#1 I came to grow in my walk with the Lord.
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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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.”
Their 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
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
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
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
“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2
Not being conformed, to live differently than the world… Looking at this verse it’s easy to say that I do live differently–I don’t swear, I don’t dress immodestly, I don’t party But what if that isn’t enough? What if God calls us to a higher standard?
This past month or so, we have been going through two different books: Touching Godliness by K.P Yohannan and Crazy Love by Francis Chan. These books have really impacted my view of life. Life is so fragile and short. The Bible says it is like a vapor, here today and gone tomorrow. What we do in this little while determines our eternity.
Deuteronomy 10:13 puts everything I have been learning in one paragraph:
And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good?
It sounds simple but when I look at each command more closely, I realize it is so different than the normal Christian life.
To fear God: To fear God means to show respect and reverence. How often do we give a hurried prayer asking God to bless our day and then not think of Him again until we are in need of Him? If we took the time to examine and ponder over how great and amazing our God is, it would cause us to come before Him in awe and reverence.
To walk in His ways: How many of us truly live as Christ lived on earth? Do we love the poor and needy as he did? Do we take time to share the gospel with the people around us ? Do we forgive those who wrong us and love those who hurt us? Christ did all these things and He calls us to follow Him.
To serve the Lord your God with all your heart and soul: This is taking it a step further. We are not only called to follow Christ, but to do so with a joyful heart. Everything we do as we follow Christ must be done with a genuine heart of love, and not just because we feel obligated to serve. God doesn’t want half-hearted service; He wants all of us or nothing. Jesus said to pick up your cross and follow Him. He certainly didn’t leave room for excuses or halfheartedness.
We are to keep His commandments: Someone asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was. Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” When we are more concerned about things in our lives than the things of God, or God Himself, we break this commandment. How many of us even think about others half as much as we think of ourselves? I know I don’t!
The most encouraging part of this verse is the end of it. God commands these things for our good. God wants us to enjoy life and make the most of it and He knows the only way to do so is by obeying His commands.
As you probably have realized by now, this sure doesn’t sound like the life the world advertises. In my personal life, I find it difficult to stay focused on Christ and the things that will count for eternity. It is so easy to get caught up in the day to day, to worry about all the little things that happen. What encourages me and keeps me going is that I don’t have to do it on my own. God has given us the Holy Spirit to help us and gives us the power to live out this abnormal lifestyle.
—School of Discipleship student
School of Discipleship CA
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