How to Pray for NAMS — part 2, by Mary Garrison-Ruiz.

Last week I introduced you to my friend Audrey and her great reminder of the value of time spent with the Lord in intercessory prayer. But, deeper to the heart of the matter, why must we pray?

As faithful Christians, we seek to follow God’s will, and we know He is sovereign. Yet, in this so often we can be tempted to think: God’s plan will be done whether I pray for it or not. “I don’t really need to pray.” Or, perhaps we know “the churchy answer,” which is that, of course, we are supposed to pray, and so we will close our eyes and think good thoughts toward a person or some issue for a few minutes (or should I say seconds), and them we move on, patting ourselves on the back for sacrificing our time and energy to remember others.

Please don’t let my tone fool you; I write in incrimination of myself first and foremost. This is how I have thought and prayed for much of my life. The reality is that my prayer life modeled my spiritual life: immature on both accounts. But God can and will open our hearts and minds to grow and mature in these areas.

Does prayer “do anything”? I will write here unequivocally yes, but… Though there are countless testimonies of prayerful believers who can share their experiences of God’s answers to prayer, our faith to believe such accounts without our own personal experience is too often skeptical. Rather, let’s look back at the foundation of our beliefs in Scripture and build from there.

Prayer is communion with God, a time we share our hearts with him. (Remember Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his arrest.) But our sinful hearts are tricky and so often confusing; our desires and emotions change from one moment to the next. Yet the Holy Spirit is our constant companion, and in times of prayer, we quiet ourselves to listen to His divine direction. Indeed, Romans 8:26-27 states, “the Spirit also helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now [God] who searches the heart knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because [the Spirit] makes intercession for [believers] according to the will of God.”

Intercession is pleading in favor of others, and in the first place, the Holy Spirit intercedes for believers to God the Father. It’s while we are under the Holy Spirit’s divine direction that the desires of our hearts slowly but surely become transformed to God’s own desires. So, indeed, the first point of transformation with prayer is that of the pray-er, but, the transformation does not stop there.

Over time, we begin to see God’s will for others in the Spirit-led promptings of our own hearts. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:9 that we are “co-laborers” with God. All glory and power and sovereignty is His, but He gives us work to do—in prayer and response—to bring about His will. Is this because God could not do it himself? Of course not! But because He loves us, He invites us to be part of the process, because it is in the process of co-working with God that we see so clearly what He is capable of and learn to depend on him even more.

As the Holy Spirit intercedes for us, we can also intercede for others, trusting in the promise of John 15:7-8, which says, “If you remain in me and my works remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be disciples.” At NAMS we talk often about the marks of a disciple. Our conclusion is simply that a disciple is one who is dedicated to making other disciples. Praying and interceding on behalf of others is the work of a disciple-making disciple.

Prayer changes us and it can even change circumstances, according to God’s will. Next week I will talk more about how to intercede for others and how God is calling NAMS to grow through the establishment of an intercessory prayer teams. Might you grow with us in this process?

— Mary Garrison-Ruiz
NAMS Global Prayer/Intercession Coordinator.

How to Pray for NAMS — part 2, by Mary Garrison-Ruiz.

How to Pray for NAMS — part 1, by Mary Garrison-Ruiz.

I want to share with you about a very special friend of mine named Audrey. I met “Aud” when I was living in Temuco, Chile, from 2014-2016 while serving in a NAMS Base Community. A native of Manchester, England, Aud came to Chol-Chol, Chile, as a 29-year-old missionary and 50+ years later, she was still there. In Audrey, I saw a joy for spending time with the Lord and meditating on Scripture like I had never seen before. The Holy Spirit drew me to want to spend more and more time with her, to listen to her speak and pray with deep passion, and to learn from her as much as I could.

When Audrey arrived in Chol-chol in the early 1960s, the town was like a scene from an old Hollywood Western film—horseback riding, cantinas, gunfights, and all. Listening to Audrey’s stories of running a school and boarding house for indigenous children without any funding, or fording a river on horseback during a raging storm to arrive at a prayer meeting, or navigating any number of social mores of the Chilean countryside were always greatly entertaining.

When I arrived in Chile, I was trying to figure out this whole “missionary thing” in an unfamiliar culture, and had all this time on my hands that I didn’t know what to do with. One day Aud—whose deteriorating health had by now made it nearly impossible for her to travel from her countryside home into the city, and who now spent most of her time alone—phoned to give me a bit of encouragement. “Mary,” she said, “any time you spend simply with the Lord in prayer is not time wasted.”

It’s so simple but so profound, so let me say it again: Any time spent simply with the Lord in prayer is not time wasted. These words were coming to me from a woman with such exciting life-stories to tell about how she surely had made such valuable use of her time and ministry, and in fact it was the authority of that experience which spoke to me. It still speaks to me now. From the sitting room where she is spending her twilight years, Audrey is deepening her understanding of the value of time and ministry to the Lord, through intercessory prayer.

We can fill our time with a million things to do, but if we are not engaged in what that the Lord has called us to do, and spending time with Him in that calling, we are wasting our time. What has the Lord called every one of us to do as Christians? For a start, we have all been called to pray. Over the course of the past three years, I made it a point to spent as much time with Audrey as possible, learning from her how to spend time with the Lord—not “doing for” God but simply being with Him in prayer. Over time, I learned how to talk with God and enter into communion with him. It’s only from that place of spiritual communion and humility that we can attempt to serve Him in any meaningful way.

At NAMS, our mission is to spread the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in any part of the globe where God opens a door, and to plant communities of disciple-making disciples. To carry out this mission, we have a ministry model with action steps, executed by a Global Ministry Team consisting of Regional Team Leaders, led by our Servant General, and under him, a Global Executive and his various officers.

We have Base Communities, a Global Apprenticeship Program, supporting churches, friends of NAMS and the NAMS Centurion Project as well as global and regional training events and vision retreats. The list could go on, and for each of these aspects of the ministry of NAMS, I give thanks to God. But Audrey’s simple truth rings true within our operations as well: it’s time spent with the Lord in prayer that will make all the “goings on” of NAMS eternally valuable.

We as a NAMS community are establishing an intercessory prayer team so that we can grow in this area. Over the next few weeks, I will share more about this prayer team. My hope is that those reading this blog will be encouraged in their own prayer lives, and that some will decide to join us in making a commitment to pray regularly for the eternal value of NAMS’ ministry. I know Audrey will be praying for us from Chol-chol, Chile, and I pray you will too.

— Mary Garrison-Ruiz
NAMS Global Prayer/Intercession Coordinator.

 

How to Pray for NAMS — part 1, by Mary Garrison-Ruiz.

GLOBAL STORIES — “To Egypt, with love…”

My name is *Hadmed, and I am married to *Berenice, and together we have two marvelous children.

I am Egyptian, and I have spent all of my life in the city of Cairo, which is the capital of Egypt and has a population of over 18 million inhabitants.  My family comes from the Coptic Christian tradition.  I grew in this belief system until I was in my 20s when I came to know Jesus Christ in a personal way.  Then I began to live a life of service for Him.

I have served through sports ministry as a soccer coach to children and adolescents for many years.  This is a strategy which God has given us to reach and connect with people in Cairo, the majority of whom are Muslim.  Additionally, a couple of years ago I began to serve as an assistant pastor in a small church located in an incredibly poor area of Cairo called “the Garbage City.” I currently serve there once a week with children and young people.

In 2016, I served for three months with a NAMS team that came to serve in this region of the world, and together we developed various workshops throughout the city of Cairo.  We directly impacted 30 people through these workshops, including South Sudanese refugees, Coptic Christians, and Egyptian Muslims.  This permitted us to connect with people and establish a network of contacts through which we plan to continue to serve in the areas of discipleship and church planting in the future.

After a process of discernment and training, my family and I have committed ourselves as NAMS Companions. Our vision for the future is to help make disciples of Jesus Christ in Egypt and to plant churches in Northern Africa.  This is not an easy area for ministry, but we trust that God is opening a door and has invited us to cooperate with Him in this work.

* Not their real names

Hadmed

Hadmed (identity obscured) with NAMS companions Ivan and Mary Ruiz in Egypt.

GLOBAL STORIES — “To Egypt, with love…”

Developing Holy Habits – Invest (Part 5)

This is part 5 of a series on basic habits every disciple must be taught to live and practice, based on the Acronym PROMISE. Last week, we looked at the ‘M’ which stands for Meet with one another. Today, we will consider the ‘I’ which stands for Invest or giving to the work of the Kingdom.

“Yours, Lord, is the greatness, the power,
the glory, the splendor, and the majesty;
for everything in heaven and on earth is yours.
All things come from you,
and of your own do we give you.”

This wonderful prayer was said in the Anglican church of my childhood Sunday after Sunday, when the offering was brought to the Lord’s Table. It echoes words by King David in 1 Chronicles 29:14 and was a constant reminder that we give back to God what is rightfully His in the first place!

Martin Luther said, ‘every Christian needs a conversion of the head, of the heart and of the wallet!’ The new disciple in Jesus must soon adopt a new attitude in Christ towards the things we have, own or want. From this, the practice of the giving of our money, resource and time to God must be taught not merely as a matter of duty or due.

Giving is always seen in Scripture as a joyful act of worship where we get to participate in the life and service of God and his mission in the world. Indeed, we are called not just to give from our leftovers, but of our first-fruits, to God.

In the Old Testament, the people of Israel were taught by Moses to give a tenth of everything they owned back to God, because it belonged to Him (see Leviticus 27:30). That tithe was to be in support of the ministry to the Levites who served in the temple (Numbers 18:21) and for the poor, the sojourner, orphans and widows among them (Deuteronomy 14:28-29).

When we come to the New Testament, neither Jesus nor the Apostles gave any command with regards to the tithe.

However, some Christians, including the leaders of NAMS, believe that the 10% tithe of our income (and offerings on top of that) should be the minimum amount we give to the Lord. This we seek to both model and teach to others. It is not a law we are duty-bound to follow but a call to establish healthy habits and standards of giving.

In fact, when we become disciples of Jesus, we gain a new perspective towards money. Jesus certainly challenged us to a new Kingdom-minded attitude towards our possessions and wealth. About 60% of his parables dealt with questions of possessions and money and our attitude towards it.

He often warned and challenged individuals to be wary of the hold of material possessions and money. In Luke 16:13, he said: “you cannot serve both God and money.” In Luke 12:15 (NLT), he warned: “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

He watched a rich, young ruler walk away from discipleship because of his slavery to his wealth (Matthew 19:16-30, though note that Jesus was not saying it was ‘impossible’ for the rich to enter God’s kingdom, but that it was hard. Many are blessed with riches who, seeking God’s kingdom first, have used their wealth for godly ends).

Perhaps the most important Apostolic teaching on giving towards the work of the kingdom and our local churches can be found in 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9. In his earlier letter in 1 Corinthians 16:2, Paul instructs Christians to set aside money on the first day of the week, according to how much they had or prospered, and to collect it together ready for Paul to take to needy believers in Jerusalem and elsewhere.

Note that in this context of raising funds to support of other Christians, he taught that their giving should be

1) regular – on the first day of every week (or in today’s context when you get your salary),

2) church-wide – each of them and so all of them were called to it,

3) planned – the money needed to be set aside, and

4) proportionate – according to what you earn.

At the end of the day, it is our attitude in giving that matters to God – how we give than how much we give (Luke 21:1-4).

But we are called, and so we must teach all, to give regularly as a holy habit, out of joy and in faith. ‘Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.’ (2 Corinthians 9:7).

 

Developing Holy Habits – Invest (Part 5)

Developing Holy Habits – Meet (Part 4)

From the moment of regeneration into a newborn babe in Christ, the new disciple of Jesus needs to be helped to grow up to be dependent on Christ. In this series of blogs, I discuss the use of the acronym ‘PROMISE’ to denote and describe seven basic Christian disciplines that must become part of the on-going nurture, discipline and life-style of disciples. Today we are reflecting on ‘M’: the necessity of ‘meeting’ with other believers.[i]

‘It is not good for man to be alone.’ (Genesis 2:18). This was the first instance in the creation narrative that God said his creation was in any sense lacking. As Jon Bloom[ii] argues well, it was not just that Adam being alone was not good for him, it was in some, not good for God either. God knew Adam needed human companions to fully enjoy all the glory of God, and He was after not one but many companions who would live for and before Him. ‘One human would not enjoy God as much as many humans together.’[iii]

Therefore, when God intervened into the life of an Aramean from Ur of the Chaldeans and called him to become a pilgrim to a land God would show him, Abraham was told that he would be the father of many nations. God started with one man who obeyed, so that he could ultimately have one people in worship (Genesis 12:1-3, Revelation 7:9). God was looking for a people for his own possession, a holy and peculiar nation manifold in language and culture but joined as one around His praise and purpose. From many, we become one through God’s Spirit in the perfect image of His Son, our Lord Jesus.

In this light, discipleship is the process of learning to be one in the midst of many by mirroring and seeking the unity in diversity of the Triune God we serve (John 17:21).

We who are born again are born into the family of God. We are related to one another even as we relate first and foremost to Christ. The Scripture never allows us to privatize our faith to the total exclusion of others. Therefore, meeting with one another must become part of the culture of discipleship.

From the moment a disciple repents of his/her sin and turns in faith to Christ, at least one other disciple must begin to regularly and intentionally help them hear, understand and obey—first the basic, then the full teachings of Christ.

We in NAMS have found that the process of discipleship begins when just two or three people meet regularly together to pray and read the Scriptures; with the intention and commitment to obey God’s word and bring others to know Him as well.

At the same time, discipleship is larger than the disciple-disciplee relationship or small group. We are part of a bigger church, indeed a world-wide Church, and so meeting with other believers in a larger setting must also be a priority, usually once a week on a Sunday.

Therefore, the early church consisted both of meeting together in small settings (i.e. homes) and in larger settings (i.e. public spaces) (Acts 2:46, Acts 20:20). Whether small or large, disciples constitute the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, and the people of God. Though we are many, we are one body and we belong together (Romans 12:4-5).

Therefore the meeting together of the saints is not to be neglected, as the writer to the Hebrews extorts in 10:25. We learn, love, and grow best in community within the family of faith. Max Lucado[iv] waxes lyrical about this:

“Questions can make hermits out of us, driving us into hiding. Yet the cave has no answers. Christ distributes courage through community; he dissipates doubts through fellowship. He never deposits all knowledge in one person but distributes pieces of the jigsaw puzzle to many. When you interlock your understanding with mine, and we share our discoveries, when we mix, mingle, confess and pray, Christ speaks.”

I need you as you need me, and together in our meeting, there Jesus will be.

 

[i] In previous weeks, we have looked at Prayer, Read and Obey.

[ii] http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/why-we-shouldn-t-neglect-to-meet-together

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Max Lucado, Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear (Thomas Nelson, 2009), p. 144

Developing Holy Habits – Meet (Part 4)

Developing Holy Habits — Part 3; Obey (by Manik Corea)

In this series of blogs, using the acronym ‘PROMISE’, we are exploring 7 regular practices that need to be part of the life and practice of true discipleship. Each word represents a ‘holy habit’ that helps us grow and be nurtured as disciples of Jesus. The first two words were Pray and Read. Today’s word is a corollary of last week’s – for you cannot read God’s word without seeking then to obey it.

O – Obey God’s word

My late father had green fingers. Growing up, we lived in a 2nd floor apartment with a balcony, and my dad filled it with plants of various kinds that he gently and often tended to. However, among his pots, he once placed a genuine-looking plastic plant complete with colorful flowers and real soil. It was very lifelike.

One day, one of my aunts came to visit and looking around the garden, she was very much taken in by the beautiful colors of the artificial flowers. So deceived, she requested of my dad the seeds of the plant in question.

My brothers and I so wished our dad had actually given my dear aunt some plastic seeds!

But filling a garden with lots of wonderful-looking plastic flower plants is the same as acting like a Christian without being one. No matter how lifelike, those flowers cannot be fragrant nor their buds fruitful. They are mere pretense.

The one thing that distinguishes true discipleship from the false is a readiness to hear and do what God says. Obedience is always God’s preferred response of us, more than all the juicy sacrifices the disobedient could bring (1 Samuel 15:22).

‘If you love me, then keep my commandments’ Jesus stated in John 14:15. Obedience, then, is the premier test and proof of genuine discipleship and relationship to Jesus (see Luke 6:46-49, Matthew 12:50).

For God’s word is more easily discussed than obeyed. This is most acutely a problem for those of us who are the theological descendants of Protestant churches, with their rightful emphasis on the Scriptures alone (‘Sola Scriptura’ or the ‘Scriptures Alone’ was one of the clarion calls of the Reformers) as the sole rule and plumb-line of truth for us. But one of the dangers of making God’s word primary to faith and order is that we have the tendency to put an unwarranted emphasis on abstract creeds rather than rightful deeds. Knowledge about the Scriptures so easily comes to be equated with its practice. Many evangelical Christians today are therefore more apt to speak of faith as a matter of what they believe, know, and hold to, as opposed to how they live and love.

It is no wonder, then, that many of our churches are filled with people who may know or hear a lot, but do little.

Former Youth for Christ USA president Jay Kesler argues that we have inherited a style of preaching in our churches that is information heavy. He observed that ‘preaching a sermon strong on information but weak on application is like shouting to a drowning person, “Swim! Swim!” The message is true, but it’s not helpful.’

What is needed then is not information and explanation (which often lead to inaction), but application of God’s revelation that leads to transformation in our lives.

And so, as we read God’s word, alone and with other disciples, and as we teach it, let us seek to put the emphasis on application and obedience (‘how do we obey this passage?’) rather than mere information (‘what does it say or mean?’).

Take time as we share the word, to challenge each other to articulate what actions are being called to take as a result of reading God’s word, then ask one another the next time we meet, whether we did them. Pray with one another to be doers of the word and not merely hearers. This is true accountability as disciples – holding and helping each other to do what God says.

Read and obey. They are habits worth having and are the proof of bona fide discipleship.

Developing Holy Habits — Part 3; Obey (by Manik Corea)

NAMS Novena 2017

As many of you will be aware, from April 19th – April 26th 2017, we will be having a global gathering of NAMS companions, spousal companions, aspirants and bishop advocates in Bangkok, Thailand.

As you read this, about 32 companions and guests, including 3 serving Anglican bishops, are in or on their way to Bangkok. They will be coming from countries as far afield as Chile, USA, South Africa, Egypt, UAE, India and Singapore.

Since it’s founding in 1994 as the North American Missionary Society, NAMS has grown under God’s gracious hand, to become a global missionary community of global pioneering church planters and disciple-makers.

We are a band of brothers (and sisters), accountable to each other under the word of God and working to extend God’s kingdom to the ends of the earth. We are called to work in unity with God’s global and faithful Church and to help her be obedient to Jesus’ final command (Matthew 29:19).

The Novena is a once-every-4-year gathering. We will be missing quite a few other companions and supporters who cannot make it for one reason or another. Still, we expect this to be a significant moment in the history of NAMS as a missionary order in this Novena. (Note: ‘novena’ is simply the Latin word for the number 9, and we want the 9 days we spend together, including a day for travel, to be time well spent praying together, worshiping, sharing, encouraging and strategizing for the next season of our work).

During this Novena, we will also be having a special Commissioning service where NAMS Companions will commit under God to a common rule and a common work, globally dispersed.

Our acting Global Executive Officer (GEO) Revd. Manik Corea, will also officially be commissioned into the role of leading the day-to-day running of our work under our overall leader and Servant General, Canon Revd. Dr. Jon Shuler.

The general outline of the event will look like this:

Wednesday 19th April evening Arrive in Bangkok for dinner at SCC Guest House
Thursday 20th April

All- day

NAMS Open Day @ Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT) Building: including worship and testimonies.
Friday 21st April Evening – Service of Commissioning of NAMS Global Executive and all new Companions (Khlong Toey Church, Bangkok).
Saturday 22nd April – Sunday 23rd April NAMS Companions/Spousal Companions/Bishop Advocates Retreat at Fransciscan Foundation of Thailand
Monday 24th April After breakfast, morning departure from retreat to onward journeys.

NAMS Global Executive Team NAMS Servant General. NAMS Board meets in the evening.

Wednesday 26th April Remaining executive team and companions depart Bangkok

We so covet your prayers for us during this time. If you would like to be an intercessor for us during the Novena, please will you send an e-mail to our NAMS Global Prayer Co-ordinator Mary at: maryalicegarrison@gmail.com

Thank you for your continued support.

 

NAMS Novena 2017