To the Philippians…

The students recently studied the book of Philippians
The students recently studied the book of Philippians

Recently we did a study on the Book of Philippians. It was so good–what amazes me is that Paul was still able to write such a letter like this, full of so much joy, gratitude, hope, and encouragement, while in the midst of difficulty.

Paul writes this letter while in prison about 54-62 AD. He wrote it to a church community in Philippi that he had planted on one of his visits there. He wrote it to build his relationship with the church body there, to update them of his situation, to thank them for their support in his ministry, to increase their faith so that they could face threats, to give them peace so that they get along better, and to inspire them to live out their faith.

  Paul expresses his joy for his fellowship with the Philippians, and the good work the Lord is doing through them. He also rejoices in the fact that Christ is being preached.

  Paul give us the following instructions: Be united. Be selfless. Be considerate of others. Be humble. Don’t complain. Rejoice in the Lord always. Be cautious of the enemy. Stand fast in the Lord. Be anxious of nothing. Let your requests be known to God. Meditate on good and true things.

Paul says that our work is not the result of our own effort, but that God’s work in us is what gives us our energy. What we do in life is an expression of God’s saving work in Christ. We find strength through God’s power in us. Believe that God will complete the work He has started in you. God’s work begins in the individual life but is to be lived out among other believers in fellowship with them. All our work is God’s work and it is continuous until the Day Christ returns. Paul tells us that the most important motivation in our work should be love. So, since our work is of God, let us strive to work and serve Him in a worthy manner. We should be like-minded with the other believers we work with.

   Having the mind of Christ is to think of others before yourself. We need to be humble and considerate not only to our Christian friends, but all of those around us. Jesus died on the Cross (the lowest humility ever!) for the sinners, not the righteous. In everyday life, we have the choice to humble ourselves and give others the credit for success, ultimately God. Or to be selfish and take all the glory and credit.

O WHAT GLORY! WORTHY IS THE LAMB THAT WAS SLAIN!” – Read what another student wrote when their class studied through Philippians.

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Break My Heart for What Breaks Yours

Seeking God's heart

Imagine with me you’re at home. You’re going through your day and nothing eventful has happened thus far. You are relaxing reading a book or an article online when all of a sudden, someone runs in and tells you that your best friend was just in a car accident. They explain that your friend is in critical condition and will die if they don’t get a kidney transplant right away. They ask if you want to see if your kidney was an option. You agree right away and run out the door to go see if it will work. It’s a perfect match.

The doctors ask if you want to donate and start explaining things that may go wrong. Before the doctor can even finish their sentence, you urge them to start the procedure. They try telling you some possible complications but you just insist that they do it now. So they do. Your best friend makes it and after a long time of recovery, heal completely.

I can relate to doing whatever it takes to see your friend safe and okay. In emergencies like this or even things WAY smaller, we’ll do whatever it takes to help those we love. We don’t thoughtfully think through pros and cons, if the doctors are the most qualified, or if you have the time to fit it into your schedule. No. That’s ridiculous. You just respond and are willing to do whatever it takes to help your friend.

In March this year, GFA’s ministry focus was clean water. There’s a big need for clean water, right? We all know there is. This month I am understanding more and more how much of a need there is, though. Look at these statistics with me:

Those are big numbers. I have known there was a big need for a long time, but it rarely impacted me. This month has been different, though. I have been admitting to the Lord I didn’t have a heart to see all those people helped. I was sad for them and prayed in prayer meetings, but the “sadness” didn’t stay with me as I left. I started praying and asking the Lord to break my heart for what breaks his. I wanted to have compassion for the millions of people that are suffering in extreme poverty, but I just didn’t have it.


Think of the story I started with. When someone we know and love is in even small need, we want to help and will do whatever it takes to do so. I’ve been pondering in my own heart lately why it’s so different with people I don’t know. I see and speak of these needs, but it’s just numbers to me. It doesn’t impact me in a way that I’m really concerned or do something about it. It’s just a fact of life that there are millions of people without clean water. There will always be people who are in need. Why even bother at all?

Maybe you can relate. When I see big numbers I can’t really process and understand them. I have a disconnect from the heart and humanity of each individual. We as a class recently were challenged to remember the story of one. Meaning, if we can focus on the effect a Jesus Well had on one person and how it completely changed their life, then we can keep from discouragement and keep having a heart for the masses who still need help.

“Remember the story of one.”

It’s estimated that every 90 seconds a child dies from not having clean water. I have a lot of friends that I love so dearly that are under the age of 5. What if every minute and a half one of them died? I don’t think I could handle that anguish. The Lord has put it on my heart to think of all these kids that are dying as if they were my greatest friends. That changed things for me. My heart really did break when I thought that way. Even that is just a glimpse of how the Lord looks at them with love and compassion.

I have been challenged to pray all the more fervently and work in the office all the more diligently knowing that I am a part of so many people being helped. If you can relate with what I’m learning, please pray with me and consider looking at to learn more and see how you can help by donating towards a Jesus Well or a BioSand Water Filter.

In a moment of feeling very spiritual, I asked [God] to give me humility. Then I realized what I had done and said, “Never mind–I take it back!” –Read another post by a GFA School of Discipleship student

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Humility? Yikes…

“He has told you, o man, what is good: and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.”
Micah 6:8
What comes to mind when you hear the word “humility”?
For me, I always thought of embarrassment and shame. I had a picture in my mind of elementary school. I was getting ready to run my very first “track meet.” I was only in like kindergarten or first grade, so it wasn’t like I was on a team or anything. I checked in once we got to the high school track and got my bib with my number on it–I was set to go.

Considering my brothers already ran track, I was a pretty confident six-year-old. They called my age group out to the track where a bunch of little five and six-year-olds lined up at the starting mark.Running Track

*BOOM* We all took off running. I heard my brothers’ words echoing in my head: “Don’t run super fast in the beginning! Everyone else will burn out towards the end, but you will have more energy–that’s when you run super fast!” Psh I’ve got this, no problem. I’m running along, letting other kids pass me.
But all of a sudden, something happened that I had not prepared for…Never in a million years did I expect my SHOE TO FALL OFF! I felt my bare sock on the rubbery track. I looked behind me to see my pink running shoe about five feet behind me. I didn’t know what to do, but I did know that I was mortified. I could hear my brothers cheering me on in the background, telling me to keep going. I was frozen from embarrassment, which only made things worse in my mind.
I felt my face getting hot and next thing I know tears were streaming down my flushed cheeks. I just stood there staring at my shoe, crying. It felt like en eternity but the next thing I felt was someone holding my hand. I look up and see my brother, laughing and telling me to keep going and sort of pulling me forward. I eventually finished the race but you can bet I never ran again after that. I was humiliated at just six years old!
So when I felt the Lord telling me I needed to pray for humility, I panicked, thinking something as scarring as that memory was going to happen. In a moment of feeling very spiritual, I asked Him to give me humility. Then I realized what I had done and said, “Never mind–I take it back!”

Godly Humility

It took me 12 and a half years to realize there was such a thing as godly humility. In fact, it wasn’t until just a few days ago that my eyes were opened to this fact.
Our GFA School of Discipleship class was reading Crazy Love by Francis Chan in the beginning of February. There were so many great things in this book, but a few things stuck out to me in particular–one of which is just realizing how precious time is and how fragile our lives are. We aren’t promised next year, or tomorrow or even the next hour. So what are you doing in your life to benefit the kingdom of God? Do you want to die while watching some movie filled with cursing? Do you want Jesus to come back in the middle of a gossiping conversation? I don’t know about you, but I want to be doing something that the Lord would be proud of to call me His own.

2018-2019 School of Discipleship Class

2018-2019 School of Discipleship Class

Something else that had an impact on me wasn’t actually in the book, but in our homework questions. You see, in Crazy Love, Francis Chan goes through a whole list of characteristics that can be found in a Christian “obsessed” with Jesus. From the 13 listed, one of the homework questions asked what three were the hardest ones for us. The three I picked out were ‘friends of all’, ‘humble’, and ‘dedicated.’
Dedicated: A person who is obsessed with Jesus is more concerned with his/her character than comfort. Obsessed people know that true joy doesn’t depend on circumstances or environment; it is a gift that must be chosen and cultivated, a gift that ultimately comes from God. (James 1:2-4)
The very next question said, ” For each of these three areas, think of one person who is an example to you of being obsessed in this way.” As I began to brainstorm, I realized all three of those that I struggled with just happened to be three very prominent characteristics in one of my brothers. I felt the bitterness rising and I had an “of course” kind of attitude. All my life it’s felt like I lived in the shadows of my brothers, but mostly this one. Our relationship has always been sort of weird. We’re close, but also, low-key, always in competition with each other.
Our teacher that day told us to look up to the people that we listed and follow them as an example so that we can begin to achieve or get better at those things. I thought, “nah.” But as the day went on, I really felt the Lord telling me I needed to call him and apologize for constantly being bitter and jealous. I thought, “nah.”

Tough Conversations

A few weeks went by with that on my mind and heart pretty regularly, but after a while I started to feel that conviction slip away. Agh. I knew this was something I needed to do and I wanted to obey the Lord especially because our time is limited. So before I could overthink it, I called my brother–actually, before I could think about it at all. I had no idea what I was going to say!
He answered and I told him I was sorry for everything, and I haven’t been the best sister and I asked him to forgive me. He forgave me and apologized as well, for not making it easy for me. There was a whole lot more that went into that conversation but that’s personal for me to hold onto and treasure. It was a really super great conversation and I hung up feeling not only closer to him but closer to God, too! I felt so much joy and relief and tried to block out what else the Lord was telling me to do during that phone call.
A few weeks went by and I could still feel Him telling me to do something else. I knew what it was but I pretended I didn’t hear it. Again, after a while, that conviction started to fade. This time I didn’t care. Heh, oh well. As I realized that, I started feeling pretty thankful that it was leaving to be honest, but in the midst of that, I heard the Holy Spirit say to me loud and clear, “Karis, how many opportunities and growth are you going to miss out on because you won’t do this simple thing for Me?” Agh. Fine. I stepped into an empty meeting room in the GFA office and called up my sister-in-law.
We’ve always had a weird/not the greatest relationship, as well. We don’t have the greatest past, and there was a lot of unresolved hurt. I told her that I felt like we haven’t officially closed the doors to our past and I really believed it was because I never asked for her forgiveness. There was a lot more to this conversation too, but it’s for me.
She forgave me and expressed how much it meant to her. Afterwards, I felt even closer to God than before and was feeling super refreshed, so I wanted to go tell one of our School of Discipleship leaders about it because I was just so excited. I sat in my chair deciding if I wanted to tell her at that moment or at the end of the day. Once I decided I wanted to do it right then, I kid you not: HE ASKED ME TO HAVE ANOTHER CONVERSATION WITH SOMEONE. No–That’s all I said.
But I eventually told myself I would do it since I’m already feeling good and when else would I do it? This one however, was a little more difficult for me. This conversation had to be done face-to-face with someone over me at GFA. On my way to the School of Discipleship leader’s office, I made up my mind that if this person wasn’t at their desk then it just wasn’t meant to happen. And what do you know…they weren’t! Relief blew over me. And on my way back from the leader’s office, that person still wasn’t there! As soon as I got done saying “thank goodness” in my mind, they walked around the corner. Bah! But I did it and I had that conversation–apologizing and asking for forgiveness.

Growth Through Godly Humility

Even though I had to have three really hard conversations in the span of about three weeks, I can honestly say that my relationship with the Lord feels like something completely different. It is totally different than it was a week ago. He revealed what godly humility looked like and felt like. It was scary; I definitely won’t lie or sugarcoat that. And I one hundred percent did not want to have any of those conversations. But I don’t regret any of them. In fact, I wish I had them sooner because of how much growth happened afterwards. I wish I could explain to you all the joy that fills my spirit now. I was humbled in a way that didn’t cause embarrassment or shame. It was just choosing to get off my high horse. I treasure this entire experience!



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The Duct Tape Lesson

Duct tape is probably one of the greatest inventions made by man. The old proverb goes “If it doesn’t work the first time, just add more!”

Imagine with me you are on the Apollo 13 in space and you have this huge problem. You have too much carbon dioxide (CO2), which is coming from your own exhalations. Without fixing this you are going to die.

You are talking to your teammates from NASA on earth which is comprised of some of the most genius people on earth. They, after much trouble shooting, tell you to just fix this life-threatening problem with duct tape. You then think to yourself, “Why didn’t I think of this before!” You just get so excited about this idea you actually take the time to text your friends, call your mom and post it on social media. Twice. You just found this great solution that will save your life!

The problem? (Besides probably not having service in space.) You never actually put the duct tape on. You got so caught up in this great idea and you didn’t act and fix the problem. It’s not that you didn’t have all the right knowledge you needed or that you weren’t equipped or qualified to do it, you just didn’t apply all those things that would have saved your life.

Luckily, in this real situation the astronauts on the Apollo 13 did apply the duct tape (along with other things) and made it home safely.

This brings up an interesting spiritual application. It is one thing that I have gotten the most out of School of Discipleship so far. Let’s dive into it!

You have to be a doer of the word. If we just know all the right things but it doesn’t change how we live, it’s of no value. Zero. This is one of the most prominent things I’m learning in School of Discipleship.

We can have all this head knowledge and know all the right things about the LORD, but if we don’t apply and practice what we know, we are on the wrong path. The Devil has better theology than all of us and yet is destined for an eternity in hell.

So often I find we will be stoked about missions. We will listen to all these great sermons, podcasts, read these great books and post on Facebook, “Go to all the earth and make disciples!” We love reading all these one-liners about missions and get so excited. The problem? We never leave our couch and make disciples.

So just like the example with the duct tape, we know exactly what we need to do, we know the Holy Spirit is living inside us, yet we don’t do it. It’s not a way of life for us. If anything it’s a special event.

We just went through the book Crazy Love, and one thing the author, Francis Chan, said was that we get so caught up in the Lord’s calling and wanting to do the perfect thing, we end up doing nothing. We don’t pray for hours and days on end to see if it’s the Lord’s calling to watch TV. We just do it. Why is it any different with things that we read in our Bibles? Just do something. After you start doing, then the Lord will reveal more and more what your calling is.

So my encouragement is, be bold and courageous and do what the Lord is calling you to do! Start small and be patient with yourself as you struggle to make change over time.


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Overcoming Fear of Speaking Publicly

I sat in my chair, nervous as all get out. It was about to be my turn. My turn to speak in front of my whole class. I tried to calm the butterflies in my stomach as I exhaled. It didn’t work. Had I practiced enough? Would what I wrote down actually make sense to those listening to it?

We all clapped for my fellow classmate as they finished. I thought to myself, “If only I had the gifting to speak as well as they did.” I was next. I tried to put a smile on my face to hide the fact I was dying inside. I made my way to the front of the class. I almost dropped my phone as I tried to set it on the stand in front of me. My notes laid out before my eyes…. this was really happening. I wasn’t dreaming.

Before coming to School of Discipleship I had never spoken to groups of people before. I’m an introvert and public speaking was never something appealing to me. I liked to remain “the quiet one” and not have everyone’s attention on me.

Throughout my two years in SD I had many opportunities to sharpen my speaking ability, in front of both my class and the GFA staff. Most units concluded with a speech and we were given ample opportunities to share prayer request during prayer meetings. I learned to know the subject I was speaking about well enough to share it boldly with others. I learned to rehearse my speech out loud to make sure I stayed within the time frame allotted. The teaching team gave feedback on the areas I did well in and the areas I could improve in and I did better with every speech I gave.

Looking back, I am no longer that scared 19-year-old waiting to give my speech in the classroom. Do I still get nervous? YES! But, I don’t let it get to me, I am able to move past it. SD helped me to grow in public speaking and though I still have a long way to go, now I am excited to keep learning more.


Can you die to yourself for a year for more of Christ? The final application deadline is June 15th for our August 2018 term.


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Pursuing God

The School of Discipleship (SD) students are currently going through their next course on The Pursuit of God. Throughout my first year in SD in 2015, I went through many different courses that brought me closer to Jesus. My favorite, by far, was the course on this book by A. W. Tozer. It wasn’t long, but each chapter was full of things that challenged me to go deeper in my walk with Jesus. I remember reading the one or two chapters before each class repeatedly and gleaning new insights each time I read them. I loved how the teachers unpacked what Tozer wrote even more through the classes in the morning.

“Before a man can seek God, God must first have sought him.” —Tozer

I came to SD to not just be discipled; I came to know Jesus more. I wasn’t satisfied with where I was at. I wanted more. I didn’t know how to follow Jesus on my own. I only saw what those around me did, and I tried to do that. I didn’t take much responsibility in my walk with the Lord. I realized how much it was up to me to follow Jesus. I had to work for it; it wouldn’t just happen on its own. It was a personal relationship I had to engage in. God was already pursuing me, I needed to respond in pursuing Him back.

“Full knowledge of one personality by another cannot be achieved in one encounter.” —Tozer

This program gives students many opportunities to meet the Lord in both purposeful and everyday situations. One thing I remember being repeated to me by some of the leaders was “You are as close to God as you want to be.” You can have everything you need to grow, but it still is something you must do. I wanted to be close to God, but I lacked that motivation to work for the relationship. Praise the Lord that He never gave up on me during that year. He kept after me, and I found myself waking up at 5 a.m. so I could have uninterrupted time with Him. I wasn’t satisfied with where I was. Tozer’s words rang true in my life: “I thirst to be made more thirsty still.” The more time I spent with the Lord, the more I wanted.

He met the sheltered 19-year-old girl who wanted to know Him. I read this passage often: “Call to Me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” – Jeremiah 33:3 I was shocked that the God of the whole earth would want to talk to me and wanted me to talk to Him about everything. Nothing was “off-limits” with Him. He cared for me and my life. I began to understand more of who He was as the year went on.

The Lord used my two years in School of Discipleship to lay a lot of ground work in my heart. I learned what it means to genuinely pursue Christ, and I am continuing that journey today. It is a choice I must make daily to go after Him.

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