The Best Part About a Family

We are Family

Some people like to live alone and others don’t think they could survive. But everyone has a family and needs a family because we were created that way. Of course family doesn’t have to be blood related, family are the people we treasure the most.

I’ve been at Gospel For Asia’s Discipleship Program for 1 year and nearly 8 months. I’ve lived in the same house for this time, with the same people for the first year and then a few different people for the second year. I’ve gone to serve at the same office every week day with these people and others for this whole time. It’s like a family. No, I’m not related to any of the people here, I didn’t know any of them before I came. But they are family, and as a house we do everything together. We get up at 6 AM on Monday morning tired and quiet to pray together for the day ahead, we all understand each other because we’re feeling the same things, we slowly travel downstairs to exercise together still tired and quiet. The kitchen is busy at 7 AM as everyone is eating breakfast and getting their lunch for the day, but no one fights or argues, we’re all polite and love to serve each other. Then our house remains silent and empty, because we all head to the office for prayer and ministry service. We come home at 5:30 PM, tired and hungry. A couple of us cook a meal for everyone. At 7 PM we sit down and enjoy each other some more, we’re more awake than in the morning and are able to talk and tell about our day – the joys and the challenges because everyone understands. They’ve struggled with similar things too. I love this family I have, I wouldn’t trade them for anything, but I didn’t realise how close I am to these people until I thought about leaving at the end of the year. They are my friends that I can rely on, as Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (ESV). Here I have made friends who are closer than my own family. I still love my family very much, and I know they love me, but these people know far more than my family does about what I’ve experienced this year and 8 months. They are the friends I won’t forget.

Though I believe I could live alone if the LORD called me to do it, I have found a greater joy in living with others who have the same vision and goal as I do.  I want to find family wherever I go because I believe it is God’s plan that His children (Christians related through the blood of Jesus) live together in unity and love, able to say to like Jesus did in Matthew 12:48-50, “But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”  And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

—School of Discipleship student

A High Calling and Great Purpose

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God has angels, why does he not use them for His work instead of man?

In Pastor Damian Kyle’s message “The Fall of a Great Man” from the series “The Making of a Psalmist” he asks this question and also answers it.

Damian Kyle is focusing on the time in David’s life where he falls into sin with Bathsheba. Now there isn’t any way we as humans can be perfect. Sin will always find a way to express itself but Damian Kyle said that when we are occupied with doing the Lord’s work, we are less likely to fall into sin. That would be one of the reasons why we are chosen to do God’s work.

Even when we do fall into sin, He gives us the victory in trials. He picks us up and tells us to try again.  Being in God’s will, might be hard but being outside of His will, would be even harder. “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10. We are God’s masterpiece, Christ has restored us to Himself and we are now holy and blameless in His sight. “Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without fault.” Colossians 1:22

This brought a new question into my mind; why wouldn’t God use us for His work? Without the perfection of Christ I am nothing. Because I am incapable of living a perfect life I need the application of the righteousness of Christ.

When Christ came to die, His joy was set before Him and that joy was me. In His eyes, we are nothing less than perfect. “Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil – the commander of the world of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised from the dead.” Ephesians 2:1-2, 4-5a

—School of Discipleship student

School of Discipleship CA

The Joy of Following

One of the first things Jesus did in His public ministry was to call the four fishermen to follow Him.  Throughout the Gospels we see Jesus calling individuals to follow Him some of which heeded the call and others who did not.  However, they were all called to the same thing i.e. to follow Him.  Some were called to give up their vocations, others their wealth, but all were called to follow.

The primary call of God seems to be one of following.  Paul was called to the Gentiles and Peter to the Jews, but both of these callings would be encompassed in following God.  What does it mean to follow Jesus?  As I mentioned previously, it requires us to give up something.  However, if we focus only on what we give up we miss the point and often become defined by what we don’t pursue rather than by the One we do pursue.  Some have pointed that when we choose to follow Christ we must take up our cross as He took up His.  This is true, but we must remember the goal isn’t to take up the cross.  Taking up the cross is merely the process on our way to the goal.  I have sometimes lost my focus on Christ because I was focusing on the cross and suffering that I was to take up.  It is not suffering in itself that we are to pursue but Christ who lies beyond the suffering.  In the same way Christ pursued the goal set before Him and accepted His cross.  In Hebrews 12, the author of Hebrews tells us the goal Christ had to enable him to bear His cross.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
–Hebrews 12:1-3 ESV

It was for joy–the joy of reconciling the world to himself–that Christ despised the shame.  I recently had the privilege to study a portion of Colossians chapter two.  The one thing that continually stood out to me was the triumph that Christ had in the cross.  A believer from the early centuries of Christianity said of the passage that Paul had never spoken with a more lofty tone.  Through the cross and the shame of it, Christ received the joy that was set before Him and now He is seated beside the Father.

As Christ had a joy set before Him, so we also have a joy set before us.  Because of this joy, we can endure the cross that we take up despising its shame.  We will be united with Christ in Heaven and because of this fact anything that the world and the enemy hurls against us in this life will be worth it when we see Christ face to face.

following-joy-DSC_0179“It will be worth it all when we see Jesus,

Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ;

One glimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase,

So bravely run the race till we see Christ.”

–Esther Kerr Rusthoi

—School of Discipleship student

School of Discipleship CA

Is He Worth Getting up For!!??

There is something about the quietness and stillness of a morning when no one else is up and not a sound is heard besides nature itself. It is in those times that the Lord seems to speak to my heart most often. While sitting by the lake recently listening to the sounds of nature, doing my devotions, Psalm 63 got my attention and I had to stop and meditate on what God was saying. It was in the first verse already that my heart was humbled. For it says.DSC_0417-2-worth-getting

“O God, You are my God; early will I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh longs for you in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.” Psalm 63:1 NKJV

The God of the universe is my God. He created the beauty of nature and He created me too. I really enjoy sunrises and sunsets. While camping with my fellow students and GFA staff recently, I was able to experience both for a few days. Having my devotion early in the morning when all was still and quiet brought peace to my heart. I have not experienced that in a long time. There was something that stood out to me in the second phrase, “early will I seek you.” Something inside me wanted to get up and see the sunrise and when I read that chapter I knew it was God placing the desire in my heart to meet with Him. By getting up early to spend time with the Lord, it allowed my heart to eagerly seek Him at the same time. I’ve noticed other times when I’ve found rest and peace in my heart it was God meeting me in His word, like when I’m by a lake with a sunrise or sunset. It is like God draws me to Himself through whatever I am reading by His Holy Spirit. That morning when I was enjoying being in His presence by the lake, He again brought peace to my heart. My heart was truly thirsting for more of Him and He alone has the water to satisfy our thirsty souls.

Having my quiet times with the Lord and reading the word is bringing me closer to God and deepening my relationship with Him. My heart has been able to see and experience so many rich benefits from getting up early and spending the first part of my day with the Lord and in His word. Having been at Gospel For Asia’s School of Discipleship now for almost six months I have come to really enjoy my quiet times with the Lord. Spending time with the Lord first thing in the morning is so worth missing sleep for. My body will always be able to make up for the sleep it has lost; but my soul and spirit cannot make up for the times I could have spent in reading and praying.

My desire is to say with the Psalmist. “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.” Psalm 5:3 KJV. I know it will take time to grow in getting up early and spending time with the Lord; but the Lord wants to grant us our hearts desire. And this is one desire that I know He will grant because there are not too many people that love getting up early for any reason. This desire comes from God.

Psalm 37:4 KJV Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

—School of Discipleship student

School of Discipleship CA

Victory Through Worship

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During this year of School of Discipleship there have been battles and emotions that I have not been able to defeat and conquer on my own. It is as if I have become a clear target for the enemies’ arrows of doubt, fear, and anxiety. The Lord has never been short of showing Himself faithful, but I could never figure out why His acts of faithfulness have always become shadowed when I face a trial. Why am I so quick to forget all that He has brought me through, and fall right into the doubt and fear that has already been conquered at the cross of Christ?  Why am I so quick to open the door of my heart to discouragement and defeat? I know that through Jesus’ death on the cross I can now experience freedom, hope and victory but the distance between my head and heart seems to be a mile long.

During my solitude time over the SD camping weekend, I asked the Lord to speak to my heart and reveal to me what I needed to change or apply in my life. He brought me to Gideon in the book of Judges. Gideon was the weakest man from the weakest tribe, but God had a plan to use him to bring liberating victory to the Israelites. I would not call Gideon a mighty warrior, but rather a lowly man filled with the same fear and doubt that I struggle with every day.  He did not feel worthy of the impossible task and so he asked the Lord for signs of confirmation.  It was after the third sign that he developed the faith and courage to follow in God’s will to fight against the Midianites.

When Gideon came, behold, a man was telling a dream to his comrade. And he said, “Behold, I dreamed a dream, and behold, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian and came to the tent and struck it so that it fell and turned it upside down, so that the tent lay flat.” And his comrade answered, “This is no other than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given into his hand Midian and all the camp.”

When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed down and worshiped. He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, “Get up! The Lord has given the Midianite camp into your hands.”

(Judges 7: 13-15)

So what was it that turned Gideon into a mighty man of faith? What finally gave him the courage to fight against a great host with only 300 men on his side?  It was the act of worship in response to the interpretation of the dream that changed the gaze of his eyes. He no longer feared his enemies but now feared the God who had been faithful to the rebellious nation of Israel.  My answer lies in the story of Gideon. God has been so faithful to me during this year of School of Discipleship, and as I look back I should interpret every answer to prayer as an outpouring of His love, guidance and protection over my life. It should bring me to complete awe and worship of the One whose strength is made perfect in my weakness.  As I look up towards the heavens, He will give me the wisdom and strength to dodge the flaming arrows of the enemy in order to accomplish all that the He has in store for my life.

—School of Discipleship student

School of Discipleship CA

A Missing Treasure

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Is there a place where one can encounter the presence of God more than in another place?

This question surfaced in my mind after what I experienced a couple weekends ago.  We went camping… and it was amazing. The lake was right near our campsite, the birds sang loudly in the early mornings (not so pleasant for sleeping), the sunrise and the stars were so beautiful. It was so peaceful to go down to meet with God by the lake, in the calm, the wind, which caused the waves to crash against the shore. I could have sat there for hours just to soak in the beauty of God’s creation and most of all His presence. What the LORD showed me during that weekend was incredible! It was like my mind and spirit were so ready to hear from a loving Father everything was so clear. Each night I couldn’t wait to get up and go to the lake to meet with God, it was worth rising early, getting a bit dirty and cold to experience Him.

Only one thing was wrong: the camping trip came to an end. That meant tiredness from late nights and early mornings and being thrown back into weekly routine. But the worse thing was my excitement to meet with the LORD was gone. It was just another thing to do like it had been before. My mind was no longer clear and I couldn’t focus as easily as I had been able to at the camp. I longed for that experience again, but it wouldn’t come back.

Can I not learn? Do I not change? Why is it that some places cause me to experience God in a greater way?

Then the LORD showed me so gently the missing treasure: Expectation.

Expectation: “a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.” (oxforddictionaries.com)

I get up each morning to meet the LORD in the same place; nothing changes, it’s dark, I’m tired, I pray and read. But there is something I can change, and that is my expectation. On the camping trip I had high expectations, partly coming from being in a new place and in creation, God met and exceeded them. But when I walked into the house again, those expectations left, and everything was normal, just as I expected it to be.

I may not have a choice as to where I can go to meet with God, but I do have a choice as to what I will expect from those times with Him. I want to enter each time of prayer or reading with great expectation as to what the LORD will do and say with the Psalmist, My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.” –Psalm 62:5 KJV

—School of Discipleship student

School of Discipleship CA

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