Why the gospel is relevant in today’s age?—Because spiritualism is still very popular

Many Christians think that no one is interested in religion. But the truth is, while the people who identify as non-religious are a growing minority, the majority of people still believe in religion of some sort. This week I would like to give you some statistics from here in Australia to encourage you as you think about sharing Jesus with those around you. These stats are taken from a 2017 survey conducted by McCrindle research. I want to show you that you don’t need to feel self-conscious about having spiritual discussions with people.

The percentage of people identifying as ‘non-religious’ is growing each year; however, 68% of people in Australia still identify with one religion or another. In addition, 55% of Australians actually talk about spirituality or religion some of the time. So you can see that, for a lot of people, it won’t come as a surprise if you ask them about spiritual things. Many talk about spirituality already, so it would be natural for them to have that conversation with you. Starting or having a spiritual conversation with someone will not necessarily mean that you are seen as weird or ‘old fashioned’.

In addition to this, 92% of Australians know at least one Christian and by far the majority have a positive perception of Christians with the biggest describers of Christians being words such as, “caring, loving, kind, honest and faithful”. Again, as you look to share your faith with the people around you, know that despite what the media or others may make you feel, most people have a positive impression of Christians. On a side note, despite 92% of people knowing a least one Christian, 28% know nothing about Jesus and 56% of people know almost nothing about their local church. As we think about sharing with the people around us, be aware that while people may know Christians, they may know nothing about what it means to be a Christian.

During this survey McCrindle Research asked non-Christians what they thought of Jesus and the Church. When asked about the church, only 9% of people had a negative impression of the church with people saying things like, “When all else fails, the church will be there.” When asked about Jesus, people said things like, “There is nothing negative about him, he was a very moral person. So many good traits there, if he does exist.”

What does all this mean? Well for me it shows me that while we live in an increasingly secular society (only 45% of people identify as Christians and only 7% of people would consider themselves active practisers) that does not mean that people are not interested in spiritual things. There is just a smorgasbord of options for people to choose from. That, in addition to the reality that today people decide on truth by experience, means that people are trying out all the different options to see which one works for them. Wouldn’t it be a shame if, by our silence, the ‘option’ of having a relationship with Jesus was never given to them!

It also means that I can have confidence that telling people around me that I am a Christian does not mean that I will be mocked or ridiculed. I may very well be so, but as I talk to people about Jesus, most people already think positively about him.

As you live your life in the mission field that God has put you in (which is wherever you are), speak out with confidence. Spirituality isn’t dead. It’s still part of the world we live in and discussing spiritual things is still very popular.

People are still searching, in some ways harder than ever. Help them in their search for Jesus!

 

 

 

Why is the Gospel relevant in today’s age?—Because it gives us hope despite everything that is happening in the world .

When we look around us it doesn’t take long for us to truly realise that this is a fallen world we live in. We are constantly bombarded by that fallenness. Over the last little while I have been watching the show Designated Survivor. I am enjoying it, but every single episode is a story of war, disease, the evilness of people and I could go on with many other things. I realise that’s the whole point of the show, but it says something about the world we live in. Those things are not fantasy, but a potential reality. Indeed, a reality for many.

Think about the coronavirus that is sweeping the world now. People are in a panic about it.  Yet another disease that is a sign of the fallenness we live in.

Then think about personal tragedy that is such a reality in almost every person’s life. I myself lost both my parents by the age of 16. I have a friend whose brother-in-law who is in his 40’s with a wife and kids who has recently had a brain aneurism.

It’s all around us all the time. Next time you walk down the street, look at the people around you. Realise how almost everyone you pass is affected by this fallen world we live in. When you truly realise this, it can be overwhelming and you can feel hopeless.

When we think about all this, isn’t it amazing how believers have hope in spite of it all. The hope that we have in God truly does surpass all understanding. I would like to encourage you with just a few verses from the Bible.

In 2 Corinthians 1:3-10 Paul says,

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God…For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.”

The Psalmist wrote about the Lord in Psalm 40:1-3,

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.”

In Isaiah 41:1-10 there is a magnificent passage where God tells about his mightiness and then at the end tells Isaiah that he will uphold him. Read the following and be encouraged that our God is a mighty God and he is upholding us!

“Listen to me in silence, O coastlands; let the peoples renew their strength; let them approach, then let them speak; let us together draw near for judgment. Who stirred up one from the east whom victory meets at every step? He gives up nations before him, so that he tramples kings underfoot; he makes them like dust with his sword, like driven stubble with his bow. He pursues them and passes on safely, by paths his feet have not trod. Who has performed and done this, calling the generations from the beginning? I, the Lord, the first, and with the last; I am he. The coastlands have seen and are afraid; the ends of the earth tremble; they have drawn near and come. Everyone helps his neighbor and says to his brother, ‘Be strong!’ The craftsman strengthens the goldsmith, and he who smooths with the hammer him who strikes the anvil, saying of the soldering, ‘It is good’; and they strengthen it with nails so that it cannot be moved…. Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

And lastly, Paul writes to the Romans about the incomparable love of God for us in Romans 8:31-39

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

When you encounter people who seem to have the weight of the world on them, when you speak to people who talk about the evilness of man, or the tragedies that abound around them, be reminded that we serve a God who gives us hope. Introduce them to your Father in heaven. Show them that he is God and he gives hope to the hopeless. Share with them how you have hope, not just for the life to come, but also now in this life in spite of everything, because God is with you.

Jesus is risen!

That statement will be echoed around the world today by millions of people. It’s the culmination of God’s ultimate plan for the human race. What an incredible blessing to be called a son of God as a result of today! Christ died and paid for our sins, and then he rose from the grave and conquered death. He has “the keys of Death and Hades”. (Rev 1:18)

 

For me the sense of joy that occurs on this day makes it one of my favourite of the whole year. As 1 Corinthians 15:22 says, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” Christ’s resurrection means that we are alive with him. I would encourage you to read the whole of 1 Corinthians 15 today.

 

There is a song by Hillsong at the moment that I am loving. It says,

And the morning that You rose
All of Heaven held its breath
‘Til that stone was moved for good
For the Lamb had conquered death
And the dead rose from their tombs
And the angels stood in awe
For the souls of all who’d come
To the Father are restored”

 

I think sometimes we tend to forget the magnitude of what happened that morning. Jesus rose from the dead! Take a moment now and think about that. As the song says, the angels stood in awe. What is our response? Do we stand in awe, or do we sometimes take it for granted?

 

What about those people around us who so desperately need something to cling onto, some sort of hope? In this time that we are living in, now more than ever the world needs hope. What greater hope to share with them than the truth of Jesus’ resurrection and what that means for them?! Share with them that there doesn’t need to be fear or anxiety, but rather hope! And that hope is because on this day almost 2000 years ago Jesus rose from the grave in triumph.

 

We read about the disciples locking themselves in the upper room during this time. Indeed, not unlike what we are going through right now – having to isolate ourselves. While their reasons for being in that room are different to ours, Jesus’ response to us is the same.  We read the story in John 20: 19-21 “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

 

Jesus is telling you two things today. Peace be with you. During all the turmoil and worry, peace. But what is the second thing? He is sending you. In amongst all the turmoil and worry, he is sending you. This time of self isolation and fighting this disease hasn’t put his call on your life on hold. Indeed there is no better time to be speaking to those around you about him – the hope of the world.

 

So go with his peace into whatever situation you find yourself. Whether it be just in your home with your family, or speaking to the fuel station attendant, or in the hospital or wherever you are and know that he has sent you into that situation, just as he did the disciples. Speak out with boldness, just as they did, and watch the Holy Spirit work in people’s lives around you!

When to talk to someone about God?—when your relationship moves past the surface to personal issues

One of the best opportunities to share the gospel is when you have a friend that you can talk to about personal issues that are happening in your life – it can be a wide-open door. But how can you tell when is a good time? How can you know that you are not going to alienate your friend? What should you talk about?

 

I think you probably know how to tell when a friend moves from the acquaintance zone to the friend zone. It’s when you stop talking about the weather and you start talking about the important things that are going on in your life – whether they be good or bad. It’s when you feel comfortable sharing with them about your struggles and also your triumphs. It’s when you no longer just talk about superficial things, but you really share what’s on your heart.

 

Why is this a good time to talk about Jesus? It’s simple! When you are talking about personal things, a natural part of that will be talking about the person that is most important to you. To talk about what they are doing in your life and how they are helping you. Your friend will expect you to open up and talk about what, and who is precious to you. In fact, if you don’t, they probably won’t open up either and you will never even move to the “friend zone”!

 

I know from experience that it’s almost impossible to talk about difficult or joyful times in your life without talking about your Father in heaven who was with you through them. It is one of the central themes.

 

So we have established that when a relationship has moved past the surface and to the personal level is the perfect time for you to be sharing about Jesus with your friend. But what can you talk about? Well, what has Jesus meant to you? How has he helped you in difficult times? Talk about those times, your struggles and triumphs. Be vulnerable! How did Jesus help you in those times?

 

The most important thing to remember is to be genuine and honest. People in this post-modern society we live in come to truth by way of experience. Show them your relationship with Jesus. Let them see what he means to you and feel what he has done for you. This will be far more powerful than any fact or figure that you can ever tell them.

 

And last but very much not least, pray, pray, pray. Remember that it is not you, nor your fancy words that will convince someone they need Jesus. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. Only he can draw someone to himself. So pray that God would use you in your friend’s life, and then open your mouth as his instrument and see what he does!

 

If you don’t have any non-Christian friends, here’s a helpful blog on how to step out of your “Christian Bubble”.  https://afci.com.au/how-do-i-get-out-of-my-christian-bubble/

When to talk to someone about God?—When their life is falling apart, or they are facing a crisis

A person is desperate for God’s help when they are facing personal crisis. This is a time when you should definitely talk with them about God.

 

A few years ago, our son Ryley suffered a major injury which resulted in him being in ICU for 4 weeks. It’s amazing how life can change in an instant. One second you are enjoying a weekend away with the family, the next instant you know your family will never be the same again.

 

I’m sure you have heard the saying that goes something like, “God uses tragedy to get people’s attention.” One person I know put it this way, “Suffering, the spiritual shortcut.” That is, it will either push us further away from God, or bring us closer. I think for many people it may be a bit of a cliché to say these things, however we can tell you that it certainly got our attention!

 

See the thing is, when tragedy strikes or your life is falling apart, one of people’s first reactions is to cry out to God for help. Even if we don’t realise it, we do it. I would challenge anyone who has had tragedy strike to say they haven’t cried out a variant of that statement. This was most certainly our reaction! The instant that I saw my son lying there in a pool of blood, I cried out to God, “Help!”

 

As soon as I cried out, “Help!” God answered by sending his supernatural peace and reassurance. Not because of anything we had done, or that we were more holy than others, simply because he loved us, and as a Father he wants to comfort us. Later on, sitting by our son’s bedside, not knowing if he would ever wake up, if we would ever get to tell our boy that we love him again, we were calm. Yes, we were worried; yes, we were sad and still are to this day, but we were calm. Many people commented, “How can you be so calm?” It was quite simple and can be summed up by 2 verses. Philippians 4:7 says, “And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding…” and Ephesians 3:19 says, “To know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.”

 

While we sat by our son’s bedside in ICU, we saw a lot of people come and go. We witnessed firsthand the despair and hopelessness that people experience when their child is at death’s door. We could see, and almost feel their hopelessness and grief.

 

For us it was different, simply because we knew 2 things beyond a shadow of a doubt—that God loved Ryley more than we could ever possibly imagine and that he had a good and perfect plan for Ryley’s life—whatever that may be. And that was comforting beyond comprehension.

 

So, when should you share with others about a real relationship with God? Without a doubt you should share when people are going through a crisis, whatever it may be. At that point in time, people are crying out for these things:

  • A reason that this is happening. For us, we didn’t understand why this happened to Ryley, but we had a confidence in the love and sovereignty of God in that situation. And only a knowledge of that love and sovereignty will be able to help people through those situations. Our experience, as Christians, of God’s nearness and help in times of crisis becomes a huge connecting point with others in crisis, who do not know God personally.
  • Someone to care. One of the most amazing things happened. As soon as I got off the phone from emergency, I called a few people to ask them to pray. They passed the word on to others and so on. By the end of that first day, we knew there were people literally all over the world praying for us. Talk about an impact!

 

So, if you know someone who has something tragic or hard happen to them, or if they are facing a crisis in their marriage or with their kids (or their parents) first let them know you care! Ask if you can pray for them and be there for them. But then let them know about the love and sovereignty of God. Let them know there is a God who cares for them more than they could imagine, who loves them with an everlasting love. Point them to the One who wants to be their Father in heaven.

ANZAC Day: “Lest we forget..”

Today is ANZAC day in Australia. It’s the day we set aside to honour the Australian war veterans and acknowledge their contribution to Australia, but it’s also so much more than that. It’s a day where Australians celebrate their identity as Australian citizens—what it means to be a part of the country. The ideas of mateship, sacrifice, courage and everything that the ANZAC soldiers have stood for. In many ways it’s a more important day to Australians than Australia Day (our national holiday) because it was on April 25th 1915 that many people believe Australia really found its identity as a nation rather than looking to England for that identity.

On this day where we think about our citizenship here on earth, it’s a good reminder that we also have a citizenship in heaven. As Paul says in Phil 3:20, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

What does this heavenly citizenship mean? When you accepted Jesus as your Lord, you no longer find your identity only in your culture, but even more so in Jesus. So, in the same way that our Australian citizenship is reflected in the values we have and the way we live, our heavenly citizenship and identity should be reflected in the values we have and the way we live for the Lord.

What does that look like? Well, Jesus is the perfect example for us to follow. He is the example that God sent to show us how to live our lives—the way he related to others and therefore the way he wants us to relate to others, the way he modelled how he wants us to treat others, the way he was all about his Father and his Father’s agenda in every situation rather than his own agenda, and how that should show up in our lives too.

Think about how he used every encounter he had to draw people closer to his Father. How he was constantly in prayer asking the Father to use him in the lives of people around him. How he constantly spent time with those who needed God, not just with those who already knew God.

Jesus was ALL about his Father’s agenda here on earth. Everything he did and every encounter he had with people he had that uppermost in his mind. Can you say the same? As you go about your daily life, are you ALL about God’s agenda?

What do we mean when we say this?

As you interact with people—whether it be one of your friends at a BBQ, or your neighbour as you mow the lawn, or even at the checkout at your local grocery store—be aware that God has a plan for that person. He has put you into that person’s life right at that moment for a reason. You are part of God’s plan to draw that person closer to him. It may be just to give them a smile and say thank you, but it may be to start a conversation that will lead to them joining God’s family.

So today on ANZAC day, remember that we are no longer just citizens of our countries, but as Paul says, “…our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

10 Common misconceptions about Christianity and Christians: #10 Christianity is a cop-out for people who need help or don’t want to take responsibility for their own lives

“Christianity is a crutch.” This statement is something that you would hear used by atheists, the most famous of which in modern times is Richard Dawkins.  He said such things as, “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence.” In other words, Christians don’t want to think for themselves, so we just explain creation and other things that we don’t understand as of divine origin. Dawkins insults the intelligence of every Christian and completely discounts the possibility of God or there being something in the world that cannot be explained by “science.”

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10 Common misconceptions about Christianity and Christians: #5 Christians are no fun!

“You’re no fun!” Haven’t we all heard that or something like it? For me, it’s usually been in response to not going to a strip club after an office Christmas party, or stopping drinking before getting drunk when at your mate’s place or at the pub. In society, there is this pervasive perception that if you are a Christian, that means you cannot have fun.

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