Coming to Christ (by Revd. Clay Hamrick)

From time to time we wrestle with the question, how to people come to Christ? Every disciple and preacher asks this question. My Grandpa preached on this topic in 1966. He addressed it from the grace of and drawing power of God. When you are regularly sharing or preaching the gospel you tend to want people to come to Christ more than they do.  Your heart aches for them.

This desire can cause you to question the person yourself or even God. Why don’t they get it? Was I not clear enough? Argh! Has that happened to you? It will if you are engaged in regular gospel conversations. When it does happen, I turn to the Scriptures and talk to Jesus. In John 3, a man named Nicodemus inquires of Jesus. He is being stirred by the things he has seen and the teachings that he has heard.

Jesus tells him that you are not going to get this unless you are born again. Unless the Spirit does a work in you, belief is impossible. When you hear the gospel and the spirit turns the light on in you then belief happens. It is the mystery of faith. Jesus speaks of this again in John 6, as the drawing power of God.

A difficult saying, no man may come to me unless the Father draws him. God prepares the heart to receive the truth. He also prepares the meeting. For Satan tries to veil our spiritual eyes from this truth. God clears the way. Often the Holy Spirit uses us like John the Baptist, by preparing the way for Jesus’ coming into someone’s life. The message itself is perfect in converting the soul says the psalmist. (19:7) Paul reiterates that the law acts as a tutor to bring us to Christ. (Gal.3:24)

The gospel addresses the reality of our need of a savior. Jesus states in the the sermon on the mount that we are blessed when our spirit is brought low and we mourn over our sin. (Mat.5:3-4) We are called Blessed because our hearts are now prepared to receive. We have only to turn and put our trust in him for what he has done on our behalf. The Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are His forever.

When you share your faith and become frustrated talk to God about it. Read the Scriptures. Be at peace that God desires for people to come into a saving relationship with him. Then pray for those that you are sharing with. Be patient. Watch and see God do the miraculous.

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Coming to Christ (by Revd. Clay Hamrick)

Abiding = Obeying (By Revd Manik Corea)

How can you tell a true disciple of Jesus from a mere professing one? Watch what they do, not just what they say. Obedience in our lives is the ultimate proof of our love for God. Jesus said as much in John 14:15. It is at last, the action and direction of our lives that will show the depth of our love for Christ.

In John’s powerful heart-felt letter of 1st John, he gives 3 test for the genuineness of Christian faith.

The first is a ‘moral test’ (1 John 2:3-4) i.e. are we obeying what God has commanded?

The second is a ‘social test’ (1 John 2:9) i.e. are we truly loving each other?

The third is a ‘truth test’ (1 John 4:2) i.e. are we proclaiming all that the Scriptures reveal to us of Jesus and the Gospel?

Together, these tests will show in the way we talk and walk after Christ and our proclamation of the Gospel.

D.L. Moody, the great evangelist, was once accosted on a Chicago street by a drunk who exclaimed, “Aren’t you Mr. Moody? Why, I’m one of your converts.” Said Moody in reply, “That must be true, for you definitely aren’t one of God’s converts!” If you are truly saved, it will show. Not only will you receive forgiveness, but you will live differently.

And it will take commitment and determination on our part to keep in step with Him.

In 1 John 2:5, John says that if we keep God’s word, God’s love is perfected in him. The word ‘keep’ is the Greek word ‘tēreō’. It was used of guards standing watch at their post, shepherds watching over their sheep and bankers watching over their money. It means to keep a careful watch.

This is no casual obedience – but a watchful care given to make sure we stay true to the words and will of God in our lives.

John goes on in the next verse to say, ‘…whoever says he abides in him (Jesus) ought to walk in the same way Jesus walked.’ We must follow in his footsteps!

Paul often used the same metaphor of ‘walking’ for the Christian life (see Ephesians 2:10, 4:1,17, 5:1; Colossians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:12).

Walking is not as fast as running or as spectacular as flying, but is steady, consistent movement in one direction. It takes time to progress bit by bit to a goal. It is made up of many steps, one foot placed after another for a distance, not simply a quick dash.

So, like Jesus, we will walk constantly towards God, in ways that please God.

Jesus said in John 5:19: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”

The point and goal of discipleship is that in every way, we become like our Master and Lord Jesus. As Jesus did all His Father desired, we will begin to do and live the same. John Stott argues, ‘We cannot claim to abide in Him unless we are like Him.’[1]

Disciples need to be getting somewhere with Christ. We are all a work in progress, so don’t expect perfection from yourself or anyone else yet. Therefore forgive and seek forgiveness often. But do expect progress and change.

Let there be no confusion: abiding in Christ will lead to genuine obedience in our lives – reflected in our words, works and way.

 


[1] John Stott, The Letters of John TNTC Vol 19, (IVP), pg. 97

Abiding = Obeying (By Revd Manik Corea)

A Harvest Amidst Difficulties (By Rev. Andres Casanueva)

Last year in September, just before I was due to board my flight to Cuba on a visit to the brothers there, the airline suddenly cancelled its flight. Hurricane Irma was due to hit the island. It eventually destroyed much of the island’s fragile infrastructure. The very next month, I was finally able to visit the country. It was an important visit.

At the end of 2017, we had planned to hold a NAMS Latin America-wide retreat in Chile. We invited 9 church-planters and leaders to attend from Cuba, but encountered great difficulty in securing visas for them to travel. However, once more, the Lord intervened, in answer to our prayers. Only 4 days before the Retreat, everyone was granted visas to travel!

After they begged us to come over to help them, we planned a follow-up retreat in Cuba for 2018. However, 3 times, we had to change our planned dates because of various difficulties. Finally, I traveled alone to the island in October to make a final attempt to coordinate one, which will now take take place in December of this year.

During this trip, I was able to visit our NAMS connections in Havana – and to meet many new brothers and sisters there for the first time. I also connected with the leaders we knew in Cienfuegos.

And although we still face many difficulties (lack of resources, visa requirements, lack of places to meet, etc.), we believe that with our brothers and sisters, a new pioneering community has been birthed under NAMS in Cuba for the glory of God.

All this reminds me of the longing of the apostle Paul, writing his letter to the Romans 1:13, where Paul expresses his strong desire to see them soon. Paul planned his trips, but there were difficulties that were beyond his control. And still, the work went on. And finally Paul managed to visit them and encourage them in their faith.

Twenty centuries later, we also continue to trust that the many difficulties we face will not stop the work of God, and we can be sure that our plans will be fulfilled in the perfect time. We have no doubt that the Lord will provide the visas for the 3 brothers on the NAMS team travelling from Chile, as well as every dollar that is required for transportation, lodging and food for the Cuban brothers to host us and others.

We believe this retreat will greatly strengthen the faith of our Cuban brothers and that we will receive into full communion with us, the community gathered in Ciefuegos. Please pray and partner with us in this great adventure of faith into Cuba in the midst of a great challenges.

 

Revd. Andrés Cananueva is our NAMS Regional Team Leader for Latin America. He leads our NAMS Base Community in Temuco, Chile.

A Harvest Amidst Difficulties (By Rev. Andres Casanueva)

God is on the move in Bangkok! (by Isaac Lasky)

NAMS Bangkok base community is in an exciting new season. NAMS has been invited to work with the Student Christian Center (SCC) in making disciple-making disciples and raising disciple-making leaders. SCC is a dormitory for university students and despite its name only 30% of the residents are Christians.

Base community leaders Isaac & Patchara Lasky are leading this new work and for the past eight months have lived onsite, whilst All Nations (Bangkok base community’s international church) has started meeting in their house. Find out more about how God is working in this interview:

What does a regular week look like for you?

Every week looks different but we are intentional about having as much contact time with the students as possible. For this reason, Patchara works in the SCC coffee shop four days a week to build relationship with students, other baristas and international workers in the area. We also meet one-on-one every week with students we are discipling. Every Friday we run a conversational ‘english club’ as a relationship building outreach event. Sunday morning we have our All Nations worship service and then eat lunch together.

What is God teaching you through this work?

God has taught us about the power of hospitality, opening our home and looking for every opportunity to build relationship. When we first arrived it took us a while to earn the student’s trust and this was reflected in them being reluctant to join our English club or Sunday worship.

God spoke to us that we needed to be more intentional in building those relationships. So we started playing basketball & board games with the students. During the recent FIFA world cup we had 15-20 students in our apartment every evening to watch the games. This had a dramatic effect and soon that same crowd was at English club every week and the vast majority of them joining us on a Sunday morning.

As NAMS companions we take quarterly retreats and these have also been crucial for hearing from the Lord what he wants us to focus on next.

NAMS Companions are called to 3 things in particular – make disciple-making disciples, raise disciple-making leaders and plant disciple-making churches. How are you doing this?

We are making disciple-making disciples through our one-to-one discipleship. Praise the Lord that one of Pat’s disciples is in the early stages of discipling another. We are raising disciple-making leaders through giving the students opportunity to lead in our Sunday service & English club whilst also taking them with us as we minister in other areas.

One of the biggest challenges, opportunities, with working with students is that they always leave, are sent out. Although we are in the early stages of planting this disciple-making church we believe that the students, whether they return home or move to work elsewhere, will be instrumental in planting disciple-making churches wherever God sends them.

How can we pray for you?

  • Pray that John Gansalves would be able to join us as a NAMS Global Apprentice to strengthen us and help us lead as the work multiplies
  • Pray for other team members to raise up to support us in this work
  • Pray for God’s provision for us personally and as a community

 

 

God is on the move in Bangkok! (by Isaac Lasky)

A Drop in the Ocean (By Manik Corea)

In a few days time, my family and I leave Bangkok, Thailand, where we’ve been for the last 10 years, to go on a 3-month sabbatical to the United States. Most of it will be spent in South Carolina, some of it we hope in rest, lazing on the warm beaches of the Atlantic. There will no doubt be time to reflect back on all that we have experienced and seen in the last decade.

As I look back over the years of our time here in Thailand, the last six of which have been as planter and team leader of All Nations, our NAMS Base Community in the city, I am sure there will be sadness and regret for how I often let my human weakness and sinfulness get in the way of being a faithful and fruitful disciple, husband, father and leader. I certainly wish we had been more urgent and passionate to reach the lost.

Sure, over the years, we at All Nations have reached a few peoples, discipled refugees and expats from many nations, even baptized a couple, shared the Gospel to many others including neighbors and friends, and generally tried to be a blessing to those we met. However, in real terms, the impact of All Nations in so big a city has been minimal, like a drop in the ocean.

Bangkok is home to some 12 million people, a million or so whom are undocumented. The majority of Thai people here are Buddhist who have never heard the name of Jesus or understand really what He is. There are people from countless nations, some bordering Thailand, who live and work in the city. Most may never meet a Christian.

However, one thing I can say with all confidence is that we are in a new season of the work here in Thailand.

About a year ago, the Lord began to open a door for work in a Christian university student center and hostel. All the students there are Thai, the majority are unbelievers. Our new leader of All Nations, Isaac, with his wife Pat, are now renting an apartment on the grounds of this center. We call it our Mission House. Already students are coming over to watch football (or soccer) matches and to cook and eat together. Or they play basketball with other students regularly now.

We believe God is calling us to reach, make disciples, raise up Christ-devoted leaders and, along with our on-going work with people of different nations, plant in time a worshiping community/service meeting on a different day to when we meet on Sunday, to reach many more. It is what all NAMS base-communities (and the churches we plant) are called to do.

Isaac and Pat have already started an English Club meeting every Friday. They have begun to meet with some of the Christians students one-on-one and in small group meetings to make disciples among them. We are hoping that John Gansalves from India can complete raising funds to join us as a Global Apprentice to help this work. Others are praying about coming to join our team as well, but we hope to be raising disciple-making leaders from those God has already brought to us.

It is a vital work. It is the work of a NAMS Companion. We have the privilege to be called by God to live, pray, reflect and study God’s Word, give towards our work globally and locally, and to make disciples of our families and of people around us, with the goal of helping to plant new communities of faithful men and women of God.

Thank God that He is ever faithful, even when we are faithless (2 Timothy 2:13). But His desire is that we will be truly faithful as salt and light in the world, to make a difference to those around us.

Please pray that All Nations in Bangkok will be found faithful in all God’s called us to be and do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Drop in the Ocean (By Manik Corea)

More than just a job (by Mary Garrison)

Back to school is a hectic time of year for everyone, not the least of which are teachers like me – I’m now entering my 12th year in public education. But besides getting my classroom organized and lesson plans finalized, a still small voice inside of me is reminding me to get my heart right too because I’m preparing to go on the mission field.

I didn’t always feel this way. When I started my teaching career, I had a pretty clear sense of my profession.   I enjoyed my content area, was intrigued by the strategies involved in breaking down a concept, and rather quickly came to appreciate the relationships I formed with my students and colleagues. Teaching satisfied my professional ambitions, I thought that would be enough…but it wasn’t.

My Christian life has always been an important part of me, but without clearly realizing it at the time, I checked my faith at school doors each morning and picked it up again on my way out. This was not something I did intentionally, but that’s indeed the point: I wasn’t intentional at all. Apart from a few token gestures and general politeness, this huge part of me—my faith—was largely absent from my daily work. I become les satisfied, and after four or five years in, I started asking the Lord, “Is this all there is? Show me what it is I cannot see.”

And what He showed me changed me.

After his crucifixion and resurrection, just before he ascended to heaven, Jesus gave his followers their marching orders: if you really believe all you have seen, and if you really have a transformed life, then “go and make disciples” (Matt. 28:16-20). To me, these words were always either hypothetical or meant for another race of “Super-Christians,” like missionaries who would travel around the world or pastors who were paid to do this type of thing, not plain old “normal Christians” like me who work full-time secular jobs.

But the Lord opened my heart and mind to understand that every Christian shares in this missional calling to make disciples because we are all Christ’s followers. His final command wasn’t just for one group of men; it was for all men and women who would come to follow him. There were indeed disciple-making opportunities all around me, starting with my work—that place I spend 40+ hours a week.

More than a career, I realized that I have a calling – to go to school and share the light of Jesus Christ with every student, colleague, or administrator with whom I interact. Yes, I am a public school teacher, which of course does limit my words to a certain extent, but armed with an understanding of my higher calling, I am intentional now in an entirely new way. Like many teachers, I spend a great deal of time preparing my lesson plans and grading papers, but now my challenge each day is to spend time with the Lord to prepare my heart before I enter my workplace, i.e., the mission field. I’ve got to pray for my students and colleagues with a genuine heart for their salvation; I’ve got to seek wisdom for boldness to know when to speak and prudence for when to stay silent; I’ve got to ask for a caring heart to earn the right to be heard; I’ve got to pray for opportunities outside of the classroom to further deepen these relationships.

I am certainly not perfect in that daily preparation? Sometimes that sneaky alarm clock seems to snooze itself, but the Lord doesn’t usually let me get to far without reminding me of the need to be more intentional in preparation and prayer.

Dear believer, if you call yourself a follower of Christ, your calling is the same as mine, and it’s the most important thing we will ever do. How does your career empower you in that calling? Do you work construction? Are you working in an office or restaurant? Are you lawyer, doctor, merchant, or chef? The essential truth here has nothing to do with the career itself. The truth is that every Bible-believing Christian is a missionary wherever he or she goes, and I write today to encourage you to step into that calling, to ask the Lord to strengthen you in your resolve to be intentional in prayer and service to those you work with each day. So that today, or tomorrow, or the next day when a colleague or client may ask you about the hope you seem to have and that you would be prepared to give account of how the Lord has transformed your life.

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Mary Garrison is a NAMS Companion in Florida. She is also the NAMS Global Prayer/Intercessors Coordinator, as well as supporting her husband Ivan in giving supervision to the Horn of Africa region for NAMS.  

 

More than just a job (by Mary Garrison)

Mission Field at the Y (by Revd Dave Kulchar )

With an increasingly post-Christian culture in North America even some of our expressly Christian organization have lost their focus. One example is the “Young Men Christian Association” or “YMCA”. In recent years it has grown to be seen as just another athletic club. In Indianapolis, USA, however, the Lord has raised up some leaders who want to reestablish it’s Christian mission to strengthen people in body, mind and spirit.

Early last year I am looking for a place that our new church might meet on Sundays. A friend suggested I look at the local YMCA. Recently the 15 area facilities have been entering into partnership with churches who use there multipurpose rooms on Sunday mornings for a worship gathering space. As I inquired about this partnership I learned of a volunteer chaplain program they have instituted. Area pastors can volunteer a minimum of 4 hours a week to “care, love and serve” staff and members at area YMCA facilities.

After a background check and training program by their Regional Director of Spiritual Emphasis, I started volunteering at the Pike YMCA a 15 minute drive from our home. My initial stage of work has been as a “Spiritual Greeter”. I welcome people to the Y in the front lobby simply making my presence know as a chaplain who desires to listen to peoples stories, make new friends, and talk about spiritual things if they show interest. Sometime I even pray with people over concerns that are on their hearts.

We live in a very diverse neighborhood. We have many international people who come through our doors from various faith backgrounds: Muslim, Hindu and non-religious.   Though there are many strong Christians at the YMCA, including many of the staff, there is also many opportunities to meet and befriend many pre-Christians.   I have had staff ask me to pray with them about their job, family and illness. I have had others share with me how they met Jesus, while others share why the have left the faith. One member and I are going to read a book on small group development called “Making Cell Groups Work”.

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I wear my clerical collar, tennis shoes and a name tag that makes it easy for others to identify me as a chaplain in a place where they do not usually expect a pastor.   I am strategically trying to visit the YMCA at different times of the day and days of the week in order to meet new people.

Last spring we hosted a prayer gathering on the National Day of Prayer where we prayed in a circle in the middle of the YMCA lobby. We have recently formed a Christian Emphasis Committee to organize a “Grief Recovery Class” and second offering called “Getting Through the Holidays”.

If discipleship is about helping move people closer to Jesus, I would suggest finding a place to be consistently present and available like a local YMCA sets one up nicely to be a disciple maker in a post-Christian world.

 

Dave Kulchar is a NAMS Companion, Canon for Church Planting in Diocese of the Great Lakes and All Souls Anglican Missionary Priest.

 

Mission Field at the Y (by Revd Dave Kulchar )