Tag Archives: jesus

True or False: Teachers

Blackboard with chalkA man looks at a sore on his neck that does not heal. He worries—is it cancer? Someone tells him, “Go to a doctor you feel comfortable with.”

The man decides he most wants a doctor who will tell him what he wants to hear. The medical practitioner he contacts is a very pleasant man with an impressive looking diploma. He assures the man he does not have cancer. He covers the sore with a bandage so the man doesn’t see it, and says, “Don’t worry.” Elated, the man goes home. However…

Six months later, the man dies of an aggressive and painful cancer that spread throughout his body. The doctor who gave him the “good news” is a charlatan. If the man had gone to a real doctor, he would have heard unpleasant news. He would have faced surgery, but he would also have lived a normal and useful life.

In spiritual matters, this same kind of foolishness happens repeatedly when we seek our teachers in false messiahs who tell us only what we want to hear.

The Bible portrays Jesus as the Great Physician. He tells us uncomfortable things. We don’t like to hear we are all sinners before a holy God, on our way to hell. We don’t like to hear we have terminal cancer of the spirit and only Jesus Christ, the Great Physician, can remove it.

Like surgery, Jesus’ crucifixion for our sins seems too bloody, ugly and primitive. We know we need help, but we seek our help in people who claim to be divine, even Jesus Himself, who tell us the easy way to the good life that fits our preconceptions.

Jesus Himself warns us about the dangers of following those who promote a different gospel from the one He taught—a “gospel” that leaves out sin, the cross and repentance, judgment and hell. He warns us about people who preach God’s love but not His holiness, His forgiveness but not His hatred of sin and the penalty for sin.

Jesus warns us that some false teachers may awe us with great miracles. But if they deny the gospel of the cross, Jesus says, “Stay away from them.”

How will we know when the real Christ appears? We will know by the manner of His second appearing which He makes very clear in Matthew 24:27: “For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.”

He will come “in the twinkling of an eye.” He will appear in glory, with myriads of glorified men, women and children from every time and place. His Second Coming will surpass all power to imagine or describe. (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; Revelation 1:7; 6:15-17; 19:16). No other so-called “christ” can match it.

Those who undergo the surgery of the gospel will welcome the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. It will come as a terror to those who refused His spiritual surgery. The Second Coming dwarfs all other so-called “christs” and reveals them as fakes.

How vital for us to know our Bibles, both Old Testament and New Testament, to find the true Jesus. The more we know the “real thing,” the easier for us to spot the counterfeits.

Let us tell others about Him, that they may also stand before Him in joy and gladness.

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The Nazareth Manifesto

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One Sabbath Day, early in Jesus’ ministry, He visited His hometown of Nazareth and stood before the town’s synagogue filled with old friends and neighbors. That day, He read these words:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor, He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord” (Isaiah 61:1-2).

These words, sometimes called “the Nazareth Manifesto,” are Jesus’ announcement to His friends and neighbors—and to us—what His coming and calling are all about.

A manifesto proclaims the aims and policies of a political party or candidate. Often, the manifesto consists of many words, all meant to win favor from the people.

In contrast, the Nazareth Manifesto’s words are few, and Jesus comes, not to stir a mass movement of public favor that sweeps Him into power, but to announce the irresistible will and authority of God to accomplish all He has just read. By this authority, He lays out what will surely come to pass to fulfill a prophecy from hundreds of years before.

He reaches out to four different kinds of people: the poor, captives, the blind and the oppressed. He does not define these terms because they include every manner of poverty, captivity, blindness and oppression that results from separation from God.

The “favorable year of the Lord” refers to the Year of Jubilee when once every 50 years, slaves received their freedom, debts were canceled, ancestral property was returned to the original owners. It is a proclamation of a new order.

The Nazareth Manifesto is a ringing declaration of Jesus’ power and ability to do it all.

Jesus’ Nazareth Manifesto is the model for the salvation we proclaim and practice before the world. We must not water it down but proclaim it in full, and like Jesus, do great works because He told us, “Greater things than I have done, you will do.”

Not everyone will accept Jesus’ Manifesto. His own hometown rejected Him, and for a time, even members of His own earthly family thought He was crazy. He faced great opposition especially from those who did not see themselves as poor, captives, blind or oppressed.

Jesus’ Nazareth Manifesto was not a political message or even a religious message, but a relational one. It required personal trust in Him alone to bring about the results He promised. It roused anger and opposition from the proud and those used to power because it proclaimed a sweeping away of the status quo.

Two thousand years have passed, but His aims have not changed. He still proclaims release to the captives, sight to the blind, freedom for the oppressed. He has delegated to us the task of preaching the gospel to the poor. One day, when He returns, we will see the fullness of the Year of Jubilee. The Nazareth Manifesto continues to arouse opposition from the status quo while it steadily wins new followers of Jesus Christ.

In 2000 years, the Nazareth Manifesto has already seen much accomplishment, but much more is yet to come! Let us make sure that we have made Jesus’ Manifesto our own!

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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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Christ in You!

christ-in-youWe live in dangerous times. We are like sailors tossed about on the sea, fearing the waves will tear the ship in two. How easy for us to become alarmed and discouraged, to despair that God has abandoned us.

We all need hope in our times. Hope greater than wishful thinking, knowledge based upon fact. Hope based upon the Word of God, upon His character that never fails. Hope as an assurance, a conviction, freedom from all doubt that God will “come through.”

The apostle Paul lived in perilous times. Yet he lived with great hope that certainly was not based upon his circumstances. Consider his frequent sufferings from stoning, floggings, shipwreck, imprisonment, betrayal, hunger, thirst, a “thorn in the flesh.” He lived under a tyrannical emperor who murdered his own mother and threw Christians to the lions. Paul’s own beloved Jewish people despised his message.

“Christ in you, the hope of glory”—this was Paul’s hope in the midst of great trials. For him, this was not only a theological concept, but a living reality, a personal experience.

What did he experience? In Colossians 1, he speaks of Christ, the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. Christ, who created all things in heaven and earth, visible and invisible, all thrones and dominions, rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him.

Christ, who is before all things. Christ, in whom all things hold together. Christ, the head of the body, the church. Christ, the beginning, the firstborn from the dead. Christ, the preeminent one. Christ, in whom the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. Christ, who reconciled to Himself all things on earth and in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.

All of this was more than a concept to Paul, but also an experience. How does one describe such an experience?

How could Neil Armstrong fully describe the moment he became the first man in history to walk on the moon? How does a bride describe the moment when the ring of her beloved slips over her finger? How do a father and mother fully describe holding their first-born child for the first time?

What these people know differs from that of bystanders. These personal experiences cannot be described. Only experience brings full understanding.

“Christ! In! You!” What Paul’s words embody, and what Paul experienced, dwarfs all other human experiences. Those without Christ know nothing of it, and often, too many believers know little of it because they have fooled themselves (or have been fooled by Satan) to expect little from God. This should lead each of us to ask, how much do we expect of God?

Paul makes clear that his experience of Christ in him is to become the experience of all believers, not just a select few religious people. Paul invites us “to comprehend with all the saints [you and me] what is the breadth and the length and height and depth, to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge . . . to be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18-19).

In whatever prison we find ourselves—and we all know them—let us each accept Christ’s invitation to know Paul’s experience for ourselves in our uncertain times. Then we will become more motivated to offer that Good News to others.

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When Our Children Don’t Succeed

All of us who have children want them to succeed in life. We become overjoyed when they do, and we proudly tell others of their accomplishments. Their success reflects upon us. In a very real sense, we regard their success as our success.

What if they don’t succeed? What if their accomplishments are few, or worse, what if they fail and become burdens to our family and to society? Whose fault is it? Most parents tend to blame themselves. They spend endless hours asking themselves where they went wrong and where they failed God, not always able to arrive at solid conclusions.

May I offer a word of comfort to such parents: God the Father is the most perfect of parents, but all of His children (you and me) are abject failures in His sight. Is it possible that God the Father does not judge us as parents on whether our children succeed in life but on the way we live out His love and grace toward them? None of us will ever have a perfect family this side of heaven. So what is God looking for?

Christian family counselor Emmerson Eggerichs suggests a worthy biblical model for a good parent in the father of the prodigal son and his ungrateful older brother. In their own ways, both sons are miserable failures.

In this parable, Jesus clearly wants us to imitate the father’s grace toward his sinful sons. Throughout this parable, the father demonstrates remarkable patience in the face of outrageous behaviors and attitudes. As we study this parable, we become amazed that the father does not disown both of them for their insulting and ungrateful ways.

The father in Jesus’ parable represents God Himself. This means that to become successful parents, we must learn to first love God even more than we love our children. When we learn to love God first, we soon become overwhelmed by His grace. When we see the powerful grace of God working in our own sinful lives, we begin to take a different attitude toward our children and their failures. We begin to see them from God’s perspective.

Rather than see (and even resent) our wayward children as imperfect reflections of ourselves, we begin to think of them in the way that God regards us. Rather than judging or even rejecting our children, we begin to show them the same grace of God that He has displayed toward us. Like the prodigal son, some of our wayward children may return “home,” humble and repentant and ready to serve God and their fellow man.

Even if our children do not return, we will have the peace of knowing we succeeded in demonstrating the grace of God toward them.

Let us all learn to become overwhelmed by the grace of God. Let that growing experience of His grace make us the best parents. It will also help us to submit to our husbands, give ourselves to our wives, and do things that encourage rather than discourage our children. It will also make our gospel message more credible to a world filled with failure.

God’s grace helps us to accept others’ failures when we see how God receives us in spite of our failures.

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God Introduces Himself

God introduces Himself . . . This fact makes the Bible and the gospel of Jesus Christ different from any other religion.

In all other religions, a celebrated philosopher, teacher or prophet tries to introduce us to God. But humanity’s ideas about God, no matter how seemingly noble and high-minded, always fall short. We always reduce God to something less than Who He is because that is what sinners always do—they fall short. We are all idolaters.

This is a constant danger for all of us, even if we call ourselves evangelical Christians. We all have this tendency to simplify God, to make Him less offensive, to reduce Him to the most common denominator so as to include as many people as possible within the fold. I constantly must watch this tendency in myself.

As sinners, we tend to become attracted to the spectacular, to the “big show.” The people who witnessed Jesus’ earthly ministry exclaimed at His miracles and followed after Him to see what He would do next. But later, they shouted out, “Crucify Him!” Amazement at Jesus’ miracles does not translate into falling at His feet and crying out, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

As sinners, we naturally like an easy-going God of love who forgives us (i.e., winks an eye at sin) and fulfills our every wish and dream. Many false prophets today, who call themselves “Christians,” promise this false god and attract multitudes. This god is tame and controllable, like a domesticated cat. He is also powerless to save anybody.

All of these deadly tendencies are why we desperately need God to tell us who He really is.

We know God best by how God introduces Himself to us in the Bible through such names as I AM WHO I AM and ELOHIM. God reveals Himself in many such names throughout the Bible.

In his book, Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby lists more than 350 ways God introduces Himself to us through His names. These names God gives to Himself reveal His character, not only as a God of love, but as pure and righteous, a hater of sin, with no beginning and end, three-in-one and one-in-three, unchangeable, everlasting, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, King of kings–and utterly holy.

I AM WHO I AM dies a humiliating and unspeakable death, and promises to come back as judge to separate the sheep from the goats. No simple God here, and multitudes don’t want Him. They don’t want this holy God over whom they lose all control because He is in control, not them. Little do they know, He is the only God who can truly help them.

This is the God we are called to proclaim to the world around us. Through Jesus Christ, I AM WHO I AM is the only God who can save us from our small ideas and even smaller power. He is the only God who can redeem and transform our lives, give us a glimpse into the future, and create a New Heaven and a New Earth.

When God introduces Himself to us, we had better accept Him for Who He really is, not the domesticated fantasy He is not. Our eternal destinies (and the world’s) depend upon it.

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God is the Owner

“Stewardship is another term for fundraising.”

How many times have you heard or thought that? This common misconception permeates our culture, even in the church, but it is heresy of the worst sort.

“Stewardship” comes from the Greek word, oikenomous, from which we derive our words, “economy” and “economics.” Originally, it referred to someone who managed a household. He did not own the household, but held it in trust for the owner. As Christians, our owner is God. We are to maintain and manage our “household” on His terms, not ours.

Our “household” contains all that makes up who we are and have, and the environment in which He places us, all of which He owns. We are not the owners but the managers of our abilities, gifts, talents, money, time—and our salvation.

Stewardship is another word for ministry, and ministry is another word for service. Both “ministry” and “service” come from the same Hebrew and Greek words. Stewards are servants used by others for their purposes. True Christians are “on call” by God for His purposes, not our own. His purposes always involve us and the redemption of the lost, of renewal and restoration, and re-creation.

Servants obey the orders of their master, but we serve a Master who has already proven His service to us. We do not serve a tyrant but One who has already served us beyond the call of duty. When we were sinners, Christ died for us. He took the form of a bondservant (Philippians 2:7) when He put aside His glory and came from glory as one of us.

As Christians, to become a “steward” is another way of saying, “Have this attitude in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” This servant attitude includes such qualities as encouragement, consolation of love, fellowship of the Spirit, affection and compassion, a spirit of unity, oneness of purpose, humility of spirit, looking out for the interests of others (Philippians 2:1-4).

Paul responded to Jesus’ servanthood by saying, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

In other words, stewardship means more than just how we use our money (although it includes that). It is a way of life. It involves our whole beings in relationship to Jesus Christ and others in the light of how He has served us, as individuals and as the church. It is using our lives and experiences to serve His purposes for this world and for the New Heaven and New Earth.

Stewardship means learning to see where we are now and where we would have been apart from His foreknowing, predestining, calling, justifying and glorifying us through Christ (Romans 8:28-30). Stewardship is our response to the staggering realization that out of His pure mercy and grace alone, we are part of His royal family.

There are no small people in God’s royal family. If you are part of His family, whatever your gifts and life experiences, you have a strategic place as God’s steward. Someone has said, “[A city] can manage quite well for a long time without a mayor, but we can’t manage many days without garbage collectors.”

Whether you are a mayor, a garbage collector, or something else, others are depending upon your service and ministry right now. Don’t let them—or Him—down.

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Jesus Loves the Children

Jesus Christ came into the world as a helpless child. That says everything about the importance of children to God. During His ministry, Jesus attracted children, and He enjoyed their company. He exploded with indignation when His disciples treated children as pests and drove them away.

IGO Boy 2015 BChildren especially have the right to hear and see Jesus in their own parents. It is understandable how non-Christian parents would ignore this. But do we believers, including pastors, evangelists and church leaders, inadvertently quench the Holy Spirit in our children and withhold them from vital relationships with Christ

Parents have high expectations for their children, but do our noble expectations match gifts and personalities God has given them? Do we frustrate our children’s walk with Christ by creating doubts in their minds about whom God made them to be?

Do our own lives reflect childlike humility that Jesus praises? A child instinctively feels the crush of parental pride even if they have no words for it. Children know we aren’t perfect. Do we willingly admit when we are wrong? Do we model humble and repentant attitudes so they more easily reflect the same before their heavenly Father?

If you want to test your humility, ask your children, especially your older ones, about your mistakes in raising them. Let them speak without intimidation or interruption. Be sure to ask forgiveness of them and of God. It will bring healing to all.

Do your children often see you pray, read your Bible and apply what you have read? Do they hear you pray for great things? Do you speak to your children of your faith, including your struggles? Your children may not understand all your faith struggles, but do you try to communicate in ways that will encourage them when they inevitably ask hard questions?

Do you understand the Bible so well that you regularly teach your children the great doctrines with simplicity and accuracy? Children have strong spiritual instincts, and they absorb great truths if taught on their level. Some of our best prayer warriors are young children.

If you teach a child just 15 minutes a day in the things of the Lord, you will give them the equivalent of half a Master of Divinity degree by the time they graduate from high school. You will also give them valuable lessons of life and faith that can never be measured in time.

As believers in Christ, we do well to stand for the rights of children forced to work, sell their bodies and sacrifice their educations and futures for adults who view them as commodities or extensions of themselves. Standing for children’s rights is the way of Jesus, and it also opens receptive young lives to the Good News.

While we defend their rights, let us not hinder our own children’s walks with God. God will heal us when we repent of our failures in raising them. In so doing, we will speak of children’s rights with greater authority and bear more fruit.

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He Welcomes You

Reconciliation does not equal intimacy. Two enemies may reconcile but never become true friends. They no longer fight, but they have little contact.

How many Christians secretly live lives like this? They know Jesus has reconciled them to God, but in heaven, they believe, they will dwell on the outskirts because they fail so miserably.

Is this a common Christian experience? Is this why many Christians judge others for their sins as they try to deal with their own uncertainties? Is this why so many Christians feel no joy, become over-involved in “church work,” or hang around the “fringes of faith?”

Many people are convinced that only certain special individuals can achieve true godliness. Catholics have their “saints,” but in different ways, Protestants do, too. These misled brothers and sisters are reconciled to God, but do not believe intimacy with Him is possible because they know their many flaws and failures.

How foreign to the Good News! In Romans 5, Paul tells us that we who are of Christ belong to a new kingdom, a new human race—now! We no longer belong to the kingdom of the first Adam, the kingdom of sin and death. Through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, we are “in” the Second Adam, Jesus Christ.

That means whatever is true about Jesus Christ is true of us. We have a new standing with God. Christ is forever, once and for all, dead to sin and death, so are we. Though Christ died, death did not have the last word. So it is with us.

He-Welcomes-YouChrist enjoys eternal fellowship with the Father. So do we. In Ephesians 2:18, Paul tells us that we have “access to the Father.” The Greek indicates the highest possible intimacy with God the Father, like Jesus has with Him. It doesn’t depend upon what we do or how we feel, it depends upon Him and what He has done on the cross.

All this requires us to dramatically rearrange our thinking. The Welsh preacher, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, compares our new position in Christ to that of a newly freed American slave. The laws changed, but many former slaves had difficulty accepting their new freedom. They didn’t know how to relate to their old masters. Only when they learned new habits of thinking did they live in the freedom the law said they already had.

Like Abraham, we must believe because God said it, not when we feel good about ourselves. In one of the most remarkable passages of scripture, Paul tells us to reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God (Romans 6:11). In other words, regard it as accomplished fact.

Paul tells us to become transformed by the renewing of our minds—by changing our habits of thinking—so we recognize that God already loves us and welcomes our company as He welcomes the company of His Son.

When we see Him face to face, we will be like Him. We will not live on the fringes of heaven, but become part of His inner circle. When we learn to see ourselves the way God already sees us, we will live in the freedom that is already ours.

This is Good News for everybody who will hear it! Let’s make sure they do!

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Men & Women Alike

MenWomenAlikeOrganized religion has tended to devalue women and deny them power and influence. This includes organized Christendom throughout much of its history.

Christendom is never as radical as the Bible. When we read the Bible, it becomes clear that God has always had different ideas about women from most religious leaders.

In the beginning, when God created woman to become the “helpmate” to man, He did not create an apprentice or an assistant for the man. The Hebrew word for “helpmate” implies that the woman is equal to the man, even if God created the man first.

The Fall separated man and woman from God and from one another. It brought a curse upon woman in which she became subordinate to the man.

The world into which Jesus came was the world of the curse. That world put little value upon a woman. They held little social importance. Their testimony counted for little if anything. Yet throughout the gospel accounts, Jesus shows an unprecedented respect for women.

The first persons to whom the risen Christ appeared were women. Their testimony to men of the empty tomb and His personal appearance brought Peter and John to the empty tomb and confirmed the truth of everything the women told them. This verification of a woman’s testimony is the first sign that Jesus’ resurrection broke the curse upon women that reigned from the Fall.

Because of Jesus Christ, His sacrifice upon the cross and His resurrection, we who put our trust in Him live in the Kingdom of the Second Adam that restores God’s original intent for women.

In the Upper Room, the Holy Spirit came upon men and women alike, with no distinction. From the earliest days, before the 1st century church degenerated into “Christendom” and “religion,” women played important roles as leaders, teachers and prophets. The leaders of the early church included women such as Lydia, Priscilla, Phoebe, Euodia, Syntyche, Chloe, Nympha, all of whom Paul commends for their good and faithful work.

In Galatians 3:28, Paul says “there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” That is, male and female share one purpose, one calling. The gifts and fruit of the Spirit belong to all.

In some circles, much is made of Paul’s command in 1 Corinthians 14:34 for women to keep silence in the church. We do not have the space to discuss this in detail, but in the light of everything else said by Jesus and Paul, it is clear that this passage deals with a special circumstance that does not negate the overall message of the New Testament—God has ended the curse of women’s subordination and chosen women to places of ministry and influence.

In other words, God’s special call upon women is part of the gospel message.

In India, where women and girls still play subservient roles, and suffer from inferiority and degradation, we make a powerful witness for the gospel when we treat our wives, girl children, female relatives and sisters in Christ with the respect that Jesus gave to all women.

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