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.
“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
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
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
A few weekends ago, I had the privilege to go camping with some other Gospel For Asia staff members. It was an awesome weekend and I learned a lot, and in some ways that I never expected to learn them. Here’s what I learned.
Some of us went fishing. The patience required is much like when you’re waiting on the Lord. You cast your line, in faith, and you wait. You don’t know what’s next, or what’s going on below the water. You just have to be prepared for what could happen next. God’s given us a whole book of instruction, and we even have the instructor living inside of us! We need to be ready and prepared to act when God says to go. Back to fishing… If you get a catch that’s like an answer to prayer, you need to then reel it in so it doesn’t get off the hook, Likewise, even if you don’t get a catch, that’s yet another answer to prayer, you then have to reel in your line and re-cast. God knows what you need, when you need it. So don’t be disappointed when you don’t get the “catch” you want, and when you want it…
I also learned a lot about trust. During the weekend, we went rock climbing and ended up stranded on top of a 35 foot rock formation in the dark. So I learned to trust people that I don’t know very well and it was scary at first, but after a while I learned that I am safe with the rope and harness and someone who knows what they’re doing up top. God’s provided us with all that we need for the tasks He gives to us. He doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle in His strength. That’s like our rope and harness, and God’s up top knowing exactly what He’s doing, all He needs us to do is sit back, and trust Him to get us to our destination safely.
God is good isn’t He? 🙂
Earlier in the year, we went camping with the School of Discipleship people, and a few families. God used that to grow me in a way I never knew camping would be used for. Here’s what I said in my second newsletter about it:
So God is continuing to mold me and the people in my class, and even the leaders here so much, even in just these past few months. He has brought me, personally, through so much, that only a year ago, I would have not even thought possible. I have been taught, and am continuing to learn the value of being still and quiet before the Lord. Which may sound simple in some respects, but for me, it was really hard to learn that lesson. One of the things that I find the most uncomfortable is silence. I never really saw the importance of it. I would always have music going on in the background, or I would be fidgeting a lot because it is so hard to sit still. But a few weekends ago, over Halloween, the School of Discipleship went on a camping trip.
During that time, we were given multiple hours to spend alone with God, and spend time basking in His glory and His creation. While I was out there in the forest (I hadn’t been in a forest since I was back home in PA) I began to evaluate my motives. I asked myself multiple questions, and arrived at the same conclusion with God’s help. Not only did I need to spend more time in His presence, but I needed to say no to my flesh and its wanting noise and movement, and let all of my attention go to God, and God alone.
This is only one of the many things that God is showing me in my life right now. But it is possibly one of the most important ones. I say that because, in the silence, it is possible to really hear God speak. To really hear His guidance in my life. Silence truly is golden. Thanks again! And remember always… God is good!