Listen Slowly (by Revd Manik Corea)

How good are you at listening to your Lord?

Writer and pastor Chuck Swindoll tells of a particularly frantic time in his life when he was flustered and hurried by many appointments and commitments. He was gulping down his food at family meal-times, being short-tempted and irritated with his family and getting annoyed by unplanned interruptions. His family members began to get affected by his increased stress.

One evening, his youngest daughter said she wanted to tell him about something that happened at school that day, but said she would tell him ‘really fast.’ Realizing her frustration, he calmed her down and said, ‘Honey, you don’t have to rush. You can say it slowly.’ Swindoll says he’ll never forget her retort: ‘Then listen slowly.”

Are we listening ‘slowly’ to God?

Being a disciple of Jesus involves developing a keen sense of hearing – giving our undivided attention to the voice of God.

The listening ear is a door for faith to enter.

Thus Paul wrote ‘Faith comes by hearing and hearing through the Word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17). The Gospel must first be told us and heard and understood, to have effect.

But listening to God in Scripture must be a precursor to actual obedience and submission, or we will be condemned as many a Scripture warns (see Matthew 7:24-27; Luke 6:46; John 14:24; James 2:26; etc). Thus hearing and obedience are intimately linked in the Scripture.

I was surprised to learn recently that there is no Hebrew word that translates directly to the English word ‘obey’. The Hebrew word that most often equates to our English ‘obey’ is the word ‘shema’ which literally means to ‘hear’. However, this means more than just audibly receiving communication, but most often carries the meaning of ‘paying attention to’ and especially, ‘responding to what is heard.’[1]

Hebrew words typically stress concrete action, as opposed to Greek works which are more abstract. Thus, we understand ‘hearing’ as understanding or receiving a communication, whereas the Hebrews immediately made the link to obedience and action.

In a similar way, when a mother says to her child ‘You’re not really listening!’ she typically doesn’t mean her child has not heard her, but has not obeyed her.

To Jesus and then Jews, having ears is not simply a matter of being able to hear. It is a matter of being able to also understand and obey what is heard. Hence, Jesus so very often ended his sermons with the Hebraism, ‘to him who has ears, let him hear.’[2] He was looking for a right response.

As James so clearly and pithily instructs in James 1:22, ‘Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.’

And so, a simple definition of discipleship could be as follows: ‘A disciple is one who seeks everyday of his life to hear and obey Jesus’ words.’

To do what Jesus wants, we must truly ‘shema’ His Words.

Often. Carefully. Slowly.

 


[1] See this enlightening Word Study video on the word ‘Shema’ at https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=190&v=6KQLOuIKaRA

[2] Matthew 11:5; 13:9,43; Mark 4:9,23; 7:16; Luke 8:8; 14:35 cf Deuteronomy 29:4; Ezekiel 12:2).

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Listen Slowly (by Revd Manik Corea)

Mending our Nets (by Pastor Prince Thomas)

Recently, the Lord has been teaching me some lessons from Luke Chapter 5:1-11, about ‘net breaking blessings’. In this passage, we read the very interesting story of Peter working hard and fishing all night but catching nothing. Although he would have been very discouraged and upset, we read in verse 2 that he and the other fishermen were nevertheless still washing and mending their nets for another try. What are some lessons?

Firstly He was mending his net. After fishing all night, Peter’s net might have been torn or damaged. Fishermen need to repair their nets before they go to their work again. If there is big hole in the net, the fish may easily escape after being caught. One of the questions I felt the Lord ask me was “If there is a big hole in the net, would Peter have received his big miracle from God?” Even if God should grant, as He did, a big catch, the fish would not be free. God is waiting for us to mend our nets before He performs miracles in our lives.

Peter mended his broken net. This is the basic requirement for a divine breakthrough. Many of us want God to use us or bless us. But do we take the time to examine or check ourselves to see if we need repairs done in areas of our walk and relationship with God, with family, leaders, the church or anyone else?

It is sad in our day to hear preachers interpret the Word according to popular fads and lifestyle.  There is an abundance of people-pleasing sermons where themes like sin, judgment, forgiveness and the righteousness of God are not heard. They are not popular messages compared to topics like blessings and breakthrough. But we must preach the Gospel and the message of salvation inside and outside our churches.

David prayed in Psalms 26:2, ‘Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my reins and my heart.’ (KJV)

When prodigal son returned to father in Jesus’ parable in Luke 15:21, he confessed his sins to his father. Forgiveness always brings Transformation.

Second we see Peter obeyed what Jesus asked him to do. Though he knew very well that there were few or no fish to be caught by that sea shore, he did not argue. Instead he simply obeyed what Jesus asked of him. And he found the net was full of fishes. Obedience is better than sacrifices (1 Samuel 15:22).

A net breaking blessing is awaiting us if we are able mend our nets (i.e. examine ourselves, repent) and obey the word of Jesus. May the Lord help us to do both and be blessed of Him.

 

— Prince Thomas is a NAMS Companion serving in Haryana, North India.
He has been involved in starting and leading an a vibrant church-planting movement there for the last 20 years. He is originally from Kerala, South India.

Mending our Nets (by Pastor Prince Thomas)

As long as it is called ‘Today’… (By Manik Corea)

There is always time to do what we truly want to do.

Occasionally, as my wife will testify, I have been known to rouse myself from sleep in the wee hours of the morning – not to pray or seek the Lord I am ashamed to confess – but to watch a game of football (soccer) that is being telecasted ‘live’ from the UK or somewhere in Europe to where I am based here in Bangkok, Thailand.

This takes determination and preparedness. I set the alarm, get up, make a cup of coffee and follow the game excited and wide awake, while all else in the house and around is quiet and dark.

All because I want to.

But ask me to do some other thing or stay up for some other event, and I may decline and claim I am too busy or simply don’t have the time.

We make time for the things that are most important to us.

What about the things of God? Any sane Christian will confess the highest place and priority of God in our lives. We sing lustily and wax lyrical about our love for him, like a fawning Peter before his tragic night of self-preserving denials.

No wonder A.W. Tozer once remarked, ‘Christians don’t lie – they just go to church and sing them!’

How often though we let other priorities and concerns hustle, steal away and hinder us from pursuing Jesus’ call and obeying His clear commands.

We live in an intrusive world brimming with distraction and temptation. A technological, sensual age provides rich soil for building a life based on convenience, self-concern and instant gratification.

We are also busy with so many things. Who among us have not been so occupied with temporary and urgent concerns as to put off till some further day, ultimate matters and that still small Voice?

We put off till tomorrow what He has called us to attend to today.

This is a prime tactic of the devil – to make us complacent and compromising towards the high cost and calling of being Kingdom-seeking disciples of Jesus.

There is an apocryphal story of a meeting in hell between the devil and 4 of his leading demons. They were discussing the best strategy to draw people away from God.

The first demon suggested denying the existence of God. Satan insisted that people who look at creation will find ample proof for God’s existence in the wonder, order and design of the universe.

The next demon suggested convincing people there was no heaven. Again, Satan suggested that most people have a suspicion and inner sense they cannot shake off that there must be life after death. They also have a longing for a place like heaven.

The third demon suggested that they convince people there is no hell. Satan countered that God has given every human being a conscience that tells them their sins will be judged. ‘We need a better lie’ said the devil.

The final demon said, ‘I’ve got it. We’ll just convince people there is no hurry.’

Complacency easily breeds a procrastinating proxy-faith of comfort and self-gratification and makes barren the womb of obedient acts.

Jesus once said to a dithering would-be disciple: ‘‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’ (Luke 9:62)

That surely is the cure – the stark, unrelenting demand of God’s truth and claim upon us that will not let us have our easy way out at the expense of His glory, plan and purpose.

May God make us disciples who hear and obey without question or delay.

‘Today, if you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.’ (Hebrews 3:15).

 

As long as it is called ‘Today’… (By Manik Corea)

Making Gospel Bridges (by Pastor Clay Hamrick)

One question always comes up when I hear people talk about sharing their faith, ‘How do I share’? They know what the gospel is, but have difficulty verbalizing it when in live conversation. Fear and nervousness creeps in and their confidence is shaken. Often what I hear after that is, I don’t know enough. I’m not competent to share my faith.

What they haven’t learned is how to make Gospel Bridges and use simple tools to share. I heard a story from a man that used to work as a chaplain at a large hospital in Asia. He would visit many patients hoping to share the gospel with them. He was rejected many times. If he spoke to 20 people, only 2 or 3 would hear him out. At lunch he and his wife would have noodles together across the street from the hospital. The waiter would always ask if he would like an egg with that. He would tell him no.

One day he and his wife were ordering lunch and the waiter asked him if he would like one egg or two? He told the waiter one. His wife asked, why did you order an egg? You see, the waiter didn’t ask a yes or no question. He asked one or two. Aha, the gentleman said, I found my bridge to share the gospel. He realized that he kept asking permission to share. Most patients received prayer but would answer no when asked if he could share the gospel.

He created a bridge by transitioning from prayer to telling his own story and then sharing the gospel. Many more people were receptive to this bridge. We have to create bridges too. In the USA we have a giant store called Wal-Mart. Every time I’m in line to check out, people tell me some complaint about their life, work or family. They didn’t ask if I wanted to hear it. They just told me.

People like to hear your story. Most people want to hear what your life was like before you met Jesus. Most of us are not perfect. That is only the beginning of our story, but it is a bridge to the gospel. Another bridge I use is prayer. I start off by asking people, if God would do a miracle in your life today what would that be? And then I ask if I can pray for that miracle, for them, for their family, and for their community.

After praying, I’ll ask if they are near or far from God? If they say near, then I share my story followed by this question …. do you have a story like that? It helps determine whether they really have a relationship with God. If they respond that they are far then I tell them how I was far and show them (gospel tool) how they can come near.

Making gospel bridges and learning simple tools goes a long way in building competence. Regular practice using the bridges and tools builds confidence in sharing your faith. Fear and nervousness is replaced with joy as others come to faith and receive the good news.

 

— Pastor Clay Hamrick
Mosaic International Church
Jacksonville FL

Making Gospel Bridges (by Pastor Clay Hamrick)

SEEING THROUGH THE EYE OF “THE GREAT COMMISSION”: A FRESH REVELATION! (by Timothy Mazimpaka)

Are you ready for my discipleship confession: I am a slow learner.

I have known about the Great Commission of Matthew 28:16-20 for 20 years now. The first time I heard of it was in a Bible College. Looking back, it only went in skin-deep – my understanding of what it meant was purely on the level of theory in order to pass an exam.

When I took the step from training into vocation, the Lord led me into student ministry in colleges and universities. I loved the nine years of my time there. But as I look back, I can hardly find any link between what I was doing (fulfilling my ministry) and the need to make disciples (obeying His Great Commission).

Is knowing the difference between the two really that important? Undoubtedly yes! Serving God in whatever ministry He places you is certainly a good thing. But doing ministry from the framework of the Great Commission is simply the best. It is like the difference between adding and multiplying disciples.

The appointed day of revelation came in the month of August 2017, when a team from NAMS led a vision summit in Nairobi. That was my eureka moment! Through the summit, the Holy Spirit opened the eyes of my mind and I began to look at events and circumstances differently.

I crossed the bridge from on one side, simply seeking to serve God faithfully but without the mind-set of a disciple-maker at the heart of my ministry, to where making disciples is a lifestyle. I have more than one testimony to share in this regard but allow me to single out the first experience that happened immediately after the summit.

For a long time in the apartment where my family lives with many other families, children from our neighboring families have had a habit of coming to play in our house with our children (including children from other faith backgrounds). Prior to the NAMS summit, the presence of those children in our home was a matter of hospitality. But after the NAMS meetings, we felt that our hospitality was not enough. My eyes were opened to see that these children are good soil ready for Gospel seed. Before long, we began a bible discussion group in our home of which I am now the teacher.

God began to bless this initiative. Firstly, when children started attending the evening Bible study regularly, some of the children’s parents got to know about it and began to accompany them to our home. I saw this development as a blessing. Before long, a bible study fellowship for the grownups was launched in our house. Secondly, the children themselves have become mobilizers of other children. No one needs to remind them now about the Fridays Bible Study or to bring others with them.

We have begun to make disciples of those coming, and it has clearly been the work of the Holy Spirit through us!

What God has begun to do in me, He can do with you too.

 

— Timothy Mazimpaka is based in Nairobi, Kenya. He is leading a group working with NAMS to establish a base community in Kenya.

Pray for us that God will multiply the disciples Timothy and others are seeking to make in his home group and elsewhere. Pray also for us in NAMS as we work to walk with, and equip people like Timothy and other believers in Kenya and Sub-Saharan Africa, to become disciple-making disciples and leaders who can equip others for the same and help plant disciple-making churches.

SEEING THROUGH THE EYE OF “THE GREAT COMMISSION”: A FRESH REVELATION! (by Timothy Mazimpaka)

NAMS Blog – Sold out for Jesus (by Manik Corea)

Recently, when teaching in our NAMS Latin America meetings, I shared a cogent definition of discipleship by the late Dallas Willard:

“A disciple is a person who has decided that the most important thing in their life is to learn how to do what Jesus said to do.” [1]

The late, great Christian singer Keith Green likewise gave a simple and memorable description of a genuine Christian: ‘One who is bananas for Jesus’.

Both definitions were true to Jesus’ words (Luke 6:46, 14:25-33, Matthew 28:20).

The highest place in our lives must belong to Jesus. This means He gets the first and final call over what we do with our money, time, possession and energies and over every life critical issue, opportunity, relationship and circumstance that is ours.

He demands that all our dreams and ambitions be laid at His feet in total surrender. The call to discipleship is not, and has never been, a popular message. Sinners after all prefer their way to God’s, and sin is essentially civil war against the rule and reign of God over us.

What is truly heart-breaking, though, is how very few of us who call ourselves Christians are likewise willing to accede full control to Jesus in the same way. We want Him to save us from hell in the next world, but to pander and be subservient to our wants and desires in this. If you’re like me, we easily hold back the more precious parts of our lives from Him.

But we cannot have it both ways. Jesus didn’t come so the ‘faithful’ could simply be comfortable and fed.

There are so very many people – some live across your street, others across the oceans – that remain ignorant, apathetic or simply have no access to the message of God’s love and salvation in Christ Jesus.[ii]

John Wesley famously said, ‘the world is my parish.’ Today, for most faithful Christians, the parish has become their world.

Despite ostentatious talk about missions, many evangelical churches spend more money, time and effort on their own buildings, staff, programs and services to meet the needs of their members or attendees than they do on reaching the unreached, making disciples or helping to plant new mission-centered churches. Global mission is hardly a concern for the average Christian in most parts of the globe.

This is borne out by damning statistics like the following:

A meager 0.1% of the estimated US$53 trillion that Christians the world over will earn this year will be given towards Christian mission.[iii]

Christians make up 33% of the world’s population, receive 53% of the world’s annual income but spend 98% of it on themselves.[iv]

It is patently clear to us in NAMS that God has called us to play our part in awakening His sleeping Church to obedience to Jesus’ final command to make disciples of all nations.

To do that, we must ourselves be sold out to Jesus. There can be no compromise.

My prayer and passionate hope as Global Executive of NAMS is that every NAMS Companion will be a bona-fide all-out, disciple-making, Spirit-filled, Jesus-pleasing Word-abiding, rabid seeker of the lost, like our Master. And that we would find and raise others to be the same.

It is enough, as Jesus said, for the disciple to become like his master. (Matthew 10:25).

Will you pray, support and join us in this glorious, all-or-nothing endeavor?

 


[1] Dallas Willard, ‘Rethinking Evangelism’, Cutting Edge Magazine, Vol 5, No. 1 (Winter 2001)

[ii] Globally, it is estimated that a staggering 80% of all non-Christians (i.e. majority of which are Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims) in our world do not personally know another Christian. http://www.gordonconwell.edu/resources/documents/1IBMR2015.pdf – see section on ‘Personal Contact’ for how this figure was derived.

[iii] https://factsandtrends.net/2016/12/12/10-key-trends-in-global-christianity-for-2017/ based on http://www.gordonconwell.edu/ockenga/research/documents/StatusofGlobalChristianity2017.pdf

[iv] David Barret and Todd Johnson, World Christian Trends AD 30- AD 2200, (William Carey Library:Pasadena, 2001), 656.

 

 

 

 

NAMS Blog – Sold out for Jesus (by Manik Corea)

NAMS Blog – Stealing away with Jesus

To be much for God, we must be much with God…Quit playing, start praying. Quit feasting, start fasting. Talk less with men, talk more with God. Listen less to men, listen to the words of God. Skip travel, start travail.” (Leonard Ravenhill)

How often and regularly do you pray alone with God and with others?

Jesus not only taught the necessity of having a private prayer space with our Father God (Matthew 6:6), but he made private prayer times a noticeable practice of his ministry and of his life with his disciples (Luke 5:16; Luke 6:12; Matthew 14:23; Luke 9:18; Luke 11:1).

Not only that, but Jesus sought also to retreat from ministry and the crowds occasionally to have time to rest and no doubt, pray and be still in company with His Father. There are a few examples in the Gospels of Jesus doing this with His disciples (see for example Matthew 14:13, Mark 3:7 and especially Mark 6:31-32).

In the NAMS Rule of Life (http://www.namsnetwork.com/assets/namsrule.pdf) all Companions commit to taking 3 personal retreats with God and, once a year, to retreat, if possible, with other Companions in their nation or region.

Recently at our annual NAMS Asia Regional Retreat in Delhi, India, we began our time of prayerful retreat by reading about the magnificent start to Jesus’ ministry as recorded in Mark 1:32-39.

On the back of a wonderful day of miraculous healings and deliverances that multitudes saw and experienced – the effect was city-wide (vs 33) – Jesus went ‘MIA’ the very next day!

We read in verse 35 that He stole Himself away to a desolate place to pray.

Note that this was right in the midst of ministry, at the very onset of His life’s work.

This led to a frantic search by the disciples for Him. Miracle workers are always in demand and Peter told Jesus that all the people were looking for Him.

But Jesus already had a different plan and priority, perhaps out of His time of prayer with His Father that morning. Jesus announced, no doubt to some bewilderment and the consternation of his disciples, that He (with the disciples) was heading to other towns to preach, since this was why He came. And so it came to pass (see vs 39).

Popularity with the crowds meant little to Jesus and was never allowed to be the measure of His success. Taking the message of His Gospel all across Israel was.

He was never driven simply by the needs of those around Him, but was always led by the vision and mission His Father gave to Him. His agenda and message were the result of watching and hearing from His Father – John 5:19; 12:49-50. His times of regular prayer and occasional retreat kept Him a-tuned to His Father’s will.

In Delhi, we sought to follow our Master’s example. We deliberately made time and space to be quiet before the Lord, to listen and tune ourselves afresh to our God in silence and solitude. We also had times of communal prayer and worship and biblical reflection. We were reminded how important it was to seek God’s face and to be attentive to His voice.

It was a blessed time as we heard from the Lord about our personal and communal calling as NAMS missionary disciples and leaders.

This season of Lent, will you, like Jesus and us, seek to make regular prayer and occasional retreat with God a vital part of your walk as disciples of Jesus?

NAMS Blog – Stealing away with Jesus