Discipleship is messy. It just is. This month we saw truth come to light in the lives of some of the guys up here, and it wasn't pretty. I wish I could tell you that what we are doing is 100% effective, but God expects me to tell the truth ... so ... but I can tell you that what we are doing here is 100% Biblical, and so are the results. He promises that what is stated in the shadows will be screamed from the rooftops, that all things hidden will be come known (Matthew 10:26; Mark 4:22; Luke 8:17). Up here we say, "the bubbles will rise."
Men come here for two reasons. The first is to be discipled in ministry preparation. We have a wonderful opportunity up here to disciple young men desiring formal ministry preparation. Students who follow their calling into ministry by choosing to study here will not just be thoroughly prepared theologically, but also practically. Students are taught life and job skills here. It is impossible to continue successfully here without forming and using a good work-ethic that is pleasing to God. The sawmill has a way of quickly getting past false pretenses. Character is always on the hot-seat here, and that is exactly the point. It is our goal to bring those out and have them sharpened in the security of this place, instead of later in life on the backs of the people they are trying to serve in ministry. We also desire ministers who leave here to be financially free, so while we do ask students who can financially provide for themselves to do so, we do not charge. We want the missions and ministries they serve to be freed from the pressure of paying their schooling debts. We began our semester-based classes this month for those students and are excited about the future growth of this preparation process! We have six students!!! We are believing God for more!
The second reason for coming here is to find freedom. The men who come here from this track have lives marked with addiction and chaos often quickly find peace in the serenity of the place. They begin to grow in their understanding of the things of God. In fact, sometimes they grow so quickly in the things of God they skip right over the need to grow in their relationship with Him. Their minds are working, their bodies feel good, and they are sober ... and they confuse that sobriety with spirituality. This comes to a head when conflict comes. Still yet, God's Word is true. We can teach 'til we turn blue in the face about the grace of God that brings forgiveness and restoration upon repentance and confession but until we model it within ourselves, we are merely presenting hypothetical situations. We boast here at Discover Life about the opportunity we have been afforded here in Christ where our textbooks are our lives: "We are all epistles written for others to read." This month we received a new student, Joe. Please pray for Joe that he finds his identity solely in Christ Jesus and builds his life on that Rock.
Jesus said that we are His disciples if we obey His teachings. It's easy to confuse obedience with entertainment. We are entertained when what we are asked to do, we are doing because we want to do. Our obedience is not tested until we are asked to do that which goes against our very nature. What then? The men are always best friends for the first few weeks ... but then IT comes; the moment of their decision. That is the nature of obedience. We boast to God Himself about our riches and He asks us to sell them all and give them to those who have not earned them ... and we walk away in disappointment and frustration. Yet for those who surrender, the burdens are lifted! It is that easy ... yet it is that hard. We hope to see the men who join on this track of the train of discipleship pass through to the other side (ministry preparation).
It is vital for people being prepared for ministry to see the importance of paying attention to detail ... for not just plowing ahead blindly. They see firsthand the failures of partial surrender. The hope is that they recognize it within themselves ... as we all must if we are going to be honest with ourselves. But it is that very same honesty that drives us to grace; and if we stay there it will keep us until we are home. It is also vitally important for the students of discipleship. Rebellion is contagious. People who act on sinful impulses often feel they have found a loophole ... a way of having their cake and eating it too. But in reality, they have only found a pit ... a place of death. They have their cake, but it eats them! This is a vital observation for the healing believer caught in the pendulum swing of obedience and rebellion. There is no such thing as partial surrender ... and there is no salvation offer that doesn't come with Jesus' work of sanctification. That is why they get caught ... that is why we get caught. God won't allow His children to walk in disobedience. He won't! It's His grace!
So pray for us, because it can be messy, as I stated at the beginning of this message. Pray for us, the students of ministry preparation, and the students of discipleship. Please pray for our families, we need the protection.
I do ask you to consider financially supporting the ministry here on The Hill. We have had some vehicle issues. We have six vehicles that need repair work, some major. We also have a wood burner that will allow us to save thousands of dollars yearly but we have to install it. The installation is $6000. The cost for vehicle repairs in all is about the same. We trust God to provide but encourage you to consider helping us as we help others. Your one time donation, or your monthly contribution of $10, $20, $50, $100, or any more 0's you'd like to add in there will help significantly. As for us, we will continue. But you have a great opportunity here to invest in a ministry that is making a real difference!
Lessons From the Sawmill: There are Rocks in the Garden!
I've often talked about the rocks that keep surfacing from the mountain substrate. It is quite impressive. But this month, we saw another reality. We planted four gardens this year between the leadership up here on The Hill. One was in a greenhouse, one on the farm. On was down behind my house, and the last behind the church.
The garden planted in the greenhouse was planted during the frost but protected from it. The plants were rooted in fertile soil and raised in a controlled environment. When the climate was right, the protection was removed and the garden thrived in the open air producing a great abundance.
The garden planted on the farm was well tilled and fertilized. But an unexpected frost got it even though the plants were wrapped and covered. The surviving plants fell to the weeds that were not adequately removed because of our schedule demands ... and the garden produced little.
The garden behind my house was dug into rocky soil. But I dug 2 feet deep and built rows 2 feet high from dirt that was well fertilized by our cows and collected over the winter. That garden thrived!
But the garden behind the church... It was planted in the same rocky soil, but I didn't prepare the ground as thoroughly. I planted both cucumbers and pumpkins. They sprung up well but, after the first rain, the ground resettled like concrete and choked the life out of the cucumbers. The ground was fertilized and weeded, but the rocks killed the roots of some of the plants and the water sitting scorched them. The sun literally killed the cucumber at the roots. Yet the pumpkins are flourishing! It's almost straight out of Jesus' teaching about the Parable of the Seed Sower (Luke 8:4-15)! There are four types of soil Jesus speaks of: the wayside, the rocky soil, the thorny ground, and fertile soil.
What's the point? We often like to view ourselves as one of the four, yet in reality, just like my garden, we are a mix of all four! There may be parts of us that are flourishing! Those places may even be life-giving. But does it come at the turning of a blind eye to another part of our life that needs cultivating? If so, then we are the rich man!!! We assume our ability to "earn heaven" by relying on our successes (if they are even such) yet Jesus points to the infected wound.
Those cucumbers came up fast! I had fruit quickly! I was excited for the produce .. and it all died, at a very inconvenient time too!! The rocks weren't properly removed and with water, they morphed into a wall of death. That is what happens in us when we don't allow God's cultivating work done by the conviction of the Holy Spirit. We think there is adequate space between them and believe the lie that they are removable once convenient. But then comes the rain ... and ironically, it's the rain we need to give life ... and that very rain causes the rocks to be revealed for what they are ... and it's too late.
I tried to rescue that garden, but that sitting water rotted the vines, killing them, scorching the fruit, killing it, and the rocks destroyed the roots. It was a total loss. And while people point at the pumpkins, I am anguishing over the cucumbers. I was going to jar pickles this year!
That is us! Even in failure, people, not knowing what they see, applaud us for our successes while we die inside because we know our failures ... and so does God ... and so do the people that matter eventually.
So what do we do? It's really quite simple:
James 4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
1 Peter 5:6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time...
We can only boast on what we see as accomplished. If I feel that I am something, I set myself up for falling to pride. If my boast is Christ, then I accept my weakness and need, and am in a much better place ... at His feet. If that is my mindset, then I am constantly allowing God to cultivate me ... to transform me ... and the rocks are removed, the fruit is nourishing, and the garden is dependable.
In that we are living out Romans 12:1-3:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.
That's my take anyways! Thanks for reading!!!