We are in the midst of Holy Week, that yearly reminder of the greatest lengths God went to rescue us from sin and death. Two startling events bookend these most pivotal moments in human history: Jesus made a triumphant but hardly regal entrance into Jerusalem on someone else’s donkey one weekend; He rises from the dead the next from someone else’s tomb, following a tortuous execution reserved for criminals of the worse sort.
This week of weeks constitutes the ‘real stuff’ of our Gospel, the veritable news and life-saving kyregma transmitted to us, individuals in a many-linked chain of hope, by faithful people through the ages. Their message we likewise believed on in faith and are now responsible to live by and pass on (1 Corinthians 15:3-7).
It is a history of epic proportions that stops all heaven in her wake. This great saga of God’s making is worth pondering about often, worth singing about daily, worth sharing about regularly and with urgent intent, to people we meet, near and wide who don’t yet know it (or may not yet care).
It is of first importance for you and me. It is good news with eternal ramifications for all, believers or not.
Yet, if we have ears to listen, we would be awe-struck again and again at the wonder of it all. Jesus, whose very word created everything, divested himself of heaven’s glory to become one of us.
He wandered all over Israel hounded and homeless (Luke 9:58). He was misunderstood and rejected by those closest to him – his own family and home-town (Mark 3:21; 6:4). He and his disciples depended on the generosity of others (Luke 8:3). This was not the life that Heaven’s King deserved.
He was, as the old prophesy had said he would be, ‘despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…’ (Isaiah 53:3).
J.C. Ryle, the great Bishop of Liverpool and theologian wrote: ‘When (Jesus) crossed the sea of Galilee, it was in a borrowed boat. When He rode into the holy city, it was on a borrowed beast. When He was buried, it was in a borrowed tomb…Who that reads the Gospels carefully can fail to observe that he who could feed thousands with a few loaves, was himself sometimes hungry; and he who could heal the sick and infirm, was himself sometimes weary; that he who could cast out devils with a word, was himself tempted; and he who could raise the dead, could himself submit to die?”
Yes, far more mind boggling that his humanity is this: God in Jesus submitted himself on our behalf, to a first-hand experience of unimaginable pain and a shameful death on a Roman cross. He left heaven for earth and went to hell to keep us from it. And He has the scars to show for it.
This Holy Week, let us be challenged anew to walk the way of the cross, to choose to live and die as Jesus did, for a purpose and a glory far greater than this world could ever supply.
Let us sing again, amidst the sacredness, silence and hope of a bloody cross and empty tomb, His song of love in sublime concert with His glorious purpose.
One which will ultimately overcome the syncopated rhythms and discordant melodies of our off-beat world, and call it to order, drowning it with an anthem far lovelier that earth could compose, transporting us to a kingdom far greater than history’s pretenders could build, at the feet of a King far nobler than earth’s famed academies could ever produce.
Let us fall down and worship our crucified, risen King.
It was a Sunday. The third week of Lent that year. I was sitting not too far from the pulpit, to the right of Cynthia my wife, in the little Church of the Advent in Cynthiana, Kentucky. It was the 17th of March. Then I heard a “voice” inside my self. It spoke to me with an authority that was absolute. “You are meant to be a priest.”
Had I been a member of any other tradition, I might have heard the appropriate title: pastor, preacher, minister. But what I heard I heard. I knew instantly that my calling was to serve the Lord Jesus Christ as a leader in his church.
It seems almost impossible to me to be reflecting on that day fifty years later, but I am. I have just finished a wonderful prayer retreat with seven other men, and God has graciously used the time to encourage and teach me (as he did us all) of his love and grace. And I am as eager to follow where he leads now as I was on that day so many years ago, perhaps more eager. The Lord Jesus has taught me that “in quiet and rest is my strength,” but it is not so I may be permanently still, resting in his grace, but to be renewed for service. To go where he needs me, to be available when he needs me, to do what he asks me.
When my late departed mother heard of my calling so many years ago, she spontaneously uttered a Prayer Book phrase she had prayed since she was a child: “his service is perfect freedom.” A lifetime has taught me that truth. To know God’s will and to begin to walk in it is the most wonderful freedom. It is not always easy, but it is most wonderfully free.
Yet how does this freedom to serve work out in the eighth decade of ones life? How are we to continue to be of use when the world begins to need us less and less, and our bodies begin their inevitable decay?
Long ago I heard an old missionary pastor say: “As long as God has work for me to do, I cannot die.” How I have cherished that saying. If I am alive, there is work for me to do that the Lord requires of me. Not someone else, me. It may be only to live a life of hidden prayer for one person, it may be to write and teach for another, to love and care for an incapacitated spouse, or to simply cooperate with the Lord in the disciple-making journey with a few friends for yet another. But there is always an assignment. A unique and personal one.
Are you seeking to hear the Lord’s voice for the rest of your days? Do you know what he has asked of you, in your uniqueness? Not “then”, but “now”?
Only the Lord Jesus knows our days, but know them he does. We are his workmanship, created for his glory.
How beautiful to hear him still saying: “Follow me.”
— Revd. Jon Shuler
NAMS Servant General
There were 40 people in the classroom for the fifth and final session. There had been 40 in the room for the first one. It had never happened in my years as a leader before, the numbers never declined, and I took it as a good sign. But I was wrong.
I was trying, again, to impart to a group of adult church goers that the number one responsibility of a Christian, who has grown up, is to be a disciple-maker. I had taught only the words of Jesus. Nothing else. No other books than the Holy Scriptures. No videos. No other program than the clear words of Jesus.
Three months later I returned to the parish, and found that 5 of the 40 had actually done “something” with the teaching. One was reading daily only from one of the four gospels – for the first time. A chapter a day. He was trying to learn to “abide in my word,” as Jesus said a true disciple would. Another was meditating on a small portion of the gospel each day. Two others had begun to disciple another person since the class. One had reoriented the emphasis of his weekly bible study group to being more focused on discipling than study. Five out of forty beginning to make a change. Five out of forty. Only 12 &1/2 %.
For those five my heart was glad.
The amazing thing was, all 40 said: “It was a great class.” Many of them said: “I really learned something.”
But what I found was 35 Christians who are – apparently – used to learning things, but doing nothing with the learning. Changing nothing. Hearing Jesus words, but NOT taking them as from the Lord to be obeyed. And I ask myself: “Why not?”
Since 1988 I have been trying to learn how to be a disciple-making disciple, and a disciple-making leader. I have grown much through these 30 years. I am grateful to God for all that he has shown me. But I find very few other ordained leaders who are engaged in the same quest. And I ask myself: Why not?”
I wonder if you who are reading this have ever asked this question? How is it that the church of Jesus Christ could be filled with people and leaders who have steadfastly ignored the Final Command, yet continue to think of themselves as good Christian people?
Today some you who are reading could make a decision to change how you use your time in obedience to the Lord, and do so. You could resolve to find someone to help you become a disciple-making disciple. But if you read this and do not, I ask you: “Why not?”
— Revd. Jon Shuler
NAMS Servant General
Recently, when teaching in our NAMS Latin America meetings, I shared a cogent definition of discipleship by the late Dallas Willard:
“A disciple is a person who has decided that the most important thing in their life is to learn how to do what Jesus said to do.” 
The late, great Christian singer Keith Green likewise gave a simple and memorable description of a genuine Christian: ‘One who is bananas for Jesus’.
Both definitions were true to Jesus’ words (Luke 6:46, 14:25-33, Matthew 28:20).
The highest place in our lives must belong to Jesus. This means He gets the first and final call over what we do with our money, time, possession and energies and over every life critical issue, opportunity, relationship and circumstance that is ours.
He demands that all our dreams and ambitions be laid at His feet in total surrender. The call to discipleship is not, and has never been, a popular message. Sinners after all prefer their way to God’s, and sin is essentially civil war against the rule and reign of God over us.
What is truly heart-breaking, though, is how very few of us who call ourselves Christians are likewise willing to accede full control to Jesus in the same way. We want Him to save us from hell in the next world, but to pander and be subservient to our wants and desires in this. If you’re like me, we easily hold back the more precious parts of our lives from Him.
But we cannot have it both ways. Jesus didn’t come so the ‘faithful’ could simply be comfortable and fed.
There are so very many people – some live across your street, others across the oceans – that remain ignorant, apathetic or simply have no access to the message of God’s love and salvation in Christ Jesus.[ii]
John Wesley famously said, ‘the world is my parish.’ Today, for most faithful Christians, the parish has become their world.
Despite ostentatious talk about missions, many evangelical churches spend more money, time and effort on their own buildings, staff, programs and services to meet the needs of their members or attendees than they do on reaching the unreached, making disciples or helping to plant new mission-centered churches. Global mission is hardly a concern for the average Christian in most parts of the globe.
This is borne out by damning statistics like the following:
A meager 0.1% of the estimated US$53 trillion that Christians the world over will earn this year will be given towards Christian mission.[iii]
Christians make up 33% of the world’s population, receive 53% of the world’s annual income but spend 98% of it on themselves.[iv]
It is patently clear to us in NAMS that God has called us to play our part in awakening His sleeping Church to obedience to Jesus’ final command to make disciples of all nations.
To do that, we must ourselves be sold out to Jesus. There can be no compromise.
My prayer and passionate hope as Global Executive of NAMS is that every NAMS Companion will be a bona-fide all-out, disciple-making, Spirit-filled, Jesus-pleasing Word-abiding, rabid seeker of the lost, like our Master. And that we would find and raise others to be the same.
It is enough, as Jesus said, for the disciple to become like his master. (Matthew 10:25).
Will you pray, support and join us in this glorious, all-or-nothing endeavor?
 Dallas Willard, ‘Rethinking Evangelism’, Cutting Edge Magazine, Vol 5, No. 1 (Winter 2001)
[ii] Globally, it is estimated that a staggering 80% of all non-Christians (i.e. majority of which are Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims) in our world do not personally know another Christian. http://www.gordonconwell.edu/resources/documents/1IBMR2015.pdf – see section on ‘Personal Contact’ for how this figure was derived.
[iv] David Barret and Todd Johnson, World Christian Trends AD 30- AD 2200, (William Carey Library:Pasadena, 2001), 656.
Sometimes I get surprised by an old story in the Scriptures. The story of Naaman the leper is one such story. 27 verses in the 5th chapter of 2 Kings dramatically recount his story. As the verses begin to add up, we read of God’s step by step mercies of moving this leper to an encounter with Israel’s prophet and his incredible healing from the scourge of leprosy. God sovereignly moves people into each other’s lives, sparks key conversations, and strategically shapes circumstances that will culminate in the miracle. The clear unfolding of God’s plan throughout the story inspires as much as Naaman’s miracles where his “flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.”
I love this story of faith and whenever I recall it I always think “Naaman the leper.” Even though the story ends with “Naaman the healed” I still think “Naaman the leper” as if it is his name.
So I was surprised when God led me through the familiar story and showed me that other things were said about Naaman… “commander of the king of the army of Syria,” “was a great man,” and “by him the LORD had given victory to Syria,” and “He was a mighty man of valor.” (2 Kings 5:1).
The leper was a successful warrior leader even used by God in a military campaign to accomplish His will. He was respected and cared for by the slave girl in his household – the very one who would bring the message of hope about the prophet in Israel. When Naaman approached his own king for permission to travel to Israel to seek the help of the prophet, the king’s generous response indicates again that Naaman is a man worthy of consideration and respect. Everyone around him in the story speaks well and wants to help this man.
Even though I was well acquainted with how the story ends I still thought of him as “the leper.” And then I saw in verse 1: “He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.” In my spirit I saw that Naaman’s primary identity was not leprosy.
Hidden in Naaman’s story is an important principle: he never let his problem define him. His disease did not stop him from raising family or serving as commander. I tend to think that he thought of himself as Naaman the commander, not Naaman the leper.
In NAMS we’ve learned to hold dear those gospel verses where Jesus speaks of “my disciples.” We’ve come to understand that our primary identity is disciple, follower of Jesus. Being with Jesus in intimate fellowship and doing what Jesus did in making disciples defines our discipleship. Yet, our identity is simply: follower of Jesus, child of God. We are not our problems, our weaknesses, our failures or even our successes. Our ministry or the fruit of our ministry is not to defines us. All disciple-making ministry is to flow out of our identity as those who are loved and discipled by Jesus Himself.
 Luke 14:26, 27 and 33; John 8:31; John 13:34,35, John 15:8
— Revd. Martin Gornick
NAMS Prior General
Rector; Apostle Anglican Church, Lexington KY
“To be much for God, we must be much with God…Quit playing, start praying. Quit feasting, start fasting. Talk less with men, talk more with God. Listen less to men, listen to the words of God. Skip travel, start travail.” (Leonard Ravenhill)
How often and regularly do you pray alone with God and with others?
Jesus not only taught the necessity of having a private prayer space with our Father God (Matthew 6:6), but he made private prayer times a noticeable practice of his ministry and of his life with his disciples (Luke 5:16; Luke 6:12; Matthew 14:23; Luke 9:18; Luke 11:1).
Not only that, but Jesus sought also to retreat from ministry and the crowds occasionally to have time to rest and no doubt, pray and be still in company with His Father. There are a few examples in the Gospels of Jesus doing this with His disciples (see for example Matthew 14:13, Mark 3:7 and especially Mark 6:31-32).
In the NAMS Rule of Life (http://www.namsnetwork.com/assets/namsrule.pdf) all Companions commit to taking 3 personal retreats with God and, once a year, to retreat, if possible, with other Companions in their nation or region.
Recently at our annual NAMS Asia Regional Retreat in Delhi, India, we began our time of prayerful retreat by reading about the magnificent start to Jesus’ ministry as recorded in Mark 1:32-39.
On the back of a wonderful day of miraculous healings and deliverances that multitudes saw and experienced – the effect was city-wide (vs 33) – Jesus went ‘MIA’ the very next day!
We read in verse 35 that He stole Himself away to a desolate place to pray.
Note that this was right in the midst of ministry, at the very onset of His life’s work.
This led to a frantic search by the disciples for Him. Miracle workers are always in demand and Peter told Jesus that all the people were looking for Him.
But Jesus already had a different plan and priority, perhaps out of His time of prayer with His Father that morning. Jesus announced, no doubt to some bewilderment and the consternation of his disciples, that He (with the disciples) was heading to other towns to preach, since this was why He came. And so it came to pass (see vs 39).
Popularity with the crowds meant little to Jesus and was never allowed to be the measure of His success. Taking the message of His Gospel all across Israel was.
He was never driven simply by the needs of those around Him, but was always led by the vision and mission His Father gave to Him. His agenda and message were the result of watching and hearing from His Father – John 5:19; 12:49-50. His times of regular prayer and occasional retreat kept Him a-tuned to His Father’s will.
In Delhi, we sought to follow our Master’s example. We deliberately made time and space to be quiet before the Lord, to listen and tune ourselves afresh to our God in silence and solitude. We also had times of communal prayer and worship and biblical reflection. We were reminded how important it was to seek God’s face and to be attentive to His voice.
It was a blessed time as we heard from the Lord about our personal and communal calling as NAMS missionary disciples and leaders.
This season of Lent, will you, like Jesus and us, seek to make regular prayer and occasional retreat with God a vital part of your walk as disciples of Jesus?