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

“Be still”

Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Silence is void of noise, movement or action. To be still is to turn off the noise, stop the movement and do nothing.

“But Lord, there’s a dying world out there?!”
God: “Be still and know that I am God…”
Me: “But how will they know that you love them if I sit still?”
God: “I will be exalted among the nations…”
Me: “Okay Lord, I will be still and know you are God.”
God: “I will be exalted in the earth!”

Psalm 46:11 “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah”

It’s been difficult for me to be still and unmoved by all that is and could be going on . The restless “Jacob” in me says I need to be out there doing things and making a visible impact in the world and in the lives of people NOW. Circumstances around me shift like waves in the ocean, yet God is the Creator of the oceans saying “be still”. To my soul He also says “be still”. It’s a sobering reminder that God is in control and very active as I am still before Him who keeps the universe in place. Yes, there is a time to be active myself but there is a time to be still.

Having a mentor to help guide my steps through this year has been challenging in ways because I’m used to running my own show and set my pace. Having to concentrate my time and energy into a set time (one year) for a specific purpose has been hard to do. Especially dying to self has become less attractive when it’s actual dying to self, the flesh. It seemed that in order for me to be still before the Lord, and to realize that He is in control, that I needed to hit the wall. First, by being gently nudged by my mentor to “settle down”, I realized that she was right, though I didn’t want to admit it. I did and still do need to settle down more, not run around here, there and every where, but rather to be intentional in this unique setting God has placed me in this year. It’s easy for me to be busy with many “good” things but I’ve been reminded that the “good” isn’t always the best and right now the best is DP.  It seems that when I still don’t quite get it, along comes the blessing of a seasonal virus. Everything continues as normal even when I’m sick and in bed. All this helps me to learn a single lesson, realizing that I can be still for God is still God. I am learning what it means to be still and let God be God because things go best when I’m yielded to Him.

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.

Temple of the Holy Spirit

Since coming back for Year 2 of the Discipleship Program my understanding of serving the Lord as an individual has been changed or shall I say gone out the door for me. I have the awesome privilege to serve at GFA Canada while seeing firsthand what it is like to be part of the body of Christ. Serving in the office and living with five young ladies has helped me to appreciate community living. I can observe the staff that are committed to living tholy spiritheir lives fully for the Lord and in the power of the Holy Spirit. The book Guiding Principles of Believers Church by Dr. K.P. Yohannan, which we finished reading, has been a helpful tool in learning how to live in community. I’ve come to a new appreciation for the body of Christ. In my individualistic mindset I have missed out on many wonderful blessings that come from being a part of one body, which is the Church.

In reading this book the Lord started to point out some areas that need to be more fully surrendered to His control and motives that need to be honouring to Him. There was a quote from Brother K.P. that caused me to search my heart for areas that are not fully surrendered and serving in the Lord’s strength rather than my own. “It is impossible to serve God as He wants us to without being anointed but the Holy Spirit and receiving His supernatural gifts.” In order for the Lord to use my life to help fulfill the Great Commission I must be surrendered to the Lord and filled with the Holy Spirit.

There are many things we as Christians can try to do in our flesh that non-Christians can do just as well bringing change, but not lasting change that will glorify God. Take for instance working in an office, both can work with numbers and data and helping people; but one is probably very concerned about getting ahead on the corporate ladder and making big money where as in a ministry like GFA the desire is to see big numbers so that many will hear the Gospel and be added to the greatest corporation ladder which reaches to the Kingdom of heaven.

In Zechariah 4:6 it says “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit says the LORD of Host.” If all I do for the Lord is done in my own strength and with selfish motives, God is not glorified.

Having come back for GFA Discipleship Program Year 2, I have been able to build on the foundation that was laid last year where it was about surrendering and dying to self. This year is a continuation of building our character more into Christ’s character, which doesn’t happen overnight.

I am a work in progress and there are many opportunities to practice what the Lord has been teaching me and with the help of a community and the power of the Holy Spirit growth is happening. Daily I get to choose to die to my selfishness and bad habits, which are being replaced with the character of Christ like love, joy, peace and humility as the Holy Spirit is given more liberty to rule and govern my life. He enables me to obey the commandments of God, which is to love as Jesus loved and to give my life for others not holding anything back. My life is not my own to live as I please, it is the temple of the Holy Spirit as it says in 1 Co 6:19 “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” Also in Rom 12:1 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

While I am going through the Discipleship Program, I want to remember that as a Christian fully surrendered to the Holy Spirit the Lord’s work is not a burden or overwhelming, rather there is peace in being right where God wants me to be. This allows for overflowing joy in being part of helping to reach those that are half way across the world and an ever growing love for the LORD and the lost. I have a greater desire to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit not just “trying harder” to obey God, but rather to ask the Lord to fill and refill me on a daily basis. I like what Brother K.P. says in this book “The first step toward receiving the Holy Spirit is to acknowledge my need of Him.

Written by a Discipleship Program Student

Loving All

I recently attended a denominational church conference with a staff member.   The theme for the conference was praying for an open door for the gospel.  This is based out of Colossians chapter four verses two to four.  The leader of this denomination in his keynote address said, “There is a manifest desperation in the prayer that I’ve observed which is of God and is exactly the place that he would love to work. In a sense God has backed us into a corner and we have no other option but to pray for revival.”

loving-all-prayer-gospelforasia-rt11-07807Their denomination has had some struggles, which was the reason he mentioned being backed into a corner.  What about us, are we waiting for struggles to drive us to prayer, or are we actively seeking the Lord now?  Am I, are we praying for an open door for the gospel?  I think far too often my prayers are focused on the little picture of what is happening in my life so that I fail to pray for what our Saviour is doing on a larger scale.

I realised again recently that my outlook on life is so much restricted to myself.  This was highlighted in one of the books I was assigned to read this year.  It was written by a godly man of the last century – Watchman Nee.  In this particular book he pointed out that our love cannot be limited only to other believers.  He states that God loved and died for the whole world, so we are not true imitators of God if we only love the brethren.  This statement really hit me, as I have been one that would heatedly argue that our love is for other believers almost exclusively.  Sure I would say that the entire world is to be loved, but that was mainly defined as a lack of hate, rather than an active serving.  I would’ve said that we need to care and serve believers, but don’t really need to make the effort for others.  We share with them the gospel and once they received it then we show love.

The Lord Jesus Christ, however, did not act in this way.  He came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.  He came to serve all men and women regardless of whether they would receive his love.  When I refuse to love those who do not love me, I am, in the words of Jesus, no better than a tax-collector (Matthew 5:46). The attitude and love we are to have is summed up in this prayer that came out of the reformation:

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on
the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within
the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit
that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those
who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for
the honour of your Name. Amen.

Written by a Discipleship Program Student

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

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