Asia

Recognizing Idolatry

By Mike Shamy

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In April, the International Executive Team met with our Asian leaders in Nepal. It had been a year since a catastrophic earthquake devastated much of the nation, including Kathmandu’s historic Durbar Square (shown in the photo).

Standing among the ruins, I saw a small building that, apart from a few cracks, somehow survived the earthquake. I found out that the building is the home of Nepal’s Living Child Goddess.

The current goddess is 9-years old. She was chosen when she was even younger. Her life is isolated and secretive. She makes rare public appearances. Before Nepal’s monarchy was abolished in 2008, kings would seek her blessing. Now the president comes yearly to bow before her and seek her favor.

Standing in the small courtyard looking up at her second-story living room, I felt a deep sadness—a sadness for her and all those who look to her for happiness and meaning in life.

This is an obvious form of idolatry. But what about the less obvious idols in our lives? Every day these subtle idols seek to shape our actions and choices. Unless we recognize and resist them, we will not live distinctively or reveal God to the nations.

Navigators are deeply committed to seeing spiritual generations of laborers who live and disciple among those without Christ. The word “among” reminds us that laborers are to be fully present and relationally connected within our cultures. As our vision statement says, we seek to be “workers for the Kingdom next door to everywhere.”

Laborers are not only to live among the lost; they are also called to be holy (distinct). From the earliest days, God’s people were commanded to have no other gods. We are to follow and obey the true God alone. We are called to live distinctively in every aspect of social, personal, and public life. Our values, choices, and actions should reflect the character and commandments of God. Jesus used metaphors of salt and light to describe this calling.

“Among” and yet “distinct”: both callings have always been crucial for God’s people as we seek to reach the nations. This means it is vital for laborers living among those without Christ to recognize and resist idolatry (1 John 5:19-21).

Author and pastor Tim Keller, in his book Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex and Power and the Only Hope that Matters, writes: “An idol is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give. . . . An idol is whatever you look at and say in your heart of hearts, ‘If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I’ll have value.’ When anything in life is an absolute requirement for your happiness and self-worth, it is essentially an idol, something you are actually worshiping.”

Marriage is good, work is good, family is good, love of country is good, and health is good. But if any of these become supreme in our lives, then for us they have become idols. We become enslaved to them and our distinctiveness as Christ followers is dissolved.

How might we know this is happening in our lives? I find the following questions helpful in recognizing idols in my own life.

  • When I am alone, what do I find myself thinking about?
  • How do I spend money? Matthew 6:21 says that money flows toward what we love.
  • What about my emotions? Anger or depression might indicate I have an idol when my longings are unfulfilled. The anxieties I experience when something important in my life is being threatened might point to idolatry.
  • Am I overworking and driven? If so, what am I striving to attain through my work?
  • Whose approval am I seeking? Is it anyone other than God?

As we seek to live holy and distinct lives “next door to everywhere,” the Scriptures call us to worship God alone. "Be careful not to forget the covenant of the LORD your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the LORD your God has forbidden" (Deuteronomy 4:23).    

Mike Shamy was born in New Zealand. Mike and his wife, Audrey, became Navigator staff in 1980. From 1989 to 1996 Mike led and coached ministries in New Zealand. In 1999 he led the U.S. Metro Mission. Mike joined the International Executive Team in 2004 and is co-author of The Insider.

Malaysian Navigators Celebrate 50 Years

By IET Communications

In April 2016, five generations of Malaysian Navigators held the 50th Anniversary National Conference. Some of the participants were just four-years old and others were in their late 70s, a living fulfillment of the Navigator vision to see the Gospel expand through spiritual generations.

Former International President Mike Treneer spoke from John 17. Jim Chew, who started the Malaysian work in 1966, spoke about the importance of keeping Christ at the center of all we do. Conference participants also honored past country leaders and the numerous missionaries sent from Malaysia to other parts of the world.
 
One Malaysian organizer said it was encouraging to see a new generation of leaders at the conference. Please pray for the Malaysian Navigator ministries as they advance the Gospel into the next generation.

Spiritual Prep for Coming Storms

By Alan Ch'ng

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Advanced technology and professional meteorologists can save many lives by predicting hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, and other natural disasters. Having information ahead of time enables us to prepare—to evacuate, to run to storm shelters, to stock up on food and water, to put gasoline in generators, or to board up the windows of our homes.

But do we follow God’s counsel to prepare for the inevitable storms of life? Believers and unbelievers alike go through these storms. The difference is that believers have Jesus in the boat with them! In fact, how we respond to the adverse circumstances in life is a huge witness to the reality of Jesus in our lives.

In recent months, several of our close friends in the Asia-Pacific region of the Navigator Worldwide Partnership have been facing extreme hardship. A friend who worked with us in a campus ministry discovered he has lymphoma. Two others, in their early 40s, recently learned that they have advanced stage cancer and are undergoing treatment. In the past few years we have lost friends to cancer. In a few cases, the surviving spouse was left to care for very young children alone.

I have seen each of my friends weather these storms with tremendous faith and hope. That is not to say that they experience no fear, or that they completely transcend the suffering. They don’t. But despite the hardship, they demonstrate a peace that passes understanding, a hope for the future, and a solid stance in knowing that nothing can separate them from the love of God (Romans 8).

I have asked myself this question: How is it that these men and women have been able to face these challenges with such hope and peace? What have they done to prepare?

A few years ago, a close friend and coworker called to tell me that his wife had been admitted to the hospital and was also found to have cancer. As time passed, I had to ask him what sustained them through a time like this. What had made their faith grow stronger than before? What enabled them to see the eternal, and to gain the peace that comes from knowing that God is in control?

His answer was profound. He said that for many years they chose to live in a close relationship with Jesus, and to stay committed to the spiritual disciplines of being with God in His Word and in times of prayer. They prepared for the storms of life by being anchored in relationship with Jesus.

Paul, writing in Ephesians 1:18-20, calls us to know Jesus deeply. "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead . . ."

And, the writer of Hebrews advises us to follow the model of Jesus as we go through hardships. "And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

Jesus, in Matthew 7:24-25 said, "Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock."

Preparation for life’s storms, as you can see, is about developing strong foundations in Jesus—our rock. Building that relationship is possible because Jesus, on the cross, opened the possibility for us to anchor our lives in Him. Now it is up to us to respond to Him by entering that relationship fully.   

Alan Ch’ng is an International Vice President. Before joining the International Executive Team, Alan led our Asia-Pacific Region for more than six years. Alan and his wife, Connie, moved to Colorado Springs in April 2013. They have three grown sons.

Generations on the Move in Indonesia

By IET Communications

Advancing the Gospel through spiritual generations and relational networks is at the heart of our Navigator Calling and Vision. As ordinary people invest in the lives of others, sharing the Gospel in personal ways, God expands His kingdom. This has been happening in Indonesia over the past 40 years.

Now you can watch a video that shares the beautiful story of God’s generational work through Navigators in Indonesia. We encourage you to watch the film and then pray that God would continue to bring many more Indonesians into His family and kingdom.

You can find the Indonesia story in our international video library at this URL: www.vimeo.com/133943422