Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Day 16 Priscilla, Teachers and Deaconesses

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.  If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.  If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage, if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously, if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” (Romans 12:6-8).  If you are called to teach, then teach with all your heart. 
I am thankful for our pastors, teachers, deaconesses, volunteers and servants who instruct the Word of God. I am thankful for the dedicated hours our pastors spend in preparation for spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I am thankful for the volunteers who educate our little ones in training, giving of their time, planting Christ’s seed of salvation into the hearts of his children.  I am thankful for the worship team who practice tirelessly for “Nights of Worship”, five weekly services and giving of their time away from family to lift their voice in praise.  I am thankful!
Teaching the Word of God is a blessing, a joy and a challenge.  The time to prepare the teaching, following the promptings of the Spirit by sitting at Christ’s feet in his Word, praying and seeking the Wonderful Counselor’s guidance takes dedication.  Many are called, but few have chosen to take the time for training.  The Apostle Paul instructs Timothy for teachers, deaconesses, and servants of the Most High, “Now the overseer, must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.  He must manage his own family well and see that the children obey him with proper respect. He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.  He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.” (1 Timothy 3:2-7).
1 Thessalonians 2:4-6 reads, “On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.” Approve means to have a favorable opinion of or to give confirmation that something or someone is satisfactory.  When Paul writes he/she should not be a new convert, there needs to be a season of learning, testing, studying, listening and praying.  The Spirit moved Paul into the Desert of Arabia according to Galatians 1:17-18. Think of the work God had to do in Paul before he could spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Paul was called, but here was a man who was “zealous for the House of God”, but in a murderous and treacherous way.  He was looking to devour Christians, on the road to Damascus to arrest and charge them with a crime (Acts 9:1-2) and watched as Stephen was stoned to death giving his approval (Acts 8:1). This Saul needed to be changed to our Paul.
            What happened during those nights in Arabia? What happened during the night as the Apostle had to remember how he encouraged death and provoked fear into the hearts of Christians?  Did Paul weep in sorrow remembering the death of Stephen, God’s chosen and the harsh treatment of Christians he persuaded? How did the Lord change this ravenous man of hatred, to write the gentlest, loving, encouraging and heartfelt scriptures in the Bible?  Preparation.

            Moses spent forty years on the mountain; Jacob spent fourteen years working for Rachel, Joseph spent thirteen years in prison, John the Baptist was in the desert and Jesus of Nazareth spent thirty years with His Father walking hand in hand. Moses delivered God’s people from bondage; Jacob begat the twelve tribes of Israel, while Joseph delivered God’s people from a famine.  John the Baptist prepared the way for our Lord and Christ, the Word in Flesh, brought a sinful world salvation through his precious blood on the cross. Preparation.
What does all this have to do with Priscilla? Priscilla is first mentioned in the book of Acts chronicled by the good doctor Luke. In Acts 18, Priscilla and Aquila divinely meet the Apostle Paul as mutual tentmakers, working hard in Corinth.  The Apostle stayed with this couple while he reasoned in the synagogues, persuaded the Jews and Greeks, meeting with Silas and Timothy and preached Jesus Christ.  Priscilla was with Paul, witnessed the abuse issued him and the Apostle’s bold professing of Christ. 
 She witnessed baptisms, met many new believers, listened to the vision received by Paul to “not be afraid, to keep on speaking and do not be silent.” The Apostle stayed a year and half, teaching the Word of God after the vision while thrown into court (Acts 18:11).  He stayed in on in Corinth for some time then left for Syria accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:18). They arrived in Ephesus where the couple stayed and met a man named Apollos.  He had been instructed in the way of the Lord; he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John.  Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited Apollos into their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately (Acts 18:24-26).
 Gleaning from the Apostle, this couple maybe at times Priscilla for her name comes first, taught salvation through Jesus Christ.  They spread the gospel as some of the first missionaries, risking their own lives for their faith and belief (Romans 16:3-4). Paul asks the Romans to greet them warmly for “not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them (Romans 16:4). This couple’s greetings were sent to Corinth through the Apostle as were “the church that meets at their house.” (1 Corinthians 16:19) and to Timothy who was to give Paul’s greeting to them (2 Timothy 4:19).
 Priscilla taught the Word, opened her open with hospitable arms and planted churches where she and Aquila were placed by the hand of God.  She was chosen by God to learn from Paul, taking his instruction from God and listening to the vision received by Christ, to not be afraid, nor remain silent.  She risked her life for the love of Jesus Christ pouring into the ones God gave her to love.  Remember, Priscilla was baptized through Paul, worked with him through the making of tents and listening to the Apostle at the synagogues with nightly vigils, I am sure, reaching the wee hours of the morning.  Preparation.
 Paul writes to Timothy, “Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain.  They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience.  They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. In the same way, their wives are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers, but temperate and trustworthy in everything.” (1 Timothy 3:8-11).
Did you see it? Let us read it again, “Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain.  They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience.  They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. In the same way, their wives are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers, but temperate and trustworthy in everything.” (1 Timothy 3:8-11).
 Paul trusted Priscilla; God trusted Priscilla with his Word for her very name is mentioned in the Bible as instructing more adequately the salvation through Jesus Christ.  Woman, if you are called to teach, then there is a time of preparation.  “Do not despise the days of small beginnings.” (Zechariah 4:10). If the Lord has asked you to spend time growing with a godly Christian woman, the learn all you can.  If the Lord has asked you to spend time with him alone, then shut off the world and sit. If the Lord has asked you to serve under a minister, pastor and deacon, then serve and watch.  Listen to instruction, pray and read the Word of God, growing in your strength and boldness to spread the Gospel.
 When I was called back to the church, never did I realize the “worldly” attitudes and behaviors that I needed to be released from.  I was not a “noble wife”, I was not a respectful wife, I did not have authority over the kids, I was not in the bible, nor did I have a prayer life.  I maliciously gossiped, was emotionally unstable and absolutely not trustworthy with the precious seed of the Gospel.  I was in preparation for eight years before attempting this book and all the “growing” that accompanied it. 
 The years of preparing, studying and watching other Christian woman turned me into the woman I am today, temperate, respectful, quiet and trustworthy.  My husband trusts me now with the children, their schooling, their behaviors, their attitudes and our home. I am more encouraging and respectful to Tommy.  I am more obedient to the Lord, submitting to his will when my flesh desires to fight and have its own cravings. It has been challenging, but God pushed me, I was determined to know Christ and the power of the cross, to be a redeemed woman by the Blood of the Lamb and fulfill my purpose.  I desire to be trustworthy and approved by God like Priscilla.
 I pray you desire the same approval from God.  I want to encourage you to not give up and quit.  There were many times when I thought, “How long Lord?” “How much is in me that needs to come out?” “Am I not good enough?” “Am I not smart enough?” “Have I not studied enough?” These questions plagued me after the first five years into my walk with the Lord.  God works preparation through small steps, building on a solid foundation, working in the inner most parts of your heart, getting to the deepest roots of fears, pride or worldly attitudes.  Like Paul, it could be in the Arabia desert you may find yourself.  Those nightly wrestling matches with God convicting your heart, pushing you towards your goal and teaching you his ways are painful, but necessary. How can we be approved, prepared, but not be tested? I encourage you fight the good fight and finish you race strong.  For as Mordecai told Esther the Lord will find another to save his people if she didn’t set up, the Lord will find someone willing to submit, step through the fiery furnace and be molded into the image of Christ.  You be that strong, bold and courageous woman of God!

Let us pray and CONFESS the Word of God

Abba Father, El-Shaddai, God Almighty,
            I believe I am being called to teach.  I know you formed and molded me, knitted me together in my mother’s womb for the gifts and talents to glorify you (Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:13).  I exalt you!  I give you praise and all glory.  I pray you will guide, instruct, counsel and teach me your ways, your truths and your paths (Psalm 25).  One thing I ask the Lord, that is what I seek, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life (Psalm 27:4).  I desire to be in your church, encouraging other Christians in their walk with you.
            I pray you lay me beside green pastures and streams of living water (Psalm 23:2).  Set me aside for a time of teaching, testing and approving (1 Timothy 3).  I consider it a privilege to admonish your chosen people and be entrusted with this seed of the gospel which is bearing fruit around the world as I pray (1 Thessalonians 1:4, Colossians 1:6).  Help me to not walk with the wicked or stand with the sinners or sit with the mockers, but meditate on your word (Psalm 1:1-2). Help me wear it as a garland around my neck and may I seek after discipline and wisdom for I know she calls my name from the streets (Proverbs 2, 3).
            I know Jesus Christ instructed those who have much will be expected to know much, and to never hide or be ashamed of the Gospel.  May I be above reproach, joyful whether abasing or abounding (Philippians 4:12).  May I be a woman who can teach the word as it is written, and not be ashamed to tell the Truth.  I pray to never teach to please people, for I know if I am called to teach, it is to please God (Galatians 1:10). 
            Lord I pray for the fruits of the spirit, filled with the Spirit and planting a harvest for you kingdom. I understand the fields are ripe for the picking and I desire to use my hands and feet, wherever you send me on your quest for unbelievers.  May I learn to rest and relax after teaching (Mark 6:31, 1 Kings 19:7-8) for if I become weary, I know it is an opportunity for the enemy and spiritual warfare.  Give me balance in my life to know when to teach, when to be home, when to pray, when to study and when to counsel. 
            I pray if sent to the wilderness for a season, I learn, glean, study and grow from your Spirit.  I pray that I can sit quietly, turn off the world and focus on your Word.  I pray no matter the length and time together we have, I will cherish every moment.  I pray to heed your voice, submit obediently and respect those who you have placed in my life to encourage me.  I know I am not to despise the day of small beginnings, give me the patience needed to withstand the testing and approval, the fiery furnace as to when you are finished I will be purified seven times over!
            Thank you for looking at me and seeing what I can be, and not what I am today.  Thank you that I am a new creation in Christ, the old has past and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). Prepare my heart and mind for action, as I prepare to study God’s word (1 Peter 1:13).  In name of Jesus of Nazareth I pray, Amen.

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