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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A while ago I burned my finger while washing a hot frying pan. I’ve come very close several times in the past, but this time around I did actually burn my finger. After the initial “That’s hot!” and the resulting “Wow! My finger smarts!” I started looking at the blister that was rising on my finger.

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First there was the interesting factor that the tip of my finger was half again its normal size. That was fun, especially for typing. But more seriously was the realization that the blister was there for a reason. It was a shield; protecting the smarting and sensitive skin underneath while my body healed. It was a sterile environment where my body could focus entirely on building a new patch of skin and not have to station extra security details in order to prevent germs and dirt from getting into my body. Granted that it was a burn and not a gaping wound; that would have been a completely different situation.

As I was thinking over these things, and having fun with peoples reactions to my oversized finger (Please pop it!, What is that on your finger?, That’s gross!) it also gave me a new sense of how much genius (the word doesn’t go nearly far enough) that God put into creating my body.

Then I moved on to some other injuries. Broken bones knit together, cuts heal over, food poisoning washes itself out of your digestive system, pretty much anything that doesn’t kill you will heal after a fashion. Doctors or surgeons may be required to make sure that your bones are straight after a broken leg, or to stitch a nastier than usual cut. But God has built our body to fix itself in a marvelous manner.

I will praise You, for I am fearfully [and] wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And [that] my soul knows very well.

— Psalm 139:14 (NKJV)


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But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot

— I Peter 1:19

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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.



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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

Written by a disciple in the Discipleship Program



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One of the things I have been learning through my study of Church History this year is that God is always at work in the lives of His people. Even during the times of darkness and chaos when it looked as if God wasn’t even in the picture, He was at work behind the scenes using each circumstance for the good of His people and to bring glory to His name.

All throughout history the Church has been faced with hardships from within and without, but the Middle Ages was an especially dark time for God’s people. We recently read about some of the struggles they faced during that time including: wars from invading barbarians, the destruction and violence of the crusades, leadership corrupted by greed, the division of the church between East and West, and the devastation of plagues and sickness.

Yet in the midst of all of this there is evidence that God had not abandoned His people. Even during this dark time we can see that God was at work bringing forth His purpose through it all. He raised up missionaries, like Boniface and Lioba who dedicated their lives to reaching Germany with the Gospel, Reformers, such as the monks, who called people to a life of holiness and a deeper love for God, and the Mendicants, mobile preachers who travelled from town to town preaching the Gospel to all who would listen. During this time the Gospel was taken to many unreached peoples such as the English, Irish, French, and Moravians (modern-day Czech Republic). God was working through the lives of His faithful followers who were willing to give their lives in order to be obedient to God’s calling upon them.

In one of the lectures we watched the speaker made a comment that really stood out to me. He said “God is like a field teeming with life below the surface.” On top it may look like nothing is happening at all, but underground, within the soil, the seeds are very much alive and change is taking place. Soon the seed will sprout and push its way out of the soil. Then what has been taking place below the surface will become visible to all as we see the evidence of a new life.

Many situations in my own life are much like that field. On the surface I don’t see anything happening and assume that what I can or cannot see in the natural must be all that is taking place. I am so quick to focus only on what is right in front of me and grow discouraged because it appears that God is not at work. In the midst of difficult circumstances I don’t see any way that God can be using it to bring about His purpose. I am unaware of what is taking place just below the surface and that out of the trials and struggles God is creating something new and beautiful.

God has been reminding me that just as He was at work behind the scenes in some of the darkest times of history so He is at work in the difficult moments of my life. I can trust that in the same way He raised up His faithful followers to bring about His purpose during a dark time in the Church, so He will use each circumstance in my life to ultimately show His faithfulness and unfailing love to the world around me.

My desire is to choose each day not to focus on the apparently lifeless soil above ground but to remember that underground, where I cannot see, change is taking place. What I can see in the natural is only momentary in light of all that God has in store for eternity.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

— 2 Corinthians 4:17-18


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