Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Book 2 - Day 16 Women in the Church, Transparency

Dorcas was a disciple of Christ (Acts 9), Priscilla with her husband Aquila were fellow workers with Paul who risked their lives for him and continued having bible studies in their home (Acts 18, Romans 16:3,  Corinthians 16:19, 2 Timothy 4:19), Nympha taught bible studies in her home (Colossians 4:15), Lydia who was baptized by Paul had opened her home to him on several occasions (Acts 16:11-15, 40) and Lois and Eunice, Timothy’s grandmother and mother were acknowledged for teaching him the faith (2 Timothy 1:5). Phoebe was commended as a servant of the church in Cenchrea and to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, giving her any help she needed for she was a great help to Paul (Romans 16:1-2), Mary who worked very hard for the church (Acts 16:6), Tryphena and Tryphosa with Persis who worked very hard for the Lord, Rufus’ mother who was chosen in the Lord, Julia, Nereus’ sister and Olympas who Paul says to greet with all the saints, the women in the upper room on the day of Pentecost (Acts 1:14) and Mary the mother of John Mark whose home was used for prayer and gathering (Acts 12:12)
            Chloe’s household reported to Paul the distresses in Corinth, pleading several topics be discussed (1 Corinthians 1:11), the apostles were accompanied by their wives (1 Corinthians 9:5), Philip had four daughters that prophesied (Acts 21:9) and Euodia and Syntyche were two women who contended at Paul’s side, but were at odds with one another.  This is by no means and exhaustive list, but Scripture points to women who were touched by Christ, contended with the Apostle Paul, accompanied their husbands on missions trips, taught bible studies, worked hard in their communities and churches, had prayer vigils and opened their hearts and homes to the apostles.  Women were valuable in the spreading of the Gospel as part of the first church.
In my first One a Day, I write about a woman named Priscilla, women teachers, deaconesses, and women servants in the church.  Here is an excerpt from chapter 16 the Lord put on my heart to write, “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.
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!”
            I would like to stress one important factor before we close in prayer, transparency.  A couple of my friends and I have been discussing the lack of transparency in the church.  “Worldly” people coming into the faith, seeking Christ-like behavior, want to know HOW to live this life.  How do I “put off the old and put on the new”?  How do I stop the adulterous thoughts? How do I not manipulate my way to the top? I do I trust God to provide for me after relying on myself all these years? How do I serve and not be served? How do I learn to give after I have hoarded for myself all these years? How do I stop watching pornography, drinking, smoking, drugs or social media? How does my behavior change?” By reading and memorizing the Word of God, by prayer or communication with the Lord and by finding a transparent woman willing to reveal her testimony of truth.  The Lord will show you whom you can relate to, a trusted prayer counselor and friend, to pray open and honestly and learn your own gifts and talents.  I pray for these transparent women in the church.  I pray we have MORE who are willing to expose the Truth within them, how the Lord removed sin and hindrances to become the women they are today.  I believe more lives would be saved and more women would stay committed to the church. 

Let us pray and CONFESS the Word of the Living God;

 I believe I am called to teach.  I believe I have a heart opened to those who need to hear the Word of God through transparent testimony (Romans 12:4-8).  I desire to be a woman approved by you, entrusted with this precious seed of Christ and to go and tell (1 Thessalonians 2:4).  I do not want to be a people pleaser, nor do I want to be afraid of revealing my testimony for fear of what others will say.  Christ was unashamed before his own, and I pray for the same open spirit to reveal all the Lord as removed from my life (John 2:25, 5:41-44).
 I pray for a season of testing, studying, learning, gleaning and growing in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-13, Galatians 1:16-17, 1 Timothy 3:10).  I understand I will be held to a higher standard, but I am willing to be a “jar of clay”.  As it is written I desire to “let light shine out of darkness” (Genesis 1:3, 2 Corinthians 4:6), to hold this treasure of the Gospel, spreading Truth, transparent and open.  I am willing to be “hard pressed on every side, but not crushed, perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not abandoned, struck down, but not destroyed and broken, yet not crushed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).
 Show me how to be a woman who can openly share Truth, to reveal HOW you change a willing spirit, to remove all deception from the enemy, fighting the spiritual warfare in the heavens (Ephesians 2:1-10). My heart loves the women coming into the church from the “world”.  Show me how to reach their hearts, to share the Gospel of Christ to their understanding, to not turn them away, continually point their sin out, while I have a speck in my own eye (Matthew 7:3, Luke 6:41).  I do not want to be a hypocrite, but love the ones who so need a doctor, to know you and the power you have to save them (Mark 2:17, Luke 5:31).
 Prepare me to follower of you, to give you all my heart and to those you entrust to me for prayer, growth, Truth and love (John 21:15-17). In the name of Jesus of Nazareth I pray, Amen.