life should reflect that.

The Power of Bold Prayers 

He has big plans for us and wants us to bring Him big prayers. The purpose of praying boldly and with confidence shows we trust in His ability to intervene in any situation and that He can give us “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” Ephesians 3:20. Bold prayers express our faith in Him. We are telling Him we trust in Him completely. Nothing is too hard for God. We can’t limit God, so pray big!

Blessings!

AnnMarie

All Scripture is from the NIV unless specified otherwise.

Photo Credit:Canva, AnnMarie Anderson

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All Scripture is taken from the NIV unless specified otherwise.

Christian Encouragement

How is God Our Refuge?

How exactly is God our refuge and what does it mean for God to be your refuge?

I began studying the Bible in earnest almost 35 years ago. On the inside cover of my very own first personal Bible, I wrote out Psalm 31:20 and Proverbs 29:25.

What did they have in common? They are promises of safety and refuge. They were some of the first truths that touched my heart.

We find the word “refuge” approximately 90 times in the NIV; I guess it’s an important topic!

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Part of my daily praise include the tender words of Peter to Jesus- “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68. (Many of Jesus’ disciples had deserted Him over hard teachings. He had asked the Twelve, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” v67.)

I can almost hear the pain in Jesus’ voice. He asks hard things of His followers. He knows it will not always be easy, but wants us to be with Him forever. What better statement to Jesus than to tell Him daily that He is the one and only refuge we need, especially when life throws us curveballs!

Refuge Meaning in the Bible 

What does refuge mean? The world’s definition of refuge is a place or institution that brings safety and shelter from pursuit, danger, or trouble.

The definition of refuge in the Bible is similar, except that God is the person we run to when we need a safe place to rest, protection from distress or tragedy, and His fortress of secure strength.

The Hebrew word for refuge also means a confident trust and hope. They also described refuge as a “dwelling place”, and a “high tower”. These words represent the attributes of His refuge. He wants to be all these things for us; to hold us safe in His everlasting, powerful arms.

“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Deuteronomy 33:27.

Bible Verses about Refuge 

The Bible is full of difficult trials for His people, so maybe that is why there are so many reminders of where we can find refuge.

Psalm 46 is David’s confident song of praise describing God’s power and protection over the nation of Israel. Wars, disasters, suffering, and turmoil are no match for God’s protection, peace, blessings, and refuge.

His refuge and protection are everlasting. It even inspired Martin Luther to write his famous hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” Luther sang Psalm 46 during particularly discouraging times in his life.¹

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea… The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Psalm 46:1,2,7,11.

Psalm 91 describes the security we enjoy under God’s protection. He doesn’t promise us a danger free world but does promise His help whenever we encounter it.

“I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust’… He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.” vv2,4.

Psalm 2:12b“Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.”

God made us to be joyful, which we only truly find in the blessed state of fellowship with Him!

Psalm 18 is one of thanksgiving for His help.

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge… He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him.” vv2,30.

Don’t you love these strong words David sang to express God’s refuge? They are beautiful word pictures to hold in our thoughts when we need His refuge.

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Bible Verses about Shelter 

Don’t stand out in the pouring rain when storms hit! Seek shelter in the presence of the Lord. 😊

Psalm 31:20: “In the shelter of your presence you hide them from the intrigues of men; in your dwelling, you keep them safe from accusing tongues.”

Psalm 27:5: “For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.”

Isaiah 25:4: “You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in their distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.”

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The Lord is My Refuge and Strength 

We can read many Bible verses about God being our refuge and strength, but how can we turn what we read into the tangible comfort, strength, and rest His refuge provides?

 What Does it Mean to Take Refuge in God? 

We take refuge inside when a dangerous storm hits- we can see 4 walls and feel protected. But how can we take refuge in God?

David probably wrote more about God’s refuge than any other Bible character. He often hid in caves when he was being pursued by his enemies. While there, he cries out to God, asking to be heard, praising Him, asking for what he needs, and rejoicing in God’s answers.

“To you I call, O lord my rock… hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help… The Lord is my strength and my shield, my heart trusts in him and I am helped… The Lord is the strength of his people…” Psalm 28:1,2,7,8.

When we need a place of safety and shelter, we can do as David did:

  • Call out to Him- tell Him what you need, what you fear, ask for Him to be your shelter and shield.
  • Name your storm. Ask Him to either calm you or calm the storm. If the storm remains, ask Him what lesson you are supposed to learn.
  • Trust Him deep in your heart. Do you? When we believe He is our shelter, strength, and refuge, and shield, we can face difficult circumstances with the confidence of David. David was so confident God would help him fight his battles he marched towards Goliath to fight him!

“Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:8.

  • Believe and trust that His safety and strength are always near and close to you- an “ever present help in times of trouble.” (Psalm 41) Is there any situation that is too hard for the Lord?

The Lord is My Shelter 

Sometimes we seek shelter in other ways- the advice of friends or family, keeping too busy to think about our problems, time-consuming hobbies, or going ahead of God and trying to fix problems on our own. We may even try to seek shelter by “numbing” ourselves with food, drugs, or alcohol.

No matter what circumstance we face, God is always our safest place to take refuge. He gives us His strength to withstand whatever we face. It may not be easy- staying in God’s will during stressful times means we completely commit to depend on Him alone.

But it is always, always, worth it.

Benefit of Making God our Refuge 

  • God comforts us. He is there when our strength and best intentions fail, to pick us up and give us rest and peace.
  • He gives us His strength. God can give us physical and spiritual strength. The same word for strength is “power” in Acts 1:8, when Jesus speaks of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
  • Taking refuge in Jesus fights off fear. When we believe and trust that He will protect and never leave us, we can be confident in His promises and filled with His peace.
  • He gives us guidance and instruction. As we take refuge in His Word, we will find the answers we need.
  • His refuge brings rest. He promises “rest for our souls” when we lean on Him. (Matthew 11:29)
  • He will remove our burdens and carry them for us. “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” (Psalm 68:19) Picture yourself handing over your burdens for Him to carry.

God is our Refuge and Strength 

God provided our ultimate refuge by giving up His Son on our behalf. Jesus defeated the power of sin and death; we have an eternal future with Him to look forward to. He gives us 24/7 access to His throne of grace and mercy. His Spirit lives within us!

He is our only true, secure foundation. When we seek refuge elsewhere, we are standing on shaky ground. There is only One who is “mighty to save” and will catch us when our world collapses. He is everything we need. Why go elsewhere?

This is my new daily prayer towards making Him my refuge a reality: “Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.” Psalm 16:1. Will you join me? Choose a Bible verse from those above that spoke to your heart, alleviated a fear, or encouraged you to bravely trust. You will be blessed!

Blessings of Refuge!

AnnMarie

¹https://www.ligonier.org/posts/luther-and-psalms-his-solace-and-strength

All Scripture is from the NIV unless specified otherwise.

 

 Photo Credit: PublicDomainPictures and PIRO4D from Pixabay

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Bible Study

Huldah in the Bible

If you looked up a list of obscure Bible characters, you would find the Old Testament prophetess Huldah. I had never even heard of Huldah’s story until someone asked me to write about her. Even though her story is short, she plays an oversize role in Israel’s history. She was one of only nine true prophetesses named in the Bible. Miriam and Deborah might be more familiar to you, but Huldah’s impact left a lasting legacy for the Israelites. She is also an enormous encouragement to women who have roles within the church.

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Spiritual Growth

Patience and Perseverance

Last week we turned our thoughts to cultivating patience.  I noticed while doing my reading, that different versions of the Bible interchanged the words patience and perseverance.  The more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that there is a difference in how we apply these terms to our Christian walk.  So patience vs perseverance- what’s the difference between them?

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Bible Study

What Does the Bible Say about Patience

We can all universally agree that patience is a virtue, and everyone could probably benefit from exercising it more often. I confess, sometimes a sleepless night, increased stress, or not feeling well brings out the impatient side of me. I know I could use more patience; how about you? Let’s investigate what the Bible says about patience.

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Christian Encouragement

Mental Health in the Bible

May is Mental Health Awareness month. Being a Christian does not mean we are immune from mental health disorders any more than physical illness. It’s comforting to know He sees us as “wonderfully made” and there is no type of health issue that would change that. He would never discourage us from seeking medical help or professional counseling for any illness. And as Christians, we have advantages the secular world lacks. He has prepared His Word to be full of encouragement, healing, and guidance when our mental health is suffering!

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