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

Glorious Redemption!!

Glorious Redemption!!picture of cross glorious redemption

The Son of God is hanging on a cross, suffering unimaginably but not just from physical pain but from the weight of the sin of the whole world, my sin included! He has the choice to call ten thousand legions of Angels to His rescue but He stays, He submits to the will of His Father to redeem mankind from their sin. He knows He is their only hope, and so He willingly gives up His life on the cross. All creation trembles and the sky grows dark, it acknowledges what has taken place.

It was here at the cross when Jesus died that redemption was made possible for us. Ephesians 1:7 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of God’s grace.” (NKJV)

I have known the truth of this for almost my whole life, having grown up in a Christian home, but only recently has it actually changed my life. I have been a Christian for a couple of years now; I gave my life to Christ at a revival meeting one night when I was 18. The joy of being forgiven of my sins was amazing! I was on fire for God; unfortunately it didn’t last very long… I didn’t know what I had done wrong and I started doubting my salvation. I had many doubts and had no victory in my Christian life, I felt confused and alone. I lived this way for many years and eventually I began searching Scripture and started believing the promises of God about how He has called us and will complete the work He has started in our lives. I didn’t have complete victory over this until recently.

We had a speaker come and teach our class a couple of weeks ago and his topic was not about redemption but while teaching he mentioned briefly what redemption means and how it impacted his life and I was just struck by this truth and it has stayed with me ever since. He said that when we come to the cross in repentance and salvation we exchange our lives for the Righteousness of Christ, so that when God looks at us He does not see us in our sinful flesh but He sees Christ’s Righteousness in us. Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (ESV)

This verse was not foreign to me, I just never really fully grasped it’s meaning but it makes so much sense now and it has really encouraged me and helped me be victorious in my life! Through Redemption Christ lives in me, by understanding this truth I now can fully surrender my life to Christ and trust Him to work in me and make me more like Him; I don’t have to try and overcome my sins and failures on my own.

1 Corinthians 1:30 God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.” (NLT)

—School of Discipleship student

School of Discipleship CA

The Sunset of Grief

Sunset-grief-CR.005.008In the last two weeks, I have learned of the deaths of five different people.  Four of them I didn’t know personally.  They were friends or relatives of friends, however it does still affect you.  Today I was able to take some time to grieve for these people.  It was probably not the best to put it off so long, but sometimes it seems easier to ignore the pain in our lives not realising how it is impacting us.

The one I knew personally was kind of the Grampa of the Church that I attended.  A few years ago, I had helped him move to the place he was living at.  We had precious times with the rest of the Church during Good Friday foot washing services.  This is another topic, but it always seemed to connect the younger saints with the older ones.  This and other activities with him made him dear to me although I never knew him well.

As I was thinking about their deaths and their lives, I was reminded of a statement about death by a 19th century author, “How strange this fear of death is! We are never frightened at a sunset.”  Without our God and Saviour, death is a very fearful thing, however, He has passed through death and given us the hope of the resurrection.  A sunset on the one hand is the end of a day, but it is also the promise of new day coming.  The sun will return and everything will be bright again.  This is also our hope for death for those of us in Christ.  He will transport us into the new day of His kingdom where we’ll meet those who have passed through the sunset before us.

—School of Discipleship student

Christ Our All

I’ve been asking myself a bunch of questions lately like: how do I come before God when I pray? What would be the first thing that would come out of my mouth if I saw God with my own eyes? Do I trust God enough with my problems to come before Him on my knees instead of trying to change things in the flesh?
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord” Isaiah 55:8
Hearing the testimonies of the staff and what they willing left behind to follow Christ is mind blowing. Also, hearing field reports of individuals giving their life to become a missionary and suffer in the flesh to preach the gospel in an unreached village, having only the cross before them. Giving their whole life, holding nothing back. Then hearing the amount of people that are baptized and added to the church, to God’s kingdom, daily and all the lives that are transformed for eternity. It is challenging me to not hold on to anything besides the cross and trust God with everything and every detail of my life, to follow Him wherever He leads me and evaluate myself in the light of eternity. What will have truly mattered in my life?

I can build a reputation if I want. I can become famous for something and use up all my time and efforts for that. There are so many options in this world of dreams to follow but it will all come to an end sooner or later. I want to invest in something that will last. I want to be a good steward with the time, resources and talents God has intrusted me with. I don’t want to chase after dreams that will end and wake up at the end of my days to find empty hands to present to Jesus. I want all of my life to belong to Jesus, because holding back is not worth it. There is no better place to be than in the center of God’s will even when I don’t understand His ways or see the whole picture.

Choosing Life and Death

On November 3, the church recognized International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. As I thought about and prayed for my brothers and sisters who are persecuted for their faith in Jesus, I also thought about being a martyr. I hear testimonies of people who have laid down their lives for the sake of the Gospel – and I think, “And that is worth it.”

I know that it is worth it to live for Jesus, and to lay down my life for His sake.

But why do I somehow think that living for Jesus is not worth losing sleep over, or is not worth being inconvenienced by? That being Jesus’ disciple is not worth giving up my comfortable life for?

I do believe that following Christ is worth giving my life and my everything for. But very often, the choices I make and the way I live my life do not reflect that.

Something is wrong here. Following Jesus IS worth everything. So I need to start living like it.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” – Matthew 16:24-25

 

Drive Dorothy Drive!

While travelling back from the Gospel For Asia UK retreat last weekend, one of us remarked on how much of a blessing my great-aunt’s car is to a couple on staff. As I followed my great-aunt’s car home, which I have nicknamed Dorothy after her, I took a trip down memory lane. I couldn’t help but praise the Lord for taking something as ordinary as a car and making it significant for His Kingdom.

Dorothy, the car, is a testimony of God’s goodness to my family, my Gospel For Asia family and even to the most unreached. Dorothy began her life in Belfast, Northern Ireland, when my great-aunt bought her to take her to the shops, the hairdresser and her many social engagements. Dorothy was kept busy. My great-aunt was remarkable in many ways and she kept me on my toes. She liked to teach me the proper way to do things including brewing a good cup of British tea. I enjoyed drinking tea with her and listening to stories from her life. One of my favourites is of her playing billiards with Second World War soldiers in London during a German bombing. They choose to continue their game rather than retreat to a bunker! She lived a full and exciting life, which meant growing old was her enemy.

Dorothy, the car, was very important to my great-aunt as this was her link to the life she once had. As her health deteriorated, Dorothy got taken out less frequently. This is when my great-aunt began to seriously consider the life to come. One fateful day my great-aunt caused a car accident which required her to take a driving test for the first time in her life. My gracious and very patient mum helped her practice for the test in Dorothy. She managed to pass the test despite finding it hard to hear the driving examiner’s instructions. Unfortunately, the stress was too much for my great-aunt and she never got to drive Dorothy again. Confinement to her apartment forced her to consider eternally significant questions and she opened up to my mum.

The Lord only knows with certainty where my great-aunt is today, nevertheless, my mum and I are hopeful. We were especially encouraged by her funeral arrangements which she had organised herself, as she had changed the hymns last minute to include “Amazing Grace.” She left the car, Dorothy, to my mum who then gave it to my brother, Richard. Last year, Dorothy took Richard on a life-changing adventure to England. Today, Dorothy belongs to a couple on staff with Gospel For Asia, which is the Lord’s provision. I find it incredible that my great-aunt’s car is being used to reach those who have never heard the precious name of Jesus. Seeing Dorothy at the Gospel For Asia office everyday reminds me of God’s goodness. He can take something ordinary, bless and multiply it beyond what I could imagine, even beyond a lifetime. Dorothy lives on, serving the Lord in Gospel For Asia UK. I wonder what my great-aunt would say to me if she knew her car belonged to Gospel For Asia-missionaries. Maybe that living for eternity is all that matters.