Fathers’ Day 2019

Happy Fathers’ Day!

 

Even though the Bible does not explicitly mention Fathers’ Day, we can see the importance of Fathers to God as he gave them special honour throughout history.

 

One example is when Abram’s name was changed to “Abraham”. God told him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you.” (Genesis 17-4-6) It is evident that fatherhood has a place of honor in God’s eyes.

 

The Apostle Paul also clearly emphasised the importance to God of honoring our fathers, Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” (Ephesians 6:3)

 

The Bible also uses the marvelous analogy of God as our father countless times (Isaiah 64:8; 1 John 3:1; Psalm 103: 13; Isaiah 63:16; Psalm 68:5; Matthew 6:26; Matthew 7:11; 1 Corinthians 8:6). A fathers’ role isn’t to be taken lightly. It’s important to look at God’s word to see the perfect example of what a father should be, to encourage fathers to work towards being more like our heavenly Father.

 

As Proverbs says, “The righteous who walks in his integrity—blessed are his children after him!” (Proverbs 20:7). The greatest gift you can ever give to your children is to live righteously. Children who grow up guided by godly fathers acquire greater knowledge and wisdom. They are more likely to make wise decisions in life, and therefore, succeed. Beyond that, God himself will bless the children of godly men. Godly fathers are not typical followers of “how to be a good father” checklists. Rather, they are followers of God before anything else.

 

Fathers, do you love your children? Forget about all the gifts or extravagant travel plans you think of to give to your children. Honour and love God above anything and anyone else and walk justly before God. That’s the greatest thing you could ever give to your kids. Always remember that your family’s future depends on how you live today!

 

You might feel that too much time has passed with the wrong priorities in your life. You may feel that you have lost your family through focusing on things that don’t really matter in the long run. But you need to know that it is never too late to turn back to God and put him in the centre of your life.

 

Put God in the centre and watch how he gets involved in your family relationships.

 

As we celebrate Father’s Day, today, as a father, let your family know that you are putting God at the centre. If you are a child, honour your father for the positive things he brought into your life. Encourage him in his walk with God.

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.

When to talk to someone about God?–When they ask a question about God, your faith, church, or spiritual things

If you force someone into a spiritual conversation it can have a negative impact on their openness to God or to future discussions with you. So how can you know when to talk to someone about God?

 

In this blog series we will be highlighting a number of signs that let you know that now is the time to have a God-conversation with a person in your life.

 

Today’s answer to the question, “When should I talk to someone about God?” is…

 

…when they ask a question about God, your faith, church, or spiritual things.

 

Think about how Jesus approached this question of when to have spiritual conversations with people. When you observe Jesus’ life in the gospels, you recognise that he was always trying to identify the seekers among the crowds of people he interacted with. As soon as Jesus recognised that someone was searching for answers, or that they were thinking about God, or that they were aware that something was still missing in their lives, he immediately focused on that person and tried to help them see that a right relationship with God was what they needed.

 

In John chapter 3, when Nicodemus showed up at Jesus’ door at night, saying, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him,” Jesus knew he was searching, so he headed straight for a truth that he knew would begin a life-changing discussion with Nicodemus. He said to him, “You must be born again.”

 

In John chapter 4, when he encountered the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus began probing to see if she was searching. He began talking about living water that can satisfy your inner thirst in a way that physical water never can. The further that conversation went, the more obvious it became that this woman was searching. Jesus immediately began talking with her about her sinful pursuit of love in the wrong way. He also described God’s nature and how we approach him. All the way through the conversation, the woman was totally involved in the back and forth. It wasn’t a lecture; it was a great conversation that led to her bringing her whole village out to meet Jesus.

 

We could keep going and talk about Zacchaeus, the woman with the haemorrhage who touched him in the crowd, the scribe who had questions about eternal life, blind Bartimaus, the man let down through the roof, the Syrophoenician woman, etc, etc.

 

In the midst of his talks to the big crowds, while he was healing person after person and casting demons out of all who were oppressed, as he interacted with people along the way—in every circumstance and encounter, Jesus was on the lookout for seekers. And so often, the thing that showed him a person was searching for answers was that they were asking questions.

 

When a person asks you or someone around you a question about God, even if they ask it nonchalantly, you should always focus your attention on that person and begin responding to them as though they are searching for God. Talk to them about what God means to you. Ask them a question that will let them express themselves at whatever level they are comfortable with.

 

When someone mentions what your faith means to you, share with them on the personal level about your relationship with God. Don’t just talk about theological truths about God. Tell them what he means to you personally.

 

When someone brings up church, talk about the difference between religious Christianity and a personal relationship with Jesus, who is alive.

 

The first and most obvious sign that it’s time to talk with someone about God is when they ask a question that opens the door.

 

Why don’t you stop right now, and pray that God will bring someone who is searching across your path today? Ask him to show you they are searching by having them ask a question!

 

What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

“In its simplest form, what is the Gospel?” This question was asked of me by a church leader. Although, this is a question I also love to ask Christians everywhere I go. Why? Because the message of the Gospel is the only message that has the power to transform lives, restore families, unite communities and heal nations.

 

This message is profoundly simple yet profoundly powerful. Without this message of love and hope no person on earth can be saved from an eternity of torment and judgement. This message of the gospel must be understood in order for a person to be forgiven of their sin and restored relationally to God.

 

The gospel of Jesus is the one message that has remained unchanged since it was first proclaimed in Jerusalem by the Apostle Peter, just after the death and resurrection of Jesus 2000 years ago, resulting in three thousand souls turning to Christ. It’s the unchanging message of the gospel that convicted Martin Luther, a catholic priest, when the church had gone astray to lead a movement that refocused believers on the essential tenets of the Christian faith. It’s the same unchanging message of the gospel preached by Billy Graham in the 1900’s that saw millions of people from many nations surrender their lives to Jesus. It’s this one unchanging message of the gospel that Christians are called to share with the people all around them today.

 

There is no salvation without this message, no hope without this message.

 

What is this message? What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

 

The Apostle Paul puts it simply in 1 Corinthians 15:3-6.

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

 

“I delivered to you as of first importance” Paul says. In a way he is saying; there is nothing more important in the Christian faith than this so pay attention. This is the essential truth you must not get wrong. This is the gospel boiled down into two great truths. Did you see them?

 

Christ died for our sins, and he was raised on the third day. That’s it!

The evidence that Jesus died is that he was buried. The evidence that he rose again is that he was seen by many (Cephas, the twelve, more than 500 brothers, James, the apostles, Paul himself). But this is our one unchanging message. This is the gospel. Two truths:

 

“Christ died in our place, for our sins, and he was raised again, he is alive today and we can know him personally.”

As a follower of Jesus Christ, when you learn these two great truths, you will never have to wonder what to say when it comes to sharing the gospel with people in your life. Every conversation you have with people will be different, but every conversation can revolve around these two great truths when you know them.

 

So today, I give you two simple challenges:

 

First, ask God for an opportunity to share these two great truths with a person in your life that needs Jesus. When God gives you that opportunity, keep it simple and share boldly.

 

Second, ask a Christian friend the question – What is the gospel? Listen to their response and share with them these two truths straight from the pages of the bible. Then encourage them with these two simple challenges.

 

Are you ready to grow in your relationship with God each day? Start off your day with Time With God daily devotion. It will take you into God’s word in a way that connects you relationally with the Lord. Sign up now at https://afci.com.au/time-with-god/ to receive Time with God directly in your email!

 

5 SHIFTS needed if our churches are going to reach this generation for Christ

This blog series is to challenge our thinking when it comes to evangelism in our churches if we are to reach this generation for Jesus. I’ve already shared with you the first four SHIFTS we must make:

  1. “We need to SHIFT from leader-owned evangelism to congregation-owned evangelism.”
  2. “We need to SHIFT from event-driven evangelism to relationship-driven evangelism.”
  3. “We need to SHIFT from decision driven evangelism to journey driven evangelism.”
  4. “We need to SHIFT our focus in evangelism from reaching the lost to activating believers as effective witnesses.”

 

The fifth SHIFT that must take place is this:

 

  1. We need to SHIFT our strategy from special-focus evangelism to developing a witnessing culture and lifestyle

 

When you think about the evangelistic activity of your church, where do you see evangelism taking place? You would probably say at Christmas and Easter time; you may have a fair or carols or maybe a special evangelistic service. You may even have a special Mother’s Day or Father’s Day service. Or maybe you have an evangelistic event on Valentine’s Day or Anzac Day, and you probably have different ministries you would say are evangelistic. These are the times when people typically think, “It’s evangelism time.”

 

Now, just take a moment to think about the budget you put into these things. Think about how much effort and resource is tied up in these events every year at your church. Then consider how many people you have seen repent and turn in faith to Jesus at those events. Feel free to pause here and write down some of your thoughts.

 

 

When you think about the response you have seen, let me ask you, have you seen numbers of people responding to Jesus to match the effort and resource expended? Most church leaders I talk to say, “No”.

 

Let me challenge you with this question: What if you put that budget and those resources into developing a witnessing culture and lifestyle among your people? I can hear some leaders saying, we can’t stop doing these things, but think about it. Has your approach to evangelism caused the believers in your church to develop a personal witnessing lifestyle? Does your church have a witnessing culture or is your approach to evangelism simply keeping your people busy organizing events, while few people respond to Jesus?

 

We know cultural change takes more than just a weekend seminar. It takes consistency over time to change a culture. That is a primary reason EvangelismSHIFT is a two-year journey we take churches on.

Many leaders are committed to evangelism and putting on evangelistic events. As leaders we preach the gospel and the word of God faithfully, but if we are honest, we struggle to personally live as effective witnesses in our own daily lives. Bible colleges are so valuable to the church, but they typically don’t teach leaders how to live effectively as witnesses for Jesus.

 

We ourselves must learn how to live as witnesses if we are ever going to be able to pass this lifestyle onto our people so that they live as effective witnesses in their daily lives. Cultural change begins with leaders. So where should we start?

 

Wouldn’t you agree that we typically look around and see a church that seems to be growing and we think, what are they doing that we can adopt. But when it comes to strategy, the best place for us to start is imitating our Lord Jesus. The Apostle Paul understood this. He even said, “imitate me as I imitate Christ”.

 

Each of the four gospels were written by the gospel authors to make a theological point about Jesus.When it comes to each of the gospels, all the events in Jesus’ life are put in order to emphasis the point they are trying to make.

 

But when you look at all the major events in Jesus’ life, there are statements around them that act like time markers. As a result, you can take the major events of Jesus’ life and lay them out chronologically. This exercise allows you to ask the question, did Jesus have a clear strategy for developing those people who didn’t know him into people who would become multiplying disciplemakers?

 

The answer to that question jumps out of the chronology. There are clear phases that Jesus went through strategically to develop multiplying disciplemakers. When you study Jesus’ process, you discover what Jesus’ objectives were and how you can achieve those same objectives in our time and culture today.

 

As leaders, we must understand Jesus’ approach to ministry in order to SHIFT the way we approach ministry. Why? So that when someone comes to know Jesus personally, they don’t just do what typically happens, come into the big collection of Christians who sit in church for decades, being taught the word and growing spiritually, but never getting involved in the Great Commission. Rather, they come into a culture where they are actively taking their next step in developing an effective witnessing lifestyle and becoming a disciplemaker who contributes to spread Jesus’ spiritual movement across the world.

 

We need to SHIFT our strategy from special-focus evangelism to developing a witnessing culture and lifestyle. This is the fifth SHIFT that we help churches take through the journey of EvangelismSHIFT.

 

Our EvangelismSHIFT vision is to see a movement of churches across the world whose people have a culture of living as witnesses in their everyday encounters, calling others to respond to Christ.

 

You can learn more about EvangelismSHIFT at www.evangelismshift.afci.com.au .