Developing Holy Habits – Invest (Part 5)

This is part 5 of a series on basic habits every disciple must be taught to live and practice, based on the Acronym PROMISE. Last week, we looked at the ‘M’ which stands for Meet with one another. Today, we will consider the ‘I’ which stands for Invest or giving to the work of the Kingdom.

“Yours, Lord, is the greatness, the power,
the glory, the splendor, and the majesty;
for everything in heaven and on earth is yours.
All things come from you,
and of your own do we give you.”

This wonderful prayer was said in the Anglican church of my childhood Sunday after Sunday, when the offering was brought to the Lord’s Table. It echoes words by King David in 1 Chronicles 29:14 and was a constant reminder that we give back to God what is rightfully His in the first place!

Martin Luther said, ‘every Christian needs a conversion of the head, of the heart and of the wallet!’ The new disciple in Jesus must soon adopt a new attitude in Christ towards the things we have, own or want. From this, the practice of the giving of our money, resource and time to God must be taught not merely as a matter of duty or due.

Giving is always seen in Scripture as a joyful act of worship where we get to participate in the life and service of God and his mission in the world. Indeed, we are called not just to give from our leftovers, but of our first-fruits, to God.

In the Old Testament, the people of Israel were taught by Moses to give a tenth of everything they owned back to God, because it belonged to Him (see Leviticus 27:30). That tithe was to be in support of the ministry to the Levites who served in the temple (Numbers 18:21) and for the poor, the sojourner, orphans and widows among them (Deuteronomy 14:28-29).

When we come to the New Testament, neither Jesus nor the Apostles gave any command with regards to the tithe.

However, some Christians, including the leaders of NAMS, believe that the 10% tithe of our income (and offerings on top of that) should be the minimum amount we give to the Lord. This we seek to both model and teach to others. It is not a law we are duty-bound to follow but a call to establish healthy habits and standards of giving.

In fact, when we become disciples of Jesus, we gain a new perspective towards money. Jesus certainly challenged us to a new Kingdom-minded attitude towards our possessions and wealth. About 60% of his parables dealt with questions of possessions and money and our attitude towards it.

He often warned and challenged individuals to be wary of the hold of material possessions and money. In Luke 16:13, he said: “you cannot serve both God and money.” In Luke 12:15 (NLT), he warned: “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

He watched a rich, young ruler walk away from discipleship because of his slavery to his wealth (Matthew 19:16-30, though note that Jesus was not saying it was ‘impossible’ for the rich to enter God’s kingdom, but that it was hard. Many are blessed with riches who, seeking God’s kingdom first, have used their wealth for godly ends).

Perhaps the most important Apostolic teaching on giving towards the work of the kingdom and our local churches can be found in 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9. In his earlier letter in 1 Corinthians 16:2, Paul instructs Christians to set aside money on the first day of the week, according to how much they had or prospered, and to collect it together ready for Paul to take to needy believers in Jerusalem and elsewhere.

Note that in this context of raising funds to support of other Christians, he taught that their giving should be

1) regular – on the first day of every week (or in today’s context when you get your salary),

2) church-wide – each of them and so all of them were called to it,

3) planned – the money needed to be set aside, and

4) proportionate – according to what you earn.

At the end of the day, it is our attitude in giving that matters to God – how we give than how much we give (Luke 21:1-4).

But we are called, and so we must teach all, to give regularly as a holy habit, out of joy and in faith. ‘Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.’ (2 Corinthians 9:7).

 

Developing Holy Habits – Invest (Part 5)

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

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)

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.

2 Things Jesus Wants You to do – Part 2: Make Disciples (By Manik Corea)

Last week, we considered Jesus’ call for his followers to seek His kingdom first. Today, we will look at the second thing Jesus called us to accomplish in His name: making other disciples.

Final orders

Jesus’ last or final command in Matthew 28:18-20, what is commonly known as the Great Commission, sends us in Jesus’ name to all peoples on the holy task of making disciples who were to be baptized into the life and power of the Triune God and taught to obey everything Jesus told us.

Obedience is the fruit of our love for him. In His kingdom, mere talk is cheap! (John 14:23, 1 Corinthians 4:20)

There was a young American engineer who was sent to Ireland for a year. When he left, his fiancée gave him a harmonica. She said, “I want you to learn to play this: it will help to keep your mind off those Irish girls.” He wrote to her often, and told he her that he was practicing his harmonica every night.

After a year, he returned to America and was met at the airport by his fiancée. When he went excitedly to greet her with a hug and a kiss, she pushed him back. “Wait! Before anything else, I want to hear you play the harmonica.”

She wanted to see his proclamations in practice. Similarly, on that last day, would we be able to play the harmonica of our professed obedience to Christ?

The tragedy in our churches today is that while many so-called believers may have knowledge of God’s will and even experience His goodness and love, they are often deficient and complacent when it comes to obeying the clear commands of Jesus. Thus, they prove not to be true citizens and subjects of the Kingdom of God. The chasm between mere profession in words and real obedience in action will ultimately prove indomitable and damnable (Matthew 7:21-23, Luke 6:46).

What characterizes true disciples? Our Lord explicitly uses the indicative phrase ‘my disciples’ in the Gospels to identify those who obey and do his will. In Luke 14:25-33, Jesus states three times that ‘my disciples’ will have him as the first and foremost priority of their lives. Only three other places elsewhere (all in the Gospel of John) is Jesus quoted using the same phrase. Ultimately, disciples that Jesus calls His own are those who abide continually in his word (John 8:31), love one another as He commands (John 14:34-35), and are fruitful in reproducing other disciples (John 15:8).

Committed, Word-abiding, loving and fruitful Christians are called to reproduce themselves in others.

As disciples of Jesus, it behooves us to major on the things that Jesus majored on. Consequently, the seeking of God’s kingdom coming on earth and the making of disciples of all people must be the milieu and context of our mission on earth. Pleasing Jesus by doing these two things must therefore define the shape and scope of our work, till He returns.

2 Things Jesus Wants You to do – Part 2: Make Disciples (By Manik Corea)

2 Things Jesus Wants You to do – Part 1 (By Manik Corea)

Jesus majored on two themes and priorities in His earthly ministry: the coming of the Kingdom of God, and the need for a life-long transformative response called discipleship. We could summarize them as ‘Seek the Kingdom’ and ‘Make Disciples’.

To Jesus, these two aspects of the Gospel message were non-negotiable. We see this clearly at the start of Jesus’ earthly ministry (Matthew 4:17-19; Mark 1:14-17). Jesus proclaims the good news by coupling an announcement of the coming of the Kingdom of God (with its corollary response of repentance and faith) with a further call to follow Him. Being a disciple (‘follow me’) is a prerequisite to making other disciples (‘I will make you fishers of men’).

At the end of his earthly ministry in Matthew 28:18-20, we see again the same pronouncement of His rule in heaven and earth as the risen king of the Kingdom preceding a command to make disciples of the whole earth under that authority.

‘Seek the Kingdom’

Jesus told us to make His kingdom and His righteousness the consummate aim of our lives (Matthew 6:33). The context of this statement is His ‘Sermon on the Mount’. He has been challenging and contrasting the all-consuming pagan concerns for the temporal here-and-now, that which will pass away, with a call to seek an altogether greater, more enduring reality called God’s Kingdom. Provision for our needs follows—rather than precede or predominate—this great endeavor.

‘Seek’ in Matthew 6:33 is the word zēteō in the Greek which carried the idea of both a desiring for and striving after God in worship. It engages heart and mind and issues into action. You cannot seek the Kingdom of God by sitting down and merely thinking good thoughts. You must move towards God by obedience and determined action.

As we seek, we also start to see anew with great clarity and focus. I never used glasses until I turned forty, when small print on pages became all a blur. It was only when I went to an optometrist that I was able to see clearly. Seeking God’s kingdom is like putting on God’s spectacles to see clearly as never before.

The great American puritan Jonathan Edwards is said to have prayed: ‘Lord, stamp eternity on my eyeballs.’ In the light of God’s purpose and eternal plan, we see things and people very differently from when we were unregenerate sinners (2 Corinthians 5:16, Colossians 3:1-2).

A faithful disciple of Jesus will recognize that he is now under the rule and authority of God’s kingly rule in Christ. He is a soldier of Christ called to obey and please His commanding officer (2 Timothy 2:4). It is this higher authority and reality that now shapes his life. Seeking God’s kingdom will make us obedient disciples.

Therefore Jesus taught us to pray: ‘Your will be done, Your kingdom come.’ The question for the disciple of Jesus is then not ‘what would Jesus do?’ but ‘what would Jesus have me do?’ Learn to ask that question, and often, as you seek His kingdom first.

 

Next Week: ‘Make Disciples’

2 Things Jesus Wants You to do – Part 1 (By Manik Corea)

5 Obstacles to Becoming A Disciple Maker

We have now gone through the initial seven steps we believe to be necessary to becoming a disciple-making disciple, and still some of you who read this are stuck. Do not worry, the same thing was true of the first followers of Jesus! Most of them were very slow to learn, too. Here are five of the most common obstacles to beginning.

Fear of rejection. I am told that the Holy scriptures have this phrase, or a version of it 365 times: “Be not afraid.” Once for every day of the year. It must be a common problem! Ask the Holy Spirit to come to you and embolden you. You will not find a discipling teacher until you ask. No true Christian woman or man will be upset if you ask them to help you learn to be a disciple-making disciple. They may point you to someone else, but they will not have a negative response to your quest.

I don’t know who to ask. There is a clear picture hiding in plain view in the pages of the Scriptures that will break you out of this concern. Who do you already know, like, or admire? Who is already a part of your life that you would like to be with on the disciple- making journey? These are people with whom you have some affinity already. They should be the first you approach. Andrew went to his brother. Philip went to Nathaniel. Paul and Priscilla and Aquila had a bond of affinity because they shared an occupation. Do not ask a stranger. Ask someone whom you believe you have some affinity with already. Almost always God has someone already in your life, in your field of acquaintance, who will be right for you.

What do we talk about when we first meet? As we pointed out earlier, there are a small number of scriptures that must guide the disciple-making journey, if it is to be in obedience to Jesus’ teaching. These are: Luke 14:26,27,33; John 8:31-32; 13:34-35; 15:7-8. Let discussion of these scriptures be at the center of your time together until you are sure it is time to move on without ever forgetting them. Any serious disciple-making disciple must memorize them. Also Matthew 4:19; 6:33; and 28:19. These twelve verses must be read, marked, learned, and inwardly digested. They will be a reference to your entire journey.

What structure do we follow? We have learned through many years that the key to discipling another person is time with them, and honesty before the Lord. There is not a rigid structure. We pray to begin and end our time together. We speak of the things the Lord is teaching us from our daily time with him in scripture. We bring our struggles and difficulties into the light. We laugh. We encourage. We build one another up.

Learning this is difficult. No one sets out on this path and immediately finds it easy. It requires tenacity and a willingness to start again when we fall. We have been told repeatedly by the Lord that this way is narrow and hard, but he promises us that it leads to life. Ask him to help you. Constantly flee to him for help. He will come to your side.

5 Obstacles to Becoming A Disciple Maker