GFA World staff and students headed out early on Saturday morning, April 28th, 2018 to the Hamilton Beach Rescue Unit, for their 11th Annual Team up to Clean Up event. Team Up to Clean Up is a city-wide community cleanup program that attracts more than 20,000 enthusiastic volunteers across the city, each year. The City of Hamilton's Keep Hamilton Clean and Green Committee supports residents and community groups to help keep their neighbourhood, park, trail or alleyway clean by providing gloves, specially marked garbage or recycling bags and graffiti wipes.

Beach Cleanup

A group of local volunteers assembled at the Hamilton Beach Rescue Unit at their headquarters on Beach Boulevard to collect their garbage pickup supplies: free gloves and orange garbage bags.  From there they spread out along the Lake Ontario beach and spent the morning cleaning up the shoreline.  After a morning of hard work volunteers returned to the Rescue Unit for free hot-dogs and coffee from the event’s sponsor Tim Hortons.  Councillor Chad Collins who was there as the City of Hamilton's representative, was grateful for everyone who came out to help clean up their community.



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Now that the weather has warmed up a little from the cold of winter, it is time to take down outside Christmas decorations that you can’t do any earlier due to stiff and frozen fingers. But the day I was going to be doing that, there was one problem. It wasn’t warm. It was cold, windy, and snow. The weather throughout the whole day went back and forth from wind and snow, to sunny and calm. This wasn’t too much of a problem for me, since I typically am not bothered by weather. It is more of just an annoyance.

There was another bigger problem. Whether it was due to how the lights came down from the tree, or me making it even more so as I worked on them, they were tangled - seriously tangled. The bulbs weren’t small either. They were quite big with a large clip as well, making it too easy for them to get stuck on one another. They look pretty when hanging on a tree or the edge of your house, but not in masses on the ground. There they were, a whole bunch of strings, lined with hooks, put in a heap, and mixed together. My job was to untangle the mess and neatly roll each string up. Great!

This seems like a very unpleasant job that would give plenty of excuse for grumbling, which I did. Only to myself though while I was doing it. I didn’t actually mind being given the task. I was glad to be given a job outside even though it was cold. But, the lights were so tangled and my back became sore. I even had a little conversation with my work, expressing my displeasure to the lights at their uncooperative behavior.

During our afternoon Psalm reading, I was convicted about the way I was acting. Even though it wasn’t necessarily sin, I knew that I could be doing better.

“Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps,

fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word!

 

Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!

Beasts and all livestock, creeping things and flying birds!

 

Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!

Young men and maidens together, old men and children!

 

Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his majesty is above earth and heaven.

 

He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his saints, for the people of Israel who are near to him.

Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 148:7-14)

As we read this, I thought about how even the wind and the snow praise God. The very things that were making my day a bother, were doing the things I should be. Couldn’t the snow and cold leave so I could praise God without them pestering me. Then I thought, God probably gets more glory from those who praise Him, even when they aren’t comfortable, so, when I went back outside, instead of voicing my disapproval, I sang to praise the Lord.

I thought about how we ourselves can be like the lights; wrapped and stuck within sin. I need to let go of the things which hold me captive and let the hand of God pull me out, bit by bit, unhooking me from all my sin. Then He will put me in part of His kingdom, and placing his power inside of me to shine out His glory.

—Disciple in GFA Discipleship Program



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Somehow, that phrase "Die to Self" just doesn't become more appealing or for that matter easier. I'm certain that by now I have heard every form of how you can die to self. In a vehicle, I can let someone else get the front seat and die to self. In relationships, I can be the first one to go apologize, reconcile and die to self. In finances, I can consider the needs of others, share and die to self by not just making selfish provisions. Name an area of life and I'm sure I can name a way I can die to self in it. But knowing and doing are as far from each other as the East is from the West. Lately this warning has been ringing in my ears, James 1:22 "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." And in Luke 6:31 "And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise." I need to die to self and consider others. 

Dying to self isn't even about self. It is a removing of the self and replacing it with someone else's concern or pleasure above my own. First and foremost, God's pleasure, then other's cares and concerns. Today I baked an apple pie, with some help, for no other reason than to do it for God and for the people who will be the recipients of it. I am not someone who bakes pie for the fun of it. In fact, I try to keep busy with everything else before I'll do kitchen work. So how did it come about that I would bake this pie? And with joy? Well, in my last speech I shared a practical way of how I can apply what God is teaching me about work from the book the Divine Embrace. In the book, it talks about Benedictine monks and that they equated prayer, study and work. And though I see myself as hard working I realized I do not have a healthy attitude towards some kinds of work such as baking pie and other kitchen related things. I shared in my speech that I have come to learn recently that if I dare to enjoy eating an apple pie I need the humility to bake an apple pie with a diligent spirit. Yes, and this pie isn't even for me. 

God in His Sovereignty put an opportunity in front of me that even a blind man could see. Someone asked for an apple pie that was homemade and just like the ones we had provided at the Fall Fest. As I'm hearing this request I stand rolling my eyes at God saying, "is this a test?" He says, you can either put your speech where your mouth is or be a hypocrite with many word and no action. So, I baked the pie and did it with joy because it was simple obedience to what I knew to do. I love receiving fresh baked treats and I ought to take opportunity to give of my time to bless others by giving baked treats to them as well. I am floored by the way God speaks so directly into my life. He knew I needed to put into action the practical application of changing my attitude towards work and He provided an opportunity to do it.  

 Will I always get it right from now on? No, but always turn around if I'm heading in the wrong direction. Romans 6:13 says, " And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God." If God can use me to bless someone else then in fact I am alive to God and I am an instrument of righteousness. I tend to over spiritualize thing and say things like: "what good can come out of a pie?" Or, "how will that help anyone grow in their faith?" Those are good questions but what if the question I need to answer is actually: am I reflecting Jesus in my words, thoughts and actions right now and in this situation? I can read all the books on godly character that I want to but if there isn't an immediate change in my heart upon the Spirit speaking to me, then truthfully, I become more useless to God then useful. At the end of the day it's not about me dying to self because if I'll have done that, then I'll have forgotten all about me and I'll be able to think about God first, others second and then perhaps myself. As the Apostle Paul, I declare: "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21) I have not mastered this by far nor do I think it possible but this is my life goal because Jesus is my Saviour, my Lord, my Brother, my Redeemer and Example and I will follow Him. So, my attitude towards work has slightly changed... and praise the Lord, He's not finished with me yet. Die to Self and Bake Some Apple Pie



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Didn't I surrender that?

LadderThroughout my two years in the Discipleship Program I have realized over and over things in my life that I need to surrender to Jesus in order to continue to grow. Trying to continue without letting go is like trying to climb a ladder without letting go of the rungs. You'll tie yourself into a knot trying to stay back and move forward, plus you stand a chance of upsetting yourself.

There was a specific detail of my life that I spent a lot of time during the first-year wrestling through surrendering that. God eventually showed me Joel 3:16, which has kind of become my life verse.

The LORD also will roar from Zion, And utter His voice from Jerusalem; The heavens and earth will shake; But the LORD will be a shelter for His people, And the strength of the children of Israel.

—Joel 3:16 NKJV

God asked me if He, as the King described in this verse, wasn't worthy of absolute surrender. He was and is.

This year I've come back to this same aspect of my life, just with a broader brush. I was wrestling with it again. Surrendering the specific detail wasn't too hard, I had done so before. My reaction was "Haven't I already surrendered this? Why am I dealing with the same thing again?"

God again asked me to surrender in this detail, but in a larger scale. What had before been a fine point, a certain playing out of events, that I surrendered had become a drastically life-changing decision that will likely govern large parts of my future. Jesus was now asking me to give Him everything. While I had surrendered the micro aspects, I still had to surrender the macro aspects of my life.

After this I wouldn't be surprised if this is revisited in the future. There is no endpoint to my surrender. This has taught me that surrender is a continual enlarging of what is given to Jesus.

—Disciple in GFA Discipleship Program



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God's Story

We, disciples, recently completed our final class of the year which was a study of the Divine Embrace by Robert Webber. It was definitely a challenging book to read, not only because of the big words that the author used, but also because of the challenge he gives to Recover a Passionate Spiritual Life.

I think the main thing I took away from this book was an understanding that my spirituality is not based on what I do or don’t do but on God's Story, what He has already done for me and all of creation.

 Having grown up in a Christian home and made a decision to follow Christ at a very young age, for as long as I can remember I have known God’s Story. I knew that man had sinned and the only way to reconciliation with God was through trusting in the finished work of Jesus on the cross. But until going through this book I never really understood God’s story and how He invites me to enter into it.

One thing that stood out to me was the significance of Jesus being fully God and fully man. I’ve never realized before just how important it is that Jesus be fully human. This means that He experienced the same struggles and difficulties I do. In chapter 8 of the Divine Embrace, Robert Webber says: “As one of us, real flesh and blood, Jesus reversed the wound of Adam. Beginning in the womb of Mary, and continuing throughout his entire ministry, he struggled to surrender His will to the Father. And because He succeeded in surrendering His will to the Father’s will, in all things, he restored our will in his obedience. Even as Jesus struggled to surrender His will to the Father, so also, in our own spiritual life, Jesus is the model not only for victory but also for the struggle. Therefore we ‘fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith…’ as the writer of Hebrews encourages us, ‘so that you will not grow weary and lose heart’ (Heb. 12:2-3).

So, what will my response to God’s Story be? How will I live each day with my eyes fixed on Jesus?

For me, personally, living in light of God’s Story means being willing, as Jesus did, to surrender myself completely to the Father. In recognizing that my spirituality lies not in what I can do but in what Christ has already done, my desire is to no longer strive to do it on my own. As I have been asking the Lord to show me how to live out this life of surrender, He has been teaching me to simply rest in Him, trusting that He holds my life in His hands.

God has been teaching me that the surrendered life is a life of continual repentance. It means not allowing the enemy to fill my mind with guilt and self-pity when I fail, but confessing my sins as soon as I am aware of them. I am learning not to become overwhelmed by my shortcomings but rather, to ask the Lord for His mercy, pick myself up and move on.

God has been showing me that even when I fail and take my eyes off Him, He is still watching over me.  He will never leave me but will patiently wait for me to cry out to Him and allow Him to once again take my hand. In knowing this I can have peace that nothing I do can take me away from the loving care of my Heavenly Father. He is so much bigger than I am and knows what lies ahead. As long as He is leading me and my focus is on Him, I know that whatever happens I am in His hands.

—Disciple in GFA Discipleship Program

 



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