Church Roots

1 Peter 1:19But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot”  We are bought by the blood of Christ and the blood of the saints are the seed of the Church. If you would have asked me a few months ago what my church roots are or anything about church history I’d have only been able to tell you a very little bit. The Lord directed me to come for a second year of the GFA Discipleship Program and in this year I’ve been learning about Church History, which is proving to be very beneficial.

I’m in awe of what the death of Christ has done for me in making me a part of the Bride of Christ. The Apostle’s passion to see the nations reached with the love of Christ compelled them to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the extent that it cost them their lives. Those that came after them paid a heavy price of martyrdom, passing on the tradition and the Apostles Creed onto the next generations. Saints like Polycarp, Ignatius Tertullian and a host of others that would not back down on what they were taught and believed; they gave their lives for Christ in unimaginable ways. If it had not been for them we would not hold a Bible in our hands, have the structure and order in our worship services that we do today.

As I’ve been learning about the lives of the saints the verse in Psalm 116 starts to make more sense. When reading it before I wondered why the death of saints would be precious in the eyes of the Lord. Psalms 116:15 says. “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” Couple this verse with a quote from Tertullian an early church father. “The blood of the saints is the seed of the church.” This gives a glimpse of why the death of Christians might be precious to the Lord.  I don’t fully understand the verse or the meaning behind it but I’m grateful for what others have gone through to give us the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In studying books like “Tried by Fire,” “Early Church History Made Easy” and a few others on early Church History I see that the Church has gone through very dark times. I was reminded in our last lectures that in the middle of all the darkness God is still working and keeping the Church alive, the Bride of Christ and preparing her for Jesus. Just like a seed when it is planted in the dirt, we don’t see what is happening but we trust that the seed dies, germinates and then brings forth life; so God kept His Church and will keep it until Jesus returns. We are one body with many different members and together we are the Church of Jesus Christ bought with His precious blood.

As I’m learning about what the Universal Church is and how it is one body which is being prepared for Christ return, I get excited because I am part of the whole Church. I, as a blood bought child of God, am part of the universal church. It is not about this Christian life being just Jesus and me; it’s much more than that. Every born again believer is part of the Body regardless of what church they go to. This realization makes me grateful to live in a community of like minded believers. We may be different and come from diverse backgrounds, but we are one in Christ.

 

God at Work in History

One of the things I have been learning through my study of Church History this year is that God is always at work in the lives of His people. Even during the times of darkness and chaos when it looked as if God wasn’t even in the picture, He was at work behind the scenes using each circumstance for the good of His people and to bring glory to His name.

All throughout history the Church has been faced with hardships from within and without, but the Middle Ages was an especially dark time for God’s people. We recently read about some of the struggles they faced during that time including: wars from invading barbarians, the destruction and violence of the crusades,  leadership corrupted by greed, the  division of the church between East and West,  and the devastation of plagues and sickness.

Yet in the midst of all of this there is evidence that God had not abandoned His people. Even during this dark time we can see that God was at work bringing forth His purpose through it all. He raised up missionaries, like Boniface and Lioba who dedicated their lives to  reaching Germany with the Gospel, Reformers, such as the monks, who called people to a life of holiness and a deeper love for God, and the Mendicants, mobile preachers who travelled from town to town preaching the Gospel to all who would listen. During this time the Gospel was taken to many unreached peoples such as the English, Irish, French, and Moravians (modern-day Czech Republic). God was working through the lives of His faithful followers who were willing to give their lives in order to be obedient to God’s calling upon them.

In one of the lectures we watched the speaker made a comment that really stood out to me. He said “God is like a field teeming with life below the surface.” On top it may look like nothing is happening at all, but underground, within the soil, the seeds are very much alive and change is taking place. Soon the seed will sprout and push its way out of the soil.  Then what has been taking place below the surface will become visible to all as we see the evidence of a new life.

Many situations in my own life are much like that field. On the surface I don’t see anything happening and assume that what I can or cannot see in the natural must be all that is taking place. I am so quick to focus only on what is right in front of me and grow discouraged because it appears that God is not at work. In the midst of difficult circumstances I don’t see any way that God can be using it to bring about  His purpose. I am unaware of what is taking place just below the surface and that out of the trials and struggles God is creating something new and beautiful.

God has been reminding me that just as He was at work behind the scenes in some of the darkest times of history so He is at work in the difficult moments of my life. I can trust that in the same way He raised up His faithful followers to bring about His purpose during a dark time in the Church, so He will use each circumstance in my life to ultimately show His faithfulness and unfailing love to the world around me.

My desire is to choose each day not to focus on the apparently lifeless soil above ground but to remember that underground, where I cannot see, change is taking place. What I can see in the natural is only momentary in light of all that God has in store for eternity.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Not Meant to Walk Alone

This past weekend we took some time to bless one of our staff families by helping them with Spring Cleaning. We had a great time and were able to finish in record time as we all worked together. The fun conversations, smiling faces and good food that we enjoyed made the work not seem like work at all! (The tiredness that I felt after we were finished though was a strong reminder that we had indeed worked hard.)

Since coming to the GFA Discipleship Program I have learned to appreciate living in a close knit community. Not only do we get to help each other with house cleaning or other projects that need many helping hands but we also get to help and encourage each other in our walk with the Lord. It is not always easy and many times I would rather run and hide than open up to someone about the things I struggle with. Having the opportunity to share with a sister in Christ who is my mentor and have them pray for me has been such a blessing! I don’t have to feel like I am alone in my struggle. I don’t always take advantage of the opportunity to go to her about what I am struggling with and it seems that the enemy has so much more control over my emotions to make me feel alone, unloved, and helpless to overcome.

My personality is more of an introvert, I like being on my own and don’t really like being surrounded by people for too long. I often use this as an excuse when I am struggling with discouragement or sin in my life. If God made me this way then maybe He will also help me to overcome on my own as well. Through many failed attempts in this I can assure you that this never helps! God didn’t make us as His children to walk alone, He created us to need others and help each other.

Hebrews 10:24-25 “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”

I have really come to appreciate the three girls that I get to be a part of in the Discipleship Program. I have been blessed and also challenged by each one and their desire to grow in their relationship with the Lord. In our times of praying for one another we take some time to share any personal requests that we may have so that we know how to pray for each other better. I am often tempted to share something that is impersonal or very broad, not really share what I am struggling with personally. Many times I struggle with doubts and insecurities that I think Satan likes to use to get me not to open up so that I will continue to struggle on my own. The honesty and openness that I have seen from the other girls has helped me to also be more open and honest.

As the return of Christ is drawing near and the war against the power of darkness becomes more difficult, I am thankful for the Body of Christ. Together we are able to stand much stronger than if we had to stand on our own.

Romans 15:5-7 May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.

21st Century Lens

It has been a few months now since I’ve returned to the Discipleship Program for my second year and what a year it’s been already!

We are currently studying the history of the church. I know, I was thinking the same thing… Why study church history? I asked our GFA director this question and he mentioned that it is important to know the history of the church because it’s my testimony, and as a believer it’s my history. Though I accepted the answer, I still didn’t quite understand until we actually started going through our classes. I am also reading “Destined for the Throne” by Paul Billheimer; it has also really helped me to understand why church history is so important. Jesus is coming back for the church, His bride, that’s all believers of the past, present and future generations. What the early church believed and did impacts what I believe and do today, the early church also looked back to what the Israelites believed and had them as a role model.

As I am reading through the Old Testament (my goal is to finish reading through the Bible by the end of the year)  with this new thought of the church having existed since the beginning  of time it has helped me to understand the Holiness of God and His great mercy and amazing love towards us. All throughout history God has been building up His church and preparing it to reign with Him in Heaven.

As I read Deuteronomy, there are so many verses where God only asks the Israelites to obey Him and He promises that when they do He will bless them. The word “obedience” is not a pleasant thought, it makes me feel like I’m going to be bound and never able to do what I want. Deuteronomy 11:22 (NLT Version) says; “Be careful to obey all these commands I am giving you. Show love to the Lord your God by walking in His ways and holding tightly to Him.” Reading this verse helped me put the word obedience into a whole new perspective! Now when I obey the Lord I know that He knows how much I love Him. My obedience is proof of my love and yet I find myself more often than not disobeying just as the Israelites seemed to do.

Reading about the Israelites journey and how God had to deal with their sin makes me so grateful for His great mercy! If he would still deal with us and our sin the way He did with the Israelites’ sin I would have been condemned to death a long time ago!! What a merciful and compassionate God we serve, who so willingly forgives us when we ask and who with patience continues to lead us to our everlasting Home!!

Written by a Discipleship Program Student

Joy is the Victory

rejoice

Oh what fun the past few months have been. I’m so glad that though there are spiritual struggles and battles, we have so much to celebrate. Filling a bedroom with balloons for a welcome home surprise, decorating office desks with streamers for birthday and anniversaries are some ways to celebrate the Lord’s faithfulness in the lives of GFA family! God is so good and He gives us so much to rejoice over.

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say rejoice! Philippians 4:4

I struggle to remember to rejoice, often, though I know that I’m saved and that the Holy Spirit dwells within me but I forget so easily that the battle is the Lord’s and He’s already won! I get caught up in areas where I fail that I forget to rejoice in the areas where I have experienced victory.

Being at GFA Canada where we celebrate continually is a blessing. Whether it is a birthday, anniversary or a Friday, there’s always something we are thanking the Lord for, through cake, decorations, or songs. In the Old Testament, the children of Israel were given feast days in which they were to remember the Lord’s mercy and deliverance. I think God knew we needed to have these days in order to rejoice, so we wouldn’t dwell on the negative and continue striving in our own strength.

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

Written by a Discipleship Program Student

In His Garden

“He comes to His garden to enjoy its fruit.” – Chuck Smith

 

The Christian is saved by believing and trusting in God. This produces fruit in their life. GardenYet so often I get confused and think producing fruit is what saves me or gives me a better standing before God and others.

But think of a tree: this tree produces fruit faithfully every year. Its fruit does nothing for the tree. If the tree depended on its fruit it would die. The fruit is only good for the enjoyment of others and for producing more trees. So what then saves the tree? The water and nutrients in the soil! The tree did nothing to put them there, nor can it maintain them there. It only connects itself to them and trusts that they will give it all it needs and by them it is able to produce fruit.

wp_20160503_018Before coming to School of Discipleship, I struggled often with wanting my works to be recognized by others and by God. I wanted to be noticed and known. I still do. I see pride creeping up in my heart probably every day. But the months I’ve spent away from home in this community environment have taught me a few things:

God showed me the ugliness of my sin; that there was nothing good in my heart, and that though I longed to change, I could not. He also taught me that He still loved me, no matter how sinful I am and that He wanted to change me if I would let Him. I was humbled over and over again in watching the selflessness of others, in the way they loved God and served me as well. wp_20160505_015I knew I wasn’t like them, but I wanted to be and as I strive to be more others-focused, I find a greater joy.
St. Paul said this to the Philippians:

 “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.” Philippians 3:7-9

I know I’m not there yet. I haven’t lost all things for Christ-there are many things I hang onto, thinking and hoping they will do me some good. But as C.S. Lewis says, “Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead.”

I pray that I can give away all things and be able to say like St. Paul, “I consider them garbage that I may gain Christ.”

I want to be “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and whose leaf does not wither” and in this way may the fruit that my relationship with Christ produces bring glory and enjoyment to God.

Written by a Discipleship Program Student

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