New Year’s blog

One of the great things about the world God has placed us in is the natural cycles of life that allow for new beginnings and the resetting of our focus onto the important things!

 

I love the cycle of day and night, and how no matter how stressful today might be, I know that tonight I will sleep and tomorrow wake up to a new day, ready to face it in a new way.

 

The cycle of the seasons of the year also bring new perspectives and focus. The business world has changed the terminology to Q1, Q2, Q3 and Q4, and these provide markers for setting goals and measuring how we are doing each quarter of the year.

 

And the turning from one year to the next at New Year’s provides one of the most significant opportunities for us as individuals to look at our lives and mark what we want to focus on in the coming year. Each New Year my wife Lois leads our family in choosing a word-for-the-year, a word that represents one area we want to focus on and grow in during the coming year. It’s always a meaningful time when we sit around the dinner table and share our words.

 

So this New Year I invite you to choose a word-for-the-year that represents how you most want to grow as a witness for Jesus this year. Here are a few suggestions for you to choose from, with a brief thought after each word:

 

Sentness – Learn to approach every encounter with every person in every day of your life with a sense that God is sending you into that encounter, that conversation, to represent him.

 

Relationship – Recognise that if you are going to help people find Jesus, you will need to actively build meaningful friendships with people that don’t know Jesus, rather than only spending time with your Christian friends.

 

Prayer – Specifically, prayer for people who don’t yet know the Lord. Learn to pray regularly, by name, for people in your life who need Jesus.

 

Questions – Learn the habit of asking questions to start spiritual conversations, rather than making statements. People react to statements, but interact with questions.

 

Gospel – Learn a super simple way of sharing the gospel with people so that you are ready to share it when the opportunity comes up. It’s too late to work on it when the time has come.

 

Ministry mindset – Change your whole way approaching your interactions with people so that you don’t evaluate the time you spent with someone by how it made you feel, but by how you ministered to them.

 

When you have chosen your witnessing word-for-the-year, write it down somewhere, along with the little description I have give here. Then spend some time in prayer, with your pen in hand, and ask God to help you come up with some specific things you can do to grow in that area. Talk to the people close to you and get their thoughts on this too. Write down what you come up with and then put that piece of paper somewhere that you will see it often throughout the coming year.

 

Doing this will help you grow in one of the most important areas of your life!

 

How do we build intentional relationships with people?—Is being a good person in front of them enough for them to be saved?

Were you ever befriended by someone only to find out later that person had a secret agenda in the friendship?  And it’s so crushing, right? …when you find out, they didn’t really want a relationship.  They just wanted the cool toy you had, or worse, to sell you something they thought you needed.

 

As disciple-makers we want to build new relationships with people, not necessarily because we’re lonely and need more friends, but because people need the Saviour.  And therein lies the challenge:

 

How do we steer clear of fabricating artificial friendships and embrace cultivating authentic, mutual relationships that frame the gospel message?

 

Building trust through a posture of vulnerability cultivates authenticity in relationships, right?  Is that not why we put great effort into being the best version of me I can be when making a new friend ie: be punctual, return what was borrowed, show acts of kindness etc?  But what will I say when the person I am cultivating a redemptive relationship with asks me, “Will you still be my friend if I don’t accept the message of Jesus?”

 

Maybe an even harder question for us is, “Will they still be my friend if I share the good news about Jesus with them?”  And the more authentic that relationship is, the greater joy or pain we experience in the answer.  But isn’t it comforting to know that Jesus also experienced this tension and understands how we feel in our hearts?

 

For me in the past, what often happened was that in my relationships I would neglect the one unchanging gospel message we have as believers for so long that one of two things would normally happen:

 

Either it became extremely difficult to bridge the gap from personal conversation to spiritual conversation, because for so long we had never talked about it and my friend didn’t even know I was a Christian.  As a result I depended on my good behaviour to speak for me in hope that my friend would one day initiate a spiritual conversation.

 

Or, on the other hand, I lost my sense of ‘sentness’ in the friendship after investing so much, only to discover late in our relational journey that his heart was ice cold toward Jesus and deeply committed to his pluralistic religious views.

In EvangelismSHIFT we prioritise the relational development journey in our disciplemaking approach to evangelism.  We intentionally lead our relationships from acquaintance to friendly conversation, then personal conversation, and on to spiritual conversation, with the ultimate goal of clearly communicating the gospel.

 

You understand what happens when we skip a step in that natural progression, right?  The relationship gets frustrated and awkward. In a similar way, what happens when our friend doesn’t even know we are a follower of Jesus until we start sharing the Gospel at the last step?  Often that relationship gets frustrated and awkward.

 

So I urge you, don’t make the same mistake as I did.  Don’t listen to the enemy today when he temps you to only be a good person and neglect, in your friendships, the believer’s one unchanging gospel message—that Christ died to forgive your sins and he is alive today to have a relationship with you (1 Cor. 2:2).

ANZAC Day: “Lest we forget..”

Today is ANZAC day in Australia. It’s the day we set aside to honour the Australian war veterans and acknowledge their contribution to Australia, but it’s also so much more than that. It’s a day where Australians celebrate their identity as Australian citizens—what it means to be a part of the country. The ideas of mateship, sacrifice, courage and everything that the ANZAC soldiers have stood for. In many ways it’s a more important day to Australians than Australia Day (our national holiday) because it was on April 25th 1915 that many people believe Australia really found its identity as a nation rather than looking to England for that identity.

On this day where we think about our citizenship here on earth, it’s a good reminder that we also have a citizenship in heaven. As Paul says in Phil 3:20, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

What does this heavenly citizenship mean? When you accepted Jesus as your Lord, you no longer find your identity only in your culture, but even more so in Jesus. So, in the same way that our Australian citizenship is reflected in the values we have and the way we live, our heavenly citizenship and identity should be reflected in the values we have and the way we live for the Lord.

What does that look like? Well, Jesus is the perfect example for us to follow. He is the example that God sent to show us how to live our lives—the way he related to others and therefore the way he wants us to relate to others, the way he modelled how he wants us to treat others, the way he was all about his Father and his Father’s agenda in every situation rather than his own agenda, and how that should show up in our lives too.

Think about how he used every encounter he had to draw people closer to his Father. How he was constantly in prayer asking the Father to use him in the lives of people around him. How he constantly spent time with those who needed God, not just with those who already knew God.

Jesus was ALL about his Father’s agenda here on earth. Everything he did and every encounter he had with people he had that uppermost in his mind. Can you say the same? As you go about your daily life, are you ALL about God’s agenda?

What do we mean when we say this?

As you interact with people—whether it be one of your friends at a BBQ, or your neighbour as you mow the lawn, or even at the checkout at your local grocery store—be aware that God has a plan for that person. He has put you into that person’s life right at that moment for a reason. You are part of God’s plan to draw that person closer to him. It may be just to give them a smile and say thank you, but it may be to start a conversation that will lead to them joining God’s family.

So today on ANZAC day, remember that we are no longer just citizens of our countries, but as Paul says, “…our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.