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

Why I chose to come to the GFA School of Discipleship

#1 I came to grow in my walk with the Lord.
discipleship

The focus of GFA School of Discipleship is to know Jesus more fully and intimately and that is what I was longing for in my own life. Growing up in a Christian home I knew a lot about what it meant to follow Christ but often times knowing was only as far as it went, I didn’t actually live it out. I felt frustrated because I knew my walk with the Lord was not where it should be at but I didn’t know what to do about it. In my heart I wasn’t satisfied with just a superficial relationship with the Lord. I wanted to experience that kind of Christianity that I read about in the Bible, to look beyond what I experience in the here and now and live in light of eternity. It was out of this dissatisfaction with “good enough” Christianity that God challenged me to lay everything aside for one year and come to DP to pursue Him.

#2 I came to be involved in missions.

When I was 18 years old I went on my first short term mission trip to Malawi, Africa and it opened my eyes to the reality of a world in need of Christ. God challenged me to see the people I met as He did, broken and lost without Him, and He began to stir in my heart a desire to commit my life to reaching the world with the hope of the Christ. I returned home knowing that God was calling me to be involved in missions in some way but not knowing how or what that would look like. It was around that time that I first started to consider coming to GFA Discipleship Program. It is a unique program offering young people the opportunity to spend a life-changing year at GFA’s home office in Stoney Creek, Ontario, Canada. Participants come to study and grow in true discipleship as well as serve in a ministry role alongside GFA home team staff. The program provided the perfect opportunity for me to not only be involved in missions but also to grow in my walk with the Lord. After learning about the program it took quite some time before I actually had the courage to commit to coming. I knew that God was calling me to set aside one year of my life to pursue Him but I wasn’t yet willing to leave behind all that I was comfortable and familiar with in order to obey His voice.

#3 I came to step out of my comfort zone.

I was never the type of person to pursue adventure. I would much rather stay with what was safe and familiar than to step out with faith into the unknown. Needless to say the decision to come to the Discipleship Program was a pretty major one for me. To start with there was fundraising, which meant I had to actually talk to people and ask them for money, there’s nothing safe and comfortable about that. I had to be willing to leave behind my home and family for one year, move across the country to Ontario, (Did I mention leaving the farm to live in the city for the first time?) and live with a bunch of people I had never met before. While I knew that stepping into the unknown would be scary I also knew that I would benefit greatly from it. Because I would no longer be able to rely on what I was comfortable and familiar with I was going to have to totally rely on the Lord and trust in His grace to see me through. I knew that the Lord was asking me to be willing to let go of reliance on self and instead rely totally on Him.

#4 I came to be a part of a community.

One aspect of the program that really stood out to me was the opportunity to live in community with believers whose passion is to love Christ and to serve others. I wanted to not only learn more about following Christ but to actually see it lived out in daily life. My desire was to learn from the example of older brothers and sisters who have walked with the Lord for many years and don’t just talk about having a radical faith, they actually live it out. The staff and leadership of GFA are committed to knowing the Lord and giving of their lives to make Him known to the world around them. They were willing to invest in my life and allow me to be a part of theirs showing me what it looks like to live as a part of the Body of Christ. I knew that community living would help me grow in being willing to open up my life to others, which was an area of my life that I struggled with. My desire was to develop Godly relationships that would and encourage me to pursue Christ above all else and keep me accountable in my walk with the Lord.

Written by a Discipleship Program Student in Canada

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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

Evidence of My Love

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There are many points in my life where I hear the question that Jesus asked Peter “Do you love me?” As much as I eagerly respond with a confident yes, I begin to wonder if my life verifies my answer. Jesus responded to Peter’s answer by giving him the responsibility over His flock, appointing him to serve in the kingdom of God, but He also warned Peter of the death that was to come along with it:

 “I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.” (John 21:18-19)

This was the verse that the Lord used to turn my solid heart into a heart of flesh. He revealed to me the transformation that must take place in my life if I truly want to follow Him and make my life a display of the love that I have for Him. As I grow into Christian maturity, I can no longer pursue my own desires and clothe myself with pride and self-righteousness. I can no longer hold onto my life and surround myself with comfort in order to avoid suffering. As He sends me into the world I need to put to death my flesh by daily stretching out my hands in complete surrender, and allow Him to clothe me with His Holy Spirit so that I will be able to say yes to wherever He chooses to send me.

The strategy the enemy uses towards those who are willing to suffer is clearly visible in the life of Jesus. Throughout His ministry Satan tried to prevent Jesus from suffering death on the cross because he knew that it would lead to his destruction. He tempted Jesus in the desert before he began His ministry. On the cross, through the mouths of the rulers he reminded Jesus of the power He had to save Himself from bearing the pain and agony. It was not selfish ambition that kept Jesus on the cross, but rather His love for the Father and willingness to endure anything that came with fulfilling His will.

Brother K.P, in his book “Against the Wind” reminds us that Satan will also tempt us to avoid the cross we are to carry daily, because just as Jesus defeated the enemy through suffering, we also can defeat his evil forces by having a mind to suffer. I should expect to be tempted into living a life free from suffering and surrender in order to walk the easy road, but that will not prove my love for the Father. I must surrender my will, embrace the cross and follow Him into a life of victory wherever it may lead me.

—School of Discipleship student

Home is Where the Heart Is

I have been on vacation visiting Canada again. It’s where I grew up, and I was really looking forward to it. While I have been here I’ve realized that something is different. While it is still home, it’s not the same home that it once was.

The saying goes that home is where the heart is. I have come to understand that if my heart is where God wants me to be, anywhere else feels wrong or odd. I’m not saying that my vacation home is wrong. It’s right and even necessary. However, God called me to School of Discipleship in Texas, so it doesn’t feel entirely right for me to be anywhere except School of Discipleship in Texas.

This is something that I need to really take to heart and remember. When God places me somewhere, anywhere else will be unsatisfactory. If my heart is totally dedicated to God’s will (and I pray that it is becoming more so day by day), then my heart will be where He wants it. I will not be at home anywhere else.

~ School of Discipleship Student

 

Gospel for Asia

School of Discipleship USA

School of Discipleship Canada

 

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

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