Don’t Forget the Gift

I remember my first ever Christmas we celebrated when I was a 10 year old boy. I am one of eight children and we lived in a two-story home.

 

As Christmas morning dawned I remember walking downstairs into our lounge room and the room was filled with presents. All I remember seeing was red wrapping paper from floor to ceiling and off to one side was a scrawny Christmas tree with twinkling lights.

 

As kids we didn’t know where to start or what to do. It must have cost my parents a fortune. With all the excitement, lights and paper I can’t even tell you what I got as a gift.

 

Isn’t this the picture of Christmas for many people? We get so wrapped up in the excitement and festivities of Christmas that we forget The Gift—the most precious gift we will ever receive.

 

This Christmas let’s place God’s gift to us, Jesus Christ, as the centerpiece. If there has ever been a time when all humanity across the globe is searching for meaning and desperate for hope it has got to be this Christmas.

 

How can you share the good news of Jesus Christ with the people in your life this Christmas?

Are you a writer? Why not send a letter to friends sharing the true Christmas story?

 

Do you like entertaining? Why not have a meal and start the conversation with “What does Christmas mean for you?” while playing Christian carols in the background?

 

Are you a gift giver? Why not pop a copy of the gospel of Luke in with your gifts and invite the recipients to meet with you regularly to read through it with you?

 

How could you promote the good news of Jesus through social media?

 

What gospel greeting and farewell could you use this Christmas season?

 

Your family, friends, neighbours, work colleagues and community are desperately in need of Jesus Christ. Who do you think God has sent them into a relationship with who knows him and can share the good news with them this Christmas? That’s right. It’s you!

 

Jesus Christ is God’s gift of eternal life to all who call on the name of the Lord.

 

“But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” Romans 10:14 NLT

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 is the Gospel relevant in today’s age?—Because the dread of death is a reality for many!

I’ve had the privilege to attend a number of funerals lately. I deliberately use the word privilege because it reminds us of the reality of life and the equality of all mankind. We will all be the guest of honour at our own funeral one day.

 

However, other than the guest of honour, there are typically two types of people looking on in the crowd of loved ones and friends. Can you guess the two types of people?

 

  • There are those who dread the thought of death. You may experience this yourself. Even reading this article may make you uncomfortable. The reality of death sometimes overcomes you and you would rather avoid the topic and resist the urge to give too much thought to the reality of death.
  • Then, there are those who see death as a milestone in life that all of us face. While the thought of leaving loves ones saddens you and death may even still concern you, you look beyond the grave and excitedly look forward to eternity and are filled with hope, joy and great expectation.

 

Are you one of these two types of people? When you think of your loved ones and friends, which type of person do you think they are?

 

Why such a great contrast between these two groups of people? What’s the difference?

 

Could the difference be our human ability to muster all the courage inside us to face death? Is it the power of positive self-talk and creative thinking? Can it be the reassurance and well wishes from others that makes such a profound difference? I don’t think so.

 

Wouldn’t you agree that none of these things could possibly have a deep and permanent impact on our honest view of death? So, what can bring about that change? What brings peace to the most fearful soul or stills the anxious heart? Only one thing – a real and personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

 

But why only Jesus?

  • Only Jesus has demonstrated the power to overcome death and the grave.
  • Only Jesus was raised to life after being dead for three days.
  • Only Jesus offers humanity life beyond the grave.
  • Only Jesus has the authority to forgive your sins.
  • Only Jesus can restore your relationship with God.
  • It is only Jesus who lovingly and openly invites you to experience a personal and real relationship with God.

 

Millions of people throughout history have lived life with hope and peace and have faced their final hours free from the dread of death looking forward to life beyond the grave in the presence of the Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Today Jesus says to all who know him, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me… I go to prepare a place for you… I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”  John 14:1-3

 

The Gospel is relevant in today’s age because the dread of death is reality for many!

 

We need to realise death is not the end. It is a doorway to a better eternity with God. The one who opened that door is Jesus, through his death on the cross.

 

Who do you know that needs to know the good news of Jesus Christ? The only news that can truly free anyone from fear of death and give them peace and hope for eternity is the good news of Jesus Christ – 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 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!