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

In His Garden

“He comes to His garden to enjoy its fruit.” – Chuck Smith

 

The Christian is saved by believing and trusting in God. This produces fruit in their life. GardenYet so often I get confused and think producing fruit is what saves me or gives me a better standing before God and others.

But think of a tree: this tree produces fruit faithfully every year. Its fruit does nothing for the tree. If the tree depended on its fruit it would die. The fruit is only good for the enjoyment of others and for producing more trees. So what then saves the tree? The water and nutrients in the soil! The tree did nothing to put them there, nor can it maintain them there. It only connects itself to them and trusts that they will give it all it needs and by them it is able to produce fruit.

wp_20160503_018Before coming to School of Discipleship, I struggled often with wanting my works to be recognized by others and by God. I wanted to be noticed and known. I still do. I see pride creeping up in my heart probably every day. But the months I’ve spent away from home in this community environment have taught me a few things:

God showed me the ugliness of my sin; that there was nothing good in my heart, and that though I longed to change, I could not. He also taught me that He still loved me, no matter how sinful I am and that He wanted to change me if I would let Him. I was humbled over and over again in watching the selflessness of others, in the way they loved God and served me as well. wp_20160505_015I knew I wasn’t like them, but I wanted to be and as I strive to be more others-focused, I find a greater joy.
St. Paul said this to the Philippians:

 “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.” Philippians 3:7-9

I know I’m not there yet. I haven’t lost all things for Christ-there are many things I hang onto, thinking and hoping they will do me some good. But as C.S. Lewis says, “Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead.”

I pray that I can give away all things and be able to say like St. Paul, “I consider them garbage that I may gain Christ.”

I want to be “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and whose leaf does not wither” and in this way may the fruit that my relationship with Christ produces bring glory and enjoyment to God.

Written by a Discipleship Program Student

Growing Pains

1 Cor 12:12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” I am learning what it is like to be part of the body of Christ and it all started when I began my journey in the Discipleship Program of Gospel for Asia. Though it has been challenging at times I am finding it to be worth the growing pains, with that I will begin to tell how this came to be.

Imagine with me if you can…

growing pains cross-2

Being rudely awakened by an alarm going off at 5 am across the room, knowing it’s not your own, you are somewhat annoyed. Then having the person hit snooze who knows how many times or not even hearing the alarm at all; but now you’re awake when you wanted to sleep till 5:55 am, which would have given you enough time to grab your bible and run up the stairs in time for family devotions at 6:00 am. But now you’re wide awake because she didn’t turn it off herself, what will you do? Be upset or extend grace and take the opportunity to spend more time with the Lord? You lie there thinking: If this is how the first few days are, what will it be like for eleven months and will you be able to handle it??

After a few months of getting to know each other and living together you start to realize just how blessed you are and how much you have grown in your character, your walk with the Lord, love for each other and how God has used each lovely lady to shape your life.

Though it may have been a scary thought at first to think of living with six other ladies it has turned out to be a growing experience, filled with both joys and sorrows. Who would have known that living in close quarters with people who were strangers at first could have become sisters and friends? These precious sisters have helped me to become more like Christ by their lives and examples of love and grace.

By living in a community setting I am learning what it is like to love, forgive, and extend grace. There are many opportunities to spur one another on toward love and good deeds, like it says in Heb 10. Daily we can learn more about God, each other and ourselves and what it is like to be the bride of Christ in one body with many different parts. I am truly grateful to be part of Gospel For Asia’s Discipleship Program. I have seen how the staff lives out what we have learned in our books and messages; they have shown me what it is like to be a unified body of Christ as each one fulfills their role in Christ. Col 3:12-15 has taken on new meaning as I’ve seen it lived out and I’ve been able to be part of it too.

Written by a Discipleship Program Student

Life Together

stocksnap_9alghavfd6 togetherThis year is coming quickly to an end… It’s only a couple more weeks and grad will be here. I am sad to see this year come to an end, I have made many new and close friendships and I will miss them as we part ways.

Many people have asked us how it is possible to have seven girls living in the same house and still get along, and I too have often wondered the same thing. Before coming here and knowing I would be living with six other girls frightened me a bit because in my home I had six brothers and only one sister (who is twelve years younger than me) so I really didn’t have experience relating to other girls. I did have a lot of friends but I never had to live with them!

Looking back over this year I am amazed at how well it has worked living together! There was no need for me to be worried. I do not believe it would have been humanly possible for so many girls to live together except for the grace of God and the fact that we are all believers and came here for the same common goal and that was to grow in our relationship with the Lord.

Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been always easy… The first few weeks were very hard, I often felt alone and out of place with everyone being so different than what I was used to. I had never been away from home for more than a month and so that also made it hard because I missed my family a lot.

Some of the best times this year have been sitting around the supper table, having conversations about how our day went to what we learned in class that morning to many other random, funny topics that get us all bursting with laughter. I have also enjoyed Saturday cleaning, with seven ladies the cleaning gets done super-fast as we work together and have music playing. We have also done many weekend activities as a group that are always fun but for me it’s the random small things that I have enjoyed the most; like staying up late doing homework together, watching silly movies on a more free weekend, or going grocery shopping at 9pm with my domestic coordinator partner and having an Iced Capp with espresso to try and stay awake only to realize half hour later what a bad idea it was!

I think though that it has been through the difficult times that we have grown close to each other the most. Times where we lift each other up in prayer, whether it is because someone is not feeling well physically or someone is going through a difficult time spiritually. It has been a real blessing to know that if I am going through a hard time and need prayer or someone I know needs prayer I can ask the girls and they will stop what they are doing and take the time to pray.

Living together has allowed me to live out and practice the things I learn through the books we go through. I get to practice humility in not always having to have my own way, I get to learn how to be a servant and serve my sisters by washing the dishes, making dinner, or by surprising them with homemade cookies, etc. I have opportunities to show grace and love when someone does something that irritates me, and I also learn to forgive and ask forgiveness when I fail in any of these areas. Corporate living has not only been helpful and a blessing as I have gone through this year, it is also preparing me for what the Lord calls me to in the future, whether it be going back home and serving my family, serving in ministry, or serving at a secular job. It has taught me to work together, serve others and to think more of others than myself.

Going through the book, Jesus Style has also been very helpful in showing me how to live and interact with others. It talks a lot about the lifestyle Jesus had while He was here on earth and how He humbly served all those that came to Him, Mark 10:45 says: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” And Philippians 2:6,7 “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”  And so as Christ served so we are called to serve. Galatians 5:13 “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”

I am so thankful that the Lord allowed me to come to Gospel for Asia’s Discipleship Program and to learn what it means to live as Christ and to give myself to serve others. I am also thankful for the staff that I have the privilege of serving with and the example they have been in showing me how to serve and love others as they willingly serve me and each other.

Written by a Discipleship Program Student

Tuned to Christ

“All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
-Acts 2:44-47

This is what living in community with other believers looked like for the early church, but is it really possible to experience today? We lead such individualistic lives, each person is focused on what is happening in his or her own world, that it seems almost impossible to experience the kind of fellowship that we read about in the book of Acts.

Before coming to Gospel for Asia’s Discipleship Program I had no idea what it would look like to spend a year with a group of believers who take community living based on the book of Acts seriously. The family here at Gospel for Asia is passionate about loving Christ and that naturally results in a lifestyle of servanthood. John 13:35 says “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

So what does love actually look like lived out in practical everyday terms? True love means being willing to sacrifice. It is looking beyond your own interests, wants and needs to see how you can invest in the life of another. Christ-like love demonstrated through a lifestyle of servanthood is what I have experienced during my time in Gospel for Asia’s Discipleship Program. I have had the privilege to be a part of a family whose one supreme focus is Christ and that results in a close and precious fellowship with each other.

At first I wasn’t sure how to receive this kind of love. These people seemed so radical I wasn’t sure if they could be for real. Who is actually willing to leave behind all that they are comfortable and familiar with, sacrificing relationships and their own dreams and desires along the way in order to be obedient to the calling God has placed on their life?

Who is willing to invest in other people’s lives and be an example of what it means to follow Christ?

It is people who have experienced the call of God on their lives. It is a radical call to live for something different than the rest of this world. It is what has brought each one of us here, staff and students alike, and it is the reason why we can live together in fellowship with one another, showing the same kind of selfless love that Christ did.

Every day I have the privilege to do life together with my family here. It isn’t always easy but on the difficult days we hold onto and encourage each other to continue pursuing Christ and remain steadfast in Him. My experiences as a part of this community will impact me for the rest of my life.

I have had the opportunity to learn from 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. Their passion to reach the lost, dedication to a life of prayer and commitment to following God’s call on their life is what I desire and have now begun to experience in my own life.

I’ve realized that as a part of the Body of Christ I wasn’t meant to do life on my own. Just as my physical body is designed in such a way that each part is important and relies on the other parts to function, so it is with the Body of Christ. Eph.4:16 says “From Him (Christ) the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

This living in community has required of me a level of openness and honesty that I never had before. I’ve been learning that I don’t have to keep all of my struggles and failures on the inside. My family here truly cares about me and not just because of how I appear on the outside. They are willing to walk with me through good and bad times and care most of all about how I am doing on the inside. As I am learning to open up to the people around me I have also begun to realize my need to be totally open before the Lord. Close relationships both with the Lord and other people are developed only through trusting enough to reveal who I really am, even if it’s not always pretty. It’s definitely not easy but it is bringing me closer to the Lord which is right where I need to be.

What a journey this year has been, one that I wouldn’t trade for anything! My goal for this year in Gospel for Asia’s Discipleship Program was to become more like Christ. Being a part of this community of radical believers has shown me what that looks like and helped me tune my focus to Christ.

“Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same images communityfork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshippers met together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become ‘unity’ conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.”

― A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

Written by a student in the Discipleship Program

The Best Part About a Family

We are Family

Some people like to live alone and others don’t think they could survive. But everyone has a family and needs a family because we were created that way. Of course family doesn’t have to be blood related, family are the people we treasure the most.

I’ve been at Gospel For Asia’s Discipleship Program for 1 year and nearly 8 months. I’ve lived in the same house for this time, with the same people for the first year and then a few different people for the second year. I’ve gone to serve at the same office every week day with these people and others for this whole time. It’s like a family. No, I’m not related to any of the people here, I didn’t know any of them before I came. But they are family, and as a house we do everything together. We get up at 6 AM on Monday morning tired and quiet to pray together for the day ahead, we all understand each other because we’re feeling the same things, we slowly travel downstairs to exercise together still tired and quiet. The kitchen is busy at 7 AM as everyone is eating breakfast and getting their lunch for the day, but no one fights or argues, we’re all polite and love to serve each other. Then our house remains silent and empty, because we all head to the office for prayer and ministry service. We come home at 5:30 PM, tired and hungry. A couple of us cook a meal for everyone. At 7 PM we sit down and enjoy each other some more, we’re more awake than in the morning and are able to talk and tell about our day – the joys and the challenges because everyone understands. They’ve struggled with similar things too. I love this family I have, I wouldn’t trade them for anything, but I didn’t realise how close I am to these people until I thought about leaving at the end of the year. They are my friends that I can rely on, as Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (ESV). Here I have made friends who are closer than my own family. I still love my family very much, and I know they love me, but these people know far more than my family does about what I’ve experienced this year and 8 months. They are the friends I won’t forget.

Though I believe I could live alone if the LORD called me to do it, I have found a greater joy in living with others who have the same vision and goal as I do.  I want to find family wherever I go because I believe it is God’s plan that His children (Christians related through the blood of Jesus) live together in unity and love, able to say to like Jesus did in Matthew 12:48-50, “But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”  And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

—School of Discipleship student

Page 1 of 161234...10...Last »