Foundations? (by Jon Shuler )

“If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3)

Recent events in the United States have served, once again, to show that the historic constitutional foundations of this country are no longer guiding a large part of our society. This seems especially true of many of those in positions of power and responsibility. For those of us who believe that those historic American foundations were absolutely based on the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, this is a very difficult and sad day. The moral law, that under-girded all the presuppositions of the founding generations, has been swept away. The Word of God given to Israel, and then incarnated in the Lord Jesus, has ceased to be a “plumb line” for American life.

This is of course not a new development. It has been steadily happening for many decades. But the pace of this descent into darkness has quickened measurably in these last few years. No one who is concerned for the will of God to be done in our land can be pleased with the unraveling of our basic societal unity, nor with the increasing triumph of wickedness. But what are the Lord’s people to do?

This question has been central in my prayers for my country for many years. I have come to one clear understanding about this situation, and how it came to prevail. The main fault is the church that claims to belong to God.

We have collectively turned away from the Lord and his clear teaching, and we have run after false gods. We have been compromised by our careless attention to the the Word of God, by our general acceptance of unrighteous influences in the newspapers and magazines that we read, the radio and TV we attend to, and the movies we watch. Our consciences have been dulled (if not seared) by a wave of behaviors and speech that are inconsistent with a nation of righteous people. And the church has not called us to the truth. To bear the cost of faithful witness. To accept the backlash and still stand. How did this happen?

The number of professed Christians in the USA is somewhere near 70% of the population, and yet small minorities opposed to God and his Word have taken over almost all of the positions of influence and power in this country. In a majority of the Universities, much of the Media, many of the Legislatures, and large numbers of the schools, and even among many historic churches, unbelievers reign.

I would like to blame others, but I have to accept the blame myself. I have been lulled to sleep by a steady stream of small compromises. I have not stood up. I have not protested. I have been so focused on the things inside the particular places where I was called to serve that I have not noticed the erosion of the moral basis of my nation. I have been a negligent citizen. I have not made the “love of righteous deeds” (Psalm 11:7) my touchstone. And meanwhile my nation has come under the judgment of God.

What can I do? I must repent. What must you do?

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Foundations? (by Jon Shuler )

How low can you go? (By Manik Corea)

William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, once turned up unexpectedly to one of their early meetings. He was respectfully asked if he would share a word at the meeting. So at the appropriate time, William Booth stood up on the pulpit, looked at the congregation and said, ‘others’. And then he sat down.

One word…but what a word!

The church is called to be the most other-centered organization on earth. It exists solely for the glory and praise of her God (1 Peter 2:9-10) and for the mission of reaching people of every land and people with the only Gospel that saves (Matthew 28:18; Acts 1:8; Acts 4:12). In all this, we are called to place the interests of others before ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4).

Jesus expected us to be marked apart to the world not only by our obedience and loyalty to Him but by how we treat each other (John 13:34,35).

And this kind of other-centeredness will be reflected most in the kind of leadership Jesus modeled and ultimately calls from those who lead His church (John 13:12-17; Matthew 20:24-28). Jesus gave explicit instructions to his disciples that those who lead must be servants of all (Mark 9:35 – Incidentally, this is why the principal leader of NAMS is called the ‘Servant-General’.)

This is in such contrast to the world, which casts leadership in terms of power, influence, status and control. Biblical leadership is not about getting on top and staying there, but sacrificing for and building others up so that they grow and mature in Christ themselves. It is leadership for the good of others.

The late Anglican Bishop of Sabah (in East Malaysia) Albert Vun had a profound effect in helping NAMS develop in Asia before his untimely death. I remember in the early days of beginning our NAMS base in Thailand, when Bishop Albert (who loved Thailand and would often visit to encourage the work they had begun there) took time out to visit with and encourage me. He told me once that he told all his priests/pastors that they must be ready to ‘wash toilets’ and ‘do the menial jobs’ as part of their ministry as leaders. It keeps us humble, he said.

One of the things NAMS Companions and Base Communities are called to do is raise up leaders who readily display such a self-effacing, humble attitude towards others and who walk with a Jesus-obeying fear and integrity towards God. When Christ calls us to leadership, he gives us not titles, but a towel.

The call to rise up and lead is really a call to bend down and serve. Leaders: how low will you go for Christ?

How low can you go? (By Manik Corea)

A Drop in the Ocean (By Manik Corea)

In a few days time, my family and I leave Bangkok, Thailand, where we’ve been for the last 10 years, to go on a 3-month sabbatical to the United States. Most of it will be spent in South Carolina, some of it we hope in rest, lazing on the warm beaches of the Atlantic. There will no doubt be time to reflect back on all that we have experienced and seen in the last decade.

As I look back over the years of our time here in Thailand, the last six of which have been as planter and team leader of All Nations, our NAMS Base Community in the city, I am sure there will be sadness and regret for how I often let my human weakness and sinfulness get in the way of being a faithful and fruitful disciple, husband, father and leader. I certainly wish we had been more urgent and passionate to reach the lost.

Sure, over the years, we at All Nations have reached a few peoples, discipled refugees and expats from many nations, even baptized a couple, shared the Gospel to many others including neighbors and friends, and generally tried to be a blessing to those we met. However, in real terms, the impact of All Nations in so big a city has been minimal, like a drop in the ocean.

Bangkok is home to some 12 million people, a million or so whom are undocumented. The majority of Thai people here are Buddhist who have never heard the name of Jesus or understand really what He is. There are people from countless nations, some bordering Thailand, who live and work in the city. Most may never meet a Christian.

However, one thing I can say with all confidence is that we are in a new season of the work here in Thailand.

About a year ago, the Lord began to open a door for work in a Christian university student center and hostel. All the students there are Thai, the majority are unbelievers. Our new leader of All Nations, Isaac, with his wife Pat, are now renting an apartment on the grounds of this center. We call it our Mission House. Already students are coming over to watch football (or soccer) matches and to cook and eat together. Or they play basketball with other students regularly now.

We believe God is calling us to reach, make disciples, raise up Christ-devoted leaders and, along with our on-going work with people of different nations, plant in time a worshiping community/service meeting on a different day to when we meet on Sunday, to reach many more. It is what all NAMS base-communities (and the churches we plant) are called to do.

Isaac and Pat have already started an English Club meeting every Friday. They have begun to meet with some of the Christians students one-on-one and in small group meetings to make disciples among them. We are hoping that John Gansalves from India can complete raising funds to join us as a Global Apprentice to help this work. Others are praying about coming to join our team as well, but we hope to be raising disciple-making leaders from those God has already brought to us.

It is a vital work. It is the work of a NAMS Companion. We have the privilege to be called by God to live, pray, reflect and study God’s Word, give towards our work globally and locally, and to make disciples of our families and of people around us, with the goal of helping to plant new communities of faithful men and women of God.

Thank God that He is ever faithful, even when we are faithless (2 Timothy 2:13). But His desire is that we will be truly faithful as salt and light in the world, to make a difference to those around us.

Please pray that All Nations in Bangkok will be found faithful in all God’s called us to be and do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Drop in the Ocean (By Manik Corea)

More than just a job (by Mary Garrison)

Back to school is a hectic time of year for everyone, not the least of which are teachers like me – I’m now entering my 12th year in public education. But besides getting my classroom organized and lesson plans finalized, a still small voice inside of me is reminding me to get my heart right too because I’m preparing to go on the mission field.

I didn’t always feel this way. When I started my teaching career, I had a pretty clear sense of my profession.   I enjoyed my content area, was intrigued by the strategies involved in breaking down a concept, and rather quickly came to appreciate the relationships I formed with my students and colleagues. Teaching satisfied my professional ambitions, I thought that would be enough…but it wasn’t.

My Christian life has always been an important part of me, but without clearly realizing it at the time, I checked my faith at school doors each morning and picked it up again on my way out. This was not something I did intentionally, but that’s indeed the point: I wasn’t intentional at all. Apart from a few token gestures and general politeness, this huge part of me—my faith—was largely absent from my daily work. I become les satisfied, and after four or five years in, I started asking the Lord, “Is this all there is? Show me what it is I cannot see.”

And what He showed me changed me.

After his crucifixion and resurrection, just before he ascended to heaven, Jesus gave his followers their marching orders: if you really believe all you have seen, and if you really have a transformed life, then “go and make disciples” (Matt. 28:16-20). To me, these words were always either hypothetical or meant for another race of “Super-Christians,” like missionaries who would travel around the world or pastors who were paid to do this type of thing, not plain old “normal Christians” like me who work full-time secular jobs.

But the Lord opened my heart and mind to understand that every Christian shares in this missional calling to make disciples because we are all Christ’s followers. His final command wasn’t just for one group of men; it was for all men and women who would come to follow him. There were indeed disciple-making opportunities all around me, starting with my work—that place I spend 40+ hours a week.

More than a career, I realized that I have a calling – to go to school and share the light of Jesus Christ with every student, colleague, or administrator with whom I interact. Yes, I am a public school teacher, which of course does limit my words to a certain extent, but armed with an understanding of my higher calling, I am intentional now in an entirely new way. Like many teachers, I spend a great deal of time preparing my lesson plans and grading papers, but now my challenge each day is to spend time with the Lord to prepare my heart before I enter my workplace, i.e., the mission field. I’ve got to pray for my students and colleagues with a genuine heart for their salvation; I’ve got to seek wisdom for boldness to know when to speak and prudence for when to stay silent; I’ve got to ask for a caring heart to earn the right to be heard; I’ve got to pray for opportunities outside of the classroom to further deepen these relationships.

I am certainly not perfect in that daily preparation? Sometimes that sneaky alarm clock seems to snooze itself, but the Lord doesn’t usually let me get to far without reminding me of the need to be more intentional in preparation and prayer.

Dear believer, if you call yourself a follower of Christ, your calling is the same as mine, and it’s the most important thing we will ever do. How does your career empower you in that calling? Do you work construction? Are you working in an office or restaurant? Are you lawyer, doctor, merchant, or chef? The essential truth here has nothing to do with the career itself. The truth is that every Bible-believing Christian is a missionary wherever he or she goes, and I write today to encourage you to step into that calling, to ask the Lord to strengthen you in your resolve to be intentional in prayer and service to those you work with each day. So that today, or tomorrow, or the next day when a colleague or client may ask you about the hope you seem to have and that you would be prepared to give account of how the Lord has transformed your life.

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Mary Garrison is a NAMS Companion in Florida. She is also the NAMS Global Prayer/Intercessors Coordinator, as well as supporting her husband Ivan in giving supervision to the Horn of Africa region for NAMS.  

 

More than just a job (by Mary Garrison)

Mission Field at the Y (by Revd Dave Kulchar )

With an increasingly post-Christian culture in North America even some of our expressly Christian organization have lost their focus. One example is the “Young Men Christian Association” or “YMCA”. In recent years it has grown to be seen as just another athletic club. In Indianapolis, USA, however, the Lord has raised up some leaders who want to reestablish it’s Christian mission to strengthen people in body, mind and spirit.

Early last year I am looking for a place that our new church might meet on Sundays. A friend suggested I look at the local YMCA. Recently the 15 area facilities have been entering into partnership with churches who use there multipurpose rooms on Sunday mornings for a worship gathering space. As I inquired about this partnership I learned of a volunteer chaplain program they have instituted. Area pastors can volunteer a minimum of 4 hours a week to “care, love and serve” staff and members at area YMCA facilities.

After a background check and training program by their Regional Director of Spiritual Emphasis, I started volunteering at the Pike YMCA a 15 minute drive from our home. My initial stage of work has been as a “Spiritual Greeter”. I welcome people to the Y in the front lobby simply making my presence know as a chaplain who desires to listen to peoples stories, make new friends, and talk about spiritual things if they show interest. Sometime I even pray with people over concerns that are on their hearts.

We live in a very diverse neighborhood. We have many international people who come through our doors from various faith backgrounds: Muslim, Hindu and non-religious.   Though there are many strong Christians at the YMCA, including many of the staff, there is also many opportunities to meet and befriend many pre-Christians.   I have had staff ask me to pray with them about their job, family and illness. I have had others share with me how they met Jesus, while others share why the have left the faith. One member and I are going to read a book on small group development called “Making Cell Groups Work”.

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I wear my clerical collar, tennis shoes and a name tag that makes it easy for others to identify me as a chaplain in a place where they do not usually expect a pastor.   I am strategically trying to visit the YMCA at different times of the day and days of the week in order to meet new people.

Last spring we hosted a prayer gathering on the National Day of Prayer where we prayed in a circle in the middle of the YMCA lobby. We have recently formed a Christian Emphasis Committee to organize a “Grief Recovery Class” and second offering called “Getting Through the Holidays”.

If discipleship is about helping move people closer to Jesus, I would suggest finding a place to be consistently present and available like a local YMCA sets one up nicely to be a disciple maker in a post-Christian world.

 

Dave Kulchar is a NAMS Companion, Canon for Church Planting in Diocese of the Great Lakes and All Souls Anglican Missionary Priest.

 

Mission Field at the Y (by Revd Dave Kulchar )

Meaning What You Say. (by Jon Shuler)

Our Lord Jesus Christ taught us that we are to let our “Yes be yes” and our “No be no.” A disciple walks in the light of His teaching. How are we doing in this area as followers of Jesus? With regularity over the past few years I have discovered that many in the church are guilty of extreme neglect of this clear word of God. Are we too?

How is this so? Let me cite a few examples.

The first that comes to my mind focuses on the promises that were made at my baptism. I was then charged to never “be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, and manfully to fight under his banner, against sin, the world, and the devil.”

What then if I meet every week with other Christians, but do not follow Christ in my daily walk? What if I am swept up in behavior Monday to Saturday that is no different from the non believers around me? What if I am either ignorant of, or glibly disobedient to, the clear teaching of Jesus? I said “Yes” to being His follower, but am I following?

In the Anglican world, globally, it is normal to have a service of Confirmation for anyone who is prepared to make their own public Profession of Faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, and who was baptized as a child owing to the faith of their parents. In that service, the promises of baptism are renewed and confirmed. Thus we promised: “I will follow Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior”. We accepted the promises made on our behalf. Now we commit to obey Jesus and prove to be a true disciple.

What then if most of my time, treasure, and talents are devoted to following something (or someone) else? What if I am caught up in the cares and concerns of this world, and they regularly get my very best, and I prove to be “ineffective and unfruitful” as a disciple of Jesus? (See II Peter 1:8) I said “Yes” to being His follower, and he clearly commands me to be effective and fruitful, but I am not.

In the local congregation there is always a body, or board, that shares in the governance of the local church. Often their deliberations are far removed from the things of God. Due consideration for temporal matters must of course be given, it is good administration, and that is a gift God from God. It is also part of good stewardship. But the people on such a board have a responsibility to God for their faithfulness to Jesus Christ and His teaching as primary. They are to be faithful to the trust given them.

What then if the discussions at their meetings revolve about old wounds, grievances, disappointments, and unmet expectations. With no clear reference, much of the time, to obeying the clear teaching of Jesus? What if personal agendas, attitudes, and fears dominate the meetings. What if they constrain the godly leadership of the church? They are in office to follow Christ Jesus and help the local body do the same. They said “Yes” to following Him, but often He is not the center of their meetings or lives.

Are we meaning what we say? All the time?

Meaning What You Say. (by Jon Shuler)

Who’ s Coming after You? — part 2. (By Manik Corea)

Last week, we began to look at a few passages from the Old Testament narratives of the journey of the people of Israel under Moses to the Promised Land on how Joshua was being prepared as leader after Moses. Today, we look at the last quality that Joshua needed and indeed, came to display – great faith.

Faith is the currency of the Kingdom of God. With faith, all things are possible. Without faith, it is impossible to please God or even to do the works He calls us to do by His name and power. Faith is the exercise of trust and obedience to enact divine transactions on earth for the purposes and glory of God.

We see that Joshua had developed a great faith in God from the third passage we looked at in that devotional time we once shared at a NAMS meeting (see last week’s blog).

  1. Numbers 14:6-9 – Faith in God

We read in Numbers 13 of the account of the spies sent out into the promise land. When they returned, the majority of the spies spread a bad report and discouraged the people, saying there were giants in the land and there was no way to they could take over (verses 26-29 and 32-33). Only Caleb and Joshua spoke in faith that God was going to give them the land (verses 30-31 and Numbers 14:6-9). Their faith was not in what they saw and faced but in Whom they had heard and trusted.

How did Joshua come to have such a great faith? Clearly, by walking closely to Moses as his aide, he would have learned and seen time and time again how faithful God was in the midst of all the challenges, opposition and trying times Moses faced as leader of such a rebellious people. He would have witnessed the same miracles that the people saw for themselves, as God constantly provided and protected them. But whilst Joshua kept and exercised his faith in God, the people of Israel choose instead to place their faith in their circumstances and the plans of men.

Joshua’s faith was therefore developing and growing by experience in the school of wilderness testings. Faith, like muscles, can only be grown and strengthened through its exercise.

As a result, Joshua and Caleb became the only two people out of a million or so of the first generation of Israelites who were allowed into the promise land. Faith in God gains us entrance into the land of His promise.

If we are to raise the next generation of leaders who will go further than us to take possessions of lands that we, like Moses, may only glimpse from a distance, then we must do all we can to encourage and help them grow in faith.

Encouragement and exhortations are in order. We see this in God’s instructions to Moses at the edge of the Promised Land, where Moses is instructed in Deuteronomy 3:28 to ‘charge and encourage and strengthen’ Joshua as the new leader. Moses is told by God to make an effort to do all he can to prepare his successor. Eventually, in Numbers 27:16-23, God instructs Moses, in the sight of all Israel, to lay hands on Joshua and to commission him. Joshua is described in verse 18 as ‘a man in whom is the Spirit’.

Finally, in Joshua 1:1-9, God Himself gives Joshua great encouragement and promise as he steps up to being the leader. God reminded him that if he kept on trusting God and remembering His Word, then he would surely be successful in all he was called to do.

Joshua’s relationship to God was enhanced and developed through his relationship with Moses his leader. Because of Moses, Joshua knew what it was to fight and overcome the enemy; he knew what it was to pursue intimacy and closeness with God and he knew to trust what God said over and above what he saw.

Those of us in leadership of God’s mission and Church anywhere in the world need to ask some important questions in the light of all these: Who are you preparing to take over the work God has given you for now? Who is your Joshua? And how well are you preparing him?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who’ s Coming after You? — part 2. (By Manik Corea)