From disappointment to grace
Sometimes God’s greatest grace is found in our greatest disappointments.In Acts 4:32-35, grace was found in the exuberant generosity of the early church. After receiving the power of the Holy Spirit, the early church went from timid, selfish and powerless to extraordinarily generous and able to do supernatural acts.
When my family moved to San Diego with no team, no relationships, and little money, I was reminded of the early church. The gift of grace did not come as we expected. People and money began to flow into the church. Lives were being changed in a real way. Then, just six months later, my 6-year-old daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. This had been my greatest fear: passing on to her a disease I have battled my whole life. Our hearts were shattered.
Within days, our new church was carrying us through our shock. Texts and notes of encouragement were read tearfully. We were recipients of God’s great grace through our new community.
Embrace His grace and generosity today, however it may come. If you are facing great disappointment, continue in the grace of our Father, who will turn your brokenness into His redemption on display!
This Week’s Prayer Focus [5 in 5]
1. Jesus, we empty ourselves to be full of Your power and grace. Lead and direct us, Holy Spirit, as You intersect our lives with the broken and needy people in our cities.
2. Jesus, we acknowledge that You alone stir the heart of Your church. Create in us great expectation and faith to build Your kingdom through generosity.
3. Jesus, we declare that You reign and rule today in our families, cities and churches. Today we will declare Your greatness to the nations.
4. Pray for more than 200 people in the pipeline preparing to launch as missionaries or church planters, both in the U.S. and internationally.
5. Pray for the Turkmen people in Turkmenistan to have full freedom of religion in their country, so that they may worship safely as they choose.
Share your thoughts. See comments below, and add your own.
Praying for wisdom
We believe in the resurrection, which means we believe we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses of faithful saints (Heb. 12:1).Abraham, Deborah, Amos and the original women and men of Acts 2 live in the presence of God and bear witness to God’s promise to save.
"And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4, NKJV).
Today, I invite you to pray an old prayer with me. It’s based in part on Psalm 104:30, which says, “You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; and You renew the face of the earth.” In it, together with saints of the past, we invite the Holy Spirit to fill us, and ask for wisdom and comfort that comes only from the Spirit of the Living God.
Come Holy Spirit,
Fill the hearts of Your faithful
And kindle in them the fire of Your love.
Send forth Your Spirit and they shall be created.
And You shall renew the face of the earth.
O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit,
Did instruct the hearts of the faithful,
Grant that by the same Holy Spirit
We may be truly wise
And ever enjoy His consolations,
Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.
This Week’s Prayer Focus [5 in 5]
1. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with God’s love every moment of the day.
2. Ask the Lord to send forth His spirit and renew the areas around you.
3. Ask God to teach you, and grant you wisdom and comfort, in all your interactions.
4. Wisdom and insight for our supervisors as they continue to lead catalytically.
5. Pray the Fula Jalon people in Guinea will increasingly be drawn to Jesus (whom Muslims call Isa al-Masih) as they study the Koran. Pray they will have a desire to learn more about Him, and that He will be pleased to reveal Himself to them.
Share your thoughts. See comments below, and add your own.
On the road with Aimee Semple McPherson (Part 2)
From October to December 1918, I served Aimee Semple McPherson as her personal stenographer, and accompanied her and her family on her famous Transcontinental Gospel Car Tour.Very few women would have dared travel like this, but “Sister,” as we called her, was unlike any other woman. Her reputation preceded her, and as we crossed the mighty Mississippi River, residents in Hannibal, Mo., seemed eager to receive the tracts and Bridal Call magazines we offered.
It was November, and we encountered more than our share of severe storms, with washed out roads and dangerous driving conditions. Even when the roads were passable, our itinerary was subject to change by other conditions that were completely out of our control.
Such an occasion delayed our scheduled meetings in Oklahoma. The influenza breakout had spread to the Midwest, and all public meetings in cities and townships were canceled to avoid the spread of the sickness. When officials determined that it was safe to gather in large groups again, we made our way to Tulsa, where Sister was well known and her visit highly anticipated. Though we had been cleared to proceed, getting there was not easy.
Well-meaning residents of Oologah, Okla., warned us that the main road to Tulsa was impassible due to flooding. However, their alternate route proved worse, and at one point we could not see the road for the mud and flowing deluge. We discussed the method we might employ to swim the car through to the other side. Fortunately, no such measures were necessary, and we eventually made dry land again.
Oil fields and cotton patches became a common sight; being of East Coast origin, I had never witnessed such scenery. When we arrived in Stroud, Okla., at 4:20 p.m. on Dec. 2, saints lined the street, welcoming us. They had heard Sister would conduct meetings and came from all around the region to greet us. These people in the Oklahoma meetings were so hungry to know the baptism with the Holy Spirit.The duration of our coast-to-coast tour was three days shy of two months. In total, we drove some 6,000 miles and shared the gospel message with thousands ... Sister McPherson prayed for the sick and saw people filled with the Holy Spirit.
God performed another miracle for our traveling party while in Tulsa. Sister’s mother nearly succumbed to a serious illness. Her fervent prayer was to be delivered so that we could minister on multiple Indian reservations ahead of us on our itinerary. God answered her prayer in a mighty way.
We had traveled 3,820 miles when we arrived in Conway, Texas, where we bought candy and handed out magazines and tracts. A mother and daughter we met there wished we could stay and hold meetings, but Sister explained that winter was setting in, making our progress unpredictable. We must press on.
A few days later, on Dec. 8, we found ourselves 10 miles east of Santa Rosa, N.M., and once again got stuck in the mud. The hour was late, and we had little ability to free the vehicle, so we decided to spend the night inside the car. If ever there was a time when we were tired and dirty and needed help, it was now.
Two young people appeared at the car and greeted us like old friends. They took us to their home to be rested, fed and refreshed, and insisted we stay overnight. It was a single room mud hut, and everyone slept on the floor: men, women, children and babies.
Sister told me the Lord had allowed it for some good, and the next morning, I discovered just how much so. Our hosts worked to get the car out of the mud, and with gratitude in our hearts, we thanked them and made our way about noon into Santa Rosa proper.
Onward, we climbed mountains unlike anything I had known. We encountered snow at 6,000 feet at Encino, N.M., and residents claimed it was the worst of the season. Still, we drove.
Sister said we were like a babe in its father’s arms on this trip, helpless in ourselves and dependent on Him in every way. He must have wanted us to make this journey because at every turn, He supplied our need. Ever more so where everything was so barren that even a fence or rabbit or cow looked neighborly to us.
On Dec. 12 near Socorro, N.M., the Lord gave us an opportunity to bless a motorist who was stranded beside the way. Snow once again had forced us to detour, but before we did, we offered a ride to the driver. We carried him as far as Magdalena before we made our way through the high mountains and unusual cliffs headed for the southern route in hopes of avoiding additional foul weather in the north.
A local sheriff in Phoenix was concerned about a single car traveling for two days across the expansive desert. He encouraged us to tarry in his fine city until a group of travelers could make the trek together. In fact, one fine gentleman drove our car, giving Sister a well-deserved rest at the wheel.
We ferried the car across the Colorado River, crossing from Arizona into California, just a few days from our final destination. When we arrived in the nice town of Needles, Calif., to stay the night, we discovered our journey so far had encompassed 5,267 miles.
Such was the case in extended measure after we arrived in Los Angeles at 2 p.m. on Dec. 21. We were impressed by the dramatic mountain peaks and refreshing ocean beaches. Fragrance in the air each morning reminded me I was now living in the land of orange trees, roses and palms.
The duration of our coast-to-coast tour was three days shy of two months. In total, we drove some 6,000 miles and shared the gospel message with thousands, sometimes with a printed tract and at other times in fine tabernacles. Sister McPherson prayed for the sick and saw people filled with the Holy Spirit.
Never did I think God would use me, a young woman from Worcester, Mass., to be a handmaiden for the National Pentecostal Evangelist, typing by firelight to help share the truth of God’s Word.
This is Part 2 of a two-part feature.
Read Part 1
Mentoring women for leadership roles is crucial to our mission
Everywhere I turn, pastors are seeking capable leaders—and more of them. Often, the solution is sitting in their pews. I refer to the talented women in their midst. James Ranger III
I appreciate the significant role females have filled in Foursquare life. In addition to founder Aimee Semple McPherson, our congregation—New Life Church (Bakersfield Southwest Foursquare Church) in Bakersfield, Calif.—emerged from a home group led by a female leader. Half of New Life’s 26 ordained pastors are women, as are two members of our church council.
Yet, despite the obvious potential of female leaders, the church as a whole remains handicapped by a failure to utilize such resources. Changing this calls for proactive steps, particularly among male leaders. One secret to mentoring women is quite simple: identify the gift. Many pastors aren’t even looking.
Searching for female leaders can result in “I see in you” conversations. Like the one I had about 11 years ago with Wendy Nolasco, the newly appointed district supervisor of the MidSouth District. Wendy found herself back to church after a period of disillusionment. We started by training and discipling her; she excelled at everything we asked her to do. Finally, I told her: “I see you as a leader and would like you to consider that.”
Eventually, Wendy became a staff member. Our small groups flourished under her direction. She later held the role of executive pastor and helped our northwest campus to expand from an attendance of 250 to 1,000.
In addition to recognizing the potential of female leaders, pastors can celebrate women by encouraging them publicly and giving them roles on the platform. That’s part of creating a culture where it’s normal for a woman to believe she can become a leader.
This doesn’t just happen on Sunday mornings. As the lead pastor, you have to be a chief cheerleader for this idea by talking about it in staff meetings and on other occasions.Not only does failing to raise up female leaders mean the church misses out on valuable contributions, it damages our witness. We have an opportunity to show the world that we are an inclusive, empowering body.
I never felt pressure to raise up women because of an obligation to fill some kind of quota. I want to identify God’s grace, gifts and calling. If a woman is the best choice for a particular position, that’s who I appoint.
Not only does failing to raise up female leaders mean the church misses out on valuable contributions, it damages our witness. We have an opportunity to show the world that we are an inclusive, empowering body. Projecting a male-dominated image yields an incomplete picture.
Naturally, with male pastors and female mentees, there are gender issues and possible problems. But those aren’t “deal killers.” For example, group mentoring avoids complications. At a recent leadership breakfast, two women were among the nine persons attending.
For male pastors, getting your spouse onboard will be a huge plus. My wife, Lydia, helps develop women and builds relationships with them, serving as a great example and role model. She initiates many relationships and helps me see the gifts and potential of various women that I would often miss without her insights.
One objection you will have to overcome is theological. The first time Lydia preached, a dozen families got up and walked out. I understand such feelings, but it is my conviction that we must release women if we expect to win the world to Christ.I see equipping females as a scriptural mandate. It would be sad if the Foursquare family never knew the blessings of a Wendy Nolasco. Or Angela Claiborne, my former assistant who is now on the leadership team at Valley Christian Center (Fresno First Foursquare Church) in Fresno, Calif. Or Jeanette Mulhause, a former business executive who is our executive pastor.
If we’ll get on board this train, we can reach our destination.
This article was written with Ken Walker, a freelance writer in Huntington, W.Va.
How do we redeem every situation for Christ?
There’s an old hymn by Fanny Crosby that begins with the words: “Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it! Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.”The word “redemption” means “to buy back.” It is the liberation of any possession, object or person, usually by payment of a ransom. You can find this thread of redemption all through the gospels. Matt. 20:28 says Jesus came “to give His life a ransom for many” (NKJV). He gave His life to redeem us.
As I read through the gospels, I am continually reminded that in every situation Jesus encountered, He had a redemptive solution. When Jesus encountered a blind eye, He redeemed it back to sight. When Jesus encountered a deaf ear, He redeemed it back to hearing. When Jesus encountered someone possessed, He liberated them, redeemed them from the demonic hold upon them. When Jesus entered the temple and cleansed it, He redeemed it back to a “house of prayer” (Matt. 21:12-13).
I am being challenged daily, not only to study scripture to find solutions to the different situations I encounter, but also to take the time to pray and ask my Father: “What would You have me do or say that could introduce Your heart for redemption in this matter? And how can I redeem this relationship, conversation or problem?”
Read Ephesians 5:1-21. How are you “redeeming the time” as Paul instructs us to do (v.15)?
As you read the gospels, ask the Father to re-introduce you to the redemptive solutions Jesus presented in each particular situation.
Think about the many different things you need answers for right now, and ask the Father to show you His heart for redemption in those particular matters.
We lift up the Kami community in Nepal for redemption. Father, please grant at least one opportunity for each person to hear accurately who Jesus is.
Ask the Lord to bless the March 5-6 meeting of the executive committee of the Global Council, as well as the inaugural meeting of the Global Council’s Discipleship Task Force on March 7 in Los Angeles.
Share your thoughts. See comments below, and add your own.