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 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 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.

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!

 

When to talk to someone about God?—when they comment that there is something different about you or about another Christian

I recently sat beside a fascinating man on a plane trip in America. His background intrigued me and my genuine interest in his story led to question after question. After some time, he began asking me about why I was traveling and what I did.

 

As I shared with him about my ministry of helping Christians do a better job of sharing their relationship with God with others, he talked about how much he rejected about the Christianity he had seen. But he also referred to a Christian friend in his life. He talked about how God had really changed her life and that always kept him from discounting Christianity as fake.

 

Immediately I knew that God had given me a starting point to talk with this man about the difference between religion and real Christianity (a relationship with God). I was able to share about my encounter with God and how I had been religious before that but didn’t know God and how God had then completely changed my life.

 

The conversation lasted for the several hours of our trip. I knew of a good church in his area and encouraged him to check it out. He said, “I’m open to that now.”

 

God used that encounter to take him several steps closer to Christ.

 

Whenever someone makes a comment about how there is something different about you or another Christian, take it as God’s invitation to speak about him to that person!

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 they have lost all hope

In 1 Peter 3:15 it says ‘But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.’

 

There is such an outcry for hope in our world today. Not something wishy washy … but a hope based on the unwavering truth of God’s Word. A hope that is living and active. A hope powerful enough to transform, heal, and set the captives free.

 

Bev came to a gathering in the community centre. She was very prickly, angry and lonely. We talked for maybe 5 minutes. I did not say anything profound. I simply accepted her and told her God loves her. The following week Bev came again. Her words astonished me. She was quite emotional as she said, ‘Last week I was going home to commit suicide. But because of what you said .. that God loves me .. I didn’t go ahead with it. Thank you.’ We had many conversations after that. Bev gave her life to Jesus and lived to serve him.  She was transformed into a warm, generous and loving person.

 

Ellie was struggling with anorexia. She was a very private person. As we entered into a conversation, her inner turmoil became very apparent. I asked her if I could pray with her. She was happy for that. As we did, she became quite emotional and shared that she had gone through an abortion. The shame and guilt were robbing her of her life.  I was able to share with her how Jesus gave his life for her and for her sin and shame. That he would forgive her, wash her clean and set her free, if she was willing to confess to him. Ellie responded to Christ’s invitation. As we waited on the Lord, again deep tears raked through her body. I asked her what was happening, and she said ‘Jesus has just given me a picture of my daughter with Him. He has forgiven me!” Her relief and gratitude were astounding.

 

There are many ‘Bevs’ and ‘Ellies’ in our world. People who are hiding their pain and grief and struggle. People God loves with a profound love. People He puts in our pathways, because He knows we have the answer for anyone who is in need of His transforming hope. Sometimes we let fear of rejection rob us of the opportunity God gives us through His Spirit, to speak life into the lives of those who are struggling. What amazing opportunities we miss out on, when we allow darkness to rob us of His Light. If Jesus through His Spirit brings people into our pathway, it is because we are invited to be part of the process to leading them to the Giver of HOPE. We are a part of His plan for their lives.

 

As we press into Jesus in our own lives, learning to listen for the Spirit’s voice and are ready to give the reason for the hope that lives in us, a hope based on the Truth of Him, we will have the awesome privilege of witnessing God’s amazing miracle of redemption at work in the lives of others!!! What an incredible adventure we have been invited into. May you be blessed on the journey!!

When to talk to someone about God?—when celebrating life’s milestones

Talking about God should come naturally to Christians, but the reality is that for many it can be a daunting task. Sometimes we just don’t know where to start; at other times we know what to say but think the other person may not be interested, or we don’t want to risk offending our good friends.

 

But think about it, if you’re talking about how much God loves us, if you’re speaking in a way that is loving, if you discuss how much God cares for you, how you have seen God at work in your own life or in the life of the person you are speaking with—when you approach a conversation like that, do you really think that is offensive or of little interest to those who know you?

 

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

 

…when celebrating life’s milestones.

 

Recently I celebrated my 40th Birthday. Birthdays can often be a wonderful time to reflect on life, what has been in the past and dreams for the future. In doing so, I see Gods faithful hand at work in so many ways, both in my own life and also in the lives of those around me.

 

For this 40th milestone I chose to enjoy the company of close loved ones, mainly family, beside a local river for a relaxed afternoon BBQ. I couldn’t have asked for a better day. The weather was perfect, the company was special, and I couldn’t help but use my birthday speech to share some of my reflections.

 

Now, everyone knows what happens after you cut your birthday cake at a significant birthday such as a 40th. No guesses for what happens next. Whether you like it or not, people are waiting, their eyes are fixed on you. There is the pause, and then someone says “speech!”. Well, that was my cue. Being the birthday boy, I had permission to speak and everyone would listen.

 

I knew everyone in front of me was there because they value sharing life with me. I could confidently say to every person who came that day that God loves them—whether they know God personally or not, the Bible tells us that God loves all people.

 

During my speech I tried to simply and plainly recount the many ways I had seen God at work in all our lives: how God is faithful to us as a family, how he brought comfort during the loss of a loved one, how he healed a nephew from sickness, protected a brother at work, saved another after serious accident, blessed mothers with children, and continues to provide for all our needs.

 

Birthdays are great opportunities to share about God’s impact on your life, but so are graduations, weddings, baby showers and dedications, job promotions, award ceremonies, retirement parties, times of sickness, funerals, and the list could go on. At these milestones in life, people respect your life journey and are genuinely interested and want to celebrate your story with you.

 

When it’s your time to celebrate one of life’s milestones, take the opportunity to make a speech and use that privilege to boldly share your experience of God in a way that shows people how great and good he is. You never know what God-conversations with people may happen because you spoke up!

When to talk to someone about God?—When God prompts you!

This blog series aims to help you know when ‘now is the time’ to share the gospel with the person you just met or with someone you are walking with towards Christ. John and Andrew already shared with you the first two hints we must recognise:

 

When to talk to someone about God? …

When they ask a question about God, your faith, church, or spiritual things 

When their life is falling apart, or they are facing a crisis

 

Today’s answer that I would like to ponder is:

You know it’s time to talk with someone about God …When God prompts you!

When we receive Christ, we have been reborn in the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8). The Holy Spirit resides in our hearts, bringing with him an entirely new life of love, relationship, and service to the Lord. Jesus said that the people who trust God would be like sheep who recognise the voice of their shepherd and follow him. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). The Holy Spirit was given to lead, direct, and comfort us (John 14:26; Acts 7:51; 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20).

 

So, learn to listen and obey when God prompts you to speak to someone in your life about God.

 

You have to realise that the Holy Spirit will speak to you, guide you, and warn you about things. Pay attention to the things you might typically or inadvertently dismiss. Don’t reject random thoughts or ideas. Ask yourself if it is the Holy Spirit (or just your own voice) trying to tell you something. Recognising God’s voice, his prompting, ONLY comes with regular time with God through his Word (the Bible), conversation with him through prayer and through your growing relationship with the Lord. Ask the Holy Spirit, your Helper, to sharpen your hearing, so you’ll recognise his voice and his words more clearly.

 

In Philippians 1:9, Paul’s prayer mentioned his desire for the followers of Christ to be filled more and more with love, with knowledge and all discernment from the Lord. Notice that the first thing we ought to be praying for is for our hearts to be filled with inexhaustible love. As I spend time seeking the Lord with all my heart, I get to grasp and experience his mind-blowing, selfless love for me and for everyone he placed in my heart to fervently pray for. Out of the richness of his love, I am compelled to bend my knees and pray that he will open my eyes to the things that only his eyes can see (1 John 4:19). That he will break my heart for what breaks his and that he will show me how to love others like how he has loved me—a perfectly unlovable, sinner saved by God’s grace! As I develop a heart that is in-tune with his heart, it becomes natural for me to ask and pray for knowledge, sensitivity from his voice and all discernment from the Lord as I witness for his name’s sake.

 

He sure loves answering those prayers! Although I am working in a community of believers, he has been opening my eyes to countless opportunities to witness for him in my daily life! Just as I am so familiar with my husband’s voice (even when he clears his throat!) though my eyes are shut, I know that it was God’s sweet, still voice that prompted me to pray for the IT guy who fixed our internet connection; that encouraged me to share the gospel with the mum whom I just met in a fast-food chain after I picked up the kids from their school; that whispered to me that the members of my family who were yet to know Christ were ready to hear and receive the TRUTH about Jesus; to be a listening ear to an anxious mum I met in a friends’ party which opened a door for me to pray for her and share God’s sovereignty over everything; that opened opportunities for me to “stand in the gap” and warn believers to return their ways to the Lord—and those have been just few of the times I have sensed the Lord leading me, among others!

 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a person who has an outgoing personality, persuasive in speech, and has plenty of time in the world to socialise and meet up with people! I have as much trouble of my own as everyone does. I am only able to follow the Lord’s leading out of his inexhaustible resource of love, grace, compassion, empathy, which drives me to invite people to Him! And also, in doing all the witnessing, it is not me but it’s the Holy Spirit working through me, as it says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” The Holy Spirit will empower your witness for you! If you are not pumped up with that, I don’t know what else can reassure you! Acts 1:8

 

Another truth that can encourage us not to look at our inadequacies as we engage people in God-conversation is the passage in Titus: ” But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,  he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,  whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:4-7 “He saved us”—it isn’t our job to save that person whom we are leading to Jesus. God saved us, “by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit“. Regeneration is the beautiful truth that God sent his Holy Spirit to regenerate people, to open their eyes to his love, grace, and truth. It’s not up to us to penetrate through to the inner core of their hearts, or their distractions, or their disinterest in spiritual things. It’s the job of the Holy Spirit. He takes over the moment you step out in faith and begin sharing Christ with someone!

 

As we have all experienced the generosity of God’s grace and love, I encourage you to pray just like Paul’s prayer: pray that we will always be filled with infinite love for the Lord, for his people, with knowledge, wisdom and all discernment from the Lord! You will never regret the FULLNESS of joy and abundance of life you will receive as you take part in Christ’s agenda!