Listen Slowly (by Revd Manik Corea)

How good are you at listening to your Lord?

Writer and pastor Chuck Swindoll tells of a particularly frantic time in his life when he was flustered and hurried by many appointments and commitments. He was gulping down his food at family meal-times, being short-tempted and irritated with his family and getting annoyed by unplanned interruptions. His family members began to get affected by his increased stress.

One evening, his youngest daughter said she wanted to tell him about something that happened at school that day, but said she would tell him ‘really fast.’ Realizing her frustration, he calmed her down and said, ‘Honey, you don’t have to rush. You can say it slowly.’ Swindoll says he’ll never forget her retort: ‘Then listen slowly.”

Are we listening ‘slowly’ to God?

Being a disciple of Jesus involves developing a keen sense of hearing – giving our undivided attention to the voice of God.

The listening ear is a door for faith to enter.

Thus Paul wrote ‘Faith comes by hearing and hearing through the Word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17). The Gospel must first be told us and heard and understood, to have effect.

But listening to God in Scripture must be a precursor to actual obedience and submission, or we will be condemned as many a Scripture warns (see Matthew 7:24-27; Luke 6:46; John 14:24; James 2:26; etc). Thus hearing and obedience are intimately linked in the Scripture.

I was surprised to learn recently that there is no Hebrew word that translates directly to the English word ‘obey’. The Hebrew word that most often equates to our English ‘obey’ is the word ‘shema’ which literally means to ‘hear’. However, this means more than just audibly receiving communication, but most often carries the meaning of ‘paying attention to’ and especially, ‘responding to what is heard.’[1]

Hebrew words typically stress concrete action, as opposed to Greek works which are more abstract. Thus, we understand ‘hearing’ as understanding or receiving a communication, whereas the Hebrews immediately made the link to obedience and action.

In a similar way, when a mother says to her child ‘You’re not really listening!’ she typically doesn’t mean her child has not heard her, but has not obeyed her.

To Jesus and then Jews, having ears is not simply a matter of being able to hear. It is a matter of being able to also understand and obey what is heard. Hence, Jesus so very often ended his sermons with the Hebraism, ‘to him who has ears, let him hear.’[2] He was looking for a right response.

As James so clearly and pithily instructs in James 1:22, ‘Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.’

And so, a simple definition of discipleship could be as follows: ‘A disciple is one who seeks everyday of his life to hear and obey Jesus’ words.’

To do what Jesus wants, we must truly ‘shema’ His Words.

Often. Carefully. Slowly.

 


[1] See this enlightening Word Study video on the word ‘Shema’ at https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=190&v=6KQLOuIKaRA

[2] Matthew 11:5; 13:9,43; Mark 4:9,23; 7:16; Luke 8:8; 14:35 cf Deuteronomy 29:4; Ezekiel 12:2).

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Listen Slowly (by Revd Manik Corea)

Mending our Nets (by Pastor Prince Thomas)

Recently, the Lord has been teaching me some lessons from Luke Chapter 5:1-11, about ‘net breaking blessings’. In this passage, we read the very interesting story of Peter working hard and fishing all night but catching nothing. Although he would have been very discouraged and upset, we read in verse 2 that he and the other fishermen were nevertheless still washing and mending their nets for another try. What are some lessons?

Firstly He was mending his net. After fishing all night, Peter’s net might have been torn or damaged. Fishermen need to repair their nets before they go to their work again. If there is big hole in the net, the fish may easily escape after being caught. One of the questions I felt the Lord ask me was “If there is a big hole in the net, would Peter have received his big miracle from God?” Even if God should grant, as He did, a big catch, the fish would not be free. God is waiting for us to mend our nets before He performs miracles in our lives.

Peter mended his broken net. This is the basic requirement for a divine breakthrough. Many of us want God to use us or bless us. But do we take the time to examine or check ourselves to see if we need repairs done in areas of our walk and relationship with God, with family, leaders, the church or anyone else?

It is sad in our day to hear preachers interpret the Word according to popular fads and lifestyle.  There is an abundance of people-pleasing sermons where themes like sin, judgment, forgiveness and the righteousness of God are not heard. They are not popular messages compared to topics like blessings and breakthrough. But we must preach the Gospel and the message of salvation inside and outside our churches.

David prayed in Psalms 26:2, ‘Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my reins and my heart.’ (KJV)

When prodigal son returned to father in Jesus’ parable in Luke 15:21, he confessed his sins to his father. Forgiveness always brings Transformation.

Second we see Peter obeyed what Jesus asked him to do. Though he knew very well that there were few or no fish to be caught by that sea shore, he did not argue. Instead he simply obeyed what Jesus asked of him. And he found the net was full of fishes. Obedience is better than sacrifices (1 Samuel 15:22).

A net breaking blessing is awaiting us if we are able mend our nets (i.e. examine ourselves, repent) and obey the word of Jesus. May the Lord help us to do both and be blessed of Him.

 

— Prince Thomas is a NAMS Companion serving in Haryana, North India.
He has been involved in starting and leading an a vibrant church-planting movement there for the last 20 years. He is originally from Kerala, South India.

Mending our Nets (by Pastor Prince Thomas)

As long as it is called ‘Today’… (By Manik Corea)

There is always time to do what we truly want to do.

Occasionally, as my wife will testify, I have been known to rouse myself from sleep in the wee hours of the morning – not to pray or seek the Lord I am ashamed to confess – but to watch a game of football (soccer) that is being telecasted ‘live’ from the UK or somewhere in Europe to where I am based here in Bangkok, Thailand.

This takes determination and preparedness. I set the alarm, get up, make a cup of coffee and follow the game excited and wide awake, while all else in the house and around is quiet and dark.

All because I want to.

But ask me to do some other thing or stay up for some other event, and I may decline and claim I am too busy or simply don’t have the time.

We make time for the things that are most important to us.

What about the things of God? Any sane Christian will confess the highest place and priority of God in our lives. We sing lustily and wax lyrical about our love for him, like a fawning Peter before his tragic night of self-preserving denials.

No wonder A.W. Tozer once remarked, ‘Christians don’t lie – they just go to church and sing them!’

How often though we let other priorities and concerns hustle, steal away and hinder us from pursuing Jesus’ call and obeying His clear commands.

We live in an intrusive world brimming with distraction and temptation. A technological, sensual age provides rich soil for building a life based on convenience, self-concern and instant gratification.

We are also busy with so many things. Who among us have not been so occupied with temporary and urgent concerns as to put off till some further day, ultimate matters and that still small Voice?

We put off till tomorrow what He has called us to attend to today.

This is a prime tactic of the devil – to make us complacent and compromising towards the high cost and calling of being Kingdom-seeking disciples of Jesus.

There is an apocryphal story of a meeting in hell between the devil and 4 of his leading demons. They were discussing the best strategy to draw people away from God.

The first demon suggested denying the existence of God. Satan insisted that people who look at creation will find ample proof for God’s existence in the wonder, order and design of the universe.

The next demon suggested convincing people there was no heaven. Again, Satan suggested that most people have a suspicion and inner sense they cannot shake off that there must be life after death. They also have a longing for a place like heaven.

The third demon suggested that they convince people there is no hell. Satan countered that God has given every human being a conscience that tells them their sins will be judged. ‘We need a better lie’ said the devil.

The final demon said, ‘I’ve got it. We’ll just convince people there is no hurry.’

Complacency easily breeds a procrastinating proxy-faith of comfort and self-gratification and makes barren the womb of obedient acts.

Jesus once said to a dithering would-be disciple: ‘‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’ (Luke 9:62)

That surely is the cure – the stark, unrelenting demand of God’s truth and claim upon us that will not let us have our easy way out at the expense of His glory, plan and purpose.

May God make us disciples who hear and obey without question or delay.

‘Today, if you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.’ (Hebrews 3:15).

 

As long as it is called ‘Today’… (By Manik Corea)

Making Gospel Bridges (by Pastor Clay Hamrick)

One question always comes up when I hear people talk about sharing their faith, ‘How do I share’? They know what the gospel is, but have difficulty verbalizing it when in live conversation. Fear and nervousness creeps in and their confidence is shaken. Often what I hear after that is, I don’t know enough. I’m not competent to share my faith.

What they haven’t learned is how to make Gospel Bridges and use simple tools to share. I heard a story from a man that used to work as a chaplain at a large hospital in Asia. He would visit many patients hoping to share the gospel with them. He was rejected many times. If he spoke to 20 people, only 2 or 3 would hear him out. At lunch he and his wife would have noodles together across the street from the hospital. The waiter would always ask if he would like an egg with that. He would tell him no.

One day he and his wife were ordering lunch and the waiter asked him if he would like one egg or two? He told the waiter one. His wife asked, why did you order an egg? You see, the waiter didn’t ask a yes or no question. He asked one or two. Aha, the gentleman said, I found my bridge to share the gospel. He realized that he kept asking permission to share. Most patients received prayer but would answer no when asked if he could share the gospel.

He created a bridge by transitioning from prayer to telling his own story and then sharing the gospel. Many more people were receptive to this bridge. We have to create bridges too. In the USA we have a giant store called Wal-Mart. Every time I’m in line to check out, people tell me some complaint about their life, work or family. They didn’t ask if I wanted to hear it. They just told me.

People like to hear your story. Most people want to hear what your life was like before you met Jesus. Most of us are not perfect. That is only the beginning of our story, but it is a bridge to the gospel. Another bridge I use is prayer. I start off by asking people, if God would do a miracle in your life today what would that be? And then I ask if I can pray for that miracle, for them, for their family, and for their community.

After praying, I’ll ask if they are near or far from God? If they say near, then I share my story followed by this question …. do you have a story like that? It helps determine whether they really have a relationship with God. If they respond that they are far then I tell them how I was far and show them (gospel tool) how they can come near.

Making gospel bridges and learning simple tools goes a long way in building competence. Regular practice using the bridges and tools builds confidence in sharing your faith. Fear and nervousness is replaced with joy as others come to faith and receive the good news.

 

— Pastor Clay Hamrick
Mosaic International Church
Jacksonville FL

Making Gospel Bridges (by Pastor Clay Hamrick)

Disciple-Fu (by Pastor Clay Hamrick)

For several years as a teenager and as a young adult I studied traditional Kung-Fu. Like the funny panda in the martial arts cartoon movie, I love Kung-Fu! It started on Sunday afternoon when we got home from church. About four o’clock, black belt theater came on. From that point on I was hooked. No one in our city taught Kung-Fu. There was karate and other forms, but no Kung-Fu. It had to be Kung-Fu. Then one day, a new school opened. Could it be? Yes! Boom! I could be living the dream!

In two years I became a black belt in shaolin Kung-Fu. You could come as often as you desired, and I did. We trained hard every day. Over time, I picked up the pedagogy of the Sifu (teacher). He modeled it. I imitated him. He corrected. Then he would show me what each technique meant. Later he would match us up for live boxing. Each practice made us sharper. Each practice moved us from jerky reaction to calm response, even in the heat of battle.

It has been thirty years since that time. I still remember the techniques and training. I still love Kung-Fu! You might be asking, what does this have to do with discipleship? It has reinforced the idea of apprenticeship pedagogy into how I disciple others. In the last few months, I’ve begun to practice with some old buddies. We are also starting discipleship. I’m calling it Disciple-Fu. We train to be followers of Christ and fishers of men, then we train in Kung-Fu.

This training pedagogy was taught by Jesus through a pattern of Model, Assist, Watch and Launch (lead). Jesus used the common life of people to develop them into the people he intended them to be. They learned together. Practiced together. Jesus corrected and explained to them why things didn’t work and the meaning behind the teachings. He made sure that they had the confidence and competence to do the work. It takes practice. It takes seeing it done successfully and in failure.

Training in this manner, we learn to pass on quickly what we have learned. In turn we become better because we are still learning and growing. While I still love kung-fu, I love being a disciple of Jesus more. It is great to see God work in people’s lives and they embrace the disciple making lifestyle.

Go Train – Make Disciples.

 

— Pastor Clay Hamrick
Mosaic International Church,
Jacksonville FL

Disciple-Fu (by Pastor Clay Hamrick)

On Your Marks, Get Set…. (By Manik Corea)

“So (Mary Magdalene) ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple….So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were both running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.” (John 20:2-4).

An epidemic of running breaks out in the immediate aftermath of the resurrection. Mary Magdalene tells Peter and John and they both race away to the tomb. John wins, but Peter stoops first to cross the line. Going in after Peter into the inner sanctum of the empty cave-tomb, John sees and believes (verse 8).

Matthew, in his resurrection account (Matthew 28:1-10) tells us that when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to morn at the tomb, the only ‘dead’ bodies they found were those of the guards, made comatose by the sight of a glorious angel. Fueled by a mixture of fear and great joy and at the command of said angel, they likewise run to tell the disciples.

How fast can you run? That probably depends on what you’re running from or for!

But what if God speaks to you?

‘He is not here, for He has risen, as he said.’ (Matthew 28: 6).

What if, like those first witnesses, you were given this startling, unexpected, mind-boggling news.

What if, like Philip, you were sent as a messenger to a leader of an unreached people group (Acts 8:29-30)?

Would you drop all and run like they did?

Or hesitate? Rationalize your situation? Think of a way to send someone else instead?

Would you drag your feet back to your normal routines, distracted and busy as you can be with the usual business of your day?

The good news of the resurrection ought to likewise set us running to rouse each other and hurry to proclaim to a lost and cruel world this greatest news.

Why should we let the wonder and death-shattering reality of His resurrection stay the treasured secret of a few, cloistered in the confines of our inner lives and gatherings?

Why not with haste, broadcast far and wide? Why indeed not?

This year, let us run to tell those far and wide the startling life-changing news of an empty tomb and a risen Savior.

Go!

 

Read our free e-booklet ‘Holy Transformation – 7 short reflections for Easter’ by Revd Canon Dr Jon Shuler, NAMS Servant General. Click on this link.

On Your Marks, Get Set…. (By Manik Corea)

The Way of the Cross (by Manik Corea)

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?”[1]

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.

 


[1] https://gracegems.org/Ryle/mark11.htm

The Way of the Cross (by Manik Corea)