Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

How to Convince Many

Often, Christian witness today is based upon apologetics—rational arguments. While apologetics has importance and may win a few people to Christ here and there, too often we are satisfied with a few. The problem with apologetics is the likelihood for someone to make counter-arguments and excuses. The arguments may go on forever.

Acts 3 demonstrates that in the power of the Holy Spirit, our witness can become an irresistible force with which no one can argue.

Acts 3 begins on an average day with Peter and John just before afternoon prayer at the temple. They confront a lame man. For years, the man was a fixture at the temple gate, eking out a living in the only way he knew—begging. Most likely, Peter and John had noted the man before, but on this day, the Holy Spirit enabled them to really see him.

They did not just stop to toss him a coin or two, or ask God to bless his day with successful begging. Instead, they invoked the authority of God to heal the man. That day, the man, lame from birth, stood and walked.

A great crowd saw the miracle and gathered around, amazed. They were not hostile. They gazed in wonder. They all had seen this man for years, carried in and carried out, unable to move on his own. Now, he was running and leaping in joy. The healing of the lame man got their attention.

Peter and John quickly told them it was not their own power, but the power of Jesus that healed the man. A few weeks earlier, some of the people who heard this had called for Jesus’ crucifixion, but they did it in ignorance, not knowing who Jesus really was. Peter told them how the prophets prepared the way for Jesus and for this day. This healing was a sign that a time of great restoration had begun that will eventually rid the world of Satan, evil and death.

The amazed people hung on to Peter’s words. In Acts 4, we read that at least 5,000 men believed the message because of what they saw that day.

A display of God’s power prepared the way. The people could not deny what happened. Arguments alone would not have won so many people.

This same power of God is available in our own day. Our evangelists in India, many from non-Christian backgrounds, experienced healing and deliverance which brought them to Christ. Now, they go into unreached areas doing the same works in the power of the Holy Spirit that changed their own lives. Acts 3 is taking place all over India today—power encounters that convince many that Jesus’ power exceeds the power of their old deities.

Acts 3 is our model as well. Let us not be cowed by the anti-supernatural element in many of our churches that tries to preserve an orderly status quo but paralyzes our influence. Let us not say we aren’t good or pious enough for this. Like Peter and John, we have been made clean by the blood of Christ.

Around the world, people are convinced more by God’s power, less by arguments. In today’s evil world, why would Jesus abandon his most powerful weapons against Satan? Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.

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A New Era in World History

Acts 2 is one of the most amazing chapters in the Bible. It marks the beginning of a new era in world history—the era of the Holy Spirit. That new era came by the will of God, but at the same time, God willed it to come through the actions of His children.

First, they waited on God. They had to wait in order to learn that God’s plans are bigger and better than their own. They had to abandon their own expectations. They waited on God because God was waiting on them to adopt heart attitudes needed for receiving the Holy Spirit.

Up until now, most of the 120 who waited in the Upper Room expected Jesus to set up an earthly kingdom. They didn’t realize that such an earthly kingdom would become subject to the same forces that brought to ruin every other kingdom—the power of the devil.

Jesus’ plan was to completely rid the world of the devil’s power, and that depended upon the power of the Holy Spirit. Once their hearts were ready, the Holy Spirit came upon them with great power that shook the place and attracted thousands from the outside.

That day, Peter preached a short and simple message that went right to the point and pricked the hearts of those who heard it. There was nothing seeker-friendly about it, yet 3,000 people responded—a 2,600% increase in their number in less than 24 hours. All because the original group had gained expectant hearts to receive the Holy Spirit.

How many churches today expect great things from God through the power of the Holy Spirit? Today, too many churches depend upon seeker-friendly methods, intellectual powers of persuasion, social media and fancy programs, but the culture and influence of the church has continued to decline. Little is said in most churches about the Holy Spirit. In fact, there is much suspicion about the Holy Spirit. This must truly delight the devil!

Yes, we must establish a strong intellectual foundation for belief. But Peter was no intellectual. His blunt message to the crowd reflected his own “blue collar” background as a fisherman. His message demonstrates what the Holy Spirit can do through anyone who abandons his agenda and waits upon God with expectancy to do great and mighty things in his/her life.

A few years later, Paul came along and demonstrated his great intellectual powers in such works as his epistles to the Romans and the Ephesians. But even Paul knew that any intellectual arguments he used depended upon Holy Spirit power to truly transform lives.

Too many people treat Acts 2 as an isolated phenomenon. But Acts 2 lies at the heart of what Jesus introduced in John 14-16 regarding the Holy Spirit. In John 17, Jesus prayed not only for His disciples in their generation but all His people including our own generation and beyond. No, Acts 2 is not an isolated phenomenon but a model for every generation.

Like the 120 who waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit, we also must put aside our own expectations and wait upon God to work through us in Holy Spirit power to preach the gospel to all peoples. In the meantime, God waits for us…

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God’s New Thing

In our troubled days, it is good for us to remember and practice what Jesus’ disciples learned and did as they faced their own days of uncertainty when Jesus left them and ascended into heaven.

The memory of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was fresh. Yes, Jesus rose from the dead, just as He said He would. But now, He did something totally unexpected. He was not about to restore the kingdom of Israel as they hoped. Instead, Jesus was about to leave them.

This caught them unawares. Now, the future became a question mark to them. Their expectations became irrelevant. Instead, Jesus promised them the coming of the Holy Spirit about whom they knew nothing. In effect, Jesus told them, “You are at the beginning of a New Thing.” But they still didn’t understand the implications of that “New Thing.”

In His departing conversation with His disciples, He gives them at least five instructions as they wait for this “New Thing.” His instructions carry down to us as we wait for God’s “New Thing” in our own time of uncertainty and change:

  • Give up your own expectations.
  • Trust Christ Himself alone—He has the bigger picture.
  • Don’t try to figure out the future. Live in the present and leave the future to God.
  • Trust the power of the Holy Spirit to take you to the promised “New Thing” about to happen.
  • Continue in prayer and supplication before God, and expect God to answer with great and mighty things.

This was a huge and painful paradigm shift for the disciples, but they still trusted Jesus to do what He promised.

Acts 1 tells us that 120 followers of Jesus gathered together and prayed “steadfastly,” that is, without distraction. They prayed “continually,” that is, with perseverance. They prayed “with one accord,” that is, with united focus on Jesus’ instructions. They prayed “with the women,” that is, with those they normally didn’t pray with but who shared the same Lord and destiny.

The Greek word for “to pray” (see also 1 Timothy 2:1) indicates they prayed prayers from the heart directly to God, not as a rote religious ritual. They did not just voice wishes but direct and specific requests of God. They kept a spirit of thanksgiving, remembering Jesus’ miracles, His resurrection, and everything else He did in love for multitudes of people. They knew they were not abandoned, though they still didn’t understand the profound changes about to happen.

They did not focus upon their weaknesses and failures. Their small number did not trouble them, nor the formidable power of the Romans or the impressive religious establishment. The size of the unbelieving community did not sway them, nor did their lack of social or religious influence.

They kept focused on the promise—the good future to which Jesus pointed them and the power He had already displayed in their own lives and those of others.

In our troubled days, let us remember that Jesus has not changed. The promise of the Holy Spirit He gave to His followers comes down to us today. Let us continue to follow the instructions Jesus gave His uncertain followers that we might live out the “New Thing” God has for us in our own day and for a world that still does not know Him.

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Re-discovering His Power

Go into a mortuary and try to carry on a conversation with a dead person lying in a casket. No matter how charming, charismatic or logical your words, you will get nowhere. That dead person cannot respond.

A spiritually dead person cannot respond to the things of God. God is a stranger to him. He cannot perceive God in the world or people around him. A life with God is meaningless to him. He has no longing for God. He gives his life only to those things perceived in the five senses. 

Most people see imperfections in themselves and in others, but tend to blame them on forces in our past, other people or, in places like India, on the bad karma of past lives. Blame is put upon something wrong in the environment. We attempt to “clean up our act” through moral discipline and religious practices.

All of this is like putting band-aids on cancers. Morality and religion do not deal with the root problem which is sin. We sin because we are sinners. Sin is another word for spiritual death.

Just as a dead man cannot respond to the world around him, a spiritually dead person cannot respond to the things of God. Logic and eloquence are of no use. Only the Holy Spirit can change the situation.

In John 16, Jesus tells His disciples that He will soon leave them, but He will give them the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment.

The Holy Spirit, the creator of life, is the only one who can bring life out of spiritual death. Only the Holy Spirit can awaken a spiritually dead person to his sin. Only the Holy Spirit can awaken a spiritually dead person to the righteousness of God greater than his sin. Only the Holy Spirit can awaken a spiritually dead person to the Good News that Jesus has judged his sin at the cross and makes him righteous before a good and righteous God.

When the disciples spoke under the power of the Holy Spirit, spiritually dead people came alive by the thousands. In the Book of Acts, the church added and then multiplied the number of people who were being saved.

Such is not the case in most of our churches today. Churches rely on gimmicks rather than the power of the Holy Spirit. As a result, few people are convicted of sin. They do not see the righteousness of God to which they fall disastrously short. They do not conceive the power of Jesus at the cross and in the resurrection to judge the devil who has darkened their minds. As a result, our churches have become powerless, and society has become a mess.

The solution to our basic problem is both simple and profound: re-discover the Holy Spirit and His power to convict of sin, righteousness and judgment. Then we will see a big turnaround that will surprise everybody.

We will also see the gospel reach into every corner of the world. I can tell you from experience, millions of people in India are groaning for the Desire of the Nations. Only the Holy Spirit can convince them that His name is Jesus Christ.

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Baptism of the Holy Spirit

HolySpiritAnointingTo understand the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we must keep in mind the Big Picture:

After Adam’s fall, Satan rules, and the whole cosmos falls under sin and corruption. God’s plan is to redeem humanity and the cosmos. He will destroy sin and corruption through Jesus Christ and reconcile the world to Himself. He will do it in relationship with redeemed humanity through the agency of the Holy Spirit who dwells in the believer, giving new life and power to those who cooperate with Him.

John the Baptist anticipates this New Day when he says, “I baptize with water, but the One who comes after me will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” The Holy Spirit is key to destruction of Satan’s dominion, restoring God’s original purpose in its fullness. The Holy Spirit will work through the lives of Satan’s former subjects, once captive to sin, now free in Christ, to bring about his total destruction.

In short, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is key to effective witness and completion of the Great Commission, which will usher in the triumphant Second Advent of Jesus Christ.

This plan terrifies Satan. He desperately wants to limit the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of God’s redeemed children. He does all in his power to blind God’s children to the reality and power of the Holy Spirit. He works overtime, getting us to waste time and energy in pointless arguments about the Holy Spirit.

He bends over backward trying to get us to fear the mis-use of Holy Spirit power so that we take the opposite extreme of dis-use. This keeps us from being open and receptive to His infilling so that the Holy Spirit can use us in supernatural ways.

He tries to turn the baptism of the Holy Spirit and its many blessings into a curse that separates members of God’s family from one another.

All of this grieves the Holy Spirit. Let us not fall into Satan’s traps. Let us remember how Acts 2 began to fulfill the prophecy of Joel 2. Let us remember how the Holy Spirit radically transformed the disciples. Let us remember how the Holy Spirit turned that first-century persecutor of the church, Saul of Tarsus, into Jesus’ most faithful missionary.

Let us remember those first centuries of church history when the Holy Spirit caused the church, weak in the eyes of the world, to grow in spite of persecution and outlast their persecutors through our own day.

Let us remember that the Holy Spirit has planted within each of us as His children His New Life. As His children, we have the life of God, Creator of the universe, living within us.

Because life in the Holy Spirit is a relationship, we must renew our relationship with Him day by day as a husband and wife must renew their relationship with one another day by day and even hour by hour and minute by minute for the marriage
to work.

Let us remember the Big Picture of who we are in Christ through the power of His Holy Spirit. Then we will become His more effective witnesses in the world to fulfill the Great Commission and usher in the fullness of His kingdom. We will become His agents to answer the prayer we have long prayed: “Thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.”

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Set Back

adventure-ancient-antique-697662Years ago, the late Billy Graham, held one of his large evangelistic crusades in a certain city. A prominent minister of that city was approached by a reporter who asked him how he thought the crusade was going.

The minister grumbled, “Billy Graham has set back the churches of this city fifty years!

Later, the reporter told Billy Graham what that minister said. Billy Graham replied with a smile, “I pray I will set back the churches of this city two thousand years!

Billy Graham was referring to those days immediately after the Day of Pentecost. On that day, the Holy Spirit descended upon a group of 120 men and women in an upper room, and their lives (and ours) were changed forever. That day, the church was born.

On that day, Peter, the arrogant and cowardly fisherman from Galilee, found within himself a newfound ability to preach his first of many eloquent sermons before a crowd of thousands of people from all over the then-known world.

That day, the former coward, Peter, boldly preached a hard-hitting sermon, and when it was over, 3,000 people were added to the church. From that day, the gospel spread like wildfire throughout the known world, and within 30 years, the gospel had spread to Rome and even to Spain.

What were the marks of that first Spirit-filled church? Luke tells us in Acts 2:42-47 that the Jerusalem church was characterized by:

  • Teaching the Word of God
  • Worship, praise and prayer
  • Fellowship
  • Evangelism
  • Stewardship
  • Spirit-envisioned leadership
  • Care for the poor.

We are told that every day, the Lord was “adding to the church those who were being saved.”

Satan hates Spirit-filled churches. Such churches quickly fulfill the Great Commission, the one condition that must take place before Jesus comes again, sets up His kingdom and puts Satan out of business! Thus, Satan does all he can to quench the Spirit through persecution, corruption and distraction. He is a master at persuading churches to major in minors or avoid too much “fanaticism”, i.e., do nothing.

Has your church been “set back two thousand years”? Do you have a Spirit-filled church where the Lord is adding daily those who are being saved? Is your church marked by the same signs of the Jerusalem church that accomplished so much in so little time?

How many new believers (not church transfers) have been added to your church lately? Is your community transformed because of your church? What sacrifices do you and your church make to transform others by the gospel, both at home and abroad, especially where the gospel has never gone before?

In the life of every church, policy debates arise over the church’s function. Without a model other than our own feelings, the church always goes off course and fails at God’s mission for the church—to take the gospel to all peoples whom He loves and become salt and light, preparing the way for His glorious kingdom on earth.

We have a timeless biblical model in the church of Jerusalem. As we confront new challenges in the days ahead, let us keep this model before us. Any deviation from this model is less than satisfactory to God, however satisfied we may feel.

Pray that all our churches will be set back two thousand years!

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God’s Sovereignty, Human Responsibility

creation-of-adamHolistic healing—the harmonious relationship of body, soul and spirit— comes when we learn to live our lives governed by the grace of God. How do we know we are governed by the grace of God? I submit to you a simple test. Ask yourself this question: When were you saved?

Now—what is the very first thing that comes into your mind when you read this question? The answer to this question—the only biblical answer—is, “At the cross, by the eternal plan of God the Father before He created the world.” (Read the details in Romans and Ephesians.)

There is a delicate balance between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. To the degree we tip that balance to the human side, we err. God takes the initiative. We love Him because He first loved us. Even the process of conviction comes from the Holy Spirit. If we associate the moment of our salvation mainly with the day we knelt at our bedside, walked down an aisle, prayed the sinner’s prayer or any other thing, to that degree we make our salvation a thing of our own doing more than God’s grace.

To the extent we tip that balance, we become less able to hear the Holy Spirit, and we become more vulnerable to the lies of the world, the flesh and the devil. We become more prone to the stress of believing lies rather than truth, of living at a lower level than God intended for us.

If we are honest with ourselves, none of us fully accepts the grace of God in our hearts, even if we believe it in our minds. Our habits of thinking and doing are still deeply rooted in fallen natures which want to do everything in our own strength. We are more ungodly in our thinking than we imagine.

Instead of kicking ourselves for our failures, we must daily remind ourselves that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.” Learning to live by God’s grace is a lifelong process. Knowing God saved us at the cross through His Son should better help us to accept ourselves because HE accepts us and aids us in transforming our awed lives and characters. This is a difficult, but necessary step toward holistic healing.

Psychology tells us that to accept ourselves, we must look into our past to heal ourselves. But God, the Great Physician, accepts us at a deeper level, and He did it before we were born. To experience full healing, we come to know ourselves best when we first learn to know God’s grace. This is when true healing takes place.

Our failure to live by God’s grace explains the poor health of so many churches and our culture. When the church does not live out the full healing power of grace, we cannot live as salt and light, and we cannot change the culture around us. All of this makes the church appear powerless, unable to bring the Great Physician to a hurting world.

Paul preached the finished work of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). His emphasis upon God’s grace in Jesus Christ helped to spread the gospel across the Roman Empire. Let us pray for an unprecedented Great Awakening to the truth of God’s holiness and God’s grace and see the gospel once again spread like wild fire throughout the unreached world!

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Walk in God’s Light

2016-11-in-the-lightThe light of God is like a great feast of endless delight for all who accept His invitation to partake of it. With His light, we know we are headed in the right direction. He sent His light into the world through His Son, Jesus Christ, in whom there is no darkness at all.

Those who gladly receive the Light that is Jesus Christ will experience transformation. We receive a changed nature and become part of His new humanity. We receive a more childlike nature, more inclined to trust the word and the person of Jesus Christ in opposition to the prevailing culture. We more readily delight in the truth of God.

Our eyes will open to things we never saw before, and which others, who do not have the Light, cannot see. We will more readily speak the truth. We will more readily see the true mind and character of God and desire that above all else. We will more readily live a life of fruitfulness, joy and peace.

This does not mean we can or will attain sinless perfection in this earthly life, but we will have greater ability to understand ourselves and our world from God’s viewpoint. We will put less trust in human wisdom. We will better understand that human wisdom will disappoint us in some way because human understanding always falls short of God’s perfect Light.

Every follower of Christ has the Holy Spirit who provides the potential to experience all the light of Christ. Because of sinful habits we have developed since birth, we may still allow emotions, social or business pressures, cultural norms and other things to sway us—things that seem logical and even good to us, but do not take into account the full truth God makes available to us.

David was a man after God’s own heart, and yet he allowed Bathsheba’s beauty to capture him more than the Light of God. He suffered dire consequences for his acts, and brought untold suffering upon himself and others that continued even after he repented. In many ways, Judas and Peter perceived the Light better than any of us, yet they betrayed and cursed the Light for short-sighted reasons. If they failed, we are also subject to failure.

Jesus invites and warns us at the same time when He says, “While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.” We have the Light now, but if we ignore the Light, we will not always have Him. If we continually look to our own light, darkness will overtake us, and he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes.

The Light of God is found in the Word of God through the Spirit of God. We must learn to let His Word speak to us in our daily lives, let it challenge our ideas, let it take precedence over cultural norms and trendy presumptions. Learning to follow the light is difficult for people like us with sinful tendencies to wander.

Let us remember that in the end, it is not we who possess the Light, but the Light Who possesses us. This is the ultimate message of the Good News, and let us make sure that others see signs of the Light in us.

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We Are Not Powerless

Not-PowerlessToday, millions of people feel alienated from society. To feel alienated is to feel excluded and powerless. Right now, Christians are coming under increasing attack. We are told we live in a “post-Christian generation.” Christians and Christian values are mocked as backward, stupid and harmful.

In the past, Christians have influenced society in dark days. In many ways, they have helped to reduce illiteracy, increase freedom, free slaves and addictions, helped children, increase scientific knowledge and invent new devices to improve life. Persecuted Christians held civilization together after the Roman Empire deteriorated and collapsed.

Do Christians have any influence in our world today? Is the 2nd coming of Christ our only hope? “We are not powerless…” said John Stott, “What we are, rather, is often lazy and shortsighted and unbelieving and disobedient to the commission of Jesus.”

John Stott, English preacher, author, and influential evangelical leader was named by Time magazine as one of the “100 most influential people of the world.” He has offered four ways by which the average Christian can influence this generation for Christ:

  1. Prayer. Most people dismiss prayer as a psychological device, but serious, Spirit-led prayer is the creative power of God to accomplish humanly impossible things for God’s kingdom and glory. Most people do not pray with power or seriousness. Even when we pray, we still act as if everything depends upon us. True prayers of faith move God to move mountains, including spiritually dull and rebellious cultures.
  2. Truth. All truth is God’s truth, never the devil’s truth. All lies are the devil’s lies. Writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said, “One word of truth outweighs the whole world.” The world needs more Christians who can effectively communicate Bible truth through words, art, literature, science and every other part of life. All truth vindicates the Bible, and the wise Christian who advocates the truth changes lives and society.
  3. Example. We help others see the advantages of Christian values by the way we live, work, raise our families and help others. Our example should present a clear difference between Christian and world values. Jesus tells us that when people see our good deeds, “they will glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). A complaint of many people is that they see no difference between a professed Christian’s life and that of anyone else’s.
  4. Group solidarity. Jesus began His ministry with only 12 dedicated men filled with the Holy Spirit, yet those 12 men’s influence changed the world, even in their own day. God has not changed. Robert Belair of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University has said, “The quality of a whole culture may be changed when 2% of its people have a new vision.”

All major revivals, awakenings and evangelism explosions begin in dark days when people get on their knees and cry out to God. Our crises become God’s opportunities to act in great and mighty ways. The most influential people in the world are those who are not paralyzed by the times but energized by them because they anticipate His victory and their part in helping to make it happen.

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Lydia and All of Us

Throughout the centuries, men have tended to regard women as inferior. This judgment upon women is a judgment upon God who made women and can only quench the Holy Spirit in men who make such judgments.

Lydia is a good example of God’s great work through a woman. Overnight, the history of Europe began to change because Lydia heard the voice of the Holy Spirit speak through Paul. She responded and became Europe’s first convert.

Because of her faithfulness to the message she heard, the gospel spread to those around her, like a stone whose ripples spread out over a pond.

Lydia serves as an example to both men and women of how the Holy Spirit can work in anyone to change the world in the name of Christ.

  1. God opened Lydia’s HEART to do a work of grace in her life. God alone ordained her time to come to Christ and to use her conversion as a means to ultimately change the direction of a whole continent and the rest of the world. Through her witness, her entire household believed and received baptism. Through her and her household, the church at Philippi was born. That church became a strong witness for the Lord and served as a model for future churches. All of this began with the conversion of one woman. There are no small people in the kingdom of God. We must open ourselves to all that God chooses to work through our lives.
  2. Lydia opened her HOME for God’s servants and fellow believers. Like Lydia, we all show our gratitude to God by the way we treat God’s servants and our brothers and sisters in Christ.
  3. Lydia offered her HANDS to minister to others. Lydia took Paul and Silas into her house to nurse their wounds from jail and beatings and help them recover. A helpful spirit is not just “woman’s work.” A helpful spirit is an effective witness for Christ in men and women alike. A helpful spirit is a spirit of salt and light that preserves and enlightens families, cultures and nations with the power of Christ.
  4. Lydia had a good HEAD for business and practical affairs. Lydia was a prosperous businesswoman. Lydia is a good example of a wealthy servant–one who regards all wealth and personal possessions as gifts from God to serve Him and others in need of His transformation.

Since Lydia’s generation, the Spirit of God has worked in the hearts of other women to do great and mighty things. Think of Amy Carmichael who ministered to girls caught in forced prostitution. She modeled ministries in India later founded by men.

Think of Monica, mother of a wayward youth named Augustine who became one of Christianity’s most influential theologians because of her prayers.

Think of Susannah Wesley, mother and faithful teacher to 19 children including John and Charles Wesley.

Think of Elizabeth Elliott, wife of martyred missionary, Jim Elliott, who took up her husband’s mantle and served as God’s instrument to change a savage culture for Christ.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we depend upon God’s Spirit. Let us all thank God for such boundless grace that works in so many ways. Let us especially make sure we accept all the grace He reveals through His chosen women.

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