Giving up may sound like a negative phrase, and it often can be. But when it comes to the season of Lent, giving up is one of the best things we can do.

Growing up, I was always used to people around me “giving up” something for the Lenten season. I never understood why, I just assumed that we became more spiritual by not eating chocolate, drinking coffee, etc.

Through what I have been learning in the Discipleship Program, and in seeing the lives of GFA staff, I have been realizing that there is more to Lent than this. I don’t want to participate and enter into Lent because someone told me to, or to look better than those around me. Rather, I do this because of my love for my Saviour. If there is anything hindering me in my walk with the Lord, or something that is not aiding me, I need to remove that from my life and replace it with a new practice that will draw me closer to Him. Lent is a time of mourning and repentance that helps me to remember my sin, the suffering and death that Christ went through to free me of it, and what it looks like to live in the power of the Holy Spirit. As I prepare my heart for Easter, for the great celebration of Christ’s resurrection; like He did, I first go through the pain and the suffering before the victory.

In Lent this year, I feel the Lord is really teaching me about my sin, specifically being judgmental of others. In the past, I have been very quick to quickly gloss over it or justify it, and to remind myself that Jesus has covered it all, and so I don’t need to think about it. It is most certainly true that Jesus’ blood has paid for my sin in full. But to live the free and victorious life that Christ has bought for me, I need to identify and confront the sin in my life, and in the power of Holy Spirit conquer and defeat it. This is somewhat like weeding a garden. The longer I leave sin in my life, the deeper it grows and the harder it is to pull it out by the roots. If I simply gloss over my sin and remove the visible signs, but leave the roots intact, it will quickly grow back, as I was often reminded by my mother when working pulling weeds in the garden. I also will not be able to pull out the weeds if I do not look carefully and identify them among the plants in the garden of my heart.

Each year I look forward to Lent and don’t at the same time. For me, going through Lent is a painful journey. It hurts to look at all the ugliness that remains in my life, and how often I do not surrender to Jesus. But it is a beautiful road too. It may not be easy to fast, to spend extended time in prayer, and to root out sin, but in the end, it is so, so worth it. I love to walk with my Saviour, to get to know Him more and more.

“Yet even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
Return to the Lord your God,
for He is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;
and He relents over disaster.

— Joel 2:12-13


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Coming to the Discipleship Program, I didn’t know I would be learning so much. I’ve studied these three books and one audio assignment in the following order: Liturgy of the Ordinary, Core Values, Divine Energy, Jesus Style, and now I’m finishing Touching Godliness. Out of these books I believe Touching Godliness has impacted me the most so far. It speaks about how important it is to submit to our delegated authorities and when we do that we submit to God Himself and please Him. Our real authority is God and if we love Him we will want to submit to those He has placed over us.

“Therefore, submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.” (1 Peter 2:13-14)

I have failed many times in the past to submit to those over me, but my desire is to grow in this. Pain and submission go hand in hand, so if I choose the way of submission I may experience some pain but can have peace through it. The Bible has many great examples of people who were submissive and obedient to God and their delegated authorities. David, Joseph, and Paul are just a few examples for us to follow.

I especially like Joseph’s example of submission. Because of the position God had given Joseph, his entire family was permitted to live in Egypt, escaping starvation. God was able to use Joseph in this mighty way because he stayed submitted to his authority.

I’m grateful for this opportunity to be part of the Discipleship Program where I can continue to learn and grow in my walk with the Lord, alongside others who encourage me on the journey.



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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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Ladder

Throughout 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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