With everything we compete against today, it is so easy to disqualify ourselves or to allow others to disqualify us from our calling. As I studied the life of Priscilla, I could not help but ask myself: “What right do I have to disqualify what only God can qualify?” As Priscilla was revealed to me, I found several biblical intellectuals who name her as the first woman pastor in the early Church. Just think about how easily it would have been, in that day and time, for Priscilla to count herself out of this monumental assignment. Or how she could have, based on her gender and marital status alone, allowed others to disqualify her God-given qualifications.
It is interesting that we are not told where Priscilla is from. Her ethnicity, although presumed Jewish, or her religious heritage is not given in scripture. Even her name is a common Roman name. It is in the book of Acts that the apostle Paul makes Priscilla known to us. Here the scriptures describe how Paul first meets Priscilla and Aquila in Corinth.
“There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife, Priscilla, because [the Roman Emperor] Claudius had issued an edict that all the Jews were to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them; and they worked together for they were tent-makers.” Acts 18:2-3 AMP
Passages such as Romans 16:3, which start as “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus,” tell us Paul considered them to be his equals. His designation of Priscilla and Aquila as “fellow workers in Christ Jesus,” was terminology often used to describe other respected leaders in ministry. In verse 4 of chapter 16, Paul indicates that he and the Gentile churches were indebted to the couple for their work. High praise indeed.
Now let’s refocus a little more closely on Priscilla.
At the very first mention of Priscilla in the Bible, we are given immediate information that she is the wife of Aquila. I believe this makes her story even more powerful than most. As the mandate of ministry leadership manifests in her life, she isn’t single or widowed, she’s married. Priscilla is this unique woman who walked in the confidence of her calling while married.
Scripture provides a clear picture of this couple’s relationship. Priscilla is found walking in true unity with Aquila, placing herself under the covering of her husband, while still fulfilling God’s calling over her own life. Priscilla labors alongside her husband at the gospel work. Together, they were consistently busy for the Lord wherever they were. A rare gem. Even with so little accolades to who she was or where she came from, many believe, she was the first woman in the Church to preach the truth of Jesus Christ openly.
And then the Bible gives us this stunning picture of Priscilla’s gifting. In Acts 18:26, the Bible gives us this encounter in Ephesus between Priscilla and Aquila and a disciple named Apollos.
“And he began to speak boldly and fearlessly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained more accurately to him the way of God [and the full story of the life of Christ].” AMP
Note Priscilla’s name is listed first in the passage. This is significant since the cultural pattern was, in such listings, to name the husband first. But there is something even more significant at play. Priscilla is found gracefully co-teaching a man, completely unheard of in that day. This further supports why we are led to believe she was considered to have held a pastoral role in the Church.
Throughout the remainder of the Bible, Priscilla continues to be mentioned equally with her husband, if not mentioned first. This reveals they were a true team and that barriers in leading the Church were being broken.
Proverbs 31:30 says:
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. NIV
When Priscilla spoke, she spoke with reverence for the Lord, with authority and confidence, and she was considered to be an expert on the teachings of Jesus. She bloomed wherever she was planted and faithfully served the Lord. Priscilla became a light God moved around to spiritually dark areas in order to illuminate the darkness with the truth of Jesus Christ.
“Paul stayed for a while longer, and then told the brothers and sisters goodbye and sailed for Syria; and he was accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila.” Acts 18:18 AMP
The churches of Asia send you their greetings. Aquila and Priscilla, together with the church [that meets] in their house, send you their warm greetings in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 16:19 AMP
Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, and to the household of Onesiphorus. 2 Timothy 4:19 AMP
Without question, Priscilla proclaimed the Good News. She spoke of God’s love from her mouth and then demonstrated it with her actions. Just like Priscilla, many women throughout church history have paved the way to teaching the Gospel. Yet, their part in this area has not been free from debate. Priscilla submitted to God’s calling and crossed traditional boundaries broadening women’s roles in ministry. Will you follow in her footsteps and dare to submit your giftings and talents to the mandate of God’s calling on your life?
Acts 2:17-18 says:
”In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” NIV
Regardless of gender, no person, called and gifted by God, should deny themselves or be denied by others any role in ministry, including Church leadership.
Don’t overestimate your inadequacies and underestimate your God-given spiritual gifts! Perhaps the expectations you have self-imposed, or allowed others to appoint in your life, really aren’t deal breakers! Nothing in our life happens by chance! God promises in His Word He can and will do something outside of your natural abilities if you allow Him. You may feel unsettled about yourself because you perceive yourself as lacking any real qualifications to teach the Gospel, or by the potential limits you see in front of you, but God is never unsettled about those He chooses. Step out BOLD woman of God and conquer!
Written by Stacha Ashburn, founder of “I AM” Code Sisterhood.
Please note all scripture was taken from the AMP – Amplified Bible or NIV – New International Version
Amplified Bible (AMP) Copyright © 2015 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, CA 90631. All rights reserved.
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide
As I was challenged to dig deeper into Phoebe, this woman from the Bible, I couldn’t help but think: “She is only mentioned once in the Bible. What could I possibly gain from Phoebe’s story?” My God, I was so wrong. Though she is only mentioned once in the Bible, this was a woman of phenomenal Godly character, a woman who knew her worth, a woman who had an encounter with Jesus Christ.
Phoebe is revealed in Romans 16:1–2 where Paul writes,
“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me.” NIV
In biblical times, letters of introduction to strangers were common. The mention of Phoebe in this way means that she was probably the bearer of the letter that went to Rome. The name Phoebe means bright and radiant. From Paul’s comments about her, it seems that those words characterized her personality and her Christian life.
This gives so much context as to who Phoebe was, and if God would use her, He can use us too! Paul writes, “I commend to you our sister Phoebe.” This is super profound here. This speaks volumes of the intimate relationship in which she and the apostle Paul had. Paul associates himself with Phoebe like a brother. An authentic partnership, one without hierarchy between them. The gender difference didn’t restrict either Paul or Phoebe from the mandate God had on each of their lives.
We so often will allow the fact that we aren’t this or we aren’t that to stop us, and we miss the opportunity to be used to the ultimate level God has ordained over our life. Here we see Phoebe being Phoebe, not allowing societal norms to hold her back from everything God has called her to be. Phoebe isn’t waiting for permission to fill the needs she sees within the body of Christ. Instead Phoebe just does.
The word commend is expressively loud and a word of praise. With an exclamation of admiration, this is how Paul affirms all that she is and all she has been. He immediately gives her title, so no one is deceived that though she is a woman, she is less than a leader of the Cenchreae church. Her discipleship counts. Any brother or sister who has confessed Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior has discipleship that counts, in Jesus’ name.
There I was sincere, genuine, Jesus-loving me going into a full-blown meltdown! And it was getting ugly! I wanted to blame everything – my household responsibilities, my husband, being an entrepreneur, and most especially my hormones! Yet I knew, underneath it all, I was letting my thoughts get out of control. That’s what mindshifting is – letting your train of thought take you from logical to illogical thinking OR vice versa.
Unfortunately, our thought life always seems to be hanging in the balance, ready to come unraveled at any time. It takes practice to learn how to control those thoughts and images that come into our minds. Since they are so tightly connected to our emotions, if our emotions are yo-yoing, chances are our thought life is as well.
So how do Christians finally break this cycle?
First, we must remember that God has given us control over our thought life. Through the power of Jesus, we need to use our authority in this area daily. In 2 Corinthians 10:5, Paul states: “We are destroying sophisticated arguments and every exalted and proud thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ.” (AMP)
Paul had learned that it not only takes effort, but warring against negativity, to control the thoughts that entered his mind. Though there will be some trial and error, we must not give in to a nature that tries to convince us we cannot win in this area.
Next, we must allow God’s Word to come in and replace those thoughts that are trying to distract and destroy us. Paul instructs us in Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (NKJV)
Third, in Ephesians, Paul gives us a picture of the armor of God, which every Christian should use to defend themselves from the enemy. To assist us in controlling our thoughts, Paul states “put on salvation as your helmet” (Ephesians 6:17 NLT). By knowing who we are in Christ – the saved and redeemed – we can proudly turn away any thoughts that try to convince us that we are still trapped by our past.
Lastly, we need to replace bad thoughts with good thoughts. Again, Paul gives sound advice in Philippians 4:8 when he states: “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (NLT)
How did Paul get so smart about mindshifting? Well, he had some serious challenges to work through.
We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. 2 Corinthians 6:4-5 (NLT)
Can you imagine being in even one of those scenarios? Yet, Paul suffered them all. Was Paul some kind of Biblical superhero? No, he was just a man who had placed his faith squarely in his Savior and after enduring one trial after another had also learned to control his thoughts. We would do well to study Paul’s life and receive the advice he gives us, and while we practice mindshifting, allow Jesus to guide us one thought at a time!
What kind of thoughts have you been struggling with lately? Do you have a favorite go-to verse that assist you in regaining control of your negative thoughts? Feel free to comment below, and let’s work on moving our thoughts from ugh! to hallelujah!
Blessings to you and yours!
Amplified Bible (AMP) Copyright © 2015 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, CA 90631. All rights reserved.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Publishers Inc.
Prayer is simply talking with God. Seems like a simple concept, doesn’t it? But oh, how we complicate it!
All the usual questions come to mind – Where should I pray? Is there a specific position of prayer that really expresses my sincerity? How long do I pray? And most importantly, what should I pray?
The Bible provides some great examples of prayer from both Old and New Testament characters, like:
Personally, I don’t believe that God is so much concerned about the place, position, or length of prayer we pray. In those areas, do what comes naturally to you, because most likely, He is concerned about the matters within in our hearts. Would you agree?
Therefore, if we take the first three elements of prayer discussed above off the table, that leaves the content of our prayers. Today, I propose that we look at the prayers of Paul as an example of what to pray. (And, of course, I would suggest that we do it in light of the teachings of Jesus).
Though Paul would not have the opportunity to learn about prayer directly from Jesus like the other apostles, his prayers were completely God honoring. They show a level of spiritual maturity that was also reflected in the overall behavior of Paul. And the subject of his prayers provides real guidance for Christians attempting to further their walk with Jesus.
Ready? Let’s jump in!
I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places. Eph. 1:16-20
In this prayer, Paul is praying for those new to the faith to be given wisdom. You can bet that before Paul ever started praying for God’s wisdom to be given to the Church that he was in constant prayer that God would give him wisdom. And he would be right, because as the saying goes, you can’t give what you don’t have. To help mold and shape the Church, Paul would need wisdom.
When God provided that wisdom, Paul was eager to share it with others. In our walk with Christ, we should first seek the foundational building block of wisdom. From there, our understanding of everything else will grow.
2. Praying for Spiritual Strength and Growth
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. Ephesians 3:16-18 NLT
Right after praying for spiritual wisdom, Paul prays for spiritual strength and growth. Knowledge of God’s ways is life changing in and of itself, but it takes inner strength to carry out God’s instructions daily. Paul knew firsthand what it meant to come face to face with the truths of God’s Word.
He also knew how the daily grind of life as well as the challenges of being of a believer could wear away at the soul. So, he prayed for strength, knowing this in turn would give room for spiritual growth on more than a superficial level. And in tandem, the believers’ spiritual growth would fortify their spiritual strength, allowing the cycle to repeat.
3. Praying for Knowledge Regarding God’s Will
So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. Colossians 1:9-10 NLT
In this prayer, Paul repeats some of the same themes he has used in other prayers (e.g., wisdom), but he also adds a new line. Paul asks that the Church be given complete knowledge of God’s will. So, what’s the difference between knowledge and wisdom? Knowledge is simply the information you have been given. Wisdom is the ability to take in information, make sense of it, and then apply that knowledge correctly when making decisions.
Initially, Paul would seek from God the ability to understand His will and then once fully prepared, ask God to reveal His will. I like to think of it this way. Had we not been prepared in 2nd grade to take on the information coming in 3rd grade, once we reached 3rd grade, we would not have been able to fully use what we were being taught. To know God’s will on a level that makes it useful to us, we must be ready to receive it.
4. Praying for Partners in Ministry
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil. 1:4-6 NIV
What I love about Paul was his insatiable appetite for all followers of Christ to be active proclaimers of the gospel. As one person who took as much territory for Christ as possible, Paul was keenly aware that if his efforts were doubled by others also taking ground for Christ, the gates of Hell would be completely crushed sooner than later. Likewise, we should be constantly in prayer for our fellow Christians and rejoice when they succeed.
What would happen if we prayed these types of prayers? What if we could stay others-focused? I am the first to admit, I struggle with those questions. However, I have also been a witness to what can be accomplished if we pray with conviction for wisdom, strength, growth, knowledge, and ministry partners. To that end, I will repeat Galatians 6:9 –
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (ESV)
I’ll be praying for you!
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
I love to read the writings of the Apostle Paul. Here is an example of a person radically changed by the love of Christ. Following his Damascus Road transformation, he was willfully consumed by the task of proclaiming the Good News. But to appreciate Paul’s new found attitude, we have to remember who Paul was before that extraordinary day.
Paul, formerly named Saul, was a Pharisee. This means he was not an ordinary Jewish citizen, but in fact a well-educated, highly intelligent student of the scripture. He knew the written laws of God intimately and would have strictly followed them from an early age. Yet, he lacked genuine knowledge of the Word made flesh.
Saul began his life as one of the most notorious characters of the Bible. Not only did he once hate the Church and all it stood for, he was determined to drive Christ followers out from among the Jewish people. He believed it was his responsibility to jail them, to terrorize them, and even murder them in the name of righteousness. He was someone to fear and someone far from Christ.
Then something miraculous happened –Jesus confronted Saul on the road to Damascus. In His grace and mercy, Jesus did not do to Saul what Saul had done to others. Instead, He speaks to Saul in a tone of offered forgiveness.
Recently, I did a speaking engagement in which I spoke on the Christian walk. Please hear me, it was meant for all –both you and I. The main premise of the discussion was what occurs on the Christian walk (e.g., family tragedy, job loss, financial problems, addictions) can sometimes have folks wondering, “Does Christianity really work?” Within the topic introduction, I attempted to lay out the crossroads that Christians will reach –resist and turn back or continue on with Jesus.
Here is a little excerpt from that speech:
… let me state the first truth about Christians in general. No matter how long you have been a Christian, you can remain in the very early stages of your faith for a long time, can you not? What I mean by that is we initially have high expectations for dramatic life change. We have mustered up enough courage to let go of our past sins and have experienced the taste of freedom that comes from being saved. But then we realize, we have no earthly idea what we just walked into or what exactly to do next.
The second truth –At that point, one of two things will happen to a majority of us:
1. Some of us will blossom for a while. We’ll dig into our church and our faith, and life is relatively good. We’ll say to ourselves: “This Jesus thing isn’t so hard. I’ve got this.” Then life turns on us, and we stand shell-shocked that our new-found fortune has come to a screeching halt.