Overcoming Fear of Speaking Publicly

I sat in my chair, nervous as all get out. It was about to be my turn. My turn to speak in front of my whole class. I tried to calm the butterflies in my stomach as I exhaled. It didn’t work. Had I practiced enough? Would what I wrote down actually make sense to those listening to it?

We all clapped for my fellow classmate as they finished. I thought to myself, “If only I had the gifting to speak as well as they did.” I was next. I tried to put a smile on my face to hide the fact I was dying inside. I made my way to the front of the class. I almost dropped my phone as I tried to set it on the stand in front of me. My notes laid out before my eyes…. this was really happening. I wasn’t dreaming.

Before coming to School of Discipleship I had never spoken to groups of people before. I’m an introvert and public speaking was never something appealing to me. I liked to remain “the quiet one” and not have everyone’s attention on me.

Throughout my two years in SD I had many opportunities to sharpen my speaking ability, in front of both my class and the GFA staff. Most units concluded with a speech and we were given ample opportunities to share prayer request during prayer meetings. I learned to know the subject I was speaking about well enough to share it boldly with others. I learned to rehearse my speech out loud to make sure I stayed within the time frame allotted. The teaching team gave feedback on the areas I did well in and the areas I could improve in and I did better with every speech I gave.

Looking back, I am no longer that scared 19-year-old waiting to give my speech in the classroom. Do I still get nervous? YES! But, I don’t let it get to me, I am able to move past it. SD helped me to grow in public speaking and though I still have a long way to go, now I am excited to keep learning more.

 

Can you die to yourself for a year for more of Christ? The final application deadline is June 15th for our August 2018 term.

 

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Pursuing God

The School of Discipleship (SD) students are currently going through their next course on The Pursuit of God. Throughout my first year in SD in 2015, I went through many different courses that brought me closer to Jesus. My favorite, by far, was the course on this book by A. W. Tozer. It wasn’t long, but each chapter was full of things that challenged me to go deeper in my walk with Jesus. I remember reading the one or two chapters before each class repeatedly and gleaning new insights each time I read them. I loved how the teachers unpacked what Tozer wrote even more through the classes in the morning.

“Before a man can seek God, God must first have sought him.” —Tozer

I came to SD to not just be discipled; I came to know Jesus more. I wasn’t satisfied with where I was at. I wanted more. I didn’t know how to follow Jesus on my own. I only saw what those around me did, and I tried to do that. I didn’t take much responsibility in my walk with the Lord. I realized how much it was up to me to follow Jesus. I had to work for it; it wouldn’t just happen on its own. It was a personal relationship I had to engage in. God was already pursuing me, I needed to respond in pursuing Him back.

“Full knowledge of one personality by another cannot be achieved in one encounter.” —Tozer

This program gives students many opportunities to meet the Lord in both purposeful and everyday situations. One thing I remember being repeated to me by some of the leaders was “You are as close to God as you want to be.” You can have everything you need to grow, but it still is something you must do. I wanted to be close to God, but I lacked that motivation to work for the relationship. Praise the Lord that He never gave up on me during that year. He kept after me, and I found myself waking up at 5 a.m. so I could have uninterrupted time with Him. I wasn’t satisfied with where I was. Tozer’s words rang true in my life: “I thirst to be made more thirsty still.” The more time I spent with the Lord, the more I wanted.

He met the sheltered 19-year-old girl who wanted to know Him. I read this passage often: “Call to Me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” – Jeremiah 33:3 I was shocked that the God of the whole earth would want to talk to me and wanted me to talk to Him about everything. Nothing was “off-limits” with Him. He cared for me and my life. I began to understand more of who He was as the year went on.

The Lord used my two years in School of Discipleship to lay a lot of ground work in my heart. I learned what it means to genuinely pursue Christ, and I am continuing that journey today. It is a choice I must make daily to go after Him.

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Let His Love Motivate Us

2018 is here! People are making goals and changes for the year that may or may not last beyond the month of January. (I mean who can really give up sugar and chips for life?) It is the start of a new year, a fresh start and a new beginning. What are some of your goals? How do you want to be different than you were last year? How do you want your life to be marked as a disciple of Christ this year?

Gospel for Asia has started a blog called “What Motivates Us”, and through every post it shows the heart of the ministry, what drives us to do what we do and what we are about. I’ve been thinking about that a lot, “What is supposed to motivate us as Christians?” I quickly found the answer to that question in the Bible. 2 Corinthians 5:14 says, “For the love of Christ compels us.” Some translations read that His love “controls us.” Is my life controlled by His love? Or am I living for myself? I know I am more apt to live for me than for others around me. Every decision we make often goes through the filter of “how will this affect me?”

GFA’s SD students are going into their next class on Roy Hession’s book Calvary Road, which will teach them how important it is to let the Lord have every part of their life. It helps us understand that we must give up our pride and be broken before the Lord realizing we are nothing without Him. Hession says, “The Lord Jesus cannot live in us fully and reveal Himself through us until the proud self within us is broken.” Brother K.P. Yohannan, the founder of Gospel for Asia, often refers to this book during our prayer meetings and reads it yearly.

Our pride keeps us from caring about the needs of those around us. We want to be loved and accepted by other as we are, but we have a difficult time stepping into another’s mess. Our hearts and attitudes must change, we must begin with our love for God and His love for us. We can only love others well by the Holy Spirit’s power at work in us. As He reveals His love for us and teaches us how to love, we then can love others as they are. It never starts with “self-love.” It starts with Christ’s love. The Lord shows us how we are to love others by showing us how He is loving us in our mess and brokenness. He never gives up on us. He stays. He loves us. He works on us and He makes us look more like Himself. He walks with us as we journey through learning to love.

The students are learning to live out this kind of radical love and are choosing to let their lives be marked by their love for Christ and for others.

“A new commandment I give you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34–35 (NKJV)

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Evangelism Takes Dying to Self

Have you ever had this experience?  Your friend asks you: “Would you like to go with me to share the Gospel this weekend?” You feel the churning in your stomach. The queasiness begins to set in, and you try to think of a good excuse why you can’t.

Sharing your faith with someone is intimidating for most—including many who attend School of Discipleship! It’s common to feel as though we’re unprepared and just don’t know how to do it.

The School of Discipleship students just finished their course in evangelism training. They will continue to challenge their fears and live out the Great Commission throughout their year in SD.

Here’s how it works:

Experienced staff are with the students and lead the way! Students take three weeks of training classes and role playing to get some evangelism tools and techniques under their belt.  They get their “feet wet” by handing out Gospel tracts at sporting events. Even just answering the question “what is it?” when they are handing a tract to a person and answering, “It’s a Gospel tract” builds student’s courage.

From there, students progress to doing evangelism at the Texas State Fair.  While volunteering at an evangelism booth for several hours, spiritual conversations happen with much less awkwardness, and many students will experience sharing the full Gospel message.

Over the course of additional months, students receive training and practice learning how to do conversational evangelism:  starting conversations with strangers by using topics like books, coffee or the weather—and then gently turn the conversation to spiritual matters.

Students learn and practice techniques for door-to-door evangelism; knocking on doors and talking with people about spiritual things takes courage!  Alongside experienced staff, students learn how to step beyond their comfort zones and love others enough to share Jesus with them.

Here’s what one student shared about her evangelism experience at School of Discipleship:

I am now confident in sharing the Gospel to the lost people in this world. [This training] has really opened my eyes in knowing that none of us are promised tomorrow, and we are responsible for being christlike and sharing our faith with our actions, speech and our lives.”  –Mireya (SD graduate)

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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.

 

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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

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