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)

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…’

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

Developing Holy Habits — Part 2; Read (by Manik Corea)

In this series of blogs, we are looking at 7 ‘holy habits’ that must be exercised by all true disciples, if we are to prove faithful and fruitful in our walk with Jesus. The acronym PROMISE spells out the first letter of each of the 7 habits that all disciples must develop. Last week we looked at P, which stands for Prayer. Today, we will look at the letter, R for Read.

R – Read God’s word

The famed St Augustine of Hippo heard a child’s voice bid him ‘take up and read’. He took up the bible and read from the book of Romans and was providentially changed.

Today, it is harder than ever for many Christians to take up the word of God and read.

Biblical illiteracy is a modern plague affecting many parts of the global church. In an increasingly narcissistic and experientially-driven age, making time to read and/or listen from any book, let alone an ancient book the length of the Bible, is a great challenge.

In the push and shove of modern living, time with God is relegated to a low priority. Harried and hassled as we are by myriad demands and stresses, we are easy prey to escapism, addictions, and endless distractions. The ubiquitous devices we carry become bright-screened monsters that stalk, steal, and devour our time.

But the faithful disciple of Jesus cannot afford to not read and hear from God’s word! No matter how busy they are, people will make time in their lives for the things that are most important or that matter most to them. How much more hearing the very words of God?

We so desperately need to be daily converted to the will and the ways of our Lord our God. Peter tells us to crave milk as newborn babes so that we may grow up in our salvation (1 Peter 2:2). And as we grow up, we find God’s word is also the meat and drink of the mature. It is the water that washes away the grime and dirt of unholy living (Ephesians 5:26), the mirror that shows out faults in the light of Jesus’ truth and grace (James 1:23).

Paul declared that faith comes by hearing the word of Christ (Romans 10:17) and that all of Scripture is useful to teaching, correcting, disciplining, and training (2 Tim 3:16).

And so the obedient disciple of Jesus will be faithful to practice the daily habit of private reading and reflecting on God’s word. He will teach the same to those he is discipling. There are many bible reading plans, including the daily lectionary readings, that are great tools for helping us to systematically and regularly read God’s word.[1] Journal what you read, learn to ask the right questions of the text in context, ask the more mature among us if you have question. But by all means read!

And not just for and by yourself. In 1 Timothy 4:13-15, one of the things Paul tells his protégé Timothy is to ‘devote himself to the public reading of Scripture.’ In the Roman world of Paul’s day, communal reading of the Scriptures took place because there were undoubtedly many illiterate slaves and the less educated in congregations. But all the same, we do well to make the reading and discussion of the Scriptures a common feature of our communal gatherings, small and large. Devotion requires determination, commitment, and practice.

In the words of the much-loved prayer of the reformed-minded Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer , may God ‘grant that we may so hear, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest’ all His holy Scripture, old and new. In this, we will grow up into Christ, who is our head, the very Word made life.


[1] see for example https://www.biblegateway.com/reading-plans/ and https://www.biblegateway.com/reading-plans/bcp-daily-office/next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] see for example https://www.biblegateway.com/reading-plans/ and

https://www.biblegateway.com/reading-plans/bcp-daily-office/next

Developing Holy Habits — Part 2; Read (by Manik Corea)

Developing Holy Habits – Part 1 (by Manik Corea)

Discipleship is a life-long journey of becoming like Jesus in every way.

A clear outcome of discipleship is the forming of holy habits, which are means of grace by which the Spirit of God brings inner transformation of hearts and minds. These habits must become like well-trodden pathways in our walk with Christ.

What are some of these holy habits, and how can we grow in them while seeking to encourage and share the same with those we are discipling?

Before I continue, let me first provide a disclaimer: the life of faith and these habits are not a matter of religious performances in order to win something from God, but a response to undeserved riches bestowed upon us in Christ. We work, not to be saved, but because we are saved. Our work and holy living follows on completely from what God has done in us, the consequences of the finished work of Christ in saving and redeeming us on the cross. Nevertheless, the rhythms and habits of our outward lives can affect our inward lives.

And because He did, we can do. Consequently, we work out what God works into us with obedience, diligence, and not a little fear of God (as Paul exhorts us in Philippians 2:12-13). We do the works that have been prepared for us to walk in (Ephesians 2:10).

In teaching holy habits in the life of discipleship, we expect that their regular practice will help us stay connected to or abide daily in Christ, and to walk with one another as God’s holy people in mission to a lost world.

I have found it immensely helpful to use the acronym PROMISE to capture the main seven habits that I believe we must practice before and teach to those we are discipling. And so we will look at briefly each of them in this series of blogs.

I like the word ‘promise’ because a promise requires trust and commitment. At baptism and confirmation, we make promises to God to reject the way of the world, the devil and sin, and to submit to Jesus as Lord and Savior. And if the Christian life is to bear fruit in the promises we have made, then it must show forth consistently in the particular things we say and do, to the glory of God.

The first habit that we must nurture in ourselves and the disciples we make by teaching and modeling is:

P – prayer. What a gift this holy habit is! Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we have access by faith to the very presence of God, ushered in as we are by His unmerited grace and favor. Prayer is more than mere talking to God, but real relationship with Him.

It has been said that ‘Prayer is like breathing – people who don’t are dead!’ And like breathing, it needs to be an automatic, regular and moment by moment feature of the life of discipleship. How often do we pray, in private and with other believers?

Jesus modeled a life of constant prayer (Mark 1:25, Luke 5:16, Matthew 14:23). He taught that He only did what He saw His Father doing and spoke what He heard His Father saying (John 5:19 & 8:28).

In this, as in the other habits, we have a lot to learn from our master disciple, Jesus, who showed and taught often on the importance of all aspects of prayer. For example:

1) prayer as effectual: Mathew 7:7-11; Matthew 21:22; Mark 11:24; John 14:13-14, 15:16, 16:23-24;

2) prayer as secret and private: Matt. 6:6; Mark 1:35; Matt. 14:23; Luke 5:16; Luke 6:12, 9:18; 22:39-41;

3) prayer as communal: Matt. 18:19; Luke 9:28; Matt. 17:1; Mark 9:2; and

4) prayer as intercession for others: John 17:9-26.

The model prayer that Jesus left us, the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), teaches us to bring the ingredients of worship, confession, petition, and requests as necessary ingredients of our daily conversation with God, recognizing first and foremost that because of Jesus, we can call him ‘our Father’. Prayer is the language of intimacy in God’s family.

As a baby grows up, she learns both to listen and to speak. So, we who are born again into God’s family, must grow and learn the holy habit of speaking and listening to God daily.

 

 

Developing Holy Habits – Part 1 (by Manik Corea)

Last Thoughts: If I was starting over again.

I became deeply aware of the call to become a disciple-making man years after I was converted. That “second call” occurred on February 1st, 1988, and I have been trying to learn to walk in this disciple-making path since that day. When I first surrendered my life to the Lord Jesus in 1968 it was with the intention of never turning back, but there was so much I did not know. What do I wish that someone could have helped me to understand?

First and foremost, I wish that someone would have helped me understand the difference between participating in the ecclesia of God and in the organized Church. By that I mean the difference between sharing my life with those who imply they are the Lord’s by their participation in the institutional forms of church life, and those in whom the Spirit of Jesus is truly living and reigning. All the joy of my walk has come from my fellowship with the latter group of men and women. The ecclesia of God is not invisible.

The second thing I wish is that someone would have helped me focus day by day on the truth that is revealed in the Holy Scriptures alone. Somehow, largely unconsciously, I became convinced that I had to read other books, study other peoples’ ideas about the scriptures, and implement someone else’s idea about how to live the life of Christ Jesus. It is embarrassing to admit how many years I tried to follow Jesus without giving his written word priority in my daily life. Even more, how far from an intimate walk with him I was in those days—even after I began to read the Holy Scriptures day by day. I was focused on reading them, not meeting the Lord Jesus as I read. A true discipling friend would have spotted that. It is possible to be very religious and not a disciple of Jesus.

The third thing I wish is that someone would have helped me understand the nature of a truly Christian marriage. All the examples in my life suggested that the work of serving the organized Church took priority over the responsibility I had—given by the Lord!—of caring for and discipling my wife, and my children when they came along. The implicit message I had received was, “the ordained ministry of the Church comes first, the family comes second.” I now know what a damnable lie that is, but for many years I did not. The institutional Church, as I experienced it, brooked no rivals. It did not teach me that my marriage and family were central to my ministry rather than an afterthought. I believed I had a ministry and a marriage, but my marriage was in truth part of my divine calling to ministry.

My fourth desire would be that someone would have come alongside me when our children were young enough to still be shaped in the ways of the Lord. Someone who could have lovingly helped us see that our children were being discipled by the culture more than by their parents and faith community.

When I look at my own list of things I wish I had known sooner, one thing stands out above all else. I wish I had known a disciple-making elder when I was younger. I knew true believers, but I did not know a discipling Christian.

Till the day I die, this is what I want to help other believers to be: Disciple-makers.

Last Thoughts: If I was starting over again.