10 ways to stir up your sentness

Go to school, get educated, get a job, get married, get a house, get kids, grandkids, retire. Go to work, come home, watch TV, go to sleep. Repeat!

This is the pattern that our society often tries to set for us, but Jesus came so that we would have more than just a pattern. We aren’t here to live life the way we are told to. We are here to make a difference!

Oftentimes, we get sidetracked and forget that we have a mission. Here are 10 ways to stir up your sentness – to remind yourself that you have been sent into the world, by Jesus, for a reason.

 

1. Prayer

Prayer takes the focus off you and puts it on God and other people. When we focus on God, and we try to hear his voice in prayer, he will always remind us of who we are. Children of God, ambassadors for Christ. Start each day with prayer and let God remind you of your identity and your purpose.

 

2. The Bible

By reading the Bible every day, you allow your mind to be renewed, which means that you won’t believe the lies of the enemy because you know the truth. “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

The enemy will say “Your life has no purpose,” but because of the Bible, you can say “He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace” (2 Timothy 1:9).

 

3. Journaling

Journaling helps you to notice the holy in the ordinary. Life is full of mundane moments, and it’s sometimes hard to notice what God is doing. By sitting down and writing the things that have been going on in your life, you will be able to identify how God was with you on mountain tops and in deep valleys.

This will instill in you a sense of gratitude and new energy to keep on shining a light for Jesus.

 

4. Quotes

Print some quotes, or some Bible verses and put them on the wall somewhere you can see them and let them remind you of where you have been and where you are going.

 

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5. Accountability Group

If you find that you often stay at home on Sundays instead of going to church, or that you would rather spend your money on other things rather than give to God’s work, or that you care about what people think of you so much that you compromise on who you are called to be, get an accountability group/partner.

Tell them what you struggle with and ask them to keep you accountable. By asking people to help you out you are saying: I know there is a problem, I want to fix it and I need help.

 

6. Serving

The consumer mentality of our society is infiltrating our churches. We want to be served rather than serve. We would rather sit in a church service than turn up early and set up the stage or put the chairs out.

Mark 10:45 says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

You are called to be an imitator of Christ. The more time you spend imitating Christ, the less time you will spend imitating the world. Roll up your sleeves, and get involved in serving your local church.

 

7. Movies

I remember when I first watched “Amazing Grace” which focused on William Wilberforce and his work to abolish slavery in the UK, I was deeply impacted. It made me realise that the world has a lot of problems and God’s children are here on earth to help out—to be a voice for the voiceless, to bring justice, to help the poor, feed the hungry, protect the orphans.

Good Christian movies can remind us of our purpose, of the problems that still need solving.

 

8. Time spent with Christians

Time spent with people who genuinely love Jesus and are committed to his cause can leave you energised and refreshed.

Whenever I attend church, or my connect group or hang out with my Christian friends, I always feel inspired to keep living a holy life, because Jesus is with us, active in our lives, blessing us and giving us strength when we need it.

 

9. Time spent with non-Christians.

Time spend with non-Christians is also important. You don’t want to isolate yourself and be part of a Christian bubble. Being around people who don’t know Jesus, who are hurting, who have no hope reminds you of your mission: to tell them about Jesus.

 

10. Re-evaluating.

Lastly, re-evaluating is highly important. Stopping and asking yourself “Am I living a life of integrity?” “Am I living a life pleasing to God?” “Am I helping to expand God’s Kingdom?” will always bring to the surface our values and priorities.

 

Last thoughts:

We will never be perfect at “being in the world but not of the world” but the point is to go for it anyway—to live your life with purpose, to bring glory to God and make his name famous on the earth.

Romans 12:1-2 in The Message says, “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

How can I be in the world but not wordly?

What does it mean to be worldly? Here’s a definition the Oxford English Dictionary gives us:

 

“Wordly: concerned with material values or ordinary life rather than a spiritual existence.”

Here’s how the Bible describes “wordly”: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” 1 John 2:15 – 17

 

Since we are encouraged not to become worldly, how can we spend relational time with nonbelievers and not be influenced by their way of thinking and living?

 

Be intentional

 

The key is to develop a ministry mindset. If I think about my time spent with non-believers as just “hanging out” with them, I will be influenced towards worldliness—it’s inevitable. But if I am intentional about the time spent with people and pray before those times that God will use me in their lives, then when I am with them I am thinking about how to expose them to God and the influence is flowing in the right direction. This method can also help you give your kids a healthy approach to school. Pray with them each day about the kids they know and their witness to them. Then watch them be the influencers rather than the influenced.

 

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Let the Bible have the final say on things

 

There will be instances when the people you spend time with, who don’t believe in Jesus, will have different opinions than you on certain topics. These will probably be well informed, well thought out opinions which might be verbalised in an eloquent manner. It is very easy to get swayed by well informed, well thought out, well-communicated opinions. But remember that opinions are opinions. They should not have higher authority in your life than the Bible. Respect their opinion, but always go to the Bible and figure out what it says, so that when the chance comes you will be able to humbly let them know that you have a well-informed, well thought out, well-communicated TRUTH!

 

Be surrounded by a good Christian support network

 

You are called to be a worker in God’s field. This field is not a playground but a battleground. You are on a mission to take the message of his salvation and lordship into enemy territory, to win captives from the forces of darkness. To be effective in this mission, it’s important that you surround yourself with people of great wisdom, people who are friends of your destiny, people who are filled with the Holy Spirit. Their influence and support will ensure that you stay the path and keep living your life focused on Jesus.

 

Last thoughts:

Go out and spend intentional time with people who don’t know Jesus—it’s our heavenly mandate. But make sure that you also spend your time in the word, in church, in your secret place with God, and with Christian friends.

How should I tell someone that they are going to hell?

 

I was at a BBQ with friends and God gave me the opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ. And then the question came, “So what you’re saying is, if I choose not to believe in Jesus I’m going to hell?” Wow—what a question! How do I tell someone they are going to hell?

 

That wasn’t the only time this question has been asked of me. I take some comfort in knowing that people have heard and understand the gospel to be able to articulate such a question. But it is an important question that demands a thoughtful explanation. After all, the good news of Jesus is just that because without Christ it is very bad news.

 

John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

 

When we see Jesus in the Bible, he never wavered from speaking the truth. He was straight in pointing out the sinful behaviour of people and calling people to repent of their sins – Matthew 4:17. Why is it that we often avoid confronting people about the eternal consequences of sin? Maybe it’s because we feel the weight of our own sin and don’t want to judge others. Maybe we think this will offend them, but most often it’s because we don’t want to ruin our relationship with people. But what was the result of Jesus speaking truth?

 

“News about him spread” across the land. Matthew 4:24

 Why did news about Jesus spread when he preached such a clear message of truth and repentance? Why was it that hell-bound sinners were attracted to him?

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Remember, John tells us that Jesus came “full of grace and truth”. Even though some received his message as a hard message, in his actions Jesus loved them with a sacrificial love. They felt Jesus’ heart to see them restored to his Father. Jesus said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The people saw Jesus’ words match his lifestyle—a lifestyle of grace and a message of truth that brought life to their souls—and this was attractive to them.

 

Isn’t this the very thing that the people in your life are so desperately searching for? Grace in a world that judges them and truth in a world of lies and deception.

 

2 Peter 3 talks about the coming day of judgment for all that reject Jesus. A day God promises will come. But in that same passage we read “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise [to return] as some count slowness, but is patient towards you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

 

What a true picture of God’s grace in light of the truth of Jesus. He is patiently waiting, desiring all to be saved from the coming judgment. In grace and truth the Word became flesh and it is in grace and truth he waits for the day of judgment. As we live and speak the gospel are we characterised by those two words—grace and truth? God will provide you the opportunity, the open door to speak the truth for him. He will also give you each day to walk in his grace and display his grace in every encounter you have with people.

 

Last thoughts:

1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

How do I respond to someone who asks if they are going to hell? As Jesus would—full of “grace and truth”, and as Peter explains—with “gentleness and respect”.  

 

Jesus’ model—relational time with secular people

What does ‘following Jesus’ mean to you as a Christian? What does it mean to be ‘Christlike’? I want to suggest to you that a person is not Christlike if they are not spending significant relational time with secular, non-churched people. Here’s why.

 

We’ve come to think of Christ-likeness as defined by Jesus’ character, his resistance of temptation, his purity. We think of his relationship to the Father, his prayer life, his servant leadership, his love of scripture. All of these things are beautiful marks of Jesus’ life on earth and will also mark our lives as we grow to be more like him.

 

But there is something else that we see again and again in the descriptions of Jesus by those who knew him best and gave us his story. In fact, this something else is presented as such a foundational characteristic of Jesus’ life, something he himself spoke of with words overflowing with purpose and significance, that we can truly say that a person is not Christlike if this thing does not mark their lives as his followers.

 

What is this other thing? Jesus constantly spent quality relational time with secular people!

 

Maybe you think, “Of course he did. Culture was much more relational back then and people had way more time for relationships than they do today.” But you would be wrong. What Jesus did was not normal for his culture.

 

The origins and history of the nation of Israel were all about religion and commitment to God. But in Jesus’ day a large chunk of the population had become secular. They didn’t go to synagogue; they didn’t learn the Bible; they didn’t worry about keeping the rules laid down by the religious leaders.

 

The gulf between these people and the religious people was huge. To religious people there were two categories of people: on the one hand were those who attended synagogue and kept all the rules and rites of purification, and on the other hand were the “sinners”. They used this word “sinners” as a technical term to refer to the secular, non-synagogue-attending Jews. In their minds, if you spent relational time with “sinners”—if you spent time in their homes and ate and drank with them—it made you unclean.

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That’s why they were so puzzled at Jesus’ actions. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  Mark 2:16

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”  Luke 15:1-2

 

Later in his ministry when they were really criticising him Jesus would point out: “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’

 

It wasn’t normal in his day for a person who followed God to spend time with secular people. It wasn’t natural among Jesus’ friends to eat in the homes of people who didn’t attend synagogue. It was looked down upon for Jesus to be a friend of “sinners”.

 

So why did he make it his way of life to do so? He answered this very question: Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

 

Those secular, non-synagogue-attending Jews would not come to synagogue to get right with God, and they would never be reached by those who stayed aloof from them. They would only have their hearts turned back to God if someone reached into their world, became a part of their lives, hung out in their homes, and pointed them to God.

 

Last thoughts

 

Jesus was committed to doing just that. He wants you to have an equal commitment to it as his follower. If you want to follow Jesus, then spend relational time with secular, non-churched people!

 

 

Should Christians open up about their struggles?

 

Life is an incredible gift given to us by our Creator. It is filled with beautiful moments but oftentimes our reality is interrupted by the noise of hardship. Jesus never promised us an easy life. He warned us that in the world we will have problems. What should our response be when we go through hard times?

The reality is that there are so many Christians who choose to put on a brave face and keep doing life without admitting that they are going through a tough season. This can often be exhausting for a person and it can also be extremely isolating.

Should Christians open up about their struggles? What should our response be when life becomes hard?

 

Go to God

 

When the Christian life gets hard and there are no easy answers or explanations, let your first response be running to God for comfort, wisdom, and strength to help you handle the situation.

David was a man after God’s own heart, and he often wrote about his doubts and struggles during times of hardship in Psalms. Being honest about your struggles doesn’t make you less spiritual, it actually brings you closer to God because it forces you to let go of your pride and self-sufficiency.

You don’t overcome the difficulties of life by ignoring the struggles; you overcome them by inviting God to work in those areas! Psalm 43:5

 

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Go to people

 

You might think that you need to hide your pain, because showing it diminishes credibility and makes you come across as a weak, faithless Christian. But that’s not true. In fact, the opposite is true: vulnerability creates intimacy, and this leads to credibility.

Listen, I am not suggesting that you write about your struggles on Facebook or Instagram for the whole world to know. Choose people you trust and let them know that you are struggling and that you need their support.

You might think that you don’t want to share your burdens with people because you don’t want to weigh them down. But consider this verse: “Bear one another’s burdens . . .” Galatians 6:2

How can someone bear your burdens if they don’t know about them? And how can you bear someone else’s burdens if they don’t tell you?

 

Be real even with non-Christians

 

If a co-worker or your neighbour notices that you haven’t been yourself recently, don’t try to hide it. Let them know that you are going through a tough time and how you couldn’t be coping without your faith in Christ and your friends and family. People are looking for a Christianity that is real.

Who knows? Maybe your honesty will open a door for them to share their struggles with you and for you to minister to them.  “Blessed be God … who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction.” 2 Corinthians 1:4

Have you been trying to hide from God and from the people in your life? Is it time to open up and ask God and key people in your life to help you?

 

 

Dating a non-Christian – Is it a good idea?

Single people from all walks of life often wonder if dating a non-Christian is a good idea. Oftentimes that question arises when the person already has a non-Christian they like in their life and are unsure of whether or not to go ahead and enter a significant relationship. The Bible doesn’t give us a list of 15 rules we must follow when we start dating, but it gives us a clear picture of what it means to be in the world and not of the world as a Christian.

 

And that is the lens from which we will look at this topic today:

 

What does it mean to be a Christian?

If you are a believer and profess to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, there is no getting around the fact that this is by far the most influential relationship you will ever have.

It’s a relationship that will shape your identity, form your beliefs, influence your choices and guide the entire purpose of your life. It’s a relationship that will not just change you, it will re-create you. You are made absolutely new. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Being a Christian is about so much more than just being a moral person. Being a believer means that your relationship with God has absolutely, entirely and clearly changed your life.

I realise this blog post is about dating, not about marriage, but I’m going to jump ahead to marriage because even if you’re not sure that is where the relationship will end up, that possibility should be a consideration when you’re deciding who to date.

 

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What is marriage?

God designed marriage. That means that he knows best how it should operate. His word gives us the principles we need for satisfying marriages. It takes three to make a good marriage: God, the man, and the woman. For a Christian to marry an unbeliever is to enter marriage lacking something essential. Marriage has been described as a triangle with God at the top: the closer each partner moves to God, the closer they move toward each other. The further each moves from God, the further they move from each other. As soon as Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they experienced alienation from each other and Adam began blaming Eve for his problems.

Broken marriages always involve at least one partner moving away from God.

 

Building a life on two different foundations.

As a Christian, your life is built on a desire to trust and follow Jesus to the ends of the earth. For the other person who is not a Christian, it is very likely that they have built their life on a desire for success, money, health etc. Things that are good, but not necessarily heavenly. Somewhere, at some point, you will realise that you are building a life as a couple on two different foundations.

And if dating turns into marriage, this will cause a lot of disagreements around finance management, your children’s education, and religious beliefs.

 

Last thoughts

It is not my job as a person sitting behind a laptop typing out a blog post to tell you who you should or shouldn’t date. That is your responsibility. Make sure you talk about it with your family, friends and people who are responsible for your spiritual growth (your pastor, youth leader etc).

However, one thing I want you to take away from this article is this: How do you imagine your life? Do you imagine yourself serving the Lord wholeheartedly? Do you imagine being involved in ministry? Do you imagine attending church with your husband/wife? Do you imagine your children growing up to love Jesus?

Because if you imagine yourself living a devoted life for Jesus, dating a non-Christian might get in the way of that life. Do you want to pay that price?

How can I love them when I don’t agree with their actions?

I’ve been wrestling lately thinking about the people in my life who I would love to develop a deeper relationship with but feel restrained because I can’t go along with their way of life. I know Jesus calls me to love this person but I find myself asking, “How can I love this person when I don’t agree with what they are doing?”.

 

I am not the only one

 

As I listen to those around me speak about their relationships with others and observe what is happening between various people groups in our community, I discover I’m not the only one wrestling with this question. How do we love the drunkard who mistreats his wife? How do we love the activists who believe abortion is a valid option? How do we love those whose desire is to redefine marriage to accommodate a sinful lifestyle? How do I love those who by their actions mistreat others or mistreat me?

 

Jesus – a friend of sinners

When Jesus lived here on earth he never compromised his message. He stood for truth and righteousness and yet the “sinners” loved to come near and listen to him. What was it about Jesus that was so attractive to these people? How did Jesus love people in his time even though he didn’t agree with them and what they were doing?

When we read through the gospels we see Jesus spending considerable time with secular, non-believing people. In fact, Jesus had a reputation for hanging out with secular people. In Luke 15:2 “the Pharisees and scribes grumbled, saying, ‘this man receives sinners and eats with them.’” Jesus was known as a “friend of sinners” Matthew 11:19. But Jesus’ aim wasn’t just to become great mates with the world and accept their sinful practices.

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People in need of a physician

 

No, he came to call people to a new way of life. In Luke 5:30  “The Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’ And Jesus answered them, ‘those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have come not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.’”  

Jesus was able to love people in his time even though he didn’t agree with them and what they were doing because He didn’t just see sinful practice, He saw sick people. Sick people in need of a physician—someone who could make them well, heal their hurts and most importantly, restore them in their relationship with God.

 

Last thoughts

How do you view the secular people in your life? Do you see a sick person in need of a physician or are you like the Pharisees that only see sinful practice? It’s only when we spend time loving people that we discover how unwell they are without Jesus in their lives. When we spend time loving people, then they discover their need for Him.

 

Don’t be like the Pharisees. Choose today to see people like Jesus saw them and feel free to love them as he did.

Why does the gospel matter?

Jesus had so much to pass on to the disciples about living the Christian life—the importance of prayer, the role of the Holy Spirit, servant leadership, loving one another, the power of God’s word. So why did he organise all that other teaching and ministry around a central core of teaching them to be fishers of men?

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