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

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

The Joy of Following

One of the first things Jesus did in His public ministry was to call the four fishermen to follow Him.  Throughout the Gospels we see Jesus calling individuals to follow Him some of which heeded the call and others who did not.  However, they were all called to the same thing i.e. to follow Him.  Some were called to give up their vocations, others their wealth, but all were called to follow.

The primary call of God seems to be one of following.  Paul was called to the Gentiles and Peter to the Jews, but both of these callings would be encompassed in following God.  What does it mean to follow Jesus?  As I mentioned previously, it requires us to give up something.  However, if we focus only on what we give up we miss the point and often become defined by what we don’t pursue rather than by the One we do pursue.  Some have pointed that when we choose to follow Christ we must take up our cross as He took up His.  This is true, but we must remember the goal isn’t to take up the cross.  Taking up the cross is merely the process on our way to the goal.  I have sometimes lost my focus on Christ because I was focusing on the cross and suffering that I was to take up.  It is not suffering in itself that we are to pursue but Christ who lies beyond the suffering.  In the same way Christ pursued the goal set before Him and accepted His cross.  In Hebrews 12, the author of Hebrews tells us the goal Christ had to enable him to bear His cross.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
–Hebrews 12:1-3 ESV

It was for joy–the joy of reconciling the world to himself–that Christ despised the shame.  I recently had the privilege to study a portion of Colossians chapter two.  The one thing that continually stood out to me was the triumph that Christ had in the cross.  A believer from the early centuries of Christianity said of the passage that Paul had never spoken with a more lofty tone.  Through the cross and the shame of it, Christ received the joy that was set before Him and now He is seated beside the Father.

As Christ had a joy set before Him, so we also have a joy set before us.  Because of this joy, we can endure the cross that we take up despising its shame.  We will be united with Christ in Heaven and because of this fact anything that the world and the enemy hurls against us in this life will be worth it when we see Christ face to face.

following-joy-DSC_0179“It will be worth it all when we see Jesus,

Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ;

One glimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase,

So bravely run the race till we see Christ.”

–Esther Kerr Rusthoi

—School of Discipleship student

School of Discipleship CA

Waiting On The Lord

Waiting-Lord-DSC_0211During my solitude time this past week I was reading from Isaiah chapter 8 where God speaks to Isaiah about the coming judgement against Judah. Because of their wickedness, God is going to send the nation of Assyria to punish them and carry them away into captivity.

God reminds the prophet Isaiah in the midst of all of this not to be overcome by fear but to keep his focus on God. Verse 13 says, “The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread.”

In times of difficulty and struggle, it can be so easy to take our eyes off of God and to be overcome by the fear of man, but God says that He is the One we are to fear.

To fear God means to live in reverential awe and respect of who He is. When our focus is on the power and might of our God, we will no longer be concerned about what is taking place around us. We can trust that God is in complete control.

Further on in Isaiah 8 verse 17 says, “I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob. I will put my trust in Him.”

Isaiah knew that He could put His complete trust in God and had faith that God would use the Assyrians to bring His plan to pass.

Waiting on the Lord means to be attentive to His voice and to be constantly in tune to what He is doing. Just as a waiter at a restaurant has the job of making sure the needs of their customers are met, so we must be looking to see what God requires of us and how we can serve Him.

When I am facing a spiritual battle it is so easy for me to focus on what is going on around me instead of keeping my eyes on the One who is in control of the situation. Instead of waiting on the Lord and being attentive to His voice I allow fear and anxiety to overtake my mind. God used this passage in Isaiah to remind me that my mind must be continually on Him. He is the One that I should fear and stand in awe of. I can wait on Him and rest in the assurance that my trust does not lie in man but in God, who is sovereign over all.

“If the Lord Jehovah makes us wait, let us do so with our whole hearts; for blessed are all they that wait for Him. He is worth waiting for. The waiting itself is beneficial to us: it tries faith, exercises patience, trains submission, and endears the blessing when it comes. The Lord’s people have always been a waiting people”

– Charles Spurgeon

 

School of Discipleship CA

—School of Discipleship student

Living by the Power

Living-Power-TD10-01166School of Discipleship Vision/Goal 8: Understand that the Christian life and ministry cannot be lived apart from God’s help.

When arriving at Gospel for Asia’s School of Discipleship program in January 2014,  I was blessed to learn what the vision for the program would be. After just over a year and a half of having the privilege of being discipled and trained in the ways of God, I feel as though it is this core value that has become an increasing reality in my life.

When first pondering upon this truth- the Christian life made possible only by Christ- it seemed rather like a gimme. However, only now has the Lord been teaching me in a greater measure of the significance and necessity of His Spirit being preeminent in my life.

In a recent message we heard by Major Ian Thomas, he states, “ Christ is the only One capable of living the Christian life”. Oh the thought! When I ponder upon this, I must humbly conclude that this is the only thing that makes sense.  I find myself coming repeatedly to quick failure when attempting to live the Christian life in the flesh. One author put it well when he declared, “There is nothing more nauseating than the flesh trying to be holy”.

Although the Lord has had to remind me of my neediness for His Spirit, I am blessed and relieved by the liberating thought that I simply will never have what it takes to live for Christ, but He sure does! I am challenged to remember this beautiful promise!  My flesh must die, and then I will be able to live. It is in the moments of feeling strong that I invite a dangerous conception of following Christ in my own so called strength. Through self-denial, I must stay needy and completely dependent upon Christ alone.

Praise God for His Spirit that does indwell us, as we can be sure that His power and enabling that has kept us until now will continue to sustain us until the end.

For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you. 2 Corinthians 13:4

—School of Discipleship student

My Surrender

My Surrender

Here is a poem I wrote based off my experience in the second year of School of Discipleship. The Lord taught me how I needed to surrender everything and trust Him!

My Surrender

The time has come to look ahead,
To hit the mark, my path to tread.

The past is gone, the past is dead,
I’ll look to Christ, my daily bread.

I’m not my own, I am His slave;
He came to earth, my soul to save!

In Christ alone, this is my call,
He is my strength, my all in all!

In times of sorrow I can see,
My God and Father leading me.

And when I stumble, when I fear,
my precious Savior draws me near.

I’m not my own, and this my plea:
That I could give my all to Thee!

In Christ alone, this is my call,
He is my strength, my all in all!

 

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