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)

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 1 (By Manik Corea)

“If you think you’re leading and no one is following you, then you’re only taking a walk.” So goes an old folk saying.

If leadership as defined by Jesus as the art of modelling obedience to Him and serving, sharing with and influencing others so that they are led to do the same[1], then biblical leadership implicitly affirms the need to raise up other leaders for the work and ministries of the Kingdom of God.

NAMS is in a season of transition as leadership moves from our founder and Servant General Jon Shuler to a succession team of leaders with various roles and levels of responsibility.

I remember one morning a few years ago when we first began the process of praying and talking about this. Jon, another NAMS leader and I were contemplating a few passages in the Pentateuch that described or inferred how Moses, the leader of the people of Israel in their wilderness journeys, was already preparing Joshua, his young aide, to succeed him way in advance. We looked in particular at three passages that illustrated succession preparation in action. I would like to share them in this and next week’s blog.

  1. Exodus 17:8-15 – Trust God to defeat your enemies

This passage records the first recorded battle that Israel ever fought as a nation. Moses was on the mountain with Aaron and Hur, and it was Joshua who was fighting on the ground – and God gave them a wonderful victory. Clearly, this experience was a foretaste of military leadership that Joshua would later use to good effect when leading Israel into the Promised Land.

In verse 14 following the victory, the Lord instructs Moses to write a memorial in the book about His verdict that He will completely remove the Amalek people, their enemy, from under heaven. Interestingly, he also tells Moses to ‘recite it in the ears of Joshua.’ It was important that Joshua remembered and learns that God guarantees victory for them over their enemies. God himself was in on the preparation of Joshua as the next leader.

The same lesson on God’s promise to defeat their enemies is echoed and confirmed after the later defeats of King Sihon and King Og in Deuteronomy 2 and 3, when the Lord instructs Moses to remind Joshua that, as the Lord did to those two kings, so will he do to all the kingdoms in the land they are going in to possess. Joshua is commanded, ‘You shall not fear them, for it is the Lord you God who fights for you.’ (Deuteronomy 3:22).

  1. Exodus 33:11 – Prioritize Intimacy with God

‘The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.”

Joshua learned early on to keep the main thing the main thing. By being often with Moses as his assistant, he no doubt learned to make time with God a priority. He was with Moses when they went up the mountain to for 40 days to receive the commandments of God (Exodus 24:1-18). We see in this passage (Exodus 33:11) how Joshua had developed a familiarity and kept a close proximity to the one place in the camp of Israel where the visible presence of God was to be found – the Tabernacle. It would stand him in good stead for the future when he could confidently declare, ‘As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.’ (Joshua 24:15).

It is so important for those we are raising up to see and learn from us how to make time with God a priority – an everyday norm. I have been privileged to see in Jon and other influential leaders in my life this same passionate desire for intimacy and practice of the holy habits of prayer, the reading and obedient response to Scripture and a lifestyle of worship.

They taught me well by the example and their exhortation.

Are you doing the same with someone who is walking beside or behind you?

 


[1] Todd Egstrom, well known pastor helpfully describes biblical leadership as ‘meeting someone where they are, and taking them where Jesus wants them to go’. http://toddengstrom.com/2013/11/11/what-is-biblical-leadership/

Who’s Coming after You? — part 1 (By Manik Corea)

Tamer & Adidas (by Jon Shuler)

There was a lovely picture shared among some of us yesterday which showed our dear NAMS brother from Egypt, Tamer, with a group of young Kenyan children he organized to play soccer, while he was attending a NAMS training event in that country. Wonderful picture, wonderful children, wonderful ministry. Tamer uses soccer (football to most of the world) to share his faith in Jesus Christ, as the only hope of the world. That is his ministry in Egypt, and he exercised it while visiting Kenya. He is a fine brother and Companion. May his work flourish and grow, as one by one young men and women give their lives to Christ Jesus.

But something in the picture gave me chills, and raised a serious question in my heart. It was the presence of over a dozen Adidas jerseys.

My question is this: Why is a global seller of shoes “evangelizing” it’s brand so aggressively in the majority world, and the church of Jesus Christ in the West, and Westernized church world, is so unaware of what is happening? Do “they have eyes to see but see not?” The organized church in the West is barely noticing, let alone working with tenacity and courage to spread the glorious truth of the gospel of Jesus to all nations.

The marketing forces of the world are aggressively and effectively conveying to the children of the world that owning the right “stuff” is what makes life really satisfying. Indeed they have very successfully done the same with most of their elders. And that is not something that has happened just in the majority world, it has been very effectively accomplished in my own country (the USA). But this is not the gospel. It is a deception from the enemy of our souls. The good news is not that we can wear the right clothes, it is that we can be clothed for eternity, if we surrender our lives in to the hands of Jesus.

This is the heart of Tamer’s ministry, but is it ours?

Reading recently in I Peter, I have been struck by the clarity of his understanding that the church is a holy nation, made up of those who are truly “born anew” of the Spirit of God. Because this is so, they are lights in the world of untruth, and always living so as to be ‘a living testimony’ of another way. Indeed, they are also to be on alert – ready at all times – to give an account of the hope that is within them. It is not enough to live as a Christian, but they must be ready to speak up as a Christian.

In much of what was once called “the Christian world” the forces of darkness have made it more and more unacceptable to speak up for the truth as it is in Jesus. But we must not let this deter us! We are the called of God to speak of and bring light into the darkness. The forces of global marketing are very strong, but the gospel of Jesus Christ is stronger – for those who are the elect of God.

Pray with me for boldness to speak up where you live. Pray for the boldness to challenge your local church to be bold for the spread of the gospel to all nations. Pray that those who say they belong to Jesus may be as committed as Tamer is to sharing the glorious truth with those who have never heard.

 

Tamer & Adidas (by Jon Shuler)

The Next Companion? ( by Jon Shuler)

One of the central commitments of a NAMS Companion is to pray and labor in the Lord so that other men and women become Companions. We believe that Companions are called to change the world. How are we doing?

My years with NAMS have taught me that finding new Companions takes intentionality. We must look for signs that someone is being called to join us. But “seeing” them is not enough, we must ask them to join us. But first we need to recognize that God leads most of us through stages to a life calling, and we must be sensitive to where people are in their journey. It can take years to find God’s unique call for a lifetime.

These stages always begin when we meet someone who desires to be a disciple-making disciple of Christ Jesus, and we begin to disciple them. Many will go on to fruitful and faithful lives according to other specific ministries and callings, as the Lord directs, but some may be called to NAMS. What else do we look for?

Most of all we look to see if their heart for the Lord includes a growing awareness of the centrality of the Final Command (Mt 28:19)? Do they believe that they are obeying it where they now live, worship, and serve, or has the Holy Spirit lifted their “eyes up to the harvest” beyond them? For these ones, we have a special calling to pursue.

I have learned that the best next step is usually to explain the NAMS Centurion Project www.namscenturion.com and invite them to pray about joining us. This project is building an extended network of NAMS coworkers, who specifically undertake to be part of the wider community of Companions by beginning to live a simple “rule of life” derived from the NAMS Rule for Companions. There are divisions for men, women, and couples, but all start to walk a simple path of giving, praying and serving alongside NAMS Companions right where they live. These NAMS Centurions are becoming the very backbone of our global mission and ministry.

Another path, for younger and generally single disciples, is to join the NAMS Global Apprentice Program (GAP), and agree to serve for a year, or even two, in some part of the global NAMS mission field. This is an intense commitment, of course, but is sometimes the clearest sign God will give that we have found a future NAMS Companion, who will serve with us for life. Is GAP for you?

Perhaps the next most critical step, however, is that which leads someone to help us to found a base community somewhere in the world. A NAMS Base Community (NBC) is an intentional Christian community dedicated to modeling, incubating, training, and sending church planting missionaries into the harvest fields of the Lord Jesus. Led always by a small band of Companions,we pray daily to first have one of these NBCs in the fifteen mission mega regions of the world, and someday, in every nation on earth. We believe our NBCs are helping fulfill God’s plan to bring in the kingdom.

Are you called to be one of us? Will you help us change the world?

The Next Companion? ( by Jon Shuler)

50 Years And Counting (by Jon Shuler)

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

50 Years And Counting (by Jon Shuler)