Who Is A Christian? (by Revd. Jon Shuler)

This is such a simple question, but so difficult for many to answer.

Churchmen will immediately answer: Someone who is baptized. But the fathers of the reformation would disagree. They preached (quoting the Apostle) that that person is a Christian who “professes with his lips that Jesus Christ is Lord, and believes with his heart that God raised him from the dead.” That man is a born again man. That man can enter the kingdom of God. That man should be baptized, but that does not make him a Christian. The Holy Spirit makes him a Christian, or he is not one. This was the doctrine for which men and women died in the Sixteenth Century. This was the doctrine that turned the whole of Western Europe upside down, just as it had turned the First Century upside down.

The fathers of the Reformation, when they had the God-given opportunity, rewrote the documents of the church of their day. They brought the teaching of the apostles to the fore. Especially the teaching of the apostle Paul. They rewrote hymns, prayers, liturgies, covenants, wills, and bibles to make a few things absolutely clear. They unseated kings and rulers. They removed teachers of theology and schoolmasters. They were absolutely persuaded that the good news of Jesus Christ had been obscured and must be brought again into the light. And as they did this work, many in the organized church of their day attacked them. The Reformers found that their fiercest enemies were men who called themselves Christians.

Students of the New Testament will point out to me, perhaps, that the name “Christian” was not given by Jesus. He called his followers his “disciples.” It was observers who called them “those people who follow Chrestus,” Christians, and it stuck for a hundred generations.

But what does it mean today? What does the average person think it means when someone says they are a Christian? At least in the West?

There is one way to find out. Ask some people you know or meet. See what answers you get.

If they are church people you will get a set of answers that almost always will be about religious behavior. If they are unbelievers, they will soon tell you that Christians are of all people the least attractive they know.

If you doubt this talk to the people who serve in restaurants at mid-day on Sunday.

Originally published October 23rd, 2018, on www.jonshuler.com

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Who Is A Christian? (by Revd. Jon Shuler)

A Good Idea or a God Idea? (by Revd. Jon Shuler)

The power of an idea is strong in some of God’s servants. When an idea that appeals to their predispositions and personality comes into their mind, they are likely to want to embrace it for the kingdom of God. To take the idea captive, as the Apostle says. They will want to implement it immediately. But are all their ideas from the Lord?

Years ago, a former Archbishop of Canterbury told me a story. His dear wife said to him once: “You have a hundred good ideas every day, but only God knows if any of them came from him.” She clearly implied that her husband thought all of them were from God, and she did not. It was a humbling moment for a man entrusted with great national and global responsibility in submission to the Lord of the Church.

How do we know when an idea has come from the Lord? Several things will always be true, in my experience and conviction.

First, the idea will never conflict with the clear Word of God written, as that is supported by many evidences of Scripture. An idea from God will build on the truth revealed in his Son. Nothing the Holy Spirit wants done will lead in a way that is contrary to Jesus’ clear teaching.

Second, the idea will not conflict with the clear teaching of the apostles of Jesus, as that is revealed to us in the New Testament. The authority that the Risen Lord gave to them is now available for us in the writings of the New Testament. The Gospels and Epistles are, for a believer, the Word of God through his chosen servants. They convey Divine Authority.

Third, the idea will commend itself to the deepest wisdom that the Lord has given to his church. The tradition of men must never be allowed to overturn or to crush the clear Word of God written, that is true, but the holy people of God have been through many of the trials and temptations we are still prone to. Their guidance can usually be trusted to alert us to any grievous error or distortion of God’s revealed truth. We must not be ignorant of the church’s history.

Fourth, God has put all of his people in relationship with those who are over them in the Lord, that they may be rightly led in the ways of grace and truth. It is a rare when a thing is to be done without their support. It will happen in seasons of extraordinary reform, perhaps, but generally the concurrence of the local leadership of the church is to be expected if a thing is from the Lord. It is fundamental to the pastoral office that those so called help those committed to their charge rightly to discern the will of God.

Finally, I believe from a lifetime of walking with the Lord Jesus, that God has given husbands to wives, and wives to their husbands, so that they may walk together in unity of heart and spirit. If a thing is from God, the one closest to you in the Lord will know it too. Maybe not immediately, but certainly.

A Good Idea or a God Idea? (by Revd. Jon Shuler)

Immeasurable Love (by Revd Manik Corea)

When Maple and I got married, we picked as our wedding verse 1 John 4:19, ‘We love because he first loved us.’

This pithy but sublime verse captures the overwhelming sense we had that our love story was subsumed within a much larger one, from which we were gifted and extended succor and mettle for all our life together. ‘His love will be the glue in this marriage,’ I said in my wedding speech. Indeed, we owe Him all our lives.

Our God is a God who loves, since He is love (1 John 4:8). It forms the very ‘fabric’ of His character and work. It underlines and crowns His every purpose and plan. Scripture reveals then that we are the primary objects and receptors of His love in creation and redemption. And so we are enjoined: ‘Give thanks to the Lord; His steadfast love endures forever.’ (Psalm 107:1).

Love is also raison d’être He has commanded us to live by (see Matthew 22:37-40). It is the reason that we are sent into the world to represent Him and proclaim His kingdom come, in Christ. 

During the recent NAMS Global Leaders gathering, I shared with the leaders and Companions present a portion of Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:24-19 when he prays specifically that the Ephesians might comprehend with all saints the ‘breadth and length and height and depth’ of the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge.

As I reflected on these four definitive nouns that attempted to make concrete the overwhelming and frankly, eternally immeasurable (thus ‘surpassing’) nature of God’s love for us, I began to see that these same measures could also be overlaid over the final command that Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:18-20 – that compelling job-description for His faithful church. It helped me see that even here, God’s love was paramount.

Firstly, the breadth of God’s love is wide enough to include all peoples. Matthew 28:19 calls us to make disciples of ‘all peoples’. His Gospel work comprehensively includes all nations everywhere and so His mission call to us is to go both next door and to the ends of the earth with that good news. Did not Jesus say that because God loved the world, He sent His son to save it? The breadth of God’s love is for everyone.

Secondly, as Jesus makes clear in Matthew 18:20, the length of God’s love towards a sinful world is extended for all time and history – as long as it is possible for lost people to be reached and to come home to Him (see 2 Peter 3:8-9). This same love will endure in His people forever so that we will never get to the end of it.

Thirdly, the height of God’s love extends as high as the heavens where God sits enthroned, to the earth where we are. Simply put, Jesus is Lord (Matthew 28:18). No other name is greater, no other authority is higher, no other love will suffice. Therefore, we can make disciples in all the places He sends us.

Finally, the depth of God’s love is seen and demonstrated in the incarnation and passion of Jesus, when He came down to earth, and was driven deep into dark and hell with the weight of our sins on Him (see Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

But Matthew 28:19 further calls us as disciples of that same Risen Christ to make other disciples.

When Jesus tells the story of two builders in Luke 6:47-49 to contrast obedient and disobedient hearers of His words, he describes the wise and obedient one as one who ‘dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock.’

True genuine love that results in life-long discipleship will is a call to dig-down deep into Christ, our rock. ‘The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.’ (Richard Foster).

Discipleship is itself a call to go deep into our love for God and people so that we can go far and wide with and for Him.

Oh, the breadth, length, height and depth of God’s love that saves us and sends us out on mission with Him! May you and I not only know and revel in this love but purposefully make it known to others.

 

 

 

 

Immeasurable Love (by Revd Manik Corea)

‘My name shall be great among the nations’ – NAMS Global Leaders Meeting

Last week was special! 13 NAMS Regional Team Leaders, Global office holders and other Companions met in Little Rock, Arkansas for a wonderful three days of fellowship, worship, prayer and discussion from Tuesday 13 November – Thursday 15 November.

Each day, we began with a devotional teaching by NAMS Servant General Canon Jon Shuler, from the New Testament letter to the Philippians. He drew lessons from it and encouraged us to be faithful to walk in the apostolic pattern of mission and Christ-centred ministry, based around the 4-fold NAMS charge of ‘preaching Christ and Him crucified, planting churches wherever God opened doors, always obeying the Holy Spirit and never breaking God’s word.’

The first day was full of reports from our work in our 6 global regions where we have Companions. Here are a few highlights from what we heard:

  1. Pranab Kumar, our NAMS Regional Team Leader (RTL) for South Asia gave a report on the recent training for thirty would-be disciple-making ladies last month in Orissa, India. Companions Prince Thomas and his wife Gigi were present to share and train the ladies out of their experience of leading a discipling-movement in the North of India. There was also additional teaching from a friend of NAMS, Revd Takri. The women were enthused and equipped by biblical principles for reaching and making disciples of their non-believing friends and relatives, and together pledged, by God’s help, to make 2,000 disciples in the next year!
  2. RTL for the Horn of Africa Ivan Ruiz shared a report of the visit that he and his wife Mary made, with our Egyptian Companion T*, to Kenya in July. There, they were hosted by Timothy Mazimpaka, our NAMS contact and rising leader for East Africa. With Timothy, they were able to visit various linked ministries and leaders in Nairobi and Mumbasa. T*, who is involved with sport ministry in his native country, has now been invited later this month back to Kenya to train others to use sports ministry as a disciple-making tool. It was also announced that we are planning NAMS Vision meetings in Kampala, Uganda in April.
  3. In Nepal, RTL for the Himalayan/Tibetan Peoples, Tek Rijal, shared about the impact that the NAMS Global Apprenticeship Program (GAP) has had on our work in Nepal. three young Global Apprentice, all Nepali, have been initiating ministry through music, sports and small group disciple-making groups in and around Kathmandu. They are growing in faith, understanding and effectiveness. Just two weeks ago, two of them organised an event to reach and envision 300 Christian youth in the Western region of Nepal. Tek also expressed our prayerful desire to seek open doors for new work into Bhutan and the Tibetan regions.
  4. God is on the move in Latin America! NAMS RTL Andrés Casanueva spoke on the new doors that have opened up for us in Cuba – where a Cuban couple who came to faith through our NAMS Base in Chile, are now leading a small community of Christians in the capital. Also, one of the Cuban pastors and ministry leaders who attended our NAMS Latin American retreat last December and who is involved with using football (soccer) to reach thousands of young people, is preparing to go as missionaries with his family to the Dominican Republic. He is hoping NAMS will send him.

The second day of our meetings (on Wednesday) was given to planning and strategizing for our growing work.

We finished our Global Gathering on the Thursday with 2 open presentations of our work and testimonies to members from St Andrew’s Church (our gracious hosts) and others churches, where some of us shared about our growing work.

Together with His faithful Church everywhere, may Jesus be pleased to use us to bring divine transformation around the world, one disciple made at a time.

PS: We are always seeking and praying for partners and friends of NAMS who will pray, give or join us for global and Kingdom mission. Might you be one of them?

 

‘My name shall be great among the nations’ – NAMS Global Leaders Meeting

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.

Coming to Christ (by Revd. Clay Hamrick)

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)

A handful of rice (by NAMS Global Executive Manik Corea)

The Friends Missionary Prayer Band (FMPB) is an indigenous missionary society in India. Today, it has more than 1,500 missionaries working throughout India. But their beginnings were small and almost insignificant – starting from a small prayer group of university students in the late 1960s in the South of India.

At a Faith2Share Leadership Consultation* in Ethiopia in 2014, we heard the leader of FMPB tell of the early days in their missionary endeavor. Women from their supporting churches decided to pray and to give towards the work of the fledgling group of missionaries. But they did not have money to give.

Each day however, as they cooked their staple diet of rice for their families, they would set aside one cup of rice in a separate cloth – it was ‘for the missionaries.’ Once a week, all the ladies would pool together and collect the rice they had set aside in their cloth packs and then distribute it to the missionaries as part of their support.

This is a wonderful illustration of the principle of intentional, regular investment of our resources into kingdom work that is purposeful – what Paul referred to as a ‘partnership in the Gospel’ (Philippians 1:5). Paul and his team were being helped by the Christians in Philippi to there to take the Gospel to the surrounding nations. Who are you partnering with for the Gospel to go to the nations?

NAMS is growing. We currently have NAMS Companions in at least 13 countries on 5 continents, and doors are opening up at present in at least another 6 or so countries, with more on the horizon. We need desperately to fund our NAMS Base Communities (i.e. at least two or three NAMS Companions on mission in one location) and Global Apprentices in our GAP program (www.namsgap.com), some in places where resources are scarce.

Our primary work is in these NAMS Base Communities (NBC) is to make disciples who make disciples, raise leaders who make disciples and plant disciple-making churches. The contexts we work in are varied and different.

For example, in December later this year, two of our Latin American leaders will lead a team to the impoverished nation of Cuba where a small community of believers led by a couple trained at our NBC in Chile, have begun meeting in the capital and a group of pastors from another city have asked us to work to have a NAMS base there.

Last week, two of our NAMS Companion leaders in India and their wives have just led training for about 40 women from the State of Orissa in how to be disciple-making leaders. The women have set themselves the goal of making one other disciple of Jesus each in the next year.

We are working in partnership with the Anglican Church in Mandalay, Myanmar, to establish a NAMS base that will help them plant churches among their many unreached people-groups. A Covenant of Partnership is being drawn up.

We are working with the Presbyterian (uniting) Church of Christ in Thailand to reach university students at their main Student Center in Bangkok.

We are also working with Christians and churches to make disciples and plant churches in Nepal, India, Kenya, Egypt, DRC, USA and the UK, among other nations.

We are looking for people ready to give us a ‘handful of rice’ set aside for global mission and to support us in the work God has called us to.

Will you pray for us? Will you give towards our projects – which we would love to give you more details about ? Or give a one-off gift? Will you partner with us for the Gospel? If so, click below to ‘Donate’

Write to us at info@namsnetwork.com to ask to join our global intercessors group or to learn more about our work.

* Faith2Share is a network of global mission agencies and mission movements collaborating together for discipleship and mission, that NAMS is a member of. http://www.faith2share.net

 

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A handful of rice (by NAMS Global Executive Manik Corea)