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!

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

The Coronavirus has just made the gospel far more relevant to many people!

There have been many times when I have tried to start a good spiritual conversation with people, but their reaction shows that they are not interested at all in having that kind of conversation. As believers, we know that the gospel is the most important message a person could ever know and come to grips with. But there is a big difference between important and relevant!

 

Getting right with God and knowing what happens when you die just became much more relevant to our society than it was a few weeks ago. I am part of a Facebook group of pastors in our area. One pastor said that because of the restrictions on gatherings, they moved to sending a live video feed of their Sunday service to their congregation online. So none of the congregation showed up for church. But in spite of the restrictions, two non-Christians showed up looking for answers, looking for hope, looking for God.

 

The coronavirus changes everything for us as witnesses. Don’t miss this change, because it demands a change in your thinking too! Here is what needs to change:

 

You need to stop assuming that nobody really wants to talk about spiritual things or about God and start assuming that everybody wants to have spiritual conversations and is looking for answers and the hope that only God can bring!

Now is not the time to simply pray and hope that God might do something to open a person’s heart to him. Now is the time to act on your prayers and start talking with everyone you know, everyone you encounter, about life and death and God and forgiveness and hope and peace. Be bold. Ask people, “How are you dealing with all that’s going on with the coronavirus? If you were to catch the virus and die, do you have confidence that you are right with God? Can I share with you how you can have that confidence?”

 

Then share the gospel with them. When you have shared the beautiful truth of what Jesus has done to make a way for us to be right with God, ALWAYS ask if they feel like they are ready to take that step right now. If not, ask what is holding them back, and then have another great conversation about that.

 

Maybe you don’t see many people right now, because you are staying at home as we try to help contain the virus. But you can call people to check on them and have these same conversations. Don’t assume that because people have not been open in the past, it means that won’t be open now. Be bold, take action, trust God, and start spiritual conversations, then move those conversations toward the gospel!

 

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!

The message of Good Friday

If there is one symbol that people associate with Christianity what would it be?

 

Wouldn’t you agree that it would be the cross – It sits proud above church buildings, it is the backdrop of many pulpits, it is impressed on the front cover of Christian bibles and it is worn as a jewelry pendant all over the world.

 

And yet, the message of the cross is misunderstood by so many. So, what is the message of the cross? Why is it so important? and what does it mean for you and me?

 

I love the way the Apostle Paul explains it in 2 Corinthians 5:21

 

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (ESV)

 

“For our sake”… If you ever doubt Gods love for you just look at the cross. The reason our heavenly Father sent Jesus into the world was for our sake, the reason Jesus endured the horror of the cross was for our sake, for our benefit, because we are in need of him. Doesn’t this tell you God loves you? “For our sake…”

 

he made him… God had a purpose in Jesus coming to earth. Jesus was sent on a mission, for a specific purpose. Gods purpose was for Jesus to endure the cross and become something that he never was. “For our sake he made him…”

 

to be sin… At the cross the sin of you and me, and all mankind of all time was poured into Jesus. Everything we have ever done to dishonour God or our fellow man, every thought, every spoken word, every action, every evil intent of our heart, body and mind was poured into Jesus at the cross. In taking on our sin upon himself he also took on the punishment our sin deserves. “For our sake he made him to be sin…”

 

who knew no sin… Unlike the rest of us, Jesus lived in complete obedience to his heavenly Father here on earth. He did face temptation and trials; however, when tempted he chose obedience. While Jesus didn’t deserve to die, he chose to die. Not only that, but he was also the only acceptable substitute to take our punishment upon himself on our behalf. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin…”

 

So that… Why would Jesus do that? “So that…”

 

In him… In the person of Jesus Christ, not in our own efforts, not in our own reputation or by our own intellect or skill, but in Jesus Christ. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him…”

 

we might become… You and I and all of humanity, we might become something we will never be without Jesus Christ. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become…”

 

the righteousness of God… Free from the punishment of our sin, at peace with God our heavenly father and made right in our relationship with him.

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

 

So, does this mean that everyone is forgiven and made right in their relationship with God?

 

As we say in Australia – “Yeah… Nah…”

 

God has made a way for mankind to be at peace with him, but he will not force us to accept his gift of love towards us. We all make a choice.

 

All who choose to turn from living sinful lives and surrender their life in obedience to Jesus will “In him… become the righteousness of God.”

 

All who choose not to turn from their sinful lives and continue living life their own way are not in Christ and therefore remain separated from God. They have not received forgiveness and do not have peace with him.

 

The good news is that God wants all mankind to be in right relationship with him, that’s why he went to such great lengths: for our sake!

 

Today, if you want to explore more about the message of the cross and the Christian faith please contact us at [email protected]. We would love to journey with you.

 

 

 

When to talk to someone about God?—when you sense their deep feeling of inadequacy, brokenness or isolation

 “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.” Colossians 4:3-4

 

We can’t have a witnessing lifestyle without a praying lifestyle. We should pray to God to create witnessing opportunities for us. While we are persistently praying for open doors, we should also be praying for spiritual discernment to know when the door has opened.

 

But what do these open doors look like?

 

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

 

…when you sense their deep feeling of inadequacy, brokenness or isolation

 

I met Ria in a local playground. She was looking after her 2-year-old son at that time. She looked sober and lonely when I approached her to kick off a conversation. After our discussion moved past the surface to a personal level, I discovered that she just recently migrated to Australia. Her stories and body language conveyed her deep sorrow because it was her first time to be away from her parents, friends, and home country while she worked on adjusting to her new environment. Right at that moment, I felt the searching heart of a person who is ready to hear God’s transforming hope and grace.

 

I shared with her how I also struggled when we moved to Singapore many years ago, before we moved here to Australia. I made myself vulnerable with her and shared how I met God during those trying times. I did not give her a grand Gospel presentation, but only my testimony that there is real hope and freedom through Jesus. I told her that God loves her and cares about everything that matters to her. She was greatly moved when I prayed for her. She was a bit emotional as she responded in Christ’s invitation. Her face was beaming with gratefulness before we parted ways.

What do open doors look like? These phrases might help you: deep feeling of isolation, inadequacy, brokenness and misery due to a variety of reasons like relationship struggles, death of a loved one, health issues etc. When any of these events happen, people’s hearts start searching for answers and they are often receptive to hear the Gospel. These life events become doors of opportunity to witness for Christ. Pay attention as life happens to people and prayerfully step in with your testimony and by the blood of the lamb you will overcome!

 

When to talk to someone about God?—when you ask a question and they are responsive

Interacting with Christians from all different places is a joy to me. I love to help Christians learn how to have natural conversations about God with their friends, family and people they meet.

 

I’ve learned that many Christians struggle to know when it’s appropriate to bring God into a conversation with a non-believer. On one hand, Christians enjoy a beautiful and personal relationship with God, who has transformed their life, and they want others to experience God in a personal way too. On the other hand, they respect the personal views and beliefs of others and don’t want to unnecessarily offend people. So… when should you talk about God?

 

There are many circumstances when Christians can openly and naturally talk about God. One of those times is when you ask a question and people are responsive.

 

What do I mean by that? I remember a conversation I had with a tradesman when we were on a job together. We talked about all sorts of topics and what we looked forward to on the weekend coming up. He had a family birthday party on, and I shared I was also heading to a birthday party and then to church on Sunday. I asked him “What’s your spiritual belief?”. He replied, “I’m not into any of that,” and quickly changed the topic. It was obvious he wasn’t open to speaking about God, so I didn’t pursue it.

 

On another occasion I was having a conversation with a lady when I was travelling home from work. She shared how she was heading home for the weekend to take care of her disabled son and how tough life was for them as a family. I shared with her how I was going to spend the weekend and mentioned that I enjoy hanging out with friends at church on Sunday. I asked her “What’s your spiritual belief?”. She began to share with me her experience growing up with religion around her but that she never pursued church. However, she believed that there is more to life than what she was experiencing.

 

This lady was open and responsive to talk about God and for the next hour we spoke back and forth about Gods love, the heartaches of life, the reality of our experiences and the hope we can have when we personally know God, the one who hold the future.

 

You can enjoy natural conversations about God with people who are responsive simply by asking a question. What question could you ask?

 

Take a moment now and ask God to give you questions you can ask. Ask him to help you recognise when someone is responsive. Then trust him with your conversations!

When to talk to someone about God?—when you have been praying for an open door and God brings them across your path

In all likelihood there are people in your life that you have never talked to about God. You see them often, maybe at work or in your neighbourhood. Maybe they are family members. You know that God wants you to be his witness and you would love for those people to experience a relationship with Jesus, but something holds you back.

 

What would I say? What will they think? They probably would be so uncomfortable. People don’t want to talk about God.

 

Here’s the thing you need to realise: it’s not up to you to open the door for a spiritual conversation, nor to open their hearts to God. Only God can do that.

 

That’s why it’s so important to pray about these things! Stop right now and pray that God will give you opportunities to have meaningful spiritual conversations with these very people. Pray for them by name and ask God to open doors to talk about him with them.

 

But don’t stop there. There’s another important step that we so often miss.

 

We pray for open doors, but then when God opens them we don’t walk through them. The fact is, when you start praying specifically, by name, for people in your life that don’t know God, God will bring those people across your path.

 

When that happens, you should immediately recognise that God is most likely about to answer your prayer. As you talk with that person just ask them about something a little deeper than the surface-level and trust God to move the conversation towards spiritual things.

 

Don’t worry if you don’t get to share the gospel message. If you have a meaningful conversation about God, then invite them to have a Bible study with you to learn more about God. Get hold of theLifeWorks videos and simply watch a video with them once a week. Print out the discussion sheet and talk about the video. Trust God to open their hearts to him.

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/