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


Comments

 Add Comment




Solitude is something I look forward to every month which is part of the Discipleship Program. As students, we are given a turn to share a devotional before we go to be alone with the Lord. My desire is to give glory to God for what He is doing.

I would like to share what the Lord has been teaching me and how that has affected me the last few months. It has taken me some time to process and the more I process the more there is more to learn.

I use the “Revised Common Lectionary” for my devotional times in the morning which is really good. When we have our regular 6 am house devotional time we read the same passages and then at the office for our prayer meetings we read the same Psalms as well. So, all throughout the day I hear the same scriptures read and the Lord has used this to minister to my heart. I have found that each day God has given me a word of encouragement, hope and strength to continue in the fight.

While spending time with the Lord one morning I was reading Deut 6:16-25, which talks about the Lord having brought the children of Israel out of Egypt and is giving them the commandments they are to keep and teach to the coming generations. What I came away with was from verses 23-25 “And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers. And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us.” It was like the Lord was asking me if I trusted Him to take care of me and if the fear that was in my heart was the right kind of fear. Would I leave behind my own plans and follow Him no matter where He called me to go? or would my fears of the unknown keep me back?

Trusting Him is the first area I needed to address. If I don’t trust the Lord then I will not follow. Just like the children of Israel needed to leave Egypt behind so I need to leave my fears behind. The promise land is prepared, will I go in and take it or will my fears keep me in the wilderness? Having seen the Lord’s faithfulness throughout my life and even more so in the last two years, being in the Discipleship Program how could I not trust Him?

My Father reminded me of another passage from His word, which came through him extending his loving hand for me to take as an act of surrender and complete trust. 1 John 4:18-19. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.” The fears I had before were tormenting me and had caused me to shrink back in times past; but now I was ready to place my hand in His and follow wherever He chose to lead me.

As I surrender my plans for His I am learning to trust my leaders and realising that my time and schedule are not my own and this has been so freeing for me. Fear has been replaced with perfect Love. Trusting the Lord by obeying all that He asks of me has caused me to glorify Him and praise Him for being faithful.

—Disciple in GFA Discipleship Program



1 Comment

 Add Comment




Serving LepersThroughout our trip I was encouraged to realise that, yes, my prayers do make a difference and in awe of the fact that that God has chosen me to be a part of the work that He is doing on the mission field.

 I felt so humbled and privileged to get to see and experience the many different ways that lives are being touched through God’s love. To see the love on a widow’s face as she expressed her gratitude for the hope that she has found in God or the life and excitement in the eyes of the children at the Bridge of Hope centres we visited. Their smiles and joy reflect the fact that for the first time in their lives they have hope and a future ahead of them.

What an honour it was to get to pray for the missionaries who give up everything, face persecution and count it all joy for the sake of reaching those in need! I felt so small alongside them and yet they would ask me to pray for them. Because we are a team and both the senders and the workers, the prayers and those on the front lines are absolutely vital to this work that God has called us to.

I was touched by the example of the Sisters of Compassion we met serving in the leprosy colony. They are willing to go beyond the barriers of culture and society to serve and actually touch the lepers. Through this they show the lepers that in God’s eyes they are worth loving and touching and holding. They are no longer just lepers but precious men and women, so valuable in the sight of God!

To sum it all up I would say that the one thing that impacted me the most on this trip was the love that I experienced, God’s love. It was expressed in the lives of the missionaries who are love in action. It shined out of them in a way that made me say, ‘there is something different about that person.’ God’s love is what causes the Sisters of Compassion to touch the lepers, wipes away the tears of the widow and gives the destitute children hope.

In response to all I have seen and experienced my prayer is that God’s love would also shine through my life in such a way that all those around me would be drawn to Christ as a result. May His love be the reason behind all that I do and the focus of my life. Only through God’s love will I be able to lay down my life and be the hands and feet of Jesus to the world around me.

As it says in 1 Cor. 13:1-3 “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

And verse 13 “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

~ Disciple in the Discipleship Program



Comments

 Add Comment




#1 I came to grow in my walk with the Lord.

discipleship-blog-pathThe focus of  GFA Discipleship Program is to know Jesus more fully and intimately and that is what I was longing for in my own life. Growing up in a Christian home I knew a lot about what it meant to follow Christ but often times knowing was only as far as it went, I didn’t actually live it out. I felt frustrated because I knew my walk with the Lord was not where it should be at but I didn’t know what to do about it. In my heart I wasn’t satisfied with just a superficial relationship with the Lord. I wanted to experience that kind of Christianity that I read about in the Bible, to look beyond what I experience in the here and now and live in light of eternity. It was out of this dissatisfaction with “good enough” Christianity that God challenged me to lay everything aside for one year and come to DP to pursue Him.

#2 I came to be involved in missions.

When I was 18 years old I went on my first short term mission trip to Malawi, Africa and it opened my eyes to the reality of a world in need of Christ. God challenged me to see the people I met as He did, broken and lost without Him, and He began to stir in my heart a desire to commit my life to reaching the world with the hope of the Christ. I returned home knowing that God was calling me to be involved in missions in some way but not knowing how or what that would look like. It was around that time that I first started to consider coming to GFA Discipleship Program. It is a unique program offering young people the opportunity to spend a life-changing year at GFA’s home office in Stoney Creek, Ontario, Canada. Participants come to study and grow in true discipleship as well as serve in a ministry role alongside GFA home team staff. The program provided the perfect opportunity for me to not only be involved in missions but also to grow in my walk with the Lord. After learning about the program it took quite some time before I actually had the courage to commit to coming. I knew that God was calling me to set aside one year of my life to pursue Him but I wasn’t yet willing to leave behind all that I was comfortable and familiar with in order to obey His voice.

#3 I came to step out of my comfort zone.

I was never the type of person to pursue adventure. I would much rather stay with what was safe and familiar than to step out with faith into the unknown. Needless to say the decision to come to the Discipleship Program was a pretty major one for me. To start with there was fundraising, which meant I had to actually talk to people and ask them for money, there’s nothing safe and comfortable about that. I had to be willing to leave behind my home and family for one year, move across the country to Ontario, (Did I mention leaving the farm to live in the city for the first time?) and live with a bunch of people I had never met before. While I knew that stepping into the unknown would be scary I also knew that I would benefit greatly from it. Because I would no longer be able to rely on what I was comfortable and familiar with I was going to have to totally rely on the Lord and trust in His grace to see me through. I knew that the Lord was asking me to be willing to let go of reliance on self and instead rely totally on Him.

#4 I came to be a part of a community.

One aspect of the program that really stood out to me was the opportunity to live in community with believers whose passion is to love Christ and to serve others. I wanted to not only learn more about following Christ but to actually see it lived out in daily life. My desire was to learn from the example of older brothers and sisters who have walked with the Lord for many years and don’t just talk about having a radical faith, they actually live it out. The staff and leadership of GFA are committed to knowing the Lord and giving of their lives to make Him known to the world around them. They were willing to invest in my life and allow me to be a part of theirs showing me what it looks like to live as a part of the Body of Christ. I knew that community living would help me grow in being willing to open up my life to others, which was an area of my life that I struggled with. My desire was to develop Godly relationships that would and encourage me to pursue Christ above all else and keep me accountable in my walk with the Lord.

Written by a Discipleship Program Student


Do you have a desire to know Christ more? A hunger to pursue His call? Don’t wait any longer—apply to GFA Discipleship Program and find yourself transformed in the year to come!




Comments

 Add Comment




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



Comments

 Add Comment

None