Developing Holy Habits – Exalt, Encourage and Endure (Part 7)

We’ve come to the last in our series, using the Acronym PROMISE to describe healthy holy habits that must be taught and nurture among ourselves and those we disciple. The last letter ‘E’ stands for two important practices that should characterize the life of every growing disciple. These are ‘Exalt God’ and ‘Encourage each other’.

  1. Exalt God

We were made to worship God. It is perhaps no accident that the longest book in the Bible is the Hebrew hymnbook known as the book of Psalms. Heaven echoes eternally with the praises of worshiping creatures, angels, and people. We who are saved are called to praise the One who saved us. We find ultimate meaning for our being in the worship of our Creator, Redeemer, and King.

Worship not only fulfills who we are truly, but amazingly, God desires it of us, though he is the all-sufficient One. In John 4:23, Jesus told us that ‘the Father is seeking those who will worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.’ God is seeking a people who would delight totally in Him.

Jesus uses the imperative in John 4:24 – ‘Those who worship God must worship Him in Spirit and in truth.’ Worship in spirit and truth springs from our spirits and must be done with complete integrity, touching our head and heart where we reach out in praise and adoration to our God. ‘To “worship in spirit,” is to worship spiritually; to “worship in truth,” is to worship truly’ (A.W. Pink).[1]

Worship in Scripture is always more than just songs we sing or acts of praise done before God and for God. It has in view the complete devotion, love, and obedience of head, heart, hand, and being.

William Temple, one-time Archbishop of Canterbury gives a succinct but superlative definition of true worship: “To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, and to devote the will to the purpose of God.”[2]

So we should sing and dance (if so moved) at church on Sundays, and let us do so heartily and with reverence before God. But let us also teach those we disciple to worship God by a genuine attitude of heart the issues into God-exalting words and actions on say, Monday mornings and Friday nights.

  1. Encourage each other.

As we make disciples, we are calling and training them not simply to obey Christ in every way, but to seek to follow Him by belonging and participating in Christ’s community, the Church. If we are to exalt God by our worship, we are similarly to treat each other with respect and to encourage one another out of love.

The epistolary writings of the Apostles take pains to call us to work for the common good of each other. In Ephesians 4:29, Paul instructs believers to ‘let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.’

This is echoed in numerous other letters – see Romans 12:10, 15:2; Galatians 6:2;       Ephesians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:18, 5:11; Hebrews 3:13, 10:25; etc.

This has to be worked at as a regular habit, because loving saints today can quickly be bitter, resentful, and quarreling sinners come the morrow. If we don’t grow in the grace of our Lord, we can easily slip back into our old default mode of sin and selfishness, refusing to consider others better than us or before us (as Philippians 2:3-4 exhorts).

Therefore, Jesus taught us and spoke about it often – if we do not forgive each other, our heavenly Father would not likewise forgive us (Matthew 6:14,15 and 18:21-35). In like manner, if we claim to love God but hate our brother, we prove to be liars (1 John 4:20).

Exalting God and encouraging each other – two more habits of genuine discipleship. The practice of true worship of God and the practice of genuine love for each other are ultimate consequences of a life surrendered at many and frequent points to the lordship and rule of Christ.

In becoming like Jesus in every way through the transforming work of His Spirit and through abiding in His word, we will prove to be the kind of worshippers God desires, and the kind of people others love to be with.

 

[1] A.W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John – Vol. 1, e-book accessed at www.grace-ebooks.com, page 209

[2] William Temple, Readings in St John’s Gospel, First Series (London: Macmillan and Company, 1940), pg 68.

Developing Holy Habits – Exalt, Encourage and Endure (Part 7)

Developing Holy Habits – Share (Part 6)

Last week, we considered the ‘I’ for invest: the giving of our money and resources towards the community of faith we are a part of and for the spread of God’s kingdom. Investing is an essential act of worship that must soon be taught in the life of a new disciple of Jesus. Today we consider the S in our PROMISE acronym: Share, which must also be taught early in the discipleship process. I am referring specifically to the priority of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others.

Witnessing is a forgotten command today, one many Christians do not give much thought to. We expect those gifted as evangelists and ‘professional’ Christians workers like pastors and missionaries to be doing the work of making Christ known, while the rest of us are fed, cared for, and busy with other ministries of the church. This is a defective, not to mention unbiblical, view of the witness of the whole Church. We cannot so easily ignore (or delegate to only a few) the evangelistic purpose and responsibility of the whole people of God (1 Peter 2:9; Mark 16:15; 1 Peter 3:15; 2 Corinthians 5:20).

Just prior to his ascension, Jesus instructed the disciples he had trained and commissioned to wait in Jerusalem, till they were cloth in power from on high. After the Holy Spirit empowered them, he told them that they ‘will be His witnesses’ from Jerusalem, where they were, to the uttermost parts of the world (Acts 1:8). ‘You will be witnesses’ is an imperative statement, not a ‘could be’ or even ‘should be’ but a ‘shall be’, and this was one of the explicit outcomes of the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus expected them to be witnesses. He expects us who are the spiritual descendants of the first apostles to do likewise.

We each have our own Jerusalems (those closest to us relationally), our Judeas (those culturally alike to us), our Samarias (those who are geographically near but culturally more distant) and our ends of the earth (those who are geographically and culturally distant to us). No place is to be out of reach of Gospel witness.

What does it mean to ‘witness’? A witness is someone who testifies to what he has seen and heard, who is able to recount to friends and strangers or a court of law, his first-hand experience of an incident he observed or participated in.

When a person is born anew by repentance from sin and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, they immediately have a story to tell, of what they now know, however elementary: that God by his great love and mercy has rescued them from their sin and its eternal consequence of hell and separation.

We need to help new believers to know 1) they are called to be witnesses of their Risen Lord and 2) how to tell their stories.

In our work in Bangkok, Thailand, we have tried to teach those we disciple to write down and memorize their story or testimony of how they came to faith, and to be able to tell it in 3 minutes. Their story would consist of three parts: 1) what life was like before they came to faith in Jesus, 2) how they came to faith in Him, and 3) the difference that has resulted.

Additionally, as part of disciple-making in our groups, we have them make a list of 5 people they know who have not yet become followers of Jesus – whether family, neighbors, colleagues, or friends. They then commit to praying as a group and individually for each of the people in their list, asking God for opportunities to witness to them, inviting them to their discipleship group or bringing them to the leaders if they have questions or are interested or responsive to their stories. Every so often, the list is to be updated.

We make it a practice in our disciple-making relationships to regularly ask each other for updates about those on our lists, and to share encouraging testimony of people we’ve been able to witness to for Christ. In this way, we help disciples witness as a first step to becoming disciple-makers.

If hell is real and lost people without Christ are headed there, we cannot keep silent. If Jesus is Risen Lord, we must tell it home and abroad. If the Gospel is true, then we must bear witness to it.

On the morning of his execution, the English murder convict Charles Peace was read to about the fires of hell from the book The Consolations of Religion by the prison chaplain. Peace reportedly silenced the chaplain with these words: ‘Sir, if I believed what you and the church of God say you believe, I would walk across England if it were covered with broken glass from coast to coast, even on my hands and knees, just to save one soul from the hell you so glibly speak about!’

Indeed, if today we found the cure to cancer, would we keep it merely to ourselves?

George Whitefield, the great Anglican clergyman and evangelist once said, ‘God forbid that I should travel with anybody a quarter of an hour without speaking of Christ to them.’ May God give us the same evangelistic zeal to witness by our words and lives.

 

Developing Holy Habits – Share (Part 6)

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…”

Global Stories: A Fugitive No More – Shaun’s story

‘I have to leave. Please look after my family.’ Tears rolled down his face as Shaun* told me his decision to run away. Agents from his country were after him. They had twice tried to kidnap him.

As a refugee in Bangkok, Thailand, Shaun was ostensibly under the protection of the United Nations, but they could afford him little help. So he turned to us for help – to All Nations, the NAMS base in Bangkok that he was a part of. He entrusted the well-being of his family to the only community he could trust.

Persecuted because he belonged to a minority people group in a country where a bloody civil war had raged, Shaun once spent 21 months in jail where he was regularly interrogated in what was tantamount to torture. Though the courts cleared him of any wrongdoing and he was finally released, he faced continued harassments and threats. In 2011, he escaped to Bangkok with his family.

He had become a believer in prison through reading a Bible his father had given to him. Shaun subsequently joined us and became a key leader working among asylum seekers and refugees from his nation, seeking to help them become disciples of Jesus, as he had.

But now, the threat of forced repatriation to his country had put all of this in jeopardy. We wondered how his family would cope if he left them, and so we pleaded with him to re-consider while looking desperately for another way out for them. But a week later, Shaun was gone.

I would hear from him sporadically through short e-mails and even once through a Skype call with him from an internet café in an unknown city. We prayed desperately and provided as best we could for his terrified family over seemingly endless months.

Finally, in 2016, after a long journey involving cross-continental travel and people smuggling, I heard afresh from him. By God’s grace, Shaun had been received as a bona fide refugee into a country in Europe.

With the help of All Nations, his family was soon accepted by the same country and reunited with him, where they are now happily settled and thriving. I keep in touch with him and have been encouraging him to continue on as a disciple of Jesus to do all he learned from us.

This is the on-going work of all base communities, companions, and frankly, faithful Christians everywhere. To seek to bless, help and support those in and outside our communities who are lost, hopeless and helpless without our Saviour and Lord Jesus, so that the Kingdom of God may come in their lives. Through it all, we seek to make disciples made who can likewise make disciples themselves, as Shaun is doing.

* Shaun is not his real name.

Shaun - fugutive no more
Shaun (extreme right – face obscured) with NAMS Companions Manik Corea and Isaac Lasky in Bangkok in 2013.

Global Stories: A Fugitive No More – Shaun’s story

NAMS Novena 2017 Report – ‘If you say go…’

It was the launch of a new chapter for NAMS; a glorious deepening of bonds between global companions old, new and unfamiliar; a new exciting phase in the global work that God has called us to; a time that will live long in our memories….

NAMS Novena

There are many ways we can describe the NAMS Novena that took place from 19-26 April 2017 in Bangkok, Thailand. What is certain was that it was a significant moment in our collective history, marked by laughter, joy and anointed times of worship, sharing, testimony and fellowship around tables and the Table of the Lord.

We were active participants, along with the congregation that met at Khlong Toey Church on 21st April evening, to the passing of the baton from founder/Servant General Jon Shuler to Manik Corea, the new NAMS Global Executive, and his team.

With one voice, 25 Companions and Spousal Companions, including 2 serving bishops, committed as to live and hold each other accountable to the NAMS Rule and Order, to work to fulfill Jesus’ final command (Matthew 28:19-20) by making disciples who make disciples, raising disciple-making leaders and planting disciple-making churches.

The retreat on the weekend of 22nd April, attended by 28 of us, was an exciting time of clarifying and agreeing to a revised Rule and Order, which outlines the principles governing our global order and their practical outworking around the world. We also had wonderful times of prayer, worship and fellowship over delicious Thai food. We were blessed by the serenity and beauty of the Garden of Gospel Peace, run by Franciscan Friars who looked after us with great care. Surrounded as we were by idyllic rice fields and fish ponds, we felt the sure presence of God’s Spirit calling us to venture further on to greater exploits, working with His faithful Church, till the earth is covered with the knowledge of the glory of God (Habakkuk 2:14) .

All in all, 13 different nations represented by NAMS companions, spousal companions, 3 bishops, aspirants and friends as far afield as Chile, Congo DRC, Egypt, India, Taiwan and England were present. A number of our other companions and spousal companions were not able to be there and we dearly felt their absence. Still we look forward to the next one in 4 years or so.

We were grateful most of all for the prayers of our Global Prayer/Intercessory Team led by Mary Garisson-Ruiz, and by many of you reading this who thought and prayed for us during those days. We certainly felt their and your prayers.

If there was one song that captured the thrust of the Novena, it was the song ‘If you say go’ – taught to us by our worship leaders – companion Pete Matthews and our new NAMS friend, Susheel John (Manik’s cousin from Singapore). There words are an apt summary of what we pray God will help us do following this Novena:

‘If You say go, we will go.
If You say wait, we will wait.
If You say step out on the water,
And they say it can’t be done;

NAMS Novena sessions

NAMS Novena 2017 Report – ‘If you say go…’

NAMS GLOBAL STORIES: Hopeless no more – Testimony of Mercy Carbonelle

For fifty years I lived in Cuba, the land of my birth. During that time, no one spoke to me about God or spiritual things.

In 2006, I moved to Temuco, Chile, to join my son who was already living there. My heart was empty and without direction, and my home seemed to be filled with hopelessness and anguish. I searched desperately for answers.

One day, I met a man called Andrés in the neighborhood. He greeted me and we chatted. This man, Andrés*, turned out to be a man of God who, with patience, listened to my desperate questions. One evening, he told me something that unlocked the door of my heart to God: ‘Mercy, till now, you have only demonstrated your inability to manage your life. Why don’t you give your heavy backpack of concerns to God?’

Three day later, I was born again as a child of God, and everything in the world seemed different. I was ready to give my life to God.

Back in Cuba, I started sharing and talking about my newfound happiness and faith with my family and friends. Some didn’t believe me; others questioned whether I had changed (since outwardly I look the same). But I knew that everything had changed for me since I met Jesus.

Some of them soon discovered that God could change them too. It did not surprise me since I have learned in my own experience what God our Father is capable of doing in his sovereignty!

Life in La Habana, Cuba is not easy and many problems remain. The sun burns hard sometimes but our strength through Christ grows more than ever. Today, I meet with Christians of different denominations and l am able to love and serve together with them despite our differences. The influence of the NAMS base community in Temuco, called ALP (The Light of the Word), is great and deep in me. The truth of God’s word has brought light and life, and our prayers are heard!

When I was a new believer, I used to ask more than I thanked God for. Now, I thank him everyday and ask what He wants for me to do and how He wants me to live. Thank you Father God, for your love and life, for laughter and tears and for making me into someone you could use for your glory.

(* Andrés Casanueva is the NAMS team leader of ALP base community in Temuco, Chile. He is also the regional leader of NAMS for all of Latin America. )

Mercy Carbonelle divides her time between Cuba and Chile. She has been trained as a NAMS leader and with her husband Richard, are helping to plant and lead a small NAMS community in Cuba.

mercy-and-husband

NAMS GLOBAL STORIES: Hopeless no more – Testimony of Mercy Carbonelle

Good news this Christmas – Nepal 2016.

NAMS was founded to call Christians everywhere to obey the final command of Jesus: to make disciples by going to all nations, baptizing and teaching them to obey all Jesus commanded.

NAMS companions seek to do this, starting wherever God’s placed them. One example of this happened over the Christmas season just past in Nepal. Our NAMS leader for the Himalayan/Tibetan Peoples, Pastor Tek Prasad Rijal, with substantial help from NAMS supporters, was able to help Christians and churches in Nepal organize country-wide Christmas events.

Over the Christmas period he worked with local churches, schools and orphanages to help them demonstrate practically the love of Christ. Teams of local Christians blessed schools, churches, and orphanages with sports equipment, Christmas cards, warm clothes, educational materials, first-aid boxes, diaries and calendars for teachers, and a Christmas meal. They also performed skits, dances, and songs which told the Christmas story. In some schools and orphanages they were even allowed to give short messages and invite those present to join the local church Christmas services – an invitation that many accepted! This program has led to open doors into schools and orphanages.

Life at the moment is by no means easy for Nepali Christians. Proselytizing people of other religions is now illegal under Nepal’s new constitution. Hindu nationalist groups are beginning to prosecute and attack Christians as they try to combat the explosive growth of the church in Nepal. However, no law can legislate against the saving love of God from being shared and told!

NAMS, through Pastor Tek and the regional church co-ordinators he works with, is helping and calling the Nepali Church to remain faithful to the One who has ultimate authority over Nepal and all nations. Their 2016 Christmas program is one example of how they are seeking to reach and make disciples of all people in their communities.

Please pray for us and pastor Tek that together, we may continue to make disciples, raise up leaders and send church-planters out to other unreached regions in Nepal and other nations in their region.

Good news this Christmas – Nepal 2016.