Monday, 28 December 2015

Simple steps to sharing your faith

How do you share the gospel with non-believers?  For many people they struggle with how to share their faith with those around them and so I would like to share some simple things that help me in sharing the gospel with the people I come in contact with, that may or may not help you.

1.  Relationship
Firstly the only way to share anything with someone is through relationship.  Showing that you care for them as a person not just as someone to convert.   They matter, as a person, and that you want to help them in their situation.  You need to meet them where they are at and relate to them on their level.
For example; years ago we lived in Mahoenui, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night a man and his girlfriend turned up at our doorstep in the middle of a domestic dispute where he was drinking and being abusive and she was afraid.  To meet him where he was at and to listen to him and cool the situation down, when he offered me a beer I took one from him and that opened the door for him to talk to me and to settle him down until the police arrived.  Now I am not suggesting that you drink to excess or anything but what I am saying is that you meet people where they are, in their point of need, in a way that gains you favour to be able to speak into their lives. 

2.  Listening
People followed Jesus because he met their need and they were satisfied, not because of the healings often but because he met them where they were.
Part of meeting their need is listening, not just to the words coming out of their mouth, but listening to what is actually on in the heart. 
When people feel they are being listened to, they will share the deep issues of life and that is where Jesus can meet their needs when nothing else can.

Both of these things, building relationship and listening can happen in two minutes while talking to someone for the first time.  It is simply a matter of taking the time to put them first and listening to what is going on in their world,
making them feel valuable and at ease.  This may not come naturally for you so don’t get discouraged when you step up into this, if it doesn’t go according to plan.  Keep going and it will become a part of who you are after a time.  Like driving a car, initially, you fumble, you make mistakes, but you keep going because you want to drive the car.  Well it is the same with sharing and building relationship with people, keep going and eventually like driving a car, it will become natural and something you don’t even need to think about and that is when you will have the most success, as it is simply a part of who you are.

3.  Point of Contact          
When listening to people there will always be something that you can connect with or understand what they are talking about.  We all have common things in life, whether it be family, children, health issues, finances, whatever it may be and it is as you are listening and building relationship that you see those common areas to both of you and areas that you can relate to that bring that connection that makes you ‘normal’ and not a ‘Christian trying to make a convert’.  Just be you, be a person who is real that others can relate to.   Be a person that people enjoy spending time with you not wanting to run away from you.
When that connection is made and you have been listening to their heart issues, relate it to your own life and how Jesus has helped you in those situations.

For example:
Building relationship - General conversation with a person and the questions that came:
The other day I was at a shoe shop, got chatting with the assistant and she was wearing a cross, but I also noticed her finger had some health issue on it. 
So in general conversation, I asked her because of her cross if she was a Christian and also asked her about her finger.  While listening to her I picked up that she had been a catholic in years gone by but no longer went to church or was a Christian.  But was now sending her children to a catholic school.  And in regards to her finger, she had tried everything and nothing had helped.

Listening and finding the point of contact – sharing of testimony and action of faith:
I too had been brought up a Christian and walked away and so it opened the way for me to share my testimony of how I came back to the Lord and my life that has followed since.
I mentioned about her finger and shared testimony of how someone I knew was healed of the same condition except hers was all over her body and asked if  could I pray for her finger.  All this time there was no one else in the shop but as we got talking about healing, someone came into the shop and because I didn’t want to embarrass her I didn’t make a big deal out of it, but she did allow me quickly to lay hands on her finger and I gave a simple prayer of healing, something like ‘Jesus heal her finger’.

Just believe and do not doubt.
We need to know that there is power in sharing your testimony and testimony of others where Jesus has made an impact in their lives.  We need to simply step out in faith with what we have and let Jesus do the rest.  You don’t know what seeds you have sown but know that every seed sown will bear fruit.
I remember the name of the shop assistant and now I am praying for complete healing over her finger at home and praying that she will come into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  And I know that the prayer offered in faith will produce fruit.
You may get opportunity to share more and lead them to Jesus, but whatever happens leave people in a more positive outlook on Jesus than when they first began.  If you start getting ‘pushy’ with people you will probably only push them away from Jesus instead of leading them to him.

Two things I need to address:

1.  Those who want to know nothing about Jesus or the ‘church’.
2.  Those who don’t believe in healing.

The first scenario, those who want to know nothing about Jesus or the church is often reacting out of some hurt or un-forgiveness towards someone involved in the church or hope where they have been let down.

I remember in Auckland standing outside a fish and chip shop and there was a busker singing songs on a guitar.  We got chatting and we asked him what songs he played, he said he played all songs except ‘those Christian songs’  he would far rather play ‘hell songs’ than Christian ones.  Really good beginning!  A closed heart to anything Christian it seemed.  Obviously wounded by the church or someone in it.  It didn’t put us off but it very well could of!  But instead we realized how hurt he had been by the church and so for us it was a point of contact that asked more questions opening up his heart.  We will often get hurdles that we need to jump over and not be put off by.

So after asking a few more questions we realized he never knew a gospel of love.  He had never known the love of God but only ever felt the rejection and judgment of those in church and so for us it was an opportunity in which to share testimony and truth of the gospel of Jesus.
We shared testimony of God’s love for us and we asked him if we could pray for him that God would show him how much he loved him.  He allowed us to pray for him on the street!  From a man who was closed to anything Christian, God opened up his heart and he allowed us to pray for him. 

Once again we don’t know the outcome of those seeds sown but I have to believe the prayer that we prayed for him to have a revelation of God’s love for him, came, because God always backs up the prayer offered in faith.

The second scenario:  Those who don’t believe in healing.

Many many people don’t believe in healing, Christians and non-Christians alike.  But our God is a god who heals.  We may not have seen all the healings we pray for but scripture tells us that is God’s desire for us to be healed.  Many times it’s our own incorrect theologies or experiences that limit our understanding and belief systems.  It is not God’s desire for sickness or infirmity.  So I encourage you to check out scriptures on healings and build yourself up in the faith.  Jesus healed all who came to him.  And we need to be a people who ‘believe’ if not by sight, then by faith.
That aside, how do you share with people who don’t believe in healing yet need a miracle?
1.  Firstly you need to know what you believe on healing.
2.  You need to remember the testimonies of all the healings God has done in your life and in those around you.  Because those testimonies are there and once again there is power in the testimony as it builds peoples faith up to believe for a healing for themselves.
3.  Because you know God is a good God and he loves to show his power through healings, especially to non-believers.
4.  Don’t be put off at the first hurdle and even if you pray and don’t see the healing miracle happen, keep on believing and don’t fall into discouragement.

So if you come across someone in need of healing, once again go through the initial steps above of building relationship, listening and sharing testimony that is relevant to where they are at and simply offer to pray for them.  It is his or her choice and you cannot force someone to receive prayer.  Often times we can see people who need healing on a physical level and so we ‘aim’ for that, but after listening to them and caring for them ‘as a person’, might find that actually healing needs to happen in a family relationship that is broken, or some other arena and I often find that if you deal with the emotional issue that is there, you will often see the physical healing come in time.

People who are sick also sometimes have nothing to lose by receiving your prayer as they have ‘tried everything else’ and they are desperate for a miracle.  Always remember it is not “YOU” who heals them, it is ‘JESUS’.  We can do nothing in our own strength.  Any healing, any miracle, always comes from Jesus and remember to give Him the glory and say to people, it is not I who healed you but Jesus who loves you, healed you.  This in turn opens them up to know more about who this Jesus is who loves them and healed them.
The same things goes if someone is not healed, know that your prayer offered in faith is answered, whether you see it or you don’t.  It is not dependant on you but on Jesus, he is the healer, he knows what people need at any given point.

For more on how to step out in evangelism and sharing your faith, there are many resources that can help you either on the internet or in books.  I encourage you to learn and grow in this arena in your life if you are not currently walking in it.   The gift of prophecy is especially helpful in opening people’s hearts to receive Jesus and so if you are not already moving in this gift, then I encourage you to learn about prophecy as well as a tool for evangelism.

Matt 28:18-20 is known as the “Great Commission” to believers.  We are all called to this, not just a few who have a gift of evangelism, all Christians are called as a disciple of Christ to make disciples.

Then Jesus came to them and said. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

May you be blessed abundantly as you grow and step out in faith sharing with those around you, the free gift that you have received in Christ.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Time for the regular 'ear check'

I love reading the Beatitudes in Matthew chapter 5 through to the end of chapter 7.  It always brings such life and realignment to my life every time I read it.  I encourage you to take some time to digest it.  But in the reading of it, I always find the heart of God, the true character and nature of Jesus and in this, the call of my life as a Christian to walk out and grow in.
The meaning of the word of Beatitudes means “supreme blessedness”  so if you want to be blessed then I would encourage you to not only read it, but spend your life pursuing it as a heart way of living.

Last night I had this picture of a person, a friend of mine, whose ears were so blocked that she couldn’t hear anything.  I find this in a lot of places I walk into, many many christians who are not hearing the voice of God, whose ears have blocked up and no longer hearing what God is saying.

Along with that picture, one thing I am noticing a lot of at the moment is the word “communication” and the supposed lack of communication but what I am actually finding is there is communication but the speakers and receivers are not coming into the same understanding of what is being said or are not hearing the same thing.
Someone can speak something but another person will receive it how they want to hear it, or perhaps how they put their own interpretation on it through what they are used to.
And the same thing happens with the Lord and our communication with him.  He will say one thing to us and we then interpret it through our lens and what we believe is being said, or perhaps how we want to interpret it depending on what we want to do, instead of a pure clear line without interference.  This is why I find the Beatitudes so good to read and bring me back to the heart of Jesus if I have strayed unknowingly from the pure gospel of Christ.

Apart from the cartoon above where we are so busy listening to everything else and there is so much noise and busyness in our world that we don't have time for sitting and listening to his voice, there are also other things that block up our ears from hearing what the Lord might be saying.   Here are some scriptures that speak to a couple of things.

2 Timothy 4:3 is a powerful scripture.  “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” 

Or another powerful scripture is Prov 21:13  “If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered”.  

Both of these scriptures speak for themselves but they are powerful scriptures that are worth taking the time and asking the Lord if we are only listening and gathering around us people and teachers that we agree with.  Or perhaps we are shutting our ears to the needs around us because we don’t want to respond, or we judge a situation seen from our eyes and not perhaps the Lords and don’t act accordingly.  I have a situation I am struggling with at the moment with a continual cry for help, but I don’t want to become hardened to sin’s deceitfulness and so am asking the way forward in this from the Lord.  

It is easy to become hardened to situations or circumstances if we don’t want to help, or cannot help at one time or another.  The key is to keep ‘soft’ in our spirit and hearing what the Lord is saying in matters and respond accordingly. Our God is a generous God and he will supply all of our needs according to his glorious riches and knowing this and knowing that we don’t need to worry about tomorrow, we can step out in faith in today and the need in front of us today knowing that God will meet us in our time of need.  If you find yourself holding back in areas, ask the Lord the deeper questions of the heart as to why you might be holding back.  

Another thing I have noticed as to why people get blocked ears to the Lord is because God has spoken in the past but we have not responded and so we start to go deaf to what He is saying. 

So I encourage you today if you are struggling to hear from the Lord,  spend some time with Him, come aside from the busyness of life and  ask him to remove any blockage that might be hindering you hearing His voice.  Be willing to hear what he would say to you as sometimes it is not always easy to receive the truth, but the truth sets us free and sets us in a place of clear communication once again with the Lord and with those around us.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

A Word of Warning to the Wise

Last night I saw several pictures that I would like to share with you as I believe in this Christmas season it is easy to be led astray down paths that are not beneficial both to ourselves and to others.

Firstly,  I was visiting someone and in their tree was a snake which shocked me as we don't have snakes in New Zealand and then it went onto the ground and I told the owner of the house there was a snake there.  I thought of Eve in the garden tempted by a snake.   1 Cor 10:13 "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."

Particularly at this time we all get tempted with many things and in those temptation sometimes its wise to simply 'say and walk away'.  Recognise those areas in your life where you may be tempted and stay away or walk away from those things that cause temptation.  For some that may be many hours spent on a computer, for others it may be drinking alcohol that you know that if you have one more drink you are no longer who you should be, for others it may be spending money, for another it may be arguing with in-laws or family members.  There are so many areas that we all get tempted with in one way or another and like the scripture above, temptation is common to all and yet the Lord does provide ways for us to stand up under it should we choose to listen to the Holy Spirits prompting.
Its when we choose to ignore the Holy Spirits prompting who lives inside of us that we step into trouble and often not only cause damage to ourselves but damage to those around us.

Another one of the pictures last night, I was going into this community that had certain rules and one of them was that you were not allowed to go into public places without being fully dressed.  You were not allowed to walk around in your pyjamas.  I was informed of this rule and yet I forgot and went and wore my pyjamas.  That was alright as I forgot, but when challenged by the authorities, I denied knowing the rules.  At that moment I stepped into sin, I stepped into darkness, as I lied not only to the people, but to the Holy Spirit who had been the one who had told me not to wear my pyjamas.  It suddenly went dark and in the darkness people got hurt, the person in authority got hurt as did I.  When the light came back on again we could see the damage that was caused in the darkness. When we lie and ignore the rules set in a certain place, we then walk in darkness and when you walk in darkness you cannot see where you are going and in that place you get hurt and others get hurt as well.

Two scriptures:
1 John 1:5  "God is light in him there is no darkness at all.  If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin."
1 Cor 10:23  "Everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial.  Everything is permissible but not everything is constructive.  Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others."

For those who say grace covers it all and I am free in Christ to do what I want, I want to challenge it as I believe grace and love go together and love lays it's life down for the sake of those around them.  Love considers others above themselves and is willing to forgo their own pleasures, their own desires as they consider the needs around them.  Yes you can do all things, yes everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.  And as we walk with freedom in Christ, we too walk with love because without love, we have nothing.  So when you enter places where perhaps things are done differently and that may be a church, it may be a bank,  it may be a workplace, it may be a campground where each of these places have certain rules in place to protect people,  please be willing to lay your own way of doing things down for those around you.  When in Rome, do as the Romans do type thinking even though you are free in Christ, you are still bound by love.

Please also know that when you make mistakes like I did in this dream above, there is also forgiveness, healing and restoration and that I don't need to be afraid as there is no condemnation in Christ.  I simply need to apologise for the wrong and damage I have caused to others and to myself and I am forgiven by the Lord and walk in freedom and the light.  That He heals us of all our iniquities, He forgives us all our sin and we are free in Christ in His mercies and grace and love.

Merry Christmas Everyone!  May you be blessed in the knowledge of Jesus birth and because of His birth, death and resurrection, the freedom we now have in Christ, the healing, the forgiveness, the joy, the peace, the righteousness, the knowledge that we are no longer held as a slave to sin, but set free to live life to the full.