Monday, June 24, 2013

The Grace Path

Grace is a wonder. God is the Author of all grace.....I Peter 5:10. Grace is huge. At the end of nearly every letter written to the churches of the New Testament, the writers wrote of grace to the readers. "Grace be with you all," "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all," and my favorite, "But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (II Peter 3:18) 

But, how do we grow in grace? How do we access grace in our lives? How can we know we have grace?

There is a path to grace. For the sake of time and space limitations, I've summarized the path of grace into three steps. These are not steps you can take for a result, they are steps that God has already put in place and that He takes in your life. Grace is His. 

The steps of grace:

Learn > Desire > Action

First, we learn of grace.....meaning we learn of Him, our Savior Christ. In Matthew 11:29, Christ says, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of (from) me..."  Step one: we learn from Him. Since He is the Author of grace, there is no better teacher of grace! 

Learning from Him and about Him has remarkable results. Just simply learning of Him changes our lives. This change can barely be defined as we go about our lives. We don't really see it happening, but one day, as we are going about our lives, we find old desires slowly being replaced by new ones. 

This is grace at work. 

This is God's work in your life. 

You did not create these changes by your strict obedience or anything else.

It is God. Even the very desire to learn of Him comes from Him. 

One day, you notice that your desires are filtered through God's Word, a system of thinking that you have never experienced before. You begin to change. 

This is grace at work.

It is God.

This change taking place in you has a mysterious focus. Suddenly, you want to tell others about your Jesus. You find yourself motivated to look for opportunities to share His love and grace with others. This leads to teaching, serving, prayer and a host of other actions

Service = a sign of grace at work in your life.

God's grace. Grace at work.

Philippians 2:13, "For it is God that works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure."

God works IN you. 

My husband once said......"We are totally saved by grace, while totally depraved." I added, "In need of total grace."  

Totally saved while totally depraved in need of total grace.

It is God. 

Learn of Him.
Your desire to serve Him comes from that learning.
You will become driven to action by that desire.

Grace be to you.

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Simple Start

It started with a simple prayer. As we went about our business in our new town, we saw many who needed Christ, but we didn't speak their language, we didn't understand their culture, we didn't know how to reach them.

So, we prayed. It really wasn't anything special at all.

Often while out shopping, I saw many Hispanic people. I would smile and sometimes say, "Hola," but that was as far as I felt comfortable going.  So, I would pray, "Lord, look at these people. They need you. I don't know how to reach them, but You do. Show me." And then I would generally be interrupted by a phone call, a child needing me or something else pulling me out of that grocery store prayer.

At home, I shared my burden for these people with my husband. He agreed. We prayed, "Lord, we see these people who need You. Show us what to do; we can't reach them because we don't speak Spanish."

And this went on. I, personally, prayed daily for the opportunity to reach the Hispanics in our town. We prayed occasionally as a couple and as a family. My prayer often held Matthew 9:36-38 where Jesus tells his disciples that the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. He instructs them to pray, very specifically.

Prayer is not a flashy activity. It's a humble thing which we are told to do in private. For such a humble activity, it has great results.

Out of the blue, one Hispanic family came to our church. The next Sunday, they brought a few friends. They continued coming, even though they could not fully understand the preaching. More came. We worked through language and cultural barriers and saw people come to Christ. They were baptized. They were added to the church.

There is now a thriving, growing, bustling Hispanic church in that town.

Oh, and another grew out of that in another town in a neighboring state.

Oh, and another grew in Mexico because the original group became burdened for their home town there.

Simple prayer. No flashy gimmicks. No long planning sessions. Prayer.

"Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest." Matthew 9:38

Just pray.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Priscilla Power

In Acts 18, we read the story of Priscilla and Aquila's encounter with Apollos.

Before we look at that encounter, I want to look more closely at Priscilla. Married to Aquila, she was from Italy. (Acts 18:2) She had recently (at the time of the writing of Acts) come to Corinth with her husband due to persecution; Claudius had commanded that all Jews depart from Rome. Acts 16:19 tells us that Priscilla and Aquila had a church in their house. Paul stayed with them in their home because he had the same occupation; they were tent makers.

This brief glimpse into the Priscilla's life speaks volumes about this amazing woman. She was not a silent bystander while her husband did everything. She was not in the background simply cheering him on, praising him for what he was doing. She was hands-on. The Scripture says "they" were tent makers. She was a tent maker. She had suffered the same persecution as her husband. She was right in the thick of that church in her house. She and her husband traveled on a missions trip with Paul, first to Syria, then to Ephesus (Acts 18:18).

While in Ephesus, Paul left them there and went to various places. While in Ephesus, Priscilla and Aquila met Apollos, an eloquent man who spoke mightily in the Scriptures. Verse 25 says he was "instructed in the way of the Lord," was "fervent in spirit," spoke "diligently the things of the Lord," but that "he only knew the baptism of John." His information was incomplete, yet he "spoke boldly in the synagogue." Guess who was there and heard him? Priscilla and Aquila. As soon as they heard him, they pulled him aside and they "expounded" (explained) the Scriptures "more perfectly" (accurately) to him.

Priscilla and Aquila did this, together. The Scripture gives no indication whatsoever that Aquila did all the talking while Priscilla silently listened. They explained the Scripture to Apollos. They gave him the full, accurate story. They.

God treats men and women as equals.

I met a traveling evangelist once. I spoke to him, introduced myself and shook his hand. He did not look me in the eye one time. I was very frustrated about that and said, "Is there something wrong?"

His reply shocked me. He said, "I don't look women in the eye, and generally don't talk to them. My wife can't always travel with me, so looking at and talking to women can be a problem."

This man has a problem all right. If he can't so much as look at a woman and talk to a woman, his problem is severe and he is not qualified to be an evangelist or in any spiritual leadership position. Imagine! How would he take it if Priscilla confronted him? Would he listen? Apollos listened, took her and her husband's advice and went on to "convince the Jews, and publicly, that Jesus was Christ."

Priscilla was not afraid to be grounded in Scripture. She was not afraid to talk to anyone about doctrine and straighten them out if she needed to. Priscilla was  not a silent bystander who only listened while her husband did the work of the ministry. She was in the thick of it, boldly serving, speaking out about incomplete doctrine and serving and traveling right along with the men.

And God approved.

Ladies, don't let anyone ever minimize your role in the church, in the influence of those around you (male and female) and treat you like you are not allowed to be spoken to or listened to. That is spiritual abuse and you can rise up and demand it stop. Do not allow yourself to be minimized. You have a voice for Jesus Christ and you have every right, and even obligation, to use it.