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

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

Fatherlessness and Manhood

Fatherlessness and Manhood

A Wounded Heart’s Reflections on Growing Up

As I was reading a blog recently, I was taken aback by one of the opening statements:

“Most of us had absent fathers.”

Piercing. Piercing, because I am a part of that “most.” I was raised by a very strong and capable woman, was loved and provided for and never wanted for any physical needs, so why, I wonder, do I feel a such a deep void in my life today that stretches back to my childhood?

The answer is simple, but complicated: it’s because dad wasn’t there. Dad, like many men today, was a victim of his own poor upbringing, and through substance abuse, checked out early – way too early. He checked out so early that he never got to see either one of his boys walk an aisle past preschool graduation. He wasn’t there when I had my heart broken for the very first time, when I won my first wrestling match or when I got my driver’s license. He wasn’t there to congratulate me for doing well in school, for making good choices or for getting my first job.

Worst of all, he wasn’t there to show me how to be a man. I never learned what a loving husband looks like, or how a man is supposed to lead his family. So here I am, 18 years after his death wondering,

“What in the world am I supposed to do now?”

Not that I’m married yet, I’m not, but I suspect it’s not far down the road.

Taking nothing away from my mother, who was and continues to be amazing, there are just some things moms aren’t designed to do, and being a dad is one of them. Thankfully, mom was there every time dad wasn’t. My gratitude to God is continually increasing for that.

Dad’s gone. I’ve accepted that. What I’m now trying to accept now is that although I think I’m fatherless, I’m not. I’ve had a Father all along, just one that I can’t see with my physical eyes.

One of my goals coming into my second year of the School of Discipleship was to learn what it means to be a biblical man. I’m in awe of the faithfulness of God not only to put that desire in me, but to father me by teaching me what He has about manhood, and in the process, restoring to me what I’ve missed out on all these years. He’s brought men into my life that are committed to loving and investing in me. God is a God of restoration.

On this short journey, I’ve seen many things that have depressed and elated me. I’ve seen the standard for manhood: Jesus Christ, the perfect man who was tender, yet intrepid. In His zeal for God, he stood against corruption by clearing out swindlers who were defiling God’s house, yet had compassion on all who needed Him. He touched lepers and welcomed children, but didn’t shrink back from the agonizing pain of torture, and selflessly laid His life down for a creation that scorned Him.

That’s a big God.

What are the positives that I’ve seen on this journey? I’ve seen men embrace their role to serve and represent Jesus in their weaknesses and shortcomings, trusting in God to give them the courage they need to do their God-given duties. I’ve seen God respond to that trust by making otherwise incapable men capable of doing great things and commanding great respect from people in the process.

I’ve seen men who love their wives and kids, and demonstrate patience and gentleness with them, which is nothing short of a testimony to God’s power and faithfulness.

On the other hand…

I’ve seen men afraid to embrace their faults and failures and run away from the valorous calling that God gives to all men – to lead, take dominion, and demonstrate God’s strength and love to a hurting world.

I see men in their twenties behaving the way they did in their early teens because there was no man before them to demonstrate godliness.

I’ve seen young men hurt by dads who were there, but weren’t really there. Passivity is the easy thing to do in the home, and sadly, most men that are given responsibility over families have taken that route. I’ve seen men domineered and controlled by their wife or kids because they don’t feel like they’re capable of leading well.

I’ve seen young men find their value in things that aren’t Jesus. They look to young women for affirmation, potentially causing damage to them and the women by not guarding their hearts. They look to friends, to self, but not to Jesus. Insecurity and self-focus abounds as a result, which perpetuates the behavior of looking for value outside of Jesus.

Perhaps the worst part of all of this is when men, both young and old, out of emptiness, longing, and desperation, prey on women or scour the internet to feed their sinful passions. This is the deepest distortion of masculinity known to man – taking what is sacred, and perverting it because of selfish desires. Men, who should be protectors, become the ones who take captives.

May I please humbly say that I am aware of these things because I in some measure represent or am prone to all of them?

Despite fatherlessness devastating a generation, I think God is doing something in the hearts of men today. I believe God is restoring true masculinity to the church by starting with individual men and teaching them to live and to lead their families according to His Word. I believe God is moving in the hearts of men in this generation to give them something to fight for: God’s glory. He’s letting us know that we’re not fatherless. We’re not orphans. We’re sons, because God has adopted us and is recreating us in His image. Our value and worth are in Him, simply because He values us enough to give everything to purchase us (Matthew 13:44-46).

Men, we may be weak, insecure, and afraid, but we are strong, because God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. Our shortcomings aren’t barriers which keep us from Jesus, but are bridges to Him. We were made to fight. We can’t waste our lives on things that don’t matter. We can’t spend ourselves on the metaphors of sports and video games as substitutes for what’s real: struggle, battle, adventure, hard work, and most of all, victory.

Sure, we men try too hard to be strong and pretend like we’ve got it together because most of us are insecure. Am I doing that right now as I write this blog post? Probably, but I’m slowly learning that my strength IS my weakness, because, God’s power is made perfect in my weakness, and even in my failure, He is to be glorified and praised for the mercy and love He shows us, in spite of what we’re not or fail to be.

Please, pray for me, and for all men. Please pray that God would give us grace to humble ourselves and be okay with the fact that in God’s economy, manpower accomplishes nothing. Please pray that God will allow men to see that Jesus is better than anything this world has to offer. Pray that God will allow us to see that His grace is sufficient for us, and that it’s okay to be weak, so long as we never use it as an excuse to justify sin.

By God’s grace, let us be a generation of men who can give to others what wasn’t given to us.

Lord, only You can make a man. I’m just a little boy, but I want to be a man. Would you please do this for your sake, Father, please? Help us to love you and to know that you are better. Our hearts wander and are so easily enraptured by everything except You. Show us how you love us, and show us how to be like You, and to love people like You do. Make men out of this generation of boys who don’t know how to live selflessly and sacrificially. Make us brave in the face of uncertainties and chaos. Teach us how to make order, and teach us to trust you to find the courage we need to move forward, despite not knowing what to expect. We don’t know what we’re doing, Abba. Show us what Jesus did for us, please Lord. For your name’s sake, and for your glory’s sake, Father, please, do this. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

The Faithful vs. the Faithless

“… if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

“The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.” Psalm 138:8

“… just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love…” Ephesians 1:4

“Now to Him who is able to keep youfrom stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy…” Jude 24

How many more promises need to be made by a God who is incapable of lying before I will believe Him? My Friend has promised that He will always be with me, yet somehow, I would rather try to do things on my own. The work I’ve been called to do is not mine, but His. He will perfect everything that concerns me. He will do it because He is faithful.

So, what role do I play in this?

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,  keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” Jude 20-21

“For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.” Hebrews 12:3

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” Hebrews 3:15

“Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.  And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life.” – 1 John 2:24-25

Abba, convince us of Your goodness, please. Convince us that You are for us, that You love us, and that no matter what we do, Your heart towards us never changes. Convince us that Your grace is true, and that all You require of us is to be weak, and willing to receive You in our weakness. Convince us, Papa, that when we are weak, You are strong. It’s what You’ve promised.

Teach us to believe You, and teach us to receive Your love. Teach us that you are trustworthy.

Thank You for allowing us to come before You in complete confidence. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Hope, our Redemption, our Sanctification, our Righteousness, our LIFE.

Faithful Father, teach us how to love you. Through Jesus I ask this, amen.

Who Wants Some Amazing Grace With a Side of Fries?

The School of Discipleship class here in Canada just recently finished reading Charles Swindoll’s, The Grace Awakening. One point Swindoll made had to do with the significance of giving others the freedom to be who they are.

The way I was best able to apply and more fully understand his point was by imagining what it will be like if I have kids someday. I hope I would be a parent who imparts wisdom and disciplines my children when necessary, but also one who gives them the freedom to be who they are, as well as the room to make mistakes.

I think that this practice of letting others be can be applied not only to parent-child relationships, but to friendships and marriages as well. While there may be times for speaking words of caution and correction to our loved ones, I believe there will also be times when the best thing we can do is to just let them be.

 

 

 

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