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.

 

Joy is the Victory

rejoice

Oh what fun the past few months have been. I’m so glad that though there are spiritual struggles and battles, we have so much to celebrate. Filling a bedroom with balloons for a welcome home surprise, decorating office desks with streamers for birthday and anniversaries are some ways to celebrate the Lord’s faithfulness in the lives of GFA family! God is so good and He gives us so much to rejoice over.

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say rejoice! Philippians 4:4

I struggle to remember to rejoice, often, though I know that I’m saved and that the Holy Spirit dwells within me but I forget so easily that the battle is the Lord’s and He’s already won! I get caught up in areas where I fail that I forget to rejoice in the areas where I have experienced victory.

Being at GFA Canada where we celebrate continually is a blessing. Whether it is a birthday, anniversary or a Friday, there’s always something we are thanking the Lord for, through cake, decorations, or songs. In the Old Testament, the children of Israel were given feast days in which they were to remember the Lord’s mercy and deliverance. I think God knew we needed to have these days in order to rejoice, so we wouldn’t dwell on the negative and continue striving in our own strength.

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

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

He Loves like a Waterfall

Throughout today I’ve had this song playing in the back of my head. “Your love is like a waterfall, raining down on me.” It’s a line from Waterfall by Chris Tomlin.

This past Sunday I was in a fairly serious automobile accident with some of the other students. I walked away from the event with an amazing sense of God’s love. Yeah, there’s the whiplash and we’re sore; I came out of the experience easiest off as far as I know, but the knowledge that He loves me is in the forefront of my mind following the wreck.

The day after the crash as we were singing in prayer meeting it struck me – I could have died in that car crash. Fatalities from automobile accidents are more common than I think we’d like to acknowledge. After that struck me I thought, “I’m alive, God protected me.” The next instant I was disappointed; “I could have been with Jesus”. This all ran through my head like an express train in a split second. Then I realized that God has a time for me to die, and it wasn’t this past Sunday.

That thought was the first time that I really realized what death means to me. It gave me a much deeper love for God and a more earnest desire to see Him one day…. one day soon.

 

~ School of Discipleship student

 

School of Discipleship US

Gospel for Asia

Fighting or Loving

Fighting-Loving-20160604_204730Growing up I spent a lot of time reading about wars our country fought in history books and stories of soldiers who gave their all for their country.  The sacrifice that they showed for their country was a great influence on me, but I am afraid the concept of fighting for something no matter what it costs others also influenced me too greatly.  I saw the glory of being a hero, while ignoring how much it has the potential of hurting others.

Throughout Scripture we have many instances of the Christian life illustrated in a military manner. Such as: weapons of our warfare II Corinthians 10:4; Armour of God Ephesians 6:11-18; fighting the good fight of faith I Timothy 6:12, there are many other examples as well.  However while I emphasized in my mind this side of Christianity I ignored other Scriptures such as “Matthew 9:13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”, or Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”.

As a result of ignoring these verses as well as others, I have run roughshod over many people, far too many.  The result was that I hurt many people in my life that the Lord had placed there for me to minister to.  Because of this militaristic mindset, I began fighting for what I saw as the truth no matter who it hurt. The result of this was that I began alienating myself from many of my fellow believers.  In a conversation with someone about three years ago, he pointed out to me that I was not showing love in a particular situation, but rather I was being harsh on several individuals.  He was right, but I refused to receive what he was saying.  In fact I took it as a badge of honour that someone was criticizing me for doing what was “right”.

Recently God has been opening my eyes and showing me what it looks like to love.  For a long time, God has been teaching me how he loves me, but now he is instructing me in how to love others.  One of the major ways is by serving others as Galatians 5:13 instructs us.  Another is showing compassion on those who have not come to the same maturity as I believe I have in a certain area.  I have also come to realise that I cannot have my own personal interpretation of Scripture.  Many times I take how I understand Scripture as the standard and I get frustrated and judgemental if others do not see it the same way.  The Christian life does indeed have military parallels of fighting to the end.  However, in pursuing this end we must remember to have compassion, mercy and love for others.

—School of Discipleship student

School of Discipleship CA

The Perfect Proposal

sd-the-perfect-proposal

While learning about the divine characteristics of God, I have grown to really appreciate the outdoors. Climbing up a high peak and glancing over the scenery has never gone short of leaving me in awe; the sunlit clouds moving across the clear blue sky, the different shades of colour in the trees, and the clear view of the horizon. As I take in the beautiful view, I am reminded that this is the same God who gave up His Son so that I can be reconciled to Him. I am reminded that as far as the east is from the west, God has removed my transgressions (Psalm 103:12). This is the God who is holy, eternal, and knows me deeply and specifically. He is the One who sought after my heart and asked for me to unite with Him in fulfilling His purpose for the world. The beauty of the whole universe is a reminder of His proposal to me. Before coming to School of Discipleship, I lived a life focused on gaining the approval from others. It was more important for me to be accepted by the people here on earth, than to live a life accepted and pleasing to God. Going through Crazy Love by Francis Chan, gave me a clear understanding of the love that God has for me. Francis Chan really emphasizes that even though I am a sinner who is prone to fail Him every day, He still chooses to love me regardless of my failures. He set me apart before I was born and chose for me to be a part of His glorious inheritance. How can I turn my eyes away from the God who offers the very thing that man cannot fulfill in my life? Does my life show that I have accepted His Love and His vision for the lost? Even as I write this, the feeling of guilt still overwhelms me.

In the book of Romans, God has a job description laid out for each one of His disciples. As a follower of Christ and a receiver of His love, I am called to go and preach the gospel so that those who hear will believe, call upon the Lord and be saved (Romans 10:14-15). If that is required of me, then I should not live a life staying idle and content with my bad work ethic. It reminds me of the parable of the labourers in the vineyard. Jesus tells the story of a master who went out to the market place and hired men who were standing there idle all day. When the master asked them “why do you stand here idle all day?” they said “because no one has hired us”. The master then gave them a job and sent them to go and work in his vineyard. This (according to Jesus) is exactly the perfect image of the kingdom of heaven. At one point in my life, I was standing idle, wasting my time and life. But God sought me out and hired me to be a worker for His kingdom and Romans 10:12-15 is the job description. This is what I’m required to do; it is why He has chosen to reveal His perfect love to me!

Father, thank you for offering me your perfect gift of salvation.

Thank you for choosing me to be your bride.

Thank you for surrounding me with your creation;

Never being able to forget your love and divine qualities.

Work in my heart and life so that I can be a vessel for your kingdom.

Give me the desire to draw others to say yes to your proposal

So that they can also bask in your unfailing love.

—School of Discipleship student

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