How do we build intentional relationships with people?—start praying by name for the people you want to build that relationship with. Pray for them and your relationship with them.

I really believe that many Christians have forgotten how to pray. And by this I don’t mean that we don’t pray. Indeed, I am sure that most of us   do pray regularly. But do we genuinely spend time in prayer just listening for God to talk to us? Or are our conversations all one sided, where we talk to God rather than also letting him talk to us. I would like to challenge you at the beginning of this blog to spend some time not only talking to God but letting him talk to you as well.

 

It’s no secret that God moves when we pray, and I believe one of the most fundamental things that we can do for the people in our lives who don’t know Jesus is to pray for them. And by this I don’t mean, “Lord please help the people in my life who don’t know you. Amen.” Rather, I mean praying specifically for those people. For example, “Lord, please help ‘Joe’ as I seek to build a relationship with him. Please give me an opportunity to speak to him. Please give me the boldness to open my mouth and the words to say, and please open his heart to what you have to say to him.”

 

This is not to say that praying in generalisations doesn’t mean that God isn’t listening and won’t answer your prayers. But I believe that praying specifically is SO much more powerful. I believe this for two reasons. The first reason is that God wants us to pray specifically. He wants to hear our heart for the people in our lives. He wants us to verbalise our desire for those around us that he has put in our lives to encounter him through us.

 

And second I really believe that when we do pray specifically, our hearts and mind are in tune with what God is going to do. This makes our relationships with those people intentional! If you have prayed specifically for ‘Joe’, then you are waiting eagerly to see what God is going to do in ‘Joe’s’ life, and how he is going to use you to do it. You are excited to see how you will be involved in ‘Joe’s’ redemption journey. Praying generally for those around you won’t have the same impact on your heart or mind.

 

So, if you are at a loss or have hit a hurdle or even an impassable wall, the best place to start is on your knees praying by name for those people. If you are struggling to find the motivation or courage to talk to those in your life who don’t know the Lord, get on your knees before your Father and ask him to specifically give you the courage to open your mouth to speak to those around you. Ask him to then give you the words to say and give the person you are speaking to the heart to hear what he is saying through you. Get ready because it won’t be long until God opens doors that you never thought possible!

 

 

 

How do we build intentional relationships with people?—By caring more about the needs of others than how they treat you!

This blog series aims to help you build intentional relationships with people because of the foundational principle that the gospel spreads through relationships. John already shared with you the first answer to the question:

 

How do we build intentional relationships with people?…

Ask questions!

 

Today’s answer that I would like to bring to light is:

 

Follow Jesus’ example of building intentional relationships by caring more about the needs of others than how they treat you!

 

It is so easy to care for someone who appreciates you, but it is a whole different story to care for someone who doesn’t deserve your love or when they don’t treat you well. I am guilty of this!

 

We will always be flawed as human beings, looking at the speck in our brother’s eye, but not noticing the log that is in our own eyes! We easily forget how God has been patient with us all these times! Isn’t it true that God’s patience toward us is greater than our tolerance toward our friends, co-workers or acquaintances or strangers?

 

So, how do I quickly come back to my senses when I get discouraged with people? Easy! When I am tempted to lose patience with someone, I think how incredibly patient God has been with me! As I reflect on his patience toward me, it also makes me remember that he is still patiently waiting for others. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). When we freely receive God’s patience, it compels our hearts to share it with everyone around us. When you show unworldly love—a love that is sacrificial and without boundaries, preferences, or condition—God’s character shines forth.

 

Throughout his life, Jesus demonstrated his care and compassion for people. Jesus thought of others before he thought of himself. He genuinely cared about people, even when society considered them sinners, unlovable or unthinkable. Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, fed thousands of people, healed the sick and breathed life into the dead. He spent a lot of time caring and providing for the needs of others.

 

Jesus spent most of his time thinking and placing the needs of others before his own. Even in his agony at the cross during his last few hours before his death at the cross, Jesus’ concern was for the forgiveness of the Roman soldiers who mocked him, beat him, spat on him, whipped him, put a crown of thorns on his head and nailed him to the cross! “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Jesus lived a life of complete humility and led by serving.

 

If you want to follow Jesus’ example of building intentional relationships, you have to start by getting down on your knees and asking God to change your heart and teach you to love others with kindness and compassion regardless of how they treat you! In Ephesians 2:10 it says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

As Christ’s followers, we have been sent by Jesus into every encounter with every person, in every circumstance and in every day of our lives. To whom God has sent you to lend a helping hand? To whom God has sent you to pray for or maybe to encourage someone who much needed it? Does someone in your workplace need a ride? Does someone need a simple act of kindness—perhaps a struggling mum at the store or an elderly that might need some help? Be observant to the needs of others. As Christ’s follower, we have inexhaustible opportunities to follow Jesus’ lead to love, care and serve those people around us. If at times we get disheartened, show the world the ONE who is patient with us. Are you ready to answer Jesus’ call?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do we build intentional relationships with people?—By asking the right questions!

Some people are opposed to the idea of building intentional relationships with people who need Jesus. They think those relationships are fake. While it is very possible to be non-genuine in a relationship by only using it to tell someone the gospel, it is also very possible to have deeply meaningful relationships that are also intentional. For example, parents love their children dearly and want a deep, meaningful relationship with them. At the same time, parents are intentional in those relationships as they work to develop their kids into the right kind of adults.

In the same way, we are building meaningful friendships with people in our lives who need Jesus, and at the same time we are being intentional about introducing them to Christ. But how do we make sure our relationships are intentional? The biggest way we see Jesus bringing intentionality into his relationships is through questions.

The questions you ask the people in your life shape your conversations and move your relationship in a direction. If the only questions you ask are things to do with pop culture or politics, then your relationships will sit at that level. But as soon as you ask questions about a person’s desires for the future, or their concerns for their family, or the person they hope to become, your conversations move to a whole different level. Talking with people about their personal lives helps both you and them to identify their deep felt-needs in life.

When your relationship is comfortable talking at this personal level it is much more meaningful. At that point, asking questions that lead to spiritual conversations will lead to open discussions that are very real and genuine. That’s when the gospel can naturally fit and will find open hearts.

If you have relationships that you want to become intentional with and move towards God-conversations, learn to ask the right questions that will move that relationship towards Christ!

Why the gospel is relevant in today’s age?—Because it contains truth that can be experienced!

Why is the gospel ignored by so many today? Of course, for many, even in ‘Christian nations’, they have never heard the gospel. But for many, the gospel seems totally irrelevant because they regard Christianity as something that has nothing to do with real life. Christianity has been so identified with political parties and in practice seems like nothing more than a religious club with rituals and activities. Many people who know people who go to church and see them during the week treating others badly, or using dishonest business practices rightly discount their faith as fake and decide that Christianity is not worth their time.

What people are looking for is not an outward show of religiosity, or to hear Christian arguments. People are searching for what is real, and they decide what is real based on their experience. This marks a change that has happened with this generation. For hundreds of years people decided what was real based on logical reasoning. They still reason today, but their reasoning starts with their experience. Experience determines truth.

This is where the gospel shines. The entry into a relationship with God is not abstract. It’s not simply the adopting of a new set of beliefs or changing some of your activities. Nothing could be more experiential than encountering God. That encounter with God does not start at the moment of faith. No, it starts long before that as God begins to reveal himself through Christians that person knows. They see God in them and in their relationships, in their ability to face tragedy with peace and trust in God, in their responses to difficult people, in the way they do business, and in their open conversation about their experience of God.

In these dark days, the world needs real believers to express their faith, to talk openly about God, to show the world the reality of a God who doesn’t just exist in theology books, but in our lives each day! There has never been a better time to speak openly with people about God than today, as the world seems to be crumbling around us. Don’t hesitate. Speak out for him today.

 

 

Why the gospel is relevant in today’s age?—Because we are gripped with guilt!

It never ceases to amaze me how God could ever forgive me.

 

I haven’t always been a Christian. I was a young adult when I got serious about my walk with Jesus and surrendered my life to his authority.

 

Before surrendering to Jesus, I was living life my own way. I was knowingly making selfish decisions; I lived a life that displeased God and sinfully turned my back on him time and time again. However, there came a point in my life that I understood Gods deep love for me and was gripped by a deep sense of guilt and shame that was almost paralysing.

 

I’m so grateful God never gives up on us. I’m so grateful God’s love for us is greater than our love could ever be for him. I’m grateful it’s not what we do that makes us right with God. I’m grateful that it’s what Jesus did for us in laying down his life on the cross that gives us peace with God.

 

A huge percentage of people’s lives are driven by guilt, which leads to so many other problems of depression, hopelessness and despair. This is why one of the best ways into a gospel conversation with someone is a discussion of guilt.

 

The idea of freedom from guilt is like a dream to many people. Jesus not only took the penalty of our sin on the cross, he took the very guilt of our sin and then also paid its penalty. The Bible says, “God the Father made Jesus, who knew no sin, to be sin (guilty) for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him.”

 

The gospel is not only beautiful truth—it is also relevant truth to so many who are dominated by the guilt that drives them. So talk with people about the freedom from guilt that Jesus brings!

 

Why the gospel is relevant in today’s age?—Because people are searching for community more than ever!

One of the things that are common to humans across cultures is the need to belong to a community. This is one of the reasons why people look for a community to belong to every time they move to a new place or venture into a new field. God has called me to homeschool our children and we have needed a community of homeschooling families. We have found a group who have been very helpful as we embark on this journey. Now, although I’m still a novice in this field, surprisingly I already find myself encouraging and helping three other mums who have been contemplating whether they would give homeschooling a shot.  

 

A sense of belonging is a human need to survive, just like the need for food and shelter. Abraham Maslow in 1943 proposed that our human need to belong is one of the five necessities required to attain self-actualisation. In fact, after physiological (food, water, warmth, and rest) and safety needs, he placed the need for belonging as the next level in his “Hierarchy of Needs”.

 

God has created us as relational beings, who need community with others. Some meet their need for belonging in their family, friends, or church, and others on social media. However they do it, people are searching for meaningful community. For those who don’t find it, although they may be surrounded by people, their loneliness has taken a toll on their self-esteem. God reaches into these people’s lives and brings them into the Christian community where they find healing and wholeness.

 

Why is the Gospel relevant in today’s age? Because people are searching for community more than ever!

 

That means that we need to build meaningful relationships in two directions. On one hand, we need to be building strong spiritual relationships with people who love the Lord and, on the other hand, with people who haven’t encountered God in their lives so we can walk with them towards Christ.

 

Isn’t that one of the huge marks of Jesus’ way of life? As we read the Bible, we see how he regularly spent relational time with those who didn’t follow God and who didn’t bother to attend organised religious activities. Because of that, but he was branded a “friend of sinners”. Jesus’ actions in spending time with sinners were in perfect accordance with his mission to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). He went to where the need was because, “those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32). He knew that what motivates a person to move towards God is almost always a meaningful relationship with someone who already knows him. 

 

If we are followers of Christ, we must imitate this massive feature of his life. People are searching for community more than ever. God wants us to reach the people we know to let them hear that it’s ONLY through the price Jesus’ paid on the cross for our sins that we can have peace with God and become a part of his wonderful family on earth.

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 the gospel is relevant in today’s age?—Because the rat race takes you nowhere!

Sometimes when I am having a spiritual conversation with someone and they are questioning why I believe what I believe, I like to turn the conversation back on them and ask them, “What about you? Don’t you feel that something is missing in your life, that things are not right, not the way they are supposed to be? Aren’t you searching for something that your current life is not giving you?” It’s easy for them to dismiss Christianity when talking in third person, but when confronted with the outcome of their own life and worldview, they pause. Those who are honest often answer in a subdued voice. “Well…yes.”

We know that, as the church father Augustine said to God, “Thou hast made us for thyself, and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in thee.” We call the headlong pursuit of the secular goals of money and success ‘the rat race’. But the rat race is not the right race, because the prizes it gives will never give a person what they hope it will give them. At the end of the rat race, even if you win, is just more emptiness, loneliness and disappointment.

The rat race is a big lie. It’s important to ask people those questions that reveal the lie. On the surface people may be ‘successful’ and seem to have it all together, but under the surface they know that the rat race is taking them nowhere. Talking openly about that suddenly makes the gospel more relevant. The reason we are never satisfied with the things of the world is that we were made for God and only he can make our lives whole. As Jesus said, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”

Do you want your gospel conversations to be relevant to someone who is in the rat race? Ask them the questions that will help them recognise that the rat race will take them nowhere and point them to Jesus.

Why the gospel is relevant in today’s age?—Because it answers people’s search for purpose and meaning in life!

Trying to find a job can be very disheartening. All of my kids are youth or young adults, so between them and their friends I spend a lot of time with young people. I see the agony of trying to find a job. One application after another gets rejected. They move from excitement about jobs that they want to an acceptance of any place that will hire them. After multiple rejections comes a discouragement about your self worth and why you exist in this world.

That’s not just the experience of young people. Anyone in search of work has these same feelings, as does someone who has retired and wonders if they have lost all their value now that they aren’t working any more. This longing for purpose is also felt by people who don’t really enjoy their work or their life in general.

We were made in the image of a purposeful God and people know that they should be living with purpose. This makes the gospel so very relevant and can be a great starting place for a spiritual conversation.

God’s purpose for us is so central to the Christian message that I try to share it whenever I share the gospel. When you turn to Christ in faith, God forgives you, you start a new life with him at the centre of it, and most exciting of all, you become part of the stream of his activity in the lives of other people you know who are searching for answers. God wants to reveal himself to them through you!

When you recognise that God’s purpose for you doesn’t require you to be a preacher or have an exciting job, then everyday becomes an adventure as you look for doors God is opening and you find ways that God wants to use you in the lives of the people around you.

This purpose of God through you is one of the most compelling parts of the gospel.

Why don’t you start a conversation with someone today with the question, “What is your purpose in life?”

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.