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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 we are all searching for answers!

Whether you are a person of faith, nonreligious or free thinking, every person on the face of the planet is searching for answers to make sense of life, their existence and the world we live in.

 

We all have questions, from those on the personal level like Who am I? What is my purpose? Does anyone love me? or How do I find peace?, to questions on a wider global scale like, What is wrong with the world? and Why is there so much suffering? or even Why doesn’t God do something? to questions beyond this world like “Is there something else out there in our universe? and How did life begin? or What happens after this life ends?

 

I’m sure that you have asked yourself these questions or ones like them before, or maybe you’re even pondering some of these questions right now.

 

The reality is that humanity will never be able to answer every question. Why? Because we are not all knowing. We do not have the capacity or ability as individuals or collectively to know everything about all things. Science has been great in providing us some answers, but as wonderful as science is, the more we come to know and understand, the more questions we seem to have that remain unanswered.

 

This is where the truth found in the pages of the Bible—the insight of the scriptures—and the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ provide answers to the frustrated seeking mind and comforts the tormented human heart.

 

That’s why I bring these life questions up in conversation with people and talk about what the Bible says about these things. People are often amazed to find that there are actual answers to the big questions of life.

 

Most of these answers are connected to the good news of Jesus and this has a big impact on people.

 

If you want your spiritual conversations to be relevant to people in a way that makes them want to talk with you more, then start with life questions the person is already wrestling with and move towards the gospel from there.

 

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 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/

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!

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!