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

Life in the Body

I am so blessed to serve with a Body of Believers who are really like the Church in Acts. We are all here for two purposes: to grow closer to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and to proclaim His name and His glory to those millions who haven’t heard His name.

10-21-15-life-in-body

The reason I write this post is because I have been struggling with headaches consistently everyday for the past… 7 months? And when I walked down the hallway today, someone stopped me to see how I’m doing. When I mentioned the headache, they stopped what they were doing and prayed for me right then and there. This is not an uncommon occurrence, actually it happens all the time. We are a people who pray together constantly, are transparent with one another as the Body should be, we are there to encourage and give of ourselves (out of the strength of God) to help others, we love others even when its hard to do. The staff here at Gospel for Asia are living out what it means to be the Body of Christ. And I am so encouraged by it.

I’m sure there are other places out there that are similar. But I am so blessed to be a part of this family. 🙂

—School of Discipleship Alumni

Christ’s Love on Display

I am so thankful that the Lord has brought me here to GFA. I actually have lost count of the number of things I’ve learned while being here. Between the books, the classroom, work at the ministry, the community, prayer and even home life, the Lord has taught me a lot. He continues to teach me everyday. I have noticed it is hard for me to accept or even realize is how treasured we are in Christ. God calls us precious; He compares us to jewels and prized possessions. And then there are moments with people who just stop and say, we love you. They genuinely mean it. That is Christ displayed in the Body. There is no reason we should be able to love each other so freely but we do so because of Christ.

It seems every time I am going through some tough growing pains, the Lord uses His Body to openly to display His love. It overwhelms me. I am a weepy person, and the reality is that God’s love just pours out on us like a warm blanket or an amazingly comfortable bath. You’re just covered in the warmth of His love. One of the mentors here once said to me, “Those pieces of your heart that the devil took, that were caused by your past; the Lord will and is restoring them. Don’t ever doubt that.” God loves us SO much. I cannot emphasize this enough. There is no one on the entire earth that cares about us the way God does.

Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Did you know that a yoke was traditionally meant for two animals to pull? That means Christ is on the other side of that yoke pulling it with us. This is the reason why His burden is light, because He is pulling it with us. He’s pulling it and God’s grace and strength is more than sufficient. He puts His strength in us and it seems that we are able to pull it. But in the end, it is still Christ doing all the work.

Praise the Lord!

 

To learn more about School of Discipleship, check out our website.

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 Year is Almost Done

The School of Discipleship January 2013 year is coming to a close and we are now officially studying our last book together as a class. But, not only are we studying it, but we are going to be teaching it, Lord willing! Yes, you read that right! We as School of Discipleship students have the amazing opportunity to facilitate class! I know that it will be a huge challenge, but in that, it will help me to depend on my Saviour more, and help me grow deeper in my relationship with Him! Yet another benefit to this is, as  Susan said, we will get way more out of the lessons we teach, than what we ever have before! This year has been absolutely amazing! I have learned a lot and I praise my Heavenly Father for all that He has done in my life as a result.

Fellowship Music and A Coffee Shop

Bible Reading

Tonight was the last night that my three roommates and I went out for a time of fellowship together as roommates. However, I think this (and the first time) was my favorite of all. We travelled to a coffee shop that a friend had visited a while back. We were all kind of dragging ourselves out the door because it has been a rather long week and our tiredness was catching up to us. Once we arrived, we all got ourselves some yummy snacks, coffee beverages and a small dinner, sat in the back of the cafe, and proceeded to talk, play games, and have a grand old time.

Soon, two men started to perform some live music, which was kind of loud, but rather enjoyable at the same time – though we had to talk louder so we could hear each other. We didn’t mind. My friend beat me at Ultimate Tic-Tac-Toe, we played a few rounds of Kings in the Corner, sang along with some of the songs the guys were playing, shared some goofy times of nonsense laughter, and then discussed what verses the Lord had been pointing out to us lately. Soon enough, we decided to put away the game of cards and read through a book of the Bible. Ephesians was chosen, and so we proceeded to read through it chapter by chapter (passing it to the next person at the start of a new chapter).

As we read through the Word of God, we stopped to comment on certain parts as they came up in our hearts. A lot of “AMEN!”s were said before we even finished the first chapter. It was so refreshing to open up this book after hearing two messages by Gayle Erwin who came to share some words of encouragement with the Gospel for Asia staff yesterday and this morning.

When the musicians took a break, one of the guys came back to our table (we had been applauding their music the whole time and so they decided to come say “hi”) and asked what we were doing. We told him that we were reading through Ephesians and he was glad to find out we were Christians as well.

As our time drew to a close (it was getting kind of late, and we were remembering how tired we were before discussing the Lord and His goodness) we closed the Word and drove home discussing how refreshing it is to meditate on His promises and remind ourselves of His truth.

Now it’s time for me to go to bed, but I wanted to reflect a little longer on this great time of fellowship that we had as roommates, but further than that, sisters in Christ. One Body. A Unity that can only be accomplished through the Spirit of the Lord that dwells in our hearts. I’d say this was a good way to “end” this chapter of my living situations, and I very much am looking forward to my next.

Thanks for listening!

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