Women In Ministry – Part 4

1 And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and showing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him.

2 And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils,

3 And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.

4 And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable:

5 A sower went out to sow his seed… Lk. 8:1-5

This is the final part of this series.

It is clear from our key scripture above that women had an important role to play in the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ just as the men. But this scripture also sets the standard by which God apportions ministry to both women and men in the church. Today, especially, there is so much confusion concerning the ministry of women. But scripture here sets a precedent by which, if we humble ourselves, we cannot go wrong.

I believe Genesis 2:18 lays the basis of how our Lord Jesus Christ went about conducting His earthly ministry. There we read:

“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.”

The first man, Adam, was a priest. He ministered to God. And God saw it was not possible for His servant to minister alone. So He made Adam

an help meet for him.”

When we talk of ministry, therefore, we are talking of two ministries: firstly, the five-fold ministry, which is given directly by Jesus for the building of the church; and this, as we saw, He gives to the man for two reasons: first, for He is the head of the man; and, secondly, because the man exercises the authority of God in the church.

But there is another ministry: the ministry of helps. God brought along Eve to help Adam in ministry.

By and large, as we see here and elsewhere, God has put women in the ministry of helping the man. This fits in with God’s original plan for the woman, for the Lord said,
“I will make him an help meet for him.”

That is what we see the women who accompanied Jesus doing. They supported His ministry with their substance. That means they fed even the apostles of Jesus!

In Romans 16:1-4, we read an interesting account.

“1 I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: 2 That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also. 3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: 4 Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.”

Contrary to popular belief, Phebe was not a pastor. The word “servant” indicates she most likely was a deaconess at the church in Cenchrea. But Phebe was no ordinary “servant”. She was a woman of incredible energy and heart who had helped many, including Paul himself. The word “succourer” means “helper”. We do not know exactly how she helped; but she refreshed the brethren.

Verse 3 tells us the interesting case of the husband/wife couple, Priscilla and Aquila. Paul says directly they were his helpers in Christ Jesus. How did they help Paul? For one, they were willing, for the gospel’s sake, to lay down their necks on his behalf.

There are many ways that Godly men and women people can be helpers of the men that God has appointed to carry the gospel.

The interesting thing is that the women (and men)who ministered to the men of God in the early church did not feel inferior. Thus they fulfilled scripture:

“whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.” (1 Pet.3:6)

They were not fearful of their “servant” position. The women who ministered to Jesus with their substance knew Jesus had chosen only men to be apostles, yet they did not fear or feel demeaned. On the contrary, they gladly served Jesus… and His men.

They saw far in the Spirit and knew they were co-workers with Christ and the apostles. These were great women in the Spirit. They were greater than if they had tried to promote themselves by strutting across the stage calling themselves apostles, pastors, etc. Had they told Jesus, “We will not support you” (for some were rich) “unless you also acknowledge us in ministry”, they would have lost out in the Spirit.

Oh, how I love these women: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, “and many more”. I would never tire mentioning those names.

In the same spirit, this post would amount to nothing if I did not pay tribute to the many modern-day women (and men) who support genuine servants of God with their substance, and in many other different ways. My own ministry, and this blog, are kept ‘alive’ by the financial, material and moral support of Godly women (and some men; but mostly it is the women) including my dear wife, Flo.

This laptop which I have been using to write this blog for the last what, 5 years? – it was given me by my mother, Carol Lanthier. She brought it all the way from Toronto, Canada to Mwanza, Tanzania, where she lovingly handed it to me.

My heart melts within me when I think of these wonderful people. I thank them from the bottom of my heart. I fall down and worship God on their behalf. They never ask anything in return. By serving me they know they are serving God. I pray an overflow of God’s blessings upon their lives.

I want to end by thanking everyone. I thank my fellow bloggers and all who read this blog. I thank EVERYONE. Thank you all. I love you all. But, above all, once again, I salute in the Spirit all who support Godly men in ministry. May the Lord bless you all mightily.

[And now, enjoy this beautiful song. And thank God. Make sure to put on stereo!]

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Women In Ministry – Part 3

1 And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and showing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him.

2 And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils,

3 And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.

4 And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable:

5 A sower went out to sow his seed… Lk. 8:1-5

[We should never lose sight of our key scripture above]

The second foundational scripture I want us to consider is 1 Peter 3-6.

“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your husbands… For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.”

The Bible says Sarah called Abraham “lord”. Is that even possible? Yes, it is – in the Spirit. Just as it is possible for a spiritual man or woman to turn the other cheek, it is possible for a woman to call her husband “lord” in the Spirit. I never read in the Old Testament that Sarah called Abraham “lord”. But the apostles knew this fact by revelation. How so interesting scripture can become. And how so powerful our spiritual lives become when God’s order has been established!

What scripture means here is that Sarah acknowledged and honored Abraham in the Spirit, not because he was a great man of faith, but simply because he was her husband. She acknowledged and recognized the authority that he had over her in the Spirit, and she honored this authority by calling him “lord”. Sarah, being a woman of the Spirit, understood God’s order in the Spirit; and she chose to honor it.

But it was not just Sarah. The Bible declares:

“… in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands”.

It was not just Sarah. In the old time, every Godly woman honored their husbands. In this scripture, the Bible emphatically establishes the fact that spiritual women of old had no problem with authority.

Man in his raw carnal nature has a problem with authority. Unfortunately, the issue of submission is a big problem in the church also. But the Apostle Peter exhorts us,

“Likewise, ye younger submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” (1 Pet. 5:5)

Here, again, scripture establishes the fact that spiritual people, both men and women, old and young, have no problem submitting their lives.

This is an incredibly powerful spiritual understanding. If every believer could arrive here, God would not have the heartache that He has today. And the church would have so much grace and power and unity in the Spirit.

A true woman of God is not the woman ‘minister”. Rather, it is the woman who can humble herself and submit herself to her husband. That is what the Bible tells us in those words.

” For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands”.

Not by strutting across the stage. Let a woman submit herself to her husband and she becomes the most powerful woman alive.

Finally, let us consider the Apostle Peter’s words in verse 6:

“whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.”

Who or what is Peter warning them to beware not to fear?

It is their own selves. Self is the greatest threat to doing the will of God. Here the Apostle Peter is telling Godly women, “If your lives are surrendered to God, you have nothing to fear.”

When our lives are nailed to the cross, we do not fear this Goliath called self. We do not fear the pride that would have us unable to humble ourselves. When our flesh is nailed to the cross we are free! We are free of any kind of fear.

That is why marriages work in the church. Both the husband and the wife having crucified their flesh can see far ahead in the Spirit into God’s grand plan (not their little self-ish whims). They discover they are mere cogs in the great wheel of God’s plan and they rejoice as they serve God in their very different (but complementary) capacities.

Women In Ministry – Part 2

1 And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and showing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him.

2 And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils,

3 And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.

4 And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable:

5 A sower went out to sow his seed… Lk. 8:5

The issue of women in ministry is a touchy one;  but the reason this issue is so delicate is because the spirit of the world has been allowed to enter the church; the ‘Beijing Conference’ spirit. People are jostling for position; everyone wants to be somebody. So we have to tread delicately because we are fearful of hurting people!

But we ought to leave those attitudes to the world. Women want equal rights, etc. That is for the world. In church it is different.

I pray that the Lord may give me grace in disseminating this subject. But I want to introduce two scriptures that will lay the foundation for what I believe is God’s order in the church.

The first scripture is 1 Corinthians 11:3. The Apostle Paul writes:

“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.”

The word “head” in the Bible speaks of authority. God is fully sovereign. All power, dominion and authority is invested in Him. It is for this reason the Bible says that God sent His Son Jesus Christ to earth to accomplish His plan of salvation. God did not say to Jesus, “Ok, sonny, let’s throw the dice to see who goes”. No; God sent Jesus.

What did Jesus do?

He obeyed His Father.

Grasping these facts is pivotal in our understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Notice in the above scripture that there are three heads mentioned: God, Jesus, and the man. The woman is not mentioned with respect to the word “head”. That means she is not invested with authority in the church.

Moreover, the head of the woman is not Christ; it is the man.

Through this scripture, Paul was setting forth God’s order for the church. Each “head” of necessity has to have authority: God has authority, Jesus has authority; and the man has authority. Therefore the ministry gifts that Jesus gives are gifts of authority; and He gives them to the man, for the man of necessity must have authority. Jesus does not give them to the woman because the woman is not a “head”. Moreover, as we stated earlier, Jesus is not the head of the woman; the man is.

There can therefore be no women apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors or teachers in the sense that they have been ‘called’ by God (Jesus) into those ministries. Nor can they exercise the authority that is inherent in these ministries. God does not call a woman to a position of authority in the church.

That does not mean that God does not anoint women to teach or preach, or even to lead. What it means is simply that a woman cannot exercise authority in the Spirit. In the Spirit she always has to be under a “covering”, implying she always has to be under authority, the authority of the man, for that is the order that God has set forth.

There are women pastors today; women apostles, etc. That contradicts scripture, for those positions hold authority. How can a woman be a wife at home (submission) and be a pastor in church (authority)? It is a contradiction in terms; but, above all, it is contrary to the Word of God.

During His earthly ministry, Jesus did not give in to ‘political correctness’ and overstep God’s order by giving authority to a woman.

Jesus, who was obedient to His heavenly Father, has been invested with the authority to give the ministry gifts. Knowing God’s order fully, during His earthly ministry, Jesus gave His ministry gifts to men. And He did so because He is the head of the man. That was what Jesus did when He was here on earth; He gave gifts of authority to men, hence “the twelve” (apostles).

As it says in Matthew 10:2-4:

“Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.”

Those are the names of the twelve apostles that Jesus set up for ministry. No woman is included in that list. It is clear, therefore, that, if Jesus did not set up women apostles, there can be no grounds for women apostles in the church today. And this goes for all ministry gifts that form the authority of Christ in the church.

Does that mean that Jesus was a chauvinistic male bigot? Does it mean that Jesus did not value women as He did men?

Hardly. On the contrary, Jesus was following God’s order. God is a God of order, not of confusion. In Timothy 1:23, the Apostle Paul reminds us a simple fact about God’s order of creation.

“For Adam was first formed, then Eve.”

There is order with God. We cannot be what we want to be. We can only be what God wants us to be. God alone is sovereign; and we are His subjects.

I have heard that in a certain tribe in a neighboring country, there was, long ago, a woman “chief” who used to sit on men as one sits on a stool. That culture of control continues to this day among the women of that particular tribe and it has brought untold grief to that community.

But there is order with God. Another un-politically correct man, the Apostle Paul, states:

“But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” (1 Tim. 2:12)

I believe there were things happening in church that were out of order during the Apostle Paul’s time.

Finally, let us look at a scripture that captures the grace that is in God’s wonderful plan for both the man and the woman. The Apostle Paul, writing in Ephesians chapter 5 concerning the responsibilities of both the husband and the wife, exhorts both parties thus:

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it…” (v. 25); and

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands…” (v. 22)

But it is the conclusion that blows us away. Paul concludes thus:

“This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” (v. 32)

What exactly is Paul talking of in this and the preceding verses?

What he is saying is this: God has put two people in the world. He has put man to show the authority and love of Christ to His church; and He has put the woman to show the church’s obedience and submission to Christ.

What grace! When we see beyond our carnal understanding, it is something to be wondered and rejoiced at that God has made both the man and the woman equal heirs of His grace. Each complements the other.

The woman can teach and minister in different capacities in church; but always in submission to the man. That is God’s order in the Spirit.

[“… the head of the woman is the man”]

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Women In Ministry – Part 1

1 And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and showing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him.

2 And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils,

3 And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.

4 And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable:

5 A sower went out to sow his seed… Lk. 8:5

There is so, so much to wonder at and think about in these scriptures. But first…

I read in the news this morning that New York’s richest couple – David and Julia Koch – just bought a $40m mansion on a whim, right in the heart of New York, NY. Reading much further down the news article, I read that the couple have an estimated net worth of $47.5 billion.

Sometime last year, I read about the death of Liliane Bettencourt,  the heiress of the L’Oreal fashion empire. At a net worth of $46 billion dollars she was the richest woman in the world.

For all it is worth, I love reading about these rich people. I love the way my brain gets ‘stuck’ trying to gauge the implications of the wealth they have. I admire them, but at the same time my heart goes out to them. But the thing that blows me away is when I wonder what a small percentage of these people’s wealth could do in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ (as long as it does not go to Creflo Dollar & co, of course; God forbid!)

Anyways, that’s me. Thank you for bearing with my musings. Now, back to our main thought.

The scripture portion we just read above pretty much sums up Jesus’s ministry modus operandi. It provides the broadest view possible of how Jesus operated His ministry. As we go through this lesson, it is very important for us to grasp that fact.

Rumor has it that the garment that Jesus wore (the one that the soldiers cast lots upon) was unspeakably expensive. The spinners of this tale claim that it was one of the many expensive gifts that Jesus received from the women who ministered to Him. They point to the fact that, amongst these women were such women of status like Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward.

There can be no doubt that Joanna was a woman of great material means. And there is no question that there were other women who were equally materially endowed. That said, therefore, it is clear that had Jesus wanted to, He could have lived like a rock star. But subscribing to the idea that Jesus lived such a life is alien to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Believing the tale that the garment that Jesus wore was unbearably expensive is the equivalent of believing that Jesus would have worn a golden Rolex watch.

But Jesus would never have worn a Rolex watch, let alone one made of gold. The Bible in Philippians 2:7 states that, although He was Lord of all, yet He

“made himself of no reputation”.

He “made himself”. That means of His own will, of His own volition (volition means wish, decision, choice, desire, preference) Jesus chose the kind of lifestyle that He wanted to live. We cannot plaster any kind of ideas upon Jesus. He chose, and the Bible tells us the kind of lifestyle that He chose to live. He chose to become

“of no reputation”.

He cast aside anything that pertained to glory, worldly or heavenly. We do not need to go very far to establish that Jesus did not need to wear an expensive garment. Jesus cannot contradict Himself.

Of His abode, Jesus stated plainly:

“the Son of man hath not where to lay his head” (Mat. 8:20)

A preacher who has nowhere to lay his head and one who wears a golden Rolex watch are two figures that are poles apart. And for the two aspects to be in one man is a contradiction in terms.

[Thanks, Alvin!]

The Cross, The Final Solution – Part 2

7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.

8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Phil. 3:7-11

In the Swahili Bible, the word used for “righteousness” is the same word used for “justice”. Therefore, we could re-write verse 9 thus:

“And be found in him, not having mine own justice, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”

The Apostle Paul wanted, not his own justice, but Christ’s.

Now, that word, “own”, is crucial here. We all know that nothing good comes from the word “own” as far as it refers to man. So what is our “own justice”?

Our own justice is our rights. It is our worldly, human rights. According to the Bible, we should give them up. All of them. Including the right to life.

With the Bible, there are only two things: law and grace. If we are to be men and women of grace, we are to surrender our rights. If seek after justice for ourselves, we have become men and women of law, and Christ is become of no value to us. Christ is of value to whoever will lose their lives.

Notice verse 7:

“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.”

What were the things that were gain to Paul? Paul is talking about his worldly rights. He counted his rights loss for Christ. That means he gave them up, that he might gain true life, which can only be found in Christ.

Paul surrendered all. Not some, or half, but all of his worldly rights. He surrendered even his life (Acts 21:13).

But Paul was simply obeying what our Lord Jesus taught. Jesus taught:

“38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.” (Mat. 5:38-41)

And,

“10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” Mat. 5:10-12

Moreover, in Romans 8:35-36, the Apostle Paul himself writes:

“35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

And, finally, in 1 Peter 4:1 we read:

“Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin”.

All these scriptures go against what the world teaches; but, again, the Bible is not the world. The Bible is the Word of God. The world teaches an eye for an eye; the Bible teaches to surrender your life. If we would have true life in us, we must account ourselves as given to suffer and to die with Christ – literally.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is no soap opera. On the contrary, it is all about being man enough to face the cross of Jesus Christ.

Emboldened by the realization that nothing else could save this woman, my pastor friend asked the lady, “Would you be willing to take your own life because you cannot bear to lose? Ultimately, the real problem here is not your husband, but you, if you cannot bear to lose. In Jesus Christ there is abundance of everything you are lacking: peace, joy, and love. You need to love your husband just as he is, with all his weaknesses. But these things can come into our own lives only when we allow Jesus into our hearts, and we do that by losing.”

And with many other words he preached Christ to the lady.

The lady bowed her head and let the words sink into her heart. When she raised her head, she told the pastor, “I will come to church on Sunday.”

And, true to her word, the lady went to church on Sunday, and worshiped. She was filled with joy and a new hope in her life. The pastor had given her the secret to beating one of the most difficult situations she could ever face in life. It was to surrender her rights.

The cross is the final solution to absolutely any problem on earth.

[Women are the most oppressed members of society. In Christ Jesus, though, this state of affairs translates into a blessing, for these same women have the best head start in the Spirit if only they can take up their cross and follow Christ]

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Persecution and Grace – Part 1

32 But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions;

33 Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used.

34 For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance. Heb. 10:32-34

The early church certainly did undergo persecution. There is no question about that. But there is also no question about the fact that, despite this persecution, or probably because of it the early church was also a church in which the grace of God flowed abundantly.

In Acts 21:8-11 we read: 8 And the next day we that were of Paul’s company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him. 9 And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy. 10 And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus. 11 And when he was come unto us, he took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. Acts 21:11

This man, Philip, had four girls, all virgins, who prophesied! Without a doubt, this ought to be declared the first wonder of the modern world.

Here we have all four sisters in one family prophesying. Not one or two, but all four. And the Bible goes to pains to point out that all these girls were virgins, which I am sure points to the importance that God attaches to those who are willing to pay the price to become “vessels of honor” (2 Tim. 2:20-22).

But notice also that these four girls were not prophets; they simply prophesied. This is a ministry of exhortation or direction to the church through a direct Word from the Holy Spirit. It is a slightly lower ministry than the ministry of the prophet. (The functioning of the Holy Spirit within the church is infinitely unlimitable, and that is why we cannot have a tunnel vision of the Holy Spirit’s operation within the church.)

And, therefore, these girls stayed with Paul for “many days”, but it was not given them to tell Paul what would befall him in Jerusalem. It required a prophet of God, Agabus, to travel all the way from Judaea to come and confirm to Paul the weighty matter of his impending persecution in Jerusalem.

Notice also that the Bible refers to both Philip and Agabus by their spiritual offices, “evangelist” and “prophet”. The Bible does not call the girls prophets.

In other words, women may not hold office in the Spirit, which designates authority; but women can minister in the Spirit in many different roles.

(One more thing we need to point out is that these girls were prophesying in the church. There are people who will say that women ought not to open their mouths in church; but I can assure you that these girls were not prophesying in their father’s living room. They were prophesying in the church. There are all kinds of misunderstandings of scripture simply because people will not rely on the Holy Spirit, but on their minds. But the Holy Spirit is faithful, and the minute we turn to Him, He opens up the Word to us. Actually, there are two ways of reading scripture: you can read and try to understand it by using your very fine mind; or you can decide to become a fool for Christ’s sake and pray and ask the Holy Spirit to guide and help you. One approach will bring you life; the other, law (“It is written!”) – and death.)

But what I want us to notice here is the incredible grace that was in the early church. This church, which was persecuted left, right and centre, was the same church that produced men like Philip, Agabus, and Paul – and these four extraordinary sisters.

Probably the modern church is not as persecuted as the early church was, and that is why it is difficult to find this pervasiveness of grace operating in today’s church as was the case with the early church. Maybe someone will point to the great move of the Holy Spirit during the charismatic era, and the many miracles and healings that took place then. That was the grace of God at work all right; but it is what I would call the “tip of the iceberg”. There is so much more grace at work when people are denying their flesh and partaking of the sufferings of Christ: there is so much more inner glory. There is victory over sin, joy, and peace. Even death has no power over such people.

No one desires persecution, nor does the Bible tell us to pray for persecution. But on the other hand, if you give the flesh too much rope, the Spirit is stifled. That is why, whether we are persecuted or not, we should always carry the mind that Christ had of denying the flesh. The flesh is our No.1 enemy. The Bible says about our Lord Jesus Christ, “Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me… By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Heb. 10:5, 10).

Notice the word “offering” there. The believer’s body has been given him/her, not to be pampered, but to be sacrificed. And that is the mind that we need to carry.

[Below: Life for the early Christians was a life of great persecution and profound want]

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A Special Thank You!

In my last post I mentioned that I would begin a short series on the life and doctrine of the Apostle Paul. Before I tackle the thorny issue of the Apostle Paul, however, may my valued readership kindly allow me to side-track a bit and please permit me to take this opportunity to thank the many women who have been so supportive of this blog since it began many months ago. I deliberately say women because in the Bible we read that, during His ministry here on earth Jesus had women who encouraged and “ministered” to Him with their finances and other things. In other words, through what they did for Jesus, these women encouraged Him in His ministry. I believe that God has given that heart to women, and it is a joy to witness even today women of God serving Him in that way. It is a grace from God. Unfortunately, the word “support” has been much misused by many men of God today, and many women’s lives have been devastated financially and in other ways by unscrupulous preachers. In recognition of that I will just stick to the word “encourage”.

Likewise, I wish to thank the brethren of my own gender who have also upheld this blog and given me a reason to continue writing. With men I know it is not easy to continually show ‘support’ (that’s just the way we are), and when they do, they are men who in a way have decided to lose their lives and pay a price. Thank you, guys, and may the Lord reward your faithfulness.

In mentioning Jesus, I do not in any way intend to compare myself to our Lord – not by the longest shot and back. John the Baptist said of the  Lord Jesus, “Him I am not worthy to stoop and untie the thongs of His sandals.” For me, it is a matter of fact that even at this stage in my salvation, I know I am totally unworthy of doing anything remotely related to that which John talked about. But I thank my God who, because of His immeasurably great and tender mercies, and in ways I cannot understand, somehow has given me the privilege to not just come to Him, but even to call Him “Father”, with all rights of sonship granted. It is a grace I do not comprehend, but which I know I am not worthy of, nor could ever repay.

There are all kinds of gospels floating around trying to persuade Christians to “claim” their rights from God because they are now His sons and daughters. One preacher even used the word “wrench”. Sometimes I wonder at the irreverence of it all. That is the kind of thing spoilt kids do with their parents.

The only reason I mention Jesus in relation to myself is because in one way or another I seek after the truth of the gospel that He preached, and which the Apostles preached. Even in my weaknesses, I desire to understand and live that gospel more than anything else in my life. That need is made all the more urgent not only for me, but for the Body of Christ at large primarily because in the days we are living in there is so much obvious false hood coming from the pulpits.

I therefore take this opportunity to express my deep, heart-felt appreciation to the many women and men who have ‘Liked’ and commented on my posts and for those who are following my blog. There are many others who do not have the opportunity to comment in writing, but I am aware of the many ways in which they support me. You have all provided incalculable encouragement to me in the Spirit. From the bottom of my heart I say, “Thank you so much!”; and for that very reason I shall continue blogging, to the glory of God.

For those who might not be aware, I did not even begin this blog of my own accord. Some loving brethren encouraged me to begin writing it, and I did.

To them I say, “I am deeply grateful and indebted!”

May God bless you all mightily.

Tomorrow we look at the Apostle Paul.