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
I heard a knock that I didn’t like the sound of. The entity knocking was persistent and very pointed on certain matters. However, you can’t ignore a knock like that forever, and when you answer, be prepared for change.
I’m talking about conviction; particularly the conviction that pricks the conscience.
Earlier this year I came to the awareness that I was not willing to follow God. If that sounds really bad, it is. I followed God to School of Discipleship, but He was asking me about next year. I became aware that there were choices laid before me that didn’t fit with my idea of what I would do next year. God asked me, “what if I asked you to take that path”. My answer was that I wasn’t willing.
That answer didn’t take very long to scare me. Being in the place where you would tell God no is a very bad place indeed. When I realized where my heart was at, I asked for prayer from the guys I live with. This attitude was wrong and needed to be put to a stop, fast.
My housemates prayed for me. That same week we were having an emphasis on solitude; spending an extra amount of time with the Lord in prayer, the Word, and meditation. As I was alone with God that day He worked in my heart. I told Him, “If that’s the path you want me to take, I am willing. I don’t say that I like it, but I’m willing to follow You on that path.” His response was immediate and decisive. He told me, “Good, do it.”
The story doesn’t end there. As time has passed I am looking forward to my next year; I’m even a bit excited about it! If you knew me, you’d know that I don’t really get excited, certainly not easily.
God changed my heart when I asked Him to, during that time of conviction and repentance. It is testimony of His care, love, and power that He can change my heart like that and be changing it still.
School of Discipleship US
Gospel for Asia
Is there a place where one can encounter the presence of God more than in another place?
This question surfaced in my mind after what I experienced a couple weekends ago. We went camping… and it was amazing. The lake was right near our campsite, the birds sang loudly in the early mornings (not so pleasant for sleeping), the sunrise and the stars were so beautiful. It was so peaceful to go down to meet with God by the lake, in the calm, the wind, which caused the waves to crash against the shore. I could have sat there for hours just to soak in the beauty of God’s creation and most of all His presence. What the LORD showed me during that weekend was incredible! It was like my mind and spirit were so ready to hear from a loving Father everything was so clear. Each night I couldn’t wait to get up and go to the lake to meet with God, it was worth rising early, getting a bit dirty and cold to experience Him.
Only one thing was wrong: the camping trip came to an end. That meant tiredness from late nights and early mornings and being thrown back into weekly routine. But the worse thing was my excitement to meet with the LORD was gone. It was just another thing to do like it had been before. My mind was no longer clear and I couldn’t focus as easily as I had been able to at the camp. I longed for that experience again, but it wouldn’t come back.
Can I not learn? Do I not change? Why is it that some places cause me to experience God in a greater way?
Then the LORD showed me so gently the missing treasure: Expectation.
Expectation: “a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.” (oxforddictionaries.com)
I get up each morning to meet the LORD in the same place; nothing changes, it’s dark, I’m tired, I pray and read. But there is something I can change, and that is my expectation. On the camping trip I had high expectations, partly coming from being in a new place and in creation, God met and exceeded them. But when I walked into the house again, those expectations left, and everything was normal, just as I expected it to be.
I may not have a choice as to where I can go to meet with God, but I do have a choice as to what I will expect from those times with Him. I want to enter each time of prayer or reading with great expectation as to what the LORD will do and say with the Psalmist, “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.” –Psalm 62:5 KJV
—School of Discipleship student
School of Discipleship CA
“From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I” -Psalm 61:2
These past few weeks God has been teaching me how totally dependent I am on Him for my every need. Back in the beginning of the year I had prayed that God would bring me to the place where He was my only source of strength and that I would not rely on my own ability to live for Him. God answered that prayer by allowing me to become overwhelmed with all that was before me so that I would find my strength in Him.
I really don’t like being in situations where I am overwhelmed by all that is before me. That feeling of not knowing how you will complete a task and being totally inadequate for the job certainly wasn’t what I was asking God for!
God showed me that this is exactly the place I need to be at in order to experience His Holy Spirit at work in my life. If I am still holding onto my own wisdom, strength, and ability then I won’t be looking to God to do the work in my life. He just becomes a backup plan, someone I can go to if my own plans don’t work out.
God desires that I have nothing else to rely on but Him. Living in the power of the Holy Spirit means that I must surrender all of my human abilities to the Lord. Instead of relying on my own strength, which runs out pretty quickly, I need to allow the Lord to take over. No longer will I be overwhelmed by my own inabilities, but I become overwhelmed by the power and ability of God.
Phil. 2:13 says “For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” God is the One who does the work in me. I don’t have to struggle on my own or rely on my own abilities. Everything I need is found in Him alone, but only when I stop trusting in myself will I experience the fullness of His Holy Spirit at work in me.
Each time I am in a situation that is beyond what I can handle in my own strength I am reminded where my strength and ability lie. It is not in anything that I can do but only through the Holy Spirit at work in me. Even though I still don’t like being in overwhelming situations, God is teaching me that peace and rest come when my focus is on Him.
“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honour depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge. Selah” -Psalm 62:5-8
—School of Discipleship student
School of Discipleship CA
“Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands… Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD God disciplines you.”
It has been the cry of my heart for years that God would call me to be a missionary and use me to do something significant for Him. Last year, God closed the door on what I had been counting on doing and longing for. I was upset. I couldn’t accept the reality of it and believed that it would still happen. Then God showed me why I was so upset: I had my own plans that I had given my life to, and when God changed them, not only was I shaken in the moment, but my whole future seemed to shatter.
It didn’t happen just once. God opened a door I counted on being closed. I wrestled within my heart and fought the will of God, until finally I accepted it and followed Him. I can’t explain the peace that filled my whole being each time I surrendered my plans and submitted to God. He waited so patiently for me, just like a loving Father, not letting me have my own way.
Now as I look back, I realize that for the longest time I had fooled myself into thinking that I was submitting to God’s plan. Even if I was submitting in my outward actions, my heart was set on the things I wanted to do. Without knowing it, I put my plans above God. They were good things I was longing for, but when they became more important to me than God, my walk with the Lord was hindered. As I read this verse from Deuteronomy, I see what God was been doing. I thought He was keeping me from something good, but instead all this time, He has been patiently teaching me to follow Him and preparing me for what lies ahead. He’s been testing my heart just as He did to the Israelites, to see if I’m really willing to obey His commands. He’s disciplined me in a gentle and Fatherly way.
My longings aren’t gone. I still hope and pray for God to open the door He closed, yet I know His timing is best – better than any of the plans I have. I hope that when God changes my plans I will be quick to surrender to His ways. I may have learned this lesson once or twice, but I have to continually surrender my plans to God. Every day is a choice.
—School of Discipleship student
School of Discipleship CA