Church Roots

1 Peter 1:19But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot”  We are bought by the blood of Christ and the blood of the saints are the seed of the Church. If you would have asked me a few months ago what my church roots are or anything about church history I’d have only been able to tell you a very little bit. The Lord directed me to come for a second year of the GFA Discipleship Program and in this year I’ve been learning about Church History, which is proving to be very beneficial.

I’m in awe of what the death of Christ has done for me in making me a part of the Bride of Christ. The Apostle’s passion to see the nations reached with the love of Christ compelled them to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the extent that it cost them their lives. Those that came after them paid a heavy price of martyrdom, passing on the tradition and the Apostles Creed onto the next generations. Saints like Polycarp, Ignatius Tertullian and a host of others that would not back down on what they were taught and believed; they gave their lives for Christ in unimaginable ways. If it had not been for them we would not hold a Bible in our hands, have the structure and order in our worship services that we do today.

As I’ve been learning about the lives of the saints the verse in Psalm 116 starts to make more sense. When reading it before I wondered why the death of saints would be precious in the eyes of the Lord. Psalms 116:15 says. “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” Couple this verse with a quote from Tertullian an early church father. “The blood of the saints is the seed of the church.” This gives a glimpse of why the death of Christians might be precious to the Lord.  I don’t fully understand the verse or the meaning behind it but I’m grateful for what others have gone through to give us the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In studying books like “Tried by Fire,” “Early Church History Made Easy” and a few others on early Church History I see that the Church has gone through very dark times. I was reminded in our last lectures that in the middle of all the darkness God is still working and keeping the Church alive, the Bride of Christ and preparing her for Jesus. Just like a seed when it is planted in the dirt, we don’t see what is happening but we trust that the seed dies, germinates and then brings forth life; so God kept His Church and will keep it until Jesus returns. We are one body with many different members and together we are the Church of Jesus Christ bought with His precious blood.

As I’m learning about what the Universal Church is and how it is one body which is being prepared for Christ return, I get excited because I am part of the whole Church. I, as a blood bought child of God, am part of the universal church. It is not about this Christian life being just Jesus and me; it’s much more than that. Every born again believer is part of the Body regardless of what church they go to. This realization makes me grateful to live in a community of like minded believers. We may be different and come from diverse backgrounds, but we are one in Christ.

 

Life Together

stocksnap_9alghavfd6 togetherThis year is coming quickly to an end… It’s only a couple more weeks and graduation will be here. I am sad to see this year has come to an end. I’ve 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. I, too have often wondered the same thing. Before coming here, the idea of 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’ve 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. But it’s the random small things that I have enjoyed the most: like staying up late doing homework together, watching silly movies on a free weekend, or going grocery shopping at 9pm!

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 because someone is going through a difficult time spiritually. It has been a blessing to know that if I am going through a hard time and need 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. 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, but 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 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 one another

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

Evidence of My Love

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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

Time for Harvest

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It’s September and Harvest season is upon us. Many farmers are busy on the fields harvesting their crops. It is a busy time of year when the farmers work hard and long to get their crops in before the cold weather comes. The Bible also talks about a harvest, a harvest not of crops but of souls.

Matthew 9:37 He (Jesus) said to His disciples “The harvest is great but the workers are few.”

Jesus is talking about the harvest of souls; there are so many people in our world today who are without hope. They are desperately waiting and longing for someone to tell them of hope and salvation, but as Christ said, there are very few people who are willing to go out and tell them.

In class we are going through the book by K.P. Yohannan called “Against the Wind”, Chapter 11 talks about being a diligent servant. K.P. gives the example of a farmer, how he must be diligent and work hard in order for his farm to be successful, in the same way in order for us to be effective in our personal lives as a servant of God we must have the same kind of commitment. I have been really challenged by this, it is so easy for me to work hard at a task I know needs to get done or at a job where I know I am expected to work hard, but when it comes to doing things for God I tend to be more lazy or give excuses of why I don’t have time.

The parable found in Matthew 25 gives examples of different attitudes when it comes to working hard. Two of the three men were willing to work hard with what their master had given them to do and their master, pleased with their work gave them more responsibility in his kingdom as their reward. The third man was lazy and did nothing with what was given him, he did not take his master’s command seriously and he received a very harsh punishment. In the same way that the master in the parable gave a command, Christ has given me a command and He is returning soon to see what I have done in regards to His command. As the master was pleased with the two hard workers so God is pleased with those who diligently serve Him.

As I see many people all around the world living without hope, never having heard the good news of the gospel, it is my prayer and desire to do all that I can. To work diligently rescuing souls until Jesus returns.

—School of Discipleship student

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