How to Pray for NAMS — part 2, by Mary Garrison-Ruiz.

Last week I introduced you to my friend Audrey and her great reminder of the value of time spent with the Lord in intercessory prayer. But, deeper to the heart of the matter, why must we pray?

As faithful Christians, we seek to follow God’s will, and we know He is sovereign. Yet, in this so often we can be tempted to think: God’s plan will be done whether I pray for it or not. “I don’t really need to pray.” Or, perhaps we know “the churchy answer,” which is that, of course, we are supposed to pray, and so we will close our eyes and think good thoughts toward a person or some issue for a few minutes (or should I say seconds), and them we move on, patting ourselves on the back for sacrificing our time and energy to remember others.

Please don’t let my tone fool you; I write in incrimination of myself first and foremost. This is how I have thought and prayed for much of my life. The reality is that my prayer life modeled my spiritual life: immature on both accounts. But God can and will open our hearts and minds to grow and mature in these areas.

Does prayer “do anything”? I will write here unequivocally yes, but… Though there are countless testimonies of prayerful believers who can share their experiences of God’s answers to prayer, our faith to believe such accounts without our own personal experience is too often skeptical. Rather, let’s look back at the foundation of our beliefs in Scripture and build from there.

Prayer is communion with God, a time we share our hearts with him. (Remember Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his arrest.) But our sinful hearts are tricky and so often confusing; our desires and emotions change from one moment to the next. Yet the Holy Spirit is our constant companion, and in times of prayer, we quiet ourselves to listen to His divine direction. Indeed, Romans 8:26-27 states, “the Spirit also helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now [God] who searches the heart knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because [the Spirit] makes intercession for [believers] according to the will of God.”

Intercession is pleading in favor of others, and in the first place, the Holy Spirit intercedes for believers to God the Father. It’s while we are under the Holy Spirit’s divine direction that the desires of our hearts slowly but surely become transformed to God’s own desires. So, indeed, the first point of transformation with prayer is that of the pray-er, but, the transformation does not stop there.

Over time, we begin to see God’s will for others in the Spirit-led promptings of our own hearts. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:9 that we are “co-laborers” with God. All glory and power and sovereignty is His, but He gives us work to do—in prayer and response—to bring about His will. Is this because God could not do it himself? Of course not! But because He loves us, He invites us to be part of the process, because it is in the process of co-working with God that we see so clearly what He is capable of and learn to depend on him even more.

As the Holy Spirit intercedes for us, we can also intercede for others, trusting in the promise of John 15:7-8, which says, “If you remain in me and my works remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be disciples.” At NAMS we talk often about the marks of a disciple. Our conclusion is simply that a disciple is one who is dedicated to making other disciples. Praying and interceding on behalf of others is the work of a disciple-making disciple.

Prayer changes us and it can even change circumstances, according to God’s will. Next week I will talk more about how to intercede for others and how God is calling NAMS to grow through the establishment of an intercessory prayer teams. Might you grow with us in this process?

— Mary Garrison-Ruiz
NAMS Global Prayer/Intercession Coordinator.

How to Pray for NAMS — part 2, by Mary Garrison-Ruiz.

How to Pray for NAMS — part 1, by Mary Garrison-Ruiz.

I want to share with you about a very special friend of mine named Audrey. I met “Aud” when I was living in Temuco, Chile, from 2014-2016 while serving in a NAMS Base Community. A native of Manchester, England, Aud came to Chol-Chol, Chile, as a 29-year-old missionary and 50+ years later, she was still there. In Audrey, I saw a joy for spending time with the Lord and meditating on Scripture like I had never seen before. The Holy Spirit drew me to want to spend more and more time with her, to listen to her speak and pray with deep passion, and to learn from her as much as I could.

When Audrey arrived in Chol-chol in the early 1960s, the town was like a scene from an old Hollywood Western film—horseback riding, cantinas, gunfights, and all. Listening to Audrey’s stories of running a school and boarding house for indigenous children without any funding, or fording a river on horseback during a raging storm to arrive at a prayer meeting, or navigating any number of social mores of the Chilean countryside were always greatly entertaining.

When I arrived in Chile, I was trying to figure out this whole “missionary thing” in an unfamiliar culture, and had all this time on my hands that I didn’t know what to do with. One day Aud—whose deteriorating health had by now made it nearly impossible for her to travel from her countryside home into the city, and who now spent most of her time alone—phoned to give me a bit of encouragement. “Mary,” she said, “any time you spend simply with the Lord in prayer is not time wasted.”

It’s so simple but so profound, so let me say it again: Any time spent simply with the Lord in prayer is not time wasted. These words were coming to me from a woman with such exciting life-stories to tell about how she surely had made such valuable use of her time and ministry, and in fact it was the authority of that experience which spoke to me. It still speaks to me now. From the sitting room where she is spending her twilight years, Audrey is deepening her understanding of the value of time and ministry to the Lord, through intercessory prayer.

We can fill our time with a million things to do, but if we are not engaged in what that the Lord has called us to do, and spending time with Him in that calling, we are wasting our time. What has the Lord called every one of us to do as Christians? For a start, we have all been called to pray. Over the course of the past three years, I made it a point to spent as much time with Audrey as possible, learning from her how to spend time with the Lord—not “doing for” God but simply being with Him in prayer. Over time, I learned how to talk with God and enter into communion with him. It’s only from that place of spiritual communion and humility that we can attempt to serve Him in any meaningful way.

At NAMS, our mission is to spread the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in any part of the globe where God opens a door, and to plant communities of disciple-making disciples. To carry out this mission, we have a ministry model with action steps, executed by a Global Ministry Team consisting of Regional Team Leaders, led by our Servant General, and under him, a Global Executive and his various officers.

We have Base Communities, a Global Apprenticeship Program, supporting churches, friends of NAMS and the NAMS Centurion Project as well as global and regional training events and vision retreats. The list could go on, and for each of these aspects of the ministry of NAMS, I give thanks to God. But Audrey’s simple truth rings true within our operations as well: it’s time spent with the Lord in prayer that will make all the “goings on” of NAMS eternally valuable.

We as a NAMS community are establishing an intercessory prayer team so that we can grow in this area. Over the next few weeks, I will share more about this prayer team. My hope is that those reading this blog will be encouraged in their own prayer lives, and that some will decide to join us in making a commitment to pray regularly for the eternal value of NAMS’ ministry. I know Audrey will be praying for us from Chol-chol, Chile, and I pray you will too.

— Mary Garrison-Ruiz
NAMS Global Prayer/Intercession Coordinator.

 

How to Pray for NAMS — part 1, by Mary Garrison-Ruiz.

Developing Holy Habits – Exalt, Encourage and Endure (Part 7)

We’ve come to the last in our series, using the Acronym PROMISE to describe healthy holy habits that must be taught and nurture among ourselves and those we disciple. The last letter ‘E’ stands for two important practices that should characterize the life of every growing disciple. These are ‘Exalt God’ and ‘Encourage each other’.

  1. Exalt God

We were made to worship God. It is perhaps no accident that the longest book in the Bible is the Hebrew hymnbook known as the book of Psalms. Heaven echoes eternally with the praises of worshiping creatures, angels, and people. We who are saved are called to praise the One who saved us. We find ultimate meaning for our being in the worship of our Creator, Redeemer, and King.

Worship not only fulfills who we are truly, but amazingly, God desires it of us, though he is the all-sufficient One. In John 4:23, Jesus told us that ‘the Father is seeking those who will worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.’ God is seeking a people who would delight totally in Him.

Jesus uses the imperative in John 4:24 – ‘Those who worship God must worship Him in Spirit and in truth.’ Worship in spirit and truth springs from our spirits and must be done with complete integrity, touching our head and heart where we reach out in praise and adoration to our God. ‘To “worship in spirit,” is to worship spiritually; to “worship in truth,” is to worship truly’ (A.W. Pink).[1]

Worship in Scripture is always more than just songs we sing or acts of praise done before God and for God. It has in view the complete devotion, love, and obedience of head, heart, hand, and being.

William Temple, one-time Archbishop of Canterbury gives a succinct but superlative definition of true worship: “To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, and to devote the will to the purpose of God.”[2]

So we should sing and dance (if so moved) at church on Sundays, and let us do so heartily and with reverence before God. But let us also teach those we disciple to worship God by a genuine attitude of heart the issues into God-exalting words and actions on say, Monday mornings and Friday nights.

  1. Encourage each other.

As we make disciples, we are calling and training them not simply to obey Christ in every way, but to seek to follow Him by belonging and participating in Christ’s community, the Church. If we are to exalt God by our worship, we are similarly to treat each other with respect and to encourage one another out of love.

The epistolary writings of the Apostles take pains to call us to work for the common good of each other. In Ephesians 4:29, Paul instructs believers to ‘let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.’

This is echoed in numerous other letters – see Romans 12:10, 15:2; Galatians 6:2;       Ephesians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:18, 5:11; Hebrews 3:13, 10:25; etc.

This has to be worked at as a regular habit, because loving saints today can quickly be bitter, resentful, and quarreling sinners come the morrow. If we don’t grow in the grace of our Lord, we can easily slip back into our old default mode of sin and selfishness, refusing to consider others better than us or before us (as Philippians 2:3-4 exhorts).

Therefore, Jesus taught us and spoke about it often – if we do not forgive each other, our heavenly Father would not likewise forgive us (Matthew 6:14,15 and 18:21-35). In like manner, if we claim to love God but hate our brother, we prove to be liars (1 John 4:20).

Exalting God and encouraging each other – two more habits of genuine discipleship. The practice of true worship of God and the practice of genuine love for each other are ultimate consequences of a life surrendered at many and frequent points to the lordship and rule of Christ.

In becoming like Jesus in every way through the transforming work of His Spirit and through abiding in His word, we will prove to be the kind of worshippers God desires, and the kind of people others love to be with.

 

[1] A.W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John – Vol. 1, e-book accessed at www.grace-ebooks.com, page 209

[2] William Temple, Readings in St John’s Gospel, First Series (London: Macmillan and Company, 1940), pg 68.

Developing Holy Habits – Exalt, Encourage and Endure (Part 7)

Developing Holy Habits – Share (Part 6)

Last week, we considered the ‘I’ for invest: the giving of our money and resources towards the community of faith we are a part of and for the spread of God’s kingdom. Investing is an essential act of worship that must soon be taught in the life of a new disciple of Jesus. Today we consider the S in our PROMISE acronym: Share, which must also be taught early in the discipleship process. I am referring specifically to the priority of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others.

Witnessing is a forgotten command today, one many Christians do not give much thought to. We expect those gifted as evangelists and ‘professional’ Christians workers like pastors and missionaries to be doing the work of making Christ known, while the rest of us are fed, cared for, and busy with other ministries of the church. This is a defective, not to mention unbiblical, view of the witness of the whole Church. We cannot so easily ignore (or delegate to only a few) the evangelistic purpose and responsibility of the whole people of God (1 Peter 2:9; Mark 16:15; 1 Peter 3:15; 2 Corinthians 5:20).

Just prior to his ascension, Jesus instructed the disciples he had trained and commissioned to wait in Jerusalem, till they were cloth in power from on high. After the Holy Spirit empowered them, he told them that they ‘will be His witnesses’ from Jerusalem, where they were, to the uttermost parts of the world (Acts 1:8). ‘You will be witnesses’ is an imperative statement, not a ‘could be’ or even ‘should be’ but a ‘shall be’, and this was one of the explicit outcomes of the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus expected them to be witnesses. He expects us who are the spiritual descendants of the first apostles to do likewise.

We each have our own Jerusalems (those closest to us relationally), our Judeas (those culturally alike to us), our Samarias (those who are geographically near but culturally more distant) and our ends of the earth (those who are geographically and culturally distant to us). No place is to be out of reach of Gospel witness.

What does it mean to ‘witness’? A witness is someone who testifies to what he has seen and heard, who is able to recount to friends and strangers or a court of law, his first-hand experience of an incident he observed or participated in.

When a person is born anew by repentance from sin and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, they immediately have a story to tell, of what they now know, however elementary: that God by his great love and mercy has rescued them from their sin and its eternal consequence of hell and separation.

We need to help new believers to know 1) they are called to be witnesses of their Risen Lord and 2) how to tell their stories.

In our work in Bangkok, Thailand, we have tried to teach those we disciple to write down and memorize their story or testimony of how they came to faith, and to be able to tell it in 3 minutes. Their story would consist of three parts: 1) what life was like before they came to faith in Jesus, 2) how they came to faith in Him, and 3) the difference that has resulted.

Additionally, as part of disciple-making in our groups, we have them make a list of 5 people they know who have not yet become followers of Jesus – whether family, neighbors, colleagues, or friends. They then commit to praying as a group and individually for each of the people in their list, asking God for opportunities to witness to them, inviting them to their discipleship group or bringing them to the leaders if they have questions or are interested or responsive to their stories. Every so often, the list is to be updated.

We make it a practice in our disciple-making relationships to regularly ask each other for updates about those on our lists, and to share encouraging testimony of people we’ve been able to witness to for Christ. In this way, we help disciples witness as a first step to becoming disciple-makers.

If hell is real and lost people without Christ are headed there, we cannot keep silent. If Jesus is Risen Lord, we must tell it home and abroad. If the Gospel is true, then we must bear witness to it.

On the morning of his execution, the English murder convict Charles Peace was read to about the fires of hell from the book The Consolations of Religion by the prison chaplain. Peace reportedly silenced the chaplain with these words: ‘Sir, if I believed what you and the church of God say you believe, I would walk across England if it were covered with broken glass from coast to coast, even on my hands and knees, just to save one soul from the hell you so glibly speak about!’

Indeed, if today we found the cure to cancer, would we keep it merely to ourselves?

George Whitefield, the great Anglican clergyman and evangelist once said, ‘God forbid that I should travel with anybody a quarter of an hour without speaking of Christ to them.’ May God give us the same evangelistic zeal to witness by our words and lives.

 

Developing Holy Habits – Share (Part 6)

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)

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…’