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Monday
May042015

The Works of Grace

Ephesians tells us that we receive the grace of God through faith—not works (Eph. 2:8-9). But according to James, our faith must have corresponding actions (James 2:17-18). What are those actions? They are the works of grace.

For it is God who is producing in you both the desire and the ability to do what pleases him.

Philippians 2:13, International Standard Version

God’s heart beats for people. But what is the most effective way to share His grace with others? Is it with words or through works? First Peter tells us to "live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us" (1 Peter 2:12, New International Version).

On a recent missions trip to India, Charis Bible College student Jon Hay discovered the truth of that verse when a group of Indian Christians planned a conference on the eve of a major pagan holiday. “On the day of the conference, the entire country shut down to honor Shiva, their god of destruction. There was a lot of opposition to our meeting, and it was unclear whether it would be safe for us to hold it. But I knew that God was with us and that He would open the doors for us to do what He’d called us there to do.”

The first session of the conference was well-attended and finished without incident. At least 100 people responded to the love of God demonstrated by the team. But Jon was unprepared for what transpired during the evening Charis missions team member Sherry Hoffer ministeringsession. “When we returned in the evening, the Hindu holiday was in full force. The streets were packed with revelers! God did amazing things during the meeting. We saw demons cast out, people healed, and children blessed. Toward the end of the meeting, the pastor of the church approached my teammate Teresa and me for assistance. He led us out of the meeting and told us someone needed prayer.”

Directed to the neighboring house of a major councilor in the Hyderabad government, Jon and Teresa met the woman responsible for the opposition to their meeting. The house was full of idols, but what Jon and Teresa noticed first was the stress in the woman’s eyes. “The Hindu woman told us of some major decisions she had to make for her job and the number of people pressuring her for counsel. She explained some of the physical complications she was experiencing (like diabetes and high blood pressure) because of her high-stress job and asked us if we would pray for her. Teresa and I laid hands on her and began to pray. Immediately, the peace of God overflowed in that room! We spoke life, healing, and peace over her and her family.”

The woman expressed her gratitude to Jon and Teresa for extending love to her without force or demands. And though she did not acknowledge Christ as Lord that day, the seed of His Word was planted in her heart because of their works of grace. Jon is fully expecting God to “use that time to do great things throughout India!”

Monday
Apr272015

All in the Family

As he saith also in Osee [Hosea], I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. [26] And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.

Romans 9:25-26, brackets added

Sarah Motevalli praying for physical healing at a rehab center
(Click to enlarge)
In general, the American church has embraced the message of adoption (see Eph. 1:3-6). But have we forgotten that God’s idea of adoption translates to every language and people on the planet? According to Barna Research, fewer American missionaries are being sent out every year and a decreasing amount of our churches’ incomes is set aside for missions work and/or outreach.

But Charis Bible College hasn’t forgotten God’s design. With over forty campuses worldwide and hundreds of students traveling for missions work every year, Charis is taking the message of God’s grace (the adoption of sons) to every tribe and tongue they can find.

After returning from a recent missions trip to Russia, several Charis students shared how the family of God is enlarging in every part of the world! Pat Koppel said, “While in Russia, I shared that we are the adopted children of Leaders of a church in a town outside of Yekaterinburg, including Pastor Vladimir second to the left (Click to enlarge)God. When someone adopts a child, they spend a precious amount of time and resources dreaming about, planning for, and searching after their child. No adopted child is unwanted. As God’s adopted children, we are wanted and pursued by Him in the same way. After my testimony, seven people approached me, and our translator sent word that one of the conference attendees had received a revelation about God as her Father and was so happy! It feels good to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ. God loves us more than we could ever know and has made plans for us beyond our expectations for good!”

Another team member shared about the church they visited near Siberia. Pastor Vladimir, the church’s pastor, encountered God in prison and, after serving his sentence, planted the church. Like many of his countrymen, Vladimir had a history with drugs and alcohol. Today he ministers “grace Emily Townsend and a pastor in Ichevks (Click to enlarge)through faith” to those in rehab centers and to anyone who comes through the doors of his church. Already this year, twenty-five people have gone through Andrew’s foundational teachings (which have been translated into Russian) Spirit, Soul & Body and The True Nature of God. Pastor Vladimir said, “Andrew is the best. He teaches in a way that a person who doesn’t know much about the Bible can understand and get to know the love and grace of God.” Currently, the church is building a new rehab center to increase its outreach to the community. “It was a miraculous testimony,” team member Cinnamon Bergeron recalled. “Eighty thousand dollars of extra income came into this small church within ten months. They’ve purchased the land and have started to build—all with fewer than 100 people! God is so good.”

Sarah Motevalli discovered that “you can go into any corner of the world, and wherever and in whomever the Spirit of Christ is, there you find your loving family!”

Monday
Apr202015

Leaving the Ninety-Nine

Then Jesus told them this parable: [4] “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? [5] And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders [6] and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ [7] I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Luke 15:3-7 (New International Version)

Charis missions team heading out to minister to people on the streets of Russia (Click to enlarge)In February 2015, Austin Brown joined a team of Charis Bible College students on a missions trip to Russia. Feeding his spirit with the testimonies of other students involved in the missions program at Charis, Austin expected to see God do amazing things in Russia. But he was unprepared for the life-altering revelation he would receive about God’s unfailing love for people.

“I went to Russia expecting to see great miracles,” Austin recalled. “And I did see amazing instantaneous healings. A lady with a broken wrist came for prayer and left with her mobility. A Muslim man allowed us to pray for his sore knees while waiting for the train. The pain left, and he literally began jumping and dancing. Another man brought his child to us for prayer. He had been struggling to breathe with COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. We prayed, and the child was healed. But it wasn’t the physical healings that impacted me; it was the revelation of God’s love.”

Muslim man who got healed in the train station (Click to enlarge)When the team arrived in Izhevsk in central Russia, they were told to prepare to minister in a hospital for special-needs children. “I was really looking forward to the opportunity to minister to these kids, however, when we arrived at the hospital, it was under quarantine. We were not allowed in.”

While the hospital dealt with the flu outbreak, the team began ministering to the mother of one of the children. She’d been wrestling with the misunderstanding that she had done something wrong and that God was punishing her child because of it. “I told her that God does not hold our sins against us—that He is a good God. And the healing for her daughter was provided through Jesus.” The life in Austin’s words set the woman free from guilt. She surrendered her life to Christ and was baptized in the Holy Spirit at that moment!

Conference in Izhevsk, Russia (Click to enlarge)Later that night as Austin lay in bed reviewing his day, he found himself wishing he had been able to minister in the hospital. God spoke to his heart and said, “I sent you over 12,500 miles by plane to minister to that woman. And if she were the only woman you were able to personally touch, this trip was a success in My eyes!” At that moment, Austin realized what an unrelenting love God has for people. Not only has He given His Son, but as a Good Shepherd, He left the ninety-nine to find the one missing sheep from His pasture. “For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost” (Matt. 18:11).