Dear Praying Friends,
Thank you for praying for our ministry! You are a vital part of all we do and I thank God for your partnership. You make it possible for me to take Christ’s hope to people in word and deed.
The Lord is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think…. (Ephesians 3:20)
I recently retold the story below to remind us that God the Holy Spirit uses His written word (the Bible) in wonderfully surprising ways beyond what we expect. Our job is simply to spread it around as faithfully as we can and pray for Him to use His truth to change people’s lives.
For several years I taught for Belhaven University at Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Southwest Houston. Windsor began in 1982 with 25 people, led by Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell. Now Windsor is the largest Methodist Church in the nation with over 17,000 members (mostly African-American). What a privilege it was to teach there!
The class surveyed all 39 Old Testament books in 5 weeks. It was intense. We met for four hours one night each week. I always aimed to show how Christ fulfilled all that was written about Him in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Writings.1
An “Aha Moment”
One night I was contrasting Jesus’ liberating and life-giving message with the Rabbinic Judaism of His day. I cited a Jewish prayer from the first century A.D. (still used today) which goes like this:
Blessed are you, Lord, King of the universe, For not having made me a Gentile, For not having made me a slave, And for not having made me a woman.2
Then I reminded students how Jesus’ gospel of grace is radically different:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.3
One student had an “aha moment” (sudden comprehension, seeing something in a new light) and commented, “Wow! I am a Gentile, my ancestors were slaves, and I am a woman. What amazing grace that Jesus comes to love us, save us, liberate us. What a Wonderful Savior He is!”
Surprises in Prison
I see the same kind of reaction in prison ministry with Christ-following offenders who are black, white, and Hispanic. I show them 1 Peter 2:9-10—You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
In that Scripture, Peter is quoting and expanding on Exodus 19:5-6 and Deuteronomy 28:9. Just as Israel was called God’s chosen ones and treasure in the Old Testament, so in the New Testament Jesus’ followers from every nation, tribe, people and language are adopted into God’s family and given these exalted titles. Once we were outsiders and excluded. Now we are included and insiders, Christ’s little brothers and sisters.4
Here in Houston, many of our neighbors have been raised in churches, but not all are yet real Christ-followers. Many true Christians lack assurance of salvation and many fail to appreciate their value, worth, and identity in Christ. So we can show them how all the Old Testament points ahead to Jesus, God’s Son, who came down from Heaven to save outcast, overlooked, underdog people who’ve done wrong and been wronged. We can tell them how Christ makes us holy, brings us into God’s family, and equips us to imitate Him in all our callings and careers. We get the delight of seeing how Jesus salvages everyone who repents and returns to Him. Christ is our Creator and King who redeems and rules all areas of life. “He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.”5
Thank you for praying, encouraging, and supporting me to serve Christ as we watch and wait for His certain return. Thanks be to God and thank you!
Very gratefully in Jesus’ love, Bob
From the blog
Blogs posted since our April 2019 update:
Notes: 1 Luke 24:44. 2 Siddur Tehillat Hashem Nusach ha-Ari Zal, According to the Text of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (Merkos L’inyon Chinuch; Reprint edition (1982). 3 Galatians 3:28-29. 4 Matt 12:50; Heb 2:11,12. 5 From Isaac Watts’ hymn “Joy to the World.”