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.

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Coming to Christ (by Revd. Clay Hamrick)

Compelled…to share (by Revd. Clay Hamrick)

Have you ever been compelled to share an experience? A great game you saw? Trip you took? Concert? Play? New relationship? Problems? Struggle? Complaint? We all have stories that burn within us until we can let it out. We can’t stand to be quite.  Do you have one now?

Yesterday I was in Walmart. Look, I’m a father of seven that does the shopping. So I have lots of opportunities to hear stories. The lady in front of me had no issue in sharing a painful moment that is going on in her life. I was minding my own business.  This was unsolicited. You get where I’m coming from?

She was compelled to unload whether I was ready or willing. She was passionate. She needed to speak and to be heard. It is a feeling we can all relate to, no? What compels you to share? Think about it. Who do you tell?

While reading the psalms I kept seeing how the writer David shared his heart and passions. He was compelled to tell God all his problems, hurts, sins, and plans. He came before the throne of grace with boldness. He laid everything in raw form before the Lord’s feet. Note that he didn’t share a lot of this with others, but with God alone. He took it to the throne before he took it to the phone.

We tend to tell everyone else over coffee, phone or Facebook. Rarely do we take it to God. David would shift from on loading to praise. He would be compelled to worship. As his countenance went down, his praise would go up. Praise pulls you out of darkness and despair.

David would then swell up with passion to share with others. In his praise, he would remember all the things that God had done for him. What has God done for you? What have you seen him do? Prayers answered? Do you remember that he saved you? Look back six months or a year. Has your relationship with God grown deeper?

Like David we will be compelled to share the testimony of God in your life. People need to hear this. They need to see hope. Touch it. Receive it. So when you feel compelled to share about the big game, trip, or concert ask God to compel you to share about His impact on your life.

Compelled…to share (by Revd. Clay Hamrick)

Abiding = Obeying (By Revd Manik Corea)

How can you tell a true disciple of Jesus from a mere professing one? Watch what they do, not just what they say. Obedience in our lives is the ultimate proof of our love for God. Jesus said as much in John 14:15. It is at last, the action and direction of our lives that will show the depth of our love for Christ.

In John’s powerful heart-felt letter of 1st John, he gives 3 test for the genuineness of Christian faith.

The first is a ‘moral test’ (1 John 2:3-4) i.e. are we obeying what God has commanded?

The second is a ‘social test’ (1 John 2:9) i.e. are we truly loving each other?

The third is a ‘truth test’ (1 John 4:2) i.e. are we proclaiming all that the Scriptures reveal to us of Jesus and the Gospel?

Together, these tests will show in the way we talk and walk after Christ and our proclamation of the Gospel.

D.L. Moody, the great evangelist, was once accosted on a Chicago street by a drunk who exclaimed, “Aren’t you Mr. Moody? Why, I’m one of your converts.” Said Moody in reply, “That must be true, for you definitely aren’t one of God’s converts!” If you are truly saved, it will show. Not only will you receive forgiveness, but you will live differently.

And it will take commitment and determination on our part to keep in step with Him.

In 1 John 2:5, John says that if we keep God’s word, God’s love is perfected in him. The word ‘keep’ is the Greek word ‘tēreō’. It was used of guards standing watch at their post, shepherds watching over their sheep and bankers watching over their money. It means to keep a careful watch.

This is no casual obedience – but a watchful care given to make sure we stay true to the words and will of God in our lives.

John goes on in the next verse to say, ‘…whoever says he abides in him (Jesus) ought to walk in the same way Jesus walked.’ We must follow in his footsteps!

Paul often used the same metaphor of ‘walking’ for the Christian life (see Ephesians 2:10, 4:1,17, 5:1; Colossians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:12).

Walking is not as fast as running or as spectacular as flying, but is steady, consistent movement in one direction. It takes time to progress bit by bit to a goal. It is made up of many steps, one foot placed after another for a distance, not simply a quick dash.

So, like Jesus, we will walk constantly towards God, in ways that please God.

Jesus said in John 5:19: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”

The point and goal of discipleship is that in every way, we become like our Master and Lord Jesus. As Jesus did all His Father desired, we will begin to do and live the same. John Stott argues, ‘We cannot claim to abide in Him unless we are like Him.’[1]

Disciples need to be getting somewhere with Christ. We are all a work in progress, so don’t expect perfection from yourself or anyone else yet. Therefore forgive and seek forgiveness often. But do expect progress and change.

Let there be no confusion: abiding in Christ will lead to genuine obedience in our lives – reflected in our words, works and way.

 


[1] John Stott, The Letters of John TNTC Vol 19, (IVP), pg. 97

Abiding = Obeying (By Revd Manik Corea)

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)

Foundations? (by Jon Shuler )

“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?

Foundations? (by Jon Shuler )

How low can you go? (By Manik Corea)

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?

How low can you go? (By Manik Corea)

More than just a job (by Mary Garrison)

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.

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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.  

 

More than just a job (by Mary Garrison)