In this final Advent blog, we look at the quality of peace – what it is and how it marks us out as Jesus’ disciples in the world. Peace, as this season of Advent reminds us, is a gift of God like love, faith and hope. May you and I revel in the peace that God brings through Christ this Christmas.
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” (Luke 2:14).
An old chorus I sang growing up, based on an African-American spiritual, spoke of having ‘peace like a river.’  Recently, my wife and I were wondering where that phrase came from, since we didn’t generally think of rivers as peaceful bodies of water. We thought rather of waters in constant motion.
At points indeed, rivers could be terrifying – raging and foaming rapids that cascade over treacherous, bone-wrenching rocks, often culminating in tumbling waterfalls.
Shortly afterwards, in an evening devotion, we were reading together in Isaiah 48, in which God accused Israel of being obstinate in their rebellion against him. He called them back, as He often did, to repentance. Isaiah records God’s plea in these terms:
“Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the Lord your God, who teaches you for your profit, who leads you in the way you should go. Oh, that you had listened to my commandments; then your peace would be like a river and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.” 
Now we got the point. Peace is like a river in that it brings life. Rivers in Israel were a real source of security, sustenance and abundance. The great Jordan River and her tributaries, as they cut across the thirsty, arid landscape, gave rise to fertile banks. The rivers of peace and her righteous waves were meant to carry us along God’s holy ways – a means of great blessing and rule that come from following in the way of God.
Our sinful world however, like stubborn Israel, wants peace on its own terms.
According to popular culture, peace is often (and only) thought of as the absence of conflict, war, trouble or stress. They picture a world devoid of struggle – that lets then be as they want.
The Scriptures, by contrast, root ‘peace’ not in the absence of danger about us, but in the presence of God with us, no matter the outward circumstance.
True peace is God’s gift. It can only be found as we submit to the will and ways of God. The poet Dante captured it well: ‘In his will is our peace.’ 
C.S. Lewis agrees: “God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” 
Peace then, that the angels sang about to the lowly shepherds at Christmas, is peace that is given through the favor and blessing of God. We cannot manufacture it, nor earn it ourselves. It is instead a dynamic by-product of the Gospel transformation that comes by grace through faith in the salvation of Christ alone, for God’s glory.
Didn’t Jesus promise such a genuine peace – unlike the world’s type – in John 14:27? So we need not be afraid at all, even though a little later in John 16:33, he tells us that we will have trouble in the world. There again, he reiterates that in him, we have peace.
May the peace of God that is yours in Christ therefore, rule your heart this Christmas.
As disciples of Jesus called to ‘know nothing except Christ and Him crucified’ and to make disciples after Him, may that peace also be a source of blessing to many around you, this time and always. From Him, springs life everlasting and peace unending.
Oh cross that liftest up my head
I dare not ask to fly from thee
I lay in dust’s life’s glory dead
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be. 
Can $10 make a difference? We believe it can. We are looking for partners that will help us to spread the gospel of Jesus to all the peoples of the world. We are currently working in 9 of the 16 Global Regions of the world. We need partners like you in this mission. Are you able to join us by investing $10 a month to allow NAMS to continue the work we are doing in over 40 countries. If you can please go to the address below.
 In the same vein, the opening line of Horatio Spafford’s well-loved hymn ‘It is Well with My Soul’ carries the same image: “When peace, like a river, attendeth my way…”
 Isaiah 48:17-18, ESV. The passage ends with a solemn warning in verse 22: “There is no peace, says the LORD, “for the wicked.”
 Dante Alighieri, translated from Paradiso, Canto III, line 85.
 C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), page 50.
 Final verse of Hymn “O Love, That Wilt Not Let Me Go” by George Matheson. https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/432
3 people traveled to Cuba recently from our NAMS Latin America base in Chile, including our NAMS Latin America Team Leader Andrés and companion Juan Tamayo.
They arrived in Havana accompanied by 4 bags full of donations from the NAMS community in Chile, which included medicines, food, clothing and items for the Retreat.
They spent one night at the home of R and M, who are our NAMS local leaders at Havana. The next day, we took an expensive 3-hour taxi to Cienfuegos.
On their arrival, they were greeted by Pastor R and his wife I, who are leaders of our NAMS partnership in Cienfuegos. From there, they ‘traveled’ to the retreat place on a special taxi (- see picture below).
It was a joy for them to meet with each of the families of church planters that our NAMS Base Community in Chile is supporting. They also met with many other people – the elderly, women, children, youth and adults who were involved in various ministries. A total of 60 people were part of the NAMS retreat. All are involved in discipleship and church planting, whether through sports ministries, children’s ministries, family ministries or direct church-planting, etc.
Our NAMS leaders were able to give training over 3 days on topics like Biblical Discipleship, the Great Commission and the Planting of Churches based on Acts 2:42. The training was for both those we have been supporting financially as well as others that we aren’t able to currently.
The last day was a special time because leaders of two communities of faith that we support presented to the Lord 7 new believers whom were baptized by the NAMS team along with pastor R, in the waters of the Caribbean Sea. They were like first-fruits of our partnership and work. The joy and emotion on the part of all the believers was manifest, and they gave glory to God with prayers, praises and songs with tears. After that, they said goodbye to each participant of the retreat.
They also managed to visit some of the church communities that had been planted, praying for the leaders and sharing with each of them their dreams and longings to serve the Lord on the Island. They opened their hearts to our NAMS team about their willingness to continue serving in the midst of difficulties. They also discovered that the 7 church planters received support from us were in fact sharing that support with others who were not yet officially receiving support from us. We believe that if our support is increased, there will be a wider and greater impact – we pray this will happen in time. Overall, our NAMS team witnessed the wonders that the Lord is doing on the island using these humble brothers in the faith.
We thank God with great joy for the opportunity to visit and partner with these precious brothers and sisters in Cuba for the Gospel.
* Names not given for security reasons
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
“If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3)
Recent events in the United States have served, once again, to show that the historic constitutional foundations of this country are no longer guiding a large part of our society. This seems especially true of many of those in positions of power and responsibility. For those of us who believe that those historic American foundations were absolutely based on the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, this is a very difficult and sad day. The moral law, that under-girded all the presuppositions of the founding generations, has been swept away. The Word of God given to Israel, and then incarnated in the Lord Jesus, has ceased to be a “plumb line” for American life.
This is of course not a new development. It has been steadily happening for many decades. But the pace of this descent into darkness has quickened measurably in these last few years. No one who is concerned for the will of God to be done in our land can be pleased with the unraveling of our basic societal unity, nor with the increasing triumph of wickedness. But what are the Lord’s people to do?
This question has been central in my prayers for my country for many years. I have come to one clear understanding about this situation, and how it came to prevail. The main fault is the church that claims to belong to God.
We have collectively turned away from the Lord and his clear teaching, and we have run after false gods. We have been compromised by our careless attention to the the Word of God, by our general acceptance of unrighteous influences in the newspapers and magazines that we read, the radio and TV we attend to, and the movies we watch. Our consciences have been dulled (if not seared) by a wave of behaviors and speech that are inconsistent with a nation of righteous people. And the church has not called us to the truth. To bear the cost of faithful witness. To accept the backlash and still stand. How did this happen?
The number of professed Christians in the USA is somewhere near 70% of the population, and yet small minorities opposed to God and his Word have taken over almost all of the positions of influence and power in this country. In a majority of the Universities, much of the Media, many of the Legislatures, and large numbers of the schools, and even among many historic churches, unbelievers reign.
I would like to blame others, but I have to accept the blame myself. I have been lulled to sleep by a steady stream of small compromises. I have not stood up. I have not protested. I have been so focused on the things inside the particular places where I was called to serve that I have not noticed the erosion of the moral basis of my nation. I have been a negligent citizen. I have not made the “love of righteous deeds” (Psalm 11:7) my touchstone. And meanwhile my nation has come under the judgment of God.
What can I do? I must repent. What must you do?
William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, once turned up unexpectedly to one of their early meetings. He was respectfully asked if he would share a word at the meeting. So at the appropriate time, William Booth stood up on the pulpit, looked at the congregation and said, ‘others’. And then he sat down.
One word…but what a word!
The church is called to be the most other-centered organization on earth. It exists solely for the glory and praise of her God (1 Peter 2:9-10) and for the mission of reaching people of every land and people with the only Gospel that saves (Matthew 28:18; Acts 1:8; Acts 4:12). In all this, we are called to place the interests of others before ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4).
Jesus expected us to be marked apart to the world not only by our obedience and loyalty to Him but by how we treat each other (John 13:34,35).
And this kind of other-centeredness will be reflected most in the kind of leadership Jesus modeled and ultimately calls from those who lead His church (John 13:12-17; Matthew 20:24-28). Jesus gave explicit instructions to his disciples that those who lead must be servants of all (Mark 9:35 – Incidentally, this is why the principal leader of NAMS is called the ‘Servant-General’.)
This is in such contrast to the world, which casts leadership in terms of power, influence, status and control. Biblical leadership is not about getting on top and staying there, but sacrificing for and building others up so that they grow and mature in Christ themselves. It is leadership for the good of others.
The late Anglican Bishop of Sabah (in East Malaysia) Albert Vun had a profound effect in helping NAMS develop in Asia before his untimely death. I remember in the early days of beginning our NAMS base in Thailand, when Bishop Albert (who loved Thailand and would often visit to encourage the work they had begun there) took time out to visit with and encourage me. He told me once that he told all his priests/pastors that they must be ready to ‘wash toilets’ and ‘do the menial jobs’ as part of their ministry as leaders. It keeps us humble, he said.
One of the things NAMS Companions and Base Communities are called to do is raise up leaders who readily display such a self-effacing, humble attitude towards others and who walk with a Jesus-obeying fear and integrity towards God. When Christ calls us to leadership, he gives us not titles, but a towel.
The call to rise up and lead is really a call to bend down and serve. Leaders: how low will you go for Christ?
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.
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.
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”.
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.